Vucic: It will be much worse if we do not find a solution for Kosovo (B92/Tanjug/RTS)
Referring to the solving of the Kosovo issue at a joint news conference in Belgrade on Monday with visiting Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic emphasized that he sees where this is going and how it’s going with public opinion. “People less and less want a solution, everyone thinks it’s good this way. Not everyone, but most people think it is good because it won’t get any worse. It will be much worse if we do not find a solution. That’s why I’m afraid and worried,” said Vucic. He added that he was saying all this for the sake of the people in Serbia. “We need to understand the Albanian interests as well. They also have their desires; the world has its own. Of course, we have our own desires and needs, but the essence is that we also have to look at other people’s interests,” said Vucic, and added:
“Merkel said in Davos, quoting Max Weber, that compromise is victory, not defeat. I’m afraid we are very far from a compromise. Both Serbs and Albanians and half the world have already killed by gossip something that has not even been achieved. Our free space for compromise is small and narrow and difficult to achieve. They were all against, without either seeing, nor offered an alternative,” said Vucic. Pahor said his country was supporting Serbia’s ambition to join the EU, adding there were different views on some issues between Ljubljana and Belgrade, but that his visit aimed at cementing the mutual trust and relations in all areas. Asked about the so-called border correction, advocated by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci in the EU-facilitated Belgrade – Pristina dialogue, Pahor said he would not exclude such solution, but that it must not cause collateral damage to other countries in the region. “I would not exclude that, but would be extremely cautious,” he said. Pahor added he did not think that Serbia was in any political crisis due to the anti-government protests across the country, but that he would not interfere into domestic politics. “I believe we will have Slovenia’s support in searching for a possible solution,” Vucic said, adding any solution was far away right now due to Pristina’s 100 percent import taxes on goods from Serbia and Bosnia introduced last November. Vucic said he told the EU, the US and the Russian President Vladimir Putin the same thing – Serbia doesn’t have two policies but only one, that of Serbia’s interest.
Irinej: Unity, not quarrels, necessary for Kosovo (Tanjug)
Serbian Patriarch Irinej has stated on Sunday following service in the Vracar municipality that the Serbian society needs unity in order to preserve and defend Kosovo, because, as he put it, we will not defend it with quarrels. “Unity is also the foundation of our church and state. The community of the church and state preserved us, had we not had it we would have disappeared as a nation,” said Irinej. He notes that disunity and quarrels are more and more present in our society and warns that we need to organize in order to preserve what our ancestors had left us, primarily to preserve Kosovo. He says that Kosovo was never given to us, nor have we seized it, but Kosovo has always been our home state, full of Serbian sanctities.
Hahn: EU must stabilize the Balkans, Belgrade and Pristina must talk (N1)
Either the EU will stabilize the Balkans or the Balkans will destabilize the EU, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn told N1 on Saturday in an interview in Davos, Switzerland. “The motive I am lead by in the neighborhood policy, which also applies to candidate countries in the Balkans, is – either we, as the EU, export stability, or we import instability,” Hahn said. Sustainable peace, economic and social progress and reconciliation is only possible when all six Balkan countries that are still not member states have a European perspective, he said, adding that both those countries and the EU profit from that. When and how those countries will join the EU is up to them and every country has a key to the EU and can use it, Hahn said. The EU has published its Balkan strategy last February, he said, where we have clearly concluded that any new candidate can only become a member when it solves its bilateral conflicts. Concrete negotiations between Montenegro and Serbia and the EU are ongoing, but that does not mean that those countries are the first to reach the finish line. “There is no speed limit, but the changes need to be sustainable,” he said, exemplifying the fight against corruption, developing the rule of law and economic development and saying that this all takes time. Hahn said that a lot of progress has been made in the Balkans, listing the Macedonian name deal that is waiting to be ratified in Athens as well as positive steps made by Albania. When asked if the EU had failed in the negotiation process between Serbia and Kosovo, when Pristina’s 100 percent taxess on Serbian products are taken into account, Hahn said that even with this taken into account, the relationship has improved. “We had various developments throughout the past months that would have possibly led to an armed conflict in the past,” he said. “Today, those responsible, the presidents, grab the phone and call each other.”
There are some setbacks every now and then but those should not be discouraging, he said, naming the Pristina tariffs as one of them. The issue must be solved, and Hahn said he proposed that any trade issues between Serbia and Kosovo should be discussed separately and expressed readiness to facilitate the negotiations. He said he spoke to Vucic and Thaci on Friday in Davos, and that it seems both of them agree they need to sit “at one table” and negotiate and clear up problems such as the tariff issue in order to continue the overall dialogue on the relationship between them. “I am convinced that we will resolve this, and it is expected that already in the late winter the dialogue can still be continued,” he said.
Dick Marty: The Hague hid all the evidence of the yellow house! (Novosti, by Goran Cvorovic)
Former Swiss Senator and Council of Europe (CoE) Rapporteur on the human organ trade in Kosovo, Dick Marty gave an exclusive interview to Novosti. Marty’s famous report pointed to the possibility of monstrous crimes committed against Serbs in northern Albania involving the highest representatives of the authorities in Pristina.
Eight years have passed since your famous report and indictments have still not been filed. Are you satisfied with the speed of the judicial investigation?
“Your question already contains the answer. If I could finish my report in just over a year, they could have done it in the meantime. US prosecutor Clint Williamson publicly announced in July 2014 that the results reached by his investigative unit, which included forty highly qualified individuals, covered the essence of my report. He resigned immediately after that conference! We waited for his replacement for more than a year. Since then, his successor has also left. A third prosecutor was appointed, but there are still no results.”
Is someone doing this intentionally?
“I cannot know that, but I can note that there was a series of appointments that significantly slowed down the work of the court. There are two dynamics which oppose one another. I am convinced that there are people who are honestly working on discovering the truth. I also think that there are political interests that want to stop it all. From the beginning, they believed that they would not find anything. Now they found themselves in a very uncomfortable situation due to the fact that the people they supported got involved in something so horrible.”
Do you believe that justice will eventually catch up with those responsible in the Pristina government?
“I do not know what to say to you! They may not be condemned. You know, the largest number of war crimes in the world, unfortunately, remain unpunished.”
Can one trust the judiciary, if former Hague Tribunal Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice, who is suspected of hiding evidence about the “yellow house”, is now one of the main defenders of Kosovo’s leaders?
“When I heard that, I thought there were two Geoffrey Nice! It is incomprehensible that the Deputy Chief Prosecutor in the Hague suddenly became a lawyer for the suspects. In the least case, that seems bizarre to me. Perhaps this is, from a legal side, possible, but personally, on an ethical side, I find it suspicious.”
In the end, what happened with the evidence? Carla del Ponte spoke that it exists and Nice that it does not exist…
“I know that the evidence existed. Journalist Anthony Montgomery was present when Hague Tribunal investigators were in the “yellow house”, collecting evidence. They did it, by the way, in an extremely amateurish way. For example, they did not analyze blood traces. But they found drugs, syringes and much more, and all this was sealed in the Tribunal.”
How is it possible that some of the main protagonists in your report still deal with high level politics in Kosovo?
“What should I answer to that? I wrote my report but, on the other hand, there is the political reality.”
Did Hashim Thaci sue you for defamation, as you suggested to him, if he believes that you did not write the truth?
“He did not. In any case, I am convinced that such a lawsuit would be rejected. Not only because I, as a rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, enjoyed immunity, but also because I can confirm to you that my report is based on the testimonies of people who were directly involved in the described acts. There were even people who accused themselves!”
Yet, witnesses continue to fear for their lives…
“You are, of course, familiar with Ramush Haradinaj’s case before the International Criminal Court. Each time the witnesses would disappear. There were mysterious deaths. I can fully understand that witnesses are afraid. I personally witnessed that. These people are terrified. They are afraid for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. Almost twenty years have passed, new generations have grown up and all these people are not predestined to play heroes.”
Do you still receive threats?
“In my new book, I write about a comic situation when, while I was in Bern waiting for a tram, I was approached by a man in front of the main railway station, who raised his finger and shouted at me, in German with a noticeable accent, that I wrote a scandalous report and started loudly accusing me that I received a million dollars from the Serbs for that! There were a lot of people around and everyone watched us with disbelief. I asked him would I really be there, in the cold, waiting for the tram, if I had received any money? Everyone laughed, and he went away crestfallen. There were threats, but I would not like to talk about them.”
Everyone is pointing out that you are brave, which is undeniable. In the 21st century, unfortunately, we still have to talk about the courage of people who are just doing their job?
“It is really not my intention to come out as being brave, because, as you said, I just did what was my duty. The issue is not that I am brave because I am doing what needs to be done, maybe cowards are those who do not do that. And these are different things. Only the truth about the conflict in Kosovo can lead to reconciliation. I only revealed it a little bit. There is still much work to be done in this field.”
Vucic: Initiative for name change of RS irresponsible (BN TV)
In an interview for BN TV, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic talked about SDA’s initiative to dispute the name of Republika Srpska (RS), relations with Bosniaks, special relations between Serbia and the RS etc. Among other things, Vucic said that during the World Economic Forum in Davos, many representatives of great Western powers clearly condemned SDA’s initiative to abolish name of the RS. Vucic stated that SDA’s idea is irresponsible and not serious. “I think that it is evidence of certain neurosis, caused by some reason unknown to me,” explained Serbian President. Vucic went on saying that he does not want to provide response to Bosniak politicians, despite the fact some of them have been provoking on a daily basis. He underlined that in order to contribute to peace and coexistence he visited Srebrenica. Vucic stressed that he visited Potocari to “honestly bow my head before the victims.” He added that this was not sufficient act for some who want political humiliation of Serbia and Serbs. “I will never accept this,” said the Serbian President. Vucic also stated that among other things, his job is to create good relations with Bosniaks. He went on saying that neither Bosniaks can exterminate Serbs nor Serbs can exterminate Bosniaks. “No one can even think this is possible and it will never happen. We will have to live together. That is why, it is better to start talking and admit that we cannot reach an agreement about everything from the past,” explained Vucic. He added that B&H and Serbia should start to talk about the future, because many people are leaving these countries due to unfavorable situation. Also, the Serbian President emphasized that Serbia has been building special relations with the RS, but does not undermine integrity of B&H. He explained that after he came into power he reached an agreement with (leader of SNSD and Chairman of B&H Presidency) Milorad Dodik to work jointly to avoid the situation in which relations between the RS and Serbia would be returned to the level in the period when Slobodan Milosevic was President of Serbia and Radovan Karadzic President of the RS. Talking about the fact the declaration on survival of Serbs that was announced by him and Dodik was never signed, Vucic said that he is responsible for it. The Serbian President explained that regardless of its text, if this declaration was signed it would give opportunity to everyone to undermine the RS and attack Serbia. He also stressed that Serbia is prepared to provide assistance to the RS whenever it is capable to do so. Talking about dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the Serbian President said that recent activities of Pristina authorities proved that Serbia is a responsible partner in this dialogue. Commenting the idea on demarcation between Serbia and Kosovo, Vucic underlined that the best solution is the one that none of sides will be content with.
HNS adopts Declaration on Position of Croat people in B&H, Covic reelected HNS President (N1)
The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) held a session in Mostar on Saturday. The session resulted in adoption of the Declaration on Position of the Croat people in B&H, which consists of seven items as a guide for the work of political representatives of Croats in B&H. The Declaration refers to social and political spheres of vital national interest of Croats in B&H, calling for Europeanization of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), territorial reorganization of B&H, implementation of rulings of the Constitutional Court of B&H and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and change of the Election Law of B&H, among other things. The Declaration rejects the ICTY’s qualifications of a joint criminal enterprise in the case ‘Jadranko Prlic et al’ and it also refers to position of the Croat Defense Council (HVO) and social status of the Croat veterans of the homeland war. The Declaration is similar to the one that was recently adopted by the Croatian Parliament. Also, HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic was re-elected the HNS President with only one delegate abstaining from voting. Addressing a press conference after the session, Covic stressed that they sent a message to their friends – Bosniaks and Serbs – that it is possible for them to make a major step forward together in this country, as well as on the path towards the EU. He underlined that the Declaration is binding for all political representatives of Croats in B&H. Covic also said that there is no alternative to the HNS, adding that they have no intention of participating in the process of formation of authorities in the Federation of B&H with partners who do not want to change the Election Law of B&H.
Speaking about territorial reorganization of B&H, Covic said: “We have had several proposals and initiatives for reorganization of B&H so far. It is clear that the Constitution of B&H cannot be changed without dominant will of representatives of the three constituent peoples. Since we are aware of that, we suggested taking the first step and change the Election Law, which is possible to do with simple majority.”
Reactions of Federation of B&H based parties, politicians to HNS’ Declaration on Status of Croats (BHT1)
The Declaration on the Position of the Croat People in B&H, which was adopted at the session of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) in Mostar on Saturday, has sparked numerous reactions in B&H. A part of the Declaration rejects qualifications of a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) in final verdicts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the case ‘Jadranko Prlic et al.’. According to the HNS, the verdicts are unfounded, and they put the blame on Croatia, the Croat community of Herzeg Bosnia and the Croat Defense Council (HVO). SDP assessed that such move of the HNS is discouraging as those who would not admit the crimes are actually supporting criminals. Chairman of SDP Main Board Sasa Magazinovic said that this is a very bad message because any attempt to deny the crimes is another crime against victims.
DF Vice President Dzenan Djonlagic assessed that the HNS made a disgraceful move as such attitude towards crimes and verdicts of international courts only calls for new crimes and poses a direct threat to peace in B&H. SDA reacted to the HNS’ declaration with a statement in which it warned that this represents an intentional obstructing of a dialogue that is necessary for implementation of reforms of the election system in B&H. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic stated that nobody can change historical facts or final verdicts rendered by the ICTY by “rejecting” them. However, such move sends a clear message to the local and international public on the policy pursued by the HNS, according to Izetbegovic. Our Party (NS) reiterated its stance that it will not form a coalition with any of the ethnic parties, including HDZ B&H, underscoring that the HNS’ declaration only goes on to show that NS has the right stance. “Denial of the ICTY’s verdicts is irresponsible and dangerous. HNS has no right to dispute the work and legitimacy of the ICTY by hiding behind the name of one people. Declarations like this one additionally drive the citizens of B&H away from final reconciliation”, NS’ statement reads. SBB B&H believes that addressing issues of the past and raising one-sided initiatives, that only deepen the crisis in B&H, is completely unacceptable and irresponsible. “Such behavior does not, in any way, contribute to building of trust between the constituent peoples in B&H and represents a threat to B&H’s integrity, constitutional order and the Euro-Atlantic path”, reads statement issued by SBB B&H on Sunday. Croat member of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic reminded that the court in The Hague concluded that the goal of the joint criminal enterprise was to establish “ethnically cleansed” Croat entity and merging with Croatia. Komsic stressed that the joint criminal enterprise has always, including this case, been rejected by participants and accomplices in it.
RS politicians, political parties react to HNS’ Declaration on Status of Croats (BN TV)
Leader of SDS Vukota Govedarica commented the Declaration on Position of Croat People in B&H adopted by the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) on Saturday. Govedarica stressed that reorganization of B&H advocated by HNS is unacceptable for RS. He also criticized part of the Declaration describing the RS as separatist creation that advocates secession from B&H. Govedarica underlined that this part of the abovementioned document accuses the RS of causing instability. He added that advocating of territorial reorganization of B&H, i.e. creation of a new administrative-territorial unit is unacceptable. Govedarica stressed that B&H’s only opportunity is to exist on the ground of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) and any new constitutional solution requiring additional federalization is unacceptable for SDS and the RS. The leader of SDS said that this party can commend some parts of the Declaration, adding that he refers to its part requesting changes of the Election Law aimed to enable legitimate representation of Croats. PDP leader Branislav Borenovic said that when it comes to denial of certain crimes that were committed in the past, such declarations are serious documents that are quite detrimental. “Therefore, I think such activities should stop and reality should be accepted. The Constitution of B&H leaves enough room to make progress in this country,” Borenovic stressed. PDP also deems that it would be absolutely unacceptable to amend the Constitution of B&H and the Dayton Peace Accords, which would make the current relations in B&H even more complicated. Also covered Govedarica. PDP also called on SNSD to clearly present their stances regarding new dangerous intentions of its strategic partners from HDZ B&H.
SDA rejects claims of OHR and OSCE that announcement of its motion re name of RS is irresponsible and counterproductive (Hayat)
SDA stated in a press release on Friday that it does not accept claims of the OHR and the OSCE that announcement of the motion, which will call for elimination of discrimination in the name of the RS, as well as elimination of systematic discrimination in the area of RS, is irresponsible and counterproductive, that it undermines trust between constituent peoples and their political representatives and that it represents inflammatory rhetoric. SDA stressed that announcement of its motion did not cause tensions, adding that everyday inflammatory statements and actions of Milorad Dodik and other officials of the RS, which undermine the trust between peoples and failure to react to such statements and actions, caused the announcement of such a motion. SDA noted that it is indicative that there are such strong reactions to the SDA’s initiative which calls for respect for the Constitution, laws and decisions of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H, while at the same time nothing is being said or done when it comes to Dodik’s statement that the RS is ready for secession. SDA underlined that representatives of the international community contributed to discrimination of Bosniaks in the RS by lack of proper reaction to undermining of B&H by some political representatives in the RS. SDA underlined that the IC failed to react to Dodik’s statements in which he threatened with deploying of police at entity borders and with secession of the RS. SDA’s representative in the RSNA Edin Ramic underlined that evidence of discrimination of Bosniaks in the RS is the fact that very small number of members of this constituent people is employed in public administration in the RS, in the RS MoI, RTRS etc. He went on to say that even those Bosniaks employed in abovementioned institutions and enterprises do not perform important duties.
Grabar-Kitarovic: Constituent status of three peoples is foundation of DPA (N1)
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic stated that the situation in B&H is not at all encouraging and underlined that equality of constituent peoples is based on the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). Grabar-Kitarovic reiterated that Croat people in B&H have absolute right to elect their representatives in authorities. “I have been worried about the situation in B&H for a long time, and I am constantly emphasizing this. Croatia will firmly abide by its position on the sovereign B&H, together with territorial integrity and political independence of that state. However, we will also not give up on solving the issues that have obviously opened up bringing the Croat people into an unequal position”, said the Croatian President. Grabar-Kitarovic was asked if she criticized HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic for his attendance at the ceremony of marking of the RS Day in Banja Luka on January 9 that was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H. She stated that she has not heard from Covic recently and she cannot dictate him his policy. Grabar-Kitarovic also said that Croatia has never interfered with the issue of election of the Croat representative in B&H Presidency, his orientation or political option, adding that it is up to voters to decide on this issue. Grabar-Kitarovic stressed that she wants B&H to get back on the path towards the EU and NATO as soon as possible. She stressed that no one is requesting Croat people to be more equal than others, adding that constituent status of three peoples is foundation of the entire DPA. Commenting on SNSD leader Milorad Dodik’s statement, according to which RS might declare independence, Grabar-Kitarovic briefly said that such statement are discouraging.
Prime minister attended panel discussion on Western Balkans (HRT)
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic wrapped up on Friday his stay at the Swiss resort of Davos, together with some three-thousand politicians and influential business people on the final day of the World Economic Forum. The prime minister spoke at a closed-door panel discussion on forming strong partnerships for growth and peace in the Western Balkans. Other guests at the discussion featured Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Zvizdic, and Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic.
Special emphasis was placed on regional stability, increased trade and competition, as well as preparations for the fourth industrial revolution. Plenkovic said NATO and other international organizations must be aware of exactly what happened in Croatia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, in order for them to understand the dynamics of today’s relations between the countries of the region. The Croatian prime minister added that world financial organizations must also invest in the region if they are to be prepared for the fourth industrial revolution. Afterwards, Plenkovic held meetings with Denis Zvizdic, Irish prime minister Leo Vardarkar, and Swiss President Ueli Maurer. The official theme of the 2019 conference, aimed at shaping global, regional and industry agendas, is globalization.
Greek parliament ratifies Prespa Agreement (Meta)
The Greek parliament ratified the Prespa Agreement which was signed by Macedonia and Greece, with 153 MPs’ voting to end the name dispute which has lasted nearly three decades.
All 300 MPs were asked the question of whether they are “for”, or “against”, or would “abstain” concerning the ratification of the Prespa Agreement. Of all the MPs, 153 were in favor, 146 were opposed and one MP abstained. Macedonia, on January 11th, voted in favor for the approval of the changes in the Constitution, and completed the procedure regarding the implementation of the Prespa Agreement.
Law on Prespa Agreement published in the Greek Official Gazette (Nezavisen vesnik)
The law under which The Prespa Agreement is ratified and enforced has been published in the Official Gazette of Greece, after Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos previously signed it.
With the publication in the Official Gazette dated January 25, 2019, the agreement between the two countries is already officially a law in Greece. The law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece titled “Ratification of the final agreement for resolving the differences as explained in the decisions of the United Nations Security Council 817 (1993) and 845 (1993), termination of the Interim Accord of 1995 and establishing a strategic partnership between the parties, contains 3 articles. The first article of the agreement is entirely in English and translated into Greek. The second article refers to raising the level of the Liaison Office in Skopje at the Embassy and the Office of Consular, Economic and Commercial Affairs in Bitola at the Consulate General level. The third article explains that the law comes into force after its publication in the Official Gazette, and the agreement comes into force after ratification and after the fulfillment of the prerequisites, in accordance with Article 20.
Zaev: Congratulations my friend Alexis Tsipras, together with our peoples we reached a historic victory (Meta)
Congratulations my friend Alexis Tsipras, together with our peoples we reached a historic victory, wrote Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on his Facebook page, regarding the ratification of the Prespa Agreement at the Greek parliament. “Long live the Prespa Agreement! For eternal peace and progress of the Balkans and in Europe!” wrote Zaev in his address.
VMRO-DPMNE will submit proposal to dissolve parliament and hold early elections (Republika)
VMRO-DPMNE will submit a proposal to dissolve the parliament on Monday and called on Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to resign. Macedonia was never more bitterly divided, politically or nationally. The Macedonian society is at what is probably the worst situation it has been since our independence, due to all the wrong and misguided policies SDSM and Zoran Zaev initiated in the past two years. All their defeats, disappointments, undignified offers they accepted, their lack of any reforms in the economy or the healthcare, the plunder of the country and the mass emigration and demoralization call for elections. Tomorrow the members of Parliament from VMRO-DPMNE will propose that Zoran Zaev submits an irrevocable resignation as Prime Minister and that the Parliament is dissolved and early general elections to be held along with the presidential elections, Mickoski said. The presidential elections will take place in late April and early May, as President Gjorge Ivanov’s second term in office expires. SDSM held a meeting of the Central Committee on Friday, but its leaders could not decide whether to accept the challenge and agree to the early elections. Some Skopje based party officials, like ministers Renata Deskovska and Damjan Mancevski, called for elections, while others, closer to Zaev’s more rural wing of the party, have been quiet on the issue. Under the so-called Przino rules, 100 days before the day of elections the Prime Minister as well as key ministers have to resign, their departments taken by opposition candidates who will ensure that the election is free and fair.
Zaev and Tsipras nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by Socialists and Democrats, Greens and United Left (Nezavisen vesnik)
Prime Ministers Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras have been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize by the leader of the EU parliament Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group Udo Bullmann, of the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) Ska Keller and of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Gabbi Zimmer, Greek news agency ANA-MPA reported on Saturday.
In a joint statement they stressed that “the Prespa Agreement between Greece and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia puts an end to a log-lasting dispute and brings stability to the western Balkan region.” They noted that the Prespa Agreement, which has been ratified by the parliaments of both countries, is “a model for peacefully resolving international problems through dialogue and mutual compromise. Prime Ministers Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras had the political courage to go ahead with the agreement despite the nationalist opposition.”
In their joint statement, Keller, Bullmann and Zimmer said, “for all these reasons, we support Nobel Prize winner’s Wided Bouchamaoui nomination of Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev for the 2019 Peace Nobel Prize.”“Now we will finally be able to say: Welcome to the Republic of North Macedonia,” said head of the Group Udo Bullmann in a written message, adding that the ratification proves that progressive political powers are able to resolve long-standing disagreements and to make difficult compromises that nationalists or conservatives failed to achieve for nearly three decades.
Juncker, Mogherini and Hahn welcome the ratification of Prespa Agreement (Meta)
In a joint statement, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn welcomed the ratification of the Prespa Agreement in Greek Parliament.
“We warmly welcome the next crucial step in the ratification of the Prespa agreement, taken with today’s vote by the Hellenic parliament. From the very beginning, the European Union has strongly supported the historic agreement signed by Prime Ministers Tsipras and Zaev, following negotiations under the auspices of the UN. It took political courage, leadership and responsibility on all sides to resolve one of the most entrenched disputes in the region. Both countries have seized this unique opportunity which sets an example of reconciliation for Europe as a whole and will give a further boost to the European perspective of the region.
While we look forward to the next procedural steps leading towards the full implementation of the agreement, we can already say with confidence today that Athens and Skopje have, together, written a new page of our common EU future,” said Juncker, Mogherini and Han.
Five more steps to the chair at the NATO table (Meta)
After the Greek parliament, with 153 votes in favor, ratified the Prespa Agreement between Macedonia and Greece, now, there are five left of the seven formal steps that separate Macedonia from full-fledged NATO membership. The process, according to some announcements, should finish at the end of the year or early next year. The first and second step, that is, the formal implementation of the Prespa Agreement in both countries ended – on January 11 in Macedonia and two weeks later – on January 25 in Greece. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the ratification of the treaty in Greek Parliament. “The Prespa Agreement is an important contribution to the stability and prosperity of the entire region. I look forward to the future North Macedonia becoming a NATO member,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter. The next step is for NATO to prepare a Protocol to the Washington Treaty on Accession for the new member. This is in fact an amendment to the original North Atlantic Treaty Agreement, signed in 1949. Immediately after that, the fourth step begins, which is the ratification of the protocol, when each of the 29 NATO members has to ratify the protocol according to the national procedures. The procedure varies in each country. The process is expected to be completed by the end of the year, while Greece has announced that it will be the first to ratify the protocol. During this ratification process, Macedonia is permitted to participate on a certain level in the processes of the Alliance. For example, Macedonia can participate in all forums and meetings, but without voting rights. Or, as Macedonian officials say, “they will get a chair at the NATO table”. The fifth step is the formal invitation to join NATO, which will be sent to Macedonia by the NATO Secretary General after all States have notified the United States; the depositor of the agreement, that they have ratified the protocol.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Putin’s Next Playground or the E.U.’s Last Moral Stand? (The New York Times, by Ivan Krastev, 28 January 2019)
The Balkans has once again become a playground for great power politics.
“In the Balkans the transition is over,” Remzi Lani, an Albanian political analyst, told me some time ago. But unlike in many post-Communist countries, Mr. Lani didn’t mean a transformation from dictatorship to democracy. “We transitioned from repressive to depressive regimes.” He is right. The old Communists and radical ethnic nationalists are largely gone; in their places is stagnation — economic, social and political. The question now is how these depressive regimes fit into a growing geopolitical rivalry. A day before his recent visit to Belgrade, Serbia, President Vladimir Putin of Russia expressed his great displeasure with Macedonia’s name change and accused “the United States and certain Western countries” of “destabilizing” the region; the Russian foreign minister, meanwhile, denounced “the willingness of the United States to lead all Balkan states into NATO as soon as possible and to remove any Russian influence in this region.” Russia wants to make clear that this is not what the people in the region want. Watching Mr. Putin’s visit to Belgrade and listening to his rhetoric, one couldn’t help but conclude that the confrontation in the Balkans between the West and Russia is changing both in nature and intensity. In the last decade, Russia was actively defending its economic and cultural presence in the region, but it never openly challenged NATO or European Union hegemony. Not anymore. At first glance, Russia’s ambitions seem unrealistic. The Balkans remain firmly entrenched in the West: Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro are all NATO members and Macedonia is on its way. Every country in the region is either a member of the European Union or aspires to join it. The European Union is far and away the region’s top trading partner, its biggest investor and the preferred destination for emigration. The conventional wisdom is that Russia might be a troublemaker but could hardly be more. The conventional wisdom could be wrong. Moscow has sensed a critical vulnerability in the West’s position in the Balkans: While in places like Ukraine the European Union has been perceived as a symbol of change, in the Balkans it’s seen as the defender of a status quo that may be ready for disruption. Publics are frustrated and angry. Ethnic tensions are on the rise. Almost every country in the region has seen large-scale antigovernment demonstrations. Economic growth is sluggish in most places, misery is widespread and the depopulation of the region is dramatic: More than 40 percent of people born in Bosnia and Herzegovina have left the country; about 40 percent of those born in Albania and about 25 percent of those born in Macedonia have done the same. And while polls show that a majority of people still sees joining the European Union as the best road to prosperity, the promise of European integration is losing its talismanic power. Not only does the European Union’s future look uncertain, but leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France have made it clear that they will not spend political capital advocating for the integration of the Western Balkans. And yet, even as sentiment in the region has changed, the European Union is reluctant to change its approach to it. This is in part the result of bureaucratic inertia and a lack of political interest. But it also comes from a fear that any policy change in the Balkans will seem like a betrayal of principles. The wars in the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia played a critical role in shaping the European Union’s post-Cold War political identity. Europeans saw the nearby tragedy not as a clash between states or nations but between two principles: the principle of ethnic nationalism, represented by Slobodan Milosevic, and the principle of multiethnic democracy, embodied by the European Union. Consequently, European Union policy toward the Balkans is more driven by ideology than in any other part of the world. Europe’s ideological rigidity is admirable, but it is also partly responsible for the region’s paralysis. This is best illustrated by the European Union’s role in the ongoing diplomacy between Serbia and Kosovo. The dialogue was initiated and encouraged by the European Union because everybody realizes that mutual recognition between Belgrade and Pristina is the only way to remove the obstacles for deeper economic cooperation and pave the way for Serbia and Kosovo to join the European Union. But when President Alexander Vucic of Serbia and his counterpart in Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, began addressing the sensitive question of “correcting” their borders in order to reach a final agreement, major European capitals quickly declared that they would never allow it. Changing borders is never a great idea, especially after the traumatic experience of ethnic wars in the Balkans. But telling elected leaders that they cannot shape relations between their countries isn’t a great idea, either. So while European fears are legitimate about how changing the Kosovo-Serbia border could encourage other countries to follow suit, and the European Union is right to insist that any border changes should be supported by the majority of people in those countries, the message comes across poorly. It sounds like Europe is telling its naughty neighbor to stay away from sharp objects. And that’s why it has backfired. The chances for a Serbia-Kosovo deal today are much worse than they were months ago, and the risk of ethnic clashes is higher.
That’s where Russia comes in. Last November, Mr. Putin met Mr. Thaci, despite the fact that Moscow doesn’t recognize Kosovo as a state. The meeting signaled that Russia does not see its role in the Balkans only as Serbia’s protector, but also as a potential power broker. That’s why Europeans should not be surprised if Russia soon produces its own road map for normalizing Serbian-Albanian relations. (They also shouldn’t be surprised if Turkey expresses interest in such a Russian initiative.) In other words, Russia’s actions in the Balkans are not only spoiling games. Moscow wants to replace the European Union as the mediator for solving regional conflicts, in the way it is attempting — largely successfully — to replace the United States as a mediator in the Middle East. On Friday, after 27 wasted years of disputes, the Greek Parliament finally approved Macedonia’s new name, North Macedonia, putting an end to one of the conflicts that has been haunting the Balkans. This was a real victory for the European strategy for the region. Now, Europe should find similar energy and flexibility to push Serbia and Kosovo to find their own compromise. That’s the only way it can stay relevant in the region — not by being a force for the status quo.
Ivan Krastev is a contributing opinion writer, the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and the author, most recently, of “After Europe.”
The Balkans: Did The Prespa Agreement Open Up Pandora’s Box? (Sputnik, by Andrew Korybko, 26 January 2019)
The Prespa Agreement that was signed last summer between Macedonia and Greece over changing the former’s name seems to have opened up Pandora’s Box and is provoking regional destabilization. The Macedonian parliament passed an amendment earlier this month renaming the country as the so-called “Republic of North Macedonia” following accusations that the ruling party bribed and coerced various legislators to go along with it. In what was likely a quid-pro-quo with the minority Albanian representatives, the parliament also passed another law soon thereafter making Albanian an official language, though President Ivanov didn’t sign off on either proposal and claims that both moves are illegal. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also questioned the legitimacy of the name change process, suggesting that it might be part of a plot to facilitate the landlocked country’s entry into NATO. He has a valid point too because Macedonia will be fast-tracked into the military bloc if Athens approves of the agreement, though therein lies the bone of contention because many Greeks are adamantly opposed to the deal because they regard it as a sell-out of their national heritage. Large-scale but peaceful protests over the weekend were violently broken up by police and masked provocateurs, injuring a Sputnik stringer and many others who were caught up in the fracas. Tsipras’ government also narrowly survived a vote of no confidence earlier this month as well, though there are fears that it might collapse if it moves any closer towards certifying the deal. All of this renewed — and some might cynically say, preplanned and deliberately weaponized — destabilization is occurring at a very sensitive moment for the Balkans. The specter of so-called “Greater Albania” looms larger than ever after Macedonia’s controversial language law was just passed, while Turkey continues breathing down Greece’s neck in the eastern Aegean. Asymmetrical and conventional threats abound, and both countries’ governments are under serious pressure by patriotic protesters who oppose the Prespa Agreement but are being maligned as “Russian agents” as part of an international disinformation campaign meant to delegitimize their views. All the while, former British diplomat Timothy Less’ explosive late-2016 proposal to re-divide the Balkans along ethnic lines continues to gain support in various sectors and might be facilitated by the latest developments. The prevailing uncertainty in the region that was brought about by the Prespa Agreement worryingly makes it seem like Pandora’s Box is reopening and that the Balkans are bound to remain a tinderbox.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Dr. Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D., an independent journalist based in Athens, producer and host of Dialogos Radio, communications faculty at the American College of Greece and Marija Kotovska, Macedonian journalist who previously worked as a long-time correspondent in Athens.