Summit in Berlin concludes without tangible solutions, next round of talks in Paris

Western Balkans Summit in Berlin; Photo: Tanjug / Marina Maksimović

BERLIN – Summit of the Western Balkans leaders organized on the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was closed last night in Berlin. The new meeting, during which one of the topics will be once again Belgrade – Pristina Dialogue has been scheduled for the first or the second of July in Paris, ahead of the Berlin Process Poznan Summit.

Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to continue with the talks to resolve their current conflict, the German government said in a statement early on Tuesday, Deutsche Welle reports.

Both sides also vowed to play a “constructive” role in talks led by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini (whose mandate expires in October).

Summit was opened by French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel who emphasised that Western Balkans remains EU priority, adding that this is only an informal discussion, and no final solutions should be expected.

German and French focus on stability instead on accession is seen by Financial Times sees as a cold water for the supporters of the region’s entry in the EU. 

High Representative Mogherini attended the meeting as well. Ahead of the Summit, she held a series of bilateral meetings with Balkans’ leaders.

The official meeting was followed by a working dinner, that finished late in the evening. A letter summarizing the pledges of the meeting, with a special focus on Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and economic integration of the region, was signed as the event concluded.

Vučić: Difficult talks, we thank Germany and France

After the meeting was concluded, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić stated that the talks had been difficult, but nevertheless thanked Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron for their contribution. According to him, it shows their commitment for the Western Balkans, which is important for maintaining peace in Europe.

He added that everybody urged Kosovo’s leaders to revoke the tariffs, which was not a new request.

Asked to comment on the statement made by Hashim Thaçi that EU is incapable and that the US should be involved in the dialogue, Vučić said that Merkel has been informed about it and that he is not sure that everyone felt happy about it.

“We do not have any problems with EU, the problem lies in each of us, because we do not understand that we need to look towards the future”, he said, RTS reports.

Next meeting will be in Paris and Vučić hopes that the impulse of responsibility will lead to some sort of stabilisation in the region.

“I am not happy about the fact that someone thinks that tariffs are something normal in the 21st century, I am very thankful to Merkel and Macron for taking their time and showing that they want stability”, stated Vučić.

Thaçi: Disappointment for the lack of visa liberalisation

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi also found last night talks difficult, adding that the Summit finished without any tangible results. Frozen conflict between Belgrade and Pristina has to be overcome, Summit’s participants jointly concluded, said Thaçi to the journalists in Berlin.

“The only option is the dialogue. Kosovo’s position is clear – there will be no conditioning”, he emphasized.

Nevertheless, Thaçi stated for Radio Free Europe that, even though there will be no border exchange, he will work for Presheva Valley to join Kosovo territory

Kosovo’s President expressed his disappointed for the lack of visa liberalisation, and reminded that Kosovo has fulfilled all the criteria, Gazzetta Express reports.

Haradinaj: Recognition the first step towards the progress

Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj has, on the other hand, carried on with an uncompromising approach. As he pointed out, the recognition by Serbia is the first step towards the progress, but not the final one.

“Recognition means respecting existing borders. Revised borders would lead to new ethnic divisions and maybe incite violence”, he reiterated, Gazzetta reports.

He thanked Germany for its stable support for Kosovo’s right to citizenship and territorial integrity as a condition for peace in the region.

“We are ready, today, to finish all outstanding issues between our two states”, said Haradinaj concluding that “it is in everyone’s interest that the United States of America become the guarantor of the solution, along with the European Union”.

Stability and regional cooperation in focus

As previously announced, other leaders from the region also attended the meeting. The President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović stated that the Summit is a good impulse to all the efforts in keeping European perspective opened. He met with High Representative Mogherini, with whom he discussed regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenković said that the key messages were directed at the attempt to unblock Belgrade – Pristina Dialogue, reports Tanjug. Together with his Slovenian colleague Marijan Šarec, Plenković was the only other leader of an EU country present at the meeting, apart from Merkel and Macron.

Western Balkan officials also commented on the issue of the day. Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Denis Zvizdić pointed out that every country in the Balkans has internationally recognized borders and that the basic EU principal is not to change the existing ones.

This should remain as a ruling model and the principle for all further activities on this matter across Western Balkans, he concluded.

Prespa Agreement was once again pointed at as a model for successful resolution of bilateral disputes. Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev emphasised the importance of normalising the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and urged the EU to recognize the progress achieved by his country by opening accession negotiations in June.

Western Balkans leaders also reiterated their support to the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) during the meeting, Vijesti reports.

Participants have agreed to widen its support in order to stop radicalization, terrorism, illegal migration and non permitted trade of SALV.