Velebit: I don't expect anything crucial from the meeting in Skopje; the status quo will remain in the dialogue

Vuk Velebit
Source: Kosovo Online

Political scientist Vuk Velebit says that understanding the context in which the meeting of regional leaders with representatives of the US and EU in Skopje is taking place regarding the Brussels Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, worth six billion euros, is crucial because he points out that there is an urgency in both the European and American administrations to make some progress in the dialogue.

"This year, we have elections in both America and Europe, and the list of things that need to be done is increasing. I think there will be greater pressure on our region to conclude certain matters. I don't believe we will witness any changes; I think the status quo will be maintained more. First, I'm not sure if the envisioned solution is possible. Second, in Pristina, there is a fundamental misunderstanding and unwillingness to compromise or respect and understand the Serbian position", Velebit says for Kosovo Online.

He continues that when you look at how the Serbs live in Kosovo, the status of their human and religious rights prevents the creation of any atmosphere of normalcy.

"I think the EU has shown an absence of capacity to deal with this issue, and that's why we have an increasing involvement of the American side, which still has slightly more understanding of the Serbian position compared to the EU", he notes.

Velebit, who is also the executive director of the "Pupin Initiative", does not expect anything crucial to happen at the meeting in Skopje, where the presence of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O'Brien has been announced.

"I think it will be just another meeting. We had a meeting in Davos where the President of Serbia met with James O'Brien and Miroslav Lajcak, and they also held meetings with the Pristina side. For the West, it is crucial that there are no tensions here that could lead to conflicts. At this moment, it seems more like both sides prefer the status quo and a kind of stability, albeit some, just to avoid the conflicts and situations we witnessed in the past year", Velebit emphasizes.

Regarding the atmosphere before the meeting in Skopje, considering that Pristina is announcing the discontinuation of payment transactions in dinars, Velebit says he would like to see more pressure on Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti for all the things he does, or rather, doesn't do.

"The Pristina administration is still under EU sanctions imposed last year, and I'm not sure they will be lifted until the Community of Serb-majority of Municipalities is formed. What I expect is more pressure on Kurti regarding the formation of the CSM, and the US administration has reiterated this several times in the past", Velebit believes.

Speaking about the European package of six billion euros in aid for the Western Balkans, Velebit believes that it is important for the EU to send signals that this region is still important to them and that they want it as a part of the Union, although he does not believe there will be significant progress.

"The package, not only financial aid but also the strategic positioning of this region in relation to the EU and the US, is important because if the Western Balkans region develops if it connects if we cooperate more, it means greater stability. In this way, some problems of escalation and potential conflicts are addressed. I think Serbia has the opportunity to position itself as a country of innovation, where the IT sector is developing, as the main partner of the US in these areas", the political scientist emphasizes.

He adds that Serbia is increasingly being seen as the central country of the region, but also of Central and Eastern Europe.

"It's important to see what we can learn from some of our neighbors, such as Hungary when it comes to the development of the automotive industry. In that country, the world's largest producer of electric cars is building the first factory in Europe just 50 kilometers from the Serbian border. In Serbia, you have gigafactories for lithium batteries. Serbia has the opportunity to position itself as a strategic partner, and I think that's an opportunity that needs to be seized. By exporting capital, we actually strengthen our power", Velebit concludes.