Forget Expectations: German EU Presidency no Magic Wand for the Balkans

It is foolhardy to think Germany’s presidency of the EU or the bloc’s revival of Belgrade-Pristina talks signal a radical shift in enthusiasm for enlargement to the Western Balkans. Balkan states themselves must make concrete plans if they are to deepen relations with the bloc.

The Balkans has a problem with the management of expectations. Often, we expect that things will go a certain way whether we do something or not. Just take a look at how authorities are handling the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What all countries of the region have in common is a belief that the situation will somehow be under control by the middle of August, if not before. In the meantime, people’s behavior, the lack of coherent policy, or, for example, political protests in Serbia [without calling into question the justified motive behind the protests] make improbable the assumption that normality will return by then.

Something similar is happening with regional expectations for Germany’s presidency of the European Union that began this month. Despite the discouraging circumstances – COVID-19 and forecasts of a 4.7 per cent contraction in the EU economy – many in the region believe that Germany’s six-month presidency may revive dwindling EU enthusiasm for the Western Balkans.

Their expectations are rooted in the premise that not only is Germany interested in keeping enlargement alive but, more importantly, it is capable of revitalising the process.

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