It is the club so many are eager to join.
But while EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana insists the bloc should press ahead with expansion, it is not all good news for would-be members. At a meeting of foreign ministers in the Czech Republic, the warning was that unless all 27 existing EU nations ratify the Lisbon reform treaty, the enlargement process wiill suffer. Croatia’s negotiations with Brussels have already been hampered by a border row with Slovenia. Nonetheless, the bloc stressed it is not shutting the door to the Balkans, with Croatia lined up, in time, to become the EU’s 28th member state. “The foreign ministers firmly reconfirmed the European perspective of the Western Balkans,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told a news conference after the talks in the Czech town of Hluboka. “In the recent past, we have had perhaps some relative political stability in the region but certainly no end of history, no eternal peace yet. And therefore we need to continue our policy of stabilisation which by (an)other name is called enlargement – this gradual process of enlargement of the European Union.” The meeting’s message about the importance of ratifying the reform treaty is particularly relevant for the Czech hosts. Last week’s no confidence vote in the country’s coalition government has cast doubt on whether it will finally give Lisbon the green light. And with Prague currently holding the European Union Presidency, that leaves the future direction of the bloc in the balance.