Republika Srpska President Željka Cvijanović stresses that the issue of further enlargement of the European Union /EU/ has become unclear and that the Union’s tools for the Western Balkans are inconsistent.
Cvijanović said at a central panel discussion “Europe of Tomorrow. ‘Strong’ Meaning What?” held Tuesday at the 29th Economic Forum in Krynica – Zdroj, that the EU is approaching and treating the same issues, problems, aspirations or phenomena differently in different Western Balkan countries, and as a result of it, many people would still prefer to see their countries within the EU, but there are just as many who do not believe their countries would ever get there.
“And to be honest, this is not only because our local governments are failing to meet EU requirements, but also because the EU has failed to accelerate its own internal reform process and has not had a balanced approach in our region,” Cvijanović said.
Thanking for the opportunity to attend this panel, which, as she said, has one very intriguing title – “Europe of Tomorrow”, the president Srpska stressed that it was an important issue for both member states and those aspiring to become part of the EU.
“I am very happy to share my views with colleagues from EU Member States. Logically, we are all interested in the future of Europe and we all want it to be able to cope with different challenges. But it is also important for us in the Western Balkans to recognise the EU’s willingness to accept the new member states,” Cvijanović said.
Although the main debate is taking place in the EU Member States and institutions, the president of Srpska says it also important issue for the countries in the accession processes to understand what results this debate will bring.
“For this reason, the Western Balkans countries want to see what course this debate will take and what the outcome will be in terms of future enlargements, if any. But in order to discuss the future, we need to understand the current situation and different stages and types of crises that the EU has experienced since 2008 – financial, economical, institutional, political, in terms of security and finally with regard to Brexit issues,” explained Cvijanović.
She added that until some time ago, the issue of joining the EU, rather than leaving it, was discussed, and that the issue of European identity dominated the issue of national or particular identities.
“We talked about what we could get within the EU, not what we would have to sacrifice. But over time, this debate has taken on some different points of view,” the president of Republika Srpska said.
She stressed that everyone was aware that the EU had its burdens, regardless of them being internally generated or imposed externally, thus she regretted to say that the issue of further enlargement had become unclear and that EU tools for the Western Balkans were inconsistent.
The Republika Srpska president has said that the EU approaches the same issues, problems, aspirations or occurrences in different countries of the Western Balkans in different ways, and as a result, many people would still like to see their countries in the EU, but there is an equal number of those who think that their country will never join the EU.
“To be honest, this is not only because our local governments are failing to meet EU’s requests, but also because the EU failed to accelerate the process of its own internal reforms and because it did not have a balanced approach to our region.
Of course, we do not suggest that the EU should implement internal reforms. It is up to the member states to decide. But, we want to know if the enlargement process will be a realistic option in practical sense or will it exist only as a rhetorical or theoretical category,” Cvijanović said.
She has said that the countries of the Western Balkans want to know whether the EU will become less rigid and more flexible, whether in addition to political, economic and social stability, it will provide for a higher level of security for its citizens, property and resources.
“For us who live in the Western Balkans, which is still burdened with many problems from the past, it will be very important to know what kind of an EU we are joining, are there prospects for membership anymore? On the other hand, if such prospects do not exist, we would simply want to remove the idea of membership from our agenda and to resume a reform process, since this is certainly good for our citizens regardless of whether we will become a member state or not,” Cvijanović said.
Noting that it was announced these days that the US appointed its special representative for the Western Balkans, Cvijanović said that Eurosceptics rushed to explain it as a sign of weakness of the EU to deal with problems in the Western Balkans, while some others say that joint efforts can only help, even though this will reduce the visibility of the EU.
“In any case this is a new fact which cannot be neglected,” Cvijanović concluded her address to the central panel discussion on the subject “Europe of Tomorrow. Strong, Meaning what?” which was held on Tuesday at the 29th Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdroj.
In addition to Cvijanović, the Minister of the Economy, Investments and Small Businesses in the Government of Malta, Christian Cardona, the Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Margareta Cederfelt, the representative of the Polish Development Fund, Boris Pavel, and the representative of the Hudson Institute of Washington, Robert Spalding, also took part in the central panel discussion.
The Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdroj is the largest conference of political and economic elites of Central and Eastern Europe. Every year the forum gathers more than 4,500 leaders from the political, economic and social sphere of Europe, Asia, and America, and is covered by a great number of journalists.
The Forum provides an excellent opportunity for the participants to exchange opinions on various subjects with the aim of improving the political and economic cooperation in Europe.