Sixteenth Meeting of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees on European Integration/Affairs of the Countries Participating in the Stabilization and Association Process in South-East Europe (COSAP)
17 January 2020
Mr Speaker, honourable Members of Parliament, dear colleagues,
This meeting today comes at the end of a busy week in the European integration process of the Western Balkans. On Tuesday, President von der Leyen announced that the Commission will soon present its proposals for an improved methodology for the enlargement process. On Wednesday, EU High Representative Borrell discussed with the Presidents of Serbia and Kosovo. Meanwhile, Commissioner Várhelyi travelled on Wednesday to North Macedonia for his first official visit, before continuing yesterday to Albania. In addition, I should mention that the President of the European Parliament is also expected to pay a visit to the region in the coming weeks.
Clearly, the region and the enlargement process are high on the European Union’s agenda. The new Commission has made it very clear from the outset that our commitment to the EU perspective of the region remains unwavering and unchanged. European Union leaders will discuss the enlargement process at the European Council in March and, together with the leaders of the region, at the EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb in May.
When speaking at the European Parliament this week, President von der Leyen acknowledged that if the summit in Zagreb is to be a success, the European Union must do its homework. The centrepiece of this will be the discussion on the new enlargement methodology.
But it is equally true that there is important homework to be done here in the region too. While the European Union needs to deliver on its commitments, so need the governments of the region. As parliamentarians, you have a crucial role in holding your governments to account when it comes to delivering on their reform promises. Making progress in crucial areas such as the rule of law and the fight against corruption and organised crime remain key to moving forward on the EU path.
I just mentioned the important role of Parliaments in the EU integration process. I think this cannot be stressed enough. EU integration is not a technocratic process. It requires political will and determination. Parliaments, which are at the heart of the democratic process, play a crucial role in formulating and expressing this will.
As Parliamentarians, you can act as an important bridge between state institutions and the wider public and civil society. Ultimately, EU integration is not a goal in itself. We pursue it because it makes the lives of the citizens of our countries better. Citizens must therefore be an integral part of the process, and as Member of Parliaments you can play a particular role in making this a reality.
Parliaments are also a symbol of political dialogue. As you know better than I, dialogue between political parties is not always easy. But dialogue is crucial for the political, social and economic progress in each and every one of the countries represented here today. It is also indispensable for progress in the EU integration process.
Dialogue is not only important within countries, but also between the countries and governments of the region. Stability and prosperity cannot be achieved in isolation. The agenda of today’s meeting bears witness to this: youth, education and connectivity – these issues all link the countries and societies of the region together, and in fact link the region and the European Union.
Even in difficult circumstances, regional cooperation can work. We have seen this very recently here in Tirana with the successful CEFTA Ministerial meeting last month.
And we have seen an even more powerful act of cooperation in November, when the entire region stood together in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake here in Albania. The collaboration and solidarity we have witnessed in these difficult days and weeks should inspire us all to strive for more cooperation. As you have seen in the aftermath of the earthquake, you can count on the European Union to be at your side.
In this spirit, I wish you fruitful discussions and a successful meeting. Thank you!