EU Election Results Only Worsen Balkans’ Bleak Perspectives
Meanwhile, the election results will change little in terms of the EU bleak perspective of Western Balkan aspirant members.
Oddly, this is not only because of the rise of populism and Euroscepticism. It has more to do with the attitude of the traditional European conservatives, liberals and their partners on the left.
Enlargement of the EU [read the Western Balkans] has been critically low on the EU agenda for years, and seems likely to remain so after the elections. Unlike before, however, most political actors in Western Europe, whether from the left or the right, view further EU expansion unfavourably.
The relationship between the two resembles a slow fade, a romance that is nearing its end. Partners don't fully trust one another and consider alternative options, though they still talk about their common future.
"The candidate countries pretend they want to reform, and we pretend we want them to join the EU," is a sentence that now more than ever describes what is going on between the EU and the Balkan region.
As EU membership looks like a pleasant but unachievable dream, so sounds the reassurance of local leaders to remain fully committed to democratic reforms.
We should note three arguments commonly used by the major EU members to justify their cautious approach to further expansion.
The first is the EU's negative experience with new members and their democratic regression. Although valid and justifiable, this argument underrates the good performance of other "newcomers". It is true that a few new members struggle with growing authoritarian populism, others, like the Baltic states, Slovenia or Malta, have come a long way to fully integrate into EU structures.
More importantly, this argument conceals the...