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European Council upholds ‘European perspective’ for Western Balkans

At its meeting in Brussels today, the European Council confirmed its full support for the prospect of a future in Europe – the ‘European perspective’ – for the countries of the Western Balkans, to whom the EU leaders issued recommendations on drawing closer to the European Union.

“The Slovenian Presidency has endeavoured throughout to bolster the European perspective for the Western Balkan countries, this being a prerequisite for peace and stability in the region. So I am pleased that, today, we have confirmed some important achievements towards making the prospect of the region’s future in Europe a reality,” stressed the current European Council President, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The European Council confirmed that the stabilisation and accession process provides the framework enabling the Western Balkans to move closer to the European Union.  “Considerable progress has been made in the region in the past six months, and this is something of which we, as the Presidency, are especially proud. The European perspective for the Western Balkans is beyond doubt, now that the network of Stabilisation and Association Agreements has been completed with the signature of agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and with Serbia,” declared the Prime Minister.

“Today, we also confirmed measures to facilitate relations between people, with the start, for instance, of dialogue on liberalisation of the visa regime with Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” reported Mr Janša.

He went on to add that, in recent months, important initiatives had been launched in a range of fields which would help the region’s countries improve their transport and energy infrastructure, intensify scientific cooperation, and give their students opportunities to study in the EU. The agreement on combining funding instruments within a uniform framework was also confirmed. This should enable more transparent and efficient financial assistance to the region, he said.

Today, the EU leaders also assessed that, by the end of this year, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could proceed further along its path to EU accession, subject to fulfilling the conditions set by the European Council in 2005, the Copenhagen criteria and the key priorities laid down in the Accession Partnership in February 2008. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was granted candidate status as early as 2005, its next step is therefore to start accession negotiations with the EU.

The European Council welcomed the recent progress made in various respects by the countries of the region while also highlighting certain aspects which still needed to be reformed.

On Kosovo, the European Council again underlined that the EU would play a lead role in ensuring stability in Kosovo, through, among other things, the EULEX mission and the work of the EU’s special envoy to Kosovo. “We particularly welcomed the report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the reconfiguration of the international civil presence in Kosovo. Now, EULEX can play a lead role in ensuring stability in Kosovo. Preparations are also under way for a donor conference to boost Kosovo’s economic development,” added Mr Janša.


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Date: 27.06.2008