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Western Balkan leaders meet in Brussels, Borrell reiterates the importance of alignment with EU Foreign Policy

Meeting of the WB leaders with the High Representative in Brussels, 11 May 2022; Photo: Facebook / Aleksandar Vučić

BRUSSELS – European External Action Service released a press statement on the working dinner High Representative Josep Borrell held with the Western Balkan leaders last night. According to the statement, the leaders confirmed their strategic commitment to the EU integration and their support for regional cooperation.

Wednesday’s informal dinner, the third of its kind hosted by the High Representative, was attended by President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, President of Montenegro Milo Djukanović, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Dimitar Kovačevski, Member of the tripartite BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kosovo Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz. Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Várhelyi also participated.

The focus of Wednesday’s discussions was the global and regional impact of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war against Ukraine and its people, and how the EU and Western Balkans partners can together address the damaging consequences of this war on food and energy prices and on regional and global stability, the EEAS statement highlighted.

“High Representative Borrell welcomed the full support of Western Balkan partners at the UN General Assembly for the resolutions in relation to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The High Representative informed on the EU’s response in support of Ukraine, including EU restrictive measures aimed at limiting the Kremlin’s ability to finance the war. He reiterated the importance of Common Foreign and Security Policy alignment as a central element of the European path”, the statement reads.

Before the meeting, High Representative Josep Borrell also released his remarks.

“There is a tradition to meet here, in Brussels, [with] the High Representative on one side, and the six Leaders from the Western Balkans. And I revived this tradition last May because I think it is a good thing to do. I think it is good to have a collective, strategic, substantial and open exchange about the challenges in the region and about our common European future. And in these days especially”, Borrell said.

He reminded that they met in September, in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. But today, he added, the world is in a completely different situation.

“In September, nobody could expect that we would be with one aggressor bringing back war to Europe. And looking at this destructive impact of a senseless bloodshed; we do not remember – the Europeans do not remember war, and now we see war on our borders”, Borrell said.

He added that the last war in Europe was in the Balkans, now it is in Ukraine.

“And today will be a good occasion to discuss the global and regional impact of Putin’s war, illegal war against the Ukrainian people and against the international rules-based order. It is not a quest to defend Russia, it is against the international rules-based order”, High Representative said.

He said that he wanted to discuss with the EU’s closest partners from the Balkans, which he sees as future members – how the consequences of the war can be addressed together.

“As always, I am keen to hear about the concerns these leaders have in regard to this situation and how they foresee our joint action to defend rules and values, and how to deal with the negative impact of Putin’s war – on food, on energy, and on stability on our shared continent”, Borrell said, adding that “we should work together in order not to allow Russia to exploit these vulnerabilities”.

“As I said before – the Western Balkans are not our backyard, it is our courtyard. It is part of our geography. It is not the backyard, it is the courtyard. And we will act jointly to face Russia’s disruptive actions directly in the region – [be it] through disinformation and cyberattacks”, he said.

He welcomed that most of our partners in the Western Balkans are aligned fully – and from day one – with the European Union’s response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine and called on the others to do so.

He also said that next Monday, at the Foreign Affairs Council, the EU leaders will have a full-fledged political discussion on the region.

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