European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Address to the South East European Cooperation Process
Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP)
Istanbul, 22 June 2010
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to participate in your meeting, representing the European Commission. I would like to thank once again the Turkish organisers for their warm hospitality.
I fully associate with what has been said by many previous speakers.
The South East European Cooperation Process is a key part of EU policy towards South East Europe. It is invaluable as it has grown from the region itself, and as it shares the basic value of the European Union – cooperation as a tool of reconciliation, cooperation as means of reintegration, cooperation as a way towards economic development and common prosperity.
European project has been a project of healing Europe after the Second World War, and it was successful. After the end of Cold War this success was repeated – a torn-apart continent started to reintegrate again. Fifth Enlargement has brought number of nations back to where they originally came from – to the one European family. This is a success, I strongly believe, worth repeating in countries of South Eastern Europe.
Looking at the countries of the region today, one must be satisfied with the level of their ambition and achievements. The previous year has seen a number of successes for the region.
Croatia has stepped up its accession negotiations with the EU, which are now entering a crucial phase.
Croatia and Slovenia are showing us recently how bilateral issues can be solved in a European spirit. Example to be followed, let me add.
Albania and Montenegro provided answers to our Questionnaire and we are working on the Opinions for them. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Montenegro entered into force in May.
Ratification of Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia was unblocked last week, and we will start preparing our Opinion as soon as the Council asks us to.
There is hope again, and I would like to add a strong one, that the name issue of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would be resolved, and resolved soon, and Skopje would be able to start accession negotiations.
Our host, Turkey, has been making remarkable advances in reforms. It is now important that this momentum be reinforced, as the accession negotiations are entering a more demanding phase. Strengthening our special partnership and mutual commitments through accession process is now more important than before and it is a joint tomorrow, the one EU shares with Turkey.
The Government of Moldova has set a very ambitious agenda, reflecting Moldova's European aspirations. Negotiations which started five months ago on our new contractual relations, a future Association Agreement, are proceeding speedily. I am very encouraged, and as of today even more so, as Moldova is a part of my neighbourhood responsibility.
Let us not be complacent with these. Let us not be unreasonably happy with the remarkable individual progress of each country towards the European Union, and with the undoubtedly developing regional cooperation we know today.
Because of the modern history of the region, its deep and comprehensive and pragmatic cooperation is a challenge, in some cases bigger than in others. And we better acknowledge that.
Unresolved bilateral issues are a baggage, which would only be becoming heavier on your respective paths towards European integration. Addressing the issues today within the regional cooperation process, and not through accession process, would save a lot in the future. We have the successful process. Let us be results-oriented.
As I have stressed in previous occasions, EU approach is first of all about conditionality. But that is not enough. Because Enlargement is indeed a political process, based on agreed conditions and criteria, it demands that you, our partners, show the necessary political will to move forward. It demands that all of us to be in stronger control of political steering while making no compromise on conditionality.
Individually, we got very far and lot more needs to be done – questions of rule of law, and many other issues are still obstacles on the European path of South East Europe.
But most importantly, this is not about individual merits only. It is about inclusiveness – as has been underlined by all of you. It is about all players cooperating for the better result of the team.
In this context, let me stress, that on Kosovo, Belgrade and Prishtina shall tackle the expected ICJ Opinion as an opportunity.
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a clear and joint vision for its European future – carried by the will of its political elite.
Open bilateral issues shall be addressed urgently everywhere in the region. And I will continue to repeat this message again and again.
In addressing the remaining challenges, regional cooperation structures have an important role to play: I am looking, in particular, to the SEECP and its operational arm, the RCC, to play a major role in these areas. I very much appreciate our good discussions with Secretary General Biscevic.
The EU and South Eastern Europe will continue working together, in a spirit of openness and shared values, for a common goal. Our meeting here today should be a strong message that regional cooperation is an important value in itself, but it is also the best way to advance the cause of moving closer to the EU.
For its part, the Commission will continue to support the region, in line with the specific policies applicable to each partner. Our Europe 2020 Strategy is a good example of the strategic chance we have. Lately, the Sarajevo Conference reiterated the EU's commitment to the European perspective of the Western Balkans. However, it is vital, and more than obvious, that our commitment is matched by everyone else´s.
Dear Colleagues, I believe we can make it together. Thank you for your attention.