Greece has consistently supported the accession of Western Balkan countries to the European Union, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said from Pristina on Friday after meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz.
“The government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis remains firmly supportive of this commitment,” Dendias said, “and we have assumed several initiatives in this direction.”
Dendias – who was received earlier by the president and met with the Prime Minister of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo – expressed Greece’s strong support of a first intergovernmental conference between Albania and North Macedonia, ideally within June.
Greece has worked toward ensuring that the Western Balkans issue remains high on the EU agenda, he said, explaining that it was “on the basis of the consistent belief that this region must comprise an integral part of the European project.”
“We must not allow other powers to undermine the fragile stability of our region by trying to establish spheres of influence or to establish a base on the excuse of cultural, historical or religious relationships,” he said in indirect reference to Turkey.
“In other words, we believe that the Western Balkans belong to Europe,” he added.
Dendias said the presence of Deputy Foreign Minister Kostas Fragogiannis, responsible for international economic and trade relations, underlined Greece’s commitment to furthering relations between the two countries.
Sectors of interest he cited were infrastructure, agricultural products and transportation.
“We already have a significant presence here,” he said, “but believe there are tremendous opportunities for its further expansion.”
In addition, he expressed the belief that the entire Western Balkan countries should “link with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), through interconnecting pipelines of natural gas.”
Greece, he said, could provide “support and technical know-how to reduce dependence on lignite and to expand the use of renewable energy sources.”
Dendias also said Greece is consistently supportive of visa liberalization for Kosovo’s people, and has continued to support this stance at the EU Council of Foreign Ministers.
“We particularly appreciate your efforts in the sectors of state of law, public administration and the fight against corruption and organized crime, despite the lack of funding,” he said.
“We are here to help you, if you so wish,” the Greek minister added.
In relation to this, he mentioned the EU’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo) and the fact that several Greek nationals work there whom he met during his visit in Pristina.
Dendias also underlined his full support for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialog, and called on all parties to strengthen their efforts toward a legally binding and viable solution, something that will help the entire region’s stability and bring it closer to the European family.
“Greece actively supports all efforts” by EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, he said.
Finally, Dendias underlined Greece’s commitment to the longest-lasting NATO operation, KFOR, asserting that he will continue to support it to fulfil its mission in a just and impartial way.
“Our position is that any possible amendment to it must take into account the prerequisites, not calendar parameters,” he noted.
Dendias also met with the breakaway’s province Prime Minister, Albin Kurti.
He also met with Parliament President Glauk Konjufca in Pristina, with the European perspective of the Western Balkans at the centre of their talks.
The Greek Minister was also received by President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu and had a constructive discussion on cooperation between the two sides and developments in the Western Balkans.