European Western Balkans

Ministers Lührmann and Boone recipients of the annual EWB Award

BERLIN – European Western Balkans portal has presented its annual Award for the Contribution to the European Integration of the Region to Anna Lührmann, Minister of State for Europe and Climate at the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Government of Germany and Laurence Boone, Minister of State for Europe at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Government of France.

The Award is presented to this year’s recipients “for giving political momentum to the EU enlargement after a long period of stagnation and seizing the opportunity to promote the completion of the European Union, with Western Balkans as its integral part, as well as reforms brining both the Union and the candidate countries closer to the democratic ideal”.

In their official capacities, Lührmann and Boone have so far made the most serious steps to unblocking the EU enlargement process in a long period. This demonstrates their understanding that the only correct answer to the changing geopolitical landscape of Europe is making the EU more efficient and democratic while at the same time completing the EU enlargement to the long-standing candidates in the Western Balkans, as well as new candidate countries.

In previous years, the crucial argument against completing the enlargement and bringing the candidates ever closer to the benefits of membership was that the EU must first reform itself internally. Nothing, however, was done to seriously tackle this issue. Under the political steer of Lührmann and Boone, first steps have finally been taken towards this goal in 2023. The report of the Franco-German Working Group on EU institutional reform was published in September, and the process of gathering political support for its implementation must continue.

“I am deeply honoured by this award, which bears witness to the efforts of France and President Emmanuel Macron to support the Western Balkans. The future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union. We must support the Western Balkans in their work to bring about the reforms needed to enable this integration as quickly as possible. Sarajevo, Belgrade, Podgorica, Skopje, Tirana and Pristina are all European capitals”, says Laurence Boone. 

Minister Lührman, says that the future of the Western Balkan countries is in the European Union.

“We want to continue the success story of the enlargement of the EU. Laurence Boone and I work towards a larger and stronger Union with democracy and rule of law at its heart. It is therefore with great honor to receive this year’s European Western Balkan Award. This is a recognition and motivation to continue working hard for a European future of the Western Balkans”, adds Lührmann.

“Even though EU enlargement has returned to the agenda due to geopolitical reasons, Lührmann and Boone have not lost the sight of fundamental values of the European Union, including democracy and the rule of law, which should remain the main pre-condition for all candidate countries”, states Nemanja Todorović Štiplija, Editor in chief of European Western Balkans.

According to him, this is yet another aspect of the EU-Western Balkan relations that has been lacking the necessary level of political support, from both sides, in recent years, and the efforts of Lührmann and Boone have made it clear that this support still exists within the Union.

“For these reasons, and as a motivation to continue their work on these issues with the same dedication, European Western Balkans is proud to present the Award to Anna Lührmann and Laurence Boone”, Štiplija added.

Every year, European Western Balkans awards individuals and organizations for their contribution to the European integration of the region. The award was established in 2019, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the portal. The recipients of the EWB Award so far have been former Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov(2019), former Member of the European Parliament, and current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia Tanja Fajon (2020), Regional Cooperation Council (2021) and Member of the European Parliament Terry Reintke (2022).

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