ZAGREB, September 28, 2018 – Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović told a meeting held on the margins of the ongoing UN General Assembly session in New York on Thursday that Southeast Europe had become a testing ground for different countries and their interests, that there were tensions between countries in the region and that it was important to ensure the integration of that part of Europe with the European Union.
Grabar-Kitarović said she deliberately avoided the term Western Balkans as it did not denote only a geographic location.
Balkanisation has unfortunately become a global term with negative connotations such as political instability, lack of security and fragmentation, isolation and ghettoisation, she said while explaining why she did not use the technical term used by the EU and NATO to the participants in the meeting focusing on sustainable peace and development in a changing world.
She said that it was important to know that Southeast Europe was heading in the right direction and that over the past decade the international community had somewhat lost its focus on and interest in that part of the world.
Because of this, some other processes have developed under the radar, and Southeast Europe has again become a testing ground for geopolitical muscle-flexing and various interests, with tensions growing due to interference by third countries that do not share “our goals and values” as well as due to growing tensions between countries in the region. Political ideologies that laid groundwork for past conflicts have not disappeared, they are still present, she said.
The Croatian president also spoke about EU enlargement, migrations, and the Three Seas Initiative, saying that at a time when Europe was faced with an upsurge of radical and populist movements and ideas, both right and left, one should not limit oneself to maintaining the status quo in Southeast Europe.
Our message that the EU is losing that part of Europe has finally caught attention and resulted in a response that is going in the right direction. The EU will not grow bigger but will rather be consolidated with those countries, Grabar-Kitarović said at the meeting that was also attended by former Croatian prime minister Jadranka Kosor and former president Ivo Josipović.
Commenting on Grabar-Kitarovicć’s address at the UN General Assembly in which she said that Croatia was an example of good transformation after EU entry, Josipović said that it was a good speech that presented Croatia well, but that Croatian reality was usually slightly different than the one that was usually presented at international meetings.
Josipović said that it was true that Croatia received a boost from its EU accession in 2013 but added that since 2014 it had been experiencing social regression.