Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are moving closer to resolving a 25-year-old name dispute, which should pave the way for Skopje to join NATO this year and possibly remove a major obstacle for its EU integration.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday (12 January) he would personally talk to each of the six Western Balkan leaders to hear what they expect from the plans by Bulgaria's EU presidency to revive their long-stalled EU membership prospects.
EU chief Donald Tusk warned in an emotional speech on Thursday night (11 January) against having a "game of thrones" in the Western Balkans, as Brussels seeks to encourage the region's efforts to reform, leave behind ethnic hostilities and join the bloc.
Looking at 14 years of the EU's attempts to determine once and for all what to do with the Balkans (since the first EU-Balkan Summit in Thessaloniki in 2003), one cannot help wondering whether wholehearted commitment on both sides might have been lacking all along.
The Bulgarian EU Presidency sees a possible risk of Western Balkan hopefuls “looking elsewhere” while the bloc hesitates to move forward with their accession, the Bulgarian Ambassador to the EU told Brussels journalists on Monday (8 January).
As 2017 ended and 2018 began, Macedonia took emergency measures against dense smog enveloping its cities, an annual winter scourge in the Western Balkans blamed on a mix of coal burning, ageing industry and high-polluting emissions from older vehicles.
Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest member state, on 1 January took over the bloc's six-month rotating presidency. The country will undoubtedly be under pressure by Turkey and Russia to move forward their difficult relations with the 28-members block.
The Western Balkans countries are in a much better shape than they were in the 1990s but the European Union should open accession talks with them as soon possible or risk seeing them wooed by Russia, China or radical Islam, the prime minister of Albania told an event in Brussels on Tuesday (5 December).
Albania looks to the EU to show that it recognises its potential as a partner, by starting accession negotiations in the spring of 2018. Ditmir Bushati explains why the next six months, under Bulgaria's presidency, will be of crucial importance.