New EU Enlargement Strategy Leaves Balkans Unimpressed
Tellingly, the new strategy was put together without consultation on the ground in the Balkans, which would have given it a better understanding of local realities.
While some EU officials say the document's true value will only be revealed through a process of consultation, revision and eventual implementation, the "new" methodology in its current form offers no revolutionary ideas. In fact, it follows the same ideas outlined in two "non-papers" that several EU member countries tabled at the end of last year.
'New' strategy echoes some old ideas:
EU flag. Photo: EPA-EFE/HOLLIE ADAMS
One non-paper, proposed by France last November, for example, was based on four core principles; gradual association, more stringent conditions, more tangible benefits - and reversibility of the enlargement process.
It envisaged that enlargement "would no longer be based on simultaneous opening of a large number of thematic chapters but on several successive stages, which would form coherent policy blocks".
The second non-paper, circulated jointly by Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovenia, in December, proposed that all the negotiation chapters - which currently number 35 - be grouped by their main areas along the lines of the eight sub-committees in a Stabilization and Association Agreement, SAA, the trade deal that marks the first step towards EU membership.
Echoing these ideas, aiming to "inject further dynamism into the negotiating process", the Commission's document proposes grouping of all negotiating chapters in six thematic clusters: fundamentals; internal market; competitiveness and inclusive growth; green agenda and sustainable connectivity; resources,...