Prior to the start of the European Council session Thursday, a summit of the Party of European Socialists and Social Democrats (PES) was held in Brussels, which was attended by the leader of Social Democrats (SD) and Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon who said that the EU had lost credibility in the eyes of Western Balkan countries expecting to receive the EU membership candidate status.
The summit of social democratic leaders, which was attended by a large number of European prime ministers, supported the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia's European perspective and reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Leaders also agreed that positive messages to the Western Balkans alone are not enough.
“We’ve lost credibility with the countries of the Western Balkans, which are waiting for the status of candidates for EU membership. These countries are once again becoming countries of geopolitical struggle,” Fajon noted.
“We will preserve the credibility of the enlargement process only by speeding up the granting of EU candidate status to BiH, opening accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, and enabling visa liberalization for Kosovo. We need a clear political signal of support and commitment to the prospects of enlargement of the Western Balkans, “ said the Slovenian Minister.
According to her, it is necessary to discuss the goals and consequences of EU enlargement both within the PES and beyond. Positive attitudes towards Ukraine and its European perspective should be supported, but it is not enough, said Fajon, who earlier this week made a proposal in Luxembourg to grant BiH candidate status for EU membership under similar conditions as Ukraine, understanding that it should meet all the necessary conditions before the start of accession negotiations.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin agreed that the EU has a duty to the Western Balkans and that, if the conditions are met, it must recognize the status of candidate countries for EU membership. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell pointed out that there is great disappointment among the countries of the Western Balkans and that they want solutions to common problems that go beyond any country.
PES leaders also discussed the energy and food crisis, especially in African countries, and the integration of Sweden and Finland into NATO.