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Feb 12, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

Commissioner Várhelyi on EU enlargement: We need to speed up accession for the Western Balkans

Speaking at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg on Monday, Olivér Várhelyi, the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, said that in order to maintain its credibility, the EU must “speed up” accession for the Western Balkans and “make it more dynamic.”

Under the leadership of Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for the Neighborhood and Enlargement Policy, the EC submitted last week its updated proposal for a new, more dynamic enlargement process. In Várhelyi’s view, the new process will speed up EU accession of the Western Balkans, maintaining the bloc’s credibility vis-à-vis countries in the region eager to attain EU membership.

“Accession talks must begin with Albania and North Macedonia,” the Hungarian Commissioner said, “as both countries have recently met the requirements.” According to Várhelyi, enlargement via the Western Balkans can only be successful if the EU keeps its previous promises, and this requires a faster, more dynamic accession process.

Although the European Commission will prepare a report on the two countries’ achievements by the end of February, Várhelyi said, “during the lengthy preparation and negotiation process, we will need more decisive political control and high-level participation from Member States.” Otherwise, he noted, the EU risks giving rise to forces that could hinder accession talks.

While all eyes are now on Albania and North Macedonia, from our perspective in Budapest, Serbia remains the key to EU enlargement in the region. “The Serbian negotiations must be accelerated as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Orbán said earlier this week in Berlin, adding that they must be “taken to their final stage because only its accession can guarantee the stability of the Western Balkans.”

With Olivér Várhelyi holding the enlargement portfolio and the Hungarian government being fully committed to its partners in the Western Balkans, Hungary remains one of the foremost proponents of accession for countries in the region.