Dreams of entering the European Union may be fading for Albania, after countries such as France and the Netherlands seem to have gone cold on expanding the EU into the Western Balkans despite the European Commission’s call for the accession process to begin.
This is as reported by the well-know news agency Euronews, who have been paying close attention to Tirana and Skopje’s EU journey and recently published their analysis of the situation.
Prime Minister Edi Rama himself expressed his disappointment a few days ago about the situation, telling Euronews last week:
“We have to face it that, more and more, the decision-making of the Council is not based on what we do, on what countries like us do, but on the internal situation or internal political dynamics of the different member states.”
According to political analyst Florian Biber, Albania is less likely to receive the tick of approval in October than Northern Macedonia.
“Albania's domestic disputes and confrontations between the ruling party and the opposition undermine Albania's ability to make the case for their membership,” said Bieber.
For Bieber, the best way for these countries to convince France that they have changed is to go extra hard at strengthening the rule of law, especially in relation to corruption issues, in the hopes of giving other member states leverage to put pressure on France.
Bieber said that Albanians are probably some of the most pro-European people in the Western Balkans, so the refusal of Tirana in the coming months would be unfair.
“There’s no political party that has rejected EU enlargement, so in that sense there isn’t really a plan B in Albania.
“But certainly, the longer we wait and the longer there is a sense that this is unfair, it will undermine the EU in the Western Balkans, in Serbia, and countries that are less committed to the EU accession process.”
Bieber added that this lack of engagement could raise questions about the EU being able to do anything at all for the region.
“There's a question of the credibility of the EU in general," added Beiber. But the political analyst was also worried about who would be the next commissioner for enlargement.
“For the EU to be effective, it requires an enlargement commissioner who has the ability to put the expansion policy at the top of the agenda and be a credible advocate for it.”
Experts believe that further pushing back the enlargement agenda risks undermining the credibility of the EU both in Albania and throughout the Western Balkans.
This agenda is expected to be clarified soon, with the new Commissioner for European Enlargement to replace Johannes Hahn, a strong personal supporter of the Western Balkan expansion, expected to be announced soon.