Either we export stability … or we import instability,’ says European commissioner for regional policy.
The EU’s time frame for folding Serbia and Montenegro into the bloc is “realistic but also very ambitious,” Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner in charge of regional policy, said in an interview published Friday.
“It is time to finish the work of 1989,” the Austrian commissioner told Reuters, referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall that year, which is often considered the starting point of the bloc’s expansion to the east.
“We have set 2025 as an indicative date for Serbia and Montenegro, which is realistic but also very ambitious,” Hahn said.
Hahn pointed to the killing of Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic earlier this week as evidence of the region’s instability, saying: “I hope this is a wake-up call to responsible politicians. I ask for statesmanship to understand that only cooperation, reconciliation is the way forward.”
Serbia and Montenegro have started membership negotiations, while Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia also want to join the bloc but have not formally started talks.
“Either we export stability to the region or we import instability,” Hahn said, adding that engaging Western Balkan countries in the EU’s accession process was the best way to combat the threat of authoritarianism and Russia’s rising influence in the region.
Efforts to bring the countries into the fold have stalled in recent years, with the EU’s politicians increasingly concerned by the rise of Euroskepticism and Britain’s vote to leave the bloc. In December, the Commission named Serbia and Montenegro as “frontrunners,” causing alarm among those not included in the leading group.
Hahn is due to visit Serbia shortly after the European Commission publishes its Balkan strategy in early February. European leaders will hold a Balkan summit in Sofia in May.