Wednesday, 19 December 2018 | News today: 16

CEI: Western Balkans’ future in EU

­ Western Balkans’ EU integration and the issue of migrants were in the focus of the Central European Initiative (CEI) meeting of foreign ministers, held in Ohrid on Monday. Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki told a press conference that meeting participants shared the view that the region has many common aspects, but the most significant fact is the common future in the European family. According to him, CEI’s mission is to ensure the EU accession of Balkan states that have still not joined the Union.

“We agreed this type of cooperation within CEI can be enhanced. We also agreed on several projects and declarations. One referred to the migration issue, which is of current interest in the region, while the EU must take into account the challenges we are faced with”, added Poposki. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting demonstrated that CEI’s vitality is still present after 26 years. “The meeting was an opportunity to voice our gratitude for all activities undertaken within the CEI, i.e. in the framework of the special fund managed by Italy, aimed at supporting several EU funded projects”, stressed Gentiloni. According to him, migration is not an issue only of one country, but of Europe in general.

“The most important thing is to deal with the issue together. We must face it because of the conflicts, poverty and instability”, said Gentiloni. He reiterated Italy’s support to Macedonia’s Euro­integration process. “Another issue we tackled is the different level of integration of countries represented at this meeting. Italy supports the Euro­integration process and we believe these processes are of essential importance for the economy and in political terms. European integration can help countries cooperate”, underlined Gentiloni. Austrian Foreign Ministry Secretary­-General Michael Linhart said Macedonia has had a successful CEI Presidency, tackling a number of important topics.

“Our main theme was synergy and your inter-connectivity, which are two very close aspects. CEI can provide great assistance in this regard. Pertaining to migrations, I believe we must cooperate closely with Western Balkan states. Another issue to be reviewed in Vienna is the youth emigration”, said Linhart. Bosnia­Herzegovina Deputy Foreign Minister Josip Brkic said the country, which is set to assume the CEI Presidency in the coming period, would deal with all challenges of EU member­-states and those aspiring to join the Union.

“Priority will be given to strengthening of the Western Balkans’ European perspective. We believe that geographic, cultural and economic diversity of the region is a potential to be used towards raising the level of development. Working for and with BiH youth will be high on the agency of the CEI Presidency”, added Brkic. FM Poposki said the internal political crisis is Macedonia’s biggest problem at this time. “The long­standing impasse in Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession process is almost invisible due to this crisis. The background of this impasse ­ the name issue ­ will not see sunlight until we remove this obstacle related to the internal political crisis. We are focused on removing it as soon as possible”, Poposki told reporters.

He added that Macedonia’s sooner NATO and EU accession would eliminate all security risks and bring stabilization to this part of Europe, as well as have an effect on the business environment. The CEI meeting ended with the adoption of a joint communique, which notes the initiative’s priorities in the coming period, EU integration of the Western Balkans and infrastructure networking, which will also be one of the main topics of the coming Vienna summit.