European Western Balkans

Berlin Process Chair’s conclusions welcome EU Growth plan, encourage engagement with Kosovo and Serbia

Berlin Process summit in Tirana; Photo: European Union

TIRANA – Chair’s Conclusions, released after the Berlin Process summit in Tirana, held on 16 October, welcomed the EU Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, as well as entry into force of the mobility agreements signed in 2022. They encouraged European efforts to engage with Kosovo and Serbia in the aftermath of the Banjska attack.

The participants strongly emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in the Western Balkans, particularly in the current climate of geopolitical uncertainty and ongoing conflicts on European soil.

The document highlights the need to strengthen connectivity in various domains, including transport, trade, energy, and digital ties. The goal, as noted, is to foster closer ties within the Western Balkans and between the region and the European Union.

The Western Balkans Six welcomed the announcement of a Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, as outlined by the President of the European Commission in May 2023. The plan, as per the document, outlines measures to accelerate regional economic integration through the Common Regional Market. This involves accelerating domestic reforms, particularly in the areas of the rule of law and the fight against organized crime.

The participants expressed the pressing need to bridge the socio-economic gap between the Western Balkans and the European Union. The document highlights the participants’ support for structured periodic monitoring of the economic convergence of the Western Balkans toward the EU. It also notes their interest in exploring avenues for participation in EU meetings and forums when discussing areas of common interest.

The conclusions welcomed the entry into force of mobility agreements signed in Berlin in November 2022 for Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia. The document also mentions the entry into force of reduced data roaming charges between the EU and the Western Balkans as of October 1, 2023, based on the Roaming Declaration.

According to the document, the leaders expressed their wish for the gradual integration of Western Balkans’ education, science, and youth institutions and policies into related EU areas and mechanisms. They welcomed the conclusions of the Western Balkans Youth Forum held in Albania on 6 October 2023, and underlined the importance of enhancing regional mechanisms and EU schemes to promote youth mobility and cultural exchanges in the region, fostering peacebuilding and reconciliation.

Furthermore, the participants stressed the significance of boosting investments in transport and railway connectivity, both within the Western Balkans and between the region and the EU, as stated in the official document.

Participants also emphasized the importance of deeper regional cooperation in policy areas related to security. They also stressed the need for greater information sharing between the Western Balkans and the EU Joint Task Forces, alongside joint exercises aimed at addressing specific aspects of organized crime, including human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and drug trafficking.

Chair’s conclusions expressed their concern that the recent developments in the north of Kosovo – the attack on Kosovo police and the killing of a Kosovo police sergeant – threaten peace, security, and cooperation in the region, and they push back the reconciliation efforts of the EU and other strategic partners in the Western Balkans.

The document stated that the participants encouraged European efforts to unblock the EU-facilitated normalization dialogue with the aim of promoting regional cooperation within the WB6 countries. They emphasized the need for joint European initiatives and tailored mechanisms in areas such as economic development, youth, education, and inter-group civil society cooperation.

They also sought continuous EU and Member States’ support for the Western Balkans’ endeavors in strengthening the rule of law, combating organized crime, and progressing on their EU accession paths.

Lastly, participants reiterated the significance of regional cooperation and good neighborly relations for the Western Balkans’ EU prospects. They proposed the inclusion of robust conditionality related to the implementation of regional commitments and good neighborly relations in the Growth Plan’s implementing criteria.

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