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Solidarity at a time of crisis – EU-Western Balkans summit 

Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.net

06.05.2020 - Article

Given the current travel restrictions, the EU-Western Balkans Summit, which was originally to take place in Zagreb, is being held by video conference. The focus is on working together in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU is providing 3.3 billion euros in support for the region.

The EU is working closely with the Western Balkans region in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Commission has put together a comprehensive package of measures to support the countries in tackling the impact of the crisis.

Financial and practical support

The informal meeting is focusing on the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the region and on EU support for the Western Balkans. The EU has presented 3.3 billion euros in support for the countries. This includes funding to kick-start economic recovery, help refugees and provide humanitarian assistance, as well as Macro-Financial Assistance and investment packages by the European Investment Bank. The summit participants also discussed how the Western Balkan countries can be included in EU mechanisms to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commented as follows:

Especially now, these countries are in need of support and solidarity from the EU. Their weaker healthcare systems are no match for this virus, if they act alone. We must fight this together – because the virus’ spread does not stop at borders.

Prospects of EU accession

The summit also sent a positive message as regards future accession processes. The EU member states' ministers responsible for European affairs agreed in March to open EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. The technical groundwork for the first concrete accession talks is currently being laid with the drafting of the negotiating framework. This work is based on a new enlargement methodology that focuses even more strongly on democracy and the rule of law. If Albania and North Macedonia implement an ambitious reform agenda, they can ultimately obtain EU membership.

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