Pristina Hasn’t Decided to Ban Serbia’s Elections in Kosovo

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Wednesday (23.03) he would not say “the Government of the Republic of Kosovo has made a decision not to hold Serbia’s elections in Kosovo,” adding there was no agreement on the issue yet.  

Kurti said he expected „a normal exchange of letters, a request from Belgrade, which Kosovo would consider,” adding that did not happen. 

“The European Union was not satisfied that I did not accept that everything be completed within the recommended exchange of letters between liaison officers. I am convinced an agreement should be reached through the exchange (of the letters) between the Government of Serbia and the Government of Kosovo. We are the highest instances of the two countries, and as such, we should agree on holding elections. This issue got a different direction. We express our regret, but I can’t say anything more than that,” Kurti said. 

EU Council Extends Restrictive Measures in BiH

The Council of the European Union has adopted on Friday (18.03) a decision extending its framework for restrictive measures in view of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina until 31 March 2024. 

“The European Union will therefore keep its ability to impose targeted restrictive measures on individuals or entities who undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, constitutional order and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Restrictive measures can also be imposed against those who seriously threaten the security situation in the country, or undermine the Dayton/Paris General Framework Agreement for Peace”, the Council said in a press release

It said that the Restrictive measures framework provides for a ban on travelling to the EU for natural persons, and an asset freeze for individuals and entities. In addition, EU persons are forbidden from making funds available to those listed. For the time being, no individual or entity is subject to restrictive measures within this framework. 

“The Council reiterates its unequivocal commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective as a single, united and sovereign country. The Council deeply regrets the prolonged political crisis in the country, urges a full return to the State institutions, and calls on the country’s leaders to refocus on the implementation of the reforms necessary to advance on the EU path, including the constitutional and electoral reform and in the field of rule of law”, the statement said. 

The Situation in BiH is a Political Issue, Not a Security Threat

Despite the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina being worrying, it is a political issue, not a security crisis, British envoy to the Western Balkans Stuart Peach told Hina news agency, adding that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a “challenge” that must not spill over in the Balkans.

While stressing that the situation in BiH is a political, not a security issue, Peach welcomed the recent increase in the number of EUFOR troops in BiH from 600 to 1,100. He called it a “visible demonstration of presence.”

“The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is worrying. Of course, it is a political situation, a political issue, not a security crisis. We have to work together to prevent that from happening”, said the former senior commander of the British Air Force and former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Peach was appointed British envoy to the Western Balkans in December 2021. Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently a potential candidate for EU membership while neighboring Serbia has been in accession talks with the EU for eight years, but with reforms to bring the country closer to the Union, Belgrade’s relations with Pristina will be key he said.

However, Peach pointed out that the United Kingdom “encourages all governments in the region on their Euro-Atlantic path and the path towards the EU because they think it provides the best hope for the people in the region for a better future, free from war.”

“We respect if the countries in the region do not want to join NATO, but those who want to should get that opportunity”, Peach said, adding that the same goes for joining the EU.

MEPs Call for Halting Talks with Serbia

Nine MEPs from the liberal Renew Europe group have sent a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and High Representative Josep Borrell asking for a temporary freeze on negotiations with Serbia and a halt to EU financial assistance until the country aligns with the EU’s position on Russia. The letter was signed by Nikola Behr, vice-president of the European Parliament and a member of the ruling Free Democratic Party of Germany, Klemen Groselj of Slovenia, Ilhan Kyuchuk of Bulgaria, Petras Austevicius of Lithuania, Urmas Paet of Estonia and Bart Grotius of the Netherlands, among others.

In the letter, the MEPs say that Serbia is showing “a dangerous shift towards authoritarianism” which is in sharp contrast to its aspirations to join the European Union, and that this has been shown with Serbia’s refusal to impose sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression against Ukraine.

“That is why we call on the Commission to once again invite the Serbian authorities to join the EU’s common position on Russia. If Serbia once again decides to ignore this call, we demand a temporary freeze on EU accession talks with the Serbian government and deny EU financial support to the country until it takes credible, tangible, and unequivocal action to reconcile its statements, policies, and values with the European Union”, the letter states.

Despite calling for halting financial help to Serbia, the MEPs also voiced support for civil society and small enterprises in Serbia. They stressed that Serbia has every right to follow the model of Russian President Vladimir Putin if it wants to, but it must be clear in its intentions and stop pretending to have serious aspirations for EU membership.

Aleksandar Vucic SNS’ Candidate for President of Serbia

The Serbian Progressive Party has made the decision to nominate Aleksandar Vucic for the President of Serbia, the party vice president, Ana Brnabic, said on Sunday (06.03), following the session of the SNS Presidency.

„We did not hesitate, we think that the deeds decided on the candidate, that they speak best of everything and that we no doubt have by far the best candidate. Elections will not be easy, they are never a game, they are a serious matter, especially in these difficult and complex times. Although the elections will not be easy, our goal is to make history and win the most convincing victory so far, in the first round, without underestimating any candidate or option”, said Brnabic.

As she said, there are three reasons why they believe in a „historic victory”.
„The first is that the results show what kind of candidate Aleksandar Vucic is, the second because stability is the most important thing at the moment, and the third reason is his seriousness, commitment and dedication. Today, more than ever before, we need strength, seriousness, and security. All this is represented by our candidate. We respect our political opponents, the campaign will be positive and we will talk about everything that Aleksandar Vucic did, but also about what we are planning to do”, Brnabic stressed.

The presidential elections are scheduled for April 3, 90 days before the end of the term of the President of the Republic of Serbia. The deadline for nominations is midnight on March 12.

Serbia’s Decision on Sanctions Will Define Relations with the EU

European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik said on Friday (25.02) that the Serbian authorities’ decision not to impose sanctions on Russia following its attack on Ukraine will define the country’s relations with the European Union.

“Everyone should understand that Serbia’s choice not to join the European Union sanctions is a defining foreign policy decision for much broader relations between the EU and Serbia”, Bilcik said in a Twitter post.

Putin’s attack against Ukraine is a watershed moment for the Western Balkans”, the MEP wrote.

Carl Bildt, the European Union special envoy for the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, said that Serbia’s official stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine disqualified it from the EU accession process. “With this stance, Serbia de facto disqualified itself from the EU accession process. There should be no room for new EU members not sharing our fundamental values and interests”, the former Swedish Prime Minister said.