V4 to Carry Flame for Balkan Hopes of EU Membership
But in an increasingly fractious Europe, officials from Visegrad Four (V4) states in Central Europe — Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — say they will champion the cause of EU enlargement within the new Commission.
Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are all EU candidate countries while the European Commission sees Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo as potential candidates.
"Poland is an advocate of enlargement as one of the most successful policies of the EU," Magdalena Czubala, head of the Southeast Europe and EU enlargement division at the Polish foreign ministry, told BIRN.
"We will only complete the European project when the Western Balkans joins."
While officials echo such sentiment in Bratislava, Budapest and Prague, analysts say cheerleading alone will not be enough to overcome a dwindling supply of goodwill for expansion (see box).
"We, even with the Visegrad Four, do not have enough lobbying power to push it through," said Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, former Secretary of State at the Hungarian foreign ministry and ex-Hungarian ambassador to Slovenia.
"In Western Europe, there is no real economic interest for further enlargement and parallel to that, so-called enlargement fatigue is developing in the Balkans."
French President Emmanuel Macron set the tone in June as countries clashed over who would get the EU's top jobs following European Parliament elections.
"I will refuse any kind of enlargement before a deep reform of our institutional functioning," he said.
Meanwhile, it remains an open question whether V4 states accused of democratic backsliding will be effective advocates for Balkan interests in the Commission.
Last year, the European Parliament voted to take unprecedented...