The enlargement of the European Union to include the countries of the Western Balkans is a complex process that will take a long time, but until then, Brussels should offer the region the prospect of membership in the Schengen Area, stated Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia.
“Why aren’t we talking about Schengen? The enlargement of Schengen is much easier than the enlargement of the European Union,” said Babiš, who participated in the conference in a panel of leaders entitled “Future of Europe – To Stand and Withstand”.
In his speech at the forum, the head of the Hungarian government, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, also spoke in favor of Serbia’s accession to the EU, calling Serbia a key state.
Members of the Schengen Area enjoy visa-free travel between member states.
According to Babiš, the enlargement of the Schengen Area would significantly help to stop illegal migration. He also reiterated that in addition to the EU member states of Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania, that Serbia should also be admitted to the Schengen Area.
However, Babiš is not in general optimistic about the Schengen Area as, last week, he stated it is not working. When asked if he had to pick between the state and Schengen borders, he replied that he would choose the state borders.
Moreover, Babiš considers it “absurd” that, for example, Bulgaria has been waiting for ten years to be included in Schengen, “while guarding the border better” than some Schengen countries.
“For the sake of Europe’s security, we should also include the countries of the Western Balkans in Schengen if they meet the conditions. First should be Serbia, as it is on the route of illegal migration and is actively fighting against it,” the head of the Czech government told reporters after the negotiations.
“Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has promised to propose this as a topic for discussion at the next informal European Council meeting on October 6,” Babiš added.
Slovenia currently holds the presidency of the EU Council, and its priority is the enlargement of the EU to include the Western Balkans.
Babiš spoke at a debate in which European leaders discussed, among other things, the EU’s migration policy.
“Europe should be a strong economic and military force. We have to define the territory and be strong because we have strong rivals,” he answered the host’s question regarding what the future of Europe should look like.
The Bled Strategic Forum, held annually since 2009, is characterized by its organizers as a major international conference in Central and Southeastern Europe, which offers a platform for expressing and comparing views on modern society and its future.
The purpose is to enable participants to exchange views and seek innovative solutions to current and future challenges, as well as to facilitate contacts with regional and global actors.