Political news from candidate countries, south east Europe and new eastern neighbours
28th August 2008
Croatia - Croatia Expressed Support to Territorial Integrity of Georgia (27.08.2008); Daily hails Croatia's appearance at NATO meeting as "promising" (26.08.2008)
FYR of Macedonia - Minister stresses Macedonia's determination to join EU, NATO despite "obstacles" (27.08.2008); Ethnic Albanian leader vows support for Macedonia in name dispute with Greece (26.08.2008)
Turkey - Turkish commanders deny violating Montreux Convention (28.08.2008); Crisis in the South Caucasus: Turkey's Big Moment? (27.08.2008)
SOUTH EAST EUROPE
Albania - Albania joins EU Programme on entrepreneurship and innovation (27.08.2008); Albanian defence official denies knowing of arms sales to Georgia (28.08.2008)
Bosnia-Herzegovina - Internationals must "interfere" in Bosnian constitutional change - Muslim leader (28.08.2008); Bosnian security official denies trying to topple Serb entity government (28.08.2008)
Montenegro - Montenegro prepares draft accord on dual citizenship for talks with Serbia (27.08.2008); Montenegrin Serb party slams US envoy's "interference" over Kosovo, NATO (24.08.2008)
Serbia - Serbia: Democratic Party consolidates power as disunity grips opposition (28.08.2008); Draft statute for Vojvodina creates "new tension" on Serbia's political stage (28.08.2008); Serbia blames Georgia crisis on Kosovo 'domino effect': report (28.08.2008)
Kosovo - Kosovo premier accuses judiciary of leniency over financial crime, corruption (28.08.2008); Head of EU's Kosovo mission ready to cooperate with Serbia on "technical level' (28.08.2008)
Cyprus - Cyprus deadlock broken at last (27.08.2008); US policy on Cyprus won’t change after elections (27.08.2008)
NEW EASTERN NEIGHBOURS
Armenia - Armenian parties and public organizations demand recognition of independence of the self-declared "Nagorno Karabakh Republic" (27.08.2008);
Recognition of Nagorno Karabakh's independence by Armenia will turn it into a rogue state (27.08.2008)
Azerbaijan - Khazar Ibrahim: "Azerbaijan’s position remains unchanged, we recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity" (27.08.2008); Transportation of Azeri oil through BTC resumed (27.08.2008); Azerbiajna's national security minister meets head of Romania's foreign intelligence service (27.08.2008)
Belarus - Belarus, Turkey to sign customs cooperation agreement (28.08.2008)
Georgia - Georgia Hesitates to Break off Relations with Russia (28.08.2008); Georgia Woes Could Send Ripple Through Other Frozen Conflicts (27.08.2008)
Moldova - Russian warns Moldova over separatist region (27.08.2008)
Ukraine - The West pledges its support for Ukraine - up to a point (28.08.2008)
Russia - Russia wins backing from China, Central Asia over Georgia (28.088.2008)
Croatia Expressed Support to Territorial Integrity of Georgia (27.08.2008)
Croatia expressed support to territorial integrity of Georgia and stated that it would support sovereignty of this state, is noted in the statement of FM of Croatia. Croatia still adheres to its opinion concerning independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which was sounded on August 19 at the NATO summit in Brussels in connection with the situation in Georgia, is said in the statement. FM reminds that in the capital of Belgium Croatia clearly expressed its support to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia. President of Croatia Stepan Mesic stated that Moscow's steps complicate tense situation in the Caucasus.
Source: Black Sea Press
Daily hails Croatia's appearance at NATO meeting as "promising" (26.08.2008)
Even though the question of how Croatia should behave on the international scene - that is, which of the major powers it should side with - has been present in the media for a while now, a great deal of the debate is in fact pointless. Membership in the UN Security Council, accession to the EU, and membership in NATO have given Croatia, a small country, the unique chance of considerably improving its position in the world. That is not all. The intensity of the integration has also provided the Croatian foreign policy with the unique chance of rising above the provincial reflexes as well as vanities that have occasionally thwarted the Croatian foreign political plans and uncomfortably surprised international partners. In simple terms, Croatia has a chance, within the integration it is joining, to conduct a systematic and principled foreign policy that will be recognized abroad. This means that it will never again have to go back to the useless questions about whether Croatia should side with this, that, or the other side, that is, with the United States, Europe, or Russia. Gordan Jandrokovic, minister of foreign affairs and European integration, indeed has reason to be satisfied with his appearance at the extraordinary meeting of the NATO chiefs of diplomacies, and for at least two reasons. First, this is the first time that Croatia has directly participated in a meeting of such great importance for global international relations. As opposed to the earlier practice of the Croats waiting in the lobby and later pulling the sleeves of the participants and asking what happened inside, they have now taken part in the meeting and expressed their opinion. Second, as far as Georgia is concerned, Croatia presented a logical and expected position that could not have surprised any of the interested parties. In its position, Croatia made it clear that it was committed to Euro-Atlantism, as well as that it advocated a just and peaceful solution to the problem. The Georgia issue is a classic example that clearly slows that Croatia does not need to side with Europe or the United States.
Even though the European partners within the EU do not all have the same positions regarding Georgia, NATO was not divided, and, in articulating its position, the Croatian diplomacy was not faced with an impossible mission. Croatia has not made a mistake in NATO - on the contrary, it has played its first real international game in NATO excellently. The key European diplomats, including those whose countries are experiencing major problems with the current US policy, have confirmed to me that Croatia has not made a single mistake in the Security Council. Naturally, it would be wrong to expect all the issues that Croatia has on the international plane to be resolved with joining NATO. However, the fact remains that membership in NATO will consolidate Croatia's security, political, and even economic position. With membership in NATO, and then in the EU, there will come a time in which we will talk about the international community in the first person plural. Moreover, while prior membership in NATO may not be a formal condition, it has certainly been political practice of admitting new members in the EU. Membership in NATO will give Croatia more weight in the negotiations with the EU, especially bearing in mind that 21 members of the EU are also members of NATO. Croatia's international position is being consolidated in two directions - towards the inside, since Croatia is becoming an equal partner to its allies, and towards the outside, where Croatia is considered a part of the political, security, and economic club of NATO countries. The positions and the interest of Croatia as a NATO member will have to be acknowledged in the region and on the broader international plane. Moreover, membership in NATO has direct and indirect effects on the economy, from the expected increase in investments to specific business operations connected with NATO. The countries involved hold one half of the world economy in their hands and they trade the most. Security is one of the inevitable issues that are discussed in the process of making the decision on where to invest. It is realistic to expect that greater perception of security will bring Croatia more investment. Croatia is entering the clubs of the big, and it is very important that it do so successfully. The beginning looks promising.
Source: BBC/Vjesnik website
Minister stresses Macedonia's determination to join EU, NATO despite "obstacles" (27.08.2008)
Today Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Ivica Bocevski reacted to EU Deputy Erik Meijer's recent statement that this year's European Commission report on the Republic of Macedonia will be less favourable than last year's.
[Begin Bocevski recording] What I can say is that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia works on the basis of the clear standards and commitments that we have assumed towards the European Commission and the European Union. Our goal is to work in line with the deadlines, the measures, and the standards. Every evaluation of the incumbent government's and the Republic of Macedonia's performance has been outstanding, but you know that we have a serious political problem. Quite expectedly, yesterday it was confirmed that this problem would remain in the future. What I can say is that even until now the Republic of Macedonia's road to the European, NATO, and global integrations has been difficult and thorny, and that it will obviously continue to be so in the future, but you have the Macedonian people's will and the consensual will of all Macedonian political parties that our strategic vision is to join the EU and NATO. And we are going to achieve this integration, irrespective of the political obstacles that are coming from various sides.
Source: BBC/Macedonian Radio
Ethnic Albanian leader vows support for Macedonia in name dispute with Greece (26.08.2008)
Democratic Union for Integration [BDI] Chairman Ali Ahmeti has once again demanded that the Albanians be part of the resolution of the name issue between Greece and Macedonia over Macedonia's constitutional name. He said the BDI strongly supports Macedonia in safeguarding its constitutional name and that it will strongly oppose any Macedonian-Greek compromise that includes the name "Slav Republic of Macedonia." "It would be more acceptable to the BDI if Macedonia continues to use its constitutional name as it is, provided the Albanians are part of any compromise or solution," Ahmeti stressed, adding that, after each round of the name dispute talks, the prime minister [Nikola Gruevski] and the president [Branko Crvenkovski] have constantly consulted and informed the Albanian factor about the direction of the talks. "The BDI's stance has always been and still is that we have to coexist and pursue neighbourly relations with the countries around us. So far, we have not supported, nor will we support in the future any solution or agreement that runs counter to our positions and demands. We have said openly that we do not approve of the names Slav Republic of Macedonia or Federal Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia [FYROM]. In principle, we have supported and we are presently supporting Macedonia's constitutional name. If a compromise is eventually reached, we would certainly like to be part of the process and part of the solution to the problem," Ali Ahmeti said. In Ahmeti's view, the talks with Greece are proceeding according to the envisaged and planned dynamics, and this is a good sign that a solution to the problem will be found soon. "We all know that Greece exercised its veto at the Bucharest summit, which, in turn, caused extremely severe damage to Macedonia's NATO integration processes. The same thing can certainly happen when it comes to Macedonia's EU accession. Hence, it is crucial that the dispute with Greece is swiftly resolved so that Macedonia becomes a member of both NATO and the EU," Ahmeti underscored. His statements came after [UN] mediator Matthew Nimetz's tour of the Balkans, particularly Macedonia and Greece, where he met with the heads of the two neighbouring states. However, following Nimetz's visit to Macedonia, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski switched his political compass as far as the Macedonian-Greek name issue resolution is concerned. Up until yesterday, the dual name formula was an unacceptable model to the Macedonian camp, but now Gruevski is saying that "the government's official stand, on which he is to make no concessions in the talks with Greece, is the dual name formula - one name for international use and another for Greece."
Turkish commanders deny violating Montreux Convention (28.08.2008)
The chief of the General Staff, Gen Yasar Buyukanit, has said, "Current situation in the Black Sea is not against the Montreux treaty. It is as simple as that." Responding to questions put by reporters during an official reception which followed a ceremony held at the headquarters of the Land Forces Command for the inauguration of the new chief of the Land Forces as to whether the passage of warships through the Straits was permissible under the Montreux Convention, Buyukanit said, "Some people write about the Montreux Convention in spite of the fact that they have not actually read it. I urge them to read it, for God's sake. They are making various allegations about ships. The Montreux Convention is being strictly implemented. Current situation in the Black Sea is not against the Montreux treaty. It is as simple as that. But they imply that the Montreux Convention has been seriously violated. Some countries are not pleased with the Montreux Convention. This is unavoidable. But the Montreux Convention is of crucial importance to us. The Black Sea is the most stable sea in the region. But they have begun to stir trouble there. I have also emphasized this in the symposium. They attempt to ascribe all problems in the region, including those facing Nagorno-Karabakh, Moldova and Armenia to the Black Sea. Turkey should, therefore, be extremely cautious about the Black Sea. Stability in the Black Sea should not be undermined." The chief of the Navy, Adm Metin Atac, for his part, stressed that the passage of US ships through the Straits was consistent with the Montreux Convention. He said, "We examined all minute details of the issue before their passage."
Source: BBC/Anatolia news agency
Crisis in the South Caucasus: Turkey's Big Moment? (27.08.2008)
Turkey is the sole NATO member that borders the Caucasus. It controls the Bosporus and Dardanelles, through which Russia and other Black Sea countries conduct most of their trade. The recent crisis between Georgia and Russia, offers Turkey a unique chance to bolster its regional clout, to check Russian and Iranian influence, and to help secure the flow of Western-bound oil and natural gas from former Soviet Central Asia and Azerbaijan. Will Turkey's leaders rise to the occasion? Turkey's proposal to create a “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform,” a scheme calling for new methods of crisis management and conflict resolution, is a step in the right direction. Yet, there's one glaring hitch. Turkey does not have formal ties with one proposed member: Armenia. And without Armenia, Turkey's hopes of becoming a regional bigwig aren't likely to go far. Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, floated the idea of the platform during a string of meetings with Russian, Georgian, and Azerbaijani leaders over the past week. Critics have dismissed the initiative as an empty gesture that will allow Prime Minister Erdogan to burnish his credentials as a statesman and hog the international stage. The plan (which also talks about cooperation in tourism and trade) is vague and lacking in substance. No wonder Erdogan's respective hosts embraced it so effortlessly, the cynics add. Not everyone agrees. Many believe that the platform could serve as a useful cover for mending fences with Armenia; a step that is clearly in Turkey's interests but which faces formidable diplomatic obstacles. In 1993, Turkey sealed its border (though not its air links) with its eastern neighbor, after Armenia occupied a chunk of Azerbaijan following a nasty war over the Nagnorno-Karabakh enclave.
Regional backdrop for the conflict
The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or OSCE-sponsored talks to broker a peace have failed so far. Keeping the Turkish border shut has hurt exports to Central Asia and limited Ankara's regional influence, yet it has not humbled Armenia into returning occupied Azerbaijani land. Instead, it has spawned a flourishing black market trade in Turkish goods carried via Georgia by a handful of oligarchs who have propped up successive Armenian strongmen and pushed Armenia further into the arms of Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, flush from its recent oil earnings, an increasingly bellicose Azerbaijan, has been muttering about retaking Nagorno-Karabakh by force if need be. All of this creates the regional backdrop for the current conflict in Georgia, which has starkly illuminated the need for all sides to rethink the status quo. The need for new strategic thinking was never more clear than last week, when Russia blew up a rail bridge near Tbilisi, thereby disrupting Georgia's main rail network that runs to Armenia and Azerbaijan. This disrupted Azerbaijan's oil exports, which had already been hit by an explosion earlier this month in the Turkish section of its main export pipeline running from Baku to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Yet a proposed extension of the pipeline looping through Armenia might have saved the day. The moment for Ankara: Landlocked and poor, Armenia is looking even more vulnerable. Most of its fuel and much of its grain comes through Georgia's Black Sea ports, which are virtually paralyzed. The capital city of Yerevan is already experiencing a serious fuel shortage, where many filling stations have halted sales of gasoline and supplies of key commodities such as jet fuel and wheat are dwindling. Armenia is reportedly trying to secure additional fuel supplies through Iran, its only remaining neighbor whose border remains open. This is the moment for Turkey to step forward. By re-opening the rail line linking the eastern province of Kars to Armenia, which then hooks up with both the Georgian and Azerbaijani grids, Turkey could both expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid to Georgia's war-ravaged north and help avert the looming crisis in Armenia. Azerbaijan would benefit too. But its leaders, who oppose the slightest contact between Turkey and Armenia, are sure to disagree. Turkey's ethnic and religious ties with its Azerbaijani cousins have long held sway over Ankara's regional policy. But there seems to be growing recognition in official circles that isolating Armenia is hurting Turkey without necessarily helping Azerbaijan. For one, there are renewed worries that a U.S. congressional resolution calling the mass slaughter of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 genocide may be passed should the Democrats win this November's presidential election. Relations between Turkey and the United States, already bruised by Iraq, would sink to new lows. Whereas if Turkey and Armenia were to make peace beforehand, the resolution might be buried for good. Besides, relations with Armenia would make it easier for Turkey to push for a deal on Nagorno-Karabakh. Mindful of such rewards (and with plenty of nudging from America) Turkish and Armenian diplomats have been holding secret talks in Switzerland over the past few months that could lay the ground for re-establishing diplomatic ties. Turkey has several key demands. The first is that Armenia declare that it has no territorial claims on Turkey. The second is that Armenia shelve its backing for its diaspora's campaign for international genocide recognition and allow a commission of historians from both countries to investigate the events of 1915 instead. Armenia's pragmatic president, Serzh Sarkisian, has responded positively to both. And upping the ante, Sarkisian invited his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül to a football World Cup qualifier between Turkey and Armenia to be played in Yerevan on Sept. 6. Azerbaijan is deeply unhappy, and President Gül has yet to respond. As ever, all eyes are turned to Turkey's influential army, which trained and armed Azerbaijani officers during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. In a hopeful sign, pro-establishment newspapers that tend to reflect the generals' views have commented favorably on the secret talks after they were leaked. More significantly perhaps, the habitually meddlesome top brass has not uttered a word. Gül may well decide to travel to Yerevan. The question may then become whether the Turkish leader will take the train from Kars or fly.
Source: The Turkish Daily News
SOUTH EAST EUROPE
Albania joins EU Programme on entrepreneurship and innovation (27.08.2008)
The Council of Ministers approved on Wednesday draft law on "Ratification of Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of Albania and the European Community on participation of the Republic of Albania in "Special EU Programme on Entrepreneurship and Innovation under the Programme Competitiveness and Innovation 2007-2013". The new draft law will be forwarded to the Assembly of the Republic of Albania.
Source: Albanian-ATA English News Service
Albanian defence official denies knowing of arms sales to Georgia (28.08.2008)
The Albanian Defence Ministry said yesterday [25 August] evening that it knew nothing about the sale or trafficking of weapons between Albania and Georgia. Deputy Defence Minister Petrit Karabina told a Korrieri correspondent that he did not know of any commercial transactions of the kind, although he added that it would be legitimate under international rules. Karabina was reacting to a statement by Russia's Chief of General Staff General Anatoliy Nogovitsyn accusing, among other former communist states, Albania of having sold weapons to Georgia. Asked whether the Albanian Defence Ministry had any information about this Russian charge, Karabina said that he had no information about this arms sale. Yet, Karabina let it be understood that in the event this commercial transaction would have been done according to local and international rules. "Under international rules, just as any other country, Albania can buy and sell weapons. But I have no information that this has been the case with Georgia," he said. He added that "Georgia was not a state involved in a conflict," in order to stress that the sale of weapons, if it had ever taken place, would have been entirely legal, although he did not say that Georgia had Russian peacekeeping troops in its regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia. "I cannot say that arms were dispatched there," he said. "I do not believe we have sent arms there, for it would have been in contravention of the rules. That is the situation," Karabina stressed./ Charges from Moscow /General Anatoliy Nogovitsyn was cited yesterday [ 25 August] as saying that Albania had supplied Georgia with weapons, but without specifying kinds or amounts. The Russian general mentioned Albania among other Eastern European countries involved in supplying Georgia with weapons - Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, Hungary, and Serbia. Following its intervention in Southern Ossetia on 6 August, Georgia's army came under attack from the Russian army. The Georgian army was unable to defend the territory of its country which in less than 10 days was occupied by Russian troops that went within 35 km of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. Russia had also formerly accused the United States of having supplied Georgia with weapons.
Source: Korrieri / BBC Monitoring European