Polish leaders spoke out in favour of the EU expanding to admit Western Balkan countries as top figures from across Europe debated the region’s future at a summit on Friday.
Prime ministers and senior figures from 14 European countries on Friday gathered in the Polish city of Poznań to discuss the challenges and European integration prospects of the Western Balkans region.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said the Western Balkans were important for the stability and development of Europe.
He added that his country supported the aspirations of Western Balkan nations to become part of the European Union.
This is because Poland supports “a Europe of solidarity and openness instead of a Europe of mutual prejudice,” Duda said.
He also said that Poland was committed to the Berlin Process, an initiative launched by Germany and aiming to promote regional cooperation among Western Balkan countries aspiring to join the EU.
The Polish leader said this commitment resulted from “Poland's deep conviction regarding the importance of the Western Balkans for the stability and development of Europe."
Duda told the gathering, as quoted by Poland’s PAP news agency, that the Balkans “are an integral part of Europe, in view of their geographical, cultural and historical position.”
He said: "Without the Western Balkans' integration, together with their beautiful traditions and various cultures, Europe will not start breathing easy.”
Duda argued that further enlargement of the EU should be part of visions defining the future of a common Europe, the PAP news agency reported.
A host of leaders from various European countries, among them German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and France’s Édouard Philippe, attended the 6th Western Balkans Summit, which was held in the Polish city of Poznań from Wednesday to Friday.
Poland supports EU enlargement to include Western Balkans: PM
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the end of the three-day event that his country supported the idea of enlarging the European Union to include the Western Balkans.
"From the point of view of completing the process of European integration, we not only support this process, but are trying to share our experience," Morawiecki said at a joint news conference with his counterparts from Germany, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
The summit started in Poznań on Wednesday with a Think Tank Forum during which experts brainstormed issues including the European aspirations of Western Balkan nations.
On Thursday, government ministers from various European countries, notably those in charge of foreign, economic and internal affairs, met for plenary sessions.
A Civil Society Forum focusing on NGOs was also held on Thursday, alongside a Business Forum to enable entrepreneurs to network and establish contacts.
A debate entitled “Navigating the Future: How to Prepare for the Revolution in Trade, Services and Industry” was among the highlights of the day.
Those attending the debate included Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz and Entreprise and Technology Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz.
Czaputowicz said on Thursday that Europe could not be seen as fully united without the Western Balkans. He also said that Poland wanted to increase the stability and development of the Western Balkans through stronger cooperation with the region’s countries.
The 6th Western Balkans Summit in Poznań was held as part of the Berlin Process, an initiative launched by Germany that brings together EU membership candidates Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania, and potential candidates Bosnia-and-Herzegovina and Kosovo, as well as eight EU member states.
Poland this year holds the rotating presidency of the Berlin Process.
Previous Western Balkans Summits were held in Vienna in 2015; Paris in 2016; Trieste, Italy, in 2017; and London last year.