Romania urges EU to start accession talks with Western Balkans countries

Romanian foreign minister Teodor Meleșcanu has urged the EU to press ahead with the start of accession talks with Western Balkans countries such as Albania during its Presidency.
Photo Credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

22 Jan 2019

Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Meleșcanu said the commencement of accession negotiations was directly linked to the EU’s “credibility.”

He told a policy briefing organised by the European Policy Centre that talks should start in a “reasonable” timeframe and that if that happened it would provide a “strong incentive” to Western Balkans countries to implement the reforms deemed necessary for possible future EU membership.

He explained that accession talks with Albania, for instance, could start as soon as June, during the Romanian presidency, but added that for some the countries in the region such as Serbia, the start of talks may have to wait slightly longer.


Meleșcanu spoke of the “positive” contribution the Western Balkans states might offer and said it was important for the EU to “deliver on its promises” to those countries in the region that want to join the 28-member bloc.

He said he hoped that “enlargement fatigue” would not deter such efforts, adding, “I hope this does not exhaust us all.”

“Romania has a very diverse and complicated near neighbourhood and it is important we do not give up on the road to peace.”

Romania took over the Presidency of the Council on 1 January and the minister said the next six months will be an opportunity for the country to advance EU foreign policy priorities.

“Romania has a very diverse and complicated near neighbourhood and it is important we do not give up on the road to peace” Teodor Meleșcanu

Romania, he noted, wants to see a more effective and efficient EU external action and, as part of that endeavour, is interested in promoting the strengthening of EU defence and security capabilities in a way that is fully consistent with NATO.

Located between the Western Balkans and the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood, Romania supports the EU’s enlargement process and an active EU neighbourhood policy.

This year, the EU and its partners will celebrate ten years since the launch of the Eastern Partnership and Romania aims to move the Black Sea region higher up the EU agenda, including through the reinvigoration of the Black Sea Synergy.

Bucharest is also interested in the consolidation of multilateral institutions and the modernisation of the multilateral trade system.

Meleșcanu told the conference that “cohesion” would be the keyword for Romania’s six-month EU Presidency, which he conceded would be “limited” due to the European elections in May.

While he made no direct reference to Brexit, he said, “The last thing the EU needs are for cracks in its construction.”

He outlined four objectives of the six-month term in office, including a “safer Europe” and a “stronger and more visible” EU.

Romania’s Presidency also comes at a key period in talks about the EU’s next long-term budget.

On this, he said, “The focus will be on efficiency - this will be at the top of our agenda.”

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