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Demarcation of Serbia

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Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic recently stated that the demarcation with Kosovo was an official proposal by Serbia to resolve the Kosovo issue in a dialogue with the Albanian side, but that it was not yet determined where the line of demarcation would be. The Albanian side has not yet responded, since there is currently no dialogue. Serbian Foreign Minister also said that the United States are deeply concerned to find a compromise and a lasting solution in Kosovo. “Washington is most interested in continuing the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, more than United Kingdom and Germany,” Dacic stated, adding  that the US has the stance that Serbia must recognize Kosovo’s independence.” This statement caused a storm in the Serbian public.

Minister without portfolio Nenad Popović in response to the statement of Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said to Sputnik that the only state policy on Kosovo is a compromise with the Albanians within Serbian Constitution and Resolution 1244″. Popovic also added  “In addition to reaching a compromise within the Constitution of Serbia and Resolution 1244, the Government of Serbia has never established any other policy. I am in favor of such a policy and I took the oath as a minister to keep Kosovo as an integral part of the territory of Serbia.”

Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic assessed Popovic’s statement as scandalous.”I can not understand that someone is sitting in the government, somebody who was been elected to Parliament on the list of Aleksandar Vucic … Well, you know when Nenad Popovic would otherwise entered in the Parliament? I would watch him from Moscow on the postcard”, said Dacic. The head of Serbian diplomacy also added that Popovic’s statements against the idea of demarcation are given “from Moscow, convinced that he knows what Moscow thinks about it”.

“He has no idea that five years ago, Putin agreed with this proposal,” said Dacic for television ‘Pink’.

“President Vucic and I personally spoke to Putin about this,” Dacic concluded.

Minister Dacic pointed out that talks on the final solution of the Kosovo problem are still far away, that Serbia’s policy should be dialogue and compromise, but that such a policy requires state unity.

However, despite the fact that the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs is trying to present to the public that Russia supports the idea of demarcation, facts deny him. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Belgrade, in January, that Russia’s position on Kosovo is clear – Moscow is in favor of a mutually acceptable solution of Belgrade and Pristina, but based on UN Resolution 1244. At a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, president Putin said that Russia, like Serbia, is interested in ensuring that the situation in the Balkans is stable and safe. “The Kosovo authorities have taken some provocative actions that have further worsened the situation,” president Putin pointed out as an example of Pristina’s decision to form “Kosovo Army”, which is a violation of Resolution 1244.

He also recalled that Resolution 1244 foresees that a certain number of Serb policemen and border guards should be on the territory of Kosovo.

“Where are they?” president Putin asked, pointing out that international law must be respected much more.

And while Russia thinks how to try to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1244, statements by the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs are fully compliant with the views of Albania. Let’s remind that the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, recently in an interview with Albanian television Vision Plus condemned all opponents of the idea of “correcting” the borders of Kosovo and called the southern part of Serbia “part of Albania”.

“What is it that we are discussing with Greece today? The border. What did Kosovo and Montenegro discuss and achieve? The border. Why is it that the border between Kosovo and Serbia should not be discussed? It will surely be discussed you like it or not. A demarcation process will take place in this case too,” Rama said, putting Greece in the same position as the Western Balkan countries with open border issues. “For me, Kosovo is part of Albania. Other issues must be set up for Ramush Haradinaj,” Rama said commenting on the recent statement by Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj that Tirana interferes with Prishtina’s internal affairs. Edi Rama once again reiterated the ultimate goal of unifying Kosovo with Albania, calling it “Plan A” and stressing that two members in his government from Kosovo are there to convey that message. “The Union between Albania and Kosovo is not Plan B, but Plan A and I in the 21st century do not imagine this union as a folklore act,” Rama said. On this scandalous statement by the Albanian prime minister, a response from Moscow soon arrived.  At a regular press briefing, Maria Zakharova said that Russia can not remain without comment on the statement of the Albanian prime minister that “Kosovo is part of Albania” and that the unification of Kosovo and Albania is not “Plan B” but “Plan A”.  She added that “Russia considers such rhetoric absolutely unacceptable”.  As she pointed out, this is a matter of reaching for the territory of Serbia and the status of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo. Unlike Russia, Serbia did not protest, which sufficiently speaks of the state of Serbia today.

What kind of politics leads Serbia towards the Albanian issue in tandem Vucic- Dacic, is best seen in Munich at the security conference. Panel discussion on Kosovo at the conference on security in Munich showed all the incompetence of national and state policy of Aleksandar Vucic towards Kosovo. In Munich we have heard from the President of Serbia that he personally dismantled the institutions of the Serbian state in Kosovo, the police, the judiciary and the telecommunications. And that in return, nothing was gained, and if the Albanians under the Brussels agreement were obligated to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities. Hashim Thaci, the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo, responded to Serbian president that the Community of Serb Municipalities could not be founded, as it is contrary to the Constitution of Kosovo. This very statement of Thaci shows how much Serbia today is a weak state. Because the Serbian President publicly acknowledges that he has violated the Constitution, while the President of the self-proclaimed Kosovo clearly states that he will not violate the Constitution of Kosovo.

Also, the main demand of the President of Serbia towards Kosovo, and that’s what he pointed out on panel discussion in Munich, is that Kosovo abolish customs, that is, the ban on the import of Serbian products. However, the ban on the import of Serbian products imposed by Pristina do not jeopardize the Serb population in northern Kosovo, since the goods go there bypassing their services. Customs are not the main issue that concerns the Serbs in Kosovo. The main issue is, first of all, the formation of the Kosovo Army. As a condition for expanding the dialogue with Pristina, Vucic is seeking the abolition of customs, but not the abolition of the decision to form the Kosovo army.

The demarcation between Serbia and Kosovo, that is promoted by Serbian government, essentially implies that a large part of the serbian territory will be taken away from Serbia, which will result in the creation of Greater Albania and Kosovo’s entry into NATO. The borders have already been drawn, the work was led by Aleksandar Vucic and Hasim Taci, about which, many European and regional media wrote.  If the demarcation plan of Aleksandar Vucic and Ivica Dacic is implemented, the consequences will be disastrous for Serbia. After this “split”, tens of thousands of Serbs south of the Ibar River would leave their homes because they would not want to live in the Albanian state. That would mean another exodus of Serbs. By creating a Mitrovica district that would be in an “independent Kosovo” and by merging southern and northern Mitrovica, Serbs would neither have a hospital nor their own university because they would be under the jurisdiction of Pristina. For this reason, not only Serbs south of the Ibar River will go, but also those from the north of Kosovo. With this agreement, the Serbian government would be a direct accomplice in the disappearance of Serbs from Kosovo.

With the demarcation with Kosovo, Serbia would also question its survival. There are already pro-European movements in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina that have secessionist intentions. Last week, League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina submitted to the Serbian Assembly a proposal for a resolution, but also the draft law on financing of Vojvodina in order to change the Constitution, and that the province receive “full autonomy” and even the Tax Administration. Also in Raska oblast, known as Sandzak, local Muslims already emphasize secessionist intentions. At the end of 2018, during the celebration of victory of his “Self-Determination” list for the Bosniak National Council (BNV), Sulejman Ugljanin said he was pleased that with more political options he would win “this monster, the fascist creation of the Serbian state”. He told the crowd that the Bosniaks had not yet resolved their status, while supporters of the Bosniak National Council interrupted his address several times, crying out: “Sandžak Republic“.

First published in our partner International Affairs

Slavisha Batko Milacic is a historian and independent analyst. He has been doing analytics for years, writing in Serbian and English about the situation in the Balkans and Europe. Slavisha Batko Milacic can be contacted at email: varjag5[at]outlook.com

Europe

Europe tells Biden “no way” to Cold War with China

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Amidst the first big transatlantic tensions for the Biden Administration, a new poll shows that the majority of Europeans see a new Cold War happening between the United States and China, but they don’t see themselves as a part of it.

Overwhelmingly, 62% of Europeans believe that the US is engaged in a new Cold War against China, a new poll just released by the European Council on Foreign Relations found. Just yesterday US President Joe Biden claimed before the UN General Assembly that there is no such thing and the US is not engaging in a new Cold War. So, Europeans see Biden’s bluff and call him on it.

The study was released on Wednesday by Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev at the European Council on Foreign Relations and found that Europeans don’t see themselves as direct participants in the US-China Cold War. This viewpoint is most pronounced in Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Italy, according to the study. The prevailing view, in each of the 12 surveyed EU member states, is one of irrelevance – with respondents in Hungary (91%), Bulgaria (80%), Portugal (79%), and Austria (78%) saying that their country is not in a conflict with Beijing.

Only 15% of Europeans believe that the EU is engaged in a Cold War against China. The percentage is so low that one wonders if there should even be such a question. It is not only not a priority, it is not even a question on the agenda for Europeans. Even at the highest point of EU “hawkishness”, only 33% of Swedes hold the view that their country is currently in a Cold War with China.  Leonard and Krastev warn that if Washington and Brussels are preparing for an all-in generational struggle against China, this runs against the grain of opinion in Europe, and leaders in Washington and Brussels will quickly discover that they “do not have a societal consensus behind them”.

“The European public thinks there is a new cold war – but they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Our polling reveals that a “cold war” framing risks alienating European voters”, Mark Leonard said.

The EU doesn’t have the backing of its citizens to follow the US in its new Cold War pursuit. But unlike the views of the authors of the study, my view is that this is not a transatlantic rift that we actually have to be trying to fix. Biden’s China policy won’t be Europe’s China policy, and that’s that, despite US efforts to persuade Europe to follow, as I’ve argued months ago for the Brussels Report and in Modern Diplomacy.

In March this year, Gallup released a poll that showed that 45% of Americans see China as the greatest US enemy. The poll did not frame the question as Cold War but it can be argued that Joe Biden has some mandate derived from the opinion of American people. That is not the case for Europe at all, to the extent that most of us don’t see “China as an enemy” even as a relevant question.

The US’s China pursuit is already giving horrible for the US results in Europe, as French President Macron withdrew the French Ambassador to the US. The US made a deal already in June, as a part of the trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia, and stabbed France in the back months ago to Macron’s last-minute surprise last week. Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations argues that it is Macron that is actually arrogant to expect that commitments and deals should mean something: “Back in February, Macron rejected the idea of a U.S.-E.U. common front against China. Now he complains when America pursues its own strategy against China. What’s French for chutzpah?” What Boot does get right is that indeed, there won’t be a joint US-EU front on China, and European citizens also don’t want this, as the recent poll has made clear.

The US saying Europe should follow the US into a Cold War with China over human rights is the same thing as China saying that Europe should start a Cold War with the US over the bad US human rights record. It’s not going to happen. You have to understand that this is how ridiculous the proposition sounds to us, Europeans. Leonard and Krastev urge the EU leadership to “make the case for more assertive policies” towards China around European and national interests rather than a Cold War logic, so that they can sell a strong, united, and compelling case for the future of the Atlantic alliance to European citizens.

I am not sure that I agree, as “more assertive policies” and “cold war” is probably the same thing in the mind of most Europeans and I don’t think that the nuance helps here or matters at all. Leaders like Biden argue anyway that the US is not really pursuing a Cold War. The authors caution EU leaders against adopting a “cold war” framing. You say “framing”, I say “spin”. Should we be in engaging in spins at all to sell unnecessary conflict to EU citizens only to please the US?

Unlike during the first cold war, [Europeans] do not see an immediate, existential threat”, Leonard clarified. European politicians can no longer rely on tensions with China to convince the electorate of the value of transatlantic relations. “Instead, they need to make the case from European interests, showing how a rebalanced alliance can empower and restore sovereignty to European citizens in a dangerous world”, Mark Leonard added. The study shows that there is a growing “disconnect” between the policy ambitions of those in Brussels and how Europeans think. EU citizens should stick to their sentiments and not be convinced to look for conflict where it doesn’t exist, or change what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears in favor of elusive things like the transatlantic partnership, which the US itself doesn’t believe in anyways. And the last thing that should be done is to scare Europeans by convincing them they live in a “dangerous world” and China is the biggest threat or concern.

What the study makes clear is that a Cold War framing against China is likely to repel more EU voters than it attracts, and if there is one thing that politicians know it is that you have to listen to the polls in what your people are telling you instead of engaging in spins. Those that don’t listen in advance get the signs eventually. At the end of the day it’s not important what Biden wants.

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Europe

Germany and its Neo-imperial quest

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In January 2021, eight months ago, when rumours about the possibility of appointment of Christian Schmidt as the High Representative in Bosnia occurred for the first time, I published the text under the title ‘Has Germany Lost Its NATO Compass?’. In this text I announced that Schmidt was appointed to help Dragan Čović, the leader of the Croatian HDZ party, to disrupt the constitutional structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina and create precoditions for secession of the Serb- and Croatian-held territories in Bosnia and the country’s final dissolution. I can hardly add anything new to it, except for the fact that Schmidt’s recent statements at the conference of Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft have fully confirmed my claims that his role in Bosnia is to act as Čović’s ally in the latter’s attempts to carve up the Bosnian Constitution.

Schmidt is a person with a heavy burden, the burden of a man who has continuously been promoting Croatian interests, for which the Croatian state decorated him with the medal of “Ante Starčević”, which, in his own words, he “proudly wears” and shares with several Croatian convicted war criminals who participated in the 1992-1995 aggression on Bosnia, whom Schmidt obviously perceives as his ideological brethren. The question is, then, why Germany appointed him as the High Representative in Bosnia? 

Germany’s policy towards Bosnia, exercised mostly through the institutions of the European Union, has continuously been based on the concept of Bosnia’s ethnic partition. The phrases that we can occassionaly hear from the EU, on inviolability of state boundaries in the Balkans, is just a rhetoric adapted to the demands by the United States to keep these boundaries intact. So far, these boundaries have remained intact mainly due to the US efforts to preserve them. However, from the notorious Lisbon Conference in February 1992 to the present day, the European Union has always officially stood behind the idea that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be partitioned along ethnic lines. At the Lisbon Conference, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, the official representatives of the then European Community, which has in the meantime been rebranded as the European Union, drew the maps with lines of ethnic partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, along which the ethnic cleansing was committed, with 100.000 killed and 1,000.000 expelled, so as to make its territory compatible with their maps. Neither Germany nor the European Union have ever distanced themselves from the idea they promoted and imposed at the Lisbon Conference as ‘the only possible solution’ for Bosnia, despite the grave consequences that followed. Nor has this idea ever stopped being a must within their foreign policy circles, as it has recently been demonstrated by the so-called Janša Non-Paper, launched a couple of months ago, which also advocates the final partition and dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such a plan is probably a product of the powerful right-wing circles in the European institutions, such as Schmidt’s CSU, rather than a homework of Janez Janša, the current Prime Minister of Slovenia, whose party is a part of these circles, albeit a minor one. To be sure, Germany is not the original author of the idea of Bosnia’s partition, this author is Great Britain, which launched it directly through Lord Carrington at the Lisbon Conference. Yet, Germany has never shown a will to distance itself from this idea, nor has it done the European Union. Moreover, the appointment of Schmidt, as a member of those political circles which promote ethnic partition as the only solution for multiethnic countries, testifies to the fact that Germany has decided to fully apply this idea and act as its chief promoter.

In this process, the neighbouring countries, Serbia and Croatia, with their extreme nationalist policies, can only act as the EU’s proxies, in charge for the physical implemenation of Bosnia’s pre-meditated disappearance. All the crimes that Serbia and Croatia committed on the Bosnian soil – from the military aggression, over war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, up to the 30 year-long efforts to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – have always had a direct approval and absolute support of the leading EU countries. During the war and in its aftermath, Great Britain and France were the leaders of the initiatives to impose ethnic partition on the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now Germany has taken up their role. In such a context, the increasing aggressiveness of Serbia and Croatia can only be interpreted as a consequence of the EU’s intention to finish with Bosnia for good, and Schmidt has arrived to Bosnia to facilitate that process. Therefore, it is high time for the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina to abandon any ilussions about the true intentions of the European Union and reject its Trojan Horse in the form of the current High Representative.  

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Europe

Should there be an age limit to be President?

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The presidential elections in Bulgaria are nearing in November 2021 and I would like to run for President of Bulgaria, but the issue is the age limit.

To run for President in Bulgaria a candidate needs to be at least 40 years old and I am 37. I am not the first to raise the question: should there be an age limit to run for President, and generally for office, and isn’t an age limit actually age discrimination?

Under the international human rights law standard, putting an age limit is allowed in the context of political participation under the right to vote and the right to run to be elected. Human Rights Committee General Comment No.25 interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that an age limit has to be based on objective and reasonable criteria, adding that it is reasonable to have a higher age requirement for certain offices. As it stands, the law says that having an age limit for president is not age discrimination, but is 40 actually a reasonable cut-off? National legislations can change. We need to lower the age limit and rethink what’s a reasonable age for President, and not do away with all age limits.

We have seen strong leaders emerge as heads of state and government who are below 40 years of age. Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, became Prime Minister at 34. Sebastrian Kurz, the Prime Minister of Austria, was elected at 31. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, assumed her position at 37. So perhaps it is time to rethink age limits for the highest offices.

The US has plenty of examples where elected Senators and Congressmen actually beat the age limit and made it despite the convention. The age limit for Senator in the US is 30 years old. Rush Holt was elected to the US Senate at 29. In South Carolina, two State Senators were elected at 24 years old and they were seated anyways. The age limit for US president is 35 years old.

In Argentina, the age cut-off is 30. In India, it is 35. In Pakistan, it is 45 years old. In Turkey, it is 40 years old. Iceland says 35 years old. In France, it is 18.

Generally, democracies set lower age limits. More conservative countries set the age limit higher in line with stereotypes rather than any real world evidence that a 45 year-old or 55 year-old person would be more effective and better suited to the job. Liberal countries tend to set lower age limits.

40 years old to be a President of Bulgaria seems to be an arbitrary line drawn. And while it is legal to have some age limits, 40 years old seems to be last century. Changing the age limit for president of Bulgaria could be a task for the next Bulgarian Parliament for which Bulgarians will also vote on the same date as they vote for President.

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