The Minister gave a press briefing for European journalists today following his participation in the General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 11 December.
David Lidington said:
“The UK remains a strong supporter of EU enlargement to all countries of the Western Balkans, Iceland and Turkey. I’ve just returned from the General Affairs Council in Brussels where I was pleased to have a long discussion on EU enlargement. Its conclusions make clear the EU’s continued support for enlargement. This is important, and a message that I hope will be heard clearly in the accession and pre-accession countries.
“Enlargement is good for the EU and one of the EU’s greatest achievements. The European Union, alongside NATO, has been an instrument of peace and reconciliation that has helped spread democracy and the rule of law across our continent, and helped make armed conflict between EU members unthinkable. At the same time an enlarged Single Market, another of the key success stories of the EU, has opened up prosperity and opportunity to hundreds of millions of people. An outward-looking approach and a continuing commitment to enlargement should be seen by all EU Member States as signs of strength and vigour.
“Enlargement is also good for wider security and prosperity across the continent. The accession of new Member States helps promote security, stability and prosperity across Europe, based on a firm foundation of democracy, human and civil rights, and respect for the law. The focus on good neighbourly relations is particularly important for a region such as the Western Balkans which saw conflict only two decades ago.
“It is a respect for this firm foundation and its benefits which drives the UK’s scrutiny of progress and focus on conditionality. So the UK is clear that there will be no pause after Croatia’s accession. But equally there will be no movement without progress on the ground.
“The Foreign Secretary visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo in October. He set out clearly the UK’s support for each country’s EU future. But he stressed to the political leaders that they needed to take the necessary steps to deliver. I hope political leaders in all of the aspiring countries will do so and that we will see further progress being made towards the EU early next year.
“And the UK remains committed to Turkey’s EU membership. We strongly believe that this would contribute to Europe’s prosperity and security, and the EU remains the strongest lever for reform in Turkey. We are focused on making real progress on the accession process in 2013 and we fully support the Irish Presidency in their desire to open a new acquis Chapter during their Presidency.”
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