The summit meeting of EU heads of state and government with the Western Balkans ended without any concrete progress. The opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania remains stalled, a senior EU official confirmed Thursday after nearly four hours of deliberations in Brussels. Accordingly, there was no rapprochement with Serbia in the dispute over the implementation of EU sanctions against Russia.
The press conference originally scheduled after the consultations with EU Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was canceled due to time constraints. At 3:30 p.m. the actual EU summit was supposed to start, which was supposed to deal with the accession candidates of Ukraine and Moldova. Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob wanted to propose that Bosnia-Herzegovina also be granted EU candidate status. As reported by the STA news agency, he has the explicit support of Austria and Hungary, but other countries are also open to the proposal.
Nehammer: “The same rules for everyone”
At the Western Balkans summit, Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) insisted on “the same rules for everyone”. “It is an imperative of fairness and a question of credibility,” said Nehammer (ÖVP), according to a statement on Thursday in Brussels. His German counterpart Olaf Scholz also called for progress in the EU accession process for the six Western Balkan countries. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was confident.
“Nor should we use double standards when it comes to the EU accession process,” Nehammer explained in the statement available to APA. In view of the close relations with Austria, “the EU rapprochement process for the countries of the Western Balkans is in our very own interest”. He will continue to work “strongly”. Most recently, Austria specifically demanded that Bosnia-Herzegovina be granted the status of a candidate country, not just Ukraine.
In the run-up to the official EU summit, the 27 EU heads of state and government met their counterparts from the six Western Balkan countries – Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Nehammer wanted to meet the presidents of Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia for bilateral talks.
Before the EU summit, Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu urged visa liberalization for her country. She also called for support for EU sanctions against Russia to be made a condition for further rapprochement. This is not the case with Serbia, for example, which continues to view Kosovo as a breakaway province. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had repeatedly warned the government in Belgrade that EU accession candidates were expected to share EU foreign policy.
When asked about this, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said his country had condemned the aggression against Ukraine in a vote in the UN General Assembly. “We support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, we support the territorial integrity of Serbia, which some EU countries do not do,” Vucic said, referring to the Kosovo conflict.
Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania had considered not taking part in the joint summit in the past few days. But Vucic does not want to talk about a boycott. “We discussed the issue of North Macedonia and Bulgaria, that was the reason,” he said. “But we are here to discuss our European future.” In addition, Vucic was confident that there would be “good conclusions for the Western Balkans”. “In any case, we are deeply grateful for the European Union’s investments in our countries,” said the Serbian President.
Scholz insisted that the six states should be allowed to become EU members. “We feel responsible for countries succeeding in their efforts,” he said. The countries must finally get the feeling that their reform efforts are being rewarded.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama raised serious allegations against Bulgaria in Brussels. “It’s a shame that a NATO country is holding two other NATO countries hostage,” he said of the Bulgarian blockade. The government in Sofia has so far demanded that North Macedonia first recognize the Bulgarian roots in its language and history and the rights of the Bulgarian minority. The other 26 EU countries put on a “terrifying show of impotence,” Rama said. He reminded that North Macedonia received EU accession status almost 17 years ago. At the same time, Rama dampened hopes of a positive vote at the summit.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov made it clear when he arrived at the council building that he would uphold the veto against North Macedonia. He “personally” likes the compromise proposed by the French Council Presidency, but the Bulgarian Parliament must decide on it, said Petkov after a report by the information portal Euractiv. It is about a decision that should be “sustainable” and independent of the respective government majority, argued Petkov, whose cabinet was overthrown by parliament in Sofia on Wednesday. (apa/reuters)