From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
EU Watches Powerlessly As Balkan Countries Recede into Crisis

As the EU is falling prey to internal destructive forces such as the Brexit and the rise of nationalism, it continues to lose grip on the political situation in Balkan countries, with possibly disastrous consequences.

Consecutive visits of High Representative Federica Mogherini, Commissioner Johannes Hahn, and finally EU President Donald Tusk were unable to persuade Macedonian President Gjorgje Ivanov to grant a mandate to Zoran Zaev to form a new Macedonian government.

And now, after the final registration deadline, High Representative Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn try to make a last-minute intervention in Albanian politics through a statement in which they “regret […] that the opposition has not yet registered.”

Even if the opposition would have been persuaded by their after-the-fact appeal, it would have been legally impossible for the Central Election Commission to accept their registration. This is yet another sign that the EU is hardly bothered with the actual legal context in Albania that they are dealing with. In fact, it seems to have given up on any rule of law, and increasingly counts on autocratic allies to push its “integration” agenda through.

This is the full statement of Mogherini and Hahn:

We regret the parliamentary boycott in Albania and that the opposition has not yet registered to participate in the elections. The political debate should not take place outside, but inside the parliament according to democratic practise. Citizens deserve responsible leadership.

We once again urge all political leaders to act responsibly, with respect for institutions, and pave the way for democratic elections, in line with international standards.

More specifically, the much needed justice reform in Albania has once again come under attack. We call on all parties to complete the formation of the vetting institutions. Attacking the judicial reform rather than ensuring implementation of vetting, with close monitoring of the International Monitoring Operation, harms Albania’s present and future.

We expect that Members of the Parliament will show responsibility, capacity to act within the democratic legitimate institutional framework, and that they stand by the people of Albania, who continue to demand that the vetting is launched and the judiciary eventually reformed, also as a crucial step for the country to join the European Union.

Again, as has been hammered out by several EU representatives over the last weeks, the opposition boycott is interpreted as an attack on the judicial reform. Even if this were true, they seem to forget that the judicial reform is even more “under attack” by the current government, which, in absence of any political dialogue, is approving one legal change after another, all of which seem to be tailored to absolve a political class whose links with crime are no longer a secret for anyone.

It is understandable that the EU needs some time for introspection, but it is unfortunate that they cannot do so in silence.