June 27th 2017, Podgorica, Montenegro
Igman Initiative’s 27th Session, on the topic “Relations in the Region – From Crisis to Stability and Cooperation” was organized on June 27th 2017 in Podgorica, in cooperation with the Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with support from the European Fund for the Balkans. The Session was attended by the representatives of the Igman Initiative, academia, civic sector, ministries of foreign affairs and diplomats, from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo.
The Session was open by Branislav Radulovic, Co-Vice President of Igman Initiative for Montenegro, who, while greeting the participants, acknowledged the good cooperation the Igman Initiative has established with the representatives of relevant government bodies in Montenegro, primarily Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Zoran Jankovic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that 22 years after the signing of the Dayton Agreement we are witnessing improvement in relations between the countries of the region, and that the key to economic stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans lies in increased interconnection of and cooperation between these countries. He also stated that the four countries signatories to the Dayton Agreement share many issues of joint interest, as well as challenges that call for continuous political dialogue and regional cooperation.
Branko Lukovac, Igman Initiative Co-President of Montenegro, stressed that, although dissociated from the wars of the 20th century, the Western Balkans region has neither attained the required level of stability, security and peace nor completed the transition of post-conflict processes so as to commit to progress and development of democratic relations. He also highlighted the necessity of a political dialogue focused on the improvement of the state of affairs in the region, genuine commitment to reforms, and decisive engagement in finding solutions to mutual open issues.
Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Montenegro Genci Nimanbegu stated that the protection of human and minority rights is the priority in the region. He also stressed that the Igman Initiative is an effective platform for a dialogue between the actors who can positively affect the overall situation in the region.
Aleksandar Popov, Igman Initiative Co-President for Serbia presented a CSO platform arranged for the Summit in Trieste, which is supported by the European Fund for the Balkans and was adopted at the conferences that preceded the Igman Initiative Session.
Zoran Pusic, Igman Initiative Co-President for Croatia noted the increasing trend of hostility in the region, and called on the political elite in the region to refrain from appealing to the constituencies by misinterpreting the past.
Vehid Sehic, Igman Initiative Co-President for Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated that the region is lacking a genuine political will for cooperation and solving of the pressing issues, unless there is an external mentor such as Berlin Process.
During a discussion that followed, the participants concluded that the region needs cooperation through infrastructural projects, culture, improvement of business environment, economy and strengthening of the rule of law. Special attention should be paid to the improvement and affirmation of education and culture in the region so as to encourage multiculturalism in its truest sense. It is also necessary to harness the potential of public broadcasting in the region in order to increase the importance of regional cooperation in the media, and to work on regional media networking. The participants suggested that the next Igman Initiative session should be focused on culture and media.
Zef Sahlja, a representative of the Igman Initiative from Kosovo, pointed out the pressing issue of the rigorous visa regime towards the citizens of Kosovo, as well the issue of missing and internally displaced persons as a result of conflicts that occurred in the past.
The Session continued in two panels on the following topics:
- Current state of affairs: Integration processes of the Western Balkan countries – Dynamics and Challenges,
- Methods of improving of security and stability in the region.
The 27th Igman Initiative was concluded with a set of recommendations aimed at the governments of the Western Balkan countries. The recommendations were outlined on the basis of the opinion that the Western Balkans region, 22 years after the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and signing of the Dayton Agreement:
- Is still exposed to the challenges to stability, peace and security;
- Still lags behind in socio-economic development, democratic values, the rule of law, and fight against corruption and crime;
- Is slowly progressing in the EU integration processes;
- Is under increasing pressure of external factors – whether if it’s global or regional forces that seek to satisfy their interest and impose influence in the region, or other events such as waves of refugees, migrants, or ISIS which in certain countries is recruiting fighters for their horrific goals.
The participants of the Session believe that the competent government bodies of the Western Balkan countries should engage into a concrete dialogue and commit to jointly work on finding solutions to open issues as follows:
- Ensure safe return of refugees and IDPs to their homes, and solving of status and property issues;
- Continue negotiations on borders between neighboring countries, where those issues are yet to be solved, either through bilateral negotiations or with the help of international arbitration;
- Continue negotiations on succession and to harmonize the parts of the Agreement on Succession Issues that haven’t been harmonized or implemented;
- Commit to faster resolving of the issue of missing persons, in cooperation with International Commission on Missing Persons ICMP, and other international organizations and CSOs.
- Ensure equal status of national minorities and support to their efforts in preserving their culture, as well as make contribution to understanding, trust, and cooperation among neighboring countries in line with best international and European standards;
Progress and faster resolving of the aforementioned and other issues between the countries of the Western Balkans would significantly contribute to increased understanding, trust, cooperation, stability as well as accelerated process of the EU integration.
In that sense the participants of the Session call on the European Union and the countries of the Berlin Process to pay special attention to the open issues that have negative impact on stability and security in the region, and to accelerate the process of finding solution to not only open issues but also those that are a burden to regional cooperation and relations.
The Igman Initiative and other regional civil society organizations are ready to cooperate with the ministries of foreign affairs and other state bodies, and fully engage in joint efforts to find the most effective solutions to the aforementioned and other open issues burdening the region.