Remarks by President Charles Michel after his meeting in Sarajevo with the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina

(Source: Council of the EU and European Council)

First of all, I would like to thank you, the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for your warm welcome in Sarajevo. It is a pleasure to be here. It is also important for me to be here to reaffirm our support for your EU path.

I would like to repeat what I said in Bled a few months ago. Indeed, I am convinced the Western Balkans need the EU, but the EU also needs the Western Balkans. It is time for a new momentum to advance European integration. I have also shared this message with the members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency.

In June, we will organise a meeting of the 27 EU leaders with the leaders of the Western Balkans, because we want to enhance our dialogue and deepen our cooperation. This is also why I am here today, ahead of the leaders’ meeting. I want to actively listen to your concerns. I want to better understand your priorities, and how we, as the European Union, can support you.

As we speak, Russia is brutally attacking the people of Ukraine. In the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced the terrible consequences of war. So you know the importance of our strong support for Ukraine, of speaking with one voice and of acting together to send a clear message of deterrence. And you are also feeling the broader consequences of the war across the continent, and the most obvious example is the energy supply and prices.

The common challenges we face today require new ways of thinking and new ways of working. We need to speed up EU integration and we must create a new impetus for reform. Almost 20 years ago, the Thessaloniki Summit provided a firm commitment to an EU future for the region, and today we feel a new sense of urgency. And we want to support you, our Western Balkan partners and friends, on your journey to the EU.

We have proposed that we envisage the process of enlargement in a new way that offers concrete, socio-economic advantages and political integration during the accession negotiations. The new dynamism for EU enlargement also needs to be matched by a new push for reforms among the countries of the region. And I would like to be extremely clear: indeed, we propose to have a debate in June in the European Council on the idea to put in place a Geopolitical European Community or a Political European Community, a political platform, and this is extremely clear, this won’t replace the EU accession process. On the contrary, we want to speed up political integration by making sure that we can cooperate, that we can coordinate and address together some common challenges immediately, while waiting for the final decision that will be needed on the topic of the accession process. The Western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina are a high priority for the EU and I strongly believe that your future is within the EU as a single, united and sovereign country.

The EU path is set and now the obstacles need to be cleared. The path to the EU is outlined in key priorities, 14 key priorities, and we hope to see real actions on the agenda of political, social and economic reforms. It is important that all political leaders engage in dialogue. Establishing trust and dialogue is key.

We discussed how we can give momentum to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European perspective. Advancing on reforms means advancing towards the EU. This war has impacted energy supplies across Europe. We are supporting our EU citizens and businesses to cope with high energy prices and we will also support Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thank you again for your warm welcome. It is my first time in the country and we never forget the first time. I am extremely pleased to take time with you to exchange views and to prepare our common future. Thank you.

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