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.