European Western Balkans

Hahn: 2025 ambitious but realistic goal

Johannes Hahn; Photo: European Union

VIENNA – European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn believes that 2025 as a date for the possible accession of candidate countries from the Western Balkans is a real but ambitious goal.

“The president of the European Commission has stated, for some candidates, 2025 as a possible date of accession, which is realistic, although ambitious,” Han said in an interview with the Vienna daily Kurir.

Asked whether Catalonia would leave the EU, he said that all participants should return to the dialogue.

“The outcome of the election did not ease the situation on the ground,” Han said.

Regarding the EU procedure against Poland, he pointed out that there was no talk about splitting the Union.

“We are confronted with certain circumstances in certain countries that the rule of law, such as respecting judicial decisions, has not yet been sufficiently developed,” Han said.

Regarding the future of the EU, he reminded that the Commission presented five options for reform of the Union and expressed the hope that an agreement on a central position would be reached.

“The foundation will be – a concentration on large, globally relevant topics and the transfer of other topics to national states,” explained Han.

According to him, it is crucial to cooperate in foreign and security policy, so that the EU can act as an international player, which requires the introduction of a majority vote since until now it was necessary for everyone to agree.

To the conclusion that the EU is far removed from the active foreign policy and that Russia makes decisions in the Middle East, while the United States has withdrawn, and Europeans are only looking at their bare hands, Han explained, pointing out that Moscow’s influence is overestimated.

“Isolationism of the United States provides the EU with a chance to play a much more active role,” said Han.

Regarding the intentions for better coordination in EU defence policy, he said that it was the first step towards joint research and procurement activities and added that military expenditures must be more effectively used.

Asked if the EU does enough to reduce migration, Han recalled that there are 20 to 25 million refugees around Europe, a constant challenge for Europe.

“There is a gap between the EU and the immediate neighbourhood in terms of living standards, and we could work to promote economic development in order to give people a perspective in their countries. With the investment fund that could be used specifically for Africa, we can mobilize 44 billion euros from European companies for sustainable projects. The big problem is population growth, for example in Egypt, where we have up to 2.5 million people annually,” he explained.

Han pointed out that Frontex has already been significantly strengthened, and expressed the hope that members understand when negotiating a new EU budget framework, that the protection of external borders is not free.

According to him, it is important to fight against the cause of migration, and this is not possible only with Frontex.

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