Brdo Declaration, 6 October 2021:


We, the leaders of the European Union (EU) and its Member States, in consultation with Western
Balkans leaders, and in the presence of regional and international stakeholders, today concluded the
following

  1. The EU reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western
    Balkans and welcomes the commitment of the Western Balkans partners to the European
    perspective, which is in our mutual strategic interest and remains our shared strategic choice.
    The EU reconfirms its commitment to the enlargement process and its decisions taken
    thereon, based upon credible reforms by partners, fair and rigorous conditionality and the
    principle of own merits. We will further intensify our joint engagement to take forward the
    region’s political, economic and social transformation, while acknowledging the progress
    made by the Western Balkans. We also recall the importance that the EU can maintain and
    deepen its own development, ensuring its capacity to integrate new members.
  2. The Western Balkans partners reiterate their dedication to European values and principles
    and to carrying out necessary reforms in the interest of their people. The EU welcomes the
    restated commitment of the Western Balkans partners to the primacy of democracy,
    fundamental rights and values and the rule of law, and to sustaining efforts in the fight
    against corruption and organised crime, support for good governance, human rights, gender
    equality and the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The credibility of these
    commitments depends on the meaningful implementation of necessary reforms, and building
    a solid track record underpinned by clear and consistent public communication. An
    empowered civil society and independent and pluralistic media are crucial components of
    any democratic system and we welcome and support the role they play in the Western
    Balkans.
  3. The EU is by far the region’s closest partner, main investor and principal donor. The
    unprecedented scale and range of this support must be fully recognised and conveyed by the
    partners in their public debate and communication.
  4. EU support will continue to be linked to tangible progress on the rule of law and socioeconomic reforms, as well as to partners’ adherence to European values, rules and standards.
  5. The EU fully supports the Western Balkans partners’ reaffirmed commitment to inclusive
    regional cooperation and strengthening good neighbourly relations, including with EU
    Member States. Implementing bilateral agreements in good faith and with tangible results,
    including the Prespa Agreement with Greece and the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations
    with Bulgaria, remains important. Further, decisive efforts are required to foster
    reconciliation and regional stability, as well as to find and implement definitive, inclusive
    and binding solutions to partners’ bilateral disputes and issues rooted in the legacy of the
    past, in line with international law and established principles, including the Agreement on
    Succession Issues, and the remaining cases of missing persons and war crimes issues.
  6. We fully support the efforts of the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina
    Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues and expect concrete progress by the two
    Parties on the full normalisation of relations between them, which is critical for the stability
    and development of the whole region and to ensure that they can continue on their respective
    European paths.
    COVID-19
  7. The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a severe impact on our societies and economies. It
    highlights the necessity and advantages of our close and effective partnership. The EU,
    together with its Member States, has stood by the Western Balkans throughout the pandemic,
    with health and socio-economic support for the region totalling an unprecedented EUR 3,3
    billion so far. Western Balkans partners are closely involved in EU initiatives, notably the
    Health Security Committee, the Early Warning System, the Green Corridors and the Joint
    Procurement Agreement for medical countermeasures. The EU stands ready to further
    improve access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics and to ensure a better predictability
    of and resilience to future crises.
  8. The EU also recognises the valuable support the Western Balkans have given during the
    pandemic to each other and towards the EU. This reflects the solidarity and mutual support
    the EU is built on. This cooperation and coordination should continue in the future, including
    throughout the recovery phase.
  9. The EU will continue supporting the Western Balkans resolutely, particularly as regards the
    supply of vaccines. The EU and its Member States have provided 2,9 million vaccine doses
    through various channels to the Western Balkans, with more to come. The EU will support the
    vaccination plans of all partners to help reach similar vaccination rates to the EU average by
    the end of 2021.
    Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans
  10. Following the Leaders’ call at the Zagreb Summit, the EU put forward an Economic and
    Investment Plan (EIP) and guidelines for the Implementation of the Green Agenda for the
    Western Balkans. The Plan sets out a substantial investment package mobilising some
    EUR 30 billion for the region over the next seven years, comprised of EUR 9 billion in grant
    funding and EUR 20 billion in investments, leveraged by the new Western Balkans Guarantee
    Facility. Maximising the potential impact of the EIP requires the Western Balkans partners to
    decisively undertake economic and social reforms as well as to strengthen the rule of law. The
    plan can spur the region’s long-term, green socio-economic recovery and competitiveness,
    support its green and digital transition, foster sustainable connectivity, regional integration,
    trade, thereby also strengthening cooperation and convergence with the EU, including with
    the EU’s climate-related goals.
  11. We welcome the recent adoption of the legal framework for the implementation of IPA1 III,
    which will continue to be the key source of financial assistance for the region, including for
    the EIP. The Commission intends to propose an investment package of EUR 600 million
    under IPA 2021 for the implementation of the EIP for the Western Balkans, subject to
    procedures in accordance with the IPA III programming framework and implementing rules.
    Together with the proposal of EUR 500 million announced in July, this would provide a total
    of EUR 1,1 billion for the implementation of the EIP by the end of 2021.

1 Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA)

  1. Acknowledging the commitment of the Western Balkans leaders to fully implement the
    Green Agenda, we welcome the agreement on the related Action Plan. In line with the Green
    Deal, the Agenda is a key driver for the transition to modern, carbon-neutral, climateresilient and resource-efficient economies, to unlock the potential of circular economy, fight
    against pollution and improve waste management. Its successful implementation will require
    a strong commitment from the region. It is essential to focus efforts to ensure a timely and
    effective transition away from coal through the use of renewable or less carbon-intensive
    fuels. Energy security should also be prioritised, including the diversification of sources and
    routes. The EU will continue to support the region in the implementation of the Green
    Agenda, and on the development of a carbon pricing policy in the context of the EU Carbon
    Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), including through technical and financial
    assistance.
  2. The EIP enables a new momentum to enhance connectivity in all its dimensions, both within
    the Western Balkans and with the EU. The EU will continue to support inclusive regional
    cooperation. Further and decisive efforts by the Western Balkans leaders are needed to
    deliver on their commitment to establish a Common Regional Market, as agreed at the
    Berlin Process Summit in Sofia in 2020. This will help advance the region on its European
    path and will deliver tangible benefits for citizens and businesses. Exploiting the potential of
    inclusive regional economic integration is essential to boost the socio-economic recovery of
    the region, and to maximise the benefit from the investments stemming from the EIP. A
    strong commitment is needed by the entire region to conclude the relevant regional
    negotiations swiftly.
  3. The EU and the Western Balkans agree to step up efforts to enhance the market integration
    of the Western Balkans with the EU Single Market. In this respect, the EIP provides a
    solid basis to operationalise market integration of the region within the EU Single Market,
    notably in areas such as cross border payments (SEPA), industrial and consumer goods, ecommerce and customs.
  4. Sustainable transport is a cornerstone of the economic and social integration of the EU
    and the Western Balkans. It is a priority to further develop the transport connectivity – within
    the region and with the EU, to improve the efficiency and safety of transport services, and to
    achieve the objectives of green and sustainable mobility, particularly with regard to rail and
    inland waterways connectivity.
    In the context of sustainable connectivity, we welcome the recently endorsed Transport
    Community Action Plans for rail, road, road safety, transport facilitation and waterborne
    transport.
  5. Building on the successful implementation of the Regional Roaming Agreement and the start
    of the free roaming regime in the Western Balkans as of 1 July 2021, we welcome the
    roadmap for roaming, which will create the conditions and set clear targets for lowering
    roaming costs between the EU and the Western Balkans.
  6. We welcome the concept of EU-Western Balkans Green Lanes and support its practical
    application at all relevant borders with full respect for the required EU acquis and procedures.
  7. A dedicated Agenda for the Western Balkans on Innovation, Research, Education,
    Culture, Youth and Sport – “Innovation Agenda for the Western Balkans” – is launched
    today. It will promote scientific excellence as well as reform of the region’s education
    systems, create further opportunities for the youth, and help prevent brain drain. We are
    looking forward to swift implementation of its Action Plan.
    Political and Security Cooperation
  8. Standing together with the EU is a clear sign of our partners’ strategic orientation. Therefore,
    we re-assert our expectation that partners will further deepen cooperation in the area of
    Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and make tangible and sustainable progress
    towards full alignment with EU foreign policy positions and act accordingly, including
    with positions in international fora as an important part of their European path. We welcome
    that some partners are already fully aligned with all CFSP decisions and declarations and
    encourage them to continue doing so. The EU stands ready to further strengthen political
    dialogue on matters relating to CFSP.
  9. The EU and the Western Balkans share a number of security challenges that demand
    coordinated action. We agree to strengthen our cooperation on core security issues, including
    at operational level, building on the work done under the Sofia Priority Agenda. Our partners
    pledge to demonstrate their commitment to our shared security and to continue to develop
    effective instruments for intra-Western Balkans cooperation. They have proven their
    commitment to CSDP, by contributing to EU missions and operations, and we will work
    together to further develop their capabilities and capacities, notably through the European
    Peace Facility. The EU will enhance its engagement also in fields such as space and military
    mobility to ease access of civil-military assistance to the region in the event of pandemics and
    natural disasters.
  10. We will reinforce our cooperation to address disinformation and other hybrid threats,
    originating in particular from third-state actors seeking to undermine the region’s European
    perspective. The EU and the Western Balkans will reinforce cooperation on resiliencebuilding, on enhancing our collective cyber security and cyber diplomacy and on
    increasing the impact of our strategic communication.
  11. We commend our partners for their continued efforts and constructive cooperation on
    migration, which have delivered clear results. Migration management is a joint challenge,
    which the EU and the Western Balkans need to address together, in close partnership.
  12. Our cooperation in addressing migratory challenges has demonstrated its value and will be
    further developed. The EU is ready to continue its engagement and strengthen its support
    through a tailor-made and comprehensive approach. Focus areas should include
    improvement of asylum systems, tackling migrant smuggling and illegal migration, returns
    processes, border management, information exchange, and reception capacity. Partners should
    also work further to enhance return systems, including the conclusion of readmission
    agreements with key countries of origin. Mutual cooperation on return will be deepened,
    maximising the use of existing frameworks and available channels. Cooperation should also
    be intensified with Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office and Europol. The remaining
    Frontex status agreements should be concluded without delay.
  13. Given the seriousness of the situation in Afghanistan, the EU will work closely with all its
    partners, including the Western Balkans to tackle the evolving challenges and coordinate joint
    responses, as appropriate.
  14. Terrorism, radicalisation and organised crime continue to pose serious security threats to
    the EU and to the whole region. We call for further strengthening cooperation on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism, including the prevention of the financing of
    terrorism and of radicalisation. We reiterate the importance of taking resolute action to
    address serious and organised crime, in particular trafficking and smuggling of human
    beings, money laundering, drug cultivation and trafficking.
  15. The EU is fully committed to preventing illicit trade and trafficking in small arms and light
    weapons and their ammunition, and will continue to support the Western Balkans in this field,
    including in the context of the Western Balkans dedicated roadmap against illicit firearms
    trafficking.
  16. To further promote our shared interests, we express our readiness to reinvigorate and
    enhance regular political dialogue with the region. In this context, we welcome the holding
    of EU-Western Balkans Summits as regular events. We look forward to the next summit,
    which will be held in 2022.

  1. The EU and the Western Balkans need to work together to face generation-defining tasks. We
    welcome the initiatives of the Western Balkans to contribute to the reflections on the future
    of our continent. We remain committed to listen to all Europeans on the issues that matter for
    all of us – protecting citizens and freedoms, developing a strong and vibrant economic base,
    advancing the green and digital transitions, rule of law, fair and social Europe, strengthening
    Europe’s resilience, as well as Europe’s leading global role.
  2. We welcome that our Western Balkans partners align themselves with the above points.

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