STRASBOURG, France -- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made encouraging remarks for Western Balkan countries hoping to join the EU, stating that "in the future the European Union will have more than 27 member states."
In his annual state of the EU address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker reiterated his expectation that there will not be any EU enlargement during his term in office, which ends in 2019.
But Juncker said "if we want to have greater stability in our neighborhood then we need to offer a credible enlargement prospect to the countries of the Western Balkans."
Juncker's said he "rules out EU membership for Turkey in the foreseeable future," saying that "in the case of all accession countries, the rule of law, justice and fundamental values have top priority in the negotiations."
Turkey has been an EU candidate country since 2005, but has come under strong criticism from Brussels over Ankara's crackdown on dissent since a failed coup in July 2016.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week during a television election debate that EU accession negotiations with Ankara should stop.