By 2025, the European Union may find they have some new members on the bloc, despite Brexit, there is no shortage of nations desiring to join with the anticipation that the Balkan countries are next for membership.
The former Yugoslavian countries are now picking up the pieces that had shattered throughout the Balkan War and the years that followed. Now, they will shape their own nations as they bid to be the next favourite in the EU.
Albania, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro are all currently considered candidate states while countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, that have been considerably oppressed by Serbia have not even begun negotiations. Nevertheless, these nations are hurdling to be the newest member of the European Movement and despite Britain’s projected exit next year, it seems as if the European Union will only expand .
Despite the fact that ascension talks have not commenced, nations like Kosovo appetite to enter the EU has only increased, however, due to their oppression from Serbia it seems like the European Union may be recompensing Serbia.
Kosovo’s precarious geographical location plays a key role in prioritising their desire to join the European Union: Landlocked, with limited resources and holding one of the lowest GDP’s in Europe. Joining the EU would allow Kosovo to form stronger relationships with European Countries, something that would heavily assist Kosovo in their survival as a State.
There are more compelling issues in Kosovo, such as the fact that the State suffers from extreme unemployment at over 30%. Furthermore, with the average age in Kosovo being 30 a bulk of young adults in Kosovo do not hold employment which naturally has generated dissatisfaction in the economic institutions .
On the other side of the argument, one of Kosovo’s most popular parties, Vetëvendosje, holds ambitions for Kosovo to have a referendum to join Albania -largely due to the 92% ethnically Albania population of Kosovo.
Arbër Zaimi, a political advisor of Vetëvendosje stated that “Serbia and Kosova should join the EU at the same time, otherwise Serbia would veto against Kosova’s integration in the EU.”
However, Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty is a crucial step in their EU ambitions. “If Serbia joins the EU without recognizing Kosova’s independence, then this problem will last for a long time and it may take improvable turns in the future”
Five EU member states do not recognise Kosovo . For an example, Spain cannot afford to recognise Kosovo due to likewise situations prevailing within their borders with the Basque country and Catalonia. Due to the political uncertainty around Catalonia and their recent claim to independence by President Carles Puigedemont, it seems that Spain’s opposition to Kosovo will only become tougher as implications of recognition increase.
Despite Balkan nations receiving the selection for candidacy they all are facing their own unique barriers. However, they unite as they collectively have reached a saturation point and desire to fight to be no longer seen as war zones but as EU members.
But who are the next favourites?
Montenegro and Serbia seem to be the most likely candidates to achieve the EU milestone come 2025 . Concurrently, there has been much speculation that Albania and Macedonia will begin accession talks with the European Commission, however, they both respectively have a long way to go.
This month, Montenegro’s Milo Đukanović was re-elected as the Prime Minister which emphasises that Montenegro’s path to the EU will continue. Đukanović has held the mandate in Montenegro since 1991 and has played the key actor for surging the Balkan nation into the EU spotlight. Last year, the country entered NATO despite hostility from Russia.
Montenegro, unlike its Balkan brothers, has held a constant leadership that can be defined by its favouring of the EU and other memberships that have strengthen Montenegro regionally. Although the country must still enhance their extinguishing of corruption and organised crime, Đukanović desires that his nation will join the EU before Macedonia and Serbia.
As for Serbia, they are set back with their divisions against fellow Balkan countries, in particular Bosnia and Kosovo.
Regardless of the European Union playing tough love with the Balkans, their desires to join the bloc remain strong and prioritised.
What does the EU have to gain for bringing the Balkans onto the Bloc?
Essentially, any Balkan country that will receive membership will be extremely significant largely due to migration.
The European Union will have the capacity to control migration through the augmentation of the EU. Geographically, the Western Balkans has become a hub for migration routes which had huge impacts for the EU when millions sought asylum to the Union. It is evident that there is a Balkan’s migration crisis that is being poorly managed and has impacted both the Union and the Balkans.
Historically, the Western Balkans has acted as a refugee corridor, a continual focal point for migrants to transition through from all regions of the world to reach EU nations, the entry of Western Balkans will connote that the Union will shape new and improved migration policies which will be crucial for general confidence in the EU. Delays and neglect over this issue have created a slight inept perception of the EU in the Balkans.
Moreover, Russia’s extensive influence over Balkan nations will be countered and many fear that the Balkan nations are still extremely impressionable and therefore Russia’s impact over these nations could hold expansionist ambitions.
It remains unclear if a battle will emerge as Russia and the EU dispute for influence in the domain, moreover, questions will be raised to ask how far Russia would be willing to go to maintain traditional allies.
What is for certain is the future of the European Union is capped at 27.
Perri Grace Thompson is a junior Journalist studying a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, she also studied a Certificate in Counterterrorism and Terrorism.