Commission adopts a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans countries
As President Juncker announced in his 2017 State of the Union address, the Commission adopted today a strategy for 'A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans', confirming the European future of the region as a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe based on common values.
The Strategy clearly spells out that the EU door is open to further accessions when – and only when – the individual countries have met the criteria.
The strategy also spells out the priorities and areas of joint reinforced cooperation, addressing the specific challenges the Western Balkans face, in particular the need for fundamental reforms and good neighbourly relations. A credible enlargement perspective requires sustained efforts and irreversible reforms. Progress along the European path is an objective and merit-based process which depends on the concrete results achieved by each individual country.
The Strategy sets out an Action Plan with six concrete flagship initiatives targeting specific areas of common interest: rule of law, security and migration, socio-economic development, transport and energy connectivity, digital agenda, reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. Concrete actions in these areas are foreseen between 2018 and 2020.
To deliver on the Western Balkans Strategy and support a seamless transition to membership, adequate funding is indispensable. The European Commission proposes to gradually increase funding under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance until 2020 in so far as reallocations within the existing envelope allow. In 2018 alone, €1.07 billion of pre-accession assistance for the Western Balkans is already foreseen, on top of almost €9 billion from the 2007-2017 period.
The Strategy explains the steps that need to be taken by Montenegro and Serbia to complete the accession process in a 2025 perspective; while others could catch up, Montenegro and Serbia are the only two countries with which accession talks are already under way. This perspective will ultimately depend on strong political will, the delivery of real and sustained reforms, and definitive solutions to disputes with neighbours.
All Western Balkans have the chance to move forward on their respective European paths. The Commission assesses all the countries in a fair and objective manner on the basis of their own merits and at the speed at which they achieve progress. Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are making significant progress on their European path and the Commission is ready to prepare recommendations to open accession negotiations, on the basis of fulfilled conditions. The Commission will start preparing an Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina's membership application following receipt of comprehensive and complete answers to its Questionnaire. With sustained effort and engagement, Bosnia and Herzegovina could become a candidate for accession. Kosovo has an opportunity for sustainable progress through implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and to advance on its European path once objective circumstances allow.
6 February 2018