COWEB notes by Anna

MINUTES OF MEETING

EU WESTERN BALKANS MEETING (COUNCIL SECRETARIAT)

 

Rep. of the Presidency – Our person is visiting Sarajevo right now. I’m new in this job and apologize beforehand in case if I make mistakes with names and facts. This is a brainstorming session. I’ll now give a brief outline of the agenda:

  1. I’ll introduce a brief commentary of the forthcoming attractions of the British Presidency. The remainder of the issues will be discussed through brainstorming. Thus,
  2. Balkans in general
  3. Kosovo’s final status
  4. Montenegro

 

Forthcoming Attractions of the British Presidency

 

We don’t want to hold another COWEB meeting here in Brussels. This will only happen if a major event were to happen.

 

When and where we should hold a COWEB meeting in the region has some complications. Most probably it will be held in Skopje on the 3rd of November. This could be complicated given the load of the work the Commission has to do before the meeting. Another difficult issue is whether to have the meeting before Macedonia’s application is lodged or after. Our opinion is that the latter version is more preferable.

 

We’ll have o decide whether to hold a special session on the Stability Pact (the Prague Declaration). If we do have the meeting, then it will be set for October 19 (to be rechecked with Alba).

 

During the brainstorming, we’d like to hear your comments on holding the Macedonia meeting before or after its application is made.

 

[He then gave a more technical diary of the Presidency’s activities for the WEB].

 

Let’s keep in mind that the substance of today’s meeting is the brainstorming session.

 

When the Presidency conceived of this meeting, we had two ideas:

  1. At the moment if the WEB agenda is more complicated with beaurocratic aspects, we need to get a fresh thinking with the ‘outsiders’ taking part in our session (mentions NW-ICG).
  2. A chance for Contact Group member Member States to express their views along with non-Contract-Group-member Member States.

 

We’ll take a break at 11:30 (which we didn’t!). We initially have two speakers for the first half of the session. They’ll now give us their presentations.

 

 

PRESENTATION A. Carl Bildt

 

I’ll be speaking of the region overall and a little more specifically on Kosovo and the progress we’ve made there. 10 years ago were negotiating for a cease fire to stop the bomb strikes. When we got the international community involved, it became possible to wind up the conflict. Some Albanian movements followed but let’s leave that out for now.

 

EU’s credibility is deteriorating in the region. There’s a critical test of the soft powers of Europe being put on the table and we’re heading into a crisis. Next year we must, within a grand enlargement perspective, find a settlement for the region.

 

(Missed a name)→He is a man of great intellectual integrity. In my opinion we should not fool ourselves. The immediate issue is how to prevent the massive inflow of refugees in the region for substantial amount of time. We messed it up by not being familiar with the reality on the ground. There must be great economic efforts and those of state building.

 

Region as a whole should be viewed from an economic perspective, rising critical issues in the region. Factors such as growth, jobs/high level of unemployment, further drain of the talent from the region, refugees and displaced persons need to be addressed.

 

Economies of the region need to open up to economic integration of the Europe. We established a network of Economic Free Trade Areas. But that’s not enough. We need a new start here on this issue within next few years. Different parts of the region will be open to full membership pretty soon. But some – are still not.

 

Bringing them into our Customs Union sounds ambitious but not as ambitious as their full integration into our Internal Market. Turkish economy is a good example of such a gradual approach. Taking an important part of the membership conditions out of the whole membership package and doing the process gradually sounds pragmatic. We don’t have time for economic integration without political conditionality.

 

Now, I need to link this with Kosovo. I don’t see Serbia and Kosovo moving towards the EU. But the World Bank has placed Serbia & Montenegro on the top of the economic integrators as they are moving ahead faster than their regional counterparts. There has to be economic integration between Serbia and Kosovo within a European framework of economic integration.

 

In my opinion, the proper time to launch this would be some time next year. It’ll take some time even to bring Belgrade and Prishtina close in parameters to start this process. I see it’ll happen in the second half of the next year. We need to provide a framework of future development. Croatia and Macedonia are different issues. They have lost their credibility in the region. And in order to test their credibility we could give them a deadline to fulfill some elements of the Copenhagen criteria, putting an emphasis on the political criteria. Whichever countries will be then able to move into serious membership considerations, Serbia and Kosovo shall move together. First, we’ll need to sort out the issues of Serbia and Croatia and then all the issues will be gradually resolved.

BOSNIA→OHR shall be closed down. This will be difficult. We have accumulated powers. Bosnian politicians aren’t unique in taking stupid decisions. We in our countries make such decisions, too. We must allow this highly critical political situation to find its own balance of political compromises. Bosnia is their country, not ours. This has to be done in conditions where we have given them a strong European framework. Our post-policies are dysfunctional and have cost us our credibility. Europe may then fail again. This must not be allowed.

 

Comments from the Mtg. Coordinator → He summarized Bildt’s speech in the following points:

  1. urgency for political commitment
  2. to think radically for economic integration
  3. rendez-vous with a region as a whole
  4. be prepared to take a jump for the Bosnian government

He then added – “I suggest Macedonia could enter into this process and [claim full membership in 2009]”.

 

PRESENTATION B. Goran ………ich

 

I’d like to start with a brief assessment of the Balkans.

 

I come from Albania. We have a very big shift in the government, which also presents a big challenge. We need to have a consistent political presence of the EU. We might see a development towards a positive direction in Albania. There’s a process of consultations for economic integration. There’s a need for engagement.

 

MACEDONIA→ Macedonia is a bi-ethnic state. These are the nation states that tolerate minorities. Judging from the events of the past 12 months (the death of a political leader in a crash, the collapse of the government), the situation is very fragile. But these challenges are of democratic nature and these changes direct us towards the EU. The process has now stopped and there’s a ground for a gradual progress to build stability.

 

SERBIA/MONTENEGRO→ The Union of the States is challenged (he really liked using the word ‘challenge’). The shift in the government has ignited doubts. People thought of it as a challenge. This is a structure. We should go towards a resolution – status has to come first. Help us with the statuses before we go towards accession.

 

KOSOVO→ I have confidence, irrespectfully (a word he used) of the negative assessment of the current situation in Kosova. We must go towards the process. I cannot say that I’m optimistic of the future outcome.

 

Once the leadership in Belgrade realizes that the discussion is on modalities of a process leading to independence, then a clarification may be developed of what Kosovo will be in seven years. This is about the credibility of the EU, which is now severely challenged. When it comes to Kosovo in more detail, what’s coming from Belgrade is unacceptable. A possible solution would be another element in already complicated Union of States. If there’s a complex state of things (refers to a federal solution), we’ll need o have one body to appoint and operate everyone. Another issue is whether Serbia and Montenegro would agree with this. It’s highly doubtful. Once they hear they’ll be a junior brother, it won’t work.

 

BOSNIA→ Bosnia needs a new constitution. Politically, everyone wants to do it by themselves. Maybe the process itself will create a state (a part of the institution-building). This constitution shall express the Federal form of Bosnia. Don’t expect a constitutional nationalism in the region today. Let’s build a federal structure for the time being. This is necessary to delay political processes and solve problems first.

 

CROATIA→ The current government has to negotiate with their counterparts. Public opinion support for the country’s entry into the EU in Croatia is 32% and for NATO’s membership – 31%. They’re not able to convince their public. They’re not in a hurry. They’ve saved enough money through tourism to afford a waiting.  

 

Next year should be a good time to start the process through meetings. It’s good for the EU to review the process in these countries. 9 months later a new government is expected in Albania and other political changes are due to occur in the other countries. EU should observe these processes. If this doesn’t happen, then even the current situation will be under risk.

 

The mechanisms you used for CEES can’t work in the WEB as the latter are much weaker.

 

It takes the leadership of the EU. Explain to your peoples that the Balkans is a part of the EU and will join in in a couple of years. It takes a leadership to do it.

 

Comments from the Mtg. Coordinator:

Two questions arise:

  1. Whether the WEB countries still believe in Thessaloniki summit commitments.
  2. Whether we believe in it.

 

NETHERLANDS COMMENT→ D’Amato report needs to be discussed here. Thanks for the two presentations.

 

Points on the report:

  1. D’Amato report is a useful contribution to the EU policy in the Balkans. The process needs to continue to bear attractiveness in the region and popularity in the Southern States.
  2. The decrease of EU’s popularity is an expression of the reality in the WEB.
  3. Whether the solution of the ongoing questions of statuses and constitutional issues will be achieved in the fall of 2006, we’re not sure about that. But these questions must be dealt with.
  4. To speed up the accession process is very difficult to maintain in conditions of doubtfulness of the EU nations skeptical of enlargement.
  5. We don’t need to enhance reforms in the WEB. We need deep political and economic reforms in accordance with the Copenhagen criteria. Netherlands’ position is that it is committed to the European perspective on the WEB. But we will apply stricter conditions than before.
  6. On the recommendation to create a common economic space. It’s the most important thing to work on, along with on visa facilitation programs. Benelux is an example of a successful economic integration story prior to their entry into the EU.
  7. Finally, the youth should be allowed to see the EU as it is.

 

NICHOLAS WHYTE’S SPEECH

 

COMMENTS

 

IRELAND→ Thanks for the exposées. It’s a chance for us to give positive considerations in our capitals when our public opinion is skeptical of enlargement. Is it conceivable to convince the Serbian and Kosovo leaderships for a loose partnership?

 

SWEDEN→ A question to Carl. How do we reach that? It’s linked to enlargement skepticism. We see at the same time a discussion in the EU on the financial tools, which has been mainly done on a technical level and not political. How to convince the politicians?

 

IVAN KRASTEV→ Principal decision should be done on the status quo in the Balkans.

  1. Unrealistic expectations from the elections, factors such as ongoing political struggle. The local politicians debate on the reality of the membership.
  2. Not going for a status settlement and going into a regional integration is unrealistic.
  3. What EU is facing in the Balkans is the state building process. You have to talk membership and have to specify whose membership we’re talking about.

 

ITALY→ A couple of points:

  1. The European perspective in the WEB has been based on two pillars: the European perspective and the conditionality.
  2. We risk to lose the European perspective in conditions of increased conditionality. There should be a balance maintained between the two.

 

ON BiH and SERBIA/MONTENEGRO

  1. Currently we don’t have talks on membership. We need o achieve the goals of SAA first. It’s strange that we’ve completed SAAs with countries such as Syria and Algeria, but on those concluded with our immediate regional neighbors, we haven’t reached anything. This could be a first step to show our European perspective, also through the expression of our [national] interests.
  2. Economic integration is a realistic objective. We have the Stability Pact but we could find a way to work this problem here in Brussels. We could link this objective with the European perspective. Why not to have a Forum of WEB trade and economy ministers?
  3. On the political atmosphere in Brussels on the WEB: there is the enlargement ambiance influencing the atmosphere for our policy in the Balkans. Someone mentioned visas. We haven’t delivered anything on that point. I’d like to have your [Goran ….ich’s] evaluation on regional integration. Bosnia and Croatia have signed but not ratified a border agreement. This is one of the issues on the table.

 

COMMENT (from Bildt)→ There was such a Forum but the last time they’ve met was the year 2002.

 

DENMARK

  1. To bring confidence we assure that we do stand by our commitments. We don not lower the bar for accession, but we don’t rise it either. On the other hand, it’s important not to create new obstacles on the way.
  2. On ICTY related problems Croatia faces with now, it’s important to emphasize that we stand firm on the conditions. If we loosen the political conditions, that’ll put our credibility under question.

 

BULGARIA→ I’m going to address the conclusions of the [D’Amato Report].

  1. Partial integration could be risqué and finally fail. Our national interest stands for a hand-in-hand development.
  2. On the Stability Pact, it could be very important to have the EU to take care of the Balkans without inter-mediators.
  3. CCP – commission that follows the communications of these meetings (?).

 

AUSTRIA

  1. We’ll organize an informal event of an annual [Balkans week?] in Salzburg in March. This is an effort of renewal of the European perspective for the region.
  2. Yes, economic development is important, growth has to be established. Will this lead to an intermediate phase, the problem being that these countries could not be ready for a Customs Union.
  3. On the question of Albania, we should judge this government on its deeds on aspects such as (a) internal affairs, (b) approach to Kosovo, (c) approach to Macedonia.
  4. On the question of Belgrade, you said that Belgrade cannot go ahead with the process. We’ll be going ahead with both the status quo and economic integration.

 

POLAND→ Three points:

  1. Poland shares the view that vital elements of the process are the stabilization and policy reforms.
  2. We share the opinions that the countries of the region should bear responsibility for their internal affairs and European integration process, exploring possibilities of regional integration in the region, in accordance with already existing agreements and the Stability Pact.
  3. The EU support for this process should be coupled with a monitoring process in order to take the countries onto a next stage of achieving various criteria.

 

RYAN HART (The Commission)→ Four Comments:

  1. We acknowledge the achievements we have made since the Thessaloniki Summit. They’ve all moved ahead. With regards to the SAAs we have to better combine our efforts.
  2. The biggest obstacles to the process are the constitutional uncertainties. We’ll have difficulties to move ahead if Serbia & Montenegro’s Union of States is not elaborated, if the name issue of Macedonia is not resolved, if BiH is EU-unfit as it’s too poor at this stage. We cannot impose constitutions. We can give strong advices, not more.
  3. On the aspect of economies, I think the main points are (a) the countries understand that economic issues are regional in nature; (b) we’ll help them rise to European standards; (c) we’ll make trade concessions in order to enhance trade; (d) we’ll help to create a positive investment climate for local and foreign investors, along with pushing for reforms on rule of law, corruption issues etc. The link between economics and politics shall be maintained.
  4. I have doubts on the integration with the Internal Market. Creating a Customs Union could be a long-term ambition. On the evolution of the Stability Pact, we can’t affect it on regional cooperation, if the locals are not able to do that. How can we enable the regional bodies to take responsibility for this. We offer you to understand the seriousness of the conditionality you help us to deliver the European perspective on the region.

 

GORAN SVILANOVICH

 

On Regional Cooperation→ I remember when I was in Bulgaria having discussions on regional cooperation, they said that they were ahead to the EU and were reluctant to join in with us. They knew they’d be in the EU if they didn’t mess with the messy neighbors. Several weeks ago, Serbia and Macedonia had a big argument on the church issue. Serbia also has disagreements with Croatia. These things happen regularly and very often. It is still a fragile region.

 

Example: There’s a border agreement between Albania and Macedonia. The finalization of the agreement is always challenged by Kosovo and Bosnia. Each time a government changes, the ratification is delayed. We need to encourage the governments to go ahead with this. It must come from the top and not from the bottom.

 

The real pole for these countries is Brussels. Use this magnetism to make them take bold actions. Whoever does it, has to have a clear offer. Maybe, there is no offer. Maybe the issue of democratization shall be brought back onto the table. It’s easy to hand the criminals but it’s too early for reconciliation.

 

Governments do get carrots but waiting for them to eventually do something good about the criminals, will allow the governments anything they want internally. Thus, functioning of the institutions, a good justice system and democratization shall be on the table. There’s a need to build the society itself before the state building process.

 

CARL BILDT→ We need a firm European framework for Kosovo. The regional aspect shall be in a package on the table. We do have elements of a schedule ahead. There has been some progress. There are different options for such packages. See what happens with Kosovo then include it into the process of integration.

 

On economic issues: if we don’t sort out these [the economic challenges he mentioned in his speech], the political state will collapse, especially if the unemployment remains on the same level or increases.

 

The European perspective was crucial for the newly joined states. There’s another point. The Baltics were coming out of socialism, not war. They could centralize all their means on economic reforms. The same cannot be said for the WEB. The Baltic countries have good legal systems, public welfare etc. (just as Croatia has). The difficulty is how to push similar process in the WEB. The Central Europeans changed their trade partners as we opened up to them politically. We need to do the same for the WEB. Trade is developing very slowly. Growth is picking up but it’s not close to the desired level.

 

Corruption and organized criminality is related to customs discontrol (we need both CU and FTAs there). They make money by evading. We need to establish barriers. The SAA process is good but it’s the least sexy thing I’ve ever heard. Its political force is inexistent.

 

On the issue of the Copenhagen criteria→ I agree with Denmark. But I also agree with the Netherlands. We need to be strict as a part of a strategy in a Commission report. We must be intrusive and insisting without putting new conditions.

 

Statements from Kosovo claim the state is better than in Switzerland. Thus, on a political level we have to be clear that the credibility of EU is at stake. We committed ourselves in this region. We need radical thinking to establish consistency. Businessmen are screaming for reform.

 

Comments from the Mtg. Coordinator → On Kosovo

 

We need leadership in the EU in rising awareness in the EU, making sure that people understand what the Balkans could look like. We have different issues on how to balance Macedonia and Croatia. Another difficulty is how to tackle status and democratization issues. And finally, we must keep the economic issues at the heart of our relations.

 

NW COMMENT→ On Kosovo, on Economic Integration.

 

Comments from the Mtg. Coordinator → Thank you [NW] for your punching speech. Passes the word to Stefan Feller.

 

STEFAN LEHNE→ Next week the Contact Group will meet in New York. The meeting will be more like a process of scenario shaping. The Security Council will have a role in this process. The European Council has made an important contribution. Some options were excluded and some not. The key changes the EU must initiate include:

  1. We have to have a process on the status quo with a visible effort to bring the U.S. and Russia in.
  2. We need to provide and reinforce the European perspective. SAA only provides for a diluted accession process.
  3. We need to keep Serbia on the train to the EU at the same time finding a solution on its conflict with Kosovo.
  4. Possible additions could be made.

 

IVAN→ Rugova said that the Kosovo settlement has to be settled in his lifetime. So, we’re left with a short timeframe. There are three points I’d like to bring your attention on:

  1. There has to be a change in the return policies. These refugees are an important political voice.
  2. Keeping refugee camps will be problematic on a long-term.
  3. The problem with Serbia is that there the moto has become ‘because of Kosovo we cannot think and because of Montenegro we cannot work’.

 

GORAN SVILANOVICH→ A solution could be Serbia and Kosovo sitting together, listening to each other. Everyone in Belgrade think that the Serbs will flip. If people see that the process is on, they’ll eventually oppose their leadership. The collapse of the government system in Serbia could prove to be challenging. In addition, Rugova’s illness could postpone the whole process for another year.

 

GERMANY→ Two points:

  1. EU needs to establish a framework through which to lead the privatization process.
  2. There are certain solutions for the status questions. I wouldn’t see it so pessimistically.

 

ROMANIA→ Our main interests and concerns in the region are:

  1. Ongoing maintenance of our good bilateral positions with the region.
  2. We’ll have a more say when Romania takes the Presidency of the UNSC.
  3. Our main concerns in the region are the property rights and minority issues.

 

SPAIN→ There are many questions. We often hear that the situation in Kosovo is critical. I believe that we could argue what’s the situation in Kosovo on the elements of Difficulty. We didn’t talk to day of the minorities in Kosovo. [At this point, the Austrian rep’s assistants started to discuss something with him and I didn’t catch the remainder of the Spanish rep’s commentary].

NETHERLANDS→ The Commission representative mentioned that the trains has to move on. It’s difficult but we have to do so and more actively than over the past five years. In the EU, we need to have a well-thought out contribution on the Kosovo settlement. There has to be a coordination between the international organizations in the locus. They need to coordinate between main and supporting tasks. EU’s position should have a future view. If outcome of the status is the independence, then we’d need more engagement. OHR has shown the face of the international community in Kosovo.

 

SWEDEN→ We agree that the status quo is not a solution. We need an upper hand. The EU credibility is at stake. WEB is in Europe’s backyard and we have to deliver there, even though we’re not the driving force there currently. In the coming months we need to ask whether we can reach a solution on Kosovo without Serbia. What other tools do we have? CU, FTAs. There’s an urgency to start this debate (not in May, June or August). The expectations from the UN/U.S. need to be taken into consideration as well. It could be very difficult to explain Washington of our plans. We have to deliver changes in Serbia, too.

 

BELGIUM→ Five remarks:

  1. EU must stay close and the work of the Contact Group has to continue.
  2. We’re worried with increased political trembling in Belgrade. In our relations with Serbia, the EU shall stress a strong link between the resolutions of the status quo and the future of  Serbia & Montenegro.
  3. Another recent event that has triggered worries is Rugova’s illness.
  4. Whatever the shifts in the government in Belgrade, there’s still an opportunity for Kosovo and Serbia to re-launch a dialogue.
  5. EU needs to talk with other international organizations of their fate in the region. A discussion must be opened on the aspects of phasing them out.

 

FINLAND→ We need to discuss the status and concepts of Kosovo’s path to the EU. The locals have to be held accountable and we need to support the locals by providing means. EU’s engagement in Kosovo has been on an abstract level. We can defend that but we have to act concretely, continuing the process based on the suggestions in the Solana Paper. Also, there needs to be a new assessment mission on expectations on economy and justice and rule of law functions.

 

On Serbia and Montenegro→ The future of the Union of the States must be run parallel with Kosovo talks. We also agree with the conditionality element, suggested by the Netherlands.

 

CARL BILDT→ Delay is not an option. Independence of Kosovo right now is a bad option. There’s the question of mitigating the negative impacts. Serbia is still the leading player in the region. It simply cannot be left out. An exodus scenario could be destabilizing. Kosovo will not be given full sovereignty for the time being. We need to make Prishtina and Belgrade to sign on the same sheet of paper. They need to be committed to something without the right to run away.

 

 Comments from the Mtg. Coordinator → Three points:

  1. The train is coming and it’s coming fast.
  2. The question is where does Belgrade stand? Have they bought the ticket yet?
  3. We need to think of our role as actors also after the settlement (whatever form it will have). We need to increase our leverage and we must have some carrots to use them at the right time. A decision shall be also made on the pace with which we shall discuss this process.

 

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1 Response to COWEB notes by Anna

  1. bellinghman says:

    Surely Larry Ellison could afford them. And then have MIG-29 flying parties.

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