EU chief Donald Tusk warned Thursday against a "game of thrones" in the Western Balkans, where Brussels is pushing for closer ties with countries that want to join the union.
The European Union is using Bulgaria's six-month presidency of the bloc to try to counter the influence of Russia, Turkey and other countries in an increasingly troubled backyard.
Speaking in Bulgarian at a presidency launch ceremony in Sofia, European Council President Tusk compared the history of the region to the fantasy swords-and-sex television drama Game of Thrones.
"The history of the Balkans is more dramatic and interesting than the screenplay of 'Game of Thrones', even if there are no dragons in it. We would all like it if the present and future of the Balkans were less like dramatic screenplays," Tusk said.
"Stability, security, prosperity -- this is what the people of the whole region deserve. And the EU's purpose is to help make this screenplay a reality," Tusk added.
Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Croatia have been the only countries from the region to have achieved EU accession to date.
Sofia hopes to use its EU presidency to reignite accession talks with Montenegro and Serbia, while helping Albania and Macedonia move closer to starting EU membership negotiations.
It will also host the first EU-Balkans summit in 15 years in May.
But the region, which also includes Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia, has increasingly become bogged down in local disputes and problems with graft and organised crime.
Russia meanwhile has stepped up efforts to reverse a series of setbacks in the region, including Montenegro joining NATO and Macedonia's government moving from a previous pro-Russian stance.
"A Europeanisation of the Balkans is necessary to prevent the Balkanisation of Europe," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov warned recently.