“Today’s South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Summit in the ancient port city of Thessaloniki, a great center of trade and ideas over many centuries, comes at a critical moment. It presents an opportunity to meet and exchange in-depth ideas with my fellow leaders, and take stock of where we are and what urgently needs to be done,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday in an interview with Politico.
“History teaches us there are periods of rapidly accelerating change that demand an immediate awakening. The world has changed a great deal in recent months, and as a result, we’re at a defining moment – particularly for the Western Balkans and wider Southeast Europe.
It’s time for the European Union to acknowledge the existential importance of integrating this region in the European family, and it must step up confidently in order to do so – starting with the Western Balkans.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a prevalent belief in the West – since proven to be naive – that the battle over values and ideals had been won. Europe’s history, defined by violent conflict and the two world wars, was thought to have turned the corner toward peace, prosperity, cooperation and the rule of law, according to Politico.
The unprovoked, illegal and horrific war in Ukraine has ruthlessly exposed how misplaced such notions were.
Even though the end of the Cold War was a moment of great hope and optimism, it simultaneously nurtured a dangerous complacency. It’s a complacency for which we are now paying a high price, and we can’t afford to be complacent again.
Today’s meetings come less than two weeks from the EU-Western Balkans meeting in Brussels, and the European Council, where important decisions for the region and the bloc’s future could be made. And the Balkans, as many times before in its history, stands again on the frontline of competing spheres of influence – ominous tremors can be felt underneath the surface.
It is, therefore, time for the EU to be honest with itself and with the region, the Greek prime minister said to Politico.
Looking back, the EU should be proud of all it has achieved. The European project is a unique experiment that’s proven to be the most successful guarantor of peace, stability, economic growth and social prosperity on the Continent. But the future won’t wait, and we can’t make time stand still – all life is evolution after all.
“It is clear that such profound changes in the world around us require the EU to urgently hold a serious and honest internal discussion on the future of enlargement – on the how and the when. We need to think and decide how we see ourselves growing and evolving,” according to Politico.