EU urges Balkan reform but cool on accepting new members

AP

Print Article

  • From left, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk take their places prior to a media conference at the conclusion of an EU and Western Balkan heads of state summit at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

  • 1

    From left, Serbia's President Aleksander Vusic, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk take their places prior to a signature ceremony on the sidelines of an EU and Western Balkan heads of state summit at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

  • 2

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk, center, and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (Dimitar Dilkoff, Pool Photo via AP)

  • 3

    Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, left, speaks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 4

    European Council President Donald Tusk, left, and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn, right, speak with Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, center, during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 5

    Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, center, speaks with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, left, during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 6

    Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, left, speaks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 7

    Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, right, speaks with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • From left, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk take their places prior to a media conference at the conclusion of an EU and Western Balkan heads of state summit at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

  • 1

    From left, Serbia's President Aleksander Vusic, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk take their places prior to a signature ceremony on the sidelines of an EU and Western Balkan heads of state summit at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

  • 2

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk, center, and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (Dimitar Dilkoff, Pool Photo via AP)

  • 3

    Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, left, speaks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 4

    European Council President Donald Tusk, left, and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn, right, speak with Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, center, during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 5

    Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, center, speaks with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, left, during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 6

    Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, left, speaks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

  • 7

    Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, right, speaks with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas during a round table meeting of EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (AP Photo Virginia Mayo, Pool)

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) European Union leaders on Thursday encouraged Balkan countries to continue on the path of EU-oriented reform but were cool on any of the six joining the bloc in the near future.

The Balkans spiraled into conflict in the 1990s as the former Yugoslavia broke apart and ethnic and nationalist tensions continue to simmer more than 20 years on. Yet the prospect of accession to the EU has been a powerful driver of democratic reform in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and its former territory of Kosovo.

Amid a rise in support for far-right parties and populist politicians, divisions have surfaced among the 28 EU countries, particularly on how to manage Europe's migration challenge, and the political and public appetite for expansion has dwindled.

On top of that, Britain is set to leave the EU next year the first country ever to do so. That move has shaken the bloc to its foundations and a group of nations led by France insist that the EU must first clean its own house before it invites anyone else in.

"The last 15 years have shown a path that has weakened Europe by thinking all the time that it should be enlarged," French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at an EU-Balkan summit in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said that "Europe must be deeply reformed to function better, to be more efficient, and at the same time the Balkan countries have to reform their ways of functioning; more stability, more security, more respect for the rule of law."

European Council President Donald Tusk, who chaired the summit, said that it's important to continue the integration process and reassure the six that their future lies with Europe, not with Russia.

"We didn't pretend that everything is clear and simple," Tusk said, adding that "it's not our intention to spoil this process by suggesting something unrealistic like fast-track" EU membership.

The EU welcomed in 10 mostly Eastern European nations in 2004, then Bulgaria and Romania three years later. Croatia was the last country to join in 2013.

Newcomers like Hungary and Poland saw their economies boosted by billions of euros in so-called cohesion funds meant to build up their infrastructure, but their leaders now refuse to share the burden of responsibility for sheltering refugees. Brussels is also concerned about moves in both countries that it considers to be undermining the independence of their justice systems.

In a different way, Cyprus, divided between its Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north, has highlighted the challenges of inviting in a country whose borders are still in dispute. The tiny Mediterranean island member state has routinely blocked Turkey's EU membership talks. Serbia's former territory of Kosovo is not recognized by five of the EU's 28 member countries, and it is quite possible that under today's EU decision-making processes that Serbia, were it to join, would freeze Kosovo out.

The summit, the first of its kind in 15 years, comes amid EU concern that the volatile Balkans could be thrown into turmoil again and worries that Russia's influence there is rising.

But the Europeans are wary of importing more instability, given the strong nationalist trends in some countries.

"When it comes to troubles per capita the Western Balkans are much bigger than, for example, Germany and France together," Tusk said.

      

Print Article

Read More National & World News

Venezuelan president expels top US diplomat amid tensions

AP

May 22, 2018 at 7:30 pm | CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) President Nicolas Maduro expelled the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela and his deputy Tuesday for allegedly conspiring against the socialist government and trying to sabotage ...

Comments

Read More

Red Cross: Over 2,000 attacks on health care in conflict

AP

May 22, 2018 at 7:10 pm | UNITED NATIONS (AP) Over 1,200 violent incidents against hospitals and medical personnel have taken place in 16 countries in the two years since the U.N. adopted a resolution demanding that combata...

Comments

Read More

AP PHOTOS: Thousands join Hong Kong bun-snatching festival

AP

May 22, 2018 at 6:47 pm | HONG KONG (AP) Thousands of people flocked to an outlying island in Hong Kong on Tuesday to celebrate a local bun festival despite recording-breaking heat. A parade featured children dressed as...

Comments

Read More

Puerto Rico gov submits $25B budget amid deal with board

AP

May 22, 2018 at 6:12 pm | SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) Puerto Rico's governor proposed a $25 billion budget to the island's legislature Tuesday in which retired government workers would keep their monthly pensions uncut and p...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(608) 365-8811
149 State Street
Beloit, WI 53511

©2018 Beloit Daily News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X