EU auditors: Rule of law aid for W Balkans doesn’t pay off

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EU auditors say the bloc does not pay off the hundreds of millions of euros it has poured into improving the rule of law in six Western Balkan countries

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BRUSSELS – EU auditors say the bloc does not pay off the hundreds of millions of euros it has poured into improving the rule of law in the six western Balkan countries.

The report of the European Court of Auditors, or ECA, which was published on Monday, shows that countries often continue to show a lack of commitment to tackle anything from widespread corruption to state interference that they see to the EU. Will help you on your way to membership. Desire.

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Faced with innumerable problems in their own right, the 27 members of the European Union are dragging their feet to embrace and bring membership closer to Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. At the same time, the influence of China and Russia has increased in the unstable region.

“EU support for the rule of law in the western Balkans has clearly not been successful in bringing about wholesale change,” said Juhan Parts, who wrote the highly critical ECA report.

The 52-page report shows how little has been achieved with 700 million euros ($79.5 million) in aid to reform institutions from 2014 to 2020. Even more was spent in the last two decades, when nations emerged from communist rule, war and war. internal conflicts and were tempted to lay the foundation of Western democracy.

The report said the EU often uses too many carrots and not enough stick because investment in projects has failed to make an impact on society as a whole.

“If a beneficiary fails to comply with the basic principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, the EU has rarely taken advantage of the possibility of suspending aid,” the ECA said in a statement.

Even though the report has “some positive recent developments, mainly in Albania and North Macedonia,” it is stated that “in the context of insufficient political will (EU support) the fundamental role of law reforms in advancing the fundamental role has had limited overall impact.” “

It said that the major problems in nations are linked to the independence of the judiciary, concentration of power, political interference and corruption.

If a nation wants to become a member, it has to commit to the thousands of rules and regulations already in use in the bloc. During membership applications, they are discussed in individual chapters and include respect for the rule of law and democratic standards, freedom of the media and judicial independence, and implementation of socio-economic reforms.

The study, with its often stinging criticism, comes at a time when the pace of EU expansion has stalled, both because current members look to the times of the pandemic, and authoritarian streaks tightening through some governments. have been Area.

The prospect of membership has been a powerful driving force for reforms in the Balkans since the former Yugoslavia was disbanded in war in the early 1990s. Croatia and Slovenia have joined, but the EU has not expanded since 2013.

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