Public Debate: Rethinking Enlargement? The Impact of Turkey’s EU Integration Process on the Western Balkans

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On Tuesday, 7th of April, The Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN) together with the European Policy Institute – Skopje organized the public debate “Rethinking enlargement: The impact of Turkey’s EU integration process on the Western Balkans”. The workshop was part of the FP7 project BCSDN is partner in – “Maximizing the integration capacity of the European Union: Lessons and prospects for enlargement and beyond” (MAXCAP).

The workshop was opened by BCSDN’s Executive Director, Ms. Tanja Hafner Ademi who presented the MAXCAP project, its aims and implemented and future activities. Mr. Robert Liddell, Head of Section for Political and Justice and Home Affairs Issues at the Delegation of the European Union in Macedonia gave opening remarks to the discussion, announcing that the European Commission (EC) is introducing some novelties in following the progress of the enlargement countries that will allow for a better comparative assessment of the progress towards each country’s membership in the EU.

The main speakers on the discussion were the extinguished professor Dr. Meltem Müftüler-Bac, form one of the partners in the MAXCAP project – The Sabanci University in Istanbul and Dr. Malinka Ristevska Jordanova – the Director of EPI.

Prof. Müftüler-Bac gave an interesting overview on the expected global geo-political change and the challenges lying ahead for the European Union, and how this affects the Turkey’s strategic position for EU membership. At the same time, putting in into the perspective of the EU enlargement process, she pointed how some of the precedents made in regards to the EU integration process especially with Turkey and Macedonia have resulted with evident decline of EU’s leverage and its transformative power in both countries. Finally, she highlighted that even though Turkey does not depend on the EU integration process economically (unlike Macedonia), the EU integration is important because it provides a strong drive for democratization particularly in the field of rule of law and fundamental rights.

Dr. Malinka Ristevska Jordanova continued the discussion pointing that, while EU’s political and institutional mechanisms make the EU accession process at times seem arbitrary and unfair, the EU is not the only one to be blamed for the stalemate in the integration process, especially when it comes to Macedonia. Noting that a “time of crisis is time for change” she said the state of limbo in which Macedonia finds itself has to be overcome by showing genuine political will and true commitment to the EU integration process.

Interesting discussion followed with the participants among which were MP and representatives of the technical staff of Macedonian Assembly, representatives of individual ministries and of civil society organizations.

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