The countries of the Western Balkans must develop further before joining the EU. This was said by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. He told the Austrian Parliament that he does not see a scenario in which the countries from the Western Balkans join the EU before 2025.

In his speech, Juncker said that Brexit without an agreement would be “disastrous” for both the EU and the United Kingdom. According to his words, the EU and its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, are working hard with their British colleagues to achieve some progress on this issue before the EU summit on 18 October.

He expressed his hope that a final agreement with the United Kingdom would be reached in November.

By recognising that the path for the European integration of these countries is still long and he does not foresee accession “before 2025”, Juncker said the EU could offer to them the “economic space” in which they will be able to develop the same way as when they will be EU members one day. However, he stressed that “all border conflicts must be resolved before accession”, so as not to “import into the EU instability coming from the Western Balkans”.

“If we take the prospect of accession to the Western Balkans, we will see what we have already in the 1990s, and it will be undoubtedly sooner than later,” Juncker warned, suggesting bloody conflicts in the area during that period. During this time in the past, there have been wars and ethnic cleansing right in front of the eyes of indeterminate Europe, and they remain unexplained in many respects even today.

Earlier this month, the seventh annual EU-Southeast Europe summit took place in Belgrade. The participants concluded that the countries of the Western Balkans are currently having an unprecedented opportunity for bold political initiatives to promote innovation and competitiveness, as well as increasing skills and education levels, which must complement their growth potential and improve their attractiveness for investment.

The EU has opened accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro; Albania and Macedonia at this stage must meet the status of candidate countries, which Bosnia and Kosovo are also trying to achieve.