S&Ds: EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia must confirm a credible enlargement perspective for the region
Socialists and Democrats call on the EU heads of states to use the opportunity of the summit in Sofia to confirm a credible accession perspective for the Western Balkan countries. We must speak a clear language: the EU wants the Western Balkans to be a part of our family as soon as the accession criteria are met.
As a sign of our commitment to the enlargement process towards the Western Balkans, the S&D Group wants to step up the political cooperation with our sister parties from the region. We are working towards granting them an observer status in our Group in the European Parliament during the next mandate.
Ahead of the summit, the S&D leader, Udo Bullmann, who is taking part in the pre-summit PSE meeting in Sofia, said:
“The S&D Group has always been a staunch supporter of the EU enlargement towards the Western Balkans. We refuse to give up to the populists, and instead we choose to explain better to our citizens that the EU itself will benefit from a stable and prosperous Western Balkans. It is not charity! Supporting Western Balkans’ efforts to pursue positive and required reforms is a rational investment that aims at ensuring a better future for both sides.
“That is why we expect the Western Balkans Summit to end the period of ‘enlargement fatigue’ we’ve witnessed in last years and to deliver concrete results in support of the accession perspective of the region. This should be translated by opening the accession negotiations with Albania and FYR of Macedonia in June, as recommended by the European Commission. We also need more projects with visible and tangible benefits for ordinary people. The enlargement process must support social-economic convergence between the countries of the region and the EU. This must start as early as possible and aim to tackle the still high unemployment rates, and provide opportunities for the young.
“As much as we are convinced the future of Western Balkans is in the EU, we believe in ‘conditio sine qua non’ that the countries of the Western Balkans show true commitment to the agreed criteria. Especially there cannot be compromise on democracy. Rule of law, media freedom and independence of judiciary must be respected in practice. As the cases of Poland and Hungary show, it is not enough to have the law aligned to the European treaties and acquis communautaire at the day of accession. High standards of democracy must be respected afterwards too.”