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EU Envoy Urges Western Balkans to Embrace EU Membership, U.S. Backs Expansion

At the EU-Western Balkans summit, organized by the Brussels think tank "Friends of Europe," the EU's Special Envoy for Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak, stated that the Western Balkans should recognize that EU membership is a unique opportunity. He acknowledged some progress in the region but highlighted corruption as a serious threat.

Lajčak suggested that the region needs to awaken from its lethargy and offered two options for this awakening. “First, we should give a chance to Ukraine and Moldova, as there is a lot of positive energy and dedication, and the region will see that this is happening and that they might not be on the train. Second, if any country in the region gets the opportunity to move forward, I am sure the rest of the region will also move forward, as they are closely watching each other,” he said.

The U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, speaking at the Summit, expressed that the U.S. supports the EU’s expansion into the Western Balkans and stated that, from the U.S. perspective, the path to the EU is the only way. “Serbia is different, it has its own history, everyone is burdened with a heavy history. If there was an Olympics for heavy history, I think Serbia would be on top, perhaps with a gold medal. What you look at in these countries is whether they are moving in the right direction, doing the right thing in terms of internal reforms, the kind of things we talk about in these chapters and clusters, doing the right thing from within,” said Hill.

He added: “We need a process of regional cooperation. I don’t care whether you call it the Open Balkans, the Berlin Process, open Berlin, whatever. What I know from studying history is that if you go back to 1878, the Berlin Congress in Berlin, you’ll see that countries thought they had to align with some great power. And this was a significant moment for these countries. Because mutual cooperation, even establishing patterns of cooperation, did not come naturally, yet they understood it.”

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