site.btaUPDATED Western Balkans Summit Held in Sofia

Western Balkans Summit Held in Sofia
Western Balkans Summit Held in Sofia
Bulgarian MEP Dzhambazki addressing the conference (BTA Photo)

The 5th Western Balkans Summit of New Direction Foundation was held in Sofia on Saturday. The event was moderated by Bulgarian MEP and New Direction Vice President Angel Dzhambazki.

Addressing the forum, Dzhambazki said that the EU should present a clear accession path which to serve as a clear impetus for reforms and changes. He called for an accession process based on each country's own achievements.

There are many internal problems in the Union and it would be dangerous for its stability to introduce open issues between the countries, be these current or future members. It is impossible to circumvent the matter with the problems becoming ever more visible in the Republic of North Macedonia. In his words, North Macedonia and Serbia are important partners as well as future EU members - once they undergo the necessary changed they have to make in their societies.

"The Western Balkan countries are an inseparable part of Europe but to become real members of our community, some of them will have to free themselves from harmful dependencies and to undertake many reforms," Dzhambazki said. He gave Kosovo as a positive example for its most pro-European policy and pro-Western orientation not only in the Western Balkans but perhaps also in Europe.

In his words, it is important to take into consideration the influence in the Western Balkans of third countries which are not always friendly, for example the influence of the Russian Federation through Serbia, of Turkiye and of China. Joining the EU is impossible without condemning authoritarian regimes and within an apology from the authoritarian leaders and regime to the oppressed nations and peoples in former Yugoslavia, Dzhambazki argued.

In a video address to the summit, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi said that the accession negotiations process for Albania and North Macedonia is gaining speed, sending a strong message to the two countries, the entire region and beyond. At the same time, the EU enlargement remains a process based on the countries' own achievements and working based on criteria and standards that need to be met during the accession process.

Varhelyi listed the growing energy prices, disinformation and cyber attacks as the challenges facing the Western Balkans.

Also participating in the Western Balkans Summit was Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. She said that as of 2023, the European University Alliances initiative will open to all partners from the Western Balkans, regardless of whether they are associated countries to the Erasmus+ programme or not. Gabriel pointed out that the initiative allows universities to work together. 

She explained that so far only two of the partner countries from the Western Balkans are associated to the Erasmus+ programme - Serbia and North Macedonia, but, in her words, one cannot wait another five years for all of them to join and only then be part of the leading initiatives for building a European education area.

All partners from the Western Balkans are associated to the Horizon Europe research framework programme, with Kosovo being its new participant, Gabriel added. She noted that the cities of Sarajevo, Podgorica and Elbasan are among the first 112 cities selected to be part of the mission for climate neutral and smart cities with the potential to become innovation hubs.

Gabriel pointed out that three new agreements facilitating freedom of movement and employment were signed in the framework of the Berlin Process Summit for the Western Balkans, which preceded Saturday's conference in Sofia. These include the recognition of higher education diplomas and of three professions - doctors, dentists and architects.

/DS/

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By 10:23 on 27.01.2023 Today`s news

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