"All of the countries in the Western Balkans have made good progress on the European integration path. There is also the confidence that there is no other power in the world that has so much impact for good on the Western Balkans as the European Union. Foreign Ministers sent a very clear message: what the people of the Balkans can expect from us is a serious, consistent and committed approach."Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Ministers reconfirmed the EU engagement and focus on the region, including through political and economic links. The Council also stressed the need for partners in the region to deliver on reforms to ensure they make steady progress on the European path. In this context, good regional cooperation continues to be essential, as is the need to contain and avoid inflammatory rhetoric. Ministers also underlined the importance of reaching out to the populations of the region, in particular through public diplomacy, to better communicate the benefits of the European path has on offer: improvement in the rule of law, the transformation of societies and economic and social opportunities, in particular for the youth. Ministers also expressed the EU's readiness to continue helping the Western Balkans address common challenges, such as human trafficking, drugs smuggling, extreme radicalisation and terrorism. The Council's discussion will feed into the European Council meeting of 9-10 March, which is expected to discuss the situation in the region.
Security and defence
The Council adopted conclusions setting out the progress achieved in implementing the EU global strategy in the area of security and defence. The conclusions assess what has been done to implement what was agreed by the European Council on 15 December 2016.
The Council also agreed to establish of a military planning and conduct capability (MPCC), within the existing EU Military Staff of the European External Action Service. This will improve the support from Brussels for non-executive military missions, which currently comprises the EU training missions in Central Africa, Mali, and Somalia.