EU funds are expected to be conditional on progress in the dialogue

Avoiding political disagreements and obstacles to each other is the condition that must be met by the states of the Western Balkans in order to benefit from EU aid, which foresees the allocation of 6 billion euros for the region in the next three years. Integration experts say that Kosovo will be conditional on progress in the dialogue with Serbia in order to benefit from the EU Growth Plan

The Brussels plan envisages that around 6 billion euros will be sent to the Western Balkan states in the next three years, to double the region's economy over the next decade. But the aid that was presented on the sidelines of the Summit held in Tirana will depend on the reforms of the states of the region to adapt their economies to EU rules.

Regarding the common regional market, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, said that the model is borrowed from the Berlin Process and the "Open Balkans" initiative.

"If you want to be treated as an EU member, then you should treat your Western Balkan partners as an EU member as well," Varhelyi said after meeting in Tirana with the region's leaders.

But the treatment that the EU is currently seeking, Serbia does not have in relation to Kosovo, whose citizenship it does not recognize.

The expert on integrations, Demush Shasha, says that access to these funds will be conditioned by some political developments in the region. In the case of Kosovo, according to him, everything will depend on the progress in the dialogue with Serbia.

"In the case of Kosovo and Serbia, there is dialogue, so Kosovo will be conditional on progress in dialogue in order to benefit from the funds that are made available with the European Union's growth plan. So, in this regard, it should not be expected that Kosovo will be able to gain from the growth plan without meaningful progress in the dialogue", Shasha emphasized.

Despite the agreement about the Basic Agreement and the Annex for its implementation in Ohrid on March 18 of last year, the parties have not yet begun to implement any of the points. They were overshadowed by the tensions in the north of the country, which Brussels continues to deal with.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, did not participate in the Tirana Summit along with other leaders from the region, with the reason that he had an earlier arranged visit to Great Britain.

"Nevertheless, in today's conference in Tirana entitled 'Growth Plan and Convergence', I was a virtual participant through a video message where I emphasized the support and solidarity of the Republic of Kosovo with Ukraine and its people; regional cooperation and integration through the Berlin Process based on EU rules and values; support and commitment to the European Union Growth Plan that enables the gradual connection to the EU Single Market; commitment to reforms and expectations for the next summit of the Berlin Process and the New Action Plan of the Common Regional Market (TPR)", Kurti wrote on Facebook on Thursday evening.

Kurti's absence in Tirana, according to the opposition, is his self-exclusion from important events for the future of the country.

"We have come with a day that the prime minister of Kosovo excludes himself from participating in these forums. Today, Serbia does not need to commit itself that Kosovo is not, is not treated equally with the countries of the region, in these international mechanisms, in regional forums that are extremely important both for security reasons and for reasons of the European integration agenda, because it is the Prime Minister of Kosovo himself who excludes Kosovo from these mechanisms. This is a very big damage to our international agenda", the head of the PDK Parliamentary Group, Abelard Tahiri, declared after the Presidency meeting.

Within the measures foreseen by the Growth Plan is the creation of a single euro payment area. There are also green lanes for goods transport vehicles, where checks should not last more than 15 minutes.

Demush Shasha says that the plan represents the expression of the EU's new political will for expansion with the countries of the Western Balkans.

"So, the plan serves this purpose, that the Balkan countries rely on the reforms they must undertake and be prepared as soon as possible to join the European Union. Second, the plan represents a massive financial instrument that triples the funds that the countries of the Western Balkans will have available to make the reforms required on their integration path. So it is a massive fund that requires extraordinary preparation on the part of the countries of the Western Balkans", emphasized Shasha. "In this spirit, the summit was held in Tirana with the aim of discussing all these preparations and exchanging views on the dynamics of the reforms required by the countries of the Western Balkans on the one hand and the expectations that they have from the EU, on the other hand".

In addition to the growth plan for the region, this week Tirana also hosted the "Ukraine-Southeastern Europe" Summit where the security challenges facing Europe were discussed. For the first time, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was in the Albanian capital, from where he asked the West not to delay the delivery of weapons. Ukraine has been at war with Russia since 2022, which launched a large-scale invasion.