Check against delivery!
Today I will be hosting the six leaders of the Western Balkans. This is a tradition. A tradition of having regular informal exchanges about the region and with the region. I am going to revive this tradition.
Understanding that it is an informal meeting, this gives us an opportunity to discuss openly how do we see the situation and challenges of the regional Western Balkans - a really strategic region for Europe.
We also have to have a look at the broad political landscape of the region. Not only from the point of view of adhesion, of membership of the European Union, but from the geopolitical approach of the whole region.
We did last week at the Foreign Affairs Council something like this, but this was a formal meeting of the [EU Foreign] Ministers, where we considered the Western Balkans as being one of the highest priorities of the European Union and we agreed to increase our commitment to the region. This is something that for anyone who understands the dynamics of the region is unquestionable, but we need to make it visible. And today at this dinner with the six leaders of the Western Balkans countries we are going to make it visible.
The [EU Foreign] Ministers also supported our strong and wide-ranging political engagement. I repeat, it goes beyond enlargement. Many times, when we talk about the Balkans, people understand that we are going to talk about adhesion - if it is going to be quickly or slowly [done], when [will ]chapters open and close… That is important, but today we are going to have a broader approach, a geopolitical approach to the region, and not focusing only on enlargement, although the Commissioner in charge of Neighbourhood [and Enlargement], Olivér Várhelyi, will also attend the meeting.
The main purpose is to reach out to our regional partners, to listen to their views, to understand their worries, to understand their ideas and to reflect together on how we can better work together on our common future.
I hope this exchange will help us to understand better the dynamics of the region and – as I said - how we can work together to tackle this wider geopolitical challenges that they are facing today.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-205942