EU steps up cooperation with Western Balkans on security and foreign policy

23 Qershor 2024, 18:10Politics TEMA

EU steps up cooperation with Western Balkans on security and foreign policy

June 23, 2024 - The European Union is ramping up its collaboration with Western Balkan countries in security, defense, and foreign policy. Recognizing the shared challenges between the region and the EU, the move underscores the importance of unity and common values, especially with nations aspiring to join the EU.

On June 24, EU Foreign Ministers will meet with their Western Balkan counterparts in Luxembourg to discuss a new guiding document on this cooperation. This document, seen by Radio Free Europe, highlights the increasing complexity of current geostrategic challenges, which pose risks to both European and global stability.

Key points include enhancing collective efforts in foreign and security policy, reflecting a strategic alignment based on shared principles such as the rule of law and international law. The document acknowledges the progress made by Western Balkan countries in integrating with European processes, particularly in foreign policy and security.

Regular EU-Western Balkans summits, joint ministerial meetings, and high-level EU events have encouraged this cooperation. The region’s countries are also contributing to international efforts in the UN and OSCE, avoiding sanctions on third countries, and engaging in military cooperation and law enforcement development.

The EU is supporting the region in mine clearance, combating disinformation, particularly from Russia, and tackling organized crime. Cooperation in fighting terrorism, violent extremism, and arms trafficking remains crucial.

Notable EU missions in the region include Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina with 1,600 troops, and EULEX in Kosovo, which has significantly contributed to maintaining security and improving the rule of law over the past year. The EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia has advanced the normalization of relations and helped manage crises.

The EU aims to further deepen engagement with the Western Balkans before formal membership, stressing the need for intensified political interaction. Priorities include advancing reconciliation between Kosovo and Serbia and continuing support for defense capacity building and countering disinformation.

A recently approved EU plan aims to accelerate reforms and growth in the Western Balkans, preparing them for EU membership. The EU also expects the region to continue supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression. While most Western Balkan countries align with the EU's foreign policy, Serbia has not supported EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus.

Countries like Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are at various stages of EU accession, while Kosovo applied for membership in 2022. 

The article was originally published by Radio Free Europe and has been adapted into English

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