The EU’s enlargement commissioner urged Balkan prime ministers Thursday to stop stoking regional tensions and fully embrace their European future. Johannes Hahn addressed the prime ministers of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia, who met in Sarajevo as part of preparations for a summit of some EU and western Balkan nations to be held in Trieste on July 12.
“We now have one of those windows of opportunity where either the region as a whole picks up momentum and we generate a genuinely positive narrative, or we end up in a really awkward spot, with a stream of bad news slamming the window firmly shut,” Hahn said.
The Balkan countries are at different stages of being integrated into the bloc. Domestic politics and sluggish national economies have long hampered the EU integration of a region still recovering from the wars of the 1990s. Hahn acknowledged that the Sarajevo meeting was taking place at a point when several countries are undergoing “severe domestic political crises, sometimes heading toward serious ethnic tensions.”
However, he said the EU has “unequivocally confirmed” that the western Balkan countries have a future in Europe.
“I don’t think you can afford to squander this positive climate through domestic confrontations and blaming neighbors,” Hahn said. “This is playing with fire.”