The European Union must restore confidence and credibility by treating the Western Balkan countries as future EU members, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.
In presenting the new enlargement strategy to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, he said that with such an approach, the EU would have a real chance to advance relations with the Western Balkan countries over the next few years, which is to the benefit of Europe as a whole.
– I must remind that we are strengthening and improving the process and that the goal remains the same, which is accession and full membership in the EU – Varhelyi stressed.
Varhelyi stressed that clear and tangible incentives for reform were needed and that citizens should feel the benefit of swift integration if countries turn to the successful implementation of priority reforms.
The European Commissioner points out that the European Commission has the priority to accelerate the process in the Western Balkans, but that at the same time, the members are convinced that the process is reversible and that corrective measures can be taken if it goes out of the way of reforms.
He stressed that the Commission is still proposing to open negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, which have fulfilled what was required of them, and that it is time for the EU, as a credible partner, to deliver on its promises.
– Our goal is to strengthen our presence in the Western Balkans, increase our investment and help close the economic progress gap between us. We need to turn to concrete measures that we can take to benefit the investment in the Western Balkans in order to increase access to the EU single market – Varhelyi added.
According to Varhelyi, the EU must also take action when it comes to job creation, opportunities for entrepreneurs, improving the climate of business and investment, and to stop the “brain drain” from the region.