After years of enlargement fatigue, it is now time for the EU to truly recommit to the accession perspective of the Western Balkan region and accelerate the enlargement process. This is the main message the Socialists and Democrats are sending to the participants of the EU-Western Balkan Summit taking place today in Tirana.
As a sign of its commitment to the enlargement process towards the Western Balkans, the S&D Group is hosting a high-level S&D Western Balkan Leaders’ Summit on Thursday in Vienna. Among leaders and high ranking progressive politicians from all Western Balkan countries aspiring to join the EU, the summit will be attended by Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovačevski, President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, and Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti.
In Vienna, the progressive family will adopt a joint declaration of the S&D Western Balkan Leaders’ Summit and present it at a press point. Journalists can attend the summit in person. It will also be web-streamed here.
Iratxe García Pérez, group leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and MEP, said:
“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is also an attack against European values and it has reminded us of the importance of EU enlargement – an engine for democracy, freedom, peace and prosperity on our continent. Western Balkan countries, who have been seeking to join the EU for so long, deserve our full support in their reform process to be able to join the EU effectively and as soon as the set criteria are met. Further delays would only increase frustration among the citizens and make the region more vulnerable. Other actors, including Russia and China, will be there to fill the vacuum.
“But we must draw lessons from the previous accessions. Rule of law and democratic reforms must be at the heart of the process. As progressives, we also insist that the enlargement process brings benefits and opportunities to ordinary people, and in particularly the young. That is why we need more concrete initiatives, programmes and investments in the region.”
Andreas Schieder, head of the SPÖ delegation in the European Parliament and MEP, said:
“At our progressive Western Balkan summit in Vienna we will speak a clear language: the European family will never be complete without our partners in the region. As Socialists and Democrats we refuse to give up to the populists, and instead continue to explain to our citizens that the EU itself will benefit from a stable and prosperous Western Balkans. Supporting their efforts to pursue required reforms is an investment for both sides!
“As much as we want the EU to accelerate the enlargement process, it’s clear that its success also depends on countries aspiring to join our EU family. They must make clear pro-European choices! Too often political disputes or ethnic divisions slow down the progress of EU-related reforms.
“Almost 20 years after the Thessaloniki Summit, where Western Balkan countries were promised to join the EU one day, both sides must finally make concrete progress.”
Note to editors
The Western Balkans Summit will take place on Thursday, 8 December, 2022, 9:00 – 13:00 at Hilton Vienna Park, Am Stadtpark 1, 1030 Wien. Due to security considerations, a special accreditation is requested here. Translation in German, Spanish and English is provided