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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article15 November 2021Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Remarks by Commissioner Várhelyi upon arrival at the Foreign Affairs Council/Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting

Olivér Várhelyi

Brussels, 15 November 2021

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Good morning,
Today is a very busy day, we will discuss with the Foreign Ministers of the EU our relationship with the Western Balkans. As you know, the Western Balkans is not only about enlargement, but also how to associate the partners with our foreign policy objectives even more.

This is a very important discussion, but of course we have to move on with the enlargement policy which is our strongest tool. For that reason, after the elections in Bulgaria and North Macedonia we do hope to see quick progress on the ground.

On our part we are ready to pick up the work very, very quickly, also to finalise the still outstanding issue of having the first Intergovernmental Conference with North Macedonia and Albania still this year.

Of course, the other big element and policy tool that we have is the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which we need to work on to have it implemented as fast as possible.

Today’s meeting is also about meeting our Eastern Partner countries, with whom we will also have a Summit on 15 December.

We do hope that we have also a meaningful package put together for that Summit to contribute to the economic recovery after the COVID-19 crisis, but it goes hand in hand with reforms to fight corruption, organised crime and to promote the rule of law.

The big topic of discussions is related to Belarus and there we stand by Poland and we condemn the weaponising of migrants against the EU and its Member States. It is an attack on all of us.

The Belarusian authorities should immediately act to de-escalate. Today we are going to adopt additional measures against the Belarusian authorities to make the point very clear.

And thirdly, I have also some good news when it comes to fighting the COVID-19 crisis. Today the Commission will adopt the equivalence decisions for COVID-19 certificates for Moldova, Georgia and Serbia, meaning that travel will be much easier for the citizens of these countries, but also for European citizens.

We are also ready to help the Belarusian people: we stand by them in the fight against the COVID pandemic and this is why I had close discussions with the leader of the opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, last Friday.

Thank you very much!