A window of opportunity for the Balkans

A window of opportunity for the Balkans

I write after a week spent in Brussels – to work on the crises in the Middle East, and particularly in Syria – and in the Western Balkans, a region that is part of Europe, geographically, and can collectively become part of our European Union.

This is the message that last Wednesday we brought to Pristina, Kosovo, together with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Johannes Hahn. It is time to close the wounds of the past, and take new steps to guarantee stability to the region and the whole of Europe. We discussed this with President Hashim Thaçi, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, the Chairman of the national Assembly Kadri Veseli. But also with a group of young people and civil society representatives, in an open and sincere discussion – here is the video.

The conversation continued the day after in Sofia, in Bulgaria, with all our six Balkan partners. In the coming months they have – and we have – a unique window of opportunity to end Europe’s divisions and unite our continent.

The week had begun in Brussels with the monthly meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Ministers. Once again we dealt with the situation in the Middle East. After the visits of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, last Monday we welcomed the Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Palestine, together with the Arab League’s Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit: we discussed the situation between Israel and Palestine and how to restart the peace process. Here is my press conference with Jordan Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi.

Then, the tragedy of Syria and Ghouta. After I met the ministers, I wrote to the three guarantors – Russia, Turkey and Iran – asking that they help implement the ceasefire agreed at the United Nations and to let humanitarian aid in. They have a responsibility, and they have to fulfil it. I discussed Syria also with the new UN coordinator for humanitarian aid, Mark Lowcock – press release here.

With the European Foreign Minister, on Monday, we also tackled the situation in Venezuela. Last Friday I spoke on the phone with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and with the President of the National Assembly, Omar Barboza: I invited them to seek a compromise and to avoid steps that will only make the situation worse. Here is the press release.

On Monday we also welcomed Moldova’s Foreign Minister Tudor Ulianovschi to strengthen our cooperation (here are our Council Conclusions on Moldova). And on the same day, we held the Cooperation Council with Kazakhstan, here is the press release.

With the EU Foreign Minister we decided to explore the possibility of sanctions against senior military officers of the Myanmar armed forces, responsible for the violence against the Rohingya minority (here is the text of our Conclusions). This was one of the issues I discussed yesterday with the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali. Press release here.

On Tuesday, still in Brussels, I met with a group of young leaders from South-East Asia – some passionate and competent young people – to understand what the European Union and ASEAN can do together for our youth.

Finally, let me mention an important day for my country, Italy. Tomorrow we vote for the future of Italy – but it is also an important moment for the future of our European Union.