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Belgrade Media Report 08 March

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic to Hale: Serbia’s stand will be resolute, measures within short period (RTS)
• Drecun: Vucic heard firsthand what steps will Washington undertake towards Pristina (RTS)
• Brnabic announces measured and responsible reaction (RTS)
• Selakovic: Only goal of Pristina’s platform is for Serbia to recognize Kosovo (RTS)
• Djuric: Pristina screwed the last nail on the coffin of the dialogue; this is the end of dialogue (RTS)
• Serbia, Russia relations at high level (Tanjug)
• Zakharova: Russia, US, France have secret Kosovo deal? Not serious (B92/Sputnik)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• US Ambassador Nelson: Creating goals for NATO and EU membership is priority (Srna)
• HNS: CEC to withdraw its decision, Serbian caucus to be filled with legitimate representatives (Srna)
• Viskovic: Formation of institutions at all levels in B&H is priority (Srna)
• It will take lot of effort for B&H to explain to the EU it is not source of jihadism (Srna)
Montenegro
• Djukanovic greeted the Greek President (RTCG)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Analysis: The presidential race begins – the outcome, uncertain (Meta)
• Instead of a consensual candidate, Pendarovski is nominated to save Zaev’s career (Republika)
Albania
• EU Ambassador Soreca: Establishment of a constructive political environment is important (ADN)
• Danielsson: Opposition’s decision threatens Albania’s integration to EU (ADN)
• UK to support Albania for consolidating democracy and Rule of Law (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Juneau: NATO enlargement a success, but we respect Serbia’s neutrality (European Western Balkans)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic to Hale: Serbia’s stand will be resolute, measures within short period (RTS)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met today with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale. The main topic of talks was the situation in Kosovo and Metohija. Vucic said that the platform for the dialogue, adopted in Pristina yesterday, is essentially Pristina’s decision to cease the dialogue with Belgrade, reads the statement of the President’s Media Relations Office. He notes that he had warned a long time ago the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and her team that the adoption of this kind of platform doesn’t leave room for a compromise solution and that, thus, the platform is against the dialogue, especially along with the stubborn refusal of Pristina to abolish the unreasonable and damaging taxes on goods from Serbia proper. The Serbian President has stated that the state of Serbia will adopt measures in a relatively short period with which it will react to the non-fulfillment of the obligations from the Brussels agreement, to the introduction of taxes and Pristina’s decision on the cessation of any dialogue with Belgrade, just as Serbia’s stand will be resolute, serious, responsible and firm.

“The US calls for the abolishment of taxes, stopping of mutual provocations and the resumption of the dialogue. US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale in talks with the Serbian President stresses that the US appreciates partnership with Serbia and wish to build even stronger relations,” it was written on US Embassy’s Tweeter from today’s meeting at the Serbian Presidency.

 

Drecun: Vucic heard firsthand what steps will Washington undertake towards Pristina (RTS)

 

The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has assessed for RTS that the meeting between President Vucic and US Under Secretary David Hale is important. He says that Vucic, with his associates, had heard firsthand what steps will Washington undertake towards Pristina in order to create conditions for resumption of the dialogue. “Vucic will have a clear situation on what are the stands of President Trump’s administration,” said Drecun.

 

Brnabic announces measured and responsible reaction (RTS)

 

Following the session of the National Security Council, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has stated the platform is contrary to common sense. She said that Belgrade’s response to the adoption of the platform for the dialogue in Pristina will be measured and responsible. She says that Serbia will protect the interests of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. “We will be careful about our reaction, analyze all its aspects. The reaction will be responsible, but we will protect at every moment the interests of Serbia and all of our citizens,” Brnabic said. Brnabic says that the conclusion of the meeting is that the adoption of the platform is the third and final blow to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. The people in Kosovo had systematically opted for stopping the dialogue, Brnabic said. He announced that she, President Vucic and Minister Dacic would meet on Sunday morning with Serbian Patriarch Irinej and the Synod in order to discuss the whole situation since it is clear that Pristina had ceased the dialogue. “I will recall that the first blow was the disrespect of the Brussels agreement, Pristina has not implemented a single letter from the dialogue. They didn’t form the Community of Serb Municipalities, and this was Pristina’s only obligation and the spine of the agreement,” said Brnabic. The second blow was the introduction of taxes. “I remind that the taxes were first introduced on 6 November. Due to the mild reaction of the international community, they were increased on 21 November to the unbelievable 100 percent and they haven’t been abolished to this day,” said Brnabic. Therefore, Pristina has given a clear message to the EU and the US that taxes will not be abolished,” said Brnabic. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, security agency BIA chief Bratislav Gasic, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, Army chief Lieutenant General Milan Mojsilovic, Director of the Police Vladimir Rebic, and other officials.

 

Selakovic: Only goal of Pristina’s platform is for Serbia to recognize Kosovo (RTS)

 

Serbian President’s General Secretary Nikola Selakovic told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the only goal of the platform adopted by Pristina is how Serbia to recognize Kosovo. He recalls that Pristina had only one obligation with the Brussels agreement, the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities, which it didn’t fulfill, and then it had introduced taxes. “With the introduction of anti-civilization taxes, Pristina has violated regional security and economic stability. Essentially no response has arrived from the world. Now we have the adoption of a platform that refers to and rests on the so-called Kosovo constitution, territorial integrity and sovereignty, which has the only goal of how Serbia to recognize Kosovo,” said Selakovic. He says that in items 1 and 5 of the platform, Pristina refers to the opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). “They claim that the ICJ, at the request of Tadic, Djilas and Jeremic’s regime, established that declaration of independent Kosovo is in accordance with international public law. What is important for us is that Vucic warned about this platform the entire world five months ago. Now we received the platform, whereby the entire process of the dialogue is being stopped,” said Selakovic.

 

Djuric: Pristina screwed the last nail on the coffin of the dialogue; this is the end of dialogue (RTS)

 

Speaking at an extraordinary press conference at the Serbian government, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said that the decision of the provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina to adopt a platform stating that the only possible outcome of the dialogue is the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, without dealing with the rights and position of the Serbs, is the end of the dialogue. All this represent the last nail on the coffin of the dialogue process and clearly shows that Pristina had sent a message to the entire world that this is the end of the dialogue for them. He also said that Pristina put Serbia in the worst position since 2011 when Albanians, with the help of their Western partners, made a border in Jarinje and Brnjak and showed to the whole world that it does not want dialogue. Djuric stated that the platform envisages that the only possible outcome of the dialogue with Belgrade can be the recognition of “Kosovo’s independence”, and that the only possible solution could be the one defined by the already existing “Kosovo Constitution”, while not mentioning with one single sentence the rights and position of the Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo-Metohija, their property or the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church. First of all, with the decision not to implement the agreement on the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities, and today is the 2.148th day since Pristina took over this obligation, they gave a fatal blow to the dialogue, then by adopting the anti-civilizational taxes on Serbian goods they gave the second blow which created an impossible environment for the dialogue, and now with this final act, they sent a clear message that for them the dialogue is finished, Djuric pointed out. Djuric recalled that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been warning the entire international public in recent months that if this platform were to be adopted, that would be the end of the dialogue. I was present when the President of Serbia also warned Federica Mogherini and various other officials and when they promised him that this would not only not be adopted, but that such an act, such a platform against dialogue would never come to the agenda of the parliament in Pristina, Djuric said. He added that now that this platform against dialogue, peace and the future has been adopted, “the only answer from those people is silence”.

 

Serbia, Russia relations at high level (Tanjug)

 

After a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for trade, economic and scientific-technical cooperation of Serbia and the Russian Federation, Dacic specified that out of the $1 billion of Serbian exports to that country, $350 million are for agricultural products, while most of the Serbian imports from Russia are made up of energy products. Dacic, who is also co-chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee, expressed the hope that some of the countries through which the Turkish Stream gas pipeline should pass, will not give up on this project. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov explained that when it comes to the construction of the Turkish Stream, not all depends on Russia, but on Hungary and Bulgaria too. Borisov said he received assurances from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that Bulgaria and Hungary are ready to build this gas pipeline. He also assessed that the relations between the two countries are at a high level and that new areas of cooperation are being sought.

 

Zakharova: Russia, US, France have secret Kosovo deal? Not serious (B92/Sputnik)

 

“Moscow denies the reporting of Kosovo media that Russia, France and the United States have allegedly agreed on recognizing Kosovo,” the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia Maria Zahkarova. “Your answer is contained in your question: ‘Albanian language Kosovo media, citing German sources.’ I do not think we can talk about this seriously. Everything regarding the position of Serbia on resolving the Kosovo issue is most actively being commented on by the President of Serbia, practically on a daily basis. This is about assessments of the process and about the difficulties faced by the leadership of Serbia during those negotiations,” Zahkarova replied. According to her, the sources of the reports leave no room to be believed, Sputnik is reporting on Thursday.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

US Ambassador Nelson: Creating goals for NATO and EU membership is priority (Srna)

 

US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Eric Nelson said that his priority will be to help B&H progress towards achieving the set goals for NATO and EU membership. At the first press conference since taking office in Sarajevo, Nelson said that the United States will continue to be alongside those who are working on making progress, since poor economy and high unemployment rate are undermining stability. “Endemic corruption has been discouraging productivity and foreign investors, forcing the most talented and ambitious to leave the country. The United States will continue to help B&H improve the work of law enforcement agencies, increase border security and combat terrorism and violent extremism, as well as foreign influences which prevent country from progressing,” said Nelson. According to him, the United States will continue to promote efficient government and rule of law, a higher degree of transparency and accountability, and help the citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation and identity. “Our support and assistance cover the entire B&H in improving the quality of education and support to media freedom and civil society. We are working on improving the business climate, promoting tax reform, modernizing the energy sector and helping farmers to access the EU market,” he said. Nelson said that, as an Ambassador, he will continue to prove that the United States is a true friend of B&H, clarifying the existing possibility for continuing and improving the partnership with NATO. “NATO allies have called on B&H to submit an Annual National Program, a technical document that will enable the Alliance to extend support for B&H’s priorities, including the fight against terrorism, border security, reaction to natural disasters, cyber security, and the advancement of defense reform” he said. The US Ambassador highlighted that the submission of the Annual National Program does not mean that B&H becomes a NATO member, but it is one more step forward in this partnership. “The United States counts on B&H when it comes to its important partnership with NATO. Implementation of harmonized reforms is always an important signal to investors and partners. Meanwhile, I will work to help more citizens realize that the NATO platform that provides security, is everyone’s stability in the country,” Nelson said. He said he is aware that talks in B&H regarding the formation of authorities are under way, voicing his belief that there is a clear consensus on the partnership with NATO. “I believe there is room for reaching an agreement. It is clear that the United States and NATO’s interest is to protect peace in B&H.” Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik, when accepted my credentials, thanked the United States for helping to end the war and establish peace,” Nelson said. He stressed that peace is an important achievement that needs to be maintained and improved, and that he will make progress in the partnership with the United States through new talks with leaders in B&H. Nelson underlined the clear position of the US that there are no parallels between the Belgrade – Pristina negotiations and B&H, stressing that the entire region requires political courage to make important compromises and improve the security of the Western Balkans. He also spoke about the influence of the Russian Federation in the region, stating that the country is an important partner in the Peace Implementation Council, with which they need to agree and align positions. Nelson said there is a negative influence of Russia in the Western Balkans in the attempts to destabilize Montenegro, saying that the United States is seriously opposing to it. The US Ambassador said that the United States will help the B&H authorities when it comes to the exchange of information about militants at foreign battlefields and that the focus will be on the preparations for their return in the future, noting that more information when it comes to this issue will be available in the coming period.

 

HNS: CEC to withdraw its decision, Serbian caucus to be filled with legitimate representatives (Srna)

 

The Croatian People’s Assembly (HNS) called on the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) to withdraw “illegal and unconstitutional criteria and a way to fill vacancies” in the Serbian Caucus in the Federation of B&H. The HNS says that the B&H CEC these days went a step further in violation of constitutional provisions and the B&H Election Law after it adopted guidelines for the procedure of implementing indirect elections which, contrary to the decision of the B&H Constitutional Court, define a way of filling vacancies in the Federation of B&H House of Peoples, even though this is in the exclusive jurisdiction of the B&H Election Law, that is, the Parliamentary Assembly of B&H. A press release issued by the HNS says that the Serbian Caucus was not filled in this election cycle as well, as was the case in the previous Federation of B&H House of Peoples. The HNS says that during numerous meetings between political party representatives in B&H, participants expressed commitment to resolve the issue of vacancies in a Caucus of one of the constituent peoples or others in a satisfactory way, and this can be done similar to the filling of vacancies in the RS Council of Peoples. “The parties of the HNS are committed to having the Serbian Caucus filled in keeping with the law, with legitimate representatives of the Serbian people. It is incomprehensible that the OHR and other self-righteous people in the so-called International Community are peacefully watching the obvious violation of the Federation of B&H Constitution and the B&H Election Law which clearly stipulate that members of the Federation of B&H House of Peoples must be from among elected members of the Canton Assemblies,” says the HNS. The HNS says that the B&H CEC adopted “unlawful and unconstitutional criteria and a way of filling vacancies” according to which people who have not been elected to some of the Canton Assemblies and were not on the list of candidates for members of the House of Peoples will enter the House of Peoples. The HNS says that the Federation of B&H Constitution clearly says in Article 8, Item 4, that “Bosniak, Croatian and Serb delegates from every Canton are elected by members of Canton Assemblies from among the constitutional people in question in keeping with election results in the legislative body of that Canton, and the B&H Election Law, Article 10.11, says that “Bosniak, Croat and Serb members of Canton Assemblies, and Canton Assembly members from among others, choose delegates from among their people in that Canton Assembly.” “It is absurd that despite precise regulations of the Constitution and Law, the CEC allocates seats to people who were not elected, were not on the list of candidates for the House of Peoples and did not take part in the election process. Such action is contrary to basic democratic principles of the election process and does not secure one of the basic principles, to which the B&H Constitutional Court also points, it being the principle of legitimate representation, which, particularly in the election of delegates to the House of Peoples, must be consistently respected,” says the HNS. The HNS vehemently condemns such actions by the B&H CEC, and calls on the Commission to withdraw unlawful and unconstitutional “criteria and a way of filling vacancies.” “In a situation when the implementation of the decision of the B&H Constitutional Court on amendments to the B&H Election Law is being obstructed, when there exist abuses and manipulations with declaration of ethnic affiliation and after illegitimate election of the Croatian member of the B&H Presidency, such moves by the B&H CEC create additional tensions and raise concerns that citizens and constituent peoples, that is, their legitimate election will, can be tricked by the state body tasked with organizing and conducting elections,” says the HNS. Based on earlier adopted criteria, the B&H CEC on 5 March made a decision to fill three vacancies in the Serbian Caucus, and allocated seats to Dragan Stevanovic (unelected candidate from the list of the SDP B&H for the Sarajevo Canton Assembly), Nikica Bosnic (unelected candidate from the Serbian List for the Canton 10 Assembly) and Mladen Lonic (unelected candidate from the SDP B&H list for the Una-Sana Canton Assembly)

 

Viskovic: Formation of institutions at all levels in B&H is priority (Srna)

 

RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said that having institutions at all levels of authority in B&H formed as soon as possible is priority in order to ensure harmonization and continuity in the implementation of reform processes. During the talks with Bulgarian Ambassador to B&H Avgustina Cvetkova, Viskovic stressed that the RS Government is committed to the European integration process, with full respect for constitutional order and coordination of all levels of authority in B&H, announced the Public Relations Bureau of the RS government. The meeting participants voiced satisfaction with the current RS – Bulgaria cooperation and assessed that there is a good basis for further improvement at all levels, especially when it comes to the economy and investment projects implementation. Viskovic and Cvetkova noted a possibility of improving cooperation in sharing Bulgaria’s knowledge and experience in using pre-accession funds and defining reform measures. The prime minister of RS informed Cvetkova about the activities the RS institutions are implementing in accordance with the defined priorities and the EU accession process, reads the statement.

 

It will take lot of effort for B&H to explain to the EU it is not source of jihadism (Srna)

 

Executive Director of the Strategic Alternatives Centre Dusan Prorokovic believes that it will take a lot of time, energy and effort for the Muslim leadership in Sarajevo to explain to the EU that B&H is not a source of jihadism. Commenting on the arrest of Amir Selimovic, a member of the Islamic State, terrorist organization, at the Syria – Iraq border, he told Srna that Islamic militants will be one of the problems that Sarajevo will be facing in the international arena in the coming years, which has already happened to Pristina. “Challenges, threats and risks of their return are great for the RS, and for the Muslim population too,” says Prorokovic. He said that, according to a survey published, self-declared Kosovo has less support of the EU member states for the accession to the Union than Turkey. “Radical Islam that nested there is one of the reasons. Kosovo is no longer recognized as a symbol of `Serbian repression against innocent Albanians`, but as a source of jihadism that can threaten Vienna, Berlin and Paris, and Sarajevo is listed the second,” said Prorokovic. He said that the Serbs have been living with the radical Islam problem since the beginning of the 1990s war, but the international community refusing to recognize it was the problem. According to him, Al Qaeda and other fractions of the Muslim fraternity were “useful idiots” in that war, if that term was understood in the manner defined by Lenin. “They served the purpose of NATO to fight in the Balkans against the Serbs, and a little bit against the Croat units,” Prorokovic said.

 

Djukanovic greeted the Greek President (RTCG)

 

President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic greeted President of the Republic of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos with the highest national honors. Pavlopoulos is on a two-day official visit to Montenegro. President Pavlopoulos will also meet with Assembly Speaker Ivan Brajovic and Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. On the second day of his visit, the President of Greece will hold a lecture at the Faculty of Law of the University of Montenegro on the topic “Rule of Law and European Integration”.

 

Analysis: The presidential race begins – the outcome, uncertain (Meta)

 

At the end of the SDSM Congress on 3 March, the three candidates for the presidency of the Republic of North Macedonia became clear and were confirmed for the first time in the recent history of the country, as so-called ‘consensus candidates’. Names are known, dates as well, but what is yet unknown, for many reasons, is when the country actually chooses its new president.

At the sixth presidential elections, since independence until today, the public will elect the fifth president from the three candidates and all of them professors: Stevo Pendarovski, nominated by the ruling coalition; Gordana Siljanovska, nominated by VMRO-DPMNE and Blerim Reka, a self-nominated independent candidate. However, Blerim Reka are supported de facto and de jure by the Albanian opposition parliamentary parties, Alliance for Albanians and the Besa Movement. The candidates are prominent people, well-known in politics and wider society, and there is nothing disputable about them to begin with, in terms of skeletons from the past. The professors were all involved in politics, and Mr. Reka was the ambassador of the former Republic of Macedonia at the EU headquarters in Brussels. However, this is not the reason why these presidential elections make them extremely uncertain. The problem is in the censuses embedded in the Constitution for the second round, connected with the mobilization power of the political parties, whose reputation with the public, especially among the undecided, but also among some of the supporters, is seriously debatable. Many serious analysts agree that the census will be a problem. It is not expected to be a problem in the first round, as all major parties currently have motives to mobilize voters to the maximum. The experience with the recent consultative referendum on the Prespa Agreement has shown that if one of the two major parties in the Macedonian bloc boycotts or abstains, the census of 50 percent or more than 902 thousand voters (as was the last one) is an impossible mission. However, this time, the second-round census, which has been reduced to 40 percent of the registered voters, seemingly paradoxical, could be a problem. Firstly, these elections are not going to be held alongside with parliamentary or local elections, as in the past, where there were more voters at the polling stations. Secondly, depending on the difference between the two best placed candidates in the first round, the more serious public might not exclude the possibility of a silent boycott of one of the parties, in order to cause a rerun of the procedure, this time with extraordinary parliamentary elections. The pressure in this direction might come from supporters of the third-place candidate, in this case, let’s use Reka as an example, if they can gather between 80 and 100 thousand votes, more than half of the Albanian voting tank. As can be seen, the pre-election period has unofficially lasted for a long time, the race will be officially begun on April 1st and elections will be held on 21 April and 5 May. Whether they will end up with an elected candidate, is not certain at the this point in time.

 

Instead of a consensual candidate, Pendarovski is nominated to save Zaev’s career (Republika)

 

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski considers the SDSM – DUI presidential candidate Stevo Pendarovski a candidate offered to try and help save PM Zoran Zaev’s political career. Pendarovski was declared a “consensual” candidate by SDSM and DUI, which the two parties consider a presidential candidate approved by ethnic Albanians as well as Macedonians, but his nomination only served to spark the candidacy of Blerim Reka as an Albanian opposition candidate. “I’m honestly confused if Mr. Pendarovski is a consensual candidate or not, and he himself seems confused. He first said he is, then that he isn’t, he said he will support SDSM positions, then denied it. What is clear that he is not a consensual candidate, but is the candidate sent out to help save Zoran Zaev’s political career, and to solidify the Zaevism,” Mickoski said in a TV interview.

 

EU Ambassador Soreca: Establishment of a constructive political environment is important (ADN)

 

The EU Ambassador in Tirana, Luigi Soreca, has reacted on Thursday regarding the political situation in Albania. According to him, the establishment of a constructive political environment is important for the country’s development. “I hope for all the citizens of Albania that our invitation to restore a more constructive political environment is not left unheard. This is a shared national mission,” said Soreca. Soreca was present at all meetings of the Director General for EU Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiation, Christian Danielsson, where the political situation in the country was discussed, among other things.

 

Danielsson: Opposition’s decision threatens Albania’s integration to EU (ADN)

 

After holding separate meetings with Premier Edi Rama and Democratic chairman, Lulzim Basha, Director-General for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, Christian Danielsson, spoke for the media on the current political situation in Albania. Danielsson stated that the opposition’s decision to burn mandates threatens the journey of Albania towards EU integration. “I have stressed that the ‘burning’ of mandates threatens the country’s path to EU integration. The parliament is a country’s pillar, the engine of any mature democracy. The right conditions have to be created for a constructive dialogue in the parliament. Albania faces challenges but the only democratic way to solve issues remains to engage in parliament. Incitement to violent actions in protests is absolutely unacceptable,” declared Danielsson.

 

UK to support Albania for consolidating democracy and Rule of Law (ADN)

 

Albanian President Ilir Meta was received on Thursday by Minister for Europe of United Kingdom, Sir Alan Duncan. During his speech, the Head of the State was expressed determined that the UK’s commitment to the Western Balkans region is indispensable. Minister Duncan and President Meta shared similar views on developments in the region, the historic progress of northern Macedonia and the importance of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue to conclude in reaching an agreement that will strengthen the stability and the European future of the whole region. Minister Duncan assured President Meta that UK will continue to be present in Albania and the region in order to consolidate democracy and the rule of law. By appreciating the importance of strengthening cooperation in the areas of security, the fight against organized crime and the rule of law, President Meta stressed the importance of increasing economic and trade cooperation between the two countries in the future at higher levels.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Juneau: NATO enlargement a success, but we respect Serbia’s neutrality (European Western Balkans, by Nikola Burazer, 8 March 2019)

 

Interview with Lieutenant-General Christian Juneau, deputy commander of NATO JFC Naples. The interview was conducted in Belgrade during Juneau’s recent visit to the Serbian capital.

European Western Balkans: What do you see as the main interest behind NATO involvement in the Western Balkans, and the evident NATO enlargement in the region of the Western Balkans in the past two years?

Christian Juneau: The enlargement of NATO has been quite a success, I think it has helped to improve the security, stability, democracy and the prosperity of nations joining NATO. But at the end of the day, it is for nations themselves to decide if they want to join NATO or not. In the case of Serbia, it’s very clear, Serbia is not interested in joining NATO, and we respect that. You want to keep your military neutrality as well, and we respect that. That does not prevent us from partnering at many levels, such as the Partnership for Peace Program and the IPAP (Individual partnership action plan). We have effective efforts in cooperation between NATO and Serbia, and we are very happy about that.

EWB: Looking at the entire region of the Western Balkans, what do you consider to be the most important security threats that the region faces? 

CJ: Obviously, this region has come a long way since the 90s, but we have to focus on the future. Right now, the region is much better and safer than before, but we are at a point now when we have to be really careful about the aggressive words or actions, that could raise the tension and bring us back to the situations which we want to avoid.

EWB: How much do you think the security situation has changed in the past couple of years, after Montenegro joined NATO and now after North Macedonia started its own process of NATO accession? 

CJ: Joining NATO has been a very positive experience for all countries. It’s been a great success and I think, from a Western Balkans perspective, it also helps us in strengthening the Alliance and providing stability and security in the region.

So in that sense, adding the 29th nation that joined in 2017, and now having the Republic of North Macedonia which has started the process of joining, is good news. We fully respect the fact that some nations decide not to join NATO and it doesn’t prevent us for working with them very closely. I’ll give you a few examples: Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, just to name a few.

EWB: Do you think the possibility of external threats to the region – here I primarily mean the Russian influence which appears to have been a concern for NATO the past couple of years – has diminished in the past few years having in mind the accession of Montenegro to NATO and soon the accession of North Macedonia? 

CJ: For NATO, it is important that the partnership that we have established with Serbia continues to progress. Back to Russia, of course, they are trying to influence the region, and we are watching what they are doing, but they’re also watching what we’re doing. We want countries to be able to act and to make their political decisions independently without pressure from outside forces.

EWB: Do you think that without full membership of Western Balkans countries in NATO, we can talk about the full security and stability of the region?

CJ: Each nation decides if they want to join NATO or not. The situation currently is stable, we have good relationships with the nations that are not the part of NATO, and we’re happy about that.

EWB: There are concerns that EU enlargement in the Western Balkans might come to a halt and that NATO enlargement is something of compensation – a process that should stabilize the region in the absence of EU integration prospects. How do you comment on this statement?

CJ: Actually, what you’re saying is a bit of speculation, but what I would say for the region is that being a part of Euro-Atlantic integration is for those who want it, and we will welcome it, and as for those who do not want to be a part of the Alliance, we will respect their decision. Joining the EU and joining NATO has given benefits for countries and their citizens. But this is the decision – a sovereign decision that must be made by a sovereign country.

EWB: How do you rate the cooperation between NATO and Serbia, as it appears to be growing in the past couple of years?

CJ: The relationship is really good. It helps us in deepening the political dialogue between NATO and Serbia, also there are practical aspect of cooperation, we have programs in the military domain, the scientific and technological domain, and all this is to the mutual benefit to both NATO and Serbia. So it’s progressing well.

 

 

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