What was seen to come, finally happened. First the Commission, then the European Council, have granted the status of candidate countries to Ukraine and Moldova, which until now were part of the European Neighborhood Policy. Contrast the speed with which this status has been granted as opposed to the long time that the countries of the Western Balkans have been waitingall of them an intrinsic part of the enlargement policy since the Thessaloniki Summit in 1999. Their situation, after this long road in the desert, is that two of them are candidate countries

In this region, there are four countries with candidate status, albeit at different stages. A) Yes, Albania and North Macedonia, since 2004 and 2014, have been waiting for the opening of accession negotiations since 2020, when the European Council decided to start negotiations unconditionally, which, to date, have not started. Firstly, due to the obstacles placed by France in the enlargement methodology, then as a consequence of the blockade still maintained by Bulgaria on Skopje because of a dispute over language. Serbia and Montenegro, for their part, obtained their status as candidates in 2012 and 2010, respectively, and have not yet received the green light to begin the accession negotiating process. Finally, they would be BOsnia-Herzegovinawhich has not yet obtained this status and Kosovo, which has not even had the option to request it. This last territory, in addition, does not yet have the liberalization of visas in the Schengen area, something that both Ukraine and Moldova do have.

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It seems pretty obvious the different yardstick with which decisions have been taken in the field of enlargement policy, and, above all, what are the real objectives of this policy, which has been stagnant for too long. The original idea of ​​this leg of European foreign policy was sustained on the basis that the creation of expectations of accession of the countries that were part of this framework would accelerate the processes of Europeanization and, therefore, of their democratization. The 1993 Copenhagen criteria they marked what would be the previous conditions that the states that wanted to be part of the EU had to fulfill. These were essentially three: being a democracy and respecting the rule of law, being a market economy and incorporating the acquis communautaire into their respective legislation to converge with the rest of the partners. However, if the years that have passed since the enlargements of 2004 and 2007 have shown anything, it is that this policy has not achieved the objectives it pursued, and you have only to look at the state of the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, or at the chaos of corruption in which Bulgaria is mired to know what we are talking about. In the case of the current candidates, neither has a great advance been seen in the democratization field of these countries where, with the consent of Brussels, what are known as ‘stabilocracies’, political regimes that provide stability in the region with autocratic biases, have been installed. .

What has been represented in Brussels these days is an important political gesture in which Ukraine could have a lot to gain in the form of momentum, morale and money, and in which the EU has a lot to lose. The risk of loss of credibility if Ukrainian expectations do not match progress. This credibility is already greatly affected in the Western Balkans, who see in this gesture a manifest comparative offense with which they feel deeply frustrated. From this derivative comes the second risk that the EU faces, since it has to find a way out for these countries, which have spent decades waiting for a truly credible signal from Brussels, otherwise we could also be facing turbulence in the region. Without candidate status for Bosnia, without visa liberalization in Kosovo, and without the opening of accession negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia, the EU will lack sufficient legitimacy to lend credibility to its gesture in Ukraine and Moldova. But perhaps they already know that and that is why they constantly look politically and, above all, economically at the United States.


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