The European Union reaffirmed its support for the Western Balkans European perspective in a statement issued after the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb held via video conference on Wednesday, May 6th.
“The EU reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The Western Balkan partners reiterated their commitment to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice”, the statement said.
The EU also reaffirms its “strong solidarity with our partners in the context of the coronavirus crisis … which calls for unity and solidarity” and recognizes the valuable support that the Western Balkans have given to their neighbors during the pandemic.
The EU stated its determination to strengthen its commitment at all levels to support political, economic and social transformation in the region and welcomed the commitment of regional states to uphold European values and principles and to carry out the necessary reforms diligently and vigorously. “Increased EU assistance will be linked to tangible progress in the rule of law and socio-economic reforms”, the statement said.
“We reaffirm the EU’s position on the European perspective for the Western Balkans. It is important to continue reforms, the rule of law, democratic values, the fight against corruption – they are essential”, European Council President Charles Michel told a news conference after the summit. “After leaving behind this tangible phase of the pandemic, the EU will present an investment plan later this year”, added European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The declaration also said greater efforts would be made against disinformation and other activities aimed at undermining the region’s European perspective. “Following the immediate steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, a new phase of close cooperation will follow to deal with the significant socio-economic impact of the crisis”, said Charles Michel, urging the European Commission to create a stable economic and investment plan for the region to strengthen economies while improving their competitiveness, to better connect them within the region and with the EU.
The declaration also calls for better cooperation on key security issues, including the development of regional cooperation instruments based on EU instruments and frameworks, warned that the focus should be on combating terrorism and extremism, human trafficking, drug and arms trafficking and money laundering.
The EU will continue to support the region in tackling the issue of migrants, including improving reception capacity, and looks forward to further deepening cooperation on the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the declaration said, and called for progress towards full alignment with the EU’s foreign policy positions.