EC President Juncker in Sofia: European Union remains committed to European prospects of region

Photo: EPA/VASSIL DONEV

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ended his 5-day Western Balkan tour on March 1 in Sofia, where he and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov held a meeting with the Western Balkan leaders - Prime Ministers of Albania Edi Rama, Montenegro Dusko Markovic and FYROM Zoran Zaev respectively, as well as Chairman of BiH Presidency Dragan Covic and President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci.

Addressing a press conference, Juncker reiterated that the EU will remain committed to European prospects of the region. He added that he is about to return to Brussels being reassured that the Western Balkans belongs in the EU.

According to Juncker, all countries of the Western Balkans share the same European values and they have achieved enormous progress on their path towards the EU. However, he made it clear that none of these countries has met all criteria for the membership and that the EU cannot make any favors with regard to the accession conditions. “That would not be the best interest of either the Western Balkan countries or the EU. I once again have to insist on continuation of the fight against organized crime and corruption, as well as on solving the territorial and bilateral disputes. We do not want the EU to import instability from the Western Balkans but to export stability to this region,” Juncker was quoted as saying. He also conveyed a message that accession of the countries of the region is not a dream but reality, stressing that deadlines are less important than progress in the reforms.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who hosted the meeting, stressed that the countries of the region should prepare projects aimed at improvement of their connections until the next EU–Western Balkans Summit in May. He added that there are ambitious plans with regard to infrastructure, highways, transport corridors as well as economic cooperation in the region.

Juncker's meeting with senior officials of six Western Balkan partners was also attended by Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.