Tirana, July 6, 2013
IBNA/SPECIAL REPORT – By Edison Kurani
Balkan countries which have remained outside European Union have hoped for many years to become member countries.
On its part, Turkey has been waiting for 30 years to become a member of the Union, but its chances are increasingly small. It’s clear that there’s a growing tendency of the European diplomacy to keep Turkey outside of the EU. This may also be explained by the fact that the opening of negotiations for Turkey’s accession has not advanced since the ‘80s.
But, Western Balkan countries seem to be closer than Turkey in the process of accession. Brussels is showing a greater interest for this territory of the Balkan peninsula.
Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, FYROM and Bosnia and Herzegovina are aspiring to become member countries, although the green light doesn’t yet appear in the horizon.
But, Croatia’s accession in the European Union, as the 28th country, is being seen by the political class of the other countries of Western Balkan as a clear tendency of Brussels to integrate this region in the European Union.
In the past few years, Croatia undertook convincing reforms, which forced Brussels to open the EU doors.
Earlier, like Albania, Croatia too became a NATO member, although there were many in the country who objected its accession in the military Alliance.
On July 1, with a ceremony which didn’t exalt many Croatians, the country officially became a member of the EU. Nonetheless, this accession didn’t stop Croatia in refusing the introduction of Euro and its becoming part of the Shenghen area.
When other Balkan countries, such as Romania or Bulgaria, became EU members, their situation was not better than Croatia’s today. Nevertheless, the EU tolerated and accepted them as members.
Many people believe that Brussels was encouraged to make Croatia a member by the arrest for corruption of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader three years ago. For Brussels, this arrest meant the capture of a big “fish”, because up until now, only small “fishes” were caught.
On its part, Albania has reflected its efforts only in its NATO accession, but not the EU one.
The reforms undertaken in Albania have been accompanied by problems, mainly due to the harsh political conflict which not only hasn’t stopped, but it has grown deeper in the past 8 years.
Contrary to Croatia, Albania had an advantage which perhaps it didn’t know how to exploit: Extraordinary and unique popularity that Albanians enjoy on the EU and NATO.
Contrary to other countries, 95% of the Albanian people are in favor of NATO, EU and the relations with the USA.
But, in spite of this tendency of Albanians to be closer to them and their desire to be part of the EU, the much awaited reward is not showing itself.
The European Union is slowly reacting and is giving little hope for the Albanian people. But, it does remind the political class in the country about its blame in not advancing with the required reforms.
In this vortex where the light at the end of the tunnel is not seen yet, EU popularity has seen a drop in the past few years in Albania. The latest polls show that contrary to a few months ago, popularity has dropped by 10%.
The economic crisis which has stricken Europe has certainly had its impact, but it’s clear that bells are now ringing for the EU. Therefore, if Brussels is really interested into accepting other countries in the Union, it must send clear signals that Albanians will not wait forever, otherwise there’s a risk that popularity will fall even further. /ibna/