European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday presented a new initiative for the Western Balkans aimed at making the countries there feel the benefits of EU membership already today.
“We… want to bring some of the benefits of EU membership to the people of the Western Balkans already today,” she said at the GLOBSEC international security forum in Bratislava.
This concerns a growth plan built on four pillars, von der Leyen said: “First, to bring the Western Balkans closer to the EU Single Market. Second, to deepen regional economic integration. Third, to accelerate fundamental reforms. And fourth, to increase pre-accession funds.”
“We do not only ask our partners to take new steps towards us. We also take a big step towards them. Our shared goal is to speed up their journey towards the EU. And for this, we bring our Union closer to the Western Balkans,” she said.
Speaking of the first pillar of the new approach to the Western Balkans, von der Leyen said that for “all countries that joined the EU in the last two decades, access to the Single Market has been the main driver of economic growth. But countries that are already on a promising EU path should also benefit from our Single Market.”
As examples, she mentioned access to the Digital Single Market in areas such as e-commerce or cybersecurity.
“I want our Single Market to be a driver of change, not only for countries that have already joined the family but also for those that are still on their way,” von der Leyen said.