BRUSSELS – “In the countries of Southeast Europe, support for joining the EU is falling because residents believe that it does not want to accept them, but there are partnership programs through which these countries can also participate in common topics such as the ‘green plan’ and digitalization”, said EU’s special representative for the Western Balkans, Miroslav Lajčak, in an interview for Hina.
Hina recalled, that Serbia, which does not recognize the independence of Kosovo unilaterally declared in 2008, has opened 22 negotiation chapters and it has closed only two. North Macedonia was first blocked by Greece because of its name, and when it added “Northern” to its name, it was blocked by France ahead of its local elections, and then by Bulgaria, disputing its national identity and language. The EU jointly opened negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in 2022.
“I don’t want to speak in terms of someone’s guilty, but there were factors on both the EU side and the Balkan side that lead us to a situation where we are talking about the future of the EU, but without progress”, Lajčak said.
He added that now, after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the EU and the Western Balkans must take enlargement seriously. “This can not be achieved if one side takes it seriously and the other not”, Lajčak said.
When it comes to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lajčak described the political situation as “very complicated”, adding that the fundamental thing is where the legitimacy comes from, which should be the difference in responsibility and competence between the state level and that of the entities.
“We see different interpretations in Sarajevo and Banja Luka and numerous disagreements based on the differences in those interpretations. It is necessary to touch on the functionality of that state. We also see positive elements, the Council of Ministers was formed very quickly, much faster than during the previous elections. It is important that decisions are made by all three constituent nations. BiH must also find a role for those nations that are not constituent, to ensure that no one is discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity”, he added.
Commenting on the situation in Montenegro, Lajčak said that he expects Podgorica to focus less on itself and more on the European agenda.
“Montenegro is still the leader, although the speed of European reform has slowed down significantly. But it is good that functionality of the Constitutional Court has been restored. I expect the new president and the government to fully commit to European integration, to what the majority of residents want. Montenegro has been a factor of stability in the Balkans for many years, so I expect it to continue to play that role”, Lajčak said.