Ten countries of the Adriatic-Ionian region, including Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, adopted at their annual meeting in Tirana on Saturday a declaration in which they called Russia's invasion of Ukraine an illegal and unjustified aggression, expressing commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania and San Marino gathered in Tirana for a forum called the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR).
In a joint declaration, they cited 25 items related to their future cooperation under the aegis of the European Commission, the first item being related to the war in Ukraine.
“We, the Representatives of the Governments… deplore in the strongest terms the illegal and unjustified aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine… Reaffirm (our) commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders…” reads the document.
The declaration is not binding but expresses the signatory countries’ general political position.
It was published after a closed-door meeting in Tirana, which was attended by state secretaries from the member-countries’ foreign ministries.
The representative of Serbia, which has not introduced sanctions against Russia, was unavailable for comment after the meeting.
“All the countries have accepted the text of the declaration in the form also distributed to the press,” said Josip Brkić, Deputy Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has taken over the year-long presidency of the EUSAIR.
The European Commission formed the EUSAIR in 2014 to help candidate countries and potential candidates draw closer to the EU. The EUSAIR brings together Adriatic and Ionian countries or countries that are in the hinterland of the two seas, with a total population of 70 million.
It was established after Croatia joined the EU in 2013 as the youngest member.
The war in Ukraine and Russia's actions remind us of the importance of the stability of the Western Balkans, which is realised through closer ties with the EU and membership prospects, said Slawomir Tokarski, head of the EC department responsible for EU policy on regions and cities (DG Regio).
That way we can fight against Russia's influence, he said at a news conference in Tirana.