Balkan Summit held in Tirana as the EU fails to show substantial progress in its south-eastern neighborhood

Brdo-Brijuni Summit Family Photo in Tirana
Brdo-Brijuni Summit Family Photo in Tirana

Tirana, Albania | 10 May 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Presidents of six Balkan countries met on Thursday in Tirana in the framework of the Brdo-Brijuni summit, an initiative launched in 2013 by the Presidents of Croatia and Slovenia, as the region struggles to advance in its EU integration path.

The summit coincided with Europe Day and was also attended by outgoing EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, who is largely credited with the EU’s failure to substantially advance reforms and progress in its south-eastern neighborhood.

The summit comes as the European Union members prepare for European elections due later this month and as both Albania and North Macedonia expect to formally open membership  talks with a rather lukewarm European Union marred by internal fights and economic challenges.

Furthermore, the EU has not managed to advance a crucial Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and has failed to find a long-lasting solution for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is seen as a fractured country run by three parallel administrations.

However, local leaders preferred to stay away from crucial challenges facing the region, opting instead to hide their grudges and move ahead through generally meaningless speeches.

Our countries still have a lot to learn from the founders of the founders of the European Union (EU) and the philosophy of this historical project, which ushered a new era of cohabitation in our region,” President of the Republic Ilir Meta said in his address, adding that he wished the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue was already completed.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, the guest of honour in the summit, said dialogue was the only way to bring the Western Balkan countries closer to the EU, adding both the EU and the region needed one-another.

Slovenian and Croatian Presidents both highlighted the need for the EU to take note of the Balkans and advance its European integration agenda.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor said that the new European Parliament after the end-of-May elections must take into consideration the achievements of the Western Balkan countries.

Meanwhile, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was harsher, adding that internal EU discussions could be creating a dangerous vacuum for South-eastern Europe, adding that the EU would be incomplete without this natural part of continent.

Sources from within the summit told the media that the Serbian President Alexander Vučić was pessimistic about the Western Balkan’s EU enlargement perspective, and he also warned that a settlement between Pristina and Belgrade was still out of reach. According to him, there had been no real support from the EU in that process.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi, talking to reporters before Summit started, said that the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue could not be successful unless it was led by the United States, adding its outcome could also not be implemented without the U.S. leadership.

Kosovo, he said, would never face a future shaped after the model of the various entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to newspapers, Thaçi declined a working lunch scheduled for yesterday, which was interpreted as his refusal to meet with Milorad Dodik, Bosnian Serb leader, current Chair and Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federal Presidency.

In a joint statement adopted at the end of the summit, the participants called on the EU to consider enlargement in the Western Balkans as a matter of high geopolitical importance. The full integration of Western Balkan countries into the European value system is a key factor for the overall stability of Europe, according to the summit conclusions.

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