Within this equation, it is impossible to imagine Europe without its Southeastern region. Southeast Europe in general and the Western Balkans in particular have always belonged to Europe. Like other parts of the Continent, the Western Balkans have experienced armed conflicts, that is known. But, geographically, historically, culturally they belong to Europe. Their bitter legacy has left behind, even today, an amount of mistrust, nationalism and lack of reconciliation.In this context, the region’s European integration remains an unfinished business 19 years after the 2003 “Thessaloniki Agenda”. As our region tries to endure the impact of war, it is crucial that the EU contributes to this effort. Τhe Economic & Investment Plan is expected to bring tangible benefits to citizens and businesses. It is also expected to reinforce the region’s sustainable growth, including inter-connectivity. Your Excellencies, Dear Colleagues, Dear Friends,The war in Ukraine highlighted the strategic importance of the European Union-Western Balkans relationship. The EU remains the biggest trade and investment partner of the Western Balkans. Cooperation on foreign policy with Western Balkans partners has stepped up, also in relation to Ukraine.