Borrell: EU to help Western Balkans’ war-affected economies

March 15, 2022 GMT
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell looks on next to the EU flag, upon his meeting with North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski at the Presidential office in Skopje, North Macedonia, Monday, March 14, 2022. The EU top official has started Monday his Western Balkan tour visiting North Macedonia and then Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in a bid to reaffirm the EU's commitment and support to the region, also in view of the Russian war against Ukraine and its impact on the security of Europe as a whole. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell looks on next to the EU flag, upon his meeting with North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski at the Presidential office in Skopje, North Macedonia, Monday, March 14, 2022. The EU top official has started Monday his Western Balkan tour visiting North Macedonia and then Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in a bid to reaffirm the EU's commitment and support to the region, also in view of the Russian war against Ukraine and its impact on the security of Europe as a whole. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Tuesday said the bloc would support the Western Balkan countries to overcome the economic crisis caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Josep Borrell was in Tirana, the Albanian capital, in the second stop of his regional tour that took him to North Macedonia on Monday and to Bosnia after Albania, where he met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and other officials.

Borrell repeated again that “this is the moment to reinvigorate the enlargement process and to anchor the Western Balkans firmly to the EU.”

He denounced Russia’s “brutal aggression” in Ukraine and the deaths from Russian bombing, adding that Russia was exploiting the world economy’s interdependency as a weapon in war.

Consequences from the war, including higher energy prices, were affecting poorer countries like those of the Western Balkans.

The 27-country bloc is opening its “financial and economic capacities to respond to a crisis ... the strong disruption that the war has created to the word economy circles, economically and financially,” he said.

Such an investment plan would mobilize unprecedented resources to diversify energy supply, reduce dependencies, strengthen regional cooperation, build infrastructure and create jobs.

Isolating Russia, putting a heavy cost on its economy through the EU sanctions and supporting the Ukrainian people were the three key things to do at the moment, he said.

The Western Balkan countries are at different stages in the integration path into the bloc. Serbia and Montenegro are holding full pre-membership negotiations while Albania and North Macedonia have been given the green light to launch them. Bosnia and Kosovo have started only the first step in the EU process.

“Today more than ever, we should represent united Europeans in the Western Balkan integration,” said Borrell.

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