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    Kosovo Albanians wave the Kosovo flag during a celebration marking the 4th anniversary of the Kosovo's declaration of independence in Pristina on February 17, 2012

    Why Upcoming EU-Western Balkans Summit is Threatened With Failure

    © AFP 2018 / ARMEND NIMANI
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    Spain, Romania and Cyprus have signaled their unwillingness to take part in the main discussion of the upcoming EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia due to Kosovo's participation. According to Serbian analysts, the firm stance of Madrid and some other European capitals shows that Belgrade must stand its ground in the dialogue with Pristina.

    The May 17 EU-Western Balkans summit in Bulgaria may turn out to be a failure as there is no unity among European states both on the Kosovo issue and the EU expansion into the region, Aleksandar Mitic, a political scientist at the Belgrade-based Center for Strategic Alternatives think tank, told Sputnik Serbia.

    "As we witnessed in February [2018], when the EU enlargement strategy was presented, there is an absolute lack of unity within the EU regarding the timeframe of the [bloc's] expansion and its conditions," Mitic emphasized. "The EU-Western Balkans summit is unlikely to solve this problem, especially in the context of a provocative decision to invite Kosovo as a state. If Bulgaria does not abandon this format, the event will be threatened with failure."

    Meanwhile, Spain, Romania and Cyprus have signaled that they will not attend the main discussion of the May summit in Sofia due to Kosovo's participation. The three countries do not recognize the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo as an independent entity. 

    Slovakia, which also regards Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia, is also mulling over its participation in the EU summit in Bulgaria. For its part, Sofia, apparently scared by the prospect of the event's failure, has stated that it will "fully respect the status neutrality of Kosovo at the EU-Western Balkans summit."

    Meanwhile, Pristina media resources say that Ramush Haradinaj, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Republic, will represent Kosovo.

    Mitic expressed his confidence that Spain will not agree to Kosovo's participation in the event, since Madrid's position on the issue has become even tougher after the Catalonia independence vote on October 1, 2017. Therefore, it could be expected that Spain will adhere to this strategy in the future, the political scientist suggested.

    Thus, in February 2018 the Public Relations Office of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Vecernje Novosti, a Belgrade-based newspaper, that "Spain's position on the non-recognition of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo is based on the defense of the principles of the territorial integrity of states, respect for international law, and the rule of law."

    "That's grounds for other states which do not recognize Kosovo to take a firmer stand," Mitic opined. "It is possible that Bulgaria will try to save the summit and come up with some ingenious solution, for example, tablets indicating the names and surnames of Kosovo representatives without specifying the state, building on the experience of the EU."

    For his part, Slobodan Jankovic, an analyst at the Institute of International Politics and Economics (IIPE), Belgrade pointed out that Spain, Cyprus and Romania are acting in accordance with their own interests and added that it is important that their interests coincide with those of Serbia. According to the scholar, Belgrade needs to take advantage of this.

    Mitic shares Jankovic's stance: According to the political scientist, Belgrade should not make concessions in the course of its dialogue with Pristina including the issue of Kosovo's membership in international organizations.

    He believes that the firm position of Spain and other countries on Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence clearly indicates that Belgrade should not rush to make the final decision on the Kosovo issue, as most Serbian analysts who took part in the so-called "internal dialogue on Kosovo," initiated by Serbian President Alexander Vucic in autumn 2017, believed.

    Instead of the demonstration of EU member states willingness to close ranks and proceed with the enlargement of the bloc, the upcoming summit is likely to show "an illusion of EU unity on the issue of expansion into the Western Balkans," according to Mitic.

    Ten years ago Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. Since then, the Kosovo issue has been the apple of discord between Belgrade and Pristina. In 2011, Brussels persuaded the two to start a dialogue on normalization. However, the sides have not yet signed the legally binding agreement, although the EU leadership has repeatedly signaled that the normalization treaty is a mandatory condition for both to enter the European bloc.

    In February 2018, Hashim Thaci, the president of the self-proclaimed Kosovo Republic, suggested that Pristina and Belgrade will conclude the agreement by the end of the year.

    The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    summit, integration, unity, European Union, Ramush Haradinaj, Hashim Thaci, Catalonia, Europe, Spain, Serbia, Kosovo, Brussels, Bulgaria
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