President: Without Western Balkans' integration Europe won't breathe easy
Without the Western Balkans' integration, Europe won't breathe easy, Polish President Andrzej Duda said during a Western Balkans summit in Poznan (western Poland) on Friday.
Duda stressed that Poland supported the EU enlargement policy since it supported a Europe of solidarity and openness instead of a Europe of mutual prejudice.
The head of state said that Poland's commitment to the Berlin Process "results from Poland's deep conviction regarding the importance of the Western Balkans for the stability and development of Europe."
"The Balkans are an integral part of Europe, in view of their geographical, cultural and historical position," Andrzej Duda went on to say.
"Without the Western Balkans' integration, together with their beautiful traditions and various cultures, Europe will not start breathing easy. I am conscious of the words I am saying, being the president of a country that makes use of EU funds, and which will be obliged to share these resources with new members in the future," he said.
"Poland is a country supporting the EU expansion policy since it supports a Europe of solidarity and openness instead of a Europe of mutual prejudice, which is confined to particular interests and fears. This is not the Europe we want," he said.
Duda admitted that today's Europe is in a difficult situation and suffers from financial and social crises but stressed that crises occurred irrespective of the number of EU members.
"The number of crises has never increased with the number of member states. New member countries bring new energy to integration," he said and stressed that the EU enlargement should not be pushed onto a side-track by the new European authorities.
According to the Polish head of state, the European project is alive and attractive, has a future, and there are countries which are willing to join the EU.
President Duda added that the EU enlargement should be included in the new visions defining the future of a common Europe.
"Unfortunately, I can see that not all our partners in the EU share this view. I am sad and disappointed when I hear about another postponement of the start of accession negotiations with aspiring countries like Albania and North Macedonia," the president said.
He recalled that the EU had positively evaluated reforms in the two countries and recommended that negotiations should start. "Both states have fulfilled their obligations, including such a radical step as the change of the name of the country in the case of North Macedonia."
He underlined that the political dispute regarding not the accession but the start of talks, now under way in the EU, was unacceptable.
"Being the European community, we are obliged to set a clear date of accession instead of giving more verbal declarations," President Duda stressed and repeated the words he had said in Tirana that, "Poland does not accept a situation whereby the Western Balkan countries take part in a race with an invisible finish line."
He underlined that such a message should become a clear declaration of the Poznan summit. "We owe this to South-eastern European countries," he added.
The president said that the Polish people knew that this was a complicated process, which required huge changes and sacrifice.
"You will have to implement reforms, which are unpopular. You will have to cope with dissatisfaction of some privileged groups, whose interests will be violated, and to build democratic institutions and a free-market economy. But let me stress that joining the EU is worth this," he said.
The current EU enlargement process includes partners from the Western Balkans and Turkey. The EU opened accession negotiations with Montenegro in 2012, with Serbia in 2014 and with Turkey in 2005. North Macedonia has been an aspiring country since 2005 and Albania since 2014.
The Berlin Process is a German-led inter-governmental initiative to promote the expansion of the European Union to the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia) and to strengthen regional cooperation. The initiative comprises tent EU countries, namely, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Greece and Poland, which joined the project last year and took over its presidency in January. (PAP)