ZAGREB, March 17, 2018 – The foreign ministers of six Western Balkan countries aspiring for European Union membership (WB6) confirmed in Sarajevo that their governments would continue to implement the reforms necessary for EU membership and that they would work on strengthening stability and cooperation in the region.
The Sarajevo conference brought together the foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania as well as Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva and Director General for Enlargement at the European Commission Christian Danielsson.
The ministers adopted a joint statement underscoring their preparedness to fulfil the criteria required for full membership of the European Union.
In early February, the EU released its strategy for the Western Balkans confirming that the aspirants in the region can join the Union when they fulfil the set criteria. Based on the document, Serbia and Montenegro are the closest to possibly joining the union in 2025, followed by Macedonia and Albania and lastly Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.
The ministers agreed that credible prospects for EU membership are a key incentive to implement reforms and carry out the plan to strengthen regional stability and improve transport and energy connectivity. Their statement confirmed that the WB6 governments remain committed to strengthening of good neighbourly relations in the region, and to the fight against organised crime, terrorism and violent extremism and illegal migration. The foreign ministers urge EU member states to keep their attention on the Western Balkans and to leave the door open for European Union aspirants from the region.
Bosnia’s Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak told reporters that it was jointly assessed that the EU’s new strategy had encouraged positive processes in the region. He confirmed that the talks in Sarajevo also touched on preparations for the EU-Western Balkans summit to be held in Sofia in May. “Our expectations are justifiably high and we are determined to see that summit produce good results,” Crnadak said and recalled that a high-level meeting was scheduled for July in London as part of the Berlin process of regional cooperation through infrastructure projects and economic growth.
Bulgaria’s Minister Zakharieva said that her country wanted to make the European integration process in the Western Balkans unstoppable. “That means that we will not just talk but that we will take concrete measures and steps that will be visible to citizens,” she said and added that, from her point of view, that means to physically but also mentally connect people in the region.
Danielsson confirmed that the Western Balkans were a priority for the Union. The strategy is very clear: It means prospects of European membership for all countries in the region and the rules for everyone are the same and clear. It is clear what has to be done to progress, he said. He cited priorities such as the rule of law, economic reforms and the very important issue of reconciliation. It is essential to see real progress in these areas, he said.