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Policy Dialogue
EU enlargement to the Balkans: something’s got to give!

Thursday, 14 November 2019


Florian Bieber, Director, Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz
Nikolaos Tzifakis, Associate Professor, University of the Peloponnese; Research Associate,Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies. 

Allan Jones, Head of Unit Strategy and Policy, Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission

Corina Stratulat, Senior Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre (Moderator)

The enlargement of the EU towards the Western Balkans seems to have reached an impasse, after the failure to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania at the European Council in October. This Policy Dialogue discussed possible strategies to reboot the process.
Building on the latest BiEPAG Policy Brief on the subject, panellists identified key challenges to EU enlargement and possible solutions. Firstly, the role of member states as gatekeepers, which hinders the credibility of conditionality and de facto nationalises the process through vetoes, could be overcome by introducing qualified majority voting in the Council. Secondly, enlargement fatigue and overall lukewarm support for new accessions, reflected in opinion polls, could be the subject of improved EU communication on the topic, aimed at reaching citizens in the EU and in the aspiring countries. Finally, the slow progress of the reform process in the Western Balkan countries, together with state capture, needs to be acknowledged and dealt with through improved inclusion of civil society rather than being left to the elites. Speakers concluded that the EU should seize the opportunity to deepen integration among existing member states before taking in new countries -  as suggested by some member states - but that this cannot be an excuse for postponing enlargement indefinitely. 


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