BRUSSELS – EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn held Monday a press conference following his visit to Serbia and Montenegro last week. He said that stability can only be achieved with bold reforms in the areas of rule of law, economy and governance reforms.
Hahn pointed out at the beginning that the European Union is and will stay committed to support the Western Balkans during their accession process.
“This is important to stress in view of recent reports and statements from the region, but also from other camps and sources doubting the EU’s engagement. The strategy of the European Union is simply to give all these countries, a European accession perspective,” he siad.
“May I also stress again, accession of the Western Balkans is also in the own interest of the European Union and it is more relevant than ever. We have, and I have said it even here many times, the choice between exporting stability or, instead, importing instability. In that respect I suppose for everybody, the decision is clear,” Hahn added.
He explained that the strategy of the accession process is based on clearly defined criteria.
“Our commitment and the countries’ own efforts are already paying off. I have to say that despite some set-backs we have seen an encouraging progress since the publication of the last Enlargement reports: Serbia and Montenegro are on a good path. In Montenegro 26 negotiating chapters are already open, 2 are already provisionally closed. In Serbia 8 chapters are open. For both countries, we are confident to open further chapters still this year and already some at the next respective meeting this month”, Hahn said.
He added that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has finally overcome, with the continuous support of the European Union, the political crisis with fair elections and the formation of a new government.
“I hope they are now returning back to daily political routine,” EU Commissioner said.
Speaking about Albania he said that the EU has achieved that there will be inclusive elections with the opposition on board and a steady progress with one of the most ambitious reform projects: the justice reform.
Commenting the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hahn said that they have established the urgently needed coordination mechanism. “I expect that this will be already applied by answering the questionnaire the answers of which we hope to get back probably after the summer break,” he siad.
“Finally on Kosovo, of course, we take note of the preliminary results and we excpect for tomorrow the report of the EU election observation and monitoring mission led by MEP Alojz Peterle. It is a quite challenging situation as the outcome seems to be one which is not creating immediately a clear majority for a government,” Hahn added.
He added that he hopes that it does not take again up to 9 months as it was the case last time, because it is so important for this country to stay committed to reforms.
“The government can make use of what has been achieved last year by agreeing on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement and on the European Reform Agenda. It is also about the implementation of the outstanding criteria for visa liberalisation which the citizens are waiting for,” he explained.
He recalled that the Trieste summit is approaching where they will take stock of all the achievements in particular related to the connectivity agenda.
“I am talking about areas in the energy, transport and digital market. I had also the opportunity during my recent mission to talk to the leaders in Belgrade and Podgorica on the very concrete action plan for a Regional Economic Era, an initiative that has been launched at the Sarajevo Western Balkans summit in March this year”, Hahn added.
He also said that he expects that the Transport Community Treaty which they have negotiated for almost 10 years will be signed.
“Two very important initiatives which further reconnect and connect the region to Europe and will contribute to further economic resilience but also hopefully further reconciliation in the region”, he pointed out.
EU Commissioner spoke about his participation in an investment conference in Belgrade last week.
“The European Union is by far the biggest trade partner and financial investor and we are very much interested in further stimulating the economic climate in the region. Issues like connectivity agenda and Economic Area can really contribute to boost this issue,” he explained.
Hahn said if he talks about stability, this does not mean stillstand or preserving the status quo.
“On the contrary: stability can only be achieved with bold reforms in the areas of rule of law, economy and governance reforms. There is no stability without a democratic society, a functioning judiciary and rule of law system,” he said.
He pointed out that therefore work in all these areas has to go hand in hand meaning the fundamentals and the economic areas.
“Our aim is to make the reforms result in a comprehensive transformation process which is irreversible and which creates a win-win situation, both for candidate- and partner countries but also for the European Union,” Hahn explained.
“When I am talking about countries, I am talking primarily about citizens because it is all about citizens and their well-deserved interests,” he concluded.