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Discussion with Dr. Eduard Kukan (MEP, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs) on Parliamentary Diplomacy: Its Role in EU External Relations, Cases from Western Balkansat Brussels, Belgium by GlobalLearning

Doctor Kukan is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and a member of the European Parliament. He is also the longest serving Foreign Minister for Slovakia. The European Union is the most valuable project in European history. After the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament increased its power and can shape affairs with its proposals. European external service and the European Parliament are playing important roles for in-accession and pre-accession of countries.

Enlargement of the EU will continue and the European Union is considering countries from the former Yugoslavia, because they have made enormous progress in recent times. In the case of Kosovo, we have a country that is still not fully independent but, according to Dr. Kukan, may become a full member in the future. The relationship of the EU with Belarus is on a higher level than ever before, but it is still not realistic to suppose that it will soon become a European member state; however, there is a strong possibility that it could at some point in the future. Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey have already entered into the negotiation process; it will take at least eight to ten years for them to join to the EU, owing to the fact that, especially in Serbia, there are groups active who are aligned with Daesh (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), while Turkey still has unresolved question concerning minorities, including clashes between their citizens and the Kurdish minority.

,,Albania has to resolve its current political clashes and then apply for membership”

Many members across the European Parliament claim that there is no place for Turkey in the union, but it is surely incumbent on us to make a resolution on this and inform them, rather than negotiating with them over and over again. When a country applies for membership of the EU, the rules have to be the same for everybody, rather than the situation we have in Turkey’s case.

There is in place a process of European parliament diplomacy, in which it typically takes around eight attempts to come to a common agreement on a proposal. Regarding the European Union’s sanctions on the Russian Federation, all of the decisions were made in the European Council, in which body there must be agreement from every EU country on continuing sanctions. As has emerged, sanctions against Russia will continue for at least one more year. The Russian Federation has shown some willingness to cooperate, although the reasons why the sanctions were created still remain. Dr Kukan thinks that the Federation will survive, but that the oligarchs will be hurt very deeply by the sanctions. However, it must be noted at the same time that Italy, France and Germany are hurt more than Russia by the European sanctions.

Regarding the Visegrad group, there is a successful movement countering some of the negative opinions harboured against the European Union, but only at an oversimplified level which cannot be sustained for the long term. The Russian Federation wants to gain a presence in the Western Balkans, and Serbia is clearly cooperating with them because they want to be on the best possible terms not only with the European Union, but with Russia, their traditional ally, at the same time. It is imperative for the European Union to cooperate with Russia and Turkey rather than picking fights with them.