As winter approaches and energy and food security become common challenges, there is no solution but solidarity, says Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Türkiye will help ensure the Balkans’ gas needs will be met this winter.
''The war in Europe is a wake-up call. We see how vulnerable we are to various shocks. Winter is coming,” Cavusoglu told the opening of the Open Balkan Initiative Summit in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Friday.
“Energy and food security became common challenges. There is no recipe other than solidarity. As Türkiye, we continue to do our best for smooth implementation of the Istanbul grain deal. We also do our best to help our Balkan neighbours in ensuring their gas needs for the winter,'' he added, also citing the deal reached in Istanbul this July unblocking Ukrainian grain exports.
Cavusoglu criticised the European Union on the stalled EU accession bids of North Macedonia and Albania.
''We see the Open Balkan Initiative as a bridge between the Balkans and the EU. In the past, enlargement has been among the most successful policies of the EU. But the EU has become inward-looking, and narrow political interests hijacked the enlargement agenda,” he said.
“Nobody can offer a good explanation as to why North Macedonia and Albania have waited for so long. And we congratulate both of them on the beginning of accession negotiations.”
North Macedonia became a EU candidate in 2005, while Albania was granted candidate status in 2014.
Albania’s negotiations have been stalled since 2020 due to a dispute with Bulgaria over linguistic and historical issues.
Serbia and Kosovo
On recent developments in the region, Cavusoglu emphasised that Türkiye will continue encouraging dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.
''The (recent) agreement on ID cards shows the merit in focusing on our shared interests rather than differences. Türkiye has open communication with both parties. We will continue to encourage dialogue to reach an agreement on vehicle plates and other remaining issues,'' said Cavusoglu.
Serbia and Kosovo on Saturday agreed on a new border policy under a EU-facilitated dialogue process.
Tension was rising in the region over Kosovo’s plans to make it mandatory for everyone, including Serbs living in the north, to have a Kosovo ID card and license plate.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states, including the US, UK, France, Germany, and Türkiye, recognising it as a separate autonomous country from its neighbour.
Serbia continues to see Kosovo as its territory.
Cavusoglu said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit the region next week, adding: ''The current situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be on the top of our agenda. We cannot allow another conflict at the heart of the Balkans.”
Cavusoglu arrived on Thursday night for a two-day visit to Belgrade that will include a meeting with his Serbian counterpart.
The Open Balkan Initiative Summit was hosted by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and attended by Cavusoglu along with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, Montenegrin Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic, and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
The initiative covers an economic and political zone between Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia, aimed at boosting trade and student exchange opportunities for some 12 million people, as well as encouraging the three countries’ integration into the EU.
In April, Serbia opened a special section at its border gates for commercial vehicles under the Open Balkans initiative for a joint economic area in the Western Balkans.