France, the Netherlands and Denmark have gone cold on expanding the EU into the Western Balkans, despite EU recommendations to start the process for Albania and North Macedonia.
Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama lamented the situation: “We have to face it that more and more the decision-making of the Council is not based on what we do, on what countries like us do but on the internal situation or internal political dynamics in different member states.”
A new survey showed that European public opinion was largely frosty when it came to new neighbours — fears of foreign immigration have grown since Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia joined the bloc.
Beyond public opinion, there are still many obstacles to overcome before the new hopefuls can join the club.
“There are areas where the Albanian institution as a whole, they need to continue working: fight against corruption — it’s a daily struggle — fight against organised crime, drug trafficking is changing skin,” said European Union Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca.
Despite the barriers, joining Europe remains an important step for Albania, a point that Prime Minister Edi Rama stressed: “For us, Europe is not simply a bureaucratic process, or is not simply a club of developed countries that we wish, hope or dream to join.
“Europe is what it was for the founding fathers; first and foremost a project of peace and cooperation.”
This is an outlook that could quickly dampen unless Europe opens its door.