Western Balkan Ministers of Foreign Affairs: Pandemic has proven that solidarity is key for removing threats

Video-conference of the ministers of foreign affairs of Western Balkan countries and SEE EU countries, as well as high representatives of EU institutions; Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia

SKOPJE – The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that solidarity, cooperation and coordination at a bilateral, regional and international level are key for removing threats and consequences, concluded the participants of a video-conference held between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Western Balkan countries, as well as Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Slovenia and Croatia.

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi, the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service Helga Schmid and the Director at the EC Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, Johannes Luchner, also attended the meeting.

“We need to be prepared together for eventual and gradual opening up. As so far, we want to associate our WesternBalkans partners with EU roadmap for gradual lifting of travel restrictions, opening up of businesses and for hospitality industry, respecting health situation COVID-19”, tweeted Commissioner Várhelyi.

The aim of the conference was to start a discussion between the ministries of foreign affairs on how they can successfully contribute, through mutual cooperation, in the next stages of dealing with the socio-economic consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are grateful to our EU partners for the feeling that they are taking us into account in adopting different measures and guidelines in managing the crisis, dealing with the consequences and the gradual lifting of restrictive measures,” said Nikola Dimitrov Foreign Affairs Minister of North Macedonia.

He said that the Joint Statement adopted by the Ministers provides assurance that such an approach will continue in the future in the context of complete integration of the Western Balkans in the EU.

The document stated that, as in many other challenging crises that transcend national borders, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that solidarity, cooperation and coordination at a bilateral, regional and international level are key for removing threats and consequences.

The ministers agreed that this is particularly applicable at the regional level, as well as between EU and WB countries because of their interconnectivity and because the steps and decisions undertaken in one country have an immediate impact on the life of citizens in other countries in the immediate neighbourhood.

The ministers concluded that the main priority to be worked on is restarting of the economy and addressing of the social implications from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.