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Main results of the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit

Met dank overgenomen van Kroatisch voorzitterschap Europese Unie 1e helft 2020 (Kroatisch voorzitterschap), gepubliceerd op donderdag 7 mei 2020.

EU leaders agreed on the Zagreb declaration, which focused on the future relations and cooperation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zagreb summit brought together:

  • heads of state or government from EU member states
  • leaders from the six Western Balkans partners: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and Kosovo*

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, chaired the meeting. Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia, Josep Borrell, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, the European investment Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council also participated.

“It was very important, twenty years after the first Zagreb summit, to have this video conference, to have this occasion to tackle very important challenges that we need to face together.”

Charles Michel, President of the European Council

"Although the meeting, unfortunately, was not held as would have liked, by physically coming together in Zagreb, in terms of content we have achieved results in line with our expectations and those of our southeastern neighbours. I'm sure the peoples and states in our neighbourhood will appreciate the message that was sent today from Zagreb and all other capitals of the EU member states."

Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia

The EU leaders adopted the Zagreb declaration, with which the Western Balkans partners have aligned themselves.

European perspective

At the summit EU leaders reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The EU is determined to strengthen its support to the region's political, economic, and social transformation.

"The European Union wants to continue to support the countries of Southeast Europe on their path to the EU. We wanted to send a message for the continuation of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. Croatia especially underlined that Bosnia and Herzegovina as its nearest neighbour deserves membership candidate status and that it should be helped in that. In that context, we underlined the issue of the equality of the constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably the status of the Croatian people in terms of legitimate representation in the highest BiH institutions."

Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia

Western Balkans partners reaffirmed this perspective as their firm strategic choice. They also recommitted to carry out and effectively implement the necessary reforms towards European values and principles and the primacy of the rule of law. The EU leaders also stressed the importance of good neighbourly relations, regional stability, and mutual cooperation.

This includes implementing bilateral agreements in good faith and with tangible results, including the Prespa Agreement with Greece and the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria. It also refers to finding solutions to bilateral disputes and dedicating additional efforts to reconciliation.

COVID-19

The EU and the Western Balkans are together fighting the coronavirus and its effects. The EU actively supports the efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on societies and economies.

"We are here. We are standing by you. We are not focused only on our public health situation, our own economic and social recovery after the crisis that hit all of us, this is the main message to Southeast European countries."

Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia

The Western Balkan partners have given valuable support during the pandemic towards the EU:

  • financial assistance: the EU has mobilised a package of over EUR 3.3 billion to the benefit of the Western Balkans to support the health sector, to support social and economic recovery and provide assistance through the European Investment Bank, as well as micro-financial assistance
  • co-operation and coordination in the form joint procurement and the unrestricted trade-flow of protective personal equipment, ensuring the fast flow of essential goods through Green Lanes linking the EU and Western Balkans, the supply by the EU of testing material to check the correct functioning of coronavirus tests in the Western Balkans, as well as close cooperation with relevant health bodies
  • addressing disinformation and other hybrid activities originating in particular from third-state actors seeking to undermine the European perspective of the region

Regional cooperation

The EU urges the Western Balkans leaders to fully exploit the potential of regional cooperation to facilitate the economic recovery after the crisis, including:

  • deepening regional economic integration,
  • building on EU rules and standards to bring the region and its companies closer to the EU Internal Market, through the Regional Economic Area (REA)

Socio-economic recovery

The leaders exchanged views on the new phase of close cooperation to tackle the significant socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. As a next step, the European Commission is invited to come forward with a robust economic and investment plan for the region aiming to boost the economies while improving their competitiveness, to better connect them within the region and with the EU.

As a result Western Balkans should be able:

  • to fully link to the EU’s single market,
  • to create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities
  • to improve the business and investment climate
  • to promote the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans
  • to strengthen the digital economy and connectivity

Security and migration challenges

Summit participants also discussed common security challenges. They called for further developing cooperation to stem illegal migration flows. EU leaders also agreed to increase cooperation to counter errorism and extremism, including financing, radicalisation and the return of foreign fighters. Participants agreed that fighting corruption and organised crime is essential for the region's transformation, as well as for regional stability and security. They also addressed the need to priorities energy security diversification of sources and routes. Finally EU leaders urged their Western Balkan partners to contribute to the EU missions and fully align with EU foreign policy position.

  • * 
    This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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