Holy Assembly Bishops: Unacceptable any change of Kosovo status (B92/Tanjug)
The Holy Assembly Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) has confirmed its unanimous and unequivocal position from previous meetings regarding Kosovo and Metohija. And the Serbian Orthodox Church’s position is that Kosovo and Metohija is an integral part of the Republic of Serbia’s sovereign territory. Kosovo and Metohija, a statement issued on Friday said, is defined as such in the Serbian Constitution and in UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The bishops said that this stance in no way means supporting the idea of a so-called frozen conflict, but instead represents a call to all political actors to continue dialogue, without pressure and blackmail. At the same time, they voiced their support for any responsible dialogue that should contribute to the rule of law and reconciliation among all peoples living in the territory of Kosovo, as Serbia’s southern province. This dialogue should be led in the context of solving the issue of protection of human rights of people, SPC’s freedom to exist and work, institutional and security protection of Serb holy places, allowing the undisturbed return of displaced people, and free access to property to all those from whom it has been unlawfully seized or usurped. The statement points out that Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – including Kosovo and Metohija, regardless of the illegally declared so-called “Kosovo state” – is today recognized by the vast majority of humankind, including Russia and China, five member-states of the European Union, as well as the OSCE, UNESCO and other important international organizations. Therefore, any change in the status of Kosovo and Metohija is unacceptable to the Holy Assembly of Bishops – leading either to recognition of Kosovo as an independent state or to any kind of territorial partition, without which delimitation is not possible. Such a solution, the Assembly believes, would inevitably lead to most of the remaining Serbs, who live in majority Albanian areas, leaving, incalculably damaging our spiritual and cultural heritage. It is pointed out that this is the position of the SPC bishops, and not a political one. This is the position of the bishops, as a responsible pastoral and historical stance, which stems from the centuries-old struggle of the Serbian Orthodox Church to ensure the survival of the faithful Serb people in their ancestral homes, its holy places – and the will of the vast majority of our people, the statement said.
Vucic: Best confirmation of unity and struggle for national interests (RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said that the victory of the Serb List candidates at the early elections in north Kosovo and Metohija was the best confirmation of the policy of unity and the struggle for the most important state and national interests. Vucic addressed by phone the gathering in Kosovska Mitrovica. Goran Rakic turned the speakerphone on during the conversation in front of media and a crowd of supporters. “I wish to thank the people because, despite the fact that they were called from various sides and provoked from everybody not to turn out for the elections, to be told that it wasn’t important who will represent them since we do not have a chance to survive. Our people had demonstrated enormous energy and wish to fight for their future and for a better tomorrow of their children,” said Vucic. He thanked them for turning out for the elections and supporting the Serb List and congratulated their representatives in all four municipalities. He says this doesn’t resolve all problems, but the Serbs demonstrated that they will fight jointly and in a united manner for resolving problems and for their own interests. “I think that after all threats, blackmail, horrible insults, against the Serb List and all of us, uttered by the Albanians, but also some Serbs, that this is the best confirmation of the policy of unity, the struggle for our vital national and most important state interests,” said Vucic.
He announced a meeting with Serb representatives in Belgrade before the Serbian parliament session on Kosovo and Metohija in order to discuss what needs to be done in the future. “In order to prepare for Paris and all meetings and to be absolutely united. To trust each other and to show that Serb unity win and that nobody can defeat the Serb people and Serbia,” said Vucic.
He promised that they will always be together with the Serb people in Kosovo and that all parts of Serbia will fight for their survival and for the state of Serbia.
Djuric: Great victory of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija (RTS)
The Serb candidates in all four municipalities in north of Kosovo and Metohija achieved today a convincing victory, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said on Sunday evening. He pointed out that the Serb list achieved in Kosovska Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok, in absolute numbers and individually as a political organization of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, a larger and better result than in 2017. According to him, this is a debacle and failure of those who called for boycott of these elections, some irresponsible political factors in Serbia and the debacle of Pristina’s attempts to take over control over the north, by having Albanian candidates in regions where Serbs make up over 90 percent of the population.
Drecun: Serbs people in Kosovo and Metohija defended right to survival (RTS)
The Serb List proved at yesterday’s elections for mayors in four municipalities that it is the only representative of the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija, the Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS). “Pristina’s attempts to eventually take over the management of the municipalities in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica and to start the process, as they state, of unification of two Mitrovica parts have been rejected. Pristina’s attempts have failed to realize its interests by introducing divisions among the Serb people,” said Drecun. The representatives of four municipalities will come to Belgrade for talks and a special session of the Serbian parliament on Kosovo and Metohija was also announced. “The talks will be a continuation of daily communication of the state leadership and political representatives of the Serb people. There will also be talks with the Serbs on what will be Serbia’s policy in Kosovo and Metohija,” said Drecun. President Vucic will openly talk about what problems had Serbia been facing in Brussels and whether there is hope to resume the dialogue and to reach a compromise solution. “It is important for the parliament to work in full capacity. The obligation of the MPs is to listen to the President on the course of the negotiations based on the parliament resolution of 2013, based on which the Brussels talks were conducted, which clearly states that Serbia will never recognize independence of Kosovo but is prepared to discuss a comprehensive solution,” Drecun said.
Two Serbian parliament Committees: Resolution based on lies (Tanjug/RTV)
The Committee for Kosovo and Metohija and the Defense and Internal Affairs Committee rejected on Friday the resolution of the Pristina authorities. The statement from the session of the two Committees, which was closed to the public, says that the resolution is unacceptable, based on brutal lies, intimidates the Serb people and fuels hatred against the Serb people and Serbia. It is assessed that the current situation in the Autonomous Province (AP) of Kosovo and Metohija is characterized by a complication of the security situation, especially by the unilateral moves of Pristina such as the adoption of the assembly resolution on Serbia’s war crimes in Kosovo. “For a long time, one of the security challenges has been the Wahhabi-Salafi groups acting from the position of radical Islam. Considering the number of people living on the territory of AP of Kosovo and Metohija, the area has been the origin of most of the extremists who went to fight for the terrorist group Islamic State. The returnees are capable of continuing terrorist activities. The members of the Wahhabi movement, returnees from the Middle East and extremists deported from Western Europe, are a serious factor of security risks in AP of Kosovo and Metohija. So far, there are no findings about concrete threats or plans of attack against the Serb population in AP of Kosovo and Metohija by radical Islamists and jihadists, however there is a real danger of smaller terrorist attacks by radicalized individuals. The Committee for Kosovo and Metohija and the Defense and Internal Affairs Committee demand that the international presence in AP of Kosovo and Metohija dedicate maximum attention to all security threats, especially against the Serbian people in AP of Kosovo and Metohija who are the ones most endangered and duly take all steps needed to prevent the realization of possible violent plans by extremists, radical Islamists and jihadists. The Committee for Kosovo and Metohija and the Defense and Internal Affairs Committee will continue to follow the security situation in AP of Kosovo and Metohija.”
Jeremic: If Vucic forwards platform on Kosovo, party to consider return to parliament (Beta)
The leader of the People’s Party Vuk Jeremic said that his party would consider attending a parliamentary session on Kosovo, on condition that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reported on the negotiations, also offering a draft platform for the talks in the future. “In the eyes of the People’s Party, Kosovo is one of the vital national issues, and ever since its inception the party has insisted that it should be discussed openly in the Serbian parliament,” Jeremic said. The opposition leader said, however, that his party would make its attendance conditional on Vucic’s
report on all the negotiations he had taken part in so far, and a draft platform for future engagement. “It’s the necessary material for MPs to get ready for the session,” Jeremic said, warning that the People’s Party would not take part in a fake debate, or just act as decoration.”
Bosniaks are holding B&H hostage (Novosti)
After SBB B&H reached its decision and decided to be part of Bosniak coalition at B&H, along with SDA and DF, parties in Republika Srpska (RS) expect that Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H could be formed soon, naturally without any blackmails about accepting of Membership Action Plan and NATO accession. Spokesperson of SNSD, Radovan Kovacevic told the daily that Bosniaks parties are obstructing forming of the CoM ever since October elections, adding that they obviously waited for SDA to form a Bosniak coalition, as they did not want to enter the authority on their own. Kovacevic said that it is obvious that unresolved relations among Bosniak parties and their unresolved relations in the Federation of B&H, have kept the entire region a hostage for seven months. SNSD Vice President Nikola Spiric said that it is necessary to welcome this decision of SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic if their intention is to leave the dead-end street soon and form the authorities. Spiric said that there was no need to waste all this time, because parties from the RS have not conditioned forming of the authorities. SNSD representatives said that Bosniak coalition can forget about any forms of blackmail regarding the MAP activation and NATO accession, because the RS institutions have reached a clear stance on military neutrality. The daily also reads that SBB B&H joining the coalition opened space for speculations about the appointments and Bisera Turkovic should be SDA’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, while Radoncic should be new Security Ministers. Croat side would reappoint Vjekoslav Bevanda as Finance Minister and Barisa Colak as Justice Minister. RS parties have not yet discussed their candidates and the only known thing is that Zoran Tegeltija will be new CoM Chair.
Leaders of SDA, DF, SBB B&H sign joint statement on principles and priorities of patriotic bloc (BHT1)
Leaders of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic, DF Zeljko Komsic and SBB Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Fahrudin Radoncic signed on Friday a joint statement which defines principles and priorities of the patriotic bloc in the executive and legislative authorities. The statement reads that, with the aim to ensure peace, prosperity and stability of all citizens of B&H, the three parties decided to form a strong, patriotic, political bloc that will be active in the executive and legislative authorities at the levels of the Federation of B&H and B&H. Priorities of the bloc imply defense of sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional organization of B&H, preservation of peace and stability, as well as acceleration of the B&H’s path to the EU. The joint statement also mentioned preservation of heritage and the truth about defensive-liberation war 1992-1995, urgent activation of the MAP through regular adoption of annual action plans as goals of the bloc. Implementation of all verdicts of B&H and European courts that refer to the B&H Election Law, reaching representation of the constituent peoples and ‘Others’ in institutions at all levels of power, adoption of laws and implementation of other measures for elimination of discrimination based on ethnic, religious, ideological values, adoption of economic reforms, creation of a better business environment with the aim to strengthen domestic economy was also mentioned in the joint statement. Furthermore, the joint statement also put emphasis to more efficient fight against organized crime, terrorism and corruption, improvement of laws in order to achieve independence of prosecutorial, judicial and security structures and adoption of regulations from the area of labor legislation in line with international standards. Finally, the document underlined realization of activities in the sector of traffic connection, providing more money for sustainable return, reorganization of ministries with the aim to achieve a more rational and a more efficient structure of the Federation of B&H government.
Serbs in Federation of B&H announce appeal regarding underrepresentation of Serbs in authorities in Federation of B&H (ATV)
Appeals concerning underrepresentation of Serbs in the Federation B&H and cantonal governments will soon be discussed by cantonal courts as well as by the Federation B&H Constitutional Court (CC). Reporter noted that one example of underrepresentation of Serbs in cantonal authorities is Sarajevo Canton (SC). Namely, instead of three, only one Serb is a member of the SC Government. Minister of Interior of USC Nermin Kljajic said that the USC Government was formed in line with the results of the census from 1991, because a representative of Serbs is at helm of one Ministry. Member of the Board for Protection of Serbs’ Rights in the Federation of B&H Djordje Radanovic said that the main problem is the fact many decide to declare as Serbs before elections in order to get a position in cantonal authorities. He stressed that an example of his claim is the USC, where the Minister of Education declares as the Serb although he declared differently earlier. Radanovic stated that results of Census 2013 should be used as ground to decide whether someone can declare as Serb, Croat or Bosniak. Radanovic underlined that this situation would get more attention if it occurred in Republika Srpska (RS). Member of B&H Presidency from rank of Serbs Milorad Dodik stated that the issue of representation of Serbs in authorities in the Federation of B&H can be resolved at the level of state institutions. Dodik said that rights of constituent peoples are better respected in the RS than rights of Serbs in the Federation of B&H. “This is a serious problem that cannot be resolved without the RS and without us in joint institutions,” explained Dodik. SNSD MP in B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Stasa Kosarac said that it will be hard to resolve this issue, due to organized activities preventing Serbs to achieve their rights in this context in the Federation of B&H. Reporter reminded that Serbs made 31 percent of population in the Federation of B&H before the war, adding that according to results of 2013 Census, Serbs make 2.5 percent of population in this entity.
Covic with Merkel: European and NATO path of B&H has no alternative (Dnevni avaz)
HDZ B&H leader and President of Croat People’s Assembly, Dragan Covic met on Saturday night in Zagreb with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the meeting the officials discussed European path of B&H. Covic said that B&H has to be stable and safe, with economy which is making progress in developed Europe. “European and NATO path of B&H have no alternative. European borders are the thing that should keep us together. B&H’s place in the EU, European B&H is the thing we want to achieve, with your guidance, advice and assistance,” said Covic.
Dodik: there is video showing how Izetbegovic lines-up soldiers in uniforms of so-called RB&H Army, but nobody reacted to this video (RTRS)
Commenting on the criminal report filed against him by B&H Presidency member Zeljko Komsic, B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik reminded on Friday that there is a video showing how former Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic lines-up soldiers in uniforms of the so-called RB&H Army. Dodik stressed that nobody reacted to this video. “They must understand that we do not have intention to force things here, as well as that it is unacceptable to pass decision on the NATO MAP activation or on the NATO membership. We can have cooperation agreement with NATO at the annual level and this foresees measures and activities that will be jointly implemented, but this does not mean the MAP,” Dodik told reporters. He also commented on formation of authorities in B&H, noting that a new meeting on formation of authorities might be held next week. Meanwhile, Dodik is sticking to its position on celebrating 12 May (Day of the Third Infantry Regiment (Republika Srpska (RS)) of the Armed Forces (AF) of B&H and the Day of the RS Army) in uniforms of the RS Army. “They can toy around with that, what can we do. I just saw that some seven, eight years ago, (SDA leader) Bakir Izetbegovic, in the capacity of B&H Presidency member, lined up a unit dressed in uniforms of the B&H Army in Zenica and no one made a fuss about that,” Dodik underlined.
Merkel and Weber participate in HDZ election rally (Hina)
Addressing the main campaign rally of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in Zagreb on Saturday evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European People’s Party’s (EPP) lead candidate for European Commission President, Manfred Weber, said that nationalism was an enemy that wanted to destroy the European Union, whereas patriotism was not against European values. Our values are that we can be proud of our country – patriotism and the EU do not clash with each other. On the other hand, nationalism is an adversary that wants to destroy Europe and we must say that clearly, said Merkel at the rally which brought together 6,000 HDZ members and supporters. Merkel said that the European Union was a project of peace, freedom and prosperity. “We in Germany now have 74 years of peace. You (in Croatia) had a war in the 1990s and you are aware what it means and why it is important to preserve this peace,” she said.
And that can be accomplished only if the national cause is advocated on the one hand, while on the other hand we need to be able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and build bridges, the German chancellor said. She wrapped up her speech in Croatian calling on voters to go to the polls for the EP elections and support the Europe of peace, freedom and prosperity. “Support the EPP and the HDZ, support Manfred Weber and Karlo Ressler,” she said. Ressler is the top candidate of the HDZ slate in the 26 May elections for the new EP. Weber said in his speech that “we love our countries, we are patriots, but we also believe in unity at the European level.” Weber called for a response to nationalists and promised that nationalists would not be part of his majority in the future EP. In his comment on a rally held in Milan earlier on Saturday, at which Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen addressed their supporters, Weber said that nationalist ideology in the past had caused a lot of tragedies and should be resisted. Weber said that the EU was not only an economic alliance but also a community which shares values, underscoring that Christianity is a pillar of Europe. He said that while travelling across Europe he saw diversities of the continent, however he also noticed that in the center of each town, city or village there was a church which, he added, signifies the Christian faith as a European foundation. As for illegal migration, Weber said that each country had the right to decide who could pass through its territory and that such a decision should not be made by smugglers. He also noted that after Athens he visited Zagreb which he described as an obvious and reasonable decision as Croatia was the newest EU member, describing Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic as a close friend. The HDZ’s lead candidate for the European Parliament elections, Karlo Ressler, said he was confident that his party would score yet another convincing victory in the forthcoming elections. “The list of candidates that I lead is an alliance of several generations of the HDZ and several generations of Croatia. But we all work together and breathe as one” Ressler said. He said that the HDZ’s programme was forward-looking, aimed at growth, employment and security, and was promoting a safe and strong Croatia within a strong European Union. He said that young generations in Croatia today had the honor to fight for a better Croatia and prepare it for technological, social and political challenges. At the end, the rally was addressed by Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic. He called on all those present to support Weber as the EPP spitzenkandidat for President of the European Commission. Plenkovic also mentioned successes of his government, including the budget surplus, better absorption of EU funding, and EU-funded projects such as the Peljesac Bridge and other infrastructure projects.
Montenegro becoming more compatible with EU member states (TMN)
Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic said that with the NATO membership, Montenegro has become part of the biggest security alliance; it is an equal partner to the most powerful and most developed countries in the world. “The joint security framework means the investors have more confidence in Montenegro; this is an important advantage. Montenegro’s NATO membership is a signal to investors that this is a destination which enjoys the highest security standards, and that it shares the same values of partner countries, from which we wish to attract as many investors as possible. Our successful European integration shows that Montenegro is changing, that it is closer and more compatible with EU member states. We are harmonizing our entire system with the EU model and are adopting new standards, thus preparing our society for the time when we finally become a member,” said Markovic. He also added that these are all signals for investors that Montenegro is a stable country, and that this is a society which is not wavering, but closely following the set strategic direction. The most important thing for investors is predictability. When it comes to Montenegro – everything is predictable – there are no surprises. “We are on a good course, and we are steadily moving towards the set goals. The progress we have made in the European and Euro-Atlantic integrations confirm this. The great interest from prestigious investors after our joining of NATO further supports and solidifies this fact,” he noted. Furthermore, Markovic spoke about Montenegrin competitive tax system, government’s programs to encourage business development and infrastructure projects to make Montenegro more accessible and energy-safe. “When it comes to physical infrastructure, we are creating strategic preconditions for an even stronger inflow of investments. We are finalizing the first stage of the motorway, and we are planning to improve our airports through reliable foreign partners significantly, and we are finishing the submarine energy cable. This means that we are making Montenegro more accessible and energy-safe, and these are important preconditions for attracting quality investments,” concluded Markovic.
European election results won’t affect Montenegro Progress Report? (Pobjeda)
The European Commission has been preparing the 2019 progress reports and results of the elections to the European Parliament won’t affect the Progress Report for Montenegro, an EU official told Pobjeda daily. “EU Commission has been drafting the 2019 progress reports. Their adoption will take place probably in late spring,” confirmed EU official during a recent interview. The elections to the European Parliament will be held from 23 to 26 May. The EU Commission’s 2019 progress reports will be released on 29 May, but Pobjeda’s interlocutor didn’t want to confirm the date. “In regards to whether the election results will affect the reports, the answer is “no”, and on whether the reports have already been drafted, I can say that these are factual assessments”, the high-ranking EU official explained. He added that the Commission is currently working on an enlargement report for 2019. The report adoption will most likely be in late spring 2019. The content of the Progress Report for MNE is unknown but Pobjeda’s interlocutor, who has been involved in the negotiation talks, said that there are several main areas of interest for Brussels. “And that is impartiality of the Agency for Anti-Corruption and elections for the RTCG Council. As for the Svetozar Marovic case, Brussels will focus on Serbia in this matter, as it hasn’t extradited according to Montenegro’s demand.” He believes that the European Commission will try to be positive, but the EU’s Council won’t be elected based on the proposals from the reports on the Western Balkan countries until the final results of the elections are known. “The Council’s position towards the recommendations of the EC will depend on the election results, especially when it comes to Albania. Since, 2016, the EC has been proposing that Albania should start negotiations, but the situation now got even worse,” the interlocutor noted. The Brussels official also highlighted that the balancing clause must be objectivised to the end, so if Montenegro does not open the remaining Chapter 8, or does not close some of the opened chapters, Serbia should have the same treatment as Montenegro in its accession process.
ODUPRISE Representatives satisfied with visit to Brussels (Vijesti)
Delegates of the civic movement ODUPRISE returned from Brussels, where they stayed for several days. Movement representatives are satisfied with the messages they received there and expect support in their future activities, one of the ODUPRISE leaders, Dzemal Perovic, told Vijesti. He said that the three-member delegation of the movement in Brussels had meetings with representatives from ten EU countries, including France and Germany, and received positive comments on the fact that in Montenegro they organized ten peaceful protests and managed to unite the opposition. Perovic said that this was their first visit to Brussels. In the coming period, more intensive communication will be established, as representatives of the movement with interlocutors at the EU headquarters agreed to inform them of all examples of corruption in Montenegro intensively, violations of laws by powerful and captured institutions, allegations similar to the Envelope, as well as about their activities. A few days ago, one of the leaders of the Democratic Front, Nebojsa Medojevic, said that it was not a good move that only representatives of the ODUPRISE movement should go to Brussels, as this move violates the plan on a joint delegation that would present the Agreement on the future to Brussels. “DF strongly supported citizens’ protests and joint action. One of the critical things is communication with the international community towards Brussels and the European Union. At a meeting with organizers of demonstrations, Goran Danilovic from United Montenegro suggested that a joint delegation for Brussels should go and that it should be composed by Dzemal Perovic and representatives of the two most influential opposition political groups DF and Democrats. Everyone accepted this initiative; we agreed. However, when Dzemal Perovic went to the EU Delegation meeting with Aivo Orav, they changed their minds, so they did not ask for a joint delegation meeting, but only the delegation of the ODUPRISE movement is going to Brussels,” Medojevic said. After returning from Brussels, Perovic said that this visit was not the one planned with representatives of the opposition, explaining that a negative response from Brussels arrived, and they informed the opposition leaders about this. Perovic told Vijesti that the protest of the ODUPRISE movement, scheduled for 21 May – Independence Day, will be modified, but did not specify what it would mean.
Basha expressed gratitude for Britain’s valuable aid in the Kosovo war and its independence process (ADN)
During his visit to the British parliament, opposition leader Lulzim Basha was an honorary guest at a working dinner with parliament members and the House of Lords in London. In his speech, the opposition’s leader expressed gratitude for Britain’s valuable aid for successfully overcoming the vital challenges for peace and stability in the Balkans, in particular, in the Kosovo war and its independence process, in the armed conflict in Macedonia and the Ohrid Agreement and, lastly, the Prespa Agreement, which serves to consolidate the long-term Euro-Atlantic perspective of the region. Basha informed the interlocutors with the proposals of the Democratic Party and the united opposition to emerge from the crisis through a free electoral process under the auspices of a transitory government that will free justice and end the impunity of politicians seized in co-operation with the criminals for electoral fraud. “Only one free government emerged from free vote can fight organized crime that has transformed Albania, according to the US State Department report, on an operational basis of criminal networks operating from America to Europe and the Middle East. For the Democratic Party, a strategic priority is to strengthen and expand cooperation with the United Kingdom not only in the area of security and the fight against crime, but in particular in the field of economy and investment in the UK,” concluded Basha.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Hahn: Green light for North Macedonia in self-interest of the EU (European Western Balkans, 20 May 2019)
VIENNA – Opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia is very much in the self interest of the European Union, and if we fail to reward the historic Prespa agreement and the great reform effort we will make damage to the power of attraction the EU has over its neighbours and the Western Balkan in particular, said the European Commissioner Johannes Hahn at the conference Vienna Economic Talks – New Perspective for North Macedonia today.
Hahn explained that the incentive of EU membership will lose its leverage and that this could be a big blow to the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue and in the efforts of the EU to export stability to the region. “For these reasons, we must deliver on our commitments, just as North Macedonia is delivering on the reforms we have requested. It is in our common self interest,” Hahn pointed out. The Commissioner said that both government and opposition alike behave in a very responsible manner and they country had managed to resolve bilateral relations with Bulgaria and with Greece. He also pointed out that the country is about to become a NATO member and on the brink of opening accession negotiations with the European Union. “The government has taken great steps to advance on its Euro-Atlantic path. Greece was the first country to sign the NATO accession protocol, which led to the entry into force of the Prespa agreement. The NATO accession process is ongoing and anchors the country as a credible partner in ensuring security, stability and prosperity of the region and beyond,” pointed out Hahn. He reminded that the Prespa agreement set an example of reconciliation for the region and Europe as a whole, adding that it is also a testimony to the transformative power of the EU accession perspective. As he stated this would not have been possible without a clear and credible EU accession perspective as outlined in the Western Balkan strategy from February 2018. “If we fail to reward the historic Prespa agreement and the great reform effort of North Macedonia we will make great damage to the power of attraction the EU has over its neighbours and the Western Balkan in particular. The incentive of EU membership will lose its leverage and this will be a big blow to the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue and in the efforts of the EU to export stability to the region. Instead, we will be creating a big vacuum that other players are very keen to explore,” Commissioner underlined.
Talk of resetting Balkan borders risks backlash (ekathimerini, by Stavros Tzimas, 20 May 2019)
Albanian officials are not very convincing when they denounce talk about a Greater Albania as Serbian and Russian propaganda designed to cultivate fear of Albania. The facts speak for themselves. A recent Facebook post by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci naturally stirred controversy. Thaci said that, during a recent meeting, he and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama discussed “the necessity of the full opening of the Kosovo-Albanian border and creation of an Albanian area without borders, under the Euro-Atlantic umbrella.” This area, he added, should include areas in southern Serbia with an ethnic Albanian majority. Albanians have for years systematically pursued a policy of “national unification” with the aim of creating what is usually referred to as a “Natural Albania” (essentially another way of saying Greater Albania, to dampen reactions from neighboring countries and strong geopolitical players). Albania and Kosovo already have a common curriculum as well as joint embassies and diplomatic missions. In 2014, the Albanian government scrapped work permits for ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and the Presevo Valley in Serbia. A few days ago, the measure was extended to ethnic Albanians in North Macedonia and Montenegro. For the time being, the plan appears to be the creation of an Albanian Schengen, as it were, with the abolition of borders between the two countries. They are pushing it step by step, risking a backlash from non-ethnic Albanian populations. The American proposal for a land swap between Kosovo and Serbia facilitates their plans for a single Albanian territory as it foresees the unification of the Presevo Valley, where the population is mostly ethnic Albanian, with Kosovo – a huge step toward uniting ethnic Albanians across the Balkan peninsula. The Serbian leadership reacted to Thaci’s remarks. However – as comments by President Aleksandar Vucic and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic demonstrate – it is not opposed to the idea of a territory exchange. This is because a border change in Kosovo would make it easier for Bosnian Serbs to unite with Serbia, which will in the meantime have re-established control over the majority ethnic-Serb area of Kosovo to the north of the River Ibar. In that way, a Greater Serbia would emerge along with a Greater Albania. Two outstanding historical disputes in the Balkans, the Albanian and the Serbian issue, would have been settled, but at the risk of a wider border domino effect. The Germans are naturally concerned.