EU-Western Balkans Summit 2021

EC top commissioner hints on eventual breakthrough to bilateral topics between N. Macedonia and Bulgaria

“EU is not complete without the Western Balkans. We want the WB in the EU and there cannot be any doubt that our goal is enlargement,” said President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen at the EU-Western Balkans Summit 2021 in Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia. She highlighted the Economic and Investment Plan and its role and forwarding the Regional Economic Areas.

Talking about the reforms in the key areas, von der Leyen said that “our partners are not there yet, but they have made much progress and now it is time to stay the course”. It was important on Wednesday (October 6) to clarify the process to find the key issues in the bilateral topics between Bulgaria and North Macedonia and make sure that there is a roadmap for practical steps, she said.

Von der Leyen paid visit to all the six WB countries before the Summit confirming that Albania and North Macedonia have met the conditions for the opening of the EU accession negotiations within this year.

President of the European Council Charles Michel who started the conference stressed that fundamental values, rule of law, and the fight against corruption are in the European DNA. “These should also be the choice for the Western Balkan governments,” he said. He described the debate as lively and passionate, and concerning the question of minorities and their treatment in different countries.

“There is an ongoing discussion among 27 about our capacity to accept the future of Europe, we need to work on that further,” Michel said, adding that Wednesday's Declaration is dense and substantial.

There were many events before the Summit. So Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti tweeted about his participation in a meeting of the Party of European Socialists, with PM of Albania Edi Rama also present. Kurti confirmed that during the break of the two sessions at the Summit, he will meet with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emanuel Macron.

“We have to take our responsibilities and our decisions that lead us to this. Meaning opening the first Intergovernmental conference with North Macedonia and Albania, meaning opening negotiating clusters with Serbia and start closing with Montenegro, meaning accelerating the work for Bosnia and Herzegovina to become a candidate country, meaning to deliver visa liberalisation to Kosovo,” said Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi as quoted by his doorstep remarks released by the Commission.

In the meantime Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis met President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić on the sidelines of the Summit. The talks, according to ANA-MPA agency, focused on the latest developments in the region in the context of the Western Balkans’ EU accession perspectives.

“Today, we have the opportunity to have the Western Balkans Summit, which will be a chance for us to confirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans on the one hand, on the other hand it will also be the opportunity to make clear that we are ready to mobilise a lot of money in order to invest in the countries, but also to support the reforms – the economic reforms, the fight against corruption and reforms to improve governance. We want closer ties with those countries,” President of the European Council Charles Michel stated in his doorstep address.

In a letter to Council President Charles Michel on the EU-Western Balkans summit that takes place in Slovenia today, European Parliament President David Sassoli urged leaders to overcome the current stalemate and move forward with the accession process.

“This year’s EU – Western Balkans summit could not be more timely. Today, more than ever, the accession process of the countries of the Western Balkans needs a new and strong impetus. It is high time for delays and current blockages to be overcome,” Sassoli wrote. /

(To be continued)