The EU needs to clearly state that the countries of the Western Balkans should not follow the role model of Viktor Orbán’s “illiberal democracy”, as this can hamper their accession process. Moreover, the Western Balkan states need to openly reject the authoritarian-minded ideas.
Hungary, which several Western Balkan countries perceive as an honest broker, should closely collaborate with EU member states that have strong ties to the region (e.g. Slovenia and Croatia). Furthermore, this close cooperation should also include countries which are sceptical about a possible EU enlargement (e.g. the Netherlands and France) to overcome indifference. Eventually, the collaboration also needs a strong advocate with significant political weight within the European decision-making process (e.g. Germany).
The EU institutions have to stand up and defend their values. If the European Commission cannot keep its role as a guardian of the treaties, it will lose credibility, and it will further fuel resistance within the EU against the accession of the Western Balkans. The EU needs to considerably speed up its “rule of law mechanism” against Hungary and Poland, or the accession of the Western Balkan countries will recede in the distance.
The legal framework and practice regarding elections, the election campaigns, oversight and funding of the campaigns in Serbia need to be improved.
Law enforcement agencies must start working together to fight organised crime, money laundering and other forms of serious crime. Furthermore, they should focus on preventing connections of organised criminal groups with politicians and political organisations.
All the amendments of the Constitution, although very necessary as well as a step forward in EU enlargement negotiations (Chapter 23), must be put on hold until democratic and fair elections can take place and return legitimacy to the Serbian Parliament.
Slovenia should use the priorities of its Presidency of the Council of the European Union to further promote the geopolitical importance of the region for the EU amidst the enlargement fatigue, which is weakening the credibility of the EU vis-à-vis the Western Balkans.
Slovenia should use the informal EU-Western Balkans Summit to further promote the new investment plan as an economic backbone for the ”Open Balkan” initiative in order to achieve positive progress in the EU accession process.
To prove its critics wrong, the Slovenian government should promote a positive narrative on the EU-Western Balkans relations, raise awareness regarding the negative prospects for the whole region due to Bulgaria’s veto to North Macedonia’s accession process and distance itself from the non-paper with a clear and credible agenda for the Western Balkans during the informal summit.
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