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Belgrade Media Report 16 July 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 16 July 2019

• Vucic: I asked Macron to help in solving Kosovo crisis; Macron: Serbia and Kosovo are European states (Beta/FoNet/RTS/Tanjug/Novosti/Politika/NSPM)
• Macron: France loves you as you loved her (Tanjug/RTS)
• Vucic: Next Paris meeting in September (Tanjug/B92/Beta)
• Dacic: Macron’s pointing to the necessity of reaching compromise – change in France’s policy (RTS)
• Djilas: We sent request for meeting with Macron on 9 July (Beta)
• Kuburovic with Brammertz on eve of UNSC session (RTS/Tanjug)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Covic announces change in relations with coalition partners (Hayat/RTRS/FTV)
• Alkalaj meets UNGA President (Oslobodjenje)
• Williamson: Croatian President admitted her country’s police used force against migrants (TV1/FTV)
• SDA: TC government will be formed within next ten days (FTV)
Republic of North Macedonia
• SPO’s Katica Janeva resigns (Republika)
• Sambevski urges caution as Zaev’s prosecutors turn on one another (Republika)
• Zaev calls on Mickoski, Ahmeti and Sela for leaders’ meeting on Friday (Republika)
• Mickoski will attend leaders’ meeting only if early elections are discussed (Republika)
• Committed to starting Macedonia, Albania accession negotiations (Republika)
• President’s dismissal, Inquiry Committee’s procedures unveiled (ADN)
• Local elections, court grants mandates to new mayors (ADN)

• France’s Macron vows to help restart Serbia-Kosovo talks (AP)
• Macron Sticks to Demand for Deep EU Reform Before New Expansion (Bloomberg)

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Vucic: I asked Macron to help in solving Kosovo crisis; Macron: Serbia and Kosovo are European states (Beta/FoNet/RTS/Tanjug/Novosti/Politika/NSPM)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he had a long, open and honest conversation on all key issues with French President Emanuel Macron, and that he told Macron about the great reputation that France with the Serbian people, but also in the whole region. Vucic told a news conference that he asked the French President to help and support Serbia on the European path and in resolving the Kosovo and Metohija crisis. I am not a dreamer, but I am convinced that the enigma and political enthusiasm of Macron can change a lot on the European continent and will help our country, said Vucic. The President said that he Macron discussed all important regional and European issues, and that he presented all our problems, primarily regarding the resolution of the Kosovo problem. He noted that the agreements signed are very important, and he specially cited an agreement on the cooperation of French companies that will bring employment of highly educated people to Belgrade and Novi Sad. The President particularly expressed his gratitude to French companies and Macron for the possibility of military-technical cooperation at an even higher level. Macron told reporters he would organize a special Belgrade-Pristina meeting with the participation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, adding his country would support the resumption of the dialogue and that he would be engaged out of respect for Serbia. “We were frank regarding Kosovo,” Macron said, adding that something could be achieved in the next several months. He added that the EU responsibility was to support searching for a compromise and establish stability. “There are some outside forces which don’t want a solution,” Macron added but did not say which forces he had in mind.

“Serbia and Kosovo are European states, and we have to help that to become a fact,” he said, adding that decisions contrary to the undertaken obligations should be revoked. Answering reporters’ question, he said history could not be reversed, nor could it go 20 years back.


Macron: France loves you as you loved her (Tanjug/RTS)


Now it is my turn to tell you, on behalf of my country, that France loves you as you loved her, and we know what we owe you, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday evening before an impressive number of citizens who gathered at Belgrade’s Kalemegdan to hear his speech at the Monument of Gratitude to France. “France is here,” Macron said, pointing to his chest. “Serbia is also in our hearts. Now and forever,” he said in Serbian. Greeted by a thunderous applause, Macron’s speech was a symbolic reaffirmation of political messages about France’s return to Serbia. Macron and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic laid wreaths at the monument. “Thank you, President, for the exceptional welcome, and thank you all for coming in such large numbers, we are deeply touched. You are demonstrating that the message on the Monument of Gratitude to France, which reads ‘We love France as she loved us’, is still valid a hundred years on,” Macron said. France knows what it owes to Serbia, the courageous martyr of the Great War, what it owes to Serbian soldiers who died so that we can live in freedom today, Macron said.


Macron backs renewed dialogue, compromise solution

President Macron said he would engage towards a renewed Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and a comprehensive, lasting agreement – a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina. He announced he would hold a special meeting with the Belgrade and Pristina leaderships and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to enable an agreement to be reached. “You have an ability to defend the sovereignty of the country, as well as to build compromises with neighbors, and that is what Europe’s strength is,” Macron told Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic at a joint press conference. France is against any unilateral moves by either side, he said. Europe will be strong if it helps Serbia and Kosovo to reach an agreement, he said. “I think that is our responsibility, to give you support so that an agreement is found and stability in the region is maintained,” he said.

As part of European mediation, France is ready to support, together with Germany, a renewal of dialogue – very demanding dialogue to find a concrete solution in the next few months, he said.

There are some external powers that do not want an agreement to be reached as that is not in their interest, Macron noted.


Macron has no ready-made solution for Kosovo, wants compromise

President Macron said he had no ready-made solution to the Kosovo problem and that there was no magic solution. Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, he said he wanted compromise, but that compromise did not mean holding the starting, completely opposed positions in dialogue. When asked by Tanjug if he believed Pristina could be motivated to seek an agreement and what was his take on compromise that did not mean independence of Kosovo, Macron said there was no going back two decades – to the beginning. He said he understood the frustrations concerning this but that he did not have a concrete solution or an answer to the question what compromise was without meaning independence of Kosovo. “I must admit that President Vucic has courage and that he has said the Constitution of Serbia does not reflect what its partners in Europe think, as well as that Serbia wants to join the EU and thinks its future is in Europe,” Macron said. For his part, Vucic said he could not talk of magnificent conclusions on Kosovo after the meeting with Macron, but that Serbia wanted peace and an agreement with Kosovo Albanians and that the rest was up to Macron and the EU.


Macron: Serbia has its place in Europe, accession date less important

Serbia has its place in Europe, but the exact date when it will become an EU member state is less important, Macron said. Macron was responding to an RTS reporter who had asked him to clarify an earlier statement that there was no EU enlargement until in-depth reforms took place within the EU itself. The same reporter also asked what it would take for France to agree to a potential 2025 accession date for countries in the region, mentioned in the EU’s Western Balkans strategy. “It is not good to join Europe too quickly as that would not be good for either Serbia or Europe,” Macron replied…


Macron says will discuss Middle East with Rouhani, Trump

President Macron announced he would this week speak with Iranian and US counterparts Hassan Rouhani and Donald Trump within the framework of a French initiative aimed at preventing an escalation of tensions in the Middle East. “What we have built over the past several weeks has prevented the worst from happening, as well as an overreaction by Iran,” Macron said at a press conference with Vucic. Macron added France would continue mediation and talks in these difficult conditions. He also said he had still not received a satisfactory explanation from Iranian authorities concerning the arrest of French-Iranian national Fariba Adelkah.


Vucic: Next Paris meeting in September (Tanjug/B92/Beta)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated today that French President Emmanuel Macron understands the seriousness of the problem pertaining to Kosovo and Metohija. According to him, the things cannot be solved if no one wants to give up anything. “I asked for understanding that it cannot be resolved as we all would like to be resolved, but that it has to be something in between,” Vucic said. He added that every Serb and Albanian understands this as well, but that we often play dumb, undermining the requests of the other side. “Reaching compromise is not a weakness, it is strength,” Vucic underlined, adding that he will always pledge for the real compromise, rather than surrendering and giving up. He said that we will proceed in this direction if possible, if not, some future generations will do that, but we do not want to live in constant fear of future wars and conflicts. “People ask why Serbia is buying arms, well, the answer is we buy it to deter anyone from attacking us. If they see Serbia is a rotten apple, everyone will easily take it, but if they see it like a nut, it’s not easily broken,” Vucic said.

Vucic said that the next Belgrade-Pristina meeting will be held in Paris, probably in September, organized by the French President Emmanuel Macron.


Dacic: Macron’s pointing to the necessity of reaching compromise – change in France’s policy (RTS)


Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the fact that French President Emanuel Macron had pointed to the necessity of reaching compromise between Belgrade and Pristina is a big change in France’s policy. He says at issue is an historical visit, since a French president has arrived in Belgrade after 18 years.

“Generally, there is one emotion between France and Serbia. We needed this because of our national integrity, dignity, this is an indicator of closeness with one big world power, along with Russia. For us to have a friend from the West,” said Dacic. He notes that, as Macron himself had stated, Belgrade and Paris cannot return time backwards, but relations need to be reset. “We have tried also to reset relations with other countries, we achieved certain progress with the US. Recall how our nation was thrilled when Trump won at the elections. I think we now have many more reasons to say Emanuel the Serb. We Serbs are prone to exaggerating, but, after a long time, this visit was with clear messages,” said Dacic. Macron didn’t remind of the fact that France had recognized independence of Kosovo. He spoke about Serbia’s sovereignty and about compromise. Dacic says that if one observes precisely what Macron had stated – he pointed to the necessity of reaching compromise. “This is a big change in France’s policy. This is what we had spoken about all the time, towards which the US administration had moved, but Trump had never spoken about this. Macron said that it was necessary to find a compromise between the stands of Belgrade and Pristina, very precisely. He said he would personally engage. This is a big thing,” said Dacic. “Macron wishes to devote to this, but this doesn’t mean some other actors will now view this with great approval. There is this geostrategic game in the West, Russia and China are not only at stake, but also Washington, Brussels and Berlin. I think that this was one exceptionally successful visit after a long time,” said Dacic.


Djilas: We sent request for meeting with Macron on 9 July (Beta)


The leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) Dragan Djilas published on Tuesday a letter with the request for a meeting with the French President six days ahead of his visit, while Emmanuel Macron said the letter arrived on Monday morning, Beta reported. Asked by a French journalist if he would have talks with the Serbian opposition, Macron said he wouldn’t because their request arrived too late and that he couldn’t squeeze them into the tight schedule. Reacting to that, Djilas on Tuesday published the request on his Twitter account addressed to the French Ambassador Frederic Mondoloni dated 9 July.  The Alliance for Serbia (SzS) whose Djilas’ SSP is a member of, said it believed that the failure to deliver the letter to Macron was the result of an unintentional diplomatic misunderstanding. “SzS points out the importance of relations with France. Our relationship is far more important than any regime. We believe that our written request for a meeting delivered on 9 July did not find its way to Emmanuel Macron due to a technical reason,” the SzS statement said.


Kuburovic with Brammertz on eve of UNSC session (RTS/Tanjug)


Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic met in New York on the eve of the UN Security Council session with former ICTY Chief Prosecutor and current Prosecutor of the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Serge Brammertz. Kuburovic and Brammertz assessed that Serbia and the Office of the Prosecutor of the Mechanism have excellent cooperation, as indicated in the new six-month report of this Office. Brammertz applauded the organization of a regional conference of war crimes prosecutors, in which prosecutors from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro took place, as well as the Chief Prosecutor of the Mechanism and representatives of the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office. The conference was held in Belgrade in May this year with the aim of securing a more efficient processing of war crimes and strengthening of direct cooperation and exchange of relevant information among prosecutors’ offices in the region. Speaking about the further improvement of the capacity of the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office in Serbia, Brammertz said that his Office of the Prosecutor will continue to support the Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade through the organization of special training and training for deputy prosecutors of the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office.

The Serbian Minister of Justice will represent the Republic of Serbia at the United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on 17 July at which a new six-month report on the work of the Mechanism will be presented, according to a statement of the Serbian Justice Ministry.




Covic announces change in relations with coalition partners (Hayat/RTRS/FTV)


The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) held a meeting in Mostar on Monday. Addressing the press conference after the meeting, HNS President and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic stated that after passing a document on the HNS’ future work, clear messages to coalition partners will be conveyed. He stressed that those who block B&H’s functioning will not be supported by the HNS, noting that a strong turn will be necessary and it will result in acceleration of certain processes. “Prolonging the election legislation will no longer be possible as it was the case prior to the elections and during the past seven months. We want to have the elections in Mostar in 2020, which is why we must pass the election legislation this year. Partners whom we choose to form authorities with at the level of cantons, entities and the state must understand that either we will start working on this immediately, or they cannot count on these partnerships anymore”, Covic said. “The HNS will keep presenting its views and positions of the Croat people, advocating all the values it has been advocating so far,” Covic said. Covic claims that the Law on Elections should be amended by the end of 2019 and the HNS’ partners, primarily SDA and SNSD, will be informed about the new policy after the HNS defines the strategy for activities of its bodies.


Alkalaj meets UNGA President (Oslobodjenje)


Permanent Representative of B&H to the UN, Ambassador Sven Alkalaj met with President of the UN General Assembly for the 73rd session Maria Fernanda Espinosa on Monday and expressed dedication of B&H to successful cooperation with the UN, underlining the importance of multilateralism, especially when it comes to prevention, and in conflict and post-conflict situation. The two officials underlined the importance of following and implementing the UN Charter, as well as the role of the UN, which must remain dedicated to development of cooperation in the world. Alkalaj commended Espinosa’s work and the topics she has chosen for discussion. Espinosa welcomed Alkalaj and commended B&H’s successful participation in the peace missions, underlining the importance of significant percentage of women in the said missions.


Williamson: Croatian President admitted her country’s police used force against migrants (TV1/FTV)


Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division within the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Hugh Williamson called upon the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, FRONTEX, to implement necessary steps for securing border between Croatia and B&H, after the Croatian authorities, as he said, confirmed that they are conducting operations of “unlawful pushbacks and violence against migrants at its borders”. Williamson said that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic admitted, during an interview with Swiss channel SRF, she was aware of the pushbacks of migrants by Croatian border officials from Croatia to B&H and that sometimes force is used. He reminded that in November 2018 HRW documented serious concerns relating to summary returns accompanied by excessive use of force by Croatian border officials during pushbacks of migrants to B&H. FTV reported that Williamson sent an open letter to Croatian President Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday and urged her to order both an investigation into unlawful and occasionally forceful pushbacks of migrants to B&H by the Croatian Border Police and an immediate halt to such actions.


SDA: TC government will be formed within next ten days (FTV)


SDA Tuzla Canton (TC) Board held a session on Tuesday and decided to nominate Denijal Tulumovic for the post of the TC Prime Minister-designate. The presenter said that the TC Assembly is expected to hold a session and appoint the new TC government next week but talks on distribution of ministerial posts are already in progress and SDA will most like be given four posts while SDP, SBB B&H, SzB&H and DF will each be given two posts. Head of SDA Caucus in the TC Assembly Midhat Causevic explained that the nomination has to be confirmed by SDA headquarters in Sarajevo after which the TC Assembly speaker will decide whether or not to appoint Tulumovic as the Prime Minister-designate. TC Assembly Speaker Zarko Vujovic (SDP) explained that the Prime Minister-designate will have 10-day-deadline to propose the composition of the TC government but he expects this process to be quicker and the formation of the TC government could be finished in the next seven or eight days.


SPO’s Katica Janeva resigns (Republika)


The Special Public Prosecutor’s Office has informed that Special Public Prosecutor Katica Janeva submitted her resignation. “At the moment when with the consensus of all political parties I was elected Special Public Prosecutor, I promised myself and the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia that I will perform the function of the Special Public Prosecutor in the interest of the rule of law and the fight against crime and corruption in the Republic of Macedonia. I got the job in extremely difficult circumstances and fully aware of the task that was given to me. It was honored to serve the country and to be the head of an extremely professional prosecution team, an investigative team and a team of employees who work with utmost devotion. For months I am following the media coverage of the negotiations between the working groups of political parties on the future of the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office. Here, today I use the opportunity to inform the public that I will not allow my name to be used for someone’s alibi with which the fate of the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office and European Integrations of my country will be held hostage. I submit my resignation that will become active as soon as the political parties agree on a new legal solution and will choose my successor. Let me publicly thank the entire team of the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office with which we have written history. We should be proud because we represent a symbol of an uncompromising fight against the highest forms of organized crime and corruption. I use the opportunity to thank all the citizens and the media that with the confidence in us and the support they give us are driving force for the responsible work that we do. I was and will remain ready to fight for better tomorrow of all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, Katica Janeva said.


Sambevski urges caution as Zaev’s prosecutors turn on one another (Republika)


Former VMRO-DPMNE MP Oliver Sambevski urged caution as the two wings of the prosecutorial service used by Zaev’s regime apparently turned on one another today. “I don’t know how real this show we are seeing today is. I sincerely doubt their intentions. But, I hope I’m wrong. One thing is for sure, though, this is the beginning of the end of the most shameful and destructive political chapter in the Macedonian history,” Sambevski said. VMRO-DPMNE faced a campaign political persecution perpetrated by both the Special Prosecutor’s Office led by Katica Janeva and the regular state prosecutors led by Ljubomir Joveski and Vilma Ruskoska. Today Joveski and Ruskoska revealed a major case against one of Janeva’s close associates, 1TV station owner Bojan Jovanovski – Boki 13, and the Special Prosecutor announced her resignation shortly after the news of Boki’s arrest broke.


Zaev calls on Mickoski, Ahmeti and Sela for leaders’ meeting on Friday (Republika)


Prime Minister Zoran Zaev called on VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti and Alliance for Albanians leader Zijadin Sela for a leaders’ meeting to discuss and reach an agreement on key issues facing the country before the decision to start EU accession negotiations. He cited the Election Code, the Law on the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Census as the priority topics at the leaders’ meeting. The honest commitment to these topics, he said, will round off the reforms by autumn. We will not give anyone an argument to be against, reserved or the like, said Zaev. Asked whether he is ready to call early elections, Zaev said that his party’s position is to hold regular elections, and now it’s time to give the economy a chance.

Regarding the relations with DUI, Zaev said they are great.


Mickoski will attend leaders’ meeting only if early elections are discussed (Republika)


Hristijan Mickoski will attend the leaders’ meeting that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced only if the meeting is focused on discussing early parliamentary elections, said the largest opposition party VMRO DPMNE. We believe that the leaders’ meeting, first and foremost, should focus on early parliamentary elections. Regarding the day and the time and the location, it will be additionally analyzed in the party’s bodies and will be decided according to the president’s agenda. Then, everything else can be discussed, VMRO-DPMNE says. The largest opposition party commented that Zaev’s address showed that he was running away from the elections by saying that they can discuss the Election model, but not under pressure for early parliamentary elections. That shows that he is afraid, for the simple reason that the whole public is a witness to a major corruption, scandals, the most corrupt government at the moment, rigged contracts, personal provisions…,” VMRO-DPMNE says.


Committed to starting Macedonia, Albania accession negotiations (Republika)


German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, nominee for European Commission President, says she is committed to starting EU accession negotiations with Macedonia and Albania. In response to questions from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (SD) in the European Parliament, von der Leyen said “she is committed to opening negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia about future membership in the EU” — a step that some EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have resisted so far. In her letter to the SD, ahead of the vote in the European Parliament on her election as the European Commission President, von der Leyen also said she plans to propose a “new pact” on migration and asylum to the EU. We need a new way of burden sharing. We need a fresh start, she said. Last week, during her address at the European Parliament von der Leyen, said that Macedonia is a “bright example” of what “a country can really achieve when it has a clearly determined goal – the integration in EU”. We need to approach the West Balkans more seriously, and North Macedonia is one of the brightest examples for a positive progress, von der Leyen said, pledging for open doors to the countries of Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans seeking EU membership.


President’s dismissal, Inquiry Committee’s procedures unveiled (ADN)


The Inquiry Committee disclosed this Monday the plan for Albanian President Ilir Meta‘s investigation. The Inquiry Committee is to conduct a full, three-month investigation on President of the Republic actions. Nevertheless, the Inquiry Committee also disclosed the procedures’ stages that it will follow. Firstly, a preliminary plan will be compiled and adopted, an internal regulation will be adopted and the President will be notified of his right to be heard in front of this Committee. Afterwards, institutions will give different kinds of public data, a final investigation plan will be adopted, which will be followed by President’s hearing session. In addition, proof, circumstances and facts after being verified and reviewed will be followed by final report’s compilation and adaptation. In conclusion, a final report will be submitted to the Albanian parliament. The Committee’s agenda:

  1. Prepare and approve the Preliminary Investigative Plan.
  2. Adopt the Commission’s Internal Regulation.
  3. Notification of the President of the Republic regarding the right to be heard in the Commission.
  4. Obtaining official and unofficial data publicly known by the institutions regarding the object of the investigation.
  5. Prepare and approve the Final Investigation Plan.
  6. Hearing session with the President of the Republic.
  7. Verification, review and legal analysis of the evidence, circumstances, facts and hearing, arising from the conducted investigation.
  8. Preparing and approving the final report.
  9. Submission to the Assembly of the final report”, as quoted from Inquiry Committee’s formal notification.


Local elections, court grants mandates to new mayors (ADN)


Respective Districts’ Courts gave this Monday office mandates to newly elected mayors.
Following opposition’s mayors’ decision not to leave offices to their successors, who won local elections of 30 June, Courts of their districts issued office mandates for several of winners in question. Nevertheless, mayors of Kukes, Kolonja, Mallakastra, Maliq, Pustec, Korca and Shijak Municipality have assumed their duties by decision of Courts.




France’s Macron vows to help restart Serbia-Kosovo talks (AP, by Jovana Gec, 15 July 2019)


BELGRADE, Serbia — French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Monday to help jumpstart stalled negotiations to resolve Serbia’s independence dispute with former province Kosovo so a lasting solution can be found for the decades-long Balkan crisis. Macron, making the first visit to Serbia by a French president since 2001, also expressed support for the country’s stated goal of joining the European Union even as he reiterated his belief that the EU must adopt reforms before adding more members. His two-day trip was intended to rebuild relations between Serbia and France. Their historically close ties were damaged when NATO forces bombed Serbia in 1999 over the country’s actions in Kosovo and by France’s recognition of Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as a country. But the EU has set normalized relations between the two countries as a condition for advancing to EU membership. But talks mediated by EU officials have been stalled for months. Macron said France and Europe would get more engaged in facilitating an end to the bitter rift, which stems from the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. “Whoever believes in Europe cannot accept the inevitability of never-ending and inextricable conflicts in Europe,” Macron said at a news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. “Our commitment is the reflection of a European sovereignty in which we believe and that will stand by your side.” Serbia has officially been on the path to becoming an EU member since 2008. The country also maintains close ties with Russia and China, whose mounting influence in the Balkans has raised Western concerns. Macron urged Belgrade to keep making the reforms it needs for EU membership, saying Serbia’s candidacy could progress in parallel to the EU’s own improvement process. “It’s a process that’s been started but it must be kept in check on both sides,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing.” Serbia’s president said a compromise in the Kosovo dispute was “the only possible solution.” “I urged France to help us on our European road and in solving the Kosovo crisis,” Vucic said of his meeting with Macron. Macron’s visit originally was planned for December and postponed amid massive street protests in Paris.

AP Writer Elaine Ganley contributed from Paris.


Macron Sticks to Demand for Deep EU Reform Before New Expansion (Bloomberg, by Misha Savic, Gordana Filipovic, and Helene Fouquet, 15 July 2019)


French President Emmanuel Macron stuck to his demand for deep reforms in the European Union before it accepts new members, telling biggest candidate Serbia that premature entry would benefit no one. Leaders across the Balkans have expressed frustration at what they say is stalling by the EU over when they can become part of the world’s biggest trading bloc. While most member are wary of taking in new members, Balkan leaders are struggling to explain the delay to their 18 million citizens who see entry as a guarantee toward higher pay and less corruption. Concerns flared two weeks ago when, after a marathon session of wrangling over who will take the EU’s top jobs, Macron said there would be no further enlargement unless “deep reform” of the EU happens first. During a visit to Serbia Monday, where he met President Aleksandar Vucic, Macron again said that “Serbia is destined to join” but that expanding the bloc without changing the way it makes decisions would cause problems for everyone. “Entering too quickly wouldn’t be good for Serbia, nor would it be for the EU,” Macron said, adding that even setting an entry timetable could backfire. “We must not lock ourselves in to a calendar with a date, because if we fail it would be seen as a failure.” The last country to become an EU member was Croatia, in 2013. Outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the earliest that any of the six remaining aspirants would be able to join is around 2025. For Serbia, the biggest hurdle is resolving relations with Kosovo. Backed by Russia and China, it refuses to recognize its neighbor’s unilaterally declared independence since 2008 and has blocked its efforts to join the United Nations and other international organizations. EU-mediated talks between Serbia and Kosovo all but collapsed last year when the latter imposed punitive 100% tax on products from Serbia and from Bosnia-Herzegovina, retaliating for Serb lobbying against its international recognition. Kosovo has ignored calls from EU states to lift the barrier. Vucic said he expected France’s help “in the search for a compromise.” He also said that Serbia embraced the changes that it had committed to as part of EU entry. “For us, it’s important to reform ourselves, to do our part of the work, for the sake of our people to do good and that our economy makes progress.” Macron’s visit followed France-based Vinci Airports venture into Serbia with a 25-year concession for Aerodrom Nikola Tesla, while a unit of Suez Groupe SAS won an equally long contract in Belgrade, the capital. Alstom SA is also vying to build a subway in Belgrade, where the two first lines may cost $4.5 billion.


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