Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said for the German “Die Zeit” that his most difficult task is the Western Balkans, where only a spark is sufficient.
He emphasized that for the Western Balkans, as well as all other southern and eastern neighbors of the European Union (EU) applies the rule – either the Union will export the stability or it will import instability.
“This is especially true for the Western Balkans. I compare it with a frying pan full of oil. A spark is sufficient for everything to go in flames. Long-term reconciliation in the region can only be achieved through a European perspective,” believes Hahn.
He noted that in the interest of the EU is stability in the Balkans, but also added that this region is economically interesting.
“There is economic growth, which is double than the European average. About 20 million people live in the western Balkans. This is a market that can be developed. It contains a number of chances, but the precondition for them is stability, peace and the rule of law,” stated Hahn.
When asked whether the nationalists become louder in the Balkans because the EU is weaker, Hahn said that he believes that Russia was not left to sit aside and that there is a challenge to raise the walls in the EU.
“We want peaceful cooperation with Russia, but Moscow should have an interest in a stable neighborhood. Russia needs to create economic prosperity for their own citizens, and the closer relations are, it is better for everyone, and this is true for Russia as well,” said Hahn.
Regarding the RS and Milorad Dodik, Hahn said that he does not believe that enforcement measures can lead to success.
“We can work with incentives. And Dodik is interested in consolidating his position. This is only possible with the EU. The RS has an economic perspective only if it cooperates with the EU, and this includes respect for court decisions throughout the country. This, unfortunately, is not the case,” he said.
Asked if he was sure that all Western Balkan countries will be EU members one day, he said that it should be the aim, but it does not make sense to talk about the time prospects.
“It is important that all political forces in these countries concentrate on the implementation of reforms. Citizens must be included in this. The EU is not someone who imposes, but we have a clear message. If you invest today, then you will get something back tomorrow. Citizens must feel that their life has improved,” said Hahn.