Friday, April 15, 2005

WESTERN BALKANS: Rehn announced communication on Kosovo last week on European vocation but warned of slippage

On 13 April, the Parliament held a debate on countries from the Western Balkans, which confirmed both the conviction these countries had for their European vocation but also that they all had to make efforts, notably in their cooperation with the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Croatia: Enlargement Commission Olli Rehn admitted that he was disappointed at the country's inability to ensure full cooperation with the Tribunal, which could have allowed for accession negotiations to be opened on 17 March but added, “the EU is ready as soon as Croatia is ready” (EUROPE 8910). Rehn indicated that for Serbia and Montenegro the Commission took its decision after a feasibility study on a stabilisation and association agreement marking “the beginning of the European road for Serbia and Montenegro” (EUROPE 8926. He did insist, however, that the tenth anniversary of Srebrenica in July must see Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic brought to justice.

The feasibility study clearly states that Belgrade's EU aspirations “are linked to a positive outcome in Kosovo's status”, indicated the Commissioner. Rehn also announced that the Commission would be presenting a communication next week on A European Future for Kosovo (from whom he is expecting a constructive attitude, to Serbs too, whose leaders were prepared to negotiate. FYROM: Rehn explained that his services would be analysing 13,000 pages and responses to their questionnaire and the Commission hoped to give an opinion by the end of the year. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mr Rehn hoped to be able to recommend opening negotiations for a stabilisation and association agreement in May. With the approach of the tenth anniversary of the Dayton agreement, the Commissioner explained that it was time to go from the Dayton era to the Brussels era. Albania: he said that they would be able to propose the conclusion of negotiations for such an agreement if parliamentary elections this summer corresponded to international standards.

Highlighting the fact that the EU's attitude to the regions depended very much on the individual country in question, the president of the Council Nicolas Schmit noted that, “the most performing countries will be able to go faster”. He warned of, “the possibilities of slippage, violence and the challenge to values at the basis of European integration, alas, not being excluded…, peace and stability have not yet been acquired” in this region with the “dark past, where destructive nationalism have caused havoc”.

In the Balkans, the EU is expected to conclude what it set up in the 1990s but ht countries of the region also have to make an effort, exclaimed Doris Pack (CDU). Austrian Social Democrat Johannes Swoboda said that Croatia could play an important role in the region and that in Serbia Montenegro they would have to reconcile the desire for independence and the maintaining of historical ties, he said calling on the EU's imagination” to find solutions. A weariness displayed to enlargement should not be allowed to damage the Balkans. Joost Lagendijk (Greens, Belgium) underlined that the Union needed stability in the Balkans. Bernd Posselt (CSU) said that the question of the name for Macedonia had to be resolved (Macedonia or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as Greece wanted. He called on his “very dear” Greek colleagues to not be petty in this matter. He pointed out that in Bavaria they had Franconia and this did not pose any problems to anyone. EUROPE will return to the subject.

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