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“The European Union remains committed to the EU perspective of the Western Balkans. I have observed everywhere the same desire, the same impetus to undertake reforms that should be completed by the day when accession to the EU becomes effective,” Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission said today after concluding the visit to all six Western Balkans partners and meeting the Western Balkans leaders in Sofia together with High Representative Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
President Juncker’s visits to Skopje, Tirana, Belgrade, Podgorica, Sarajevo and Pristina this week, follow the adoption of the European Commission Strategy for the Western Balkans that also clearly spelled out that the EU door is open to further accessions when – and only when – the individual countries have met the criteria. The Strategy has equally set forth the priorities and areas of joint reinforced cooperation, addressing the specific challenges the Western Balkans face, in particular the need for fundamental reforms and good neighbourly relations. A credible enlargement perspective requires sustained efforts and irreversible reforms. Progress along the European path is an objective and merit-based process which depends on the concrete results achieved by each individual country.
President Juncker noted the progress in all the partners in the region, and underlined the need for a continued and credible fight against organized crime and against corruption. “Again, it will be necessary for all the countries that want to join the European Union to put an end to the bilateral border disputes that they may have,” he said.
The EU's enlargement policy must be part of the larger strategy to strengthen the Union by 2025 that President Juncker set out in his 2017 State of the Union speech. While the EU could become larger than 27 Members, the dynamics of moving forward on their respective EU paths for all Western Balkans is based on their own merits and at their own speed depending on the concrete results achieved.
“It will be the duty of the region - but of the European Union as well - to do everything so that as many countries as possible in the Western Balkans can fulfil the criteria as quickly as possible. But we cannot make concessions on the conditions of entry. It would not be in the interests of the Western Balkan countries or in the interests of the European Union, and especially not in the interest of the citizens who make the Western Balkans richness,” he concluded.