The European Union is gradually showing more inclination to bring Western Balkan states into the 28-member bloc, the EU's neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations commissioner says.
"There is more willingness among member states to address an enlargement" than there was a year ago, Johannes Hahn told Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung in an interview published on November 28.
Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia are official candidates for EU membership while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are seeking the same status.
Hahn suggested that taking in Western Balkans countries could help ensure stability in the region while enriching the EU itself.
Member states have realized that "peace could be achieved in the Balkans and that the [prospect] of joining the EU is vital for it," he said.
Brussels sees the Western Balkans region as important in immigration control and countering security threats such as radical Islam or Russian interference.
With 20 million people he said are eager to improve their prosperity, the Western Balkan countries are an attractive market for the bloc, Hahn said, adding, "that a new member state is not a burden but an enrichment."
The commissioner said that he does not favor a so-called "multispeed" Europe, with different EU members integrating at different paces, because it could lead to member states drifting apart.
With reporting by Reuters