LONDON – Lacking a clear prospect of EU integration, the Western Balkans could slide further towards instability and authoritarianism, writes The Economist in an article titled “The EU must show the Balkans they still have a chance of joining”.
The Economist reminds that the European integration process of Western Balkans states have significantly dragged on since the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit, when the region was promised the prospect of EU integration.
As a consequence, the support for EU integration in some states have significantly faded, with the support falling from 67% in 2009 to 43% in the case of Serbia.
EU accession could be a solution for solving the region’s problems, since it would “force the region’s corrupt elites to allow media freedom, strengthen the rule of law and liberalise their economies, thus diluting their powers of patronage”.
On the other hand, further delays on the European path could bring further instability and risks of bloodshed, as evidenced by the recent violent events in Macedonia and tensions between Serbia and Kosovo at the beginning of the year.
According to The Economist, the EU is forced to team up with autoritharian Balkan leaders to prevent escalation of crises, such as the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who was previously a minister under Slobodan Milošević and whose term in power has been followed with “increase in mafia crime, the crushing of independent institutions and campaigns of harassment in state-controlled tabloids”, according to the civil socety representatives.
The article calls for a “two-track” approach – the reinvigoration of the EU acession process and a firmer stance on the governments who tread toward “lawlesness and illiberalism”.