The EU integration process for the countries of the Western Balkans has halted, despite the goodwill on both sides, meanwhile, the region’s head of states blame problems within the EU’s domestic problems.
But, Adelheid Feilcke, an expert on Western Balkans politics, said on Balkan Talks that the main responsibility lies on the candidate countries and them not fulfilling the conditions.
“If more would have been achieved on reciprocal recognition, improving various aspects of corruption, improve human rights and various media freedom aspects, integrating to the European Union would have been easier”, Feilcke said.
She emphasized that since Western Balkans countries have not fixed their neighborly relations, they are not ready to access the union.
According to Feilcke, the fact that Kosovo still has a visa regime, despite fulfilling all the conditions, is a serious problem, adding that the country is being held hostage to EU’s unanimity principle, where states must decide jointly on the matter.
“This is a serious problem of course, and Germany has been very clear about visa liberalization with Kosovo. But unfortunately, the EU operates through unanimity, so all states must vote in favor of that process”, said the Head of the Europe Department at Deutsche Welle.
However, Feilcke feels optimistic about a potential solution to the dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia brokered by the EU.
“I am convinced that a lot of dialogue is involved, bilateral consultations and major efforts within EU structures to convince Bulgaria in overcoming the dispute with North Macedonia”.
In terms of the Balkan Mini-Schengen, Feilcke sees it as a positive development only if all regional countries become members with equal rights and competencies.
“It is a positive process if the Western Balkans agree for closer cooperation, but it not a good thing that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are not a part of it. If the countries that are a part of the process integrate these two states, then the initiative might yield positive aspects in favor of EU integration”, concluded Feilcke.