Minister highlights unanimity on EU enlargement principles

European Union – Enlargement – Statement by Mme Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, following the General Affairs Council

Brussels, 19 November 2019

THE MINISTER – We’ve just finished this General Affairs Council day. A lot of discussions on the rule of law, on the European budget, on the European Council in December and, just now, on enlargement. What’s very interesting is that we’ve just achieved unanimity, in a very peaceful, very unified discussion about the need to reiterate a number of principles.

First of all, the fact that the Western Balkans’ future in Europe isn’t being called into question: it’s desired, it’s upheld and it’s a starting point we all agree on.

The second principle on which there’s unity is the formal request by the member states, the Council, to see the Commission working by January 2020 on proposals to improve the negotiation process, to make it more effective, more transparent, more concrete, and the proposals we made regarding principles were therefore picked up as work for the Commission. It now has the responsibility of carrying out the technical analyses and creating a proposal that is balanced, but this is a common message from all the member states today to ensure the Commission can work to that end.

Another common message is that we’re asking the countries in the region to continue reforms – all this must take place in parallel: reforms in the region, reforms of the process itself – and then [we must] prepare ourselves collectively to have – as was said at the European Council – discussions next spring, in 2020, which can be held also on the basis – this is what was requested, for us to have a formal update from the Commission on the reforms carried out in North Macedonia and Albania, for us to have a new formal update in 2020.

I note that a month ago people were talking about a divided Europe and a debate where we had a veto. What I hear today is that there are indeed, as I said on leaving the Council a month ago, several positions, but unanimity and collective work and a unified message on the points I’ve just returned to.

Q. – On the proposals France has made, is this something that should also be applied to the countries which are already negotiating, like Serbia and Montenegro?

THE MINISTER – That’s what we must work on. I think the countries could be interested if this new methodology is proposed by the Commission. I think the current countries, Serbia and Montenegro in particular, could want to enter into this process. The decision is up to them, the decision must be taken with the Commission. It’s a little early to ask them, because we have no formal mandate on the table. But once the Commission has been able to make its proposals, I think there will be room for discussing this with them. It’s their choice and it must be based on a real proposal, not just what we’ve put on the table today, which is a political proposal regarding principles but which has now been formally submitted to the Commission so that it can work between now and January 2020. Thank you./.

Published on 21/11/2019

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