Tusk: the Western Balkans should be EU

A new era for the Balkan countries the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia

Ratas attending EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia

"It is clear that all these countries have a clear accession perspective to the European Union", said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is a strong supporter of bringing the Western Balkans in. I see no future for the Western Balkans other than European.

The Western Balkans region includes Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, as well as the self-proclaimed republic of Kosovo.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted the countries, collectively referred to as the Western Balkans, to have a "supported dialogue, a perspective", but warned against hasty moves. "Allow me to stress the need for equal rules of the game now that we are moving towards further implementation of topics which we are discussing in this summit, and in Kosovo's case this means conclusion of the visa liberalisation as soon as possible after Kosovo has fulfilled all 95 set benchmarks", Thaci said.

The EU-Western Balkans took place today and aimed to improve the relationship with the non-EU member states from the region, mainly Serbia and Macedonia.

Tusk said that while there were low expectations regarding Iran, there were high expectations regarding Washington.

"Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think with friends like that who needs enemies", Tusk told reporters in Sofia on Wednesday.

In the summit declaration, a draft of which was obtained by AFP, the Europeans outlined the theme of "connectivity" with investments in transport and infrastructure.

"I am convinced that the European Union is the only partner that cares genuinely about the stability of the entire region and a prosperous future for its peoples - as opposed to treating it as a geopolitical game of chess, in which the people are pawns", Tusk wrote in a letter to European Union leaders, alluding to the EU's competition with Russian Federation for influence in the region.

"The summit may be a symbolic act, but it can again trigger a little more dynamism", he said.

The Balkans have moved back up the EU's agenda as leaders have become alarmed at the influence of other powers on its southern flank, particularly Russian Federation.

"We want to demonstrate that we care about socioeconomic development in the region here and now". They also differ on the potential timeline for accepting new members from the region.

A dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the Greek province of Macedonia - whether the country's name implies a claim to the Greek province - has been enough to see Greece block Macedonia's membership of the European Union in recent years.

The leaders of Macedonia and Greece met on the sidelines of the summit although officials played down the chance of any deal.

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