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Fassino (President of Foreign Affairs Commission, Italian Chamber): "It's Time for EU to Open its Doors to Balkans"



Fassino (President of Foreign Affairs Commission, Italian Chamber):

"Do we need to hope that Russia invades us to convince the European Union to open its doors to us?". These words, used by a Balkan diplomat addressing me a few weeks ago, well express the frustration matured in the Western Balkans in the light of the exasperating slowness imposed by the European Union on the enlargement process - complicit in the reticence and short-sightedness of quite a few European capitals, process which was actually promised in the aftermath of the Dayton peace in 1995 and formally committed to with the Thessaloniki European Council in 2003. A slowness that in recent years has produced not only frustration, but also growing intrusiveness of other actors - China, Russia, Turkey, the Emirates - and a slowdown in the reforms that candidate countries must implement in order to meet European standards.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine, radically changing the European scenario, has forced the EU to finally overcome reticence and ambiguity: a few weeks after the recognition of candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova - in the future also to Georgia -, the intergovernmental Conferences were finally convened to start accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, thus flanking the already begun negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro. This must urgently be followed by both the recognition of Bosnia as "candidate" and an European road-map for Kosovo. In order to be effective and correspond to the requirements of stability and security, these choices must now be pursued at a rapid pace and within a set time.

Italy has supported these choices wholeheartedly, with a firm commitment on the part of the government and with the unanimous support of the Parliament, aware of the strategic nature of the Western Balkans in the balance of Europe and the Mediterranean.

Yes, because those enlargement decisions are not courtesy, but a necessity for the security and stability of entire Europe. With the aggression against Ukraine, Moscow has de facto broken the Helsinki Accords and its principles of intangibility of borders and territorial integrity of each state, non-use of force in resolving disputes as well as full respect for the independence and sovereignty of each nation.

Those principles were upheld by Moscow with the revival of the doctrine of "limited sovereignty", to which neighboring countries are supposed to submit. An imposition to which the regions of Eastern Europe on the EU's external borders are particularly exposed; precisely where, not incidentally, the only wars in Europe since the end of World War II have broken out, namely in the Caucasus, the Balkans and Ukraine. Not only do conflicts upset the directly involved countries, but they also represent a threat to the stability and security of the entire Continent. Consequently, the integration of those areas into the European Union is an indispensable strategic choice to free those countries from instability and conflicts as well as to strengthen the security of entire Europe.

NATO well understood this and in recent years, while the EU was stalling, opened its doors to Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia, thus offering them a security umbrella and strengthening the south-eastern flank of the Continent.

In short: the question is about finally deciding whether to have the Western Balkans fully integrated into the European Union and its policies - from investment and growth choices to social policies, from foreign and security policy strategies to migration policies and the standards of the rule of law - or to keep them on the doorstep, in a limbo permanently exposed to the risk of new crises and conflicts. In addition in the new geostrategic assets brought by the Ukrainian conflict, the question is to decide whether to consign the destiny of Eastern Europe in the arms of Moscow of Beijing or to choose, without vain reticence and instead with determination, to continue the unification of the Continent under the values of freedom, democracy and rights. This is the path to strengthen security, prosperity and growth of entire Europe.

Translation by interns Claudia Catalano (Cattolica University Milan) and Silvia Oggiano (Trento University)




Repubblica, 24.07.2022


Piero Fassino, President of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy