Sassoli: Very disappointed with yesterday's Home Affairs Council conclusions 

Extracts of the speech by the European Parliament President to the Bled Strategic Forum

“We were very disappointed with yesterday's Home Affairs Council conclusions. We have seen countries outside the European Union come forward to welcome Afghan asylum seekers, but we have not seen a single member state do the same. Everyone rightly thought of those who worked with us and their families, but none had the courage to offer refuge to those whose lives are still in danger today. We cannot pretend that the Afghan question does not concern us, because we participated in that mission and shared its objectives and aims.

“A strong and common European voice on the international stage is more necessary now than ever. Europe must take its place, make its voice heard, define its strategic interests also in the framework of the Transatlantic Alliance, in order to be able to carry out stabilization, peace building, and development action together with our partners in a multilateral framework.

“This goes hand in hand with the need to move forward together towards a true common security and defence policy, without which we will remain dependent on the goodwill of other great powers and expose ourselves to the threats of authoritarian regimes.

“For this we must also take an ambitious step forward and consider qualified majority voting in the Council whenever possible, to ensure the speed and effectiveness of our common external action.

“Furthermore, a true geopolitical Europe should begin at our borders, with our partners, with our closest friends. I am thinking in particular of the countries of the Western Balkans, towards which we have a historic responsibility. From Tirana to Belgrade, from Skopje to Sarajevo, from Pristina to Podgorica, the countries of the Western Balkans are part of our history. We share a common European identity.

“That is why we must be ready to engage in the accession process with each of these countries, based on their progress and ambitions. Any delay or hesitation risks playing the game of other powers. Having a stable, peaceful, democratic and prosperous continent would bring immense benefits to all European citizens. The time has come to inject new energy into the enlargement process towards the Western Balkans.”

See full speech here