Serbia, Albania, and Northern Macedonia might boycott EU summit, says Aleksandar Vucic – EURACTIV.com

Update with the reaction of the Albanian Prime Minister

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he and his counterparts from Albania and Northern Macedonia would announce at noon on Wednesday (June 22nd) whether to attend the next EU summit, a summit focused on enlargement.

The summit, to be held in Brussels on June 23rd and 24th, will bring together European Union leaders and their counterparts from the Western Balkans. The status of Ukraine’s candidate for membership is on the agenda, as well as the prospects for membership of Albania and Northern Macedonia.

On TwitterVučić said that he discussed the summit with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski.

“After consultation with our governments and advisers, we have decided to announce our decision tomorrow at noon whether or not to participate in this meeting.”he posted on social media.

Skopje and Tirana’s path to EU membership has been blocked for several years, previously due to corruption, crime and asylum issues, and now due to Bulgaria’s veto over Bulgarians’ rights in the country, but also cultural and historical issues.

Given the current problems in Sofia’s political landscape, including a planned no-confidence motion against the ruling party, it is unlikely that Bulgaria will lift its veto before the summit, despite some Western pressure.

Three countries are currently engaged in the initiative ” Open Balkans also known as the “Mini Schengen”, which aims to facilitate the free movement of people and goods, as well as trade between member states through agreements and memoranda.

Currently, only Serbia, Albania and Northern Macedonia are members of the initiative. Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have refused to participate, fearing it would disrupt their path to EU membership, and the former is also concerned about Serbia’s refusal to recognize its sovereignty.

Montenegro is a member of the Observer Initiative, but Montenegrin Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic recently hinted that the country could consider joining.

In addition, politicians and civil society in the region have expressed concern over Serbia’s participation and its efforts to become a leader de factoinitiative.

This concern was further exacerbated after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as Serbia remained the only country in Europe, apart from Belarus, that did not apply EU sanctions. Moreover, Mr. Vucic was reluctant to condemn the war, and several pro-Russian rallies were held in Belgrade.

The issue of Serbia and Russia’s potential influence in the region arose a few days before the last meeting. ” Open BalkansRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had to cancel a visit to Belgrade after countries in the region refused to let his plane through their airspace.

Mr. Lavrov criticized the situation and made several comments that were considered favorable for the initiative. “Open Balkanswhile the EU qualifies as “closed”.

Albania, Kosovo and Northern Macedonia saw this as proof of Russia’s support for the initiative. Concerns have also been expressed that it could be used to evade Russian sanctions in the region.

The summit was also attended by EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.

Asked by EURACTIV whether the initiative was linked to Russia, Mr Varhelyi’s spokesman said:“We strongly emphasize to our partners the importance of implementing sanctions and ending any attempt to circumvent sanctions or help Russia in other ways. »

The spokesman added that Serbia should comply with EU sanctions and that the initiative “Open Balkansall six countries should be involved.

“Successful regional economic integration will help pave the way for deeper economic integration with the EU single market and help achieve the ultimate goal of EU membership”the spokesman continued.

However, signs of dissatisfaction with the EU accession process were evident as early as last week, when Rama said he did not hope the summit could start well, negotiations with the EU are imminent.

“I have no expectations. I don’t think anything will happen. Albania, Northern Macedonia will not officially open accession talks »he told the media.

Mr. Rama confirmed the news on Twitter, tweeting in English and attacking Bulgaria. He said about the summit:Looks like another ‘No, I’m sorry!’ be what we will hear in the end! The whole Union that Bulgaria has taken hostage is not a good sight to behold! What to do there ?! “

These remarks reflect his earlier criticisms of Bulgaria, which he said is fully responsible for Albania’s and Northern Macedonia’s delays in accession.

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