Grabar-Kitarovic, Guterres share concerns over Balkans

NEWS 25.09.2018 09:30
Source: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in New York on Monday, after meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, that they "shared concerns about the situation in southeast Europe ahead of several upcoming developments."

„We share concerns about the situation in southeastern Europe, about a series of upcoming processes, starting from the general election in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the fact that (the country’s) election law has not been changed yet, to the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, and the anticipation of the result of the Macedonian referendum,“ Grabar-Kitarovic told reporters after the meeting.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is due to hold a general election on October 7 to elect some 518 officials on the local, regional, and state government levels, in a complicated ethnic-based power-sharing system. Ahead of this year’s election, Bosnian Croats had called for changes to election rules to prevent being outvoted by Bosniaks in the Bosniak-Croat entity they share and whose territory accounts for half of the country but gives two out of three members of the country’s tripartite presidency. 

The EU-facilitated Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on normalisation of relations is on hold since early September, and Brussels has no any timetable for the continuation of the talks.

Macedonia will hold a referendum on September 30, to approve the government’s proposal to rename the country North Macedonia, which would resolve Macedonia’s decades-long name dispute with neighbouring Greece and allow it to start talks on joining NATO and the EU.

She added that Guterres was very well acquainted with the situation in the region.

„I would want him to get a little bit more involved. I would want us to launch initiatives that will lead to resolving open issues, and to lasting peace in southeastern Europe. We agreed to continue our cooperation, meetings and talks,“ Grabar-Kitarovic added.

She also discussed the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue with Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci, in particular, the issue of possible territory swaps.

„We are very cautious in that regard, and I conveyed our arguments and our view, and the fact that the principle set by the Badinter Commission concerning borders on the territory of the former Yugoslavia must stay carved in stone,“ she said.

Late on Monday, Grabar-Kitarovic is due to attend an event hosted by the US President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump for senior state officials taking part in the annual UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Grabar-Kitarovic said she had already met with the US president during Monday’s summit on narcotics, and that they would also meet on the margins of the General Assembly on Tuesday.

„We will continue to talk about our bilateral relations, and I will continue pressure for a double taxation agreement (with Croatia), and, of course, the visa regime, and all the rest, but we will also talk about issues concerning our neighbourhood, the Three Seas Initiative, and generally about our relations within NATO and global security,“ Grabar-Kitarovic explained.

She said that UN General Assembly meetings are an opportunity for her to meet with heads of state with whom she otherwise does not have the chance to meet, adding that earlier in the day she had met with the presidents of Paraguay, Namibia, and Cuba and that she had been invited to visit Cuba.

Grabar-Kitarovic also met with the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and she said afterwards that the IOC also wanted to get involved in efforts to assist victims of migrations and migrants and refugees themselves through sports, „not just to provide refuge to people but to ensure a normal life for them, including practising sports.“

Grabar-Kitarovic was due to address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, but her speech has been rescheduled for Wednesday at her request so that she can have more time for her bilateral meetings.