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The process of EU enlargement was certainly given a boost by the February 2022 Russian attack against Ukraine and the subsequent application to EU membership filed by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia – which resulted in the first two being granted, with exceptional speed, candidate status in June of the same year.
As a consequence, enlargement, also towards the Western Balkans, has been again put under the spotlight, after years of stagnation. The process and the – so far reluctant – EU member states, however, still need to regain credibility before the Western Balkan governments and public opinion.
At the end of August, European Council President Charles Michel said that he wants Europe to be ready for enlargement by 2030. His words were not followed by the enthusiastic support of other EU institutions and member states, but have responded to the requests of the candidate countries to be finally offered a concrete perspective. However, it remains to be seen how realistic this target would be in terms of the EU member states’ concrete willingness and the EU’s and candidate countries’ preparedness, particularly for those countries that are lagging behind and that still need to solve internal issues or bilateral disputes. Besides this, the countries of the region are vulnerable to the influence of an increasing number of authoritarian regimes, such as China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary and the Gulf States. What is the impact of this interference?How can the WB states’ resilience be boosted and what should European progressives do in this regard?
In their fourth meeting – held in a hybrid and downsized format – the Friends of the Western Balkans addressed the topics at stake in synergy with the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity.
For more information, please contact Hedwig Giusto, Senior Research Fellow at FEPS (email@example.com)
22 - 24/06/2023
Thessaloniki, Greece (Expert meeting)
Friends of the Western Balkans Thessaloniki meeting
20 years anniversary of the Thessaloniki Declaration
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