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Von der Leyen announces visit to the Western Balkans in State of the Union speech

Ursula von der Leyen at the State of the Union 2021; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG – President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced her visit to the Western Balkans before the end of this month in order to send a strong signal of EU’s commitment to the accession process in today’s State of the Union speech.

In September each year, the President of the European Commission delivers the State of the Union address to the European Parliament. The address takes stock of the achievements of the past year and presents the priorities for the year ahead.

“In a more contested world, protecting our interest is not only about defending ourselves. It is also about forging strong and reliable partnerships. This is not a luxury. It is essential for our future stability, security and prosperity. And this work starts by deepening our partnership with our closest allies”, Ursula von der Leyen said.

She announced that the EU would develop the the new agenda for global change with the United States, from the Trade and Technology council, to health security and sustainability.

“The European Union and the United States will always be stronger together. And of course the same goes for our neighbours in the Western Balkans. Before the end of the month, I will travel to the region to send a strong signal of our commitment to the accession process. We owe it to all those young people who believe in future in Europe”, von der Leyen said.

This is why, she added, the EU was ramping up its support through the new Investment and Economic plan, with around third of the region’s GDP.

“Because, honoruable members, investment in the future of the Western Balkans is the investment in the future of the European Union”, she stressed.

Speaking about the EU’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, von der Leyen said that the Union would work together to deepen trade links, strengthen global supply chains and develop new investment projects on the green and digital technologies.

“This is a template of how Europe can redesign its model to connect the world. We are pretty good at financing roads. But it doesn’t make any sense for Europe if we build a perfect road between a copper mine that is Chinese-owned and a harbour that is Chinese-owned. So we need to get smarter when it comes to this kind of investment”, she said.

This is why, von der Leyen said, European Commission would soon present its new connectivity strategy called Global Gateway, which will be implemented with the partners around the world, offering transparency and good governance.

The Commission also released von der Leyen’s Letter of Intent to European Parliament President David Sassoli and Prime Minister of Slovenia, the current Council Presidency, Janez Janša. The Letter of Intent is sent on the same day as the State of the Union speech takes place, serving the same purpose.

In a two-page introduction, a passage of the Letter also mentions the Western Balkans.

“The external challenges we face will also multiply as the world becomes more contested. We will further strengthen our partnership with NATO and our allies, and discuss a common way forward on defence and security. We will continue to develop global partnerships and support our neighbourhood, in particular the Western Balkans, at the upcoming summit organised by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council. Finally, we will remain committed to implementing our international agreements and will remain united in our support of Ireland and of peace on the island of Ireland”, the Letter of Intent reads.

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