EU Commissioner on European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn commented for the BNR Bulgaria’s ambition to create a European perspective for the Western Balkans during its rotational Presidency of the Council of the EU:
“I am thankful to Bulgaria for the forthcoming May Summit of the EU and the Western Balkans – this will be the first meeting that high since Thessaloniki 2003. The moment is very important. Last year we established the prerequisites at the European level – I mean the declaration of the state and government leaders and the speech of Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker on the future of the Union. So it is important to use the impetus of the moment for the integration of the Western Balkans, developing it to its end. It is clear that the different Balkan states are in a different stage of their preparation. We need to comply with their progress, but also to appreciate it.”
According to Johannes Hahn statistics shows no reduced support for the EU on the part of the Western Balkan states. He gave Serbia as an example – this country has been upholding the EU more and more. “This support depends on the degree to which the separate countries’ citizens feel the advantages of the EU membership. The negotiations with Serbia triggered an upward trend in regard to foreign investments there and we are talking of investors from all over the world. Business feels the progress of the negotiations and the good perspective. Superiority of the law is also an essential aspect. This all gradually turns into opening new jobs and a higher standard of living.”
Europeans tend to be a bit tired of new EU accessions as a result of the economic, financial and migration crisis in Europe, Mr. Hahn said for the BNR:
“We are aware of that fact and so I think that the enlargement policy should be explained not only to the applicants, but also to the citizens of the member-states. I see it that way: do we want the EU to export security and stability, or do we want the import of insecurity and lack of stability into the community.”
Being an ‘advocate’ of the Balkans, Bulgaria has been committed to the normalization of the relations with Turkey and the subject is complicated, EU Commissioner Hahn outlined, adding that:
“The EU understands that Turkey is an important partner and we cooperate with that state at a very high level in many areas. The EU point of view is that Turkey is not Erdogan – we have to make that clear. Many people in Turkey are pro-European in their attitude and want the EU membership. I think it’s still too early to speculate on the type of partnership that we can build up with Turkey. We hail Turkey’s efforts over the past months for normalization of the relations. Both Turkey and Europe are interested in this to happen.”
The Western Balkans’ integration subject will be part of the EU agenda after the Bulgarian Presidency as well, Mr. Hahn commented:
“The Western Balkans will be in the focus of the EU for a long time, as Austria takes over the Presidency from Bulgaria, followed by Romania. At the same time I expect progress in digital policy as well. Bulgarian EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel has been very active. The Bulgarian Presidency for sure will result in progress across many other topics, such as security and energy policy. Let’s not forget the forthcoming proposal of the EC for the many years financial framework as well.”
According to EU Commissioner Hahn, the discussion of the financial framework goes through the issue on the accents within the long-term development of the EU:
“Perhaps the major topic of the 21st century will be migration. We need to monitor the development in Africa, where we expect the doubling of the population by the middle of the century and it will grow four times by the end of the 21st c. Europe has to make the economic development of Africa part of its conversation, in order to create a perspective for people out there. We need to support the stabilization of the institutions and this all takes money. In other words, I talk about a common engagement, an investment on the part of all of us, in order to avoid the refugee pressure against Europe.”
An interview of Vessela Vladkova
English version: Zhivko Stanchev
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