EU and Western Balkans agree to speed up their accession process depending on performance

The European Union (EU) and the Western Balkan countries agreed on Wednesday at a summit in Brussels to accelerate their accession process based on “credible reforms” and on their “own merits.”

“The fate of the Western Balkans lies with the EU,” said the President of the European Council. Charles Michelin a press conference at the end of the summit, in which he spoke of “gradual integration”.

The Summit Declaration drawn up by the Twenty-Seven, to which the six participating Balkan countries joined (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo), reiterates its “full and unequivocal commitment” to its prospect of joining the EU and calls for the process to be “accelerated”.

This must be based on “credible reforms by partners, on fair and strict conditionality and on the principle of personal contribution,” they emphasize.

In addition, the text speaks of how the “increasingly complex” geostrategic environment, dominated by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and heavily influenced by the crisis in the Middle East, continues to “endanger European and global security,” making this clear of “unity” and “strategic partnership” with the region.

The EU said it welcomed Balkan countries’ “recommitment” to democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law, but stressed the need to carry out “permanent and irreversible reforms” in these areas and in the economy.

He also called on the Western Balkan countries to fully adapt to the EU’s foreign and security policy, including with regard to the application of sanctions, since Serbia refuses to accept the sanctions imposed on Russia by the invasion of Ukraine, even though it is a candidate country.

The EU recognizes that migration management remains in place “A central shared challenge and responsibility”and agreed that their partners would fully implement the EU action plan on the Balkan migration route, which has resulted in a reduction in pressure by 2023, although it remains “active” and large numbers of irregular border crossings have been detected.

Regarding visas, which will no longer be required from January 1 for citizens of the countries of this region to travel to the Schengen area without borders, the EU called for greater alignment with some of them in order to avoid abuses in the migration and asylum systems.

Another aspect highlighted in the statement is strengthening cooperation against terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms, including the prevention of radicalization and terrorist financing, as well as “the emerging threats of far-right violent extremism, the content of violent extremists.” Dissemination on the Internet and possible attacks on critical infrastructures.

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Regarding the situation in each country, the President of the European Commission said, Ursula von der Leyenhoped that the first chapters making up the accession negotiations could be opened “as soon as possible” with Albania and North Macedonia.

The Commission also expects that EU countries will take the decision to start the negotiation process with Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it recommended to the 27, once the necessary level of compliance has been achieved.

This very summit took place on the eve of the European Council, at which the Community’s heads of state and government will have to face this decision and the start of accession negotiations Moldova and Ukraine -something that Hungary continues to block.

With regard to Montenegro, the German politician said that the new government was giving the country a “new impetus” to “get back on the right track” towards accession.

Finally, as regards Serbia and Kosovo, whose unilateral independence from Belgrade in 2008 is not recognized in the EU by Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Romania, he declared that they had taken “important steps” and praised that they succeeded in reducing tensions in the north of Kosovo.

In the statement, the EU calls on the two parties to refrain from unilateral and “uncoordinated actions that could lead to further tensions and violence, as well as rhetoric that is not conducive to the normalization of relations,” a prerequisite for a future in the EU.

Von der Leyen pointed out that “decisive action now” is needed to bring the Western Balkans closer to the EU, and with this in mind, the Commission announced new investments worth 680 million euros, which make up the sixth financial package of the economic and economic package Investment plan form the EU for the region.

According to Brussels calculations, mobilization is to be expected 16.6 billion euros in investments in five iconic projects sustainable rail transport and clean energy.

In October 2020, the EU promoted a specific economic and investment plan for the Balkans, which envisages the mobilization of up to 30 billion euros, including 9 billion euros in community grants.

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