EU enlargement must happen in tandem with EU reform

Written by Ilhan Kyuchyuk on 6 May 2020 in Opinion

The prospect of EU membership has been a driver for reforms in Western Balkan countries, now we must ensure that the enlargement process goes hand in hand with the reform of the EU, writes Ilhan Kyuchyuk.

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Last month, Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs voted, with a strong majority in favour, of a report on the European Parliament’s recommendation on Western Balkans enlargement.

That report was adopted following the revised enlargement methodology published by the European Commission in February – aimed at giving new impetus, predictability and dynamism to the enlargement process - provided sufficient assurance to hesitant Member States that their concerns were being taken into account.

This led to the Council of Ministers’ decision to give Albania and North Macedonia a green light on opening accession negotiations.


Parliament’s report underlines that enlargement has been one of the EU’s most successful policies, contributing to extending democracy, peace and prosperity across Europe, and that the prospect of EU membership has been a driver for reforms in the Western Balkans.

The recommendations insist that the EU must provide clear and consistent accession benchmarks, continued support and improved progress measuring throughout the process.

The report further stresses the need to improve coherence between the enlargement process and political developments in the EU, to encourage gradual participation in EU programmes prior to accession and to engage those countries in the Conference for the Future of Europe.

“Enlargement has been one of the EU’s most successful policies contributing to extending democracy, peace and prosperity across Europe”

My political group, Renew Europe, strongly believes that the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans has been a success story. The reform of the EU can - and should - go hand in hand with the enlargement process, and this recommendation sends a clear message of support to Western Balkan countries.

Particularly now, when Europe and the world are facing constraints from the unprecedented crisis of the Coronavirus pandemic, we are showing our openness towards the region.

Our goal is to ensure that the enhanced methodology sets clear, more predictable rules and criteria and applies them consistently and that this leads to fully-fledged EU membership as the final goal.

By endorsing the revised methodology and by supporting the Council decision to open accession negotiations with both Albania and North Macedonia, the European Parliament has once again shows its commitment to the region.

About the author

Ilhan Kyuchyuk (BG, RE) is rapporteur on Parliament’s North Macedonia annual progress report 2019

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