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NATO Meeting in Albania Focuses on Macedonia

At the NATO meeting in Tirana, the alliance's special rapporteur on the Balkans, Ulla Schmidt, told BIRN that the situation in Macedonia remained critical. 
NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Tirana. Photo: LSA/Malton Dibra 

Albania is hosting the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Tirana, which has gathered more than 250 members of the 28 Allied nations as well as partner countries and observers.

The focus of the gathering is showing joint resolve in the face of Russia’s increased assertiveness in the region and on tackling terrorism.

The Assembly, which is preparing the working document for the NATO July summit in Warsaw, is also focusing on the Western Balkan region, with a security committee discussing the draft report of German rapporteur Ulla Schmidt, vice-president of the German Bundestag.

Schmidt presented a draft report on the challenges facing the Balkans in Euro-Atlantic integration, which emphasised the need to contain ethnic tensions and ensure that the unresolved status issues of countries like Kosovo and Macedonia does not impede their eventual integration.

Macedonia’s political deadlock, which has lasted months, was the centre of discussion, with Schmidt telling BIRN that the situation had become critical.

Both the EU and NATO needed to make powerful efforts to ensure integration processes there did not discontinue, she said.

“If we see the situation in the Balkans overall, there were a lot of good developments in the last years, but in Macedonia, we have at this moment a critical situation,” she noted.

“I fear that ethnic conflicts will further grow since we have seen them escalate lately. But now is not too late… to find solutions,” she added.

The NATO rapporteur on the Balkans told BIRN that Macedonia should also continue to try to resolve the years-long dispute with Greece over its name to which Athens objects.

Schmidt said it was also important for people in the Balkans to rediscover trust in their own political institutions.

“It is important for them to trust and support their governments. The fact that people don’t trust their governments because of the corruption is really problematic,” she emphasized.

On Monday, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly it will hold a plenary session which its President, Michael Turner, and the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Alexander Vershbow, will open alongside Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and his Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Djukanovic.