Milanovic: Brdo-Brijuni Process will not solve problems of Western Balkans

NEWS 17.05.2021 18:13
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Source: REUTERS/Borut Zivulovic

"Croatia and Slovenia wish to help the Western Balkan countries on their EU journey, but it would not be possible to resolve their bilateral problems as part of the Brdo-Brijuni Process initiative," Croatian President, Zoran Milanovic, said on Monday.

“It won’t be possible to solve the bilateral problems the states participating in the initiative have as part of the Brdo-Brijuni Process,” Milanovic said after Slovenian media reported about arguments between Presidents Vjosa Osmani of Kosovo and Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia during a summit of the initiative in Slovenia.

“I think it would be healthy” not to use bilateral problems at all “because today that obstructed our work a little,” he said at a joint press conference with Slovenian President Borut Pahor in Brdo Pri Kranju.

The main motive of EU members Slovenia and Croatia is “neither mentoring nor tutoring” but “helping their neighbors on their EU journey,” Milanovic said.

In a joint declaration adopted after the summit, EU leaders are called on to look at the Western Balkans as a whole in the accession process, and membership aspirants to step up the necessary reforms.

“We agreed on a text for the declaration which is a compromise, someone would say the lowest common denominator, but I say compromise (…) There were certain disputes, disagreements,” Milanovic said, adding that Osmani’s agenda was more ambitious and that some parts had to be left out due to Serbia’s opposition. “A compromise but clear solution behind which we all stand.”

North Macedonia in “impossible position”

Milanovic said North Macedonia “is in an impossible position” and that one EU member state demanded that North Macedonia “define its national genesis in the way requested by the neighboring state” in history textbooks. He said that he would “openly oppose” that “within his powers.”

He was referring to Bulgaria, which is rejecting a negotiating framework for North Macedonia because, Sofia claims, North Macedonian textbooks “revise and negate their common (Macedonian and Bulgarian) ethnic and linguistic history.”

Milanovic recalled Croatia’s EU journey, saying he could understand the conditions set by Slovenia. “I never felt nor saw that Slovenia wished to spite Croatia and to essentially stop it, and humiliate it.”

“That should be discussed instead of borders and non-papers,” he said.

The European Council in March 2020 gave the green light for opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, but no date has been set due to new problems. Montenegro is closest to EU accession, with 33 policy chapters opened and three provisionally closed during nine years of negotiations. Serbia began accession negotiations in 2014, opening 18 and provisionally closing two chapters.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential accession candidates. Five EU member states have not recognised Kosovo – Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia.

‘Okay’ relationship with Vucic

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he talked briefly with Milanovic today and that they have “polite” relations. “We, of course, want good relations with Croatia, but we don’t think we have to humour anyone in Croatia nor do we think that anyone in Croatia should humour us.”

Milanovic described his relationship with Vučić as “okay.”

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