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Belgrade Media Report 18 October 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Friday 18 October 2019

LOCAL PRESS

• Belgrade Declaration adopted at 141st IPU Assembly (Tanjug/Politika/RTS/Novosti/RTV)
• Vucic: Not everything is ours, but not everything is theirs, either (TV Pink/Tanjug)
• Mondoloni conveys to Vucic France’s view of enlargement (Beta)
• Kostelancik: US will always stand behind Kosovo’s independence (Tanjug)
• Zakharova: Kosovo is not a state in any sense (Beta)
• Kurti: When and if I assume Prime Minister’s role (NIN/Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik denies claims of Sarovic that SNSD will agree to ANP for NATO accession (RTRS)
• Cvijanovic warns that conditioning with ANP shows true intentions of primarily Bosniak political representatives (RTRS)
• Ljubic: Izetbegovic’s statements cause concern for future of B&H (Dnevni list)
• Dodik accuses Serb ministers of betrayal over adoption of Action Plan for EU (N1)
• Dodik announces special session of RS parliament on RS status within B&H (BHT1)
• Dodik to meet Russian PM Medvedev to discuss economic cooperation and situation in the RS and B&H (ATV)
Montenegro
• All eyes on the opposition as dialogue deadline passed (Dnevne novine)
Republic of North Macedonia
• No agreement in Brussels, no date for Macedonia (Republika)
• Von der Leyen regrets French decision to block Macedonia and Albania from opening EU accession talks (Republika)
• Nikoloski: Zaev needs to resign by Monday (Republika)
Albania
• Haradinaj: Thaci, Vucic and Rama are collaborators (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• France eager to prove that it is still committed to the Western Balkans (European Western Balkans)
• EU leaders deadlock over membership talks for North Macedonia, Albania (politico.eu)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Belgrade Declaration adopted at 141st IPU Assembly (Tanjug/Politika/RTS/Novosti/RTV)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic spoke at the closing of the 141st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Belgrade, attended by 150 parliamentary delegations from around the world, among them 77 parliament speakers and 60 deputy speakers. Gojkovic thanked all the delegations for their participation and active contribution to the results of the 141st IPU Assembly in Belgrade, stressing that Serbia was honored to host the big gathering – one of the biggest in IPU’s history so far, as evidenced by over 2000 delegates in attendance and three hundred official bilateral meetings. “That is the best sign that, despite all the modern challenges, it is still possible to build a world of dialogue and compromise,” said Gojkovic adding that the intention behind this gathering, crowned by the adoption of the Belgrade Declaration, dedicated to the preservation and strengthening of international law and regional cooperation, was to bring the IPU back to its roots, when it was born from the wish to see dialogue triumph over misunderstanding and conflict. “We managed to strengthen the faith in cooperation and mutual trust in order to preserve the global peace and stability we all need,” stressed Gojkovic. She thanked all who accepted and supported the idea to have the 141st IPU Assembly in Belgrade and those who helped it be a success, adding that she was especially pleased to note the satisfaction with the quality of the organization of the gathering in all the delegation whom she had the pleasure to talk to. “I am also pleased that in the last few days the people of Serbia were able to learn more about the IPU and its global importance and that the delegates could learn more about the spirit and hospitality of our people,” said Gojkovic. She stressed that the Belgrade Declaration, as the crowning document of the session, is the result of the general debate between more than 150 parliament speakers and deputy speakers, as well as heads of delegations, MPs and representatives of international organizations. ]“I am sure that the Declaration will be a keystone of strengthening and consistent implementation of international law and regional cooperation,” she said. Gojkovic said that the parliamentarians also adopted the resolution on the emergency item – climate change, showing that it is important to act now in the interest of the planet and future generations. She also noted the adoption of the Resolution of the Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights with the theme Achieving universal health coverage by 2030: The role of parliaments in ensuring the right to health. Speaking of the results of the IPU Assembly in Belgrade, Gojkovic recalled that in addition to marking the 130th anniversary of the Organization, the parliamentarians also marked the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, when the celebrated regional and world musician Goran Bregovic was named new UNICEF regional ambassador. “We must not forget that any adopted conclusion is just the beginning of new efforts to face modern challenges,” stressed Gojkovic adding that Serbia will remain committed to the cooperation with the IPU and its member states on the achievement of common values.

 

Vucic: Not everything is ours, but not everything is theirs, either (TV Pink/Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told TV Pink on Thursday that, to him, Kosovo is a part of Serbia, but noted that he would not lie to the people and say everything is ours. “I am not going to lie to the people and say that everything is ours, that it is going to be easy for us and that we should play the heroes. I cannot stand that because such easy solutions usually lead to an abyss. I am telling the people: not everything is ours, but not everything is theirs, either,” Vucic said. Our job is to try to find compromise, but compromise does not mean losing everything, he said. Vucic said that Kosovo Prime Minister-designate Albin Kurti was talking nonsense when saying that if he lifted the taxes, he would introduce reciprocal measures to Serbia instead. He told the Albanians to get decent and understand that they cannot harass us because, as he put it, we don’t depend on them, but they depend on us. Vucic also said Serbia was continuing its EU path and watching the global situation. At the same time, Serbia will not allow anyone to put its friendships with Russia and China in jeopardy, he noted.

 

Mondoloni conveys to Vucic France’s view of enlargement (Beta)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the director for continental Europe at the French Foreign Ministry, Frederic Mondoloni, discussed France’s view of EU enlargement, which, as the French diplomat explained, envisages membership of Western Balkans after the completion of internal reforms of the EU and the fulfilling of conditions by the candidate countries. According to a statement from Vucic’s office, Mondoloni told Vucic that French President Emmanuel Macron was committed to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which he showed through the initiative to organize meetings about that process, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The collocutors concurred that President Macron’s visit to Serbia had provided a new incentive for bilateral relations, the statement reads.

 

Kostelancik: US will always stand behind Kosovo’s independence (Tanjug)

 

The US is taking no position on a delineation or partition in Kosovo and that the issue should be resolved by Belgrade and Pristina, David Kostelancik, Office Director for the South and Eastern Europe at the US Department of State, told reporters during a break in the Belgrade Security Forum. He called this process a strategic priority of the United States and stated that it expects the new Kosovo government to abolish taxes. “US will always stand behind Kosovo’s independence but we have been clear that there is no future without the reconciliation with Serbia,” said Kostelancik. On the other hand, he urged Serbia to stop with its advocacy for the withdrawal of Kosovo’s independence around the world. “Don’t squander this opportunity. With the mutual recognition at its core, the normalization agreement will help both countries to release their enormous potentials,” said Kostelancik. He also expressed strong support of the United States to EU accession process of North Macedonia and Albania, which, according to him, have taken courageous steps in implementing reforms. When asked if the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue was set to enter a more dynamic phase following the naming of a US presidential envoy for the talks, Kostelancik responded there was a great chance for progress.

 

Zakharova: Kosovo is not a state in any sense (Beta)

 

Kosovo is not a state and that is obvious, except for attempts of a certain number of countries to push its recognition through, the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova stated. “That is not a state and a political aspect exists here. You are familiar with Russia’s stand about it being a flagrant violation of international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity. All that is prescribed in the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Zakharova said at a regular news conference. She added that, by recognizing Kosovo as a sovereign state, countries ventured into a blatant violation of the existing Resolution of the UN Zakharova further said that Kosovo did not exist as a state, either in reality, or on the legal plane. She added that statements about Kosovo being a state remained just words, because they contradicted international law.

 

Kurti: When and if I assume Prime Minister’s role (NIN/Beta)

 

Vetevendosje candidate for Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, says his government, if formed, will abolish Kosovo taxes on goods from Serbia. His plan is also to establish reciprocity with Serbia. Kurti also added for the weekly NIN that this is a normal way of bilateral relations.

“If goods with the declaration ‘Republic of Kosovo’ can’t enter Serbia, Serbian goods can’t enter Kosovo,” he said. Kurti said that they have to let Serbian leadership know that Serbia’s diplomatic efforts to prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations can’t lead to new negotiations, let alone an agreement or truce…” Serbia has to take responsibility and we will ask for the support of our international partners, EU and USA,” Kurti said, adding that Kosovo needs an official statement from Serbia that it won’t prevent it from joining international organizations. He said that the Serb community should stand by moderate politicians even though they are under pressure from so-called parallel institutions. “I am aware of the pressure that the Serbs are experiencing from Serbia’s parallel structures in Kosovo, including the Serb List but the Serb community should find the strength to re-align themselves with moderate Serb parties and politicians,” he said, adding that the Kosovo Serbs would be voting for their future, for integration, development and full civil rights if they backed parties like Slobodan Petrovic’s Serb Liberal Party or Nenad Rasic’s Progressive Democratic Party.  “We don’t know what the Serbs in northern Kosovo think and want because the parallel structures aren’t allowing them to think and allowing us to hear them,” Kurti said, adding that he is willing to hear civil rights demands but not “Belgrade’s appetite for territories”. Speaking about the form of negotiations, Kurti said that the new negotiations should include three principles, namely that there is no agreement without dialogue, that there is no dialogue with maps around the territories and that maps are taken care of by border demarcation experts, not politicians. “I am willing to hear civil rights demands but not Belgrade’s appetite for territories,” Kurti pointed out, calling Thaci’s negotiations on territory swap with President of Serbia unconstitutional, as only the government and Prime Minister are entitled to conduct such negotiations and are responsible to the assembly. He said the Community of Serb Municipalities is “just words on paper” because the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled in December 2015 that it was in violation of the constitution. “None of the Kosovo Serbs objected because of that decision, only Belgrade did,” Kurti said. He stressed that the Constitution of Kosovo envisages that minority ministers get the approval from the representatives of their minority in the assembly. “Which in this case may be the Serb List, but it does not necessarily mean that it has to be their member at all costs,” Kurti told NIN.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik denies claims of Sarovic that SNSD will agree to ANP for NATO accession (RTRS)

 

SNSD leader and Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik denied the claims of SDS leader Mirko Sarovic that SNSD will agree to the Annual National Program (ANP) for NATO accession and that it will camouflage that intention with renaming of that document. Dodik reiterated that he will not accept any program that would introduce B&H into NATO. Dodik stressed that there is no reduced ANP nor talks on that, calling on Sarovic to show the document the one is allegedly working on. “We will not accept that plan and submit it – not now, not after the appointment of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). Did Sarovic promise something and how is it possible that Muslims are supporting him in forming a majority (in the B&H Parliament)? Did he perhaps make a promise and said that he will do that later?” Dodik asked. Speaking about the announcement of SDS and PDP that they will attempt to form the authorities at the B&H level, Dodik said that if one kicks out SNSD and HDZ B&H out of the authorities at the B&H level, there will be a situation in which two most important parties from two constituent peoples are kicked out. “What will you get? What kind of authorities will you get? Be my guest and try if you think you can. Republika Srpska (RS) is against that,” Dodik underlined. In Dodik’s opinion, “mathematical majorities at the joint level” that SDS and PDP are working on are also discouraging for the RS. “Their alleged attempt to unblock the B&H parliament, while blaming only SNSD for that, suggests that they have some other intentions. There is a side that has been blocking the process of formation of authorities for a year now, which is what caused the blockade of the Parliament, of course, and they only recognized the other thing that suits them. They would like to keep their posts there forever,” Dodik said. He warned that SNSD and HDZ B&H will not join the joint institutions of B&H without each other, “so they will be in a position to exclude the two most important parties from the ranks of two constituent peoples”.

 

Cvijanovic warns that conditioning with ANP shows true intentions of primarily Bosniak political representatives (RTRS)

 

RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic warned that conditioning with the ANP shows true intentions of primarily Bosniak political representatives. Cvijanovic stressed that the ANP is a deliberately chosen made-up story to block the process of authority formation in the long run, thereby betraying the will of the citizens. Cvijanovic wondered whether the authorities at the B&H level can be formed only when SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic gets associates from the RS that suit him. Cvijanovic added that she does not believe in a scenario in which SDA would form the authorities with SDS and other opposition parties from the RS. “I will say that it would be good to have unity and I will offer unity as a formula for joint political action on issues that are of strategic importance for the RS. On the other hand, it will not be a tragedy if we do not achieve unity,” Cvijanovic underlined. Cvijanovic also said that opposition parties from the RS should say if they are helping Izetbegovic, who is doing whatever he can to violate political rights of the RS citizens.

 

Ljubic: Izetbegovic’s statements cause concern for future of B&H (Dnevni list)

 

Chairman of the Main Council of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) Bozo Ljubic assessed SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic’s statement as worrying. Namely, Izetbegovic stated that SDA is unlikely to accept HDZ B&H’s proposal of changes and amendments to the Law on Elections of B&H, which requests that Croats elect their representatives in the Presidency of B&H and the House of Peoples. Instead, Izetbegovic noted that if (HDZ B&H) continues to insist on changes to the Law on Elections and if the blockade of the formation of the Federation of B&H authorities continues, the Bosniak parties will ‘break the blockade’ in the 2022 elections. This triggered Ljubic to say that if someone, who takes part in decisions about the present and future of B&H, has an issue with ethnic equality and right to legitimate representation, “then I am serious concerned about functioning and the future of state of B&H”. Ljubic also noted that HNS’ proposals are not in collision with the European Commission’s position regarding B&H’s request for membership in the EU as suggested by Izetbegovic.

 

Dodik accuses Serb ministers of betrayal over adoption of Action Plan for EU (N1)

 

Bosnian Serb officials who agreed to an action plan the central government adopted in order to continue on the country’s path toward EU membership have betrayed Serb national interests, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik told reporters on Thursday, referring to the Bosnian Serb ministers in the government who are his political rivals. The ministers are members of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and the Party for Democratic Progress (PDP), both opposed to Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD). The ministers agreed to adopt the Action Plan for Realization of Priorities stated in the European Commission’s (EC) analytical report, which is part of the EC’s Opinion on the country’s application for EU membership, but they did this without the consent of the RS government, Dodik said. That is clear evidence of the betrayal of Serbian national and RS interests, by ministers from the SDS and PDP in a government that is only acting in a technical mandate and adopted the plan in a session over the phone, he said. Such a decision should have first been approved by the authorities of RS, he argued. “That’s not the way it works,” he said. “It is well known what the coordination mechanism says. They have violated that coordination mechanism and they are working to the detriment of the constitutional setup and the constitutional right of the RS,” he added. “Our message is that this Action Plan is not valid and I call upon the Government of RS to reject it. An action plan cannot be made without all government levels participating,” he said, arguing that the problem lies only in the procedure being violated. “Again, the news will go out to the world that RS is rejecting the Action Plan for the European Union. But we are rejecting it because we were not involved, and we were supposed to be,” he said. Bosnia’s Foreign Affairs Minister and PDP member, Igor Crnadak, shot back the same day. Dodik is only pretending to be concerned about the adoption of the Action Plan, he said, noting that his closest political associates, ministers from the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ B&H), with which the SNSD entered a political alliance, have also supported it. “Also, the reason why the Council of Ministers is holding telephone sessions is that the SNSD is through the HDZ B&H disabling normal sessions from being held,” he said. “I call upon Dodik to never use the word betrayal again, as the position and the role of RS in Sarajevo was never better nor more secure than it was during the past four years,” Crnadak stressed, referring to the past mandate.

 

Dodik announces special session of RS  parliament on RS status within B&H (BHT1)

 

Member of B&H Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik stated in Banja Luka on Thursday that the SNSD caucus in the RS parliament will demand to hold a special session – regarding the current political developments and status of RS in B&H – between 1 and 5 November. Dodik said that the SNSD caucus asked him to prepare materials for this session.

 

Dodik to meet Russian PM Medvedev to discuss economic cooperation and situation in the RS and B&H (ATV)

 

During his visit to Serbia, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will address a special session of the Serbian parliament in Belgrade on Saturday, October 19. On this occasion, Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik will hold a meeting with Medvedev in Belgrade. “Russians are present here at the Oil Refinery in Brod and it is very important for us to talk about maintaining the activities of this company. It is important that the Oil Refinery functions and works. The General Manager of ‘Zarubezhneft’ from Moscow will also attend the meeting,” Dodik was quoted as saying. Dodik announced that he will meet with Medvedev to discuss economic cooperation and situation in Republika Srpska (RS) and B&H. “Topics will be our continuous cooperation. I will inform him about the situation here, both in the RS and B&H. We will discuss possible cooperation in economic issues,” Dodik underlined. While in the Serbian capital, Medvedev will attend the ceremony of marking 75 years since the liberation of Belgrade in World War II.

 

All eyes on the opposition as dialogue deadline passed (Dnevne novine)

 

Deadline for starting dialogue on technical government, set by the part of the opposition, was 15 October. Nothing important happened, although opposition discussed their requests with the Head of EU delegation in Podgorica, Aivo Orav. In the meeting held on 9 September, part of the opposition members defined their common interests- formation of the technical government and de-politicization of all institutions necessary for free election process. Joint statement said that opposition parties and caucuses committed to the dialogue would base their political views on several key guidelines. Although the deadline has been established, no dialogue on technical government has been held so far. That comes as no surprise, since Montenegro’s president, Milo Djukanovic, immediately said that there wouldn’t be such talks. “Opposition’s request for constituting technical government is, in fact, request for the revision of the results of elections held in 2016,” said Djukanovic. Only two days after the meeting between opposition members and Orav, Djukanovic said that, according to OSCE-ODIHR assessment, the last elections were fair and the reflection of citizens’ free will. “Therefore, there’s no need for forming some sort of transitional government. There’s no need for doing experiments,” Djukanovic said. A day before Djukanovic’s statement, opposition members met with the head of EU Delegation, Aivo Orav and ambassadors of the EU member states. They stated that in order for the election legislation to be implemented properly and efficiently, “there has to be technical government.” Independent MP, Aleksandar Damjanovic, says that the fact is that the deadline passed and that opposition failed to produce reaction. “Obviously, requests made by opposition haven’t been responded to. Not even that unprincipled deal between DPS and one part of the opposition could help. The fact that the deadline expired requires urgent reaction. The question is: Is there going to be any reaction at all and what shape is it going take?” says Damjanovic.

 

No agreement in Brussels, no date for Macedonia (Republika)

 

European leaders could not agree on opening EU accession talks with Macedonia yesterday. Despite reports that politicians such as Donald Tusk and even Angela Merkel are pushing for the accession date, France remained firm in its opposition and the EUCO dinner ended without mention of enlargement in the conclusions. Seems that the best Macedonia can hope for is a French approval of revisiting the issue again in six months, depending on whether French demands for substantial reforms and institutional deepening of the EU are accepted. This would also require implementing additional reforms on the part of Macedonia, although what exactly is not clear, Deutsche Welle reported. The Prime Minister’s Zoran Zaev government promised a June accession date, and following its failure at the June EUCO summit, said that they now have written guarantees for a date in October. According to reports from Brussels, Macedonia was lumped together with Albania, and countries such as Germany and Italy demanded that the two remain in a group, making it all but impossible for Macedonia to get a date for accession talks alone. France opposes both countries, while the Netherlands said they would block Albania, but were open to Macedonia moving forward alone. Politico reported that at one point, following the early conclusion of talks on Brexit, Merkel, Macron and the leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands sat together to prepare conclusions on enlargement, but then, as the hours went by, the talks moved toward Syria, without resulting in enlargement breakthrough.

 

Von der Leyen regrets French decision to block Macedonia and Albania from opening EU accession talks (Republika)

 

The next President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that she regrets the fact that there will likely not be a decision to open EU accession talks with Macedonia and Albania. “I deeply regret it because I believe these countries have made enormous efforts to get closer to the European Union, so it’s very important that they get a positive signal” von der Leyen said. She met President Macron recently but made no comments about the discussion. Macron yesterday declared that while he appreciates the efforts made by Macedonia and Albania, the EU needs to undergo serious reforms that will further deepen it before it can accept new members.

 

Nikoloski: Zaev needs to resign by Monday (Republika)

 

“Zoran Zaev is responsible for the failure to receive the approval to open the EU accession talks. He needs to resign on Monday” said VMRO-DPMNE deputy leader Aleksandar Nikoloski.

“Zaev should resign so we can begin to form a technical Government, as provided in the Przino agreement. A technical Government which will operate for 100 days and afterwards, 100 days from Monday, we should hold the early general elections,” Nikoloski said. The opposition parties that represent ethnic Albanians hold the same position – that the coalition Government between SDSM and DUI should be removed and early elections held as soon as possible.

Opposition parties representing ethnic Albanians in Macedonia are agreed that, if the European Council ends without a date to open accession talks, early elections should be held as soon as possible. “The plan B of the opposition is that we have early elections. What else could we ask for? We demand elections. If the Prime Minister is serious in his statements, we need to have a technical government under the Przino accord as soon as possible, and have early elections in the spring,” said Ziadin Sela, leader of the Alliance of Albanians. Bilal Kasami, the leader of the BESA party, also said that the government needs to resign immediately if the Council push fails. BESA hopes that the EU will overcome this opposition and will make a decision to open the accession talks as soon as possible, before the year is over, which would be in the interest of the citizens. If the country is not given a date, then this Government is dead and early elections should be called, Kasami said.

 

Haradinaj: Thaci, Vucic and Rama are collaborators (ADN)

 

The outgoing PM of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj said that he prevented a 10 billion EUR robbery that was to be committed by Kosovo partition and accused Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and outgoing President of Kosovo Hasim Taci as collaborators of this scheme. “I resigned upon pressure from international and domestic actors. By imposing the taxes of 100% on imported goods coming from Serbia, Kosovo gathered up to 600 million EUR in a single year” says Haradinaj adding that if the newly elected Premier of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, lifts the taxes, he will make a grave mistake. “The secret cause of the Kosovo political crisis was tied to the future of the Trepca mine in Mitrovica. With an investment not exceeding 140 million EUR, Trepca delivers a net profit of around 500 million EUR annually for 20 years, which amounts to EUR 10 billion. So, I stopped the 10 billion EUR robbery that was going to take place through the plan for the partition of Kosovo! This was the secret economic point in the plan to exchange the territories of Kosovo and Serbia. Thaci, Vucic and Rama, are involved in helping to deliver the scheme. But I stopped this robbery and the Trepca mine now belongs only to Kosovo”.  Haradinaj continued by praising the Albanian President, Ilir Meta for being against partition of Kosovo. “The President of Albania, Ilir Meta, gave us support against the partition of Kosovo, as well as the opposition of Albania, including Berisha, Basha and Kryemadhi… Now the non-partition of Kosovo is a battle won,” said Haradinaj. He concluded by saying that the Balkan Schengen, without Kosovo is a very big mistake, as this way we seem too weak before Serbia and Europe.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

France eager to prove that it is still committed to the Western Balkans (European Western Balkans, 17 October 2019)

 

Even though France wants to be more involved in the region, it is still has reservations about opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania during the European Council meeting, Director for Continental Europe at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France Frédéric Mondoloni stated in the Grand Opening event of the Ninth Belgrade Security Forum. Speaking on the topic of the sustainable solution for the Western Balkans, former Ambassador to Serbia Mondoloni said that there is no unity in the European Council on this issue, especially when it comes the decision on whether to de-couple the two countries, and that France is in favor of reforming the enlargement policy, since it is not delivering satisfactory results. “This is not a French NO, it is a French YES but we want to make sure that all criteria are met and that the enlargement procedures are reformed,” he stressed. Mondoloni reminded about the Strategy France designed for the Western Balkans in spring this year, emphasizing that its aim is to stabilize the Western Balkans within the EU. According to him, this shows that his country believes the Western Balkans is an important region in which it wants to be more involved. “We are engaged, we are committed, we are not forgetting the Western Balkans, quite on the contrary,” Mondoloni said. He also expressed his opinion that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is of the vital importance to the region and stressed the readiness of France to work with the new High Representative Josep Borrell.

 

EU leaders deadlock over membership talks for North Macedonia, Albania (politico.eu, by David M. Herszenhorn, 18 October 2019)

 

Supporters of Balkan candidate countries warn EU’s credibility at risk.

The EU aspirations of North Macedonia and Albania must wait. EU leaders struggled past midnight in a tense debate over the two small Balkan nations, but ultimately were unable to reach agreement even on a bland statement offering encouragement and postponing a formal decision. French President Emmanuel Macron strongly opposed moving forward with membership talks and ultimately prevailed over other leaders, including European Council President Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who were in favor. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte supported a potential compromise that would have allowed talks to begin with North Macedonia while forcing Albania to wait, but in the end leaders also could not agree on separating the bids by the two countries. EU leaders had dangled the prospect of membership as an incentive for North Macedonia to settle a long-running dispute with Greece, which it did last year — in part by changing the country’s name. But in the end those hopes were dashed — at least for now — leaving officials in Skopje, the capital, angry and deeply disappointed.

After EU ministers tried and failed to reach a deal on the enlargement issue at a meeting of the General Affairs Council earlier this week, Tusk put the matter on the agenda for the leaders’ summit, hoping to pressure Macron. France has cited procedural reasons for blocking the two countries, arguing that the EU’s entire accession system is in need of an overhaul. But Paris has also made clear its view that North Macedonia and Albania are not ready to begin the EU membership process. Supporters of putting the Balkan countries on the path to membership argued that both have fulfilled criteria set by the EU and that the bloc’s credibility will be badly damaged if it fails to live up to its promises. The discussion on enlargement of the EU came at the end of the first day of a European Council leaders’ summit, at which the EU struck a tentative deal on the U.K.’s withdrawal from the bloc.

 

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