President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker warned on Friday in Vienna that countries of the Balkans region were at risk of another war if the EU allowed their hopes of joining the Union to be extinguished.
If we deny the Balkans a membership perspective… we will see there a repeat of what we have seen in the nineties, sooner rather than later, Juncker said in his speech in the Austrian parliament during a visit to Vienna on the occasion of 100-year anniversary of the Austrian Republic.
He said, however, that the path to Western Balkans’ countries full EU membership was a long one, adding that they had not made enough progress, which is why the subject cannot be discussed seriously before 2025 at the earliest.
The EU began accession negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro, while Albania and Macedonia are for now only candidates for membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for candidate status in 2016, while Kosovo is a potential candidate.
The EU must deal with the Balkan region intensively, and not allow the idea to take roots that “we are not serious when it comes to membership perspectives,” seeing how some countries are not hiding their scepticism, Juncker said.
There is still fertile ground for new conflicts in the region, he added.
Juncker said he supported the idea that economic space is established in the Western Balkan region, which would enable the countries to develop much in the same way they will do one day as EU members.
He added that all border disputes in the region must be resolved before accession so that the instability from the Balkans would not be carried over into the EU.