A high-level conference titled “From Thessaloniki to Zagreb” will be held in Thessaloniki on February 24, a Greek initiative for the common future of the Balkan countries and Europe which Balkan Foreign Ministers and officials will attend.
The new initiative comes at a time when the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries is essential for Europe’s future and for the security and stability of the region.
Greece’s unchanging position throughout time towards the European perspective of all countries in the region has been clearly stated, provided that they fully respect the European acquis and the terms and conditions of the accession process.
Both the Prespa Agreement and the initiatives of former Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias with the quadripartite schemes between Greece-Albania-North Macedonia-Bulgaria; Greece-Bulgaria-Romania-Croatia and Greece-Bulgaria-Romania-Serbia reaffirm Greece’s efforts for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries.
Thessaloniki, a city identified with the European future of the Balkan countries through the 2003 “Thessaloniki Agenda”, will host the “From Thessaloniki to Zagreb” Conference parallelly with the current Croatian Presidency of the EU Council. The Conference aspires to enable the Western Balkan countries to be “heard” in view of the European Council Summit in Zagreb next May. Moreover, Greek diplomacy seeks to make it clear that the European perspective of these countries constitutes a priority, not only for themselves but also for the rest of the Balkan states that are already EU members.
With this initiative, Greece also seeks to highlight the added value of the EU enlargement, both in ensuring stability and prosperity in the Balkans and in the countries’s consistent and uninterrupted reform efforts.
Indeed, in light of the recent European Commission proposals to modify the methodology for EU enlargement, the Conference appears as an excellent opportunity for all Balkan states, whether already EU members or not, to express themselves publicly, reaffirming their commitment to the European structure.
Attention will also be given to the importance of the Western Balkans’ European perspective for the wider region; not only for the candidate countries themselves, but also for the EU Member States in the region that understand the geostrategic, political and economic importance of the European integration of all the Balkan countries.
The Conference, to be chaired by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, will be attended by all Balkan countries, as well as by countries participating in major initiatives in the region (Adriatic Ionian Initiative and SEECP). In particular, the meeting will be attended by the Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria, Ekaterina Zaharieva; Croatia (Presidency of the EU Council), Gordan Grlić Radman; Italy, Luigi Di Maio; Montenegro, Srđan Darmanović; North Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov; Serbia, Ivica Ceric; Slovenia, Miro Cerar, as well as by Gent Cakaj serving as Foreign Minister of Albania. The Deputy FM of Bosnia and Herzegovina Josip Brkić and the competent Secretaries-Generals for European and Regional Affairs of the Romanian Foreign Ministry will also participate. Also attending will be the Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmid, as well as the Deputy Director-General for Enlargement of the European Commission. Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Glauk Konjufca will also participate.
The proceedings of the Conference will begin on Monday, February 24, at 10.30 am and will conclude with a press conference at 15.15, under the auspices of Foreign Minister Nikos Dedias, his Croatian counterpart and current EU President Gordan Grlic Radman and the European Commission Spokesman. The Conference is structured in two sessions; the first is “Promoting the European Integration of the Western Balkans: Current Challenges and Prospects” and the second (working lunch) is titled “The Western Balkans in Europe: The Way Forward”. /ibna