The Summit of the EU and Western Balkan Leaders has started at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, at which further measures to bring the region closer to the European Union will be discussed. Serbia is represented by President Aleksandar Vucic.
The Serbian President arrived at the National Palace just before 9am and was greeted by his Bulgarian counterpart, Boiko Borisov.
It is interesting to note that the Kosovo delegation came separately. The President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi was the first to arrive, escorted by the police.
The Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj and Foreign Minister, Behgjet Pacolli arrived after Thaci, in a separate vehicle, without police escort.
The leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May respectively have arrived together at the National Palace of Culture.
President Vucic first talked with the Spanish Ambassador to the EU, Pablo Garcia, and thanked him for everything that the official Madrid has been doing for Serbia.
Message of support for the Western Balkans
The prime ministers of Estonia, Sweden, Lithuania and Ireland said before the Summit that the meeting of the leaders of the European Union and the Western Balkans was very important and they expected it to be positive since their respective countries strongly support the EU enlargement.
Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz announced that, during Austria’s presidency over the EU, which starts on 1st July, the EU accession of the Western Balkan countries would be treated as a priority.
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel pointed out that it was in Europe’s best interest that the Western Balkans was safe and economically well-developed.
French President, Emmanuel Macron said in Sofia that prior to the Western Balkans’ accession to the EU, it was necessary to implement reforms in the countries of the region, but also in the EU, in order to enable its better functioning.
The Sofia summit is taking place exactly 15 years after the one in Thessaloniki, when it was mentioned for the first time ever that the countries in South Eastern Europe had the European perspective.
According to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, today’s gathering will be an opportunity for the EU and the region to confirm that the European perspective remains the geostrategic choice of the Western Balkans.
Yesterday, Serbian President Vucic had numerous bilateral meetings on the first day of his stay in Sofia and he is also expected to meet with the British Prime Minister, Theresa May and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Ahead of the Summit, Spain was adamant that Kosovo’s participation in the Summit was unacceptable provided that it was considered an independent country. Spain is one of the few EU countries that has still not recognized Kosovo’s independence.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy warned that he would not sit at the same table as the president of Kosovo.
Hence, Bulgaria, as the summit host, decided to organize the summit in line with the so-called Gymnich Format. Under Gymnich rules, named after informal meetings of EU foreign ministers, participants are represented just by their individual names, without further indication – state names, flags, symbols – as to whom they represent.
Spain will, however, be represented by a diplomat of lower ranking, it was announced in Brussels.
One of the results of today’s Summit could be the signing of a statement on the abolition of roaming.
“The idea is that the Western Balkan countries and the EU sign the statement that would precede the abolition of roaming charges”, said Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Rasim Ljajic.
Photo credits: Tanjug / Dimitrije Gol
This post is also available in: Italiano