Parallel to this event, France was hosting the European Council, closing its Presidency over the institution. As an outcome of this session, the public awaited the decision on the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova, as well as potential decisions on the Western Balkans countries already in the EU Enlargement Process. While the majority opinion ahead of the Council was in favor of candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, many, including the FES SOE and the newly established social-democratic network Friends of the Western Balkans, urged the EU leadership to use this opportunity to take decisive action to bring back the credibility of the enlargement process to the Western Balkans.
The Western Balkans Manifesto on the Future of Europe shows a perspective from the region on how the Enlargement Process could be re-vitalized to the benefit of the region and the EU. Focusing on the constructive, mutually beneficial vision of Europe, there is a possibility of returning the credibility and the enthusiasm for the European project, especially in the region. Donika Emini and Anida Šabanović, two out of twelve facilitators that have helped pool citizen and civil society vision of Europe into the Manifesto, presented main points, especially from the perspective of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina as to why a more proactive approach from the EU leadership is necessary and what could these countries do in return. Alongside them, Ditmir Bushati and Selma Šehović also contributed to the debate. The discussion itself was held under Chatham House rules and reflected on the realities of the debate on enlargement today, and what needs to be done to bring back the credibility and the momentum to this process – and most importantly – why we should do that.
While the consequent decision of the European Council did not give the Western Balkans the attention that the FES SOE has advocated for, the purpose of the Manifesto and the FES SOE commitment is to think beyond the current stagnancy and a single EC decision. The Manifesto shares a Western Balkans vision of Europe as a region that already belongs to Europe and will eventually become a part of the European Union.
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