Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias referred to the challenges and prospects of the Western Balkans, speaking at a panel entitled: “The European peace plan in the Western Balkans”, in the context of the “Prespa Dialogue Forum” taking place today and tomorrow in Ohrid.
In particular, the Greek Foreign Minister expressed reservations about the presence of third parties in the region. “Factors promoting rival political and economic agendas. Such agendas, different from the European agenda, run counter to our collective interests and seek to undermine the EU-Western Balkans relationship,” he said.
According to Nikos Dendias, the challenges associated with the European future of the Western Balkans can be overcome collectively, while efforts must focus on the stability and prosperity of the region. The Greek Foreign Minister noted that despite the climate of pessimism that sometimes prevails for the Balkans, there are also success stories in the region, while referring to the improvement in Greece’s relations with Northern Macedonia in recent years, as well as Athens’ support in the European perspective of Skopje, expressing his optimism for developments.
He said it was impossible to imagine Europe without its Southeast region.
“Southeastern Europe in general and the Western Balkans in particular have always belonged to Europe. Like other parts of the continent, the Western Balkans have experienced armed conflict, it is well known. But geographically, historically, culturally they belong to Europe. Their bitter heritage has “Even today, a lot of mistrust, nationalism and lack of reconciliation,” he said, adding that these potentially very dangerous elements coincide with a series of crises in the wider region related to the economy, energy and food. Crises, he said, were caused or exacerbated by the illegal and unprovoked war in Ukraine.
However, as he noted, the war in Ukraine highlighted the strategic importance of the European Union-Western Balkans relationship. “The EU remains the largest trading and investment partner in the Western Balkans. Foreign policy co-operation with its Western Balkan partners has also intensified, also in relation to Ukraine,” he said.
Nikos Dendias noted that the European integration of the region remains an unfinished business 19 years after the “Thessaloniki Agenda” of 2003.
“The EU and the Western Balkans must do their part in this. Our partners must meet the relevant criteria in accordance with the set conditions. But the EU must also return enlargement to the Western Balkans to orbit and very fast, “he added.
Nikos Dendias noted that Greece is doing everything it can to contribute to this collective effort, while referring to his recent visits to all the capitals of the region, to which he conveyed, as he said messages of support for the European perspective of the region and stressed the need for reconciliation.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, Artan Grubi, speaking at the same panel, referred to the difference between his country and neighboring Bulgaria and assured that Skopje is doing everything in its power to harmonize the positions of the two countries and to disengages the European course of Northern Macedonia.
Speaking at the same panel, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grilic-Radman stressed that EU enlargement to the Western Balkans remains essential and, as he said, it is very important for Northern Macedonia to become part of the European family.
Concluding his visit to Ohrid for the “Prespa Dialogue Forum”, the Greek Foreign Minister had brief meetings with the President of Northern Macedonia, the Foreign Minister of the country and the Foreign Ministers of Poland and Slovakia, as well as with the Foreign Minister of the Vatican.
At the end of his visit, Mr. Dendias had a handshake and a short conversation of a social nature with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoλουlu.