The six Balkan countries of Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia have a formal European “perspective” – EU code for eventual membership of the world’s largest trading bloc, although the process is largely stalled.
For the Eastern Partnership countries, the EU is offering money, technical assistance and broad market access, having done free-trade deals with Tbilisi, Chisnau and Kyiv, in return for adopting EU democratic, administrative and economic norms.
The war in Ukraine has lent new urgency to the process of trying to tie the Western Balkans closer to the 27-member bloc in a bid to counter Russian and Chinese influence.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in June called on Bulgaria to lift its veto on EU accession talks for North Macedonia, saying the bloc should avoid dashing the membership hopes of countries in the Western Balkans.
Mr Scholz, visiting Sofia as part of a two-day tour of the region ahead of an EU-Western Balkans leaders’ summit on June 23, said he sensed a “new willingness” by the EU to expand after Russia’s invasion.
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