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PACE calls for new impetus in the EU enlargement process for the Western Balkans

George Papandreou (Greece, SOC)
©Council of Europe

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on the European Union to give new impetus to the enlargement process for the Western Balkans, “rewarding progress in compliance with criteria” and fostering a climate of trust.

“It is imperative not to lose the 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,” the parliamentarians said.

The resolution adopted at today's plenary session in Strasbourg, based on a report by George Papandreou (Greece, SOC), said that since the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit between the Western Balkans and the EU, the failure to adequately reward progress “had sapped political momentum and public enthusiasm”, and that the European vision had lost its shine, giving way to ethno-nationalism.

PACE called on the authorities of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo* “to address without delay outstanding challenges”, and in particular to improve the political culture in order to ensure collaboration between political institutions and forces; to strengthen the efficiency and independence of the judiciary; to improve the functioning of public administration; to step up the fight against corruption; to refrain from inflammatory discourse, including on ethnic grounds; to protect the rights of national minorities and freedom of the media; and to promote reconciliation.

Finally, the Assembly said that the Council of Europe, drawing on its expertise, should “redouble its efforts” to help Western Balkan countries meet the EU enlargement criteria and, together with the EU, play a greater role in promoting effective regional co-operation, normalising relations and solving bilateral disputes.

*Throughout this text, all reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.