The Western Balkans must have a European perspective, say S&Ds

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The Socialists and Democrats today stressed their support for a European path for the Western Balkans at a two-day high-level PES conference in Podgorica and Tirana, which was attended by Prime Ministers, political leaders and representatives from the Social Democratic family from the region and from the European Union. The conference was a preparatory step towards the EU-Western Balkans summit that will be taking place in Sofia in May.
 
Speaking at the conference, Knut Fleckenstein, S&D spokesperson for foreign affairs, said:
 
“We expect concrete decisions in support of the EU accession process of the Western Balkans in the following months. The Western Balkans summit in Sofia, the Berlin Process summit in London and the June EU Council need to reconfirm the European perspective of the region and ensure support for the renewed Western Balkans Strategy and its flagship projects.
 
“It is high time that the accession negotiations with Albania and FYR of Macedonia are opened. These moves will render the European perspective more credible and speed up the reform process in the candidate countries. It is of paramount importance that the candidate countries do their homework, but also that we, European politicians, explain better to our citizens why enlargement matters. Indeed, this is not an act of charity; it is a win-win exercise and an investment in a more secure, stable and prosperous common future.”
 
PES president Sergei Stanishev said during the discussions:
 
“I personally know that EU accession is a long, difficult route; I was the Prime Minister of Bulgaria when we joined the EU. Nevertheless, I also know that the very prospect of joining the Europe Union is an extremely strong and positive force for any country. The future of the Western Balkans is in the European Union. The PES supports the Commission’s new strategy for the EU’s enlargement to include the Western Balkans.
 
“We need to increase economic integration between all six countries, and between them and the EU. We believe that the EU’s experience with peace and reconciliation can be a blueprint for the region. In this regard, the announcement that five countries agree to establish a truth commission - to meet in London in July – is a very promising step.”