The European Commission adopted the final text of the strategy on the admission of Serbia and other Western Balkan countries to the Union today in Strasbourg, which will be announced by the members of the European Parliament. The EU foreign policy chief and EC Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn presented a document to the press conference, which, according to estimates from Brussels, makes the EU more strongly committed to providing a clear European perspective to the Western Balkans region.
- The Western Balkans is a geographical part of Europe, the countries share the same interests and history, and today it is clear that we will share the European future within the European Union," said EU High Representative and Federal Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.
- We want to send a clear message to all six countries on integration, but everything must be based on reforms, so that all citizens enjoy all rights and obligations as well as EU citizens - she said at a press conference in Strasbourg after the Enlargement Strategy to the Western Balkans was adopted.
She said that the year 2025 is not an end to the deadline, but a perspective that is realistic, that the negotiation process will be over for those who have begun it.
- Today we have not only adopted the strategy but also opened a certain path for further steps - Mogherini said.
- We hope that next month will be a milestone for the Western Balkans and the EU, which will have new members in the future. We are preparing with the Strategy for that - Mogherini said, calling for further work in this regard.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn states that everyone in the Western Balkans region has an interest in working together to join the Union.
- The year 2025 is an indicative date. It may be possible for some of the countries to join, and that will happen if they fulfill everything that was given in the strategy and if certain conditions are met. EU won't accept another member which hasn't decided to settle its bilateral quests, certain conflicts it has. That also has to be the motivation to Kosovo when it comes to dialogue, to find a positive solution - Hahn said.
He said that it is important to understand from the European perspective that the Western Balkans region is 18 million people, that there are numerous challenges, and that there must be a final inclusion.
- We will support our partners by creating six initiatives, from the rule of law, through the digital agenda, to reconciliation and good neighborly relations. 57 specific activities are united that will take place from 2018 to 2020 - he stressed.
When asked by reporters, how will EU "force" Serbia and other countries to recognize Kosovo, Mogherini said that it is encouraging that the two presidents (Vucic and Thaci) have launched a new phase in normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina, that she is encouraged, and hoped that it would give results.
Regarding the relations of Belgrade and Pristina, although 2019 is not the deadline for an agreement on normalization of relations, Mogherini said that she expects this to be achieved by the end of the current European Commission's mandate (2019).
The head of European diplomacy said that the Union wants to strengthen the EU's presence in the Western Balkans.
- We opened the way to countries, we told them that they chose it, and we will lead them - Mogherini said.
Hahn continued, who said that EU membership is not something that only stimulates economic growth, but something that also the acceptance of European values.
- There was a murder in the north of Kosovo two weeks ago, if it happened a few years ago, that would have been an "explosion". This time, two presidents (Vucic and Thaci) spoke, and "calmed the public". That's one of the advances -Hahn said.
The 12-page document says that it is possible for Serbia and Montenegro to become members of the EU.
TEXT OF THE WESTERN BALKANS STRATEGY
The European Commission adopted today in Strasbourg "The credible prospect of enlargement for the Western Balkans and greater engagement of the European Union (EU) in that region", which confirmed the European future of the region as a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe based on common values.
The strategy states that by 2025 the EU could have more than the current 27 members, but that the pace of progress along that path will depend on the individual merits and concrete results of each country individually, the EU said.
With the assessment that Serbia and Montenegro have made the most progress on the European path and could become members by 2025, the Strategy explains the steps that these two countries should undertake to complete the accession process in perspective by 2025.
- Others could catch up with them, but Montenegro and Serbia are the only two countries with which accession talks are already taking place - says the text, but adds that this perspective will finally depend on the strong political will, the achievement of real and uninterrupted reforms, as well as final solutions to disputes with neighbors - it is stated.
It is added that all Western Balkan countries have a chance to progress on the European path, and the Commission assesses them in a fair and objective way based on the merit and speed at which they are making progress.
When it comes to Albania and FYR Macedonia, it is estimated that these two countries are making significant progress on the European path and adds that the Commission is ready to prepare recommendations for opening accession negotiations on the basis of fulfilled conditions.
For Bosnia and Herzegovina, the strategy states that the Commission will begin the preparation of the Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina's membership application after it receives comprehensive and complete responses to the Questionnaire.
With constant efforts and engagement, Bosnia and Herzegovina could become an accession candidate, it is added.
Regarding Kosovo, it is stated that Kosovo has the opportunity to make sustained progress through the implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and progress on the European path when objective circumstances allow it.
The strategy states that the Western Balkans, in order to meet the criteria for EU membership, and for its own interests, should implement comprehensive reforms in key areas.
The rule of law, basic rights and governance must be substantially strengthened. Judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organized crime, and public administration reform should provide real results, while the functioning of democratic institutions should be seriously improved.
The application of economic reforms must be energetic in order to address structural weaknesses, insufficient competitiveness, and high unemployment.
The strategy emphasizes that all countries must be unreservedly committed - both in word and act - to overcome the heritage of the past by attaining reconciliation and solving open issues, especially border disputes before they join the European Union.
A comprehensive, legally binding agreement on the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo must also be reached so that both can progress on their European path.
(Telegraf.co.uk / Beta / Tanjug)