“An increasing number of people in the Western Balkans, especially amongst the youth, are pessimistic about the prospects of EU accession. The European vision is losing its shine. In its place, ethno-nationalism has resurfaced. This is a reason to worry – and an obligation to act better,” PACE President Tiny Kox said today, addressing in Skopje the Conference on Inter-parliamentary dialogue to further promote the European integration of the Western Balkans.
While welcoming the progress made in recent years, the PACE President called for “a new impetus” to be given to the EU enlargement process. For its part, he added, “the Council of Europe should also play a greater role in promoting effective and inclusive regional co-operation, the normalisation of relations and the solution of bilateral differences and disputes, hand in hand with the EU and other like-minded actors”.
The countries in the regions should address, he stated, “outstanding challenges, such as a polarised political climate, serious rule of law and good governance issues, the rights of national minorities and minority communities and problems relating to freedom of the media and media ownership. Greater efforts are also necessary to strengthen reconciliation and enhance civil society engagement.”
Especially on democracy, rule of law and human rights, the PACE President said, “the Council of Europe has an unparalleled expertise”. The Assembly, therefore, “wants the Council of Europe to redouble its efforts to help the Western Balkan countries make tangible and measurable progress towards meeting the EU enlargement criteria”, Mr Kox concluded.
The conference is organised by the PACE Interparliamentary Co-operation and Project Support Division, the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, and the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia.