Westerns Balkans summit must bring step-change and strengthen democracy, say MEPs
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Westerns Balkans summit must bring step-change and strengthen democracy, say MEPs

  • Solidarity as a driving force of integration
  • Pledge to uphold EU values and to continue reforms
  • COVID-19 no excuse for democratic backsliding
  • Parliaments as driving forces of reforms

The Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, delegation chairs and standing rapporteurs for the Western Balkans countries confirm EU´s commitment to continue transforming the region.

In a joint statement, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the standing rapporteurs and the chairs of delegations of the European Parliament for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia welcome the Western Balkans summit of 6 May as an opportunity to reconfirm the EU’s historical, political and financial commitment to the region. They consider the summit to also be an opportunity for the Western Balkans participants to affirm their adherence to the rule of law, democracy and continued reforms.

“We welcome the virtual Western Balkans summit, which can deepen ties between the EU and Southeastern Europe.

It shows that any hurdle can be overcome in the commitment to the enlargement process and that fully-fledged EU membership is the ultimate goal. Such public expressions of solidarity are more important than ever, as disinformation campaigns attempt to create divisions.

During these difficult times, the European Parliament stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its Western Balkans partners and we reaffirm our unprecedented political, financial and medical assistance to the people of the region.”

Summit as an opportunity for a step-change in enlargement 

“Following on from the March 2020 decision, to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia in light of the progress achieved on reforms, this summit provides a further opportunity for a step-change by all parties in the enlargement process.

We urge our Western Balkans partners to firmly uphold European values and thoroughly and vigorously carry out all necessary reforms. In response, the EU will further assist in fighting against organised crime and corruption, enacting socio-economic reforms, and strengthening judicial systems, the rule of law, and democratic institutions. These reforms will also boost the region by attracting foreign investment and strengthening the economy. We also reaffirm the importance of media freedom and freedom of expression as conditions for democracy.”

„The importance of upholding EU values“

“All extraordinary measures adopted to address COVID-19 must ensure that fundamental values, democratic and accountable institutions and the rule of law are strictly upheld. Parliaments need to guarantee that these extraordinary measures are subject to regular scrutiny and pass this democratic litmus test.

There is no place for democratic backsliding in the enlargement process. The commitment to democracy and strong, independent democratic institutions, in particular parliaments, is fundamental to making the enlargement process a success and in delivering on the aspirations of all citizens.”

Parliaments as a driving force of reform 

“During the Speaker’s Summit in January, the President of the European Parliament and the Speakers of the Western Balkans stated that Parliaments are key to driving the EU reform agenda and in delivering on the European aspirations of the people of the Western Balkans.

The European Parliament will always insist that its parliamentary partners in the Western Balkans play a strong role in the enlargement process.”

Background

On 26 March, the European Council decided to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Before that, in February, the Commission proposed a revised methodology that should give renewed impetus to EU enlargement. On 20 April, the Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs adopted their recommendations on the Western Balkans, in the run-up to the 2020 summit. The summit on Western Balkans was scheduled to take place on 6 May in Zagreb. It will now be held via video link.

Besides Albania and North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already started accession negotiations, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates.

The statement was co-signed by the Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) David McAllister (EPP/DE), standing rapporteurs on Albania – Isabel Santos (S&D/ PT), Bosnia and Hercegovina – Paulo Rangel (EPP/PT), Kosovo Viola von Cramon – Taubadel(Greens/EFA/DE), Montenegro – Tonino Picula (S&D/HR), who is also the Chair of the AFET Working Group on the Western Balkans, North Macedonia – Ilhan Kyuchyuk (RE/BG) and Serbia – Vladimír Bilčík(EPP/SK), who is also a delegation chair for Montenegro. Among the signatories are also the delegation chairs for Albania – Manolis Kefalogiannis (EPP/EL), Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Kosovo – Romeo Franz (Greens/EFA/DE), North Macedonia – Andreas Schieder (S&D/AT) and Serbia – Tanja Fajon (S&D/SI).