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S&Ds to Commissioner Várhelyi: there must be no shortcuts on the rule of law for candidate countries!

Date

19 Oct 2021

Sections

Global Europe

Following the presentation of the 2021 Enlargement package today by the Commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, the S&Ds reaffirmed their strong and steadfast commitment to a credible EU perspective for all countries in the Western Balkans.

They criticised the EU member states for failing to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, and Commissioner Várhelyi for playing down concerns about rule of law and human rights in candidate countries, as reported by the media. The S&Ds insist that all countries aspiring to join the EU must uphold fundamental rights and the rule of law, defend the freedom of the media and fight corruption.

Tonino Picula, S&D MEP and co-ordinator on foreign affairs and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on enlargement in the Western Balkans, said:

”The Socialists and Democrats remain the most reliable voice for enlargement in this house. That is why we were very disappointed with the outcome of the Western Balkans Summit in Slovenia and with the inaction of the member states. The financial package was good news, but we need much more political engagement and commitment. The EU should live up to its commitments and preserve its credibility. We must finally deliver on our political commitments to North Macedonia and Albania, and start their accession negotiations, and a visa-free regime for Kosovo should be implemented immediately.

“As the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Montenegro, I am concerned about the overall slowing-down of the European integration process. Any event that can be used for or interpreted as a reason to deepen growing political tensions and polarisation should be avoided. Bosnia and Herzegovina must overcome long-standing internal political stalemate too, in order to open a credible path towards European integration.

“But as much as we support enlargement, it must be clear that we will never compromise on the rule of law and democracy. The reports that Commissioner Várhelyi has overseen are extremely worrying as they show a push to play down concerns about the rule of law, particularly in Serbia. Not only do they undermine the credibility of the European Union in the whole region, but also play in favour of those who would like to halt the enlargement of the EU.”

Isabel Santos, S&D MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Albania, said:

“The European Union must keep its word and advance with the accession talks with countries like Albania and North Macedonia. They have done everything that we have requested from them to start the negotiations. It is unacceptable that they have continually been denied that progress. We are letting down the people of these countries, who are extremely pro-European, and we risk losing all the good will towards the EU in the region.

“The rule of law and democracy are pillars of the European Union and any attempt to downplay their importance or to whitewash attacks on these fundamental values shall not be tolerated: either in enlargement countries or inside the EU. We expect nothing less from a member of the European Commission, who should be bound to defend these values above all other interests.”

Nacho Sánchez Amor, S&D MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said: 

“In recent months, there has been an improvement in the overall state of EU-Turkey relations with lower tensions and the resuming of dialogue in different areas. However, as reflected by the Commission’s report presented today, this has not been yet accompanied by any progress on reforms and policies.

“In particular, the backsliding on fundamental freedoms and the rule of law has not been addressed at all by the Turkish authorities, which continue not to abide by ECHR rulings on the cases of Kavala and Demirtaş, contradicting their alleged willingness to come closer to the EU. Without any improvement in this field, there can hardly be any positive agenda in our relations.”

 

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