European Union leaders proclaim support for Balkans, but are tired over membership

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for an informal dinner ahead of a summit with leaders of the six Western Balkans countries in Sofia Bulgaria

Informal dinner ahead of a summit with leaders of the six Western Balkans countries in Sofia Thomson Reuters

Exit has obtained a draft of the Joint Declaration from the May 17 Sofia Summit where representatives from the EU Member States will meet representatives from the Western Balkans.

"Given history of the region, given the existing pressures, these [Western Balkan] countries could turn to Russian Federation or to Turkey and this would be a wrong solution both for the region and for Europe". "If there is no European perspective in the Balkans, then the Turkish influence and other influence becomes stronger and stronger".

While the summit did not give any of the six countries a firm date for when they might join the bloc, the declaration released at the close of the day's talks encourages all of the Western Balkan countries to continue on the path of EU-oriented reform.

Apart from the Western Balkans, the European Union leaders were preoccupied with America's abandonment of the Iran deal and the threats of a tariff war between the U.S. and Europe.

The EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia on Thursday wasn't supposed to talk about the enlargement but should have given a clear stance for the countries of the Western Balkans that the European Union counts on them and that it sees their future in EU membership, Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini (Smer-SD) said after the end of the informal summit in Bulgaria, in the country now chairing the EU Council.

The bloc faces a dilemma over Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo - wanting to offer them enough to keep them out of Moscow's orbit without rushing to let them join before they carry out important reforms.

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EU Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc would invest in infrastructure connections with the Balkans to boost development and bring them up to EU standards.

The Prime Minister said on Thursday that the United Kingdom would continue its "longstanding and enduring commitment to the region".

Tusk said that while there were low expectations regarding Iran, there were high expectations regarding Washington.

"We want to demonstrate that we care about socioeconomic development in the region here and now".

Five of the European Union's existing 28 members - Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Romania and Cyprus - do not recognize Kosovo as a state independent of Serbia, while Athens and Skopje are at loggerheads over the right to the name Macedonia.

But, highlighting how long and hard their road to membership is likely to be, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of European Union member Spain stayed away from the talks since Madrid refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo.

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