London, UK | July 11 Tirana Echo – The United Kingdom government has hosted the fifth Western Balkans Summit which concluded with the signing of joint declarations on good neighborly relations, war crimes and missing persons.
The summit which was seen by pundits as another failed attempt to direct the spot light on the Western Balkan countries which hope to join the European Union, was overshadowed by the resignation of the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson a day before, by internal rifts between EU heads of state and by a tense negotiating phase between the EU and the UK on a possible Brexit deal.
“It is hard to talk about EU enlargement in London when its Government is negotiating terms to leave the European Union,” – said an Albanian government source to Tirana Echo.
British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the 6 Western Balkan leaders to London, alongside other European figures including German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The Summit which raised high expectations, concluded the signing of Joint Declarations on Good Neighbourly Relations, War Crimes and Missing Persons by leaders of the Berlin Process and formal congratulations to Macedonian and Greek Prime Ministers Zaev and Tsipras on securing an historic agreement on resolving the Macedonia name issue. In support of these declarations, the UK will commit to an additional £1 million GBP to help the region address difficult legacy issues.
More significantly perhaps, Prime Minister May announced that the UK will increase its funding to the region to £80 million in 2020 to 2021 and will double the number of UK staff working in the region on the security issues affecting the UK and the Western Balkans. This will help prevent crime reaching UK streets and also help strengthen the region’s own response to serious and organised crime, corruption and money laundering. The UK will also invest £1 million in the region’s cyber capability.
The Summit was the culmination of preparatory meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Security, and Economy and Finance Ministers in Vienna and London and is part of a larger Berlin Process started by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2014, geared towards reaffirming the European perspective of Western Balkan countries.
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