Balkan Developments

Macedonia signs protocol for accession to NATO

Photo: BGNESNorth Macedonia is one step away from NATO membership. On February 6 this country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Dimitrov and the NATO Ambassadors signed the protocol for accession to NATO. The Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg called the event historic and accentuated on the significance of the agreement between Skopje and Athens which put an end of the decades-long naming dispute. Stoltenberg voiced hopes that the Republic of North Macedonia will soon become a NATO member after making the necessary reforms. In an emotional speech Nikola Dimitrov accentuated on the support his country received from Bulgaria on the road to NATO and EU membership.

Large-scale anti-government protests held in Serbia

Photo: BGNESLarge-scale anti-government protests took place last Friday in many Serbian cities for the tenth consecutive week. The protesters demanded the resignation of the Serbian cabinet. The protests were held under the motto One in Five Million. This slogan appeared after Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic said that he would not yield to protesters’ demands even if five million people take the streets. Protesters in Novi Sad called for freedom of media.

USA calls on Serbia and Kosovo to return to negotiating table

Ambassadors Scott and Kosnett  /  Photos:  xk.usembassy.govThe Ambassadors of the USA to Serbia and Kosovo Kyle Scott and Philip Kosnett have released a joined op-ed in which they call on the two countries to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement on comprehensive normalization of relations in 2019. “The status-quo has held back economic and political progress in both countries and led professionals and young people to seek their futures in more stable nations with more dynamic economies. A durable, implementable compromise agreement is in both countries interest. Long-term stability and prosperity for both Serbia and Kosovo depend on a return to the EU-led dialogue and the courage to overcome the past and build a shared future together”. The negotiations for normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo have been blocked for months. Serbia refused to renew the EU-led dialogue with Kosovo until Pristina cancels the customs tariffs on Serbian imports. Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci supports the abolishment of the tarrifs, but this country’s Premier Ramush Haradinaj opposes to such idea.

Greece and Turkey to seek solution of long disputes

Photo: BGNESGreece’s Premier Alexis Tsipras made a two-day visit to Turkey in a moment of tense bilateral relations. In Ankara Premier Tsipras met with Turkeys’ President Recep Erdogan. Alexis Tsipras and Recep Erdogan discussed the Cyprus issue. The previous attempts to solve the Cyprus problem date back to 2017 when negotiations between Turkey and Greece failed. Premier Tsipras and President Erdogan also discussed cooperation in the energy sphere, the migrant flow, mutual violations of the airspace and the attempt of the Turkish authorities to return 8 military men who escaped to Greece after the failed coup in Turkey in 2016. One visit cannot solve all these problems, but it is a beginning of a dialogue at least, Turkey’s University lecturer Zuhal Uzuner told the Bulgarian National Radio. Greece and Turkey voiced willingness to improve their bilateral relations and prepare a road map aimed at solving the controversial issues.

President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akanci to meet on February 26

Photo: BGNESThe President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will hold an informal meeting on February 26 at the residence of the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar located in the buffer zone. The issue about the property and the compensations of the Greek Cypriots who were forced to leave their homes in 1974 after the Turkish intervention in Cyprus remains the main problem during the negotiations.

Compiled by: Miglena Ivanova

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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