In an exclusive interview for IBNA, the senior member of the Washington based Center for European Policies Analysis (CEPA), Janusz Bugajski, talks about the 11 June elections, the process of the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, the strategy of the EU expansion in relation to Kosovo, the impact of the US President, Donald Trump on the region and the recent tension in the Balkans
IBNA: How do you rate the latest elections in Kosovo. Is there a possibility that their epilogue will bring about changes in the political and governing system?
Bugajski: I am always hopeful, but let us wait until the new government is formed. To be successful it must take steps to improve domestic conditions, in the economy, education, and health care, and make progress on the international arena by pushing toward NATO and EU membership.
IBNA: How do you assess the process of normalizing talks between Kosovo and Serbia?
Bugajski: The process has stalled with both countries passing through an election seaerson and an unwillingness to take further steps. The new government in Kosova will need to refocus attention on unresolved questions pertaining to the Serb minority, particularly the association of municipalities that international actors have been pushing to establish. Belgrade also needs to take important steps by ending its obstruction of Kosova’s international recognition and membership of all internatioinal institutions. This would eventually lead to full bilateral normalization between two independent states.
IBNA: How do you evaluate the EU Enlargement Strategy in relation to Kosovo?
Bugajski: The EU’s strategy toward the West Balkans is too slow and cumbersome. In the face of an existential crisis, the Union needs to demonstrate its importance by reviving its core mission of including new states as members. Instead of wasting time and resources on trying to develop a separate defense structure that would compete with NATO, the EU should stick to what it knows best by developing a common economic, legal, and social space that includes the entire Balkan region including Kosova.
IBNA: What will be the impact of the new US administration led by President Trump in the Balkan region?
Bugajski: US policy toward th Balkans is unlikely to change dramatically unless there are dramatic developments in the region. The entry of Montenegro into NATO was welcomed in Washington and is an important step forward. It signals to other states that they can also qualify for the Alliance if they complete their homework. At the same time, the US will continue to support the inclusion of all Balkan copuntries in the EU.
IBNA: The latest tensions in the Balkans can escalate into any conflict?
Bugajski: The prospect of renewed conflict lurks beneath the surface in several countries, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. This can be sparked by politicians who play the ethnic card or seek territorial separation, or by a frustrated public manipulated by radicals. An even bigger danger is if a crisis in one country draws neighbors into a larger regional conflict which escalates into violence. The US, NATO, anf the EU must closely monitor and defuse such scenarios which will only benefit Russian in its agenda to weaken Europe and dismantle the West.