New deal for EU and Balkans: Spanish FM
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Wednesday said the European Union and the Western Balkans had agreed on a "new deal" during a key meeting in Sarajevo.
"Today in Sarajevo, I think the European Union and the Western Balkans decided to have a new deal. A deal of the future, a future of hope, a future of peace, a future of full integration in the EU," Moratinos whose country holds the rotating EU presidency told a press conference.
The high level meeting came as concern was mounting across the Balkans that Europe's debt crisis and its problems absorbing the 12 nations that have joined the bloc since 2004 will slow down further enlargement.
However the EU took care to reaffirm the European future for the Western Balkan states which suffered bloody wars during the break up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
"The EU reiterated its unequivocal commitment to the European perspective of the Western Balkans countries, which remains essential for the stability and development of the region," Moratinos said in a statement.
"The future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union," the statement said, adding that the progress of each country towards membership "will depend on its own merits".
The EU stressed again that challenges remain for the hopefuls, notably in the areas of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime and press freedom.
© 2010 AFP