BRUSSELS – Ahead of the EU-Western Balkan summit, and as a sign of the commitment to the enlargement process, the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament adopted a declaration, and will host tomorrow, together with the Party of European Socialists, a high-level online meeting with sister parties from the Western Balkans.
Participants will include party leaders and heads of state or government on the Western Balkans’ side, as well as the EP president David Sassoli, and High Representative Josep Borrell on the European side, together with the S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez and the PES president Sergei Stanishev, who will co-host the event, and a few prominent S&D members dealing with this region, including Tanja Fajon, Tonino Picula, Andreas Schieder and Isabel Santos.
Ahead of the event, the S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez said that, by organising this meeting, the group wants to send a strong signal of support to all Western Balkan countries wishing to join the EU.
“Opening the negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia was the right decision, and we were pushing for it for two reasons. The first one, because the European family is not complete without the Western Balkans. Secondly, because the EU institutions demanded a lot from both countries over the past years, and they delivered. Now, an intense process of social, political and economic reforms starts until we reach the final goal of integration. I hope that this process will also encourage Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue the path of reforms, until the European family is complete”, she said.
S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs, Kati Piri stressed that the future of the Western Balkans remains within a strong and united European Union.
“And we expect from the European governments a re-confirmation of this goal during the summit tomorrow. But as much as we are a pro-enlargement Group, we believe in the condition “sine qua non” that the countries wishing to join the EU show true commitment to the agreed criteria. We are seeing some worrying trends in the region and want to make clear that there can be no compromise – especially not on democracy, the rule of law, organised crime, and freedom of media”, Piri said.
Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the foreign affairs committee, and the EP rapporteur on enlargement in the Western Balkans, added that, after years of ‘enlargement fatigue’, we have recently seen a breakthrough in progress with the decision to open accession talks with Tirana and Skopje.
“The EU also showed solidarity and agreed on a solid financial support package to help Western Balkan countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. Now, to really speed up the reform process and promote change in candidate countries, the member states should start negotiations as soon as possible”, Picula said.