Speaking after co-hosting a summit of Western Balkans leaders in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia on March 1, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he would be returning to Brussels even more convinced that the place of the Western Balkans countries was in the EU.
Juncker reiterated the possibility of Western Balkans countries becoming EU members in 2025, but added that “not that I want to offend anyone” but at this stage, none of the countries met the conditions to do so.
He said that this was so, while there had been a lot of progress towards readiness for EU accession.
Juncker said that the EU remained strongly committed to the European prospects of its partners in the Western Balkans.
He noted that in Sofia in May 2018, there would be an EU-Western Balkans summit. The main theme would be not the accession of the countries of the region to the EU, but migration issues and the economic situation of the region.
Juncker expressed his expectation that the Western Balkans summit in Sofia would see clarity on the work that would be done so that a region, so important for Europe, would improve its connectivity.
Joining the EU was not a dream, it is something that could be achieved, he said, adding that no concessions could be made on the criteria for accession.
Juncker described the results of Bulgaria’s rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU so far as “very good”. He hinted that the media was failing to take cognisance of this.
He noted that the European Council, Commission and the Presidency had, in the early hours, reached agreement on the directive on posted workers, while progress was being made on the reform of the Dublin Agreement, which governs the handling of refugees received in EU countries.
Juncker’s statements in Sofia, made at a briefing along with his co-host of the meeting, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, came at the close of a seven-day tour of the countries of the Western Balkans, undertaken in the light of the European Commission’s strategy for the Western Balkans.
During their March 1 visit to Sofia, individual talks were held between each of the leaders of the Western Balkans countries and Borissov.