EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit, 6 May 2020

Publication Date 06/05/2020
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A summit gathering the European Union (EU) member states and countries of the Western Balkans region was held on 6 May 2020 via video conference.

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EU leaders reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans, and the EU's determination in strengthening its support to the region's political, economic and social transformation. Western Balkans leaders reaffirmed this perspective as their strategic choice, and their commitment in carrying out refoms towards European values and principles and the primacy of the rule of law.

The EU leaders also stressed the importance of good neighbourly relations, regional stability, and mutual cooperation. This includes implementing bilateral agreements in good faith and with tangible results. There was also a call for solutions to bilateral disputes and additional efforts to reconciliation.

Both sides pledged to work together in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented a face-to-face summit altogether on this occasion. This includes a package of EU support for the health sector and socioeconomic recovery in the Western Balkans, as well as Macro-Financial Assistance; co-operation and coordination in the form of joint procurement and unrestricted trade-flow of protective personal equipment (PPE), among other measures; addressing disinformation and other hybrid activities seeking to undermine the European perspective of the region.

The EU urged the Western Balkans leaders to fully exploit the potential of regional cooperation to facilitate the economic recovery, including the deepening of regional economic integration and building on EU rules and standards through a Regional Economic Area (REA). Following an exchange of views on closer cooperation to tackle the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the European Commission was tasked with setting up an economic and investment plan for the region.

Summit participants discussed common security challenges, including closer cooperation on matters relating to migration, terrorism, corruption and other organise crime, as well as regional stability and security. They also addressed the need to prioritise energy security diversification. Finally EU leaders urged their Western Balkan partners to contribute to the EU missions and fully align with EU foreign policy position.

The EU leaders adopted the Zagreb Declaration, with which the Western Balkans partners decided to align themselves.

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Commentary and Analysis
Politico, 06/05/2020: The Western Balkans belong with Europe
Balkan Insight, 07/05/2020: China’s Balkan Investments Are Paradoxically Speeding Region’s EU Integration
Social Europe, 07/05/2020: Does European solidarity extend to the western Balkans?
Politico, 07/05/2020: 4 takeaways from the EU’s virtual Balkan summit
Euro|topics, May 2020: EU cash for Western Balkans - but no membership for now
EPRS: Briefing, May 2020: Outcome of the Zagreb EU-Western Balkans video-summit of 6 May 2020

Euronews, 06/05/2020: 'The Western Balkans belong in the EU', says Ursula von der Leyen
Deutsche Welle, 06/05/2020: EU focuses on Western Balkans despite coronavirus pandemic
B92, 06/05/2020: "Serbia is part of the 'Europe team'"
EurActiv, 06/05/2020: EU’s COVID-19 aid to reassure Western Balkan hopefuls as virus set to hijack summit
TRT World, 07/05/2020: EU aims to reassure Balkans with virus aid, economic support
EurActiv, 07/05/2020: EU and Western Balkan leaders reaffirm ties in veiled response to China, Russia
EUObserver, 07/05/2020: EU restates marriage proposal to Balkan hopefuls
RFE/RL, 07/05/2020: EU Enlargement Commissioner Vows 'Thorough' Assessment Of State Of Democracy In Serbia, Montenegro
Euronews, 07/05/2020: EU sends 'strong signal' to Western Balkans, as coronavirus tests relations

Zagreb Declaration, 6 May 2020 (in several languages)
European Council: Remarks by President Charles Michel after the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit, 6 May 2020
European Commission: Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel and Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia, following the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit, 6 May 2020
EU EEAS: News, 06/05/2020: High Representative/ Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit: This is a time for solidarity and enhanced cooperation
Estonia: Estonian Government: News, 06/05/2020: Ratas at the EU-Western Balkans Summit: A free and democratic Europe is our collective home
Spain: Government Presidency (La Moncloa): News, 06/05/2020: Spain reiterates its commitment to Western Balkans in its fight against COVID-19
Finland: Prime Minister's Office: Press Release, 07/05/2020: Strong support for Western Balkans by the EU
Poland: Polish Government: News, 07/05/2020: EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit

ESO Records
Enhancing the accession process – A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans (European Commission Communication, February 2020)
Support to the Western Balkans in tackling COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery (European Communication Communication, April 2020)

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