EU leaders pledged to support the EU integration of the Western Balkans countries and stressed the importance of joint commitments to fight illegal migration.
Migration management remains a joint challenge and responsibility, which the EU and the Western Balkans will address together in close partnership, according to the Tirana Declaration, adopted at the EU – Western Balkans summit in Tirana on Tuesday. The document was signed by the leaders of the EU and the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo). They stressed that
sustained and expanded efforts are required in order to address irregular migration on the Western Balkans route, including to combat smuggling of migrants and human trafficking.
EU leaders urged their Western Balkans partners to align with the bloc’s visa policy, because that is of crucial importance for “migration management and for the overall good functioning and sustainability of the visa-free regimes between the Western Balkans and the EU.”
In the declaration, the EU reconfirmed “its full and unequivocal commitment to the European Union membership perspective of the Western Balkans and calls for the acceleration of the accession process.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who also attended the summit, stressed in a Facebook video that Hungary strongly supports the EU integration of the region.
“This is an existential issue for Hungary’s security, because we are only able to seal the migration route with Serbia’s help. This is also an existential issue from the viewpoint of Hungary’s energy security, since today Hungarian families and businesses are only receiving gas from the South, from the Balkans, from the direction of Serbia,” he said. “Serbia and the Western Balkans can be the gate to cheap energy coming to Central Europe from the South, and so it can resolve not only Hungary’s, but also the whole of Central Europe’s energy independence,” the prime minister added.
The time has come, this is what we will stand for now. Let us not hesitate any further. The European Union should finally admit both Serbia and the other countries of the Western Balkans,”
Representatives of mobile network operators in the European Union and the Western Balkans signed an agreement at the start of Tuesday’s meeting to phase out roaming charges between the two regions from next autumn.
Featured photo via Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda/Benko Vivien Cher