Juncker: EU Remains Committed to the European Perspective of the Western Balkans
The European Union remains strongly committed to the European perspective for the countries of the Western Balkans, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on 1st of March after the working meeting in Sofia with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the leaders of the countries in the region. According to Juncker, this will possibly happen in 2025 if all the necessary conditions are met. Prime Minister Borissov stressed that the Western Balkans are an integral part of Europe and their inclusion in the common European area of security and economic development is of strategic importance for the lasting stability of the whole European Union.
Jean-Claude Juncker came to Bulgaria at the end of his Balkan Tour, together with the European Commissioners Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn. He said he loved Bulgaria very much, praised the government and the prime minister for the results of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU so far. As regards the countries in the region, Juncker said they were willing to undertake the reforms needed to join the EU, but there is still much work to be done.
He said he had no wish to offend them, but at this stage no Western Balkan country meets all the conditions for EU membership, although they have made tremendous progress.
All countries must have finished bilateral territorial conflicts before joining, Juncker said and added that the EU is closely following this instability, that it does not want it, but wants to see a calm region. The EU is a big market with many positive effects on the economy and the goal is for the Western Balkans to fall within this scope, the President of the European Commission said.
Juncker said he would go back to Brussels, convinced that the place of the Western Balkans is in the EU. Joining is not a dream but something that can be realised. We need to focus not so much on the end dates, but on the essence of the process itself. We cannot make concessions on the conditions for joining. I emphasize the need to work together and to have an effective fight against organized crime and corruption that destroys society.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov stressed the fact that the countries of the Western Balkans rely heavily on EC aid and hybrid financing by banks. By the summit in Sofia in May, all leaders in the region have set the ambitious task of having clear and ready projects for building the priority infrastructure in their countries in order to discuss the specific financing of connectivity in the region - transport, digital and energy.
It is of utmost importance to build the Strategic Transport Corridors 4-8-10 and the Serbia-Kosovo Motorway of Peace, Borissov pointed out.
Following the bilateral meetings between the leaders of the countries in the region, the prime minister is optimistic about the future development of the conflicts which are unsolved to date.
There are different interests in the Balkans. This is the place to confirm that we, what we do under the aegis of the EU, is neither directed against Russia nor against Turkey nor against any of the neighbours, on the contrary, we want our region to achieve peace and stability, he said.
At all meetings in a similar format, Bulgaria also represents the interests of Greece and Romania, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said, and added that the joint actions of all the countries of the region against corruption, organized crime and terrorism will be of great importance from now on.
Therefore, in his words, the joint work of the Special Services, the services combating Organized Crime, the Prosecutor's Office and the swift exchange of information should continue.
And in the framework of his bilateral meetings with the President of the European Commission, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Prime Ministers of Montenegro and Albania - Dusko Markovic and Edi Rama, Boyko Borissov stressed that the inclusion of the Western Balkans will ensure the stability of the whole EU.
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