Towards the accession of the Western Balkan countries

Resolution submitted by Political Commission 3 – External Affairs and Global Governance
Adopted by the online Federal Committee on 5 April 2020

In October 2019, the European Council refused to start the expected accession negotiations for candidate countries North Macedonia and Albania because of the lack of unanimity – required for this procedure by the Treaties, missing an historic opportunity. Some requests from the Heads of State and Government to prioritise the reform of the enlargement process as a precondition to reaching an agreement not only demonstrates the total lack of political vision, damaging the credibility of the accession process, but also consolidates an intergovernmental method, which undermines the EU as a global political actor. 

With this resolution, JEF Europe wants to renew its commitment to the integration and accession of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union, and to foster an ever closer partnership with those countries which believe that the European Union is a common political project and a home for their citizens.

JEF Europe,

  • Reaffirming its strong opposition to unanimity voting, which is too often used by Member States to appeal to their national interests first, and that has led to accessions being blocked due to individual political agenda of Member States;
  • Restating the importance of the enlargement process to the Western Balkans for the European Union and for the unification of the European continent, and welcoming the fact that they see for themselves a European future and are genuinely making efforts to progress towards accession;
  • Recalling the EU’s historical responsibility to integrate the Western Balkans countries in the EU, taking into account the fact that the Union was created as a tool for peace and how its attempt to bring peace to the Western Balkans during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990’s is remembered as the first major failure of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy;
  • Firmly believing that the European Union must implement a transparent and democratic enlargement process, and confirm the accession of  the countries of the Balkan region that meet the required standards among its political priorities;
  • Welcoming the reaffirmation by the European Commission of the future full EU membership of the Western Balkans;
  • Noting the disappointment of civil society in North Macedonia & Albania caused by a further delay in opening the accession negotiations despite having fulfilled the necessary requirements;
  • Emphasising the importance of a strong civil society as a factor and driving force for sustainable democratic and rule of law oriented development in the Western Balkans;
  • Welcoming the historic ‘Prespa Agreement’ signed in 2018 which concludes the end of the name disputes between North Macedonia and Greece;
  • Noting the political instability the temporary veto has caused in North Macedonia, leading to the dissolution of its Parliament and the calling of an early election;
  • Recalling JEF Europe’s resolution ‘Regarding the Protection of Rule of Law’ and, therefore, recognising that the current framework cannot guarantee high standards of democracy and rule of law once a new member states joins the EU;
  • Condemning the current enlargement methodology which, while stating the political basis of the process , does not indicate any role for the European Parliament, whereas Member States are invited to contribute more systematically to the enlargement process, by correcting and monitoring the progress regularly;
  • Strongly condemning the lack of credibility of the enlargement process, mainly due to the power of the Member States to stop negotiations at any time;
  • Welcoming the progress made in the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo despite their still unresolved disputes, but also expresses concern regarding the escalation of separatist rhetoric along with threats of ethnic violence taking place in the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, towards which Serbia has been somewhat supportive;

JEF Europe, therefore,

  1. Calls on the Member States to be constructive in finding solutions to improve the Enlargement process and not to use the process and the disagreements for the purpose of national popularity;
  2. Believes that a federalist view should be applied in the Enlargement procedure which should be an exclusive competence of the European Union, with Parliament and the Council ratifying, through qualified majority voting, the agreements on accession to the European Union after ensuring that high standards of democracy, rule of law and respect of principles on which the EU is founded are fulfilled;
  3. Expects the European Parliament to take a decisive role in the enlargement mechanism, not only to improve its democratic and transparent nature, but also as the EU’s policy-making institution;
  4. Encourages civil society and political organisations in candidate countries to multiply their efforts, especially in the fight against corruption, human trafficking, youth unemployment and to spread knowledge about the rights and duties that come with European Union membership, by spreading knowledge and awareness among citizens on the importance of the European Union;
  5. Encourages increased connectivity, in particular people-to-people contact, between EU member states and the Western Balkans; notably in the form of youth, educational and cultural exchanges;
  6. Calls on the Member States to reform the Treaties so that the unanimity in European Council decision making procedure is eliminated;
  7. Invites the European Parliament to take a strong stance in support of Albania and North Macedonia’s acceptance as candidate countries;
  8. Demands the Member States that until now have not formally recognized Kosovo (Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Greece) to proceed with the recognition and eventually all member states to open the way towards EU visa liberation for Kosovo as advocated by the Commission and the Parliament;
  9. Stresses the necessity of establishing more  effective tools for the protection of the Rule of Law as per JEF Europe’s resolution ‘Regarding the Protection of Rule of Law’, and  to extend these provisions to candidate countries where possible;
  10. Encourages the EU and the Western Balkan countries not to proceed only through bilateral negotiations, but to approach the accession negotiations as a common process in order to facilitate exchanges of best practices, cooperation and mediation between them all;
  11. Proposes that Enlargement in the Western Balkans takes place in a multi-tiered fashion, defining two ‘packages’ (composed of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia on the one hand; which should join together, and Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia on the other, which can join individually) in order to ensure that inter-ethnic tensions do not meddle with the accession processes of any of the countries in the region, and to enshrine normalisation of relations as a tangible part of the process;
  12. Urges the European institutions (European Council, Parliament and Commission) to reaffirm Enlargement in the Western Balkans as a priority policy for the European Union for the sake of peace and stability in one of the last tension hotspots of our continent;
  13. Urges the European Union not to wait for these countries to be full members of the EU to assist them in their transition to cleaner sources of energy and in protecting their natural resources, both by providing additional funding, subject to strong conditionality, and know-how for the protection of future Natura 2000 sites, and to further involve them in its European Green deal, Just Transition Mechanism and Biodiversity Strategy initiatives.

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