published : 2023-08-21
Balkan Leaders Convene in Athens: Zelenskyy a Possible Attendee Amid Global Anticipation
A day after accepting Denmark's offer of F-16 warplanes, Zelenskyy's presence in Athens remains shrouded in mystery
A highly anticipated meeting took place on the cobblestone streets of Athens this past Monday, where the leaders of nine Balkan nations crossed borders under the hospitable umbrella of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
This gathering, held on an informal dinner table, was graced by the formidable presence of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, head of the European Council.
But the question on everyone's mind pertained to one possible attendee - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Tantalizing whispers of his attendance ebbed and flowed throughout the evening, keeping suspense at a fever pitch, though no official confirmation was forthcoming.
Recently risen to global fame for his staunch resistance against the Russian invasion, Zelenskyy was last seen Monday morning in the Danish Parliament, expressing heartfelt gratitude for the F-16 fighter jets gifted by Denmark to aid in his nation's defense.
This historic event mirrored the 20th anniversary of a seminal summit that took place in Thessaloniki, girding the intentions of Balkan nations to integrate into the European Union.
Among the esteemed guests were the leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, Moldova, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania and the head of the council of ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The absence of the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, however, was glaringly apparent. Mired in a diplomatic conundrum surrounding the arrest of the ethnic Greek minority leader Fredi Beleri, Rama's exclusion served as a poignant reminder of simmering tensions between Greece and Albania.
Beleri, despite being under pre-trial detention, triumphed in the mayoral race for the southwestern Albanian town of Himara. Greece, asserting the arrest to be politically driven, has been vocally advocating for his release.
Reflecting on Rama's exclusion, Greek government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis reiterated during a press conference that Albania's path to EU integration hinged on adherence to European rules and judiciary principles, and that this was an invite Albanian President Bajram Begaj had declined to accept.