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Minister of State Creighton pays second visit to the Balkans

European Union, Press Releases, Europe, 2012

Lucinda Creighton, Minister of State for European Affairs, will visit the Balkans from 25 – 28 September in her capacity as representative of the Irish Chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and as part of the preparations for Ireland’s EU Presidency next year. This is the Minister’s second visit to the Western Balkans this year and will take in five countries of the region: Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Slovenia, where she will have bilateral consultations on the EU agenda.

The visit takes place just two weeks before the publication on 10 October of the European Commission’s Annual Enlargement Strategy and Progress Reports. The Commission’s recommendations will go towards shaping EU policy on enlargement over the coming months, especially during Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union. The visit offers an opportunity to build working relationships with some of the key interlocutors with whom Ireland will have to deal if we hope to move the accession process forward in these countries.

The Minister begins her itinerary in Serbia where she is due to meet Prime Minister Dačić, and the Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, Ms Suzana Grubjesic, among others. The Minister’s visit will be the first Ministerial level contact with the new Serbian government since its formation in July, following the elections in May. Ireland played an important role as Chair in Office of the OSCE in ensuring an agreement between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo that allowed ethnic Serbs in Kosovo take part in the parliamentary and Presidential polls. Serbia is an official candidate for EU accession but has yet to open negotiations. The Minister will use the opportunity to review progress towards that goal.

From Serbia the Minister will drive overland to Pristina, in Kosovo. Her visit comes just two weeks after the official ending of supervised independence. At her meetings with the various Ministers in the Kosovan administration the Minister will review the progress they have made in reaching this milestone. The Minister will also meet with some of the many Irish citizens currently working with international organisations in Kosovo. Finally the Minister will pay a courtesy call on the Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, Bishop Teodosije of Raška-Prizren. From Pristina the Minister will travel by road to Skopje in the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonia is an official candidate for EU accession but has yet to open negotiations. The Minister will discuss the progress the country has made in recent months as part of the High Level Accession Dialogue with the European Commission.

From Skopje the Minister will travel to Slovenia for political consultations with her counterpart, the State Secretary for EU Affairs. The Minister will finish her visit in Albania where she will meet with Prime Minister Berisha and with the Minister for European Integration. Albania is hopeful of a recommendation for candidate status in the Commission’s Progress Report, having failed to get such a recommendation in 2010 and 2011.