EU urges Balkans reform, cool on accepting new members

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and British Prime Minister Theresa May pose prior meeting at a hotel o

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, arrives for a dinner with EU and Western Balkan heads of state at the Sofia Tech Park in Sofia, Bulgaria, Wed

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, is greeted by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as he arrives for a dinner with EU and Western Balkan

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — European Union leaders are encouraging Balkans countries to continue on the path of EU-oriented reform but they are reluctant to say when any of the six might be able to join the bloc.

At a summit in Bulgaria Thursday, the EU's Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that "the whole process is merit based. So these countries have to do their homework."

Accession to the EU has been a powerful driver of democratic reform in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and its former territory of Kosovo.

Divisions have surfaced over the challenge of migration and with Britain set to leave next year, a group of countries led by France say the EU must itself be reformed before new countries can come aboard.