SOFIA – EU and Western Balkan leaders emphasised the importance of regional cooperation and pledged their continuous support to different common initiatives to improve the regional potential for strengthening the economy and good neighbourly relations, reads the final version of the Chair’s conclusions.
The document also reflects on the common regional market initiative, as well as the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, digital transformation of the region, youth-related policies and other issues.
“The Leaders commended the European Commission’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans accompanied by a Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, which are intended to spur the long-term economic recovery of the region building on Green and Digital transition through a substantial investment package leading to sustained economic growth, implementation of reforms required to move forward on the EU path, and bringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU Single Market”, the document reads.
The Leaders of the Western Balkans also agreed on the Declaration on Common Regional Market (CRM) – A catalyst for deeper regional economic integration and a stepping stone towards EU Single Market and they also adopted an Action Plan for the period 2021 – 2024, which is based on the EU four freedoms.
The Guidelines for the Implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans is welcomed by the Western Balkan leaders, who also expressed their readiness to take measures and align with the relevant EU policies setting the flagship goal of achieving climate-neutrality by mid-century.
“The Declaration aims at unlocking the economic potential of the green, low-carbon, and circular economy and at addressing and curbing the main drivers of climate change. By this Declaration, the Western Balkan Leaders recognized the importance of the regional cooperation and confirmed their determination to work towards improving the well-being of Western Balkan citizens through joining the EU’s efforts in fighting climate change”, it is stated in the conclusions.
When it comes to the regional response to COVID19- related challenges, the leaders supported the decision of the Co-Chairs to organise a meeting with Ministers of Health.
“They agreed that in the medium and long-term, regionally, and internationally coordinated policies and measures can faster facilitate socioeconomic recovery and help better prepare for the future risks and pandemics. The Leaders commended the EU solidarity with the region in fighting the pandemic, demonstrated by the unmatched support for the region totalling 3.3 billion Euros announced on April 29.”, the conclusions document reads.
The Leaders also stressed the importance of young people for the prosperity of the whole region, and addressed the issue of brain drain and the necessity for greater involvement of young people in policymaking.
“The Leaders welcome the introduction of the ‘Agenda for the Western Balkans on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’ in the Commission Communication entitled ‘An Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans’. Progress in these sectors is essential for the European path of the Western Balkans and for the better regional cooperation in South East Europe”, it is stated.
Concerning the future of the Berlin Process, the Chair’s conclusions reads that it remains an instrument aiming at regional cohesion, concurrently providing convergence with the EU single market, and that it is a meaningful accelerator of regional connectivity.
Additionally, it states that the Leaders welcomed the invitation by Chancellor Merkel for a next Summit in Berlin in 2021.