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Balkans

HAHN ANNOUNCES 02. 02. 2018.   >>  15:37 0

HAHN ANNOUNCES

The EU enlargement is a regatta not a convoy

The European Union is launching a diplomatic effort to accelerate steps to bring six countries in the Western Balkans into the EU fold after years of stop-start progress.

“It is time to finish the work of 1989,” European Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Reuters, referring to the EU’s eastward expansion after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“We have set 2025 as an indicative date for Serbia and Montenegro, which is realistic but also very ambitious.”

Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia all hope to join the European Union but have seen their membership chances fade in recent years as the bloc’s politicians, faced with rising eurosceptism at home, the 2009-2013 eurozone crisis and Britain’s vote to leave the bloc, appeared to lose interest.

 “Either we export stability to the region or we import instability,” Hahn said, arguing that the EU’s accession process was the best way to fight corruption, organized crime and the threat of authoritarianism in the region.

Serbia is seen as the lynchpin and the EU hopes Belgrade’s influence in the Balkans could help others reform.

Hahn is set to visit Serbia in February after publishing the Commission’s official Balkan strategy on Feb. 6, followed by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is expected to visit all six countries in a gesture of support.

Hahn will also travel to Washington next month to meet U.S. State Department officials to outline the EU’s Balkan push.

With neighboring Bulgaria holding the EU’s rotating presidency from January to June, European Union leaders will hold a special Balkan summit in Sofia in May. Britain is also set to host another top-level Balkan gathering in July.

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