Bratislava, 31 May 2023 – “It is not enough to say that the door is open. We must also take responsibility to bring the aspiring members of our Union much closer to us,” the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at GLBOSEC’s 2023 Bratislava Forum, in an announcement of a new initiative for the Western Balkans.

 “To a certain extent, this is a new approach for the European Union: We do not only ask our partners to take new steps towards us. We also take a big step towards them,” von der Leyen added.

As part of the “new growth plan for the Western Balkans”, four types of measures are envisaged:

1. bringing the region closer to the EU single market;

2. deepening regional economic integration;

3. accelerating fundamental reforms;

4. boosting pre-accession funds.

We want to build on the progress achieved in recent months. But we also want to bring some of the benefits of EU Membership to the people of Western Balkans already today,” said EC President.

The single market cooperation could lead the region to join the EU´s digital single market in areas such as e-commerce or cybersecurity and enhance the regional common market to attract European investors.

However, von der Leyen stressed that some reforms on the part of Western Balkan countries, such as in the judiciary, public procurement and the fight against corruption, will still need to be met in advance for the region to fully benefit from the fresh EU´s initiative.

We stand ready to support Western Balkans with increased pre-accession funding. There is a dire need for investment in the Western Balkans. These investments will make people´s lives better. And they will also smooth the way into our Union,” said von der Leyen.

The keynote speech by President von der Leyen at the GLOBSEC 2023 Bratislava Forum in full is available here:

You can watch the address below.

About GLOBEC 2023

The 18th edition of GLOBSEC’s annual Bratislava Forum takes place from 29 – 31 May, to which a record number of regional and international politicians as well as renowned opinion leaders, have confirmed their attendance. The meeting will convene 1200 leaders from over 60 countries, including 11 heads of state and government from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and beyond.

The programme of the GLOBSEC 2023 Forum calls on leaders from the CEE region and beyond to address immediate needs regarding geopolitical cooperation and security issues while laying the groundwork for a more sustainable and resilient world. It also focuses on working toward solutions while enhancing public-private cooperation on the interconnected issues of energy, innovation, infrastructure, and health. The full agenda is available here.

The GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum is the preeminent international strategic conference on the frontlines of a newly divided world. Over the 18 years of its existence, the Forum has established itself as the most distinguished platform throughout the CEE region. This year it has been organised with help from the Czech and Austrian governments.

For more information, visit and share it on social media using the hashtag #GLOBSEC2023.


GLOBSEC is a global think-tank based in Bratislava committed to enhancing security, prosperity and sustainability in Europe and throughout the world. It is an independent, non-partisan, non-governmental organisation. With its presence in Bratislava, Brussels, Kyiv, Vienna, and Washington, GLOBSEC’s mission is to influence the future by generating new ideas and solutions for a better and safer world. To this goal contributes the annual GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum, one of the leading global security conferences. GLOBSEC also organises the annual GLOBSEC Tatra Summit, a conference that provides the opportunity for experts to have fruitful political discussions on the future of Europe.