TALLINN – Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said at a meeting of the heads of state and government of the European Union and the Western Balkan countries in Albania on Tuesday that Estonia supports the accession of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union.
"Estonia firmly supports the accession of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union and the development of close relations with the region. In the changed security situation, we have to cooperate more than before and support those countries that share the same values and views of a Europe aimed at the growth of people's well-being," Kallas said in Tirana.
According to the prime minister, the journey to EU membership is a partnership.
"The European Union is the closest cooperation and trade partner of the Western Balkan countries and the main source of investments. The war initiated by Russia against Ukraine has made our cooperation and partnership more important than ever," Kallas said.
"At the meeting, we took important steps to bring the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans closer together, such as joining the EU single market, lowering roaming charges, access to education and youth programs, participation in joint gas procurement and security cooperation. These are important agreements for speeding up the accession process of countries in the region and continuing with reforms," she added.
At the summit, a billion-euro EU aid package for the energy sector was approved, which supports Western Balkan countries and companies in coping with high energy prices and investments in renewable and environmentally friendly energy carriers. The aid package is part of the region's pre-accession aid. The opening of the energy market and joint gas procurement were also discussed.
The integration of the region with the EU single market was also discussed and the gradual lowering of mobile roaming charges between the EU and the Western Balkan countries was agreed upon. Opportunities will open up for young people to participate in Erasmus+ study migration and European Solidarity Corps projects. In addition, new projects under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans as well as the strengthening of security and defense cooperation through the European Peace Facility were agreed upon.