Germany and Poland urged Friday that countries such as Albania and North Macedonia be integrated into the EU, despite reluctance from France, the Netherlands, and other northern member states. Their arguments came during a summit in Poznan, western Poland, that focused on western Balkan states after the bloc delayed setting a date to open accession talks with Tirana and Skopje.
Critics say that enlarging the EU further risks importing problems, pointing to ongoing corruption and justice issues in Romania and Bulgaria, two formerly communist states that joined the EU in 2007. Supporters argue that turning down new members could push them towards powers such as China, Russia or Turkey.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that integrating Balkan states was in the EU's strategic interest. "If we look at the geographical map, the states of the western Balkans are surrounded by EU member states -- so this (their EU integration) is a strategic responsibility that is in our own interest," she said as the summit wound up.
Poland is one of 11 formerly communist EU member states that have enjoyed strong economic growth and development since joining the bloc over the last 15 years. Poland's President Andrzej Duda used stronger language to criticize the delay on starting talks.
"By breaking its promises, the European Union is questioning the credibility of the whole community, which I deeply regret," he told EU and Balkan leaders gathered in Poznan. That "will be exploited by anti-Western circles and states seeking to weaken the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the entire region," he forecast.
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