No one really believes that EU enlargement will continue with any of the six Balkan countries in the next decade, writes today the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an analysis in which it offers an old alternative – membership in the European Economic Area zone. “Already with the current 27 member states, in terms of foreign policy, budget and other issues that require unanimity, the EU is often difficult, and sometimes is not able to act at all. In a Union of 33 members, this will be even more difficult. “You can imagine what it will mean when Serbia, as a member, has the right to veto the issue of EU relations with Russia.”
On the one hand, the EU does not want to completely secede from the Balkan neighborhood, and on the other hand, through the Stabilization and Association Agreement, it has already offered the countries in the region an inter-step towards full membership. Now that, according to the German newspaper, it is clear that there is nothing about full membership, what would be the alternative on the one hand, would be realistic and, on the other, would be attractive enough for the region to stop autocratic processes, to accelerate the reform processes or the idea to revive in general?
“The recipe, which is always mentioned again, reads: Full membership of the Balkan countries in the Single European Market. “In other words: full economic participation without the right to a political word.” This concept (which was first put forward by Gerald Knaus after the French veto in October 2019) is also advocated by the longtime German MEP and member of the presidency of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU, Elmar Brock.
Skopje opposes alternatives, but they are already on the EU table. It is understandable for him that he is no longer enthusiastic about further EU enlargement. “French President Macron is right when he calls for EU reform before further enlargement,” Brock told the FAC. “Even if a Balkan country manages to close negotiations in line with EU requirements, ratification of membership in the European Parliament and in national parliaments is unlikely.
“It is to be expected that certain Member States will always find reasons for the delay.” Instead of such “disappointment”, Brock proposes a solution that will bring significant benefits to people in the region, and at the same time will be accepted by EU members. That tried and tested solution is “membership in the European Economic Area, EEC”. According to Elmar Brock, the best solution for the Western Balkans is EEC membership.
“Although the ideas promoted by Brock have been circulating for years, it cannot be said that they are gaining momentum in the public discourse of the Balkan countries. There, at least, the “pro-Europeans” still look exclusively at full membership. “The EU, at least through the views of its Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhei, still supports this perception by claiming that full membership is a realistic offer that candidate countries can reach on their own”, however, the reality is much darker for the Balkans, particularly for Macedonia who even changed their name yet their membership appears more distant with each passing year – reports FAZ.