The EU is more prepared for the Balkans than the Balkans are prepared for the EU

BUDVA – The European Union is more prepared for the Western Balkans than the Western Balkans are prepared for the European Union. This is one of the strongest messages from the second panel at the 2BS Forum: Crossroads of Change: Navigating the Future of the Western Balkans. The panel discussed the European perspective of the countries in the region and recent events in northern Kosovo, which could significantly influence the further path of the Balkans towards the European community.

Miroslav Lajčák, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues, commented on the recent attacks in northern Kosovo, emphasizing the importance of establishing facts and responsibilities. According to Lajčák, it is necessary to work on dialogue, which he acknowledges is challenging due to escalating tensions.

The priority is to resolve the situation since September 24. Only in this way can we hope for normalization. It is good that the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia meet, and in the given circumstances, any meeting is better than none, said Lajčák.

Commenting on the accusations from official Pristina that he represents Belgrade’s interests, Lajčák stated that when you don’t like the messages, you attack the messenger.

The dialogue has been ongoing since 2011. Governments and structures have changed both in Kosovo and Serbia. In the EU, structures have changed as well, but the only way forward is dialogue because there is no EU future without good relations between Kosovo and Serbia. There is no normalization without dialogue. The more dialogue, the better, and we should focus on finding ways to establish dialogue. This is crucial for the entire region and the biggest challenge for the entire Western Balkans, Lajčák assessed. He mentioned that he met with all Western Balkan leaders in New York, and they were all concerned about the situation in Kosovo.

This makes the region look bad, and it’s detrimental to the enlargement process, which worries the entire region, the EU representative emphasized.

Adrian Davidoiu, the Special Representative for the Western Balkans at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that he doesn’t blame anyone.

The responsibility lies with those who resorted to violence; it is entirely unacceptable, and it should be proven in a judicial process. It’s important to continue the complex dialogue monitored and facilitated by the EU. We should use these political tools. This is not about recognition or non-recognition; first, we need stability in the Balkans. This is the obligation of Romania and the whole of Europe. We must do our best to support this as much as possible, and everyone should take their responsibilities and make their decisions, Davidoiu said, emphasizing the importance of clarifying who is responsible for what so that they can take on responsibility.

Former President of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, spoke on the second panel of the 2BS Forum about the Serbia-Kosovo relationship in the context of recent events in Banjska in northern Kosovo.

He mentioned that a year ago, he spoke in the same place about the consequences of the war in Ukraine and how it would be important to determine where Serbia would align itself – with the West, with the EU, or with Moscow.

At that time, what I said wasn’t well received. I said it’s important for the EU to have Serbia alongside. I was interpreted as an advocate for Serbia. Regarding all of this, I’ll say that I don’t know exactly what happened in Kosovo, but if it turns out that official Belgrade is behind it all, with the intention of using force to change the situation in Kosovo, it would mean that Serbia has decided to remain in Moscow’s sphere of interest and doesn’t want to join the EU, Pahor said. However, he still hopes that Serbia hasn’t had the final say on EU integration.

I hope that the dialogue between Belgrade and Kosovo will move forward from both sides, and we will come out of this process. I remain a supporter of EU enlargement to the entire Western Balkans and adhere to the assessment that Brussels’ philosophy is currently wrong. I think 2030 is a good year for enlargement, but I believe Brussels should accept all those who are ready at that time, Pahor emphasized. He believes that the EU must have a clear response to what is happening in Kosovo because, as he said, it’s in the common interest.

Miroslav Lajčák believes that the EU is more prepared for the Balkans than the Balkans are prepared for the EU when it comes to EU enlargement.

Enlargement is a political process that involves demanding technical criteria. In recent years, the EU has neglected the political aspect and reduced it to a technical process. The consequence of this is retrogressive tendencies in the Balkans. It has changed the world, and the EU has never been the fastest, but it is the most solidary. The EU’s absence in the region created a space that others exploited. The EU is now serious, preparations for new members are underway, and what Charles Michel said at Bled is an important indication. A date has been given for the first time. The EU will be ready, but the question is whether the region will be, Lajčák concluded.

He stated that the EU will not turn its back on the Balkans, but it’s possible that Moldova and the EU might seize the enlargement opportunity while the Balkans do not.

Commenting on the fact that Hungary, an EU member, supports the Republic of Srpska and its authorities, Lajčák said that the EU is as strong as its unity.

When the EU is united, it is important, and when it is divided, it is not. He believes that unity should be the result of discussions among EU member states. Regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), he expressed frustration that while many talk about the problems in BiH, he doesn’t hear solutions. He would like to hear concrete solutions. He also mentioned that he doesn’t see the logic in the actions of Milorad Dodik.

Borut Pahor agreed with Lajčák on the consensus within the EU that enlargement is at the top of the agenda.

However, in the region, there isn’t that enthusiasm much about enlargement. If there is consensus in Montenegro, then I don’t see why the formation of institutions and a government shouldn’t happen quickly to move in that direction. I think the EU should say – in 2030, we are expanding to the Western Balkans, and those who don’t want, they can stay outside – Pahor said. As a friend of Montenegro, he wants to emphasize that the country must move forward and not waste time.

Pahor also commented on French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative for a European political community, stating that it’s a bad idea if it serves as a substitute for the enlargement of the Western Balkans into the EU.

I don’t accept that. I believe that the EU is now fully in agreement on the enlargement to the Western Balkans. They see it as part of their geostrategic plan. So, those who are ready will enter, and those who are not will not. There has been a turnaround in Brussels, and it is very positive – he stated.

Lajčák concluded that the EU is ready for those who are ready in the Balkans.

All these years, I criticized Europe for not being dedicated enough to the Balkans. Now I am happy because that is in the past. So, I agree with Pahor, we will be ready. If you are ready, you will enter the EU, but if you are not, don’t blame the EU – Lajčák concluded.