Western Balkans: Press remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell ahead of an informal dinner with regional leaders
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There is a tradition to meet here, in Brussels, [with] the High Representative on one side, and the six Leaders from the Western Balkans.
And I revived this tradition last [year in] May because I think it is a good thing to do. I think it is good to have a collective, strategic, substantial and open exchange about the challenges in the region and about our common European future. And in these days especially.
We met in September, in New York. But today, the world is in a completely different situation.
In September, nobody could expect that we would be with one aggressor bringing back war to Europe. And looking at this destructive impact of a senseless bloodshed; we do not remember – the Europeans do not remember war, and now we see war on our borders.
The last war in Europe was in the Balkans, now it is in Ukraine. And today will be a good occasion to discuss the global and regional impact of Putin’s war, an illegal war against the Ukrainian people and against the international rules-based order. It is not a quest to defend Russia, it is against the international rules-based order.
I want to discuss with our closest partners, the six Balkans leaders represent our closest partners - not only from a geographical point of view I am talking with them as future members of the European Union - to talk about how we can address the consequences of this war together.
As always, I am keen to hear about the concerns these leaders have in regard to this situation and how they foresee our joint action to defend rules and values, and how to deal with the negative impact of Putin’s war - on food, on energy, and on stability on our shared continent.
Because we know that Russia is trying to exploit our vulnerabilities, and the vulnerabilities of the region. We should work together in order not to allow Russia to exploit these vulnerabilities.
As I said before – the Western Balkans are not our backyard, it is our courtyard. It is part of our geography. It is not the backyard, it is the courtyard. And we will act jointly to face Russia’s disruptive actions directly in the region - [be it] through disinformation and cyberattacks.
I welcome that most of our partners in the Western Balkans are aligned fully - and from day one - with the European Union’s response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. And I call on the others to do so. Most of them did, I will call on others to do so.
Tonight’s discussions will feed in the ongoing engagement with the Western Balkans, which remains our strategic priority. It is our most important foreign policy. And we will recall that - once again - next Monday, at the Foreign Affairs Council, we will have a full-fledged political discussion on the region.
And this meeting today, this dinner today, will be for me the best way of preparing the discussion at the Foreign Affairs Council. And on this occasion, we will invite the Foreign Ministers of these countries to join our lunch [at the Foreign Affairs Council].
Let me end these words by reiterating that there is no space for undermining the sovereignty, but also the unity and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. No room, no space for undermining sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And I think I will have to be very frank in this respect with Mr [Milorad] Dodik [Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina] this evening, as I did several times before.
I want to stress the need to stand united and to take the necessary steps to ensure a safe, stable and prosperous Europe together. This is our collective interest, this is the best way to build the future of the Western Balkans. Because the future of the Western Balkans is inside the European Union, and this is a very strong reason to hold this meeting today.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-224879