Zagreb, July 9 – State-Secretary in the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry, Zdravka Busic, who headed the Croatian delegation to the summit in Sarajevo, said that Croatia will remain committed to the process of cooperation with Southeast Europe and will be reliable partner to countries in the region.
Slowing down the integration of Western Balkan countries into the EU structures is a concerning aspect that could destabilise Europe’s southeast and the entire continent and so a new impetus is necessary to revive the integration process and ensure its continuation, representatives of SEECP countries said on Tuesday at the SEECP summit.
“The stability and integration of SEE is in Croatia’s interest,” Busic said at the SEECP summit, a regional initiative that comprises thirteen countries aimed at strengthening regional stability and cooperation.
Busic said that Croatia advocates EU membership prospects for all countries in the region and considers their transition to be essential for their stability and security.
She said that the process of progressing toward EU membership has to continue for those countries which also refers to opening and finalising accession negotiations for all aspirants.
Busic underscored that Croatia strongly supports Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European prospects even though it still does not have candidate status and that Croatia sees Turkey as a “very essential partner” in SEE.
“The enlargement process remains to be one of our priorities and we will not hesitate in strengthening it,” Busic said announcing that that will be seen during Croatia’s chairmanship of the European Union in first half of 2020.
Erdogan: Short-sighted populist circles blocking enlargement process
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “short-sighted populist circles,” within the European Union are now blocking the enlargement process and have paved the way for a risk of a new destabilised situation in the Western Balkans.
He reassured the conference that Turkey will continue to provide support to the integration of the Balkans into Euro-Atlantic institutions adding that he nevertheless hopes for positive signals such as the promised opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
“I believe that European leaders will support the integration of the Balkans into the EU,” Erdogan said.
In his address, he expressed regret at the fact that there is not enough empathy and responsibility within the EU for the problem Turkey is faced with regarding illegal migrations.
He said that his country is a refuge for as many as four million migrants and refugees, mostly from Syria and that care for migrants has cost 37 billion dollars while the EU has provided only 2.5 billion even though the policy Turkey is implementing has reduced the number of irregular migrants toward European soil by more than 90%.
“We have contributed to Europe’s security yet in that difficult process the expected assistance from our European friends was lacking,” he said.
Other candidate countries worried with standstill in enlargement process too
Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic said that he is worried with the standstill in the process of integrating the Balkans and also with the “discouraging messages from important European addresses.”
“I believe that we will soon have to ask what the reality of enlargement is,” Djukanovic said, adding that membership prospects are still open but there is no guarantee.
North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski’s opinion was similar to Djukanovic’s.
“The time has come for courageous decisions for our region,” Pendarovski said.
Albania’s President Ilir Meta said that European integration will continue to be his country’s priority, adding that he expects accession negotiations for his country to be opened in the autumn. Meta was representing Kosovo too and expressed regret that Kosovo was not invited to attend the summit.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic reacted and accused Meta of provocation because he insists on Kosovo being recognised as an independent country.
Brnabic claimed that Serbia is not opposed to cooperation with “interim institutions in Pristina” but without preempting Kosovo’s status.
She added that Belgrade hopes that North Macedonia and Albania will open accession negotiations as soon as possible because Serbia strongly supports European integration as the most significant peace process.
Bulgaria’s President Boyko Borisov said that as a member of the EU, his country would resolutely advocate the integration of other countries in the region into the EU and called on them to invest additional efforts to resolve bilateral problems.