European Socialists Renew Call for EU Enlargement

Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament have issued a call for a renewed EU commitment to the Western Balkan enlargement process.Hannes Swoboda, president of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said enlargement momentum should be stimulated again so that the Western Balkans could join the European Union.

“The EU project itself needs a re-launch – a new dose of political vitality and imaginative leadership to restore growth,” he said.

“And so does enlargement, for it is an integral part of a progressive European vision,” Swoboda told a meeting in Trieste of parliamentarians from Western Balkan Social Democratic parties on Thursday.

Croatia is due to join the EU in July this year. Montenegro opened accession talks last summer while Macedonia and Serbia obtained candidate status in 2005 and 2012 resepctively and are waiting to get a start date for EU accession talks.

In October 2012, the European Commission recommended that Albania receive EU candidate status subject to completing key reforms ahead of the 2013 elections.

Bosnia and Kosovo are still awaiting candidacy.

According to Swoboda, the EU demands a lot from candidate and aspirant countries, but that is only to the benefit of their citizens.

“The EU must also honor the commitment it made,” he added.

Libor Roucek, Socialists and Democrats Vice-President and rapporteur on Croatia, said that Croatia’s accession in July 2013 sends a message to other countries that EU integration is not an abstract notion, but a real perspective.

“The Croatian case also shows that a domestic consensus on EU accession and reforms – among political parties but also within the society as a whole – is a vital precondition for success,” Roucek added.

Tanja Fajon, Socialists and Democrats member and rapporteur on visa liberalisation, emphasised the importance of maintaining free travel to the Schengen area for the citizens of the Western Balkans:

“Any re-introduction of visas for one or more countries will be a big blow to the integration process,” Fajon said, referring to threats to reintroduce visas if flows of asylum seekers from the region to Western Europe are not curbed.

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