Vucic: Let EU openly say what is expected of Serbia regarding Kosovo (Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday urged the EU to say clearly and openly what is expected from Serbia regarding Kosovo. After the meeting of the High Cooperation Council of
Greece and Serbia in Thessaloniki, Vucic said that Serbia wanted to know the time frame for the country’s admission into the EU after it fulfills all the conditions, because with that knowledge the people would be more motivated and reforms would be carried out more quickly and easily.
“Kosovo is hidden behind the various objections regarding Chapters 23 and 24. If everything were right regarding Kosovo, we would have been the champions when it came to human rights too. We are waiting to see what will happen regarding Kosovo, but tell us openly what it is that we have to do and by when,” Vucic stated and added he knew what he was talking about because he has been experiencing this for five years already. “When we had much worse situation regarding the human rights and media freedoms, in the beginning of the mandate 2012/2013, when everything was under the hand of the same people who controlled it, everything was fine if you did something on the Kosovo issue. If no progress is made on the Kosovo issue from their aspect, all of a sudden nothing is good”, President said. He said that such stories or those concerning the relations with Russia are always initiated and he added that these two issues were crucial for them. “Tell us they are crucial, don’t keep us tied to something third that we know you are not as unhappy with as you are saying and you are using it in order to accomplish one of these two first things. Let us play open,” Vucic said. “We have no alternate paths, we are on the European path and it would be fair if the citizens knew when they can expect it (the membership in the Union),” Vucic said. According to him, asking such questions did not mean that Serbia was flirting with others, but that it sought respect and the same treatment as other countries. He added that Serbia was as ready for the EU as Bulgaria and Romania were in 2007. Vucic thanked Tsipras for support to Serbia’s European journey and for not recognizing Kosovo as independent. Vucic said that he had heard and understood Tsipras’ message about Greece and the EU expecting peace and stability, and that Serbia wanted to remain the pillar of stability, develop relations with the neighbors and, in such conditions, accomplish further economic growth.
Tsipras: Greece’s position on Kosovo and Metohija known (Tanjug/RTS)
Tsipras said he had also discussed Kosovo and Metohija at a meeting with Vucic, noting that Greece’s position on the matter was known. “It is based on respect of international law, the decisions of the UN Security Council and the need for peace in this region,” Tsipras told a joint press conference with Vucic in Thessaloniki.
Six interstate agreements with Greece signed (RTS)
Serbia and Greece signed yesterday in Thessaloniki six interstate agreements, attended by Vucic, and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Ivica Dacic and Nikos Kotzias, the foreign ministers of the two countries, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of culture between the Ministry of Culture and the Media of Serbia and the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Greece for the period from 2017 to 2021. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece on cooperation in the field of diplomatic training. Dacic and the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport of Greece Christos Spirtzis signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Serbia and Greece on the development of rail transport. The agreement between Serbia and Greece on social security was signed by Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic and Kotzias. Ljajic also signed the Agreement between the governments of Serbia and Greece on cooperation in the field of tourism with Minister of Tourism of Greece Elena Kountoura. The agreement between Serbia and Greece on mutual recognition of driving licenses was signed by Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and Spirtzis.
Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Greek Defense Minister Panos Kamenos agreed on the first session of the High Council for Cooperation between Serbia and Greece, that there is a mutual interest in defense cooperation. Vulin and Kamenos pointed out that the Protocol on Cooperation in the Field of Military Education, which was signed in Thessaloniki, is the confirmation of the further development of cooperation. They concluded that the relations between Serbia and Greece are traditionally friendly and that there is a clear commitment from both sides to further intensify cooperation in all areas of common interest, especially economic, as well as for the continuation of political dialogue. Vulin said that the strongest confirmation of the friendship is the continuing support that Greece gives to Serbia when it comes to EU membership and the preservation of territorial integrity and sovereignty in Kosovo and Metohija.
Dacic: Citizens need to know the dynamics of EU membership (RTS)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia that Serbia is not running away from its responsibility and that it will do everything needed for opening chapters in the EU negotiations, but that citizens need to know what the envisaged EU dynamics for accepting new members are. Speaking about Serbia-Macedonia relations, Dacic stressed that it is a clear situation that there is the principle of reciprocity in international relations. “The Macedonians are one of the closes nations to the Serbians, but the behavior of Macedonian authorities towards Serbia has not been the same to recognizing Macedonia according to the constitutional name,” said Dacic. He pointed out that Serbia angered Greece with this stand, while it received from Macedonia recognition of Kosovo’s independence. “My stand is clear – the way you behave towards us, we will behave in the same way towards you. Everyone should take care of their actions,” concluded Dacic.
SPS independently to take part in Kosovo local elections (Novosti)
The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) will take part independently at the local elections in Kosovo and Metohija that will be held on 22 October. This was decided at the SPS provincial board because, according to the statement, they are not satisfied with coalition partners at the local level. “We are taking part independently at the elections in all ten Serb majority municipalities, as well as in the Dragas municipality,” reads the statement of the SPS provincial board, adding that the “Kosovo Socialists have always respected coalition agreements and have given their maximum in elections campaigns, but later on they weren’t treated correctly by partners”.
From Jarinje to Kosovska Mitrovica (Blic)
If you own a Serbian passport issued by the temporary administration in Belgrade, you still need visas, which are not issued by the embassies in Belgrade or in Kosovo. A driver’s license issued in relocated temporary police administrations throughout Serbia is not valid only in southern Kosovska Mitrovica. They can take it away from you and seize your vehicle. The same is with medication. State pharmacies are empty. Medication arrives here in the form of humanitarian aid and they are delivered every six months, so shortages are frequent. Those who don’t have money to provide themselves with medication in private pharmacies, have to go to Raska with a prescription.
Problems here are divided to pre-Brussels one and those produced by the Brussels agreement. The story about water has been going on forever, other miseries are produced by the Brussels papers whose bureaucratic defects on the ground are creating even more chaos and sound only good as political phrases on progress. We are soon going to cover license plates with stickers so these symbols would not irritate, and Pristina’s Traffic Ministry is already prepared to implement this decree. We are waiting for Belgrade.
We went to the southern, Albanian part of Mitrovica. We realized something was wrong when Serbian flags were suddenly replaced with Albanian, always in pair with the American flag, and inscriptions in the Albanian language. Ibis Hajdari, former manager in “Kosovotrans”, presently owner of a private transport company, took us downtown to prove to us that we will not have any problems. And we didn’t have any, we spoke freely Serbian on the street and in the midst of a full café, and his explanation of post-war Kosovo is more interesting: “Even though it seems paradoxical, Milosevic did us good. Look at these people. Most of their relatives work abroad; they have money and live well. People ran away from poverty and repression and they saved themselves from poverty. Serbs in the northern part have a hard life and I sincerely regret that. Everyone should have a good life,” says Hajdari. Still, it would be careless and inaccurate to make final conclusions based on a visit of one journalist crew on “foreign” ground. The Albanians also reside in the northern part, while the Serbs in the southern part are an exception, and it is far from relaxing co-existence. When you ask both what would happen if a group of Albanian youngsters from the southern part would go to a café in the northern part, and vice versa, everybody will admit that this would probably be a problem. Compared to other parts of Kosovo where life goes on, Mitrovica has not yet emerged from the conflict mode. It is not even in the post-conflict period. It is wavering somewhere in between, while life is passing, not caring about statuses and agreements.
Covic holds separate meetings with Radoncic and Izetbegovic; Izetbegovic: SDA will not support HDZ B&H’s proposal of changes to B&H Election Law (FTV)
Croat member of the B&H Presidency and leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic held in Sarajevo on Thursday separate meetings with Bosniak member of the Presidency of B&H and leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic and leader of SBB B&H Fahrudin Radoncic. Reporter noted that the three officials were unable to sit at the same table due to disagreements related to the issue of the Election Law of B&H and due to B&H’s failure to sign the Transport Community Treaty of the South East Europe at the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste. Addressing reporters in front of the building of the Presidency of B&H, Izetbegovic criticized the fact that Croat Ministers in the Council of Ministers of B&H (B&H CoM) refused to support signing of the Transport Community Treaty. According to Izetbegovic, Croats claim they want to be the bearers of European processes, but at the same time, they block B&H’s accession to the Transport Community. Commenting on the issue of changes to the Election Law of B&H, Izetbegovic stressed that SDA will not support HDZ B&H’s proposal. Asked to comment on the work of the Council of Ministers of B&H (B&H CoM), the SDA leader stressed that the institution works in an adequate manner and that those who claim otherwise are politicking and trying to score political points ahead of the forthcoming elections. Commenting on Covic’s cooperation with SNSD leader and Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik, Izetbegovic said that Covic should turn to those who live with Croats, namely Bosniaks. Izetbegovic noted that reshuffling of the B&H CoM is unnecessary because current convocations is achieving successful results in spite of numerous difficulties. On the other hand, Covic stressed that it would be of vital importance to assume much more responsibility and start solving problems through dialogue. The Croat member of the Presidency of B&H also reiterated that changes to B&H Election Law will certainly be adopted in the House of Peoples of B&H (B&H HoP) and that elections in 2018 will certainly be held. “We already have the necessary majority in the House of Peoples of B&H. However, we still lack the necessary majority in the House of Representatives of B&H, but we will work on that,” Covic emphasized. Radoncic told reporters that SBB B&H no longer wants to hold talks with SDA due to Izetbegovic’s dishonesty. Commenting on the issue of the Election Law of B&H, Radoncic underlined that SBB B&H will present its stance on the matter after a thorough analysis of all proposals. Covic, Radoncic and Izetbegovic have no disagreements regarding B&H’s path to join the EU and NATO. Radoncic said that SBB B&H will support all reform laws in the coming period. He stressed that he is not content with work of the B&H CoM and that the SBB B&H supports the B&H CoM due to work of Minister of Transport and Communications of B&H Ismir Jusko (SBB B&H). Radoncic claims that the Chairman of the B&H CoM Denis Zvizdic does not have coalition capacities, let alone the capacity to do something with the opposition parties or the people from RS. Nevertheless, Radoncic deems that the composition of the authorities of B&H will remain unchanged until the 2018 elections.
Dodik proposed and Covic accepted that HDZ B&H and SNSD go together in 2018 general elections (Dnevni list)
Dnevni list daily reports about Wednesday’s meeting between leaders of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik, which took place in Mostar, daily reads that the two leaders have started a resolute offensive aimed at re-tailoring and reorganization of B&H to their and liking of their parties. Daily reminds that Covic and Dodik stated in Mostar that a parliamentary majority at the state level does not exist, which leads Osmovic to say it is clear the new pact between the two leaders will cause a new political storm. Osmovic writes that according to some information, albeit unofficial, coming from Mostar and Banja Luka, Dodik proposed and Covic accepted that HDZ B&H and SNSD go together in the 2018 general elections. That means, among other issues, that Croat voters in Republika Srpska (RS) should vote for SNSD’s candidate for member of the Presidency of B&H and that Covic will appoint future Croat Ministers in the RS Government. On the other hand, HDZ B&H will support (SNSD’s) candidate from line of Serbs in election for the Federation of B&H Vice President.
Prosecutor’s Office of B&H files indictment regarding referendum on RS Day, Dodik and Cvijanovic not included (RTRS)
The B&H Prosecutor’s Office has issued an indictment against President of the Commission for Implementation of Referendum in Republika Srpska (RS) Sinisa Karan and members of the Referendum Commission Dragoljub Reljic, Goran Zmijanjac and Milan Petkovic for failing to comply with the ruling of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H which banned holding of the referendum on the Day of the RS. At the same time, the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H suspended the investigation against the other five members of the Referendum Commission – MPs in the RS Assembly – due to the fact that they have immunity. The investigation against RS President Milorad Dodik, RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic, Serb member of the B&H Presidency Mladen Ivanic and Deputy Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Mirko Sarovic has also been suspended. The Prosecutor’s Office of B&H explained that the four individuals undertook a range of activities related to holding of the referendum on the Day of the RS on September 25, 2016, which heightened political tensions and divided the country along ethnic lines. “According to the charges, instead of acting in accordance with the Constitutional Court of B&H’s binding decision on temporary measures and discontinuing all activities related to the implementation of the referendum, through their actions and activities, they continued working, as the commission, on the organization and implementation of the referendum,” the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H said in a statement. However, the institution added it had halted investigations into Dodik, Ivanic, Cvijanovic and Sarovic, citing lack of evidence.
Zvizdic: B&H CoM will not accept conditions set by RS government (Hayat)
At the press conference held on Thursday, Chairman of B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic and B&H Minister of Transport and Communications Ismir Jusko talked about the Western Balkans Summit held on Wednesday. Among other things, Zvizdic talked about the fact B&H is the only Western Balkan country which failed to sign the Transport Community Treaty at the Trieste Summit. Zvizdic stressed that B&H CoM will not accept introduction of the system of rotation. He added that accepting of the RS government’s conditions would represent violation of constitutional structure of B&H. Zvizdic stress that any conditions set by the RS government are unacceptable. “The Federation of B&H Prime Minister sent us a statement reading precisely that he disagrees with the stance on the rotation system and that the Federation of B&H Government will not participate in any request related to the rotation, because these are exclusively state responsibilities,” said Zvizdic. “No constitution and no law at the B&H CoM level recognize the system of rotation,” Zvizdic explained, adding that the Treaty cannot be changed because it is agreed by all countries in the region. Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative in B&H Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark expressed regrets over the fact B&H was unable to sign the Transport Community Treaty and join the five other Western Balkans countries in the Transport Community Treaty, which opens new connections within the region and with the EU. “The Summit invited B&H to join as soon as possible and I hope that the country will be ready to sign the agreement in the near future. Now is not the time for any blame games as to why it was not possible for B&H to sign this important international agreement which has been in the making for eight years,” said Ambassador Wigemark. Statement issued by the European Union following the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste reads that the EU regrets the fact B&H was unable to sign the Transport Community Treaty. Furthermore, the EU called on B&H to join the Treaty as soon as possible. “The essence of the Transport Community is to bring the Western Balkans closer to the EU by creating a fully integrated transport network among the Western Balkans themselves as well as between the region and the EU”, reads the statement adopted at the end of the Summit. The statement also reads that the EU is still interested in creating a single economic space in the region, which would include the customs union as well. “Integrating the Western Balkans with the EU is a strategic investment in peace, democracy, prosperity, security and stability of Europe as a whole,” concludes the statement.
European path in focus (Oslobodjenje)
Member of the B&H Presidency Dragan Covic met with Principal Deputy High Representative and Brcko Supervisor Bruce Berton on Thursday in Sarajevo. Covic underlined that the European path of B&H is going to remain in focus during his chairmanship over the Presidency of B&H, adding he will make additional effort to speed up that road. Covic also met with Serbian Ambassador to B&H Stanimir Vukicevic. The two officials concluded that the relations between B&H and Serbia are good, but there is space to improve cooperation, especially in the sectors of economy and EU integration.
Defense Minister Krsticevic meets with US Defense Secretary Mattis (Vecernji list)
Operation Storm has changed the course of history and is now being taught at American military schools, said US Defense Secretary James Mattis. Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic, who met with his US counterpart James Mattis in Washington, stated that Croatia was closer to buying US aircraft and that the decision was expected by the end of the year, reports Vecernji list. “We have been waiting for the decision for 15 years, we have no more time… I have received Secretary Mattis’ support for this project. I think we are closer to purchasing US aircraft. The decision will be made by the end of the year,” said Krsticevic. During his visit to the United States, Minister Krsticevic will visit Lockheed Martin, where he will meet with Vice-President for International Cooperation Nancy Ziuzin Schegel. As announced by the Ministry of Defence, Krsticevic and Mattis stressed the exceptionally good cooperation between Croatia and the US as strategic allies and partners, especially in the field of defense and security.
The Ministry of Defence said that Secretary Mattis pointed out that Croatia is a small country that contributes significantly to international security and is an example of a great NATO ally. He supported Croatia regarding the acquisition of new combat aircraft. The statement also adds that, at the beginning of the meeting, Secretary Mattis praised the Operation Storm, saying that it “had changed the course of history and is taught today at American military schools as an example of a well-prepared and well-executed military operation”. At the meeting, they discussed the joint participation of the armed forces of the Republic of Croatia and the United States in NATO missions and operations around the world. “We are proud to serve side by side with Croatian soldiers in missions and operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo,” Mattis said, according to the Croatian Ministry of Defense statement, and Minister Krsticevic stressed that the United States was the most important strategic partner of Croatia. “We have been together in Afghanistan since 2003 and in Kosovo since 2008. I am proud that Croatia will be one of few NATO allies to participate in two combat groups: in Lithuania under the German leadership and in Poland under the American leadership, which shows our commitment to the alliance and responsibility for international actions,” said Minister Krsticevic.
Krsticevic and Mattis also discussed the common contribution to international security in crisis areas and efforts to combat terrorism, the security and political situation in the Croatian neighborhood and Southeast Europe, the continuation of US support in the development of Croatian defense capabilities, and the continuation of bilateral defense cooperation.
During his official visit to the United States, Minister Krsticevic has also visited the Arlington Cemetery in Washington and paid tribute at the tomb of unknown heroes. During his visit, he will also meet with Deputy Director of the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency Greg Kausner and Director of Defense Intelligence Agency General Vicent Stewart. He will also meet with representatives of the Croatian diaspora.
Croats wants protection for B&H Croats, Yugo-union was not created in Trieste (Vecernji list)
Croatia will not accept concept of civic B&H, we want protection for B&H Croats said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic during the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on margins of the Trieste Summit. According to the daily, they talked about the Western Balkans and position of Croats (in B&H), with Plenkovic rejecting possibility of undermining equality of Croats in B&H. Plenkovic rejected a possibility that Croatia accepts civic concept in B&H, which is allegedly an initiative of the German government and which would abolish status of three constituent peoples. “Croatia’s position is very clear, namely the Constitution of B&H is based on a principle one state, two entities and three constituent peoples,” said Plenkovic. The Croatian PM also noted that Croatia expect that the equality of peoples should be secured through changes to the Law on Elections of B&H before the 2018 general elections. Writing about the Trieste Summit, daily notes there are different comments about it. Daily reminds that the Transport Community Treaty was signed, without B&H, but a document on the customs union, which Germany’s Die Welt connects with attempt to Yugoslavia, which would be dominated by Belgrade, was not signed.
Ivanov – Baily: New incentive for Macedonia’s NATO membership is needed (Meta)
The President of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov met with the US Ambassador to the country, Jess Baily, where he stated that he expected American support and that their engagement will continue regarding Macedonia’s membership in the EU and NATO. “The Macedonian President pointed out that it is necessary to create a new motive and an additional incentive regarding Macedonia’s membership to NATO, stressing that the realization of our Euro Atlantic integration will contribute stability, security and prosperity in the entire region in a long run,” Ivanov’s cabinet stated.
On his “Twitter” account, Baily wrote that he had “a constructive meeting with President Gjorge Ivanov in Ohrid” and that “the partnership between the US and Macedonia remains strong”.
Ivanov and Baily, also, exchanged views and cooperation in fields such as security and defense through the realization of joint training and exercises with members of the Macedonian Army (ARM) and the US army. In this context, the participation of ARM in the multinational exercise “Saber Guardian 2017” were welcome, and they discussed about exchanging information and the upcoming exercise with ARM and US army in Europe, “Dragon Ride” which will occur from July the 28th until August the 8th at the army training base Krivolak.
Foreign Secretary Johnson: Britain ready to help Macedonia on its road to EU and NATO (MIA)
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson voiced strong support for the new Macedonian Government. Macedonia is finally on the right track and Britain will do its best to help the country to join the European Union and NATO, Johnson told Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at their meeting, held yesterday on the sidelines of the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste. Britain remains a partner of the Balkan region and active supporter of the democratic processes, Johnson said, adding that the friendship with Macedonia is vital for turning this goal into reality, the Government said in a press release on Thursday. Zaev on his part thanked Britain on its huge support of Macedonia, notifying that the new government will justify the trust it has been enjoying by working hard on advancing the democracy at home and in the region. The Government, he said, defined a timetable for completion of the urgent reform priorities, vital for the country’s accession to the European Union and NATO.
Zaev meets Slovenian counterpart Cerar (MIA)
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev met late Wednesday with Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar following the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste, the Government said in a press release. “The government is working on an ambitious reform plan 3-6-9 that is important for the country’s Euro-integration process, but also economic stabilization of citizens, enterprises and the state in general. We are committed to building clear and visible, sincere, good neighborly relations, because friendly cooperation is the only way to treating regional countries as serious partners. EU and NATO recognize the good will shown by Macedonia and the neighboring states, and this positive climate of trust should be justified, in the interest of our citizens”, said Zaev. Interlocutors agreed on enhancement of cooperation in all fields, especially the economic sector. They discussed the possibility of a meeting between the countries’ PMs and representatives of the business communities towards stimulating companies for more intensive economic cooperation. Cerar said Slovenia continues to strongly support Macedonia in achievement of its strategic Euro-Atlantic objectives. On the other hand, Zaev expressed gratitude over Slovenia’s friendship and commitment to Macedonia’s democratic processes and its EU and NATO membership aspirations, reads the press release.
Tsipras: Name issue must be resolved before our tiny neighbor joins NATO, EU (Meta)
The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has repeated that the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) must be resolved before the tiny Balkan neighbor can join the European Union and NATO. Speaking during a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ahead of a trilateral summit of Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian leaders in Thessaloniki, Tsipras said that there are “decisions of the European Council and the NATO summit that say that the name issue must be resolved first, in a mutually acceptable way.” He also said that the foreign ministers of both countries are in regular contact, while Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will talk with United Nations envoy Matthew Nimitz, who is mediating the talks between Greece and fYROM over the name issue.
Albania has made contribution to regional cooperation of tangible benefits, FM Bushati says at Trieste Summit (ATA)
Albanian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati attended 2017 Western Balkans Summit in Trieste, Italy, the fourth annual summit within the Berlin Process initiative for European integration of Western Balkans. Previous summits took place in Berlin in 2014, Vienna in 2015 and in Paris in 2016. Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni hosted the summit attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President of France Emmanuel Macron, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. In his speech delivered to the session of foreign ministers, Bushati highlighted the contribution that Albania has made to a regional cooperation of tangible benefits for the life of our citizens. While analyzing the progress made in the context of the Berlin process and the recent developments in the region, FM Bushati focused even on the positive developments in our country confirming the determination to proceed with implementation of reform in the justice system which will have a positive impact for the security and economic development of the country. The minister expressed his confidence that these achievements will prepare the ground necessary for the EU to take the decision for opening membership negotiations with Albania.
McAllister: No new membership until 2019, Montenegro and Serbia closer than other countries (ADN)
European Union will not accept any further new member until 2019. European Member of Parliament, David McAllister, the one who was part of the negotiations between the Prime Minister Edi Rama and the opposition leader, Lulzim Basha, made this strong and clear declaration on Thursday. He also underlined that country as Montenegro and Serbia are closer than other countries of the Western Balkans to be part of the EU. While Albania and others countries have a lot more to do. He underlined that the EU integration depends only by the countries that aspire to become part of this organization.
Albania with a smaller government in September (ADN)
The government of Albania will be smaller. Prime Minister, Edi Rama, unveiled on Thursday that his cabinet will be smaller in September. During a public hearing with the citizens of Durresi, he did not declared which ministry will be merged. “In September will start with the new government, smaller and more efficient. There will not be more ministries or agencies that do not respect the citizens and their needs. New communication structure will be very powerful,” declared Rama.
Democracy in the Balkans is under siege, and the West is looking away (The Washington Post, by Vuk Jeremic, 13 July 2017)
Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s foreign minister from 2007 to 2012 and president of the U.N. General Assembly from 2012 to 2013, was a candidate in Serbia’s 2017 presidential election.
Events in the Western Balkans twice cast a long shadow across Europe in the past century — first in 1914 and then in the 1990s. Both times, the forces unleashed by the carnage could not be contained within the existing international order. And in both instances, proffered solutions failed to resolve the underlying tensions that brought about the conflicts in the first place.
Located at the midpoint between Berlin and Istanbul, the Western Balkans is the most direct physical link between Europe and the Middle East. We were reminded of its strategic importance during the recent European refugee crisis, when the region served as the main land route for millions of migrants fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq. If we look at the political map of Europe, we see that the Western Balkans — notwithstanding its strategic location — remains outside the European Union. Some refer to it as the black hole of Europe.
Engulfed by a plethora of challenges, the European Union has clearly relegated the integration of the Western Balkans to the back burner. This is one of the most shortsighted strategic decisions made by this generation of E.U. leaders. The region’s increasingly distant European perspective has eased the way for local autocrats to seize power through populist rhetoric, dismantling the achievements of nascent liberal democracies. Consider Serbia’s new president, Aleksandar Vucic, who served under Slobodan Milosevic as information minister in the 1990s. He seems to have reached a tacit agreement with various Western decision-makers: In exchange for appearing to maintain stability, Vucic was de facto given free rein to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms. As a consequence, the divide separating Serbia from the E.U. has further deepened. Yet both sides seem content with maintaining the illusion that accession negotiations remain steadily on track, even though there is no end in sight. Such trade-offs are not only morally questionable; they are also contrary to the strategic interests of the region and the whole of Europe. Under Vucic’s increasingly iron-fisted, despotic rule, Serbia has experienced rigged elections, seen opposition leaders slanderously vilified without consequence and witnessed media outlets surrender their objectivity and independence to autocratic demands of fealty and subservience. This is hardly surprising, given that such methods were widely used the last time Vucic was in power, in the 1990s. Meanwhile, foreign investment levels are falling. Corrupt and incompetent cronies have taken over all positions of significance. And record numbers of young and educated people are leaving the country.
The situation is not much better in other countries, such as Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where there have been massive street demonstrations, often violent, over the past few years. One also hears again calls for the creation of a Greater Albania, which presupposes forcible changes in borders — something that is hardly imaginable without triggering serious tumults.
Things are especially bad in Kosovo, which holds the infamous European distinction of supplying the largest number of fighters per capita to conflicts in the Middle East. There, the new prime minister is likely to be Ramush Haradinaj. A few years ago, Haradinaj was acquitted by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of gruesome charges, including the murder and torture of Serb civilians, after witnesses either recanted at the last minute or died under mysterious circumstances. His main rival is Albin Kurti, one of the most radical populist politicians in all the Balkans.
Vucic and other Balkan autocrats operate on the assumption that state institutions must not serve as barriers to the exercise of their will to power and that it’s perfectly legitimate to manipulate public opinion to serve their own selfish interests. Such practices neither represent a good foundation for the achievement of long-term political and economic stability; nor do they contribute to establishing sustainable regional cooperation — much less reconciliation. Lending credence to such tendencies can make sense only if the goal is to entrench the Western Balkans as a sort of no-man’s-land buffer zone between the E.U. and the Middle East, in the context of the refugee issue and much else besides.
Nonetheless, I believe that a stable and prosperous Western Balkans that increasingly looks like the rest of Europe is an eminently reachable goal in this generation. The region is blessed with a favorable geographical position, abundant natural resources, and perhaps most importantly, smart and creative people who possess the wherewithal to compete at a global level in their respective fields. It has the potential to catch up with Central Europe in terms of economic development and continental standards.
Yet this can be achieved only if the free exchange of ideas, thoughtful debate and meritocratic advancement can flourish within a genuinely democratic framework.
Howard: NATO respects Serbia’s neutrality (European Western Balkans, 14 July 2017)
Admiral Michelle Howard became the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy in 1999. Today she serves as the commander of Allied Joint Force Command in Naples.
What is the importance of integrating the gender perspective in the military, why the woman play the key role in the every successful NATO operation and on which way women can contribute in resolving issues in the region, European Western Balkans spoke with admiral Howard. Aside from the talks she had with the representatives from Serbian institutions, Howard met several successful women in the field of politics, civil society and media.
European Western Balkans: What is the reason for your visit?
Michelle Howard: I’m here in Belgrade to enhance the military to military cooperation and partnership between NATO and Serbia. To that end, I’ll be calling upon several leaders within the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign affairs here tomorrow to talk about mutual points of interest.
The Western Balkan region is of strategic importance to NATO. Facilitating stability and security is a high priority for NATO. Stability and security here in Serbia benefits stability and security in Europe. I’m specifically interested in maintaining a healthy dialogue about our NATO forces in Kosovo. They are the most-visible symbol of NATO’s efforts to ensure peace and security in the Western Balkan region.
The NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade (MLO) assists the Serbian authorities to further conduct the ongoing defense reform, enables the country to participate more effectively in the Partnership for Peace program within the framework of the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), and provides support for NATO’s public diplomacy activities.
EWB: What is your objective in this women’s meeting?
MH: Integrating a gender perspective in the military is an important part of how we approach security challenges in NATO. The international community continues to further understand the importance of gender perspective not only in the military, but government and business.
The women here tonight are highly successful Belgrade-area women leaders. I’m excited to discuss how we can contribute to solving this region’s challenges with the unique perspective our gender provides.
Women comprise roughly 50 percent of the global population. In the disciplines of defense, development and diplomacy, we must approach challenges comprehensively by thinking of the whole of the population, including women.
Women comprise some 18 percent of my service, the U.S. Navy. Women are a part of all NATO militaries. We include women’s perspectives in military planning because we know their perspectives contribute to improved outcomes in military operations. We know that a key indicator of a successful military operation is when women in an affected society are able to conduct their traditional daily tasks with confidence, and without fear.
EWB: What is the value of gender perspective to NATO?
MH: NATO and its partners are committed to removing barriers for women’s participation in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and to reducing the risk of conflict-related and gender-based violence.
At the 2014 Wales Summit, Allied leaders acknowledged that the integration of gender perspectives throughout NATO’s three essential core tasks – collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security – will contribute to a more modern, ready and responsive NATO.
Gender is an important focus of NATO’s cooperation with other international organisations – in particular the United Nations – and civil society. NATO is also taking action within its own organisation and structures to promote gender equality and the participation of women in all activities.
EWB: Serbia declared military neutrality 11 years ago. Regarding the fact that nowadays almost all Serbian neighbours are in NATO or tend to join NATO, from your point of view, is Serbian neutral position sustainable in the long term?
MH: NATO fully respects Serbia’s policy of military neutrality. It is entirely up to Serbia to decide what kind of relations it wants to have with the Alliance in the future and we will always respect your decision.
EWB: Having in mind that Serbia would probably join the EU in next few years, how do you see the cooperation between Serbia and NATO in the future?
MH: NATO and EU are complimentary international organizations. Many countries are members of both. From a military perspective, I find membership in one or both a good thing.
NATO has a solid relationship with Serbia through the Partnership for Peace program, based on mutual respect, confidence, and cooperation.
I am confident NATO will continue to pursue a healthy relationship with Serbia, including the Individual Partnership Action Plan. Our NATO Military Liaison Office here in Belgrade is having a role in facilitating the implementation of that plan.
EWB: The latest survey by the Centre for Security Policy published this year showed that less than one in ten citizens favour NATO membership. What should Serbia or NATO do to change the way how citizens see the possible Serbian membership?
MH: NATO is an alliance founded on democratic values and the rights of individuals. We respect the choices of the Serbian government and the people. However, by joining NATO Partnership for Peace Program, Serbia has shown that in order to maintain a secure and stable environment in South East Europe, NATO is needed to preserve the conditions that sustain prosperity.
With Serbia’s participation in the Partnership for Peace Program, we can enhance the necessary interoperability for participation in EU and UN missions. NATO has a number of self-determined neutral partners, including Sweden, Finland, Austria, Ireland and Switzerland who are deeply engaged in Partnership for Peace activities. We already conduct several exercises a year with Serbia military and we stand ready to further develop our relations with Serbia.
EWB: Major General Giovanni Fungo said that the situation in the whole region is fragile and unstable. What are the main reasons and how do you see the role of KFOR in maintaining the stability?
MH: We are keenly aware of the tensions in the region and we rely on KFOR’s real-time assessments of the dynamics on the ground in and around Kosovo. KFOR will continue providing safety and secure environment and freedom of movement for all. We will retain a flexible, deterrent presence, and will make changes only when the security situation allows.
KFOR continues to support a peaceful, stable and multi-ethnic Kosovo, with a force of around 5,000 soldiers who are capable of quickly responding to any security challenge. NATO is committed to supporting the implementation of the Belgrade-Pristina agreement and our intention is to maintain our current troop levels for the coming months. NATO’s goal is to keep moving towards a smaller and more flexible KFOR troop presence, but this decision will be guided by the evolving situation on the ground.
KFOR has developed excellent cooperation with the Serbian Armed Forces. KFOR and SAF are working together along the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) to ensure a safe and secure environment, in mutual trust and full confidence.