EU Enlargement Report Vital for Western Balkans, Croatia Says

Andrea Dudik and Jasmina Kuzmanovic
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The European Commission’s upcoming report on enlargement, which seeks to update the process of accepting new members and mollify objections from France, is vital for the future of the Western Balkans, Croatia’s prime minister said.

The European Union is trying to revive the longstanding membership hopes of North Macedonia and Albania after French President Emmanuel Macron vetoed a plan in October to let them start accession talks. Citing the need for tougher scrutiny over their respect for the rule of law, Macron’s objection has also cast a shadow on the stalled membership paths of Balkan neighbors Serbia and Montenegro.

“The whole idea is to make the process more political, less bureaucratic, more structured,” Croatian Premier Andrej Plenkovic said in an interview on Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “If this report is well received and supported by France, then we will be in a more favorable context.”

The report will try to address “reservations” held by some other countries that want to see North Macedonia and Albania make more progress in aligning their judiciaries and fighting against graft and organized crime with EU norms.

Croatia, which in January took over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, will use its term to advocate for its neighbors, he said.

The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently expressed optimism about unblocking EU path for the two Balkan countries, saying she would propose changes in the coming months to the way EU scrutinizes aspiring members.

“Our six neighbors have no other way to go but toward the EU,” Plenkovic said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrea Dudik in Prague at adudik@bloomberg.net;Jasmina Kuzmanovic in Zagreb at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Michael Winfrey, Andrew Langley

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