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Message of unity and solidarity from the 2nd Thessaloniki Ministerial Summit

The foreign ministers of the Western Balkan countries and member-states of the surrounding region sent a message of unity and solidarity during the virtual 2nd Thessaloniki 2020 Ministerial Summit, held on Tuesday via video conference at the invitations of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his counterpart from North Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov. The ministers agreed to continue to demonstrate unity and solidarity and step up their coordination and collaboration, in order to deal effectively with the pandemic and diminish, to the greatest possible extent, its extensive social and economic impact on the region.

"The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, in the most essential terms, the importance of a coordinated approach, cooperation and solidarity to effectively address global challenges and threats," said the joint communique adopted at the meeting. According to the statement, regional cooperation and cooperation between the European Union and the Western Balkans constitutes an element of vital importance at this time, in order to jointly address the challenges presented by the crisis in public health,
Taking into account that the tourism sector, which is facing an unprecedented challenge, constitutes a major component for the region's economies and societies, the ministers pledged to actively support all efforts and measures aiming at mitigating the pandemic's negative impact, with regular cross-border communication that will facilitate the restoration and resumption of tourism activity.
It was agreed to discuss, at the level of competent authorities, the best ways to gradually ease restrictions in step with conditions at a national and EU level, as regards cross-border movements and tourism, based on EU guidelines.
"Apart from the EU's pledge to financially support the Western Balkans during the post-COVID-19 recovery, the strengthening of connectivity and better access to the EU market should be included among the key elements that will pave the way for a more enhanced economic integration between the region and the EU," said the common ministerial statement.
The ministers also underlined the importance of fully respecting individual rights and freedoms, as well as the independent media and the free exchange of information that is accurate and reliable, expressing their determination to tackle the spread of fake news and incitement to hatred.
Finally, they reaffirmed their clear support of the Western Balkans' European prospects, based on the principle of progress in line with performance, and agreed to meet again to reaffirm the progress achieved and their future course.
As diplomatic sources said, the Thessaloniki Forum is now taking on a clear momentum as an effective cooperation framework between the countries in the region and the EU, in the context of the expressed desire of the parties involved to continue to support the region's European perspective as and decided in 2003 with the "Thessaloniki Agenda".
Those attending the meeting included the foreign affairs ministers of Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, of the Western Balkans partners North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo, while it was held in the presence of the Republic of Croatia, as current EU Presidency, the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement and representatives of the European External Action Service and the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs.