MEPs call for continuation of enlargement process to Western Balkans 

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  • Fully-fledged EU membership as a final goal  
  • Increased EU visibility to counter disinformation 
  • Support during COVID-19  

Bringing Western Balkan countries closer to the EU is in Union´s own political, security and economic interest, say MEPs in a resolution adopted on Friday.

Following the 2020 EU-Western Balkans summit in May, MEPs adopted a set of recommendations that push for enhanced EU engagement and confirm fully-fledged membership as the final goal for the accession countries.


The decision to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia was in the EU’s own political, security and economic interest say MEPs urging the EU to adopt negotiating frameworks for the two countries


No cuts in pre-accession assistance funding and help during the pandemic


MEPs oppose any cuts in pre-accession assistance funding as this could slow down the reform process and to guarantee that the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans will not be predominantly financed via existing IPA funds.


MEP-s welcomed that the EU has mobilised EUR 3.3 billion to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the Western Balkans, and called for coordinated support to the EU candidate countries and potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans to continue so that the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak can be mitigated.


Countering disinformation


The EU should back measures to counter disinformation and other hybrid threats that seek to undermine democratic processes as well as the role of the EU in the region. The EU should also significantly increase communication concerning EU aid, in particular the substantial support to the Western Balkans during the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure that the recipients of this aid do not spread disinformation and negative rhetoric concerning the EU’s response to COVID-19, stress MEPs.


Quote


EP rapporteur Tonino Picula (S&D, HR) said: “This report is a clear sign of the European Parliament’s support to the aspirations and efforts of Western Balkan countries to become EU members once all criteria are met. It is also a clear sign that we support the continuation of the enlargement process in general, as it has been one of the most successful EU policies. Enlargement policy is also a precondition to promote the EU’s presence and its strategic interest in the Western Balkans, so it should be seen as being in our mutual interests”.


The recommendations were adopted with 532 votes for, 70 against and 63 abstentions.


Background


On 26 March, the European Council decided to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Before that, in February, the Commission proposed a revised methodology that should give renewed impetus to EU enlargement.


Montenegro, and Serbia have already started accession negotiations, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates.