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May 6 witnessed a landmark event in the realm of European diplomacy – the EU-Western Balkans summit. The current pandemic situation affected its format, forcing the participants to meet not up-close and personal, but via conference call. The event resulted in a declaration providing for the participants' confirmed unshakable craving for European integration of the volatile region. "The EU and the Western Balkans share a common goal – a peaceful, strong, and stable united Europe, resting upon not only historical, cultural and geographical ties, but also common interests in politics, security and economy," the document says.
Nevertheless, the Balkan participants remained not fully satisfied with the summit. While someone mentioned this behind the scenes, the representatives of Macedonia (aka North Macedonia) spoke bluntly about it. The fact is that in the document, with all the abundance of pathos and assurances of mutual affection, there are no hard numbers as regards the timing of the long-awaited admission of Western Balkans to a close-knit old-world family.
It is tacitly known that the instigators of such a stop signal are EU leaders as represented by France and Germany. Their motives are known and clear – unwillingness to supplement the union with members having unresolved bilateral conflicts. Notably, for Kosovo it is also impossible to talk about sufficient international legitimacy even in the eyes of Europe itself. A typical example: because of the stance taken by Spain, which did not recognize Kosovo due to its own internal centrifugal separatist tendencies and opposed Pristina's presence at the current summit, its participants refused to use their state symbols for a protocol conflict resolution (no one has symbols and neither has Kosovo, Kosovo itself can be considered as nonexistent).
But not every Kosovo problem solution is suitable – as we have repeatedly written, Germany is not satisfied with the idea of exchanging territories, which is actively lobbied by the Americans and may create new undesirable precedents. And, to be perfectly honest, Berlin, Paris and other old European capitals are not really enthusiastic about the Kosovars becoming full-fledged and freely moving citizens of Europe. Besides, in the Balkans, the Europeans are uncomfortable about being an obedient tool and companion of the United States, whose interests, in turn, are not solid-cast but reflect the struggle of various elites and departments. However, a direct collision of interests with the Americans, the risk of which grows pro rata with the region's involvement in the EU, is undesirable. A new component of the equation is China's Balkan activity, which makes this equation even more complicated given the increasing tension between Beijing and Washington.
Therefore, the EU and "old" Europe seek to keep the Western Balkans in their span of guardianship and control without taking on direct legal obligations; this resembles a civil partnership, where the partner who is less keen on a passport endorsement persuades the more eager one that "it won't change anything". To appease the Balkan satellites, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank allocated 3.3 billion euros on the eve of the summit to fight the consequences of the coronavirus. Moreover, by the fall, the European Commission should prepare a strong investment plan to support the Balkan economies. The inclusion will not be unconditional, but is going to depend on real progress as regards the rule of law and reforms, as well as commitment to the values, rules and standards of the European Union.
Some events before and after the summit revealed both the causes and effects of the EU's distancing itself from Kosovo. Back in March, after the rise of the COVID-19 epidemic in Europe and the EU ban on the supply of medical equipment and pharmacologic agents to Serbia, Alexander Vucic expressed disappointment in his strategic partners: "I will not draw political conclusions now, but we realized that there is no international or European solidarity, all these were fairy tales on paper... Only the PRC can help us in this situation, and I wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping, in which I asked for help and called him my brother."
In theory, this should have led not only to Belgrade's strengthened ties with China and Russia, but also to an increased desire of striking a deal with Pristina under the American scenario with no regard to the stance of Europe. But here, voluntary or involuntary assistance to the Europeans is provided by the Kosovars, who are mired down in acute contradictions between the branches of government. By the way, these contradictions have taken a particular institutional form, with the parliament having passed a vote of no confidence in the government of Albin Kurti, who thus became the "technical", interim Prime Minister. Kurti himself believes his Cabinet should resign only after a new early election, but the opposition plans to bypass it in a Constitutional Court case.
An interesting fact, seemingly ignored by national Balkan researchers, is that Kurti, who is now the main Kosovo "hawk" and one of the major obstacles to the Belgrade-Pristina deal, is considered a henchman of one of the Washington "towers", although married to a European. However, his wife... is from a non-EU country – Norway. Scandinavian beauty Rita Knudsen is a scientist and expert analyst, a senior fellow with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and a member of the Oslo University's Center for Research on Extremism. Her research, as is clear from her second employment, deals with the issues of radicalism, extremism and national self-determination in history and international relations, especially in the Balkans and Kosovo. Immersion in this case can provide a fertile source for conspiracy research.
By the way, getting back to Belgrade for a moment, we note that in the end, the EU has still begun providing assistance to the Serbs in combating coronavirus. Therefore, in Vucic's think-piece published on May 7 and dedicated to his country's fight against the Wuhan disease, the Serbian President warmly thanked the Europeans, the Americans, and the Chinese for their help... but not Russia which supported its fraternal people with specialists and materials.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring Montenegro, the unrest has not yet subsided that was generated by repressions against the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) dating back to the winter, not without the friendly guardianship of overseas curators. On May 12, Bishop Joanikije and seven priests were detained over a meeting of citizens in a Niksic SPC entity, having thus violated the gathering ban order. In response to this arrest, people blocked the Berane-Andrijevica regional highway, following which several people were detained either.
Finally, during Europe's celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Victory over Nazism in the Western Balkans, there were two outbreaks of historical revisionism and chauvinism, from which the EU usually seeks to dissociate itself (however, the Ukrainian-Donbass tragedy revealed a number of blatant exceptions to this rule). On May 9, the state TV and radio channel of Montenegro played a song by Croatian artist Marko "Thompson" Perković known for praising the Ustashe and the Serbian genocide, and, by the way, rich in the affection of former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar- Kitarović. A in (North) Macedonia, a stamp was issued before the holiday, with Croatia depicted within the Ustashe period, and even with additional "annexed" Serbian territories. Mind you, after the scandal the stamp has been withdrawn from circulation. And all of this amid Victory celebrations in Croatia itself, where Grabar- Kitarović was recently replaced by Social Democrat and moderate Eurosceptic Zoran Milanović, in a pronouncedly anti-fascist spirit.
It should be noted that contradictions have penetrated to the very heart of the European Union these days: Germany, represented by its Constitutional Court, has entered a give-and-take with European structures, stating the priority of its laws and interests, as well as unwillingness to gratuitously finance outsider allies. In the light of all the circumstances mentioned, the European integration of the Western Balkans is not even in the offing.