On 16 November, the LIBSEEN network met online ahead of the ALDE Council meeting to discuss political developments in Southeast Europe, in LIBSEEN and in the ALDE Party.
The meeting was opened by LIBSEEN Chair Roman Jakič, followed by a keynote delivered by ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen. In the keynote, he congratulated ALDE members Naša stranka and LDS for their success in last week’s local elections. Van Baalen also spoke about the impact of the US elections on transatlantic relations and how the ALDE Party has coped with the COVID-19 restrictions. Despite these restrictions to hold meetings or to travel, President van Baalen underlined that the ALDE Party has continued to maintain a key role in coordinating and managing relations in the European liberal family at all levels, from government leaders to national political parties and the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament.
ALDE Party Vice-President Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP introduced key European developments that impact the Western Balkan region and the enlargement policy in particular. Kyuchyuk highlighted that the EU is developing an economic and investment plan for the region that will tackle two of its most salient issues: poverty and brain drain. It will also create instruments to align the economic process of EU candidate countries to the major economic programmes, such as the European Green Deal and work on digitalisation. Kyuchyuk also expressed his disappointment on the reduced funding for the IPA instrument for the candidate countries and announced the publishing of draft country reports in December of this year.
Furthermore, LIBSEEN members presented and discussed relevant country developments. Jasmina Mršo (Naša stranka) and Hasib Salkić (LDS) presented the results of the local elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, calling them historic due to losses of nationalist parties across the country and in particular in Sarajevo. Meanwhile, there were movements towards unification and close partnership between centrist parties in Serbia (PSG and Nova stranka) and in Croatia (Pametno and Stranka s Imenom i Prezimenom).
Most of the discussion, however, focused on Bulgaria blocking the opening of EU-North Macedonia accession negotiations. Dejancho Cvetanovski (LDP) reported that another delay in progress of North Macedonia towards EU membership, results in EU-sceptic sentiment spreading in the society. Kyuchyuk and Stanislav Anastassov (MRF) said that the dispute has become an issue in internal Bulgarian politics, especially as a rallying cry of the right wing. Van Baalen reiterated the ALDE Party's support to EU enlargement and called for swift resolution of the dispute, offering mediation support to both sides.
“All liberal forces should and must support the countries of the Western Balkans and enhance the accession process to ensure that the enlargement of the Union continues in parallel with the discussions on the future of Europe and the internal reform of the EU. In that perspective we, liberals -as historical forerunners for Western Balkans countries accession ambitions - must unreservedly support ambition and dedication of the people of North Macedonia to be a full flagged member of EU,” said Chair Jakič on the issue.
During its EU Presidency Bulgaria made a priority of Balkan countries could join the EU and signed a treaty with North Macedonia to pave the way. Now PM Boyko Borissov blocks accession talks with MK which is inconsistent and unacceptable. @ALDEParty fully supports MK! 🇪🇺🇲🇰 https://t.co/1V8eFyqjib— Hans van Baalen (@hansvanbaalen) November 18, 2020