Antalya Diplomacy Forum 2022

Antalya Diplomacy Forum gathers key names from Western Balkans

Foreign ministers, representatives participate 'Reconciliatory dialogue in the Balkans' panel

Talha Ozturk   | 12.03.2022
Antalya Diplomacy Forum gathers key names from Western Balkans

BELGRADE, Serbia 

Ministers and representatives of the Western Balkans region discussed open issues and integration of the region into the European Union at the annual Antalya Diplomacy Forum on Friday.

The second annual forum kicked off under the theme: Recoding Diplomacy.

Foreign Ministers of Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Montenegro as well as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt and EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak participated in the “Reconciliatory dialogue in the Balkans" panel.

Schmidt said the weak economic and political situation “provokes interests from outside” the region.

"So far, a station in Bosnia and in the western Balkans was driven by internal shock forms. Now, we could come into a situation where external pressure interests interfere as well,” he said.

Lajcak said Brussels sees the Western Balkans as less technical and more political.

"So it's now seen less through the optics of clusters and more though the optic of values. It's very important to see to what extent Western Balkan partners share European values and they have all demonstrated by voting in the United Nations resolution," he said.

Lajcak added there are no unknowns in the EU accession progress and momentum should be used in an advantage

"The front-runner for the EU accession talks for membership is Montenegro. Because Montenegro has opened all the chapters. I expect as a first step to allow for holding an intergovernmental conference for North Macedonia and Albania. I also have expectations for citizens of Kosovo to be granted a visa-free regime.

“We are making slow but making progress on the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on the normalization relations.

“There are several crises that need to be addressed. There are no unknowns in this progress. Let's use this momentum," said Lajcak.

Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka said the tragedy in Ukraine has become a ''we told you so" kind of relationship with the European Union.

"A couple of months ago the idea of war and hospitals being bombed and civilians being killed seemed incredible. When the war started it seemed incredible that Ukrainians could not resist. It seems suddenly that war that was unimaginable has become possible," she said.

“For many years, not months, we kept talking with our European counterparts and raising the alarm about the danger of the Western Balkans and attempting to draw their attention to possible instability, in particular Russia, with its attempts to sabotage the Euro Atlantic perspective of the region,” said Xhacka.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, Donika Gervalla‑Schwarz said the Western Balkans feel in danger about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The situation in the Western Balkans is complicated but the situation is more clear than a year ago. We are five countries in the region that are on the side of Ukraine and democracy and free vote trying to help and show solidarity. We know that economies are very fragile in the Western Balkans but our countries have shown solidarity. One of the six Western Balkan countries, Serbia, has not shown solidarity. Serbia, who has started wars in the 1990s and who is just not facing the past of that face, and in this manner causing problems for the development of the whole region on the way to the European Union. The question is what should the EU do? Politicly, the Western Balkans showed that it is on the side of the European Union. We feel in danger. We do not want to panic but everyone should wait and see in which danger our region is. We need actions. The Western Balkans must become nearer to the European Union. For Kosovo, it's a must these days to show political will. Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to be closer to NATO membership," said Gervalla‑Schwarz.

North Macedonia Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said the Western Balkans is entering a vicious cycle with two open and two artificially added issues.

"There are few remaining people in Western Europe living with reminiscence of the horrors of Words War II but there are few people in the Balkans that cannot relate to the images of the bombing of on hospitals, kindergartens, etc. Therefore, you have hyper sensibility in the region compared to the rest of Europe. You add here open issues, you add here lack of credible European perspective and you get here a clear picture of why this is so vulnerable, why business cannot work as usual. Europe cannot be an important geographical actor with a wound in its heart. This situation has shown that EU enlargement primarily has a security policy. The region is entering into a vicious cycle with two main issues. Bosnia and Herzegovina and the issues between Serbia and Kosovo. There are two artificially added open issues and they have blocked accession for Albania and North Macedonia. I think the credibility of the European Union would raise if these four issues would be addressed and saved the countries from the circle" said Osmani.

Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazovic said his country is the perfect nation from the Balkans for the EU to make a positive effect.

"I am encouraging all of us in the region to just not stay afraid like a rabbit and living in the past and not make a move. We need to move forward. The region needs to move forward. We need to show more solidarity. This is the time for the European Commission to also understand more. If we do not have the possibility to move forward, somebody else will use the situation of confusion. So the European Commission have the possibility to support North Macedonia which sacrificed a lot. Albania also does a lot. Kosovo needs visa liberation for many years. If you want the enlargement process to be realized, Montenegro is in the perfect state for it. It can make a positive impact and a positive symbol for the other countries. This is the moment we need to be together," said Abazaovic.

The high-level event gathers participants from 75 countries, including 17 heads of state, 80 government ministers and 39 representatives of international organizations

Anadolu Agency is the forum's global communications partner.​​​​​​​


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