Monday, 17 May 2021

Brdo-Brijuni Summit on Western Balkans starts

May 17, 2021 -  An initiative of the heads of state of Western Balkan countries as part of the Brdo-Brijuni summit started in Brdo Pri Kranju, Slovenia, on Monday morning intending to bring countries in Southeast Europe closer to their integration into the European Union.

In addition to the presidents of Croatia and Slovenia, Zoran Milanović and Borut Pahor respectively, Albanian President Ilir Meta, Montenegro's Milo Đukanović, North Macedonia's Stevo Pendarovski, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić, Kosovo's Vjosa Osmani, and the three members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency - Milorad Dodik, Šefik Džaferović, and Željko Komšić - are attending the meeting.

The Brdo-Brijuni initiative was launched in 2010 by Slovenia and Croatia to strengthen regional trust and cooperation and encourage the EU membership aspirants to continue the necessary reforms to join the European Union.

Ahead of the plenary session, President Zoran Milanović met for bilateral talks with Kosovo President Osmani and North Macedonia's President Pendarovski.

Milanović and Pahor met on Sunday, saying that they expected today's summit to make a big step toward bringing the region closer to the EU.

Slovenia will chair the Council of the EU in the second half of this year when it intends to boost the region's faster integration as one of its presidency priorities, with Pahor saying that this was just as important for the EU as a whole for geopolitical reasons.

Slovenia is advocating a faster EU accession of Western Balkan countries "in a package," despite them being in different positions regarding the phase of their accession process.

One of the important achievements of the Brdo-Brijuni initiative so far is communication between leaders, considering that ten years ago, it had not existed.

"We are here to help our neighbors in the Western Balkans join the EU as soon and as simply as possible," Milanović said on Sunday after meeting with Pahor.

In addition to the plenary session, the presidents are expected to conduct bilateral meetings and issue a joint statement expressing their strong commitment to the EU enlargement process towards the southeast neighbors.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Grlić Radman, Čović Say Western Balkans Declaration Historically Important

ZAGREB, May 9, 2020 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman and the president of the House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Parliamentary Assembly, Dragan Čović, said at a video conference on Friday that the declaration adopted at an EU-Western Balkans summit was of historic importance.

At the summit, which was held as a video conference on Wednesday, the EU sent a strong message about unquestionable EU membership prospects of Western Balkan countries.

European Commission President Usrula von der Leyen said at the event that the Western Balkans was an absolute priority for the EU.

Grlić Radman also commented on a video conference of the United Nations held earlier this week and focusing on the 57th report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina on the implementation of the peace agreement for the country, at which Croatia called for amendment of the country's election law, stressed its support for Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU journey and underlined the importance of the legitimate representation of local Croats in the country's institutions.

Grlić Radman and Čović also discussed measures and activities undertaken to fight the coronavirus pandemic, with emphasis on aid Croatia sent for Bosnia and Herzegovina last week, the ministry said.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

EU Sends Strong Message to Western Balkan Countries from Zagreb Summit

ZAGREB, May 7, 2020 - The European Union sent from the Zagreb Summit on Wednesday a strong message to Western Balkan countries that they have an unequivocal European perspective and that their future is in the EU.

Leaders of the EU's 27 member states and six Western Balkan countries held a summit via video link because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Although the meeting, unfortunately, was not held as would have liked, by physically coming together in Zagreb, in terms of content we have achieved results in line with our expectations and those of our south-eastern neighbours," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković one of the co-organisers of the summit, said at a press conference.

"I'm sure the peoples and states in our neighbourhood will appreciate the message that was sent today from Zagreb and all other capitals of the EU member states," he added.

"The European Union wants to continue to support the countries of Southeast Europe on their path to the EU. We wanted to send a message for the continuation of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. Croatia especially underlined that Bosnia and Herzegovina as its nearest neighbour deserves membership candidate status and that it should be helped in that. In that context, we underlined the issue of the equality of the constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably the status of the Croatian people in terms of legitimate representation in the highest BiH institutions," Plenković said.

He pushed for holding such EU-Western Balkans summits every two years at least.

He said he was pleased the blockade of a decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania was lifted during Croatia's EU presidency.

Asked if some countries in the region should be more grateful to the EU and kiss the European flag instead of China's, as Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić did, Plenković said it was not up to him to talk on anyone's behalf but that all six Western Balkan countries had clearly articulated their European orientation.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Western Balkans was an absolute priority for the EU and that this region belonged to the EU.

She underlined the importance of reforms, notably regarding freedom of the press, which she said was the cornerstone of the EU and the best instrument in the fight against disinformation.

European Council President Charles Michel underlined the importance of the Zagreb Declaration which once again reaffirmed the European perspective of Western Balkan countries.

He welcomed the €3.3 billion aid package which the EU set aside for them to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Zagreb Summit to Confirm European Perspective of Western Balkan Countries

ZAGREB, May 5, 2020 - The European perspective, the commitment of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union and cooperation in the coronavirus crisis are the key elements of a declaration that will be adopted at the central event of the Croatian EU presidency in Zagreb on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Tuesday.

On the initiative of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the summit of the 27 EU member states and the six Western Balkan countries, scheduled for May 6, will be held online in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Cooperation in dealing with the pandemic, giving the Western Balkan countries the European perspective and these countries' commitment to European values" are the key elements of the Zagreb Declaration, Grlić Radman told the press outside the government offices.

He recalled that North Macedonia and Albania had been given the green light on their path to EU membership which he said was "a great Croatian success".

Zagreb will again host a summit on the European perspective of Southeast Europe, just as it did 20 years ago when Croatia was not yet a member of the EU. The next summit was held in Thessaloniki in 2003 and the last one took place two years ago in Sofia.

The Croatian EU Presidency has proposed that summits on European integration be held every two years, Grlić Radman said.

"Not all EU members are equally interested in enlargement. There is still talk of what the future will bring with new members, but Croatia has shown the initiative in this regard," he said.

More news about Croatia and the Western Balkans can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Croatia Sending Coronavirus Aid to Western Balkan Countries

ZAGREB, May 2, 2020 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Saturday that Croatia would send protective gear to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Montenegro and that shipments were worth HRK 1.2 million (€158,000).

Zagreb will send shipments of protective masks, tents, blankets, sleeping bags and so on.

"In this way we strengthen our friendship and cooperation," Minister Grlić Radman said.

He added that Croatia had tackled the coronavirus epidemic in the most organised manner in comparison to other European countries.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Zagreb Summit Most Likely to Be Held Via Video Link

ZAGREB, April 9, 2020 - A summit of EU member states and Western Balkan countries scheduled for May 6-7 in Zagreb will most likely be held via video link at an appropriate time, Croatian government spokesman Marko Milić told Hina on Wednesday.

He said the summit would not take place on those days because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as the chairman of the Council of the EU, European Council President Charles Michel and other partners are consulting about the possibility of holding a video conference at the most suitable time, Milić said.

The summit was planned as the main event of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU, which ends on June 30.

The Croatian presidency said earlier it had decided to postpone until May 15 at the earliest all informal meetings and conferences which were to have taken place in Croatia in order to curb the spread of the pandemic and alleviate its effects.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 3 April 2020

EU Generously Helping Western Balkans Regarding Pandemic

ZAGREB, April 3, 2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic is a global issue hence it is especially important to help the Western Balkans as a European region, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said after a video conference of EU foreign ministers, stressing that the EU has been generous in that regard.

The meeting, which was presided by the EU's High Representative Josep Borrell, discussed aid for third countries in curbing the pandemic which has killed 53,693 people in the world while 1,035,380 are infected with the virus in 188 countries.

"The pandemic is a global issue and we need to help third countries and the Western Balkans urgently need EU assistance. The Union has been generous because that area is a European area and it deserves our attention," Grlić Radman said after the meeting.

According to Grlić Radman the meeting discussed the situation in northern Africa, Latin America and Asia.

"They all need the EU's help and the European Commission is preparing a comprehensive aid package which will be discussed at the next Foreign Affairs Council" he said.

Italy, which is the most affected country in Europe with the coronavirus pandemic and a death toll of 13,915 and 115,242 COVID-19 cases, three weeks ago accused the European Union of "lacking solidarity," and particularly after Germany and France banned the sale of protective equipment.

Italy's Ambassador to the EU Maurizio Massari said early March that he expected Brussels to stop "consulting" and to launch "emergency measures that are immediate, concrete and effective."

The head of the European People's Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber also criticised Germany saying that it was crazy that China had shown solidarity with Italy and not Germany.

On Thursday the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen apologised to Italy for lack of solidarity from Europe in tackling the coronavirus crisis.

As far as the Western Balkans region is concerned, a package of aid worth €38 million is being prepared for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, to address the pandemic. The aid will be made available immediately so these countries can procure medical equipment and other requirements for their health systems.

An additional €373 million is being prepared for short and medium term aid for the period after the health crisis to help those six countries to deal with the social-economic consequences.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Plenković Calls for Investments in Western Balkans

ZAGREB, February 24, 2020 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who on Monday attended the EBRD's Western Balkans Investment Summit 2020 in London, called on potential investors to invest in that part of Europe.

Croatia will do all it can to help its southeast neighbours and the investment community needs to utilise this opportunity to the benefit of those countries and for the benefit of the entire European Union, said Plenković at the event organised by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The summit meeting was opened by EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti and Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkoviž, in his current position as holder of the European Union presidency.

This is the fourth EBRD summit of its kind; the inaugural Western Balkans Summit took place at the EBRD in February 2014 and, for the first time, brought together all the region’s six prime minister: Duško Marković of Montenegro, Edi Rama of Albania, Oliver Spasovski of North Macedonia, Zoran Tegeltija of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albin Kurti of Kosovo and Ana Brnabić of Serbia.

We are a country that is the most familiar with that region and which is offering support to those countries so that their path to the European Union can be accelerated. That is one of the key priorities, Plenković said.

He added that as the presiding country of the EU, Croatia had already achieved success in putting the topic of EU enlargement high on the agenda. That has motivated some other member states to organise high-level meetings ahead of the Zagreb summit in May on the topic of enlargement to the Western Balkans, he added.

As the leading investor in the region we are looking forward to this fourth edition of EBRD's Western Balkan investment summit which is a priority for the EBRD. Our aim is to unlock the potential of that region supporting a greater economic growth and its regional and European integration, Charkrbarti said. He announced that six new projects would be signed for the Western Balkans.

The EBRD has invested to date 13 billion in the Western Balkan countries.

More news about Croatia and Western Balkans can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Reviving European Prospect for SE Europe Will Be Croatian Presidency's Big Legacy

ZAGREB, February 17, 2020 - Raising the topic of enlargement to Southeast European countries to the highest level in the EU and changing the atmosphere about it will a big, positive political legacy of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Sunday.

As premier of the country presiding the Council, he attended an informal working dinner of European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell with the leaders of Croatia's six Southeast European neighbours which are candidates or potential candidates for EU membership.

The meeting was held as part of preparations for a summit of leaders of all EU member states leaders and Western Balkan countries in Zagreb on May 6-7.

Plenković described the meeting as very good and timely. "We positioned the topic of Southeast Europe high on the agenda of EU institutions," he said, adding that Greece, Austria and Italy had announced such preparatory meetings prior to the Zagreb Summit.

"This means that we have mobilised EU member states about this topic to a level that didn't exist. Most important for us before the Zagreb meeting is to resolve the issue of the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, and we will try to have that decision adopted in March."

Plenković said he wanted the Commission to present in Zagreb a strong investment package for Southeast Europe, that summits between the EU and the countries in that region be held at least every two years, and that those countries gradually meet membership criteria and raise their citizens' living standards on the membership journey. "That will be a big, positive legacy of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU for our six neighbouring countries."

Plenković said that next week, at an EU27 summit, he would talk which the prime ministers of Denmark and the Netherlands, which had reservations in October regarding the opening of negotiations with Albania. France, which had the strongest objections, has changed its position after the Commission put forward a new accession negotiations methodology.

Plenković said that during Croatia's EU presidency he would also try to solve the visa liberalisation issue for Kosovo citizens. "Croatia believes Kosovo has met the criteria for waiving visas. There are several countries which don't share that view but I believe that, in intensive negotiations within the Council and in a generally better atmosphere, we could find a solution to an important issue for Kosovo citizens."

Prior to the meeting, von der Leyen said it was in the EU's geostrategic interest to have the closest relations possible with Western Balkan countries, confirming that the Commission was preparing an investment package for the region for the Zagreb Summit.

Michel said he expected honest, open and constructive talks on partnership with the leaders of the six Western Balkan countries.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Michel and Plenković to Meet with Western Balkan Leaders

ZAGREB, February 7, 2020 - European Council President Charles Michel has convened for February 16 an informal meeting with Western Balkan countries' leaders which will also be attended by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as the premier of the country presiding over the Council of the European Union.

The meeting will also be attended by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

The meeting has been convened as part of preparations for an informal summit of all EU member states and Western Balkan states due in Zagreb in May.

On Wednesday, the Commission proposed a new, stricter methodology for EU accession negotiations, which was France's condition for opening them with North Macedonia and Albania.

More news about Croatia and Western Balkans can be found in the Politics section.

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