Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/western Balkans : Eu Not Top Priority for Local Politicians, Says Eas Diplomat

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/western Balkans : Eu Not Top Priority for Local Politicians, Says Eas Diplomat

Article excerpt

The slow progress in enlarging the EU to take in the Western Balkans is largely due to the region's political leaders not making EU membership their number one priority, the EU's top diplomat responsible for the region has said. "They are too consumed by domestic politics and electoral calendars" and not focused enough on making the necessary reforms, said Miroslav Lajcak, managing director for Europe and Central Asia at the EU's External Action Service (EAS), at a conference in Washington DC on transatlantic policy in the Balkans. Reforms must come first, membership at the end, he said, adding that "EU membership is not a reward for the most efficient lobbying of Brussels".

Speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, the senior EU diplomat contrasted the disappointing state of affairs in the Balkans with the more successful EU enlargement of 2004 when eight former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe joined. Lajcak, a former Slovak diplomat, said this earlier success was due to the countries concerned being more willing to make the necessary reforms. Asked what impact the ongoing EU debt crisis would have on the enlargement process, he said "we have less time and money for the Western Balkans, so we expect more of the countries of the region".

KOSOVO'S NON-RECOGNISERS

The conference focused mainly on Bosnia and Kosovo, the two Western Balkan nations that have made the least progress on the path to membership. …

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