EU rapporteur adds to pressure for Brussels to give Balkans ‘something’ amid Ukraine push

EU-member Slovenia is pushing for accelerated admission of aspiring members in the Western Balkans and unconditional candidate status for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is battling secessionist efforts by ethnic Serbian leaders who are closely allied with Moscow

German Greens group Member of the European Parliament Viola von Cramon-Taubadel
German Greens group Member of the European Parliament Viola von Cramon-Taubadel

A European Parliament rapporteur for Kosovo has said ahead of this week’s decision on possible candidate status for Ukraine and two other post-Soviet republics that the bloc “must also give something” to hopeful members in the Western Balkans.

The rapporteur, German Greens group Member of the European Parliament Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, suggested to reporters in Sarajevo on June 19 that immediate concessions from Brussels would help maintain trust and credibility in the region.

The comments come amid a push from EU-member Slovenia for accelerated admission of aspiring members in the Western Balkans and unconditional candidate status for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is battling secessionist efforts by ethnic Serbian leaders who are closely allied with Moscow.

“We European parliamentarians always say that in case Moldova and Ukraine are given candidate status, we must also give something to the countries of the Western Balkans to show that we are credible and that trust in us is not completely lost,” von Cramon-Taubadel said.

Pressed by reporters for specific measures, she cited officially opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, giving candidate status to Bosnia, and liberalizing the visa regime with Kosovo.

But von Cramon-Taubadel added, “We are all against any acceleration, shortcuts, or negotiations, even about membership.”

She said she was unfamiliar with the details of the Slovenian proposal, which was reportedly going to be unveiled by Ljubljana as soon as June 20.

In a letter to European Council President Charles Michel, Slovenian President Borut Pahor on June 16 said Western Balkan states appeared ever more distant despite past promises while Ukraine and Moldova were being fast-tracked since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

Pahor called Bosnia a risk of runaway nationalism and instability -- citing Bosnian Serb separatism with tacit Russian backing -- and said it was “absolutely necessary to unconditionally grant Bosnia-Herzegovina the status of a candidate for EU membership.”

Leaders of all 27 EU states will consider membership applications from Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia at a summit on June 23-24.

“The aim of the Slovenian proposal that suggests granting EU candidate status to [Bosnia] without delay is to send an immediate positive signal to [Bosnia] and the entire Western Balkans region,” Pahor’s proposal reportedly says.

“Such a signal to [Bosnia], opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, as well as visa liberalization for Kosovo would reconfirm the EU’s commitment to the Western Balkans.”

Von Cramon-Taubadel was in Sarajevo along with an EU delegation to learn more about the situation in Bosnia, which is still governed under an ethnic-based agreement in 1995 that ended years of intense fighting in Bosnia following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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