Irish EU Presidency and IIEA host conference on Western Balkans24 May 2013
The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D. and the Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton T.D., together with the Institute of International and European Affairs, will host a high level conference in Farmleigh House today (24 May) assessing the progress made by the countries of the Western Balkans toward membership of the European Union.
The Conference takes place as part of Ireland’s six month Presidency of the EU and marks the 10th anniversary of the declaration made during the Thessaloniki European Council setting the ground for eventual EU membership by the countries of the Western Balkans.
The Conference will bring together over 100 leading politicians, senior officials, and experts on the region, including Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Vesna Pusić, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Croatia, Dr. Miroslav Lajčák, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia and Nicolai Poposki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Macedonia.
Commenting in advance of the Conference, the Tánaiste said:
“It’s clear that EU membership is the most positive force for stability and reform in the Western Balkans. Croatia will become the 28th Member State on 1 July. The Irish Presidency is committed to seeing progress in relation to other countries in the region and I expect further important decisions to be made at the European Council on 27 & 28 June.
The ten year anniversary of the EU-Western Balkans Summit is a timely point at which to assess the results of what was agreed in the Thessaloniki Agenda and to reflect on what more needs to be done.”
Speaking on the work of the Irish Presidency Minister Creighton said:
“Ireland is a supporter of enlargement. We have made enlargement one of our Presidency priorities. I was very much encouraged by the strong endorsement of this decision by Member States at the informal meeting of European Affairs Ministers which I chaired in Dublin in January.
We see the clear benefits of the policy. We have seen them for our own country, we have seen them for other Member States, and we see them for future member states.
There are those that argue that there should be a ‘pause’ in enlargement after Croatia's accession on the 1st of July. There are those who believe that the Union must spend some time looking inwards to resolve its current problems before it can begin to look outwards towards new members again.
Enlargement is an integral part of the Union. It has been part of its past and it will be part of its future.”