Ursula von der Leyen on EU Covid digital certificates
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The EU-Western Balkans Summit will be held in Slovenia on Wednesday, which currently holds the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Discussions will revolve around regional investment, security, and the socio-economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Delegates will also assess the progression of six of the Balkan states (Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) towards becoming future EU members.
The summit will be chaired by European Council President Charles Michel.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also be present.
The EU Environment Council meeting will also be held earlier in the day.
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Heads of state arrive for the EU summit in Slovenia
Heads of state have arrived in the pouring rain for the EU summit in Slovenia, where the Western Balkans’ accession into the EU will be discussed.
Northern countries fear letting Balkans into EU could see repeat of Romania and Bulgaria
Some Northen countries such as Denmark, France and the Netherlands fear the accession of the Balkans into the EU could see a repeat of the rushed accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, which led many Brits to turn away from the EU due to the poorly managed migration of EU workers to the UK.
Foreign policy should start in ‘our backyard’ say EU leaders
Several EU leaders have said that if they want to make Europe stronger, they must allow the Balkans to join so they do not turn to other superpowers such as Russia and China instead.
“We spoke at great length about the role of Europe … Here is an example of where, if we want to make Europe stronger and also extend our geopolitical influence, this is our backyard,” Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said, referring to a meeting of EU leaders held on Tuesday.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz echoed these views: ” If the European Union does not offer this region a real perspective, we have to be aware that other superpowers – China, Russia or Turkey – will play a bigger role there. The region belongs to Europe geographically, and it needs a European perspective,” he said.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister calls EU’s treatment of state a ‘great injustice’
Speaking ahead of the EU summit in Slovenia on Wednesday, the Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti said it was a “great injustice” that 5 EU states still do not recognise Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, which took place in 2008.
“It has been a great injustice, a lack of fairness towards citizens of our country,” he said.
“I advocate for a lack of fear on the EU’s side, and a lack of bitterness on the side of the Balkans.
“I am still hopeful”.
The EU has also failed to live up to promises such as allowing visa-free travel for Kosovo.
VDL tells Balkans they are ‘family’
European Comission President Ursula von der Leyen, tried on Wednesday to reassure the Western Balkans that they will one day be part of the EU.
Speaking ahead of the EU summit in Slovenia, she said: “The message is that the Western Balkans belong to the European Union. We want them in the European Union. We are one European family.
“We share the same history. We share the same values, and I’m deeply convinced we share the same destiny too.”
However, with the enlargement process having been blocked by various disputes, many in the Balkans feel this is an empty promise.
VDL says EU must invest in renewables to prevent further energy hikes
Speaking ahead of the EU summit in Slovenia on Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU must invest in renewable energy to prevent further energy spikes.
I think we have to be very clear that the gas prices are skyrocketing. But the renewables, the prices have decreased over the last years and are stable”, she said.
“So for us it’s very clear that with energy in the long term it is important to invest in renewables that gives us stable prices and more independence because 90% of the gas is imported to the European Union”.
Footage of protestors in Slovenia
Footage of protestors in Slovenia on Tuesday, the eve of the EU summit.
Demonstrators were protesting the country’s Covid-19 restrictions and protests led to clashes with the police, who used tear gas and water cannons.
Summit will aim to ease tensions between Bulgaria and North Macedonia
The EU summit, held in Slovenia on wednesday will aim to ease tensions between Bulgaria and Macedonia.
In October 2019, Bulgaria said that it would block North Macedonia’s EU accession process if North Macedonia did not fulfil demands regarding what Bulgaria saw as “anti-Bulgarian ideology” in the country.
Bulgaria then offered a compromise in October 2020 and agreed to recognise the Macedonian language and Macedonian identity if North Macedonia recognised that historically, their roots were Bulgarian.
Macedonia rejected this proposal and therefore, in November 2020 Bulgaria refused to approve the European Union’s negotiation framework for North Macedonia, essentially blocking the official start of accession talks with the country.
It is hoped that today’s summit will help to resolve this ongoing dispute.
No concrete progress expected to be made at summit
No concrete progress is expected to be made on allowing the 6 Western Balkan states into the EU on Wednesday.
However, reassurances that the states’ futures are in the EU are expected.
This will likely cause frustration for the states, who have been waiting since the early 2000s to be let into the club.
How close are the Western Balkan states to getting into the EU?
Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia all have “candidate status”, and have started accession negotiations.
North Macedonia has been waiting since 2004 to become part of the EU, so its a pretty long process.
However, Bosnia is still a potential candidate and some EU members do not even recognise Kosovo as an EU state.
Covid protestors clash with police ahead of EU summit
Hundreds of protestors, demonstrating against the Slovenian Government’s Covid-19 restrictions, have clashed with police, ahead of the EU summit on Wednesday.
Tear gas and water cannons were fired by police and the portest’s leader has reportedly been arrested.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon on Tuesday and a leader of the protest movement has reportedly been detained.
The protests were not linked to the EU summit, but protestors used the opportunity to gain more media attention.
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