The countries of the Western Balkans will increasingly hear political messages in support of their European prospects, but Bulgaria is also pushing for practical measures for people in these countries, Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said.
Zaharieva was speaking at a joint meeting of Bulgaria’s parliamentary committees on European affairs and control of European funds and foreign policy.
In attendance at the meeting were the ambassadors of Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, the deputy head of mission at the Kosovo embassy and the charge d’affaires of the embassy of Montenegro.
“There has never been so much talk in the European Union about the Western Balkans,” Zaharieva said. “Let’s remember where we were only four to five months ago, when no one believed we could fight for this priority. It is important to ensure the connectivity of the region in all its aspects. Prime Minister Borissov has already talked to most of our neighbouring countries’ leaders, and emphasises that we need to have a clear job-creation plan and prospects for young people.”
“Our message to the Western Balkan friends is: We offer advice and expert assistance, but you need to make the reforms. Help yourselves so that we can help you.”
Zaharieva said that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has placed the region as one of the five priorities of European diplomacy for the first time in 12 years.
Zaharieva added that the six countries in the region have the unique chance that the EU Council will be chaired in succession by five countries that support enlargement – Estonia, Bulgaria, Austria, Romania and Croatia.
The six diplomats thanked Bulgaria for the efforts that led to the return to the European Union enlargement debate, which the Montenegrin charge d’affaires described with the words: “You are a key player in supporting us on our path to the EU.”
Albanian Ambassador Qirjako Kureta said the Western Balkans made more security contributions than they consume and called for more “political soul” in the process of Albania’s EU accession.
Bosnia and Herzegovina ambassador Radomir Bogdanovic added that his country is a supporter of the ideas on which the EU is founded and that his compatriots are determined to be part of the Union and the way to this is “no alternative.”
The Kosovo diplomat Shqipe Kallaba said that the Bulgarian presidency gave the region a “unique opportunity” and said that any technical and expert assistance from the Bulgarian side was welcomed. She particularly welcomed the efforts of the Bulgarian commissioner, Maria Gabriel, to eliminate roaming charges between the countries of the Western Balkans and the EU.
Ambassador Marjan Gjorchev from the Republic of Macedonia expressed the hope that after the successive efforts of his country, it would have the chance to start negotiations for EU membership and quotes the “old Balkan saying that if we go too fast to Europe, we will start to sweep away our problems if we go too slow – the problems will catch up”.
“We cannot avoid them, so let’s solve them,” Gjorchev said.
Serbian ambassador Vladimir Curgus said that, according to his country, the place of all the Western Balkan countries is in the EU./IBNA