Realpolitik “ flash” No. 14
01 - 16 JULY 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
1. No guts! This may refer to the Slovenian EU Presidency (1 July- 31 December). In terms of geography, population, geo-politics and diplomacy. Moreover, it succeeds the previous portugese and german presidencies, which albeit their power failed in some cardinal issues. True, the Slovenian presidency agenda nurtures hopes and expectations thanks to its rich catalogue with spicy issues, starting with the pandemics up to Western Balkans enlargement. As for the latter, after 11 summer summits to date, it has planned another on 6 October. Yet, in lifting the Bulgarian veto against Northern Macedonia, it has two large obstacles: first, the explosive regional problematics, which does not permit much time and space and secondly, Slovevia is somewhat in a compromised position. Like Bulgaria a year ago, it did also block Croatia from EU accession for five years (2008 - 2013); inally, it lifted its veto but not the “ odds and quarrels”. In fact, it was the Slovenian - Croatian deadlock on territorial issues that made the EU place the condition of resolving outstanding bilateral issues before their accession. Now this condition does also apply to the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Thus, if Slovenian presidency would insist on Bulgaria, the latter could very well remind Ljubljana of its previous veto. Let us not mention here the concerns produced by Slovenia on its very first day of the presidency by Prime Minister Jansa with his negative remarks on media and judiciary. Therefore, the best thing for the time being is “ wait and see”!
2.Prespa Summer Summit! In the previous issue we mentioned that the summits For and In Western Balkans are mushrooming. Only in the 30 last days 11 regional summits, physical and virtual everywhere. Since in most of cases they have become like shows, one may say that they have replaced the summer theatrical shows and cinemas. Such was also the case with the Summit of the Prespa Forum held in Ohrid on 2 July. Although the topic was what should Western Balkans do for the EU, the opposite occurred; the EU was nailed down and demonized, especially by PM Rama; making the EU guilty almost for all failures in the region; he also wrongly underlined that the EU cannot tell us what to do in our region! Hence, this Summit in Ohrid left a sour taste! The others were mostly as we say in Albania “ good words and stones in bag”
3.Western Balkans in Berlin was through the virtual Summit on 5 July, in the context of Berlin Process that started in 2014; as a notable diplomatic initiative by Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the support of France, the UK, Italy, Austria and the coperation of Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Slovenia. Let us say from the outset “ yes, it was rewarding!” With over 50 projects and programs, a proper political and diplomatic response; above all, it has helped keep alive the Western Balkans hopes to EU membership.
It’s main novelty is the priority attached to economy and especially to the modernization of infrastructure of every country in the region, as indispensable conditions to fill the major gaps with the EU.
To this end, in March 2016 the Balkans Investment Facility was set up with its seat in Tirana; although not yet fully operational, despite Albania’s efforts.
This process has properly attempted to reach over to the interest groups, the civil society, the academic community, youth, education, culture and even on a wider scale.
Among others, following the franco-german model, the Paris Summit 2016 decided to set up the Joint Regional Youth Office ( RYCO) Yet, even that has not had any considerable impact in creating the youth spirit.
Likewise, the Berlin Process set out as its fundamental goal the consolidation and materialization of political dialogue and regional cooperation in all areas. However, as it was also noted in the Summit on 5 July, the region has been eye-witnessing again violence and conflicts of all sorts within and among its states. Even worse, its leaders and new initiatives have not been able to escape the outdated nationalistic mentality.
Par consequence, there is no tangible improvement on the ground in the region as compared to 7 years ago. Northern Macedonia and Albania have respectively been waiting 15 and 7 years for the opening of accession negoations; in the Sofja Summit last November, in the framework of Berlin Process co-chaired by Bulgaria and North Macedonia, the former placed its veto on Macedonia for the opening of such negotiations, despite Merkel’s call “ Reconcile!” Thus, it produced a new crisis with negative effects for the EU itself! The dialogue Pristina - Belgrade is also in an stillstand, mainly due to the Serbian refractory attitudes!
Another negative occurrence is that the states in the region expect the “ magics” to come from abroad, the EU/USA, neglecting “the evils” inside; failing to realize that although they have done their homework, it is the “judges” of the EU and USA that will put the mark on us, as we are only players in this geo-political game!
4. “Cold Halva” was cooked by the early parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, the second ones within the last 4 months. The biggest winner is the ITN anti-establishment party leader, TV star Slavi Trifonov with 24 per cent, and the biggest loser the former PM Borissov, whose center right party after 10 years fell second with 23,5 per cent. 3 - 4 other parties follow suit.
These elections were very important for Bulgaria, as a neighbour and EU member but also for the destiny of the Bulgarian veto against opening negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania. Actually, these elections have produced more questions than answers. Morever, Triforov has ruled out the possibility of a governing coalition even with 2 - 3 anti-establishment parties. He prefers a minority government, in order to provoke the third early elections and obtain his own majority. However, due to the disappointment that new early elections might arise, it could also happen that Borissov may come back as winner, as a “more competent political guy”! Accordingly, in this chaotic situation, there are little chances for lifting the veto; especially in the case of early elections, when lifting it does not bring but only loses votes. Hence, we have to wait until late autumn.