European Interest

EESC: Western Balkans must keep advancing along their path to the EU

European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
Christa Schweng, president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

Statement by Christa Schweng, president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Dimitris Dimitriadis, president of the Section for External Relations (REX)

The EESC welcomes the adoption of the Council Conclusions on the enlargement/stabilisation and association process by the General Affairs Council on 13 December 2022 and the recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as an official EU candidate country. It calls upon the European Council to confirm this decision.

EU accession should remain a key priority for Bosnia and Herzegovina and all political actors in the country. All parties and levels of government need to engage in constructive dialogue, together with civil society, and focus on delivering on the necessary reforms that will enable the country to progress on its path towards European integration and bring tangible benefits to the citizens.

In addition, we express our deep concerns about the situation in the north of Kosovo[1]. We strongly condemn the use of violence, including the unacceptable attack on the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo, and call for urgent de-escalation of tensions. We invite all sides to refrain from further provocations and to put all necessary efforts into finding a peaceful solution and settling disputes through EU-facilitated dialogue. We remind Kosovo and Serbia that normalisation of their relations is a key precondition for their accession to the EU and we call upon them to genuinely negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement and to effectively involve organised civil society in that process.

The EESC, together with its civil society partners from the region, continues to strongly support EU enlargement to the Western Balkans region. As stated in the Conclusions of the EESC’s High-Level Civil Society Conference on Youth Policy in the Western Balkans, EU enlargement to the Western Balkans should be kept very high on the EU agenda and concrete steps should be taken towards EU accession. Further progress should be made on gradual integration between the EU and the Western Balkans, while at the same time particular emphasis should be placed on the benefits for the citizens, especially young people.

[1] This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

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