EU cash for Western Balkans - but no membership for now
At a video summit on Wednesday EU leaders reiterated their "full support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans". They also promised their colleagues from the six non-EU countries in the region that these would receive 3.3 billion in emergency aid. Once again, however, no time window for their potential accession to the EU was named. Commentators take stock.
Play with open cards
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung advocates binding the Western Balkan states closely to the EU without making them full members for the time being:
“Why not establish a strong privileged partnership underpinned by European financial aid? This would, of course, call for a game with open cards. Both sides are still holding on to an enlargement process that is an empty husk devoid of content. If full membership is out of the question for the foreseeable future, then the EU should say this and make clear what can be done instead to prevent the region from drifting into plebiscitary authoritarianism and the geopolitical competition in Europe's inner courtyard from growing stronger.”
Stop flirting with Russia and China!
Support from Brussels is not a free lunch, La Repubblica comments:
“More than three billion to fight the coronavirus. But it's also to dispel the shadows of China and Russia, who are playing their game in the region in a bid to gain influence at the EU's expense. This is yesterday's summit between the heads of the European institutions and the leaders of the Western Balkans in a nutshell. Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and North Macedonia will receive money and aid, along with a reiteration and redoubling of the promise of a future in the EU. But in return they must stop flirting with Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.”
A success for Croatia
The Western Balkans are still in the focus of the EU, Jutarnji list is pleased to report:
“In spite of all the problems that have arisen during our EU presidency - and as Prime Minister Plenković rightly said, no country [that has held the EU presidency in the past] has had to deal with the situation that meetings could not be held in Brussels - Croatia has achieved its goals: that of keeping the Western Balkans in the focus of the EU at a time when the community is in the midst of an existential crisis. ... Croatia has worked hard during its presidency and has had a powerful political impact. Prime Minister Plenković has showed that he can bring the European Union and the Western Balkans to the table even in times of an unprecedented pandemic. A great, a very great success.”