Speech on the March Plenary

Speech on the March Plenary

2012. 03. 13.

With the acceptance of Serbia’s candidacy, that particular canard has been laid to rest. Serbia can now be regarded as having returned to the European family. This has its long term significance – after all, stability in South-Eastern Europe is inconceivable without Serbia. And stability here has to extend to all policy areas, notably criminality; without Serbia’s full commitment in the fight against organised crime, the Balkans would continue to constitute an easy prey for transnational mafias.

 But the step in question has a second, possibly greater significance. It makes it clear that EU enlargement, though moving forward only slowly, has not stalled. This obviously has implications for the rest of South-Eastern Europe.

 What is equally noteworthy is that despite the economic crisis, the EU continues its commitment to enhancing the stability of its neighbourhood, relying on soft power to achieve this aim. The encouragement to the countries of the Eastern Partnership and the planned elaboration of a road map are evidently steps in the direction of ensuring that objective.

All these strategies and policy objectives, however, depend on overcoming the long drawn-out economic crisis, the central concern of the summit. Here the decisions point in the right direction, and it is absolutely crucial that fiscal discipline goes hand-in-hand with a recognition of the importance of economic growth. In the absence of this, the EU will find itself much less attractive and with much reduced soft power.