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S&D Group will continue to support enlargement process: Albania and North Macedonia should start accession negotiations without further delay


Today, the European Commission presented in the European Parliament its annual Enlargement Package, including individual reports on the Western Balkans countries and Turkey. The Socialists and Democrats have always insisted that enlargement is a very important and successful political process and it is of common interest to both the EU and the countries aspiring to join the EU.  
In the new European Parliament legislature, our S&D Group will continue to support a credible enlargement perspective for the whole region of Western Balkans, but the pace will depend on the countries themselves. 
S&D spokesperson on foreign affairs and European Parliament’s rapporteur on Albania, Knut Fleckenstein, said: 
“In recognition of great efforts made by Albania and North Macedonia to carry out reforms, the European Commission for the second consecutive year recommends to open accession negotiations talks with both countries. We fully support this. The ball lies now indeed in the court of Heads of State and Governments. We call on the European Council that will gather in June in Brussels to keep its promise and start the talks with no further delay. We also call on the Council to grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo, which fulfilled all requirements, and take credible steps with all other countries to reward the efforts made on their European path.  
“The S&D Group has been the biggest advocate for a European future of Western Balkans countries and we will remain so. It is not charity. We believe the EU itself will benefit from a stable and prosperous Western Balkans. We have had successes in the last parliamentary term, which have again proved that the diplomatic process is the right way forward. The best example is the Prespa agreement, which solved a long name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia.  
“However, many challenges still remain. It is important to pay attention to the shrinking space of civil society and independent media in the region and to listen to the voices of the peaceful demonstrators. 
“We have to speak a clear language: The Western Balkans’ place in the future is among the European Union, therefore enlargement should remain a high priority for this parliament. The people of the Western Balkans need a clear sign that the Union is on their side.” 
S&D MEP Kati Piri, European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey, added
“The European Commission reports on Turkey reflect last year’s developments in Turkey where we have seen a further regression in the areas of the rule of law and human rights, and the reinforcement of Erdoğan’s autocratic rule.  The decision to annul Istanbul’s mayoral elections result is just the latest example. 
“The Socialists and Democrats will request the Conference of the presidents of the Parliament to send a democracy monitoring mission to Turkey on 23rd June to observe the re-run elections in Istanbul. 
“The European Parliament’s position on the accession process is clear. It makes no sense to continue talks with this government; however, the EU must stand in solidarity with Turkey’s population.  
“There are some serious allegations of torture in prisons. A new effort must be made to re-start the peace process. In addition, the European Commission must call for the release of political prisoners like Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtas.  
“I hope in the coming years, Turkey will return to its European path.”