27 July 2018

WEST BALKANS – Important events seen from BUCHAREST, July 2018

Stelian Teodorescu

The intensification of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue with E.U. as a mediator. On 18th of July, 2018, the High Representative of EU, Federica Mogherini, and the European External Action Service (EEAS) hosted in Brussels a new high reunion for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Belgrade’s delegation was led by Serbia’s Republic president, Aleksander VUCIC, and Pristina’s, by the president of the Kosovo Republic, Hashim THACI. The after the meeting EEAS press release is a laconic one, only confirming the existence of the dialogue and that this will continue “in a few weeks”.

Image source: Mediafax

 

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This way, the dialogue is really close to reaching its points, as both parts directly involved, Belgrade and Pristina, are only exposing their position, meanwhile E.U. does not seem to find any methods to convince both parts to approach their positions and to identify compromise solutions (or at least does not seem enough interested). In these circumstances, both part’s positions remain diametrically opposed, the only positive elements being[1] reconfirming both commitments to continue the dialogue and to abstain from doing unilateral actions.

The reunion on 18.07.2018 was held in kind of different conditions from the previous ones. Belgrade was encouraged to decline admitting the unconditional independency of Kosovo, withdrawing/revoking to admit the independency of Kosovo by various states, meanwhile Pristina showed an incredible frustration due to this, but also to E.U. blocking the liberating decision regarding visa regime for the “Kosovar citizens”. Until 18.07, Pristina’s consequences of the sort of emotional reaction against director of Kosovo and Metohija Office from Serbia’s Government, Marko Duric, entering without permission on the Kosovo Republic territory were not eliminated. The Serbian official spokesman was arrested after a force intervention in North of Kosovo, of some Special Forces of the Kosovar Police (KP). [2] The Serbian official spokesman was released on the same day and “deported” in Serbia, after some warnings from Belgrade. A similar incident happed only 8 days before the reunion, when KP arrested for a short time more Serbian ethnics from Kosovo (from Kamenica and Gnjilanel areas), who would have acted against Kosovo’s Republic constitutional order (exactly, they were protesting against hiring Serbian ethnics in Kosovo’s Security Forces/KFS).  This last KP action was in the same day when in London “a successful reunion” in “Berlin Process” was ending (10.07.2018). Least but not last, the dialogue held on 18.07 took place even if president’s H.THACI representative and negotiator qualities, with decisional powers in the dialogue with Belgrade, were no approved by most of Pristina’s Albanese parties.

In these circumstances, both delegation chiefs called the discussions on 18.07 hard (the Kosovar president actually named it as “the hardest ever”).

Belgrade is aware that in order to make progresses in its European course, will have to make a treaty with Pristina, which could indirectly admit Kosovo’s independency, but it is less probable to accept it, as long as it will not have real guarantees for Serbian ethnics’ security and its territories in “Kosovo Republic”. For now, this is not possible, because Pristina and a part of the international community (including EU and NATO members states which admitted Kosovo’s independency) want to create the Serbian Municipalities Association in Kosovo (ZSO) according with the current Constitution and the current laws from Kosovo Republic, meanwhile Belgrade wants their harmony (municipalities) with ZSO State, which comes from the Brussels Treaty, in 19.04.2013.

To consolidate their positions in the negotiation with Pristina, Belgrade will continue its diplomacy campaign to revoke the decisions regarding the “R. Kosovo’s” independency. The next Belgrade’s target for this could be R.A. Egypt, as this country admitted Kosovo’s independency only verbally (through a declaration of the president), yet without any diplomatic note or parliament/government decision.

 

Migrants issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina used in the political fight

Migrants’ issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as many other issues in this country, are used in the internal political fight, especially between the “Serbian entity” in BiH (Srpska Republic.RS) on one side, and on the other hand between BiH central authorities and the BiH Federation (Croat-Muslim Federation). If it is for sure that in BiH exists the illegal migrants’ phenomenon and it is intensified since 2018, it is also obvious that its situation became severe due to the insufficient cooperation between the authorities in Banja Luka and the Sarajevo ones. Some part of the fault comes from the complex organization of BiH and dividing the competences between the authorities from various levels. Competences in combating the illegal migration have the central authorities, through the Foreign Businesses Service from the Security Minister in BiH, as well as the internal business structures (entity level and BiH level). Moreover, there were created ad-hoc mechanisms as the Coordination Corp for Migration Problems (KTPM). 



[1] As a consequence of Brussels pressure.

[2]In coordination with Belgrade, the “Serbian List” representatives suspended their activity in Pristina’s plenum government and they are only accomplishing technical tasks in the ministries they are ruling.

 

 

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According to BiH’s Border Police, at the beginning of July 2018, in BiH were registered 8.081 illegal migrants, meanwhile 7.424 strangers asked asylum in BiH, but only 686 made petitions. According to BiH’s mass media, the information is not complete and do not include the SPS dates, as on 22.06/2018, after some flooding, SPS servers and spaces were affected.

The structures responsible for migrants’ issues warn that a lot of migrants stay in bad conditions, on the streets, meanwhile the authorities, EU and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are looking for solutions. The BiH deficiencies in managing the migrants’ issues provoke humanitarian and security risks. In Una-Sna Canton/USK (the most affected area in BiH due to migrants) they want to put 50 tents, donated by Austria. KTPM wants to create Agrokomerc company facilities from Velika Kladusa, to host 500 migrants, but the EU representatives are reticent regarding this subject, as the office in “Agrokomerc” is too close to Croatia border (and EU border). In KTPM opinion, by creating this center for migrants in Agrokomerc spaces in Velika Kladusa they would bring at that place migrants from Bihac. At the same time, IOM in collaboration with international partners will act to fit out the Sedra hotel (in Cazin) and other facilities to host the migrants on USK territory. On 04.07.2018, BiH’s and BiH’s Federation central authorities’ regulated SPS’s using conditions of Usivak Barrack in Hadzici, to host the migrants.

BiH’s Security Minister made a measures plan, which has 5 priority objectives, 17 measures and 73 activities. The 5 operative objectives are:

-consolidating GP BiH;

-consolidating SPS and the Immigration Department of the Security Minister capacities;

-making treaties regarding the readmission and consolidations readmission realization capacities.

-consolidating the capacities in the asylum domain;

-intensifying the fight against the migrants traffic;

Since catalyzing the migrants’ crisis in BiH, continuing in 2018 also, the RS authorities, along with the entity’s president, Milorad DODIK, prove firmness in declining any hosting facilities of the migrants on RS territory, this way creating a permanent fight with BiH authorities and BiH’s Federation ones.

In June 2018, the RS authorities agreed to detach police men to support GP BiH, including to patrol on critical areas field, where there is a bigger illegal migrants number. But Banja Luka still declined the possibility of creating hosting centers, even temporary, for migrants on RS territory.

According to the political authorities’ dispositions in Banja Luka, 60 policemen from R. Srpska were hired to support GP BiH (in Trebinje, Foca and Zvornik), the Sarajevo authorities asking for a supplementation of 30 policemen from RS in Zvornik and Janja areas.

They said the issues with the migrants could be increased in the next period, due to the lack of financial resources, as the Red Cross in BiH announced that the financial methods are close to an end. KTPM thinks that the migrants financing should be in UNHCR charge. From the information available, it came out that there is no money available even for dislocations on the field of the 60 RS policemen, hired to support GP BiH.

There is no doubt that the illegal migration phenomenon exists in BiH and there were measures implemented to manage this, in collaboration with EU and IOM.  But we do can say that concrete measures were too late taken by the central authorities from BiH, probably because they hoped that the old “Balkan Route” (from Macedonian Republic, through R. Serbia, to Croatia and Hungary) would not be modified through BiH.

They want the authorities in Banka Luka to continue to refuse any hosting spaces for the migrants on RS territories project, something that will augment the political and media pressure over the BiH central authorities and the BiH Federation authorities.

Even if, at some point, they talked in BiH mass media about a local Muslim population “tolerance” against the illegal migrants (the majority coming from Muslim states), and even about a “mosque route”, in reality the population in the area where there are migrants concentrations (for example, Una-Sana Canton) is not pleased with the issues that appeared with the migrants (sanitation, incidents, the possible augmentation of these, etc.). This situation’s effect is generating critics and pressure against the central authorities and the Croats-Muslims entities (BiH Federation).

In the debate regarding the causes of the increasing number of illegal migrants on BiH territory is also involved the political factor, the BiH authorities and the BiH Federation accusing Serbia for eliminating the visa regime for the citizens of some states, among them being Iran, and since then, for some political factor in Sarajevo, the Iranian illegal migrants number increased on BiH territory.

In the future it is possible that the BiH Defence Minister to be more involved in managing the migrants issues in BiH[1].

Since there are little chances for the illegal migrant to get to Croatia[2], we expect an accumulation of tensions and complaints, from the migrants, as well as from the local population. This is how the incident with migrants and habitants’ probability increases.

 

Progresses in “Macedonian file”

The actual Macedonian opposition, led by VMRO-DPMNE, but also by the Macedonian president, continues to be against the ratification treaty between Skopje and Atene, signed on 17th of June and approved by the Macedonian parliament on 20th of June, regarding the change of the constitutional name of the country (in North Macedonia Republic), and they are asking the organization of a referendum on this theme. 

On 18th and 19th of July, the leaders of the parliament parties in Macedonia Republic reunited to decide the question that will be asked at the possible referendum, that will take place this autumn, regarding the validation of the treaty between Skopje and Atene. The reunions did not lead to any result, so the discussions on this subject will continue.

Some of the question versions for the referendum, announced by the prime-minister Zoran ZAEV is: “Do you agree to adhere to EU and NATO, by accepting the treaty between Macedonia Republic and Helenian Republic?”

Meantime, in Macedonian Republic there is a media war regarding Moscow’s intervention in stopping this country to adhere to NATO. The most significant element is the accusation brought to a Russian business man, who lives in Greece (Ivan Ignatievici SAVVIDI[3]) who would have had financially supported, in June, aggressive protests on the Macedonian territory, with the participation of sympathizers of the opposition and fanatics[4].  The business man and the Russian embassy in Skopje categorically denied any interference accusation in the protests from Macedonian Republic against the Greece Treaty. Moreover, the Russian embassy in Macedonian Republic criticized the Macedonian prime-minister, Z. ZAEV, who publicly supported these allegations. In these circumstances, the Russian diplomatic subsidiary affirmed that Z. ZAEV’s statements puts into question the sincerity of Macedonian government efforts to create good relations with Moscow.

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Until the implementation of the historical treaty with Greece, Skopje’s authorities have to solve other issues, the most difficult being the firm opposition of some parties and a good part of the population regarding the country’s name modification and others, considered as being a “betrayal” against the history and an abjuration to national identity elements.

In the progresses made to adhere EU and NATO, by accepting the Atene treaty, the actual governing in Skopje are supported by all the member states of the two organizations, so the power can juggle with the future referendum’s character: mandatory or advisory? The stake is too high, because even if the power has more turnout than the opposition, in order to be valid, the referendum needs to have 50%+1 participation rate from the total number of the citizens who have the right to vote.

There is still the possibility of some protests, before the referendum campaign, as well as after this, especially if the power will declare the referendum result as advisory, and this way cancelled.

 

Great Britain remains firmly committed to West Balkans

Great Britain will double to almost 80 million pounds (around 90 million euros) the financial resources to support the West Balkans regions, and, at the same time, will increase the staff number form the security structures in the region, which are hired to fight against the organized crime.

A supplementary amount of 1 million pounds was assigned to support the region in approaching the inherited difficult issues, including the support offered to organizations working to identify the 12.000 victims after the 1990 conflicts, who remained unknown since then. We must remark that besides the fact that Great Britain will leave the EU, the British government actions, which include fight capacities against the cyber attacks of the West Balkans countries and extending the presence of the Pan-Balkans Reserve Strategic Forces in the region, they showed that they will remain committed in assuring the region’s stability.

This being the context, is it important the statement made by prime-minister Theresa May, before the West Balkans Summit, under the aegis initiative “Berlin Process”, in London, on 09-10.07.2018: “the history shows us that a stable and secure West Balkans region means a even stable and secure Europe”.

The organized crime structures from all West Balkans entities, as well as the one in Albania, have an impressive presence in Great Britain. An important example is the one of an organized crime, which, according to the estimations made, brought to Great Britain around 8.000 kg of cocaine per year, meaning 800 million pounds value.

This being said, we must mention the response measures to such situation, which includes the launch of Balkans Organized Crime Observer, along with Austria’s and Norway’s government, but also the ones that support the training in the cyber security area, including the direct support offered to the emergency situation teams from Serbia and Montenegro and for the change of information, that would cost 1 million pounds.

 

Albania and Macedonia will start, in 2019, the discussion for EU accession

After a long debate, the European Council got to a consensus regarding the progress made by Macedonia and Albania in the European integration process, deciding that Skopje and Tirana will star the accession discussions in June 2019, if will accomplish the conditions demanded at the moment.

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The European Committee, the European Parliament, as well as the member stated of the European Union, including Greece, started the process, besides the initial opposition from France and Holland. It is important to remark the official opposition presented by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, regarding EU extension in the West Balkans region, at the Sofia summit, May 2018, who said that a future EU extension cannot be made until a real reform will be created, in order to allow a better and profound functioning of EU. This opposition coming from France’s president is in equilibrium with the speech held in the big amphitheater of the Sorbonne University, in September 2017, in front of hundreds France and foreign students, he proposed o series of European key-projects, and also a method to create a Europe progress plan for the next decade. France’s policy seems to be influenced by the populism effects from East Europe, and by the policies that the French nationalist parties, populists, demand. West Balkans accession at EU could become an electoral instrument in the campaign for the European Parliament elections in 2019.

 

Macedonia was invited to start the discussion for NATO accession

As the NATO Summit in Brussels projects started to be deployed, Macedonia was invited to start the discussions for North Atlantic Alliance accession. According to Jens STOLTENBERG, the General Secretary of the North Atlantic Alliance, he informed the Macedonian prime-minister, Zoran ZAEV, through an official letter about the beginning of this process, probably the decision being adopted after the treaty about solving the differences between Skopje and Atene (regarding the denomination of the Macedonian state) ended. 

The NATO General Secretary underlined that “for years, the Macedonian army forces members participated at the allied missions, helping to bring peace and security in Afghanistan, which made the Alliance’s door to remain opened”. He also said that the treaty that Atene and Skopje governments finally got to, regarding Macedonian’s state denomination, eliminated the obstacle that was stopping the discussion about accession.

On 19.07.2018, the Macedonian Republic Parliament adopted a Declaration regarding the accession process support to NATO.

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The result of the recent NATO summit can be interpreted as positive for Macedonia, and as progress from the 2008 one (from Bucharest). Hence, practically, both declarations, from 2008 and 2018, makes Macedonia’s Republic accession possible only by solving the dispute with Greece, 2018 declaration accentuating that they allow the immediate start of the process, but the accession moment will be made after ending the procedures in the Greece dispute.

The reasons why NATO has this approach in the Macedonian “file” are probably, the same as in accepting Montenegro at the North Atlantic Alliance (despite that other conditions are not accomplished): the will to reduce Moscow’s influence in the Balkan space, actually, to minimize Moscow’s possibilities to interfere on the political scene in Skopje.

At this Alliance’s decision decisively contribute the improvement of the Skopje-Sofia relations (in 2017) and the support given to Skopje’s governing by the majority of the Albanese ethnics parties from Macedonia Republic (with the creation of the new govern coalition, in the summer of 2017).

Concluding, we can appreciate that inviting Macedonia to start the NATO accession can be considered as an important progress made not only for the Macedonian state, but especially for the euro Atlantic future of the West Balkans. We do not have to forget that the dispute between Macedonia and Greece regarding the Macedonian state denomination, was, among the Kosovo state issues, a major obstacle in defining a clear perspective regarding West Balkans European integration.

 

Albania is hosting the Western Balkans Fund head office

On 19.07.2018, the Albanese Parliament approved the Treaty regarding the host country, signed between the Western Balkans Fund (FBV) and Albania Republic. 

This event represents an important step for FBV regarding the strategic and political support, but also because, through this treaty, the host country, Albania, offers FBV the functional conditions to daily operations (the Albanese part commitment is dedicated not only to the contractor part of FBV, but also to involved partners in creating and developing this fund).

In these circumstances, the minister for Europe and Foreign Businesses in Albania, Ditmir BUSHATI, during the debates from the parliament, underline: “We strongly support this initiative! The presence of this regional head office in Tirana clearly shows Albania’s maturity and its increasing role in the region regarding foreign policy.”

The mentioned Treaty will officially begin in 15 days since it will be published in the Official Monitor.

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During the annual reunion (Prague, 13.11.2015) of the foreign business ministers from the Visegrad Group(Czech, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) / V4 and the Wester Balkans countries, with the participation of prim-vice-president of the European Committee, Frans TIMMERMANS, and the minister at that time, of Great Britain’s foreign business , Philip HAMMOND, was signed the Treaty regarding the creation of the West Balkans Fund (FBV).

The Treaty was signed by the foreign business ministers in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia. Creating FBV follows financing the small and medium projects in areas as education, culture, medium, cooperation in youth domain, border cooperation etc. With this occasion it was established that the head office of FBV will be in Tirana.

We can appreciate that by signing this contract it was consolidated a constructive long-term cooperation between the Western Balkans countries and V4.

FBV follows the model of Visegrad International Fund (FIV)[5], and its purpose is to increase the interaction between various actors in the region, by consolidating common values and the cooperation in different common interest areas.

 

Serbian state takes the leadership over the Nis Airport

The financial difficulties forced the local Council of Nis city, [6] (located in the South part of Serbia, in Nisava district) to give the republican authorities in Belgrade the control over the city’s airport, “Constantin the Great”. The information was confirmed by the mayor of the city, Darko BULATOVIC, after a meeting of the council, where 43 counsellors voted for this decision, 8 against, and one abstain. It is important to remark that, since 2009, the city’s administrative authorities made investments of more than 800 million dinars (around 6,8 million euros) for the airport, through subventions.

The council’s decision turned out to be unpopular between the public opinion, as they started protesting. Hundreds of members of the initiative “Ne damo niski aerodrom” (We do not give up the Nis Airport”) protested in front of Nis city hall during the adoption of the decision. For this, it was necessary the intervention of the security forces to avoid the protestant to enter the building.

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Nis Airport has double destination (military and civil) and has flight to 11 European destination, with one national operator and two foreign air companies. The passengers traffic is three times bigger in the last years and became a viable alternative of the main country’s airport, “Nikolas Tesla”, in Belgrade.

The Vice-Minister and the Constructions, Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Mrs. Zorana MIHAJLOVIC, had a meeting on 01.03.2018, with Nis’s mayor, Darko BULATOVIC, and the Nis airport director, Vladica DJURDJANOVIC, to discuss about the current activities in the airport and the plans for the future. With this occasion, there were applauded the Serbian state’s contributions and the local authorities in Nis (that made possible activities development in the last years on Nis airport, for 320.000 passengers) and that the investments made on Nis airport were important for the air section in Serbia. At the same meeting, it was underlined that the authorities will continue the investments so that the airport “Constantin the Great” in Nis to develop its activities at the highest capacities, and also that its state’s interest, Nis’s city and the Serbian citizens to create a better coordination with the specialist minister, the airport in Belgrade and the Air Serbia Company.

Also, we must underline that close to Nis airport is the “Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Centre”, a common Russian-Serbian facility created in 2011 to interfere in civil emergency situation and natural disasters in the whole West Balkans region.

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[1] Probably through logistical assuring services

[2] In the last months they are talking intensely about Brussels’s plan to create, outside the EU borders, centers with migrants’ provisions, some indicating also the Balkan states that are not part of the EU.

[3] Known also as SAVVIDI, owner, among others, of the Helenian football club PAOK Salonic

[4] “Komiti” group

[5] The Visegrad International Fund was created in 2000 to support the cooperation development in culture areas, scientifically changes, research, education, tourism promotion, offering financing for activities of non-governmental and citizens organizations.

[6] Nis city is the third smallest city in the country, after Belgrade and Novi Sad. The “Constantin the Great” is the international airport with destination code INI.