Described as a historic event, for the first time outside the borders of the European Union, the ninth consecutive Berlin Process Summit took place on Monday in the Albanian capital.
In what was described as a historic event, the ninth consecutive Berlin Process Summit was convened for the first time outside the European Union’s borders. The summit took place on Monday in the Albanian capital, Tirana.
An initiative for the Western Balkans enlargement, the Berlin Process Summit was initiated in 2014 by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and this year it centered its discussions on EU enlargement policies and stability in the region, including the Kosovo-Serbia relations, and resulted in the signing of several agreements.
Symbolically held at the Pyramid of Tirana, once a historic building of the dictatorship, the summit highlighted the region’s aspiration for closer integration with the European Union.
“Good morning Albania and with the table of the first Summit of the Berlin Process outside the borders of the EU, in the Pyramid of the Dictator in Tirana, where his sworn enemies will sit, who see [Albania] more and more with respect and appreciation, which today has dawned as the Europe of the Balkans, I wish you a good week,” Rama wrote on his Facebook account.
Rama then hosted the leaders of the region and the EU, before the joint meeting started. President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, the chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, the PM of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, the PM of Montenegro, Dritan Abazovic, the PM of Serbia, Ana Brnabic and other leaders participated in the meeting, with French President Emmanuel Macron only joining Monday evening, after the press conference.
In his opening speech, PM Rama expressed dissatisfaction with the division between EU members and non-members, emphasizing the need for a common roof and common cooperation. He stated, “Living without the EU is not easy.”
After the meetings, president of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, proposed a growth plan for the Western Balkans that, according to her, would double the size of Western Balkans economies within the decade.
“We have already laid a solid foundation with our 30 billion euro economic investment plan,” she said.
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, spoke about the importance of EU enlargement.
“Enlargement is an investment in the peace and prosperity of both the EU and our future members. And this Berlin process plays an important role to promote cooperation between Western Balkan partners and the EU, having EU integration as the guiding light,” he said.
The situation after the September 24 attack in Banjska of Zveçan against the Kosovo Police was also discussed.
Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, urged that bilateral conflicts should not hold the region hostage and emphasized the need for reconciliation, which he noted requires political courage and a focus on the future.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti demanded punishment for Serbia in response to the terrorist attack in Banjska and accused Serbia of sponsoring the attack. He highlighted the need to address the ongoing threats from Serbia and emphasized the negative impact of not letting such acts go unpunished.
The Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, said that multiple crises in the region have highlighted the urgent need to work harder together to overcome antagonisms.
Regarding the crisis in the north of Kosovo, the PM of Montenegro, Dritan Abazovic, said that it should be clearly stated who is responsible for destabilization.
“The message of Montenegro is peaceful, we need to eliminate the policies of the 90s and anyone who tries to create destabilization should be clearly told who is to blame and responsible and those policies should be excluded from the life of the Western Balkans,” he said.
As part of the summit’s proceedings, the College of Europe was inaugurated in Tirana, and a regional agreement for mutual recognition of professional qualifications in the region was signed.
Notably, in the summit’s “family picture,” the Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic, refused to participate because of Kosovo’s flag shown in the background.
Monday’s meeting in Tirana follows a series of other coordination meetings of civil society, youth, businesses and institutions of the six countries of the Western Balkans, including the Ministries of Internal Affairs of the respective countries.
In 2022 Western Balkans foreign ministers had signed three agreements in Berlin on free movement with IDs among citizens of the region – and for mutual recognition of university degrees and professional qualifications.
The Summit brought together the PM of Albania Edi Rama and the PM of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who were involved in public controversies about the security situation in the north of Kosovo in the last couple of months. Rama had called the North of Kosovo “nobody’s land”, to which Kurti responded on Monday that the north is territory of Kosovo.
The Berlin Process is a German-led initiative with a mandate to facilitate regional cooperation between the six countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – to enable them to join the EU.