BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that the 27-nation European Union needed a “consolidation phase” before it added new members.
In a speech on Europe to members of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel said states in the western Balkans were worried about their bids to join the European Union being pushed back into the distant future.
“We don’t want this, but no one is well served in a Europe that can’t keep up with integration and takes on too many new members too quickly,” Merkel said.
“Therefore, we say that we have Croatia and its accession talks in our sights. But we must also first see that, with the Lisbon treaty, we hopefully get a certain consolidation phase in terms of integration.”
Croatia has long set itself the target of concluding its accession talks, which began in 2005, this year and becoming a member of the bloc in 2010 or 2011.
But its negotiations with Brussels have been hampered by a border row with EU member Slovenia.
The global economic crisis has made the European Union less enthusiastic about accepting new members from the Balkans.
Last month, for example, EU foreign ministers did not agree to give a green light for the European Commission to start assessing Montenegro’s membership application.
Montenegro’s bid was expected to encourage Balkan neighbors such as Albania and Serbia to file their own applications in the coming months.
Writing by Noah Barkin, editing by Tim Pearce