DPS leader Milo Djukanovic said in an interview with the Austrian national television ORF That Montenegro’s entry into NATO and the admissions procedures in the European Union are steps to be done with fairness and prudence, accompanying these important changes by introducing new reforms. With respect to NATO, he said he was happy that there could be place in the world for the promotion of European values; In the matter of European Union, he believes that EU membership can contribute to and strengthen stability in the Balkans. He also said that the European Union supports the governments in the Balkans that are in favor of the EU itself. This can give legitimacy to these governments and avoid the emergence of centrifugal forces.
Bilateral cooperation, Bulgaria’s aspirations to join the euro zone and the Schengen area, security and the EU perspective of the Western Balkans topped the agenda of a meeting that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held here on Wednesday. Chancellor Merkel expressed support for Bulgaria and its reforms. The German leader expressed support for Bulgaria’s ambitions to enter the euro zone waiting room and the Schengen area, and said that there are conditions to be met. “If Bulgaria meets the conditions for accession to the Schengen area – and these concern the rule of law and combating corruption – then it is ready to join in,” she said. She thanked Bulgaria for its commitment to protecting the border with Turkey. “Bulgaria has improved the security of this border even though it is not a Schengen member. It has made significant efforts, and we discussed what measures Bulgaria needs to take, especially in order to suppress the trafficking in people and migrants,” the German head of government said. She added that the two countries work closely together on the policy on migrants and refugees, and that this is a common challenge for the EU.
Citing diplomatic sources, Vecernje Novosti is reporting that Berlin has prepared a “mini Marshall Plan” for the Balkans, which should over the next few years boost the economies in the region. This proposal will soon be on the table of the European Council in Brussels, which should approve it and set up a special fund for the Balkan countries. The aforementioned plan is called “Berlin Plus” – but the money for its implementation should, among other sources, come from the European Economic Area (EEA) consisting of all EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), where Switzerland is also a member. Vecernje Novosti writes that one of the goals is to network the Western Balkans with infrastructure such as highways that would connect Serbia with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Belgrade with Tirana, via Pristina. The intention is to in this way “skip” the uncertain period of the next few years in which the EU, pressed by numerous crises, does not intend to continue enlarging. A strong reason to activate the “Berlin plus” is also to reduce tensions in the region.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH Igor Crnadak attended the meeting of foreign ministers in Brdo, in Slovenia. The minister stressed during the discussion the importance of such meetings at the ministerial level and added that this type of initiative can give new impetus to the process of integration into the European Union. He agrees with the fact that the European Union will not be complete until the arrival of the Balkans. He also stressed the importance of the Trieste meeting, which will address this issue, but also other types of problems, such as the fact that young people leave the area and corruption. He also added that some things should be improved regardless of the European Union but actually for the sake of democracy and development, such as independence and freedom of the media. All this, in the opinion of the Minister, can be achieved through cooperation and good relations between the countries.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Srđan Darmanović attended the informal meeting of Heads of Diplomacy of the Western Balkans Six (WBG) in Rome, Invited by the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano In preparation for the summit to be held in Trieste next June. The topics dealt with were many: they spoke about many ways in which it would help to create a more stable economy and suitable co-operation models. It also underlined how much regional cooperation is important for the Balkan area. The Montenegrin Minister also stressed that strengthening of cooperation in the Balkans would not be an obstacle to joining the European Union: it would have the advantage of making this choice more aware. The Italian minister said that Italy is deeply convinced of the membership of the Balkan countries in the European Union, which is why it supports their approach to the European Union itself. the meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Albania Damir Bushati, Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Crnadak, Serbia Ivica Dačić, Macedonia Nikola Poposki, as well as the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo Albert Prenkaj as well. The Montenegrin minister has also been able to hold bilateral meetings with ministers from other countries.
Defence Minister Predrag Boskovic said during a meeting with the Slovenian defence minister that Montenegro’s membership in NATO is not directed against Russia. He also said that Russia is keeping on influence his country’s policy but he is optimistic about the development of relations between countries. Slovenian ministers Katic agreed with him and said that Montenegro’s membership could improve the situations and issues in western Balkans, and also it will contribute to peace in that area. The two ministers were satisfied about relations between their countries, too.
German Ambassador to Serbia Axel Dittmann says that “all statements aimed at changing borders in the Balkans are dangerous.” The Western Balkans region has a clear European perspective, which was once again explicitly confirmed by the European Council at its meeting in March and the Ambassador, asked whether there Berlin fears the strengthening of Russia’s influence in Serbia, said that Serbia has made a clear strategic decision to become a member of the EU, and that Germany strongly supports that. “The numbers, too, show that course. Two-thirds of Serbia’s trade are conducted with EU member states. Since 2000 Brussels has approved three billion euros in donations, 1.6 billion by Germany alone. It is normal that in addition, Serbia has traditional and close ties with other countries, including Russia”, said Dittmann.
Belgrade will address the UN because of a statement made by the former head of the OSCE verification mission in Kosovo. This comes after reports that William Walker spoke about his work on a project of creating the Greater Albania. Walker is known for heading the OSCE “verification mission” in the Kosovo, whose activities and reports during 1998 and 1999 influenced the public opinion abroad in favor of launching a war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Earlier that year the bodies of 45 Albanians were discovered in the village of Racak and the Walker-led OSCE mission accused Serbian security forces for killing them without presenting any evidence – although it was never determined whether the victims were in fact civilians. Reports coming from the Serbian side said that Albanian terrorists – members of the KLA – were the ones killed in Racak, but in the West, the event was qualified as a crime against civilians, used as an excuse to launch NATO’s bombing of Serbia. According to the Minister without portfolio, Jadranka Jankovic, who is in charge of EU integration, Walker’s statement is proof that the Greater Albania project is not merely flirted with at election time, but is instead “something that exists and is not only Serbia’s problem. It includes the territory of several countries in the Balkans, and I think all of us need to be concerned”.
The idea of Greater Albania – uniting all Albanians in one state – is once again a hot topic in the Balkans, DW reports. While leaders in Pristina and Tirana deny pan-Albanian ambitions, their recent statements have caused alarm. Serbian Foreign Minister Dacic also said that the EU, the US, and Britain “will be directly responsible” if the Albanians push ahead with their territorial ambitions. According to Erdoan Shipoli, Associate Dean of School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia International University, the Albanian leaders, with their statements, want to get more votes from the more nationalist groups, because they know that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to even choose the leader of the Great Albania, let alone making it function. Even so, the talk of Greater Albania can be dangerous, according to the expert. People across the region are tired of corruption and unemployment, pro-western Albanians feel like the EU has failed to defend their interests in Macedonia and Serbia, and Kosovo citizens are angry at the EU for not letting them travel without visas. In such circumstances, it is natural for nationalist sentiment to rise. “Right now there is no support but if the EU continues to fail the Albanians in general and Kosovo in particular, then this thought will gain more momentum and have more acceptance”, Shipoli said.
In a press conference delivered in Brussels European Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn said that Kosovo had to fulfill 95 conditions in order to benefit from the visa liberalization regime and so far, it has delivered 93. This is the reason why the European Commission may present a last report on Kosovo in May of next year and that will show if there’s a need to issue a second report or not.