Europe and the countries of the Western Balkans are together facing unprecedented financial and social changes but this actually increases the need for EU Enlargement to progress, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur Richard Howitt MEP told Ministers of EU Integration from across the region Monday in Skopje.
Richard Howitt MEP speaking as the European Parliament Rapporteur told the Ministers of EU Integration from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Albania, Kosovo, Croatia and Montenegro hosted in Skopje by Prime Minister Greuvski and Deputy Prime Minister Arifi that their reforming work is paying off.
“Although the journey towards EU accession can be a long and difficult one, it is a journey that can and will come to an end, and the destination reached,” Howitt said, adding that “loss of momentum would always be a huge threat to the process as a whole. The danger is there. But it is one in the European Parliament which we are determined to avoid.”
In the week after the European Commission published its Annual Progress Report for the individual countries of the region, Richard Howitt MEP highlighted the shared challenges that the region and the EU as a whole have faced together.
“Your countries cannot be immune from the economic crisis any more than any of ours can…. yet the best and most persuasive case for EU accession itself remains the economic one. Annual growth rates for the accession countries after 2004 nearly doubled whilst their relative wealth compared with western Europe had an immediate 10 per cent boost,” Howitt said.
“The extra trade generated has benefitted us all. Today we should argue that the prospect of and progress with enlargement to include the countries of the Western Balkans could be an essential part of Europe’s recovery strategy, at this time of crisis,” Howitt added.