he future of the countries of the Western Balkans towards EU accession was the main focus of the 4th EPP Group Conference on the Western Balkans. The conference emphasised the progress and challenges of the accession procedure. The possibility of EU membership adds strong impetus to reform processes in the countries of the region aimed at further democratisation and improvement of the quality of life.
Opening the conference, Joseph Daul MEP, Chairman of the EPP Group, underlined that the key to success in the Balkans is real political and economic stability and good relations with their neighbours. A candidate State or a State who wishes to be candidate, must take this into account. “We learn from the successes and mistakes of our neighbours. Slovenia and Croatia are good examples, even if there are ten years between their accessions. They have shown you the right path to take. Another significant example: a year ago, on 22 April, Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement aimed at normalising their relations, closing one of the most complicated chapters in the collapse of Yugoslavia and paving the way towards Europe. The European Union is not here to teach you, but to give you the means to succeed. Furthermore, the road doesn’t end with accession. Once you are part of Europe’s club, that’s when our work together begins. I am sure that the next enlargement phase will be done well and will make Europe a strong continent for all States. And you will be part of it”, he said.
Eduard Kukan MEP, Chairman of the EP Delegation for Relations with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, underlined the important progress in the Balkans over the last couple of months. However, as 2014 unfolds, the overall picture remains rather mixed: “2014 is also an election year in the Western Balkans. We had elections in Serbia a couple of weeks ago. We have upcoming elections in the FYR of Macedonia and later on this year in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whatever the result of the elections, it is important that the political parties in power look towards the European Union and continue to accomplish the reforms in order to become members. I would like to make it clear that we do not want to have a two-lane, fast-track, slow-lane Western Balkan region. We want to see advances in every country! The accession process can be tough. It can sometimes be frustrating, negotiations are demanding. But it is achievable. With sincere political dedication to reforms, with consensual political culture, it is attainable. I plead to my counterparts in the Balkans to keep their eyes on the prize. Speaking on behalf of the European Parliament, the countries in the Western Balkans have our utmost support in their integration aspirations”, he concluded.
Keynote speakers were: Nebojša Stefanović, President of the National Assembly of Serbia, Vice-President of the Serbian Progressive Party, Mladen Ivanić MP, Member of the House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, President of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), former Prime Minister of the Republic of Srpska, Martin Raguz MP, Chairman of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina 1990 (HDZ-1990), former Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Senad Šepic MP, Vice-President of the SDA and Director of the Political Academy, BiH, Lulzim Basha, President of the Democratic Party of Albania, Mayor of Tirana, and Skender Hyseni MP, Member of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Presidency, Member of the Kosovar Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs./Euactiv