The EU-Western Balkans Summit in Slovenia on 6 October ended with a feeling of impatience with the blockades in the accession processes of the six candidate or candidate-hopeful countries. However, it is crucial to realize that the economic and investment plan proposed precisely a year ago is implemented, which manifests the EU’s unanimity on the region’s strategic importance.
First of all, the integration process of the Western Balkans has already been a “phenomenon” in the international environment, which is still in the process of stagnation, despite negotiations and political dialogue. Moreover, the European Union does not seem willing to accept new members, as evidenced by France’s or Netherlands’ positions. France fears further enlargement, so it is unlikely to make the EU accession a priority during its next presidency of the EU Council in early 2022. However, the Czech Republic could “shuffle the cards,” taking over the succession after France.
On the other hand, the European Union’s accession criteria might alter for each country due to their different development. This “differentiated integration criteria” policy has become a contentious issue in the Balkans and is considered a double-edged sword. On the positive side, the approach is “flexible,” which allows each country to meet its accession standards at its own pace. The downside, however, is that this policy is perceived as unpredictable at best and inconsistent and discriminatory at worst.