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The future of the Western Balkans lies within the European Union

30/04/2021 - 20:23
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In the week of 26 April, leaders from the EU and the Western Balkans held a series of meetings and exchanges confirming their mutual strong relations and shared goal of European integration.

 

The Western Balkan partners are at the heart of Europe. They are geographically surrounded by EU Member States and as High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said “the European Union is completely committed to the European perspective of the entire Western Balkans”.

Promoting security, prosperity and freedom across the whole of the European continent is a task the EU and the region share. EU representatives stressed that the Union and the region need to advance together.

Together against COVID-19

The EU has stood firmly with the Western Balkans in combatting COVID-19 since its outbreak. The EU has provided very substantial health and emergency assistance and it is now delivering vaccines. The Western Balkans partners have had privileged access to a number of initiatives normally reserved for Member States. As High Representative/Vice-President Borrell highlighted at the press conference with Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti: “The EU will also continue to support in the fight against the coronavirus and in the economic recovery to overcome this pandemic together.

The EU has also mobilised unprecedented resources for the Western Balkans’ economic recovery, to support connected, green, and people-focused growth, benefiting the region and Europe as a whole.

A common future ahead

EU-Western Balkans relations go beyond partnership. The EU accession process is at the centre of EU-Western Balkans relations.

Reforms are key for the European path, but even more importantly, they are crucial to improve how the countries deliver to their citizens and so directly benefit the people of the region. Full membership requires effective political and economic governance, the highest standards of adherence to the rule of law, promoting media freedom and a vibrant civil society.

As High Representative/Vice-President Borrell said at the press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić: “The accession negotiations can be more dynamic. But this can only happen if there is more progress on reforms and on their implementation.”

Cooperation within the region is key as it strengthens connections between people and between businesses. Following his meeting with President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski HRVP Borrell stressed “regional cooperation helps unlock economic potential and prepare the region for EU membership.”

The rejection of hate and divisive rhetoric and work to promote dialogue, cooperation and reconciliation are essential for the EU path. The High Representative/Vice-President stressed to the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, Šefik Džaferović, and Željko Komšić that to move towards the European Union the region must overcome the legacies of the past and promote reconciliation.

The EU will continue to engage in discussions on reinforced relations with the Western Balkans at the upcoming 10 May Foreign Affairs Council.

Background

In the week of 26 April, EU representatives received President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić (on 26) President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski (on 27) and Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti (on 29). President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen received President Vučić and Prime Minister Kurti. The President of the Council, Charles Michel met with President Vučić, spoke with Prime Minister Kurti and met with President Pendarovski. The President of North Macedonia was also received by President of European Parliament David Sassoli. High Representative/Vice-President Borrell and Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi received the three Western Balkans leaders.

High Representative/Vice-President Borrell also held a video conference with the members of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić.