The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be at the top of our agenda because we cannot allow there to be a conflict in the heart of the Balkans, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in Belgrade, where the Open Balkans meeting was launched today, adding , that another topic will be the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
The speech is likely related to the fact that on Tuesday, the Serbian member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three-member presidency, Milorad Dodik, said that Republika Srpska’s breakaway from the federation was his most important goal and he was just waiting for the right moment to make it happen.
Çavuşoğlu stressed that his country will do everything possible to help its Balkan neighbors meet gas needs this winter and that “Open Balkans” is a bridge between the Balkans and the European Union.
“Winter is coming. Energy and food security have become common challenges. There is no other recipe than solidarity. In Turkey, we are doing everything we can to fulfill the Istanbul grain agreement. We are doing everything we can to help our Balkan neighbors to provide the needs you’re out of gas for the winter,” Cavusoglu said.
No one can explain why North Macedonia and Albania waited so long to start accession talks, the Turkish foreign minister said, and congratulated the prime ministers of those two countries for starting EU membership talks. Meanwhile, the EU “turned against itself, so narrow political interests hijacked the enlargement policy,” Cavusoglu said, apparently referring to Bulgaria, which has no representative at the meeting, and said the war in Ukraine “reminded everyone of the importance of enlargement” and that he hopes the “Open Balkans” initiative will accelerate the European integration of the region.
According to him, some may think that Turkey is an outsider or a rival, but that is wrong, and Turkey is part of the Balkans and proud of it.
“We also reject artificial divisions. Dividing the Balkans into West and East will not solve our problems, nor will it serve anyone. The Balkans must take control of their own destiny. We must remove obstacles to growth. We must progress together. We will always support every effort for the benefit of our region,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia from September 6 to 8, Cavusoglu also announced.
The meeting of the leaders of the regional initiative “Open Balkans” began today in Belgrade in the presence of the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama and Dimitar Kovacevski of the Republic of North Macedonia, Tanjug reported, quoted by BTA.
The Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, her Montenegrin counterpart Dritan Abazovic, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zoran Tegeltija and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary Peter Szijjártó are also participating in the meeting.
Vucic pointed out that the economic future of the member countries of the initiative depends on the success of “Open Balkans”, but also how much peace and stability will be strengthened in the region, informed the Serbian edition “Danas”.
“There has never been more attention nor energy focused on the success of this project,” Vucic said in Belgrade at the opening of a summit of leaders of the Open Balkans countries, an initiative that includes Albania and North Macedonia alongside Serbia .
Vučić highlighted as a success of “Open Balkans” the fact that Albania and North Macedonia have started negotiations for joining the European Union.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, stated at the opening of the meeting that it is now clear that Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania have taken a key step at a key moment.
“Together, we have committed to facilitate the movement of people, goods, services and trade, we have built good neighborly relations and trust between countries. Today, this cooperation paves the way for us to meet the challenges of providing food and energy for our citizens as countries struggle with the consequences of the war in Ukraine,” Kovaczewski said.
The Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, pointed out that it is important that the “Open Balkans” initiative unites not only the countries of the region, but also other countries such as Greece, Turkey, Hungary and Italy, and pointed out that the leaders of the “Open Balkans” countries have sent a clear message that the first choice is peace.
He also said that the day has come when more and more countries want to be invited to the initiative conference, which is a sign that the Balkans are as important to Europe as Europe is to the Balkans.
The regional initiative, formerly known informally as “mini Schengen”, was launched on 9-10 October 2019 in Novi Sad, Serbia by Vučić, Rama and the then Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev. It aims to establish free movement of goods, people, services and capital between member states. On July 29, 2021, at a meeting in Skopje, the name of the “mini Schengen” initiative was changed to “Open Balkans”.