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Western Balkans NGOs Urge EU Not to Delay Skopje-Tirana Negotiations

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Over 80 non-government organizations from the Western Balkans have signed petitions addressed to the president of the European Council Donald Tusk, demanding the EU not to delay the start of the process for negotiations for EU membership of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Albania.

The petition is signed in order to express concern that any delays of the negotiations may negatively affect the pro-European orientation of the region, as well as the credibility of the European Union, and to discourage the political elite in the region when making decisions about other important bilateral issues.

“The Western Balkans NGOs are hopeful that the European Council will fulfill the expectations to start the negotiation processes with North Macedonia and Albania in June,” the petition stated.

The NGOs believe that the good-neighborly relations are key factors for consolidation of the Western Balkans and its fast integration in the EU.

“We highly appreciate the bravery and the persistence of the leaders of both North Macedonia and Greece and the example set for solving the bilateral issues. We believe that this will contribute to solving other issues and bring stability in the region, as well as a future in the EU for us,” the petition read.

The petition is signed by 85 NGOs, amongst which is the European Movement in Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia, the Foundation for Open Society from Serbia and Albania, the Initiative Youth for Human Rights from Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, and the Center for European Policy.

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Vucic insists on EU membership guarantee as part of Kosovo deal

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he will seek a guarantee that his country would join the European Union in 2025 as part of any deal with Kosovo which would pave the way for both countries to enter the bloc.

Serbia and its former province Kosovo committed to an EU-mediated dialogue to improve relations and resolve all disputes between them in 2013, but little progress has been made since then.

“If we ever reach an agreement with Pristina, Serbia would need to get a clear guarantee that it would become EU member in 2025,” Vucic told The Standard in an interview.

Vucic and Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci abruptly called off a tete-a-tete meeting in Brussels last Friday, where the two sides were expected to discuss a land swap plan for the first time.

Vucic said it could take up to 10 years for Belgrade and Pristina to reach an agreement due to many differences of opinion.

“Sometimes I smile when I hear how people simplify things and say that the deal comes down to a line – I will give you three villages and I will get six villages in return,” he said.

“If we were ever to reach a deal

[with Pristina]

it would have to be an overall deal that would include not only relations between us and the Albanians in Kosovo, but it would also have to include a resolution of our EU path and further economic progress,” he said.

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120 Albanian nationals seeking asylum in France return to Albania

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“Deportation from EU countries is accompanied by additional measures, including a ban on travel to the Schengen area for up to several years, Perparim Dema, the Head of the Rinas Police Commissariat warned.

At the Rinas airport, 120 Albanian nationals, asylum seekers in France, have voluntarily returned, avoiding thus possible penalties stemming from the failure to comply with the Schengen area residence permits.

This was one of the largest voluntary repatriation operations. According to the Head of the Rinas Police Commissariat, Perparim Dema, this operation is important as their return was voluntary – an auxiliary element in preventing irregular movement in the Schengen area.

Appealing to Albanian citizens to respect the rules of movement, Dema said “I want to appeal to all Albanian citizens not to abuse the freedom of movement. Albania is a safe country and it is considered by EU countries. There is no chance to have asylum applications approved.”

Albanian citizens, who agreed to return voluntarily from France, avoided possible penalties from the failure to comply with the regulation of Schengen areas. “Deportation from European Union (EU) countries is accompanied by additional measures, including a ban on travel to the Schengen areas for several years,” a press release said.

Perparim Dema, Director of Rinas Police Station, called on Albanian citizens to respect the rules of movement in Schengen areas.

According to Eurostat official data, 5,035 Albanian citizens applied for asylum in EU countries in the second quarter of 2019.

Another 100 Albanian citizens were repatriated on Wednesday from France, Belgium and Germany for violating the rules of movement in Schengen area.

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Earthquake jolts Albania

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A 3.1-magnitude earthquake hit Albania last night, with tremor felt in western parts of North Macedonia, the Seismological Observatory at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics said on Monday.

The quake struck at 23:15, the epicenter was 115 kilometers southwest of Skopje.

The quake, with a magnitude of 3.1 on the Richter, was felt in the western parts of our country with an intensity of III on the European macro-seismic scale.

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