A “Mattei Plan” for the Balkans. The Italian government is readying to unveil what will become its signature African foreign policy, which sets the stage for a bolstered cooperation model (encompassing economic development as well as migration, energy and security). And it thinks the same formula might work for the Balkans, too.
- That’s what Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani expressed on Monday while in Brussels to meet with his EU colleagues, as he hosted a meeting of the Friends of the Western Balkans working group.
Integration, integration, integration. Rome’s call came in the form of a document signed by Italy as well as Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia. It calls for “increasing the EU’s presence in the region, with regular and coordinated visits, and strengthening dialogue on foreign policy issues.” Among other things, it outlines the objective of promoting the gradual integration of the Balkans into the EU’s common foreign and security policy.
- This is vital for the bloc’s expansion push, re-invigorated by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. And it’s no coincidence the text also aims to make the EU’s instruments “more effective in dealing with external pressures and countering Russian narratives.”
- This also comes at a time of progress in the accession process of Ukraine and Moldova (as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina), which sparked some resentment in the Western Balkan countries that have been stuck in accession limbo for several years.
Italy as a dialogue power. As Il Foglio noted, the Rome-backed document “almost competes” with a similar Franco-German text that has been circulating in and around Brussels. It’s a telltale sign of Rome’s push to consolidate its role as a serious and committed partner to the Western Balkan States, which has been ramping up through an all-of-government approach.
- Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is expected to visit Croatia this Friday, where she’ll probably meet with her local homologue, Andrej Plenkovic.
- She also recently struck a deal on migration with Albania, led by a left-wing government, showcasing her ability to work with partners across the political spectrum.
- Herself, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto and FM Tajani have all been reaching out to partners in those countries and personally working on integration over the past months…
- … and according to Minister Crosetto, Rome is set to return to the helm of the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
Image: @Antonio_Tajani on X