The example of the Balkans and Turkey: the path from an EU candidate takes years and decades

The example of the Balkans and Turkey: the path from an EU candidate takes years and decades

Ukraine received the status of an EU candidate. This is undoubtedly an important step towards the European integration of the country. But, unfortunately, it does not mean that our state will join the EU in the foreseeable future. As practice shows, the distance from the status of a member to real membership can take decades.

“Welcome Ukraine. It's a good thing to give candidate status, but I hope the Ukrainian people will have no illusions about it,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said after Ukraine was granted EU candidate status.

Today, 7 states have the status of an EU candidate: Albania, Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine. The last few days received the status of a candidate. We figured out who and why is “standing in line”.

North Macedonia – 18 years old

Applied for EU membershipin March 2004.

The European Commission gave a positive opinion on the membership of North Macedonia in November 2005, after which the Council of the EU granted the country candidate status in December 2005.

What gets in the way:

At first, the accession of this country to the EU was prevented by Greece, which feared that the state with the name “Macedonia” could make territorial claims against Greece, which has a province of the same name. In June 2018, Skopje finally agreed to change the name of the country to North Macedonia, hoping thereby to end historical disputes and remove all obstacles to the republic's path to the EU and NATO.

After that, Bulgaria vetoed the start of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia on EU accession.

The reason for Bulgaria's reluctance to let North Macedonia into the European Union lies in historical issues. Sofia claims that the inhabitants of North Macedonia are Bulgarian and speak Bulgarian, but they were artificially forced to have a Macedonian identity at a time when the country was part of the former Yugoslavia. Bulgaria has officially maintained this position since the 1950s.

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that language “is not a criterion for recognition or non-recognition in Europe in the 21st century.” The right of peoples to self-determination cannot be denied, he said.

Albania also suffers from this confrontation, since the process of accession of the two states to the EU is connected. “It is a disgrace on the part of Bulgaria, which has taken hostage two NATO states, Albania and North Macedonia, in the midst of a war on the edge of Europe, and 27 countries sit still in a terrible display of impotence,” said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Albania – 9 years

Applied for EU membership in 2009.

In 2010 The European Commission has put forward 12 conditions for Albania's accession to the European Union.

In October 2012, the European Commission recommended that Albania be granted candidate status, subject to the completion of key reforms in the judiciary and public administration, and a review of legislative procedures. In June 2014, the Council of Europe awarded Albania candidate status.

Montenegro – 12 years

Started the process of rapprochement with the EU moment gaining independence in 2006

The country received the status of a candidate for EU membershipin 2010 year. In the same year, the European Commission gave a positive opinion on the application of Podgorica, but soon put forward 7 conditions for starting a dialogue on EU membership. In December 2011, the EU Council agreed to start negotiations with Montenegro. Negotiations officially started on June 29, 2012.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić announced that his country “will definitely join the EU in 2024-2025.” Although the European Union itself prefers not to name specific dates for the accession of the Balkan countries, regional experts believe that the EU may, for political reasons, accept only Montenegro from all the Balkan countries at first.

Serbia – 10 years

Applied officially in 2009.

In September 2013, the Association Agreement between the EU and Serbia came into force. In January 2014, negotiations on Serbia's accession to the European Union officially began.

What gets in the way:

Serbia's delay in joining the European Union can be explained by the fact that it wants, figuratively speaking, to sit on two chairs – to be a member of the European Union and maintain good relations with Russia. Since 2014, the European Union has regularly pointed out to Serbia the need to bring its foreign policy in line with the foreign policy of the European Union, referring to the imposition of sanctions against Russia in response to the annexation of Crimea.

Belgrade instead postponed consideration of the item on foreign and security policy until the end of the negotiation process, hoping that by then the Ukrainian issue would be resolved and Serbia would not have to betray brother Russia. Now the unresolved issue has become an edge and is again an obstacle to Serbia's approach to the EU.

Political experts estimate that Belgrade will delay imposing sanctions until the end of August, when the legal time frame for forming a government expires. And after that, the imposition of sanctions will be a big question. It seems that the issue of Serbian European integration will depend on Ukraine.

This is the only country in Europe that has not imposed any sanctions against Russia, as well as the only country in the world where several thousand pro-Russian rallies were held with the participation of a local population.

The latest opinion polls by IPSOS showed that for the first time in history, the majority of Serbian citizens are against EU membership.

Turkey is 23 years old

Applied for EU membershipin 1997, she became a candidate only in 1999.

And this is the most difficult situation in the entire union. And although the European Council has declared 2005 as the official date for the start of negotiations on Turkey's accession, this country today still remains only a candidate for EU accession.

What stands in the way:

In 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called joining the European Union a strategic goal. A year later, he spoke about the unwillingness of the European Union to accept Turkey into its composition, and the real reason for this is not the large number of the Turkish population, but the fact that the Turks are Muslims by religion. According to polls in 2017, 75.5% of Turkish citizens want to join the EU, but only 36% believe that the country will ever be admitted.

One way or another, but in 2021, the European Parliament proposed to suspend negotiations on Turkey's accession to the European Union. Europe believes that Ankara continues to drift away from the bloc's values ​​and norms, and that Turkey is witnessing a “hyper-centralization of power” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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