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BIRN analysis: What is expected from the EU-Western Balkans Summit?
The European Union organizes on Tuesday in Tirana the summit between the Union and the countries of the Western Balkans with an agenda dedicated to expansion and facing the consequences of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
This is the first summit to take place in the Western Balkans region, and according to the European Council, "it is an opportunity to reaffirm the key importance of the strategic partnership between the EU and the Western Balkans, a region with a clear EU perspective" .
The agenda published on Monday has defined as the main topic of discussion the joint confrontation with the consequences of Russian aggression against Ukraine, where European leaders will specifically discuss how to deal with its negative effects in the field of energy and food security in the Western Balkans.
In this context, the Summit will be an opportunity to discuss coordinated actions on security and defense issues, which have become even more important in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
At the joint table, we will talk about engagement in cooperation policies with a special focus on young people; strengthening security and building resilience against foreign interference and addressing the challenges of migration, the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
During the 1-day work, there will also be an assessment of the progress made towards the integration of the Western Balkans with the EU market, the modernization of the digital payment system according to European standards and the implementation of the green line to facilitate the movement of goods and services. .
The leaders of the EU member states are expected to come out with a statement at the end of the summit, while integration experts see this summit of special importance for the region and a return of Brussels' attention to the Balkan countries that have been waiting for decades in integration path to join the EU.
Afrim Krasniqi, executive director of the Institute for Political Studies, thinks that the region may see the summit as a more inflammatory EU approach towards it.
"From the preliminary data of the EU, no important agreement is expected, but after the July decision to open negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, this is the most serious step and the most important act," he told BIRN. .
The choice of Tirana as a destination, according to Krasniqi, is doubly positive news, for Albania and for the region. But, according to him, Albania should use this moment to convey the image of the country with stability and western orientation.
"Especially to overcome the conflict without political sense, to follow a concrete agenda of reforms towards integration, agenda and results which are currently missing" - he added.
Even Gledis Gjipali, executive director of European Movement Albania, sees Tuesday's meeting as a clear indication of Brussels' increased attention to the Balkan countries.
“Intensiteti i organizimit të samiteve është pozitiv, tregon që ka interes politik të Bashkimit Europian për Ballkanin Perëndimor, pasi në vitet e fundit është i 3-ti, ndërsa nga samiti i Selanikut deri tek ai Sofies u deshën 15 vjet”- tha Gjipali për BIRN.
Sipas tij, ky samit është i rëndësishëm edhe sepse në të vendosen prioritet e viteve të ardhshme se çfarë do të bëhet me procesin e zgjerimit, si dhe pjesën e mbështetjes financiare dhe ekonomike për vendet e rajonit.
“Po të shohim samitet e kaluara ka pasur disa angazhime për mbështetje që janë implementuar”- shtoi ai.
Sipas Gjipalit, zgjedhja e Shqipërisë si destinacion është një vlerësim në rrugën e integrimit dhe qëndrimet për politikat e BE-së, sidomos ato që lidhen me sanksionet ndaj Rusisë.
In this context, he adds that, Serbia's warning about the boycott of the summit shows the increased pressure on Belgrade for the choice it will make for the future; whether it will be with the EU or not.
Even Krasniqi sees the summit on December 6 as an opportunity to clarify the position of the Balkan countries in relation to the influences from third actors.
According to him, the EU has rightly been criticized for lack of strategy and confusion in the messages for these countries, but the crisis in Ukraine has brought attention back to the importance of the region in the security system.
"The EU sees Russia as a threat to the region, Albania too, but some countries have a different opinion, so the summit confirms the official line of Brussels and is a clear response to the dualist policy of Belgrade and the local crises in Sarajevo, Pristina and Podgorica" - concludes he.