News archive - Berlin Summit: Western Balkans strengthen regional cooperation and foster closer ties with the EU

President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, participated in the Western Balkans Summit in the context of the so-called 'Berlin Process'. The summit brought together for the eight time Heads of State or Government from the Western Balkans and their counterparts from nine EU Member States, high-level EU representatives and the United Kingdom, to advance on their regional cooperation and European integration agenda. The virtual meeting was hosted by Chancellor Merkel.


During the Summit, the Commission reconfirmed its commitment to cooperation with and support for the region in its post-pandemic recovery through the Economic and Investment Plan, focusing on green and digital transition investments, smart mobility links, sustainable energy, digital infrastructure, and business sector development and human capital, including youth. The Commission also called for further progress in the region's economic integration to reap the full benefits of the planned investments.

President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in her opening address, said: “Our first priority is to accelerate the enlargement agenda across the region and support our Western Balkan partners in their work to deliver on the necessary reforms to advance on their European path. But our engagement with the Western Balkans goes beyond that, and the Berlin Process has served as an incubator for many initiatives that have now become an integral part of the EU's policy vis-à-vis the region. Together we have set the course for a more sustainable, more digital and more resilient Europe.” 

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, emphasised: “Closing the socio-economic gap between the Western Balkans and the EU is crucial for the Enlargement process. We are bringing significant investment opportunities to the region through the Economic and Investment Plan. Now it is for the region to use them well by harnessing its full economic potential and establishing a Common Regional Market based on EU rules. Creating 'Green Lanes' on the border crossings within the entire region first, and now piloting this with an EU Member State is a perfect illustration of how this can work.”

Today's Summit focused on the progress achieved by the region in economic integration under the Common Regional Market action plan from last year's 2020 Sofia Summit, and on implementing the Economic and Investment Plan put forward by the Commission last autumn.  

Following the facilitation of border crossing logistics within the region during the pandemic, through the establishment of the so-called 'Green Lanes', this initiative is now entering a new phase. Greece expressed its political willingness to endorse the extension of the 'Green Lanes' initiative to the Western Balkans and its commitment to work towards its application to the designated border-crossing points between Greece and its neighbouring Western Balkans countries – Albania and North Macedonia.

This year's Summit was also an opportunity to celebrate the full entry into force on 1 July 2021 of the Regional Roaming Agreement, which is abolishing roaming charges within the region. The next step under preparation is a glide path for the gradual abolition of roaming charges between the Western Balkans and the EU. 

For the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, the Commission announced that it has the intention to propose an investment package of €500 million in 2021. The package will be dedicated to flagship projects under the Plan, subject to the adoption of the new framework for the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III) expected in the coming months.

Moreover, following the decision by the EU to consider all Western Balkans six among those for which travel restrictions should be lifted, and in order to further assist the Western Balkans to mitigate the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a package of financial and technical support will be provided for the Western Balkans to join the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate. This will facilitate travel between the Western Balkans and the EU.

Source and more information: EC press Release

Geographical focus
  • EC
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Admin on July 27, 2021
Modified on August 2, 2021