Vucic: Dialogue can be continued if Pristina lifts taxes (Tanjug/TV Prva)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday said French President Emmanuel Macron’s meeting with him and Kosovo’s Hasim Thaci in Paris earlier in the day had been aimed at demonstrating the EU’s commitment to Kosovo as a problem on European soil. Vucic said he had reiterated the Serbian stance that dialogue could be continued if Pristina lifted its taxes on Serbian goods. When asked by reporters if Macron was seeking to become more actively involved in a resolution of the Kosovo problem and get the two sides to return to dialogue as soon as possible, Vucic said there was no doubt France and the EU wanted the most significant role in this regard, while respecting the US and everyone else. “By saying so, the French President was chiefly referring to himself and to the German chancellor, as well as to European institutions,” he noted. Asked if Macron had insisted on the taxes being lifted, Vucic recalled the French head of state had spoken about the issue countless times. “Thaci knows that, too. It is not an issue that is being debated, everyone knows about that, and it is a thing that is self-understood. We are waiting for them to lift the taxes so that we can talk – of course, if they want to talk about reaching a compromise,” he said. He said the goal of the unannounced meeting had been to familiarize Macron with the situation. “I was realistic – and a bit pessimistic – I was open and I told the truth,” Vucic said.
Vucic: UNESCO charter must be respected (Tanjug)
As part of his three-day visit to Paris, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic addressed the participants of the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference. Vucic also met with the UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay. “Peace is one of the most important things, but it is impossible if we don’t learn what cultures are, without communication, without knowing each other’s differences. UNESCO is one of the main pillars that hold everything,” said Vucic.
Vucic said that UNESCO is the organization that should provide the answers, adding that peaceful interstate dialogue, tolerance and interstate exchange are very important for maintaining stability. “It’s very important what we will adopt in these moments. It’s very important for maintaining peace and stability. Cultural heritage contributes to every nation, and to the whole world. Unfortunately, there is still pressure to give Serb heritage in Kosovo and Metohija to someone else. It needs protection,” said Vucic, adding that Serbia still advocates in favor of continued respect of the UNESCO charter. Vucic added that Serbia will be ready to cooperate constructively and closely with all UNESCO members. “The growth of small and medium-sized countries should be supported. That is good for UNESCO, for the United Nations,” said Vucic, expressing his gratitude for the support to Serbia.
Dacic: Only compromise solution ensures lasting peace (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Addressing the Seventh Belgrade NATO Week in Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that the situation in Kosovo is an important part of cooperation with NATO and that Kosovo is the biggest political and security challenge for Serbia. “We expect the Alliance to see and support our priorities with understanding, especially where Kosovo and Metohija is in question. We believe that only a compromise solution, reached through a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, supported by the international community, can ensure a lasting peace and stability. There is no reason that something agreed by two parties should not be acceptable for any third party,” the head of Serbian diplomacy added. He reiterated that Serbia is against the transformation of “Kosovo security forces” into the “Army of Kosovo,” adding that this is in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1244 and is endangering regional and wider stability. These and other Pristina’s unilateral moves, Dacic said, are a continuation of the fait accompli policy, tacitly supported by a part of the international community, among them a number of NATO members. “Establishing of an artificial balance in responsibility when it is completely clear who is responsible for the interruption of the dialogue is not contributing to the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina talks,” he added. Dacic also said that Serbia expects KFOR to prevent any future entry of Kosovo security forces in northern Kosovo. Dacic added that relations between Serbia and NATO, despite their upward trend, remain delicate due to the 1999 bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. “I recall with regret that in 1999 NATO had intervened without the authorization of the UN Security Council, which for us represents an unambiguous act of aggression against a sovereign country, resulting in a huge number of casualties and material destruction. We cannot forget these events and will always remember those who have perished,” Dacic said. He said that cooperation with NATO is important for Serbia and that Serbia wants it to be even better, but that the country’s military neutrality is absolutely not in question. “Cooperation with NATO is based on clear premises and rests on the respect for Serbia’s military neutrality, without any conditions requiring it to become a member of the Alliance. At the same time, Serbia is open to further advancing of the political dialogue and concrete cooperation with NATO in all areas of common interest… The policy of military neutrality, as the foundation of our policies not only regards NATO, but all other military alliances, is not being brought into question,” Dacic said. According to him, Serbia understands the decision of its neighbors to become NATO members and, therefore, expects their understanding for Belgrade’s contacts with countries that are not NATO members.
Ghana confirms it withdraws recognition of Kosovo (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Ghana’s Deputy Foreign Minister Charles Owiredu confirmed Accra had withdrawn earlier decision to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, the news agency reported on Tuesday.
He added the 2012 decision on recognition was “surely brought with a wish for peace and harmony.” “Today,” he said, “the decision is considered premature and in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244,” which is neutral regarding Kosovo’s status.
Serbia signs cooperation agreement with Eurojust in fight against cross-border crime (Tanjug)
Serbian Minister of Justice Nela Kuburovic and Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran signed a Cooperation Agreement, which provides the potential for improved operational and strategic judicial cooperation and the exchange of information and evidence between Serbia and Eurojust.
Kuburovic said that by signing this document, Serbia significantly strengthened its capacities in the fight against organized and transnational crime, especially considering that crime and criminals do not know national borders. Close cross-border cooperation and an effective exchange of information between the competent Serbian authorities and their counterparts in Europe are essential for the effective and decisive fight against crime, Kuburovic said. She emphasized that by adopting the new Law on Personal Data Protection as a prerequisite for the conclusion of this agreement, Serbia has fully harmonized its legislation with the relevant EU regulations and directives in this field, thus taking another step forward in its path towards full membership in the European Union. Hamran expressed satisfaction with the conclusion of a Cooperation Agreement with one of the key partners in the Western Balkans.
Rama: Pristina threatens Albania’s foreign policy (Tanjug)
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama says Pristina’s politicians, by opposing a joint initiative to create the Balkan “mini Schengen”, are threatening Albania’s foreign policy for its domestic political interests, Tanjug reports. Commenting on the statement by Albin Kurti, leader of the Self-Determination, about opening the borders between Albania and Kosovo, Rama said that something like that could not be done without Serbia’s consent. “If Kurti wants to open borders, then he must agree with all states,” Rama said. The Albanian Prime Minister also said that the Pristina leadership did not ask him for an opinion when deciding to impose taxes on goods from Serbia, but that he genuinely supported the decision, primarily as an action that should have a political, not economic, effect.
RS parliament adopts 20 conclusions calling for consistent implementation of DPA, rejecting of Bonn Powers and requesting abolition of OHR (Hayat)
After 15-hour-long discussion that begun on Monday morning, members of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament unanimously adopted 20 conclusions. The special session of the RS parliament was organized to discuss the topic titled the ‘Information on Unconstitutional Transformation of Dayton Structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and Influence on Position and Rights of the RS’. According to the conclusions, the RS parliament will continue to act in line with the resolution on protection of the constitutional order and military neutrality. One of the conclusions mentions the right to self-determination and announces adoption of a new RS Constitution following a referendum of citizens in case of absence of reaction of the international community, signatories or guarantors of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) to acts that call for decomposition of the DPA. The conclusions also read that the new RS Constitution will be based on the original principles of the Dayton Agreement and it will enable the RS to return previously-taken competences and functioning in line with the Dayton Agreement. RS MPs tasked the RS government to analyze effects of unconstitutional transfers of competences from the entity to the state level, including the defense area and indirect tax and to inform the RS parliament about this, with the aim to launch talks between the entities and legitimate representatives of the constituent peoples on review of their efficiency. The conclusions also read that the RS MPs accept only the entities as holders of the sovereignty and claim that B&H has limited and derivative sovereignty, while the internal sovereignty belongs to the entities. In this regard, the RS parliament underlined the rights of the constituent peoples, including the right to self-determination, as the most important principle of the DPA and the Annex IV. RS MPs expressed support to cooperation with the NATO and its key member states on security issues, but they oppose membership of B&H in the NATO and in case of violent attempts to become a NATO member state, the RS will hold a referendum at which citizens will decide on membership of the RS in any kind of military alliances.
Opposition fails to support conclusions adopted by RSNA, say they are not result of joint acting (BN TV)
The opposition in RS criticized the special session of the RS parliament that ended early on Tuesday. According to members of the opposition in the RS, leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik humiliated the RS parliament and the RS with the last session, as he again mentioned old stories that were never realized in practice like a referendum on independence of the RS. Opposition MPs argued that once again, Dodik tried to make a show for the public and in this way, he humiliated the RS in the roughest possible way. SDS MP Nebojsa Vukanovic reminded that Dodik used to say that the RS parliament should announce its stance on a resolution of SDA, but due to ongoing negotiations on the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM), Dodik called for a discussion on transfer of competences, the High Representative and foreigners. Vukanovic added that the fact that Dodik went to watch a basketball match shows how much he cares about adoption of the conclusions in the RS parliament. According to members of the opposition, the authorities insulted the opposition in the document in the roughest way and yet, they called on the opposition to harmonize their views during a break. PDP MP Jelena Trivic stated that she is glad that they showed unity by not accepting this hypocritical offer. Opposition MPs said that it is very dangerous that the parliamentary majority supported Dodik’s allegations on self-determination of the RS that he mentioned several times but he failed to implement it in practice. The opposition MPs also warned of mentioning the establishment of an appellate court of B&H according to which Dodik made protection of the RS status pointless. Vukanovic stated: “We expect from the ruling majority to start implementing the conclusions as of the new year so that we can return the lost competences”. According to opposition MPs, emphasizing the story on self-determination can only lead to radical measures like the Dayton II in which the RS can only lose its competences. Trivic warned that the materials for the session did not condemn programs and declarations of the HDZ B&H and the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) which basically abolish the entities. Trivic said that this was not part of the materials just because Dodik and leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic are political allies. Vukanovic said that these 20 conclusions will never be implemented, reminding that not a single referendum announced earlier by Dodik was implemented. He stressed that the part in which Dodik said that the RS and the RS parliament need to promote people’s constitutional rights, including the right to self-determination, is the most disputable. The opposition also criticized part of conclusions related to transfer of competences and stressed that SNSD is the biggest culprit for that, reminding that Dodik’s story on self-determination and secession is 14 years old. ‘Zajedno za B&H’ coalition MP Senad Bratic stated that the Constitution of B&H leaves no room for sovereignty of entities or for the right to their self-organization based on the idea of territorial separation. The opposition concluded that the session and the RS parliament’s conclusions show how much the ruling structure in the RS is powerless and oriented towards empty goals. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic said that the RS parliament’s conclusions have an essential error, i.e. they are not the fruit of joint action of all RS MPs. Meanwhile, referring to Sarovic, SNSD representative Stasa Kosarac stressed that he regrets the fact that there is such a politician who has such an attitude towards the will of the peoples in the RS. “The RS parliament is the will of the people of the RS,” Kosarac underlined, noting that this shows that the policy pursued by SDS, Sarovic and some other people is primarily directed at derogation of institutions of the RS and its constitutional capacity. Sarovic said that the conclusions of the RS parliament do not have a big impact and were ordered to cause tension in B&H. He said that the conclusions have one essential mistake and that is the fact that they did not answer their purpose.
RS parliament session and adopted conclusions spark reactions of Federation of B&H (N1)
Member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik addressed special session of the RS parliament held on Monday. Among other things, Dodik talked about alleged letter written by former the US official Sandy Berger in 1995 where he stated that if necessary Bosniaks should be pressured to allow Serbs – in two or three years – to hold a referendum on self-determination. Chairman of B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic said that this is nothing but imaginary statements. He underlined that the US has always been strongly supporting sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H. SDP stated that the RS parliament ’s conclusions have an intention to maintain the ethnic tensions, although it seems tragicomic that SNSD leader Milorad Dodik warns world powers and tries to abolish the Office of the High Representative (OHR). SDP reminded that Dodik is aware that he cannot derogate the Constitution of B&H from the position of entity. HDZ 1990 leader Ilija Cvitanovic commented that any unilateral solution is not good for B&H and will not bring the agreement on key political issues, adding that the RS parliament’s conclusions are impossible to realize as the RS has no possibility to impose solutions on the state of B&H. HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic assessed that B&H has its integrity and therefore it cannot be divided, and until the Constitution of B&H is changed it is necessary to find the EU and NATO path of B&H within the current framework. Head of the DF Caucus in the House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H Dzenan Djonlagic stated that the RS parliament’s conclusions represent “a document on coup because of a number of anti-constitutional moves and attempts to undermine state-level institutions.” He concluded that these conclusions represent a long-term political goal of the RS. Chairman of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic said: “If you are going to build the story on self-determination on the current situation in B&H, which is a product of war, crimes, the genocide, blood, tanks, guns, howitzers, then you have a problem with yourself. This will not succeed”. Komsic assessed these conclusions are quite similar to conclusions adopted in the past, but he believes they will not be implemented as no other conclusions that aim to change internal structure of B&H have yielded any concrete results. SDA Vice-president Adil Osmanovic told the daily that SDA’s stance is clear – one must respect the Constitution, the laws, and adopted strategies – which is something new Chairman of the Council of Ministers of B&H must be aware. He also noted that the RS parliament has overstepped its authority with the latest conclusions.
Izetbegovic: RS parliament’s conclusions represent unconstitutional and non-implementable attempt to impose entity on state of B&H (FTV)
SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, asked to comment on the latest conclusions the RS parliament adopted at the special session, said that the conclusions represent unconstitutional attempt to impose an entity on the state of B&H, i.e. an attempt based on untrue facts that is non-implementable as such. According to Izetbegovic, a long-term goal is that some of these things will be implementable in some future situation or in somewhat changed circumstances, in which someone maybe hopes that NATO will be really clinically dead and that framework that supports B&H will be weakened someday. Asked to say if he expects the reaction of High Representative Valentin Inzko to the RSNA’s conclusions, given that he reacted to the SDA’s Declaration passed at the SDA Congress in September, Izetbegovic said that Inzko finds suitable to equally share critics within his “tripod”, reminding that the HR clearly said in his recent report on the situation in B&H he presented before the UN Security Council what is going on with regards to Dodik’s moves. Izetbegovic added that SDA’s only fault is that it opposes this, and it is unfair to equalize sides where someone causes a problem and someone tries to stop that. Izetbegovic concluded that it is high time that the international community starts opposing such moves in a more concrete manner and to warn sides who lead B&H in this direction that it is time to stop. “We hope that Inzko, who is only the top of an iceberg, will get powers from the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) member states to finally warn Dodik, as it is high time for that. The fact that they failed to make concrete moves timely has led to such conclusions of the RS parliament,” Izetbegovic asserted. Asked as if he expects that HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic will take Dodik’s side with regards to the RSNA’s conclusions at the upcoming meeting of HDZ B&H and SDA’s delegations in Mostar on Thursday, Izetbegovic reminded that Dodik and Covic have made a deal few years ago and that Dodik has even admitted that they made a deal that HDZ B&H will represent the RS in B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). He also reminded that Covic has said recently that he will get closer to the Bosniak side now and intensively work to improve relations. “It is naïve to think that we will improve these relations all of the sudden and that everything will be resolved at once, but we will exert efforts to achieve this,” Izetbegovic underlined. He assessed that Covic should agree to the formation of commissions that are necessary for B&H parliament’s work, with help of the international community.
PIC SB to discuss RS parliament conclusions next Tuesday (Nezavisne novine)
The Steering Board (SB) of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) will meet next Tuesday in the building of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Sarajevo, to discuss conclusions adopted by the RS parliament. An unnamed source told daily that members of the PIC SB will discuss RS parliament conclusions and make decision on next steps. Also, according to source, since Russia is expected to have a different opinion than other members of the PIC SB, ambassadors of the Quint states – United States, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom – will hold their own consultations about the next steps.
Komsic meets Macron in Paris, tells him B&H is not a time bomb (BN TV)
Chairman of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday. Komsic explained Macron why he believes his statement in which he called B&H a ‘ticking bomb’ is unfounded. “That is one of the reasons why I, unexpectedly, and maybe even undiplomatically, stayed at the red carpet longer, because I used the opportunity to tell President Macron that that one sentence of his interview for ‘The Economist’ created large disturbance in B&H,” said Komsic. He reminds that French Ambassador to B&H Guillaume Rousson was informed on the exact number of B&H nationals that currently fight of foreign battlefields. “Here (in Paris), we exerted efforts to submit those same data to the Cabinet of French President Macron, and I believe we must put a special emphasis to this topic and discuss it further on,” the B&H Presidency Chairman concluded. Komsic also mentioned that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was the first to call B&H a ‘ticking bomb’, saying the country is a “lair of extremisms and terrorist activities”. Komsic believes such behavior is not in spirit of good neighborly relations and Croatia often mentions B&H in such a context while meeting other foreign officials. “Croatia should not meddle into B&H’s internal issues,” Komsic underlines.
Dodik: Komsic stated personal opinion in Paris, not official stance of B&H Presidency (N1)
Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said on Tuesday that Chairman of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic presented his private position at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, to whom he told that the statement from the French leader that B&H is a ‘ticking time bomb’, due to the threat of returnees from the Syrian battlefield, is not true. “This is not the position of the Presidency. B&H’s position is what the three members of the B&H Presidency agree upon. What Zeljko Komsic is saying is his private position,” Dodik told reporters. He has recalled that the B&H Presidency did not decide on a bilateral meeting between Komsic and Macron. “Komsic is at a multilateral gathering which is also attended by Macron and it is quite natural that they had an opportunity to greet each other and talk. It is not right to challenge the stance of the president of such a powerful country, but this is Komsic’s choice. I would not have done it that way and if I had an opportunity, I would have thanked him for accurate assessment of this issue,” Dodik said. “I do not think Macron made mistake. He knows there is no unity in the Presidency of B&H. Regular people here are afraid of this. You see, more than 200 people will return to B&H. B&H cannot deal with 10 local people let alone those coming from abroad. There is no any plan. I would not like practice to show Macron was right. We will do everything to protect our people,” explained Dodik.
Croatia’s Presidency can advance relations between EU and Russia (Hina)
Croatia’s presidency over the European Union in the first half of 2020 can facilitate efforts to upgrade relations and dialogue between the EU and Russia, Russian Ambassador to Zagreb Anvar Azimov said on Tuesday. Addressing a conference on gas as the future of energy, the Ambassador said that both Europe and Russia suffered losses due to sanctions imposed on Moscow over the issue of Crimea. Therefore, Azimov proposed that during its EU chairmanship Croatia should organize an energy conference bringing together European and Russian experts, and described such an event as the start of dialogue between the two sides. Croatia can thus be a bond reconnecting the two sides, said Azimov at the conference, organized by the Zagreb-based Vecernji list daily newspaper. He said that losses suffered by EU member-states due to sanctions against Russia totaled 200 billion euros annually. For more than 60 years, Russia has been a guarantor of provision of energy supplies to Europe, he said. Azimov underlined that Russia annually delivers two billion cubic meters of gas to Croatia at a favorable price and that supplies to European buyers exceeded 210 million cubic meters annually. The Russian ambassador claimed that the United States strongly lobbied for as little Russian gas as possible in Europe. He added that although it was a disciplined member of the European Union, Croatia should also take care of its own interests. Azimov also said that Russia had never used gas provision as a political instrument to exert pressure against any country.
Rakocevic: Technical government is not acceptable (Dan)
Technical government is not acceptable to the Democratic Party of Socialists or our coalition partners, said Nikola Rakocevic, head of the DPS caucus. He said that every member of the party and their coalition parties “think alike” and that nobody was willing to negotiate on technical government. “It was said loud and clear: if the opposition wants dialogue on any subject on the Committee, we are ready to discuss it, including amendments to the Constitution and amendments to the law,” said Rakocevic. He doesn’t expect that opposition will suggest discussing technical government within the Committee, considering the view of the coalition.
“Article 11 of the decision on the formation of the Committee stipulates that the Committee will propose the model for the implementation and supervision of agreed solutions. In the governing coalition, we think that the model will be parliamentary supervision body for the implementation of electoral laws. We have already proposed such model to the Subcommittee. Of opposition members consider it should be some other form, they are free to propose it to the Committee,” said Rakocevic.
Brajovic: Idea of technical government should be rejected once and for all (RTCG)
Extending the deadline for the Committee on Comprehensive Reform of Electoral and Other Legislation is just another attempt of the opposition to take part in the Committee, and thus get election results that would be acceptable for all parties, Montenegro’s parliament speaker and the leader of Social Democrats Ivan Brajovic tells in an interview for Radio Montenegro. He warns that if there won’t be enough commitment of all sides, the new deadline (18 Dec.) and every other deadline will be short. Even though there are grounds for reaching an agreement, it’s extremely important to take care of the interests of citizens, according to him. “Our task is to make an agreement but not to give up on the program approaches of political parties,” Brajovic said. He is convinced that there might come to an agreement in the parliament as was the case when the opposition was boycotting the parliament. Commenting on the announced protests of the Democratic Front (DF), Brajovic says it’s a wrong choice that hasn’t brought anything good so far.
Pendarovski and Macron meet in Paris (Nezavisen vesnik)
After meeting his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday in Paris, North Macedonia’s President Pendarovski said that ‘open and dynamic’ talks took place, but Paris hasn’t yet provided any guarantees about a date for opening of EU negotiations. Macron is asking for more time for the EU to reform itself within. President Pendarovski presented his arguments to Macron before hearing his. According to Pendarovski, France has submitted an informal proposal (non-paper) to the EU countries involving reform of the methodology for membership talks. The reform has been set as a precondition before Macron would give the green light for North Macedonia and Albania. “President Macron has already launched efforts to review the methodology. France put forward a ‘non-paper’ a week ago. It is expected everything to be completed in the next month or two with commentaries from the other member states, possibly even amendments. He believes that the methodology could be passed by March at the latest,” the President said after his meeting with Macron. “Macron told me a decision on the opening of negotiations could be made in May at the Zagreb Summit, but he refrained from giving any guarantees that it could be a positive one,” said Pendarovski. “All options are open since Macron has clearly said that the delay came as a result of the EU needing more time. He told me ‘I’ve been always committed to EU enlargement and revision of the methodology; I know both processes can take place in parallel, it’s clear to me that now what you want is to be allowed to open negotiations,” Pendarovski stated, noting that Macron had never mentioned any additional reforms, not even the public prosecution law, as a precondition for the opening of accession talks.
Paris Peace Forum- President Meta met with French President Macron (Radio Tirana)
The President of the Republic Ilir Meta is in France, participating at the Paris Peace Forum. This forum is an annual international meeting for all actors of global governance initiated by the French President Emmanuel Macron. “A special pleasure to meet last night with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, on the occasion of the Paris Peace Forum! The cooperation with France is important for our European future!” stated Meta.
Rama: Chinese tourists will not need visas for the “Balkan Schengen” (Radio Tirana)
Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, participated in a ceremony on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the relations between Albania and China, praising Beijing as the second trade partner after EU. He declared that the cooperation between the two countries should increase, respecting the approach of each other. The head of the government declared that with the “Balkan Schengen”, the Chinese tourists will travel without visas in the countries that are part of the project. Albania has turned into a touristic destination of the Chinese tourists, and the increase for this year is 65%, the biggest increase of foreign tourists. By putting forward our plan for the Balkan Schengen area, we believe that next year we will see an even greater number of Chinese tourists, stated Rama. Rama also praised the approach of the Chinese towards the Albanian language, and declared that it would be a huge step if they accepted to head the sector of spelling of the Albanian language. “I wish that our friendship remains mutual and we benefit not only financially, but also but also in the field of knowledge,” said Rama.
Merkel: EU should do more to open negotiations on Albania and North Macedonia (Radio Tirana)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is on an official visit in Rome where she once again underlined the danger of other actors’ influencing Russia in the Western Balkans. Merkel said the EU should do more to open negotiations on Albania and North Macedonia. “I am very pleased to share with Content the same strategy towards the Western Balkan countries. We need to do more in this regard, for the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. Failing to do may result in opening a gap to be filled by others. And this is not in line with the European strategic interests. The Western Balkan countries are also NATO countries and in this regard, we share an Atlantic strategy. Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte shared similar views, reiterating that Italy and Germany should work together to achieve the EU enlargement goal with all Western Balkan countries. “The bilateral relations between Italy and Germany is modeled on the contribution our governments can make to the development of Europe. We are at the launch of the European legislature, and this strengthens our shared commitment to leading European solutions in order to make our action more efficient in meeting European challenges. We must work together to achieve the EU enlargement objective with all Western Balkan countries. This is a very important topic for us who faced the end without the right solution,” Merkel was quoted as saying.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
EU’s gatekeeper laments bloc’s message to would-be Balkan members (Financial Times, by Valerie Hopkins, 13 November 2019)
Johannes Hahn wants formal talks for North Macedonia and Albania to join union
Johannes Hahn faced a problem when he was appointed as Brussels’ commissioner in charge of enlarging the EU: meeting that crucial part of his job description was out of the question.
His boss, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, had made clear the bloc would not acquire more members on his watch. It was an acknowledgment of the EU’s growing pains after it nearly doubled in size between 2004 and 2013. Mr Hahn’s job was to keep aspirant EU nations — mainly in the Balkans — on track to join without being able to offer them imminent membership. But even that goal has been left in disarray after EU member states could not agree last month to endorse his recommendation that North Macedonia and Albania should proceed to formal accession talks. The decision has opened the EU to accusations of letting Balkan nations down and neglecting a strategic and volatile region — and Mr Hahn, in an interview at the end of his five years in charge of the enlargement portfolio, made clear his frustrations at what he deemed a strategic mistake. The failure came at “exactly the time when we should really reinforce our efforts to become a stronger global player”, the conservative Austrian politician told the FT. Losing influence “in a region so close to us, historically and geographically” would leave a vacuum to be exploited by the EU’s strategic competitors like China and Russia, he said.
Most painful, Mr Hahn said, was “the fact that the EU did not demonstrate the principle of partnership and accountability which we are always preaching and on which we could always rely”. French President Emmanuel Macron in effect blocked the opening of negotiations with Skopje and Tirana. Mr Hahn vented frustration that Paris scuppered opening talks with North Macedonia, even after it reached a deal with Greece on the extremely sensitive issue of its name.
He said this insulted the years the commission spent laying the political framework for an agreement and sent the wrong message to regional leaders. “The accession process is merit-based and if we don’t acknowledge progress there will be no incentive for reforms,” he said. Mr Hahn revealed that shortly after the decision to block accession, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told him it was “unclear why he should, after recent developments, be motivated to enter into negotiations” with its former province Kosovo, whose independence Belgrade still does not recognise. Such sentiments are a blow to the EU, which has spent almost a decade trying to mediate talks between Belgrade and Pristina. Majda Ruge, a fellow at Johns Hopkins SAIS, said that while the prospect of joining the bloc “was hardly sufficient to motivate genuine reforms in the past, the membership narrative was crucial for legitimising those that did take place as a result of pressure by either the US or key EU member states”. Ms Ruge said it would now be harder for leaders in the Balkans to justify painful reforms until there was an improvement in this momentum. Despite the dramatic end of his mandate, Mr Hahn said that he was proud of the progress made during his tenure in improving the ties between the countries in the region — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia — which are still struggling to overcome the wars and upheaval of the 1990s. He noted that the EU had invested almost €1bn in the region through interconnectivity funds since 2015 and said interregional trade had grown 20 per cent. He also lauded a plan to end roaming fees for the region’s mobile phone users by 2021 based on the EU’s model. Meetings of leaders of all six countries had become commonplace, said Mr Hahn. He also cheered the fact that the leaders of North Macedonia, Albania and Serbia have taken an initiative to pledge to lift non-tariff barriers to trade. Mr Vucic recently told the Financial Times he would focus on improving regional ties in the wake of the EU’s failure to open accession talks with Skopje and Tirana, but observers worry that true progress will be hindered without EU credibility to resolve thorny bilateral issues like the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which remains mired in stagnation and unable to form a government more than one year after elections, also needs to undertake crucial reforms. Serbia, meanwhile, has been “backsliding, not progressing” on aligning its foreign and security policy with Brussels, said Mr Hahn, noting that last month Belgrade joined the Eurasian Economic Union, the Russia-led economic grouping. Some Balkan policy experts have proposed that the western Balkans should be given the opportunity of closer EU links even without joining — such as entry into the bloc’s single market. The idea would be to better prepare the states for eventual membership. But Mr Hahn said that while he endorsed deeper regional engagement, he rejected proposals for anything short of full EU membership for all the western Balkan countries. “I have always said that my vision is to prepare each candidate country to . . . be a full member from day one, including participation in the Schengen [passport-free travel] area,” he said. Bulgaria and Romania joined 12 years ago but without access to the bloc’s free travel zone and under a special rule of law monitoring mechanism, which he described as “necessary but also humiliating”. Mr Hahn said it would take time to undo the damage wrought by the EU’s indecision on expanding membership, but that he was still optimistic because the vast majority of member states supported the commission’s recommendation to open negotiation with Skopje and Tirana. “At the moment everyone is perplexed and paralysed, but I hope we can overcome this as soon as possible . . . There are many areas where we as Europeans have to deliver.”