The EU’s enlargement policy is an investment in peace, security and stability in Europe, by providing increased economic and trade opportunities to the mutual benefit of the EU and the aspiring Member States as well as by its general transformative effect on the countries concerned. In view of this, the rapporteur welcomes the Commission’s first overarching strategy and the possibility it offers for comparability in terms of consistent conditionality, clear methodology, harmonised terms and a better identification of tasks. The CoR opinion emphasises the visible progress in every enlargement country, but draws awareness to the fact that the enlargement process should be an inclusive exercise, involving all of society and that the involvement of the local and regional level is essential. With reference to financial aspects, the rapporteur calls for more effective and transparent use and allocation of EU pre-accession funds to avoid losing out on resources. Furthermore she highlights the need to counter radicalisation, extremism, terrorism and the issue of foreign fighters, calling upon local communities to support respective education. With the refugee crisis in mind, the rapporteur wants to encourage partnerships between local communities along the migration route in order to exchange information and best practice, including issues such as integration, training, education and employment.

A key precondition for the future enlargement is "tough love" - this is best both for the Union and the aspirant countries. “Friends of enlargement” within the EU know very well: enlargement can only happen on the basis of strict and fair criteria applied in a process of tough conditionality and subject to an enhanced verification procedure

Sandra Kalniete
Member of the European Parliament

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