Prespa Forum for Dialogue Kicks Off Echoing Indispensable EU Accession of Western Balkans

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office for Eurasian Affairs Matthew A. Palmer said the US was disappointed by the European Union’s decision not to launch the First Intergovernmental Conference with Albania and North Macedonia.

At the two-day Prespa Forum for Dialogue, Palmer said on Thursday the EU should also keep its promise of visa liberalization for Kosovo. “To realize the full potential of this region, leaders must make more than promises, take action and resolve political issues at home and abroad, strengthen multiethnic democracies and justice systems, and move towards the future,” he said.

“It is vital that the EU supports the region and approves visa liberalization for Kosovo. We are disappointed with the decision not to start negotiations, because these delays have hindered the progress of our goals in the region, not only the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, but more than that." said the senior US diplomat.

Palmer also stressed the need for economic reform and the fight against corruption and organized crime. "Apart from the economy, citizens in the region are more concerned about corruption. The fight against corruption is the basis for preserving and strengthening democracy," Palmer said.

The Foreign Minister of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani said in his speech that European integration remains the main goal of the countries in the region, and once again praised the proposal of the current EU presidency, Portugal for resolving the dispute with Bulgaria, which prevented the opening of negotiations with the EU.

Osmani said the proposal suggested the lifting of the Bulgarian veto as the two countries reaffirmed their positions on identity issues, but that would not prevent the holding of the first intergovernmental conference.

"The Balkans is an island in the EU itself and there is no economic, political, cultural or any other opportunity to seek other alternatives are. But the question is how to convince all member states that it is in their interest not to have resistance in the heart of Europe. Anything else can cause problems. We are part of the European body and we belong to Europe," declared Osmani.

Kosovo was represented by the Foreign Minister, Donika Gërvalla on the first day of the conference but while on the second day will participate the Prime Minister, Albin Kurti will attend it on Friday, according to the organizers of the Prespa Forum for Dialogue.

No mention is provided who is representing Albania but unofficial sources said earlier PM Edi Rama would participate in the deliberations of the Forum.