Nine out of twelve candidates of French parties running in European elections stated that Serbia, the front-runner Balkan country in European Union accession, will not join the union in 2025. Last year, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker had urged all Balkan states, particularly Serbia and Montenegro, to keep up the good work toward their EU membership in 2025.
The French candidates discussed Serbia’s accession on a state television show where they also presented their political programs for the European election. Only two candidates said that Serbia will join the EU in 2025; one candidate expressed reservation and nine others declared themselves against Serbia’s or any other country’s accession to EU.
Political analysts think that this is a result of French public opinion’s skepticism regarding the future of enlargement as well as the fact that in the geopolitical context the Balkans is not a priority for France.
According to analysts quoted by European Western Balkans, even North Macedonia might not be able to begin accession negations into the EU as promised before signing an agreement with Greece last year. They added that the issue might influence the dialogue for normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. In a situation where Serbia sees no open way to join the EU soon, its leaders might prolong the dialogue and recognition of Kosovo.
Albania came short of opening the accession negotiations last year and is hoping to do so this year. However, widespread corruption, high criminality, international drug trafficking, human rights issues, and the latest political crisis in the country seem to have raised skepticism among Albanians about the start of negotiations this year. In February, the Albanian opposition left the parliament and took to the streets to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama and new elections to take place.
Amidst the growing skepticism of the European public opinion about the EU enlargement and with the European election approaching, the general rhetoric against the enlargement is expected to harshen. On the other hand, all Balkan countries are eagerly expecting to step up the EU accession process, despite the growing perception of their weak democracies and high levels of corruption.