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Special Event: Future of Europe and the Western Balkans (in Partnership with the European Fund for the Balkans)

Special Event: Future of Europe and the Western Balkans (in Partnership with the European Fund for the Balkans)

Discussion points:    

  • Are the Western Balkans partners put on hold until the Union finishes the future of Europe process? What reforms should the EU undertake in order to be ready to absorb new members from the Western Balkans?
  • What are possible consequences of decline in rule of law and fundamental freedoms noticed in the EU and the region in past few years?
  • Will the candidate countries benefit from the revised enlargement methodology? Will it speed up the accession process or put them to more tests?
  • How to deal with decline in citizen’s support for EU enlargement in both Western Balkans and EU Member States?
  • Is the possibility of joining the EU by 2025 in case of Serbia and Montenegro still as clear as in 2018?

 

Clear European perspective has been a moving force for political leadership in the Western Balkans for implementation of important reform processes and full achievement of Copenhagen criteria ever since the beginning of Stabilisation and Association Process more than two decades ago. Conditionality principle of the European Union has its effects only in case when clear signs of good will and concrete actions on the path towards EU membership are shown from the EU’s side, alongside with positive effects of reforms in the region.

Despite recent somewhat discouraging messages and events, some EU actions in 2020 give hope that the Western Balkans is still high at the EU’s agenda. Revised enlargement methodology, developed on the basis of French non-paper from November 2019, lead to the European Council giving green light for opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. EU-Western Zagreb Summit Declaration confirmed strong EU support for the region, especially as a response to socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed plan for post-pandemic recovery worth 3.3 billion EUR was introduced.

The future of Europe debate is promising to close the 2020 on a positive note, however not all are convinced concrete reforms and needed changes will be introduced to equip the EU for the many challenges it faces, namely COVID-19, (never-ending) Brexit, banding of the fundamental European values and principles in some member states, migrant crisis, and even the new enlargement momentum.