European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, once again, declared that Western Balkans countries must fulfill the conditions and reforms set forth by the EU before being able to join the EU.
Speaking about 2025, often referred to as the year the EU will grant membership to the Western Balkans countries, Hahn stressed that this is a mere guideline deadline, rather than a definitive one. He explained that if the Western Balkans countries do not manage to reform and reach European standards by 20125, then there will be no accession.
In an interview with Bernd Riegert for Deutsche Welle, following the Sofia Summit, among other things, Hahn said:
- The year 2025 was a sort of “orientation date.” The decisions will be taken only during the next EU meeting at the end of June.
- This is, really, a temporary deadline, that should demonstrate the credibility and seriousness of this entire process. We feel bound by our duties, but it is now in the hands of the Western Balkans countries, and the progress that they will make.
- We have always been clear about this, and everyone is aware that we will not have any new members until all bilateral conflicts are resolved.
- Here, in Sofia, we are focusing on “connectivity”, that is, the fields in which we can expand infrastructural connections, the energy sector, and in digital relationships. Via this European perspective, we are offering tangible investments in infrastructure.
- In February, the EU published its Western Balkans Strategy. It clearly delineates a European future for each of these countries. But there is still a lot to be done.
- Some countries have progressed faster than others, but everyone has made progress. It is very important that these countries’ infrastructure is also being prepared for a EU future.
- We are working towards a regional free trade area, so we can make it possible for the countries to maintain healthy trade relations with each other.
- The aim is raising the economical performance of all candidates, so they can become more sturdy and able to withstand the European competitive market.