BELGRADE, 5.12.2014. – The future of Western Balkan countries is in the EU “and they will become members of the European family of nations in the not too distant future.”
This was heard in Belgrade on Friday at the international conference, “European Union & Western Balkans 2015-2020 – Partnership Opportunity and Mutual Concern,” organized by the Public Policy Institute.
The conference heard speeches by prominent European politicians and diplomats, rectors and representatives of the academic communities from leading universities in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Former President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso expressed confidence that, despite the enlargement fatigue, the process of EU enlargement will continue and that the Western Balkan countries will join the Union in the not too distant future.
He said that the current Serbian government and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic have a strong mandate and the capacity to lead the country towards the EU on an open path.
Barroso also noted that he is proud that, as president of the European Commission, he proposed to the European Council that it open negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro.
Membership in the EU does not take away power and influence from countries, but increases them, he said.
Speaking to reporters after addressing the conference, Barroso said that he is confident that Serbia will join the EU, but declined to speculate on when that will happen, and noted that recognizing Kosovo’s was not a condition for membership.
He also noted that the level of cooperation between Belgrade and Moscow is not a topic related to Serbia’s EU membership, but that accession is only tied to meeting the requirements.
Serbian minister without portfolio in charge of European integrations Jadranka Joksimovic noted that Serbia knows that it needs to gradually adjust its foreign policy to the EU, but also said that all those who are making such requests need to keep in mind that the country has not opened any chapters in the accession talks yet.
Joksimovic underscored that Serbia is participating in almost all EU peacekeeping and civilian missions except in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and added that the country is contributing to the joint security and safety policy.
It is completely clear to us that our EU path is unequivocal, she said.
Under-Secretary-General and UN Special Adviser on Innovative Financing for Development Philippe Douste-Blazy said that EU membership brings strategic and economic benefits.
Once in the EU, Serbia will be able to solve major problems much more efficiently, and togetherness, rather than isolation, is the only way to react to international problems, Douste-Blazy said.
EU membership also brings economic advantages, because it opens the door of an enormous market, he also noted.
The reasons behind euroscepticism must be assessed in a serious manner, he said, citing the EU’s unemployed population of 20 million – including five million young people – as one of the causes.
European People’s Party Vice President Mario David said that he does not believe that enlargement fatigue exists, and noted that Serbia needs to continue societal reforms.
“I think that every country must be judged based on its own merit,” said David, adding that the ball is in Serbia’s court now.
“You are not seeking to become a member of something that is unknown – we have adequate rules and it is very easy to know what kind of club you want to join, so let us embark on reforms and close one negotiation chapter after another,” he said, adding that, in negotiations with the EU, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.