Thank you and good evening everyone. First of all, I would like to thank the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina for your warm welcome in Sarajevo. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s 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. I am convinced the Western Balkans needs the EU, but the EU needs the Western Balkans alike.
It’s time for a new momentum to advance European integration. And I have also shared this message with the members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency.
In June, we’ll 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. That’s 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.
The War in Ukraine
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. Speaking with one voice and acting together sends a clear message of deterrence.
We are also feeling the broader consequences of the war across the continent. 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 twenty years ago, the Thessaloniki Summit provided a firm commitment of an EU future for the region. And today, we feel a new sense of urgency. We want to support you – our Western Balkans partners and friends – on your journey to the EU.
We have proposed that we envision the process of enlargement in a new way. That offers concrete socio-economic advantages and political integration during the accession negotiations. This new dynamism for EU enlargement also needs to be matched by a new push for reforms among the countries of the region.
I would like to be extremely clear. We propose to have a debate in June in the European Council on this idea to put in place a geopolitical European community, or a political European community – a political platform. This doesn’t replace the EU accession process, on the contrary, we want to speed up political integration by making sure that we can cooperate and coordinate and address together some common challenges immediately without waiting for the final decision that will be needed on the topic of the accession process.
Relations between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina are a high priority for the EU. I strongly believe that your future is within the EU — as a single, united and sovereign country. The EU path is set. Now the obstacles need to be cleared.
The path to the EU is outlined in the fourteen (14) key priorities. We hope to see real action on this agenda of political, social and economic reforms. It’s 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. You mentioned it is my first time in the country. We never forget the first time, I am extremely pleased to take time with you, exchange views and prepare our common future. Thank you.