“Do not lose sight of the geopolitical consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Western Balkans must not fall into the Russian disinformation trap. The region has a better future with the EU”, said Michael Gahler MEP, EPP Group Spokesman for Foreign Affairs, ahead of today’s EU-Western Balkans summit which takes place in the form of a video conference.

“Europeans must turn this crisis into an opportunity and mitigate the impact of the pandemic together”, Gahler continued. The EU plans to help the Western Balkans with €3.3 billion to fight COVID-19 in the region.

“In these challenging times, it is very important that we stand beside the whole of the Western Balkans. Solidarity is key now. The financial package for the region to address the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences, which Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi announced, is definitely a positive development”, said Kinga Gál MEP, who negotiated a parliamentary report about the Western Balkans on behalf of the EPP Group.

Today, EU leaders will also confirm the plan to start EU membership talks. “It is very important to reinforce the prospect of EU enlargement for these countries. The decision to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia is a step in the right direction”, stressed Gál.

“It is time for unity. The start of formal EU accession talks is about nothing less than defending our way of life and influence in the world. The EU is a reliable and transparent partner”, said Gahler.

The EPP Group praised the role of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, whose country holds the rotating Presidency of the Council. “Prime Minister Plenković’s personal commitment was instrumental in putting the Western Balkans among EU priorities”, underlined Gal.