EU will only be complete with Western Balkans countries, say S&Ds

Sections

Europe's East
Enlargement
Speaking ahead of the EU’s plenary debate in Strasbourg on the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans and on the Commission’s proposal for the accession of six Western Balkan countries, Victor Boştinaru, S&D vice-president and responsible for the Western Balkans, said:
 
“We welcome the EU strategy for the Western Balkans. The Western Balkans are key for the stability and security of the EU and its citizens. We are facing common challenges like migration, radicalisation and terrorism. We cannot risk losing the momentum and must come together to find common answers and solutions to these problems. The European integration of the Western Balkans is in the interests of both sides. That is why the S&D Group has always promoted enlargement as a successful EU foreign policy tool.
 
“But nice words are not enough; they must be backed by concrete initiatives, programmes and investments in the region. Our Union has an important role to play in fostering regional cohesion and dialogue to eliminate internal and bilateral tensions. The ghost of nationalism is the worst enemy for the Western Balkans. Solving bilateral issues and achieving regional reconciliation and good neighbourhood relations are key to peace and prosperity and also, therefore, to the European future for the whole Western Balkans region.”
 
Knut Fleckenstein, S&D MEP and spokesperson on foreign affairs, added:
 
“The future EU will be an enlarged EU with the Western Balkans. The EU's enlargement strategy must be part and parcel of the EU’s strategic thinking about its own future. Enlargement requires reforms from the candidate countries, but also preparation from the EU itself. Only timely internal preparation for the accession of new members can ensure that the EU and its institutions continue to function and that citizens’ concerns are addressed properly.
 
 “The date put forward by the Commission for Serbian and Montenegrin EU membership by 2025 is ambitious, but it is for sure a strong incentive for reform. More negotiation chapters, especially on the rule of law, should be opened as soon as possible. If the Union wants to be credible, they must start negotiations with Albania and Macedonia on accession already this year.
 
“The Socialists and Democrats Group has always been a staunch supporter of EU accession for the Western Balkans. We will continue working closely with our partners in the Western Balkans. EU accession is not a reward for a particular government, therefore we will continue working with governments, parliaments and civil society.”
 
S&D vice-president Tanja Fajon added:  
 
“The strategy speaks a clear language: the EU wants the Western Balkans to be part of their family of values, shared history and common future. Since the promises made in Thessaloniki 15 years ago, the European Union has been strongly committed to, and has encouraged, the accession of the Western Balkans Six. This  puts a big share of responsibility in the hands of the Western Balkans leaders, who are called upon to grasp this historic opportunity, do the necessary reforms and make their countries more prosperous for their citizens.
 
“Enlargement is not about a technical process or only about negotiations, it is about values. As a Slovenian, a strong supporter of the enlargement of the Union and a friend of the Western Balkans, I am looking forward to seeing our neighbours move into the European house, once their democracies are strengthened, corruption is rooted out, media independence is assured and the people, especially the young, have a credible perspective for the future.”