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S&Ds: We must maintain an active and committed EU enlargement policy


10 Nov 2016


Global Europe

The S&D Group in the European Parliament continues to actively support the aspirations of the Western Balkans countries for EU accession and the related reforms strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law. European Socialists and Democrats urge the European Commission and the Council to maintain a committed and ambitious EU enlargement policy in order to sustain the reform momentum and reinforce democracy, stability and prosperity in the Western Balkans. We cannot allow this process to slow down. While there has been good progress made with the adoption of important pieces of legislation in several candidate countries, their focus must now be on implementation.
On the occasion of today's presentation of the enlargement package by the European Commission, the S&Ds are hosting sister parties and trade unionists from the Western Balkans to discuss current challenges of the accession process, both for the EU as well as related to the domestic situation in the candidate countries. Participants stress the social dimension of the enlargement process; it must guarantee better social standards and decent work for all.


S&D vice-president Knut Fleckenstein, who is also the European Parliament's standing rapporteur on Albania and one of three EP mediators for the crisis in former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said:
"The S&Ds have always been committed to an active, credible and progressive enlargement policy. We need a committed EU enlargement policy more than ever.
"This July, the Albanian Parliament passed crucial constitutional amendments which pave the way for an ambitious and comprehensive judiciary reform. The focus must now be on implementation of that reform. I welcome that the European Commission recognized these important achievements by recommending the opening of accession negotiations while expecting Albania to continue implementation, especially with the vetting of its judiciary.

"Regarding FYR of Macedonia, the conduct of early elections on 11 December and the fulfilment of the so-called Urgent Reform Priorities will show whether the country can get back on track towards EU accession. Attempts to undermine the work of the Special Prosecutor, appointed to investigate the mass illegal wiretapping which triggered the current political crisis, must end."


S&D vice-president Tanja Fajon added:      
"It is absolutely vital for both the Western Balkans and the EU that enlargement continues. Without clear commitment on both sides, we fear dangerous scenarios of destabilisation. Urgent reforms are needed. Serbia and Kosovo need to revive the dialogue on normalisation of the relations between the countries and bring fresh and sincere energy into the process. Responsible politicians need to understand that reforms are necessary for a better life for citizens, more efficient work of institutions, preventing brain drain and building a corruption-free society."
"Serbia has to speed up the reforms in rule of law, including the fight against corruption, strengthening democracy and freedom of expression. A change of rhetoric is needed in the overall accession process. It is about making citizens understand that the enlargement process brings tangible results. I hope Kosovo soon enters a visa free regime once the last remaining conditions are met. We fully support free travel for all citizens of the Western Balkans with respect of the obligations. More EU focus is needed on the discussion about the future of BiH and better functioning of its institutions.
"I call on all the Western Balkans leaders to refrain from using nationalism-powered rhetoric and playing an ethnic card. It is time for taking courageous decisions, implementing smart reforms and making joint efforts. Citizens of the Western Balkans countries deserve no less than this and responsibility for this lies in the Western Balkans leaders' hands."


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