European Parliament encourages Balkans' EU integration

07/08/2014

Balkan experts predict that the EU accession process will continue unabated.

By Miki Trajkovski and Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Skopje and Belgrade -- 07/08/14

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Far-right EU-sceptic parties in the European parliament, like Greece’s Golden Dawn, object to further EU expansion. [AFP]

The European parliament will encourage Balkan countries to strengthen the EU integration process despite opposition by new EU-sceptic parties, experts said.

In the new parliament, far-right political parties that oppose EU integration -- such as Greece's Golden Dawn -- gained 141 seats out of 751 seats.

The question is how the EU expansion policy will advance, said Risto Nikovski, former Macedonian ambassador to the United Kingdom.

"The role of the European parliament in relation to the EU used to be minimal. But with the recent changes, that role is reinforced, albeit still not enough [for a significant departure]," Nikovski said.

The European parliament's mandate should be to accelerate EU integration rather than encourage lethargy, according to Goran Ilic, a professor of international politics at the State University in Bitola.

"That is because all western Balkan countries continue to intensify relations with the EU countries and the Union as a whole. A parliament's structure may vary, but the EU values are eternal," Ilic told SETimes. Support for EU enlargement under the same conditions as Croatia remains the main goal, said Andrea Feldman, a member of Party Sustainable Development of Croatia's presidency that is represented in the European parliament.

"In collaboration with other Green Party MPs, we will work on making all regional countries closer, and support them with advice and experience we gained in the accession process and by co-operating on reforms," Feldman told SETimes.

Keeping the EU accession momentum is as important as it was for Serbia to establish binding relations with the EU in 2008, according to Tibor Moldvai, head of the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies in Belgrade. "With the signing of the stabilisation and association agreement, an institutional structure was established for political dialogue between the EU and Serbia," Moldvai told SETimes.

Moldvai added that it is not possible for the new parliament to significantly alter the EU integration process, but its expanded authority must be taken into account with regard to the work of the European Council. "However, even though parliament approves the European Council's decisions on new member states' accession, it does not have great influence on the course of negotiations, where the main role still is with the EU member states and the European Commission," he said.

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Moldvai also said given that the balance of power in parliament remained more or less the same, further support for the Balkan countries' EU membership should be expected soon.

Experts said Balkan governments are continuing their reforms, especially the harmonisation of legislation with that of the EU.

"All political parties in Montenegro, for example, are for underlining the EU path as the most important one for the country. I expect that the EU institutions are going to continue with assistance and support to Montenegro, especially in fields of human rights and security," Aleksandar Dedovic, executive director of the Alfa Centre, an NGO in Niksic, told SETimes.

What can the Balkan countries do to enhance EU accession process? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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