The European project will not be complete if the countries of the Western Balkans are not fully integrated into the European Union, President Stevo Pendarovski said in his today’s address at the EU-Western Balkans Summit, organized by the influential think tank “Friends of Europe”.
Speaking at the session “Supporting Regionalization: A Bridge to Strong and Stable Democracy”, President Pendarovski stressed that it is time for a new approach that would recognize the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union as a major strategic and geopolitical decision, not a technical issue.
“The stability and security of the region, as well as its democratic development, are based on the European perspective. Creating a vacuum in the region’s integration can be exploited by other external forces. EU member states have a historic chance to contribute to European stability and prosperity”, President Pendarovski said.
With the adoption of the new methodology for conducting the accession process, as President Pendarovski added, the Western Balkan countries need to meet clear criteria, including the rule of law and the fight against organized crime and high-level corruption, if they are to make progress in the integration process.
An important area, according to President Pendarovski, is democratic development, which, according to him, is under pressure from populist movements and is threatened by problems with the rule of law, dysfunctional institutions and low trust in them, as well as modest socio-economic development, which in turn is among the main reasons for increased migration, especially among young people.
According to President Pendarovski, regional economic integration can be beneficial for the integration process, given that the economic development is one of the main preconditions for improving the living standards of citizens.
All initiatives aimed at integration in the single European market are more than welcome, said President Pendarovski and added that any economic initiative would be incomplete if it is not supported by progress in the integration into the European Union.
Answering the questions of the summit participants, President Pendarovski underlined that these days he would like to hear that the first intergovernmental conference between North Macedonia and the EU will take place, because, as he said, “except for membership in the Union, there is no other alternative for our country”.