EU enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi says goal remains to embrace Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and North Macedonia in the economic bloc.
The EU's goal remains to expand to the six Balkan countries of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and North Macedonia, new EU enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said on Wednesday after France vetoed membership bids in 2019.
Unveiling a new methodology at Paris's request to admit new members, Varhelyi said enlargement was "geo-strategic", a reference to a view in the EU that the bloc cannot stem its waning global influence without stability in the Balkans.
"We continue to have full enlargement a goal," Varhelyi told a news conference after publishing the reforms, which were reported on Tuesday.
Tougher EU entry
The European Commission is to propose a tougher admissions procedure for new member states with a provision to re-open parts of the process if candidates are seen as backsliding.
According to a draft proposal, accession talks could be "put on hold in certain areas ... or suspended overall. Already closed chapters could be re-opened or reset".
The plan will be seen as an attempt to placate France, which has blocked the entry of Albania and North Macedonia into the club despite their having met the existing admissions criteria.
The Commission's proposal does not alter the basic legal and democratic standard that candidates from the Balkans must meet in order to qualify for accession talks to the 27-nation union.
But the draft, "enhancing the accession process: a credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans", calls for a "stronger political steer" from leaders inside and outside the union.
A country must show its candidacy is "not moving on autopilot" and must reflect an active societal choice on their part to reach and respect the highest European standards and values.
"Equally, the commitment of the member states to share a common future with the Western Balkans as full members of the Union is a significant political and not simply technical undertaking."