BRUSSELS – Renew Europe group is serious about enlargement and strongly believes in a European perspective for the Western Balkans, wrote Members of the European Parliament Natalie Loiseau and Ilhan Kyuchyuk in an opinion piece for EURACTIV.
They called for more political ownership of the process, better communication of its benefits to the citizens of both the Western Balkans and the EU. They also endorsed Commission’s proposed methodology and the initiative for a Special Envoy for the Western Balkans.
“We are convinced that citizens of Western Balkan countries deserve to enjoy the rule of law, functioning state institutions, merit-based public in administration and sound economic policies as much as EU citizens. We are not ready to bargain on the aspirations of the people of the candidate countries, because we believe in a Union where there is no one left behind”, wrote the MEPs.
According to them, in a context of democratic backsliding across the region and of divided public opinions as regards enlargement in the EU, enlargement must be addressed with political commitment and oversight, not through bureaucratic routine.
“Furthermore, the reform of the EU can and should go hand in hand with the enlargement process, as we need both a deeper and a broader Union”, wrote Loiseau, Chair of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence and a member of La République en marche party of President Emmanuel Macron and Ilhan Kyuchyuk, EP Rapporteur for North Macedonia.
So far, the enlargement process has not been communicated as well as it could have been, the MEPs wrote.
“Citizens from the Western Balkans should be explained that the reforms are designed to serve their interests, not to please the EU. European citizens should be convinced that completing the reunification of our continent is a safer and more beneficial approach than standing by an unwise status quo”, the MEPs stressed.
They called for the new accession methodology to be endorsed by the Council and form the base for a re-launch of the process in time for the Zagreb Western Balkans Summit as well as for the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.
Loiseau and Kyuchuyk also supported the idea of appointing Special Envoy for the Western Balkans who, in their opinion, should be working under the authority of the High Representative and Commissioner in charge of Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy and focusing on solving lingering conflicts throughout the region.
“The countries of the Western Balkans belong geographically, historically as well as culturally in Europe. We have to collectively strengthen our efforts so that they join our Union economically and politically”, MEPs concluded.