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PACE Political Affairs Committee calls for “a new impetus” to the EU enlargement process in the Western Balkans

In 2003, the EU expressed its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans, but the length of time that has elapsed and failure to adequately reward progress have sapped political momentum and public enthusiasm. “The European vision is losing its shine. In its place, ethnonationalism has resurfaced, a very worrying development in a region in which the spectrum of violence still looms large”, PACE Committee on Political Affairs said today.

Unanimously adopting a draft resolution on ‘Supporting a European perspective for the Western Balkans’, based on the report prepared by George Papandreou (Greece, SOC), the Committee said it is “imperative not to lose focus on the Western Balkans” - even if the need to support the European aspirations of other countries, such as Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova, has emerged in the meantime - and called for “a new impetus” to the EU enlargement process.

The adopted text urges the Western Balkans to address “with resolve and without delay” outstanding challenges, such as a polarised political climate, serious rule of law and good governance issues, the rights of national minorities and minority communities as well as problems relating to freedom of the media.

The Committee believes that the Council of Europe should “redouble its efforts” to help the Western Balkan countries make tangible and measurable progress towards meeting the EU enlargement criteria and, hand in hand with the European Union, play a greater role in promoting effective regional co-operation, the normalisation of relations and the solution of bilateral differences and disputes.

During an exchange of views with the members of the Committee, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues, Miroslav Lajčák, stressed that “giving a European perspective to the region has noble aims, but if we want to bring this perspective to life, we need more than just diplomats, delegates and experts”. In fact, he added, “we need you. You bring rule of law and the European perspective to the Western Balkans out of rooms like this one, into the real lives of people on the ground”, he said. “The major challenges facing the Western Balkans today demand more cooperation and more dialogue than ever before”, he concluded.

The report will be debated during PACE’s Autumn Plenary Session (Strasbourg, 10-14 October 2022).