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Western Balkan leaders meet for Tirana Economic Summit

Tirana Economic Summit 2021; Photo: European Union

TIRANA – Western Balkan Prime Ministers and Presidents met in the capital of Albania yesterday for a regional summit on economic cooperation. Political issues were also discussed on the sidelines.

The summit was hosted by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and European Commissioner for Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi. It preceded the June Council meetings, which are expected to decide on the EU accession progress of some WB countries, as well as the Berlin Process summit on 5 July.

Apart from the hosts, the meeting was attended by Prime Ministers Ana Brnabić of Serbia, Albin Kurti of Kosovo and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia, as well as President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zoran Tegeltija.

Várhelyi: Regional cooperation will bring €30 billion of investments in the region

European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said during a joint press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama that regional cooperation will bring a €30 billion investment plan in the Western Balkans, Euronews Albania reports.

“We are ready to reconfirm our engagement and commitment that we have put on the table with the economic and investment plan. A plan that we’ve shown since the fall mobilizes one-third of the regions’ GDP. Nearly €30 billion in the form of investments that will come to the region. This plan will not work out if the region itself does not function as a whole if we don’t have a regional market”, the Commissioner said.

He stressed that the topics discussed at the meeting would be raised once again during the Berlin Process Summit in July.

“We see already the first deliverable arriving, changing the lives of the citizens by the launching the free roaming zone, the ‘Roam like at home’ – we have it in the European Union – for the entire Western Balkan region”, Várhelyi said.

He added that there is still a lot to come: citizens travelling with ID cards, mutual acceptance of diplomas, work permits removed, facilitating e-commerce.

“There is a lot this Western Balkans cooperation has to offer, this regional market can offer for the people of the Western Balkans”, Commissioner said.

Prime Minister Rama stated that the goal of this summit is to bring forward the embodiment of 4 European freedoms.

While emphasizing that he has agreed with Hungary for free circulation with no extra liabilities, Rama said, all participating countries have brought before the European Commission and EU the issue of the green digital or the vaccination passport held by our citizens, whose validity we ask the EU member states to offically recognize.

The Common Regional Market initiative, launched last year, could soon be transferred from the Berlin Process to the European Commission, Rama and Várhelyi said.

Kurti and Brnabić enter a dispute over Kosovo’s statehood

During the Summit, Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti asked for the regional economic CEFTA agreement to be ammended so that Kosovo would be recognised as an independet state, reported Radio-Television of Serbia.

According to RTS, the Prime Minister of Serbia “reminded Kurti that Kosovo is not a member of the UN and that it is not recognized by five EU members”. She assessed the meeting as difficult and as an attempt by Pristina to divert attention from the main topics.

Kosovo PM Kurti later explained what his proposal was to Euronews Albania.

“My proposal is to go from CEFTA to SEFTA. This is the right solution raising our ambitions and regional cooperation, and within EU values, including parity amongst our states”, said Kurti.

Furthermore, Kurti told the media about a dispute with Serbian PM Ana Brnabic during the summit.

He said that the debate arose after the Serbian premier refused to accept that Kosovo is an independent and sovereign country.

“There was a sort of debate, let’ say, because she didn’t want to accept that Kosovo is an independent and sovereign state. I stressed that Serbia needs to distance itself from the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, as there is no other solution apart from recognizing the independence of the Republic of Kosovo”, he said.

Brnabić also met with Várhelyi on the sidelines of the event.

“We discussed the EU accession process of Serbia in the context of revised enlargement methodology. Important progress was made & I am looking forward to holding the next intergovernmental conference in June”, Commissioner tweeted.

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