Mogherini to Western Balkans: EU door remains open

Federica Mogherini and her spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic. [European Council]

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini held separate meetings with six prime ministers from the Western Balkans in Brussels on Wednesday (on May 24). The talks come amid concerns over the possible rise of tensions in the Western Balkans. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

Mogherini spoke with Bosnian Council of Ministers head Denis Zvizdic, Kosovo Premier Isa Mustafa, Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, Macedonian Premier-designate Zoran Zaev, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and Edi Rama, the premier of Albania.

That same evening, Mogherini had a working dinner with the prime ministers.

According to a statement by the Serbian premier, the creation of the common market in the Western Balkans, an idea recently promoted by the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, was discussed as a way of improving the overall economic situation in the region.

Vučić said that the majority of participants agreed with the proposal. The creation of a common market won’t be an easy task but will lead to the better economic growth, exports, investments, reduction of costs, and the creation of a market worth 20 million people, he said.

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Following the dinner with Mogherini, the Serbian leader explained that the prime ministers had agreed to talk openly about their problems.

The EU foreign affairs chief had invited the Western Balkans leaders to discuss the most recent developments in the region and review how to move forward, her press representative Maja Kocijancic said.

A press release issued by the Serbian government reports that Vučić and Mogherini had discussed the EU view on Serbia and the Western Balkans, the situation in the region and the future of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Mogherini outlined that all the participants confirmed “their full commitment to continue working for the European Union integration process”, and “emphasised their commitment to good neighbourly relations and deepening regional understanding, through mutual respect and cooperation”.

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According to the press release, Mogherini stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to emphasise that the EU’s door was open to the region and to encourage regional cooperation in order to preserve stability and spur economic progress in all.

The message that the door for the EU is still open is important, as the region is losing faith that membership will come anytime soon.

Vučić stressed the importance of cooperation in the Western Balkans, and that Serbia would continue with responsible regional policy, but at the same time voiced concern for the future of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue “considering the political developments in the southern Serbian province and the statements by Kosovo Albanians”.

According to Vučić, he proposed holding the next EU-Western Balkans conference in the Serbian city of Niš, and that his idea was well-received.

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