The new European Union enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, who will be in charge of the Western Balkans - Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro - took up office on Monday, the European Commission Delegation in Zagreb said in a press release.#L# Assuming the post, Rehn said that apart from the Stabilisation and Association process (SAp), the Western Balkan countries were given clear European prospects. He said the numerous challenges specific for the Western Balkans should be solved within the SAp, and that progress towards EU entry would depend on how the countries met their commitments. He added that each country would go at its own pace and progress according to its own merits.
The Thessaloniki agenda, which the European Council endorsed in June 2003, underlines that the Western Balkans and support to the region's countries in preparing for admission to European structures and eventual membership of the EU are a high priority for the Union, read the press release. It added that both the EU and the Western Balkan countries were committed to the implementation of the agenda. The recently adopted European partnership with the Western Balkan contains an agenda of reforms for the countries in the region as well as a guide of measures they need to undertake, read the press release, underlining that the EU policy towards the region did not change. The SAp will continue to represent the general framework of EU activity in the Western Balkans until the countries are admitted to the EU, read the press release, adding that the regional dimension continued to represent an essential element of the SAp. The press release concluded by saying that the ability and willingness of each country to meet its commitments and constructively engage in regional cooperation was a key indicator of their will to face European obligations and possibly join the European family.