Vucic: Difficult talks await us in Brussels; I don’t know whether a solution will be reached (RTS/RTV/Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Ankara that he doesn’t know whether a solution would be reached in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, but stressed that he is certain that he would fight for a solution and try to do everything that is best, as well as thst difficult talks await us again in Brussels. He says he had a short meeting with Kosovo President Hashim Tachi in Ankara. “I had the shortest talks with him, since I talk with him the most and difficult talks await us again in Brussels,” he said. Asked whether a new round of the dialogue would be held on 25 July, Vucic said he thought it would be held earlier. “I thought it would be earlier, but don’t take my word for it,” he said. Asked how many rounds are needed in order to reach a solution, he said he didn’t know whether a solution would be reached at all. “I have stated several times that I am not sure about it. What I am sure about is that we will fight for a solution, that we will try to do everything that is best,” said Vucic.
Dacic: We are not viewing the Kosovo issue as a resolved matter (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said at the conference “Serbs and Albanians – which way forward?”, taking place today in Belgrade, that the position of the government and the President of the Republic is very transparent and focused on achieving the top goal – an active and progressive action towards preserving and promoting peace and stability in the region. “At present, as well as in the period immediately ahead of us, the relations between Serbs and Albanians as peoples will be measured by the success made by the whole region, and I would say Europe as well, in the long process of reconciliation, overcoming the existing differences and of building mutual trust and confidence. The history has put us to this kind of test many times before – whether we are ready to make a decisive, wise and brave step forward or not, despite an international climate and environment that will never be equally favorable for both sides, and at the same time taking into account the peculiarity of the topic and feelings of both nations. Firstly, to be able to properly understand certain social processes and phenomena, particularly those as complex as relations between these two large Balkan ethnic groups, which in the past decades developed and changed in a way that affected the very essence of international relations and their main stakeholders, we need to clearly and precisely outline the positions of Serbia and its people. It is a commonly known fact that the main stumbling block between Serbs and Albanians is the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. We believe that the dialogue is an imperative in seeking a solution for all problems and conflicts. Serbia demonstrates its readiness to participate in the dialogue at all times and in every place, making continued efforts towards reaching a compromise with the Albanian community in Kosovo and Metohija in the framework of the EU-facilitated dialogue. Guided by the firm conviction that only a durable and sustainable solution is a prerequisite for the progress of Serbia and our region, we have launched an internal dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija. Launching of an internal dialogue is a demonstration of a large capacity of our society and of the need to find an appropriate solution while avoiding fragmented position. That is why the purpose of an internal dialogue is not just to have a sum total of different ideas and views but to provide an opportunity to have a look at the entire spectrum of possible solutions and of making the positions of our country crystal clear. Consequently, the internal dialogue increased the credibility of Serbia both on European and international levels.
In view of the Brussels dialogue, Serbia possesses sufficient political sensibility to feel the moment for solving the issue of Kosovo and Metohija and to put all its energy and strength into arriving at a compromise solution in order not to miss out on the historic opportunity to reach an agreement with the Albanian community. Belgrade strongly advocates dialogue with Pristina, holding the view that there is no alternative to a negotiating process. Unlike some of our partners from the West, we do not deem the Kosovo and Metohija issue as a solved matter but we believe that a solution can be reached only through dialogue. Serbia’s priority is the survival and respect of the rights of the Serbian community, its economic development, preservation of the cultural heritage and property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija. Although many processes are part of the historical heritage, we must underline that the past results of the Brussels dialogue are not satisfactory and that they are constantly accompanied by new tensions provoked by the Albanian community in Kosovo and Metohija. Efforts of Belgrade towards a compromise are of a genuine nature and motivated by values we share with Europe and the world but we will not allow others to humiliate us and pull us down. Five years later, apart from periodic shifts but no concrete changes and substantial progress, the Brussels dialogue is faced with the same challenges of how to implement what has been agreed upon. The policy of representatives of the Albanian community in Kosovo and Metohija seems to be quite a resistant one when it comes to the influence by the third part which is lacking. Its foothold is a tacit and sometimes outright support by certain powers. The absence of a true desire for reaching a compromise and durable solution make the efforts invested by our side relative while the brunt of responsibility will be equally borne by the international community too, through its action sometimes and sometimes through its inaction. Regardless of that, Belgrade has demonstrated its readiness for a dialogue and will continue to do so whenever the other side wishes to sit at the negotiating table. On the other hand, diplomatic activities of Serbia which have led an increasingly large number of countries to revoke their recognition of Kosovo are a reflection of our right and our obligation to protect our own interests and to affirm our respect for rules of international law, in bilateral relations with other countries. It is common knowledge that Serbia’s relations with Albania have long been burdened by the position held by that country with regard to Kosovo and Metohija, or by its overt support for the Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence. However, it is highly important to point out that, especially since 2014, the Republic of Serbia has been continuously showing its readiness and wish to enhance relations with Albania. Serbia is interested in closely working with Albania in the context of European integration, and it reaffirmed its readiness to share the experience gained in the process of its own negotiations with the EU by having initiated the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in this area. It is both logical and expected that Serbia and Albania support each other before the EU institutions, including its most influential members. Considerable unlocked potential for joint actions of Serbia and Albania exists in the field of regional cooperation, in particular cooperation within the framework of the Berlin Process. Intensification of regional cooperation – both cooperation on economic connectivity, primarily in the transport and energy sectors, and one focused on cooperation between generations which are less burdened with the legacy of the past – creates an atmosphere which recognizes dialogue as a means to settle disputes,” Dacic told the conference.
Djuric: If the arrested are not released tonight there will be no dialogue (Tanjug/RTS)
If the five arrested people in the Gnjilane municipalities are not released tonight, there will be no dialogue for a long time, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told an extraordinary press conference in Belgrade. He says that this is also the message of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, as well as that EU representatives have already been informed about this, but that there was still not answer. He confirmed that the arrest of chief of the Kosovo-Pomoravlje district Radovan Stojkovic, Director of the National Employment Service Jovan Jovanovic, a member of the Serbian Army living in Kosovo, working in Vranje, Nenad Stojanovic and brothers Aleksandar and Predrag Djordjevic, one of whom is an active and another retired police officer. Djuric said that these people are guilty for not supporting formation of the Kosovo Army. “The attack was conducted in a brutal manner, according to a tested scenario of Albanian extremists, completely opposite to everything agreed at the last meeting between Vucic and Federica Mogherini, when it was agreed clearly and unambiguously that such things will not happen, and when the Albanians assumed the obligation that they will treat our people with respect, which was also guaranteed by Mogherini with her presence,” said Djuric. “Their only sin was that they had verbally opposed the formation of the Kosovo army,” said Djuric. According to him, this morning’s attack shows that the agreement in Brussels between Mogherini and the Serbian President has been violated by the Albanians. “For me this is cowardice, bestiality, indifference, and unreasonable behavior. I wish to be very clear, they must be released urgently tonight, otherwise there will be no dialogue for a very, very long time,” said Djuric, adding this is also the EU responsibility, because Mogherini is the guarantor of what had been agreed.
London Summit might turn Balkans into migrant collective center (Politika, by M. Pesic)
Will the path be opened after the London summit of leaders of Western Balkan regions for the Balkans to become a collecting center for unwanted migrants from the EU? Professor at the Faculty for Science and Technology in Sarajevo Zlatko Hadzidedic warns about this for Politika that such proposals might appear, which might permanently destabilize both the region and EU. “Angela Merkel initiated the Berlin process in 2014 with the idea of connecting the entire Balkan region. I am afraid that the English, in line with their geopolitical interests, have started to reverse the point of that process, so that some more radical ideas might be presented on the table than during the time of Lisbon or Dayton negotiations. One such idea is the final division of B&H and creation of a small Islamic country,” explains Hadzidedic. He questioned sincerity of UK’s support to European integration of the Western Balkans, having in mind the ‘Brexit’, and he added that it is no coincidence “the mosque route” was opened for migrants. “It is important to understand that there are plans to accommodate surplus of those migrants, which the EU and primarily Germany would gladly get rid of, in our areas,” Hadzidedic claimed and said that the Balkans countries can oppose this only if they stand united. “It is important not to swallow the bait, which is British geo-political constant, that it would be good for us to have ethnically clean states,” Hadzidedic said. Hadzidedic added that certain ideas might be presented at the London Summit, which might seem tempting for the Western Balkans countries: “Serbia and Croatia might be offered ethnically clean states while Bakir Izetbegovic will not be hard to get to accept another half of million of migrants from central Asia and Africa, as long as they are Muslims”. He also argued that the UK has been bringing mujahedeen and Wahhabis to B&H since 1992 in an attempt to create a small Islamic country in the heart of Europe but he assessed that realization of this project will result in long-term destabilization of Europe. This international relations expert says that all conflicts in the Balkans have been persistently and consistently depicted in Anglo-Saxon media, since 1991 to this day, as a manifestation of the Huntington “clash of civilizations”, mire precisely, as “proof” that members of the Islamic and Christian civilizations cannot live in mixed communities like the one that existed in the Bosnian society, but in clach and that is why there need to be separate ethnically cleansed territories. “The wars in the Balkans should have served as ‘proof’ that the clashes of civilizations represents the ‘next pattern of conflict’, as Samuel Huntington wrote. This pattern is still current to this day, and hence the story on the increased Russian influence in Serbia and Republika Srpska, as well as attempts to retailor B&H and redesign as an ‘Islamic state’. Therefore, I am afraid that the summit in London will represent the most serious attempt to finally round up this Huntington project,” underlines Hadzidedic.
HNS main board sent an open letter (TV1)
The Main Board of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) sent an open letter to political parties, representatives of the international community, competent institutions and entire public and underlined that attempt of five Bosniak parties (SDA, SBB, SDP, DF and Our Party) to adopt entity level law on elections represents attack on constitutional-legal order of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). “We are specially addressing the OHR and the Peace Implementation Council, as the institutions whose primary task and purpose of existence is to protect the Dayton Agreement, and the constitutional-legal order established by it,” stated the HNS Main Council and pointed out that the decision of the Constitutional Court of B&H in the ‘Ljubic’ case has not been implemented for the past year and a half, and the general elections are going to take place in three months. Daily noted that the English version of the open letter was sent to the international community representatives on Monday.
Deadline for parties to submit candidate lists to B&H CEC expired (TV1/ATV)
Deadline for all political entities, verified for participation in upcoming General Elections 2018, to submit candidate lists expired on Monday at 16:00 hours. 69 political parties, 34 independent candidates and 36 coalitions are verified for October elections. Spokesperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Maksida Piric said that in upcoming period B&H CEC will conduct necessary activities to establish whether candidates fulfill legal conditions for participation in elections. She added that process of verification of “regular candidate lists” should be completed by August 3, underlining that verified candidate lists should be published by August 23. SDA’s Halid Genjac submitted B&H CEC with candidate lists of this party. Genjac stressed that SDA has submitted candidate lists for all constituencies but the Western Herzegovina Canton (WHC). He went on saying that 42 percent of candidates of this party are women and 30 percent are young people. He also underlined that SDA will participate in elections for the Republika Srpska Assembly as part of the coalition ‘Zajedno za B&H’ (Together for B&H). SBB B&H will also participate in elections for the RSNA but within coalition ‘Pro-European Bloc’. Vice President of SBB B&H Damir Arnaut underlined that this party is convinced their candidate for member of B&H Presidency Fahrudin Radoncic will win elections as well as SBB B&H’s candidate for Vice President of the RS. Vice President of DF Dzenan Djonlagic submitted B&H CEC with candidate lists of coalition ‘Zeljko Komsic –B&H wins’. This coalition consists of DF and the Civic Alliance – GS. Djonlagic said that their goal is well-known, namely they will start a political fight and not allow Dragan Covic and Milorad Dodik to be together in the Presidency of B&H. HDZ B&H’s Vice President Marinko Cavara believes that candidate of this party will win race for post of Croat member of B&H Presidency. HDZ B&H lists include the names of 430 candidates led by HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic who is candidate for the post of Croat member of the B&H Presidency. SDP B&H submitted lists with more than 500 candidates for all authority levels. SDP B&H Vice President Lana Prlic said that SDP B&H leader Nermin Niksic is leader of SDP B&H’s list for the B&H Parliament from the constituency of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and West-Herzegovina Canton. The Srpska lista (The Serb List) composed of SNSD, DNS, SP and ‘Zavicajni socijaldemokrati- Mile Marceta’ also finalized a list of their representatives in the Federation of B&H, while the SNS will take in the elections in the Canton 10 independently. PDP and SDS decided that they will not take part in the elections in the Federation of B&H.
EU-Western Balkans Summit commences in London (BHT1)
The fifth EU – Western Balkans summit, as part of the Berlin process launched by the German Chancellor in 2014 – began on Monday in London. The key topics of the first day were security, stability, and economic development of the Western Balkans. Presenter noted that this process was launched in order to send a message to countries of the region that, even though enlargement fatigue can be felt across the EU, the doors are still open to countries of the Western Balkans if they meet the membership criteria. Representatives of foreign and interior ministries met on Monday to discuss the current situation and security priorities, exchange of information, cooperation against illegal arms trade, human trafficking, forced labor, and corruption. Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak said that the fight against corruption and the rule of law are the most important issues for B&H. Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli said he is pleased that Kosovo is participating as an equal at this summit. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that economic ties cannot be improved without overcoming political issues. He said Serbia is ready to work on open issues with Prishtina, as well as other countries of the region, adding that everyone needs to step into each other’s shoes and try to understand one another. The second day will be reserved for a meeting of prime ministers, and the signing of four declarations on the search for missing persons, fight against corruption, regional relations, and regional cooperation, reporter added.
Croatia supports EU integration of Western Balkans (Hina)
Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric said in London on Monday it was important to Croatia to see all Southeast European countries join European associations as soon as possible so that conditions for peace and stability could be created in that part of Europe. Pejcinovic Buric said this after the first day of a two-day EU-western Balkans summit which, as part of the Berlin Process, is focused on issues important for the future of the region. “For us it is important to see all Southeast European countries integrated with European and Euro-Atlantic associations as soon as possible, as this is the only way to create peace, stability and prospects in the region which Croatia is connected to” Pejcinovic Buric told Croatian press. Pejcinovic Buric said the meeting also focused on migration issues which is important “not only for Southeast Europe and the European Union, but it is also a global issue.” “We discussed ways how to step up cooperation between the EU and the six Western Balkan states and how to intensify bilateral cooperation within those states,” she added. “We know that one of the migrant routes passes through all these states, it passes through Croatia, Slovenia and Austria as well – the east Mediterranean route which became active again, not to the extent it was before, but active enough that it must be taken into account,” Pejcinovic Buric said.
She said the summit also focused on issues related to the legacy from the past, stressing that efforts needed to be invested into resolving war crimes issues, dealing with the past and the issue of missing persons. “For us this is the most important issue from the past,” the minister said, adding that the time had come to find out the truth about the missing people. “Croatia is currently searching for 1,932 persons at we believe this issue needs to be closed in the next several years,” Pejcinovic Buric said. She said the participants in the meeting agreed that the issue of missing persons was important for all and that it was a humanitarian issue.
Sending officers to Kosovo is not a hostile act (RTCG)
Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic said that sending Montenegrin soldiers to Kosovo represents fulfillment of international obligations, and that it is not an act of hostility towards Serbia. Darmanovic made the statement shortly before the Summit in London, commenting on the assessment by Serbian officials that sending Montenegrin officers to Kosovo is not a friendly act. “There is nothing hostile, Montenegro is faithful in fulfilling its international obligations and contributing to stability in the region, which is the only purpose of our engagement,” explained Darmanovic. Darmanovic expects that the Berlin Process in the future will allow further investments in concrete infrastructure projects in Montenegro. “We expect a certain breakthrough in the infrastructure area, Montenegro is optimistic,” Darmanovic said.
Zaev-Smith: Citizens to verify policies that opened EU and NATO doors (MIA)
Macedonia has been acknowledged by receiving a date for the EU accession talks and the announced invitation for the country to join NATO as its 30th member as a result of its fresh values in the neighboring and regional policies, said Westminster Foundation for Democracy CEO Anthony Smith at a meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in London on Monday.
Smith said Macedonia has made an exceptional progress over the past year, highlighting the brave moves by the government in signing the Bulgaria Friendship Treaty and especially the name agreement and the strategic partnership with Greece, the government said in a press release. Smith and Zaev agreed at the meeting held on the sidelines of the Western Balkans Summit that Macedonian citizens will verify the policies, which have opened the doors of EU and NATO, at the coming referendum. Zaev stressed that enhancement of parliamentary democracy, democratization of political parties, and strengthening of institutions are of exceptional importance for the reforms that should be encircled by the opening of the EU accession chapters in June of next year. Zaev also emphasized the contribution of the WFD office in Macedonia, which has implemented important projects over the past decade, aimed at strengthening of the Parliament’s capacities, enhancement of parliamentary democracy and the democratization of political parties.
Dimitrov: We deserve a clear decision for start of accession talks (MIA)
We deserve a clear decision for the start of accession talks, but politics is an art of the possible and we will invest maximum efforts to move forward, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told debate “Beyond Berlin: What Does the Next Decade Hold for the Western Balkans” within the EU-Western Balkans Summit in London on Tuesday. “EU citizens must understand that the enlargement process can transform us. We make mistakes but also correct them. The accession process is an opportunity for transformation of societies,” said Dimitrov and added that the political crisis in Macedonia made the public angry, critical, and intolerant to mistakes.
He said the Macedonian government is working together with the civil society to implement this transformation, while the country’s EU and NATO accession would have a calming effect in the entire region. “Although we want deadlines and dates, it is more important to make our countries European. Macedonia would be the same if it joined the EU tomorrow. We need the accession process as a tool for the transformation process,” added Dimitrov. A British journalist asked Dimitrov, “Why do you want to join the EU when we are leaving?”, to which the FM responded “When inside, you do not how cold it is outside”. He stressed that the referendum represents a historic crossroad, voicing optimism that citizens will support the name agreement. “One of the main lessons we have learned from the past is the use of nationalism as a front for corruption and abuse of office. This is a struggle between past and present, nationalism and patriotism. We will do our best and I believe it will be enough. People in Macedonia have made wise choices at such historic crossroads. It would be better for the opposition to think more about the country than their careers, but we will all mature during this process,” said Dimitrov.
Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said the referendum represents a free choice for citizens, not something imposed to them.
He referred to the Western Balkans Strategy that was presented back in February, which said that EU would no longer accept new members having unresolved conflicts and disputes with neighbors. “This creates even more energy to solve certain issues, the most impressive of which the name row. Now the country needs to everything in order to convince citizens that the decision is the right one,” added Hahn. According to him, the Strategy’s launch has forced EU members to work on improving the way in which the Union is functioning. “The Strategy clears up the road for the countries of the Western Balkans,” noted Hahn and said 2025, which has been mentioned as the year when the next enlargement round could occur, means that accession negotiations should be completed by 2023.
Sekerinska: It would be foolish to miss our second chance for NATO (MIA)
Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska and National Coordinator for NATO Stevo Pendarovski told a news conference Monday that Macedonia can count on the support of all 29 member-countries and can expect a NATO membership invitation at the upcoming Alliance Summit, which is ‘a historic chance for us to make up for our failure in 2008’. “The membership invitation is the first step, and the membership ratification by all member-countries is the last step,” Sekerinska said. “Somewhere in the middle are our own decisions – the referendum, the changes to the Constitution, etc. But this first step will let us know we have solved the problem we couldn’t overcome ten years ago. “We will show that Macedonia can take on responsibilities as a member and can be a reliable partner of the Alliance.” Pendarovski said Macedonia could expect the membership invitation on July 11, whereas the procedure to follow was the standard one established for any country upon accession. The NATO Secretary General is to extend the formal invitation to the Government, Pendarovski added, and the Government is to respond with a letter accepting the obligations. Brief negotiations about matters of legal and military nature should follow, after which the protocol of accession to the Washington Treaty can begin. Next comes the ratification procedure, which is specific to each member-country. “After ratifications begin,” Pendarovski said, “Macedonia can take part in every forum as a non-voting de facto member.”
Only after the U.S. State Department has received the ratifications by all member-countries along with the one by the U.S. Senate, Pendarovski added, can Macedonia expect to become a full member of NATO. “This is standard NATO procedure,” Minister Sekerinska told the press. “Twenty-nine member-countries need to ratify the agreement. One of them is Greece, which has clearly stated it would ratify the bilateral agreement as soon as we finish the procedure. There is no additional political message Greece is sending us.” Asked about possible problems related to the referendum, Sekerinska pointed out that the goal was to receive a NATO membership invitation. “We have a chance to fix the mistake from 2008,” she said, “and we will fix it on July 11 and 12. “But this doesn’t prevent us from making new mistakes that can cause problems later.
“Our goal is to receive a NATO membership invitation and become an Alliance member quickly and efficiently. “This, however, will depend on the government and the opposition, but most of all on the citizens who will have the final say.” Sekerinska added that the Parliamentary majority in Greece supports the Agreement and will ratify Macedonia’s NATO membership. “We can’t know what the situation will be like after their elections,” Sekerinska said. “That’s why we are calling on all political parties in the country not to miss the second chance our country has been given.” According to Sekerinska, it would be foolish to obstruct this process by not forming a State Election Commission, i.e., ‘running from the referendum this way.’ “We hope that reason will prevail,” Sekerinska said, “because it would be a historic responsibility if anyone were to block this process.”
London, Bushati meeting with counterparts (ADN)
Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati attended on Monday to the meeting of foreign ministers of the Berlin Process countries as part of the London Summit dedicated to the Western Balkans. The main topics of the discussion were the European perspective of the Western Balkans, enhancing the security and stability of the region as an added value to European security, addressing common security challenges, increasing commitment, and opening up prospects to the generation as the largest asset of the societies of the region countries of the region. During his speech, Bushati noted that strengthening cooperation between the countries of the region and the EU is a crucial condition for strengthening regional security. “Strengthening cooperation between the countries of the region and the EU on security issues, both strategic and operational, is a crucial condition for strengthening regional security and successfully addressing common challenges in this regard. Our countries over the last years have achieved tremendous success in establishing peace, stability and close regional cooperation, achievements that have been made possible thanks to the common European perspective,” said Bushati. Meanwhile, all the Foreign Minister and high EU representatives reconfirmed not only unequivocal support for advancing the European perspective of the region but also their commitment to strengthening the principle of inclusiveness, the development and transformation of the Western Balkans into a stable and secure region.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
The London Summit: A Bad Moment for the Western Balkans (BBC, 9 July 2018)
If those who decided on London as the location of the fifth EU-Western Balkans Summit could predict the future, they would have probably chosen another time and place for the Summit. However, in 2014, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched the Berlin Process with a specific aim to speed up the European integrations of the region, the future surely appeared brighter. This happened before the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, before the refugee crisis, and before the Mediterranean became a graveyard for thousands of refugees. Merkel was considered an unparalleled leader not only in Germany, but also in the whole Europe. Today, nevertheless, she struggles with keeping the broken coalition in power. The Great Britain was still deeply rooted into the EU – the occurrence of Brexit was practically impossible then. Barack Obama was still serving his second term as President in the USA. Donald Trump was not even in sight. Populism was kept under control or was, at least, done so ostensibly. The terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels have not yet happened. Nowadays, however, Europe is far more insecure, more depressed and more unstable than five years ago.
Short of Breath
Even after the first Summit in Berlin after the launch of the Berlin Process, the initiative of the German Chancellor started to weaken and was rapidly short of breath. The three following summits in Vienna, Paris and Trieste did not bring any observable advancements. Yes, the process of the EU expansion continued – Serbia and Montenegro opened some negotiation chapters and Albania became an official candidate country for accession to the EU. Nonetheless, this was done rather out of momentum than out of enthusiasm. Earlier this year, when the European Commission announced the ambitious EU Enlargement Strategy vis-à-vis the Western Balkan countries which indicated that some countries could potentially become member states by 2025, it seemed as though the Berlin Process got a powerful boost. That hope was quickly lost when the beginning of the EU negotiations for Macedonia and Albania has been conditionally postponed for another year, as suggested by France and the Netherlands, at the EU Summit in June. Not even the Greece-Macedonia historic agreement on name change nor the brave justice reforms in Albania could have outweighed the EU leaders’ fear that every expansion possibility could be an opportunity for populists.
It’s Hard to be a Host
Even without the “EU expansion fatigue,” the two-day Summit of the six Western Balkan countries’ leaders – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia – and the leaders of 17 EU member states could not have started at a more inconvenient time.
Britain is in an uncomfortable position because it is propagating the accession of the Western Balkan six to the EU, even though it decided to leave that same Union due to maintaining its sovereignty and protecting its national honor. The Serbian Chief of Diplomacy Ivica Dačić reminded us of this paradox by sincerely raising a question, “What are we even talking about when we are discussing the EU integrations of the Western Balkans in the country that is leaving the EU?” The British diplomats’ general response to this question is that Britain wants to demonstrate that, despite Brexit, it still has influence in Europe and the region. That response was thought through well, but the question still remains unanswered. To make things even worse, Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned the night of the Summit and, therefore, endangered the already unstable government of Theresa May. Following Davis’ resignation, Boris Johnson – the face of the Brexit campaign – resigned from the cabinet, too. After the London Summit, Theresa May will also have two intense meetings with President Trump: the first one at the NATO Summit in Brussels and the second one during Trump’s visit to Britain.
Waiting for Trump
American President questioned the “special relations” of the USA and Britain in the letter that he had sent to May last week. Before then, he had declared a trade war on the EU by imposing tariffs on aluminium and steel. Besides, he described the EU as the organization that “was formed to take advantage of America,” which is why he announced a possible unilateral recognition of the annexation of Crimea and withdrawal of a significant number of American troops from Europe. For the first time since its formation 69 years ago, NATO is questioning if it can survive without its leading member, while the EU is wondering how to survive the trade war with the USA.
Come Back Later
Under these circumstances, it is difficult to expect that the British hosts and the EU member states who are currently at the Summit will have any desire or energy to seriously dedicate themselves to the main topic of the Summit. Instead, the Summit will consist of kind interactions, polite smiles and typical reassurances that the Western Balkan region has an immense European potential. In fact, considering everything, the only thing that was successful this year was that the Summit occurred at the planned place and time. See you next year in Warsaw!
Western Balkans are vital to curb migration and fight terrorism in Europe (DW, 10 July 2018)
No EU migration plan can succeed without the Western Balkans, says Michael Roth, Germany’s deputy minister for European affairs. He told DW it would top the agenda in talks with the six countries seeking to join.
DW: The Western Balkan Summit in London is set to begin shortly. What are the goals of these talks?
Michael Roth: We want to send a clear signal that the situation in the Balkans is of outstanding importance for the European Union. We remain committed to EU accession prospects, we are drafting expectations, but we also want to assist in practical terms, i.e. help strengthen the rule of law, most notably help create prospects for the younger generation, and contribute to regional cooperation and, especially, reconciliation. No one should abandon the Western Balkans, particularly not at this point. In this respect, this conference in London is an important one.
Will there be further commitments with respect to funding?
We have already made a number of financial pledges. Now it’s important to bring projects already agreed upon to a successful conclusion. I’m rather impatient in this regard. On the assets side, there are several positive developments, for example the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, whose primary goal is to bring together members of the younger generation. In this area, I would like to see the implementation of several more projects. After all, it is positive that there are a number of project proposals; only they haven’t received the green light yet because funds are limited. We all should do more in this area. Infrastructure is what is at stake as well. A while ago we had the digitalization summit. It has to become clear that ultimately the people in the Western Balkans must benefit. Namely, they must receive jobs, and they must get the feeling that they’re not being left alone.
During the lead up to this summit, it seemed that security was the focal point. Is that a correct observation?
It’s absolutely correct that we emphasize the importance of the Western Balkans in terms of security policy. One thing still doesn’t seem to be clear to everyone: the more stable, the more secure the Western Balkans, the better for the EU. It’s our neighbor — there are a number of EU member states situated in the immediate vicinity of the Western Balkans. This isn’t just some remote region. In addition, there’s the issue of migration, there’s the issue of the fight against terrorism and there’s the issue, first and foremost, of small arms proliferation.
A discussion about security in Europe also clearly includes migration, combating causes of flight, prevention of flight. How will this summit address that issue?
Several states in recent years have made remarkable contributions as transit countries. They’ve taken in many refugees, and we must acknowledge and appreciate that. What we need is a pan-European strategy. In that respect, a migration policy that is developed without involving the Western Balkans can neither be successful nor sustainable.
What, precisely, does this mean in the context of taking in refugees and sealing off borders? How can, in your view, the Western Balkans be involved in the future?
We have, of course, an external EU border with the Western Balkans states. We want to protect that border, we want to know who is entering the EU, but we don’t want to build a “Fortress Europe.” In that respect, it’s highly, highly important that we cooperate with the countries in the Western Balkans, which also have a responsibility, and that we assist them in meeting that responsibility. So solidarity is at stake here as well.
We are in London now. London is the capital of a country that will be leaving the EU, and simultaneously the accession prospects of six Balkan nations are at stake here. Do you see a certain contradiction?
As of now, the United Kingdom is still an EU member. If I had my way, the Britons would not be leaving, but ultimately they have to decide for themselves. And as long as Great Britain is a member of the EU, it should live up to its responsibilities. And the situation in the Western Balkans is not only of interest to the Germans and the Austrians. It must be of interest to all of us, and all of us bear responsibility for democracy, for security, for stability, but also for the prosperity of the people in the Western Balkans. So if the Britons wish to make a tangible contribution here, it will be very much appreciated.
Social Democratic politician Michael Roth has been a member of Germany’s parliament for 20 years. He has been deputy minister for European affairs in the German Foreign Ministry since 2013.