July 29, 2021

The EU-Balkans summit begins, focused on COVID-19 and disinformation

The leaders of the European Union (EU) and of six countries of the Western Balkans began this Wednesday a telematic summit focused on the response to the health and socio-economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and the challenge of disinformation related to it from China or Russia.

The telematic meeting started at 14:40 GMT with the leaders of the Twenty-seven and of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo, sources from the European Council reported on a summit that was initially scheduled for today but in person in Zagreb, before the coronavirus forced to modify its format.

The President of the European Council, the Belgian Charles Michel, opened the summit with an introductory speech.

The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, also participates in the event, which according to diplomatic sources does not imply that Spain accepts the recognition of Kosovo.

Up to five Member States do not recognize the former Serbian province as a country, after proclaiming its independence in 2008.

The main question that leaders will address will be the response to the coronavirus and its socio-economic consequences. To alleviate them, the EU has decided to dedicate 3,300 million euros to the countries of the western Balkans.

This includes immediate support to the health sector, as well as a macro-financial aid of 750 million euros and another package granted by the European Investment Bank (EIB) of 1.7 billion.

Another key point that the leaders will deal with will be disinformation and other hybrid activities originating in third countries such as China or Russia, according to a recent report by a working group of the EU’s European External Action Service.

The EU warned that this type of manipulated information aims to “undermine the European perspective in the region”, so it will discuss with its Balkan partners how to strengthen resistance to disinformation, cybersecurity or strategic communication.

Another issue they hope to talk about will be the contribution and alignment of the Western Balkans to the European Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Special emphasis will also be placed on the need for the Balkan countries to strengthen the fight against corruption and organized crime.

According to community sources, it is not expected to specifically address the negotiation processes with the EU for future accessions, according to community sources, which noted that on March 26 a progress in this regard was already noted when the Council supported the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and who recalled that the issue will be discussed again at the ministerial level in June.

EU leaders hope to adopt a joint declaration at the end of the summit to which they will invite the Balkan countries to join.


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