“ Back in autumn”! Reeker in Tirana! Mini- Schengen “glue does not stick” Just to “cross the river”!

Realpolitik “ flash” No. 13  

  18 - 30 June  2021

 EXCLUSIVELY at ARGUMENTUM, the renowned diplomat& analyst, “ dots the i’s and crosses the t’s” on 4 major events in only 1000 words  Dr. JORGJI KOTE

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  1. ”Back in autumn”  was decided  on Albania and  Northern Macedonia at the GAC or the EU Foreign Ministers Meeting in Luxembourg on 22 June. As expected, Bulgaria insisted in its veto against Northern Macedonia, which did also “ burn”  us. In the EU Summit on 24 June in Brussels, the Bulgarian President reconfirmed Bulgaria’s conditions in exchange for lifting its veto. Then, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry  announced its 5, which in fact carry the weight of 500 conditions on identity, language and history. Moreover, on 11 July there will be the second early general elections  within  5 months in  Bulgaria, where NM has  immense electoral sensitiviness. Moreover, when NM seems not to « move an inch from its trenches. Hence, we have to wait until the upcoming GAC Meeting in October hoping for a possible compromise between Bulgaria and N. Macedonia ; otherwise in the next Summit in December, the pressure to decouple us from NM  should escalate, so that the negotiations could start with Albania. Moreover that the odds are that none of them is ready for  a deal. But, as they say, it’s not fair  that « with the dry grass, the green is also burned » Certainly, we hope and wish that N. Macedonia does not go  through the same previous blockade!  But, for the time being, let us wait for the exam “ back in autumn”
  2. Mini- Schengen “ glue does not stick” The video Mini-Schengen Summit among Rama- Vuçiç and Zaev took place on 28 June. Since in its Summit last November with the Balkan states in Sofia the EU refers to “ Balkans Common Market” we thought that Mini-Schengen was put for ever in the archives. Besides, just as in October 2019, Mini- Schengen came to surface instantly after the EU Council postponed the opening of negociations with Albania and NM. This was clearly seen on their critical language vis à vis EU failures, without mentioning a kind word about its huge support and aid programs! Actually, there is no substantial progress and Mini- Schengen is reduced to a NGO trilateral  forum with “neither head nor tail”. Besides, Kosovo’s PM Kurti is demanding SEFTA instead of CEFTA. Although in substance part of Berlin Process, Mini-Schengen is Serbia’s initiative; it is using it as a political/diplomatic “ make up” labelling Kosovo as  the “ bad guy”  Now that the USA/EU are pressing for Pristina - Belgrade dialogue ahead of WB Berlin Summit on 5 July. In principle we  are not against this initiative, but with the EU naming; the latter adds to its reliability, it makes it acceptable for all and puts an end to odds among Albanians. Besides, in diplomacy, the name and the initiator are at times decisive for a project success. It was the “name issue” that blocked NM for 25 years!  Otherwise, Mini- Schengen  “ glue does not stick” anymore.
  3. Reeker in Tirana! On 30 June, the US Assistant State Secretary, Philipe Reeker made a “ flying” visit in Tirana. He met y PM Rama, FM Xhaçka and opposition leader Basha. It was an extension of the tour by US State Secretary Blinken in Europe. Although nothing was disclosed to the public, the diplomatic logic says that after declaring former President Berisha “ non - grata”, USA demands from opposition to keep away from him and enter the Parliament in September. Whereas the ruling majority is urged to continue the onslaught against corruption, forge a constructive dialogue with opposition and steps to open the EU Accession negotiations; then, help put an end to the deadlock in the dialogue Pristina-Belgrade. Reeker’s visit in Tirana and in Skopje  launched the message that albeit other major challenges, the USA remain committed in Western Balkans; but the latter should try and find solutions from inside, without expecting any magic or panacea by the USA/EU.
  4. Just “to cross the river” as they say was the EU Summit on 24/25 June in Brussels. Although it was a follow- up of the March and May Summits on issues that are crying out for solution, apart from “ neither fish nor flesh” statements of European style and quarrels, nothing special was reached there. In more concrete terms:

With Russia, they refused the proposal by Merkel/Macron for a EU Summit with Putin, so that apart from punitive measures and sanctions, the EU should continue the dialogue with him, just as President Biden did a few days ago.

Unlike western countries, all other eastern european states were categorically against. They want in advance that Rusia shows signs of progress and then view the possibility for such a Summit.

However, they agreed to keep on the dialogue with Russia in expert and working group’s  levels. Many local and foreign experts whom I share, think that the Summit EU - President Putin is the most viable alternative ; indeed, it is « wishful thinking » to expect from  Putin to  «  pay a price » without this Summit!

For Hungary, there were harsher critical stances after adopting the discriminatory law related to  LGBTQ+ ; up to proposals to expel it from the EU.

More categorical were the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Belgium and Portugal. Never were there in these summits such hot debates that exceeded the diplomatic bundaries.

The division East - West was also  noticeable. All westerners denounced Hungary, but  only Estonia and Letonia from former eastern countries. Finally, they refused the proposal to expel Hungary from the EU and asked the EU Commission to follow up the situation and table its proposals in the next EU Summit.

As to Turkey, they decided to prolong the Agreement with the EU on the migrants there. The EU will pay 3,5 billion Euro to Turkey for this service. However, this compromises the EU position vis à vis Turkey ; it shows the EU weaknesses to reach an agreement on migration during the last 5 years. Therefore, there is no other way out for the EU besides Turkey ; the latter is certainly seeking its own compensation both «  in cash «  and «  in kind », i.e. the EU should continue to « turn a deaf ear and a blind eye » towards the turkish non- democratic steps and actions.

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