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Belgrade Media Report 10 January 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Friday 10 January 2020

• Vucic: We are grateful that Palestine respects Serbia’s integrity (Tanjug/Politika)
• Mutual support of Serbia, Palestine in international forums (Tanjug/RTS)
• Godfrey informs Dacic about current situation in Middle East (Beta)
• Petition initiated with the intention of Serbia filing a lawsuit against Montenegro (Beta/B92)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Formal parade on occasion of RS Day held (RTRS)
• Dodik: RS is synonym of freedom of Serb people (Srna)
• Dodik: Preserve Serb national identity in B&H and Kosovo and Metohija (Srna)
• Reactions to marking of RS Day (BHT1)
• Plenkovic: Croatia will never put up barbed wire towards B&H (Hina)
• No negotiations for Albania without combating corruption and crime (Jutarnji list)
• Electoral reform, parties’ funding divides united opposition (ADN)


• Croatia faces border issues during first term in EU presidency (The Irish Times)

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Vucic: We are grateful that Palestine respects Serbia’s integrity (Tanjug/Politika)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki to discuss various aspects of bilateral relations, which there is a mutual desire to improve. Vucic stressed that Serbia appreciates traditional friendships and that our foreign policy will be taking into account not to neglect them at any point. The two interlocutors welcomed the signing of documents on cooperation between Serbia and Palestine in the fields of youth and sports, as well as security cooperation, and noted that there are possibilities for strengthening economic cooperation as well as cooperation in the fields of agriculture, health, culture and education. It was proposed to form a Joint Cooperation Committee, which would make the signed agreements concrete and help use existing potentials for comprehensive cooperation. Vucic said that intensifying of political dialogue would be important for Serbia-Palestine cooperation, and invited President Mahmoud Abbas to visit our country. He thanked for the support of Palestine to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and the principled position not to recognize the unilaterally declared independence of so-called Kosovo, and especially through opposition to so-called Kosovo’s membership in international organizations. In connection to this, he emphasized that Serbia, with its measured and constructive stance, as a responsible and reliable partner, contributes to peace and stability in the region. Al-Maliki informed Vucic about the Palestinian view of the events in the Middle East.


Mutual support of Serbia, Palestine in international forums (Tanjug/RTS)


Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki assessed that the bilateral relations between Serbia and Palestine are good and that there is a traditional friendship between the two nations. Dacic and al-Maliki said at a joint press conference after their meeting that mutual relations in international forums and organizations also contribute to such relations. Dacic expressed his gratitude to Maliki, who personally contributed to the development of friendship between Serbia and Palestine, but also because, together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he supports Serbia in all international organizations regarding its territorial integrity and sovereignty by not voting for the accession of Kosovo in international organizations. Dacic reiterated that Serbia supports the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In that sense, there is no change in our view of the status of Jerusalem until a permanent solution is reached, which should be based on the agreement of the two sides, Dacic said, emphasizing that our country opposes unilateral solutions and is committed to revitalizing the Middle East peace process. He said that he spoke with his Palestinian counterpart about scholarships for students from Palestine and the opening of a Serbian diplomatic office in Ramallah, and an agreement was reached that al-Maliki, as Palestinian Foreign Minister, chair the Mixed Committee of the two countries. Al-Maliki expressed appreciation for all that Serbia has done for Palestine and the Palestinian people, both in regional and international forums, pointing out that Belgrade has proven to be a friend and someone committed to principles. Our intention is to see how we can further strengthen our relations so that they reflect true friendship between Serbia and Palestine, both at the level of political leaders and at the level of citizens, the Minister said. Dacic and al-Maliki signed the Agreement on abolishment of visas for the holders of diplomatic and service passports.


Godfrey informs Dacic about current situation in Middle East (Beta)


Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey expressed readiness for the improvement of the overall bilateral cooperation and the strengthening of relations through boosting a constructive and dynamic political dialogue. Starting from the speech of US President Donald Trump, Godfrey informed Dacic on the current situation in the Middle East and presented the US position regarding the current crisis in the relations with Iran.

Dacic underscored that Serbia supports peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue, and voiced hope that tensions will wane in the coming days. He underlined that Serbia also condemns that attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place on 31 December 2019, expressing support for the principled respect of the inviolability of all diplomatic and consular missions in line with the regulations of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.


Petition initiated with the intention of Serbia filing a lawsuit against Montenegro (Beta/B92)


The Association for the Protection of Constitutionality and Legality launched an online petition with the aim of collecting the signatures of 10.000 citizens. After collecting signatures, they would ask the state of Serbia to file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights against Montenegro. Association’s President Savo Manojlovic told reporters outside the Montenegrin Embassy in Belgrade that they are seeking a lawsuit from Serbia for “violations of property rights, the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of religion” on the part of Montenegro.

“We believe that this is a move that would encourage tension relief rather than issuing statements that spread hatred among peoples and raise tensions. The government doesn’t need to do anything. It has an international tool at its disposal since both Serbia and Montenegro are signatories to the European Convention,” he said. As Manojlovic said, the Association has drafted the first version of the draft lawsuit, which it plans to give to the state of Serbia for free.

The Association put a billboard in front of the door of the Embassy of Montenegro in Belgrade with the inscription “European Convention on Human Rights”, so that everyone who enters and leaves the Embassy “has to go over it”. Treading on the Convention, as the Association stated, indicates the current state of affairs in Montenegro.




Formal parade on occasion of RS Day held (RTRS)


A formal parade on the occasion of marking 9 January as the Republika Srpska (RS) Day was held in the streets of Banja Luka on Thursday, as part of the overall RS Day marking under the slogan ‘For All Times’. Approximately 2,400 participants from the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the civil sector took part in the parade. Aside from police members, participants in the parade included students, veterans, firefighters, and other members of the civil sector. The parade, which was attended by a huge number of RS citizens, was an opportunity for the RS MoI to present its units and police academy cadets to the citizens and reassured them that they will keep them safe. The Honorary Unit of the RS MoI lined up at the Krajina Square and saluted the RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic. In her speech at the parade, Cvijanovic stated that the goal of marking of 9 January as the RS Day is to show the world that there is life in the RS. According to Cvijanovic, another goal includes a lasting RS, which should be a permanent framework where its citizens can live. “The huge love towards the RS must not be lost. We must cherish it together”, the RS President pointed out. The RS President referred to 9 January as “a day of unity, a day of celebration of freedom, a day of demonstration of strength including the power of love towards the RS”. She added that the RS citizens have their freedom today thanks to those who sacrificed their lives for creation and defense of the RS. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik addressed attendees at the parade and said that the RS was created in peace and defended in war, and that it is now stable, peaceful and committed to the development of freedom. Dodik reiterated that Serb people cannot have freedom without their state, adding that Serbs have “two states” the RS and Serbia. Dodik stressed that Serbs should not resent Bosniaks and Croats for being able to freely exercise all their rights. “What we must do is to celebrate our day. This is our day, our celebration, our RS. We have the right to build life in the RS”, he added. Reporter carried statements of citizens at the parade who spoke about how they are amazed by the greatness of the parade and expressed their commitment to celebrating the RS Day. A formal ceremony took place at the hall ‘Borik’ in Banja Luka.  The ceremony was attended by high-ranking officials from the RS and Serbia, as well as ambassadors, representatives of religious communities, and other distinguished guests. Anthems of the RS and Serbia were played at the beginning of the ceremony. In her opening speech at the ceremony, President Cvijanovic stated that the 28th birthday of the RS is celebrated in peace and freedom, and she said that the RS citizens are proud to have their RS. “It is an obligation of everyone to respect the sacrifice of those who gave their lives and parts of their body for the RS’ sake”, the RS President noted. The RS President expressed certainty that the RS will continue to last even after this 28th birthday, and noted that its future is best described by the event’s slogan i.e. that the RS is here for all times. “There will always be challenges, but we can overcome them together”, she said, concluding that “the RS citizens respect the efforts that the RS institutions invest in tackling challenges”. In his speech at the ceremony, Serb member of the B&H Presidency Dodik said that the RS is a synonym for freedom, which is not just a dream of the generation that created it. “Marking its 28 years is a magnificent thing. We have become a fact on the geographic and political map of the world,” Dodik underlined. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic attended the ceremony and, addressing the attendees. Brnabic stated: “We must always give a clear signal that economic prosperity is needed.” Brnabic said that policy of the Serbian Government that she is leading and the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is the policy of cooperation with everyone. In the year when we will mark 25 years of the Dayton Peace Agreement, for which Serbia guarantees, with full respect of this agreement, we will continue to further improve our relations with the RS. Without jeopardizing anyone, we will continue to help our people in the RS, in other parts of B&H and all over the region”. The ceremony included a performance of actors on the occasion of the RS Day. As guest at the ceremony, Serbian actor Milos Bikovic stressed the need to defend the integrity and soul of Serb people. Most deserving individuals were decorated. Decorations were presented by RS President Cvijanovic and highest decoration – Order of the RS Flag with Golden Wreath – was awarded to Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and the RS National Theatre. The RS National Theatre was decorated on the occasion of marking 90 years of its establishment and for its contribution to the development of cultural and artistic life in the RS, as well as for results and achievements of wider significance in the affirmation of the RS. General Manager of the RS National Theatre Nenad Novakovic said that the RS National Theatre deserves such a recognition, adding that the RS National Theatre now has an obligation to be even better. Vulin received the Order for work and merit in international cooperation and consolidation of peace, personal results and achievements, as well as for contribution to the development of overall relations between Serbia and the RS. “This is recognition to Serbia, recognition to Serbia led by Aleksandar Vucic, this is recognition to Serbia which does not hesitate to help its RS always and in every place. This is recognition to all Serbs, regardless of where they live,” Vulin stressed. Cvijanovic stressed that the Day of the RS is an opportunity for the RS institutions to show gratitude to people who achieved good results and contributed to development and promoted the RS. “There were many challenges. It was difficult to achieve results, both to us as a community as a whole and of course to every individual. But, I believe that in the RS, what is success of one individual becomes success of the entire community,” Cvijanovic underlined. General Consul of Serbia in Banja Luka Vladimir Nikolic was presented with the Order of the RS Flag with Silver Wreath for work and merit in international cooperation and consolidation of peace, personal results and achievements, as well as for contribution to the development of overall relations between Serbia and the RS. Serbian President Vucic sent a congratulatory message to RS President on the occasion of the Day of the RS. In the message, Vucic stated that Serbia, as an honest friend, will always support all efforts and needs of the RS. Vucic further said that he is convinced that “you will always guard it with pride.” He stressed that Serbia will always love and support the RS while respecting the integrity of B&H. Vucic expressed hope that Serbia and the RS will keep developing their economic and other forms of cooperation to the mutual benefit, through preserving their strong inseparable cultural and spiritual ties and protecting unique identity of the Serb people.


Dodik: RS is synonym of freedom of Serb people (Srna)


Serb B&H Presidency member Milorad Dodik said in Banja Luka that RS is free, democratic, parliamentary, Christian and a synonym of freedom of the Serb people, and that it is a dream that was dreamt for several centuries. “Much love was woven into RS and this is why it is magnificent,” Dodik said at a solemn academy on the occasion of the RS Day. He has recalled that RS was formed on 9 January 1992, and that the Assembly of the Serbian People in B&H was formed in October 1991. “We had to adopt a declaration on forming our RS in 1992 in Pale because they did not allow us to do it in Sarajevo,” Dodik said and reiterated that RS is today stable and strong. He has said that RS will not put up with the inquisition of the B&H Constitutional Court, which imposed solutions on RS via three foreign and two Bosniak judges.

Dodik has said that wherever they were not free, Serbs were persecuted, destroyed, taken to prison camps and killed with the aim of erasing the traces of the Serbian name and origin and destroying their future. “Sometimes when I read historical books, I ask myself how we survived, how come that we still exist, how it was possible to survive all this, preserve the spirit. We could do it because the Serbian people had their church, their faith and their Saint Sava who gathered them at a time when some other rulers were here and when our faith was forbidden,” Dodik said.

He has said that RS and its 28 years of existence is a magnificent thing, that RS has become a fact on the geographical and political map of the world despite a strong desire for it not be either a geographical or political fact. “RS today has its territory, government institutions that are trusted by the people and that are democratically elected. It has the people who trust institutions and who want this territory, who love RS and who look at Serbia,” Dodik said. “We here, because we are Serbs, do not disturb any Muslim, Croat or anyone else. Those who challenge our holiday live freely in RS. They are parts of our lives, they are exercising their faith unhindered, they have their temples, they are part of parliament and government and all other institutions. We should not take offense at them, they will challenge, we will celebrate,” Dodik said. Dodik has said that RS has many things to show that were created during its 28 years, stressing that he is convinced that politicians and statesmen are worth as much as they are able to turn around and show what they did. Dodik has said that Serbs will continue living here and developing RS, stressing that the task of this generation of RS politicians is to complete the motorway from Doboj to Bijeljina in the next five years and to connect it with motorways in Serbia in Raca.

“We must not shy away from our integration with Serbia, this is something no one can stop. They can be angry as much as they want. To integrate with Serbia means not only to integrate spiritually. This is our desire and we are entitled to our self-determination. The time will come when we will be entitled to it. We want peace in these parts,” Dodik said. He has said that RS is large enough for everyone who wants to live in it freely, stressing that RS cannot accept those who are challenging and undermining it. Dodik has said that Serbs who live in these parts, Serbia and friendly Russia are the only ones who wanted RS. “Many in the West wanted us to disappear, and many offered us to do it alone, to disappear, and we revealed all this. We do not take offense at them, we must fight for our rights, for them to restore that which they seized from us,” Dodik said. Dodik has said that Serbs are the people who suffered a lot but are honest people, who lost almost half of the population in the past century. “The Serbian people cannot be bad, they are entitled to their freedom and integration,” Dodik concluded. RS was founded on 9 January 1992, and it was first called the Serb Republic of B&H. It was founded by Serb members of the then parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina after they were outvoted regarding crucial issues concerning the survival of Yugoslavia and after the other two peoples started secession against the will of the Serbian people who had the status of a constituent people.


Dodik: Preserve Serb national identity in B&H and Kosovo and Metohija (Srna)


Serb B&H Presidency member Milorad Dodik spoke in Banja Luka with a delegation of French parliamentarians, headed by Senator Sebastian Moran, about the current situation in B&H and the region and the preservation of the Serbian national identity in B&H and Kosovo and Metohija. They also discussed the security situation in Europe and the Western Balkans in the context of the return of Islamic warriors from battlefields in Syria and the migrant crisis which has increasingly taken hold. Moran thanked Dodik, on his behalf and behalf of French parliamentarians, for the invitation to take part at a celebration of the RS Day. Moran has said that the French and Serbian people are connected by many years of friendship and that these two peoples share the same civilizational and cultural values, says a press release from the office of the Serb member of the B&H Presidency. The meeting was held at the Administrative Center of the RS government in Banja Luka.


Reactions to marking of RS Day (BHT1)


The Office of the High Representative (OHR) stated on Thursday that they are not against RS celebrating its day, but it need to be marked in accordance to the B&H Constitution. The OHR invited all politicians to restrain themselves and show responsibility by refraining from negative rhetoric and activities. The EU Delegation (EUD) in B&H and the US Embassy to B&H are united in the assessment that 9 January is an unconstitutional holiday, and that the RS can have a day it will mark, but that this cannot be 9 January as the B&H CC’s decision on it being unconstitutional is binding. SDA issued a statement noting that marking of 9 January is actually a continuation of legacy of first RS President Radovan Karadzic and wartime RS Army Commander Ratko Mladic. SDA called on the judicial institutions in B&H to start doing their job of imposing sanctions for failure to respect the CC’s decisions. SDP B&H criticized representatives of SDA in the RS parliament for having endorsed the RS budget for 2020, which was used for organizing the RS Day parade in Banja Luka. Our Party (NS) assessed that it is very clear that the RS does not want to implement the CC’s decisions, and that it is now up to the judicial institutions and the OHR to react. NS finds the B&H Presidency partly responsible for failing to prevent the RS Day marking, by not including this matter into their agenda. ‘It is unacceptable, unconstitutional and illegal to mark so-called Day of RS’ not signed carried SBB B&H statement, which stressed that marking of the Day of the RS is unacceptable, given the clear and unambiguous decisions of the CC of B&H, especially the view that the RS is not and cannot be exclusive territory of one people. SBB B&H noted that violation of CC’s decision is a grave criminal act, calling on the judicial authorities to act.


Plenkovic: Croatia will never put up barbed wire towards B&H (Hina)


Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday his government would never put up barbed wire on the border with B&H to stop illegal migrants because there were natural obstacles and that would be a bad political message to the neighboring country. He was speaking of migration at a meeting with foreign correspondents who arrived in Zagreb from Brussels on the occasion of Croatia’s presidency of the European Union. Some of our neighboring EU member states have put up physical barricades and barbed wire. We haven’t opted for that because we have natural barriers such as the Danube and the Sava rivers, mountains and forests, Plenkovic told a Dutch journalist when asked about the migrant policy Croatia would advocate during the presidency. He said B&H was a neighboring and friendly country with which Croatia shared many links and that barbed wire would not be a good political message for bilateral relations. Addressing some 60 foreign journalists, Plenkovic said Croatians lived in many places on the other side of the border and that as prime minister he would never opt for building a barrier between Croatians. He said it was necessary to stop illegal migration and reform the Dublin Regulation, adding that migration was the issue which, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, had changed the political mood in Europe the most. A New York Times journalist asked if a country accused of beating and shooting at migrants, stealing from them and returning them from Zagreb to B&H could propose a reform of the migration policy. Plenkovic said those were allegations, not facts, and that Croatia had opted for investing in police capabilities instead of barbed wire. We are considering every humanitarian aspect. We have no proof of what you are saying, except two shooting incidents which occurred by accident inside Croatian territory. But that was accidental and it is not the official policy or the intention of the police, he said, adding that every complaint about the work of security forces was properly checked. Responding to a question from a journalist of the UK’s Telegraph, Plenkovic said Brexit was not a smart idea. Time has shown how complicated are the consequences of that decision by the then British Prime Minister David Cameron, he added. A Wall Street Journal reporter asked if EU-US trade disputes would spill over onto the transatlantic alliance, to which Plenkovic replied that he believed there was common sense on both sides of the ocean, enough to avoid an escalation of those disputes. He said the UK’s exit from the EU was the right time for the Conference on the Future of Europe, with which Democracy and Demography Commissioner Dubravka Suica of Croatia would be tasked. A nuclear power and permanent member of the Security Council is leaving, and this is the moment for the EU to see what it must do to gain bigger support among its citizens, Plenkovic said. As for countries which want to join the EU, he said that Croatia, as a country in this part of Europe, felt a responsibility for their European journey. After talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, Plenkovic believes that France could change its opinion by the Zagreb summit on enlargement in May. Last October, France was the most vocal opponent to opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. He said Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi was working on a document which could amend the accession negotiations methodology, which could satisfy France.


No negotiations for Albania without combating corruption and crime (Jutarnji list)


Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Stef Blok states that Albania will not open negotiations without results in the fight against corruption and organized crime. The statement of the head of the Dutch diplomacy was made in an interview with the Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list. “Before the negotiations can be opened, Albania must show a steady commitment in the fight against corruption and organized crime,” said Blok. Asked about the vetoes of France, Denmark and the Netherlands for Albania and Northern Macedonia, Blok said that despite reservations the position of EU countries is clear that the future of the Balkans is in the European Union. “This ultimate goal is unshakable,” the Dutch minister said. He stressed that it is important that Albania and Macedonia keep up with the reforms and that the Netherlands is ready to help these countries with the challenges ahead. The Dutch minister added that “the Council of Europe will discuss the Balkans issue, before the May 2020 Summit” which will be held in Croatia. Croatia holds the rotating EU presidency and one of its main agendas is the integration of Albania and Northern Macedonia. What is noted in the Dutch minister’s view is that criticism for the lack of concrete results is for Albania and not for Northern Macedonia. While France has stated that the refusal of the accession of negotiations came due to the reform process, the Netherlands is making concrete complaints related to government reforms.


Electoral reform, parties’ funding divides united opposition (ADN)


Discussion regarding the final Electoral Reform’s draft are being held in the lines of United Opposition. This draft, which is expected to be made public next week has divided some opposition parties, since Democratic Party (DP) seeks full funding by the state, but not all allies seem to support this demand. Also, according to some parties’ representatives, such as Chairman of Movement for National Development (LZHK), Dashamir Shehi and Chairman of Environmentalist Agrarian party (EAP), Agron Duka, if snap elections happen, they will be held in compliance with current electoral system. Furthermore, Shehi wants the Electoral Reform draft to include a point, which will predict the cleaning of electoral lists, in order for abuse not to be allowed to take place. In conclusion, Shehi said that Prime Minister Edi Rama chose to cooperate with crime, considering that the DP has earlier accused Mallakastra Municipality’s Mayor, Qerim Ismailaj of having criminal records.




Croatia faces border issues during first term in EU presidency (The Irish Times, by Patrick Smyth, 9 January 2020)


Ethnic Croats residing in Bosnia Herzegovina cut off despite lack of physical infrastructure

Ireland is not alone among EU states preoccupied with borders dividing its people. What Brexit may yet do to the island, accession to the EU seven years ago has already done to Croatia.

The obligation of membership to protect the external border of the union has forced Croatia, which has just assumed the EU presidency for the first time, to put up a hard border between it and Bosnia Herzegovina, where many ethnic Croats reside. The border is not a fence or barbed wire, but a 1,500km unmarked line overseen by some 6,500 Croatian border guards. “I would never build a fence between Croat and Croat,” says Croatia’s prime minister Andrej Plenkovic. He could be channelling Leo Varadkar – both are learning how seriously the EU takes protecting its external border. But safeguard it against the Mediterranean migrants who have used it to enter the EU, Plenkovic must, most importantly to demonstrate that Croatia can be trusted to join the passport-free Schengen travel area. It is a controversial process – allegations are made that heavy-handed policing, including beatings, even torture, and forced returns across the border into Bosnia Herzegovina, have been used against hapless migrants. Not, of course, against fellow Croats. Plenkovic insists that police abide by national and international law, and that the authorities have gone to great lengths to investigate every claim. Only one has been substantiated, leading to one officer being punished, he says.


Relishing the challenge

Croatia hopes to use its first EU presidency to make its case for Schengen and euro membership – it is qualified, according to the European Commission. No-one will be a better team player, Zagreb hopes to show in the coming six months. Foreign minister Gordan Grlic Radman approaches the challenge with relish and self-deprecating realism. He quotes his former Danish counterpart in 2017, in a telling swipe at the UK: “There are two kinds of European nations: small nations, and those who have not yet realised they are small nations.” Croatia knows it is a small nation. Managing the EU agenda is the key task of a presidency, and Croatia has a full to-do list ranging from initiating the next phase of the Brexit process, the preparation with Michel Barnier of a negotiating mandate for future-relationship talks, to completing the fraught negotiations on the EU’s 2021-27 budget (the MFF). Plenkovic’s own priority, he told a group of visiting Brussels-based journalists, is reinvigorating the accession process for the countries of the western Balkans with a special summit in May – at the December summit France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, blocked the opening of talks with North Macedonia and Albania. Macron said he would not support any new accession talks without fundamental reform of the EU’s exhaustive and exhausting enlargement process. European Council president Charles Michel was here on Thursday and both he and Plenkovic spoke of a new opportunity, “a positive evolution” in French attitudes. Both saw movement on “the methodology of enlargement”, Plenkovic insisting that current procedures already incorporated the idea of the reversibility of the process, a key French demand.


No timetable

Success by the May summit in advancing the case for North Macedonia and Albania, who will anyway face many years of talks before they join, will be seen as as an important agreement “that will turn a page” in enhancing regional security, Plenkovic says. The task of brokering the last stage of the MFF talks has been passed from the presidency to “honest broker” Michel, leaving the Croats to articulate their own case for continued cohesion and farm funding. Unlike the other countries of central and eastern Europe, who benefited to the tune of some €645 billion in pre-accession funding, Croatia never, it says, got the helping hand needed to catch up. The country is a leading light in the “Friends of Cohesion” group of 16 net beneficiaries of EU membership in a battle complicated by what Michel describes as the €60 billion Brexit gap. Michel was on Thursday refusing to put a timetable on the talks – a summit expected to resolve the issue in February has yet to be confirmed. But an assertive Michel confidently articulated a new EU determination to stamp its mark on world affairs and no longer to be “just an observer of what others decide for us . . . I want Europe to be part of the game”. On Thursday he spoke at length to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, about the need to preserve the nuclear deal in the face of provocations from the US. On Saturday he meets Turkey’s president, Reccip Erdogan, for talks that will range widely over curbing migration flows, the Turkish incursion into northern Syria and its drilling activity in Cypriot waters.


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