On 8 February 2019, Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a conference “Western Balkans – Challenges and Perspectives”. It was organised in cooperation with the Embassies of Austria and Romania in the light of high relevance of the topic for the EU Council presidencies of those countries.
At the opening of the event, the Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Political Director Jānis Mažeiks, underlined the strategic importance of the European Union perspective for the region and noted that it was an investment in a strong and united Europe, based on common values. Jānis Mažeiks pointed out to the utmost importance of maintaining the EU perspective in view of the current geopolitical situation and challenges to the international system.
The Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary for European Affairs, Solveiga Silkalna, stressed that the goal of joining the EU was a powerful driver of transformation in the Western Balkans. Solveiga Silkalna noted that Latvia as a full-fledged member state of the European Union had been actively sharing its experience of integration into the European Union, over the past 15 years, including with the Western Balkans countries.
The discussions featured an exchange of views on current developments in the Western Balkans, elucidating challenges and opportunities for sustainable development of the region. Focus was also directed to the added value of sector-specific cooperation for boosting the enlargement process. The participants agreed that the historic Prespa agreement had created positive dynamics in the region.
The discussion brought together representatives from the foreign services of Austria, Romania and Latvia, the European Commission and the Latvian Institute for International Affairs. The audience included diplomats accredited to Latvia, including from the region, as well as the representatives of Latvian public institutions and universities.
The Western Balkans countries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and North Macedonia (On 17 June 2018, Athens and Skopje signed the historic Prespa agreement on a new name for the state of Macedonia – “The Republic of North Macedonia”).
Austria held the Presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2018. It was succeeded by Romania, which is presiding over the EU Council from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2019.
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