The Brief: The EPP elects Donald Tusk as the party's new president

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By Philip Sime
The Brief: The EPP elects Donald Tusk as the party's new president
Copyright  REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Donald Tusk has just been elected the new president of the European People's Party (EPP), and one of his main tasks will be to put the ill-fated enlargement issue back on track.

Ascension talks with Albania and North Macedonia have been blocked by France, Denmark and the Netherlands.

But at the EPP congress in Zagreb, an emergency resolution was passed calling on the EU to re-open talks with western Balkan countries as soon as possible.

The EPP is willing to spend political capital on this.

"The way to go is to move forward with the enlargement. Here it is a matter of trust. Some countries were promised some things and at the moment we did not deliver. And this is a matter of trust. So the EPP gives trust to these countries, and I think this can be the bridge between different or divergent opinions," Portugal EPP MEP Lidia Pereira said.

At a recent mini-summit of Balkan nations, leaders adopted a package of measure to promote growth and development to make the region more attractive for the EU.

Yet the main problem remains corruption.

"Even now while, we are in the opposition, we announce a strong battle against corruption, zero tolerance for corruption, because maybe this is the biggest issue within the former Communist countries, because [North] Macedonia was part of the former Yugoslavia and that period of transition is not [so] quick. We need to accelerate the reforms," said Hristijan Mickoski, an EPP politician from North Macedonia.

In their struggle for EU membership, the western Balkans have one strong ally, though: the United States.

Washington criticized the EU Council's decision to stall negotiations.

And other news in brief...

The European Union-Singapore trade agreement enters into offers today.

Singapore is the 20th smallest country in the world, but the EU's 14th largest trade in goods partner.

The country is a major destination for European investments in Asia and, after Japan and Hong Kong, the third largest Asian investor in the EU.

After the Vietnam agreement, that was enforced in June this year, the bloc continues to move closer to a broader regional trade pact with south-east Asia .