EU-Western Balkans summit to be held

Western Balkans EU
Photo: Virginia Mayo/ Reuters

Leaders from EU member states and Western Balkan nations will convene today in Slovenia to discuss regional cooperation, foreign investment and COVID-19 pandemic recovery policies.

While there is growing willingness from Brussels to enlarge the Union eastwards, progress is slow due to administrative and political roadblocks. Within the Western Balkans, only Croatia and Slovenia have so far gained EU membership. Other former Yugoslav nations are eager to join, either engaging in negotiations or beginning accession talks. Despite wide-ranging enthusiasm for enlargement, key stakeholders are halting further integrative processes, with France’s veto vote in 2019 and Bulgaria’s blocking of accession talks last year.

Despite these recent setbacks, the European Commission’s 2019-2024 Strategic Agenda seeks to spur political integration by enhancing economic ties vis-a-vis the Balkans. The summit is expected to produce a Balkan-wide declaration affirming the region’s commitment to the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan (EIP). Among other projects, the plan will complete a north-south road and rail corridor linking Central Europe with key Balkan coastal ports, strengthening both parties’ commercial interests. Accordingly, expect the EU’s generous investment strategy to strengthen the region’s developmental trajectory, enabling more significant integrative actions within the decade.

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