Greek PM sees North Macedonia, Western Balkan states EU members by 2033

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Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said North Macedonia and the remaining Western Balkans states will likely have joined the European Union  by 2033, during his address at the conclusion of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit, which Greece chaired.

Southeastern Europe, a sensitive region of the global map, must develop from a zone of powerful and complex differences to a field of creative collaborations, and from times of clashes move into a new era of joint endeavor, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Thessaloniki on Friday.

The Greek Prime Minister  called on SE Europe to promote a path of peace and international legality, joint security, and prosperity. This, he said, was the foundation of the Declaration of Thessaloniki, which was unanimously adopted and has proven a recognition of the Greek chairmanship.

The Greek PM said that the meeting “proved there is truly a dynamic for the collaboration of all sides in the region, and at the same time this summit created a road map of joint targets and principles that I think can only lead forward. The year 2033, he proposed, should be the deadline for the accession of all Western Balkan countries in the EU.

“It is an ambitious target for the Western Balkans, but I think it could be realistic if the idea of enlargement returns as a core value of the European Union,” Mitsotakis said.

The Joint Declaration of Thessaloniki that was adopted “is an official document of continuing commitment of sides to the principles of democracy, the state of law, and the founding principles of mutual respect and solidarity,” the Greek leader said. He reiterated that the key priority is the integration of the entire SE European region, especially the Western Balkans, into the European Union, “nearly 20 years since the path opened in Thessaloniki again during the Greek chairmanship in 2003.”

Today, Mitsotakis said, “the time has come to go ahead with decisive steps to incorporating the Western Balkans in the European family, recognizing obviously that they must promote significant steps to bring them in line with European directives – only then will their accession be substantial, after all.”

The SEECP Thessaloniki Summit Declaration

Ten leaders of Southeastern European countries and three foreign ministers endorsed the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) declaration, released after the conclusion of the SEECP summit in Thessaloniki on Friday.

The SEECP Thessaloniki Summit Declaration countries agreed to collaborate on the following points:

– Enhance the European perspective of the region: further strengthen the dialogue between the EU and partners in the region who are not EU members, and facilitate the convergence of legislation with that of the EU acquis.

– Prioritize energy security: SE European energy security depends on diversification of energy sources and supply routes; energy transition must be accelerated to energy production from renewable and clean sources; natural gas corridors and electricity connectivity.

– Intensify cooperation in addressing security issues: acknowledging the role of NATO and OSCE, and committing to tackling organized crime, terrorism, cybercrime, and human trafficking among others; preparations for natural and man-made disasters.

– Increase synergies & connectivity towards economic growth: SEE 2030 Strategy in line with the existing EU policies and priorities; clean, smart, and secure links to digital, energy, and transport sectors; strengthening health, education, research.

– Continue addressing the Covid-19 repercussions: build on best practices and lessons learned from the pandemic; updating public health plans; promoting recovery.

– Foster green growth development and address climate change: sustainable development; addressing climate change and efforts related to the Paris agreement; raising green awareness; implementing the EU Green Deal and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans.

In addition, the declaration expressed support and appreciation for the SEECP’s Parliamentary Assembly and stressed its role in inter-parliamentary dialogue and cooperation in fostering democratic dialogue and respecting rule of law. They also welcomed the recognition of Parliamentary Assemblies as stakeholders in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The participants also welcomed the excellent collaboration between the SEECP and the Regional Cooperation Council as its operational arm, and expressed appreciation for the Athens chairmanship (2021-2022) under the motto “Strengthening SEE Synergies”.

Signatories to the declaration

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis chaired the meeting, as Athens holds the rotating one-year presidency ending June 30. The Declaration was also signed by the Presidents of Slovenia (Borut Pahor), Montenegro (Milo Đukanović), Kosovo (Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Šefik Džaferović), the Prime Ministers of Moldova (Natalia Gavriliţă), North Macedonia (Dimitar Kovacevski), Albania (Edi Rama), Croatia (Andrej Plenković), Romanian Vice Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Serbia (Nikola Selaković), Bulgaria (Teodora Gencovska) and Turkish Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Faruk Kaymakcı.

Also attending were European Council President Charles Michel, and Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General Majlinda Bregu.

Future chairs

The next chairs of SEECP are Podgorica (2023-2023), assuming duties on July 1, and Skopje (2023-2024).