Western Balkans overview Oct 30, 2023 – CWBS

Western Balkans overview Oct 30, 2023 – CWBS
  • Milorad Dodik calls for Serbs in Balkans to create single state, including Montenegro

President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, said in this century the Serbs should form a single state, of which Montenegro would be a part. Dodik stressed the need for a “great all-Serbian gathering” from which such a message would be conveyed, adding that this new state must be formed through democratic processes and political efforts, not war. “We live in an era when in a few years or decades we will have to create a new configuration of the world, the Serbs cannot be caught off guard, but now we must say that in this century we want a single state within Serbia, Republika Srpska, if there is such a democratic decision, and Montenegro,” said Dodik.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro reacted to such an unexpected statement by Dodik: “This is not the first time that the future of Montenegro has become the subject of inappropriate and unacceptable comments in view of the local political situation in the region and/or with the aim of deliberately undermining good neighborly relations, the European prospects and security of the region, therefore we call on Mr. Dodik to refrain from expansionist and nationalist rhetoric and behave politically and state-wise responsibly.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled that Montenegro is an independent and internationally recognized country, a member of NATO, and the only union in which Dodik can find himself with Montenegro in the future is the European one. “That is why it is imperative that our region finally frees itself from the retrograde political legacy of the dark 1990s, which is still championed and represented by Mr. Dodik, so that we can finally move forward and build the societies that our citizens deserve,” the statement says.

The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of Montenegro strongly condemned Dondik’s statement as the party believes it reflects “nationalist tendencies” and poses a serious threat to regional stability. The party called on all political leaders across the region to refrain from nationalist rhetoric and focus on building peace, cooperation, and prosperity.

The Bosnian Party also condemned the statement. “We are calling attention to a dangerous narrative. This is a direct call to violate the Dayton Agreement and threaten the sovereignty of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We call on the United States of America and the EU to condemn Dodik’s intentions and addresses because the USA and the EU are guarantors of the sovereignty of states and the inviolability of borders in the region,” the statement reads.

Thus, the president of Republika Srpska made his statement at a time when some Serbian politicians are speculating around the topic of a scheduled population census in Montenegro, voicing, probably, the desired ultimate goal – the unification of countries with a significant share of Serbian populations into a single state. In addition, the statement was made at a time when the Montenegrin parliament is due to vote on the new government composition, which was supported by the pro-Serbian coalition, For the Future of Montenegro. Allowing the 44th government to be formed with the support of this political force caused dismay among the country’s patriotic political parties and Western allies. Everyone had doubts about the sincerity of For the Future of Montenegro to support the pro-European and Atlantic course pursued by the state. The President of Republika Srpska voiced what the majority of the voters of this political force are focused on. Therefore, whether there is a desire on the part of the coalition to become a sincere leader of the country’s European integration course will become clear if it releases an official statement on this matter. The reaction of the president and the new head of government will also be indicative. If they remain silent, it will suggest that Dodik voiced their wishes, of which they may simply not be willing to speak openly and publicly. In any case, this is a really bad scenario for Podgorica. However, there are still a few days to put everything in its place and to condemn Dodik’s pro-Serbian ideology at the highest level. It is possible that everything will be limited only to the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, by the way, turned out to be sharp and constructive. However, given that the president of Republika Srpska can make more provocative statements along these lines, there really is no way to do without the reaction from the head of state and prime minister, otherwise it would suggest the lack of a strong will to publicly confront Dodik.

  • Leaders of France, Germany, and Italy call on Serbia to de facto recognize Kosovo, and Pristina – to create a Community of Serbian Municipalities

The leaders of France, Germany, and Italy have called on Serbia to de facto recognize Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 and which Belgrade still considers a province. In a statement issued a day after talks involving both sides in Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said it was time for the Balkan neighbors to honor their commitments. Their move comes amid growing international concern that the former wartime foes could get into another open conflict following a series of violent incidents observed in recent months. Much of the tension is focused on the north of Kosovo, where the majority are ethnic Serbs. The rest of Kosovo is made up of ethnic Albanians (absolute majority). In their statement, Macron, Scholz and Meloni reiterated long-standing calls for Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to set up a Community of Serb-majority municipalities in the north, giving local Serbs some degree of self-government. Serbia and Kosovo have been negotiating for years with the mediation of the European Union to normalize their relations. As the process stalled, the leaders of the three largest EU powers became increasingly involved in trying to resolve the crisis. While the EU has previously shied away from the politically sensitive issue of Belgrade’s de facto recognition of Kosovo, the three leaders have made it clear they expect Serbia to do just that, putting pressure on President Aleksandar Vučić. They also called on Pristina to start the process of establishing a Community of Serbian Municipalities (CSM) in northern Kosovo, as stipulated in the draft charter.

At the latest negotiations in Brussels, Vučić said he did not recognize Kosovo either formally or unofficially. But officials in Paris, Berlin, and Rome say both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to one day join the EU, so they insist that the two countries will have to resolve their differences before they can become members of the European Union. Without progress in normalizing relations, both sides risk losing important opportunities, the three Western leaders said.

It can be predicted that the statement issued by Macron, Scholz, and Meloni sends a clear signal to Vučić and Kurti that the EU does not have much time to continue long discussions with Belgrade and Pristina. Either fulfill the commitments made, or stay out of the European expansion scheduled for 2030. And if Kurti will likely go for creating of the CSM in the north of Kosovo, it will be much more difficult for Vučić to de facto recognize the agency of Pristina. Now he has a break due to the parliamentary and local elections, which will be held on December 17. Then After that, he will win some time by delaying the formation of a new government, but this process does not have an infinite deadline. And then a radical step will have to be taken. Vučić hopes that perhaps later it will be possible to do it more easily in view of the unstable international situation, or to openly refuse to join the EU, which will have complex implications for Belgrade, but on a smaller scale. The collective West is ready to wait until the end of the elections, the outcome of which is not entirely predictable yet. However, even with the victory of the opposition forces, it is not a given that all of them will agree to bow to the pressure from Paris, Berlin, and Rome, although some are already declaring their support for the position of Brussels. However, there are no such supporters in the political camp run by Vučić.

  • Nominees put forward for posts in Montenegro’s 44th government 

Milojko Spajić, the leader of the Europe Now movement, as the official responsible for building up the new government, submitted to parliament a proposal regarding the work program and composition of the new Cabinet. Deputies are expected to vote in Andrija Mandić, the leader of the coalition force For the Future of Montenegro, as Speaker of the Assembly, as well as the entire composition of the new government, as early as on Monday, October 30, when the parliament is scheduled to convene for a session.

Spajic tapped Aleksa Bečić for the post of Deputy Prime Minister for Security, Internal Policy, European and Foreign Affairs. Momo Koprivica was nominated for Deputy Prime Minister for Political System, Justice and Anti-Corruption, and Srđan Pavićević – for Deputy Prime Minister for Labor, Education, Health Care and Social Affairs. Spajić proposed Nik Gjeloshaj for the position of Vice Prime Minister for Economic Policy and Minister of Economic Development, and Dragoslav Šćekić – for Vice Prime Minister for Demography and Youth and Minister of Sports and Youth. Filip Ivanović was nominated for the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Filip Radulovic – for the position of Minister of Transport and Maritime Affairs, Janko Odović – for the position of Minister of Spatial Planning, Urbanism and State Property, and Majda Horcević – for Minister of European Affairs. Novica Vuković was tapped as Minister of Finance, Anđela Jakšić Stojanović – as Minister of Education, Science and Innovation, Andrej Milović – as Minister of Justice, and Naida Nišič – as Minister of Labor and Social Security. Vojislav Šimun was proposed for the position of Minister of Health, Saša Mujović – for the position of Minister of Energy and Mining Industry, Boris Bogdanović – for the position of Minister of Internal Affairs, and Dragan Krapović – for Minister of Defense. The candidate for the position of Minister of Tourism, Ecology and Sustainable Development is Vladimir Martynović, the candidate for Minister of Culture and Mass Media is Tamara Vujović, while the nominee for Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management is Vladimir Joković. Marash Dukaj was proposed for the post of Minister of Public Administration, and Fatmir Gjeka – for the post of Minister of Human and Minority Rights.

It must be understood that Spajić has enough votes to approve the new composition of the government. However, it is possible that Milorad Dodik’s chauvinistic statement may introduce some adjustments to the voting process. The lack of just a few guaranteed votes today can block parliamentary support to the new government. Some unexpected last-moment statements at still possible. But taking into account that the new composition of the government was being formed for quite a long time and it is obvious that every candidate was vetted, everything may proceed just as planned.

  • Large group of new ambassadors appointed in North Macedonia

After several years of stagnation, a new wave of North Macedonian ambassadors has been mandated to represent the country in seven diplomatic missions around the world so far. Seven newly appointed ambassadors presented their theses and priorities of their diplomatic mandate before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Assembly of North Macedonia. Shpend Sadiki, who was appointed as ambassador to Tel Aviv (Israel), said that Macedonia will continue to support Israel in the ongoing armed conflict with Hamas in Palestine. After seven years without an ambassador in Beijing, Sasko Nasev will become the new head of the diplomatic mission in China, career diplomat Igor Popov will be deployed as ambassador to Brazil, Jasmin Cahil – to Warsaw (Poland), Ylber Sela – to Berlin (Germany), and following some vicissitudes, Andrej Žernovski will take up the post of ambassador in Bucharest (Romania). After six years without an ambassador, North Macedonia will have a new head of diplomatic mission in neighboring Serbia – former Minister of Justice, Professor Nikola Tupančevski. In addition to these seven ambassadors, the head of Macedonian diplomacy, Bujar Osmani, announced that soon the vacant positions of the ambassador in Prague (Czech Republic) will be filled, where Emil Krstevski is set to be going, in London (UK) – Katerina Stavrevska will be appointed, and Dzenk Sejfula will go to Stockholm (Sweden). Osmani claims that most of the newly appointed ambassadors are career diplomats, while others were well-known figures in the country’s political and social life.

It should be understood that despite such intensity with the appointment of new ambassadors, the public still has questions about what Macedonia has lost due to the long-standing “diplomatic black holes” in key world political centers. In addition to not having an ambassador in China for seven years, in Israel for five and a half years, North Macedonia had not had an official ambassador-level diplomatic representative even in the United States for four and a half years (until last year). During the presentation of the new ambassadors in the parliament, some deputies noted that due to political and personal squabbles, North Macedonia did not have heads of diplomatic missions in several important states, including those that are of crucial importance for the implementation of the country’s European integration process.

  • Interview of the Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenković

“Civilian casualties must be avoided, and Israel’s response must be directed against Hamas, not against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in an interview with France 24. He recalled the “intentional provocation” by Hamas and the October 7 terrorist attack, as well as EU support when it comes to Israel’s right to “defend its security as well as defend itself in accordance with international and humanitarian law.” “The European Commission’s decision to triple the amount of humanitarian aid with the support of member states was important and necessary,” the Prime Minister said. Recent political visits by representatives of European institutions and heads of state and government have led to a clear realization: the condemnation of terrorism, the need to avoid civilian casualties, as well as the escalation of conflicts in the region, given that there are currently too many conflicts in Europe. Plenković obviously meant Russia’s war against Ukraine. He clarified that it is always difficult to deal with several crises, but there is no reason to worry when it comes to Ukraine. Support for Ukraine is very, very broad and always a priority of the European Union, despite the fact that after the recent return to power of Slovak populist Robert Fico, who said that he no longer wants to support Kyiv militarily and that his assistance will be limited to humanitarian aid. “The opinion of the vast majority of member states is important, and I believe Slovakia will eventually join the main directions of European politics,” Plenković said. Another European politician whose country is a member of the EU creates problems when he is at the center of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. This is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who met with Vladimir Putin at the recent summit in China. Plenković said that the meeting “did not surprise him”, adding that this is not the policy of the vast majority of member states in general.

It was emphasized that Croatia allocated EUR 5 million worth of additional assistance for demining efforts in Ukraine. But as France 24 reports, Croatia’s position is ambiguous for some, as the country has made it clear it cannot rule out a ban on the import of Ukrainian grain, as Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia have done. The Prime Minister of Croatia explained what the statement was about. “Croatia offered its ports for the transportation of Ukrainian grain, guaranteeing Ukraine transit, not import. This is a big difference,” Plenković said. He also recalled Croatia’s support for Ukraine from the very outset of the invasion. In addition, Ukraine was among the first five countries to recognize Croatia in 1991. “And from the very beginning, we stood with Ukraine,” Plenković said, emphasizing Croatia’s assistance in “humanitarian demining” as well as legal assistance in case of future trials of war criminals. He recalled that Croatia was also “a victim of the aggression of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime”, so he believes that “no one else can offer Ukraine the experience we have in this field”.

The interview of the head of the Croatian government clarified Zagreb’s position regarding the events in the Middle East and Croatia’s vote at the UN General Assembly in support of Israel. The Croatian Prime Minister mentioned the traditionally good relations with Ukraine, which recognized the state independence of Croatia being the third country in the world to do so. It is obvious that Croatia’s experience in demining and criminal prosecution of war criminals is important in the context of the huge problems that Kyiv is facing in the fight against mine contamination and bringing to justice Russian leaders and organizers of military aggression against Ukraine.