Juncker: EU to maintain credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans

Jean-Claude Juncker; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – Today, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered his annual speech on the State of the European Union at the European Parliament.

Juncker explained to the European Parliament in Strasbourg his views on the European Union and laid out his priorities for the year ahead.

Juncker said that the “wind is back in Europe’s sails”, a year after the shock of the Brexit vote. He affirmed that the EU “will move forward once Britain leaves”, saying “Brexit is not everything. It’s not the future of Europe.”

“Europe is more than just a single market. More than money, more than the euro. It was always about values,” Juncker affirmed, adding that it is necessary to build “a more united, stronger and more democratic Union.”

Juncker outlined a concrete perspective for the future of the Western Balkans for the succeeding mandate, in fact he said that “If we want more stability in our neighbourhood, then we must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans.”

There will be no further enlargement during this mandate, because “No candidate is ready yet”. However, Juncker underlined the importance of an European Union that “will be greater than 27 in number.” For this reason, “accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority”.

He stressed that “We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once it meets all the criteria.”

The Schengen Zone should be expanded to include Bulgaria and Romania, but Turkey’s membership of the EU has been ruled out because, as Juncker said, “Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union.”

He concluded with the hope that on 30 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, “Europeans will wake up to a Union where we all stand by our values. Where all Member States firmly respect the rule of law. Where being a full member of the euro area, the Banking Union and the Schengen area has become the norm for all EU Member States.”