The current European Union’s logic that economic reforms will lead to the strengthening of the rule of law has proved to be wrong. Decline of democracy and the rule of law in the Western Balkans have finally forced the EU to consider more radical measures and exert pressure on the candidate countries to show their readiness to fulfil the political criteria in practice. The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee’s initiative coincides with the EU’s efforts to prevent violations of the rule of law in its own backyard resulting in a regulation recently approved by the EP.
Linking the worrisome state of the rule of law with the suspension of the pre-accession assistance can be encouraging for democracy. However, such an approach should be accompanied by improved monitoring, better assessment of the rule of law reform and precise guidelines. This will create a better framework for conditioning and precise mapping of the problems with a basis for a clear definition of how the candidate country can “unblock” the pre-accession assistance. If such a set of measures is confirmed and applied, it can also be counterproductive in terms of turning Balkan autocrats away from the Union itself, since most of them are exclusively interested in the financial aspect of integration. However, abandoning the European agenda is a dangerous step, almost certainly leading to a loss of support and as such is risky for any political elite.
Comment was published in the Daily Danas on February 8, 2019