BACKGROUND: EU membership hopefuls in the Balkans Eds: Croatia to join the EU on July 1
dpa-correspondent and Europe Online
Brussels (dpa) – Six other Balkan countries are hoping to follow Croatia in joining the European Union. Some are making headway towards membership. Others have a long road ahead.
ALBANIA: Must tackle issues such as organized crime, corruption and gaps in the rule of law to formally become an EU accession candidate. The EU has called on Tirana to modernize its judiciary and warned that recent parliamentary elections were a key test.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Talks have stalled with this potential candidate, which still hosts EU soldiers tasked with preventing ethnic conflict and training local security personnel. The EU‘s executive sees substantial shortcomings in the justice sector amid political deadlock and demands efforts to tackle corruption and organized crime.
KOSOVO: Five EU member states do not recognize the independence of the former Serbian breakaway province, making EU membership a distant prospect. The implementation of an agreement normalizing ties with Serbia is expected to open the door for Pristina to negotiate an association deal with the EU.
FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA: Candidate country since 2005, Greece has blocked the start of negotiations due to conflict over the country‘s name, which it shares with Greek region. Skopje has been told its reforms are on track, which means all eyes are on this month‘s EU summit, as officials warn that accession must remain a credible prospect for Macedonia to continue its efforts.
MONTENEGRO: Official candidate, whose first of 35 negotiation chapters was opened and closed in December. The country has made good progress in some areas, but lags in judicial reform and efforts to clean up organized crime and high corruption. EU diplomats think it is unlikely that the country will join before 2020.
SERBIA: Official candidate since 2012, after previous efforts were hampered for years by a lack of cooperation with United Nations war crimes investigations and troubled relations with Kosovo – whose independence Serbia does not recognize. A recent agreement aimed at normalizing ties with Pristina should pave the way for Belgrade to start accession talks, provided it implements the deal.
dpa eb hm ncs Author: Helen Maguire