Macron: EU must defend firms against US Iran sanctions

PES leaders call for stepping up of EU accession for Balkan countries

PES leaders call for stepping up of EU accession for Balkan countries

But EU members are divided over whether to declare that all six western Balkan countries at the summit - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia - can one day join the bloc.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pointed out that the summit has made even better connections with the Western Balkans which is step-by-step approaching the EU, at their own pace and according to their own merits. "It will be an opportunity for both sides to reaffirm that the European perspective remains the Western Balkans' geostrategic choice", he said.

The European Union offered six Western Balkan countries closer ties on Thursday but said they could count on no fast-track to membership - as much because of their regional problems, as well as due to the bloc's own fatigue. Madrid is one of the few countries that doesn't recognise Kosovan independence from Serbia - declared in 2008, amid fears it could set a precedent regarding the Catalan region of Spain.

British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov that the Balkans topic will not drop down from the United Kingdom agenda. Officials from the two countries have been locked in talks over the issue.

FYROM, since the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, has insisted on its desire to simply be called "Macedonia".

Representatives from Greece and Macedonia met on the fringes of the Sofia summit in an attempt to finally come to an agreement.

Leaders of the 28 EU countries sit at the negotiating table with countries wishing to become part of the Union.

The three-page document itself contained words about the "shared commitment to European values", the "unequivocal support for the European perspective" of the Western Balkan states and the commitment to "the primacy of democracy and the rule of law".

When EU leaders pose for a picture with counterparts from six western Balkan nations hoping to join the bloc, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will stay away in protest - highlighting how long and hard their road to membership is likely to be.

The EU Commission said in February it adopted a strategy for supporting the EU integration of the countries of the Western Balkans, focusing on the need for fundamental reforms and good neighbourly relations.

As for the other important impasse that is blocking the paths of two prospective European Union members, the stalled Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, mixed messages came from the two heads of state.

Without revealing a potential date, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they have a "clear" route in.

The participants noted that the social partners and other civil society organizations, both at European Union and national level, must be meaningfully involved in the entire process of integrating the Western Balkan countries into the EU. The British Prime Minister has stated that, despite Brexit, London's engagement with the Western Balkan countries will remain and will continue to build on what has been achieved. Their effective implementation of reforms rests on these foundations.

However, EU officials say there is no easy way to protect EU firms from USA sanctions and that it will take time for the bloc to devise what will likely be a complex mix of national and EU-level measures.

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