Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on Saturday, as part of his tour of the Western Balkans at the end of this month.
Sanchez will visit the countries of the Western Balkans after the European leaders expressed their “unequivocal support” for the integration of this region into the European Union (EU) a little over a month ago.
He will travel to the Western Balkans on July 29th, 30th,and 31st, and August 1st. The tour will include Belgrade (Serbia), Sarajevo and Mostar (BiH), Podgorica (Montenegro), Skopje (North Macedonia) and Tirana (Albania).
The tour coincides with important developments in the European perspective of these countries. On June 23rd, the EU-Western Balkans Summit was held in Brussels, where European leaders expressed their “unequivocal support for the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU” and discussed ways to “intensify cooperation in facing the challenges arising from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine”, as which are hybrid threats and disruptions in the energy and food markets.
The Council also expressed its readiness to grant BiH the status of a candidate country and, for this purpose, called on the Commission to report “without delay” to the Council on the implementation of the 14 key priorities stated in the Commission’s Opinion (including reforms in the areas of democracy, the rule of law, fundamental law and public administration) in order for the European Council to decide on the issue again. In this sense, the European leaders called on “all BiH‘s political leaders” to “urgently complete the constitutional and electoral reform, which will enable the country to make decisive progress on its European path, in accordance with the Commission’s Opinion”.
At the press conference after the European Council, Pedro Sanchez called for the “reactivation, revival and revitalization of the enlargement process” in the Balkans and announced that during the meeting in Brussels, Spain defended “the appropriateness and recognition of candidate status for BiH“.
Serbia and Montenegro have already started EU accession negotiations, while Albania and North Macedonia have had candidate status for eight and 17 years, respectively. On Monday, negotiations on the accession of Albania and North Macedonia began after several years of delays, blockades and vetoes. This was possible after the Macedonian parliament this weekend agreed to amend the Constitution to save Bulgaria’s veto, and the ambassadors of the 27 (COREPER) agreed last Monday to start talks immediately, starting with the Intergovernmental Conference at the highest level.
Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares on Mondaycelebrated the start of negotiations in Albania and North Macedonia via his Twitter account and conveyed Spain’s support “in this new phase that is opening”. He also congratulated his Albanian and Macedonian colleagues, Bujar Osmani and Olta Dzacka, for this “key step in building our big European family”. Prime Ministers of Albania, Edi Rama, and North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, traveled to Brussels on Monday to mark the beginning of formal negotiations for accession to the EU, which must ultimately be accepted unanimously by 27 member states.