Parliament and Council negotiators have reached agreement on a €14.2 billion package governing the 2021-2027 funding for countries on the path to EU membership, paving the way or important EU-related reforms in seven partner countries, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.
The issue of enlargement will take a central role as from 1st July with Slovenia taking the role of the Presidency of the Council, in consideration that most countries knocking on the EU’s door are Balkan nations. Slovenian PM Janez Janša, addressing a recent briefing about the priorities of his country’s Presidency, said that he will be pushing for a return to aggressive enlargement, particularly with regard to the Western Balkans. Janša described enlargement as a strategic answer to a lot of current challenges.”
In its negotiations, the European Parliament insisted that the upgraded pre-accession instrument strengthens conditionality related to democracy, human rights and rule of law, envisaging the suspension of assistance in case of government backtracking in those areas. The agreement is expected to step up strategic communication and the fight against disinformation and will contribute to the cross-cutting goals of climate and environmental protection, human rights and gender equality. The revised fund envisages improved donor coordination and enhanced consultations with civil society organisations and local and regional authorities.
Croatian MEP Željana Zovko, who co-authored a report defining Parliament’s position on assistance to these countries said that “The deal safeguards the continued funding of enlargement policy, the EU’s most successful foreign policy tool, underpinned by reconciliation, regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations. The modernised IPA has the capacity to facilitate in-depth reforms in enlargement countries and bring them closer to the EU, including through the ambitious Economic and Investment Plan and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans”.
Malta to support enlargement process
Malta has regularly been supportive of the enlargement process, saying that the possibility to join the EU pushes countries to make important reforms from which citizens stand up to benefit. A spokesperson for the Maltese Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs said that “Malta is very supportive of the EU enlargement process, particularly its transformative power through reforms that can make a real difference on the ground for citizens.”
He added that Malta is supportive of enlargement for countries that have a European perspective and as such, the ball is in the court of candidate countries or prospective candidate countries, depending on their pace of reform.’
Slovenia’s push however may find obstruction by larger nations such as France, whose Government has become increasingly frustrated with the slow-moving reforms at EU level, particularly when reforms are required as well as due to challenges relating to the rule of law posed by some countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
The political agreement on this funding programme will now require formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.