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Written by SOT.COM.AL 30 Qershor 2022
Bulgaria became the protagonist with its attitude towards Northern Macedonia, with a chain effect towards Albania, not having an advancement in the integration agenda. But why is Sofia not the only problem? Countries in the EU waiting room such as Albania, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have largely failed to record any real progress in reducing corruption and improving democracy over the past four years, basic preconditions for EU membership. . EURACTIV, the media network for Europe, has analyzed these countries, looking at how far they have come in recent years in terms of keeping their home. Here we also mention the strong role that Turkey is playing, trying to enter the "open door" that the EU has left with economic investments.
Turkey returns strongly to the Balkans
Although the Western Balkans remain firmly entrenched in the geopolitical orbit of Brussels and Washington, Ankara is moving rapidly to strengthen its economic and political presence in countries such as Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, EU membership for Ankara and its Balkan allies feels like a lost ambition. Three Balkan countries, Serbia, Northern Macedonia and Albania, have begun their integration process into the Open Balkans Initiative, which many regional leaders see as a replacement for EU membership. Turkey, for its part, is pursuing a very vector foreign policy, and the Balkans play an important role in this strategy. Ankara has already signed free trade agreements with every Western Balkan country and as a result of such agreements, it is steadily increasing its economic weight. For example, bilateral trade between Turkey and Serbia, the largest economy in the Western Balkans, was about $ 2 billion in 2021; is expected to double to $ 5 billion by the end of this year. Over the past decade, Turkish investments in Serbia have also increased by orders of magnitude, from $ 1 million to $ 300 million today. Such cooperation is only expected to increase. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning to visit Serbia soon, while his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was recently in the region for meetings with leaders in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bad results for Albania and Macedonia
Albania applied for membership in 2009 and became an official candidate in 2014. Since then, it has worked to meet a number of conditions set by the Commission. These conditions, a total of 15, have been declared met by Brussels. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index fell sharply between 2016 and 2021, dropping from 39 to 35 points out of a possible 100. It is currently at 2014 levels and has barely improved since 2012. This shows little progress in a decade, and specific issues raised over the years include state capture, police violence, high-level corruption, and controls and balances. weak. Moving on to the Freedom House Index, Freedom in the World, is a similar story. Albania has fallen over the last five years, there has been no progress and it is still ranked as "partly free" in terms of the freedoms and democracy enjoyed by citizens. Things get even worse when we look at the media freedom landscape, as the country has dropped more than 20 places in the global rankings since Prime Minister Edi Rama came to power in 2013. The picture is a bit rosier in northern Macedonia, e which has been on the block waiting list for about 17 years. With its membership path linked to neighboring Albania, its progress has been more tangible. Democratic freedoms are also on the rise, with the country scoring the all-time highest of 67 out of 100 last year, though it has not yet relinquished its "partly free" status. While it has its problems,