The President of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović stressed that the issue of further enlargement of the European Union / EU / had become vague, and that the EU tools towards the Western Balkans had been inconsistent.
At the central panel discussion themed “The Europe of Tomorrow. “Strong”. Meaning What?, held today within the 29th Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdrój, the President Cvijanović assessed that the EU has approached and treated the same issues, problems, aspirations or phenomena in different Western Balkan countries differently, and as a result, many people would still like to see their countries within the EU, but equally the same number of them do not think their countries will ever get there.
“And to be honest, this is not only because our local governments fail to meet the EU requirements, but also because of the EU’s failure to speed up the process of its own internal reforms and its failure to have a balanced approach in our region”, said the President Cvijanović.
Being grateful for the opportunity to be on this panel having, as she has said, a very tricky title –“The Europe of Tomorrow”, the President of Srpska pointed out that this was an important issue for both the EU member states and those countries that tend to become part of the EU.
“I am very happy to be in position to share my views with the colleagues who come from the member states. Logically, we are all interested in the future of Europe and we all want it to be able to tackle various challenges. But, for us in the Western Balkans it is also important to recognise a genuine willingness of the EU to encompass new members”, said the President Cvijanović.
Although the main debate is to take place within the member states and the EU institutions, said the President Cvijanović, this issue is also important for the countries that are in the process of association or accession to understand what results this debate is going to bring. “That is why, the Western Balkan countries want to see what directions this debate will take and what the outcome will be in terms of future enlargements, if any. But, of course, in order to discuss the issue of the future we have to understand the current realities and different stages and types of crises that the EU has witnessed since 2008 – financially, economically, institutionally, politically, in terms of security and finally in terms of the Brexit issue”, said the President Cvijanović.
The President Republic of Srpska added that until some time ago, the issue of entering the EU, rather than leaving it, was discussed, the issue of European identity dominated over the issue of national or particular identities.
“We spoke of what we could gain within the EU rather than what we had to sacrifice. But over the time this debate has slightly shifted to different views”, said the President of the Republic.
The Republic of Srpska President stressed that we are all aware that the EU has its own burdens no matter if these were created internally or imposed from outside and added shat she regrets to say that the issue of further enlargement has become vague and that the EU tools towards the Western Balkans have been inconsistent.
The President Republic of Srpska said that the EU has approached and treated the same issues, problems, aspirations or phenomena in different Western Balkan countries differently and as a result, many people would still like to see their countries within the EU, but equally the same number of them do not think their countries will ever get there. “And to be honest, this is not only because our local governments fail to meet the EU requirements, but also because of the EU’s failure to speed up the process of its own internal reforms and its failure to have a balanced approach in our region.
Of course, we do not say how the EU should be reformed internally. It is up to its member states to decide. But, we want to know whether the process of enlargement would be a realistic option in practical terms or it will exist only as a rhetorical or theoretical category”, said the President Cvijanović.
The President of the Republic of Srpska pointed out that the Western Balkan countries want to know whether the EU will become less rigid and more flexible, whether it will provide, apart from political, economic and social stability, higher level of security for its citizens, properties and resources.
“For us who live in the Western Balkans, which is still burdened with many problems of the past, it will be very important to know what type the EU we are heading to if there is a perspective of membership. Or if such a perspective no longer exists, we should simply remove the idea of membership from our agenda and carry on the process of reforms since it is good for our citizens anyway no matter if we will become a member state or not”, said the President of the Republic of Srpska. Recalling that it has been announced these days that the US appointed its special representative or envoy for the Western Balkans, the President of the Republic of Srpska has added that the Euro-sceptics have rushed to explain this as a sign of EU’s weakness to deal with the issues in the Western Balkans. Some others say a combined effort can only help despite the fact that this will reduce the EU’s visibility. “Anyway this is a new fact that cannot be ignored”, it was concluded by the President Cvijanović while her address at the central panel discussion themed “The Europe of Tomorrow. Strong, meaning what?”, which was held today within the 29th Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdrój.
The Minister of Economy, Investment and Small Business in the Government of Malta Christian Cardona, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Margareta Cederfelt, the Representative of the Polish Development Fund Borys Pawel and the Representative of the Hudson Institute in Washington Robert Spalding also participated the central panel discussion.
The central panel discussion moderator was Financial Times FDI Magazine Deputy Editor Jacopo Dettoni.