The EU-Western Balkans summit will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 17 May 2018.
What are the summit's objectives?
The summit will aim to inject new energy in the EU-Western Balkans relationship. It will seek to:
- reaffirm the EU's commitment towards its Western Balkans partners and reiterate the region's belonging to the European family
- strengthen links between the EU and the Western Balkans in infrastructure, digital and human connectivity
- work more closely together to tackle common challenges, such as security, migration, geopolitical developments and good neighbourly relations
The summit will be centred on the theme of connectivity with a view to improve the links with the Western Balkans and within the region.
"After my recent trip to the region, I am convinced that the EU is the only partner that cares genuinely about the stability of the entire region and a prosperous future for its peoples – as opposed to treating it as a geopolitical game of chess, in which the people are pawns. The European perspective for the Western Balkans should remain a firm commitment on both sides."
- Excerpt from the invitation letter from President Donald Tusk to the members of the European Council ahead of the summit
Who will attend the summit?
The EU-Western Balkans summit will bring together:
- heads of state or government from EU member states
- leaders from the 6 Western Balkans partners: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Kosovo*
The meeting will be hosted by Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council.
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will chair the meeting. He will represent the EU together with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, will also attend the summit.
Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, the European investment Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council will also participate.
President Tusk's visit the region ahead of the summit
From 24 to 27 April President Tusk travelled to Tirana, Podgorica, Belgrade, Pristina, Sarajevo and Skopje. He met with the leaders of each Western Balkans partner to prepare for the upcoming summit and to discuss bilateral relations with the EU. At the end of his tour in the region, President Tusk participated in the Brdo-Brijuni process summit in Skopje.
"This week I have been travelling through the entire region. I came to the Western Balkans with a clear message from the leaders of all European Union Member States: we remain steadfast in our offer of a European perspective to the region. You can count on us."
- President Donald Tusk at the press conference of the Brdo-Brijuni summit, 27 April 2018
President Tusk has invited EU leaders to an informal dinner ahead of the summit. This dinner is part of the Leader's Agenda and it will focus on digital Europe, research, and innovation. EU leaders are also expected to use this occasion to exchange views on the Iran nuclear deal and trade with the US. Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, will host the dinner at the Sofia Tech Park. A Leader's Agenda note was issued ahead of the dinner outlining the key issues that will be discussed.
The Bulgarian Presidency of the Council has also scheduled several side events around the summit. They will provide an opportunity to showcase the breadth of EU-Western Balkans relations beyond intergovernmental aspects.
On 16 May, the European Council on Foreign Relations and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies are organising the conference 'In dialogue with the Western Balkans: creating a region of growth, security and connectivity on the path to Europe'.
Also on 16 May, the Bulgarian Forum for Business Leaders is organising the event 'Investment prospective: Western Balkans'. It will focus on economic potential of the Western Balkans as well as investment horizons in the region.
On 17 May, the World Economic Forum is co-hosting a strategic dialogue on the Western Balkans together with the Bulgarian presidency. The objective will be to advance private public partnerships to support investment in the region.
On 18 May, the Vienna Economic Forum will host the 'Sofia Talks 2018' focusing on regional economic cooperation.
On the same day, an event on the circular economy and clean technologies will be organised by the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Waters and Cleatech Bulgaria.
In addition, the European External Action Service (EEAS) launched the EU-Western Balkans cultural heritage route. Several initiatives and events will be organised to promote the rich cultural heritage of the Western Balkans, as part of the European year of cultural heritage.
Source: European Commission - Council of the European Union