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Ratas attending EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia

18 May 2018

President Donald Trump last week withdrew the USA from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but European signatories vowed to salvage it. Merkel said Thursday after EU leaders met in Bulgaria that "all European Union member states still stand by this agreement".

Macedonia's accession talks are only being blocked the Greece's age-old veto, which also prevents the Western Balkan state from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

But EU members are divided over whether to declare that all six western Balkan countries at the summit - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia - can one day join the bloc.

"I believe that it took us too long since our last meeting in Thessaloniki 15 years ago, and this is why we chose to meet again in two years in Croatia".

Aside from the current disputes, many other Western Balkan states suffer from organised crime operating in their country. "This is the best illustration that the integration with the Western Balkans is a top priority for the EU", Tusk said.

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She made a point of supporting the region, saying that "history tells us that if the western Balkans are stable and secure, then all of Europe is more stable and secure".

But after years of neglecting the six, the EU has been spurred into action by the growing influence of other powers in the region, which in 2015-16 also became a main route for a wave of migrants from the Middle East and Africa heading to wealthier European nations to the north.

The summit aims to enhance partnerships between countries and further guarantee the European Investment Bank's commitment to improvements and support within the Western Balkans. He commented that there are many candidates for European Union membership from the region and noted that there are problems with terrorism, migration.

During the "family photoshoot", Kosovo's Hashim Taci and Serbia's Alexander Vucic were seen close to each other, while they later shook hands when they signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Union under the approving gaze of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

The EU membership of all Balkan countries is in the interest of the whole Europe, Babis said.

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The first of which is Spain failing to recognise the independence of Kosovo as a state. Croatia was the last country to join in 2013.

However, EU officials say there is no easy way to protect EU firms from USA sanctions and that it will take time for the bloc to devise what will likely be a complex mix of national and EU-level measures. "What really matters is the determination of applicants in implementing reforms. And patience because also on the European Union side you need to have the right window of opportunity to take the decision", said a senior European Union official.

In connection with the V4, Babis spoke about the stance on migration, too.

In return, Brussels wants reforms and a crackdown on corruption in the region.

Later, Mrs May will become the first United Kingdom prime minister in nearly 20 years to visit Macedonia.

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"We saw that the status quo brings an erosion of democracy, a lack of economic opportunity", he told a meeting in Sofia.

Ratas attending EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia