Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama joked with Macedonian counterpart Dimitar Kovachevski, referring to the dispute between Sofia and Skopje during the Southeast European Co-operation Summit on Friday (June 11th, 2022) in Thessaloniki.
During the meeting, a dinner was organized by the host – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
A video of the cocktail before dinner shows Mitsotakis introducing the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama approaching from behind and jokingly saying that Kovachevski is the prime minister of a country that will be in the future. known as “Western Bulgaria”, BTV reports.
This is not Rama’s first joking comment on the Sofia-Skopje dispute. Exactly a year ago, at the Economic Forum in Northern Macedonia, the Albanian prime minister joked with his then-Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, that he hoped Sofia would not ask Skopje to “call itself Western Bulgaria”.
Frustrated by their countries’ slow progress towards EU accession, the leaders of Serbia, Albania and the Republic of Northern Macedonia (PCM) met on Wednesday in the Ohrid Open Balkans initiative to discuss further boosting regional economic integration and labor market, the Associated Press reported.
Serbian President Alexander Vucic, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Northern Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski signed agreements on tax administration, tourism and cultural co-operation, as well as mutual recognition of academic degrees for labor market purposes. The prime ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, Zoran Tegeltia and Dritan Abazovic, also attended the meeting.
Kovachevski, who hosted the Ohrid meeting, said the tax deal “will facilitate the movement of goods, capital and services. These are steps being taken to establish practices used by the European Union.” “The Western Balkans must be part of the European Union,” he said. “The war in Ukraine is a risk of increasing the influence of third countries in the region. Leaving a geostrategic gap in this part of Europe is not an option.
The three countries’ initiative, called the Open Balkans, launched in 2019. Other countries in the Western Balkans, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, have expressed interest in joining the initiative, but this has not happened since. Kosovo is a staunch opponent of the initiative, although the country was invited because Pristina sees the initiative as a “revival of Yugoslavia”.
Serbia, Albania and Northern Macedonia are at various stages on the road to EU membership. Serbia has begun negotiations for full membership, while Albania and northern Macedonia are still unable to begin talks due to Bulgaria’s veto against PCM, the Associated Press reported. Albania’s European path is linked to that of northern Macedonia, so Bulgaria’s veto is preventing both sides from moving forward.
Rama from Albania commented on the situation as follows: “Bulgaria will at some point get bored of this game and find another toy to play with,” he said. As for the EU’s position, he said: “If they want a wedding, we are ready. If they don’t, we are still here. No problem.” “I will say this directly,” Rama added. “When I went to Brussels, they encouraged me. Now that I go to Brussels, I am the one who should encourage them.”
Photo: Edi Rama presents Kovachevski as Prime Minister of “Future Western Bulgaria” Staff: YouTube / LifeEvents