The heads of diplomacy of Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia are united in their stance that Western Balkans should join the European Union as soon as possible. They published this statement on Monday.
In a joint column published by media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministers Gordan Grlić Radman, Alexander Schallenberg, and Tanja Fajon emphasized that the Russian aggression in Ukraine has made the EU more attractive to Eastern Partnership countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. At the same time, Western Balkan countries are facing unprecedented threats to stability and increased foreign policy dilemmas.
The ministers welcomed the new EU enlargement approach, which places greater importance on the geostrategic perspective with less bureaucracy compared to previous periods. They also noted that the decision made last year to grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina was based on strategic considerations.
However, they stressed that this strategic approach should not lead to a lowering of EU enlargement standards. They emphasized that the comprehensive implementation of reforms remains crucial.
They outlined specific steps that should be taken without delay. The first step is for the European Union to start accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of this year.
The second step is for Montenegro to continue its reform path towards the EU, which depends on the formation of a new government in the country. The third step is to make progress in negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
All EU member states have called for a "more creative" and "dynamic" relationship with accession countries based on fair and rigorous conditions, and even some form of integration at this stage, such as the participation of ministers from the region in the work of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.
They concluded by stating that EU enlargement is not just a political option but a geostrategic imperative today.