The European Commission on Wednesday adopted a new accession methodology for the countries of the Western Balkans, Neighborhood and Expansion Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said.
“Our proposal for a revised methodology was adopted by the European Commission today. It aims to make accession negotiations more credible, dynamic, predictable and with a stronger political steer,” the commissioner wrote on his Twitter account.
Our proposal for a revised methodology adopted by@EU_Commissiontoday: it aims to make accession negotiations more credible, dynamic, predictable and with stronger political steer.https://t.co/Ia6UwRisz9— Oliver Varhelyi (@OliverVarhelyi)February 5, 2020
“The European Union accession process needs to rest on solid trust and mutual confidence. Focus on fundamental reforms will be strengthened, while the EU needs to deliver on its commitment when candidates meet conditions,” he added.
According to the commissioner, the EU needs to have greater engagement in the Western Balkans on all levels, including through regular summits. “We want to involved member states more strongly in the monitoring and reviews of progress,” he said and added that “stronger political steer” is needed on both sides because of the political nature of the accession process.
He said that the conditions for accession are defined more clearly along with the positive impact when progress is made and negative consequences due to lack of progress. “With faster reform progress faster advancing and with stagnation or backsliding, corrective measures can be taken,” Varhelyi said.
European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik MEP, welcomed the revised methodology. “It is important to have a concrete proposal on the table after the non-decision of the Council in October last year, and, furthermore, to communicate the new methodology clearly to our partners in the Western Balkans. Our partners must be assured of the continuation of the enlargement process, and I believe that the revised methodology clearly goes in this direction. I am therefore glad that the Commissioner will visit Serbia and Montenegro this week,” he said.
He said that the revised methodology is one of three tracks. “We will be working on the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania in parallel and we will come forward with economic development and investment plan for the region ahead of the Zagreb summit in May.
The new methodology says that a credible accession perspective is the key incentive and driver of transformation in the region and is a key tool to promote democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and adds that maintaining and enhancing this policy is indispensable for the EU’s credibility, success and influence in the region. It also warned that the effectiveness of the accession process must be improved to be better equipped to deal with structural weaknesses in the countries of the Western Balkans.
The overall aim of the Commission’s proposals is to enhance credibility and trust on both sides and yield better results on the ground. The proposed changes can be accommodated within existing negotiating frameworks, ensuring a level playing field in the region, it said.
Following the adoption of the new methodology, Ursula von der Leyen, the EC President tweeted that it was a good message to the Western Balkans countries.
Good message to our#WesternBalkansfriends about EU enlargement process: Today the@EU_Commissionproposes a credible & dynamic plan paving the way for opening accession talks with North Macedonia & Albania (). EU enlargement is a WIN-WIN situation.#geopoliticalcommission— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen)February 5, 2020
According to the new methodology, this means that the negotiating frameworks for Serbia and Montenegro will not be amended but the proposed changes could be accommodated within the existing frameworks with the agreement of these two countries.
All efforts need to be undertaken to resolve bilateral disputes, with a particular emphasis on the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which should be concluded with a comprehensive, legally binding normalisation agreement, the proposal said.