Ohrid Forum urges speeding up Balkans' EU integration

Regional progress and stability against nationalisms

17 June, 18:04

    (ANSAmed) - SKOPJE, JUNE 17 - For overall progress of the western Balkans, there needs to be integration of the region into the European Union, Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabic said on Friday in speaking at the Prespa Forum Dialogue in Ohrid, North Macedonia.

    To this end, she added, it is very important to intensify regional cooperation and neighbourly relations, which are the aim of Open Balkan, a initiative by Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania to create a common market in the western Balkans.

    Brnabic reiterated an appeal to Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina to take part in the project - which has instead been rejected by Kosovo, as the country's leaders see it as an attempt by Serbia to try to bring back hegemonic policies across the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia.

    The Ohrid forum is being held four years after a historic agreement between Skopje and Athens that put an end to a 30-year dispute on the name of North Macedonia, formerly part of Yugoslavia.

    Underway since Thursday at the tourist resort on the lake of the same name, the Ohrid forum has as of Friday included speeches by numerous leaders in the region, all centering on the importance of EU integration of the western Balkans.

    Croatian president Zoran Milanovic referred in particular to the need to solve the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, claiming that there is not way to move forward unless Balkan nations recognise each other.

    Slovenian President Borut Pahor emphasised the significance of dialogue about EU enlargement to the Western Balkans during his participation, advocating for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be awarded EU candidate status without first meeting prerequisites.

    According to a press release from the president's office, Pahor believes this will bolster pro-EU forces in the country and accelerate Bosnia's dynamic in adhering to European values, countering a trend of Euro-scepticism.

    Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic discussed the issue of Russian threats to Balkan stability against a backdrop of conflict in Ukraine, and the need for an adequate response from Brussels.

    Kosovo president Vjosa Osmani instead stressed the importance of the EU and the US not leaving a void that could be used and occupied by other actors.

    The status of candidate country, he said, should be given to Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia as well as Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    The Ohrid forum was attended on Thursday by European Council president Charles Michel as well as Macedonia president Stevo Pendarovski.

    Speakers throughout the day included the foreign ministers of Austria, Turkey, Croatia, Poland, and Slovakia as well as EU enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi and the special envoys for the western Balkans from the EU, UK, UK, Germany, and Austria.(ANSAmed).

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