The S&Ds welcome the proposed new methodology of the accession negotiation, presented today by the European Commission. We agree that particular focus must be put on the rule of law through the entire process. In any case, the new methodology must not be used as an excuse to further delay the process of enlargement, which already involves prolonged negotiations over years or even decades.
We reiterate our call to the member states to finally open the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia as soon as possible and hopefully already in March.
Kati Piri, S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs said:
“Enlargement has been the one of the most successful EU policies and it must continue as it is our best instrument to anchor fragile Balkan states to a path of democratic reforms. It is true, that since the last big enlargement in 2004 we have learnt many lessons, and the methodology can and should be improved to address the legitimate concerns of citizens of the EU and the Western Balkans. The process must be merit based and with a strong conditionality at its core, meaning that the accession of any country will happen only if and when the necessary criteria are met. The final goal should remain the same: fully-fledged EU membership.
“We are glad that the Commission wants to put more emphasis on fundamentals - the chapters or cluster on rule of law and fundamental rights should be the first one to be opened and the last one closed. But, alongside fundamentals, we also expect a stronger focus on the social dimension and the promotion of socio-economic cohesion, a Green Deal for the Western Balkans and a deepening in the alignment of candidate countries with the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Additional efforts are also needed in helping solve outstanding bilateral and governance issues in the region.”
Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the AFET committee and the EP rapporteur on enlargement in Western Balkans, said:
“We are happy that the European Commission is trying to resolve the deadlock in the Council on EU enlargement through a concrete proposal as demanded by the sceptical member states.
“The S&Ds have always insisted that the enlargement towards the Western Balkans is a win-win approach and an investment in peace, democracy and prosperity in our continent. If we want our Union to be geopolitical, then it is clear that we have to concentrate foremost in our closest neighbourhood.
“We do hope this new methodology will inject new dynamism and that we shall regain the credibility in the region that we have lost with the recent non-decision of the Council on enlargement. A clear set of criteria and benchmarks resistant to change within the process should be defined and decisions should be made as soon as they are fulfilled. In this context, we welcome bigger involvement of the member states experts in the negotiations process.
“Lastly, we call for Western Balkan countries to be included in the Future of Europe conference so we can together work on our, hopefully, shared future.”
For more information, please read: EU Enlargement in the Western Balkans - 10 S&D proposals