International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EU-Western Balkans summit ends inconclusively

June 23, 2022

An EU-Western Balkans summit, which lasted more than three hours, ended in Brussels on Thursday without a joint statement and without a press conference.

The European Council President Charles Michel's cabinet said that a scheduled press conference was postponed due to the lack of time as the meeting lasted longer than planned and a joint declaration had not been planned at all.

Despite the absence of any results, Michel's associates said the “meeting went well.”

The leaders of the 27 member states will begin their regular summit later this afternoon and are expected to give the green light for candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova.

These two countries will overtake Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo on the road to the EU, the only two Western Balkan countries that do not have candidate status as yet.

The EU promised the Western Balkans a European perspective back in 2003 at the Thessaloniki Summit.

The French presidency of the EU has been trying to lift Bulgaria's blockade of North Macedonia's progress on its path toward EU integrations. Skopje and Albania are awaiting a green light to open accession talks.

However, those hopes were dashed by Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who said ahead of the Western Balkans summit that there was no prospect of unblocking and opening talks with North Macedonia at the summit, but hinted that a solution could be reached in the days to come.

Some proposals emerged saying that Bosnia and Herzegovina should be awarded candidate status, but there is no consensus on that.

The draft conclusions to be adopted by EU leaders during the summit reiterate “full and unambiguous commitment” to the perspective of the Western Balkans and call for accelerating the accession process.

At the insistence of Croatia, the draft conclusions call on BiH leaders to urgently deliver on their promise to complete constitutional and electoral reforms.

The draft conclusions welcome an agreement reached by BiH parliamentary party leaders at a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel on 12 June, in which they pledged, among other things, to implement limited constitutional and electoral reforms.

The European Council calls on Bosnia and Herzegovina's political leaders to immediately deliver on the promises made in the agreement and complete constitutional and electoral reforms, which will enable the country to make decisive progress on its European path, in line with the Commission's priorities, so that it can be awarded candidate status.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eu-western-balkans-summit-ends-inconclusively/

Dzaferovic-Western Balkans to be closely linked to EU, in the future

June 23, 2022

After the meeting with the European Council, Sefik Dzaferovic, a member of the BiH Presidency from Brussels, said that an open debate was held which showed that there are completely clear and unambiguous European perspectives of all Western Balkan countries for membership in the European Union.

Dzaferovic said that this was a very important meeting dedicated to the countries of the Western Balkans that did not become members of the EU.

“The meeting was with the European Council. Support was given to all states to meet the conditions as soon as possible and to become members as soon as possible. I was interested in the position of BiH, especially after the European Commission recommended to the European Council that candidate status be granted to Ukraine and Moldova, obviously for geostrategic and geopolitical reasons. I believe, and I said that at this meeting, that it would be unfair to BiH to be left out at this moment from the position of the candidate for membership or granting candidate status. It would also be unfair due to geostrategic and geopolitical reasons, having in mind what BiH has gone through and the length of our European path that has lasted practically since 1999 since the Stability Pact, which was then held in Sarajevo,” Dzaferovic said.

Dzaferovic also pointed out that he had asked the European Council to grant BiH the candidate status for membership in the EU.

“I don’t know if it will be granted. It’s difficult to say at this time what decision they will make. What I can say for sure is that in the future there will be a much closer relationship between the countries of the Western Balkans, including BiH, with the EU administration,” he said.

In the end, Dzaferovic reiterated that what Ukraine is experiencing today, BiH experienced in the 90s, adding that geostrategic and geopolitical reasons were not taken into account when considering BiH which is not fair.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dzaferovic-western-balkans-to-be-closely-linked-to-eu-in-the-future/

Bosnian prosecution-Croatian Airlines aircraft not damaged by firearm bullet

June 23, 2022

There are no indications that the damage on the fuselage of the Croatia Airlines aircraft was done by firearm bullet as previously speculated, Bosnian state prosecutor said on Thursday following an investigation.

The Prosecutor's Office ordered the investigation after the report that an aircraft operating between Zagreb and Sarajevo was damaged by what looks like a firearm bullet.

The damage was reported following the regular inspection of the plane at the Sarajevo International Airport upon the arrival from Zagreb.

But, the performed analyses determined that there were no traces of gunpowder particles or other traces that would indicate the effect of the firearm bullet.

According to experts, the damage was caused by mechanical shock.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnian-prosecution-croatian-airlines-aircraft-not-damaged-by-firearm-bullet/

No support for Slovenia's initiative to grant Bosnia candidate status

June 23, 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina has not done anything in the past to get closer to the European Union – the message from Brussels says ahead of the two-day EU-Western Balkans summit. N1 learns from diplomatic sources in Brussels that, despite Slovenia's initiative to grant Bosnia the EU candidate status - which got support of Hungary, Croatia and Poland, the member states including France, Germany and the Netherlands are against it.

A two-day EU-Western Balkans summit began in Brussels today, with the focus on the candidate status for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, as well as plans to create a European political community.

N1 learns that despite Slovenia's initiative to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina the status of a candidate country without delay, under the condition of implementing the Brussels Agreement, that this is not likely to happen, although there are those who say that Ukraine is getting the candidate status without any conditions.

According to N1 sources, the “big” members of the European Union are generally against enlargement.

Previously, some diplomatic circles alleged that BiH could get a conditional candidate status if the regulations from the Brussels Agreement were adopted, namely amendments to the Law on the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, the Law on Public Procurement, the Law on Courts and the Law on Conflict of Interest.

But EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi recently said there will be no “giving discounts” for Bosnia and Herzegovina to gain candidate status and that all 14 priorities for EU membership must be met.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/n1-learns-no-support-for-slovenias-initiative-to-grant-bosnia-candidate-status/

Croatian president seeks EU membership candidate status for Bosnia

June 23, 2022

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic on Thursday again urged the European Union to grant membership candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

EU leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit to decide on the membership candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, for which there is widespread support.

Milanovic on Thursday requested the same status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has Slovenian President Borut Pahor's strong support for this, and Austria has also joined the initiative.

“We have heard from all member states that Ukraine will get the candidate status, which is fine, but Ukraine, just like Moldova, has some huge problems,” Milanovic said.

“This is an opportunity to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina the candidate status, as an act of confidence and hope,” the Croatian president said, adding that he could not see how anyone could be against it.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/croatian-president-seeks-eu-membership-candidate-status-for-bosnia/

Montenegro to focus on status of religious communities

June 23, 2022

The Montenegrin Government adopted an Information on the continuing of negotiations on the status of religious communities and contractual obligations between them and the state of Montenegro, the daily Pobjeda reported.

A five-strong committee will be tasked with this job, said Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic, adding that a contract should be signed with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), which is represented in Montenegro by four eparchies, Pobjeda reported.

„…As a state, we take on the obligation to ensure their rights. When it comes to cultural goods, they are protected by law and nothing that is not proposed in the law will be included in the contract” said Abazovic, adding that the people need not worry and that their monasteries and churches will not end up elsewhere.

He insisted that the contract with the SPC will be signed in line with the Constitution and law and proposed that the committee start work as soon as possible.

The so-called Fundamental Contract between the Montenegrin government and the church is similar to agreements signed with other churches and religious communities. The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and the previous Montenegrin government entered into a serious dispute after the adopting of a law on religious communities which the church claimed would allow the authorities to take control of church properties, monasteries and temples.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/montenegro-to-focus-on-status-of-religious-communities/

Education Minister-Incident in Novi Sad school an isolated one

June 23, 2022

Following an incident that happened in an elementary school in Novi Sad, Serbian Education Minister Branko Ruzic said that his Ministry will perform a supervision and that the provincial inspectorate will act on the matter in order to establish the responsibility of school employees, a Ministry press release said.

Fourth graders in an elementary school in Novi Sad danced to a song glorifying war crimes, the Nova.rs portal said.

It said that a video published on a parental Viber group showed children aged about 10 dancing to the song about war crimes committed in Bosnia which included a derogatory verse about then Bosnian Moslem leader Alija Izetbegovic. The incident happened at a last day of school ceremony for all fourth graders which was attended by about 100 children and four teachers.

The Minister said that democratic values are embedded in Serbia’s education system, that the Ministry remains consistent in promoting, nurturing and incorporating the principles of non-discrimination and respect of diversity in the education system.

The press release quoted Ruzic as saying that the incident in Novi Sad is an isolated one, that it does not reflect the atmosphere in Serbian schools and that he does not expect such situations to happen again.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/education-minister-incident-in-novi-sad-school-an-isolated-one/

Vucic meets in Brussels with leaders of France, Austria

June 23, 2022

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic discussed Thursday with leaders of France and Austria the European integration process, the geopolitical situation and global topics.

On the margins of the European Union – Western Balkans summit in Brussels Vucic had separate meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Vucic said in an Instagram post that he had “as always, a more than friendly meeting” with Macron at which they discussed the most important regional and global issues.

“Serbia supports the proposal for a new European political community, because this is the only way for the European leaders to hear us and a good way for us to listen to our European colleagues more often and to find out how they think”, Vucic said.

The Serbian President said that he had “an excellent talk” with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on bilateral relations, the geopolitical situation and Serbia’s European path which Austria fully supports.

“In addition, I received an invitation to visit Austria, which I accepted”, Vucic said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-meets-in-brussels-with-leaders-of-france-austria/

Djukanovic-Montenegro in favor of European political community


June 23, 2022

Montenegro is interested in membership in the European Union, not in an alternative to membership, and it will support everything, including a European political community, if it is yet another form that could accelerate the EU accession process, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said Thursday, Fonet reported.

Speaking after the EU – Western Balkans Summit in Brussels, Djukanovic said that, for now, there is no readiness to discuss dates of accession but there is willingness to work on improving the atmosphere, primarily on eliminating obstacles, the most obvious of which is the case of Bulgaria’s attitude towards North Macedonia, the Pobjeda portal said.

This is at the level of individuals thinking out loud. I cannot say it is a policy of the EU, there is no mention of any dates but of the creation of an atmosphere to speed up the process. There is consensus on this, Fonet quoted Djukanovic as saying.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/djukanovic-montenegro-supports-the-creation-of-european-political-community/


Vucic at the Summit-Strong pressure over Russia and Ukraine

June 23, 2022

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Thursday following the European Union – Western Balkans Summit that pressure was exerted on him over Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.

As many as 2,629 articles saying that Serbia is endangering the whole of the Western Balkans and jeopardizing the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of “so-called Kosovo” have been published in European media since the beginning of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, said Vucic.

He asked if any apologies were offered for the “fabrications” that the media presented to citizens of European countries, and said that his only obligation was to act in line with Serbia’s interests.

“I am not here to justify our position”, the Serbian President said.

Vucic and Prime Ministers Edi Rama and Dimitar Kovacevski of Albania and North Macedonia attended Thursday the EU – Western Balkans Summit in Brussels, following which they held a joint media conference.

Vucic said Serbia supports French President Emmanuel Macron’s idea of a European political community, adding: “This is the only way for our voice to be heard”.

He said he promised his European colleagues that Serbia will do all it can until December and the next summit. “I won’t say that we will celebrate, but I think that we will be in a better mood in December than we are today”, Vucic said.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said he was dissatisfied with EU’s attitude towards the region’s European integration and that the EU was tired of the enlargement process.

He told the media conference that North Macedonia has been waiting 17 years and Albania eight for EU membership talks to start.

From a joint vision and community, the EU has become an instrument for individual members to block things, said Rama and asked EU leaders “not to kill” the Albanians’ faith in their European future.

Rama expressed regret that the EU has still not liberalized the visa regime for Kosovo citizens and repeatedly asked the EU to show understanding for Serbia and to refrain from asking Belgrade to join in on all the sanctions imposed on Russia. The reality in Serbia is “completely different” he said, adding that he “tried to explain” to the European leaders that 80 per cent of Serbian citizens support the Russian President.

Prime Minister Kovacevski told the media conference that, in the context of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans should be viewed as investing in EU security.

Kovacevski said that North Macedonia has been dissatisfied with the dynamics of the accession process since the launch of negotiations. He said his country has been a candidate for almost 18 years and described the situation with the veto as “a blow to EU’s credibility”. Bulgaria invoked its veto power on negotiations with candidates in 2020 to block North Macedonia's candidacy.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-at-the-summit-strong-pressure-over-russia-and-ukraine/

Stefanovic, Hrkalovic summoned for questioning

June 23, 2022

The war of words between two former top officials of the Serbian Internal Affairs Ministry (MUP) got another twist on Thursday when the ministry Internal Control Sector summoned Nebojsa Stefanovic and Dijana Hrkalovic for questioning.

Stefanovic, the former Internal Affairs Minister turned Defense Minister, and his one-time close associate Hrkalovic have been trading accusations of links to organized crime groups and illegal surveillance over President Aleksandar Vucic.

Stefanovic said in a Twitter post that he would “help state bodies shed light on events mentioned in the public to finally get to the truth”. He added that he is glad to see lies that he was under protection dispersed.

The MUP Internal Control Sector issued a statement saying that it was acting under orders from the Higher Public Prosecutor.

Hrkalovic, who is standing trial for trading on her influence, accused Stefanovic in an interview of “having unauthorized access to phone calls made by Vucic and members of his family” and of protecting the Belivuk organized crime group. She also accused him of releasing pictures of the president’s son Danilo with criminals to some media.

Stefanovic responded in a video saying that he was not plotting against Vucic and denying any links to criminals. He also accused fellow Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) official Vladimir Djukanovic (Hrkalovic’s lawyer) of involvement in the assault on him.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/stefanovic-hrkalovic-summoned-for-questioning/

European Parliament adopts report on Montenegro

June 23, 2022

The European Parliament adopted a report on Montenegro for 2021 which shows that the country is a leader in the process of accession to the European Union, Podgorica daily Vijesti said on Thursday.

It quoted Vladimir Bilcik MEP as saying that the time has come for Montenegro’s political leaders to close chapters and clusters by meeting remaining obligations and implementing reforms. He said there were positive signs that Montenegro can move forward on the way to the EU. He said that the report stresses the importance of an inter-party consensus on Montenegro’s strategic European choice.

According to Bilcik, the European Parliament appreciates Montenegro’s continued complete alignment with EU foreign policy, especially in the context of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/european-parliament-adopts-report-on-montenegro/

Germany’s Scholz-Western Balkans need ‘realistic opportunity’ for EU membership

June 23, 2022

Germany wants the Western Balkan countries to be given a "realistic opportunity" to join the European Union, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters in Brussels on Thursday ahead of a meeting of EU and Western Balkan leaders.

“The citizens in the Western Balkans have been waiting for almost 20 years for the opportunity to become members of the European Union. It is of utmost importance that this becomes a credible promise because the many efforts that these countries have undertaken must in the end actually lead to their admission,” Scholz said.

The EU leaders are meeting their Western Balkan counterparts before their regular summit, which is expected to adopt a historic decision to grant membership candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

The EU leaders are expected to again express their full and unequivocal commitment to membership prospects for the Western Balkan countries and call on them to speed up the accession process.

“Three EU member states have asked that Bosnia and Herzegovina also be granted candidate status, but there is no consensus on the matter, according to a high-level EU official knowledgeable about the preparation of the summit,” state agency Hina said.

One of the toughest issues facing the summit is efforts to remove Bulgaria’s blockade of the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia. The Bulgarian government received a vote of no confidence on Wednesday, and there are indications that Sofia is willing to remove the blockade based on a French proposal.

“However, the question is whether North Macedonia will agree to it,” Hina opined.

The French EU presidency has proposed a negotiating framework for North Macedonia that includes some of the Bulgarian demands. Bulgaria has set as a condition for the removal of the blockade that the negotiating framework include “issues relating to the common history, language and national identity of Bulgaria and North Macedonia,” Hina said.

Edi Rama, the Prime Minister of Albania, which is included in the same package as North Macedonia, said that it was a shame that NATO member Bulgaria should block two other NATO members, Albania and North Macedonia, in the middle of “a hot war in Europe’s backyard” as 26 other EU member states displayed “frightening impotence”.

Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, commented on Croatia’s remarks that Serbia could no longer “sit on two chairs at the same time.”

“Serbia is sitting in its own chair, and it is not the Croatian prime minister and president who will lead Serbian politics, but the citizens of Serbia through their leadership,” Vucic said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/germanys-scholz-western-balkans-need-realistic-opportunity-for-eu-membership/

Belgrade’s main courthouse evacuated over bomb threat

June 23, 2022

The Palace of Justice in downtown Belgrade was evacuated just before noon on Thursday following a bomb threat.

The Internal Affairs Ministry (MUP) said that the building which houses a number of courts received the bomb threat at 11.25 am. The building was evacuated and trials interrupted.

A police bomb squad was deployed to search the building for a possible explosive device.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/belgrades-main-courthouse-evacuated-over-bomb-threat/

Borrell disappointed with lack of progress on Western Balkans

June 23, 2022

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Wednesday that he is disappointed with the lack of progress in the European integration of the countries of the Western Balkans.

We are not where we should be with the Western Balkans, we should be starting negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania today and I can’t hide my disappointment, the EU High Representative said prior to the EU-Western Balkans summit. He said things were not going well but added that there is still hope if the Bulgarian parliament does something.

According to him, the situation shows that unanimity in decision making is a big problem. He said the way decisions are taken in EU should be reviewed to prevent a single country from blocking the process for months.

Borrell said that more should be done to integrate the Western Balkans and maintain its European perspective. “Today is not a good day,” he said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/borrell-disappointed-with-lack-of-progress-on-western-balkans/

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