Czech Republic and Other States Urge Faster EU Accession For Western Balkan Nations

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The statement was jointly signed by the foreign ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and Italy. Photo credit: Jan Lipavský, via Facebook.

Furth bei Gottweig, Austria, June 24 (CTK) – The Czech Republic and another six EU countries called for a faster process of EU enlargement into the Western Balkans, in a declaration adopted at the foreign ministers’ meeting in Austria yesterday, according to the APA Austrian news agency.

The statement was jointly signed by Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, his Czech counterpart Jan Lipavsky, and foreign ministers of Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and Italy, APA reported. Schallenberg called the initiative ‘Friends of the Western Balkans’.

In a call for action aimed at the other member states of the EU27 and the European Commission, the signatories of the Gottweig Declaration call for “gradual and accelerated integration with concrete steps for 2024 and beyond”.

“We feel that the EU enlargement process was sometimes too slow, too complex and too bureaucratic,” said the group. For the people of these countries, especially young people, the process has so far produced few tangible results, leading to “disillusionment and alienation towards the EU,” the ministers say.

The ministers also warned that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine poses a threat both to the EU and the Western Balkan countries.

Moreover, the recent violent events in northern Kosovo have shown that unresolved tensions and long-standing conflicts can undermine stability, the group said, referring to the tense situation in the predominantly Serb northern part of Kosovo. The declaration calls for stability in the area, which is surrounded by European Union states.

To improve cooperation, the Friends of the Western Balkans NGO wants foreign ministers from the region to travel at least twice a year to meet their EU counterparts, or for expert dialogue on organised crime and illegal migration.

APA wrote that Lipavsky called for more courage from the EU and the Western Balkan states in dealing with open issues. Now is the right time for this, he said. In the case of Ukraine, Lipavsky said that the situation is different, as it is “driven by fear in the face of an existential threat”.

Schallenberg’s initiative came on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the EU-Western Balkans summit held in Thessaloniki, Greece, at which the EU confirmed the region’s European perspective.

Candidates for EU membership in the Western Balkans include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania.

APA wrote that after the EU27 granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova a year ago, some concerns emerged in Austria about the Western Balkan countries ending up in a disadvantageous position.

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