EU-Western Balkans Summit: Tirana Declaration, 6 December 2022

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 held this
Summit for the first time in the Western Balkans region and concluded the following:

  1. Russia’s escalating war of aggression against Ukraine is putting European and global
    peace and security at risk and underscores the importance of the strategic partnership between
    the EU and the Western Balkans region.
  2. The EU reconfirms its full and unequivocal commitment to the European Union
    membership perspective of the Western Balkans and calls for the acceleration of the
    accession process, based upon credible reforms by Partners, fair and rigorous conditionality
    and the principle of own merits, which is in our mutual interest. It welcomes the progress
    made by the Western Balkans Partners on their respective EU paths since the EU-Western
    Balkans Summit at Brdo in October 2021. In particular, the EU welcomes the holding of the
    first Intergovernmental Conferences with Albania and North Macedonia.
  3. The EU welcomes the Western Balkans Partners’ resolve to uphold core European values
    and principles, in line with international law. The EU also welcomes the restated
    commitment of the Western Balkans Partners to the primacy of democracy, fundamental
    rights and values and the rule of law, including separation of powers. It underlines the need
    for sustained efforts in the fight against corruption and organised crime, strengthened 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 the necessary reforms, and on building a solid track record underpinned by clear and
    consistent public communication in the interest of their people. An empowered civil society
    and independent and pluralistic media, with full respect for the freedom of expression, are
    crucial components of any democratic system and we welcome and support the role these play
    in the Western Balkans.
  4. Standing together with the EU is a clear sign of Partners’ strategic orientation, now more than
    ever, as Russia escalates its war of aggression against Ukraine. A common vision of the future
    involves mutual responsibilities and shared values. As we deepen our cooperation with
    Partners, we urge them to make swift and sustained progress towards full alignment with the
    EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and to act accordingly, including on
    EU restrictive measures. We commend those Western Balkans Partners that are already
    demonstrating their strategic commitment in this regard by fully aligning with the EU CFSP
    and encourage those that have not done so to follow suit.
  5. The EU remains the region’s closest partner, main investor and trading partner and
    principal donor. The exceptional scale and range of this support should be made more visible
    and reflected proactively by the Partners in their public debate and communication, so that
    citizens can appreciate the concrete benefits of the partnership with the EU.
  6. Building on the revised methodology, the European Council has invited the Commission, the
    High Representative and the Council to further advance the gradual integration of the region
    already during the enlargement process itself in a reversible and merit-based manner.
  7. The EU recalls the importance of continuing reforms, both for the benefit of citizens and as
    a basis for continued EU support, notably in the area of rule of law, and in particular those
    reforms related to the independence and functioning of the judiciary and the fight against
    corruption and organised crime.
  8. The EU continues to fully support the Western Balkans Partners’ 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, continues to be important. Decisive further efforts are still required to foster
    reconciliation and regional stability, as well as to find and implement definitive, inclusive
    and binding solutions to Partners’ regional and 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. The EU also calls on Partners to guarantee the rights and equal treatment of persons
    belonging to minorities.
  9. We continue to fully support the efforts of the EU High Representative and the EU Special
    Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional
    issues and expect concrete progress by the two Parties towards a comprehensive legally
    binding agreement on normalisation of relations between them. This is critical for the stability
    and development of the whole region and for ensuring that the Parties can continue on their
    respective European paths. We reiterate our strong expectation that all past agreements are
    fully respected and implemented without delay. We urge both Parties to engage constructively
    to resolve all their bilateral disputes and refrain from unilateral and/or provocative action that
    could lead to tensions and violence and rhetoric that is not conducive to the Dialogue. We
    remind both Parties of their shared responsibility to ensure peace and stability.
  10. We welcome the successful first meeting of the European Political Community, which took
    place on 6 October 2022 in Prague. The meeting provided a platform for political
    coordination and an opportunity for in-depth exchanges on pressing issues concerning the
    entire continent. We look forward to the next meeting to be held in the Republic of Moldova
    in the first half of 2023.
    Tackling together the negative impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and
    building a robust economic foundation for the future
  11. Russia bears the sole responsibility for the current energy and economic crises. The EU
    will continue its support for the Western Balkans Partners in tackling the negative effects on
    their economies and societies.
  12. The EU’s new Energy Support Package, worth EUR 1 billion in grants that can bring
    EUR 2.5 billion in investments, will help the Western Balkans mitigate the impact of the
    energy crisis and accelerate the energy transition in the region. The Package is funded via the
    Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III) and includes immediate, short and mediumterm measures to provide help to citizens and businesses in the Western Balkans. EUR 500
    million in grants will go to immediate support for vulnerable families and SMEs. Another
    EUR 500 million in grants will be dedicated to investments supporting the energy transition
    and energy independence, to fund improvements to gas and electricity infrastructure and
    interconnectors including LNG, as well as new renewable energy projects, energy efficiency
    measures, upgrades of energy transmission systems, district heating and schemes to improve
    the energy efficiency of old apartment buildings.
  13. We recall our decision to open the common purchases of gas, LNG and hydrogen for the
    Western Balkans, call for rapid operationalisation of this platform and encourage Partners to
    use this opportunity. The REPower EU Plan will help to reduce the EU’s and the Western
    Balkans’ dependency on Russian gas. Through the Energy Community, the EU is opening its
    electricity market, including in renewables, to the Western Balkans, subject to regulatory
  14. Continued implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan (EIP) and the Green and
    Digital Agendas for the Western Balkans will help strengthen the region’s economy and
    resilience, including through further support for connectivity, energy transition and
    diversification of energy supplies. The EIP sets out an ambitious investment package,
    mobilising close to EUR 30 billion for the region, comprised of EUR 9 billion in grant
    funding from IPA III and up to EUR 20 billion in investments, leveraged by the new Western
    Balkans Guarantee Facility. Under the Plan, the adoption of a total of EUR 1.4 billion in
    investment grants under the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) was approved
    in the first half of 2022 to finance 28 flagship investment projects with a total value of EUR
    4.5 billion. A new package of EUR 400 million in EU grants worth EUR 1.2 billion in
    investment value, to finance 12 investment projects, has just been approved, while adopted
    projects are entering the implementation stage. In the past year, work continued on all
    connectivity investment projects adopted under the connectivity agenda, with several projects
    reaching completion, notably the Orient-East-Med rail corridor, Road Corridor Vc and two
    cross-border bridges, Svilaj and Gradiška. In this context, the Western Balkans Partners
    should also strengthen the rule of law and decisively undertake economic and social
    reforms, including those contained in their Economic Reform Programmes and in the joint
    conclusions of the economic and financial dialogue.
  15. Furthermore, the EU stands ready to support the Western Balkans leaders in fulfilling their
    commitment to fully implement the Green Agenda for the region, including their climate
    commitments under the Paris Agreement, as a key driver for the transition to modern, climateneutral, climate-resilient and resource-efficient economies, which aims to unlock the potential
    of circular economy, fight against pollution, improve waste management and accelerate green
    energy transition in the region. The EU will also continue to support the region in developing
    a carbon pricing policy in the context of the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism
    (CBAM), including through technical and financial assistance. The EU 4 Green project is an
    important tool to help Partners in their implementation efforts.
  16. From the start, the Western Balkans Partners have also been included in the European Food
    Security Crisis Preparedness and Response Mechanism to enhance food security. The
    EU will continue its support to the agricultural sector under IPA III and the Instrument for
    Pre-accession Assistance for Rural Development (IPARD III), respectively. For the latter, the
    EU contribution of EUR 560 million for the next seven-year period was adopted earlier this
    Intensifying political and policy engagement
  17. The EU and the Western Balkans are determined to accelerate and deepen our political and
    policy engagement, including inter alia through the holding of regular EU-Western Balkans
    Summits, the participation of Western Balkans Partners in high-level EU events and regular
    CFSP dialogues. Western Balkans Partners have already been invited to provide input to the
    Foreign Affairs Council meetings, and they receive debriefs by the European External Action
    Service thereafter. This enhanced engagement reflects the EU’s commitment to the region.
  18. The EU will further deepen its sectoral cooperation with the Western Balkans in areas of
    common interest, such as justice and home affairs, the economy and the EU internal market,
    energy, transport and digital policy, civil protection, health, social policy, education and
    research and innovation, as well as foreign affairs, security and defence, including tackling
    cyber and other hybrid threats, and counter-terrorism.
  19. The EU recalls the shared commitment to step up efforts to enhance the integration of the
    Western Balkans with the EU internal market. The Western Balkans’ Common Regional
    Market (CRM) should serve as a stepping stone for integration. The EU commends the
    Partners’ recent agreements on free movement and recognition of IDs for all citizens of the
    region, as well as on mutual recognition of university diplomas and professional
    qualifications within the region. These agreements constitute milestones in fulfilling the
    Partners’ commitment to establish a Common Regional Market. The EU encourages the
    Western Balkan Partners to ratify these agreements swiftly so that citizens can benefit from
    them as fast as possible. Further decisive efforts by all Western Balkans leaders are needed in
    order for the CRM to become a reality, in particular as regards the adoption of several
    decisions on trade-related initiatives that have already been agreed at technical level in the
    context of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). Such inclusive regional
    cooperation based on EU rules and standards would also stimulate intra-regional trade and
    attract investments.
  20. The EU welcomes the work of all the Western Balkan economies towards the modernisation
    of their payments systems to bring them closer to EU standards and to the fulfilment of all
    the conditions for the integration into the Single Euro Payments Area.
  21. The EU also welcomes Partners’ commitment to continue their work on the implementation of
    the Western Balkans agenda on innovation, research, education, culture, youth and sport and
    is already gradually associating Partners in EU’s programmes such as Erasmus+, the
    European Solidarity Corps and the European Universities initiative with the aim of
    creating further opportunities for young people. The European Universities Initiative opens
    the possibility for higher education institutions in the Western Balkans to participate in
    ambitious transnational alliances and to develop long-term structural and strategic
    cooperation. The Youth Guarantee put into action in the Western Balkans will contribute to
    reducing the brain drain experienced by the region.
  22. In the digital domain, building on the successful implementation of the Regional Roadmap
    Agreement “Roam like at Home” from July 2021 onwards, eliminating roaming costs within
    the region, we welcome today’s joint declaration by EU and the Western Balkans’ telecom
    operators which will allow for the first reduction in roaming costs between the EU and the
    Western Balkans in 2023, with a view to full removal thereafter. It is also commendable
    that Partners have signed up to the Declaration for the Future of Internet and are fully
    associated with the work of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications.
  23. We also welcome the progress in the implementation of EU-Western Balkans Green Lanes
    and call for their application at all relevant borders, while fully respecting the EU acquis and
    procedures. We furthermore welcome the establishment of the Blue Lanes initiative that will
    improve trade connections among Adriatic ports. These initiatives contribute to better border
    management, decrease in waiting times for passengers and freight, and hence support the
    economic activity. They are a very public demonstration of what cooperation between the
    Western Balkans and the EU and its Member States can bring.
    Reinforcing security and building resilience against foreign interference
  24. The EU and the Western Balkans share a number of security challenges that demand
    coordinated action, which has become even more important in the context of Russia’s war of
    aggression against Ukraine. The EU and the Western Balkans are determined to further
    strengthen the cooperation on core security and defence issues, including at operational
    level. In this regard, we welcome that Partners have proven their commitment to the
    Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), by contributing to EU’s crisis management
    missions and operations. The EU will continue to work together with the region to further
    develop its defence capabilities and capacities, including through the European Peace
    Facility. The EU welcomes the Partners’ continued commitment to the development of
    effective instruments for intra-Western Balkans cooperation in the area of security and
    defence. The EU will also further enhance its engagement with the region in fields such as
    space and military mobility.
  25. The EU and the Western Balkans are committed to fighting foreign information
    manipulation and interference, including disinformation as well as other hybrid threats that
    are present in Western Balkans societies and seek to undermine the region’s stability,
    democratic processes and its EU perspective. In this respect, we will further strengthen our
    cooperation to build resilience, also by fostering media professionalism and media literacy,
    and by increasing the impact of our strategic communication about EU – Western Balkans
    relations and the enlargement process in particular.
  26. As cyber threats know no borders, we will work together to enhance our collective cyber
    security. Recent large scale cyber-attacks demonstrate the need for enhanced engagement,
    building on existing programmes and on cooperation with the EU Agency for Cybersecurity
    (ENISA) and the European Cybersecurity Competence Centre, combined with bilateral
    initiatives of EU Member States and other partners. Under the Cybersecurity Rapid Response
    project, EU action is focusing on increasing the cyber resilience and cyber incident
    preparedness of Partners targeted by recent attacks, with delivery of longer-term region-wide
    EU cyber support to start in 2023. The EU is determined to step up its support for resilience
    against cyber-attacks in the Western Balkans, and intensify cooperation regionally and with
    international partners.
    Irregular migration, fight against terrorism and organised crime
  27. The Western Balkans migratory route has seen a significant upsurge since the beginning of
  28. Migration management remains a joint challenge and responsibility, which the EU
    and the Western Balkans will address together, in close partnership. To this end, the EU has
    substantially increased its financial support for the region with over EUR 170 million of
    bilateral and regional assistance already provided under IPA III.
  29. While we commend our Partners for their efforts and constructive cooperation to date,
    sustained and expanded efforts are required in order to address irregular migration on the
    Western Balkans route, including to combat smuggling of migrants and human trafficking.
    The EU remains committed to support the region, both politically and financially. In this
    regard, it intends to substantially increase funding to the Western Balkans for the coming
    years in the framework of IPA III. In light of the increased migratory pressure in the region,
    the strong financial EU support through dedicated programmes will allow Partners to enhance
    asylum and reception systems, strengthen border protection, fight smuggling networks and
    organised crime groups, and step up returns from the Western Balkans to the countries of
    origin. With a view to that, the EU has adopted a new programme on strengthening border
    management worth EUR 40 million, and is preparing a second one on increasing the capacity
    to fight migrant smuggling and human trafficking, with a focus on investigations and
    prosecutions, worth EUR 30 million.
  30. Partners’ swift alignment with EU visa policy is of urgent and crucial importance for
    migration management and for the overall good functioning and sustainability of the visa-free
    regimes between the Western Balkans and the EU. Partners must continue to enhance their
    return systems, including by concluding readmission agreements with key countries of origin
    and to strengthen cooperation with relevant airlines. Mutual cooperation on returns will be
    deepened, maximising the use of existing frameworks and available channels. In this regard,
    the EU stands ready to support the Western Balkans to increase voluntary and non-voluntary
    returns, including directly from the region to the countries of origin. Cooperation should also
    be intensified with Frontex, including through the rapid conclusion and implementation of
    updated Status Agreements, as well as with the European Union Agency for Asylum and with
  31. We call for cooperation to be further strengthened on counter-terrorism and countering
    violent extremism, including the prevention of radicalisation and of terrorist financing, in
    line with the Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism for the Western Balkans. We reiterate
    the importance of taking resolute action to address serious and organised crime, in particular
    money laundering, high-level corruption, drug cultivation and trafficking.
  32. The EU is fully committed to continue the work on preventing illicit trade and trafficking
    in small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, commends the Western Balkans’
    dedicated roadmap on this and will continue to support the Western Balkans in this field. The
    roadmap is an internationally recognised example of good practice of regional cooperation to
    strengthen small arms control.
  33. The EU encourages Western Balkan Partners to establish and maintain cooperative relations
    with the European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO) in the field of mutual legal assistance
    in criminal matters. We welcome the working arrangements already established between the
    EPPO and some Western Balkans Partners, and we encourage the other Partners towards
    similar cooperation as soon as possible.

  1. We welcome our Western Balkans Partners’ alignment with the above points.