A European Commission paper published on Tuesday set the target for what would be the bloc’s biggest single expansion in two decades.
”The enlargement push is an attempt to deliver on a pledge made in September by Jean-Claude Juncker, commision president, to expand the 28-member union after Britain leave said one pro-enlargement EU diplomat last month. The commision in recognition of problems that have dogged other new members in the past decade, has asked the “western Balkans six” to resolve “outstanding bilateral disputes”, such as the name dispute between Greece and Fyrom.
Serbia and Montenegro which have already begun EU accession talks, are viewed as the two most likely western Balkan aspirants to make the 2025 milestone, ahead of Albania, FYROM, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo.
Mr Juncker is expected to tour the western Balkans next month to start the run-in to a summit dedicated to the region in Sofia in May.
The paper also calls for special arrangements to be put in place to ensure that future Member States are not in a position to block the accession of other Western Balkans candidates.
From the Commission’s press release: (full report)
The EU’s enlargement policy must be part and parcel of the larger strategy to strengthen the Union by 2025 set out by President Juncker in his State of the Union speech of September 2017 and his Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and more Democratic Union.
While the EU could become larger than 27 Members, the dynamics of moving forward on their respective EU paths for all Western Balkans is based on their own merits and at their own speed depending on the concrete results achieved.
This perspective will ultimately depend on strong political will, the delivery of real and sustained reforms, and definitive solutions to disputes with neighbours.
Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are making significant progress on their European path and the Commission is ready to prepare recommendations to open accession negotiations, on the basis of fulfilled conditions.
Political commitment from the regions’ leaders
Much work lies ahead for the countries concerned to be in a position to meet the conditions and criteria for EU membership. The Strategy highlights that leaders in the region must leave no doubt as to their strategic orientation and commitment. It is them that ultimately must assume responsibility for making this historical opportunity a reality.
Preparing the EU to welcome new members
The EU itself needs to be ready for new members of the family – once they have met the conditions – including from an institutional and financial perspective. The Union must be stronger, more solid and more efficient before it can be bigger. To ensure effective decision-making, we need to make use of qualified majority voting in the Council in the policy areas where this is already foreseen. In addition, the European Commission will present possibilities to further enhance the use of qualified majority voting in the third quarter of 2018 – as announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address.