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. Re-adopted and amended by the Federal Committee in Prague on 13 November 2022.

In March 2022, the European Council finally agreed to start the expected accession negotiations for candidate countries North Macedonia and Albania which were blocked for years because of the lack of unanimity – required for this procedure by the Treaties. The new enlargement methodology “Enhancing the accession process – A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans” not only demonstrates the total lack of political vision, damaging the credibility of the accession process, but also consolidates an intergovernmental method by introducing reversibility on top of unanimity. This in turn undermines the role of 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 EU, and to foster an ever closer partnership with those countries which believe that the EU 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 agendas 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 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 to foster peace across the European continent 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, credible 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 and its call for granting candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • More concerned by an ‘accession burnout’ from pre-accession countries, in particular their citizens than ‘accession fatigue’ from Member States, due to delays and lack of political will of the EU Member states;
  • Recognising the frustration and concern in the Western Balkans that the new accession energy could be diverted to the new pre-accession ‘trio countries’ Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia;
  • Noting the disappointment of civil society in North Macedonia and Albania caused by the further delay in opening the accession negotiations until 2022 despite having fulfilled the necessary requirements;
  • However, noting with concern that public opinion has been quickly shifting in Serbia both under the influence of pro-Russian propaganda and an alignment of Serbian official politics with the Russian Federation in spite of its recent aggression on Ukraine;
  • Concerned that the newly established enlargement methodology further delays the accession negotiations, and that a member state could misuse it to slow down or block accession negotiation processes;
  • Welcoming initiative to increase regional cooperation but worried of the potential fragmentation created by half of the Western Balkans countries taking part in the Open Balkan initiative;
  • 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; as well as progress made in the bilateral relationship between North Macedonia and Bulgaria;
  • Noting the political instability the temporary veto has caused in North Macedonia was used purposefully to justify nationalist propaganda;
  • 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 state joins the EU;
  • Condemning the enlargement methodology which, while stating the political basis of the process, does not indicate any role for the European Parliament, whereas the 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;
  • Expressing concern regarding the escalation of separatist rhetoric along with threats of ethnic violence taking place in Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, towards which Serbia has been supportive;
  • Noting with concern the creation of the European Political Community, yet another purely intergovernmental forum while other organisations like the Council of Europe have the same membership, that could be used by some Member States as an alternative to accession;

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 be given a greater and 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 among citizens and 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 the European Council decision-making procedure is eliminated;
  7. Demands that the Member States that until now have not formally recognized Kosovo (Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Greece) proceed with the recognition, and that eventually all member states open the way towards EU visa liberation for Kosovo as advocated by the Commission and the Parliament;
  8. Calls on the Council to swiftly move forward with the recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a candidate country, as well as Kosovo once it has officially applied;
  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. Calls on European political parties to reassess their national members in the region and hold them accountable for their role in fostering widespread corruption;
  11. 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 all of them;
  12. 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;
  13. Urges the European institutions (European Council, Parliament and Commission) to continuously reaffirm Enlargement in the Western Balkans as a priority policy for the European Union as much as enlargement to ‘trio countries’ for the sake of peace and stability;
  14. 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.
  15. Commits to work to strengthen its network of sections in the Western Balkan region.