Commission vows to strengthen ties with the Western Balkans

Oliver Várhelyi: "I want to enhance this process so that at least one country from the region is ready for membership by the end of my term." [EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET]

The EU’s new enlargement methodology aims to strengthen ties with countries from the Western Balkans, especially with those that have already started EU membership negotiations  European Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi said in Belgrade on Thursday (6 February). EURACTIV Serbia reports.

“I want to enhance this process so that at least one country from the region is ready for membership by the end of my term, which is the goal that I’ve set for myself. This is my mission for the next four and a half years and I hope that I will have a full partnership with Serbia,” Várhelyi said after meeting Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

Commission tries to breathe new life into EU enlargement

The new enlargement rules presented by the Commission on Wednesday (5 February) are supposed to inject credibility, predictability, dynamism and a political steer into the increasingly moribund process. “This is a geostrategic investment,” promised Olivér Várhelyi, the Commissioner for enlargement.

At a joint news conference with Vučić, Várhelyi reiterated that the EU’s renewed methodology for accession based on four principles (credibility, predictability, dynamics and political leaders) was the first pillar of the European Commission’s strategy.

The second element of the plan is opening negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania before an EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb in May, while the third consists of a new strategy for economic development and investment in the entire Western Balkans, “which we want to put on the table” at the Zagreb summit, Varhelyi said.

Ahead of the news conference, Varhelyi and Serbian European Integrations Minister Jadranka Joksimovic signed an IPA 2019 financial agreement.

Political groups in the European Parliament have welcomed the new Commission strategy, though the promised involvement of experts from member states worried the Greens, who fear the further politicisation of accession talks.

“I think it is not really in our interest to have a more politicised” process, said Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (Greens-EFA/DE), but overall was satisfied with the proposals.

Others liked the increased role of member states. “It’s good to have mechanisms to make member states part of the negotiations with their own experts, to commit them more to this process” and not keep it only to Brussel offices, said MEP Michael Gahler. (EPP/DE)

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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