EU reaffirms unequivocal support for European aspirations of Western Balkans

EU reaffirms unequivocal support for European aspirations of Western Balkans

EU reaffirms unequivocal support for European aspirations of Western Balkans

The strategy, named "A credible enlargement perspective for an enhanced European Union engagement with the Western Balkans", includes six flagship initiatives which the European Union will launch over the next years to support the transformation efforts of the Western Balkans in areas of mutual interest.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has previously said it is the EU's responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the region by offering countries a route into the bloc.

"But the countries must tackle their conflicts, definitely say that their borders are valid, efficiently combat organised crime and corruption and implement reforms", he said, adding that the EU should set its time plan for the Balkan countries joining the Union.

Preparing for life without the UK, Brussels has made it abundantly clear it sees a new membership base in the previously war-torn region of the Western Balkans.

"We won't start a strategic trade war against the USA about Iran", he said on arriving for a second day of a European Union summit in Bulgaria.

Unlocking talks for Macedonia - officially known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - could also be tricky for the European Union as they squabble over naming. Also, five European Union countries do not recognize Kosovo, the former Serbian republic that declared independence in 2008.

FYROM, since the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, has insisted on its desire to simply be called "Macedonia".

Borissov highlighted what he saw as the achievements of the summit, such as the agreements concluded, and among other things, the message from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart from Skopje, Zoran Zaev, that they had reached a "single option" on resolving the dispute over the use of the name "Macedonia".

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The leaders of Macedonia and Greece met on the sidelines of the summit although officials played down the chance of any deal.

"The EU welcomes their commitment to take resolute action, in cooperation with the EU and with each other, against human trafficking, drug cultivation, and smuggling of human beings, drugs and arms", it said.

The three-page document itself contained words about the "shared commitment to European values", the "unequivocal support for the European perspective" of the Western Balkan states and the commitment to "the primacy of democracy and the rule of law".

The EU supports the Western Balkans partners pledge to continue strengthening good neighborly relations, regional stability and mutual cooperation, it said.

But with French oil company Total saying it will up sticks if the United States does not grant it a waiver and the world's largest container shipping firm Moller-Maersk saying it would quit the country, Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear to be fighting an uphill battle. "This is the best illustration that the integration with the Western Balkans is a top priority for the EU", Tusk said.

The economies of the Western Balkan countries continue to grow but, despite that, the countries of the region remain among the poorest in Europe.

"The effective implementation of reforms rests on these foundations".

However, EU officials say there is no easy way to protect EU firms from US sanctions and that it will take time for the bloc to devise what will likely be a complex mix of national and EU-level measures.

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