Yesterday, leaders from the six countries in the Western Balkans—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia—gathered in London for the latest summit of what is known as the Berlin Process. Now in its fifth year, this annual meeting of ministers and heads of government, which includes participants from a select few members of the European Union, is meant to encourage greater cooperation among Balkan states as they prepare, some day, to join the EU.
Leaving aside the obvious contradiction of a country that is leaving the EU hosting a meeting that aims to expand the bloc’s membership, the timing could not have been more unfortunate for Britain, or better for Brussels. The Balkan leaders arrived just as the Brexit meltdown reached new heights in London with the resignation of David Davis, the man leading the Brexit negotiations for the British government, and then Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary. The dark irony of a country collapsing politically as it seeks to exit the EU while it welcomes the leaders of states aiming to become more stable by joining the union was hard to miss.
But beyond that wry amusement, there is little doubt that many of those Balkan leaders gathered in London will be harboring quiet doubts about whether their countries will in fact ever join the EU. While senior officials from European institutions and EU member states are adamant that enlargement will continue, many in the Balkans believe the bloc is not as committed to expansion as it suggests.