The European Union has a new strategy for enlargement which includes six Western Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo, which is not yet recognized by all current Member States.
The document was presented in Strasbourg on 6 February 2018 by the High Representative for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. She indicates a date, year 2025, which is not “a target but represents a realistic perspective”.
“The leaders of the Western Balkans have made a clear choice, the choice of bringing their countries inside the European Union. And today we are telling them: we have made the same choice” said Federica Mogherini at the European Parliament Plenary Session. She continued “The process is merit-based and depends on the pace and the success of negotiations and reforms. And let me stress this very clearly: this is a realistic perspective, true for the countries that are currently negotiating, but also a realistic perspective for the countries that will start negotiations in the coming months. And I believe and I hope that there will be others starting negotiations soon, which will then have exactly the same realistic time-frame or perspective”
The enlargement process in the Balkans is a strong interest for the Member States of the European Union. Both for “economic, commercial and investment issues”, explains Mogherini, both for reasons of “security”, because a problem in this area for one of the Balkan partners “becomes a security problem for EU citizens”.
The Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, stressed that the new strategy does not consist of “easing the conditions” for entry into the EU, but in a new impulse to be given to partners through a economic support. In fact, 500 million euros will be allocated, which from now until 2020 will be used to “support even small and medium-sized enterprises and not just the construction of infrastructures”.
The Strategy sets out an Action Plan with six concrete flagship initiatives targeting specific areas of common interest: rule of law, security and migration, socio-economic development, transport and energy connectivity, digital agenda, reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. Concrete actions in these areas are foreseen between 2018 and 2020.
Official Documents of the European Commission:
- Communication: A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans
- Annex to the communication: A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans
- Six new flagship initiatives to support the transformation of the Western Balkans
- The way forward
- The economic potential of the EU’s relations with the Western Balkans
- The enlargement process