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EU and Western Balkans leaders meet for enlargement talks

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The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, attend an informal dinner on EU enlargement in the Greek capital, Athens, on Monday (21 August).

In October, the commission will report, as it regularly does, on progress in negotiations with Balkan countries, before EU leaders decide whether to open full accession talks. A decision is expected at the European summit in December.

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Although the European machine is not yet fully operational, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will host a number of European leaders to mark the 20th anniversary of the 2003 Thessaloniki Declaration, by which European and Western Balkan leaders agreed that the future of the Balkans should have a European dimension. perspective.

The meeting will bring together, among others, the leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Romania and Croatia.

And although there is neither official confirmation nor denial due to security concerns, European leaders are also awaiting the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the The Greek press reported.

The Ukrainian leader is once again visiting various European countries, including Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, in search of economic and military support to secure the future of a country at war.

In addition to this possible surprise guest, there will also be a notable absence.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama will not participate in the negotiations, reflecting the low point in diplomatic relations between Athens and Tirana.

Rama was not invited, but the office of Albanian President Bairam Begai was, who declined the invitation, according to the Greek press.

Syriza, Greece’s main opposition party, said in a statement on Sunday that it was the Prime Minister who had not invited her Albanian counterpart “because of the Beleri affair”.

The case concerns Fredi Beleri, detained since May on suspicion of vote buying. Beleri is a Greek expatriate who won the municipal elections in Himare, southern Albania, but has not yet been able to take office.

Syriza also said that the informal dinner should not be “another public relations opportunity” and that concrete initiatives for the rise of the Western Balkans would be presented. If Zelensky appears, “we hope that messages will also be sent on the Cyprus problem,” the opposition party added.

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