Speaking ahead of the EU’s plenary debate in Strasbourg on the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans and on the Commission’s proposal for the accession of six Western Balkan countries, Knut Fleckenstein, S&D MEP and spokesperson on foreign affairs, added:

“The future EU will be an enlarged EU with the Western Balkans. The EU's enlargement strategy must be part and parcel of the EU’s strategic thinking about its own future. Enlargement requires reforms from the candidate countries, but also preparation from the EU itself. Only timely internal preparation for the accession of new members can ensure that the EU and its institutions continue to function and that citizens’ concerns are addressed properly.

“The date put forward by the Commission for Serbian and Montenegrin EU membership by 2025 is ambitious, but it is for sure a strong incentive for reform. More negotiation chapters, especially on the rule of law, should be opened as soon as possible. If the Union wants to be credible, they must start negotiations with Albania and Macedonia on accession already this year.

“The Socialists and Democrats Group has always been a staunch supporter of EU accession for the Western Balkans. We will continue working closely with our partners in the Western Balkans. EU accession is not a reward for a particular government, therefore we will continue working with governments, parliaments and civil society.”

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