European Commission recommends start of accession negotiations for Albania and Macedonia, but French President Macron says Paris will oppose any enlargement until the EU reconfigures post-Brexit.
Balkan opposition parties are increasingly resorting to violence in their hopeless struggle to dislodge entrenched ruling elites.
Macedonia described as the "most promising chance for a democratic breakthrough" in Europe, as prospects for democracy look bleak in majority of post-communist states.
A harsh winter and a decline in investments slowed growth in the Western Balkans in 2017 even though 190,000 new jobs were created, says a report from the World Bank which has called for structural reforms in the region.
The European Commission's new progress reports for the six Western Balkan countries, including Albania, are expected next week. Crucially, they will evaluate performance against delivery of the required reforms as part of the EU accession process
Several European states followed suit but others are still considering whether to take action over the poisoning of an ex-spy on British soil, which has already triggered over 100 expulsions by western countries.