What’s at stake
The enlargement of the European Union is proceeding with varying intensity, But the most active are the integration policies of the Western Balkans countries.
The countries associated with the term “Western Balkans”, i.e. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo, are widely acknowledged as the next batch for EU enlargement. The mass enlargement of 2004 and the subsequent ones of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and Croatia in 2013 cooled off the aspirations within the Union for further rapid enlargement. Despite the fact that the Western Balkans has long been on the agenda for the European Union, the integration of the region is slow and burdensome.
The Western Balkan countries, geopolitically and historically, belong to Europe, and their accession to the European Union is a natural process that will unite Europe and make the Union complete.
The ECR Group’s priorities for EU - Western Balkan cooperation are:
1. Security and migration:
- limiting Russian influence and addressing disinformation campaigns in the Western Balkans;
- promoting NATO activities in the region;
- countering terrorism threat and radicalisation;
- cooperating with neighbours, EU Member States, and with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to effectively manage migration flows;
- enhancing cyber security capabilities in the region and ensuring trusted vendors for 5G and other incoming new technologies.
2. Economic and social development:
- expanding infrastructure and energy transport corridors to stimulate regional development, trade and people-to-people contacts;
- ensuring fair competition and strengthening the rule of law to stimulate growth and development of the private sector;
- reducing internal migration and brain drain to Western Europe through economic development.
3. Rule of law, fight against corruption and organised crime:
- ensuring the independence of the judiciary through limiting the political;
- fighting the prevailing corruption and increasing the number of final court rulings on high-level corruption cases;
- improving the track record on investigations, prosecutions and convictions in the fight against organised crime.
4. Good neighbourly relations
- resolving bilateral issues before the start of the accession negotiations in order to avoid blockage at a later stage;
- guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of national minorities to maintain good neighbourly relations;
- increasing cross-border cooperation and good neighbourly relations to bring investment and growth to the often forgotten and underdeveloped border regions.