17th Salzburg Europe Summit 2021
Salzburg / Vienna (OTS) –
Brilliant entry into the Salzburg Europe Summit 2021: In front of around 250 guests at the Salzburg Congress, Univ. Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger, chairman of the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE), the 17th summit, which this year – in compliance with strict Covid protection rules – brought guests from all over Europe to the Mozart city.
In his opening speech, Schausberger specifically addressed the general topic of “Europe and Peace” and emphasized the necessity for the “comeback of Europe” after a pandemic and a half with its serious social, political, economic, cultural and health effects. It is urgently necessary to take the right steps for a comeback, reconstruction and, in some cases, a new start in Europe. “The term“ comeback ”must by no means mean a return to the status quo ante, i.e. to everything as it was before the Corona,” said Schausberger, who in this context referred directly to the Western Balkans panel at the summit. Right now, new visions and a new agility are needed in the enlargement policy of the European Union, emphasized the former governor.
In her subsequent keynote speech, European Minister Karoline Edtstadler called for a new dialogue on the enlargement process in the Western Balkans. “It’s up to us to speed up the process,” says Edtstadler. The future of the Western Balkans is of course also the future of the European Union. Austria supports the six Western Balkan states that are not yet EU members in their current stage of pre-accession. “It is our immediate neighborhood and of great importance for Austria,” emphasized the European Minister. The question is crucial with regard to security and migration – after all, Austria is a top investor in the region.
Edtstadler explained that three specific points were needed as to how things should now proceed: “Firstly, we must increasingly find ways to show that the Western Balkan countries can fully embrace us even in difficult times. Second, we have to help them solve their problems themselves – comparable to mediators. Third When & Us, As long as the accession process has not picked up speed, cooperation in areas such as student exchange, migration policy and cultural deepening ”. Finally, Edtstadler quoted EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn: “Either we export stability or we import instability”.
The North Macedonian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Zoran Popov, discovered the same thing. It is now important for the citizens of North Macedonia to see clear signals and a path. “We are far from perfect, but we have done a great deal to ensure that the accession talks can begin. We meet all the preconditions, we even changed our name ”. His country lost more than half a million inhabitants between 2006 and 2016 – and another 30 percent of the people, especially young people, would be willing to emigrate if it didn’t soon have better prospects through accession to the EU, Popov pointed out.
Josip Brkic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, referred to the promise that the countries of the region once received: “18 years ago it was said that we would bring you all into the EU. To date, only Croatia has made it, ”said Brkic. “If there is no clear visibility of the importance of enlargement, the question also arises whether EU foreign policy can be a useful strategic partner for global politics at all.”
Something similar was heard from Megi Fino, Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs in Albania. “We met the key points. Now we expect to take part in the conference on the future of Europe ”. The current issues – such as corona pandemic, recovery, climate change – are dealt with anyway, “but the process has to become credible again. We must see that the accession process becomes a motorway and not a dead end ”.
Tanja Miščević, deputy, was connected via live video. Secretary General Region Cooperation Council RCC. She explained the progress and learning effects that could result from regional cooperation: “An example of this is that we no longer use our own national standards, but instead rely on EU standards in all areas in our cooperation.” Especially in Serbia and Montenegro could learn from other states what matters.
Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Đorđe Radulović quoted the philosopher Hegel: “Only the whole is important”, which when applied to politics means something like “The EU will never be completed without the Western Balkans”. He did not understand that the accession process was going to be so tough: “We waited four years to find out where we stood in key negotiating chapters. But we cannot go on without these benchmarks ”.
Serbia’s minister for EU integration, Jadranka Joksimović, spanned a wider range: “Enlargement should not be a power game, but rather be supported by the right narrative and lead to a European identity. Since 1990 we have been saying that there is no peaceful Europe if it is not united from north to south and west to east ”, she referred to the importance of a credible enlargement policy on the part of the EU states.
Franz Schausberger emphasized that. It is completely unacceptable that some Western European states are slowing down the enlargement process, primarily for domestic political reasons. The blockade of Bulgaria against North Macedonia is totally incomprehensible. North Macedonia has been lagging behind for years, despite resolving the painful name issue. The same applies to Albania and Serbia, which have made significant progress recently, and to the issue of visa liberalization for Kosovo.
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