Balkan leaders: EU and NATO membership goal unites region

13/07/2011

The future of Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo lies in the EU and NATO, the presidents of the four countries agreed on Tuesday.

(Macedonian President website, AFP, Xinhua, MIA, Sitel, Telma - 12/07/11; US Department of State - 11/07/11)

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The presidents of Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro met for the third regional summit in Ohrid on Tuesday (July 12th). [Reuters]

Macedonia's Gjorge Ivanov, Albania's Bamir Topi, Montenegro's Filip Vujanovic and Kosovo's Atifete Jahjaga attended the third regional summit held in Ohrid on Tuesday (July 12th).

The four heads of state pointed out the way to accelerate the region's Euro-Atlantic integration is by strengthening economic co-operation, supporting the free movement of people and capital, promoting entrepreneurship and boosting regional investment.

Ivanov stressed the goal of the annual meetings is to accelerate the development of the four countries, but also to contribute to stability, security and prosperity of the Balkans as a whole.

"What should unite us is our future, and therefore all these meetings should be an incentive for all parliaments, governments, commercial chambers, non-governmental organisations, and education institutions to make sure all that we do at a presidential level is felt by the citizens," Ivanov said.

"On the road to fulfilling our strategic goals -- EU and NATO membership -- we are meeting standards, which creates compatibility for our societies, higher security for our citizens and certain future," he added.

Vujanovic, whose country will host the next regional summit, said he will invite Serbia to join the gathering. He said the talks should be accompanied by a dialogue "at the highest level and under EU patronage" between Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and her Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic. Tadic has been refusing to attend any events where Kosovo is invited as an independent state.

Jahjaga also expressed hope that these presidential meetings will be joined by heads of states from the rest of the region, pointing out that co-operation will accelerate their Euro-Atlantic integration.

Topi agreed that there is a new reality in the Balkans today, and the region can no longer be viewed as it was in the past

He expressed hope that a natural change will take place in Serbia's stance towards Kosovo and wished to see concrete results in the dialogue between the two countries. "We can only support this dialogue, which will bring more peace, less tension and more co-operation between the countries," Topi said.

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Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton agreed at a meeting in Washington on Monday that normalising ties and building trust in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue would open their road to a European future.

"The recent agreements between Kosovo and Serbia in the EU-facilitated dialogue are a positive and mutually beneficial step. But this is only the beginning. Now the agreements need to be implemented, and we need to see more progress, particularly in the north of Kosovo," Clinton said on the sidelines of a Middle East quartet meeting.

Ashton referred to her meeting last week with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Brussels.

"We talked about the potential of what we’re trying to do with the discussions, which is really to make life easier in practical ways for the people in the north of Kosovo ... and to find ways to build the trust so that we can move forward with them into the future, which for both lies in the EU," she said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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