Six Western Balkan countries, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, are set to benefit from a new 6 billion euro growth plan. The plan aims to deliver some of the benefits of EU membership to the region before countries become members, which will help boost economic growth and accelerate much-needed socio-economic convergence. The growth plan is expected to accelerate the enlargement process and promote economic growth in the region.
The new growth plan is built around four main pillars. Firstly, the focus is on strengthening the economic integration of the region into the EU single market and, secondly, on strengthening economic integration within the Western Balkans through the regional common market. Third, fundamental reforms should be accelerated and, finally, financial aid should be increased to support these reforms.
To receive the allocated funds, Western Balkan partners must implement crucial reforms. They will be asked to prepare a reform program based on the recommendations of the enlargement reports and economic reform programs. These agendas will be evaluated and adopted by the Commission.
Enlargement remains a key policy of the European Union. Full membership of the Western Balkans in the EU is in the political, security and economic interests of the Union and will meet the aspirations of the people of the region.
EPP calls for opening accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina
The enlargement package should send an encouraging and strong signal to the candidate countries, said Paul Rangel MEP and Zeljana Zovko MEP, vice-presidents of the EPP Group.
“Enlargement policy represents one of the most effective tools available to the European Union to preserve peace and protect European citizens and borders. This is precisely why it is crucial to send a strong signal of support for the European aspirations of candidate countries. In this context, I call on the Commission to take a strategic decision and open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as with Ukraine and Moldova,” urged Zovko, vice-president of the Committee on foreign affairs of Parliament.
Rangel, Parliament’s negotiator for Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressed that the European aspirations of citizens of the Western Balkans must be met while taking into account the progress and shortcomings of each candidate country.
“Since being granted candidate country status, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made concrete progress on all 14 key priorities. Building on this new positive dynamic for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans, work must continue and reforms must be implemented. There is no room for backsliding on the rule of law, sovereignty, unity or territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the path forward is clear. The Commission and the Council now have the opportunity to translate this progress into deeper EU integration, with the full support of the European Parliament,” said Rangel.
“The stability, security and European future of these countries are indivisible conditions that complement our own security and the protection of the European way of life,” Zovko stressed.
S&Ds call for accession negotiations to begin with Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Socialists & Democrats have strongly supported a more robust EU enlargement policy. They support the proposal to start accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and to offer new opportunities to all other Western Balkan countries wishing to join the European Union.
“While fully supporting clear measures regarding the enlargement process in the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood, we must not forget the countries of the Western Balkans. Twenty years ago, we promised them that they would one day join our European family. After last year’s positive news about the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, it is necessary to keep the pro-European flame alive throughout the region. To this end, we hope that in December EU leaders will agree on the opening of accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Tonino PiculaS&D coordinator in the Foreign Affairs Committee and European Parliament rapporteur on the new enlargement strategy.
“The European Commission is offering the region a growth plan linked to clear progress on reform and therefore better economic prospects, but money alone will not solve the problems. To guarantee a better European future for the region, the EU must put an end to its policy of appeasement towards the region’s strongmen. At the same time, all Western Balkan countries must invest all their political capital in genuine reconciliation and good neighborly relations. As the largest country in the region, Serbia, under the leadership of its president Aleksandar Vučićobviously bears a particular responsibility for stability and peace in the Western Balkans,” added Picula.
“The recent terrorist attack against police officers in Kosovo, perpetrated by Serbian paramilitaries, is a stark reminder that peace in this region remains fragile. This carries serious political consequences, including the freezing of pre-accession funds intended for Serbia if investigations reveal direct involvement of the Serbian state. Furthermore, there must be no room for separatist rhetoric and actions practiced in Republika Srpska by Milorad Dodik», concluded Picula.