EU’s Balkan Billions Must Be Tied to Values, Kosovo Leader Says
(Bloomberg) -- The European Union should link the distribution of dozens of billions of euros earmarked for the six Balkan nations hoping to join the bloc to their records on upholding the rule of law and fighting corruption, Kosovo’s prime minister said.
Premier Albin Kurti’s statements were a rare call for more EU oversight from a region growing increasingly dissatisfied with the bloc’s reluctance to speed up the process of accepting new members.
They also coincide with the European Commission confrontation of members Poland and Hungary, who are at risk of losing billions of euros in aid over democratic backsliding and breaching the rule-of-law.
“There shouldn’t be EU funds without EU values,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of a summit in Slovenia. “The EU should not abandon its transformative nature for a transactional one.”
While the commission has approved 30 billion euros ($35 billion) for the Western Balkan nations to be spent over the next seven years, it didn’t set a clear target date for expansion as sought by the aspirants and some member states.
That has raised concern that the slow-coach approach to EU expansion may provide an opening to rivals to the bloc as some, including Serbia, have close ties with Russia and China.
“It is important to make clear to these countries how much we care about them,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters on Wednesday. “We are their favorite partner.”
Kurti said while he understands some reluctance among member states to further enlarge the bloc because of disputes with clashes over democratic values with members that were let in earlier this century, he warned against the spread of bitterness over the process.
“I think it’s good for the EU to get to its essence, which is enlargement,” he said. “And whenever you say EU enlargement, it’s first and foremost the western Balkans, with which the EU achieves its congruence as a continent.”
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