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Borrell: EU Ministers for more engagement with the Western Balkans, new meeting soon

Josep Borrell following the Foreign Affairs Council on 10 May 2021; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – Western Balkans was a topic on the agenda of the EU Foreign Affairs Council for the first time after two years today, and the foreign ministers decided on the principles of a more active political engagement with the region, while a new meeting on concrete proposals should be held before the summer, said High Representative of the Union Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting.

“The Ministers reaffirmed the European perspective of the whole region. But this is not only about the enlargement process. We want to make sure that we have political engagement with our partners. There was an agreement for the need of Western Balkans to accelerate the EU-accession reforms and to reinforce positive and constructive narratives”, Borrell said in a press conference following the meeting.

He said that the EU needed to advance the accession process of Albania and North Macedonia and that there had never been the intention of decoupling the countries. More progress is also needed on visa liberalisation of Kosovo and the continuation of the accession process of Montenegro and Serbia.

The EU continues to support Bosnia’s territorial sovereignty and integrity, Borrell said.

“The leaders need to use this year to advance constitutional and electoral reform”, he added.

Borrell stressed that this had been the first time in two years that the Foreign Affairs Council takes stock of the Western Balkans.

“Some ministers were complaining because of this (long period without addressing the region). Western Balkan is a big geopolitical program. It is not just about the accession. Accession is part of the solution, but there are many other problems related to the Western Balkans. We have to look at the WB from the geopolitical perspective, and that is what we did today. That’s what we’ll do next week with the leaders”, said Borrell, adding that he had invited regional leaders for a working dinner in Brussels next week, following in the footsteps of his predecessor.

“And I told the ministers – today we agreed on the principles, now I hope you will make concrete proposals in order to continue advancing, we are not even going to wait two more months before putting the issue back on the agenda. Before the summer, the Balkans will be on our agenda, if there are proposals. If there are not, we will wait for the autumn. But if there is momentum, we need to continue pushing for it. All ministers agree that we need to engage more in the region”, Borrell said.

He also said that before June General Affairs Council there will be a meeting within the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, allowing for a time for the new Kosovo government to prepare and take stock of what the previous government had done.

Borrell added that the Ministers urged Bulgaria and North Macedonia to urgently find a mutually agreeable solution for the pending bilateral issues.

“The conditions have been met by North Macedonia. The Member States hope that the first Intergovernmental Conference (ICG) can take place soon, after the adoption of the Negotiating Framework by the Council. Foreign Minister will push hard for this ICG to take place as soon as possible”, Borrell stressed.

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