EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy with a focus on the Western Balkan countries

The topic of the European Union enlargement is one of the most relevant and significant issues facing the Union, particularly in times of war and destabilization in Europe mainly caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The EU’s enlargement and neighborhood policy play a crucial role in shaping the future stability, prosperity, security and progress of both the European Union and the entire European continent. By expanding the zone of peace and development, the European Union extends its presence and influence, striving to become the most influential global power. However, the thesis elaborates how the requirement for unanimous decisions within the EU poses one of the main obstacles for achieving the above-mentioned future challenges. Additionally, the thesis advocates for introduction of clear reasons due to which a certain EU candidate country can be vetoed in order to establish a more democratic, effective and efficient membership process without blackmails, within a strengthened and united EU accessible equally to all European countries. It is a fact that we have witnessed quite unprincipled blockades without competent, democratic and legitimate reasons for veto by compromising the Copenhagen criteria and EU treaties, while interfering in the candidate countries’ sovereignty, which is uncharacteristic for the European Union. Moreover, the thesis focuses on the Copenhagen criteria, essential benchmarks that must be met by candidate countries to progress in the accession process. They indicate if the candidate countries are politically, economically, and legally prepared in the accession process, while emphasizing that bilateral issues must not be a reason for veto according to EU treaties. However, this is not the case in reality, where such bilateral issues often take precedence. Such inappropriate vetoes, as the current Bulgarian veto of Macedonia and Greek veto of Albania, as well as the previous Greek veto of Macedonia marked by blackmails and a misuse of stronger and more assertive position as EU member states, while compromising the principles of the European Union and its treaties.

The thesis focuses on the history of every Western Balkan candidate country’s path to EU accession. It highlights all main disputes, agreements and statements, while providing potential solutions for resolving the actual disputes. Supported by facts and arguments, Macedonia’s path to EU accession represents the most difficult, undemocratic and unique accession process that must not happen to any EU candidate country. At the same time, the EU accession process of Macedonia is an example of how the accession to the European Union should not look like. With such types of vetoes like the Greek and Bulgarian ones towards Macedonia, the European Union is violating its values without which it cannot survive as a community. The Greek veto, which pertained to the non-recognition of the Macedonian national and constitutional flag and also the name “Republic of Macedonia”, contradicted the conclusion provided by the European Union Arbitration Commission, that the name “Macedonia” does not represent any territorial threat for Greece. At the same time, Greece also violated international law by not respecting the “Interim Agreement” signed between these two countries. In addition, Greece does not respect the judgment of the International Court of Justice related to this case, where 15 votes were in favour of Macedonia and only one vote from the Greek judge in favour of Greece. Furthermore, Greece acted contrary to the stances of all European institutions, all the positive reports provided by the European Commission and against the resolution from the European Parliament in 2010, which emphasized that the Copenhagen criteria were fully satisfied by Macedonia for the start of accession negotiations. Despite the EU’s promise to Macedonia that this would be the final obstacle before EU membership, the current Bulgarian veto has proven otherwise. This veto was imposed in pretty much the same way by compromising the Copenhagen criteria, EU treaties, regulations and obviously blackmailing Macedonia once again only for self-interests and benefits because of the better assertive position as an EU member state, not thinking about the common interest, stability and future prosperity of the European Union. Additionally, such actions violate the fundamental European values and this interference in the candidate country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and citizens’ nationality is contrary to international law and EU Treaties.

If the EU intends to complete the ongoing process of joining the European Convention on Human Rights and recognise the jurisdiction of Strasbourg, then should decide whether Macedonia is the guilty party and should really be vetoed due to unsubstantiated and alleged claims about disrespect for human rights, although there are no such judgments and it is an example of a multi-ethnic state where all the rights of minorities are fully protected, or Bulgaria may be the true party at fault, using the veto as a cover-up for its own actions or responsibilities. The fact that Bulgaria has 14 judgments from the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg related to the non-recognition and violation of the human rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, that have not yet been implemented is the strongest proof of this case. However, we need to delve deeper into this process to find out the real reasons behind this veto. According to the number of judgements from the Court of Human Rights for these two countries, one thing becomes evident, the Bulgarian demand for the inclusion of the Bulgarian minority (less than 1% of the total population in Macedonia) in the Macedonian constitution serves as a mask behind which the real underlying demands lie. Behind this condition lie numerous others, primarily concerning historical issues, as articulated by several prominent Bulgarian politicians, including the current President Rumen Radev and Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzambaski, who have even expressed territorial pretentions towards Macedonia. The political pressure should be directed towards Sofia instead of unilaterally towards Skopje, mainly due to the facts that Bulgaria has faced criticism from the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for its failure to implement the judgements concerning the human rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. The need for strict involvement in this process by the EU is necessary, otherwise the union itself will break its own values because after all Bulgaria is part of the EU. Nevertheless, while Macedonia has been better prepared for the start of accession negotiations in specific previous years, these were the primary reasons driving the accession process and bilateral disputes together with many blackmails took precedence.

I have presented four potential solutions for resolving the current dispute between Bulgaria and Macedonia. The first solution implies signing of a resolution that will contain the inclusion of the Bulgarian minority in the Macedonian constitution, as well as the implementation of the judgments from the Court of Human Rights which will follow immediately after the ratification of the Accession Treaty, following the example of the resolution between Croatia and Slovenia related to their territorial dispute. The second potential solution is a provision of written guarantees by the EU that will not follow additional future demands from Bulgaria. The third solution, includes extreme measures such as suspending European grants to Bulgaria, which are vital for its functioning. My last but not least solution aims to prevent the exploitation of the EU by Bulgaria in future and to protect the security, dignity and democratic principles of the EU, which means acting with four-fifths of EU members, to suspend and relativise the decision-making rights of Bulgaria as seen in procedures initiated for Hungary and Poland, deciding that by violating the fundamental values, Bulgaria creates risks in EU foreign policy, because after all the right of veto is not an absolute right.

In order the process of EU enlargement be successful, the political doublespeak must stop, either in the EU and Western Balkan countries. The EU must stop its doublespeak for so many years that is open for enlargement and war had to happen to understand how important the enlargement is for the EU’s future. The EU enlargement and neighborhood policy must become a priority again because only with a completed and unified EU could become the most powerful global factor. On the other side, Western Balkan countries must stop with doublespeak about their readiness for the needed reforms because we are witnessing numerous low evaluations in the European Commission reports, and their challenges remain the same for so many years such as the rule of law, fight against crime and corruption, as well as independent judiciary. If the EU wants to achieve future security, stability and prosperity as well as complete removal of Russian influence and presence in these areas that significantly contribute to destabilisation, a sincere and concrete offer specifying a precise date for accession to the EU need to be offered alongside clearly defined democratic conditions for enlargement. Additionally, gradually inclusion of the Western Balkan countries into the European single market and Schengen zone before their full membership, giving them an equal opportunity to progress as all the EU member states.

Le ultime news dalla Fondazione Collegio Europeo di Parma

Scopri tutte le news
25 Giugno 2024

Sono aperte le iscrizioni per i Master Unipr 2024-2025

Leggi tutto
10 Aprile 2024

Le competenze europee in Italia

Leggi tutto
2 Aprile 2024

Il Collegio Europeo si rinnova

Leggi tutto

Contattaci per ricevere maggiori informazioni