1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Zelenskyy seeks arms co-production, support at Balkan summit

Rashela Shehu in Tirana
February 29, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy travelled to Albania's capital, Tirana, on Wednesday seeking continued Balkan backing for his country and to drum up support for the idea of joint arms production.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sits in front of a microphone as he prepares to address a summit of southeastern European countries. Behind him are three delegates and the yellow-and-blue logo of the summit. Tirana, Albania, February 28, 2024
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses a summit of southeastern European countries on peace, security and cooperation, with special focus on the war in UkraineImage: PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE/APA/IMAGO

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for financial aid and military supplies to counter Russian aggression at the Ukraine-Southeast Europe summit in Tirana, Albania, on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian president accepted Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's invitation to join leaders from 10 countries in southeastern Europe at the summit in the Albanian capital.

Discussions on Wednesday focused on the issue of support for Kyiv on the two-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy floats idea of joint arms production

Speaking at the summit, Zelenskyy called for the urgent dispatch of weapons to Ukraine to ensure "its survival."

"The more Putin observes our deficiencies, the more he might believe he can challenge Europe and the West," he said.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (right) welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (left) before their meeting, Tirana, Albania, Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (left) is greeted by Albanian PM Edi Rama (right), whom Zelenskyy has called 'Ukraine's unwavering friend' Image: Armando Babani/AP Photo/picture alliance

The president of Ukraine also expressed interest in the joint production of arms with Western Balkan countries and all Ukraine's partners. "We propose organizing a special forum for the defense industry between Ukraine and the Balkans, either in Kyiv or in one of your capitals," said Zelenskyy.

Albanian PM calls for continued support for Kyiv

In support of the Ukrainian leader, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama urged the states in the region to continue providing financial and military support to Ukraine, which has been facing Russian aggression since February 2022.

"We must not let Russia win and Ukraine lose! Its survival depends on financial and military support," said Rama, adding that aid for Ukraine should not depend on domestic political matters in different states.

"I see with concern that this support is slowing down because Ukraine is becoming a political issue between one country and another," he said.

Threat of Russian destabilization

Speaking at the press conference after the summit, Zelenskyy warned the Balkan countries to remain vigilant about potential Russian efforts at destabilization.

"Russia will not stop. It draws conclusions from the mistakes it has made on Ukrainian territory and will destabilize further, using other tactics," he said before calling on the Balkan states to unite to face this threat.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic attends a joint press conference with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Belgrade, Serbia, February 7, 2024
The 12-point declaration at the end of the summit was also signed by Aleksandar Vucic, president of Serbia, which has thus far refused to impose sanctions against RussiaImage: Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo/picture alliance

Albanian PM Rama also picked up on this subject. "You have seen in the region how Russian influence has sown instability in one country or another," he said before going on to emphasize the need for the countries of the Western Balkans to stand together and pursue their aspiration to join the European Union.

Leaders agree on joint declaration

The leaders of the southeastern European countries in attendance at the summit reiterated their support for Ukraine and agreed on their stance on Russia's aggression in a 12-point joint declaration. The declaration was also signed by Aleksandar Vucic, president of Serbia, which has thus far refused to impose sanctions against Russia.

"We call on the entire international community to strongly increase support for Ukraine in its ongoing struggle for freedom, independence, and territorial integrity," said the joint declaration, which also addressed the issue of the fight against disinformation, including false narratives about the war and cyber security challenges, which impact on the stability and security of the international community.

Albania and Ukraine sign treaty of friendship and cooperation

Rama and Zelenskyy also signed a "Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Republic of Albania and Ukraine" before the summit.

Zelenskyy: 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers dead since start of war

Both countries agreed to develop cooperation in various fields, including trade, culture, education, environment, healthcare, media, sports and tourism.

"The treaty serves the consolidation of friendship between the two countries and peoples, through the expansion and strengthening of cooperation in various fields of common interest," the leaders said in a statement issued to the media.

Zelenskyy, writing on X, formerly Twitter, said that the agreement would "strengthen cooperation with Albania and Ukraine's position in the Balkans."

Albania, a NATO member since 2009 and a candidate for EU membership, has been one of Ukraine's staunchest and most consistent supporters since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

The second day of the summit in Tirana (Thursday) will be devoted to the subject of relations between the Western Balkan states and the European Union. Leaders of those Western Balkan states that are not members of the EU will discuss the bloc's plan for economic growth in the Western Balkans.

Edited by: Aingeal Flanagan


A woman with long fair hair (Rashela Shehu) smiles at the camera
Rashela Shehu Albania-based reporter specializing in current affairs