Slovenia provided the picturesque meeting point for the recent conference "Together for the European Union (EU): Contribution of Western Balkans to the European Future." The conference was attended by a virtual Who's Who of Western Balkan prime ministers, with the notable exception of the Republic of Serbia. A follow-up conference is planned for Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, this coming June, organized by the current Spanish EU presidency, and will highlight a meeting between the EU and leaders of the Western Balkans.
The upcoming conference is a move to confirm a strong European perspective for the region, and is considered more significant than previous such conferences. Other invited parties include the United States, Russia, and the Republic of Turkey, all seen as important players although outside the EU for the general stability and future prospects of the region, and specifically European integration.
Although the upcoming conference is considered a high priority, it will be interesting to watch the behavior of Serbias government. Serbian President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic have repeatedly refused to attend any conference at which Kosovo has participated as an independent state. The high Serbian officials demand that Kosovo participates only as a delegation of UNMIK-Kosovo. Thus they boycotted the conference in Slovenia, declaring it a total "failure... the diplomatic fiasco and the debacle of the first Summit of EU-Western Balkans."
In fact, Pristina has every right to insist on representing Kosovo as an independent state. Since the 17th February, 2008, the Republic of Kosovo has been an independent and sovereign country, recognized by a third of member nations of the United Nations. Furthermore, Kosovo is a full member of the IMF and the World Bank, and numerous other international organizations. Clearly, it is appropriate and essential that the Republic of Kosovo is represented at any regional or international conference as an equal among equals. For senior officials of the Republic of Serbia it may be difficult to accept the new reality of the Balkans, but it will happen.
The upcoming conference "EU - Western Balkans" has impressive potential -- especially if the organizer correctly refers to all the participants of the conference, without attempting to reach a disingenuous modus vivendi between Serbia and Kosovo. Although the government of Bosnia-Herzegovia has not yet officially recognized Kosovo, it must respect the consensus between the constituent peoples regarding the decision on recognition of Kosovo. Specifically, that means avoiding a repeat of what happened at the conference in Slovenia when Nikola Spiric, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, walked out of the room while Hashim Thaci, Kosovos prime minister, was addressing the conference.
The question of regional stability will be central to the upcoming conference in Sarajevo, held under the auspices of Spains, the current EU presidency, and facilitated by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. The Balkan train will continue to move towards its ultimate EU goal, although with great difficulty and despite the many differences that exist between countries. Its run will prove ever faster when there is concrete evidence of the requisite political will, and where a culture of open dialogue can flourish, allowing for the resolution of bilateral issues through mutual cooperation.
The author of the text is political anlyst