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The EU enlargement process has an obvious yet crucial impact on the citizens of the candidate countries. Support for EU accession is generally really strong in Ukraine, as the president, Volodymyr Zelensky always reiterates, while it is increasingly growing in both Georgia and Moldova. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, almost 91% of the Ukrainians demonstrated their will to become EU citizens. At the same time, a recent poll conducted in Georgia shows that when asked about the European Union, 89% of the citizens either “fully support” or “somewhat support” joining the EU. This represents an increase of 4% from the last poll and an all-time high for the country in the Caucasus. A survey launched in September 2023 in Moldova suggests that in the former Soviet nation, at least 63% of the population would like to see Chisinau joining the EU—an important percentage in a country that still today sees a strong Russian influence in politics as well as in the media.
As for the Western Balkans, we know that support for EU enlargement suffered some setbacks from the impasse that the whole process encountered in the region. So, the public opinion in countries such as Serbia has less enthusiasm than a decade ago. The situation did not change too much in Albania and Kosovo, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, where the EU institutions are seen in a benevolent way and the path to EU accession, although with some differences, still remains a major target for the national governments.
Apart from the position of the citizens, the reforms requested by Brussels set difficult tasks for all the nations involved in the negotiations for EU accession, and not all the governments have the political instruments and economic capabilities to do so. By his side, the EU is increasing financial assistance to support the reforms through a Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans for the period 2024–2027, which represents a new financing instrument worth €6 billion in non-repayable support and loan support, with payment conditioned on the Western Balkans’ partners fulfilling fundamental reforms and, in particular, specific socio-economic reforms. All this could be applied in the future to other countries interested in EU accession.
Written by: Francesco Marino
- 20 November 2023
- 20 November 2023
- 17 November 2023
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