European Commission Adopts New Accession Methodology For the Western Balkans

The European Commission adopted (05.02) a new accession methodology for the Western Balkan countries.

“Our suggestion for a revised methodology was adopted by the European Commission today. It aims to make accession negotiations more credible, dynamic, predictable and with a stronger political steer”, the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi said.

“The accession process to EU needs to rest on solid trust and mutual respect. Focus on fundamental reforms will be strengthened, while the EU needs to deliver on its commitment when candidates meet conditions”, he added. 

According to the commissioner, the EU needs to have greater engagement in the Western Balkans on all levels, including through regular summits. “We want to involve the member states more strongly in the monitoring and reviews of progress”, underlining the need of “stronger political steer” on both sides because of the political nature of the accession process. 

He said that the conditions for accession will be defined more clearly along with the positive impact when progress is made and negative consequences due to lack of progress. “With faster reform progress faster advancing and with stagnation or backsliding, corrective measures can be taken on behalf of the EC”, Varhelyi said.

The European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik, welcomed the revised methodology. “It is important to have a concrete proposal on the table after the decision of the Council in October last year, and, additionally, to present the new methodology clearly to our partners in the Western Balkans. Our partners should be assured of the continuation of the enlargement process, and I believe that the revised methodology clearly goes in that direction. This is the reason I’m glad that this week the Commissioner for Enlargement will visit Serbia and Montenegro”, he said.

Varhelyi further elaborated that the revised methodology is one of three tracks. “We will be working in parallel on the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania and we will come forward with economic development and investment plan for the region before the Zagreb summit in May.”

In the new methodology the credible accession perspective is the key incentive and driver of transformation in the region and is a key tool to promote democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental rights. The maintaining and enhancing of this policy is indispensable for the EU’s credibility, success and influence in the region. He also warned that the effectiveness of the accession process must be improved as to be better prepared to deal with weaknesses of the structural reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans. 

The overall aim of the EC proposals is to enhance credibility and trust of both sides and to generate better results on the ground. The proposed changes can be accommodated within existing negotiating frameworks, ensuring equal conditions for all countries in the region, he said.

Following the adoption of the new methodology, Ursula von der Leyen, the EC President stated that it was a good message to the Western Balkans countries.

According to the new methodology, this means that the negotiating frameworks for Serbia and Montenegro will not be amended but the proposed changes could be implemented within the existing frameworks with the agreement of these two countries. 

All efforts need to be undertaken to resolve bilateral disputes, with a particular emphasis on the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, supported by EU, which should be concluded with a comprehensive, legally binding normalization agreement, the new methodology states.

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