Zelensky will attend the Balkans leaders dinner in Athens

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Volodymyr Zelensky

The return of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the entire prime ministerial team to duties at the Maximos Palace will be combined today and tomorrow by a dense program with international contacts, against the background of the informal conference on the Balkans organised by Athens, with dinner tonight at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, which could include Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Several Balkans leaders will attend it, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, with Greece playing a dominant role in the Balkan region and the debate on the European future of the wider area.

However, a surprise guest of the evening seems to be Zelensky, whose arrival was kept a top secret by Athens. Zelensky is on a European tour, having visited Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

At the same time, the Maximos Palace has yet to include Zelensky's name in the informal conference participants nor the Prime Minister's bilateral appointments. However, Zelensky rarely announces his appearances. Hence there was no official announcement.

At the same time, Mitsotakis and Zelensky will likely talk in person since the Ukrainian leader will be in our country.

Present at the dinner will be the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen; the President of the European Council, Charles Michel; Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić; President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović; the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovačeski; the President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Borjana Kristo; and the Prime Minister of Pristina's separatist institutions, Aljbin Kurti.

In any case, the significant absentee from the conference will be Albania, which highlights the "freeze" in Greek-Albanian relations, after the imprisonment of the mayor of Himara, Fredi Beleri. The Greek government invited the Albanian president Bairam Begai's office, who refused, instead of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. It is evident, however, that after pretending positivity in the previous years, relations between Athens and Tirana are at a low.

On the other hand, due to the timing, the presence of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in Athens is of particular importance; at 15:00, will pass the threshold of the prime minister's office for a one-on-one meeting with Kyriakos Mitsotakis with whom he associated with personal friendship. It is known that Athens and Zagreb "walked on thin ice" after the incendiary statements of the country's president Zoran Milanović, even if Mitsotakis and Plenkovic tried to handle the situation with political tact.

Plenkovic has not questioned the judgment of the Greek judiciary, but he thinks that most of those arrested should be deported.

More comprehensive, however, given that this year marks 20 years since the Declaration of Thessaloniki, which underlined that the future of the Balkans is within the EU, Mitsotakis wants to send the message that our country continues to work for this purpose as a leading force in the area.

"Greece, which has strengthened its geopolitical and energy footprint in the region over the last four years, stands by the Western Balkans as a member of the European family, but also as the largest economy in the region and wishes for their European integration, for the for which there are conditions", government sources emphasise, thus sending a message that at this stage is mainly addressed in Tirana.

READ MORE: What will Pristina's officials do in Athens if Greece does not recognise Kosovo?

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