Conference “EU Enlargement 2025 and Beyond”
On 3 December 2018, the European Movement International in cooperation with the European Movement Serbia held a conference on ‘EU Enlargement 2025 and Beyond’ at the European Parliament in Brussels.
The speakers at this event featured Mrs. Eva Maydell MEP, President of the European Movement International, Mr. Vladimir Medjak, Ph.D, Vice-president of the European Movement Serbia, Mr. Ivan Knezevic, Member of the Executive Board of the European Movement Serbia, Mr. Momcilo Radulovic, President of the European Movement in Montenegro, Mr. Vesselin Valkanov, Head of RCC Liaison Office in Brussels and finally, Mr. Dusan Reljic, Head of Brussels Office of The German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP.
In her opening statement, Eva Maydell stated that there is fatigue regarding the integration of the Western Balkan states into the European Union. She argued that certain instruments are needed to tackle the deadlock such as coming up with a new strategy that will make the process credible and possible. It was highlighted that European institutions and civil society for instance, need to emphasize on EU achievements and that, at the same time, the EU should listen to criticism and comments from experts. In her concluding remarks, Eva Maydell emphasized her awareness of the fact that Western Balkan states are not ready to join and thus a dialogue is needed in all countries to help them.
Next up, Vladimir Medjak kicked off by arguing that the European Union, the world and the Western Balkan states all have changed with the exception of the accession conditions and process. According to him, the EU is the only actor in the region who pays attention to the rule of law, democracy and values. He believes that, in order for the region to prosper, the EU should focus less on the rule of law, and provide funds that will allow reform. In his concluding remarks, he stated that the EU is unrealistic in expecting four or five governments to be on the same path of EU enlargement. He argued in favor of a merit-based approach and when it comes to accession, it should not be done in blocks. Importantly, one step in the right direction would be to include Western Balkan states to the ‘Future of Europe’ talks so that they can participate in a consultative way.
The next speaker, Ivan Knezevic, discussed the topic from an economic perspective, mentioning that European Union export to the Western Balkans is low and therefore, the bloc is not considered an important trading partner. However that is not the case the other way around. Overall, there are economic disbalances and as such, the main proposal was to increase the amount of pre-accesion funds to up to two percent of the GDP. In essence, he believed that there is a need for more public investment especially in infrastructure. There was therefore much emphasis on the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).
The next panelist to comment on the discussed issue was Momcilo Radulovic, who inferred that Montenegro should move faster on its EU membership process. Mr. Momcilo indicated that there is a lack of political will from the EU in terms of the integration of Western Balkan states. He stated that the Western Balkan region has done a lot more than the EU acknowledges and it deserves negotiations. In his concluding remarks, Mr. Moncilo added that there should be an opening of structural funds for the region as well as a need to halt the current brain drain, which seriously limits the region’s competitiveness.
The last speaker of the event, Mr. Vesselin, began by recognizing the valid points raised by each panelist and mentioned that the paradigm of political rule has to change. There is also a need for more genuine commitments from all sides in the enlargement process. He urged that reforms be made irrespective of EU accession.