Foreign minister not optimistic about next European Union enlargement

Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva West Balkans’ future is within EU but only when they are ready

"It's obvious that the U.S. have a strategy on the Western Balkans, Russia has a strategy on the Western Balakans, Turkey does have a strategy on the Western Balkans", Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijarto said as he headed into the meeting on Thursday.

It its new policy, the commission warned that unresolved border issues need to be resolved before the countries could join the bloc.

Hungary's foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said he was "very much disappointed" by the 2025 target, which he called "very late", arguing that Serbia and Montenegro should be admitted by 2022. "The democratic, prosperous and secure Western Balkans are important not only for the countries here, but also for the European Union", she stressed.

Kosovo, which on Saturday will celebrate its 10th year of independence from Serbia, has built a motorway to link with Albania and Serbia and will soon finish another highway link with Macedonia. The strategy for the Western Balkans, adopted by the European Commission on February 6, is timely, comprehensive and objective and provides great opportunities for the six spheres of action outlined in it, the minister said.

Slovenian foreign minister Karl Erjavec said, however, that even 2025 was "not realistic".

"Who will be first in Belgrade - China or the EU? It is that (which) we have to counteract, as it is our immediate neighborhood", Austria's Karin Kneissl told reporters. "The best condition for this is to find a solution to end the border conflicts and the Kosovo conflict. Why?"

But Germany, the EU's leading power, is very reluctant, pointing to rule-of-law shortcomings in the newer member states - from Romania and Bulgaria, to Poland and Hungary.

"It is also clear that there are conditions and that they are demanding conditions".

France's Jean-Yves Le Drian was also cautious.

European Union leaders are expected to formally endorse the EU's strategy during a special summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, in May.

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