The power of Brussels is still based on the values ​​and principles it promotes. EU member states should revitalize the region’s membership prospect and strengthen the ‘currency of power’ of EU enlargement policy. Otherwise, as corruption persists in the region and the rule of law and democratic norms continue to decline, the capacity of “third parties” to advance their policies increases. If nothing changes, the current trajectory will lead to a losing result for Brussels and the region.

EU members should first of all keep their promises and tackle the issues that undermine Brussels’ credibility in the region. The EU should open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia without delay.

Grant visa liberalization for Kosovo would not simply be recognition of the work accomplished by the authorities in Pristina; it could also have a positive impact on the stalled dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina should have the possibility of obtaining candidate status under the Slovenian Presidency of the EU. It would be a very appropriate response to those who want the country to disappear.

Call for more EU engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina must also be followed by a clear roadmap with a set of achievable goals. If it wants Sarajevo to be successful, Brussels should see it as its own success and be fully involved and politically engaged.

In the long term, the EU should rethink the membership process, proposing integration into the EU in several stages and setting intermediate goals before full integration into the club.

Last year, the European Stability Initiative, ESI, proposed “A two-step integration process” in the EU, called the “finishing model”. The first step would be the inclusion, to varying degrees, of interested countries in the EU single market.

The volume of trade between the region and EU members and foreign direct investment validates the idea of ​​the single market; the EU already accounts for almost 70 percent of the region’s trade. In 2018, the region’s trade with the EU amounted to € 54 billion. In addition, EU Member States invested € 12.7 billion in the Western Balkans between 2014 and 2018, to boost the region’s long-term economic recovery, as well as to promote its economic integration.

Brussels recently adopted a global program of 9 billion euros, Economic and investment plan.

A more inclusive methodology could be applied to other areas where a candidate country meets EU standards. As they close chapters or fully align with the Common Foreign and Security Policy, potential member countries might be offered a tailor-made plan on how to participate in a specific area, depending on the needs of the country. capacities of the country concerned.

This approach would offer more to aspirants, without compromising EU standards in key areas of rule of law, democratization and home affairs. Such a new methodology would likely encourage reforms, improving the existing benchmarking model by emphasizing the particular gains that countries could achieve during the accession process.

Vesko Garcevic is a former Ambassador of Montenegro to NATO, OSCE and other international organizations. He is currently a professor at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.

The opinions expressed in the Comments section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.