The Dubrovnik Forum 2021 that started on Friday in Dubrovnik, southern Croatia, was themed "Together in a World Apart," and focused on the impact of the pandemic on the geopolitical relations and global economy.
It was attended by Croatian and European officials, including Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, and foreign ministers of European countries.
Major topics were "Unmasking the Geopolitics of a Post-Pandemic World," "The International Community and the Western Balkans: How to End the Quarantine?" and "European Union, Three Seas Initiative and 17+China: How to support Central and Eastern Europe's economic growth and societal development?"
In his keynote speech on Saturday, Plenkovic noted that Croatia had maintained a solid financial reputation despite the pandemic and devastating earthquakes that caused causalities and severe infrastructure damages in March and December last year.
"Croatia is now learning how to endure the pressure and tap considerable financial funds so as to provide the citizens with the real development that is evolving into two directions: admission to the Schengen Area during 2022, and the full readiness in 2023 for the admission into the Eurozone," said the prime minister.
The prime minister called for further enlargement of the EU to the Balkans while stressing the need for North Macedonia and Bulgaria to resolve bilateral issues as soon as possible and for Albania and North Macedonia to start negotiations with the Union.
For his part Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in his address that North Macedonia and Albania have finally achieved the opening of accession negotiations."We look very much forward to holding the first Intergovernmental Conference with both North Macedonia and Albania, as soon as possible, of course according to the set conditionalities."
According to Dendias, it is obvious that what is called 'enlargement fatigue' is spreading in the Western Balkan countries. "I have to say the Covid-19 situation didn't help at all. And also, as in all accession processes, a degree of disappointment of our Western Balkan Partners should have been expected," he said.
Albanian and North Macedonian highest officials have mounted their criticism against Brussels seeing in its bureaucracy the dragging of the opening of the accession talks.
"Finally, let us today, from the Dubrovnik Forum send a solid and unanimous message that our common objective is a peaceful, strong, stable united Europe, through the integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union," concluded his speech the Athens' top diplomat./Argumentum.al