Varhelyi warns of additional roadmap for visa liberalization
An additional roadmap for visa liberalization for Kosovo was announced by the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Verhelyi, in the debate that took place on Monday in the European Parliament.
The topic of discussion was the expansion of the bloc after Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
In addition to members of the European Parliament, there were also members of the national parliaments of many EU member states, but also of candidate and potential candidate countries.
While talking about the Western Balkans, Varhelyi said that Kosovo is waiting for visa liberalization and that we should move forward with this issue.
He said there are several areas, such as the fight against organized crime, anti-trafficking and asylum applications, where “member states want clear results”.
“In these difficult times and in the context of geo-political change, our priority remains the Western Balkans,” Varhelyi said.
“We are ready to help Kosovo, together with member states, establish a roadmap for addressing specific concerns. Authorities of member countries, law enforcement agencies, police forces need to be engaged on the ground to assist Kosovo. “On our part, we are ready to give Kosovo all the financial, technical and political assistance for this process”, he added.
Kosovo is the only country in the Western Balkans that does not enjoy visa liberalization with the EU.
The Government of Kosovo says that it has met every criterion out of a total of 95 that the EU has set in the roadmap for liberalization.
However, the process has been repeatedly hampered by some EU member states, especially France, which has expressed reservations about the free movement of Kosovars.
Regarding the dialogue for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, Varhelyi said that both countries must show clear commitment in carrying out their duties.
“We are seeing that Serbia is in a difficult position in the existing geo-political circumstances and challenges. We have to accept that. The issue of sanctions [kundër Rusisë] is just one of the symptoms of problems. We are fully prepared to support Serbia in further aligning with EU policy regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine. “But we also need Serbia to take on new obligations,” Varhelyi said.
Serbia, Russia’s ally, is the only country in the Balkans that has not joined Western sanctions against Russia over its occupation of Ukraine.
Varhelyi called on the countries of the region to increase cooperation with each other, if, as he said, they want to benefit from the investment plan and the economy of the European Union.
“Without proper regional co-operation, whether through the Berlin Process, the common regional market or the Open Balkans initiative, the countries of the region simply cannot enjoy the benefits of the Balkan investment plan,” the official said. high European.
Speaking about the start of negotiations for the membership of Northern Macedonia and Albania in the EU, Varhelyi said that, within days, the EU intergovernmental conference with these two countries could take place.
He said “all obstacles have been removed”, citing a vote in the Bulgarian Parliament to lift the veto on northern Macedonia.
Bulgaria, for years, has hampered the advance of northern Macedonia due to some disputes over history and language.
Last week, the Bulgarian Parliament voted to remove the barrier, based on a proposal by the French Presidency, but it is unclear how things will turn out, as Northern Macedonia initially rejected the proposal.
Albania has lagged behind in the opening of negotiations, because some EU countries do not want it to be separated from the package with Northern Macedonia.
Verhelyei said that there are positive signals to give the status of candidate country Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was also mentioned in the conclusions of the last EU summit in Brussels, but added that this country must complete some reforms in advance.
For Montenegro, he said the EU expects the resumption of internal political dialogue and institutional stability.
The chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAlister, said that this debate is at a very appropriate moment, following the decision at the last EU summit – held last week – to give the status of candidate country Ukraine and Moldova. A joint meeting of EU and Western Balkan leaders was held in Brussels last week.
Croatian MP Tonino Piculla, who has been named rapporteur for an enlargement strategy, said the EU should also provide concrete examples to advance enlargement with the Western Balkans.
“The recent EU summit created a new wave of apathy in the Western Balkans. Only with the start of negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia, as well as with the abolition of visas for the citizens of Kosovo, the EU can prove that continuously, and not only in periodic cases, it is at the level of challenges and an important geo-political factor. “, Said Piculla.
This MP has been appointed to compile a report on the new EU enlargement strategy.
The six countries of the Western Balkans are at different stages of European integration. Montenegro and Serbia have started membership negotiations. Northern Macedonia and Albania remain awaiting their launch, while Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have only a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, which is the first step towards bloc membership. / REL /