At its June 2003 summit in Thessaloniki the EU Heads of State and Government promised a ‘European perspective’ to the countries of the Western Balkans and clearly stated that “the future of the Balkans is within the European Union”.
The EU needs an active enlargement strategy that keeps the enlargement countries firmly engaged and promotes and strengthens the accession process in the Western Balkans, particularly if it wants to maintain its influence over the democratisation and stabilisation process. Russia and Turkey already play a certain role in the region, a concern that is regularly underlined by S&D counterparts in the Western Balkan countries, especially in Serbia, BiH and Kosovo. However, this requires measures that convince Western Balkans’ governments and societies of the political and economic benefit of European integration. At the same time, and as highlighted in former S&D MEP Maria Eleni Koppa’s 2012 report on enlargement, these measures will have to contribute towards creating not only the political but also the economic and social conditions for EU accession.