A renewed effort to reach out to the countries that make up the EU’s poor and worrying south-eastern flank is long overdue
The European Union’s task of enlargement remains starkly incomplete: the bloc’s south-eastern flank is largely in limbo. Almost 20 years after the Balkans wars ended, there’s a gaping hole on the map, bounded by members including Croatia, Romania and Greece. In 2015, the refugee crisis exposed how swiftly nationalist passions could return to the region. As hundreds of thousands of people trekked northwards, volunteers helped provide food and clothing to desolate refugees. But tensions flared among governments, and troops were even deployed at some borders. Two years on, the Balkan route is mostly closed, but the region’s problems are still vivid.
The question of how to stabilise the Balkans, anchor democracy there, and bring the region closer to EU institutions remains an immense challenge, given insufficient attention. Balkan civil society activists are increasingly concerned about unemployment, corruption, and a brain drain as young, educated people leave for jobs elsewhere in Europe. They say it is crucial to reboot the prospect of EU membership for Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, to encourage much needed reforms. They are right. The Balkans matter to Europe not just because of the migration issue, but also for energy routes, security, and the fight against organised crime. Little has been done to address underlying problems.
Link : The Guardian view on the Balkans: hold out a hand | Editorial