S&D MEPs call for concrete steps towards EU enlargement Western Balkans

S&D MEPs call for concrete steps towards EU enlargement Western Balkans

Ahead of the EU-Western Balkans leaders’ meeting slated to take place in Brussels on Thursday 23 June, Members of the European Parliament for the social-democratic S&D Group urge the European Council to pair their statements of support for EU enlargement in the Western Balkans with concrete and decisive action.

The Russian regime’s war of aggression has returned violence to the European continent. In this time of instability, which some fear might spill over into the Western Balkans, we urge EU leaders to recommit to the Union’s most powerful geopolitical tool by reinvigorating the enlargement process.

EU leaders must urgently overcome the inaction, delays and wilful obstruction that have stalled the EU accession process. We urge the Bulgarian government to withdraw its veto of North Macedonia’s and Albania’s inaugural accession negotiations before the European Council meeting of 23rd June, and we call on our social-democratic friends in the region to assume their responsibility in this regard. We similarly appeal to the outgoing French Presidency to ensure visa liberalisation for Kosovo, which fulfilled all required criteria in 2018.

Present candidate countries for EU Membership must similarly demonstrate their commitment to their European path through the acceleration of EU-related fundamental reforms, in particular in the area of the rule of law. We are encouraged by the Montenegrin leadership’s reinforced commitment and share Podgorica’s hope that negotiating chapters can be closed on merit by the end of the year. Serbia’s persistent democratic backsliding and its resistance to alignment with EU foreign policy are grounds for deep concern. Further negotiating chapters should be opened only upon Belgrade’s tangible adherence to EU standards on democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.

Potential candidate states deserve the European Union’s sincere commitment to the actualisation of their candidate status. We urge the Commission to provide Bosnia and Herzegovina with all required assistance to overcome its political crisis, implement necessary reforms, and ensure the proper conduct of its electoral process on 2nd October. We similarly reiterate the European Parliament’s call for targeted sanctions against Milorad Dodik and other actors pursuing BiH’s destabilisation. To advance on their European path, both Kosovo and Serbia need to demonstrate constructive engagement within the Belgrade-Prishtina Dialogue in order to achieve a comprehensive and legally binding normalisation agreement.

We call on the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Mr Olivér Várhelyi, to pursue the best interests of both the European Union and the Western Balkans. These are always rooted in democracy and the rule of law. Failure to do so will inevitably result in the EU’s loss of credibility, discourage pro-European forces, and reinforce those who seek to destabilise the region. Renewed commitment to the Western Balkans is not only a geopolitical imperative for the European Union. It is a moral responsibility.

Delara Burkhardt MEP (DE), Thijs Reuten MEP (NL), and Andreas Schieder MEP (AT)