European Union reaches out to Western Balkan states, ascension still far off

Many streets in Sofia are blocked for the summit

Many streets in Sofia are blocked for the summit

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.

Providing a tangible European perspective for the Western Balkans is one of Bulgaria's priorities during the country's six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

"There's no plan B, there's no other alternative".

"Today marks another milestone in the EU-Western Balkans relations and the future of the entire region.

And I don't think we do a service to the candidate countries or ourselves by having a mechanism that in a way no longer has rules and keeps moving toward more enlargement", Macron told reporters at the summit in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. "The EU is and will continue to be the most important partner for the Western Balkans".

European Union leaders are meeting their counterparts from six Balkan countries in Sofia, a day after a dinner that sought to forge a united front in the face of US President Donald Trump's "capricious assertiveness" on the Iran nuclear deal and trade tariffs.

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

Tusk again sharply criticised the Trump administration, a day after he said in regard to it that "some might say, with friends like that, who needs enemies".

After suspending any enlargement four years ago, the European Commission recently unveiled a new strategy for the region which aims to give membership to some states by 2025 - the frontrunners to join are Montenegro and Serbia.

"This is not a subject for Sofia", a senior European Union official insisted, adding that membership issues would be discussed in June when leaders decide whether to approve accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia.

"We reaffirmed our mutual commitment to the European perspective for the whole region".

The Balkans have moved back up the EU's agenda as leaders have become alarmed at the influence of other powers on its southern flank, particularly Russian Federation.

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. They also differ on the potential timeline for accepting new members from the region.

Ryan Reynolds Reveals How He Got [Spoiler] to Cameo in 'Deadpool 2'
Israel's rocket sirens switched on in northern Golan Heights: Israeli military