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Sweden urges EU 'open door' on Balkans

AFP/The Local · 2 Jun 2010, 11:46

Published: 02 Jun 2010 11:46 GMT+02:00

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Going into the Sarajevo summit, Swedish Foreign Minister and former Balkans peace envoy Carl Bildt said he expected "strong reaffirmation by the EU" of the prospects for the integration of Balkans nations.

"There are a number of countries where enthusiasm for enlargement is less than 100 percent these days. Then it is important that we come here to reaffirm and say ... the door is open," he said.

The meeting comes as concern mounts across the Balkans that Europe's debt crisis and its problems absorbing the 12 nations that have joined the bloc since 2004 will slow down further enlargement.

Bildt's Italian colleague Franco Frattini said he expected "a very ambitious commitment to be taken by EU together with the US and Russia," whose officials

are also at the high-level meeting.

"I would expect Europe not (to be) shy in reaffirming its commitment. If member states are reluctant it is up to the European institutions to do their part," Frattini said.

Spain, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, organised the meeting, also attended by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele.

In Serbia, the top official charged with overseeing EU integration, government vice president Bozidar Djelic, warned in the Blic daily against having "unrealistic expectations" of the summit.

The Balkan states are hoping that besides promises for the future, the 27-member EU will also show some decisive action on expanding its borders.

Bosnia and Albania hope Brussels will soon allow visa liberalisation for their nationals while Belgrade wants the EU quickly to ratify the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), the first step towards membership.

Within the EU there is growing reluctance over enlargement amid fears that it could affect the financial stability of the union as it battles a giant debt crisis that threatens to spread from Greece to other nations.

Apart from Croatia, the western Balkans nations are among the poorest to have applied for EU membership.

The only economic success story from the region so far, Slovenia, is already an EU member. Croatia is currently well advanced in accession talks and hopes to join by 2012.

But while Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo have all expressed the wish to join the EU, they are still at the beginning of the process.

Story continues below…

In Wednesday's meeting the EU and the Balkans countries are expected to welcome the region's progress over the last decade, from being wracked by conflict to embarking on the road to prosperity.

Brussels has supported the European ambitions of these former communist states in order to ensure stability in the region, which suffered during the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The EU has pushed reconciliation at the summit as the bloc insists that all potential members must have good relations with their neighbours.

But Brussels warned Tuesday ahead of the meeting that challenges remain for the EU hopefuls, notably in the areas of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime and press freedom.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:31 June 2, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Just what the Euro needs right now (or ever), another load of poor southern European countries to support.

This is going to go down really well with the Germans. If Merkell said that now, they would throw her in a river. Get real Mr Bildt, it will be a very long time before the Euro can afford any more freeloaders, and before a German politician can even suggest it.
13:27 June 2, 2010 by peropaco
Keep Turkey out... the rest is smoked turkey..
13:34 June 2, 2010 by Nemesis
I do support Serbia and other countries coming into the EU, but only after they have;

1. changed all there laws to European standards.

2. have open, transparent government.

3. fully publish there budgets and spend within there means.

4. hand over all war criminals without exception to the International criminal Court.

5. tackle corruption at every level and stamp it out completely.

6. engage in long term planning of every sector in there country, from education to infrastructure.

If they do not, they should not be allowed to join the EU.

Also if Sweden wants them in, Sweden should pay for them, no one else.
13:55 June 2, 2010 by bbeynch
Well said Nemesis. Thank you. Special emphasis on No 5.
14:24 June 2, 2010 by flintis
Bit late for the joint effort now, seeing as half the population of the former Yugoslavia has already been allowed into Sweden to continue their bitter feud.

New members should only be allowed if they have something to contribute & I do not mean a cheap workforce moving around the EU putting people out of work
23:26 June 2, 2010 by Jannik
Several Eu members are on the verge of bankruptcy,, caused by public overspending, and a gullible EU granting credit to unresponsible member states.

The EU is screwed in the long run, and now they want to expand this corrupt soviet inspired empire? They probably know that the empire will collapse once it starts seizing to expand its territory. Just like the soviet did.

Albania and Bosnia are just the first muslim states to be admitted into the EU. In the long run, Turkey will become a member, and several northern african countries.

This is the hell which awaits europe in the future; EUrabia.

So the sooner this totalitarian and multicultural empire collapses, the better.
10:28 June 3, 2010 by Nemesis
@ Jannik

For 20 years now, Turkey was supposed to change its laws towards European norms. It was making progress until this present government. Now Turkey is driving a wedge between itself and Europe, with no assistance from anyone else.

People think that Turkey is good for standing up to Israel. All it has really done is give a boast to fundementalists in Turkey, which will make Turkey into a pariah.

For Turkey to enter the European Union it would have to rewrite half its statute books and give rights to minorities. There is no way Turkey will give the Kurds rights or gays for that matter, so there is no way of Turkey to get into the EU. At present Turkey is starting to noticeablely turn away from the EU.

As for the Mediteranean. Morrocco was overwhelmingly rejected by the EU for membership decades ago. Libya is recognised as in cookoo land. Egypt, not a hope in hell. The only countries that would even have a chance of meeting EU requirements for membership, is Tunisia and Israel. Both are not interested and the EU would most likely not be interested in them.

Albania has actually made a lot more progress than most realise, but is at least a decade away from even a serious membership application. Albania is also not a religeous state, far from it. Anti-religeous would be more accurate. Also there is now serious investment oppertunties starting to appear in Albania now.

Serbia is now starting to make progress and most likely will be in by 2015, or shortly after.

Kosovo is a mess and will have to deal with the KLA and corruption before serious talks begin.

Bosnia is torn apart by ethic strife and will take at least a decade of EU intervention to build up the nation, before it can seriously start its application process and be taken seriously.

Croatia will come into the EU very soon. Croatia has made significant progress in all areas. Croatia will soon be in the EU and is makign significant progress towards Euro membership.

Montenegro has also made significant progress towards a clear cut membership application and already uses the Euro as its currency.

Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia will vehemently object to Turkey being in the EU, as would Hungary, Greece, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

I can't imagine Poland, Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia being for Turkey in the EU either.

Also Ukraine is slowly making progress towards European standards. Ukraine has turned away from potential NATO membership and intead appears to be following the path that Finland took, which will be a great stabilisation factor in the region. Ukraine would get into the EU long before Turkey would be eligable and would object to Turkey being in the EU as well.

In plain language too many countries would object to Turkey being a member by the time it progress's to the point of membership, so it would not get in
14:13 June 3, 2010 by Atlas

Dude, check the facts first. Albania doesn't endorse a religion officially...Granted we have a majority belonging to Islam, but that is just a statistical number, not a true representation...

Of all The European Nations, i say Albania is probably the only country who doesn't have a religion as part of its national identity....not that there is something wrong with a religious identity, but it makes you (country) kinda biased...


@Nemesis, Albania is not asking at this point for full EU membership, we just want to have the possibility to travel within Europe without visas...
22:46 June 7, 2010 by manrush
Let's face it, Serbia and Croatia are the only Balkan nations that actually matter.

With them in the EU, the Balkans are then all counted for.
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