The EU-Western Balkans Summit will be held as a video conference on Wednesday.
The Summit was initially scheduled to take place on May 6-7 in Zagreb, as one of the main events of the Croatia’s EU Presidency, but it was moved online in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 contractions.
Statement published on the European Council’s official website reads that the video conference will underline the significance of the unique EU-Western Balkans relations.
“In the fight against COVID-19, the European Union and the Western Balkans are united. The summit will provide an opportunity to highlight mutual solidarity and cooperation in these time of crisis. Partners in the region have contributed to help EU member states while the European Union has mobilized over EUR 3.3 billion to help Western Balkans deal with the coronavirus crisis”, the statement reads.
The leaders are also expected to reaffirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans and the commitment of the Western Balkans partners to uphold European values and principles.
Furthermore, the leaders will “exchange views on the new phase of close cooperation to tackle the significant socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the importance of regional cooperation, as well as how to best manage security challenges”.
The EU-Western Balkans summit will bring together heads of state or government from the EU Member States, and leaders from the six Western Balkan partners - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo.
President of the European Council, Charles Michel, will chair the meeting. He will represent the EU together with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council will also participate.
Zagreb-based daily newspaper Jutarnji list claims to be in possession of the draft declaration which will be adopted at the EU-Western Balkans Summit. The Summit should have represented a turning point in the EU enlargement process, but the daily claims that ‘enlargement’, ‘membership’, or ‘EU integration’ are not even mentioned in the document.
“(The document) only contains a vague sentence on ‘European perspective’ and stronger relations”, Jutarnji list reported, claiming that some countries - including France, the Netherlands and possibly even Germany - insisted that May 6 video conference should not be treated as some sort of enlargement summit.
In an interview for the Sarajevo-based daily Dnevni avaz, Croatian MEP and European Parliament Rapporteur for Recommendations on the Western Balkans Tonino Picula said that he did not see a relevant political power in Bosnia and Herzegovina which could seriously change the status quo, tailored for post-Dayton political elites in the country.
Picula underlined that four years have passed since Bosnia and Herzegovina had made the last significant progress towards the EU, adding that there had been no major political, economic and social reforms in the meantime.
“However, Bosnia and Herzegovina is fully entitled to have a place in European political architecture of the 21st century”, concluded Picula.