Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took part yesterday (Wednesday) in the EU-Western Balkans Summit by videoconference.
The meeting, which brought together leaders from the EU and from six countries from the region, discussed the need for joint action against COVID-19 and reaffirmed the journey of the Western Balkan countries towards EU membership.
The call also highlighted the importance of shared fundamental values, including democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Western Balkans countries "belong in the European Union", Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, without mentioning when the six countries might become member states.
In a declaration released after the summit, the 27 leaders of the EU member states reiterated their "strong solidarity" with Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia "in the context of the coronavirus".
In his intervention, the Taoiseach expressed his strong support for accession of the Balkan countries to the EU, once they have met the requirements.
Journey towards prosperity
He recalled how important EU membership had been in Ireland’s journey towards prosperity, and hoped that their experience would be as positive.
He also stressed the importance of respect for human rights in the region – including for the LGBTQ and Roma communities.
The Taoiseach also thanked the Western Balkan countries for their assistance in the repatriation of Irish citizens stranded as a result of COVID-19.