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EU-Western Balkans leaders’ meeting: Without concrete results

European Council meeting room; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – Western Balkans and European Union leaders met on Thursday to discuss on EU enlargement process. Even after today’s meeting, the EU will not open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, Kosovo will not receive visa liberalization, and has no candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Although it was planned, the press conference of EU after a meeting with Western Balkan leaders was cancelled.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell spoke after the summit and expressed his disappointment over a lack of progress.

“Today, we should be launching negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and I can not hide my disappointment. My disappointment is that of many people”, said Borrel after the meeting, Exit. Albania reported.

He assessed that the EU should be launching this, but “there is still hope” for Albania and North Macedonia.

“I don’t know what the Bulgarian parliament can do in the next hours…I am very disappointed at how things have been done, a single country blocking the whole process”, Borell added.

After the meeting with EU leaders, the press conference was held by the leaders of Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, gathered around the Open Balkans initiative. The three did not hide their disappointment with the lack of progress when it came to the European integration of the region.

The Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitri Kovacevski, stated today that at the summit, the Western Balkans and the European Union pointed out that his country has been a candidate for EU membership for almost 18 years and that he is dissatisfied with bilateral issues becoming a multilateral problem.

“Russian aggression is a threat to all countries in the region, and enlargement should be understood as a necessity and investment in European security,” Kovačevski said, emphasizing dissatisfaction with accession dynamics. What is happening is a serious problem and a blow to the EU’s credibility.

He thanked French President Emanuel Macron for the proposal for the region’s countries. Still, the current one is unacceptable for North Macedonia, citing some conditions that should be included in the negotiating framework.

The Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, stated today that he deeply regrets the behaviour of the European Union, saying that the reason why there is no European involvement is not only Bulgaria, “it is a shame”, but the fraudulent spirit of enlargement.

“Charles Michel said that we have three minutes each, and I said that 30 seconds would be enough if you fulfilled; they did not fulfil. They do not hear us as Europeans but as guests in a divided house, “said Rama, who thanked the French president for the proposal of the geopolitical community.

He said that the leaders of the region would continue on the European path with the hope that we will be members of the EU in the next century.

“I told them that when they say that Vladimir Putin is ill, that he may be ill, but that this place does not look very healthy either,” Rama stressed, noting that Kosovo citizens are not allowed to roam freely in Europe.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić attacked the media for reporting on Serbia’s hesitance and, in some cases, refusal to enforce EU sanctions.

“2629 articles in European media about Serbia after the Russia invasion…about Serbia jeopardizing a whole region, Bosnia, Kosovo, or so-called Kosovo or whatever you want to call it. Have you ever seen a single apology from these media”, asked Aleksandar Vučić.

According to Exit. Albania, Vučić stated that the Open Balkans initiative was an idea between the three countries and was not subject of any external influence, specifically denying pressure from Russia or Hungary.

“We did it by ourselves; we did not need anyone else. Three Balkan nations sat together and found a solution for some of their problems. Is this forbidden? Should it be banned?” said Vučić.
He said that while he doesn’t share the same frustrations as Albania and North Macedonia, he hopes for a resolution of the problematic situation.

“They are defending their countries and national interests in a very courageous way…all of us will be in a much better mood in December than today,” he concluded, nodding to the next summit scheduled for the end of the year.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, whose country does not enjoy the Schengen visa-free regime, said peace and stability in Europe are inconceivable without integrating Western Balkan nations.

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