EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn and Western Balkan leaders met in Bosnia-Herzegovina to discuss progress towards EU accession and regional cooperation.

Hahn and the prime ministers of Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, and Albania were in Sarajevo for the one-day meeting on March 16.

The countries are at different stages of efforts to join the bloc, and recent domestic political clashes and tense relations between states in the region have posed obstacles to the process.

The EU said in a March 15 statement that Hahn would discuss “economic and political perspectives for the Western Balkans”with the leaders in preparation for a summit of some EU and Western Balkan nations in the Italian city of Trieste on July 12.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on March 15 that the region needed a clear message about joining the bloc, citing growing nationalism and pro-Russian sentiment in the region.

In Albania on February 14, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano urged the EU to strengthen its commitment to integrating Western Balkan countries to help counter rising nationalist tensions in the region.

“Balkan countries have a strategic importance not only for Italy, but for all Europe,” he said.

With reporting by Reuters