Margot Wallström har entledigats, utrikesminister


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Tal av utrikesminister Margot Wallström vid seminarium på Europahuset om Västra Balkan och EU:s utvidgning


Europahuset, 18 december 2015. "EU integration of the Western Balkans: Mission to be accomplished".

Det talade ordet gäller.

Ministers, Ambassadors, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Warmly welcome to Stockholm and to this important discussion on the EU integration of the Western Balkans.

Sweden has always been a strong proponent of deepened democratic and economic reform through EU enlargement.

This line enjoys wide parliamentary and public support.

My late colleague and dear friend Anna Lindh was, as Swedish Foreign Minister, guided by the insight that enlargement matters. She once said:

"Enlargement will add political weight to the Union.
Enlargement will add cultural richness and diversity.
On enlargement, the European Union will not become less European, it will become more European."

In highlighting that enlargement makes the EU more European, this definition reminds us of the important cultural contributions of the countries of the Western Balkans.

Today, the diaspora in Sweden of people born in your countries is significant, roughly 160 000 people.

They have integrated successfully into Swedish society, bringing the Balkans closer to Sweden and Sweden closer to the Balkans.

This also proves an understanding of Europe as defined by cooperation rather than by conflict.

And perhaps most fundamentally, as defined by values.

Sweden's enlargement policy is based on Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union.

Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 of the Treaty and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union.

Let me read these fundamental values in Article 2 to you all: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

* * *

During its EU presidency in 2001, Sweden played an important role in resolving the conflict in Macedonia.

The successful experiences in Macedonia, but also the failure of common action in Bosnia and Herzegovina, were important impulses for the creation of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Insights and lessons learned also showed that the only way to achieve peace and development in the Balkans was by giving unequivocal support to the European perspective for the Western Balkan countries.

This was later acknowledged in the Thessaloniki Agenda in 2003.

Croatia joined the Union in 2013.

Now, many of us are restless to make more progress in the Union.

At the same time, enlargement has always been controversial.

In 1989, Europe was divided.

When Sweden became a member of the EU twenty years ago, the issue of membership of the Baltic States and the states in Eastern Europe was not at all given.

The power of transformation in Eastern Europe came from the citizens' will to live in peaceful and democratic societies, a force that was channelled via the EU enlargement process.

Let this achievement remind us that the historic mission to bring stability, democracy and prosperity to the continent is not yet finished and must continue in the Western Balkans.

My vision is the following:

The question of EU membership for the Western Balkans twenty years from now will be as self-evident as it is for the Baltic States and Poland today.

* * *

Everyone in this room – Member States, Commission and enlargement countries – has key tasks and responsibilities in advancing and fulfilling the integration process in Europe.

The refugee crisis reminds us that the Western Balkans cannot be isolated from Europe.

It also reminds us that the EU process with these countries has proved to be central in addressing challenges related to the Western Balkan refugee route.

However, we must not be complacent, or confuse political stagnation with stability.

Only through dynamic EU integration processes can we build lasting stability.

Commitment needs to be shown by all EU Member States.

This commitment must bring all enlargement countries into meaningful processes towards EU integration during this Commission's mandate.

Individual Member States cannot use bilateral issues to block progress.

The pace of progress on EU integration should be based solely on the merits of reforms and EU alignment.

This is how we guarantee the credibility of a process that has been so successful thus far.

Strict, but fair conditionality.

The EU Commission is the key driver of the process.

We need engagement, commitment and leadership on a high political level, with accompanying resources.

Commissioner Hahn's work in Macedonia recently has shown just how important EU engagement is for the region.

However, and most importantly:

The enlargement countries, on their part, also need to show stronger determination in addressing the key challenges they face.

Just as rule of law, fundamental rights and economic development are at the heart of the Union itself, it is natural that they are now also central to your countries' accession process.

There are major challenges in respect of the rule of law, fundamental freedoms – such as freedom of expression – and organised crime and corruption.

For all of the countries in the Western Balkans, serious efforts are still needed in these areas on your path towards the EU.

* * *

Dear friends,

We need to address common challenges to the EU's fundamental values.

The act of aggression that Russia has committed against Ukraine is the greatest challenge to European peace and security since the end of the Cold War.

It is at times when our fundamental values are increasingly contested that we need to be even stronger and firmer in our joint commitment to stand up for them.

The EU needs to provide the Western Balkans with a clear path towards membership and to our community of shared values.

New, objective annual country reports add to the credibility of the process.

With harmonised evaluation scales between countries, we are making the integration process more credible, more transparent, and we are adding greater political accountability.

Hopefully, this will also generate more interest among the general public.

Because at the end of the day it is the citizens who reap the benefits of EU membership.

The European Union is and must always be about its citizens.

* * *

In the enlargement process, each country is judged on the basis of its own merits.

However, the ability to cooperate and become reconciled regionally is what builds you a better future.

Therefore, strengthening regional cooperation is of tremendous value.

Much progress has been made over the past two years in the normalisation between Serbia and Kosovo, and in improved relations between Belgrade and Tirana.

Here, the High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission has played and needs to continue to play a key role.

The initiative for this seminar came jointly from the Western Balkan ambassadors to Stockholm – an admirable gesture.

An essential reason for Nordic prosperity is our peaceful neighbourly relations.

Throughout history, we have alternated between cooperating in unions and fighting wars with each other.

Just like the countries of the Western Balkans, the Nordic countries are similar to each other, yet unique.

Our formalised cooperation is one of the oldest and most far-reaching regional cooperation arrangements in the world.

It is built on common values and a will to achieve results that contribute to dynamic development.

But more importantly, individuals working together, civil society, universities and NGOs have helped strengthen the bonds between our countries.

At the same time, I am aware of the challenges of confronting the recent history of war in the Balkans.

I visited Srebrenica this past summer for the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the genocide.

I have also met some of the women who were victims of systematic rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Security Council resolution 1325 and the principle of Responsibility to Protect are important tools developed through painful lessons of history.

However, to achieve peace and true reconciliation, we also need to bring to justice those who committed these horrible crimes.

We owe it to the victims of those atrocities to never forget.

Only in this way can we build true reconciliation.

* * *

Dear friends,

Many people have asked for 'more' Europe in response to the challenges that are arising.

As a former member of the Commission, I find this to be a very interesting debate.

In many instances 'more' Europe will certainly be needed.

But in addition to this, we also need to consider a 'better' Europe.

A Europe that is fit to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

If we have learned anything from the history of our shared continent, it is that European integration has ended conflicts and wars, brought peace and prosperity, and taught large and small countries to live and work together.

This is, if we pause for a moment and think about Europe's history of wars and killing fields, nothing short of a truly remarkable achievement.

I have described this European path in the following way: bloodshed on the battlefield is replaced with patience at the negotiating table.

Therefore, keeping the door to Europe open for countries aspiring to join is not just a matter of strategic interest for the EU.

It is also a responsibility for the European Union as a whole.

And therefore it is, first and foremost, a responsibility with regard to all the people living in Europe.

Thank you.