By postponing the decision to begin accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, the European Council has made a serious mistake that may have serious security implicatiosn for the whole continent.
The European Union as entity – beyond its obvious role of representing its member states – cannot remain credible without an appropriate neighbourhood policy. If its neighbours are struggling with poverty, inequality, organized crime or pressure from migration, that is also a failure of the EU itself.
Most of the states of the West Balkans are considered natural candidates for future EU membership. Among them, Serbia and Montenegro are clearly at the front of the queue, and if the Union desires to maintain its credibility, it must speed up accession talks with them. While these countries will also have to meet rule of law criteria, this does not mean they should be held hostage to that single requirement.
Albania and North Macedonia are also waiting for the EU’s accession green light and both countries – regardless of the political leanings of its governments – are keen on joining the group. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo also want to join, and while both have their serious domestic problems, solving those will be much more difficult without the help of the European Union.
Last year, Europe commemorated 100 years since the end of World War I, and the importance of the Balkans as a hotbed of conflicts affecting the whole of Europe should not be underestimated. If the European Union does not extend its influence in the region, other powers will most certainly fill the void.
Turkey is a case apart because currently the conditions for continuing accession talks do not exist at present, but the country must still be treated as an ally of key, strategic importance.
If the European Union wants to show foreign policy results in the next five years, it must speed up accession talks and improve its neighbourhood policies.
Trócsányi (63), is a lawyer, academic, diplomat and politician. He was Hungarian Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg from 2000 to 2004. He was a member of the Constitutional Court of Hungary between 2007 and 2010. He served as Hungarian Ambassador to France from 2010 to 2014. He was Minister of Justice in the third and fourth Orbán cabinets, from 6 June 2014 to 30 June 2019. He was the candidate member from Hungary of the von der Leyen Commission, before being stopped by the European Parliament for alleged conflicts of interest.
Title image: The building of the European Commission in Brussels