Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Serbia’

Montenegro’s EU Aspirations

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 12th January, 2013

Montenegro flagAleksandar Andrija PejovicWhen the former Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s,  the immediate concern of the new states created was to secure their boundaries and to establish the apparatus of a national government. But most also dreamed of the day when they could complete the transition from Communist province to full member state of the European Union. Slovenia — which has always thought of itself as being in central Europe rather than the western Balkans — was the first to achieve that goal, in 2004; Croatia will follow suit this year. But the next is likely to be tiny Montenegro, which only declared independence (from a rump Yugoslavia made up mainly of Serbia) in 2006. Last night, the tiny republic’s chief negotiator for Montenegro’s accession to the EU, Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic, joined London Tory MEP Charles Tannock — who is the relevant rapporteur in the European Parliament — at Europe House to give a presentation on Montenegro’s progress. The government has managed to put together an impressive array of committees and structures in Podgorica to manage the adjustment of Montenegro’s laws and practices to fit in with the EU’s massive acquis communautaire. Interestingly, a sizeable majority of the key people in that process are women. Moreover, local NGOs have been integrated into the deliberations, which is a first. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that Montenegro will complete the accession process before the end of the decade. This is partly because the EU is going through a difficult time at present but also because there is general recognition that Romania and Bulgaria were unwisely fast-tracked into membership in 2007 before they had sorted out some serious deficiencies. As Charles Tannock warned, Montenegro also needs to tackle some issues around corruption and organised crime. But it should become the 29th EU member state one day — or the 30th, if Iceland gets its act together and races past on the inside track.


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Andrew Duff’s Eurovision

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 11th January, 2013

Andrew Duff 3While far too many people in Britain are pondering the question “Should the UK leave the EU?”, our continental neighbours are more concerned with debating the issue of how the European Union should now evolve. Evolve it must, as the prolonged crisis in the eurozone has highlighted that the current methods of governance are no longer fit for purpose. Probably they never were. Instead, there will have to be a form of fiscal and banking union, though that is something Britain is likely to remain detached from for the forseeable future. Last night, at a Federal Trust seminar at Europe House in Westminster, arch-federalist and LibDem MEP for the East of England, Andrew Duff, set out his vision for the future, arguing that the EU’s treaties need to be revised as soon as possible, as the Lisbon Treaty is being stretched to breaking point by the current crisis. He predicted that there will be a Convention kicking off the new treaty process in the Spring of 2015 (once the European elections are out of the way and a new Commission is in place). It falls to the federalist movement to draft a new constitutional treaty for a federalist EU, Andrew said — and of course he would normally be part of that, having been intimately involved in preparations for the last draft Constitution, which had to be dropped because of public opposition in several member states.

Federal Trust logo Andrew also once more floated the idea that in future there will need to be a group of MEPs in the European Parliament who are elected from transnational lists. And more controversially, he developed his concept of associate membership of the EU, describing four possible categories: (1) Norway and Switzerland, (2) Serbia and other aspirant member states which still have a lot of changes to make domestically, (3) Turkey, and (4) the UK and any other member state which feels it does not wish to be part of a federal union. This all led to a lively debate; as ever Andrew was thought-provoking and the discussion was far more intelligent than what one hears in the House of Commons or reads in most of the British Press.

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Kosovo, the Precocious 4-year-old

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 17th February, 2012

The Corinthia Hotel off Whitehall this lunchtime hosted a reception in honour of the 4th anniversary of independence of the Republic of Kosovo, the state that seceded from Serbia after a bitter conflict in which NATO convinced Belgrade by military means to release its iron grip. Many Serbs are still bitter about this, but the predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovans are jubiliant, and as far as the latter are concerned, the ‘war of liberation’ and the NATO action against Serbia was one of the high points of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s tenure in office. In case anyone had forgotten the human misery of the conflict — and the related issues of ethnic cleansing — there were powerful images on show at the Kosovan National Day celebrations. I had forgotten just how prominent the Independent newspaper had been in highlighting what was going on then, not least through its correspondent Robert Fisk — better know for his coverage of the Middle East. Anyway, there was a large and distinguished turnout today at the reception, at which both the Ambassador, Muhamet Hamiti, and the British academic and writer Noel Malcolm, spoke, and it was pointed out that now just over half of the member countries of the United Nations now recognise Kosovo as an independent state, despite Serbia’s virulent object. It was interesting talking to some of the ethnic Albanian Kosovans present to hear that they (representative or not) would like Kosovo eventually to merge with Albania, but as I pointed out, if the European Union expands further to take in the Western Balkans, perhaps such a union would not be necessary? Anyway, it is not for a Brit to determine the future of the people of the region. But it would be useful if they could all agree on what the path ahead should be.


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Mladic, Serbia and the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 29th May, 2011

The arrest of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic is a significant step towards the normalisation of Serbia’s relations with the rest of Europe and the country’s eventual accession to membership of the European Union. Belgrade had come under considerable criticism from some quarters for allegedly not doing enough to track down the man accused of responsibility for war crimes, notably the killing of an estimated 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995. Following the discovery of Mladic — looking considerably aged and weakened — in a village in northern Serbia (some of whose residents must have known he was there) opens the way to his being tried in The Hague. Mladic’s son insists his father was not guilty of ordering the Srebrenica massacre. It will be for the Court to decide. Certainly, there are some Serbian nationalists who still believe Mladi to be a hero, not a war criminal, as witnessed by the crowd which demonstrated outside the parliament building in Belgrade this evening. Meanwhile, to the relief of Serbia’s President, Boris Tadic, the end to the 16-year manhunt removes an obstacle in the way of Serbia’s EU membership. European integration has been a top priority for the Serbian government since it was elected in 2008. The following year, the European Commission in Brussels proposed visa liberalisation for Serbs. Just how many years it will take for Serbia to be allowed into the EU, however, is another matter, not just because of the rate of progress in accession negotiations but also because of the outstanding issue of Serbia’s non-recognition of the independence of the breakaway, predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo. There is also a certain enlargement fatigue among some of the EU’s current member states. Moreover, some other countries in the Western Balkans — notably Croatia — feel that they deserve to be let in first. One way or another, though, it does seem that most constituent parts of former Yugoslavia will follow Slovenia’s lead and inegrate into the Union, which is a development that should be welcomed.

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Russia and the European Liberal Family

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 30th October, 2008

Two Russian opposition political parties, Yabloko and the People’s Democratic Union (PDU), were accorded full membership of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) at a meeting of the ELDR’s governing Council in Stockholm this morning. Yabloko has had affiliate membership of ELDR for the past two years, so its upgrade was something of a formality, whereas the move to grant the PDU immediate, full membership was a little more controversial. The case for approval was made by the former Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, who has had a damascene conversion since he was part of the Kremlin set-up. He was highly critical of the Russian government’s provocation of Georgia earlier this year and the force of the Russian response to the Georgian actions in South Ossetia. There will be a full debate on relations between Europe and Russia at the ELDR Congress (in which Yabloko’s President, Sergey Mitrokhin, is expected to participate) also in Stockholm, tomorrow.

The ELDR Council also granted full membership to the Serbian Liberal Democratic Party, whose leader, Cedomir Jovanovic, received tributes from counterparts in other parts of the Balkans (including Kossovo) for bravely championing liberal values and human rights in Serbia.

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