The draft of the new seven-year budget of the European Union, covering the period from 2021 to 2027, was proposed only a few months after the adoption of the enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans, but although the author of the both documents is the same – that is the European Commission – they are not completely in agreement.
In the strategy called the “A credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans and greater engagement of the EU in the region”, adopted at the beginning of February, the year 2025 was mentioned as an “indicative date” for the accession of Serbia and Montenegro, which have made the most progress in the European integration process. However, in the draft of the new budget, the item EU enlargement simply does not exist. However, officials from Serbia and Brussels claim there is no place for concern.
Conspicuously, the funds for the EU hopefuls are called “Pre-accession assistance”, the previous term “enlargement” appearing not once in the 31-page Communication.
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“The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance will support candidate countries and potential candidates on their path to fulfilling the accession criteria. It will moreover contribute to the achievement of broader European objectives of ensuring stability, security and prosperity in the immediate neighbourhood of the Union. It will also be positioned in the context of the Western Balkans Strategy and will reflect the developments in relations with Turkey,” is the only text in the Communication concerning the EU hopefuls.
Serbian Minister for European Integration, Jadranka Joksimovic explains why the new budget does not envisage a specific section for a new enlargement by saying that no candidate country is currently facing an immediate EU accession.
“This means that if one of the candidate countries, for example Serbia, is ready for the membership, its accession will nevertheless be enabled, because the Lisbon Treaty defines mechanisms to allocate funds so that a new EU member state can access all EU programs as a full-fledged member”, the minister said, adding that that was the case with Croatia in 2013. Although, back then, the EU budget did not envisage enlargement, the funds for it had been momentarily allocated nevertheless.
However, for the period 2021-2027, the budget allocates EUR 12.865 EUR to IPA funds (pre-accession assistance), i.e. 14.5 billion, adjusted to the inflatory expectations.
“The IPA will support candidate countries and potential candidates on their way to meeting the membership criteria and will also contribute to achieving wider European goals of ensuring stability, security and prosperity in the immediate neighborhood of the Union,” the EU document said.
Otherwise, for Serbia, a total of 1.5 billion has been allocated to Serbia from the EU pre-accession funds for the current budget for the period of 2014-2020.
In the EC’s document, the IPA will be positioned in the new budget in the context of the strategy for the Western Balkans and will reflect the development of relations with Turkey.
The EU enlargement strategy, which was unveiled in February, states that in 2025, the EU could have more than 27 members, with Montenegro and Serbia cited as the leading contenders for the EU membership.
(Politika, N1, 03.05.2018)
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