Western Balkans Overview July 01, 2024 – CWBS

Western Balkans Overview July 01, 2024 – CWBS
  • On July 1, Hungary Takes Over the EU Presidency

One of the priorities of the Hungarian presidency will be a consistent enlargement policy based on the achievements of the candidates, with a stronger focus on the European integration of the Western Balkans. “The EU has long been strongly engaged in providing a European perspective for the Western Balkans, as the Community cannot be complete without the accession of this region. The integration of the region benefits the European Union in economic, security and geopolitical terms,” the program of the Hungarian presidency says.

As to the actions of the EU Council on Foreign Affairs, stability in the Western Balkans is vital for the EU, as it stated. Therefore, during the Hungarian presidency, the deepening of specific cooperation projects with the region would be supported, especially those for improving regional cooperation and stability.

The EU-Western Balkans summit is also planned.

It is predicted that during its presidency, Hungary would pay special attention to the European integration of Serbia, focusing on unblocking the process of opening new chapters in the accession negotiations. Representatives of official Budapest previously emphasized that Serbia’s European integration should not stop, despite Belgrade’s refusal to align its foreign and security policy with EU one and to join European sanctions against the Russian Federation.

  • Montenegro entered the final phase of European integration

The Heads of Diplomacy of the EU Member States approved a positive report on Montenegro’s fulfillment of the (IBAR) interim benchmark in Chapters 23 and 24 (Rule of Law) at the EU-Montenegro Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in Brussels on 26 June.

“This IGC demonstrates that the EU is ready to move ahead on enlargement, and now we will open the final phase of our negotiations with Montenegro, said European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varheliy.

After the positive IBAR, Podgorica hopes for the intensification of accession negotiations. First of all, it is about renewing the process of closing other sections, for the first time in the last seven years.

  • The Parliament of Montenegro adopted a Resolution on Genocide in the Jasenovac camp system

The Parliament of Montenegro adopted a Resolution on Genocide in the Jasenovac, Dachau and Mauthausen camps system.

A total of 41 deputies voted in favor of the Resolution. Almost all of them are representatives of the ruling coalition, with the exception of Albanian deputies. Most of the opposition was absent during the vote.

The Jasenovac concentration camp was a death camp in the Independent State of Croatia (ISC) during World War II. Two other concentration camps in Nazi Germany were added to the Resolution at the last moment and did not change the essense of the document.

The Assembly condemns any denial of the genocide in Jasenovac and calls for the preservation of the memory of those tragic events through educational programs and activities that will prevent any form of revisionism. From now on, April 22 is officially celebrated every year as the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the genocide in Jasenovac.

The initiator of the Resolution, Speaker of the Parliament, leader of the New Serb Democracy Andrija Mandić emphasized that Montenegro is “the first country in the world” that had adopted a Resolution on Jasenovac and “condemned this genocide.”

The deputy of the ruling Europe Now Movement (PES), Branka Marković, emphasized that “the Resolution cannot be directed against today’s Croatia or the Croatian people.” “Just as we emphasized that the Serbs cannot be labelled as a genocidal nation because of the Srebrenica Genocide Resolution, so the Croats cannot be a genocidal nation because of the Jasenovac Genocide Resolution,” she said.

At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia announced that Montenegro’s decision to adopt the Resolution on genocide in the Jasenovac camp system and the Dachau and Mauthausen camps could not be considered benevolent and good-neighborly in relation to the Republic of Croatia and that it was not in accordance with the declared goal of Montenegro’s membership in the European Union.

“Taking into account the real purpose of this act of the Parliament of Montenegro, which puts Montenegro in a position that the Republic of Croatia cannot interpret as good-neighborly and is contrary to the intentions of developing friendly relations, the Republic of Croatia reserves the right to react in an appropriate manner,” the statement concluded.

According to Croatian officials, the Montenegrin parliament made the decision due to pressure from “other countries in the region” (Serbia) and is a kind of response to the resolution on Srebrenica.

The adoption of the Resolution on Jasenovac is expected to have a negative impact on the European integration process of Montenegro due to the position of the EU member, Croatia.

  • The next round of the European Union-facilitated talks between Belgrade and Pristina ended inconclusively

In the framework of the regular Kosovo-Serbian dialogue, there was no meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Brussels on June 26. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, and the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, met separately with Kurti and Vučić. After the bilateral meetings, a tripartite meeting was announced, but it did not take place.

Borrell said that Pristina was not ready for a tripartite meeting, and the representatives of Kosovo had some conditions for its holding. He talks about an official confirmation (signing) by Belgrade of the basic Ohrid Agreement, which was agreed within the framework of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, mediated by the European Union in February 2023. Another demand is the extradition by Belgrade to Pristina of Milan Radoičić, the leader of the armed attack on Banjska village in northern Kosovo last September.

The cancelled tripartite meeting and the general course of the last round of dialogue on the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo demonstrate that the EU is currently unable to convince both sides of the need to fulfill previously reached agreements. However, In Brussels they are optimistic about it.

According to the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, “it is not enough that the EU wants to normalize relations between the two sides if they cannot agree on how to move forward. We cannot do the deal for them. Our role is to help and support the parties in trying to continue the Dialog, and we will remain committed to that,” Borrell said.

  • North Macedonia is ready to change the Constitution and include the Bulgarian minority in the text

This was announced at the Dubrovnik Forum (Croatia) on June 29 by T. Mutsunsky, one of the leaders of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia.

According to him, Skopje will agree to fulfill this Sofia’s demand, if the constitutional changes enter into force on the day of North Macedonia’s accession to the European Union. “We want predictability, we want to know that this is the last bilateral issue we face,” Mutsunsky said, calling it a rational European compromise.

According to him, the new government wants to have good relations with Bulgaria and will focus on European integration and related issues – the fight against corruption, the rule of law and economic development.

As you know, negotiations on North Macedonia’s membership in the European Union are blocked due to Bulgaria’s ultimatum. Sofia demands that the neighboring country amend the Constitution, mentioning the Bulgarians as the state-forming people of North Macedonia.

VMPO-DPMNE won the last election, claiming that it is not ready to meet Bulgaria’s demands.

  • The former Chief Special Prosecutor of Montenegro is suspected of committing war crimes more than 30 years ago

Montenegro Ex-Chief Special Prosecutor, Milivoje Katnić, is suspected of committing war crimes against the civilian population during the Yugoslav People’s Army’s aggression against Dubrovnik in 1992. The Special State Prosecutor’s office of Montenegro accuses Katnic of violent treatment of Croatian civilians.

The day before, Katnić, who has been in custody since April 14 due to another investigation, was questioned as a suspect in the war crimes case committed in Croatia.

Katnić was the assistant commander for legal affairs at the JNA command in the occupied Cavtat during the war in Croatia.

Ex-Chief Special Prosecutor denies involvement in war crimes.

Katnić was the main accuser in the coup d’état case, which, according to the investigation, was organized by agents of the Russian special services with the participation of pro-Russian politicians in Montenegro. Currently, those involved in the coup d’etat case are part of the ruling coalition in Montenegro. The opposition is convinced that all accusations against Katnić are aimed at discrediting the investigation into the case.