Home Venture Capital Austria proposes policy areas for “gradual” Western Balkans integration – EURACTIV.fr

Austria proposes policy areas for “gradual” Western Balkans integration – EURACTIV.fr

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Austria has made a new effort to support EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, citing possible policy areas to advance “gradual integration”, according to a non-paper prepared for the EU’s informal summit in next week in Granada, consulted by Euractiv.

In Spain next Friday (October 6), EU leaders are expected to discuss how and under what conditions the bloc could expand in the future, and whether to open accession negotiations to the EU with Ukraine and, potentially, Moldova, by the end of the year. .

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Europe Minister Karoline Edtstadler presented in May 2022 a first proposal aimed at the gradual integration of the six countries of the Western Balkans: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia North, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

In a follow-up document presented to European affairs ministers on Wednesday (27 September), Vienna set out a list of policy areas in which EU candidate countries could be allowed to cooperate under the EU even before joining the bloc in its own right. members.

These would include policy areas ranging from aspects of the EU single market, such as “industrial and consumer goods, public procurement, e-commerce”, “continuing trade through customs cooperation”, energy and transport infrastructure and enhanced cooperation with the European border agency Frontex. and Europol.

Austria also updated the idea of ​​“increasing the regular informal participation of the BM6 in Council meetings, building on the example of Ukraine’s regular invitation to Foreign Affairs Council meetings” , to organize more “informal Council meetings in the Western Balkans region” and to “explore options for further informal participation of the WB6 in EU forums” such as EU ambassador meetings. EU and working groups.

The “gradual integration” approach is not entirely new and was proposed by the European Commission in its update of its enlargement methodology in 2019.

However, the political will of EU member states to move forward with these options has been lacking so far.

Asked about this approach in August, Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi told EURACTIV that the idea is to “advance real integration on the ground, before (EU candidate countries) join, meaning that their citizens can already start enjoying the benefits of membership, which which will bring them long-term prosperity and security, and allow them to start playing according to our rules and in the club.

“Being integrated into a political sector very early also means that the country concerned will have to adapt to EU requirements. acquiredhe will have to apply the same rules as us and thus be much better prepared to join and be active members from day one,” he added.

Don’t forget South-Eastern Europe

The EU executive’s annual enlargement package and a set of “substantial proposals” are expected to be presented by the end of October.

“Rather than waiting for every comma of the acquis to be implemented, let’s integrate candidate countries earlier into policy areas where this is possible,” Schallenberg told Euractiv.

“Even if we focus on the East, we must not make the mistake of forgetting the South-East of Europe,” he said, adding that Austria “remains a strong supporter of ‘accelerated and progressive integration of the Western Balkans’.

“Concrete measures and a reasonable incentive system for reforms are necessary, otherwise we will lose the region’s residents,” Edstadler added.

In a separate letter addressed to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Várhelyi, seen by Euractiv, the two Austrian ministers urged the EU “to create a ‘level playing field’ with other candidate and aspiring countries that already benefit from advantages based on deep and complete freedom. Commercial areas.”

“While we recognize the importance of discussing intra-EU reforms and the future of the EU, we believe that this should not be used as an excuse to delay the enlargement process of our Western Balkan partners, including we’ve been talking for years and decades. ,” they wrote.

(Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic)

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