FT: Croatia, Iceland In EU By ’11, Other Balkans Lag

resizer1Croatia and Iceland have a chance of joining the European Union in 2011, while Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia may enter all together as a bloc sometime between 2015 and 2020, the Financial Times says in an editorial this week.

With the global economy in crisis, the bloc’s leaders arguably face more urgent questions than whether they should admit yet more new member states, the FT said on Tuesday arguing that out of the eight countries in question, only Croatia and Iceland could join soon.

“For the rest it’s almost impossible to predict an entry date. But given the EU’s preference for accepting new members en bloc rather than one by one, a reasonable guess is that Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia may all join together at some period between 2015 and 2020. As for Turkey, no one can truthfully say they know the answer,” FT said.

The inability of weak state authorities across the Balkans to tackle corruption and organized crime is perhaps the main impediment to entry, the newspaper notes, warning of many unresolved problems that additionally complicate the situation.

Macedonia faces a Greek blockade over the unresolved “name” dispute, Serbia’s prospects are clouded by its inability or reluctance to arrest war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, Bosnia barely functions as a federal state without the international help and Turkey’s membership might become a hostage to the unresolved status of Cyprus.

Even Croatia that is very close to completing its EU accession talks faces obstacles, FT says, refering to the recent Slovenian blockade of its accession talks over the disputed sea border line.

“Yet 2009 may turn out to be a year of surprises. By December, the EU could see Croatia completing its accession talks, Turkey making progress, Macedonia preparing to start membership talks, and five others having submitted formal applications to join”, the newspaper says.

Only Iceland has a clear way to the EU, the editorial says. Its laws are largely synchronized with that of EU countries and the only thing that is needed is a referendum on whether to apply.

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