All Western Balkan countries are on a needlessly long path to EU membership. Macedonia should have joined the EU long ago, which is why I urge the President of the European Commission to do everything so that the Western Balkan countries can join the Union as soon as possible, and in order to show more empathy for the citizens of this part of the world. We saw with the example of Ukraine that the path to Europe must be faster, said former Croatian President Stipe Mesić in his address at the MEF 2023 energy forum on Wednesday.

According to Mesić, the simplest message for the country is to meet the standards and conditions of the EU, in order to speed up its accession. “Today’s EU,” he said, “is a bit fatigued from enlargement, while the countries that have not joined yet, are fatigued from waiting.”

“The EU’s attractiveness is slowly fading and this isn’t good, because the EU’s founders were leaders and they knew what they wanted. Today, you have to forgive me but, I don’t see real leaders, neither in Europe nor in the world, these are bureaucrats in Brussels with large wages, but I don’t see results,” said Mesić.

The founders of the EU, he said, planned for the entire Europe to come together, to open the borders and cooperate, which would eliminate war as a political tool.

“Today’s EU leadership is slowing down instead of accelerating the EU accession, which is necessary for Europe to become a continent of peace and cooperation. The EU accession must be accelerated. Europe will become a big player only if it is united, and most importantly, this would make it a continent of peace. Whether those in Brussels and outside of Brussels are aware of this is a different issue, but based on the actions I don’t have a feeling that someone is considering this,” said Mesić.

Noting that the geopolitical crisis has deepened the energy crisis, the former Croatian President said that difficult decisions are being made and the EU member states are preparing for some new age.

“I truly support European energy independence, but the manner in which it is being built, places Europe in a position of some new energy dependence with the difference being that we are now paying four times more for some fuels. This is not a long-term solution and it is a threat for the EU’s global competitiveness. I understand that the Union must be ambitious in solving the energy independence issues and that every country must play its role, but it also has to be flexible, because different countries exist in different energy environments and economic reality. Not a single country in our region should be a victim of this new policy of energy independence led by Brussels, not now and not in the next 10 years,” said Mesić.

According to the former President, the EU should recognize that this transition gives rise to new issues and new poverty for the vulnerable European countries in Southeast Europe, and it must accept its own responsibility as well.

“The Union would have to secure fair and long-term assistance to the countries of Southeast Europe for a new energy independence. This should mainly be seen as investment in the economic stability of this part of Europe, which for some reason Brussels seems to see as a second-class area when it comes to its geopolitical importance for stability. This is a wrong hierarchy,” said Mesić.