The Atlantic Council will convene a Western Balkans Partnership Summit on July 29 focused on the region’s economic integration.
The six countries have agreed “on bold, practical actions to advance regional economic cooperation,” according to the Atlantic Council.
Damon Willson, the Executive Vice President of the US think tank, will moderate the online summit attended by leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro’s Minister of Economy.
“The expected economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Balkans demand urgent regional action to avoid sustained economic stagnation and the potential instability that comes with it. This agreement will demonstrate leaders’ commitment to foster economic growth by pursuing the free movement of goods, persons, and services across the region’s borders. The measure will also set in motion a significant plan for attracting foreign investment and accelerating the effective deployment of COVID-19 recovery funds,” the council’s announcement read.
The agreement expected to be signed comes after a similar regional initiative, the Western Balkans Mini-Schengen launched by Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia. Kosovo refused participation due to Serbia being one of the initiators. Montenegro’s leader attended only the third summit as an observer. It argued that as countries aim at joining the EU and are part of CEFTA and the Berlin Process, any other format for collaboration would be redundant and potentially jeopardize the region’s EU integration.
Montenegro is also the only country not represented by its leader in this summit..
The Atlantic Council’s summit comes shortly after the resumption of EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. US envoy for the dialogue, Richard Grenell facilitated three agreements between Kosovo and Serbia this year which focus on the free movement of goods and people but they have not been implemented.
The summit will take place on Wednesday, July 29, from 16:15 to 17:30 via Zoom.