Albanian Prime Minister to UK: “Please don’t go”

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks at the news conference with visiting Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the first Serbian leader to visit the nation after a troubled past, at the Palace of Brigades in the Albanian capital, Tirana, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Both countries are trying to overcome their troubled past while working toward EU membership. Relations between the two Balkan states remain strained, mainly over the former Serbian province of Kosovo where majority ethnic Albanians declared independence in 2008 which Serbia refused to recognize. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

BELGRADE – When Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote to the Times of London about the risk of Brexit, his message was clear – and echoed other Balkan nations desperate to join the European Union.

“Please don’t go,” Rama pleaded, reported.

As Britons head towards Thursday’s stay-or-go referendum on the EU, countries in south-eastern Europe fear for the impact on their own hopes of joining the Brussels club if the Leave campaign wins.

“My biggest fear is that the Western Balkans will go ‘below the radar’ whatever happens in the UK,” said Tanja Mišcević, who is leading Serbia’s negotiations with the EU.

“Negotiations between the 27 member states and the UK will be a priority on the EU’s agenda along with the migrant crisis, Turkey and then – if something else does not come up – enlargement and Serbia,” she said.

Six Balkan countries have officially said they want to join the EU: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – together home to around 20 million people.