EP President Metsola: The EU is not complete without the region of the Western Balkans

The European future of the Western Balkans is imperative as a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and reunited Europe based on common values, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in a statement to FENA.

Metsola believes that the European Union is not complete without the region of the Western Balkans and that enlargement is the most powerful geopolitical tool of the European Union.

As she stated, enlargement is a strategic, long-term geopolitical investment in European peace, security, stability and prosperity, and it is a win-win situation.

“The transformative effect of the expansion is undeniable. The potential of EU membership provides a significant impetus for the changes that are necessary to improve governance, strengthen the rule of law, promote media freedom and create an appropriate climate for the flourishing of civil society,” said Metsola.

She emphasized that the war in Ukraine had the side effect of accelerating the enlargement process and that she did not agree with the opinions that there was no clear political will of the European Union to expand to the Western Balkans.

“I do not agree that there is a lack of clear political will. This is a process, and candidacy depends on the reform progress of the country. We look forward to the European Commission’s presentation of the October enlargement package. However, the position of the European Parliament is clear – if the prerequisites are met, negotiations on EU membership should begin,” she stated.

Speaking about the security challenges in the countries of the Western Balkans, and considering the constant political turmoil, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, said that what happens in the Balkans affects the entire continent.

“The first and most important priority is the de-escalation and stabilization of security in that area. There are two recent worrisome events, namely the attack on September 24 and the discovery of a huge weapons stockpile in the north of Kosovo. We also noticed the accumulation of the Serbian army on the administrative border, which is worrying and must be stopped immediately,” she pointed out.

As he emphasizes, there is no place for the accumulation of weapons and armed forces on the European continent.

“The efforts of the European Union are aimed at all actors, from both sides, in order to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is important and the EU is very active in it,” pointed out Metsola.

Roberta Metsola also spoke for FENA about the migrant crisis that threatens stability, and where Bosnia and Herzegovina is especially in focus, which cannot cope with some of the challenges alone.

She points out that migration management remains a common challenge and duty that the EU and the Western Balkans will have to solve together.

“With almost 170 million euros in bilateral and regional aid already delivered under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III), the European Union has significantly increased its financial support to the region. We appreciate the efforts and the spirit of cooperation of the partners, however, long-term and strengthened measures are needed to solve the problem of illegal migration via the Western Balkan route, especially in the fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking,” Metsola believes.

Finally, Metsola says that the European Union remains committed to providing political and financial assistance to the region.

“Significant financial support from the European Union through specialized programs will enable partners to improve asylum and acceptance systems, strengthen border protection, fight against smuggling networks and organized criminal groups, and increase returns from the Western Balkans to their countries of origin,” concluded the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola.