In the coming year, two Balkan states will chair the European Union and the OSCE: Croatia, which is preparing to take charge of the Council of the EU in the first half of the year, and Albania, which will lead one of the key European structures during the whole year – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
For Moldova and Ukraine, which are largely in a position similar to the Balkans, interaction with Zagreb and Tirana will have a significant impact on the overall situation around these post-Soviet states. Meanwhile, unfortunately both for the Ukrainian and Moldovan diplomacy, the Balkan direction is not predominant. In addition, as you know, Croatia, along with Poland, Romania and other European states, is the author of a well-known The Three Seas Initiative, which is of interest both to Kiev and Chisinau. Moreover, the Croatian way of joining the European Union and NATO, as well as experience of reintegrating territories in which unrecognized entities were proclaimed, is well known to the Eastern European countries.
The Albanian Chairmanship and the OSCE as a whole will continue to play one of the important tasks in resolving East European conflicts, especially in Ukraine and Moldova. In case the Minsk Agreements are set in motion, the OSCE position regarding the possible elections outcome in certain areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions will be very important for Kiev. Moreover, the official document of the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentions resolution of the Ukrainian conflict as priority No. 1. It is also important for Chisinau to discern the advantages of the Albanian chairmanship, particularly the experience of strengthening integration cooperation with the EU, in which Tirana is significantly ahead of Moldova and Ukraine.
Even so, the future chairmanship has several complex problems that one way or another will affect the overall developments. As you know, Albania was recently hit by the strongest earthquake in decades. In this regard, the Albanian authorities will most likely place the major foreign policy priority on the search for various assistance to restore the destroyed areas of the country. Another feature is that the OSCE in 2020 will be formally led by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. In fact, the country’s Foreign Ministry is headed by acting Minister Gent Cakaj, a young 29-year-old Albanian official from Kosovo. Given the categorical rejection of Kosovo’s independence in Ukraine and Moldova, the possible contacts with the Kosovan Minister can be quite cool.
In turn, Tiraspol has already announced its readiness to study in detail the experience of Kosovo in resolving field-specific problems in the context of the unsettled conflict. Chisinau is most probably not inclined to consider Kosovo’s practice which is moderately effective, but still is clearly not in favor of the former metropolis. However, it should not be ruled out that in order to give impetus to the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol, the Albanian chairmanship may use the already proven mechanisms for addressing the most urgent problems.
By the way, the search for a final settlement of the Serbia-Kosovo conflict also promises to be one of the unspoken priorities for Tirana. The breakthrough in this issue expected by all international participants in 2019 did not happen. Moreover, a protracted internal political crisis developed in Kosovo against this background, and there is a long pause in the talks between Belgrade and Pristina, which risks turning into a serious rollback from the possible compromise.
Despite the fact that the next year’s leadership of the two important European structures will not include influential EU states burdened with heavy political ambitions, experts are inclined to see a much greater prospect for Zagreb and Tirana in promoting current pan-European security agenda. This will open a favorable window of opportunity in the negotiations on the European territorial conflicts settlement, which can become the basis for a more tangible success in Donbas and Transdniestria than in 2019.
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