Since 2003, the countries of South-East Europe have formed part of the enlargement process, which offers them the perspective of EU membership.
Welcoming the Western Balkans
The Thessaloniki European Council in June 2003 affirmed that the future of the Western Balkan countries is within a united Europe. Croatia, which joined in July 2013, has undoubtedly been a success for the European Union. Its accession demonstrates that the door remains open for all European countries able to fulfil the criteria. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have so far achieved EU candidate status, while the EU has formed firmer relationships with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo.*
It is essential to maintain an interest in Europe among the countries of the Thessaloniki Process.
The EPP Group highlights:
- the responsibility of governments in the region: emphasis should be placed on judicial reform, democratisation and the development of infrastructure;
- the importance of regional cooperation;
- the EU’s historical responsibility towards these countries.
Using membership criteria to guarantee robust institutions
To date, as well as promoting stability and prosperity on the continent, the enlargement process has made it possible to consolidate the common principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and of a market economy. But while enlargement should contribute to the deepening and the cohesion of the Union, the EU must consider the question of its geographical boundaries.
The EPP Group believes that the Copenhagen criteria should be strictly adhered to. The membership process depends on the individual performance of the accession countries, while taking into account the EU’s capacity for absorption. These factors will guarantee the consolidation of the European project through robust, reliable and democratic institutions and make the European dream accessible to other European countries. The enlargement strategy should be much more than a methodology for conducting negotiations.
The EPP Group supports the meticulous and effective analysis of the consequences of enlargement. Each candidate country should be dealt with on its own merits. In this respect, we welcome Croatia's accession of 1 July 2013.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
The Eastern Partnership aims to offer a European perspective to countries on the EU’s borders, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. In view of their desire to draw closer to the EU, the Eastern Partnership permits the conclusion of new association agreements, gradual integration in the EU economy, and greater mobility for the citizens of these countries (easier granting of visas and readmission agreements).
Encouraging political and socio-economic reform: Euronest
The EPP Group recognises the unique opportunity this Partnership represents for our neighbours. It encourages all the countries concerned to achieve tangible results in their processes of political and socio-economic reform, as quickly as possible. In this spirit, the EPP Group was behind the creation of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, the aims of which are: to encourage dialogue; to evaluate the successes and challenges of the Eastern Partnership; and to promote democracy, prosperity, stability and security in the region. Emphasis should also be placed on two areas of interest: energy supply and sectoral policies.
Promoting democracy and good governance with national parliaments
In countries where the political situation gives greater cause for concern (Ukraine and Belarus), the EPP Group reaffirms that democratic practices and good governance are of fundamental importance. The rule of law, freedom of expression, citizens’ right to information and the organisation of free and fair elections are irrevocable principles. Mutual understanding needs to be encouraged by defining common positions between the European Parliament and the national parliaments.