The Ministerial Meeting on the Western Balkans was underway on Monday in Rome. It was chaired by Foreign minister Antonio Tajani and attended by the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, along with the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi as well as Foreign Minister Tobias Billström, in his capacity as President-in-Office of the Council of the European Union.
An eye on the present, another on the future. The event was geared at promoting the Balkanic countries’ European integration, with Rome wanting to play a leading role and intending to facilitate the process by fostering dialogue as well as investments.
- After years of little progress on the matter, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has re-awakened the European countries to a simple reality: the Western Balkan’s accession is more crucial than ever to prevent them from ending up in Moscow’s orbit.
- Investing in these countries is also functional to the management of migratory flows, which has been a priority of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government.
In Meloni’s own words. In her opening message, the Italian PM noted that the Western Balkans have always been “of strategic importance” to Italy. Her government, she stressed, aims to bolster Rome’s political, economical and cultural ties with these nations, as “everything that happens across the Adriatic inevitably has an immediate reflection on us,” and Italy bears “a great responsibility” towards them.
- “The European integration of the Western Balkans is a strategic investment in the very security of Europe and the stability of the area, even more so in the current international context and in light of the growing exposure to hybrid and cyber threats.”
- “Italy is the leading European contributor to the region’s security with the Kfor and Eufor Althea missions and intends to continue in this direction with the utmost determination.”
- “We need everyone’s commitment to substantially advance the regional reconciliation process and step up efforts to overcome the barriers and obstacles that prevent the region from exploiting its potential.”
The way forward. Noting that the EU and its member States made substantial resources available to the region, PM Meloni stressed the need to “move forward together” to effectively implement the Economic and Investment Plan, thus “strengthening the region’s economy and accelerating its integration into the single market.”
- “I remain convinced that the best way to fully stabilise the Balkans is to anchor the region permanently in the European family,” she stressed, noting that in 2022 Italy supported the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and the European Council’s decision to grant Bosnia Herzegovina candidate status.
- “We must now maintain this momentum and proceed with momentum, using all available incentives.”
Image: Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani’s Twitter profile