Strong support for Western Balkans by the EU

Government Communications Department 6.5.2020 22.19 | Published in English on 7.5.2020 at 9.24
Press release 319/2020

The European Union's support for the Western Balkans in the coronavirus crisis came strongly to the fore at the EU-Western Balkans Summit on Wednesday 6 May. Prime Minister Sanna Marin represented Finland in the video conference.

“Our cooperation during these difficult times shows that the EU is the most important partner for the Western Balkans. The EU’s financial and other assistance has been substantial,” said Prime Minister Sanna Marin in her speech. Prime Minister Marin also stressed that the message about the cooperation and the EU’s support should be conveyed clearly to the general public both in the Western Balkans and in Europe.

The amount of the COVID-19 support channelled to the Western Balkans by the EU, including the package of assistance from the European Investment Bank, is EUR 3.3 billion. The countries of the region have also made use of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCP Mechanism), and the “Green Lanes” introduced by the EU have been expanded to safeguard smooth flow of freight transport in the Western Balkans, too.

At the summit, the Western Balkan partners joined the Declaration of the EU Member States, which deals with not only the cooperation related to the ongoing coronavirus situation but also the EU support for the Western Balkans response to the impacts of coronavirus. Later this year, the European Commission will publish an economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans, which aims to support the region’s long-term recovery and create the economic conditions for EU convergence.

“In Finland’s opinion, the opportunities offered by the green transition and the digital transformation should be used in this work. As we engage in even closer cooperation than before, the Western Balkans, together with the EU, could be frontrunners in introducing reforms in the world. The EU has set ambitious climate targets and it is important that the Western Balkans will also commit to them,” Prime Minister Marin said.

In Finland’s view, it is also important that the plan be linked to the countries’ progress on key actions required for EU membership, such as implementing reforms related to the rule of law.

In the speeches and the Declaration, EU leaders reaffirmed their support for the European perspective for the Western Balkans. As an example of this, a decision was made in March to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

The EU-Western Balkans Summit (with the six Western Balkan partners: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and Serbia) was originally scheduled to take place in Zagreb, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a video conference was held.

Inquiries: Jari Luoto, State Under-Secretary for European Affairs, tel. +358 50 468 5949, Matti Niemi, Special Adviser (EU Affairs), tel. +358 45 679 1717, Kare Halonen, State Secretary for EU Affairs, tel. +358 295 160 319, Anne Sjöholm, Head of Communications for EU Affairs, tel. +358 40 537 0733, Prime Minister's Office