- December 12, 2019
To round up the annual Working Group Western Balkans, the Aspen Institute Germany hosted a public evening event on “Between Slow Reforms in the Western Balkans and the EU’s Absorption Capacity – Quo Vadis EU Enlargement?”. The failure of this October’s European Council to agree to the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia despite substantial progress in both countries has come as a deep shock to the Western Balkans, leading to an overall questioning of the credibility of the membership perspective. Some even say that this was a historical mistake through which the EU has lost its credibility in the region. In addition, issues regarding the rule of law, governance, democracy, and economic development, which have been the target of reform processes, continue to stand in the way of progress in the countries’ further EU integration. The conditionality approach, which has been seen as a key EU tool to initiate and accompany reform processes in countries looking to join the European Union, seems damaged. At the same time, all 28 EU member states explicitly reaffirmed the membership perspective for countries in the region and France has put forward suggestions how to reform the accession process. The panel therefore discussed how to move forward from here, both in the EU, its member states, but also in the WB6 and what this means for the situation in the region in particular. Ambassador Thomas Ossowski, Director for EU Policies (Enlargement, Neighborhood, Sanctions, Internal Market, Justice and Home Affairs, Economic and Monetary Union), Special Representative for the Negotiations on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework at the German Federal Foreign Office and Prof. Dr. Tanja Miščević, Deputy Secretary General at the Regional Cooperation Council discussed this with high-level government representatives from the Western Balkans Six. The discussion was moderated by Hedvig Morvai, Director of Strategy and Europe at ERSTE Foundation and introduced by a short video in which young people from the Western Balkans formulate what they expect from their politicians vis á vis the EU accession process. The Aspen Institute Germany would like to thank Deutsche Welle, which produced the video as part of the Balkan Boosters project, for their contribution. The video can be viewed on our YouTube channel.