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Enlargement is a matter of the EU’s credibility

October 05 2021 | Београд

Enlargement is a matter of the EU’s credibility

Jadranka Joksimović on EU–Western Balkans Summit

“I expect that the EU–Western Balkans Summit will, above all, reconcile the positions of EU Member States that are currently at odds regarding the future of the EU and EU enlargement policy, where we and all other participants from the Western Balkans will also have the opportunity to express our expectations. We are very grateful to the EU Member States that insisted on including a statement confirming the EU’s commitment to the enlargement process in the Declaration, although apparently this is not easy to achieve. This clearly speaks to the fact that, for some countries, enlargement has become an unpopular issue and policy”, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has told Politika, talking about her expectations from tomorrow’s EU–Western Balkans Summit, which will be held at the Brdo Congress Centre in Slovenia, in the context of the information circling lately in the European media that the European Union is drifting apart from the Western Balkans.

“Serbia’s reform activities are not stagnating. On the contrary, we are going full steam ahead with the reforms and meeting the criteria from the new methodology”, says the Minister of European Integration.

Reuters has drawn the greatest attention with its allegations that the EU can no longer agree on providing guarantees for future membership to the Balkan Six. Referencing four European diplomats and one internal document, the agency has conveyed that the draft final document of the EU–Western Balkans Summit, under which the EU should reiterate its promise given 18 years ago about “providing unequivocal support to the European perspective of the Western Balkans”, has gone through at least two rounds of talks without an agreement. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić stated on Thursday, during his visit to Niš with EC President Ursula von der Leyen, that he had not received any signals from Brussels that would confirm Reuters’ allegations that the EU was no longer showing interest in the Western Balkans.  

“We are not so dumb not to realise that there are different views within the EU, but I do not think that would be strategically wise for the EU either. They would be wise to show that the EU is still attractive to everyone, and I believe in Von der Leyen’s words that they want Serbia and other countries in the EU”, said Vučić.

The line minister also believes this to be the wrong approach that weakens motivation, particularly of the countries that still have not initiated the negotiation process, which creates the impression that the enlargement process is at a standstill.

“As regards Serbia, our reform activities are not stagnating. On the contrary, we are going full steam ahead with the reforms and meeting the criteria from the new methodology, but this has also become a matter of the EU’s own credibility. I expect that the EU will valorise the achievements of the entire region, especially given that the criteria have become stricter compared to earlier enlargement stages, of course, taking account of the individual levels of progress in the accession process”, stresses Jadranka Joksimović.

According to her, at the Summit, Serbia will certainly underline its firm commitment to the continuation and strengthening of its active participation in regional cooperation initiatives, such as the Berlin Process, Open Balkans, and all other active initiatives.

“The EU and some countries are placing the focus on efforts to reach an agreement under the idea of a Common Regional Market, similar to, for example, the agreement on roaming or recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications. Key common topics will also include sustainable connectivity, digital transformation, the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, and all related projects within the large EU Economic and Investment Plan. Thus, we continue to achieve economic progress and strengthen the resilience of our economy, along with strengthening of the rule of law in all segments”, states Joksimović.

Source: Politika