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Western Balkans told 'hold' for EU membership

brussels bureau

Western Balkans told 'hold' for EU membership


The countries of the Western Balkans can not expect EU encouragement to join soon. European Commission progress reports next week will essentially just mark time. EU sources say Macedonia’s hope of starting accession talks next year cannot succeed, since its new prime minister has shut out the former Yugoslav republic’s ethnic Albanian minority and politicised many state institutions.

Apart from Croatia, which is on track with negotiations, only Macedonia is officially a candidate. EU calls for a possible five- or six-year pause in expansion after Bulgaria and Romania’s entry in January reflect both a mood of “enlargement fatigue” in the bloc and performance issues in each of the hopefuls.

An association process with Serbia has been frozen since May because of its failure to arrest key war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic. The former Bosnian Serb military commander is wanted for trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal, on genocide charges.

Despite concerns from some EU member states, Brussels has insisted on the suspension until the chief war crimes prosecutor certifies that Serbia is cooperating fully with the Hague tribunal.

Association talks have begun with newly independent Montenegro.

Albania must continue its efforts after signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in June.

The process has stalled with Bosnia because of Sarajevo’s failure to implement an important police reform.

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