BRUSSELS – EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrel said yesterday that it is not fair to say that the EU is “just pretending” to want enlargement to the Western Balkans and in an online conversation with Atlantic Council leaders stressed that the region has a place and future in the EU, but that countries must do their “homework” before that.
The Western Balkans countries must implement reforms and reach standards in order to become EU members, Borrell stressed, answering a question from Maja Piščević, a senior adviser at the Belgrade office of the Atlantic Council, who said that the EU was “just pretending” to want enlargement in the Balkans.
“I have to reject the idea that we are just pretending, but we must be sure that the enlargement is carried out in accordance with our legal acquis,” Borrell said.
Borrell stated that there is a “growing geopolitical competition” in the Balkans, in which Russia, China and Turkey are participating, as well as that a “battle of narratives” is being waged about others giving vaccines and help and helping more than the EU.
“It seems that we are not so good at propaganda,” Borrell assessed, adding that the EU continues the path towards enlargement “step by step”, with the desire that the perspective of membership becomes the engine of reforms in the region.
“We will start accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, we have restarted talks between Belgrade and Pristina, we are trying to help with vaccination, and I know that a ‘diplomatic battle’ is being fought over vaccines in Serbia,” Borrell said.
He reminded of the EU Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, worth nine billion euros, and emphasized that the EU invests more than China, Russia and Turkey, but also that “in return, it seeks reforms, which others do not do.”
“These are not the reforms that we want just like that, but they are the changes that the citizens are looking for, and that is why I feel sorry when you say that some people think that we are just pretending,” Borrell concluded.