Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor has announced that the regional conference on the Western Balkans, scheduled for March 20 in Slovenia, will be held despite uncertainty over the participation of Serbian and Kosovo officials.
After meeting with Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia, Nikola Spiric, Kosor told reporters that the conference will be held and that the hosts are still working on details related to the organisation.
“I am an optimist and I believe that everything will be arranged and that all those whom we, as organisers, are expecting at this conference will be there,” she said.
The conference, which has been named “Together for the European Union: Contribution of the Western Balkans to the European Future”, aims to resolve some of the open issues in the region. If it is held, it will be the first meeting of all the political leaders in the region in 18 years.
However, no agreement has been reached yet on a formula that would allow both Belgrade and Pristina to participate in the event. While Serbia asks that Kosovo representatives participate in the “format defined by UN Security Council Resolution 1244”, Pristina insists Kosovo be treated as a “sovereign country”.
Tanja Miscevic, a political scientist and former director of Serbia’s EU Integration Office, told Balkan Insight that “two days before the conference no one, not even the hosts, knows who is attending it.”
She said that it would not be good for regional cooperation if Serbia did not attend the event but that such a decision would be understandable taking into consideration the country’s stance towards Kosovo.
“If Serbian authorities decide not to take part in the conference, it would be understandable as it would be in accordance with the country’s constitution, which doesn’t leave much space to find a solution to the dispute,” Miscevic said.
The Slovenian Embassy in Belgrade confirmed on Tuesday that all the invited participants have confirmed their presence except Serbia.
“All those invited to the summit have informally confirmed their participation, except Serbia, but since it is an informal meeting, they can wait until the last moment,” Slovenian Charge d’Affaires Jadranka Sturm-Kocjan told Beta news agency on Tuesday.
She went on to say that the presence of Serbian President Boris Tadic at the conference is of great importance for cooperation in the region, mutual relations and dialogue between the Western Balkan countries.
“There are efforts to come to a compromise, and frankly, we expect a positive reply,” she said.
Slovenian PM Borut Pahor met previously with Serbia’s Tadic and Kosovo PM Hashim Tachi on separate occasions in an effort to find a compromise, but no mutually acceptable solution has yet been found. There have been reports that one possible solution would be to display only the names of the politicians in attendance, and not the names of their countries.
Serbian President Boris Tadic has reiterated on a number of occasions that his country wants representatives of all people living in Serbia to participate in regional forums, albeit under certain conditions. Serbia asks that Kosovo representatives participate in the “format defined by UN Security Council Resolution 1244”.
“That’s an elementary prerequisite for Serbia’s participation in such a forum and that’s why it wants that all doubts about this be settled,” said Tadic.
Meanwhile, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced they would attend the event “only as representatives of the state of Kosovo”.
Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi reiterated Kosovo’s stance, saying: “We have the will to participate in the summit, but only as an equal participant.”
According to diplomatic sources cited by Pristina daily Koha Ditore, the idea of Kosovo being represented as ‘UNMIK/Kosovo’ at the summit has been withdrawn.
Serbian officials have boycotted or walked out on a number of events in which Kosovo has not been represented under the title of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
Most recently, Serbian President Boris Tadic did not attend the February inauguration of Croatian President Ivo Josipovic because Kosovo’s president was present.
Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, who attended a regional ministerial conference on border security in Tirana on March 5, reportedly left the room when Kosovo’s interior minister took the floor to address the conference participants.