“Britain to Stay Committed to Western Balkan Region Post-Brexit”

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, March 3, 2018 – British diplomat Andrew Page, who is a coordinator of an EU-Western Balkan summit that is scheduled to take place in London in July, has told Hina in an interview that, after its exit from the European Union, Great Britain will remain interested in stability and economic progress of the southeast of the Continent and underscores that London would like to be a reliable partner of the “European project”.

Page has visited Croatia this week and met with senior officials for the talks on the preparations for the London summit meeting in July. The fifth annual gathering of this kind is likely to bring together leaders of the six Western Balkan aspirants for the EU membership and EU representatives within the so-called Berlin Process, launched by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2014 in a bid to encourage those six countries to keep implementing reforms and keep on track towards the EU membership.

Page recalls that a majority of the British citizens voted for the departure of their country from the EU bloc and that this will happen in March 2019.

Regardless of the fact that we are leaving the EU, we are still a member of NATO. In the case of the Western Balkans, we are determined to comply with our obligations in EUFOR (EU-led mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina) and in KFOR (international peace keeping mission in Kosovo), Page says in his interview for Hina.

He recalls that, in her recent speech at a security conference in Munich, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that “the UK is just as committed to Europe’s security in the future as we have been in the past”, and in that context she said that Britain would like to be a reliable and committed partner of the Union in the years to come.

Page also recalls that the Berlin Process was initiated after Croatia’s admission to the EU in mid-2013, when some speculations appeared about the Union being tired of enlargement. The original focus of the Berlin Process has been on the economic stability and assisting Western Balkan countries to network their infrastructure: roads, railways and telecommunications, Page says. A special emphasis is put on regional economic integration and treating the whole region as “a single investment destination”, the British diplomat says.

Leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have held three more meetings after the first meeting in Berlin in 2014, and those gatherings in Vienna, Paris and Trieste also involved officials of EU member-states.

Page says that the Trieste meeting resulted in an action plan for the establishment of a regional economic area in order to remove customs and tariff barriers and facilitate regional mobility. That Multi-annual Action Plan for a Regional Economic Area in the Western Balkans also envisages removal of obstacles to recognition of professional qualifications.

On behalf of the EU, to date officials of Germany, Austria, Great Britain, France, Italy and the European Commission, as well as representatives of the aspirants’ neighbours that have joined the EU — Slovenia and Croatia — have participated in those summit meetings.

Asked about his forecast for the Western Balkan region in the next 20-30 years, the British diplomat says he is optimistic and commends the region for “impressive” progress over the past 15 years.


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