The Czech Republic will do its outmost within the EU to begin negotiation
talks with Northern Macedonia and Albania about their entry into the union
next month, Foreign Minister Tomas Petříček said on Wednesday following
a meeting with his counterpart from Northern Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov.
Mr Petříček went on to stress that both countries have fulfilled the necessary conditions and that further delay is therefore unwarranted.
Negotiations were originally set to take place already in October last year, but were delayed until March. Some countries, such as France, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands, are reserved in the matter of Balkan succession and the Czech Foreign Ministry is trying to change that Mr Petricek said.
There are hopes that Thursday’s Visegrad Four states’ negotiations with those of the Western Balkans, which are being attended by the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi could help the process. Northern Macedonia’s accession talks into the EU were blocked for many years by Greece, due to a dispute about the formers name.
The Czech Republic is hosting a summit on Thursday of prime ministers from fellow Visegrad Four countries and their Western Balkan counterparts. Representatives of Kosovo, however, will be conspicuously absent at today’s summit, in the wake of a slew of insults by the Czech head of state this week, who suggested revoking recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation.
As a war crimes investigator in former Yugoslavia Vladimír Dzuro took part in the exhumation of a notorious mass grave in which 200 massacred Croats had been dumped. He was later involved in the arrest of one of those responsible, delivering the first European war crimes indictment handed down by an international tribunal since the end of WWII. He has captured his sometimes hair-raising experiences in the book The Investigator: Demons of the Balkan War.
The countries of the Western Balkans must be given the chance to join the
European fold, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said in an
interview for the ctk news agency.
Petříček said the Czech Republic and Slovakia had agreed to work together to try to convince those EU members who are against further EU expansion of the need for this. He said countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and other members of the Visgrad group, which had experience with economic reform and EU accession talks, could assist the Western Balkans in this respect.
The Czech foreign minister stressed the importance of launching accession talks with Albania and Macedonia next year and speeding up the talks with Montenegro and Serbia.
In the interview the foreign minister also said Czech foreign policy should be more focussed on human rights issues in countries such as China, Yemen or Venezuela.
Heads of state of the V4 countries have expressed their support for the
integration of the Western Balkan countries into the European Union and
called for accelerating the process during a two-day meeting in Szekszard
in Hungary, which got underway on Friday.
According to the Czech President Miloš Zeman, who attended the summit with his Hungarian, Polish and Slovak counterparts, they have also agreed that there was a risk of spreading radical Islam in Bosnia. The heads of state have also talked about ecology or digitization.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is attending a two-day summit of the Prime Ministers of China and Eastern European Countries, which got underway in Riga on Saturday. Mr Sobotka has met with the prime ministers of the Balkan States to discuss the migrant crisis and the accession of Serbia and Macedonia to the European Union. The Czech prime minister said the Czech Republic will continue to support the Western Balkans in the EU accession talks. Mr Sobotka has also met with his Latvian counterpart Maris Kucinskis, who organizes the summit.
The Visegrad Four regional grouping, currently headed by the Czech Republic, can help countries in the Western Balkans in the EU accession talks, Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Thursday. He was speaking at a meeting between the Visegrad Four, composed of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, and Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Zaorálek proposed a forum be created for regular meetings between the two groupings.
EU plans to tackle the ongoing migration crisis must include measures controlling the flow of refugees from the western Balkans, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stated after the cabinet meeting on Monday. That includes monitoring the Greek-Macedonian border, so-called Plan B which could prove difficult to implement given Germany’s insistence on the fulfillment of agreements between the EU and Turkey in lowering refugee numbers. According to Mr Sobotka, whose position was agreed by the government ahead of the European Council meeting, any joint solution needed to take Greece and Macedonia into account, including the return of refugees from Greece to Turkey. The migration crisis is expected to be discussed at length at the upcoming EU summit in Brussels.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said the extraordinary Visegrad 4 summit in Prague Monday is aimed at assuring countries in the Western Balkans that they will not be alone if the EU’s strategy of cooperation with Turkey to curb immigration fails. Sobotka said in an interview on Czech Radio that countries in the Balkans fears for they would be abandoned to fend on their own if the Turkey strategy failed, Greece could not police its borders, and Germany and Austria blocked their frontiers to more immigrants. The summit on immigration is being attended by representatives from Bulgaria and Macedonia but should also send a signal to the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians that they would not be left on their own, Sobotka said.
The foreign ministers of the Višegrad Four and six Balkan states on Friday signed an agreement in Prague on the establishment of a Western Balkans Fund which is to boost regional cooperation. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek who hosted the meeting said the migrant crisis must not destabilise the Balkans since the region’s stability was crucial for the stability of the entire continent. The establishment of a Western Balkans Fund was proposed four year ago by the Czech Republic which is a strong supporter of integrating the Balkans into the EU. The fund, to which all the Višegrad Four states have made a contribution, will be based in Tirana, Albania.