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Belgrade Media Report 12 November 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 12 November 2019
LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic: Withdrawal of Kosovo’s recognition victory for Serbia’s policy (Tanjug/RTS)
• Vucic: Talks with Macron in three parts (Tanjug/RTS)
• As for Macron, we knock on an open door and there is no dilemma (Tanjug/B92)
• Djuric: Serbs brutally denied right to vote (RTS)
• Borisov: Gas supplies from Bulgaria to Serbia to begin by May 2020 (TV Prva)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik: Rights, competences and obligations of RS need to be defended (RTRS)
• Salkic: RS parliament session represents continuation of separatist activities (FTV)
• Dzaferovic: If DPA is questioned, so are B&H entities (FTV)
• Other reactions to RS parliament special session (N1)
• SDP Presidency: Whole country is in crisis, directed by SDA and HDZ B&H with help of their partner SNSD (Oslobodjenje)
• Mektic: Serb Ministers in B&H CoM will ask for removal of ANP from agenda of Tuesday’s session of CoM (BHT1)
• Turkey starts deporting former ISIL soldiers to their countries of origin; Mektic: B&H will accept only individuals that one unambiguously identifies as B&H nationals (BHT1)
Croatia
• Foreign Minister says NATO role beyond question (Hina)
Montenegro
• Montenegro has to think carefully about ‘mini-Schengen’ (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Pendarovski meets with Macron in Paris (Republika)
• Zaev: We agreed in Ohrid on measures to improve movement of people, goods and services through the region (Nezavisen vesnik)
• DUI does not want early elections in April (Sloboden pecat)
Albania
• Ruci calls on the EU countries to verify the reforms our country has undertaken (Radio Tirana)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Von der Leyen locks horns with Macron over EU enlargement (EurActiv)
• What does Macron really want on Western Balkans? (EUobserver)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: Withdrawal of Kosovo’s recognition victory for Serbia’s policy (Tanjug/RTS)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that the withdrawal of recognition of the so-called Kosovo by Ghana is a huge success and a great result of a policy of continuity and orientation towards the future. Brnabic said in a statement to Berlin that this is a great success for the policy we have been pursuing for the last five years – continuous, clear policies, full of flexibility, tolerance, that we want to look forward to the future, that we are ready to talk about solving the Kosovo problem. With this, Ghana sends a signal to everyone around the world to think about how they approach this issue when you have one side – Belgrade, which signals that it is ready to take bold steps to contribute to regional stability, the stability of Europe, and therefore the world, Brnabic explained. On the other hand, she added, Pristina, which opposes any talks, pursues a policy based only on barriers, protectionism, closing down the free movement of people and goods, and does not give positive messages for the future, above all to its citizens. She reiterated that this was a major victory for Serbia’s policy and expressed her hope that it would continue.

 

Vucic: Talks with Macron in three parts (Tanjug/RTS)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Paris that he told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that Serbia wants to be told what it can expect in the future. Vucic divided these talks in three parts. The first one has concerned the all-encompassing future of Europe and what we can expect. Serbia wants to be told clearly what it can expect and what it can hope for in the future in terms of European integration, Vucic said after dinner for the participants in the Paris peace forum. He pointed out that Serbian has been on the EU path since 2000. “We entered the campaign in 2003, especially after the death of Zoran Djindjic, according to which we were supposed to enter the EU in 2007, but for political reasons they let Bulgaria and Romania even though they weren’t ready. Today is 2019, and even though we have opened pre-accession negotiations six years ago, and we are opening two chapters annually, even though we are ready for four chapters, the rules that concern us have changed, this being that they can limit us at any moment through Chapters 23 and 24. They have the possibility of suspension and reversibility, but they are not using this. This way they leave you to hope for a quick progress,” explained Vucic. In the second part of talks he asked support from Macron on the so-called mini Schengen initiative between Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania. The third part of talks was devoted to relations with Pristina. “Europe is waiting for the formation of the government in Pristina. I believe they afterwards call both to talks and to find some compromise. I am not sure this will be easy, but Macron believes in what we discussed in Belgrade, and this is that it is possible to find a compromise solution,” he said. He also told Macron that when he asks whether the EU can guarantee that Serbia will join the EU in 2025 if it resolves the Kosovo problem and some other problems, that he had never received any kind of response.

 

As for Macron, we knock on an open door and there is no dilemma (Tanjug/B92)

 

There is no doubt that Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania will have full support of French President Emmanuel Macron when it comes to “mini-Schengen” concept.  This is the opinion of the Director of the Center for Globalization Dejan Miletic. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is meeting with Macron, from whom, as he announced, he will seek support for “mini-Schengen”, as well as answer to the question of what the future of the region is when it comes to European integration. Miletic believes Macron is the right address for it when it comes to the EU. He stated that he was convinced that Germany’s position on the regional initiative was positive, bearing in mind that through the Berlin Initiative it supported the rapprochement in the region, as well as being very economically active in Serbia, and counted with the expansion of the market for German companies that do business in our country. “However, in that context, France is very important because of the political dimension and the desire to be more economically present in Serbia, and that means in the region. I have no doubt in Macron’s support and his understanding of the concept,” Miletic said. He adds that he has no doubt that Macron understands that “mini-Schengen” is a good way for everyone in the region to show a desire to integrate into a much broader community such as the EU, adapting their systems of capabilities for stronger economic cooperation in the region and later with the EU. “On this point, we are knocking on an open door with President Macron and there is no dilemma, there will be no disagreement,” Miletic said. He points out that he expects the French President to give some concrete guidance on what to expect from the EU, i.e. how the conditions of accession of Serbia and other countries in the region will change, what the criteria will be, whether the funds will be more flexible. Miletic also expects bilateral relations to deepen in the right direction from the meeting of the two presidents, because, as he says, it builds trust and a relationship that will mean a great deal in the strategic sense, first of all to Serbia, of course, but also to France, since, as she says, it counts on Serbia as the leader of this region. Miletic underlines the moment when the two presidents meet, when Macron announces the start of a different, active role for the EU, which, he believes, is important message saying that the EU is moving much more dynamically to engage on issues of its future, and in this context, the Western Balkans and the negotiations between the so-called state of Kosovo and Serbia, and that those Macron’s announcements will also be the basis for President Vucic’s discussing with him on all other aspects. “I am sure that France wants development and peace in the region, and in that context, Serbia is the key to it and it is behaving in the same way as Serbia is constructive in its attitude,” Miletic said. Former Serbian Ambassador to France Radomir Diklic points out that Serbia cannot count on the individual support from France when it comes to European integration, but on a kind of encouragement that applies to the whole region. According to him, Macron is likely to explain in greater detail the idea of internal EU reform and the future enlargement policy in the meeting with President Aleksandar Vucic. “We cannot get a date in this period. This is unrealistic to expect, but certainly President Macron will provide some clarifications,” Diklic concluded.

However, he believes that the very fact that President Vucic meets with the French President on Tuesday is positive, because it is about maintaining the continuity of mutual dialogue, but adds that he does not believe that Serbia can receive support individually. “We can get the encouragement that already exists throughout the Western Balkans. Macron is a firm supporter of reforming the European Union first and then receiving other members. Of course, he does not decide alone, but certainly France’s position is highly regarded within the EU,” Diklic said for Tanjug. He estimated that recent events, when North Macedonia and Albania were denied a date for the start of negotiations at the European Council, indicate a crisis in EU decision-making process and that the delay in enlargement is somehow a turning point in the creation of a new EU profile. Professor on the Faculty of Political Sciences, Slobodan Samardzic points out that after Macron’s statements, it is necessary to see in what direction the EU’s goals will change. Serbia and the region on the whole must accept the new reality – that there is no EU accession, and that a new model of cooperation is needed, a new type of contractual model between the EU and the countries of the region, because, as Samardzic reminds, the existing Stabilization and Association Agreement was aimed at the system of introducing full change within the candidate countries, prior to their being ready to join EU.

 

Djuric: Serbs brutally denied right to vote (RTS)

 

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric has reacted on the occasion of the fact that the Electoral panel for appeals and petitions had ordered the Kosovo Electoral Commission to throw out votes from Serbia proper from the final election results. Djuric assessed that Serb votes from Serbia proper had been annulled without any meaningful explanation. “Thereby the expulsion of our people from Kosovo and Metohija is officially politically treated as irrevocable,” said Djuric. “The Serbs have been brutally denied the right to vote, whereby Albanian separatists have made official apartheid in our southern province,” said Djuric. He called on western European countries to react. “This anti-civilization move by Pristina will remain marked in European political history as one of its most shameful moments, and it is high time for western ‘portholes of democracy’ to undertake something so this barbarism would be curbed,” said Djuric.

 

Borisov: Gas supplies from Bulgaria to Serbia to begin by May 2020 (TV Prva)

 

Gas supplies from Bulgaria to Serbia via the TurkStream pipeline will begin by May 2020, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said Monday, adding that Bulgaria was building 5 km of pipeline a day. “When we do our share of the work and Serbia does your share of the work, we will start a business using our gas pipelines, motorways and rail lines. Both countries will be collecting fees,” Borisov told TV Prva. He said Bulgaria had an agreement with Moscow on supplies of Russian gas until 2030. Borisov also said the eastern leg of Corridor 10 in Serbia was very significant for his country and for connecting the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Burgas with Western Europe by road. He added his country was finishing the last remaining sections of its own stretch of Corridor 10, slated to be completed by 2021.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik: Rights, competences and obligations of RS need to be defended (RTRS)

 

A special session of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament with the single item on the agenda titled ‘Information on Unconstitutional Transformation of Dayton Structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and Influence on Position and Rights of the RS’ took place in Banja Luka on Monday. During the opening remarks, leader of SNSD and member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that the aim of the information is to protect the RS. According to Dodik, the session was convened to defend the RS, its rights, its competences and obligations confirmed in the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). He emphasized that after 24 years of solutions imposed by the Office of the High Representative (OHR) that were mostly to detriment of the RS, the time to sum up and analyze everything has come, and added that all decisions that were imposed and which are not in line with the Constitution of B&H can be subjected to questioning. According to Dodik, the session was a good opportunity for the RS to assess its position nowadays, bearing in mind that 2020 will mark 25 years since signing of the DPA. Dodik stated: “This is why it is important that we are aware of everything what was done and to reach conclusions and measures today that will prevent and that will say among other things, that this National Assembly rejects the Bonn Powers and consequences of the Bonn Powers; that we do not accept violation of the Constitution and we demand talks with the Federation of B&H as a party about everything that is disputable in B&H and for us, everything is disputable. Of course, the army, indirect tax, the intelligence security service and especially the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office (of B&H)”. According to Dodik, it turns out that all reforms were nothing but “meeting wishes of Bosniaks” which they failed to achieve during the war, i.e. their aspirations for a centralized state. Dodik added that the RS lost a lot without getting nothing. In his opinion, all political options that assumed the power in the past 24 years are responsible for mistakes during voting on some decisions on transfer of competences – mostly under huge pressure – but according to Dodik, now is the time to discuss this issue. Dodik argued that this is a process that should result in return to the Dayton structure of B&H in the upcoming period and thus, rights and competences of the RS and the Federation of B&H as state-building entities. Dodik stated that a reset should be done in order to restore factory settings of B&H and in order to achieve this, unity of all political parties and representatives from the RS is necessary. He added that the session was not convened to measure someone’s patriotism or to count those who love the RS, but to defend the RS that has no right to give up on its autonomy, statehood and independence. RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic also attended the session and responded to criticism that the information is unilateral. According to Cvijanovic, she did not notice the disproportion and she read part of the information which reads that SNSD also bears part of political responsibility which she did not deny. Both Dodik and Cvijanovic called for political unity. Cvijanovic argued that the foreigners’ biggest fear is that political parties from the RS will achieve unity, because B&H is currently their political and legal experiment and a country in which what the Constitution says is different from what is going on in practice, which in her opinion, results in a dysfunctional state. Cvijanovic said: “Is it normal to live in this kind of a country and is it normal to leave this country with political and legal disorder to future generations only because someone does not have courage to say what is the problem? I think that we should be brave to say what is the problem. There was legal violence against the RS here”. Both Dodik and Cvijanovic said that the Dayton B&H is on an irreversible road of decay and the RS must move from the phase of resisting to pressures to active action in reaching its constitutional position. Dodik stated that this is why these kinds of sessions should be held once a year and said that this session is nothing but continuation of sessions at which the resolution on military neutrality of the RS was adopted.

Twenty conclusions were put forward at the special session of the RS parliament which, among other things, reject all acts which are anti-constitutional and not in accordance with the DPA. Conclusions also task the RS government to analyze effects of unconstitutional transfer of competences from the RS to the level of B&H, including competences from the area of defense and indirect taxes. Proposed conclusions state that the RS parliament rejects the Bonn powers of the High Representative as unconstitutional, illegal and illegitimate because, according to the conclusions, their application represents flagrant violation of the constitutional and legal organization of B&H. The conclusions further state that in case of forced attempts for B&H to join NATO, the RS will hold a referendum on membership of the RS in military alliances. The twenty conclusions also oblige the RS representatives in the B&H institutions not to take part in amending of rules of procedure and other acts which would reduce the number of prescribed Serb and votes from the RS. SDS representatives stressed that none of the proposed conclusions are enforceable and that 90 percent of the conclusions are in conflict with the DPA and the Constitution of B&H. The RS parliament adopted the Information on Unconstitutional Transformation of the Dayton Structure of B&H and Influence on Position and Rights of the RS which reads that the RS institutions have the obligation to insist on consistent implementation of the DPA, especially of the Annex 4, i.e. of the Constitution of B&H. The conclusions also read that the RS parliament rejects all documents which are unconstitutional and are not in line with the Framework General Agreement on Peace in B&H and added that the RS parliament will continue to act in line with the basic principle according to which B&H was created by the DPA and is consisted of two entities – the RS and the Federation of B&H. According to the conclusions, stances and activities which are not in line with this basic constitutional principle result in violation of constitutional-legal order of B&H, RS and Federation of B&H and also jeopardize peace and stability. The conclusions emphasize that the RS parliament will treat all attacks on constituent peoples and equal entities as an attack on the DPA and will react to all illegal and unconstitutional documents and activities of both domestic and foreign factors aimed at destroying and changing of the DPA. The RS parliament also requested all sides which signed and witnessed signing of the DPA, as well as all representatives of the international community, to react to adoption of documents which call for dissolution of the DPA as well as to any activity which is not in line with provisions and principles of the DPA, and also to enable launching of necessary procedures which will enable B&H, RS and Federation of B&H to return to the framework stipulated by the DPA. Otherwise, the RS parliament will launch adoption of a new Constitution of the RS, on which citizens will present their opinion in referendum. According to the conclusions, the new Constitution of the RS will be based on principles of the DPA and will enable the RS to return competencies which were taken away from it and also to function in line with the DPA. The RS parliament rejected the ‘Bonn powers’ of the High Representative as unconstitutional, illegal and illegitimate and noted that future presence of the High Representative is unacceptable and unproductive. The RS parliament concluded that the presence of foreign judges in the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H is unacceptable so the RS Government was tasked to launch talks with the Federation of B&H Government to urgently harmonize the Law on B&H CC. The RS parliament also tasked the RS government to carry out preparations for possible withdrawal from the VAT system of B&H and also tasked the RS government and other competent institutions to launch a reform of judicial institutions at the level of B&H, i.e. of the Court of B&H, Prosecutor’s Office of B&H and High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of B&H. The conclusions noted that the RS will continue to function in line with principles of military neutrality but the RS parliament supports cooperation with NATO and its key members when it comes to security matters, but it also opposes membership of B&H in NATO. Apart from this, the conclusions noted that the RS will organize referendum on membership of the RS in military alliances. The conclusions were signed by the Chairs of the Caucuses of SNSD, DNS, SP RS, DEMOS, NDP and ‘United Srpska’.

 

Salkic: RS parliament session represents continuation of separatist activities (FTV)

 

RS Vice President Ramiz Salkic (SDA) talked about the special session of the RS parliament held on Monday and its possible consequences. Among other things, Salkic said that he understands this session as continuation of separatist activities carried out by authorities in the RS and continuation of implementation of ‘Memorandum 2’ of Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU), which gave directives to the RS authorities to deny state of B&H and coexistence, as well as to advocate division of B&H. Salkic stressed that courts in B&H and international courts established violation of human rights of Bosniaks in this entity. He went on to saying that there are activities to harmonize curriculums in schools in Serbia and the RS and that there are different joint strategies of two sides. According to Salkic, this is evidence that suspicion the RS authorities have been conducting separatist activities is justified. “It is not just this session, but activities implemented in the RS over the last 10 or more years,” said Salkic. He underlined that the special session of the RS parliament will make additional division among peoples in B&H.

 

Dzaferovic: If DPA is questioned, so are B&H entities (FTV)

 

Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic commented on the special session of the RS parliament dedicated to the anti-constitutional attempt to change the organization of B&H and the position of the RS. He stressed that, if the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) is questioned, so are the B&H entities created with this agreement. Dzaferovic said that the discussion in the RS parliament is completely unnecessary and it is additionally burdening a burdened political climate. ˝What we see today can be described as a political match between the opposition of the RS and Mr. (President of SNSD Milorad) Dodik. It can also be something very serious. I look at this thing very seriously, because the lack of reactions from the international community and the failure to do its job defined by the DPA, Mr. Dodik and some other anti-B&H political forces have raised their heads and believe that they can realize their goals˝ said Dzaferovic. He said that these forces need to give up on their attempts and they will never fulfill their goals. Dzaferovic stressed that the only thing they can do is to undermine the DPA. He added that B&H existed before the DPA and it is the interest of the RS, RS officials and the Serbs people, as well as all other peopled in B&H to respect the existing solution in B&H. “We did not adopt a single law against the DPA, no solution, not even the competences that were transferred were not transferred against the DPA,” said Dzaferovic. He added that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) exists in accordance with the DPA. “The problem is not that (the OHR) exists, the problem is that it is not doing its job. That is the problem of B&H,” said Dzaferovic.

“Decision of the RS parliament will bring nothing. Nothing will be achieved when it comes to the position of the OHR or the request for the so-called return of competences, because the RSNA is not the place for the discussion. In my opinion, this should not be discussed anywhere at this moment. We should respect the solutions that we have at this moment. All that we have today is the original Dayton and nothing was done against the DPA”. SDA stated that RS parliament’s special session which problematizes the DPA represents an unnecessary act which only further complicates the political situation in B&H. SDA further stated that existing competences of the state of B&H and position of the international community are part of the DPA, adding that any undermining of these competences is a path that jeopardizes the DPA.

 

Other reactions to RS parliament special session (N1)

 

N1 carried reactions to the special session of the RS parliament with the single item on the agenda titled ‘Information on Unconstitutional Transformation of Dayton Structure of B&H and Influence on Position and Rights of the RS’ which was held in Banja Luka on Monday.

SBB B&H called the session of the RS parliament absurd. In a statement given for N1, expert for constitutional law Nedim Ademovic denied (President of SNSD Milorad) Dodik’s claims that the RS has the right to self-determination and added that it is legally impossible to return competences from the level of B&H to the entities, if the process was carried out in line with the Constitution of B&H. Ademovic added: “The message to Mr. Dodik is that precisely Dayton stipulated an institution that discusses on whether the transfer was carried out in line with the Constitution of B&H or not and that is the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H. If there is a dilemma, he can address the CC to reassess whether B&H got its competences in line with the Constitution or not”. The OHR told N1 that they will present their stance after the session of the RS parliament, but the OHR previously stated that status and competences of the High Representative (HR) are issues stemming from the DPA and the international law and therefore, are not competences of the entities. The OHR also stated that the RS has no right to unanimously withdraw from reforms. The Office of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H and the EU Special Representative urged all political actors in B&H to focus on formation of the authorities and the European path and to commence implementation of necessary reforms in the interest of all citizens.

 

SDP Presidency: Whole country is in crisis, directed by SDA and HDZ B&H with help of their partner SNSD (Oslobodjenje)

 

SDP Presidency convened on Monday and expressed its support for the citizens of Mostar in their fight to deal with the injustice imposed by SDA and HDZ B&H, which are the main culprits for the lack of elections in the city. They pointed out that the whole country is in crisis, directed by SDA and HDZ B&H with help of their partner SNSD. SDP Presidency pointed out that giving up on NATO integration and submission of the Annual National Program (ANP) should not be a part of a discussion on formation of the new state authority, and condemned the political parties who only declaratively support the NATO road of B&H, calling on them to carefully consider all the legal options for weakening of those political forces that are against Euro-Atlantic integration. SDP condemned the statement of French President Emmanuel Macron who described B&H as a ticking time bomb. On the other hand, the party expressed support for UK Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce, who insisted on increased engagement of the international community in B&H, as well as US Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer. Niksic also advocates remaining of the OHR, noting that certain forces in B&H want this institution closed down “because of bad reasons”. “We live in a country where OHR is needed because here, nationalistic parties create one for another the space for homogenization of their voters and people, with which they cover real problems in the country,” said Niksic.

 

Mektic: Serb Ministers in B&H CoM will ask for removal of ANP from agenda of Tuesday’s session of CoM (BHT1)

 

On the eve of the session of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) scheduled for Tuesday it is known that the CoM will not discuss the Annual National Program (ANP) for NATO at its upcoming session. B&H Minister of Security Dragan Mektic said that Serb ministers in the B&H CoM will ask for the removal of ANP from the agenda of Tuesday’s session of the CoM. “If there is no voluntary agreement on removal, we will proceed with voting. If us three Serb representatives are against, there will be no consensus on that item,” Mektic underlined. B&H CoM Chairman Denis Zvizdic stressed that there are procedural and legal solutions which are not allowing complete blockade of work of the CoM. “The B&H CoM has to work not because I or some other member of the CoM want that, but because state institutions have their obligations,” Zvizdic underlined.

 

Turkey starts deporting former ISIL soldiers to their countries of origin; Mektic: B&H will accept only individuals that one unambiguously identifies as B&H nationals (BHT1)

 

Turkey started deporting former soldiers of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) to their countries of origin on Monday. One man was deported to the United States, while two individuals were deported to Germany and Denmark. Turkey will continue the process of deporting of former ISIL soldiers during this week, as well as in the coming period. Deputy Minister of Interior of Turkey Ismail Catakli said that Turkish authorities will prepare programs for seven foreign terrorists from Germany who are currently at centers for the return of foreigners and who will be deported on 14 November. It is still unknown whether individuals who will be deported by Turkey include B&H nationals, recalling that precisely a month ago, B&H was supposed to take over nine B&H nationals suspected of fighting for ISIL, but this process was suspended due to Turkey’s offensive in Syria. According to the information obtained by B&H Minister of Security Dragan Mektic, 260 B&H nationals, including one hundred men and 160 women and children, are currently in three camps in Syria. Mektic stressed that B&H will accept only individuals that one unambiguously identifies as B&H nationals, adding that identity of children born in Syria and Iraq will be checked prior to deportation. “We agreed techniques of establishing identity via certain international organizations where we will carry out DNA analysis in camp,” Mektic underlined. SIPA told the daily that they have all the information about the B&H citizens who are about to be deported to B&H, while the Intelligence-Security Agency (OSA) stated they are yet to receive official information about number of B&H citizens in Turkey.

 

Foreign Minister says NATO role beyond question (Hina)

 

Croatia’s Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman said in Brussels on Monday that NATO’s future was not in question, despite a recent statement made by French President Emmanuel Macron that NATO was “brain dead.” “NATO protects transatlantic security. Its role is undisputed and its future is beyond question,” Minister Grlic-Radman said after arriving in Brussels for a meeting of EU foreign ministers. “I believe in NATO’s future and I believe that it is necessary to protect our values, peace and stability” he added. Several other EU ministers also defended NATO after Macron had told The Economist last week that Europe was facing the “brain death of the Alliance, and that Europe could not rely on it any longer when it came to issues of global security. “I agree with the French President that we need to consider what more we can do for our security, but I want to do that together with NATO, and not against it” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. The Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, said that Macron was right to criticize the level of coordination within NATO. However, he added, that criticism of NATO’s military mechanism was baseless.

 

Montenegro has to think carefully about ‘mini-Schengen’ (CDM)

 

Montenegro has been familiar with the joint initiative of the leaders of three Western Balkan countries – North Macedonia, Serbia and Albania – Zoran Zaev, Aleksandar Vucic and Edi Rama on regional economic cooperation, a so-called ‘mini-Schengen’. Montenegro’s Economy Minister Dragica Sekulic noted our country still has to think about the initiative. “The initiative we have heard about is something that our Government and the State has to think about carefully in terms of benefits for our citizens, economy and better European integration,” Sekulic pointed out. Montenegro’s aim is to join the EU and there’s no alternative, according to her. The leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia agreed on the free movement of people, goods, capital, and services between their three countries.

 

Pendarovski meets with Macron in Paris (Republika)

 

Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski met Monday evening in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. This is the first meeting of a Macedonian statesman with a representative of the French state leadership after France opposed Macedonia getting a date for starting negotiations with the EU. “Tonight, I had the honor of attending a dinner ahead of the Paris Peace Forum, at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, along with heads of state and forum participants, to discuss the need for joint solutions to tackle global challenges,” the President wrote on Facebook.

 

Zaev: We agreed in Ohrid on measures to improve movement of people, goods and services through the region (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

“We agreed in Ohrid on measures to improve movement of people, goods and services through the region and ensure a better life for all in a modern and peaceful Balkans,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev stated, following Sunday’s leaders’ meeting on the regional cooperation initiative, known as ‘mini-Schengen’. “Crossing borders using only personal identification documents, improving border crossing efficiency and introducing fast lanes for trucks, devising a plan of how diplomas should be recognized by the countries so as to create a comprehensive offer of qualified staff from the whole region, increasing efforts for mutual recognition of diplomas, strengthening police cooperation to better fight cross-border crime, terrorism and illegal migration, and developing a joint investments platform,” Zaev listed the agreed measures.

This initiative, the leaders of North Macedonia, Albania and Serbia underlined Sunday in Ohrid, does not mean backing down from European integration, but taking join action to improve border crossing and movement of people, goods and services. Western Balkan leaders said these measures should be implemented not just to satisfy criteria in the process of European integration, but improve trade, exchange ideas, and ensure free movement of people and workforce in order to create better living conditions and improve the standard of living in this part of Europe.

 

DUI does not want early elections in April (Sloboden pecat)

 

Ali Ahmeti’s party says the 12 April election would jeopardize the country’s European future and between spring and postponed elections, DUI chooses the second option, Sloboden pecat reports. According to the party, one should wait for the ratification of the NATO Accession Protocol in the Spanish Parliament and then in the Macedonian parliament. “Before we go to the polls, our country should have a flag and be the 30th member state of the Alliance,” DUI said. The party also believes that the 12 April elections would also jeopardize the possible date for negotiations with the European Union at the Zagreb summit in May next year.

 

Ruci calls on the EU countries to verify the reforms our country has undertaken (Radio Tirana)

 

Parliament speaker Gramoz Ruci delivered a letter to his counterparts of EU countries that opposed the opening of negotiations for Albania. Ruci said we was not discouraged by the EC’s decision, which he described as unfair. The speaker does not forget about the fact that Germany was in favor of opening negotiations, while addressing the President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schauble that; The “Pro of the Bundestag and Chancellor Merkel, was significant.” Among other things, Ruci has called on France, the Netherlands and Denmark to verify the reforms our country has undertaken.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Von der Leyen locks horns with Macron over EU enlargement (EurActiv, by Georgi Gotev, 12 November 2019)

 

The new European Commission has yet to be approved, but its president-elect has already locked horns with French President Emmanuel Macron over the future of EU enlargement. On 18 October, EU leaders held a heated six-and-a-half-hour debate on whether to open accession talks with the two Western Balkans hopefuls. Mostly due to French and Dutch opposition, the issue was postponed for another EU summit, under a new Commission and a new Council Presidents. Further, Macron made it clear in an interview for the Economist that the EU needed to reform its membership procedures, which he said were “no longer fit for purpose”. “I don’t want any further new members until we’ve reformed the European Union itself,” he said in the interview. “In my opinion, that’s an honest and indispensable prerequisite.” The reform of the EU could take ages, and many pundits say the momentum for advancing on the EU track, especially in the case of North Macedonia, would not happen again in the next ten years, if not longer. In a speech on Friday (8 November) on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, von der Leyen hinted that Macron had opened the door to Russia and other global players in the Western Balkans. She argued that the EU had “asked a lot of North Macedonia and Albania, and they’ve fulfilled it all. “Now we must be true to our word and start accession talks.”

She said EU leaders had delayed the prospect of membership for the Western Balkan countries as long ago as 2003. In 2003, the so-called Thessaloniki Summit named the Western Balkan countries as “potential candidates” and said their future is in the EU. “The point at that time was to anchor the European idea of peace in the region, which 20 years earlier had been rocked by bloody conflict,” von der Leyen added, with reference of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

“The history of the EU since 1989 has proven how much it pays when our union opens its heart,” she said. She warned that if Brussels does not offer a European perspective to the Western Balkan states, “others will fill the gap – China, Russia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia.” On Monday, EURACTIV asked Dana Spinant, a spokesperson to von der Leyen, what was the President-elect’s plan, given the position of the French president. She answered that von der Leyen was determined to work with her team “to improve the political conditions so that the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania tales place as early as possible during her mandate”. The opening of negotiations is only the start of a process, which in the case of the latest EU member, Croatia, lasted eight years until the accession in 2013. North Macedonia (then referred to as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), received candidate status in 2005, only one year after Croatia, but could not open accession talks because of a dispute over its name with Greece, which vetoed any progress. The veto was removed thanks to the so-called Prespa agreement, under which Skopje agreed to the new name. Russian officials have said on the record that they could offer an alternative other than Euro-Atlantic integration to Skopje, to the Western Balkans, and to any country.

 

What does Macron really want on Western Balkans? (EUobserver, by Andrew Rettman, 11 November 2019)

 

BRUSSELS, French president Emmanuel Macron’s enlargement veto is not a ploy for concessions in other areas, his diplomats and MEPs say. His calls for prior EU reforms are short on detail and if Europe gets it wrong, it could destabilise its closest neighbours, experts warn. But there might still be time to make big changes before a crunch meeting in Zagreb. Macron caused shock at an EU summit in October by saying no to accession talks with North Macedonia despite the fact it had done everything the EU had asked. He caused even more anxiety by saying the EU must reform the way it does enlargement before taking any further steps. And he stood firm on his position in an interview with The Economist, a British magazine, last week.

“Opening a purely bureaucratic process [with North Macedonia] is absurd,” he said. “My conviction is … we need to reform our membership procedures – they’re no longer fit for purpose. They’re not strategic. They’re not political, too bureaucratic, and not reversible,” he added.

Macron’s bombshell prompted some in Brussels to question his convictions, however. Did he aim to trade his veto for German concessions on other pet projects, such as European Parliament electoral reform? Was he holding the Western Balkans hostage until MEPs approved his second choice for EU commissioner? “What does France really want?!”, one exasperated EU source told EUobserver. “We don’t know what it is or if it would change anything if the [European] Commission came forward with proposals [on enlargement reform],” the source added.

One month after the October summit, French diplomats have not given any extra detail on his vision to their EU peers and the Western Balkans were not on the agenda when foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday. But that did not mean there was any hidden quid pro quo, they said.

“If you want to know what Macron wants, just listen to what he told press in October or read The Economist,” a French diplomat told this website. “Clearly not”, Nathalie Loiseau, a senior MEP from Macron’s party and his former minister of EU affairs, also told EUobserver when asked if the veto was related to other issues. “He is serious about enlargement. He really wants to make it a success, not just a slogan,” she added. “It is urgent. We hope the commission will come swiftly with a proposal … the enlargement process has to be fixed,” Loiseau said. “You have to increase European presence, European investments. We do a lot through IPA and should do even more. A reviewed accession process should be more tangible for the people of the Western Balkans, more progressive and reversible,” she also said, referring to the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), a €12bn EU fund for enlargement hopefuls.

 

Urgency

Amid the doubt, Loiseau’s note of urgency is one thing everybody can agree on. EU leaders are to meet their Western Balkan counterparts in Zagreb in May and if Europe remained stuck on how to move forward six months from now, it could have “extremely serious” consequences, the EU source said. “There is huge disappointment and anger in North Macedonia and VMRO-DPMNE could make a comeback,” the source added, referring to a nationalist opposition party.

“We have to confirm our commitment to enlargement in a very clear way [in Zagreb],” the source said. “The French veto vitiates much of the argument for reform and hence conflict resolution in the region: It says you cannot rely on EU promises, even if you institute painful and politically difficult reforms,” Daniel Serwer, a former US diplomat who now teaches at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, said. Some among the Serb minorities in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Montenegro still aspired to rejoin Serbia and some Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia aspired to join a greater Albania in ideas which “could cause serious instability” unless EU accession prospects laid them to rest, Serwer added.

 

Still time

But there was still time before the Zagreb summit to satisfy French demands, Pierre Mirel, a former French diplomat who used to run the EU commission’s Western Balkans department, told EUobserver. There was no need to change the EU treaty, for instance, because the treaty, in its Article 49, said very little on how to do enlargement, beyond its iconic words that “any European state which respects [EU] values … may apply to become a member of the Union,” Mirel, who now teaches at Sciences Po, an elite French academy, noted. And even if six months was too short to complete EU reforms, “at least new principles could be established” and that might be enough to satisfy Macron, he said. The French veto did not come out of nowhere because Paris had been saying for “many years” that the EU accession process was not working in the Western Balkans, he noted. “I often travel to the region and what I see is really worrying levels of emigration … even people who are doing well see no hope for their children. These countries are starving for investment. Health care systems and education are in an appalling state,” he said.

Mirel said he was not privy to the detail of French ideas for change. But for him, one potential model was what he called “two-stage accession”.

 

EU faith

Instead of funding reforms via the IPA, Europe ought to open up its €63bn cohesion fund, which currently drags new EU members out of poverty, to Western Balkan hopefuls, he said. The cohesion grants should be paid out on a “more for more” basis – more money for those who made more progress on reform, he noted. Frontrunners should also be made “full members” of the single market and invited to join EU Council meetings in relevant areas, he said. And then, after a “probation period of three to four years”, if they had proved that pro-EU reforms were being “enforced and respected”, they could finally join the club, he added. If people in the Western Balkans were losing faith in EU leaders, then cohesion funding could restore credibility, he said.

“It would make a psychological difference, because EU structural funds are only meant for real new members,” he told EUobserver. And if people in the EU were losing faith in Western Balkan leaders, then the “Europeanisation” effect of a two-stage accession could make a difference on the other side, he added. “Public opinion would get slowly used to the new members becoming new members,” Mirel said.

 

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