In the European context, the word community has a rich history, as the current European Union developed from the historic Coal and Steel Community. The common interest in protecting these two industries created enough trust between the founding countries to extend their cooperation to many other policy areas. And the prosperity it brought to its citizens inspired other European countries to join over the years, bringing the Community from six countries at the time to the current 28 member states of the European Union.
Last week we famous in Vienna on the 10thth anniversary of another community; the Energy Community which brings together EU countries and our Eastern neighbors to coordinate our investments, our economic development, the security of our energy supply and our social stability. Like the Coal and Steel Community, established shortly after the Second World War, the Energy Community has also proven effective in building solidarity, trust and lasting peace in a region that experienced serious violence. Infrastructure coordination and integration is also a proven recipe for attracting private investment. I have seen it in my own country, Slovakia, and we see it throughout the Balkans, as in the case of Gas connectivity of Central-Eastern Southern Europe (CESEC) which recently held its own summit in Dubrovnik.
This is why, by attending the Western Balkans Summit, I encouraged investments in regional transport infrastructure within the framework of a Community Transport Treaty (TCT), which Commissioner Violeta Bulc worked on. Like the Energy Community, it would further integrate Western Balkan markets with those of the EU. This would not only speed up passenger travel, but also foreign investment and countries’ accession to the EU.
In this regard, I would like to salute and thank all those who worked tirelessly on the process of EU enlargement to the countries of the Western Balkans, now known as the “Berlin process”: the German government which maintained the topic at the top of the agenda, the Austrian government who hosted this year’s very successful summit and, of course, my colleagues HR/VP Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn who are leading the process. We all seem to agree that the Western Balkans share a common future with the EU.