European Council on Foreign Relations

Germia Hill 2: Debating foreign policy in Kosovo

Now that Barack Obama has been confirmed in the White House and EU’s crisis, though far from over, is less acute than before, it may be a good time to take stock of transatlantic relations. That was precisely what we did at Germia Hill, a high-level conference convened for a second year in partnership with Kosovo’s MFA (kudos to our friend Petrit Selimi, the deputy FM).  Why Kosovo?  Well, it is in Kosovo and, more broadly, the Balkans that the transatlantic partnership is as robust and functional than ever. We were fortunate to host the event in the wake of the Ashton-Clinton tour of the region conveying a strong message along those lines.

What we heard at Germia Hill was that EU’s enlargement is still the main anchor for the aspiring members in the Balkans, Kosovo included, with the US rendering its full support “from behind”. As old Balkan hand Dan Serwer put it shrewdly,

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What’s next for Kosovo?

Normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia has become a highly relevant and even urgent issue for a number of reasons. Several positive factors have “converged” at this juncture. First and foremost, Serbia has just held both its presidential and legislative elections. Democratically elected politicians can deal with tough topics only after elections as they avoid addressing difficult themes in order to obtain re-election. Serbia has a new president, Tomislav Nikolić and a new prime minister, Ivica Dačić, while the leader of the opposition is ex-president Boris Tadić, who understands the need to normalise relations with Kosovo and as a head of state, he was steering Serbia towards EU integration. Fortunately, the new political leadership also supports EU membership for Serbia

I am convinced that the coming autumn represents such an optimum moment for relations between Serbia

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Letter from Kosovo

In Britain, bright young things do internships and occupy things, complaining that the world is against them. In Kosovo they become deputy foreign minister. Okay, that might be stretching it a bit, but when I first met Petrit Selimi my first reaction was, “Damn, what have I done with my life?” Selimi, who is in his early thirties, is a whirlwind of dynamism and debt crisis wisdom, and the hope of Europe’s newest country (although Spain and Slovakia might not agree with me on that last point).

He has the unenviable task of fashioning a viable country out of what was a chunk of Yugoslavia, then Serbia. It has also been a United Nations protectorate, before that a war zone, and before that—going a long way back, but for Serbia and Kosovo this bit matters—it was the cradle of Serbian civilisation, and the site where the Turks defeated of a Serbian-led coalition in 1389.

On my first

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What did ECFR learn in Kosovo?

Over the weekend ECFR rolled into Prishtina where we held a the inaugural Germia Hill forum on “South East Europe in a Multipolar Era” - a joint venture with Kosovo’s MFA. For two days, nearly a hundred of policymakers, diplomats, wonks of all shapes and colours debated the challenges and prospects for EU’s foreign policy at times of profound internal crisis. The question we grappled with was whether the EU’s troubles is turning the Western Balkans into an arena of competition. What to make of Turkey’s activism in Bosnia or Albania? Is Russia willing to reinforce relations with sympathetic South Slavs by assuming the mantle of protector? And how about the Chinese economic advances in a number of local countries? Or is the talk of power politics outdated, misleading, if not dangerous?

Petrit Selimi and Daniel Korski What did we learn at the conference? Well, for most speakers, the EU is still the only game in town

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Sofia view: Kosovo closer to visa-free travel

We are not used to good news coming from Kosovo but here is some.

As of Monday, the government in Pristina started issuing biometric passports to citizens. This is a crucial step towards the EU lifting the visa requirement to Kosovars travelling to the Schengen space. Hashim Thaci, the PM, was brimming with joy: "This is a day of success for the Republic of Kosovo, a day for a European Kosovo." Kosovo is hopeful if will get a liberalisation roadmap by the end of the year. Along with the upgrade of Serbia to candidate status and the start of membership talks with Montenegro, the roadmap might well be one of the success stories that EU enlargement terribly needs (hint: stay tuned for ECFR’s Scorecard 2011). Don’t forget: after December 2010, Kosovo has been the last bit of the Western Balkans still behind the visa wall. In July 2009, a group of ECFR members urged EU’s interior

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