The British decision to leave the European Union will not alter the chances of joining the bloc for Western Balkan nations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday at a summit in Paris.
"Nothing has changed with Britain's decision. This is what these countries were afraid of," Merkel said on the sidelines of the third annual summit on the Western Balkans.
"Rather it is about the conditions that they have to fulfill in order to advance the entry procedure," she said.
Leaders from across Europe were attending the summit as part of a process that began in 2000 aimed at ultimately expanding the EU to include countries like Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.
This year's summit includes talks on cooperating on security and fighting extremism, as well as managing the cross-border travel of migrants and refugees.
Transport and energy projects and economic development are on the agenda, and leaders are expected to sign an agreement to create a youth cooperation office between EU countries and those in the Western Balkans.
French President Francois Hollande is hosting the meeting, attended by Merkel and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, as well as Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and leaders from Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Austria.