EU leaders reaffirm full commitment to Western Balkan countries' EU membership

EU leaders reaffirm full commitment to Western Balkan countries' EU membership

North Macedonia Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski right shakes hands with the President of the European Commission Ursula vonvon der Leyen after he spoke at a press conference in Skopje on October 26, 2022. ROBERT ATANASOVSKI AFP TIRANA - The leaders of the European Union EU reaffirmed their full commitment to the EU membership perspective of the Western Balkan WB countries on the sidelines of the EU-Western Balkans Summit held here on Tuesday.

The summit, which was the first outside the EU, was attended by European Commission President Ursula vonvon der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, as well as heads of state or government of the EU member states and WB partners.

The EU leaders called for the acceleration of the WB countries' EU accession process based on credible reforms by partners, fair and rigorous conditionality, and the principle of own merits.

The EU is more committed to a common future with our WB partners inside the EU. We are taking every opportunity to bring our people closer together. From addressing the energy crisis to opening more opportunities for citizens and business alike, von der Leyen said.

READ MORE: EU to provide €500 million for Western Balkans to deal with the energy crisis.

She said that the EU will grant one billion euros to the WB countries in grants for energy and infrastructure.

The energy support package includes 500 million euros in immediate support for all WB partners to cushion the increase in energy prices for businesses and vulnerable households. The package will be ready for disbursement in early 2023.

A package worth 500 million euro includes short and medium-term support via the Western Balkans Investment Framework to advance energy transition and energy security.

On Tuesday, EU leaders also witnessed the signing of a declaration from representatives of telecommunications companies from the EU and the WB countries on the first voluntary lowering of roaming charges between the region and the EU starting in October 2023.

READ MORE: EU allows Poland, Baltics to trim migrant rights on the Belarus border.

The participants talked about migration management, cybersecurity, education and youth policies.

Around the summit venue, hundreds of Albania's opposition party supporters staged a protest on Tuesday. Protestors accuse the current government of being involved in organized crime and causing mass emigration and voter buying.