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External Relations - Enlargement
Western Balkans: European Perspective
The Council of the EU and the European Council have repeatedly confirmed that the Western Balkans have a clear European perspective that remains a key factor for stability, reconciliation and development in the region. The European perspective is the main incentive for the candidate countries to undertake continuous efforts toward domestic reforms, with the aim of adopting European standards and the Union’s common values, which are founded on peace, freedom, democracy, rule of law, tolerance, solidarity, and good neighbourly relations.
The EU accession perspective of the Western Balkans is a strategic choice for Greece. The countries of the Western Balkans must, of course, meet all of the Copenhagen criteria and the terms and conditions set by the Stability and Association Process and the Council’s related decisions, including, in particular, those pertaining to regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.
The common framework regulating the EU’s relations with the Western Balkan countries, until such time as they accede to the European Union, is the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP). The milestone Thessaloniki Agenda was adopted during the 2003 Hellenic Presidency of the EU. All of the countries of the Western Balkans are participating in the SAP and have each signed Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) with the EU. These are comprehensive agreements that include political and trade provisions. Notably, the trade provisions of each SAA constitute an interim agreement that does not require ratification by the national parliaments of the member states and enters into effect before ratification.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
A candidate country since December 2005, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has not begun accession negotiations. It signed the SAA in 2001, with said agreement going into effect in 2004, following ratification by the member states. Following Skopje’s taking of appropriate reform measures, the EU decided on 19 December 2009 to liberalize the visa regime for the country’s citizens.
Greece supports the accession course of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, having contributed actively to its promotion at many critical points. At the same time, Greece stresses the importance of compliance with the relevant conditions and prerequisites, with particular emphasis on respect for the principle of good neighbourly relations, including a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue, as well as compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria.
The Council of the EU had repeatedly stressed that the maintenance of good neighbourly relations, including a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue through negotiations under the auspices of the UN, remains essential.
A candidate country, Albania submitted an application for accession in 2009. Albania was declared a candidate for accession during the 2014 Hellenic Presidency, following the ratification by the European Council, on 26-27 June 2014, of the relevant General Affairs Council decision of 24 June 2014. Albania has signed an SAA, which went into effect in 2009. Following Tirana’s taking of appropriate reform measures, the EU decided on 15 December 2010 to liberalized the visa regime for Albanian citizens.
Greece supports Albania’s European perspective, stressing the importance of compliance with the relevant conditions and prerequisites, and putting particular emphasis on the Copenhagen political criteria.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
A potential candidate country that has yet to submit an application for accession to the EU, Bosnia-Herzegovina signed an SAA in 2008, and said SAA has been ratified by the member states, but not by the EU itself. The Interim Agreement went into effect in July 2008. Following Sarajevo’s taking of appropriate reform measures, the EU decided on 15 December 2010 to liberalize the visa regime for the country’s citizens.
Greece supports the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting the importance of completing the steps deemed necessary for the SAA’s going into effect and of further strengthening and promotion of the country’s relations with the European Union.
Kosovo (based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244)
Kosovo does not have the status of potential candidate country, given that its statehood is not recognized by all of the member states. However, all of the member states accept that it has a clear European perspective, “based on the European perspective of the whole Western Balkan region.” Moreover, it has completed negotiations with the EU on the conclusion of an SAA, which, however, is an EU-only agreement. The draft SAA was initialed in July 2014. The EU has taken specific initiatives aimed at strengthening Kosovo’s economic and political development.
Greece supports the European perspective and contributes to the adoption of practical measures for promoting relations with the EU and strengthening political and economic development, based on a neutral approach to Kosovo’s status.