The sun may be playing hide-and-seek with the clouds in Ljubljana, contradicting forecasts of strong storms, but optimism remains cautious for the Prime Ministers of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev and Albania Edi Rama for the start of accession negotiations with the EU.
With the center of Slovenia’s capital city blockaded around the Grand Hotel Union where the European Socialists’ summit will take place, no one who spoke to IBNA showed any signs of optimism about the upcoming EU-Western Balkans Summit, which begins this evening with an informal dinner of EU leaders in Brdo pri Kranju.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, will chair the summit. President Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, will represent the EU.
Invitation letter by President Charles Michel, 1 October 2021
The summit is part of the EU’s strategic engagement with the Western Balkans, in line with the 2019-2024 Strategic Agenda. It follows the 2018 EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia and the 2020 EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit, which was held via video conference.
The summit will consist of a plenary session followed by a leaders-only session.
Discussions will centre around the reaffirmation of the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which is of mutual strategic interest and remains a shared strategic choice, the development of our cooperation and the region’s socio-economic recovery, in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Also the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan (EIP), which sets out a substantial investment package and will generate more sustainable, green, digital and people-focused growth, benefiting the region and Europe as a whole
intensifying regional cooperation exploring further cooperation on political and security matters of mutual concern
For the plenary session, the leaders will be joined by representatives of the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council.
At the end of the meeting, the EU leaders are expected to adopt a declaration, with which the Western Balkans leaders are invited to align themselves.
A €30 billion Economic and Investment Plan (EIP)
The EU is the Western Balkans’ main political, economic and trade partner. Through the EIP, the EU is now providing unprecedented financial support mobilising some €30 billion for the region over the next seven years.
The EU will provide €9 billion worth of grant funding through 10 investment flagships. In this way the EIP aims to:
-spur long-term economic recovery
-accelerate a green and digital transition
-support regional cooperation
-foster convergence with the EU
The EIP will also help attract public and private investments, backed by the Western Balkan Guarantee Facility, which has a potential to mobilise €20 billion.
A shared responsibility
The EIP investments are meant to be a driver for positive change for the Western Balkans. However, this will only be sustainable through a joint effort by all sides.
The EU support is therefore linked to tangible progress on the rule of law, socio-economic reforms and adherence to European values, rules and standards.
Today on 5 October, on the eve of the summit, President Michel will invite EU leaders to join an informal European Council working dinner./ibna