MAY HOT TOPICS: EC delivers its latest report on progress in Balkans; Merkel supports Croatia’s bid to join Euro and Schengen; Serbia and Bosnia threaten retaliation against Kosovo tariffs; EU elections deliver (almost) expected results in Slovenia and Croatia; Uljanik starts bankruptcy proceedingsAdriatic Journal 31 May 2019
EC delivers its latest report on progress in Balkans
The outgoing head of the European Commission, Johannes Hahn has published on 29 May his final report on the progress made by the Western Balkan countries aspiring to become EU members. In the report, EC recommends the opening of accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia, while requesting that the two countries continue with efforts to strengthen the rule of law.
“EU Commission repeats its recommendations of last year to open now accession negotiations with both countries! Both countries have delivered. To remain credible with the merit-based process, the EU must stick now to its commitment and respond clearly and positively when countries fulfill theirs!”, Hahn wrote on Twitter.
Slovenia’s prime minister Marjan Šarec said his country will advocate for a date to be set for North Macedonia to open negotiations for membership in the European Union at the next EU summit in June.
Other countries in line for membership have had mixed reviews. The most important condition for Serbia to progress on its way to European Union membership is to implement rule of law reforms. The report expressed concern over political influence on the judiciary and wide-spread corruption in Serbia.
The report criticized Montenegro’s electoral framework, suggesting it must be revised in a comprehensive and inclusive way. In addition, the political scene is still fragmented, polarized and lacks political dialogue.
Though Kosovo has done well in implementing several reforms, in particular strengthening the rule of law and public administration, more effort needs to be made in the fight against corruption and the functioning of courts, the report states. The country was also criticized for introducing 100% tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian goods, undermining successful regional cooperation efforts.
As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, it “does not yet sufficiently fulfil the criteria related to the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993.”
“In this respect, the country needs to dedicate considerable efforts to sufficiently fulfil such criteria,” the report wrote. It adds that Bosnia needs to bring its constitutional framework in line with European standards and ensure the functionality of its institutions in order to be able to take over EU obligations.
European elections in Slovenia and Croatia
European elections have brought some expected and some unexpected results in Slovenia and Croatia. As expected, a coalition of two opposition parties – Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and conservative agrarian Slovenian People’s Party (SLS) – won most votes in the country, receiving 26.43% support, according to the released data.
Centre-left Social Democrats (SD) was backed by 18.64% of the voters, List of Marjan Šarec (LMS) got 10.46% support and conservative New Slovenia-Christian Democrats (NSi) party won 11.07%. Vote turnout was almost 29%. Slovenia will have eight representatives in the 751-seat European Parliament. The election results translate into three MEP seats for SDS/SLS, SD and LMS will have 2 seats each, while NSi will have 1 seat.
In Croatia, ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won most votes as expected but it didn’t win as many as it aimed for – it will have four parliament seats, same as the Social Democratic Party (SDP). HDZ won 22.72% of the votes, followed by SDP with 18.71%. Before the election, most polling predicted HDZ would win five seats, while SD was expected to win three seats.
Merkel supports Croatia’s bid to join Euro and Schengen
During her visit to Zagreb last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Croatia would most probably be admitted to the Schengen zone and the Euro area during the next European Commission’s term.
“Croatia’s accession to the Euro area and the Schengen zone is certain in the next term of the European Commission. However, there is still some work to be done, but Croatia is on the right track, and Germany wants to be its partner in those efforts,” Merkel told reporters at a news conference with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.
Plenković said that joining the euro will not happen overnight.
“That’s not tomorrow’s goal, it’s a project that will accompany the next term of the European Commission and the next term of the European Parliament and the first ambition is to fulfill the criteria for ERM-2,” he added.
Croatia plans to launch its bid to join Euro area in the next two months.The process of joining is likely to take four years.
Serbia threatens retaliation against Kosovo tariffs
If Prishtina’s import taxes are not abolished before the Western Balkans summit in Paris on 1 July, Belgrade and Sarajevo will consider introducing different models of countermeasures against Kosovo, Serbian deputy prime minister Rasim Ljajic and deputy chairman of BiH’s Council of Ministers Mirko Šarović warned last month.
At a meeting in Sarajevo, the two agreed that Serbia and BiH should jointly act and carry out coordinated activities, which would aim to increase pressure on Kosovo to abolish the taxes, Tanjug reported, adding that the European Commission will be asked to engage more actively in the reform of the CEFTA agreement.
Ljajić, who is also the minister for trade, tourism and telecommunications, pointed out that since the tariffs were imposed on November 21 and by May 21, Serbia exported goods worth EUR 189.5m to Kosovo, which is 80% less compared to the same period last year.
Šarović, who is BiH’s minister for foreign trade and economic relations, said that in the last six months BiH has exported EUR 27m less to Kosovo than in the same period last year, which represents a fall of 97%.
Uljanik d.d. starts bankruptcy proceedings
The Commercial Court in Pazin, Croatia, decided last month that bankruptcy proceedings will be opened in the Uljanik shipbuilding group’s holding company, Uljanik d.d. The company’s bank account has been frozen for 199 consecutive days due to debt of €13.2m. Judge Damir Rabar said there were no extenuating circumstances or possibility for the situation to improve. Emil Bulić, chairman of Uljanik’s board, said no official offer had arrived from theChina Shipbuilding Corporation, who visited the troubled shipyard on 1 May.
Judge Rabar said cooperation between Uljanik and the Chinese corporation can continue during the bankruptcy proceedings. Uljanik d.d is a 100% owner of 11 companies within the Uljanik shipbuilding group and has a 87% stake in the group’s 3. Maj shipyard. Bankruptcy proceedings have been launched in several companies within the group, including the Uljanik shipyard.. The Rijeka Commercial Court will decide on June 5 if bankruptcy proceedings will be opened at 3. Maj, too.