US Secretary of State Backs Western Balkans’ Journey Toward EU Integration

by Cristian Florescu

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a visit to Albania in order to reaffirm the bilateral relations between the two countries. This visit aimed to assure the Western Balkan nations of the United States’ commitment to supporting their integration into the European Union, emphasizing their importance as a key partner in the region.

Blinken held meetings with high-ranking officials to discuss the prospective integration of Albania and neighbouring countries in the Western Balkans into the European Union. This initiative has received strong backing from the United States government.

During a press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Blinken expressed the importance of avoiding a recurrence of the challenges faced in the 1990s and reiterated the commitment to support initiatives aimed at promoting the integration of Western Balkan countries with each other and with Europe. The United States has commended Albania for its leadership in the region, its recent role in the United Nations Security Council, and its involvement in international peacekeeping missions and NATO operations. Additionally, Albania is set to host a forthcoming international summit on Ukraine, with the attendance of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy anticipated.

During Blinken’s visit, Prime Minister Rama discussed the tensions between neighbouring countries Kosovo and Serbia. The slow progress of EU-facilitated negotiations to normalize their relations, coupled with occasional violent incidents, has raised concerns about potential instability in the region. Both the United States and the EU have expressed apprehension regarding Kosovo’s recent decision to ban the dinar as currency in its Serb-majority municipalities. Blinken emphasized the importance of the EU-facilitated dialogue as the most viable way forward and expressed commitment to supporting both countries in this process.

Blinken expressed gratitude towards Albania for its exceptional hospitality towards numerous Afghan evacuees following the Taliban’s assumption of power in Afghanistan in August 2021, coinciding with the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from the region. Albania swiftly accommodated approximately 3,200 displaced Afghans before facilitating their relocation to the United States for permanent resettlement.

Blinken encountered a group of Afghan individuals currently residing in Albania who are preparing to relocate to the United States to initiate a fresh chapter in their lives. He acknowledged that this transition would not have been feasible without the assistance and support provided by Albania. Following a brief stay in Tirana, the capital city, Blinken proceeds to Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference.

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