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Belgrade Media Report 02 December

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LOCAL PRESS

• Pristina’s attempt to join ERGP thwarted (RTS/Tanjug)
• Vucic meets Grushko ahead of meeting with Putin (Tanjug/Novosti/Politika)
• Relations between Serbia, Russia at highest level (Tanjug/Beta)
• US expects Russia to respect Serbian strategic goals (Politika)
• Odalovic: “Hot winter” awaits us (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik: I will not act like Ivanic and I will deliver Program of Reforms to RS parliament (Hayat)
• Dzaferovic: Sending of Program of Reforms to Brussels does not depend on decision or discussion in any body in B&H (Hayat)
• Inzko: B&H needs to act in line with its laws and strategies when it comes to relations with NATO (Nezavisne novine)
• Inzko: Russia wants to expand its influence, which is why Putin found time to hold 10 meetings with Dodik and even more meetings with Vucic (Face TV)
• Inzko claims that there is 60 percent chance B&H CoM will be formed as there may be additional obstacles or new ideas (Face TV)
• Transcript from recent session of Commission for Preparation of B&H CoM Appointment denies Borenovic’s claims that Tegeltija said that decisions and conclusions of RS parliament are not binding for him (ATV)
• Grabar-Kitarovic pays tribute to convicted war criminal Praljak (Hayat)
Croatia
• Croatian and Serbian Intelligence Services trade accusations (Hina)
Montenegro
• Djukanovic re-elected as DPS leader, Markovic as vice-president (CDM)
• Markovic, Zaev: EU integration has no alternative (CDM)
• Rood: Poor rule of law and Russia’s malign influence are main threats (Pobjeda)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Greece champions EU Enlargement in the Western Balkans (New Europe)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Pristina’s attempt to join ERGP thwarted (RTS/Tanjug)

 

A request by the self-declared Kosovo for membership in the European Regulators Group for Postal Services (ERGP) has been taken off the agenda of the organization’s meeting in The Hague. According to a report by Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS), a Serbian team attending the meeting thwarted Pristina’s entry to the ERGP in collaboration with countries that do not recognize the so-called Kosovo, in particular Spain. Spanish officials demanded, and secured, the removal of the request from the agenda of the 28-29 November meeting.

The Serbian team is comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, the government Office for Kosovo and Metohija, the office for coordination affairs in the talks with Pristina and the Serbian regulatory agency RATEL.

RATEL head Vladimir Tintor told the Kosovo Online portal a decision to take the request off the agenda had been made by consensus early Friday. “We contacted the EU countries that do not recognize Kosovo’s independence. We owe the greatest gratitude to Spain, which was the most active in this affair, as well as to our colleagues from Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus,” he said.

 

Vucic meets Grushko ahead of meeting with Putin (Tanjug/Novosti/Politika)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on 4 December.

Vucic and Grushko discussed bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in light of preparations for a working visit and a meeting with Putin. Grushko conveyed to the president greetings from President Putin, Prime Minister Medvedev and Minister Lavrov. Vucic expressed his satisfaction with the dynamic of the meetings of high officials of Serbia and Russia. He also stressed that the meeting is of great importance to him, as an opportunity for a meaningful discussion and exchange of views on global and regional issues, as well as the most important issues of Serbian-Russian cooperation, especially economic. President Vucic thanked Russia for understanding our state and national interests, as well as for its active support in guarding Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, especially in international organizations.

He also thanked Russian officials for visiting Serbia frequently, as it speaks to Russia’s desire to maintain close relations with our country. The two interlocutors noted that the implementation of the agreed projects, especially in the field of energy, as well as transport infrastructure and high technologies, is progressing well. Vucic and Grushko also discussed the regional situation, expressing hope that peace and stability would be preserved in the Western Balkans. President Vucic emphasized that Serbia remains true to its policy of military neutrality, which it will clearly and unequivocally confirm by adopting appropriate strategic documents. The meeting was also attended by Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko.

 

Relations between Serbia, Russia at highest level (Tanjug/Beta)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic spoke with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko about bilateral relations between the two countries, cooperation in all fields, as well as about the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. At a joint press conference at the Serbian Foreign Ministry, Dacic expressed satisfaction with the visit of Grushko, which is part of regular political consultation between the two ministries. He said that at the meeting it was assessed that relations between Serbia and the Russian Federation are at the highest level, and that there are high expectations from the visit of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Russia slated for 4 December. Dacic reiterated his gratitude to Russia for its firm stance and position on defending territorial integrity as a principle of international law, and therefore Serbia’s position when it comes to our territorial integrity and sovereignty. Dacic and Grushko also discussed cooperation in the fields of culture, tourism, education, sports, but also in the field of security and defense. According to him, a  meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technical Cooperation will be held in Moscow in December, and the next meeting should be held in Kazan in the first half of the next year. Grushko expressed gratitude for the warm welcome and stressed that there is a genuine friendship between Serbia and Russia, adding that Russia is committed to making the Balkans a peaceful and stable region.

He also stated that commitment to the strategic partnership between Russia and Serbia has been confirmed at the meeting.

 

US expects Russia to respect Serbian strategic goals (Politika)

 

“The US policy towards Serbia hasn’t changed, and in fact, it’s been the same for many years.  We understand Serbia’s interest in developing positive relations with a number of partners, and we would expect Serbia’s other partners to demonstrate a similar respect for and support of Serbia’s strategic goals,” Politika was told by the US Embassy responding to the question as to whether Pentagon’s report, which states that Serbia is the most permissive area when it comes to Russian influence in the Western Balkans, could affect Washington’s future course towards

Belgrade. The US Embassy recalled that Ambassador Anthony Godfrey had explained recently that it was a US strategic interest to see Serbia develop into a modern, democratic and prosperous European state, living in peace with its neighbors and demonstrating full respect for the rule of law and committed to guaranteeing the rights of all its citizens. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in Belgrade that Serbia was looking after its national and state interests, and that it was prepared to cooperate with everyone who respected those interests. When asked about the allegations that Russian influence had been growing since Aleksandar Vucic’s and his Serbian Progressive Party’s ascent to power in the Pentagon’s report and that Russia’s embrace was growing stronger, Dacic said that Serbia was looking for strategic partnerships and brotherly embraces, which, as he said, didn’t mean that Serbia was under anyone’s control.

 

Odalovic: “Hot winter” awaits us (RTS)

 

General Secretary at the Serbian Foreign Ministry Veljko Odalovic has told the RTS morning news that there is at present a state of vacuum in Pristina that needs to be overcome as soon as possible. He notes it is important for Serbia for the Serb List to be appreciated and respected since it received most of the Serb votes, i.e. around six percent of total votes. Pointing out that Albin Kurti is ignoring the Serb List, Odalovic notes that now we are entering a phase that is quite uncertain. “He will have to offer this mandate to the Serb List. Who knows how will he function later on since his statements are anti-Serb. A how winter or hot period of upcoming events awaits us,” notes Odalovic. He underlines that the key thing is to continue the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, but also for the European Commission to return its credibility in that process. “I cannot believe that they can’t do this, it is a question whether they want,” said Odalovic.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik: I will not act like Ivanic and I will deliver Program of Reforms to RS parliament (Hayat)

 

Member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik stated that the Program of Reforms of B&H does not prejudge membership in the NATO and in his opinion, “it means to leave it aside”. According to Dodik, this is not a secret act and he sent it to many officials including members of the opposition, arguing that they are making a show out of this document. Dodik also said that he is not against a discussion on this issue in the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, adding that he will propose the document in the RS  parliament before sending it to the NATO. Dodik added: “However, it is also true that we said that the act will be sent after appointment of the Council of Ministers (CoM of B&H). Of course, this has not been done and this is why we said to wait with the document because we do not know whether and when the CoM will be appointed. This is all connected. Therefore, there is no problem, this is not a secret document”. Also, Dodik stated that the claim of his predecessor Mladen Ivanic that he has been hiding the document he signed is hypocritical. Dodik stressed that he will not act like Ivanic and will deliver the Program of Reforms to the RS parliament. He reminded that in period when he performed duty of member of B&H Presidency, Ivanic failed to deliver Foreign Policy Strategy of B&H to the RS parliament.

 

Dzaferovic: Sending of Program of Reforms to Brussels does not depend on decision or discussion in any body in B&H (Hayat)

 

Member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) reminded that a method to send the Program of Reforms of B&H was agreed and added this does not depend on the opinion of anybody within B&H, including the RS parliament. Dzaferovic said: “We did a good job for B&H. No politician wins or loses in this case. B&H and its peoples are certainly the winners”. “We reached a decision in the (B&H) Presidency to deliver the Program of Reforms (of B&H) via our permanent mission in the NATO, to the NATO in Brussels, a day after the new (B&H) Council of Ministers starts functioning, i.e. after the B&H House of Representatives confirms it. This will be done in this way, regardless of whether – in the meantime – someone in B&H will discuss this topic. Therefore, the decision was reached. No other decisions were reached. Sending of the document to Brussels does not depend on a decision or a discussion in any bodies within B&H”.

 

Inzko: B&H needs to act in line with its laws and strategies when it comes to relations with NATO (Nezavisne novine)

 

High Representative Valentin Inzko, asked to comment the recently adopted B&H Program of Reforms and its implications for B&H’s NATO integration process, stated that B&H needs to implement its foreign policy goals and strategies, and to act in line with its laws. Speaking about the formation of authorities, Inzko welcomed the agreement on B&H Program of Reforms, which unblocked the process of formation of B&H Council of Ministers, expressing hope that politicians will now be able to focus on their job and reforms which are necessary. Asked if B&H’s relations with NATO can be compared with Austria’s relations with the Alliance, Inzko said that such comparison is not possible. “The course for B&H is clearly determined by the Law on Defense, Foreign Policy Strategy and decisions of B&H Presidency,” said Inzko. He explained that Austria has been a neutral country since 1955, but it cooperates with NATO through Partnership for Peace. Inzko also commented the insults made against him by Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik and told Dodik he should sue him, calling Dodik “a coward”. Inzko reminded that Dodik threatened him seven years ago with a lawsuit in Vienna, noting he is still waiting for Dodik to “fulfill that threat”.

 

Inzko: Russia wants to expand its influence, which is why Putin found time to hold 10 meetings with Dodik and even more meetings with Vucic (Face TV)

 

Asked to comment on Russia’s influence in B&H and the region, High Representative Valentin Inzko said that Russia wants to expand its influence in certain countries, which is why Russian President Vladimir Putin found time to hold 10 meetings with Dodik and even more meetings with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. He commended the EU officials for investing time and effort to visit the countries in the region on multiple occasions and cooperate with officials of these countries but he also urged the countries in the West to do the same. He noted that Russia is trying to fill the void created by inactivity of the Western Europe but B&H is a European country with European future and although this future may be in distance for now, the direction in which B&H is moving forward is firmly set.

 

Inzko claims that there is 60 percent chance B&H CoM will be formed as there may be additional obstacles or new ideas (Face TV)

 

High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko said that there is no need to be grateful to anyone for the formation of the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H after 13 months in a standstill although the situation is more relaxed. Inzko claims that there is 60 percent chance the B&H CoM will be formed as there may be additional obstacles or new ideas. He stressed that the international community should accept shared responsibility for the situation in B&H but the international community has changed its policy some 11 years ago and after successful formation of the Ministry of Defense of B&H it decided that it is high time to start with “domestic responsibility”. He underlined that the international community cannot replace anyone and it has to talk to current crop of B&H political leaders but the results are more important than their political background. HR Inzko said: “It is a package that no one has opened yet and it remains under lock and key, which is not quite democratic. Nonetheless, if it is closed package, possible even sealed, it is difficult to comment something you have not seen. Besides that, you know that I am in charge of civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), not military aspects,”. He deems that NATO HQ will decide if the Program is indeed aiming for progress or it is a worthless piece of paper but its delivery to NATO HQ bears huge importance because NATO HQ is the right address. He reminded that the Law on Defense of B&H gave B&H legal obligation to move forward on the path to join NATO, adding that he does not know when exactly B&H will join NATO but eventually it will. He explained that the Program will be delivered to NATO HR after the B&H CoM is formed and there is a chance this could happen by December 19th. He deems that NATO will probably need few weeks to analyze the Program. He agreed that Milorad Dodik will suffer a defeat if NATO HQ recognizes the Program of Reforms as the Annual National Program (ANP) because Dodik would be violating the conclusions of the RS parliament, but Dodik will emerge victorious if the Program of Reforms is not recognized as the ANP. He noted that it remains to be seen if the Program does mention the ANP or military neutrality of the RS although the opposition immediately started criticizing Dodik for breaking his promise not to send any document to NATO HQ. He claims that both the Program and the ANP are actually a report about planned progress for the period of one year and he was informed that the Program will address the period from autumn of 2019 to autumn of 2020 but neither of two documents represent automatic membership in NATO. He argued that Dodik is a pragmatist who probably concluded that benefits of participation in B&H authorities, posts in public companies and institutions and access to loan funds outweigh negative consequences of him signing the Program. He pointed out that nominee for the B&H CoM Chairman-designate Zoran Tegeltija (SNSD) is a pragmatist as well but with passion for large projects, infrastructure and the economy and he may be capable of coming up with “win-win situation in which everyone will benefit”. However, Inzko condemned Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives of B&H and SNSD Vice President Nebojsa Radmanovic for describing B&H as fictitious and non-existing state, adding that such statements are “sad and shameful” because B&H is Radmanovic’s homeland and he is paid by the state for his work in the parliament of B&H.

 

Transcript from recent session of Commission for Preparation of B&H CoM Appointment denies Borenovic’s claims that Tegeltija said that decisions and conclusions of RS  parliament are not binding for him (ATV)

 

SNSD’s Zoran Tegeltija said at the recent session of the Commission for Preparation of Appointment of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) that he will advocate stances of institutions which I am running and stances where I come from. According to ATV, transcript from the recent session of the Commission for Preparation of B&H CoM Appointment denies claims of PDP leader Branislav Borenovic that Tegeltija said that decisions and conclusions of the RS parliament are not binding for him. Answering the questions of Borenovic, who is member of the Commission for Preparation of B&H CoM Appointment, Tegeltija explained what Coordination Mechanism means. “As far as questions that were posed to me as an MP are concerned, I really do not want to comment that. Surely it is clear to everyone that conclusions of the RSNA are binding for the RSNA and institutions of the RS. The RSNA can never on its own impose neither its conclusions nor its decisions upon the joint institutions, rather through policy of consensus to try to reach an agreement on certain topics,” Tegeltija said. Following the session of the Commission, Borenovic said that Tegeltija did not give concrete answers to his questions and, according to ATV, he heard what others did not. “This annuls the RS parliament where SNSD’s candidate Zoran Tegeltija clearly said that decisions and conclusions of the RSNA are not binding for him in the B&H institutions,” Borenovic said. Head of the Commission for Preparation of B&H CoM Appointment Stasa Kosarac (SNSD) stressed that it is not ok to twist someone’s words, calling on expert services to publish the transcript from the session. “It is not true that Mr. Tegeltija said that he will not respect the stances of the RS institutions… Mr. Tegeltija did not say that, but obviously those (who heard that) had a goal to remain at the joint level in order to implement policies of certain embassies,” Kosarac underlined. Tegeltija confirmed to reporters that he never said that RSNA’s conclusions are not binding for him.

 

Grabar-Kitarovic pays tribute to convicted war criminal Praljak (Hayat)

 

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic paid tribute to convicted war criminal Slobodan Praljak via social networks on Sunday. The posted photo shows Praljak next to the flag of Croatia and a white cross. The reporter reminded that The Hague Tribunal convicted Praljak and five others for participation in the joint criminal enterprise aimed at dividing B&H and merging its parts with Croatia. They were also convicted for crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war, serious violations of the Geneva conventions, murders, persecutions on political, racial and religious basis, deportations, illegal apprehension of civilians, forced labor and inhumane treatment. SDA issued a statement that reads the following: “The Croatian President should know that she will never achieve what Praljak and his mentors also failed to achieve despite the use of weapons. The fact that she still wants to achieve such goals suggests that she does not want stability or good-neighborly relations with B&H.” SDA also said that the Croatian President, once again, showed her true face, as well as her aggressive intentions towards B&H. Former prime minister of Croatia Jadranka Kosor also reacted by saying that politicians who do not recognize or respect the court verdicts, including the ones rendered by The Hague Tribunal, cannot represent the state. Leader of ‘Nezavisni blok’ (Independent Bloc – NB) Senad Sepic also reacted, saying this was not just Croatia’s shame, but the shame of the entire EU. “Someone should tell French President Emmanuel Macron that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is glorifying convicted war criminal Slobodan Praljak on social media and that this is a ticking time bomb for the region,” Sepic stated. Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin assessed on Sunday that the only thing worse than the hypocrisy of the EU and the ICTY is continuation of the Ustasha policy of Croatian President Grabar-Kitarovic. Commenting Grabar-Kitarovic’s Facebook post, Vulin said that international institutions react when Serbia speaks the truth about the civil war in Yugoslavia, but they remain silent when Grabar-Kitarovic publicly supports a convicted Ustasha.

 

Croatian and Serbian Intelligence Services trade accusations (Hina)

 

The Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) on Saturday responded to a statement by the Serbian Security Service (BIA) saying that it had reported a Croatian and a Serbian national on the suspicion that they had been spying for Croatian security and political structures, including SOA.

SOA said the report in question “is a trumped-up report aimed at diverting the attention of the domestic and international public from serious scandals in Serbia, of which two are recent – suspected corruption and illegal trade in weapons between Serbia and foreign countries and the release of a video showing a Russian intelligence officer, a member of GRU, handing over money to a Serbian Army officer.” “We are worried about the fact that Serbian security institutions, in an attempt to cover up suspected breaches of international law and downplay the work of its political, security and military bodies for the benefit of third countries, have been constantly behaving aggressively towards the Republic of Croatia and its citizens as well as towards NATO allies,” SOA says in a statement published on its website. “Particularly worrying is the fact that the Republic of Serbia is systematically using its security services to hamper efforts to shed light on the fate of people abducted or gone missing during the Homeland War and to cover up war crimes committed against Croat civilians and soldiers during the Great Serbian aggression on the Republic of Croatia, which includes, among other things, accusations of espionage on behalf of the Republic of Croatia,” SOA says, adding that it would continue to work, in cooperation with other Croatian institutions, on protecting national security and the interests of Croatia and its citizens, including the search for people gone missing in the Homeland War. BIA said on Friday that it had reported two persons on the suspicion that they had been spying for Croatian security and political structures. The two persons, who were reported to the prosecutorial authorities in Sremska Mitrovica, are Croatian national Nikola Kajkic and Serbian national Drazen Letic, BIA said in a statement. The suspects, BIA says, conveyed information to Croatian intelligence circles and undertook other activities to aid the work of Croatian intelligence structures in order to jeopardize Serbia’s national security and its international political and economic interests.

 

Djukanovic re-elected as DPS leader, Markovic as vice-president (CDM)

 

Delegates of the eighth DPS Congress re-elected Milo Djukanovic as the party leader, while Dusko Markovic was re-elected as a deputy leader of the party. There were 598 delegates who took part in the work of the Congress, and after all the votes were counted, it was noted that two votes concerning Djukanovic were invalid, and as for Markovic, two were invalid and two against his election for the function of the party’s vice-president. “We have fulfilled all the promises made at the previous congress. We have managed to preserve Montenegro’s stability, to join NATO and move towards the EU, which are important steps in the area of economic and democratic development,” Djukanovic said after his re-election. According to him, the DPS is steadily moving towards the Europeanization and emancipation of the Montenegrin society, and it creates conditions for a quality life of citizens. “Over the last four years, the DPS has more or less won all the electoral victories. The party is in power in 17 municipalities. There is no room for being relaxed. We have a long-term mission. There are challenges regarding the further economic development because in that way it’s possible to solve numerous social problems,” he was adamant. Djukanovic and Markovic were the only candidates running for these posts. In addition, the Congress elected the Main Committee comprising 146 members, the Statutory Commission, the Supervisory Board and adopted the party’s Political Program.

 

Markovic, Zaev: EU integration has no alternative (CDM)

 

Our countries have excellent bilateral relations, and their full integration into the European Union (EU) has no alternative – it was assessed at today’s meeting of Montenegro’s and North Macedonia’s PMs Dusko Markovic and Zoran Zaev, held in Podgorica. “Our bilateral relations are fantastic, we have no open issues but only the need to work together for the good of our countries and the entire region,” Markovic underlined. The meeting discussed the further European integration of the two countries. “Both sides stressed the expectation that the EU internal consolidation process and the consideration of new modalities of the negotiation process would take place a.s.a.p., so the WB could progress more dynamically on the road to the EU. The Prime Minister of Montenegro highlighted that regardless of these processes in the EU, Montenegro remains fully committed to the reforms given in the European Agenda, which has no alternative,” it was in a statement. Zaev thanked Montenegro for being the first NATO member state who ratified their accession protocol and expressed hope for the North Macedonia to become a full member of the Alliance over the next year.

 

Rood: Poor rule of law and Russia’s malign influence are main threats (Pobjeda)

 

Although conflicts within and between the Western Balkan countries are no longer primary threats to security and stability in the region, complex ethnic challenges continue to threaten the long-term stability. These challenges include corruption, organized crime, poor rule of law and Russia’s malign influence. This is what, among other things, the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, John Rood, said while testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services before his appointment, writes Pobjeda daily. Commenting on the current challenges in the Balkans, Rood told that the region is still facing many serious issues. “The Western Balkans have come a long way since the war that divided Yugoslavia and the ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. Today, the three former Yugoslav countries are in NATO – Albania, Croatia and Montenegro – and with the exception of Kosovo, all the other countries are members of the NATO Partnership for Peace,” he said. On the importance of KFOR command for the stability in the region, the U.S. official told that the aim of KFOR command is to maintain a safe environment and ensure freedom of movement across the whole Kosovo in line with the UNSCR 1244.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Greece champions EU Enlargement in the Western Balkans (New Europe, by Alec Mally, 30 November 2019)

 

Enlargement was main subject of Greek FM Dendias’ Skopje visit

As a consequence of French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision in October to call for a temporary hold on EU accession discussions for Albania and North Macedonia, Greece has been able to claim a new role in regard to two of its northern neighbours, one of public advocate. Accordingly, while in Skopje on November 26, Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias was able to reiterate Greece’s full support for the EU accession prospects of North Macedonia. Dendias emphasised that this depends on Skopje implementing important reforms and on an alignment with the European acquis during eventual accession negotiations.

“I share North Macedonia’s disappointment about the 28 EU member states not reaching a positive decision on starting accession negotiations,” Dendias said and added that “on our part, we have done all we could towards reaching a positive decision on this issue, in coordination with our EU partners.” He added, “we have a joint future if we act in good faith. Greece supports the EU accession of North Macedonia and other Western Balkan countries. This is our common goal. Starting talks will be a significant step forward, and it’s one of Greece’s main goals.”

Dendias revealed that he invited both his Albanian and North Macedonian counterparts to a working breakfast with EU foreign ministers’ on December 9. The bottom line is that Greece is once again in a position to advocate EU accession for its neighbours while quietly blaming other member states for any procedural or policy delays, a situation similar to one Greece once faced regarding Turkey’s (potential) EU accession, a process likely delayed for decades by opposition from key EU member states.

 

Bilateral concerns

Briefly visiting Skopje on November 26 and meeting with Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, Dendias noted that relations with North Macedonia had “dramatically improved” since the Prespes Agreement was signed in June 2018, ending a decades-old dispute between the two neighbours. Dendias added that “some issues” of the controversial deal ratified earlier this year, such as an agreement on trademarks, needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, and explained that Greece was focused on ensuring full implementation of the details of the agreement. Operational level meetings on trademark issues and on the opening of new border crossings are planned to start shortly. In response, Dimitrov said that he also saw the need for full implementation of the terms of the Prespes Agreement and went on to refer to Greece as a “strategic partner, neighbour and friend” of North Macedonia, noting that both countries must take advantage of the new possibilities opened up by the accord. When asked about the April 2020 national elections in North Macedonia having a potentially negative impact on the Prespes Agreement, Dimitrov said it must be implemented despite any and all elections, as it had become part of his country’s legal system and accordingly could not be challenged by anyone in North Macedonia. While in Skopje Foreign Minister Dendias also met with North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

 

Earthquake diplomacy and Washington’s eye

Dendias left Skopje hurriedly to stop briefly in Albania, expressing sympathy for the earthquake victims and helping to initiate a now massive Greek contribution to the international earthquake relief effort. Dendias visited Durres, near Tirana and close to the quake’s epicentre, the same day that the city had been hit with a 6.4 Richter tremblor. Washington is surety watching these interactions. It is still unknown whether President Donald J. Trump will reschedule his postponed September meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but Greece’s positive engagement with its neighbours should increase the possibility that this will happen soon.

 

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