European Union External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten on Friday stressed here that ''the destiny of the people of southeast Europe is membership with the EU'', one day before a EU-Western Balkans Summit is set to follow the ongoing Thessaloniki EU Council.
Speaking on the sidelines of the EU Council, Patten emphasized that the sessions – held at the Porto Carras resort – will demonstrate to the Western Balkan leaderships that the stabilization and association agreements that achieved long-sought-after EU accession for central and eastern European states are ''exactly the same'' for them.
''Of course, they have to make changes on their part and should continue the economic and political reform on which they embarked. But we wish to be more hands-on in helping them with that process; and we proposed that we should turn the annual assessments on the progress they make on economic and political reform into partnerships,'' Patten said during a press conference.
Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey are currently considered candidate-states, while once strife-plagued western Balkan countries, particularly Croatia, have recently pushed for a firm path towards eventual EU accession.