The first session was dedicated to the global challenges for a resilient and influential Europe, during which the envoy of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman, addressed the participants.
At the beginning, Minister Grlić Radman presented the priorities of the Croatian Presidency of the EU Council, and then stressed that with a proactive common foreign and security, and economic policy the European Union can become more visible and influential on the global stage. Speaking about the enlargement policy, the Minister announced the EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb in May 2020 and called on the Member States to start negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
In the debate, members of parliament addressed many challenging issues in the field of EU’s foreign policy, such as the future cooperation with the United Kingdom, the EU’s foreign policy in Africa and relations with Russia and China. With regard to the current problem of external border protection, the Italian MPs called for solidarity among the participants and institutions in finding a solution to the issues of migration and protection of EU borders.
The participants of the debate agreed on the importance of the Common Foreign and Security Policy as a means to meet the challenges of a complex and unpredictable global environment. Some MPs called for understanding of those Member States that create their own migration policies, while others asked what the alternative to a common migration policy was. It was emphasized that Member States should jointly engage in addressing all threats at the Union's external borders.
The second session focused on a credible perspective for the Western Balkan countries.
Member of the European Parliament Tonino Picula stressed the importance of enlargement as a mutually beneficial process for both the candidate countries and the European Union. He emphasised the need for consistent application of the rules and criteria set by the European Union, and noted that the implementation of a new, improved Commission´s enlargement methodology would contribute to achieving the ultimate goal of full membership in the European Union. Democracy and the rule of law should be a priority for the enlargement process and candidate countries should be assessed on their individual merit. He referred to the financial dimension of a credible enlargement policy and underlined the importance of keeping the appropriate level of funding for the IPA III Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance.
MEP Željana Zovko stressed the importance of the Zagreb Summit with a view to giving a stronger impetus to the enlargement process and reiterated the need for joint action by the Member States towards the Western Balkans. She also highlighted that enlargement is in the interest of maintaining peace and stability in the region. She urged for the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
The Director for the Western Balkans in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Genoveva Ruiz Calavera presented the main points of the Communication on a credible European perspective for the Western Balkans, seeking to give fresh impetus to the overall accession process, increase credibility and trust on both sides and achieve better results in the field.
In the discussion, the participants of the Conference expressed their support to the opening of the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and emphasized that any further delay in opening the negotiations would compromise the overall reform process in these two countries.