Progressive MPs and MEPs advocate for the fulfilment of the promise made in Thessaloniki to the Western Balkans

Open letter to the European leaders ahead of the EU - Western Balkans Summit

01/12/2022

Open letter from the Friends of the Western Balkans network to the European leaders ahead of the EU – Western Balkans Summit, scheduled in Tirana on 6 December:

To the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola,
To the President of the European Council Charles Michel,
To the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen,

Brussels, 30 November 2022

Dear President,

We, the Friends of the Western Balkans, a network composed of European social democrats’ members of national parliaments and members of the European Parliament, representatives of progressive think tanks and political foundations from the Western Balkans and the EU member states, have launched our initiative on 17-18 June in Sarajevo and gathered a second time in Prague on 14-15 November.

In Prague, while highly concerned by the long decline of the credibility of the EU’s commitment to the integration of the six Western Balkan countries (WB6), we have acknowledged that the upcoming EU-Western Balkans summit, scheduled in Tirana on 6 December, constitutes potentially the necessary momentum that both the EU and Western Balkan countries need for our common goals of stability and development.

Therefore, united as a single voice, the Friends of the Western Balkans urge the European institutions you represent to:

  • Reassert the importance of fulfilling the promise of integration made to the whole region at the Thessaloniki summit in June 2003.

  • Recall that the integration of the six Western Balkan countries is a matter of ‘geostrategic investment’, and every lack of progress undermines the geopolitical ambitions of the EU.

  • Welcome the European Political Community as a process that must not replace integration but that brings together the WB6 and the other European countries around common values and on equal footing.

  • Underline that the approach of the EU towards the integration process of each of the WB6 cannot undermine the integrity of our fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law.

  • Concerning the individual Western Balkan countries, we urge you to:

(i) Call Serbia to align with EU’s foreign policy and act as a reliable partner in the region, in particular in the resolution of the dispute with Kosovo with the EU mediation, and stress that the democratisation of Serbia is a key factor for the stability of the region.

(ii) Call on the European Council to follow the Commission’s recommendation and grant the candidate status to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

(iii) Express the will and support for Montenegro to overcome its current political deadlock and bring the country back on its path towards the EU.

(iv) Welcome the holding of the first intergovernmental conference with Albania and greet the patience of a country which has been the hostage of a prejudicial bilateral issue outside its borders caused by a member state.

(v) Welcome the organisation of the first intergovernmental conference with North Macedonia, acknowledge that the Western Balkan country’s specific path to the EU exemplifies what sacrifices have been made to achieve the goal, and call for Bulgaria to refrain from potentially impeding the following stages of North Macedonia’s integration process.

(vi)  Appreciate the Czech presidency of the EU Council for moving forward with the long overdue visa liberalisation for Kosovo and call for a final and clear timeline by the European Council in December; welcome the upcoming application of Kosovo to EU membership and underline the constructiveness of Kosovo in the EU-mediated dialogue with Serbia.

  • Invite all European institutions and member states to engage for the closure of the two-decade period since the above-mentioned Thessaloniki summit by making sure that by June 2023 all WB countries have been granted candidate status to allow a new dynamic of the integration process.      

Signatories:

  • László Andor, Secretary-General, Foundation for European Progressive Studies
  • Delara Burkhardt, Member of European Parliament, Germany
  • Irfan Čengić, Member of Parliament, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Laurent Cohen, Director, Fondation Jean-Jaurès     
  • Adnan Dibrani, Member of Parliament, Sweden
  • Lauri Finér, Director, Kalevi Sorsa Foundation, Finland
  • Josip Juratovic, Member of Parliament, Germany
  • Kimmo Kiljunen, Member of Parliament, Finland
  • Mojca Kleva Kekuš, Chairwoman, Progresiva
  • Kido Koenig, Director, Foundation Max van der Stoel
  • Saša Magazinović, Member of Parliament, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Niina Malm, Member of Parliament, Finland
  • Maria Maltschnig, Director, Renner Institut, Austria
  • Armend Muja, Member of Parliament, Kosovo
  • Thijs Reuten, Member of European Parliament, the Netherlands
  • Stefan Schennach, Member of Parliament, Austria
  • Andreas Schieder, Member of European Parliament, Austria
  • Martin Schulz, President, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
  • Sanela Shkrijelj, Member of Parliament, North Macedonia
  • Anna Sündstrom, Secretary General, Olof Palme International Center, Sweden
  • Bertalan Tóth, Member of Parliament, Hungary
  • Harald Troch, Member of Parliament, Austria
  • Lubomír Zaorálek, President, Masarykova demokratická akademie 
  • Damijan Zrim, Member of Parliament, Slovenia
  • Petra Kammerevert, Member of European Parliament, Germany
  • Ute Finckh-Kraemer, former Member of the German Bundestag
  • Jens Geier, Member of European Parliament, Germany
  • Adis Ahmetovic, Member of Parliament, Germany

Pictures of the meeting of the Friends of Western Balkans network that took place in Prague on 14-15 November can be found on this link.

The video statements of some of the participants in this meeting can be found on this link.

Network
Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale (CeSPI)
Dialogue Southeast Europe (SOE)
Fondation Jean-Jaurès
Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS)
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Kalevi Sorsa Foundation
Karl Renner Institut
Masarykova Demokraticka Akademie (MDA)
Olof Palmes Internationella Center
Progresiva
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