An EU commissioner vowed Wednesday that the European Union is committed to invest €1 billion in Balkan infrastructure in the coming years, in a move aiming to link the EU-aspiring countries, Anadolu Agency reported.
"The main building block comprises the core network linking all capitals, main economic centers and major ports," Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, said at the "Western Balkans 6" conference held in Pristina, Kosovo.
"These priority links only become part of the core network if Member States are able to commit to completing all related investments and other 'soft' measures by 2030," he said.
Hahn said that as a first step, up to €130 million in IPA II -- Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance -- funds will be available from the 2015 multi-country program as grant investment co-financing to move these projects forward.
"I say a first step because I am strongly committed to improving the connectivity within this region and between the region and the European Union. We are ready to commit as much as €1 billion from IPA II to this end," he said.
Hahn said that the EU wants to connect the Western Balkans not just through physical connection such as roads and railways, but through political and legal connections as well.
The foreign and infrastructure ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia met at the "Western Balkans 6" conference.
The conference was held in the framework of German chancellor Angela Merkel's 2014 Berlin Conference, which aimed to show commitment to the process of EU enlargement toward the Balkans.
The visits by Serbian foreign and infrastructure ministers to Kosovo marks the first high-ranking visit of Serbian officials to Pristina since the Kosovo war in 1999. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade still does not recognize it.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the "Blue Highway" which will link the coasts of Croatia, Montenegro and Albania will be the first fruit of the Berlin conference, as the countries are due to begin designing it.
Hahn said that the six countries' prime ministers are due to meet in Brussels on April 21, in a meeting which he said will be the occasion to give the agreement the very highest levels of political confirmation.
"Finally, in August we will use the Vienna Summit to present a list of specific investment priorities on energy and the regional transport core network," he said.
All Western Balkan countries are currently engaged in negotiations with the EU and are pursuing integration into the 28-member union.