In an interview with Euractiv, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi made the case for accelerating the enlargement process for the European Union:
The comments came after EU leaders in June granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, as a signal of solidarity in response to Russian aggression, and member states in July green-lighted the start of long-delayed accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
Commissioner Várhelyi specifically mentioned the western Balkans as a target of EU enlargement. The region must be integrated, he explained, to ensure that Europe can “enjoy security, stability, and prosperity.”
Negotiations for membership are expected to begin “immediately” with Albania, while North Macedonia first needs to make constitutional reforms. However, the process for both countries could be fast. Euractiv again:
“What is important is that if they deliver fast, we are ready to move fast as well … and since we are in charge now, finally, speed is going to be much, much different” [the commissioner] said, adding that the Commission had started the screening procedure right after member states gave the green light last week.
Commissioner Várhelyi also mentioned Serbia, a country with strong ties to Russia but one that the EU would like to have as an ‘ally.’
The EU’s renewed accession efforts on the Balkan come on the heels of a campaign by a number of organizations, funded partly by the U.S. government and with strong pro-EU positions, to advance so-called liberal values in western Balkan countries. Their campaign, centered around a common declaration of purpose and intent, is heavily critical of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s conservatism.