The rapporteur welcomes the Bulgarian Presidency’s choice to make the Western Balkans a priority and as well as the strategy for A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans, which was presented by the European Commission on 6 February.

Stressing the role of local and regional authorities in the enlargement process, the rapporteur notes with concern that in most Balkan countries public administration at all levels of government, particularly local self-government, remains weak, with limited administrative capacity, a high degree of politicisation and corruption, a lack of transparency and few financial resources and stresses that the functioning of democratic institutions should be strengthened at regional and local level in particular. At the same time, the rapporteur believes that regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations between the countries of the Western Balkans are key prerequisites for European progress and new economic opportunities. Indeed, he stresses that macro-regional strategies (MRSs) and other EU instruments for cross-border cooperation such as EGTCs and Interreg programmes are essential building blocks for the future of the EU, noting that the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) can provide a major opportunity for the whole region. He concludes by calling on those Western Balkan countries that are not currently participating in macro-regional programmes, including also the Danube Region strategy and the Balkan-Mediterranean programme, to get involved without delay.

The appointment of the rapporteur general, Mr Franz Schausberger (AT/EPP), was triggered by a referral received from the Bulgarian Presidency, in view of a CoR contribution to the Western Balkans Summit on 17 May 2018 in Sofia. The Bulgarian Presidency observes that the great majority of EU documents do not pay sufficient attention to LRAs. Overall, the further inclusion of the Western Balkans in the process of European integration remains an open issue, necessitating a much clearer view about the potential of LRAs from this region and in neighbouring countries, to step up this process. Consequently, a key objective would be to establish the state of readiness of the LRAs in Enlargement countries to participate in the process of EU enlargement and to engage in various cross-border and regional initiatives.

Adoption timetable:

  • 1st Exchange of views in CIVEX on 06 February 2018
  • Final adoption in Plenary session of March 2018

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