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The European Commission on 6 February adopted a strategy for 'A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans', as announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address. The Strategy confirms the European future of the region: "It is a clear path for the Western Balkans, all our six partners in the Western Balkans, to finally join the European Union", said HR/VP Mogherini.
The Strategy spells out the priorities and areas of joint reinforced cooperation, addressing the specific challenges faced by the Western Balkans countries. Sustained efforts and irreversible reforms in crucial areas such as the rule of law, fundamental rights, the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as economic reforms will be required for a credible enlargement perspective. All countries must unequivocally commit to reconciliation and solving open issues well before accession to the European Union. A comprehensive, legally-binding normalisation agreement between Serbia and Kosovo will be essential for progress on their respective European paths.
The European Union's commitment to the region EU integration perspective was confirmed through the announcement by the Commission of six flagship initiatives with specific actions that the EU will take over the coming years to support the transformation efforts of the Western Balkans in areas of mutual interest. These flagship initiatives target specific areas of common interest: rule of law, security and migration, socio-economic development, transport and energy connectivity, digital agenda, reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. The Strategy also underlines the need for the EU to be prepared to welcome new members once they have met the criteria.
The European future of the region is a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe based on common values. EU High Representative Mogherini quoted a series of examples of interlinkages with the region ranging from the cooperation during the refugee crisis to economic interconnections where "we see how much our people benefit from any opportunity we have of working together".
The EU is the most important donor and investor in the region as well as primary political partner of the Western Balkans. The EU is also the Western Balkans' largest trading partner with an annual total trade volume of €43 billion (2016). Montenegro and Serbia have started the accession negotiations. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania are candidate countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates.
Video: Read-out of the College meeting of 06/02/2018 by Federica MOGHERINI, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EC