Belgrade – By Milos Mitrovic
Skopje as a host was primarily responsible for the failure of the summit that was supposed to gather regional leaders in Macedonian resort Ohrid this weekend Aleksandar Popov, the head of the Serbian NGO Center for regionalism said in the interview for IBNA. Popov is also Co-President of the Igman Initiative, which has organized numerous summits of the highest rank officials from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
The South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit was canceled, after Albania and Croatia declared that they would not participate. On Wednesday, Albanian President Bujar Nishani explained that he decided not to come to Ohrid due to the fact that President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga was not invited. Croatian President Ivo Josipovic subsequently canceled his attendance at the summit. Josipovic stated that regional cooperation should include all the countries from the region. Kosovo is not the member of SEECP. According to the Statute of the SEECP, only sovereign states could be its members. Ms Jahjaga was not invited under the objection of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Romania who do not recognize the independence of Kosovo.
* What are the consequences of the Ohrid summit cancellation?
– Several aspects should be considered regarding the cancellation. On the one hand, the Statute of the South-East European Cooperation Process states that only internationally recognized countries could take part in the activities of the SEECP. Kosovo is not an internationally recognized country. While organizing this kind of summit, hosts should responsibly consider who could be the participants. Macedonia, as a host, ought to know what would be the consequences of inviting or not inviting Kosovo. If Macedonia had conducted adequate consultations, it would know that Albanian President would not come to Ohrid without the attendance of Kosovo`s President.
Another aspect is a political one. Serbia would certainly not gain any political points by boycotting Kosovo at the regional meetings. However, the objections could not be raised to Serbian decision to comply with the SEECP Statute. On the other hand, more flexibility in the regional relations would not be the bad news. There is no doubt about this.
* Do you think that by the cancellation of the summit the message against the boycott of Kosovo was sent to Serbia?
– I am not certain. I think the message was sent to all the countries in the region, in the first place to Macedonia as the organizer of the summit. Before summoning such kind of summit the organizers have to judge carefully the chances that it would be successful. The organizers of the Ohrid summit disgraced themselves given the fact that they weren`t prepared good enough for the process which was very sensitive. The Igman initiative usually conducts several rounds of consultation among the regional leaders before summoning the summit. The summit is summoned only after we became assured that it would be successful.
* How do you rate the decision of President Josipovic? It seems that Josipovic decided the fate of the summit by cancelling his attendance.
– I think that he didn’t decide the outcome, because the summit was defined as a regional one. The summit in Ohrid would have been a different kind of the meeting, after the presidents of the two countries from the region decided not to attend it. This could have been a summit of several presidents, not a regional one.
* Do you find that Josipovic by his decision delivered a message that Croatia had become a regional leader, especially for the reason that it would enter the EU on July 1st?
– I am sure that leadership tendencies do exist. However, I believe that insisting on the leadership is not constructive behaviour because it could jeopardize regional cooperation. I cannot claim that the decision of President Josipovic was motivated by his intention to promote Croatia as a leader. After joining the EU Croatia will realize that it was still profoundly attached to the region. Boasting of leadership will be pointless.
* Why the EU did not react more harshly to the fact that Serbia, in fact, decided to boycott Pristina by objecting the possible invitation to the President of Kosovo for the summit?
– The EU is now focused on the normalization of the relations between Serbia and Kosovo. By dramatizing the issue of regional summits, EU could harm the ongoing negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.