The Council held a strategic discussion on the Western Balkans, and the elements of reinforced EU engagement in the region.
The region has a special role in Europe and for Europe. We agreed that the Western Balkans is a region of key geostrategic importance for the EU. Our commitment to the Western Balkans needs to be very visible and we should leave no doubt in this respect.
Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Ministers reaffirmed the European perspective of the whole region, underlining the importance of a political engagement in a wide range of areas such as: the fight against the COVID pandemic, economic cooperation, connectivity, tackling external influence and disinformation.
The discussion highlighted the need for Western Balkan countries to accelerate EU-related reforms and reinforce a positive and constructive narrative. The High Representative stressed the urgent need to advance on the accession process of Albania and North Macedonia, take forward the EU integration with Serbia and Montenegro, and make progress on visa liberalisation for Kosovo. Ministers also asked for the swift resumption of Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, and reiterated their continued and unequivocal support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Council also recalled the key role of the EU in helping Western Balkans partners in responding to the COVID 19 pandemic, through health assistance, financing for socioeconomic recovery, and donation of vaccines.
The Council discussed priorities for the engagement with the US administration in the coming months.
Ministers took stock of the progress made together on some important issues, such as reengaging the US on the JCPOA, relaunching the dialogue on China, suspending temporarily tariffs under the Airbus/Boeing dispute, or liaising on responses to developments in Russia and Myanmar.
The discussion highlighted that the renewed partnership between the European Union and the United States is based on more engagement, more coordination and cooperation.
Video Conference with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
Ministers exchanged views with US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry on how to increase global climate ambition, especially amongst the world’s biggest economies.
It was agreed that the EU and US would work systematically together to scale up efforts to prompt partners to deliver the best possible commitments under the Paris Agreement. This will be done both bilaterally and in multilateral for a like the G7 and G20.
The Council discussed Palestine, both in relation to the recently postponed elections and to the recent clashes in East Jerusalem. Ministers restated that all sides must uphold and fully respect the status quo of the holy sites, and all leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists.
The Council also expressed solidarity to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria in light of the recent events related to Russia.
Ministers touched on the ongoing negotiations on the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, and on global health. On the latter the High Representative recalled that the EU is leading in the international solidarity effort with €2.5 billion in contributions to COVAX, and in the production and exports of vaccines.
Ministers also exchanged views on Lebanon, where the situation continues to deteriorate, and the people to suffer. The High Representative informed ministers that work is ongoing all options available to pressure those Lebanese leaders that are preventing the country from overcoming the dramatic situation are being explored.
Finally ministers also touched on Belarus, where the regime continues its repression and intimidation against citizens, including the Polish community.
The Council adopted conclusions on Security and Defence, and the Horn of Africa.
-10 May 2021