By Hajer M'tiri
STRASBOURG (AA) – The European Union must open up to accepting new members from the Western Balkans to avoid the return of war in the region, president of the European Commission said on Tuesday.
Speaking to the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker said: "I'm not naive, I know the difficulties. I know the efforts that the Western Balkan countries have to make. I know that there is a need to improve in some ways the performance of some of the Western Balkan countries.
"But if we remove from these countries, in this extremely complicated region …. we are going to live what we already went through in the 1990s."
"I do not want to see war returning to the Balkans and so we need to open up to them," he said.
French president Emmanuel Macron, who was outlining his EU reforms vision to MEPs, said that he will only be able to support more EU members when "our own Europe" has first been reformed.
"I don't want a Europe that, functioning with difficulty at 28 and tomorrow as 27, would decide that we can continue to gallop off, to be tomorrow 30 or 32, with the same rules.
"I would only be able to defend enlargement only after we deepen our Union," Macron said.
EU and Balkan leaders are set to meet in Bulgaria next month, but the EU is unlikely to invite any country to join soon.
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini set a target date of 2025 for the accession of Serbia and Montenegro — the two most advanced countries in the process — and for Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.