Less than seven days before the presentation of the Enlargement Strategy during the plenary session of the European Parliament, entitled “Credible Perspective of Enlargements to the Western Balkans”, Spain has submitted a letter in the form of a non-paper opposing the inclusion of Kosovo in any process that might give an impression that Kosovo is treated as an independent state.
According to the Pristina-based daily Koha Ditore, Spain confronts the use of the term WB6 – an abbreviation for “six Western Balkans countries” and stresses that “Kosovo is not a part of the enlargement process”.
As daily newspaper’s interlocutors in Brussels claim, the abbreviation WB6 is used in the strategy so as not to “upset” countries that still have not recognized Kosovo. Moreover, “in diplomatic circles, it is mentioned that Spain intends to oppose the participation of Kosovo at the EU and Western Balkan Summit in Sofia”, writes Koha Ditore.
Even though the earlier announcement by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker that the Strategy would refer to the potential accession of Serbia and Montenegro named as “frontrunners” to the EU by 2025, the draft Strategy also includes other candidates and potential candidates for the EU membership from the Western Balkans region.
According to the regatta principle, each state will proceed to the EU with regard to their progress made in achieving the pre-accession goals, but not all together, at the same time.
On the other hand, Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj recently stated that his government hoped to submit an application for EU membership in the second half of 2018, as well as that all Western Balkan countries should join the bloc at the same time.
Also, Janina Suela Albania’s ambassador to the EU said that Juncker’s signal to the region was appreciated, but Suela is concerned if the strategy would be concentrated only on Serbia and Montenegro.
Furthermore, in the letter Kosovo representative are urged to improve the implementation of the standards outlined in the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, also the “continuation of the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, supported by the EU, is suggested”.
Spanish non-paper also argues that it is necessary to make a distinction between the EU enlargement process and the procedures and strategies for the Western Balkans which is part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Pristina-based daily writes.
Meanwhile, according to the Independent Balkan News Agency (IBNA), the government of Kosovo has sent a letter to authorities in Brussels to express their concern about the lack of clarity of the EU strategy for its expansion in Western Balkans. The representatives of Kosovo have expressed their criticism about the coming strategy, which is mainly focused on Serbia and Montenegro, while there are no specific dates for other countries.
Also, Kosovo is demanding from Brussels to give the green light for the visa liberalisation regime and the EU candidate member status, IBNA writes.
Asked to comment both the Spanish non-paper and the letter delivered by Kosovo institutions, Spokesperson of the European Commission Maja Kocijančič stated that “Strategy presents a document to be adopted by the Commission and it will cover the whole region of Western Balkans.”
Therefore, when the document is adopted, it will be discussed within the Council by other member states. Moreover, Kocijančič said that “first we have to see the strategy to be presented and then we can have a discussion about it.”
One more time, Spokesperson of the Commission stressed that Western Balkans region has the European perspective.
In accordance with the information that appeared last days about the draft Strategy, Kosovo needs to achieve a comprehensive normalisation of relations with Serbia, as concrete progress towards the EU is dependent on that.
Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States