The process of enlargement has been an integral part of the development of the European Union over the last 50 years. The very essence of the European integration was to overcome the division of Europe and to contribute to the peaceful unification of the continent. Enlargement has shown its enduring value as one of the EU's most effective policies, successfully contributing to peace, stability and democratic development throughout the continent. The EUs fundamental objective for the Western Balkans region is to create a situation where military conflict is unthinkable and for that region to enjoy the peace, stability, prosperity and freedom established over the last 50 years by gradual European integration. Chris Patten's message to the Western Balkans from the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003 is still true: "The prospect of membership of the EU is real, and we will not regard the map of Europe as complete until you have joined us. We in the European Commission will do all we can to help you succeed. But membership must be earned. It will take the sheer hard work and applied political will of those in power in the region. How far you proceed along the road towards European integration, and how fast, will be up to you."
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