Monday, January 28, 2008


LONDON, UK (January 28,2008) - The Balkans have a chance to achieve stability and prosperity and the European Union can use the carrot of membership to drive reforms, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

In a comment piece for the British daily the Guardian. , Rehn acknowledged there was a "danger of instability, at the moment when Kosovo's future status is on the point of being resolved," but added that the EU could be a stabilising influence.

Writing ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels later today, Rehn said that the 27-nation bloc could have a positive influence "if the EU gives a decisive and unified steer to ensure a coordinated response, as foreign ministers meeting today should be aware."

"The western Balkans has made steady if uneven progress over recent years, and the goal of EU membership remains an important motivation to keep reforms on track," he said.

Rehn wrote that he hoped to see all of the countries in the region sign stabilisation and association agreements with the EU, which he described as "the gateway towards candidacy for membership".

Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia have all signed such pacts, and Rehn said the EU was "now waiting for Bosnia and for the genocidal Serbia to meet the remaining conditions to sign the agreement.

He added that "EU foreign ministers should today give a strong signal of Serbia's European future by deciding to sign the stabilisation and association agreement shortly."

"Seldom have citizens had as clear a choice as the Serbs do now, between a nationalist past and a European future. The EU is ready to welcome the citizens of Serbia into EU, not just through a contractual relationship with their state, but also individually," he said.

"The future for the Balkans can be far from dark. ... But ultimately people in the region have to exercise their democratic choice to determine their countries' future course," Rehn concluded.

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