EU-Western Balkans summit in Tirana, 6 December 2022

In Europe

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Main results

This was the first-ever summit between EU and Western Balkans leaders to take place in the Western Balkans region.

The summit was an opportunity to reconfirm the key importance of strategic partnership between the EU and the Western Balkans, a region with a clear EU perspective.

The main topics of discussion were:

  • tackling together the consequences the Russian aggression against Ukraine
  • intensifying political and policy engagement
  • reinforcing security and building resilience against foreign interference
  • addressing the challenges posed by migration, the fight against terrorism and organised crime

At the end of the summit, the Tirana declaration was issued.

EU perspective

The Tirana declaration reaffirms the EU’s unequivocal support for the EU perspective of the Western Balkans.

The EU reconfirms its full and unequivocal commitment to the European Union membership perspective of the Western Balkans and calls for the acceleration of the accession process, based upon credible reforms by partners, fair and rigorous conditionality and the principle of own merits.

Tirana declaration

In this declaration, EU leaders welcome the Western Balkans partners’ resolve to uphold core European values and principles, in line with international law.

EU leaders recall the importance of continuing reforms, notably in the area of rule of law, and in particular those related to the independence and functioning of the judiciary and the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine

Leaders discussed cooperation in the face of common challenges stemming from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Russia bears the sole responsibility for the current energy and economic crises. The EU will continue its support for the Western Balkans Partners in tackling the negative effects on their economies and societies.

Tirana declaration

The EU’s new energy support package will help the Western Balkans:

  • mitigate the impact of the energy crisis, with specific support for vulnerable families and SMEs
  • accelerate the energy transition and energy independence, notably thanks to the REPower EU Plan

In the Tirana declaration, EU leaders recall their decision to open up the common purchases of gas, LNG and hydrogen to the Western Balkans partners and encourage them to use this platform.

EU leaders also urge Western Balkans partners to make swift and sustained progress towards full alignment with the EU common foreign and security policy and to act accordingly, including on EU restrictive measures.

A robust economic foundation for the future

The Tirana declaration highlights how the continued implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan and the Green and Digital Agendas for the Western Balkans will help strengthen the region’s economy and resilience.

A new package of EUR 400 million in EU grants worth EUR 1.2 billion in investment value, to finance 12 investment projects, has just been approved, while adopted projects are entering the implementation stage.

Tirana declaration

The EU will also continue its support to the agricultural sector.

The EU remains the region’s main investor, trading partner and donor.

Political and policy engagement

The EU and the Western Balkans leaders are determined to accelerate and deepen their political and policy engagement, with particular attention to be paid to young people.

The EU (…) is already gradually associating partners in EU’s programmes such as Erasmus+, the European Solidarity Corps and the European Universities initiative.

Tirana declaration

During the summit, EU and Western Balkans leaders took stock of the progress made:

  • towards integration of the Western Balkans with the EU internal market
  • on free movement and recognition of IDs for all citizens of the region
  • on mutual recognition of university diplomas and professional qualifications within the region
  • on the modernisation of Western Blakan economies payments systems in line with the EU standards
  • in the digital area
  • in the implementation of the EU-Western Balkans green lanes, an initiative to facilitate cross-border logistics and continuous flow of goods

EU and Western Balkans leaders also welcomed the agreement between the telecom operators signed in the margins of the summit. It will result in reducing roaming costs between the EU and the Western Balkans in 2023, with a view to their full removal in 2027.

Security and resilience against foreign interference

The summit was an opportunity to discuss coordinated actions on security and defence matters, which have become even more relevant in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

The EU will continue to work together with the region to further develop its defence capabilities and capacities, including through the European Peace Facility.

Tirana declaration

This includes fighting foreign information manipulation and improving collective cybersecurity.

Migration management

With the Western Balkans having seen a substantial increased in flows over the past year, leaders exchanged views on jointly addressing migration management. They discussed alignment on EU visa policy and cooperation on return systems, among other topics.

Partners’ swift alignment with EU visa policy is of urgent and crucial importance for migration management and for the overall good functioning and sustainability of the visa-free regimes between the Western Balkans and the EU.

Tirana declaration

Strong financial EU support will allow partners to:

  • enhance asylum and reception systems
  • strengthen border protection
  • fight smuggling networks and organised crime groups
  • step up returns from the Western Balkans to the countries of origin

Migration management remains a joint challenge and responsibility.

Tirana declaration

Leaders also discussed how to strengthen collaboration on counter-terrorism and prevention of radicalisation.

Background information

The summit is part of the implementation of the European Council’s 2019-2024 Strategic Agenda.

Previous meetings

Leaders met in June 2022 to take stock of progress on key investments under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans and discussed geostrategic issues.

The last summit between EU and Western Balkans leaders was the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Brdo pri Kranju in October 2021. It was hosted by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council.

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