Regional cooperation in the Western Balkans was never extremely high and was never at a satisfactory level, President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski told N1 during the summit that gathered regional leaders in Sarajevo this week.
Economic and trade cooperation has been stagnating but political cooperation has significantly decreased, according to him.
“I think it would be the most realistic if I said that regional cooperation has been at the same level for the past 10 or 15 years. Cooperation of the Western Balkan countries was never at an extremely high level so that we could not register a significant drop. I think it was never satisfactory,” said Pendarovski.
Absence of Kosovo and Albania's representatives in the Southeast European Council Process (SEECP) summit, he added, is only a reflection of daily communication between Belgrade and Pristina.
“The issue of Kosovo undoubtedly burdens other bilateral and regional cooperation, especially from the aspect of my country. I can say it would be extremely important for us if Belgrade and Pristina found a solution that both sides would support. God willing, this issue will be solved soon once for all times,” said the President of North Macedonia.
Commenting on the migrant crisis that the region is dealing with, he noted that the European Union should play a crucial financial role here.
“Even if four, five or ten countries in the region joined together they wouldn't be able to do a lot. Let's be honest, the huge migrant crisis starts with Turkey with Austria, Scandinavian countries or Germany as final destinations. I believe that the European Union should stick to some obligations and agreements. If two sides respect what they sign, we won't have a migrant crisis of large proportions,” said Pendarovski.
As for the EU integration of the Western Balkan countries, North Macedonia's leader assessed that these countries alone will not make much progress.
“That's why we need Brussels and system of negotiations. We will enter reforms much swiftly if someone from aside to tell us these are European standards, to check them all in the end of the process and say this has been done and this has not. If you leave it to the Balkan people to work on reforms alone, that process will last very long,” he emphasised.