WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
DAS PALMER IN BELGRADE, LAJČÁK MEETS VUČIĆ: US DAS and Special Representative to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer yesterday met with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić, PM Ana Brnabić, and FM Nikola Selaković.
- EUSR Lajčák began the day meeting with Serbia’s Vučić. DAS Palmer joined them later in the meeting. Despite no press conference, the messaging about the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue remained strong – Serbia is committed to the Dialogue and Vučić believes “in the possibility of reaching a compromise solution.” Vučić has been pessimistic about reaching a solution often citing that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo and it’s not an agreement if Serbia has to give up everything and receive nothing in return.
- DAS Palmer and PM Brnabić discussed bilateral relations including political dialogue with a view towards a high-profile visit emphasizing this year marks the 140th anniversary of Serbai-US diplomatic relations. They also discussed the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. DAS Palmer highlighted the importance of coming to an agreement for Serbia’s path to the EU.
- Meanwhile, in the meeting with FM Selaković, the interlocutors focused on the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue. FM Selaković noted that “Pristina’s avoidance to meet its obligations, primarily to form the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, along with the insistence on mutual recognition, was unacceptable.” He noted that the EU-mediated dialogue is the only way to reach an agreement.
- Lajčák and Palmer have visited Belgrade and Pristina to meet with top officials from both countries in preparation for the next meeting between Serbia’s Vučić and Kosovo PM Albin Kurti.
ELECTORAL REFORM IN BiH TALKS RESUME: The leaders of the largest Bosniak (SDA) and Croat (HDZ BiH) political parties, Bakir Izetbegović and Dragan Čović, met on Thursday to discuss electoral reforms. Izetbegović and Čović agreed they are ready for limited constitutional changes. They indicated the next meeting should include representatives of parliamentary parties. HDZ BiH’s Čović met with EU Ambassador Johann Sattler to discuss electoral reform and the 14 key priorities set by the EU.
- Limited constitutional reforms should include the European Court on Human Rights judgment in 2009 that calls for minorities to be allow to run for certain political posts including as a member of the tripartite presidency. Currently, a person must register as a Bosniak, Croat, or Serb to run for the presidency and even to vote for a member of the presidency.
- Meanwhile, HDZ BiH’s Čović in the past has called for greater ethnic division in voting for presidency members after he lost his presidency to Željko Komšić in 2018. The HDZ BiH coalition won the majority of votes of Croats in the Federation of BiH and Croat majority cantons. Čović’s campaign in 2018 centered on the creation of a third, predominantly Croat entity. The blame was put on Bosniaks voting for Komšić.
SLOVENIAN GOVT EU PRESIDENCY AGENDA: The Slovenian government released its four priority areas for its six-month presidency of the Council of the EU. They are (1) post-pandemic recovery, (2) Conference on the Future of Europe, (3) rule of law, and (4) security. A key component of the Conference on the Future of Europe and external relations will be Western Balkans as Ljubljana has been a staunch proponent of EU enlargement to the region.
INZKO’S PARTING WISDOM: After resigning yesterday as High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko told Serbia’s news outlet Politika that the legitimacy of a high representative in BiH. He cited a non-paper in 2009 calling for the Office of the High Representative to close as soon as possible but only with the fulfillment of the five plus two conditions which includes rule of law. He also noed that the Dayton Peace Accords never proposed a so-called “peaceful separation” of BiH and that its borders are not malleable at the inter-entity line. Inzko was replaced by German Christian Schmid who has support from the Peace Implementation Council except for Russia which objected to his appointment.
HUNGARIAN FM IN SLOVENIA, SERBIA: Hungarian FM Péter Szijjártó yesterday visited Ljubljana and Belgrade on a quick trip to neighboring countries.
- In Ljubljana, he discussed the EU enlargement for the Western Balkans in meetings with Slovenian PM Janez Janša and FM Anže Logar. He noted that countries like France and the Netherlands are not as enthusiastic about enlargement as Hungary and the other Višegrad Four countries.
- Meanwhile in Belgrade, he met with Serbian FM Nikola Selaković to discuss bilateral relations. FM Selaković accompanied his Hungarian counterpart on a walk around the St. Sava Temple in Belgrade.
VIŠEGRAD FOUR NON-PAPER FOR ENLARGEMENT: Bosnia’s FM Bisera Turković yesterday acknowledged the existence of a new non-paper sent to Brussels by the Višegrad Four countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) plus Austria. According to FM Turković, the non-paper is calling for the EU’s support for the whole region.
- “Yes, we have been officially informed and I am glad about such approach. Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as other countries of the region, has a clear membership perspective. We have always been an essential part of Europe, now we are only in the process of reaching advanced European standards in the functioning and strengthening of the state,” said Turković.
MEPs TO LOOK AT CHINESE SURVEILLANCE IN BELGRADE: MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield said in an interview with EURAKTIV that the European Parliament will be closely following China’s mass surveillance system with facial recognition technology in Belgrade. The MEP noted that the agreement was “to have a camera at every corner of every street in Belgrade.” She highlighted that groups of various MEPs have written to Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin but received no response.
EU PARLIAMENT, COUNCIL REACH DEAL ON FUNDING FOR MEMBERSHIP: “On Wednesday, Parliament and Council negotiators reached an agreement on the instrument governing the 2021-2027 funding for countries on the path to EU membership.
“The co-legislators have agreed on the priorities, objectives and the governance of the modernised Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III) financing. It will be worth 14.2 billion euro and will support the implementation of EU-related reforms in the seven partner countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.” (European Interest)
Speaking of the EU… the European Commission released a strategy document calling for the enlargement of the Schengen area to include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania.
MILITARY EXERCISES IN SOUTHERN SERBIA: Serbia’s Defense Ministry said that the Platinum Wolf 21 military exercises kicked off yesterday outside of the Jug base near Bujanovac. Armed forces personnel from BiH, Bulgaria, Greece, France, Hungary, Romania, the US, Slovenia, and the UK will take part in the exercises. A press release from the Defense Ministry said, “The goal of the exercise is to improve interoperability and mutual understanding between the armed forces of partner countries at tactical level during operations in support of peace in a multi-national environment.” The exercises run through June 18.
ALBANIA, TURKEY INCREASE CULTURAL RELATIONS: “Turkey and Albania on Thursday signed a cooperation protocol to protect common heritage in Albania.
“Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy hosted Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment Blendi Klosi and Minister of Culture Elva Margariti in the capital Ankara.” (Yeni Safak)
IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: Can EU-US coordination salvage the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue? By Drilon S. Gashi in Prishtina Insight
OP-ED: Serbia’s Vucic Wants to Control the Montenegrin Govt. It May Backfire by Srdjan Cvijić in Balkan Insight
ANALYSIS: A Constitution of the People: Achieving a Durable Peace in Bosnia by Aarif Abraham in The Wilson Center
ANALYSIS: Crossing Borders: In a Belgrade Café, Codes Cash and a Cut for the State by Saša Dragojlo in Balkan Insight