EU enlargement: first Ukraine or the Western Balkans?

While EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Kyiv for talks with Volodymyr Zelensky about Ukraine's urgent application to join the EU because of the war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz travelled to various Western Balkan countries which have long sought EU membership. The media see a growing competition for Brussels' approval.

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taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

The EU could handle the Balkans, but no more

The taz says the bitter truth is that the EU is not "ripe" enough to take in several new members right now:

“Neither politically nor financially. It could just about manage the Western Balkan countries if they fulfil the conditions. But not Ukraine; it would be dangerous and unfair for that country to be allowed to join the EU all of a sudden. After all, it is not only Ukraine that is marked by war; so are the Western Balkans. After the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Germany and the EU promised the countries of the region a 'European perspective' - it would be unfair if they were left behind now in favour of Ukraine. Scholz has recognised this, his trip set the right emphasis. But von der Leyen is leading the EU onto a slippery slope.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Stop Russian influence

Večernji list argues that Russian influence in the Western Balkans must be halted through EU integration:

“The Western Balkans are a very unstable region today - left in a vacuum that other actors, especially Russia, are successfully trying to fill. This is nothing new: for years, there has been talk about the need to place this area under Western influence. Now the topic is more pressing than ever because of Russia's aggression against Ukraine and its ties to other states, above all Serbia, which is a thorn in Europe's heel. Wresting the region and Serbia free from Russia and putting them under the influence of the EU would bring stability and prove determination ...” (UA) /

Let Ukraine join now!

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, former prime minister of Ukraine, makes the case for EU membership for Ukraine on

“Ukraine must be granted the status of an EU candidate state. ... I was the person who signed the application to the Nato Membership Action Plan. If this plan had been signed, then it is highly likely that Russia would not have attacked Ukraine. Then our Western partners would not have to spend incredible sums to support Ukraine and expand their own military budgets today. Then Putin's dictatorship would not have prevailed. Expanding the EU by admitting Ukraine would strengthen the EU and global democracy. That is why there cannot be any other decision.”