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Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 2020 Enlargement Package

Yesterday, the European Commission published the Enlargement Package for the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, which provides an overview and assessment of the situation across key areas of the necessary reform progress, with recommendations for further rapprochement with the EU.

The Ministry shares the European Commission’s assessment that a credible enlargement policy represents a geostrategic investment in peace, stability, security and economic growth throughout Europe. The process is based on the progress of individual countries and remains a key driver of reforms in candidate and potential candidate countries. 

Slovenia supports the European Commission’s efforts to bridge the economic and development gap between the EU and the Western Balkans. Lest we forget, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has come together to mobilise EUR 3.3 billion in immediate assistance to the region, with particular focus on the health sector and the economic recovery of the region. In the enlargement package, the European Commission published an Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans with EUR 9 billion earmarked in the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III). It is of the utmost importance that the countries of the region have access to the Western Balkans Guarantee Facility, which provides an EU guarantee for investment loans in the amount of approx. EUR 20 billion. The plan aims to foster the long-term and sustainable economic transformation of the region based on green and digital transition and on improved connectivity within the region and with the EU.

According to the documents, the enlargement policy remains centred around the following priorities: the rule of law, fundamental rights, the strengthening of democratic institutions, public administration reform and economic development. Among additional measures of progress, the documents cite good neighbourly relations and strengthened regional cooperation. Against this backdrop, it is particularly important to strive for the resolution issues of the past and the implementation of international law obligations.

In the case of Albania and North Macedonia, the European Commission confirmed the progress made concerning the implementation of reforms. The Ministry therefore favours the adoption of an agreement on the negotiation frameworks for both countries and believes that the intergovernmental conference should be held as soon as is practical. This would mean an effective launch of the negotiation process for the two countries.

In Montenegro, the pace of progress in the negotiation process remains tied to the progress on the rule of law. In this context, the Ministry believes that it is vital to maintain the commitment of Montenegro’s politics to European integration as the country’s main strategic objective.

When it comes to Serbia, the report points to the fact that the pace of opening and closing negotiating chapters is the main lever for progress on the necessary reforms. Slovenia expects Serbia and its new government to make every effort to implement reforms and reduce the backlog in negotiations.

For Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress on the European path, the key will be the implementation in the coming months of the 14 priorities identified by the European Commission in its Opinion on the application for EU membership, which the Council of the EU endorsed last December. These are complex tasks which will require expertise, but above all unwavering political will. Slovenia expects the latter to focus on implementing the Commission's recommendations and achieving progress in order to open discussions on the status of candidate countries.

Kosovo has continued to show its willingness to engage and commit to the European path, although it is beset with challenges. Slovenia encourages Kosovo to engage and unify all available actors to rise up to the expectations and fulfil the requested criteria. The Ministry welcomes the efforts Kosovo has made to relaunch the dialogue in view of normalising its bilateral relations with Serbia.

Turkey continues to be an important partner of the EU in areas of common interest, including in tackling irregular migration. The country has experienced negative developments in the field of democracy and the rule of law. Its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean have the potential to destabilise the region. This illustrates the importance of the European Council’s conclusions of 1 October 2020, as the leaders expressed full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and urged Turkey to cease violation of their territorial sovereignty. At the same time, they offered a positive political agenda for developing relations with Turkey, provided that it refrains from unlawful unilateral actions.