The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament strongly support a European future for the West Balkan states and consider that Europe’s enlargement policy strengthens stability and democracy in this region and must be maintained.
Following discussions yesterday in the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on the progress reports for Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Gianni Pittella said:
“The EU enlargement process constitutes a success story and it is an integral and necessary part of our progressive European vision and it’s vital to promote democracy and to improve economic and political stability in the region.
“Challenges remain and all candidate countries should continue and accelerate their efforts to apply the acquis communautaire (the body of EU laws and standards already in place across the EU) and meet the Copenhagen criteria.
“Additional efforts must be made to implement reforms, particularly in the area of the judiciary, the rule of law, freedom of expression, rights of minorities and the fight against corruption. In some cases the lack of progress in EU accession risks of undermining the effectiveness of EU conditionality and declining in democratic standards.”
Knut Fleckenstein, S&D vice-chair responsible for foreign affairs, added:
“The European Union needs an active enlargement strategy that keeps the enlargement countries firmly on track towards sustainable European reforms and a successful accession process.
“The economic and financial crisis in the European Union has also affected many of our neighbours, especially the Western Balkan countries, which aspire to become European Union member states themselves. Their difficult economic situation has made it more demanding to implement ambitious European reform programmes. We should, therefore, be clear in our commitment and support in order to help them sustain the reform momentum.”
Victor Boştinaru, S&D MEP and vice-president for foreign affairs, said:
“The past year has been especially important for the European Union integration process. Furthermore, even if the road to the European Union may take longer than expected, it is important that the criticism is taken seriously by all the candidates. The respect of freedoms and more tolerance are the main challenges for the Western Balkans.
“Serbia has formally started accession talks, which marked the progress of the country over the past decade. The freedom of press is under the spotlight in all the enlargement countries. However, there are particularly serious concerns about the deterioration of the freedom of press in Serbia since the arrival of the new government. The authorities have to create and ensure a favourable environment where media can operate freely. Moreover, in the case of Serbia, we are worried about the important discrepancy in its alignment with the European Union foreign policy.
“The dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo is a priority for both countries and a necessary positive step towards normalisation and stability. The participation of the Serbs from the North and the South in the Kosovo national elections and the relative progress in dismantling the parallel structures result from these successful talks”.