A strong Europe means a strong Western Balkans and vice versa. Even though they are geographically indivisible, they seem distant from each other when it comes to the values they cherish, their economic status and living standards, and most of all, when it comes to their vision of a common future. These so-called ‘two ends’ will meet this July in Trieste at the fourth Western Balkans’ Summit - part of the Berlin initiative. It is important to remember that the initial aim of the initiative was to help boost the enlargement process – to bring the Balkan states closer to each other and to the EU.The initial optimism was as high as the current expectations (before this year‘s summit), despite the fact that there have never been more uncertainties in the old continent than there are now, and despite the doubts surrounding the EU’s acceptance of new members.
The situation in the Western Balkans is heating up and the EU, despite its seemingly renewed interest, is turning its back on the Western Balkans. There are so many “I don’t know” answers that it has become evident that there is no plan and belief regarding the future. There are numerous intriguing ideas on how to strengthen both the EU and the Western Balkans. The Slovak Prime Minister recently suggested that the EU should accept one of the Western Balkans countries into its ‘family’, just as an example and as proof that the EU wants the Balkans in the Union.This would of course provoke dissatisfaction amongst those who were not chosen. They do not need to be accepted in turn (even though the Balkans have previously shown that they are not adverse to this option, and even though it happened to several countries). Actually, what they need to see is an honest willingness, interest and a continuous support from the EU on their path to EU accession.The Balkans are not unstable due to geographical, cultural or other reasons, but due to the lack of democratic traditions and institutions, and this is exactly why they need Europe and its help. We provide that sort of assistance at the CDRSEE and will continue to do so no matter how long it takes. Speaking of duration, it is important to understand that this is a process which takes time and let us not waste any more of it.