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EU expansion threatened by Czech chaos

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EU expansion threatened by Czech chaos

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Balkan countries eager to join the EU have been sent mixed messages from a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

On the one hand, there is reassurance that nations like Croatia do have a European future. But there is also a warning that unless all 27 of the EU’s existing nations finally ratify the Lisbon reform treaty, the enlargement process will suffer. Would-be member Croatia has another problem. It’s negotiations with Brussels have been hampered by a border row with Slovenia, which is already in the EU club. At this weekend’s meeting in the Czech Republic, tensions are being talked down. Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said: “There is no pressure on Slovenia. There is no pressure on Croatia. We realise the importance of enlargement. Let me stress that the work that the Slovenian foreign minister and the Croatian foreign minister are doing in this framework is excellent.” 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.