Ratas after Sofia summit: Door to European Union open to Western Balkans

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) at the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, May 17, 2018.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) at the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, May 17, 2018. Source: Riigikantselei

"Today's EU-Western Balkans summit was an important milestone. The last similar meeting took place fifteen years ago. We once again confirmed to our partners in the Western Balkans that the door to the European Union is open to them. This is our promise," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said after the summit.

The main topic of the summit was connectivity in its broadest sense, meaning transport, energy, and digital connections as well as contacts between people and learning opportunities. The countries of the European Union adopted the Sofia Declaration, and with it a plan including activities for further cooperation with countries of the Western Balkans.

"I'm glad we have a specific plan how to proceed. The European Union is the most important investor and market for the Western Balkans. Strong connections and investment further support integration both regionally and with Europe, even before joining the EU," Ratas was quoted as saying in a government press release on Thursday evening.

He added that the EU will support the independent media and the civil societies of the Western Balkans, double its funding of the Erasmus+ program that allows students of the area to study in the EU, and create a youth lab for the Western Balkans.

In terms of infrastructure, the EU will support the construction of two motorways, connecting the electricity markets, and provide additional security for private investors for investing in the Western Balkans, the prime minister added.

Ratas stressed the importance of investment in the digital sphere and the integration of the countries in the region in the according EU efforts. "This not only means faster and cheaper services and economic growth, but also more transparent and efficient government, less corruption, and increased faith in the state," Ratas said.

The summit also discussed issues of security in Europe as well as the region. The EU wants closer cooperation with the countries in the Western Balkans to deter risks and threats related to terrorism, radicalisation, organised crime, and illegal migration. Common security challenges as discussed at the summit also include cyberspace, and the fight against hybrid threats, such as propaganda and misinformation.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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