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Macedonia Rescues Threatened Ministerial Summit

June 1, 2013

Nimble diplomatic footwork has saved the ministerial conference of the South-East European Cooperation Process, SEECP – due to take place in Macedonia on Friday – after Kosovo and Serbia agreed a compromise.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 31.05.2013


SEECP Foreign Ministers in Skopje | Archive photo

Macedonia has salvaged a threatened regional ministerial conference after two countries at the heart of a diplomatic stand-off, Serbia and Kosovo, agreed to sit at the same table at the meeting.

The breakthrough occurred after host country Macedonia downgraded the meeting to an “informal” one.

Kosovo then said it would send its deputy Foreign Minister, Petrit Selimi, while Serbia will be represented by its Foreign Minister, Ivan Mrkic.

Earlier, Macedonia’s plans to host a summit of presidents of SEECP states ended in fiasco after most guests pulled out, prompting Macedonia’s President, Gjorge Ivanov, to call off the meeting.

The Greek President, Karolos Papoulias, and Bulgaria’s Rosen Plevneliev were the first to cancel. Albania’s Bujar Nishani and Croatia’s Ivo Josipovic then followed, these two after Kosovo’s President, Atifete Jahjaga, was not invited due to Serbian objections.

Serbia opposes attending top-level meetings where Kosovo is represented as a state as it does not recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Kosovo complained that Serbia’s initial attempt to block Kosovo from attending the meetings in Macedonia violated the 19 April EU-led agreement on normalization of relations as well as an earlier February 23, 2012, agreement specifically concerning Kosovo’s representation at regional meetings.

On the other hand, Serbia’s Mrkic on Thursday said that Kosovo was not part of the SEECP process and should not have been invited, or tried to come.

“Even if Kosovo were a state, it is not a member of SEECP. The question is: can someone else attend if it is deemed as state by some and not by others?” Mrkic said.

As with the doomed presidential summit, Macedonia, which is presiding over the SEECP this year, faced difficulties over no-shows in staging the ministerial meeting.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled owing to urgent duties regarding the Syrian crisis.

Greece, whose relations with Macedonia are strained by the long-standing dispute over Macedonia’s name, is sending only a technical representative from the Foreign Ministry.

Croatia’s Foreign Minister, Vesna Pusic, on the other hand, announced her presence while Albania will send its Deputy Foreign Minister, Edith Harxhi.

At the meeting, chaired by Macedonia’s chief of diplomacy, Nikola Poposki, Macedonia will present the achievements of its presidency over the SEECP.

Meanwhile, the former speaker of the Macedonian parliament, Stojan Andov, said President Ivanov had made a rushed decision when he scrapped the presidential summit due this weekend.

“It would have been better if the presidential summit had been postponed till September rather than cancelled,” Andov said. By then, he said, “the atmosphere around Kosovo would have been much clearer.”

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