Meeting of Presidents in Portorož

Both events, the recent meeting of the heads of state in Portorož, hosted by the President Borut Pahor within the process Brdo, and his yesterday’s visit to the Serbian President Toma Nikolić, also dedicated to an initiative for politically and economically stable region, were actually preparation for a new meeting of the presidents, which will be hosted in Budva by the Montenegrin president.

To understand what Pahor labelled as necessary exchange of presidential informal opinions, before the official top of the Brdo-Brioni process, next week in Montenegro, we should mention at least two state visits. To be specific, both meetings confirm that the Balkans is not ranked very high on the European political agenda, but that the question of European enlargement with the countries of the region is open again, on the occasion of the recent violent events.

I’m talking about the meetings of the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić these days in Washington, as well as the planned visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the second week of July, to Belgrade, Tirana and Sarajevo. And we should not forget Brussels continuation of political dialogue Belgrade – Priština, where the Prime Ministers Vučić and Isa Mustafa will meet at the end of the month.

Informal opinions mentioned by Pahor were, at least on a formal level, new facts that determine the process expansion rate, and we can find at least two within the mentioned statesman meetings.

The American position is well-known – they see the Balkans as the necessary part of a secure European neighbourhood, included in the European integrations this way. The position of their yesterday’s guest, the president of the Serbian government, is also known, at least generally. It is not entirely new, since he had stated it a good five years ago in one of the influential American forums. He said, and it was followed attentively, that he was for cooperation with the East and the West, but that the things in the world are clear and that Serbia should behave in line with reality. And that’s why he unequivocally concluded that it was not possible for Serbia to implement any of the major foreign policy goals or successful economic development without the best relations with the United States of America. It is this speech that is in the reminders of today’s prime minister’s interlocutors.

The German opinion when it comes to new European enlargements with the countries of the region is also known. Germans talk about the criteria that are mostly related to success in solving the outstanding issues and the issues related to war of these countries, as well as the core values of the rule of law and democracy, as well as the ability of operational governance of the state. Within this, of course, there are also those criteria related to the regulation of relations between Belgrade and Priština. These criteria will most likely be the subject on the expected upcoming visit of the Chancellor Merkel. In late August 2011, I listened to her in Belgrade. She was quite clear with the opinion that all countries in the region may become members of the European Union if they meet the basic criteria, where the following will be important: “Serbian cooperation with Kosovo, capable government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia’s resolution of the state name dispute with Greece”.

It is possible that precisely these two visits, Vučić in Washington and Merkel in the region, will establish a new principle of enlargement.
I see it as three points.
First, that the new European enlargement will not take place with individual countries, but rather as a package, likely together with Albania.
Second, that the key country for the beginning of the enlargement process is Serbia, and third but not the last, that the process should be supported with investment, primarily in infrastructure projects in the region.
That would probably be an acceptable plan that would obtain the necessary European consensus, exactly for the part that refers to the necessary investment in the Balkan states discussed by the prime ministers at the last conference in Berlin. The continuation of this successful meeting, where the regional heads of governments presented the intergovernmentally agreed and connected infrastructure projects is further prepared by Austrian and then French and Italian governments.

It is again a period when the new European enlargement with the countries of the Balkans is possible again. However, declaratively, this process is permanently open, but the fact was that it was getting further in time.

A series of meetings and encounters that started on Sunday night in Portorož, which will be somehow substantially completed with a visit of the German Chancellor to the region, are designed for searching for the answer to this new fact.