News archive - EU Foreign Ministers Discuss the Western Balkans

The renewal of the Thessaloniki Agenda – which in 2003 guaranteed all Western Balkan countries a European future – was the focus of the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers held at the congress centre in Brdo, Slovenia on March 29, 2008.
A Brdo Presidency Statement titled "New focus on the Western Balkans" was issued.

The first part of the meeting was attended by the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, and EU special representatives for the region. The second part was also attended by the foreign ministers of the Western Balkan countries or their representatives.
Source: Press Release on

Brdo Presidency Statement: New focus on the Western Balkans

Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia, 29 March 2008

The representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Union, the candidate countries, the potential candidate countries of the Western Balkans, the Secretary General of the Council/High Representative, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and the European Commissioner for External Relations met in Brdo on the 29 March 2008 at the occasion of the informal Foreign Ministers’ meeting. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Kosovo, the EU Special Representative for Kosovo, the OHR/EUSR for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EUSR/HoD for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Secretary General of the Regional Co-operation Council were also present.


The Presidency underlined that it is in our common interest that the Western Balkans countries proceed as rapidly as possible with political and economic reforms, reconciliation and protection of minority ethnic population, and progress towards the EU. The progress achieved through the Stabilisation and Association Process in the recent years needs to be built upon and made irreversible by the region’s determination to take on and implement all conditions and commitments set within the Stabilisation and Association Process.


A fresh impetus needs to be given to the Thessaloniki agenda and the Salzburg document. The Presidency welcomed the Commission’s “Communication on the Western Balkans” as an important contribution to that effort, as well as the opportunity for discussion offered by the meeting in Brdo.


There remain significant challenges that should inspire both the EU and the region to make a defining move ahead towards the EU. The Communication identified several priorities and concrete measures to support this goal. Of particular importance are regional co-operation in the area of energy and transport, including the intended Transport Community Treaty, as well as in civil protection. The Presidency also welcomed the transformation of the Stability Pact into the Regional Cooperation Council in Sofia in February, building on the remarkable legacy of its predecessor, while assuming increased responsibility by the countries of the region. In the area of support to socio-economic development, the Infrastructure Projects Facility and the plans to establish Western Balkans Investment Framework are very significant. Support to civil society development through Civil Society Facility, but also cultural co-operation and inter-parliamentary co-operation may play an important role. In strengthening good governance, the Regional School of Public Administration, as well as co-operation in the area of justice, freedom and security including, inter alia, through Organised Crime Threat Assessment, co-operation with EUROPOL, and SECI Centre in Bucharest are also very relevant.

One area that deserves particular attention is the promotion of people-to-people contacts between the Western Balkans countries and the EU, above all of the younger generation, as it enables the citizens from the region to get to know the true image of the European Union. This is all the more important for the countries of former Yugoslavia that already had experience of visa free travel before 1990. Increasing the number of scholarships, further participation in the Community programs and agencies, intensifying the cooperation and support in the areas of science, education, culture, youth and media can strengthen people-to-people contacts.

At the same time, it is essential that the EU visa policy adequately addresses the present concerns of Member States and their citizens regarding to illegal immigration, cross-border crime, public order, internal security, job markets and their international relations.

After the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with five countries of the Western Balkans that came into force in January 2008, the next concrete goal, as already foreseen by the Thessaloniki Agenda, shall be liberalisation of the visa regime. To this end, the European Commission is in the process of opening a dialogue on visa liberalization with all the countries of the region. This dialogue should set down realistic priorities and criteria – roadmaps - for enabling visa-free travel. The Presidency welcomed the Commission’s efforts to prepare the roadmaps as soon as possible.

Regional co-operation, good neighbourly relations and the need to find mutually acceptable solutions on outstanding issues with neighbouring countries remain essential elements of the region’s way towards the EU.

Substantial progress in accession negotiations with Croatia is possible in 2008, provided that the country makes significant progress in a number of key reform areas and meets the benchmarks set.

Likewise, steps towards opening of accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are possible this year by implementing without delay the priorities identified within the Accession Partnership in February 2008.

The progress made recently by Montenegro and Albania should also be recognised and could serve as an inspiration for other countries of the region. In order to reach the next stage in their relation with the EU, both countries need to accelerate the implementation of the Interim Agreement and to make further efforts in building institutional capacities in public administration and in the judiciary.

Signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina is now within reach, provided that the police reform is implemented as the first step in the broad range of measures to be adopted along its way to the EU.

Serbia can accelerate its progress towards the EU, including acquiring candidate status in the near future, but its political leadership, both present and future, should confirm their commitment to the European perspective and fulfil the remaining conditions for signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, as initialled last November. It is also essential that Serbia respects previous commitments to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or activities which might endanger the security situation in the region.

The EU agreed in February that Member States will, in accordance with national practice and international law, decide on their relations with Kosovo, and that it will continue to cooperate with other international actors to preserve stability in the region, which has a clear EU perspective. Integrating Kosovo into the regional cooperation will also need to be addressed.


It is the belief of the Presidency that recent events in the region warrant renewed assurance by the Union to the people and countries of the region about the priority it attaches to the success of the enlargement process in the Western Balkans. This process – notwithstanding the process of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which is of paramount importance – must be sustained and the EU perspective made tangible and visible. People across the region should understand well the meaning of their choice for an European future.

The established conditionalities – of which political criteria are of particularly importance – remain an essential element of the enlargement process. At the same time, the Presidency recalls that the perspective of the EU membership has, throughout the history of the Union, served as driving forces for the consolidation of political and economic development in the EU aspiring countries.

Press Release by the Slovenian Council Presidency
Press Release

Entry created by Elke Dall on April 2, 2008
Modified on April 5, 2008