"The European Union is and will remain the most reliable partner of the entire Western Balkans", said Donald Tusk, President of the European Council following the EU –Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, the first such gathering of the EU and Western Balkans’ leaders after 2003 Summit in Thessaloniki. “The integration with the Western Balkans is a top priority for the EU and I don’t see any other future for the Western Balkans than the EU. There is no alternative, there is no plan B. The Western Balkans are an integral part of Europe and they belong to our community”, Tusk said confirming the EU's determination to strengthen its engagement at all levels to support the region’s political, economic and social transformation, including through increased assistance based on tangible progress in the rule of law as well as in socio-economic reforms.
The Summit came up with measures that aim to improve energy and transport infrastructure, as well as digital connectivity in the region. The EU and Western Balkans partners also laid the ground for an ever closer cooperation in the areas of security, migration and in tackling geopolitical challenges. “We agreed to double the Erasmus+ to allow more youth to study in the EU. We also agreed to work towards the lowering of roaming charges and to create more favourable conditions for private investments by providing better bank guarantees”, President Tusk particularly highlighted, stressing that ‘investing in infrastructural and human connections with and within the Western Balkans is in the EU's best interest’.
The summit and the Sofia Declaration focus on the importance of the Western Balkans' continued commitment to the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime, good governance, as well as respect for human rights and rights of minorities. The effective implementation of reforms in these areas is key for the region's further progress along the European path.