EU political groups meet on margins of Western Balkans summit

The flags of the Western Balkan six: from left to right Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia [Westminster Foundation for Democracy]

Talks on the future of Western Balkan countries in the EU took place between leaders and politicians from different political groups on the sidelines of this weeks EU-Western Balkans summit.

The European People’s Party (EPP), Socialists and Democrats, and Renew Europe met on Tuesday at a meeting hosted by EPP President Donald Tusk and Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) Prime Minister Janez Janša and with Matej Tonin, leader of New Slovenia (NSi). Both SDS and NSi are EPP member parties.

The participants adopted a declaration reiterating their unequivocal support for a credible enlargement and EU accession perspective for the Western Balkans.

“EU Enlargement has been one of the most successful policies to bring stability and peace to our continent, and it should be strengthened with a move toward more regular EU-Western Balkans summits,” the declaration reads, according to the EPP’s website.

The party also highlighted that the enlargement process was a shared responsibility. EU-Western Balkan relations should be based on cooperation, reciprocity, and strict but fair conditionality and predictability.

“Trust must be rebuilt; integration is a two-way street. The EU must deliver on enlargement promises, and our Western Balkan partners must deliver on the necessary reforms, in particular strengthening rule of law, the fight against corruption, the independence of the judiciary and media freedom.”

Meanwhile, Social Democrats (SD) leader Tanja Fajon hosted leaders from the ranks of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) at a working breakfast today ahead of the summit.

Talking about the Western Balkans’ perspective, Fajon noted that enlargement should be the EU’s strategic goal.

“Social Democrats have always been committed to efforts to step up EU enlargement and have consistently put this issue back on the agenda,” she said.

Western Balkan leaders have been expressing disappointment over the progress made in the accession process. Efforts to strengthen cooperation with the region are essential, but even more important should be the acceleration of the integration of the region’s countries into the EU, Fajon’s party said.

It is not yet time to make an assessment, but at breakfast with the S&D heads of European governments, I could not help but feeling that the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU is a missed opportunity. For our country and for our Europe,” said Fajon, urging courageous decisions and unity.

She believes the Slovenian government has also significantly contributed to divisions in the EU “by putting Slovenia in the wrong club with the wrong policies”.

Renew Europe leaders also met ahead of the summit to discuss challenges faced by Europe, regional cooperation and the group’s future, according to their Twitter.

The meeting featured Alenka Bratušek, the head of her eponymous SAB party, Zdravko Počivalšek, the head of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), and Marjan Šarec, the head of his eponymous LMŠ party. Slovenia’s EU Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič was also present.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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