In a recent interview with Die Welt, Alexander Schallenberg, the Austrian Foreign Minister, voiced his concerns about the potential accession of Moldova and Ukraine to the European Union (EU) ahead of the six Western Balkan countries. Schallenberg emphasized the importance of evaluating the progress made in both regions’ accession negotiations equally, highlighting the risks of destabilization and increased influence from external actors if the process is not synchronized.
While acknowledging the aspirations of Moldova and Ukraine to join the EU, Schallenberg stressed that it would be a grave mistake if the two Eastern European countries were fast-tracked while the Western Balkan nations lagged behind. He cautioned that such a scenario could compromise the stability of the Western Balkans and further enhance the influence of China, Russia, Turkey, or other external actors in the region.
“Progress in the EU accession negotiations for Moldova and Ukraine should be evaluated on par with the advancements of the six Western Balkan countries. It would be a fatal signal if Moldova and Ukraine were to sprint ahead, leaving the Western Balkans behind. This could jeopardize stability in the region and potentially amplify the influence of China, Russia, Turkey, or other actors,” stated Schallenberg during the interview.
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In an effort to address the concerns and support the Western Balkan countries, Austria has initiated a support group. The group includes Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Slovakia. The first meeting of this consortium is expected to take place during the summer, focusing on strategies to foster stability and progress in the Western Balkans.
The Austrian Foreign Minister’s remarks have sparked a debate on the timing and sequencing of EU accession processes, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and balanced approach. As the Western Balkans continue their efforts toward EU integration, the international community will closely monitor the developments, ensuring that the aspirations of all aspiring member states are treated with equal importance and that the region’s stability remains a priority.