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EDP MEPs tell us why they chose to fight for Europe

"Languages, cultures, regional differences and local initiatives must be cherished because they are Europe’s strongest asset."

The future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union

Kotor IED
IED

At a seminar of the Institute of European Democrats (IED) in Kotor, Montenegro, I spoke on the topic "The Western Balkans-EU: (Is there a chance for) Multicultural European region with the horizon of integration in the EU?“

On the question of the perspective of the Western Balkans with and in the EU, the EU declaration from the 2003 summit in Thessaloniki still holds true: The future of the Western Balkan states lies in the European Union.

For me, Europe means diversity in unity, regionality and multiculturalism, small units in the great peace project of the EU. The frightening reality of a new war is a drastic reminder of the value of peace. Time and again, people have drawn healing consequences from wars and agreed new forms of political cooperation. The EU is one such consequence.

In the Western Balkans, important political processes are underway through economic integration; for example, the initiative to create a free economic zone and the Berlin Process since 2014. The EU also contributes to the maintenance of common cultural heritage, for example, with the Cultural Heritage Walk between Serbia, Montenegro and Northern Macedonia, which it finances.

This answers the question for me: A multicultural region with prospects for EU integration? Yes!

The development of the multicultural potential of this region is in the best European tradition and, in combination with economic, democratic and rule-of-law development, advances the process of rapprochement with the EU.

Integration through empowerment of women and young people

People are our greatest resource. Women and youth are important catalysts of integration and often guarantors of positive change. The share of women in decision-making processes is an important indicator of justice, democracy and progressiveness. Albania and northern Macedonia have come a long way in this regard.

Since 2005, there has been the Sarajevo Declaration for more gender equality in the Western Balkans. In 2013, the five Maghreb countries joined the declaration, followed by priorities, joint strategic planning and a paper for a Regional Action Plan for Gender Equality in 2014. In 2017, the Women's Political Network (WPN) was established in Montenegro. It is the result of a long-term process of political and social empowerment of women. In the WPN, women from 16 political parties have joined together in joint political action to improve the status of women in society and to improve the quota of women in decision-making positions. It is imperative to empower women in their political work, and so we will be holding discussions with participants and supporting them in their activities in the coming months.

Through the Young European Ambassadors from the Western Balkans program, sixty young people from this region are developing their European skills, networking and promoting our values. With this experience, they promote change in their home regions as well as in other EU countries. For the EU Commission, the young ambassadors are considered key elements of the positive change that is essential for accession.

In the case of Montenegro, all negotiating chapters for EU accession have been opened, but the process is currently not moving forward. The current political situation, still widespread corruption, Russian and Orthodox influence are just some of the difficulties.

Our common goal is clear: integration into the EU of all six Western Balkan countries. In the European Parliament, in September 2021, we adopted the new Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance for the period 2021-2027. With this, we are providing further funds to candidate countries and potential candidates to support political, institutional, social and economic reforms. It is a strong signal of the European Union's determination to proceed with the integration effort.