The Foreign Affairs Committee's report, Global Britain and the Western Balkans, is published ahead of the fifth annual Western Balkans Summit, hosted by the UK on 9 and 10 July. The UK, a longstanding champion of EU accession for the Western Balkans Six (WB6), is hosting the Summit focussed on EU enlargement.
The UK has long supported EU membership for the Western Balkans and the FCO told the Committee that this will not change after Brexit. While the Committee welcomes this commitment, a sign of 'Global Britain' in action, it believes the UK’s influence may be lessened in the region if it is no longer involved after Brexit.
This annual summit aims to accelerate the reforms needed for the WB6 to qualify for EU membership. This will be no easy task, says the Report, as problems that have long held the region back from joining the EU—corruption, organised crime, authoritarianism and economic stagnation—have not gone away. With outside actors like Russia preying on the region’s vulnerabilities, it faces a long and difficult road to EU membership, with no guarantee of success.
The Report recommends that the Government, as hosts, should push the Summit to adopt a robust set of commitments that can make a real difference to the Western Balkans.
The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:
"The Western Balkans have come a long way since the 1990s, when the region was engulfed in violence. But the Western Balkans Six have further to go if they are to qualify for EU membership. Opposition from some countries around the world will harm their interests and those of neighbouring, EU states. The UK has a role in supporting them even after we leave the EU.
July's Summit in London is a welcome sign that the UK and its EU partners are committed to helping the region on its path to peace and prosperity. But if the UK is to make a meaningful difference in region, it has to prove it has an independent role to play in the region, after Brexit."
The fifth annual Western Balkans Summit will bring together the prime ministers, foreign ministers and interior ministers of the six countries of the Western Balkans along with the leaders of some of the most powerful EU Member States, including Germany, France and Italy.