What’s happening with the relations between Western Balkan and the European Union?

Insights from Arben Malaj and Valmir Gashi

Illegal migration from Western Balkan and the regions undergoing conflicts toward the EU, is considered today the number one concern for EU institutions and especially for some of its members.

This phenomenon has significantly grown at the end of 2014 and during 2015. Some factors may be temporary, but the main factor of emigration which relates to the fall of positive expectations, stimulated by the high level of unemployment and poverty, will not be short term.

Some EU countries such as Germany, Italy and Greece, are directly facing with this phenomenon, which has incurred significant costs for its management not only in the humanitarian aspect.

Italy and Greece have been most affected by the political migration and from migrants coming from regions of conflicts.

Meanwhile, Germany has been most affected by migration from West Balkan countries, especially from Kosovo and Albania.

Statistics suggests that Germany is not only the choice of the Balkan countries, but also of other countries. This shows that the majority of people emigrate for a better economic future.

A study on the preferences of emigrants indicates that 34% of them choose Germany as their first destination. This level of preference and the number of people who go to Germany, may be a political concern for this country, but not for the EU.

Debates as to how illegal emigration from the Balkan countries to EU countries can be tackled, have divided country leaders and the heads of the main EU institutions into two groups.

One group says that integration of the Western Balkan countries must be sped up, while the other group goes to the extreme by demanding the reintroduction of the visa regime for those countries which were granted liberalization from that discriminating regime in the recent years.

Western Balkan doesn’t intend to intimidate or impose itself upon the European Union to speed up its integration.

But history has shown that without European perspective, peace and prosperity are impossible.

Professor Arben Malaj says that to demand today to reintroduce the dividing walls between the Balkan region, part of Europe, and United Europe means that the current EU leadership has failed.

“The reintroduction of visas, the restriction of basic liberties that inspire and support European integration means a failure of the current EU leadership”, says Dr. Malaj, who has been a minister in socialist governments from 1997 until 2005.

The threat of restricting free movement by restoring barbed wire walls or by reintroducing the visa system, is against the vision and dedication of the founders of EU, says Arben Malaj, professor for European Integration at the University of Tirana.

Malaj recalls the fact that the political project of the European Union aimed at removing these walls, by supporting the cooperation and integration of each European country that wants to join this project and guarantees the compliance with the Copenhagen criteria.

Valmir Gashi, master of European Studies at the University of Tirana, stops on the request of MEP Eduard Kukan, to accelerate the liberalization of visas for Kosovo.  Gashi says that this demand represents the rational concept which finds a solution on the facilitation of free movement as the best strategy to reduce permanent emigration.

Meanwhile, he adds that the demand of the German government for joint European policies for asylum and the demand of the Italian and Greek governments for better distribution of the number of emigrants between EU members, is the solution to this problem.

But how can migration toward EU countries be tackled? Malaj says that this will be possible through more effective policies in cooperation in cooperation with Balkan countries and also by offering more equal chances for Balkan countries, not only through EU funds, which he says that up until now, they have served more as technical assistance than policies. Malaj also suggests concrete funds against poverty and high unemployment.

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Many experts of European integration, politicians and MPs, Albanians and Europeans, have recently stressed the fact that the integration of the Balkan is no longer an issue that can wait. They say that the situation in the Balkan is now without wars and this must encourage the Union to speed up the process of integration, in order not to have serious consequences tomorrow.

EU’s investment for the European perspective of Western Balkan cannot be considered as a sacrifice or work of charity, but a positive and long term investments for peace and prosperity in the poorest and most stirred region.

Professor Malaj and researcher Gashi say that West Balkan doesn’t aim at “intimidating” or imposing itself on the EU to speed up integration, but the bloody history of several years ago in the Balkan shows that without European perspective, peace and prosperity are difficult to be achieved. /ibna/

Independent Balkan News Agency

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