Tag Archives: Kosovo

EU on Serbia elections

Serbia held parliamentary, provincial and local elections on 21 June; one of the first elections held in Europe since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

While contestants in Serbia’s parliamentary elections were able to campaign and fundamental freedoms were respected, voter choice was limited by the governing party’s overwhelming advantage and the promotion of government policies by most major media outlets, according to the preliminary findings and conclusions of the international observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The European Union looks forward to the OSCE/ODIHR final report and recommendations for future elections to be issued in the coming months. We expect all political actors and relevant institutions to engage in a transparent, decisive and inclusive dialogue on the implementation of these recommendations to address long-standing electoral shortcomings well ahead of the next elections.

We encourage the new parliament to continue to engage in the inter-party dialogue led by the European Parliament, with a view to forging broad cross-party consensus on EU-related reforms, which is vital for the country’s progress on its EU path. We also encourage the Serbian leadership to engage in a genuine dialogue across the political spectrum to take forward important reforms on the rule of law, fight against organised crime and corruption.

The European Union looks forward to engaging with the next government to take forward swiftly the urgent reforms necessary for Serbia’s EU accession. This concerns in particular the rule of law, which lies at the heart of the accession process and should be at the forefront of the next government’s political priorities, and socio-economic reforms, crucial for post COVID-19 pandemic recovery. We also count on Serbia’s continued full engagement in the EU-facilitated Dialogue as well as regional cooperation more broadly.

As Serbia’s top donor and investor, and its most important trade and economic partner, the European Union is fully committed to continue supporting Serbia’s EU accession process as well as economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis, including through the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans due in the autumn.

Image: Belgrade, Serbia

NATO regrets Kosovo “ill-timed” army formation

Today, the Institutions in Kosovo have announced the adoption of the three laws initiating the process of transition of the Kosovo Security Force“-  Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO  said in an issued statement.

“I regret that this decision was made despite the concerns expressed by NATO. While the transition of the Kosovo Security Force is in principle a matter for Kosovo to decide, we have made clear that this move  is ill-timed. 

“NATO supports the development of the Kosovo Security Force under its current mandate. With the change of mandate, the North Atlantic Council will now have to re-examine the level of NATO’s engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.

“NATO remains committed through KFOR to a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and to stability in the wider Western Balkans.

“All sides must ensure that today’s decision will not further increase tensions in the region. All responsible political actors in the region need to focus on progress with reforms, and on dialogue. I reiterate my call on both Pristina and Belgrade to remain calm and refrain from any statements or actions which may lead to escalation. NATO continues to support the EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina as the only lasting political solution for the region.” – the statement concludes.

In doubts Rajoy attends Sophia Summit

On contrary to previous information, the prime minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy attends EU Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, however  some elaborate diplomatic work is going on to avoid Kosovo representatives. EU members Slovakia, Romania, Greece,  and Cyprus along with the Kingdom of Spain did not recognize the independence of Kosovo, however their leaders are present at the Summit without hesitation. The ongoing Catalan crisis makes the Kosovo status at most sensitive issue for the Spanish government.

Released ahead of the Summit  by Serbian news agency Tanjug article claimed Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy would NOT participate in the EU #WestBalkans Summit in Sofia, due to his country’s position on unilateral proclamation of independence of #Kosovo. Tanjug also indicated only lower ranked diplomatic officials would represent the Kingdom of Spain at the summit.

Does the change of mind of Rajoy mean he received the EU ‘guarantees’ that Kosovo was-is-will be a sui generis, one in its own kind, and the bloc would never accept the unilateral declaration of independence of Catalan Republic? According to the Spanish press the government made a considerable effort to prevent Kosovo to be treated as an independent state at Sofia Summit. The media sources also  indicate the mission was not entirely successful, resulting in acceptance of the prime minister participation in the dinner with the EU leaders, and honoring a number of bilateral meetings to return to Madrid afterwards.

Sofia Summit: EU ‘waiting room ticket’ for Western Balkans

Aleksandar Mitić, OPINION

Eighteen years ago, as AFP correspondent, I attended the first EU-Western Balkans Summit, held in Zagreb in 2000. Enthusiasm and talk of fast entry into the EU dominated after the era of conflict in the 1990s. Almost two decades later, however, we are still talking about “European perspectives”, while EU investment in the region and its infrastructure is rather low, political conditionality has been toughened and enlargement fatigue in Western European countries has grown dramatically.

The official position of the European Commission is that the proposal for the new EU budget 2021-2027 does not include funds for new EU members, but that it includes an increase for the candidate states in the form of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). Although the European Commission has mechanisms to make amendments to the budget in case a country becomes an EU member in the meantime, the political message is quite clear: new EU memberships in the following period are quite unlikely. It means that the EU expects candidate states to stay longer in the “waiting room” – which is a perfect status from the point of view of EU and its member countries: the funds they have to give for candidate states are much smaller than if these countries become EU member states, while at the same time, the candidate states are much more vulnerable to EU political conditionality. In other terms, for the EU, having countries for a long period of time in pre-accession rather than becoming members means using a “powerful stick” with a “cheap carrot”. This is particularly important for policy towards countries such as Serbia or Turkey, which path into the EU is made extremely difficult by political conditionality.

The European Commission presented in February its “Enlargement Strategy”, which should be the backbone of the Summit in Sofia. Yet, this document is extremely weak and bland. It is also a document of the European Commission only, since the EU member states have been divided over it and have not given their approval. The EU is extremely divided over enlargement in general. Germany, France, the Netherlands are all against giving promises for the 2025 membership. Those most welcoming are countries of Eastern Europe, which still have openness for new members due to their own recent membership. But, it is clear that with German and French opposition, 2025 looks like a mirage.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently said he was against further enlargement before further strengthening of the EU core and of the current structures. He thus “killed” the EU enlargement strategy, at least its 2025 prospects.

Furthermore, when we look at the European Commission document itself, it is, for example for Serbia, an extremely negative document. Yes, it gives the possibility of the 2025 date, but at what cost? The document is tougher on Serbia than previous EU positions as it asks Serbia for an urgent signing of the legally-binding agreement with Kosovo Albanian separatists which would allow for an “independent Kosovo” to become an UN member. It is also calling for fast harmonization of Serbia’s foreign policy with the EU, which means imposing sanctions on Russia, something that Belgrade has said it would never do.

Dr.Aleksandar Mitić, President of the Center for Strategic Alternatives, Belgrade

Sofia hosts Western Balkans Summit

The EU – Western Balkans Summit will take at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 17 May. It will bring together heads of state or government of EU member states with the Western Balkans partners: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo.

The meeting will be hosted by Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council. It will by chaired by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk who, together with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, will represent the European Union.

The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn will also attend the Summit.

The Western Balkans partners will be represented by Edi Rama, Duško Marković, Aleksandar Vučić, Hashim Thaçi, Bakir Izetbegović as well as Zoran Zaev.
Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, the European investment Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council will also participate.

The Summit should first and foremost reaffirm the European perspective of the whole region. It will be centred on the theme of connectivity with a view to improving the links between the EU and the Western Balkans as well as within the region itself. The summit will also aim to boost cooperation in areas of mutual security concerns, including terrorism, organised crime and illegal migration.

The leaders of the European Union are expected to adopt a declaration with which the Western Balkans partners have aligned themselves.

Fleckenstein: EU Western Balkans new strategy will deliver

German MEP Knut Fleckenstein  firmly believes the EU new strategy towards the Western Balkans will work and deliver for both the EU27 bloc and the countries of the region, without compromising criteria, but completing the reform package with a faisible pace. Although admitting the existing problems with the rule of law and fundamental rights, corruption and organised crime, Fleckenstein refers to successful experiences of the EU enlargement  like Baltic states to underline the EU project of Western Balkans joining the EU is possible, and even needed to achieve the compilation of the original architecture of the European Union forefathers:

 

Fajon: Western Balkans are Europe

Tanja FAJON MEP,  the vice-chair of Socialists and Democrats group of the European Parliament, reflects upon future of Western Balkans and the EU new strategy towards the region, pointing out the necessity to keep a right balance between enhancing reform without losing a perspective of membership in view or compromising criteria. A credible enlargement perspective for Western Balkans is a fair offer to countries to join European family they belong to, FAJON insists, underlining a positive example of her own country, joining the EU, Slovenia:

Kosovo: Mogherini at Mitrovica Bridge

mitrovica-brigde

“The European Union remains committed to the development of Kosovo, indeed 2016 saw a large number of projects commence and money transferred. I have already witnessed the investment that has begun to make a difference. The pedestrian area, sports hall and commercial centre are just three major infrastructural projects in South Mitrovica. Walking with the Mayor of North Mitrovica just now I have been introduced to the projects to which the European Union has invested greatly and can see that the vision on paper is now taking shape and is transforming into reality. And this changes people’s life for a better,”, – said EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini at the Mitrovica Bridge, Kosovo.

“I would like to reiterate that I am feeling a strong emotion, I am also very impressed of what has been achieved in a short period and I am convinced that this is because there is an understanding here, finally. There is an understanding that bridges can unite, that difficulties can be overcome and that this turns people’s life into something better, with investments, with understanding, with dialogue, with an everyday work, we can make our lives better here and this is the commitment of the European Union. You can also always count on us to be on your side, North and South, and accompany all citizens here on this difficult but precious journey”.

MEPs call for more committment between Belgrade and Pristina

pristina

The recent progress in normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina, after months of little or none, was welcomed by MEPs on Tuesday. However, in two resolutions they call on both countries to show more commitment and sustained political will to achieve this goal, which is a condition for their accession to the EU.

“Serbia is on its path towards the EU. The Serbian government is tackling the challenges of creating jobs, enhancing competitiveness and boosting growth. Important economic reforms have been adopted to strengthen the business environment in the country”, said EP rapporteur David McAllister (EPP, DE). “In 2017, Serbia should continue to put special emphasis on strengthening the rule of law, as corruption and organised crime still represent an obstacle to the country’s democratic, social and economic development”, he added.

The resolution on Serbia, passed by 55 votes to 2, with 2 abstentions, welcomes the opening of negotiations on several chapters in 2016 including chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security) which are key to the process. It also calls on Serbia to align its foreign policy with the EU’s, including its policy on Russia, to ensure judicial independence in practice and to revise its Constitution.

“Today’s vote again sends a strong signal that the future of an independent Kosovo lies in the European Union. With only a few steps to go on the way to visa liberalisation, the report  encourages all political parties in Kosovo to continue their work for Kosovo in a constructive manner and European spirit”, said rapporteur Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT). “The two remaining benchmarks can and must be fulfilled by Kosovo soon: ratification of the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and a track record of high-level convictions for corruption and organized crime”, she added.

MEPs welcome the entry into force of the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) on 1 April 2016 as the “first contractual relationship”, and the European Commission proposal to waive visas for Kosovan citizens, although to date a couple of important criteria have yet to be met. They express concern at the persistent extreme polarisation of the political landscape, regret the slow pace of Kosovo’s efforts to build an adequate and efficient administrative capacity and condemn the violent disruption of these efforts in the first half of  2016 in the country.

MEPs also take note that five EU member states have not yet recognised Kosovo, adding that if all EU member states were to do so, this would increase the EU’s credibility in its external policy and help to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The resolution on Kosovo was passed by 40 votes to 12, with 5 abstentions.

Mogherini heads to Western Balkans

kosovo-mogherini

EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini will travel to the Western Balkans from first to forth March, visiting Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

For the European Union the work with the Western Balkans, a region in the heart of Europe, is a key priority. I work to see every single one of the Western Balkans partners move forward on the reform path, towards the European Union, to ensure the process is irreversible. Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations remain essential in this context,” – Mogherini said ahead of the trip.

During her visit to the region Mogherini will meet with political authorities, including representatives of governments, of political parties and of Parliaments. The results for the trip will be presented at EU Foreign Ministers on the visit at the 6 March Foreign Affairs Council.

 

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