The Western Balkans will again focus high on the EU agenda in the first half of 2009. Following Slovenia's example, the Czech Presidency wants to bring the region closer to the EU. "The Balkans have always been important to us. Our aim is to enhance the integration process with this still highly volatile region during our six-month term in office," a Czech diplomat told Europolitics. The focus will be placed especially on accelerating accession talks with Croatia and moving forward with Montenegro's, and possibly Albania's and Serbia's membership applications.

"We want to open and close as many chapters as possible in Croatia's membership negotiations, paving the way for the process to conclude in the second half of 2009, but before the end of the current Commission's term," the diplomat added.

Experts involved in the talks warn, however, that this ambitious goal might be difficult to achieve due to Slovenia's veto over its border dispute with Zagreb. This led Ljubljana, in October, to prevent four new chapters from being opened and one closed in talks with Zagreb. Since then, not much progress has been made in resolving the issue. "The French Presidency has not moved an inch closer to any sort of settlement," an EU diplomat told Europolitics.

In consequence, Slovenia again vetoed opening nine and closing two chapters at the December Intergovernmental Council with Croatia, calling into question Zagreb's chances of winding up accession talks by the end of 2009.

"We will do our best to make both sides sit down together and talk in order to reach a compromise settlement," a Czech official said, commenting on the deadlock in relations between Croatia and Slovenia. However, it is widely known in Brussels diplomatic circles that Ljubljana is reluctant to embark on negotiations since Zagreb's arguments are stronger.

If it were not for Slovenia's veto, only two chapters (competition policy and judicial and fundamental rights) would remain to be opened in the accession talks in the first half of 2009. However, these two areas are the most problematic and it is not yet certain whether Zagreb could manage to meet all the conditions to open them during the Czech...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT