Officials from European countries sought to reassure Western Balkans nations that are hoping to join the European Union that the bloc still looks favorably on their aspirations.
Michael Roth, the German minister of state for Europe, on July 4 said Berlin supports the accession process of all the six regional countries "because for us, the Western Balkans is not the backyard of the European Union, but the inner courtyard.”
“We are all responsible for ensuring that the prospect of EU accession remains concrete," he said, speaking during a Western Balkan summit in the Polish city of Poznan.
At the opening of the two-day summit, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz called for “stronger cooperation” between the EU and the six Western Balkan countries, saying it will help increase the “stability and development” of the region.
The gathering of foreign, interior, and economy ministers of the Western Balkan states will be joined on July 5 by EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, and Polish President Andrzej Duda.
In his comments, Roth called for a quick opening of delayed accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
Last month, EU member states postponed a decision on whether to open accession talks with the two small nations until October, amid resistance from some bloc members, including France and the Netherlands.
The four other Western Balkan countries seeking to join the EU are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.
Czaputowicz said that "including these countries in the main current of European integration will be fruitful for the entire EU and the entire continent as it will expand the domain of common values."
He said Poland backs the so-called Berlin Process, a German initiative designed to support the accession hopes of the Western Balkan countries.