29th Sep 2023

EU and Western Balkans leaders meet for enlargement talks

  • Ursula von der Leyen will join the leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Romania and Croatia (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel are on Monday (21 August) attending an informal dinner on EU enlargement in the Greek capital Athens.

In October, the commission will report, as it regularly does, on the progress of negotiations with the Balkan countries, before European leaders decide whether to open full accession negotiations. A decision is expected at the EU summit in December.

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Although the European machinery is not yet fully operational, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will host a number of European leaders to mark the 20th anniversary of the 2003 Thessaloniki Declaration, where European and Western Balkan leaders agreed that the future of the Balkans should have a European perspective.

The meeting will bring together the leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Romania and Croatia, among others.

And although there is no official confirmation or denial for security reasons, European leaders are also expecting a visit from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, the Greek press reported.

The Ukrainian leader is once again visiting various European countries, including Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, in search of economic and military support to secure the future of a country at war.

In addition to this possible surprise guest, there will also be one notable absence.

Albanian prime minister Edi Rama will not be attending the talks, reflecting the low point in diplomatic relations between Athens and Tirana.

Rama was not invited, but the office of Albanian president Bairam Begai was, who declined the invitation, according to the Greek press.

Syriza, Greece's main opposition party, said in a statement on Sunday that it was the prime minister who had not invited her Albanian counterpart "because of the Beleri affair".

The case concerns Fredi Beleri, who has been detained since May on suspicion of vote-buying. Beleri is a Greek expatriate who won the mayoral elections in Himare, in southern Albania, but has not yet been able to take office.

Syriza also said the the informal dinner should not be "another public relations opportunity" and that concrete initiatives for the rise of the Western Balkans will be presented. Should Zelensky appear, "we expect messages to be sent on the Cyprus problem as well," the opposition party added.


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