Western Balkans 6 summit : building networks, connecting people
It is always a pleasure to receive my counterparts from South East Europe. But having the opportunity to welcome all six Prime Ministers from the Western Balkans countries together in Brussels on the very same day is a special treat indeed.
The Western Balkans Six (WB6) summit, which took place on April 21 at the Commission's headquarters, made this possible. The Prime Ministers of Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina had followed my and Commissioner Violeta Bulc's invitation to discuss the central issue of connectivity.
Connectivity is at the very heart of the Commission's concept to reinforce the integration between the individual countries and with the EU, thus driving forward their European perspective through concrete projects.
More specifically, it means focusing investments on establishing and improving transport, energy and IKT infrastructure and networks, to strengthen the countries' backbone of competitiveness. And while doing that it also contributes to building bridges in the region developing good neighbourly relations and promotes peace and reconciliation.
The Brussels Summit was a major success. It confirmed the agreement we had reached at the WB6 Ministerial in Pristina last month on core transport networks.
In addition, it adopted a joint statement identifying the core networks to be realised as an extension of the TEN-T to Western Balkans.
The network corridors listed in the statement comprise road, railway, inland waterways and port infrastructure. This is a major step forward: the improved connectivity within the Western Balkans and with the EU is a key factor for growth and jobs. It will bring clear benefits for citizens in the applicant countries already before accession and open opportunities for EU investors.
But the Western Balkan Six meetings are not only about the economy and infrastructure. Building on the "Berlin process" launched last year, they are an excellent format to bring political leaders of our partner countries together at one table, creating the right atmosphere to bridge different positions. The common work on joint areas like connectivity is in itself a unifying factor.
Thus, this summit was not only a success in terms of creating concrete perspectives for the people of the region. It was, above all, a day of connecting people and building bridges between positions in a truly European spirit, to the benefit of all. And on this note, I was really encouraged by the interactions between all the leaders of the Western Balkans 6. There was a genuine respect for each other and it was clear that they have much more interest on working together for their common future, for the things that unite them, rather than discussing the things that divided them in the past.
By the way: I am writing these lines following another Western Balkans meeting this week, the Foreign Ministers meeting in beautiful Brdo/Slovenia, where we focused on enhancing political stability, sectoral cooperation and not least boosting the chances of the region's youth.
I am particularly grateful to our Slovenian hosts to emphasize the last point. The young people of South Eastern Europe are tomorrow's leaders who deserve a better future. And what could be more inspiring than having this meeting in a country which itself has undergone an impressive transformation to become a successful member of the European Union, encouraging others to follow this certainly not easy, but crucial strategic path.