EU-Western Balkans Summit commences in London: EU integration, security issues in focus

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The fifth EU-Western Balkans Summit commenced in London on Monday, as part of the Berlin Process launched in 2014 upon initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Media reported that security, stability, and economic development of the Western Balkan countries were in the focus during the first day of the Summit.  

Representatives of foreign and interior ministries met on Monday to discuss the current situation, security priorities and exchange of information, as well as cooperation against illegal arms trade, trafficking in humans, forced labor, and corruption.

Western Balkan countries’ prime ministers are expected to meet during the second day of the Summit, when four declarations - on the search for missing persons, fight against corruption, relations in the region and regional cooperation - are supposed to be signed as well.

The EU officials believe that the Summit in London could contribute to further development of cross-border cooperation in the region of Western Balkans.

Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said, according to media reports, that political will, commitment and readiness to act was something the Western Balkan countries had been missing.  

Johannes Hahn London

Hahn claims that the region has made serious progress, but there is still work to be done on the path towards the EU integration. “Now we can see much more seriousness in the region, and I’m a lot more optimistic”, he said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Crnadak said that officials have announced additional financial support to Western Balkan countries’ EU integration efforts. He added that once more, the EU officials have expressed willingness to continue with the EU enlargement towards the Western Balkans.

Igor Crnadak London

However, an unnamed EU official told Zagreb-based daily newspaper Jutarnji list that Europe was tired of new countries failing to meet their obligations, which is why the enlargement is not likely to be discussed again in the next five years.   

Banja Luka-based Nezavisne novine reported that the UK would donate GBP 10 million for building of digital skills and improvement of conditions for employment of youth in the Western Balkan states. The money will be allocated through the British Council for training of children in more than 4,500 elementary schools, with the ultimate goal of improving their digital literacy and skills. Daily reported that the project would be implemented in the next three years, with participation of more than one million children from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia.

However, some media outlets reported that the project might be suspended due to the fact that Boris Johnson has resigned as the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.