Serbia committed to strengthening economic cooperation in Western Balkans (Tanjug/FoNet)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said today at the opening of “Jahorina Economic Forum” that regional cooperation and safeguarding peace and stability are a prerequisite for attracting new domestic and foreign investment and further economic development, as well as the foundation of prosperity of the entire region. Brnabic stressed that it is our obligation, as responsible leaders, to work together to create a better life, the certainty and prosperity for all our citizens. That is why the European perspective of the region is especially important, she said, adding that EU membership is not an end in itself, but the reforms implemented in the process of European integration that lead to the transformation into a modern and well-regulated society. She pointed out that the region faces similar challenges in the process of reforms and European integration, and that is why political will, understanding and strengthening of cooperation are crucial for further progress. Serbia is committed to strengthening and improving economic cooperation in the Western Balkans, because the strong economy is the key to a strong and prosperous region, she reiterated. Brnabic noted that the economic cooperation between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina is good, pointing out that last year was a record in the field of mutual trade, which reached 1.7 billion Euros. She highlighted the assessment from the European Commission Report, which emphasizes the constructive role of Serbia in regional cooperation and relations in the region. Serbia remains committed to these goals, because they are essential for the peace, stability and progress of the region, as well as for a better life of our citizens, Brnabic concluded.
Dacic to send Zagreb list of 20,000 names of children killed in Jasenovac (Novosti)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said he would send to Zagreb a list of 20,000 names of children killed in Jasenovac and other World War II concentration camps in Croatia. Dacic told Novosti that the list is Serbia’s response to attempts to lessen the crimes committed by the Ustasha, adding that he would send the list to Zagreb by registered mail. “I planned to do that earlier but whenever I decided to send the list to a certain minister they replaced them. That happened when I wanted to send former Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier the list of murdered children but this time they will get it by registered mail,” Dacic said. He said that Croatian officials should keep quiet out of a sense of decency towards the victims and not call for new investigations like President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic who urged the forming of an international commission to determine the number of victims in Jasenovac. Thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and others were killed at the Jasenovac camp complex by the Ustasha during World War II.
London to change format of Security Council sessions on Kosovo? (RTS)
Great Britain is taking over in August the presiding of the UN Security Council. Media report, which is also confirmed by Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, London could request the abolishment of the sessions on Kosovo, or to be closed for the public. The point of all requests is to exert pressure on Serbia and the broader international community to accept the thesis that the Kosovo issue has been resolved, opines former diplomat Zoran Milivojevic. With Resolution 1244 passed in 1999, the UN Security Council placed Kosovo under the auspices of the United Nations. Thus, the quarterly reports on the work of the UN mission in Kosovo and Metohija, UNMIK, and about the situation in the province are regularly heard in that body. The UK would like to have less of that. “It is high time for the Security Council to meet less often on this topic. We need to focus on real threats to international peace and security. Kosovo does not belong in that category,” then UK ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft said in February. Along with these demands, London might have another wish – that the Security Council stops dealing with with Kosovo altogether, or does that behind closed doors. “I am sure that they will try to abolish these sessions and for this to turn into closed consultation without official Security Council sessions on Kosovo. They could do this at the voting on procedural matters, Russia and China cannot veto this. We are not present here,” Dacic says. Former ambassador in the UN Vladislav Jovanovic says that this issue would then start dying out in the eyes of the world since it would not have it constantly in front of the eyes. The president of the SC sets agendas, presides over the meetings and oversees the hotspots. From that position, can they avoid a veto? “According to what the charter says, the veto power is used when deciding on essential issues, it cannot be used in procedural matters. Now the question is whether one par excellence political issue, which is a product of a non-authorized military action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, can be translated into a procedural issue. Technically, and most likely that will be the clashing point between those who disagree, Russia and China and a couple of non-permanent ones, and those who have a voting majority,” Jovanovic pointed out. The push to have less Kosovo and Metohija in the SC had its predecessor in the British, but also in the insistence of a few other Western countries to have less UNMIK in the province. RTS’ interlocutors see this issue in the context of the global competition between Washington and Moscow. “It shows that Britain is firm in its position to include Serbia in its relations with Russia and to pursue strategic interests by pressuring Serbia, in this case the issue is Kosovo and Metohija, and we cannot treat this as a friendly move,” said Milivojevic.
Great Britain is certainly consistent in its policy towards Serbia and the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. London recognized Kosovo only one day after the unilateral declaration of independence was made. Several years ago it sponsored a resolution on Srebrenica, and recently engaged in a diplomatic precedent of sorts when it rebuked Suriname for its decision to withdraw recognition of Kosovo.
Pressures regarding Kosovo to be debated in New York (Novosti)
Serbia will soon step up the diplomatic battle for Kosovo and Metohija in the Security Council where it will present arguments that can at least “stamp” the attempts of the great powers to work out new recognitions of the illegally declared independence of the southern Serbian province. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic will represent the stands of Serbia at the Security Council session on Kosovo and Metohija, scheduled for 14 May. According to Novosti, in the address in the Security Council, but also during numerous meetings on the margins of the debate in the UN, Dacic will try to convince representatives of those states that do not recognize Kosovo to remain with these positions, but also to lobby with those states that have done so to re-examine the decision. The promoters of Kosovo’s independence are exerting strong pressures on the countries that might withdraw their decision on recognition of Kosovo to remain with their decision. Serbia will also reinforce diplomatic activities towards the countries that haven’t recognized Kosovo and Metohija, especially the five EU member states – Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus. According to Novosti, the president of Cyprus will visit Serbia on 10 May and this will be an opportunity for the two countries’ officials to once again exchange opinions on the Kosovo issue.
Kosarac: Muslim side wanted war in B&H at all costs (Srna)
A member of the SNSD Presidency, Stasa Kosarac, has said that the crime committed against members of the former JNA in Sarajevo on May 2 and 3, 1992, including the killing of soldiers in Dobrovoljacka Street, is an indisputable war crime that Serb people in Republika Srpska (RS) and B&H will never forget. “The RS institutions will permanently mark these dates and condemn this crime, primarily because of the victims’ families, and because of the fact that the Dobrovoljacka case clearly proves that the Muslim side wanted a war in B&H at all costs,” Kosar has said. He has warned that the families of victims from Dobrovoljacka Street and RS institutions will not stop seeking justice, despite the fact that The Hague Tribunal and the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H, as its extended arm, have so far refused to prosecute this case.
“It is clear to us that the processing of the Dobrovoljacka Street and Tuzla Convoy cases, as well as numerous other crimes committed by Muslims and Croat military and paramilitary formations between March and May 1992, would reveal a false myth of the alleged aggression on B&H. Therefore, the B&H Prosecutor’s Office is still silent about crimes against former JNA members in Dobrovoljacka Street and Tuzla Convoy,” Kosarac has stressed. According to Kosarac, the RS institutions will find a way in the coming period to bring to justice those who planned, ordered and committed crimes in Dobrovoljaka Street and other unprocessed crimes against Serbs during the civil war in B&H. “Our trust in the work of imposed judicial institutions at B&H level has been lost after numerous biased and catastrophically ended processes in crimes against Serbs. Our distrust and resistance to the work of these institutions is reinforced by the absence of any response from international officials, who in this way do not contribute to the process of reconciliation and establishing lasting peace in B&H,” Kosarac has emphasized.
New details in case ‘Dudakovic et al.’ (ATV/RTRS)
The B&H Court rejected the request of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H on determining custody measures and ordered the release of wartime commander of “Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RB&H) Army” Fifth Corps General Atif Dudakovic and his 12 co-defendants. They were formally released from custody on Sunday morning. ATV claims to be in possession of the statements from the key witnesses and many of them have already asked for protection of their identities. The Prosecutor’s Office of B&H has questioned around 400 witnesses in this case so far and additional 15 witnesses remain to be questioned. These 15 witnesses have directly witnessed executions that were allegedly done by members of the RB&H Army Fifth Corps, led by Dudakovic. These witnesses fear for their lives, due to the fact that they live in the Una-Sana Canton, where Dudakovic also lives. The 15 witnesses were also members of the RB&H Army Fifth Corps, who decided to step forward and talk about the crimes that were committed. Without their statements the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H will not be able to conclude the investigation in this case. According to ATV, the statements of the key witnesses explain in detail all the crimes that Dudakovic and his comrades committed, killing civilians and prisoners, destroying property, Orthodox monasteries and churches. They will testify against Dudakovic and, according to ATV, all these key witnesses are Bosniaks and former members of the RB&H Army Fifth Corps. The 13 people in the case ‘Dudakovic et al.’ are suspected of war crimes committed against several hundreds of Serb civilians and imprisoned soldiers from the area of Zapadna Krajina municipalities during 1995, as well as of war crimes against Bosniak civilians, members of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, that took place during 1994. RTRS published new details from the court records about crimes that Dudakovic is charged with. According to RTRS, Serb residents of Bosanski Petrovac, Kljuc, Bosanska Krupa, Sanski Most and around 60 villages were persecuted and killed while their property, churches, and temples were completely destroyed at Dudakovic’s order. The records include witnesses’ statements containing detailed descriptions of killing of Serb civilians, burning of skeletons, setting property on fire and persecution of Serbs. One of the cases described by the witnesses include Dudakovic ordering the soldiers from his brigade to take nine persons from the area in front of a motel in Bosanski Petrovac to what they called a collective center. However, witnesses went on to claim that these nine persons were captured and shot to death from automatic rifles. Ibrahim Siljdedic and Redzep Zlojic were mentioned as individuals who shot these people. The records also include a description of shooting of seven captured soldiers of Republika Srpska (RS) Army, where Hasan Ruznic is mentioned as an individual who shot these soldiers in the head. Director of the RS Center for War Crime Investigation Milorad Kojic said that there are 8,000 pages of documentation about brutality of crimes committed at Dudakovic’s order and assessed that this deserves the strictest punishment. According to Kojic, release of Dudakovic pending trial rather than putting him in detention shows that the Court of B&H directly interfered with the outcome of the process and enabled Dudakovic to pressure the witnesses.
Ivanic: Everything that has happened around Dudakovic case has completely diminished story about neutrality (ATV)
Serb member of B&H Presidency Mladen Ivanic (PDP) commented the arrest and release of wartime commander of the RB&H Army Fifth Corps General Atif Dudakovic and his 12 co-defendants. “Everything that has happened around the Dudakovic case has completely diminished the story about the neutrality of the Court of B&H, because you had an unseen euphoria around this case, protests and gatherings in the Federation of B&H. We could hear the opinions of all the key officials in the Federation of B&H, from Mr. Bakir Izetbegovic to even the representatives of the Islamic Community in B&H. They tried to explain who Dudakovic is and we could see an unprecedented pressure onto the judiciary system. What I find terrible is the ignorant relationship of the representatives of the international community in B&H towards this case and all that has happened. They always called upon the neutrality of the judiciary system before, they have condemned any form of pressure on it, but now they obviously have no courage to condemn the Bosniak parties for the evident pressure that was exerted onto the judiciary. But, we must not give up, we must insist on justice”, said Ivanic. Ivanic concluded that this case will be a test for the work of the judiciary institutions in B&H, because if they do not process this properly, then most of the people in B&H will completely lose faith in the work of those institutions.
Mogherini and Hahn call for reform of election legislation in B&H (N1)
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn published a joint statement on Wednesday calling for reform of the election legislation in B&H related to the election in the Federation of B&H House of Peoples (HoP). Mogherini and Hahn expect the leaders of B&H to reach a compromise without further delay in the best interest of their country. Mogherini and Hahn warned that, if the results of the general elections cannot be implemented, the formation of authorities could be at risk. “The holding of elections and the implementation of their results, including proper functioning of the institutions, is a fundamental democratic requirement for any country aspiring to join the EU. Holding the future election results a hostage to party interests is not an option”, the officials concluded. The statement also reads that current efforts of the EU and the US ambassadors to B&H to provide support to talks between political parties in B&H about changes of election legislation created framework enabling finding of a necessary solution.
Izetbegovic: Bosniaks have paid in all ways ‘the price of Bosnia’ (Dnevni list)
Member of the B&H Presidency and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic said that member of the Presidency of B&H Dragan Covic has sided with Croatia with regards to the Peljesac Bridge issue, that Covic has sided with Serbia with regards to the issue of Kosovo and that when it comes to the issue of the OHR, Covic has sided with Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik and Russia. Izetbegovic further noted that Bosniaks make half of population of B&H, yet at the state level they have only one third of power. When it comes to the Federation of B&H, Izetbegovic said Bosniaks make ¾ of the population and yet they only have one half of ministers in the Federation of B&H government. “The Bosniaks have in all ways paid ‘the price of Bosnia’ long time ago and one has nowhere else to go”, stressed Izetbegovic.
Inzko to address the UN Security Council and present his 53rd regular report on implementation of peace in B&H (Klix.ba)
High Representative Valentin Inzko is paying visit to Washington and New York, where he will address the UN Security Council and present his 53rd regular report on implementation of peace in B&H. During his visit to Washington, Inzko met US officials, including Laura Cowan, the Special Advisory for Europe and Russia to US Vice President Michael Pence, as well as Acting Deputy Assistant State secretary Matthew Palmer. During these meetings, Inzko informed the US officials about current political situation in B&H and underlined importance of the EU and US engagement in assisting B&H politicians finding solution for implementing of Constitutional Court of B&H’s decision in ‘Ljubic case’. Inzko stressed that “this issue is lead political priority for local actors”. “General elections in October, as well as their results have to be implemented in best way and without hindrance, so that B&H would not face further delays when it comes to urgently needed reforms”, said Inzko. HR also underlined issue of negative rhetoric which additionally poisons and aggravates already tensed pre-election atmosphere. “In lack of genuine desire to deal with issues that are of true importance for day to day lives of citizens, politicians are spreading rifts and use damaging rhetoric in attempt to gain points in pre-election campaign. Needs of citizens are known to all. They want better lives, economic prosperity, and to have their children stay and work in B&H”, said Inzko. HR will also meet several Ambassadors to the UN, as well as UN senior officials, while address before the UN SC is planned for May 8.
US and EU must act urgently in Balkans (Dnevni avaz)
Director of the East West Institute Cameron Munter confirmed for the daily that the US Institute for Peace will have a group of experts presents its plan for the Western Balkans and for B&H on Friday; the plan will be presented to the US public, but also to the administration, and it will be titled ‘Time for action in Western Balkans; Political recommendations to US diplomacy’. According to the statement published on the US Institute for Peace website, the Western Balkans is a turbulent region once again, and the US must take firm stance in cooperation and support of the EU. “We want to ensure focused attention of the US and the EU, which has been negligible for the past ten years,” stated Munter recently.
Croatia invites Slovenia to resolve border issue at expert level (Hina)
The outstanding border issue between Croatia and Slovenia should finally start to be dealt with expertly and with arguments, and not political statements, the state secretary at the Croatian Foreign Ministry Andreja Metelko Zgombic said in Brussels on Wednesday. “Croatia is looking at this issue as an expert issue which should finally no longer be dealt with through political statements,” she told reporters after an oral hearing at the European Commission after Slovenia’s complaint that Croatia is in breach of European Union law by not recognizing a border arbitration ruling. She said she did not attend the hearing in her capacity as state secretary because it was held at expert level, but as a legal expert who has been dealing with the border issue a long time. “You can’t hear statements on the Croatian side that would lead to any straining of relations. I didn’t want to say so explicitly, but I think one can conclude from which side statements are coming that unnecessarily raise tensions and aren’t constructive,” said Metelko Zgombic. She called the hearing successful and said the Commission had a chance to better see what this issue was about. “There were no new positions and both sides continued to present their familiar positions.” She reiterated Croatia’s position that there was no breach of European law here, which Slovenia claims, and that Croatia expected to resume talks on the border issue with a new Slovenian government after next month’s election. She said Slovenia’s main argument was that there was a new border now and that Croatia was not applying EU law. “Slovenia thinks the border has suddenly, by itself, moved to a different place from where it was in 1991 and is now. Croatia replied that the border remained there where we confirmed that it was in our constitutional decisions on sovereignty and independence, that it was the border of the former republic. This position was confirmed by the two states in 2005, in a statement on the avoidance of incidents.” She said Croatia saw in that a solution to the current situation. “If that regime of not punishing fishermen has been good from 2005 until now, we don’t see why it can’t remain in force until Slovenia and Croatia resolve the border issue within the framework of international law.” She said she regretted that Slovenia had gone after Croatian fishermen, adding that Croatia had been forced to retaliate. “It is very important that Croatia knew how to respond properly to Slovenia’s complaint and that the Commission has enough information and arguments to make its own opinion.” Slovenia brought the case before the Commission in mid-March in accordance with Article 259 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, claiming that, by not recognizing and not implementing the arbitration ruling of June 29, 2017, Croatia is in breach of EU law. The proceedings before the Commission last three months during which both parties are to exchange written submissions and hold an oral hearing in the Commission.
Zagreb submitted its written response to the complaint to the Commission on April 17, concluding that it is not in breach of EU law. Under Article 259, the Commission can but does not have to give its opinion on the case. The deadline is June 18. If it does not, Slovenia can, and has announced that it will, take the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.
US wants Croatia to be an example to neighbors (Vecernji list)
How has the US policy towards Southeast Europe changed in the last 15 months, since the inauguration of President Donald Trump? It is evident that – compared to North Korea (where Trump’s policy seems to be producing results), the Middle East, repositioning towards Russia and China – the Balkans region is not in the focus of Trump’s administration. However, several trends do emerge. First, under Trump, there is a lesser degree of micromanagement which used to be conducted under Obama and Bush not just by US ambassadors in the regional countries but also by officials from Washington. Trump is not interested in interfering with the internal affairs of states of the region to resolve an issue which might be a problem not only for the country in question but also for broader values and interests which the United States promotes in the world. Is this good or bad news? You can find diplomats and other interlocutors on both sides of the issue. However, we should not forget that it was such micromanagement from Washington which, for example, saved Croatia from the idea of a Slovenian referendum that would undoubtedly delay its entry into NATO, or convinced the ICTY chief prosecutor that his insistence on documents from the time of the Operation Storm should cease. As for the Operation Storm itself, it is worth recalling that Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis has provided perhaps the most vocal American support for the operation when he praised it in the company of Damir Krsticevic, Croatia’s Defense Minister and one of the commanders of the operation. Which leads us to another trend in US policy towards the Balkans, a trend which represents continuity between Trump and earlier administrations in terms of finding the best way for achieving regional stability – the support for Euro-Atlantic integration for the countries in the region. In this effort, Croatia has a role of an example. The US Embassy in Zagreb often cites as one of its goal support for Croatia to serve with its internal and external policies as an example that neighbors can copy. Within the context of this goal, Americans have always considered it crucial that Croatia should actively pursue the policy of reconciliation with Serbia, fully integrate minorities into its national and local politics, conduct war crimes trials, encourage the return of refugees, be an example in resolving open border disputes and in the fight against corruption… The fact that there is no change in this regard has been demonstrated by the enthusiasm with which the US embassy reacted to President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s invitation to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to come to an official visit to Croatia. Despite some analysts seeing alleged significant changes in the US policies towards the region, those who look more closely at issue can see that US strategic goal remains reconciliation and maintaining good-neighbor relations in the Balkans.
Besa expects minister’s post in government reshuffle (MIA)
The Besa Movement led by Bilal Kasami is in talks with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev over its entry in the government coalition. MP Fadil Zendeli said Wednesday the Kasami-Zaev meeting on Monday tackled the issue, with Besa interested in a minister’s post. Another meeting is to take place by the week-end. Zaev said yesterday that talks with potential partners in the government coalition are finishing. Besides Kasami, the PM has also held meetings with Afrim Gashi, leader of a Besa faction, as well as DPA. Kasami’s Besa has two MPs in Parliament, Gashi’s faction has three, while DPA two.
Zaev: Macedonia and Greece together can find name solution ahead of EU Council (MIA)
I believe that Macedonia and Greece together can reach a solution prior to the Council of the EU, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said answering questions at a news conference on Wednesday.
Asked when he expected a name solution to be sent to the UN, Zaev said the parties were ‘not far away from reaching a solution, although we can at the same time be truly very far away from a solution.’ “I would like us to reach a solution even before the EU-Western Balkans Summit, which is on May 17-18. But, it is more important to reach a solution. I assure you, by keeping close to what matters the most – to maintain the dignity and identity of both Macedonia and Greece – we are trying to reach the agreement which provides Macedonia with a NATO invitation and a date for start of EU negotiations,” Zaev told reporters. Macedonia, he said, deserves it and has fulfilled all criteria. “Although being a political issue, we must close all political issues. Using pro-democratic and pro-Western manners, I believe the two parties will find the strength ultimately to find a permanent and sustainable solution in the interest of the two sides,” Zaev stated.
Berkley: White House closely monitors developments in Macedonia (MIA)
Deputy PM and Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska met with William Berkley, Director of European Affairs of White House National Security Council and Tina Kaidanow, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs and discussed Macedonia’s reform process, country’s contribution to global security, strategic determination of the citizens, political parties and Macedonian Government for NATO membership. “Macedonia’s membership in NATO will mean success not only for our country but also for the US and NATO and will have major impact on stability and security of the region,” Sekerinska said after the meetings. Berkley said that the White House closely monitors the developments in Macedonia. He underlined that Macedonia has allies in the White House and Government’s ability to deliver reforms and to solve problems with negotiations has called it a great argument for the country’s success and confirmed that Macedonia’s successful bid to join NATO will be an example that will affect the developments in other countries of the region. Kaidanow said that the change in Macedonia only a year after the political crisis is visible. “Macedonia is an important partner to US and it will remain so, and you have our support in addressing the challenges on the road to NATO, because Macedonia’s membership in NATO is crucial for the stability of entire region,” Kaidanow said. While in US Sekerinska also met Shari Bryan, Vice President of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Robert Benjamin, the NDI regional director of Central and Eastern Europe. Sekerinska wraps up her official visit to the US by laying a wreath at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Military Cemetery. Sekerinska met with US Defence Secretary Mattis, who reaffirmed US support to Macedonia’s membership in NATO and also held meetings with senior officials of the White House, US State Department, the Congress and the Senate.
Mattis: US value Macedonia’s efforts as NATO partner (MIA)
The United States value Macedonia’s efforts as a NATO partner, said United States Defense Secretary James Mattis at Tuesday’s meeting with Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska.
Mattis said the NATO membership invitation would follow immediately after Macedonia and Greece reach a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue. “We salute your efforts with Greece to solve this issue and I hope results will come soon. We do not want to see you stuck in front of the doors of NATO. Today’s security environment requires a spirit of friendship among those who promote freedom, fundamental human rights and the rule of law,” stressed Mattis. He added that the United States value Macedonia’s efforts by deploying troops in mission Resolute Support in Afghanistan, as well as the country’s decision to allocate two percent of the GDP for the defense budget. In addition, he thanked Macedonia for its decision to expel a Russian diplomat and give support to its allies regarding the Skripal case. Minister Sekerinska thanked the US for their firm support and reconfirmed the consensus in Macedonia regarding its NATO membership. “Let me assure you that Macedonia is prepared for NATO accession. We have recovered from the protracted political crisis, and following a strong reform effort, we are seen as a beacon of hope on the Balkans,” stressed Sekerinska. She said Macedonia has launched important defense reforms, increasing its contribution in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
“We have proved our commitment as a credible partner. Our goal is to be that type of an ally too. Therefore, I seek your support as a strategic partner for our NATO membership. An invitation in July will support Macedonia in its strategic objective, help the region in building long-term stability and increase the influence and preparedness of the United States and NATO,” added Sekerinska.
Accession talks, Bundestag MP official visit in Tirana (ADN)
MP of the German Bundestag’s, Christian Social Union (CSU), at the same time the EU spokesman for enlargement, Florian Hahn, will arrive this Thursday in Tirana for an official visit. His visit comes after the positive EU recommendation for the opening of the accession negotiations for Albania and PM Edi Rama’s visit in Germany. ADN learned that the German official will hold meetings with President Ilir Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama, DP Chairman, Lulzim Basha, Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruci, and the head of the parliamentary group of SP, Taulant Balla.
Berisha urges for protests: Rama is donating the sea to Greece (ADN)
Former Prime Minister, Sali Berisha urged on Wednesday to all the Albanians to rise up in protests against government for donating Albanians properties to Greece. The reaction of Berisha comes after the two countries, Albania and Greece confirmed as successful the first round of talks on the delimitation of maritime zones which took place in a constructive and cooperative climate. “Government is donating Albanians properties to Greece. The agreement between Albania and Greece has already been signed and at the end of May it will be public. I made an appeal to all the Albanians to defend their vital interests and territorial integrity.”
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Macedonian Defense Chief: Name Dispute with Greece Sole NATO Impediment (VoA, by Jane Bojadzievski, 2 May 2018)
WASHINGTON — After repeated assurances from high-level U.N. and Macedonian officials that Skopje is poised to resolve its long-running name dispute with neighboring Greece, the Balkan nation’s defense chief says that issue may well be the only thing impeding its pending NATO accession. Following Pentagon meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, Macedonian Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska told VOA that Skopje has satisfied all NATO membership criteria, and that Greece’s blessing will now prove vital to securing accession at an upcoming alliance summit. Macedonia and Greece have been at odds for a quarter-century over the name Macedonia, but have pledged to resolve the dispute by the summer. Greece argues the country’s name harbors territorial claims on its own northern province of Macedonia. Last week, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he was “convinced” the name dispute could be resolved, but that any required constitutional changes would have to be decided by referendum.
Matthew Nimetz, the U.N. envoy on the matter, expressed optimism about prospects for a deal between Skopje and Athens after talks in Vienna concluded on April 25. Asked whether the dispute could be resolved ahead of the mid-July NATO summit, where Macedonia could be invited to become the alliance’s 30th member, Sekerinska was cautiously optimistic. She pointed to Skopje’s relatively quick resolution of last year’s domestic political turmoil, when Macedonian nationalists unhappy about the inclusion of ethnic Albanians blocked the formation of a new government, further deepening the worst crisis the nation had seen since narrowly averting an ethnic civil war in 2001. “Macedonia has recovered very quickly from political crises, and it has improved its reputation as a democratic, NATO-values-based country,” she said. “It has increased its NATO defense spending and contribution to NATO-led missions. So, [NATO membership] criteria are met; the only unknown for the July summit is whether we will reach consensus with Greece on the long-running name dispute. We believe it’s very important for both Macedonia and Greece to have NATO’s door opened for Macedonia.” NATO membership would not only enhance stability in the Balkans but also would “increase readiness and leverage of both the U.S. and NATO in the region and in the world,” she added, referring to Western efforts to counter Russian influence and political meddling in the region. “Macedonia is really seen as a kind of litmus test on what happens when a country performs well,” she added. “Macedonia is a very diverse country, which, though sometimes complicated, we have shown to be an asset. We are a multiethnic, multireligious country that has expanded media freedom, rule of law, and introduced a higher level of accountability and transparency that has been unparalleled around us.”
Country’s efforts praised
Mattis had praised Macedonia’s efforts to resolve its decades-old name dispute with Greece, saying he hoped the Balkan country would soon be able to join NATO. “We commend your work with Greece to resolve this issue and I am hopeful it will bear fruit soon,” Mattis said Tuesday. “We don’t wish to see you stopped at NATO’s doorstep,” Mattis said before lauding what he described as Skopje’s “resistance to Russia’s malign influence in the Balkans,” saying that he welcomed Skopje’s “continued leadership by example in this region.”
The next NATO summit is slated for July 11 in Brussels, Belgium.
This story originated in VOA’s Macedonian service.
Commission budget proposal hardly makes EU enlargement possible (EurActiv, by Georgi Gotev, 2 May 2018)
The Commission proposal for the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027, unveiled on Wednesday (2 May), shows that the funds allocated for EU enlargement are 1.2 times superior to the previous budget period. But no country joined the EU in 2014-2020. The Western Balkan hopefuls – Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo – realise that the mood has changed since 1 May 2004, when the EU opened its doors to 10 new members. Today, they measure the temperature of the EU’s readiness to open up by the amounts proposed for EU pre-accession, and in the future – by the budget battles to come. Conspicuously, the funds for the EU hopefuls are called “Pre-accession assistance”, the previous term “enlargement” appearing not once in the 31-page Communication. “The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance will support candidate countries and potential candidates on their path to fulfilling the accession criteria. It will moreover contribute to the achievement of broader European objectives of ensuring stability, security and prosperity in the immediate neighbourhood of the Union. It will also be positioned in the context of the Western Balkans Strategy and will reflect the developments in relations with Turkey,” is the only text in the Communication concerning the EU hopefuls. In recent years, the EU avoids the term “enlargement”, having replaced it with “Western Balkans”, thus excluding Turkey, a country which, according the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, is taking giant steps away from the EU. The 19 October summit decided to cut down pre-accession funds for Turkey and re-orient some of them for the country’s civil society. Pre-accession assistance for the 2021-2027 period will be 1.2 higher compared to the previous budget. This amounts to €12.865 billion in 2018 prices, which is equal to €14.5 billion in commitments in “current prices”, taking into account inflation. Croatia was the last country to join the EU, in 2013. When the current Commission took over, Juncker said there would be no new enlargement under his term.
The 2018 Commission enlargement strategy for the first time made no mention of Turkey. It said that by 2025, the EU could become larger than 27 members. Montenegro, in particular, is singled out as a frontrunner, and also Serbia. Only these two countries are conducting accession negotiations. Macedonia and Albania could follow, provided that the former solves its name dispute issue with Greece. The decision will be made by unanimity at the June EU summit.
Asked a question whether the proposed EU budget allow accession at all, Budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger said that the money allocated was designed to help reform in the next ten years. Not a single euro in the proposal was allocated for enlargement, he added, according to translation. If a new member state comes in, the EU will increase the funding, as it has been the case for Croatia, he added.