Ljubljana, October 6 (TASR-correspondent) – The word ‘enlargement’ has appeared in a joint statement of EU and Western Balkan leaders, a significant step forward from previous summits, stated Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OLaNO) at a press conference on Wednesday after the informal summit of the EU and the Western Balkan countries in Slovenia ended.
“There is a strong determination to continue the negotiations to help them not to linger as much as possible. Because the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans is crucial for Europe’s future. I emphasised on behalf of Slovakia that we should also approach in this manner Ukraine and, of course, the southern neighbourhood,” said Heger. According to the premier, the discussion was also praised by the Western Balkan leaders, while “they also appreciated the declaration itself, in which the word enlargement appeared, which is a significant step forward”.
EU leaders, in a common statement joined by Western Balkan leaders, reaffirmed this time their “commitment to the EU enlargement process”. Statements of European and Western Balkans top representatives from summits in Sofia in 2018 and Zagreb in 2020 mention only “unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans” but they do not contain the word “enlargement” at all.
Asked if the leaders also addressed energy prices at the summit, Heger said it was a marginal topic that would be addressed in more depth at the end of October at the summit in Brussels, reiterating that electricity and gas prices for households in Slovakia will be at a similar level as in 2019 and 2020.
In a statement, the Western Balkans countries reiterated their commitment to European values and principles. At the same time, the EU welcomed their commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and minority rights.
EU member states expressed support for the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues, Miroslav Lajcak. The EU expects specific progress from both sides of the conflict to normalise mutual diplomatic relations.