Despite the EU enlargement policy framework and its declared goals, the present EU-Western Balkan political and socio-economic relations do not promise a swift convergence and lasting transformation of the region. On the contrary, the current economic and political set-up in the Western Balkans favours the empowerment of ‘charismatic strong men’ unchecked by democratic mechanisms. Such a model increasingly resembles the Chinese and Russian model of political capitalism.
The devastating consequences of Covid-19 outbreak have exacerbated this reality, further highlighting the shortcomings of EU policy toward the region and these countries’ economic and political divergence form EU standards.
Against this backdrop, EU enlargement framework urgently needs to be supplemented with a more progressive political agenda, to navigate through these doomy and gloomy days. The Western Balkans should be included in the EU common response to the pandemic on a number of issues, among which: health and economic recovery plans; the defense of the rule of law and democratic governance; as well as foreign policy matters.
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