Situation in Western Balkan countries in the perspective of Federica Mogherini

Situation in Western Balkan countries in the perspective of Federica Mogherini

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission analyzes the recent developments in Western Balkan countries and launches an appeal for the EU

By  Edison Kurani

Foreign ministers of the 28 countries of the European Union have been called in Brussels for a meeting.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini, drafted a report on her tour last week in several Balkan countries and presented the report in the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council.

According to Mogherini, the situation in the Balkans faces many challenges in the internal, regional and global aspect.

Based on this situation, Mogherini called on the EU to be clear on the integration of the Balkan countries in it.

“Today, I expect from EU ministers and leaders to express their clear position on Western Balkans in terms of their perspective for European integration”, declared Mrs. Mogherini prior to the meeting.

“The Balkan region has the ability and the strength to move forward, therefore the credibility of the European Union must be promoted there”, she said.

After the presentation of the report, Mogherini said:  “The power of the European Union in the region is linked to the credibility of the EU integration process; and this is why I believe you will see also in the coming days in the European Council strong determination from Member States to give a stronger credibility to this path”.

“We have, full interest in making this process credible, fast, consistent. This requires also a lot of work in the Western Balkans, but also on our side. So I am worried, but also we have all the tools to overcome difficulties and to offer to the people of the Western Balkans the future and the perspective they want: just peace, economic development, regional cooperation and I could continue”, Mogherini added.

What were the concerns of the Members States specifically on Albania?

During her visit to Tirana, Mogherini made it clear to all the parties on what was expected by them.

But, on the other side, a question arises if all the Member States agreed on to set up a date for the negotiations with the country at least by the end of this year, hopefully hoping there will not be big surprises by general elections and there will be a smooth implementation of the first stage of the justice reform.

Mogherini admits that no date has been discussed. “We discussed and confirmed what I brought as a message in Tirana  – that the European Union is ready to open negotiations in a moment when the justice reform is started to be implemented and, in particular, the vetting procedure. So all Member States were fully backing the message I was bringing in Tirana just a few days ago”.

Russian influence in Western Balkan

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the Russian influence in Western Balkan. Therefore, Mogherini was asked yesterday in Brussels as to “how deep are the concerns right now about Russian interference in a sort of Western Balkan countries? And to what extent are Member States seeking action in that regard?”.

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini gave a long reply: “I have seen in the Western Balkans in these days much more than ever before: a region exposed to different layers of challenges and tensions. Some internal, domestic politics dynamics that create tensions in some countries; some regional inter-ethnic tensions or between or among countries that are extremely dangerous because they could bring the region back a few years. Peace is never to be given for granted. And also I have seen a region exposed to some global tensions. The Balkans can easily become one of the chessboards where the big power game can be played. So the concern is there, also because this is happening just after a very good year for the Balkans. There is not one single of the six of the Western Balkans that has not done enormous progress last year on its European integration path – well, maybe one or two – but the general sense of direction last year was excellent, evident, uncontroversial and the result of a common determination both here, in Brussels, by the EU institutions, by the Member States and from the countries in the region. So, the concern is there and is profound, but there is also the confidence that derives from the fact that there is no other power in the world that has so much impact for good on the Western Balkans, and that is the European Union”.

It’s up to whom for the Balkans to become part of the EU?

Many more years are needed for the Balkan countries to become part of the EU, but nobody can say how many. In the absence of an answer, a question arises: it’s up to whom for the Balkans to become part of the EU?

Mogherini seems to have an answer for this:

“The concrete results depend equally from the European Union and from the governments, the parliaments, the institutions of the countries in the region. Actually, they depend more on the institutions and countries of the region than from us. From us, what they can expect is a renewed engagement, a unitary commitment meaning all the 28 Member States strongly behind the messages I brought to the region. And this key message: the door is open, we want you to enter, you know what is the way to enter and this will transform societies and economic and social perspective of the countries. This means good regional cooperation, this means containing and avoiding rhetorics that can be dangerous, this means economic opportunities, trade opportunities, this means peace – again, it is not an irrelevant word in the region – and this is what the people of the Balkans can expect from us”.

Situation in FYROM

In Skopje, a government is yet to be formed, although the second largest party has the necessary seats in parliament to create it. The president refused to mandate the leader of the opposition, Zoran Zaev for the formation of the government, on the pretext that the political platform has been drafted in Albania and according to him, this platform is anti-constitutional.

The EU pointed out and criticized the escalation of the situation. “All the ministers were backing strongly the messages I have expressed in Skopje.”

Mogherini just recently held a visit in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. How does she see the stability of the country after holding talks with the political sides?

Mogherini believes “that what Skopje is facing today is still a political and an institutional crisis”.

“My main worry is that this turns into an inter-ethnic crisis and this has been the main message I have passed to those who have political responsibility in the country: Do not play with fire, do not turn this into an inter-ethnic confrontation that would ruin the country and probably spread further beyond”.

But is there a solution to the situation in FYROM? Mogherini is optimistic: “I believe there are instruments: first of all, the wisdom of the President Gjorge Ivanov and second, the capacity of the Parliament to proceed for instance by electing a speaker I imagine, or de-blocking the situation, so that this institutional and political crisis can be managed with the instruments that Skopje has, without interferences”. /ibna/