Foreign Affairs | EU support for the Western Balkans
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which the European Union continues to support the Western Balkans; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
For both Ireland and the EU, ensuring peace and stability throughout the Western Balkans continues to be a priority. The war in Ukraine has provoked a significant geopolitical realignment and shown us that we need to deliver on the expectations of the Western Balkans countries, while also strengthening their commitment to European values as future EU Member States. In particular, closer political engagement and practical support to assist with the consequences of the war will be needed in order to bolster the resilience of our Western Balkan Partners.
As a sign of this continuing priority, an EU-Western Balkans Leaders’ meeting will take place in the morning of 23 June 2022, just ahead of the meeting of the European Council. The leaders of the six Western Balkans countries (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) have been invited to meet with the members of the European Council at this meeting. The overall aims of the meeting are to express support for integrating the Western Balkans to the Union; to enhance cooperation with the region; to discuss the enlargement methodology; to discuss geostrategic issues; to deepen people-to-people contacts with; and to promote alignment with EU values and the CFSP.
I warmly welcome the convening of this important engagement with our Western Balkans partners. The EU is already providing considerable assistance to the Western Balkans to promote the region’s resilience in the context of the current Russian aggression against Ukraine, including assistance with promoting greater energy security.
Ireland remains a strong supporter of enlargement of the European Union, provided that candidate countries meet the necessary conditions for membership. We recognise the value of enlargement as a transformative driver for stability and peace in the Western Balkans, and are concerned at the increasing disillusionment with the enlargement process as a whole. In particular, we would like to see accession negotiations opened with Albania and North Macedonia without delay. No other single move could better highlight the EU’s prioritisation of the Enlargement Process and ongoing support for the Western Balkans as this.
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