Sunday, June 16, 2024
 
 

Varhelyi refocuses on enlargement for Southeast Europe

No dates established to begin accession talks

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EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi visited North Macedonia and Albania on October 6-7, meeting leaders in both countries as well as addressing parliaments. The primary reason for the regional visit was to support the rollout of the Commission’s Enlargement Package, which includes the Economic and Investment Plan and the 2020 annual reports for the countries in the region.  Varhelyi continued his regional tour with stops in Serbia and Kosovo on October 8.
2020 Enlargement Package Released
The Commission published annual reports for all candidate countries/potential candidates on October 6, as part of the 2020 Enlargement Package. The countries involved are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia as well as Turkey, with whom accession negotiations have essentially stopped.
The annual package contains the reports in which the Commission delivers its detailed assessment of the state of play in each candidate country and potential candidate, the progress that has been achieved over the last year and lays out guidelines on reform priorities.
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1816
 
 
 
Enlargement procedures reformed
This is the first Enlargement Package presented since the Commission was required under strong French pressure earlier this year to amend and substantially toughen existing Enlargement processes, which a number of the member states had determined were inadequate.  Commissioner Várhelyi’s October 6 presentation notes: “From the start of the mandate of this Commission, my aim has been to make sure both our partners in the Western Balkans and our Member States regain trust in the accession process. Our rigorous but fair assessments presented today detail where the countries stand with the reforms, with clearer guidance and recommendations on the future steps. Their dynamic implementation will speed up their progress on EU path and bring long-lasting results. In parallel, we have presented an Economic and Investment plan to spur their long term recovery and accelerate their economic convergence with the EU.”   The Commission’s Economic and Investment Plan sets out a substantial investment package mobilising up to €9 billion of funding for the region and hopes to generate larger sums in new private investment.
Stops in North Macedonia and Albania
Varhelyi said the first inter-government conferences with both new candidate countries, which formally mark the beginning of the accession negotiations, could be convened by the end of this year, under the German EU Presidency.
In Skopje, Varhelyi addressed the North Macedonian Parliament and met with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and President Stevo Pendarovski.   Disagreements with neighboring Bulgaria over several difficult issues concerning historical figures and ethnicity were among the items discussed in view of threats by some Bulgarian politicians in an election year to inject these into EU accession negotiations if unresolved.
In Tirana, Varhelyi met with Prime Minister Edi Rama and other officials and addressed Albania’s parliament.  Varhelyi was positive in addressing Albania’s progress the fight against crime and welcomed Albania’s establishment of new justice institutions, a critical issue for Brussels.
Speaking in the Albanian parliament, Varhelyi declared that the EU considered the Western Balkans “to be a potential of becoming an investment hub.”

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CEO/Editor-in-Chief.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

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