In an interview for Banja Luka-based daily Nezavisne novine, President of the United Nations General Assembly and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak said that the new European Commission’s strategy for the region of Western Balkans was a document which confirmed “the credibility of the process of enlargement in the Western Balkans and EU’s renewed interest in the region”.
According to Lajcak, countries in the region are expected to demonstrate strong political will and be truly committed to implementation of reforms and resolving of open bilateral issues.
“It seems to me that positive momentum should be used by governments of countries in the region in terms of more dedicated engagement, in cooperation with all segments of society, to meet obligations and tasks from the European agenda. Deadlines prescribed by the strategy are not binding, but they stimulate reforms, with clearly presented expectations from Brussels”, said Lajcak.
Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs reminded that the strategy included six key initiatives aimed at additionally enhancing Brussels’ cooperation with the region, as well as enabling stronger support from the EU.
“The strategy sees Montenegro and Serbia as the ‘front-row’ candidates, but it underlines on multiple occasions that the progress will be measured on the basis of countries’ individual accomplishments. So, if activities are implemented in line with the expected dynamics, Albania and Macedonia might begin accession negotiations, while Bosnia and Herzegovina is about to be given the status of candidate (country)”, explained Lajcak.
Furthermore, he underlined that the issue of European prospect of Western Balkan countries had no alternative. “As President of the UN General Assembly, but also as the chief of Slovakia’s diplomacy (…) I had an opportunity to talk with political leaders of Western Balkan states and be assured that they are motivated and ready to tackle economic challenges, in order to create conditions to improve the standard of living of their citizens and make a step towards the EU. That is the winning formula for the region, and for all of us as well”.
Lajcak underlined that there could be no united Europe without Western Balkan countries being a part of it. “I believe that stronger and more concrete EU is necessity in the Western Balkans. That is actually the only way for European Union to remain competitive at the global scene (…) European values, freedoms, democracy and the rule of law are universal values, and open societies and open economies are model for Europe of the 21st century”, concluded Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He also noted that “harmonization of electoral legislation has to be priority on the agenda of political leaders” in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“They have to work faster because there is not much time left… I hope that the wisdom of political leaders in BiH and commitment to Europe will prevail over internal political disagreements”, Lajcak said, adding that failure to harmonize electoral legislation would “lead to political crisis with far-reaching consequences and make BiH even further away from obtaining the status of candidate (for membership in the EU)”.