EU must speed up Western Balkans’ accession

by Cristian Florescu

The EU should stop inventing new accession criteria and speed up the Western Balkans’ EU integration instead, the head of the European Parliament said on Tuesday, writes Anadolu Agency

The EU must “think of ways to accelerate the enlargement process in the Western Balkans” because stability in the “immediate neighbourhood is vital” for the EU’s own stability, Roberta Metsola said, addressing a conference on EU integration in the Bulgarian capital Sofia via video link.

Metsola underlined the need for the bloc to draw lessons from Russia’s war in Ukraine in which “men, women and children are paying the ultimate price in protecting the homeland in protecting democracy in Europe,” and see the accession process as a “powerful tool to counter the efforts of malign foreign actors.”

The EU must show clarity for Western Balkan countries because they “have been knocking on our doors for far too long,” Metsola told the conference titled “The EU Meets the Balkans Forum: The Ukraine Lesson – EU Enlargement as Antidote to War.”

Acknowledging that countries seeking to join the bloc must put in the effort and enact reforms to join the bloc, she warned that the EU “cannot keep lingering and adding criteria as we go along.”

“The European Union must also keep its word we have to deliver on our promises,” Metsola pointed out.

As an example, she said the EU’s credibility was undermined by the fact that the bloc’s member states still have not started accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia despite having met EU requirements.

She also urged more steps to grant candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina since “EU integration would bring them much needed and awaited breath of fresh air to effectively overcome the past.”

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