Vucic: Agreed that B&H stand on Kosovo be the same as Belgrade’s stand (RTS/B92/Tanjug)
At a joint press conference with B&H Presidency Chair Dragan Covic in Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated that they had discussed the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway, the establishment of the border, and the respect of Serbia’s territorial integrity. “The key political topics are improvement of our friendly relations and to see how and in what way to avoid everything that could pose a problem,” said Vucic. He says they discussed three important issues, the first one being the construction of the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway. They still haven’t passed the final decision on the route, says Vucic, adding that Serbia, in case of disagreement, will pay and construct the part of the highway to Bijeljina. The second issue was the establishment of borders. “We have given our friends proposals. The model is such, and it seemed to us that we have received initial consent in Sarajevo when we were there, that we would like to have the Zvornik and Bajina Basta hydroelectric power plants entirely on the territory of Serbia,” said Vucic, adding that they reached here compromise acceptable for both sides. As regards Priboj and Rudo, we would have exchange of territories. The third issue is that the B&H Presidency, as long as the Republic of Serbia doesn’t’ take a different stand, has the same stand regarding Kosovo and Metohija as Belgrade, and Vucic says he is grateful to B&H Presidency members for this. “Our stand, the stand of three members of the Presidency, when it comes to Serbia’s internal issues, is that we will adapt these open issues in conducting the foreign policy with Belgrade’s stands,” said Covic. Covic expressed optimism that issue of border demarcation will be solved soon, adding that proposal for exchange of territory meter for meter, is acceptable, but he appealed for further discussion on this, due to complexity of the issue. “The way in which we wanted to rearrange the border, I trust that it shows that Serbia respects B&H’s integrity. We are not here to love and to hug, but to solve problems. I want to once again thank, on behalf of Serbia, to three friends for coming and I want to say that they are always welcome in Serbia. I hope that we will remove the barriers even faster,” said Vucic.
After his talks with the three leaders of B&H that lasted just over an hour, Vucic said the meeting was not easy. According to Vucic, the first topic of discussion was the construction of the Sarajevo-Belgrade highway, and there Serbia presented a fair stance. “We showed what we’ve done on Corridor 11 so far, and how and what we are doing to bring Belgrade closer to Sarajevo,” Vucic said. When it comes to the second issue – determining some disputed parts of the border, Vucic said that he and his interlocutors today concurred based on an earlier agreement from Sarajevo – and that Serbia proposed a non-paper according to which it would have hydro-power plants Zvornik and Bajina Basta wholly in its territory. Representatives of the B&H Presidency had a different proposal in this regard, in view of the status of these power plants, but this issue will be further discussed, he said. A meter-for-meter exchange of territory near Priboj and Rudo was also proposed during the meeting, Vucic revealed.
The third issue, he said, was that of the position of the B&H Presidency on Kosovo. Although the Croat representative in the Presidency and its current chair Dragan Covic was speaking on behalf of the tripartite body, at the end of the news conference Izetbegovic interjected to say that he must explain something. He was referred to the message sent by Vucic and Covic that on certain issues, such as Kosovo, Sarajevo would not change its position unless Belgrade did so.
Vucic told reporters that he received such support during the meeting, while Covic said that B&H would be adapting to Belgrade’s positions regarding the internal affairs of Serbia. “B&H’s international policy will be led by these three men, and it will be led in Sarajevo,” said Izetbegovic, and added: “Of course, we will also take into account the views of the neighboring countries, because we live with Serbia and with Croatia, as well as with the EU, where we have assumed obligations in the process of integration. But my position is that the foreign policy is conducted in B&H and I have asked Covic to present that as his position, not as the position of the Presidency.” After this, a smiling Vucic announced that he must add something. “Well, this is what it’s all like. I quoted what I got during the official talks – but this is what it’s like, both about Kosovo and about the border,” Vucic said.
A few minutes prior to this, the atmosphere was much friendlier, with Covic thanking Aca (nickname for Aleksandar) on his position regarding the model of solving the border issue, and remarking that, as always, it is somewhat more difficult to reach a common stance in Sarajevo.
Selakovic: We are not ignoring RS’ interests (RTS)
Serbian President’s General Secretary Nikola Selakovic told RTS he was not an optimist when it comes to resolving contentious issues concerning the demarcation of the border between the Serbia and B&H. “The issue of borders is the most important bilateral issue and I am not too optimistic, although the Serbian side has prepared proposals that agree with the views put forward by the Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency – whether something has changed, we will see it today,” he said. He added that there have constantly been tensions between Serbia and B&H since the end of the war, but that Serbia is trying to be a stabilizing factor and not cause new provocations. “President Vucic will be regarded internationally as a person of initiative, and in this light comes the visit of members of the B&H Presidency. These talks are not easy because they are conducted with three Presidency members who hold different positions,” Selakovic said. He did not wish to speak about the informal dinner Vucic had with the visiting Presidency members last night in Belgrade, but said that the president afterwards called Milorad Dodik. Asked about a European Commission report that states Serbia could become an EU member in 2025 if it meets all conditions by 2023, Selakovic replied that this is the first time concrete dates are being mentioned. According to the European Commission, Belgrade should sign a comprehensive agreement on normalization of relations with Pristina by 2019. “It’s a difficult question, Serbia has its own interest and dignity, you could see the guidelines in solving this problem and we will continue with that policy,” Selakovic said, commenting on the signing of an agreement with Pristina.
Serbia grateful for South Africa’s firm stance on Kosovo (B92)
Serbia is grateful to South Africa for its firm position to respect international law and territorial integrity of Serbia when it comes to Kosovo. Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said this on Tuesday in Belgrade, during his meeting with South African Minister of Defense and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The two officials agreed that there is a high level of bilateral relations and the readiness for their further strengthening, which date back to the anti-colonial struggle and the Non-Aligned Movement, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. They also expressed interest in exchanging visits at high and the highest level, as well as interest in cooperation in many fields. The two sides agreed that it is necessary to improve the contractual regulation in all areas for which there is a common interest, and in particular regarding the relaxation of the visa regime. Opinions on regional issues and the need for joint participation on the multilateral plan and cooperation within international organizations were exchanged, the statement said.
Serbia to open 2 new EU chapters – third blocked by Germans (Tanjug/B92)
Serbia will on 11 December in Brussels open two new chapters in its EU membership negotiations. The final decision to open Chapters 6 (company law) and 30 (external relations) was made on Wednesday by EU member-states’ ambassadors, Tanjug said. Although Chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions has been the subject of consideration among member-states until the last moment, Tanjug learned that five countries did not greenlight its opening.
According to diplomatic sources in Brussels, cited by the agency, among the members who did not approve the opening of this chapter are this time also Germany and France. Diplomatic sources added that these countries are not satisfied with the progress Serbia has made in the area of the rule of law, and in completing the chapter 23 action plan relating to the judiciary and fundamental rights. The progress report in Chapters 23 and 24 was submitted by the European Commission last month. Based on this, but also on the report of the European External Action Service on progress in the process of normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina, EU member states have made a political decision that Serbia will open two, instead of three new chapters by the end of 2017. It is being reiterated in Brussels that progress in chapters 23 and 24 concerning the rule of law and chapter 35 that monitors normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina is a condition for further progress of Serbia in the overall accession negotiations. Serbia has so far opened ten out of 35 chapters, with two temporarily closed.
EC forecasts Serbia accession to EU in 2025 (RTS)
The draft strategy for Serbia’s accession to EU envisages that Serbia might become an EU member by 2025, Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) reports quoting sources familiar with the content of that document. The draft strategy for the admission of Serbia and of other countries of the Balkans to the EU contains timeframes for both Serbia and the EU, as well as deadlines to meet for the country to become member in 2025. Prior to that, Serbia should close all negotiating chapters by 2023 and reach an agreement on normalization of relations with Pristina by the end of 2019.
Serbia continues to face serious challenges when it comes to media freedoms and the freedom of speech, and in establishing proper conditions for a pluralist media scene, the European Commission (EC) said in an internal analysis of Serbia’s action plans for the accession chapters related to the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. Media laws have yet to be fully implemented, the Commission said in the semiannual report on Serbia’s progress in Chapters 23 and 24.
NATO not considering withdrawing KFOR from Kosovo (Beta)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that NATO is not considering withdrawing KFOR from Kosovo due to the current situation on the ground. KFOR plays an important role for security and stability in Kosovo, and the NATO mission there means that any reduction in the number of troop would be based on the existing situation on the ground, he said.
The NATO chief was replying to a journalist’s question about his view of some Pristina officials’ statements about the presence of KFOR being an obstacle to formation of the army of Kosovo. “We will monitor this, and this is not on the agenda now, we are constantly monitoring the situation on the ground, so now the emphasis is on the need for KFOR to continue to be in Kosovo,” Stoltenberg told a press conference held ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers. When it comes to the Kosovo Security Forces, Stoltenberg said that he has already on several occasions pointed out that any change in the mandate of this formation must be conducted in accordance with the Kosovo constitution and must be done based on the provisions of that constitution.
Brammertz welcomes Serbia’s reactions, criticizes Croatia (Tanjug)
Meeting with Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic on Tuesday, ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz commended Serbia’s position and the statements made by Serbian officials regarding the first-instance judgement in the Ratko Mladic case. Kuburovic met with Brammertz in New York ahead of a UN Security Council session to discuss the 24th and final report on the work of the ICTY. The Serbian minister underscored that Serbia had been committed to processing war crimes since the early days of the court, both before the tribunal and local judicial authorities, the Ministry of Justice reported.
Ivanic: Bosniak politicians bear responsibility for relations with Serbia (BHT1)
Serb member of B&H Presidency Mladen Ivanic stated that Bosniak politicians bear responsibility for relations between B&H and Serbia, adding that he does not understand their resistance to the agreement on the border issues. Ivanic stressed that he does not see any objective reason for a negative stance towards Serbia and expressed concern that no one from the Bosniak ranks has the courage to solve this problem. Ivanic concluded by saying that many years will pass, until a Bosniak leader, who is willing to reach some deals with Serbia and the Serb people, appears. Ivanic underlined: ”Without this, there is no stability”.
Asked to comment on Ivanic’s words, Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic assessed that Ivanic has no reason to characterize the relations in this way. Izetbegovic added that he did not refuse any model for solving of border issues with Serbia, stressing that Serbia has not offered any model so far. Speaking about his expectations from the meeting, Izetbegovic stated that he expects to reach a model on demarcation of the borders between B&H and Serbia and the route of the Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway. Asked to comment on his expectations from the visit to Belgrade, Croat member of B&H Presidency Dragan Covic stressed that results of the meeting will be known on Wednesday.
Crnadak: There will be no change in American politics on B&H, US military base in Brcko will not be established (EuroBlic)
Minister of Foreign Affairs of B&H Igor Crnadak said that there is an obvious desire of the USA to have more visible presence and influence in the region in upcoming period of time. “However, I have not noticed anything that would indicate that there is a change in the American stances”, Crnadak said and added that neither Republika Srpska (RS) nor anyone in B&H have any reason to be concerned because of the American politics. “On the contrary, I think this is a positive approach and desire to improve things in the society. For us in the RS, it is especially important that there will be no change in the support to the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) which is the basic precondition for protection of the RS’ position and Serb people but also a precondition for future development and progress of the entire B&H”, Crnadak said. He claimed that there will certainly be no new conference on the DPA, i.e. reorganization of B&H. “The USA maintains the course of its current politics of support to B&H on the road to the European integration and support to internal organization of B&H in line with the DPA. These two courses of American activities will surely be maintained and there will be no major changes,” Crnadak said. Asked to comment on the influence of the Atlantic Council, which advocates changes in the US politics on the Balkans, Crnadak said that he would rather not assess influence of certain non-governmental organizations from Washington. “There is a significant reservoir of experience and knowledge. Some influence certainly exists, but it cannot be dominant and one can certainly not say that they dictate US foreign politics. They are just one of organizations,” Crnadak said. Asked to say if establishment of a US military base in Brcko would be realistic to expect in this context, Crnadak replied by saying that this organization produces certain creative ideas. “If you take a look at the past, they had many ideas which were never realized. One of the ideas that will never be realized is a US military base in Brcko. This was confirmed by the US Embassy in Sarajevo as well,” Crnadak noted.
Covic sends letter to NATO, Trump, May and Merkel (BNTV)
B&H Presidency Chairman and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic has sent a letter to prime ministers and presidents of all NATO member states, asking for faster activation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP). He stressed in the letter that radicalized returnees from foreign battlefields are the main problem in B&H. Covic sent this letter after the ICTY’s verdict in the case of wartime commander of the RS Army General Ratko Mladic and prior to the ICTY’s verdict in the ‘Prlic et al’ case. The letter, which was addressed to US President Donald Trump, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Mekel among others, stresses that the MAP activation is very important since B&H is faced with “a big problem of inherited radicalized individuals who arrived in B&H from Islamic countries during the past war”, as well as because of departure of B&H citizens to foreign battlefields.
Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic stated on Tuesday that the letter Dragan Covic sent to NATO has not been harmonized by B&H Presidency. According to Izetbegovic, such letter is unacceptable. Izetbegovic assessed that the letter contains arbitrary and unsubstantiated claims about the alleged return of radical individuals to B&H, as well as about the degree of danger this poses to security in B&H. Izetbegovic warned that such letters can only be counter-productive, adding that Covic failed to mention the Resolution on Military Neutrality of Republika Srpska.
Radoncic: SBB B&H ministers will submit their resignations by Christmas (Dnevni avaz)
SBB B&H leader and delegate in B&H House of Peoples (HoP) Fahrudin Radoncic asked when SBB B&H will leave the Council of Ministers and Federation of B&H Government, being that this was announced and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic has been asked to find another coalition partner, said that SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic is insisting for SBB B&H to leave the ruling majority and Governments. Stressing that nobody wants to cooperate with SDA anymore, Radoncic said that there is a constitutional problem with this issue, because if all their Ministers would leave the Federation of B&H Government, the Secretaries would take over and this would violate the ethnic balance. Asked if this means that SBB will not leave the authority, Radoncic said that they will submit their resignations and the responsibility should be taken by the one who asked for them to leave. He noted that their resignation will be submitted to Federation of B&H President Marinko Cavara and stressed that they are not bluffing, and they will do the same as they did in Una Sana Canton, where their minister resigned, but six of SDA delegates in the Assembly refused to accept their resignations. He stressed that they are sticking to their set deadline, i.e. Christmas and their ministers will submit their resignations to Cavara.
B&H politicians from Sarajevo welcomed Tuesday’s statement of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic (TV1)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) politicians from Sarajevo welcomed Tuesday’s statement of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who said that Croatia respects the ICTY’s verdict in the case ‘Jadranko Prlic et al.’
SDA Vice President Sefik Dzaferovic stated that he expected Plenkovic to send such conciliatory messages. According to Dzaferovic, Plenkovic had to change his stance given that Croatia is a member of the UN. Dzaferovic noted that the ICTY’s verdicts should be respected, and future relations must be built on the basis of truth and justice. SB&H leader Amer Jerlagic said he is pleased to hear that Plenkovic expressed sympathy with the victims of crimes, as well as that Croatia accepted the verdict in the case ‘Prlic et al.’ According to Jerlagic, these messages are good for strengthening good neighborly relations between B&H and Croatia. Member of DF Presidency Dzenan Djonlagic noted that Plenkovic obviously changed his initial reaction, namely after he was criticized for being the first Prime Minister of an EU member state who supports convicted war criminals. President of B&H Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide Murat Tahirovic assessed that the tensions have obviously been calmed down. “It is commendable that Plenkovic accepted certain facts established by the ICTY”, Tahirovic added.
OSCE’s Berton to meet representatives of political parties to discuss changes to Election Law (Fena)
Head of OSCE Mission to B&H Bruce Berton told Fena that he will hold a meeting with representatives of lead parties in B&H, in order to discuss change to B&H Election Law. He stressed that this is one of the most important meetings, which will attempt to resolve this issue. “It is not unusual to gather everyone in one place and I am glad that we can assist in organizing of this meeting, along with our partners in the international community,” said Berton. He noted that parties have obligation towards the electorate, not only in sense of rule of the law, but also of recent decisions rendered by ECHR. “What the IC wants is to facilitate and accelerate the dialogue on this and we do not have intention to design or to impose solutions,” said Berton. Ambassador said that it is difficult to define concrete deadline for adopting of the law, but it would be ideal if the proposal would be submitted to the B&H CEC in March 2018. As for the ICTY verdict in ‘Prlic et al.’, Berton said that international court has already rendered a verdict and it needs to be respect. He noted that this is not the verdict again the Croat people, but individuals who have prior convictions for crimes.
Croatian President meets with UN Secretary General (HRT)
Croatia’s President continued her visit to the United States, where she met with United Nations Secretary-General in New York. Among the issues President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and Secretary General Antonio Guterres discussed was the ICTY’s recent guilty verdict against six Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). The President expressed her concern regarding the rhetoric coming from certain circles following the Hague tribunals’ ruling directed against Croatia. She concluded that her primary concern was to ensure that no conflicts arose between Croats and Muslims in B&H as a result of the verdict. After their meeting, both said that any ICTY ruling was a verdict against the accused individuals and not any one country as a whole.
The president also said that not only does she want Croatia to be more self-confident and assertive in presenting its foreign policy, but also for Zagreb to assume a leadership role in resolving open issues with its neighbors. She concluded that only this could ensure a lasting peace in southeast Europe.
Republika Srpska searching for Ex HVO members via Interpol (Slobodna Dalmacija)
Republika Srpska (RS) is looking for several former HVO (Croatian Defense Council/Hrvatsko Vijece Obrane) members, while B&H, on the other hand, is searching for two ex-members of the Army of RS (VRS). It seems that Interpol may not even accept these warrants, and some of them haven’t been publicly disclosed in the interest of the ongoing investigation. Among the former members of HVO being searched for are Ante Kurdija and Jozo Brica, who are believed to have ”captured, detained and mistreated Serbian civilians” in 1992 in Bosanska Posavina. As mentioned, RS has contacted Interpol for help in locating these individuals, but Interpol may not be willing to partake in any of it. The remaining eight HVO soldiers who are allegedly ”escaping from the judiciary” aren’t charged with serious war crimes. In stark contrast to the aforementioned ex HVO members, the two former members of the Army of RS on the receiving end of an Interpol warrant requested by B&H, Svetozar Kosoric and Brane Gojkovic, are suspected of participating crimes against humanity, including genocide. In addition, the neighboring country is also seeking the detainment of some twenty members of various radical Islamic groups, their own citizens, who have been linked to terrorism and participating in the Syrian and Iraq wars.
DF gives in: A return to ‘Sindja’s Parliament’ (CDM)
The civic opposition has no common position on the invitation of the Democratic Front (DF) leaders to declare a joint action by Friday, ie to sit together and begin the talks. According to CDM’s information, the civic opposition representatives are discussing the DF’s proposal.
Since the political alliance said in an open letter to the civic opposition that, if there was no response to their initiative, possibility of taking unilateral actions such as returning to the Montenegrin Parliament in full capacity would not be ruled out. One thing is certain. At this moment, DF has nothing to lose because of the evident decline in voters’ support. As CDM learns even if the alliance’s proposal was rejected it would be acceptable for DF since its representatives would have an alibi to return to Parliament, although they called it “Sindja’s Parliament” numerous times (a reference to Sasa Sindjelic, cooperative witness in the coup case trial). The boycott of the Parliament of the Montenegrin has lasted since 7 November 2016.
Rudovic to DF: We do not give in to the ultimatum of a clique that celebrates with Krajisnik (CDM)
The URA Civic Movement finds Democratic Front’s (DF) ultimatum to the civic opposition unacceptable, said URA deputy leader Nedjeljko Rudovic. Rudovic says that unfortunately DF stubbornly sticks to the policy that damages democratic change and taking steps which DPS just wants. “From the first day, we are in favor of the cooperation among the opposition based on the principle of the civic and pro-European concept of Montenegro. There is no doubt that the boycott of the parliament is not enough and that additional steps are needed in order to create conditions for free elections and eventually democratic changes. There is also no doubt that attempts to impose party goals and ideologies sabotage joint actions,” Rudovic is clear.
He asked if the Declaration on the Protection of Serbs in the Region, Russia, alphabet and the church are really more important issues at this moment than free elections and the establishment of controlled and changeable government, jobs, rescue of the health system. Unlike Rudovic and URA, the leader of the United Montenegro, Goran Danilovic, says his party accepts the DF call, because, as he claims, the agreement among the opposition is necessary and crucial in the fight against the regime. “United Montenegro is ready to focus its party activities to joint opposition action. However, if there is no agreement for any reason, we reserve the right to be committed to our agenda aimed at toppling DPS and improving the democratic atmosphere in Montenegro,” says Danilovic.
Stoltenberg: NATO strengthens security in the Western Balkans (MINA)
NATO has played an important role in the Western Balkans for years and it is strengthening the security of the region, secretary general of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg said today. He said that at a press conference on the second day of a ministerial meeting in Brussels.
Stoltenberg called to mind the KFOR mission in Kosovo, pointing out that NATO had its representatives in Skopje and Sarajevo. He added that he had recently spoken to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the headquarters of the alliance. “NATO is strengthening security in the Western Balkans. We urge everyone in the Western Balkans to avoid inflammatory rhetoric,” Stoltenberg said. According to him, NATO respects the territorial integrity of Georgia and urges Russia to withdraw its troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “We are open to dialogue, our approach to Russia is effective, economic sanctions produce results. We need to get stronger In order to protect our allies,” Stoltenberg said. He reiterated that after Montenegro, NATO’s door is open to Georgia, it should only strengthen the fight against corruption and crime. Stoltenberg said that NATO supports the peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Korean peninsula. He said that NATO needed to continue its solidarity with traditional partners Japan and South Korea.
Court rules on custody for Mukoski, Arnaudov and Vasilevski (Meta)
The Criminal Court ruled that MPs Krsto Mukoski, Ljuben Arnaudov and Saso Vasilevsk are to be taken into custody and detained. Those MPs are suspected of the violence in parliament on 27 April. Their colleagues, Zaklina Peshevska, Johan Tarculovski and Ljupco Dimovski, received a measure of house arrest. Six MPs attended the hearing at the Criminal Court after Friday’s plenary session, last Friday, when parliament decided to withdraw their immunity. The Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime and Corruption is charging everyone with a terrorist threat to the constitutional order and security of the country.
Nikolovski: After the detentions of MPs, dialogue in the parliament is impossible (Meta)
Hundreds of VMRO-DPMNE’s members and sympathizers protested last night in front of the Ministry of Justice demanding freedom and amnesty for the people in detention for the violent attacks at the parliament of 27 April. The protest was attended by VMRo-DPMNE’s party leader, Nikola Gruevski, the General Secretary, Hristijan Mickovski, the former government spokesperson, Aleksandar Gjorgiev, and Mane Jakovlevski, Aleksandar Nikolovski and Slavcho Chadiev address the protestors. Nikolovski stressed that the putting in detention 5 % of the complete MP personnel i.e. 12% of the VMRO-DPMNE’s MP group and the Coalition denotes installment of a dictatorship. “After this move, a political dialogue in the Parliament is impossible, said Nikolovski, saying also that it is impossible for laws to be voted, for the European agenda, the budget and the reforms. VMRO-DPMNE demands urgent release of all detained for the 27 April incident in the parliament, saying it will stage protests until its demand is met.
Zaev: We are in Brussels to convince the EC that we deserve a recommendation for negotiations in 2018 (Meta)
We have come with arguments, positive developments have been created after the long, delayed process of our EU integration, stated Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the start of his two-day visit to Brussels. He points out that the Government will continue to implement the reforms and the will of the people, but also to persuade Brussels to give a recommendation for the start of pre-accession negotiations with the EU as early as next year.
Xhaferi meets Palmer, focus on EU and NATO integration (MIA)
EU and NATO integration remains Macedonia’s top national, political and strategic priority. The Parliament joins the reform efforts of all political stakeholders in the country, whereas the opposition’s constructive approach is of essential significance, said parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi at Wednesday’s meeting with Matthew Palmer, Director for South Central European Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Xhaferi, who is paying a visit to the United States, told Palmer that USAID’s support is more than welcome in Macedonia’s integration efforts, significantly contributing to the country’s democratic development, the Speaker’s Office said in a press release. Palmer said the United States urge for democratic processes and rule of law in Macedonia, because they see the country as a committed partner they will continue to support in the future. Interlocutors referred to current political developments in Macedonia and agreed that the judiciary needs to be independent and transparent in its decision-making process, but also take into account the country’s interest and the well-being of citizens, reads the press release.
Juncker, positive for the opening of accession negotiations with Albania (ADN)
The President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, declared that he might recommend to the Council the opening of the accession negotiations with Albania.
He gave the good news during the joint press conference on Tuesday evening with the Prime Minister, Edi Rama. “We are on the point where I can recommend to the Council the opening of accession negotiations with Albania. If the positive results will continue, I intend to propose it. The last six months will be essential for Albania’s future. We talked with the Prime Minister Edi Rama about the achievements of the recent months. The reforms implemented in Albania have impressed us,” declared Juncker, pointing out that next year he can visit Albania.
Rama to Mogherini: Albania waits the opening of accession talks (ADN)
Albania waits positive finalization of the joint efforts with the opening of EU accession talks. Prime Minister Edi Rama made it clear to the EU High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini during a meeting on Tuesday.
“I am very pleased to meet you, especially in this moment when we hope to see a positive finalization of our joint efforts with the opening of accession talks. Great results have been achieved so far by Albania and I am sure that much more will be done in the next months,” said Premier Rama, addressing to Mogherini. The EU diplomacy chief praised PM Rama’s leadership while declaring that big steps forward have been done, especially in the justice reform implementation, the war on drugs and corruption.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
EU must ‘marry’ Western Balkans quickly to avoid new risks – Albania PM (EurActiv, by Zoran Radosavljevic, 5 December 2017)
The Western Balkans countries are in a much better shape than they were in the 1990s but the European Union should open accession talks with them as soon possible or risk seeing them wooed by Russia, China or radical Islam, the prime minister of Albania told an event in Brussels on Tuesday (5 December). Of the six countries in the Western Balkans – the last region still outside the EU, having missed the big enlargement in 2004 – only Montenegro and Serbia have started membership talks. Macedonia and Albania are official candidates while Bosnia and Kosovo are further behind. “It looks like some kind of a Balkan curse, in fact,” Prime Minister Edi Rama told a conference organised by Friends of Europe. “When the EU was in the best shape, we were in the worst,” he said, referring to the ethnic wars that followed ex-Yugoslavia’s collapse in the 1990s. “Now that we are in the best shape, the EU has problems.” He said the region had finally turned to reconciliation and cooperation, guided by EU standards and requirements as “the driving force”. The upcoming presidencies of the EU Council by countries clearly committed to the Balkans (Bulgaria, Austria, Romania, Croatia, Germany), was another good sign and a window of opportunity that should not be missed. “The Balkans in general, and Albania in particular, will progress but if the prospect (of EU membership) fades away or becomes an illusion, then things can turn wrong.” After initial progress in the early 2000s, the Western Balkans has been on the backburner for a decade, until Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said in his state of the Union address in September that the region should be offered ‘credible EU prospects’. Now the year 2025 is being mentioned as a new date for further enlargement. “Russia and China have many things to offer. Russia can give you power (energy) for the rest of your life if you give up the rule of law. It is not quite uninteresting,” Rama said to laughter from the audience and continued: “China has the luxury to plan for the next 100 years. I would not say they have nothing to offer. And then there is also radical Islam. In our region, we are multiethnic, multireligious. If the EU will not run to catch us, believe me, many ‘multi’ problems can restart and then it will be much more costly to marry us later.” He said the Balkan states did not have unrealistic expectations and knew they would not join overnight. “What we are talking about is negotiating (for membership). What is wrong with negotiating? Please do not say ‘we want you but we don’t want to talk to you’”. Most countries in the region have become resigned at the lack of progress in their EU membership bids. The EU, for its part, has until recently criticised a slow pace of political and economic reforms and stressed the need to cooperate and get over the recent past.
Thomas Mayr-Harting, an Austrian diplomat with the EU’s diplomatic arm EEAS, countered some of Rama’s views and said “the apology of not having a (European) perspective is going away. The perspective will be reaffirmed and confirmed in months to come.” He said the EU’s internal challenges – having to deal with refugees, Brexit, Catalonia – only strengthened “the forces of cohesion among the 27”. Earlier on Tuesday, Rama met the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. His visit to Brussels coincided with that of Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of Macedonia, which also hopes to unlock its accession talks. Its membership bid has been blocked by Greece because of a row over its name, which is the same as that of a northern Greek province.