A forum has urged the European Union (EU) to speed up the integration of the Western Balkans into the bloc, following Brussel’s decision to support Ukraine’s candidacy on Thursday.
The Prespa Forum, which was attended by heads of state, governments, and diplomats from the Western Balkans and EU, took place on Friday in Ohrid, North Macedonia.
One of the main topics on the agenda was how to improve the EU’s ties with both Western Balkans countries and Ukraine.
Many speakers at the event claimed that, while giving Ukraine candidacy status was “a significant signal”, it must be accompanied by concrete results in the EU’s enlargement process in the Western Balkans.
“All countries that are seeking enlargement are on one page,” said Manuel Sarrazin, Germany’s special envoy to the Western Balkans.
“The credibility of the enlargement towards Ukraine, towards Moldova, towards Western Balkans is the same.”
He also claimed that the integration processes of the Western Balkans and Ukraine were deeply intertwined.
“If the Ukrainians see that even in regard to a small country like Montenegro, the EU is not willing to move forward … what does it mean for a big country like Ukraine?
“If Western Balkans countries see that a country fighting like Ukraine has no special situation regarding enlargement, then whoever shall have a prospect for European enlargement then,” he added.
Current EU candidate countries in the western Balkans include North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, and Serbia. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are also potential candidates.