Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Weeks before a parliamentary election in Kosovo that could decide the course of democratic reforms there, the European Union is struggling to decide whether to offer Pristina encouragement or reproach.
The country, a former breakaway province of Serbia, is the poorest and smallest in the Balkans and riddled with problems. Unemployment rates are near 50 percent, state institutions are weak and per capita income is just $2,500 — one of the lowest in Europe. Five EU members do not even recognise it as a state. Yet it may also hold the key to stability in a region marked by decades of ethnic conflict.
On the whole, Brussels has a clear policy towards Kosovo. It says Pristina could become an EU member, but only when ready. Exactly what steps are needed to push it along the path towards membership, and when, are the subject of debate.
The most pressing discussion in Brussels now is whether to begin talks with Pristina about visa-free travel: from the middle of December, citizens of Kosovo will be the only ones in the western Balkans who need a visa to travel to the EU.
“What’s in a name?” asked love-struck Juliet by way of justifying her love for Romeo, whose Montague family was so loathed by the Capulets.
For Macedonia, rather a lot.
The name has been fought over by Greece and “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” for nearly two decades. Now European Union diplomats are telling them to ask for mediation help from the bloc. It may be the only chance, they say, for the two countries to solve a dispute that is preventing Macedonia from joining NATO and starting accession negotiations with the EU.
The European Commission told Croatia this week that its negotiations to join the European Union have reached their “final” stage. Sounds promising, considering how reluctant many EU governments are to admit any new members at a time when the bloc is coping with financial difficulties.
But there was another, more subtle message in the text of the Commission’s annual progress report on EU hopefuls. And it read quite differently.