Belgium Insists EU Door Is Open for Balkans

The Belgian government reassured Western Balkans states that the doors of European Union are open for every country in the region, while adding that all must fulfill the necessary conditions before being invited to join the 27 nation bloc.

“We have to make clear that those countries which wish to join the EU can be part of the EU but there are conditions to be met and changes have to come from the inside,” Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said.

Representatives of the Belgian government, including outgoing Prime Minister Yves Leterme, presented Belgium’s programme for its six-month EU presidency. The country will take over the rotating EU presidency on July 1 this year. They confirmed that during their time at the helm relations between Brussels and Western Balkan countries will be “more intense”.

“To use the point of reference both the EU and the countries have to be prepared the best they can for enlargement,” Vaneckere said, and warned that each and every country has to adopt necessary reforms.

The Belgian foreign minister also stressed that he will use the country’s EU presidency to try to bring together the positions of every member state.

“My role will be to bring about the consensus necessary among the 27,” Vaneckere said in a press conference.

Belgium is taking over the presidency of the EU during a very turbulent period in the country itself.

The Belgian government fell in April because of disputes between Belgium’s Flemish and French speaking communities. A Flemish separatist party won the most seats in parliament in the national elections held two weeks ago, but based on experience it might take weeks or months until a new government takes office. The Belgian presidency of the EU will thus most likely begin with old faces and end with new.

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