The European Parliament has appointed Croatian MEP Tonino Picula rapporteur on the new EU enlargement strategy, his office said on Sunday.
His task will be to formulate a proposal for the new enlargement strategy, which would then need to be adopted by the European Parliament and sent to the European Council, the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Picula said after his appointment that the proposal clearly emphasises the value of enlargement policy as a strategic investment in the security and prosperity of Europe, and that enlargement policy has already made a great contribution to restoring peace to areas previously affected by war.
He said that enlargement is the most effective EU foreign policy instrument and one of the Union’s most successful policies.
It is also important for Croatia, because as long as we do not have other EU members on our borders, we will not be able to make full use of the benefits of our membership, Picula said.
He said that enlargement is particularly important today, in the context of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, in order to give Ukraine and Moldova a membership perspective and provide fresh impetus to enlargement policy.
The prosperity and security of the European Union depends on its ability to defend democracy both inside and outside its borders, as well as human rights and the multilateral order based on clear rules, the Croatian MEP said.
Speaking of membership aspirants, Picula said the EU member states need to start delivering on their commitments to the candidates that meet the set criteria, and to avoid using unresolved bilateral disputes for blackmail and blocking the accession process.
Picula recommends speeding up the integration of countries that demonstrate commitment to the necessary reforms for EU membership, setting more transparent and consistent benchmarks, improving the measuring of progress and ensuring ongoing political and technical support throughout the accession process.
As regards Croatia’s neighbours, he requested that the achievements of Western Balkan countries be recognised by opening accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia and approving the liberalisation of the visa regime with Kosovo without delay.
He said that the EU should also help Bosnia and Herzegovina to get the status of membership candidate as soon as possible and to accelerate the accession process with Montenegro as the most advanced candidate.