The European Union is divided in its concept of the future of the Western Balkans. This became clear after the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Member States in Sofia at the end of last week.

On the one hand, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó called for accelerated accession of Serbia and Montenegro to the EU and he also expressed his hope that this could be done by 2022. Mr. Szijjártó even proposed an accelerated procedure with shortened deadlines for the accession of both states.

Brussels believes that by 2025, Serbia and Montenegro will be the ones, best prepared to join the EU, but the doors are also open to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia to follow. However, for Hungary, this date is too far away in time and Peter Szijjártó showed his frustration.

“The democratic, prosperous and secure Western Balkans are of high importance for the EU”, commented the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva after the meeting.

At the same time, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker pointed out that the prospects of membership relate with the resolving of existing border disputes in the region. Territorial contradictions between the countries of the Western Balkans must be resolved before the serious talks about EU membership.

The President of EC expressed his disappointment with the ongoing border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia, which was not resolved before their accession in the EU and said that he wants to address such risks before the forthcoming enlargement of the Union.

Serbia, for example, is firm in its position that it will not recognize Kosovo’s full independence in exchange for a membership in the European Union. At the same time, Belgrade must recognize Kosovo’s independence as a condition for EU accession, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Kosovo declared independence ten years ago and on 17 February the country celebrated a decade of this act. Belgrade, however, says it will never recognize Kosovo, something that was done already by 115 countries, including 23 MS of the EU. Germany was one of the first countries that recognized Kosovo’s independence. At present Kosovo’s membership in the UN has been blocked by Russia and China.