The EU’s appetite for enlargement has waned, which allows for illiberal tendencies to flourish in the Western Balkans as there is nothing to stop a strong driving force behind them – unconstrained nationalism and populism.
Chinese and Russian approaches to the Western Balkans may appear different at the surface, however, the lasting corrosive effects of their involvement are similar: erosion of weak institutions and legal systems, and a slowing down the progress of the countries from the region towards EU.
According to Ambassador Garčević, both the EU and the Western Balkans states have failed to deliver what they agreed on in Thessaloniki in 2003: the Western Balkan has failed to deliver comprehensive democratic reforms, the EU failed to remain politically committed to enlargement.
During his FAES panel appearance, Ambassador Garčević argues for a new EU enlargement methodology, one that is incremental or gradual and introduces incentives for aspiring countries.
As EU accession is getting more demanding and taking longer, Ambassador Garčević argues that countries in the Western Balkans are made to feel like “hamsters on a wheel,” become low hanging fruit for Beijing and Moscow that promote development and governance models in stark contrast with the EU’s.
Garčević stated that Brussels attempted to breathe life into a dying EU perspective in the region by introducing a new enlargement methodology last year. However, the revised strategy has not renewed hope in the region.
“The prospect of membership, it seems, has never been further away.”
It is foolhardy to think Germany’s presidency of the EU signal a radical shift in enthusiasm for enlargement to the Western Balkans.
Amb. Vesko Garcevic discusses relations between the European Union and the Western Balkans, and the future of EU enlargement.