Dacic: Greater Albania biggest threat to peace in Balkans (Tanjug/RTS/Beta)
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s statement about a union between Albania and Kosovo confirms once again that creation of a Greater Albania is a common platform of all ethnic Albanians, which is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Balkans and Europe, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Tuesday. “I’m asking the international community what would happen if Vucic said that the unification of Serbia and Republika Srpska was possible if we didn’t join the EU? I’m sure that everyone would voice their opinions, accusing Serbia of being a threat to peace. Therefore I ask the EU, the United States, Great Britain and others, how long will you keep silent when someone threatens Serbia? Or is silence a sign of approval,” Dacic was quoted by the Foreign Ministry.
Stefanovic: Dangerous and irresponsible statement by Rama (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic called Rama’s statement “very dangerous” and “irresponsible”. “It does not contribute to anything good in the region, nor does it contribute to anything the EU stands for, or to good neighborly relations,” Stefanovic told reporters in Belgrade. “We always say, notwithstanding the different aspirations and ambitions, that Kosovo is a part of Serbia and that it will always be so. Those who are deliberating on an illegal seizing of parts of our territory or a violent rewriting of borders have to understand that this will be perceived as an act of hostility towards Serbia,” he said.
Djuric to Rama: Impolite to eye parts of foreign territories (RTS)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric thinks that nobody should be playing by trying to revive the fascist idea of a Greater Albania and recalls that this idea has been buried forever with Enver Hoxha. “I would like to inform Edi Rama and Hashim Tachi that Enver Hoxha is dead and that, together with him, the idea of a Greater Albania, which belongs to the part of a dark fascist past of this part of our Balkan Peninsula, has also been buried,” Djuric said in a statement to the media. “It is impolite to eye parts of foreign territories, so keep your hands off Serbia,” said Djuric. Asked whether there were reactions of European officials to Rama’s statement, Djuric says that international officials should finally take away matches from the arsonists in Tirana and Pristina.
Speaking about Hashim Tachi’s threats with a lawsuit against Serbia for genocide, he says this shows in what way would Pristina use possible membership in international organizations. “Fortunately, our southern province will never become a member of the UN or of any other organization of this type, and separatists in Pristina should deal with the economy, corruption, serious problems that exist there, without provoking additional tensions,” concluded Djuric.
Achievements of Brussels dialogue are at stake (RTS)
The statements by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama are shifting from the dream of a Greater Albania being dead and not living among modern Albanians, to unification of Albania and Kosovo being possible. Dragan Djukanovic from the Center for Foreign Policy says that the statement on unification of Albania and Kosovo is not surprising and represents a continuity of his statements. “His expose in 2014 includes the idea on protecting the Albanian population in all Western Balkan states. This is a failed attempt pf creating some mega-state. Such attempts have not succeeded in the recent past in the Balkans. I think this statement will also encounter disapproval both in Brussels and in Washington. I expect some kind of reaction,” Djukanovic told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS).
Hashim Tachi has almost simultaneously announced that they will sue Serbia for genocide. “That is an attempt to avoid what Pristina had committed to do – to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO), they will always look for an excuse to prolong this and to deteriorate relations with Belgrade,” said Djukanovic. “I expect Washington to also get involved and to additionally influence Pristina so the ZSO could be formed. Almost four years have passed, while the key segment of the agreement has not been realized – whereby the achievements of the dialogue are at stake,” says Djukanovic.
“Strengthening of Erdogan will influence the Bosniak-Albanian factor in Western Balkans. I expect additional instability inside B&H, having in mind close relations between the member of the B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic and Erdogan and, in this regard, Turkey has proven that it conducts an unbalanced policy towards Western Balkans factors – it offers significant political support to some, and to some it doesn’t. I think his success at the referendum will essentially impact the continuation of bad relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo since the idea on a Serbian-Bosniak dialogue, intensively offered by Belgrade as an option, will not be accepted, while I expect inside B&H a double fight of the Bosniak elite towards the Republika Srpska and a geopolitical, internal game with the Croats inside the B&H Federation,” says Djukanovic.
“One of the key components of the government foreign policy was regional stability and improving relations in the region. I hope this will also be the case in the following period and I expect that Vucic will perhaps visit Sarajevo and Zagreb by the end of the year, because Belgrade is striving to improve relations with the B&H central authorities, but numerous circumstances have been preventing this, as well as lack of will of the Bosniak elite in Sarajevo,” concluded Djukanovic.
EU reacts to Rama’s statement (Beta)
The European Union has said that political interference undermines the consolidation of good neighborly relations.The statement was made for Beta on Wednesday by Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, who stressed that the Western Balkans has a clear European perspective, as was recently confirmed by the European Council, the heads of state or government of the union. “We work with all partners in the region to achieve this goal, based on the principles of reconciliation and regional cooperation,” she said, when asked to convey EU’s position on Rama’s statement. She added that any form of political interference undermines the consolidation of good neighborly relations in the region.
NATO concerned about Rama’s statement (Beta)
NATO has voiced its concern over the latest deterioration of the security situation in the Western Balkans and has stated that it strongly encourages leaders in the region to be up to their responsibilities and continue the road of dialogue and reconciliation. A NATO official told Beta this in Brussels on 18 April, when asked for a comment on Rama’s statement. “NATO and others in the international community have the role of giving support, but the solving of problems in the region must happen within the Western Balkans themselves,” the official at NATO headquarters stated. When asked to reflect on the opinion of officials in Belgrade and elsewhere in the region that Rama’s statement, the NATO official underscored that NATO and the EU had strategic interests in a stable and progressive Western Balkan region. “The stability and security of the region are useful to the stability and security of Europe and hence NATO,” he stressed, “will maintain its presence, focus and engagement in the Western Balkans, including our KFOR mission.” “KFOR will continue to play its role and give support to all people in Kosovo, in accordance with its U.N. mandate,” the NATO source said.
Djuric with EULEX representatives on attacks on Serbs (FoNet)
On the occasion of increasingly frequent attacks on the Serbs and open threats with violence arriving from extreme political and religious circles in Kosovo, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric held an urgent meeting with EULEX high officials, the Office announced. According to Djuric, the latest series of attacks on the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, has caused great concern and anxiety of the Serbs in the province. Djuric pointed out that it is necessary to make serious efforts in the field so the instigators and organizers of these attacks would be disabled to seriously and permanently disrupt the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija and jeopardize everything that has been reached in the normalization process between Belgrade and Pristina. Djuric also held a phone conversation with Angelina Eichhorst, European External Action Service Director for Western Europe, Western Balkans and Turkey, about the current security situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the perspectives of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. He underlined the key significance of implementing reached agreements on the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities for resuming the dialogue and normalization process, reads the statement by the Office for Kosovo and Metohija.
Gojkovic: MPs elect and dismiss parliament speaker (Politika)
All MPs’ proposals, including requests for my dismissal, are legal and legitimate, but I am not the one deciding whether and when something will be included on the agenda, there is a clear procedure for this that all need to respect, Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic told Politika. She says that, according to the rules, none of the requests for her dismissal can be included on the agenda of the commenced session, which resumes today. “MPs voted for me to head the parliament, they will also decide whether I will continue to do this. If the decide that they don’t want, then it will be so, I don’t see anything bad about it,” says Gojkovic.
Serbs targeted in new incident in Kosovska Mitrovica (RTS/Tanjug)
Two men wearing balaclavas have attacked a Serb man and his common-law wife in Kosovska Mitrovica last night, RTS is reporting. The man, a 41-year-old whose initials are B.K., suffered injuries to his head and leg. RTS said it learned unofficially that the attackers spoke Albanian as they verbally abused the victims. Tanjug was told by the Kosovo police that the incident happened when the attackers entered the building where the victims live in Kolasinska St. in Kosovska Mitrovica. The prosecutor in charge said the case was treated as serious bodily harm and added that the police were taking further legal measures in order to find the attackers.
The police said they had maximally stepped up controls in the streets of this northern Kosovo town after Monday’s incidents, when a Serb man was attacked by a group of masked assailants.
Protests continue across Serbia (Beta)
The participants of the 16th consecutive “Against dictatorship” protest in Belgrade ended their protest march in front of the parliament building at around 9 p.m. on 18 April and announced that they would gather in the same spot on 19 April. According to unofficial police estimates, the rally started out with several hundred people swelling to between two and three thousand during the march. Protests were also held in Novi Sad, Subotica and Nis. In Novi Sad the participants announced that the protest would be held again on 19 April, but this time at noon instead of the usual evening, when the protesters would join the post office workers on strike.
HNS Presidency holds session in Mostar; Covic: HDZ B&H will send amendments to B&H Election Law in parliamentary procedure in next five to six days (TV1)
Presidency of Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) held a session in Mostar on Tuesday. After the session, leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic announced that HDZ B&H will send amendments to B&H Election Law in parliamentary procedure in the next five to six days. Covic stated that HDZ B&H remains committed to their previous stances to elect 17 representatives from ranks of Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks, who will later on, elect representatives at the state level. Covic concluded that the story will be completed in this way. However, Covic also announced that HDZ B&H has back up plans in case of failure to adopt the amendments to B&H Election Law. Covic refused to reveal details of the plans, but he explained that the party will first try to implement ideas for which they believe can be passed in parliament. Meanwhile, media in Mostar close to HNS, revealed some details of the alleged plan ‘B’ which imply that staff of HDZ B&H leaves work in B&H Council of Ministers, Federation of B&H government, Federation of B&H parliament and B&H parliament.
Izetbegovic argued that HDZ B&H has started to make unilateral moves when it comes to the issue of amending of B&H Election Law, adding that no unilateral or modified solutions will be accepted. HDZ B&H is also planning to launch similar activities related to amending Law on Public Broadcasting System of B&H, Law on Distribution of Public Revenues and two other laws. Izetbegovic stressed that SDA will accept no blackmails.
Commenting on the announcement of Covic that HDZ B&H will send amendments to B&H Election Law in parliamentary procedure in the next five to six days, SDA MP in the B&H HoR Halid Genjac expressed his doubts on whether Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) will manage to do something that not even legal experts and members of the Inter-Departmental Working Group tasked with preparing amendments to the Election Law of B&H have managed to do.
Representatives of SDP B&H stressed that it is unacceptable to pursue the policy through ultimatums and conditioning, noting that it was mentioned earlier that certain concessions were made between HDZ B&H and SDA related to the B&H Election Law and constituencies. SDP B&H officials once again stressed that they will never support any kind of proposal which would lead to further divisions. SDP B&H Political Director Damir Masic said that “this is an opportunity for the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to react, as an institution that has been mostly a silent observer of events in B&H over the past years”.
B&H MoD finds Dodik’s speech on Day of RS Army disputable (Nezavisne/Glas Srpske/BN TV)
Cabinet of Chairman of B&H Presidency Mladen Ivanic stated on Tuesday that B&H Presidency received a letter from B&H Ministry of Defense, related to celebration of the Day of the 3rd Infantry (Republika Srpska) Regiment of B&H Armed Forces and the Day of the Republika Srpska (RS) Army. According to the letter, B&H Presidency is expected to present its stance about a program of the celebration ceremony and a speech of RS President Milorad Dodik at the central part of the event. Commenting on the letter, Ivanic stated for BN TV that such approach and disrespect of the RS and its institutions and constant production of political crisis mean that “there is less and less B&H each day”. Ivanic stressed: “It is obvious that someone in B&H constantly needs crisis, raising of new dilemmas, unnecessary conflicts but the important things is that this is not coming from the RS. We (the RS) will know how to find right responses to these challenges like we did in the past. I will do my best that things move on as before. It is normal that the RS President has the right to address the Regiment that continues tradition of the RS Army. Making these kinds of moves mean that there is less and less B&H each day and those who are doing this allegedly on behalf of B&H, are ruining B&H every day, with these moves”. According to Ivanic, it is unacceptable that the program of the event becomes a subject of new political crisis in B&H.
Deputy Minister of Defense Boris Jerinic stated that the letter was not approved by the Collegium of the Ministry, Minister and Deputy Ministers, and it was sent on Christian holiday, Good Friday, when all Croat and Serb staff members were absent from work. It was signed by the Ministry’s Secretary Muhamed Smajic. According to him, RS Presidents always attend the ceremonies marking the RS Army Day, and there is nothing disputable about it.
SNSD’s representative in the House of Representatives of the Parliament of B&H Milica Markovic said that someone is obviously trying to create problems where problems do not exist. “They are trying to fabricate problems in order to focus negative energy towards the RS, and turn attention away from million problems in B&H”, Markovic said. High-ranking SDS official Milovan Bjelica also condemned attempts to dispute the right of RS officials to address the ceremony of marking of the Day of the 3rd Infantry Regiment.
The ceremony is scheduled to take place on May 12 in Banja Luka.
Dodik sends open letter to Bishop Komarica saying his untruthful statements do not contribute to peace and coexistence (RTRS)
President of Republika Srpska (RS) and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik sent on Tuesday an open letter to Banja Luka Bishop Franjo Komarica, in which he stated that Komarica’s untruthful statements do not contribute to peace and coexistence and underscored that basic human rights, human dignity and the right of every man to freedom and his own identity are respected in the RS. Dodik also stressed that Komarica misused the great Orthodox holiday of Easter in order to present a series of untruths and to attack the RS with statements such as those that genocide against Croats was committed in the RS. Dodik reminded that Bosniaks, Croats and other citizens of the RS live in this entity without any problems. Furthermore, the President of the RS emphasized that Komarica is deeply and adventurously meddling in politics and, at the same time, he is demonstrating total ignorance. Dodik also pointed out that Komarica’s claims that no other peoples exist in the RS are not true and deemed Banja Luka Bishop’s statement that the RS is a travesty is inappropriate and irresponsible, especially for a bishop. “Fundamental human rights, i.e. human dignity and the right of every man to freedom and his own identity are respected in the RS. Proof of this is the fact that three ministers in the government of the RS, Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Supreme Court come from ranks of Croats,” Dodik wrote in the letter. He also argued that the RS was created as an expression of the wish of Serbs for freedom, peace and coexistence, adding that the entity is regulated by the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), it has its own Constitution, laws, and democratically elected authorities. Dodik stressed that Komarica’s cry about the declining number of Catholics in the RS represents avoidance of truth, noting that the majority of Croats from the territory of the RS now live in one of the 50,000 apartments and houses which were owned by Serbs, who were expelled from Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, Karlovac and other cities in Croatia. He recalled that the RS gave back apartments or houses to every Croat and Bosniak returnee, noting that Croatia refused to do the same. The RS President added that the reason for this is fact that the international community (IC) turned a blind eye and because Komarica is providing false information to the IC on the situation of Serb refugees and the status of their property in Croatia. Dodik also stressed that the Banja Luka Bishop always talks about the status of Croats, but never mentions or advocates equality of all peoples. The RS President concluded by saying that it is interesting that Komarica is talking about jeopardized Croats in a moment when more than 67,000 Croatian citizens of Serb ethnicity have been deleted from voters’ list in Croatia.
Cormack: OHR will stay until B&H becomes functional country (BHT1)
Asked if US is slowly withdrawing from B&H, US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack replied negatively and explained that their relations change as the country develops, because B&H has significantly progressed since 1995. “Citizens have to come out and take responsibility for the future,” Cormack said, adding that the US will assist in the process. In regards with the OHR, Cormack said that their presence is still necessary and added that the OHR will stay until B&H becomes a functional country. “We will be glad to see that successful moment for the OHR to be closed down,” she said. Asked if that means that B&H is a semi-functional country, Cormack noted that there was the 2016 referendum in Republika Srpska (RS) that was considered as a problem, while there are difficulties in implementation of the Reform Agenda, which was endorsed by all political parties. Asked if the US will continue imposing sanctions against those who undermine the Dayton Peace Agreement, Cormack explained that criteria for sanctions are clear, and added that they will be imposed if the criteria are met.
Koenders: Vast majority of Dutch MPs support Montenegro in NATO (CDM)
Ratification of the Montenegro’s NATO Accession Protocol in the Dutch parliament is over and the vast majority of MPs supported it, said the minister of foreign affairs of the Netherlands Bert Koenders after meeting with Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic. He explained that the Netherlands has a law on a referendum and ratification comes into force after passing procedures in accordance with the law. “That is the procedure for adoption any law and it has nothing to do with Montenegro and NATO. There is nothing controversial about it because the vast majority of MPs in the Dutch parliament support Montenegro’s accession to NATO, as well as the Dutch government,” said Koenders. He added that Montenegro showed seriousness when it comes to implementation of reforms and that the Netherlands would support it in implementing the reforms in the area of rule of law. After the meeting, Darmanovic said that the visit showed the Netherlands remained committed to supporting Euro Atlantic aspirations of Montenegro.
“The two countries have no outstanding issues and we’ve talked about enhancing bilateral cooperation particularly in the economic field,” said Darmanovic. As a reminder, the government of Montenegro adopted the Draft Law on the Ratification of the North Atlantic Agreement and sent it to the parliament for passing by a quick vote. Darmanovic said that the law might be adopted in the next ten to fifteen days.
After US President Donald Trump signed the ratified protocol on the NATO expansion, only Spain and the Netherlands are left to finalize their ratification procedures.
Parliament filibuster continues, debate focused on the Tirana platform (MIA)
Macedonian parliament debate resumed on Tuesday after the Easter break continued along similar as in the past three weeks with lengthy discussions focused on the controversial Tirana platform and an effective filibuster on the session. VMRO-DPMNE representatives pressured those from SDSM to own up to what VMRO considers a post-election fraud, when the left wing party accepted to form a Government with the support of the parties that signed on to the platform. VMRO-DPMNE’s Ilija Dimovski said that the platform represents a radical re-drawing of the 2001 Ohrid framework agreement that regulated inter-ethnic relations following that year’s conflict. Representatives from SDSM asked that the session is unblocked and that the Parliament moves forward to elect a new Speaker. One of the candidates for a temporary Speaker, the oldest MP Branko Manojlovski, spoke in Albanian in the session. He was elected on the DUI ticket and self-identifies as an Albanian whose family adopted the Macedonian language and maintained the Christian faith. SDSM asked that Manojlovski leads the Parliament session on the rule that the oldest representative leads the first session, but it was decided that VMRO-DPMNE’s Trajko Veljanoski, as the out-going Speaker, should conclude the constitutive session. SDSM are now calling on Veljanoski to remove himself from the seat and end the filibuster.
Meanwhile, SDSM leader Zoran Zaev met with former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who is in Macedonia via the European Committee on Foreign Relations institute and afterwards issued a press release saying that the SDSM led majority will unblock the process in parliament. “We will soon elect a new Speaker, and then a new reformist Government, as is the decision of a majority of the citizens, expressed in credible elections”, SDSM said in a press release following the meeting.
The way out of the crisis is up to the Macedonian parties, says Ahmeti after meeting with Bildt (Meta)
Everybody should behave responsibly, said the leader of DUI Ali Ahmeti, after meeting with former Prime Minister and the former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. “This was a very interesting meeting because Carl Bildt has great experience and he is a great expert on current affairs, politics, the Balkans and elsewhere. We all need to behave responsibly,” said Ahmeti. According to him this is a difficult process. “DUI, as a party, up until now has invested everything and has gone to great efforts to form a parliamentary majority, but now, the decision to pull the country out of this situation and the continuation for further process, is now up to the major Macedonian political parties,” Ahmeti said. Bildt reiterated that he is here to listen to the parties and that the solution is in the Constitution.
Gruevski has informed Bildt about “the priorities that are well known to the public” (Meta)
Bildt finished his visit to Macedonia after the meeting with the party leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, but the party isn’t revealing any details about the meeting. When asked by Meta whether there will be an announcement about the meeting, the party replied that there won’t be any and they sent us the following message: “The president of VMRO_DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, together with the members of the party’s leadership welcomed the representatives of the non-government organization European Council for Foreign Policy, led by Carl Bildt. At the meeting, he announced the priorities of Republic of Macedonia and VMRO-DPMNE, which are well known to the general public.
The Swedish diplomat had separate meetings with the party leaders of SDSM, DUI, and Besa, during which he spoke about the political situation in Macedonia, possible solutions for the crisis and the pressure on non-government organizations after last year’s early parliamentary elections.
Bildt said that he isn’t carrying any solution but that he is here to hear the political leaders who will have to find the road to the solution. Still, on his twitter account, he gave his opinions about who are the three key points that will guide the politicians during the process of solving the crisis. “Democracy, Constitution, Europe. Respect for the three will carry Macedonia forward. That was my answer to media questions in Skopje,” wrote Bildt.
Zaev meets with four ambassadors: Macedonia must continue with the democratic processes (Meta)
The Republic of Macedonia must continue with the democratic processes. This was stated at today’s meeting between the leader of SDSM, Zoran Zaev and the ambassadors of Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands in the country, Christine Althauser, Charles Garrett, Mats Staffansson and Wouter Plomp. “The parliamentary majority of 67 MPs is ready to realize the people’s will for change, which they expressed at the elections on December the 11th. The next steps which should follow, is to elect a new Parliament Speaker and a new pro-reform government, in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of Parliament and the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia”, said Zaev at the meeting, announced SDSM. The meeting focused on the need and the responsibility of all political subjects in the country, institutions and individuals to facilitate this process, as well as “the consequences of the eventual possibility of unconstitutional conduct to the detriment of national interests.” “It is necessary that Trajko Veljanoski and Gjorge Ivanov act in accordance with the will of the majority of citizens, and the opposition leader, Nikola Gruevski and VMRO-DPMNE to allow a peaceful transfer of power”, said Zaev. The party added that at the meeting they assessed that the way out of the crisis is the implementation of the Urgent Reform Priorities, which will unblock the Euro-Atlantic prospects of the country.
Basha: Formation of a technical government, opposition’s main non-negotiable condition (ATA)
The main opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, on the 60th day of a protest against the Socialist Party-led government on Tuesday, reiterated his demand for the Prime Minister Edi Rama to resign and make way for the formation of a technical administration. Addressing supporters in the so-called “Freedom’s Tent”, set up in front of the Prime Minister’s office along Tirana’s main “Martyrs of Nation” boulevard, DP leader said the unstoppable opposition’s protest won’t end unless the main condition for creation of a technical administration to lead the country in “free and fair elections” was met. “This tent has room for all citizens, except criminals. The April bad weather conditions will end in few days’ time. But what is not going to leave is the Albanian citizens’ alliance for free and fair elections through a technical government,” opposition leader stated. According to Basha, it was the public interest, national interest that had united Albanian citizens to seek such a solution to the current political deadlock.
Rama: Germany’s message was clear (ATA)
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel had sent a clear message to Albania and to the opposition democrats to return to parliament and end the country’s political deadlock. The government head said he was in constant communication with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European People’s Party, where Albania’s Democratic Party is a member, but their efforts to convince democrats to come back to Parliament had failed. “I’m in constant communication with Chancellor Merkel and I think, unfortunately, the German FM’s clear statement was an expression of the outrage over the fact that all attempts made by the European conservatives, where DP is a member, have proven unsuccessful” said Rama. “However, this confirms everything I have repeatedly said because no one understands this opposition’s surreal approach. I didn’t feel comfortable because although this is a responsibility of the DP leadership, such statements really hurt Albania’s reputation,” the Prime Minister said. The Foreign Ministers of Germany and Netherlands, who visited Albania a day ago, called on the centre-right opposition to end the parliamentary boycott and unblock implementation of important reforms, judiciary reform and vetting process in particular.
Rama: Vetting, irreversible process, it may be delayed, but not stopped (ATA)
Following yesterday’s parliamentary session on setting up of two 12 and 6-member ad hoc committees that will select the candidates for the vetting institutions of the Albanian judges and prosecutors, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that, “opposition absence is a blot of shame that the party which was born from the slogan “Albania like all Europe” is putting on itself or is trying to put on Albania”. Rama said that the delay in launching the vetting process slows down Albania’s progress toward the EU integration. Rama considered reform in the judiciary as a twenty-five year aspiration of the Albanian people so that to free the justice system from the clutches of corruption. “One thing is crystal clear. The failure to realize the vetting process seriously hurts Albania’s membership process in the EU, but unfortunately the Democratic Party is almost dividing us from Europe where we want to belong. On our part, we have continued to take forward an irreversible process. Vetting can be delayed, but cleansing of the palace of justice cannot be stopped. Establishing a justice system in the function of citizens cannot be stopped,” Rama.
Parliament approves establishment of two ad-hoc vetting committees (ADN)
Parliament approved Tuesday in an extraordinary session with 82 votes pro the establishment of two ad-hoc committees made up of 12 and 6 members that will select the candidates for Albanian judges and prosecutors’ vetting institutions. The 12-member committee includes the SP lawmakers Pandeli Majko, Evis Kushi, Ulsi Manja and Bashkim Fino, the SMI lawmaker Luan Rama and PJIU lawmaker, Mesila Doda, while the 6-member committee includes the SP lawmakers Vasilika Hysi and Ervin Bushati and SMI lawmaker, Vangjel Tavo.
Yesterday’s session was held without the presence of the opposition lawmakers, whose boycott holds back these committees which need the candidates of opposition to set the vetting committees to work. Today parliament will convene to hold the first round for election of the new president.
Kukan: Without respecting the rule of law there is no EU accession (European Western Balkans, 19 April 2017)
European Western Balkans spoke to MEP Eduard Kukan, Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee. Kukan served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia from 1998 to 2006. He also was UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Balkans.
European Western Balkans: After 60 years of the Rome Treaty a lot of things changed in the EU. How do you see the perspective of the European enlargement? Is it still possible?
Eduard Kukan: Yes, EU enlargement is an ongoing process, as can be seen by concrete advances in Montenegro and Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU success in 2016. The celebration of the Rome Treaty anniversary was a not only an opportunity to look back at the achievements of the integration process and it’s meaning for our continent, but also a way to look forward to the next decades. That is why I think it’s a pity the leaders of the Western Balkans were not invited to the celebration in Rome. It would have been a good and encouraging signal from our side.
European enlargement is still a big part of our common project, and support to it was also underlined in The Rome Declaration: “We want a Union which remains open to those European countries that respect our values and are committed to promoting them”. This resonated also at the EPP Congress in Malta earlier this year. These statements speak to the essence of the European perspective of Western Balkans: by a genuine dedication to the reform process and advancing in it, the EU is ready to welcome new members.
EWB: How would you asses the current state of democracy in the Western Balkans?
EK: We are seeing a worrying trend across the entire region, notably in relation to the regular functioning of parliamentary democracy and certain state institutions. It creates almost a vicious circle in which weak democracies fuel into weak institutions and the other way around.
We are facing serious political crises in Macedonia and Albania. Other countries in the region, for instance Montenegro and Kosovo, are struggling with parliamentary boycotts. This seems to be a regional trend, which is counter-productive to the democratic development in the countries at the European doorstep. I hope the upcoming months will see a significant reversal in this trend. It is, after all, the first Copenhagen criterion and the most fundamental one.
EWB: What do you see as the main benefits for Serbia in the accession to the EU?
EK: Serbia joining the EU will be a fulfilment of its strategic orientation. Serbia is a part of Europe and I believe it should be strongly anchored in the European Union as well. The benefits of EU membership are peace, stability, democratic rule of law, and the benefits of an integrated market. That translates also into a strong economy which follows rules. Being inside the club is always better, because you can participate on the decision-making process. Being on the outside of the European Union means you only observe the consequences of the decisions of the continent, and you have no active say in them. So for me, the choice is clear and I hope the same applies to Serbia.
EWB: As the chair of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, how would you assess the progress of Serbia in the negotiations?
EK: Serbia is steadily progressing in the negotiations, which is proved by the latest opening and provisional closing of chapters in February 2017. The accession process takes time and cannot be rushed, and I think we should sometimes be reminded of it. My own country negotiated for over 8 years.
Serbia needs to continue to show that EU accession is a goal for the country, while playing a positive role in the region. I think that Serbia is performing well and I encourage the Maltese Presidency and the subsequent Presidencies to aim at opening, and eventually also closing negotiating chapters.
EWB: Serbian CSO are concerned about media freedom and human rights in the country, beside the fact that Serbia is making progress in the accession talks. What are your thoughts about this issue?
EK: We observe the situation in Serbia and take the concerns of the civil sector seriously. Respecting the rule of law and fundamental freedoms is a prerequisite for any modern and democratic European country. And once again, it is the first Copenhagen criterion. Without it, there is no EU accession.
CSOs are not enemies of the state. They also aren’t the opposition to the government. They are there to reflect the feedback of the society on the state of play of affairs in the country. The state institutions should cooperate with them and listen to their concerns.