Western Balkans Summit
Working together for positive development
Along with other EU member states, Germany trusts that the six Western Balkan states will continue to move closer to the European Union. The future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union, says the declaration by the Italian Chair.
The declaration is issued at the end of the 4th Western Balkans Summit in the Italian city of Trieste.
In a statement made before the start of the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "This summit demonstrates that it is our common duty to ensure that these states enjoy positive development, that they can move step by step towards the European Union."
France, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Commission also attended the summit. The heads of state and government and line ministers consulted with the six Western Balkan states Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Slovenia and Croatia were also represented – they are already members of the EU. The other six Western Balkan states are aiming to join the EU. The annual Western Balkans Summit is intended to support them on their way towards this goal.
Successful cooperation with the Western Balkan states
Since the outset of the series of summits with the Western Balkan states, progress has been made, said the Chancellor. She pointed to the examples of cooperation on a Youth Office, future cooperation among scientists and many common infrastructure projects. "Political stability in this region also means political stability for us. We know this from a wide range of experiences," stressed Angela Merkel.
Regional integration and reconciliation
One important goal of this meeting was to improve cooperation within the region. This includes what is termed a connectivity agenda, with the help of which improvements are being initiated in the traffic and transport infrastructure, IT infrastructure and energy supply sectors.
Another item on the agenda was the continued process of reconciliation among the six Western Balkan states.
Discussions also focused on support for economic and societal reform processes in the six Western Balkan states, which is designed to enhance their prospects of accession to the EU, and enable them to meet the standards of the Single Market.
Alongside economic cooperation and anti-corruption efforts, youth cooperation played an important part – in particular the recently founded Balkan Youth Office.
Forging ahead with digitalisation
At a trilateral meeting ahead of the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the future of the work of the European Union.
The focus was on economic perspectives. "All European Union member states are now seeing their economies grow again. That is good, and it gives us hope," said the Chancellor. At the same time she stressed, "We must also do more in the direction of modern, new technologies, such as creating a Digital Single Market."
Meeting the challenges together
In view of the large numbers of migrants arriving in Italy, the Chancellor spoke out in favour of greater European efforts to address the root causes of displacement. "Italy has done an incredible job, in terms of registering and taking in refugees. But the three of us believe that we must focus above all on fighting the root causes of displacement and migration."
This is why the migration compacts with Niger and other African states are so important. "We are working together to stabilise the situation in Libya with political instruments," said Angela Merkel. Over and above this, we must find legal channels, while also addressing the root causes of migration and displacement.
There was also a high level of agreement that "Europe cannot only be an economic entity. It must also be a Europe that addresses all challenges together," said the Chancellor.
The Western Balkans Summit has been held every year since 2014. It has its roots in a German initiative to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. After summits in Berlin, Vienna and Paris, this year’s summit was held in the Italian city of Trieste. In 2018 the United Kingdom will host the summit.