Expecting EU Accession within 10 Years
Albanian Daily News
Published February 24, 2018
"I see it as realistic that Albania and the other countries of the region join the EU in a decade," Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said in a Reuters interview published Wednesday. He warned at the same time that in the EU, only the cost of an enlargement of the Union to the Western Balkan countries is discussed. "I have heard no one talking about the cost of non-enlargement." The background is reservations in some EU countries against the admission of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. "But we are talking about a region that is clearly part of Europe geographically," said Bushati.
At the beginning of February, the EU Commission had opened the six Western Balkan countries to join by 2025, but at the same time called for greater reform efforts. There are already talks with Serbia and Montenegro. According to Bushati, Albania is about to enter accession talks. The coalition agreement between the CDU, CSU and SPD also confirms the accession prospects of the Western Balkan states.
However, over the past few months there have been repeated reports of influence from, say, Russia, Turkey or China, which could hinder rapprochement with the EU. "The Western Balkans is considered a geostrategic chessboard," Bushati stated. The region is important for the security of Europe, for example because of the fight against Islamist terrorism and as a refugee route to the north.
China is also currently investing in strategic sectors of the countries, especially in the mining and energy sectors. "We see that Japan has recently become involved," said the Albanian Foreign Minister. These investments are also welcome. "But what is important is that nobody sees this as an alternative to EU membership, but only as a supplement to the accession process," Bushati stresses.
At the same time, he calls on Germany and the EU to increase its involvement in the region. Germany has initiated the so-called Berlin process for the region. "But I would like to see more concrete action," he said. More cross-border investment in the infrastructure of most small countries is needed. "That would connect the Western Balkans countries with each other, but also with the EU."
Bushati does not expect that all six Western Balkan countries could join the EU at the same time. He referred to still smoldering border disputes between individual countries, mostly between former Yugoslav republics. Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has just pointed out that Serbia can only become an EU member if it recognizes the independence of the former province of Kosovo.