Western Balkans Nations Show Solidarity with EU’s New Growth Plan as They Pursue Bloc Membership

by Cristian Florescu

On Monday, the heads of Western Balkan nations committed to fully harnessing the European Union’s financial assistance package of six billion euros (approximately $6.5 billion) as they persist in their quest for membership in the EU.

Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Albania find themselves at varying stages of the accession process. Their leaders convened in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, and collectively expressed their commitment “to the development of their countries to adhere to European standards.”

In November, the European Commission unveiled a Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, aiming to enhance economic integration with the EU’s single market, foster regional economic cooperation, expedite essential reforms, and augment financial assistance.

This plan features a proposed six-billion-euro reform and growth initiative to be disbursed over three years, spanning from 2024 to 2027, subject to agreed-upon reforms. Its primary objective is to support a potential doubling of the Western Balkans’ economy over the next decade. The funding intends to address the frustration among residents of candidate countries concerning the sluggish pace of the membership process, while also reinforcing the alignment of these nations with the West amid Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

Participants in Monday’s meeting included Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Kosovo’s Albin Kurti, Montenegro’s Milojko Spajic, and North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, James O’Brien, and the Director-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission, Gert Jan Kopmann, were also in attendance.

O’Brien emphasized, “Each country is responsible for its reforms and for working with as many of its neighbours as it can. So now, the countries that seize the initiative will get the benefits sooner and they will not have to wait until some unrelated dispute is resolved.”

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