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The Grand Opening of the Belgrade Security Forum on the Future of Albanian-Serbian relations and the Stability of South East Europe was chaired by Misha Glenny and saw the participation of Serbian PM Aleksandar Vučić and Albanian PM Edi Rama. Glenny opened the debate by saying that these kinds of meetings send a strong message to Europe which currently is in a situation of profound crisis.

Notwithstanding this, he said, these two men show that constructing work together is possible. He asked the two prime ministers of Serbia and Albania what does these problems in the EU mean for the accession process, how bad will they affect Serbia’s and Albania’s path towards the accession.

Aleksandar Vučić began by saying that ’when we speak to each other we improve the relationship’. But, he added, that the problems in the EU have sent a bad signal for countries and people in the region. ’People say: look, these are people who want to leave and you want to get in’, Vučić said. He repeatedly stressed the fact the main strategic goal for the serbian government is to do everything for the EU membership. ’Our strategic goal is EU path, not a balancing act’, he said by referering to the relations with Russia. ’We don’t lie’, Vučić said, ’when we say that we want to preserve traditional ties with Russia’, but he added that the real politics of Serbia is to be part of the EU and he emphasized the fact that he is saying alway the same thing, be it in Washington, in Moscow or in Brussels.

However, he said that he was not optimistic, he was affraid of the region’s future, because many things have changed. He stressed the fact that nationalistic ideas have been resuscicated in the region. ’The real situation is the following’, he said, ’huge problems in Bosnia’. Even the mutual trust has been built between the countries in the region is fragile. ’When we speak about the relationship, there are huge bumps on the road to overcome’. He said that he was affraid of the reaction, because topics have changed and eventualy people will change their politicians.

Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama, was more precise and less concerned about his countries road to the EU. ’I think we, at least, here in the Balkans, have to be clear in a single point’, Rama said, ’that the EU process is not a trip to go somewhere, it is a modernisation path that is possible for our societies to fill the gap with the future’. He said that in Albania the situation in regard to the EU integration is not as in Serbia. Rama added that the EU integration process is more important than the integration because it helps to build the state which in his words ’we didn’t have’. He said that this integration process has made possible unimaginable reforms in Albania, radical reforms. According to Rama, people in the region should realise that there is not any other mechanism for the region to be finally modernized. ’EU integration is about choosing about the future and the past in relation to what country we want to create’, Rama said. This is a unique way towards modern state. Rama said that the big difference between Albania and Serbia is that in Albania there are no dilemas for the EU choise, while in Serbia this is different.

The issue of Kosovo was the so called ’elephant in the room’ in the relations between Albania and Serbia. Rama said that this was the point, where the two countries differ extremely. On the other hand, Vučić said that the EU is seen in Serbia as an organization that makes pressure to Serbia because of Kosovo. ’Albania has no problems with her territorial integrity’, Vučić said, ’Serbia has. This is the essence of the problem’. But, he assured that Serbia will continue the dialogue with Prishtina, ’in a passionate way’, because this process, according to him, is a precondition for the economic situation of the region. Rama, on the other hand said that ’the sooner Serbia recognizes Kosovo, the better will be’. But he added that the leaders in Belgrade and Prishtina should be praised for the dialogue.

The Trepča issue heated words between Rama and Vučić. Rama said that Trepča is in Kosovo and the people of Kosovo are there, ’you can’t transport Trepča to Belgrade’, he said, and added that Trepča belongs to the people of Kosovo, be they albanians or serbs. ’In both sides, in Kosovo and Serbia, the priority is to make people happy, the serbs in North Kosovo, the albanians in South Serbia’, Rama said. The serbian prime minister disagreed by saying that the people of North Kosovo, the serbs there, were not asked from the government in Prishtina and he couldn’t understand the move from the Prishtina to claim Trepča as property of the state of Kosovo.

When Misha Glenny changed the topic to the migrants crisis, this was an opportunity from the serbian prime minister to express how much he respected the german chancellor Angela Merkel and that in the possibility of her not being anymore the Chancellor, Vučić said that he was affraid that there would european disorder. Rama on the other hand, after joking that ’we are not competing for Angela’s heart’, said that in regard to the migrants crisis, the countries of Western Balkans have shown more european values than some EU member countries.

  • Aleksandar Vučić‚ Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia‚
  • Edi Rama‚ Prime Minister of the Republic of Albania‚
  • Chair: Misha Glenny‚ Visiting Professor, Harriman Institute, Columbia University‚