Balkans Propose Mini-Schengen

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5 (Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia)

Their EU accession blocked by France, Albania and North Macedonia are opting for a regional, if temporary, solution. Together with Serbia, the Balkan states are looking to create their own version of the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area.

  • Citizens of the three countries would no longer need a passport to cross the border, but only have to show an ID card.
  • Labor movement would be liberalized through the mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications.
  • Students could go on exchange.
  • Capital flows would be smoothened.

The other non-EU countries in the region — Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo — have been given the green light to join. Read more

EU Breaks Promise to Balkan States

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22
German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22 (Bundesregierung)

Last week, French president Emmanuel Macron blocked the start of EU accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia, arguing that the Balkan states haven’t made enough progress to qualify and that the EU must reform internally before admitting new members.

His concerns were shared by the leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands.

They are not without merit. It would be naive to assume that decades of institutionalized corruption and crime, particularly in Albania, have been washed away over the course of a few years.

That said, progress has been made. North Macedonia’s name change is far from trivial. It represents a willingness to move on from the past. Albania has reformed its judicial system, encouraged by the prospect of membership.

If the French were so adamant about halting enlargement, they should never have made promises to Albania and North Macedonia in the first place.

Poland’s Andrzej Duda said it best: “Western Balkans states are taking part in a race that does not have a finishing line.” Read more

Poland Needs EU Support to Meet Climate Goals

Turów Power Station in Bogatynia, Poland, December 3, 2009
Turów Power Station in Bogatynia, Poland, December 3, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

Poland will not be able to meet the EU’s 2050 zero-emissions target without additional funds. In an interview with the Financial Times, the country’s chief energy advisor, Piotr Naimski, argues that the European Union needs to take its particular circumstances into account.

Poland’s extreme reliance on coal makes the goal to reduce net emissions to zero a tall order. Coal generates about 80 percent of Poland’s electricity. It also curbs its reliance on Russian energy, which is of geopolitical significance.

There is a political consideration as well. Mining unions are still strong in Poland. The industry has long provided well-paying jobs with a high degree of stability. Miners enjoy special retirement provisions. This makes them a powerful voting bloc. Read more

Under New Government, Greece’s Economic Prospects Look Up

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Portuguese Social Democratic Party party Rui Rio attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, March 21
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Portuguese Social Democratic Party party Rui Rio attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, March 21 (EPP)

For years, hardly any good news came out of Greece. Now it is one of the few places in Europe where the future looks bright. What happened? Read more

Germany Under Pressure to Spend

German chancellor Angela Merkel confers with her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, in parliament in Berlin, November 21, 2018
German chancellor Angela Merkel confers with her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, in parliament in Berlin, November 21, 2018 (Bundesregierung)

In the face of weakening economic growth, outgoing European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has called on the fiscally conservative governments of Germany and the Netherlands to spend more.

The Dutch are heeding his advice with plans for a long-term economic investment fund. Will the Germans follow suit? Read more

Germany Can’t Blame Trump for Its Slowing Economy

The port of Hamburg, Germany, May 27, 2008
The port of Hamburg, Germany, May 27, 2008 (Flickr/dmytrok)

Germany may be heading into a recession. Its economy shrank .1 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Donald Trump’s trade war with China is partly to blame, but it has also exposed Germany’s home-grown vulnerabilities: an overreliance on exports and weak domestic demand. Read more

Serbia Needs to Break with Russia

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia inspect an honor guard in Belgrade, January 17
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia inspect an honor guard in Belgrade, January 17 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russia and Serbia share a rich history of religious tradition and support. Russia has stood by what it considers its little brother for centuries and it continues to do so today. Just last week, Serbia received ten armored patrol vehicles from Russia. Thirty T-72B3 tanks are underway.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić has thanked Vladimir Putin for beefing up the Serbian military, but he should be wary of the implications. If Serbia wants to join the EU, it must avoid playing with fire. Read more