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Belgrade Media Report 11 July

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• Brnabic: Pristina preventing any serious dialogue (RTS)
• Vucic: I will offer a solution if found, and the people will be the supreme judge (Tanjug/RTS)
• Dacic: Arrest of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is boycott of the dialogue (RTS)
• Rakic: Belgrade, Pristina vying for position (N1)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Municipal Assembly of Srebrenica holds commemorative session on Tuesday (Hayat)
• US keeps calling on everyone to recognize and accept Srebrenica genocide (TV1/N1)
• Pompeo: US will never forget victims of Srebrenica genocide (Dnevni avaz)
• Subasic hands over list with 22,000 members of RS Army to German Chief Prosecutor (ATV)
• Mogherini: Western Balkan countries are strongly working on reforms, reconciliation and good neighborly relations (BHT1)
• B&H delegation to participate in NATO Summit in Brussels (EuroBlic/Nezavisne/RTRS)
• OHR: Entities have competence to regulate composition of their bodies (NAP)
• PM announces Croatia will be organizer of next Western Balkans Summit in 2020 (HRT)
• President to represent Croatia at NATO Summit (Hina)
• Four investigations for war crimes active (RTCG)
• Zaev: Skopje-Athens deal – new model of establishing friendship between countries (MIA)
• Zaev: London Summit recognizes Macedonia as foreign policy leader in Western Balkans (MIA)
• EC to support Macedonia’s reforms, successful organization of referendum, Mogherini tells Zaev (MIA)
• Maritime talks, political resistance from both sides (ADN)


• Why is Brexit-Bound Britain Playing Mediator in the Balkans? (Sputnik)
• It is time to ditch the Berlin Process (European Western Balkans)

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Brnabic: Pristina preventing any serious dialogue (RTS)


Commenting the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has told RTS in London that Serbia is constructive while Pristina is trying to prevent any serious dialogue. She assesses that we have a repetition of what had already happened with the Brussels agreement and the Community of Serb Municipalities. She said she had met with Ramush Haradinaj in London “I told him in passing that the practice of arresting Serbs was continuing. He tried to explain to me that it was not precisely so,” said Brnabic, adding she usually has no interaction with Haradinaj, but that this time she had to tell him that what he is doing and how he is doing it is senseless.


Vucic: I will offer a solution if found, and the people will be the supreme judge (Tanjug/RTS)


“Two are needed for a tango, it doesn’t depend from us, I will work every day and fight every day to find some compromise solution. If we find it, I will offer it to the people, let the people say whether it wants or not and let the people be the supreme judge,” said Vucic in Ankara in response to the question how much time is needed to find a solution for Kosovo and Metohija.

If a solution for Kosovo and Metohija is not found, he will not have anything to offer to the people. “But, in any case, I will fight for Serbia’s future, just as I will fight for the interests of not only the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija for their security, for our churches and monasteries, but also for the interest of the Republic of Serbia,” said Vucic.


Dacic: Arrest of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is boycott of the dialogue (RTS)


Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told RTS morning news that Pristina should stop with the provoking of the Serb people and Serbia. He says that yesterday’s arrest of five Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is a hostile act that doesn’t contribute to the creation of a positive atmosphere for the dialogue. “Step forward, backward is one phrase for relations with Pristina, and less steps forward, and more steps backward. When I say step forward, I have in mind the meeting in Brussels where President Vucic invited me to take part as well. The conclusion of that meeting was to create an atmosphere for dialogue, but these acts are hostile act and do not create a positive atmosphere for dialogue,” notes Dacic. “The Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija are not any longer in a situation to threaten anyone, especially not Serbia and the Serbs, and they are not nay longer the favorites of the international community. Everybody has had enough of them and I am saying this based on officials talks that I have,” says Dacic. “We are so constructive that somebody is interpreting this as a weakness. We are the strong part because we know what we want. We are ready to talk about possible compromises,” notes the Minister. He points out that the number of countries that recognize Kosovo will soon fall below 100. “What can Kosovo’s EU perspective be? The most they can get is the visa-free regime because they were promised this,” says Dacic. He says that five countries that didn’t recognize Kosovo will not allow any kind of higher degree of integration of Kosovo. “They are not aware in what kind of world they live today and the one who dictates changes in the world US President Donald Trump. The EU and US are in hostile relations, because when somebody is conducting a trade war he/she is hostile,” says Dacic. “As far as the EU is concerned, I haven’t heard that they made statements yesterday. Deafness is a serious illness. They live in some world, while there will be no solution for Kosovo without the participation of Russia and the US,” says Dacic. He says that he doesn’t think Kosovo will be discussed at the Putin-Trump meeting. “I think they will not go that far, there are other topics they will first discuss. It is more probable that relations between Russia and the US will head in the direction of relaxation and not further aggravation. It is good that all this exists now since not everything is in the hands of one country, this is the beginning and one should not expect spectacular results,” notes Dacic. “Serbia should analyze well and assume what can happen in international relations and it should continue the policy of dialogue with all neighbors. One should also be listening what is happening with the EU,” said Dacic.


Rakic: Belgrade, Pristina vying for position (N1)


Politika’s acting editor in chief Zarko Rakic told the N1 morning show Novi Dan believes that Belgrade and Pristina are vying for position prior to the next round of their EU-mediated dialogue to normalize relations. He says that the authorities in Pristina seem to be the more anxious of the two. “I have the impression that Pristina is showing much more anxiety and concern after a long time,” he said.  According to Rakic, Pristina has used its dominant position to date to dictate conditions in the dialogue. “That has changed suddenly, not thanks to the fact that Pristina has softened some of its stands but because international circumstances have changed – changes have taken place in the US, President Putin has another term in office, the EU has entered a period of the worst crisis since it was formed,” he said.




Municipal Assembly of Srebrenica holds commemorative session on Tuesday (Hayat)


The Municipal Assembly of Srebrenica held a commemorative session on Tuesday. Representatives of returnees in Srebrenica, religious officials and Head of Srebrenica Municipality Mladen Grujicic attended the session. Delegates paid their tribute to all persons who lost their lives during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and on this occasion, Grujicic stressed that crimes committed against all the peoples in B&H should not be forgotten. Grujicic said that one should forgive, but never forget. He also stated that everyone should be held accountable for crimes, regardless of ethnicity of perpetrators and victims. Grujicic stated that as the Head of the Srebrenica Municipality, he is ready to give his contribution to justice and peace in this area. The reporter noted that returnees expressed discontent with the fact that Grujicic did not mention the word “genocide” during his speech; he used the word “crimes” to describe events that happened in Srebrenica. President of the Srebrenica Municipal Assembly Alija Tabakovic stated that people of Srebrenica continue to live in this town after July 11, adding that the people do not live in the past. Tabakovic added that the past must not be forgotten, but everyone is obliged to build a better future. Tabakovic stated that he understands Grujicic’s move not to mention the word “genocide”, adding that there is no consensus within the Serb people on qualification of the crime of the genocide in Srebrenica. Grujicic emphasized that this does not diminish the crimes or verdicts of international and a court in B&H. Member of the Independent Bloc in B&H Parliament Sadik Ahmetovic said that nowadays, Srebrenica is not a divided town which makes him happy, but warned that some things still worry him. Ahmetovic stated that in the last couple of years, Sarajevo totally forgot Srebrenica and people in this town.


US keeps calling on everyone to recognize and accept Srebrenica genocide (TV1/N1)


US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack joined on Tuesday the Peace March ‘Nezuk-Potocari 2018′, which commemorates the Srebrenica genocide victims, in Susnjari near Potocari. On this occasion, Cormack stated that it is a great honor to join people who survived the genocide in Srebrenica, and victims’ families and friends. She stressed that the US Embassy to B&H remains committed to helping these families in finding mortal remains of their closest ones. “The US keeps calling on everyone to recognize and accept the genocide, as the recognition and acceptance lead to peace and reconciliation. The US recognizes the genocide as the official and legal fact that was recognized by international courts”, Cormack told reporters during the march. “We always use the opportunity to call everyone to recognize and accept that a genocide was done here”, concluded Ambassador Cormack.


Pompeo: US will never forget victims of Srebrenica genocide (Dnevni avaz)


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his condolences to the families of victims of genocide in Srebrenica, and he stated “The horrific Srebrenica genocide reminds us that we must strive for a stable and prosperous future for the benefit of all citizens, regardless of race or religion, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and everywhere else. Every day, we are charged with remembering the past as we build a better future. We must work harder to overcome past grievances and to strengthen democratic institutions, so that our path never again leads back to dark days of the past. We must work for the day when the remains of all those slain in Srebrenica are finally recovered and may lie in their last resting places, and when justice reaches all of the perpetrators still at large. The US stands with the people of B&H on this day. We will not forget your fallen. We honor the victims of genocide and remain steadfast in our partnership to bring enduring stability and prosperity to your country,” reads the statement.


Subasic hands over list with 22,000 members of RS Army to German Chief Prosecutor (ATV)


The President of the Association ‘Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves’ Munira Subasic handed over the list with 22,000 members of the Republika Srpska (RS) Army to the German Chief Prosecutor, Klaus Zorn, in Srebrenica on Tuesday. Subasic demanded from the Prosecutor to check the names on the list and apprehend those who are currently in Germany, so that they are held responsible in that country. She stressed that the list was compiled by the RS Government back in 2005 and that, in her opinion, all persons on the list are war criminals responsible for the killings in Srebrenica. Director of the RS Center for the Investigation of War and War Crimes and the Search for Missing Persons Milorad Kojic argued that this is absurd as the German Prosecutor has nothing to do with what happened in B&H during the 1990s. He noted that the list includes the names of persons who are absolutely not responsible, nor did they participate in wartime events in Srebrenica. In his opinion, the list that even contains the names of cooks and cleaning persons is merely a provocation aimed at intimidation. “Through these lists, they are raising the issue of collective responsibility,” Kojic warned. RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic stressed that she would not deny anyone’s right to seek justice, but it is surprising that tensions are always heightened at the moments that are problematic in political terms. “I think it was unnecessary to hand over the lists with so many persons to some German guest who was here. In general, I think some things should have been carried out differently. Some important issues in the RS should have been approached in a different way,” Cvijanovic assessed. She concluded that many consequences that are evident nowadays are the result of the fact that some people were “politically shortsighted” at the time they were supposed to think in the long run. RS President Milorad Dodik was quoted as saying that the RS has no intention of recognizing this list, adding that the German judicial authorities have no jurisdiction over this region. He deems that the list is merely a provocation that will not yield any kind of result. Dodik reiterated that he will gather all political factors in the RS, in order for the RS National Assembly (RSNA) to task the RS Government to withdraw and annul the report on Srebrenica. “It is obvious that the case was about misuse from the very beginning. It was written by the international community, which forced the former authorities to publish it,” Dodik was quoted as saying. He added that the list includes the data that are incorrect and unconfirmed by the ICTY and yet the public in the Federation of B&H deems that they are relevant.


Mogherini: Western Balkan countries are strongly working on reforms, reconciliation and good neighborly relations (BHT1)


The Western Balkans Summit, the fifth summit convened under the Berlin Process, resumed in London on Tuesday. The Summit focused on security and EU integration progress of the countries in the region of the Western Balkans. Participants of the Summit adopted three joint declarations, including the Declaration on War Crimes, Declaration on Missing Persons and Declaration on Regional Relations and Good Neighborly Cooperation. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, who attended the Summit, said that Western Balkans region is going strongly forward. “We have seen extraordinary results and solving of the most difficult bilateral issues. Western Balkan countries are strongly working on reforms, reconciliation and good neighborly relations,” Mogherini underlined. Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn stressed that regional cooperation is crucial for the European path of the Western Balkans, adding that the Berlin Process created an opportunity for that. “The Berlin Process set out a concrete vision for EU-Western Balkans relations, putting regional cooperation at the center. The idea is simple – we work together, we win together. The region needs to demonstrate that it is ready to take control of its destiny, to overcome a difficult past,” Commissioner Hahn underlined. For the purpose of strengthening democratic standards, reconciliation and prosperity,

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who hosted the Prime Ministers of Serbia, Albania, B&H, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, presented a set of measures which will help solve complicated security challenges. Prime Ministers of Serbia, Albania, B&H, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, on the other hand, pledged to strengthen efforts in solving all open issues.

May announced that the UK will increase the allocation of funds for the region by more than 95 percent, which will be used for financing of projects that will actually make a difference, such as the projects of strengthening the public administration in Macedonia and Montenegro, support to judiciary reforms in Kosovo and Albania, nurturing the business environment in B&H and Serbia, equipping one million children in primary schools in the region and investing in their IT skills, as well as strengthening the rule of law in the Western Balkans. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of the Regional Youth Cooperation Council, as well as the fact that relations among the countries have been strengthened. “We will be working on infrastructural projects. We also established a regional youth cooperation office as we learned much from such office in Germany,” Merkel said, adding that strengthening the economic cooperation is also one of priorities. She concluded that there are many problems yet to be solved, but progress is evident as well. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that the focus on the Balkans is restored and the important thing right now is supporting and approaching of the region to Europe.


B&H delegation to participate in NATO Summit in Brussels (EuroBlic/Nezavisne/RTRS)


Minister of Defense of B&H Marina Pendes will be at the helm of a delegation of the Ministry of Defense of B&H and Armed Forces of B&H which will attend NATO Summit that will commence on Wednesday (July 11) in Brussels. The Delegation will be led by Chairman of the Presidency of B&H Bakir Izetbegovic, and it will be constituted of Minister Pendes, Chief of Joint Staff of the Armed Forces of B&H Senad Masovic and Minister of Foreign Affairs of B&H Igor Crnadak. Speaking about the plan on cooperation of B&H with NATO, which the Republika Srpska (RS) Government did not agree to, RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic emphasized that that matter must not be politicized, because there are some activities that imply the participation of all countries of the region. She said that there are some details in this matter that need to be specified and, in that case, participation of the RS would not be a problem, if such activities would serve the citizens and their safety. The RS government decided not to approve the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) on cooperation between B&H and NATO for period 2017-2019. The RS Government called on B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) not to adopt IPAP until it is harmonized by all relevant institutions in B&H. Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference, on the eve of the two-day NATO Summit in Brussels, that NATO will not turn its back on the region of Western Balkans, in which the Alliance is playing a historic role and is present in B&H and in Kosovo. Responding to journalists’ questions, Stoltenberg said that the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki will not have any effect whatsoever on NATO’s role in the region of Western Balkans. Furthermore, the NATO Secretary-General said that he supports Serbia’s decision not to pursue membership in NATO, adding that the door of the Alliance remain open for other countries. Stoltenberg underlined that NATO has good cooperation with countries in the region of Western Balkans.


OHR: Entities have competence to regulate composition of their bodies (NAP)


OHR stated that relevant political parties should start a dialogue in order to reach an agreement about the reform to electoral legislation, instead of using the issue in the pre-election campaign. The OHR’s statement came after the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) accused Sarajevo-based political parties of undermining the constitutional order of B&H with adoption of the Law on Constituencies at the Federation of B&H level. The OHR further noted that, from the legal point of view, the entities have the competence to regulate composition of their bodies, in line with the Constitution of B&H. The OHR further said that the Law on Elections or any other law regulating the issue of the Federation of B&H House of Peoples has to be aligned with the Constitution of Federation of B&H.


PM announces Croatia will be organizer of next Western Balkans Summit in 2020 (HRT)


A two-day Western Balkans Summit 2018 in London was closed on Tuesday evening. Participants stressed that the Western Balkans undoubtedly has the European future. Addressing the reporters after the summit, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic assessed that this represents a positive impulse in the accession of the Western Balkan region to the EU. He announced that Croatia will be organizer of the next Western Balkans Summit in 2020. Plenkovic stressed that the summit addressed a number of issues that burden bilateral relations between certain countries of the region. He said that four declarations were signed on Tuesday, noting that one of them is the declaration on missing persons that is very important given that the problem of missing persons burden many families in Croatia. As for the issue of migrations, Plenkovic stated that the Western Balkan countries are expected to follow the EU’s conclusions, i.e. strengthening of their external borders and national capacities.


President to represent Croatia at NATO Summit (Hina)


A meeting of NATO heads of state and government, which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels, is expected to see more pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump who has already sent letters to some NATO member countries in an attempt to make them expand their military budgets. The Alliance will make decisions to increase security in and around Europe. These decisions include strengthening deterrence and defense, projecting stability and fighting terrorism, stronger cooperation with the European Union, modernizing NATO, and fairer burden-sharing. Croatia will be represented at the summit by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Ahead of his trip to Europe, Trump tweeted “The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more.” By current standards, Washington funds about 70% of NATO spending. During the 2014 Wales summit, the leaders of the Allies pledged to aim to move towards spending 2% of their gross domestic products on defense and 20% of that on new equipment by 2024. For countries which spend less than 2% they agreed upon that these countries “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade”. Eight member-states already fulfill this requirement of spending 2% of their GDP on the defense: USA, Great Britain, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Furthermore, nine countries are expected to meet that requirement by 2024, and one of them is Croatia. However, Germany and Spain are among the countries not expected to meet the target.


Four investigations for war crimes active (RTCG)


A war crimes trial is ongoing in Montenegro, while an investigation of four cases related to war conflicts in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is still ongoing. All war crimes compensation proceedings before the Montenegrin courts have been resolved and totaled more than 5 million euros. According to the Third Periodic Report of the Montenegrin Committee on Tackling Violence, five cases of war crimes are currently being investigated. The “Zmajevic” trial is ongoing. He was accused of indictment of war crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians on March 30, 1999, in the area of Zegra and Danube villages, the municipality of Gjilane, Kosovo, as a soldier – a volunteer of the Yugoslav Army. Four cases are still under investigation. A murders are being investigated during armed conflicts in Kosovo, carried out by the unknown person. In this case, evidence is collected through international legal aid. Also, the Special State Prosecutor’s Office has formed 28 cases since 2014 in response to the request of B&H, Croatia and Serbia to provide them with international assistance. In all cases the requested evidence was collected and delivered. There were no cases where a witness protection decision was made or the victims sought protection. In practice, there were no examples of threats or intimidation of witnesses in war crimes cases nor were criminal proceedings conducted on that occasion.


Zaev: Skopje-Athens deal – new model of establishing friendship between countries (MIA)


Skopje-Athens name, strategic partnership deal is the best contribution to new models of behavior for establishing friendships, relations between politicians and states, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Tuesday at the panel ‘Foreign Policy, Bilateral Disputes and Legacy Issues’, being held within the Western Balkan Summit in London. This deal put an end to long-standing differences that burdened the neighborly relations, Zaev said, pointing out that he, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, the Foreign Ministers of both countries, Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias respectively, members of governments, with the support of United Nations, the European Union and strategic partners, took decisive steps to come to a dignified, mutually acceptable solution to the matter. He extended gratitude to the leaders of EU members and Western Balkan states for their continuous support of the name negotiating process, the government said in a press release. Zaev called on Western Balkans countries to unite over the regional cooperation and the fact that history ‘is an important part of our identities, but can never take the place of our future.’ EU, Western Balkan leaders taking part in the panel unanimously concluded that the courage of PMs Zaev and Tsipras represented a model for resolving the most complex bilateral issues. They also affirmed their readiness to support the implementation of Skopje-Athens name deal.


Zaev: London Summit recognizes Macedonia as foreign policy leader in Western Balkans (MIA)


The Western Balkan Summit in London gave recognition to Macedonia over the deal on settling Skopje-Athens name dispute and obtaining a date for the EU accession talks, declaring the country for the region’s leader from the aspect of foreign policy, bilateral disputes and legacy issues, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told reporters on Tuesday. ‘The manner in which our country has settled open issues with all of its neighbors is a model of successful story being commended by the entire democratic world, especially by our neighbors and EU partners,’ Zaev said. The summit in London, Zaev said, was a respectable gathering, focused this year on the regional economic cooperation, as part of EU accession processes, foreign policy, bilateral disputes and legacy issues, as well on security and migration challenges. Today’s event has reaffirmed the commitment of all countries in the region to share the European values in terms of inter-connectivity and cooperation, Zaev said. The countries of the region agreed to take part in all endeavors for making Europe stronger in political, economic and security aspects, he said.

‘Macedonia’s government is focused to ensure stable, inspiring environment, and be a credible partner in the business initiatives being launched at these meetings,’ the PM said. He notified the expected NATO invitation for Macedonia’s accession as an element for a motivating business environment.


EC to support Macedonia’s reforms, successful organization of referendum, Mogherini tells Zaev (MIA)


The European Commission will support Macedonia in the new reform stage and the organization of a successful referendum on Skopje-Athens name deal, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday at a meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, being held at the sidelines of the Western Balkan Summit in London. Mogherini also extended congratulations to Zaev on the European Commission decision to set a date for opening of Macedonia accession talks and once again commended the country’s reform progress and the courage for reaching a deal with Greece. Zaev on his part briefed Mogherini about the ongoing preparations for organizing the referendum, the government said in a press release.


Maritime talks, political resistance from both sides (ADN)


Attending the Western Balkans Summit in London, Prime Minister Edi Rama, commented on the latest political developments in the region. Speaking of the country’s integration process in the EU, Rama said it’s an ongoing process and that important steps have been made in launching the negotiations. “It’s a positive solution through which we should not waste a minute and we should use these 12 months for the analytical process,” he said. On his encounter with the Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to discuss on the maritime agreement, Rama said the meeting will be held soon. “The solutions that we’ve seen between Greece and North Macedonia and also the solution between Albania and Greece are a clear indicator that when there’s a will, there’s a way,” he added. Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati spoke about the maritime agreement with Greece, which according to him has faced political resistance from Tirana and Athens. Although not giving a precise date for the conclusion of the negotiations, Bushati said the meeting between Prime Ministers Edi Rama and Alexis Tsipras in London will determine the direction of this process. Despite the attitudes of some political segments, there are ongoing talks on a fair deal, according to MEFA Bushati. “It is not an easy process. There is political resistance from both sides, whether in Albania or in Greece, but we believe that with determination and political will we will have concrete outcome in the near future,” said the foreign minister.

Referring to the meeting between Rama and Tsipras at the London Summit, Bushati said it is a “golden opportunity not only to review the progress made by foreign ministers and respective technical teams but also to determine the direction in this process”. “We have made steady progress in terms of talks on a new agreement on the delimitation of maritime zones, a new agreement that will be led by the principles of international public law in the maritime field, but above all, a new agreement that would be fair and applicable to the two countries,” he stressed.

Bushati once again pointed out that beyond the deadlines that have been discussed for the conclusion of the agreement, for the moment it is important to talk about the quality of the negotiating teams’ work and the process itself. “I believe we share the same opinion with the Greek side that we should not waste time in this process, because this is a 70-year problem, and all options are reviewed at the table,” Bushati said.




Why is Brexit-Bound Britain Playing Mediator in the Balkans? (Sputnik, 10 July 2018)


The Western Balkans Summit, which aims to achieve effective cooperation between the Balkan countries and the EU, has begun in London, despite the fact that Great Britain itself is leaving the European Union. How will the United Kingdom “coach” candidates for EU membership, with one foot out the door of the bloc?

The EU-Western Balkans Summit has started in London for those countries in the region that are not yet members but are on the path of European integration: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo, as well as some of the neighboring countries that have their own interests in the region and are already members of the EU: Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. This summit will be the fifth after Berlin, Vienna, Paris and Trieste under the Berlin Process — a diplomatic initiative launched by Angela Merkel in 2014, the main idea of which is to achieve more effective cooperation between the Balkan nations and the EU. Realizing the paradox of the situation, the British authorities attempted to pre-empt questions about the relevance of London’s leading role in the European integration of third countries by publishing on its official website a message that the UK is interested in the strengthening, stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans beyond its exit from the European Union. Sinisa Lepojevic, who has worked for many years as a special correspondent for Serbian media in the UK, told Sputnik why London is so concerned about the progress of Western Balkan nations on their way to the EU. “The Balkans, and namely those Balkan countries that are not EU members, remain the only space where the British can “flex their muscles”, because they will exit the EU in March 2019. They need a presence in this part of Europe, because after Brexit, London will have nothing but NATO and the Western Balkans,” Lepojevic explained. According to him, this is the case, as was the announcement of sending 40 extra British troops to Bosnia & Herzegovina to prevent Russian interference in the October elections there, of some sort of PR, a political bluff. Lepojevic believes that hosting the Western Balkans Summit should be translated from the language of diplomatic symbols as an attempt by Britain to show that “it is still in the game,” especially with regard to the unstable Balkan region.

The expert also notes that the London summit is organized superficially: it does not have the main theme, the agenda is built around “common interests” in the economic sphere, politics and security issues. Lepojevic said that the participants of the summit were contacted via the Internet and were asked to contribute to the organization of the meeting by offering ideas for discussion. Based on the information that has appeared in recent days, Lepojevic believes that the event will mainly focus on the Macedonian treaty with Greece, which will be presented as an example of cooperation between the Western Balkan countries. According to Lepojevic, the main motivation for the UK to host a summit under the Berlin process, despite formally being no longer a part of it, as in the case of sending more British troops to Bosnia and the story of two Brits “poisoned by Novichok” in Amesbury — is that Britain wants to show that it’s still here, to declare its presence. The Serbian expert also added that “the Western Balkans Summit in London is political acrobatics, a statement by Britain about its presence in the region under the guise of caring.   Its true goal is to convey, first of all, to Germany and France the following idea: “We are leaving the EU, but we are staying in the Western Balkans,” Lepojevic concluded.

The views and opinions expressed by the experts do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


It is time to ditch the Berlin Process (European Western Balkans, by Florian Bieber, 10 July 2018)


Op-ed by Florian Bieber, professor at the University of Graz and coordinator of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG). Bieber will be a speaker on the event “Beyond Berlin: What Does the Next Decade Hold for the Western Balkans?”, organized by Chatham House, European Fund for the Balkans and DG Near in London on 10 July.

When the Berlin Process was launched five years ago, it was supposed to trigger a new dynamic to regional cooperation and bringing the Western Balkans closer towards the EU. By circumventing formal institutional structures and bringing in all EU members, the process could avoid excessive duplication of existing structures, avoid navigating the bothersome difficulties individual member states brought to the table, like Spain’s intransigence towards Kosovo’s independence and Greece’s difficult relations with its northern neighbor Macedonia. Much has changed since the initial meeting in Berlin. Cooperation has increased among the Western Balkan countries significantly and a number of projects and initiatives have been launched, and bilateral relations have improved, in particular between Macedonia and both Bulgaria and Greece. Nevertheless, the Berlin process is in shambles. However, this is not due to the Western Balkans, but the EU members that are participating. Already France, when it took over hosting the summit two years ago, seemed more interested organizing the meeting in Paris for its own vanity than out of genuine interest or commitment towards the region. This was confirmed by the recent petty blockade over giving Macedonian and Albanian a concrete date to begin accession talks this year. The London summit was agreed before Brexit, but it was a folly to pursue a summit in a country that sought to leave the EU and finds itself, predictably in the hot phase of negotiating its exit form the EU, while the summit seeks to stay on message that EU enlargement is realistic and desirable. Keeping the summit in the UK was not just to British insistence – an effort to define its post-Brexit role in the Balkans – it was also supported by Germany, showing how the German government has been using the Berlin process to curry favors far removed from the concerns of the Western Balkans. The resignation of the summits host, Boris Johnson, during the summit itself shows what gamble keeping the summit in London was. Furthermore, the preparation of the summit was distracted by the government’s focus with Brexit, making it a side show, much to the detriment of the process. Initially, the Berlin process would have concluded in London, but the follow Berlin+ initiative seeks another round of summits, beginning in Poland of all places. Apparently motivated by a strong interest from the countries of the Visegrad group to be involved, the choice could be no more off the mark. Neither has Poland displayed any strategic interest in the Western Balkans, nor does it provide an encouraging backdrop for the rule of law in the Western Balkans. Just like Serbian foreign minister Ivica Dačić can deflect critical questions on the rule of law in Serbia by mentioning Poland, so can Macron and other enlargement skeptics mention Poland as to why they won’t support the membership of the Western Balkans. Just as the Berlin Process has been hijacked by some member states, the EU policy towards the Balkans has been undermined by the shortsighted politicking of members. When the EU recognized last year that neglect breads crises, destructive external intervention and democratic backsliding in the Balkans last year, it reengaged. Yet, what remains not sufficiently understood is that this downward spiral in parts of the Western Balkans has been due to a divided EU that sends contradictory messages and no longer offers a fair and realistic prospect of joining. Key member states have demonstrated in recent weeks, that this, unfortunately, as not changed. Considering this pattern with EU member states hijacking the Berlin Process for their own agenda, while adding little to the process, one should doubt the usefulness of continuing. After all, the European Commission has absorbed many aspects of Berlin process in its February 2018 strategy. Rather than keeping this process in the hands of a growing number of countries, it would be better to have an EU-Western Balkans process that includes all EU members and sends the signal that the Western Balkans will be in the EU soon and are consulted on EU matters. This would allow the Commission to take a more central role, bring in more consistency and follow up, while adding an instrument that can tackle issues the EU is institutionally less well equipped to face, such as bilateral issues and improving relations among the countries of the region and their neighbors.


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