Western Balkans summit debates underway in Poznań

The summit was opened by a forum of think-tanks attended by some 200 representatives of European NGOs. Jakub Kaczmarczyk/PAP

A three-day summit of six Western Balkan countries taking part in the pre-accession Berlin Process started in the Polish western city of Poznań on Wednesday.

The summit was opened by a forum of think-tanks attended by some 200 representatives of European NGOs. About 1,500 people are expected to attend the summit, including more than 1,000 foreign guests.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, responsible for organising the summit, told a Wednesday press conference that a Friday summit meeting will be attended by 14 prime ministers. Among those to arrive in Poznan are the German chancellor and the British and French prime ministers. They are expected to discuss the most important issues for the Western Balkan region.

Meetings of foreign, interior and economy ministers of countries taking part in the Berlin Process are scheduled for Thursday. Their talks "are aimed to pave the way for the leaders' decisions" on Friday when the country leaders will sum up the current activities under the Berlin Process and focus on plans for the future.

Minister Szynkowski noted that no official decisions will fall during the summit explaining that "from the very beginning this format was foreseen as a supplement to the enlargement process conducted by the European Commission."

The minister underscored that the summit is taking place in an uneasy, from the point of view of the Western Balkans context. On the one hand, the EU has not yet opened accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, on the other hand the situation in the region is complex, said Szynkowski pointing to, among other things, a stalemate in Serbia-Kosovo dialogue. He added that the Poznan summit is a chance "to send positive impulses."

Minister Szynkowski said Poland wants summit participants to agree to the opening of accession negotiations this October. "Poland is an advocate of such step. We will try to convince remaining leaders and ministers to such decision. We also want to encourage Western Balkan countries to introduce internal reforms and to stabilise (their) bilateral relations."

Western Balkan countries are also to be encouraged to "prepare ambitious assumptions of their economic policies." In this context the minister pointed to a strong business and economic component of the summit.

The Berlin Process is a German-led inter-governmental initiative to promote the expansion of the European Union to the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia) and to strengthen regional cooperation. The initiative comprises eight EU countries, namely, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Great Britain. Poland joined the project last year and has taken over its presidency in January.