Stability in Western Balkans is utmost priority for Greece

Greek PM Tsipras and his homologue in FYROM PM Zaev are paving the way for a final solution on FYROM name dispute, after 25 years of stalemate and disastrous decisions of previous governments in both countries.

There is an historic window of opportunity and a positive momentum for a final solution, something that is proven by both Zaev’s government actions and the supportive stance of EU, the United States and the international community altogether with regards to the ongoing negotiations.

The European Commission, through Commissioner Mogherini and Hahn, as well as the majority of political families in the European Parliament are supporting the negotiations between Greece and FYROM under the auspices of the United Nations, in multilateral and bilateral level, thus building a positive framework. A final solution should not be taken for granted although we have reached a positive phase that can facilitate a viable compromise that would in its turn unlock fruitful developments for a number of other issues.   

The first issue deals with the need to secure stability in the Balkans, and especially in the Western Balkans, where for decades aggressive nationalism and populist governments have blocked channels of communication. The most striking example is that of Gruevksi government. 

Furthermore, a positive solution on the name dispute will put an end to the resurgence of Albanian nationalism, safeguard territorial integrity of FYROM and turn Greece a pillar of peace and stability that can handle all major issues efficiently. In this context, alongside negotiations between Greece and FYROM, the Greek government is pushing for confidence-building measures with Albania, enhancing the European perspective of the country.

The second issue deals with the role of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Council towards assisting on Western Balkans European perspective. Greece and Bulgaria have developed strong ties of cooperation, and this can be useful with respect to the name dispute, but also in the wider EU strategy in the region. To that end, Bulgaria could assist in resolving all remaining issues, such as securing proper implementation the rule of law, pushing for democratic reforms and insertion criteria – all necessary elements for the Western Balkans states to abide by the EU membership process. Greece can be a vital and decisive actor in the region, and this is something the Greek government is vividly pursuing.  

The third and final issue has to do with the economic relations and benefits that all sides can take advantage of. Both FYROM and Albania want to intensify and deepen commercial and investment ties with Greece and EU, create a business-friendly environment that could help tackling unemployment and poverty, and increase growth rates.  In this framework, both countries acknowledge the potential for a successful cooperation in the energy area and the opportunities to make Balkans an energy hub linked with Central and Western Europe, with Greece being placed in the core of this policy.

Overall, Greece’s decisions are driven by the country’s national interests and the need to deal with all pending issues. Its European partners are endorsing the country's active role and understand that the Western Balkans should finally pass from a phase of turbulence and political deadlocks to a new era of cooperation.

*Dimitris Papadimoulis is Vice-President of the European Parliament, head of SYRIZA party delegation.

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