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EU Enlargement Should Avoid a Geopolitical Trap of Stabilocracy

October 27, 2022 by BSC

This panel addressed whether the war in Ukraine created opportunities or risks for the EU enlargement process. The invasion has opened a series of new questions in connection with EU enlargement and engagement. 

The moderator, Nikola Burazer, Executive Editor at European Western Balkans, directed his initial question to Luka Steric. Burazer asked about the various opportunities and challenges the Western Balkan region faced in connection with EU accession. 

 Luka Steric, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, contended that the EU’s focus on the Western Balkan region was primarily concerned with geopolitical issues rather than with the democratic reforms that could ultimately lead to EU accession. The EU has turned a blind eye to the backsliding of reforms in exchange for stability. This has led to less security and democracy in the region.  

Srdjan Majstorovic, Chairman at the European Policy Centre, suggested that the invasion of Ukraine should not be viewed exclusively through the lens of the Western Balkans. Rather, he encouraged that the broader implications of the conflict be observed. 

“The war in Ukraine is a war against a people’s right to self-determination. It’s a war against people’s rights to decide their destinies,” stated Majstorovic. There is a risk that in times of security crisis attitudes towards authoritarianism may become less stringent. We should rebuild trust and there should be a new, joint approach towards the European future. If the enlargement process does not improve, new candidate states will have a long journey to membership. 

Yvette Szepesi, Coordinator of European Neighborhood and Enlargement Policy at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed that the EU has demonstrated solidarity in light of the war in Ukraine. There has been an exceptional level of EU unity in response to Russian aggression. She added that democracy, rule of law, resolution of Kosovo issue, and media freedom are important conditions for Serbia’s EU accession. 

Klemen Groselj, a Member of the European Parlaiment, said that it is important for candidate countries to adopt the principles of democracy in order to speed up accession. Establishing the main features of democracy will bring the Western Balkans closer to EU membership. Enlargement must not fall into a geopolitical trap of stabilocracy.