Western Balkans: Towards European Future
More than 13 years after the Thessaloniki Agenda which stated that the future of the Western Balkans is within the European Union, some of the countries of south-eastern Europe are in an increasingly uncertain situation. Progress in good governance and the rule of law has been deficient, and in some countries backsliding in these areas is common. Economic development is uneven and in too many cases slow. Moreover, the migration crisis has increased the tensions within the Western Balkans while Russian as well as other actor’s influence is growing. At the same time mutual recriminations about the past and unsolved problems resulting from the wars in former Yugoslavia inhibit stronger regional cooperation.
For these reasons, progress towards EU accession has been slow. Furthermore, inside the EU the rise of populism as well as general criticism towards European integration is causing political leaders to hesitate in pronouncing any further concrete announcements regarding accession. Even though the EU remains committed in the Western Balkans, a lack of progress in many partner countries is visible.
Nonetheless, positive developments over the years in the EU facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the openings of negotiation chapters for Serbia, the prospect of Montenegro accession to NATO as well as the recent application of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the EU are positive and encouraging developments.
Building on this progress the EU must develop a new perspective. Current difficulties should not lead to standstill in cooperation between the EU and its south-eastern partners. The EU should make a renewed effort, committing to an intensified engagement in exchange for enhanced efforts from partner countries.
The EPP Group commits to enhance political dialogue with its partners in the Western Balkans. It endorses an EU approach, judging every country on an individual basis according to its merits. Our Partner countries must make more efforts in implementing necessary reforms and strengthen regional cooperation. In particular they shall commit to improve governance, strengthen the rule of law and pursue the fight to eradicate corruption. The EPP Group in the European Parliament commits to assist its partners in the reform process and to support their aspirations for EU membership when all necessary requirements are fulfilled (Copenhagen criteria). I will continue to work on this policy in Brussels and Strasbourg.