(08/10/08) Balkan Review


Name issue: Athens did not like the latest proposals from the UN negotiations during the round of talks in September because the proposals had references to the language and ethnicity of the Macedonian people. Macedonia is ready to accept a “fair” compromise, so long as it does not deny its national and cultural identity. Macedonia is committed to continue to actively participate in negotiations with Greece. The UN mediator, Mathew Nimetz, did not put forth any new compromise formula in the UN meetings and made no breakthroughs in negotiations. The name issue might be put on hold during all of 2009 due to elections in both Greece and Macedonia. The next round of negotiations with the UN was held 6/10, where Nimetz focused on a new compromise and getting both sides to agree on either “Upper” or “Northern” Macedonia as an acceptable solution. Skopje officials do not have hope that progress will be made in these rounds due to the division between political parties in the Parliament and state leaders.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruveski is insisting on the double name formula, the international use of the constitutional name and finding a bilateral solution for the communication with Greece. This is unacceptable to President Crvenkovski who believes that this is contradictory to the state's possible active participation in the talks. The two leaders failed to coordinate their positions on the name issue, and will go to the UN meeting without a state position on the name. PM Gruveski has made it clear that any solution agreed upon by Athens will have to be approved through referendum in the country. President accused the PM of hindering the negotiations and of trying to avoid any responsibility for the outcome of the UN-mediated process by not presenting any opinion on the latest negotiating framework of Mr. Nimetz. PM has accused the president of prolonging the name issue to bolster approval rates in the country. NATO has reiterated that Macedonia can gain membership after the name issue has been settled. Greece has vetoed Macedonia's NATO entry and is ready to veto Macedonia's bid to start accession talks with the EU.

The name issue is not the only reason for possible failure for membership negotiations for Macedonia. Progress has been made in certain areas of the SA, but more effort is needed to fulfill political criteria. The June elections were not conducted in a manner expected for EU member states. The incapability to conduct violence-free elections, absence of political dialogue and recent enactment of laws in an urgent procedure and without presence of opposition all stand as roadblocks in Macedonia’s integration process. Although 75% of benchmarks have been fulfilled, Macedonia is being criticized for holding Greece responsible for all its failures to accelerate the reform process rather than focusing on its own shortcomings. President Crvenkovski visited Brussels 2/9 where these issues were discussed. The EU November report is likely to be negative and will not suggest the opening of membership negotiations with Skopje. On 16/9, media received information from “unnamed government sources” revealing what has been dubbed an “indecent proposal.” The government basically accused the EU of offering membership negotiations in return for a change to its constitutional name.

Macedonia is considering recognizing the independence of Kosovo. Skopje has stated that the completion of border demarcation with Kosovo is completed and the use of the country’s constitutional name, were pre-conditions to recognize Kosovo. Serbia strongly urges Macedonia not to recognize Kosovo. Greece also warns Kosovo that relations between Kosovo and Greece will be strained if Kosovo does recognize Macedonia’s constitutional name.


Status negotiator, Marti Antisaari, believes that Serbia’s resistance to recognizing Kosovo will change because both countries wish to eventually join the EU. Kosovo could become a member of the World Bank and IMF next year. The EU plan implemented in Kosovo will lead to a degree of autonomy of Serbs in Kosovo, especially in health and education. Recent surveys say that a majority of the Serbs in Kosovo wish to remain in Kosovo despite the Kosovo’s UDI. The government of Kosovo supports all displaced persons who are willing to return to their homes in Kosovo.

The International Civilian Office (ICO) has expressed concerns about the mismanagement of funds and a direct political influence of the government in Kosovo’s enterprises. Kosovo is the most corrupt country in the region according to a study by the World Bank this past June. The US urges Kosovo to focus on its economy, which is the weakest in Europe. A lot of progress has been made in reforms in Kosovo; however, much work is still to be done, especially with full integration of minorities. The integration of Kosovo in the EU is at risk if its independence is not recognized by all 27 member states. Currently, only 22 member states have recognized Kosovo. The Swiss refused the Kosovo envoy, despite the fact that Switzerland has recognized Kosovo. The newly appointed representative, Naim Mala, is not welcome because he has a police record in Switzerland. The Polish president refuses to establish diplomatic relations between his country and Kosovo at ambassadorial levels. Serbia and Russia has objected to the OSCE decision to appoint a new chief of mission in Kosovo. When Austrian diplomat Werner Almhofer was appointed, OSCE member states were not consulted. Thus Serbia and Russia object because the decision was made without their agreement. Serbia has also protested the deployment of the EULEX stating that it needs the approval of the UN.

Portugal has recognized Kosovo, making it the 22 EU member state to recognize Kosovo.

Serbia could be interested in Kosovo partition of its northern part, populated mainly with Serbian minority, if Belgrade's current diplomatic battle against Kosovo's UDI fails. However, Kosovo rejects partition.


Serbia has emphasized its peaceful and diplomatic approach to Kosovo’s independence. Serbia wants to turn the matter of Kosovo’s independence from political to legal grounds. Serbia has proposed a resolution to the UN General Assembly (UN GA) to seek the International court of Justice’s (ICJ) opinion on whether or not Kosovo’s declaration of independence was in accordance with international law. Serbia maintains that it was a violation of the UN Charter and other documents in international law; Kosovo's UDI did not respect the territorial integrity of Serbia. The resolution will be included on the UN GA agenda. Serbia has not yet secured a majority in the UN GA for passing this resolution. Moscow fully supports Serbia. The EU is likely to abstain. Bosnia and Herzegovina has already committed to not voting on the resolution. The vote will take place on October 8. The EU envoy in Kosovo believes that the ICJ’s initiative on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence will have no real effect; Kosovo’s independence is an irreversible process. Several countries share this opinion as well.

Leaders in Serbia have promised to the UN War Crimes to do everything possible to arrest Mladic and Hadzic. Serbia’s cooperation here is crucial to the country’s EU membership bid. It is expected that Serbia will obtain candidacy status in 2009. EU foreign ministers are discussing implementing the Interim Trade Deal, however the Netherlands insists on the arrest of Mladic and Hadzic first. The Netherlands is blocking Serbia’s SAA, leaving the EU without a consensus on the Interim Trade Agreement. The Netherlands has stated that they will not soften their position; Serbia must fulfill its obligations to the Hague Tribunal, arresting and extraditing Mladic and Hadzic.

Tomislav Nikolic is planning on forming his own party on 21/10, called the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). This party will stand for the territorial integrity of Serbia, bettering living standards in Serbia, military neutrality and cooperation with the East and West. The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) demands that they receive the 19 seats of those who left the party to join Nikolic. No agreement on a new parliament session has been made because of the SRS demands than the status of the MP’s be resolved first.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

BiH invited Kosovo monitors to observe local elections. However, Serbs of Republika Srpska furiously protested their presence and because of their strong objection the Kosovo observers have been rejected. BiH held its elections with 55% voter turnout. The conduct of the elections fulfilled international standards according to the observers. Now that elections are over, BiH government will focus on implementation of the SAA and resolving the issue of state property and future status of Brcko.

The EU member states greed their military mission should be withdrawn from BiH, although no date has been set.

The UN EU envoy to BiH says that the EU should take a leading role in BiH. There needs to be mores support to local institutions. The UN also needs to take action to reverse the de facto “ethnic apartheid” in BiH. This will be part of the efforts to redress the failure surrounding the Srebrenica massacre. The Republika Srpska has decided to withdraw from the state power transmission company and form its own. This could damage BiH’s bid for EU integration. BiH leaders need to come together more for closer relations to the EU. The EU/UN envoy says significant progress has been made in reforms but more needs to be done in regards to Brcko District's integration and a solution for State Property.


The Croatian constitution must be changed before it can join the EU. Currently the constitution is the only one that forbids extradition, and this needs to be amended. Croatia needs to work on judicial reform, fight against corruption and competition/privatization of its shipbuilding industry as well. Croatia and Montenegro could be NATO members in 2009.


Montenegro intends to apply to the EU by the end of next year. Montenegro has successfully negotiated and signed the pre-entry deal of its SAA with the EU. Montenegro has stated that it will act carefully in the recognition of Kosovo. Officials indicated that the independence of Kosovo was a reality, suggesting that Montenegro will recognize the new state. However, Montenegro will not recognize Kosovo before the UN voting on the ICJ resolution proposed by Serbia. Serbia warns Montenegro not to recognize Kosovo.

The EC has adopted the 2008-2010 financial aid to the Western Balkans and Turkey. This aid is intended to enhance reforms in these countries, both political and economic, and encourage development to help these countries achieve EU standards.

Paolo Bergamaschi is advisor for the Greens in the Internation Affairs Committee of the European Parliament

GroenDe enige partij die sociaal én milieuvriendelijk is.

De Groenen/EVAGroenen en Europese Vrije Alliantie in het Europees Parlement.

Samen ijveren voor een beter Europa en klimaat?