Albania as the first Western Balkans country to host the EU-Western Balkans Summit
December 6, 2022, was a historic day, according to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. For the first time, the European Union and Western Balkans Summit were held on Western Balkans soil in Tirana, Albania. The Summit was part of executing the European Council’s Strategic Agenda for 2019 to 2024. The leaders of the six Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia negotiated with the EU about four key topics – Russian aggression against Ukraine; increased political engagement; intensifying security and resilience against foreign threats; as well as migration and terrorism.
The parties discussed the Russian war in Ukraine within the energy security framework. The EU offered specific support for vulnerable families and small and medium-sized enterprises. Reflecting the European Union’s diversification strategy, it wants to help accelerate the energy transition of the Western Balkans by opening up standard purchases of gas, LNG and hydrogen.
The talks resumed with the commitment to intensifying and expanding the policy cooperation and integration in the EU’s internal market, free movement and recognition of IDs, mutual recognition of university diplomas and the payments systems. The unification of Western Balkans with the EU will be vital for their accession and integration. Furthermore, there was a final agreement between the telecom operators signed during the Summit. The deal will significantly reduce roaming costs between the Western Balkans and the EU, starting as of October 1, 2023.
Intensified security against foreign threats is crucial in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Both regions want to strengthen defense cooperation, build resilience and strategic communication and enhance their collective cyber security.
As the migration flows substantially increased over the past years, the final discussed point of the Summit was migration management and the EU visa policy. The EU is prepared for considerable investment into the Western Balkans to enhance the asylum policies and reception systems, strengthen border protection, and fight against organized crime groups and smuggling networks. The talks also mentioned strengthening cooperation on counter-terrorism and discussed the preventive measures against radicalization.
The EU-Western Balkans Summit was concluded with the signing of the Tirana Declaration, reaffirming the welcoming and unified position of the EU towards the integration of the Western Balkans. As Charles Michel puts it: “I deeply believe that the future of our children will be safer and more prosperous with the Western Balkans inside the European Union.”