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Appeasing or helping the Balkan

Europe
12.07.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Balkans summit designed to form ties, give hope of EU accession
Six Balkan nations - not necessarily with a strong track record of collaborating - will come together for a summit on Wednesday to exchange ideas about how to cooperate and build ties in their region, according to the European Union.
GALLERY
Belgrade (dpa) - The Western Balkans Summit is definitely a regional summit. However, it is also set to see visits from European heavyweights like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who can provide an example of the benefits of cooperation and remind the Balkan states that the hope of European Union membership is always there.
Days of war and complete destruction: Scene in the streets of Sarajevo in 1994 during the Civil War.

This is the fourth annual summit, which brings together the leaders of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Italy and Austria are also set to send leaders. And representatives of EU members Croatia and Slovenia will be on hand, perhaps as a reminder that Balkan countries do have hopes of getting into the bloc.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told the Belgrade newspaper Danas on Tuesday that attendees will be asked to look at a "significant" infrastructure project for energy and transportation.

According to an EU press release, one idea is quicker highway connections, between Belgrade and Pristina as well as between Belgrade and Sarajevo. There will also be talks about a gas pipeline between Bulgaria and southern Serbia.

Members will also be asked to focus on more youth exchanges, which EU members hope will help erase some of the bad memories about the wars that waged between various members of the Balkans during the last 20 years. Such exchanges have been a goal for years, but implementation has been stalled.

But the Balkan countries remain wary of the summit, worried that it is meant to appease them instead of helping them towards their goal of EU membership. Members are also worried about too much focus on cooperation projects, since those, by nature, centre around Serbia.

Serbia is the core of the former Yugoslavia, a country to which all of the six save Albania once belonged. Those countries are wary about letting Belgrade direct too many of their affairs now.

 

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