Sofia Summit Declaration, Western Balkans Need To Fight Crime & Corruption

Clay Curtis
May 18, 2018

European Council President Donald Tusk said it took too long to hold EU-Western Balkans summit, therefore, it had been decided that the next one would be held in two years.

"Next year the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe - and we will continue to work with our allies to protect our collective security and champion the European values that so many in Macedonia and the wider Western Balkans share". However, clear support from the Member States to the candidates is requested.

"This is not a subject for Sofia", a senior European Union official insisted, adding that membership issues would be discussed in June when leaders decide whether to approve accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "not in favour of moving toward enlargement before we have all the required certainties and before genuine reform has been made" even as he added that the Balkan states should be anchored in the bloc.

But the declaration avoids using the words "adhesion" or "enlargement" - European Union code words for the path to membership of the bloc.

According to diplomats who spoke to RFE/RL, some of the five countries that do not recognize Kosovo were unhappy about calling the final statement of the summit a "declaration" and would prefer to call it the "Bulgarian Presidency conclusions", or even to produce a declaration endorsed only by the European Union but not by the six Western Balkan countries.

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Poland, Italy and Austria want the quick accession of Western Balkan nations.

"If there is no European perspective in the Balkans, then the Turkish influence and other influence becomes stronger and stronger. This is the best illustration that the integration with the Western Balkans is a top priority for the EU", Tusk said.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, was notably absent after he announced he wouldn't share a table with Kosovan representatives. "We fully support key principles of cooperation, good neighbourly relations and the need for sustainable and binding solution of mutual disagreements", said Thaci.

"I am in favor of the western Balkan countries having a reinforced strategic dialogue and a perspective, that we follow the reforms that are undertaken and that we encourage them - but without being lax or hypocritical", he added.

The EU is also wary of admitting new members before they settle their differences, particularly in a region still bedevilled by the aftermath of the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Greece, however, have opposed this, with Athens saying it implies a claim to a Greek region with the same name.

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