By: V4 Agency
The EU-Western Balkans summit, which was held with the in-person attendance of all invitees despite the pandemic, has yielded a clearer picture of the region, Slovenian PM Janez Jansa stated after the summit of the leaders of the EU member states and the states of the Western Balkans. “The European Union is not complete without the Western Balkans,” Ursula von der Leyen said at the press briefing after the summit.
“Today’s informal summit between the European Council and the Western Balkans leaders is a milestone event in the integration of the Western Balkans region into the EU,” the Slovenian PM stated at the post-summit press briefing where European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen also delivered speeches.
The summit reinforces the decision adopted in Thessaloniki in 2003, which guaranteed EU membership for the whole region once all the conditions were met, Mr Jansa said.
He added that the declaration of the summit contained numerous positive messages for people living in the region. In this regard he remarked, “It is no secret that Slovenia sought to define a timeline for the process. Although it was not included, we did discuss the matter,” the premier said, underlining that the leaders of the EU member states view this next decade as the period in which they intended to focus their efforts on paving the way to the EU accession of the Western Balkans region to the fullest extent possible.
The partners in the Western Balkans also want to be part of the EU, said summit chairperson Council President Charles Michel at the press briefing and added that this requires certain reforms, including moves toward the Green Deal and the Digital Agenda.
“We provided a lot of money, an unprecedented amount of money, to encourage regional cooperation,” the president of the European Council stressed. The EU will provide a 30 billion euro investment and economic stimulus plan for the region over the coming years.
The Western Balkans are part of the same Europe as the EU, Ursula von der Leyen said at the press event. “We share the same history, the same values and the same destiny. The European Union is not complete without the Western Balkans,” the president of the European Commission explained.
The Commission will continue to do its utmost to advance the enlargement process and the region’s EU integration, she added. “Our goal is enlargement,” emphasised the Commission president. She said that the Economic and Investment Plan was at the core of EU’s engagement with the Western Balkans, which is “crucial for the development and deeper integration of the common regional market,” Ms von der Leyen noted, emphasizing that that the Western Balkan partners are undertaking important reforms and that there has been a lot of progress and many improvements, although the reforms have not yet been completed.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said after the meeting that there was a prospect of enlargement, but that not all member states had the same appetite for EU enlargement. However, he understood that there were strategic EU interests in the region, he added. The Serbian president noted that his country, which had applied for EU membership in 2009, could not join the bloc until it resolved its issues with Kosovo.
Among the EU’s partners in the Western Balkans, in addition to Serbia, accession talks have been opened with Montenegro, and it had been decided earlier that negotiations could be started with North Macedonia and Albania. Bosnia and Herzegovina has yet to be formally recognised by the EU as a candidate country, while Kosovo has only an association agreement for candidature.