Western Balkans want to learn from Nordic Region

20 years ago war waged between the new republics which rose from the ruins of Yugoslavia’s collapse in 1991. Croatia was at war with Serbia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina there were violent conflicts first between the Bosnian Serbs against the Bosnian Croats and Muslims and later also between the two last-named groups. Today the parliaments in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina are trying to work together in the Nordic model.

A year and a half ago a delegation from these parliaments attended the Nordic Council Session in Copenhagen, and on 20-21 February a new delegation will come to Copenhagen to visit the Nordic Council’s Secretariat and the Danish Delegation to the Nordic Council in the Danish Parliament (Folketinget). This co-operation has been organised by the Igman Initiative which builds on co-operation between NGOs back from 1995, when Sarajevo was still besieged and under fire. In 2000 this co-operation was strengthened and in recent years they have been in contact with the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The goal is not to create regional co-operation between the parliaments in the four countries that just 18 years ago were at war with each other.

The delegation that will visit Copenhagen has to prepare a presentation on a deeper parliamentary co-operation between the four countries for a conference in Cetinje in Montenegro in April. The group, which is led by Zvonko Jurisic, vice-chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the parliament of Bosnien-Hercegovina, consists of former foreign minister Branko Lukovac from Montenegro, former ambassador Zlatko Dizdarevic from Bosnien-Hercegovina and Jovanka Nikolic from the Igman Initiative in Serbia.

In the Danish Parliament the group will meet, amongst others, Jeppe Kofod, chair of the Foreign Policy Committee and Bertel Haarder, chair of the Danish Delegation to the Nordic Council.

Zvonko Jurisic says about the visit:

“The Igman Initiative has, with the full backing of the four parliaments, already held several meetings, which involved the foreign policy committees in the four countries’ parliaments. There have been representatives from both the government parties and the opposition. We have concluded that the Nordic experience with regional co-operation is the most obvious for us to learn from. We will not directly transfer the experiences but will adapt them to the specific conditions in the Western Balkans. Parliamentary co-operation across country borders and party lines may create a political will that can later lead to co-operation at governmental level.”

The Balkan Forum is responsible for another initiative for co-operation in the Balkans. Other southern countries like Greece are also involved in this. A major meeting held in Thessaloniki at the beginning of February was sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The Secretary General of the Nordic Council, Jan-Erik Enestam spoke about Nordic experiences with regional co-operation.