The European Union and the Western Balkans should each do their share in ensuring the latter join the bloc, Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias said at the Prespa Forum Dialogue 2022 taking place in Ohrid on Thursday, urging the EU to “get the enlargement in the Western Balkans back on track and very quickly.”
This year’s forum theme was “Shaping Western Balkans Future in the Contemporary European Security Architecture”, while Dendias spoke in the session on “The European Peace Project in the Western Balkans”.
The Greek FM spoke of the opportunity to discuss the challenges and prospects of Western Balkans, underlining that the challenges can be collectively overcome while the prospects “are linked to the European future of the region,” according to a Greek ministry statement. “Within this context, is impossible to imagine Europe without its Southeastern region.
Southeast Europe in general and the Western Balkans in particular have always belonged to Europe,” he said, geographically, historically, and culturally, while the war in Ukraine highlighted the strategic importance of the EU-Western Balkans relationship. He also pointed out that the EU is is the biggest trade and investment partner of the region, whose integration “remains an unfinished business 19 years after the 2003 Thessaloniki Agenda.”
FM Dendias also issued a word of caution “regarding the presence of third actors in the region – actors who promote adversarial political and economic agendas” which differ from the European one, run counter to its collective interests, and aim at undermining the EU-Western Balkans relationship. “We should all work very closely together, so we can turn the region into a truly European neighborhood, put this region into the European family where it actually belongs,” he underlined.
Attending the meetings over June 16-18 are Western Balkan leaders (presidents of Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Slovenia, and prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia), European Council President Charles Michel, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, OECD Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, and foreign ministers of several countries including Austria and Turkey.
Dendias met on the sidelines of the forum with EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák and with DiCarlo, and other officials, including his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg.