Interview in Večernji List on Zovko’s mission to the UN and the USA
Brussels, 7 November 2019
Croatian newspaper Večernji List published an interview with Željana Zovko regarding her official parliamentary mission to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and her meetings with US officials of the State Department, US Congress and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The English translation is published below:
WE EXPLAINED IN THE USA THAT THE EU WAS NOT GOING TO CEDE THE BALKANS TO TURKEY, RUSSIA….
“I believe prime-minister Plenković will succeed in bringing
the European perspective back to this part of Europe.”
Member of the European Parliament Željana Zovko was a member of the AFET delegation to the United States of America. The delegation visited the UN General Assembly in New York and then participated in numerous high-level meetings in Washington, DC with the top US officials in the State Department, US Congress and NED. That was an opportunity to discuss the Western Balkans and BiH.
VL: What is your impression of the meetings in Washington, DC and New York?
ŽZ: This is one of the strongest modes of the parliamentary cooperation. We had meetings with the highest-level officials, as for example with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who explained the attitude towards all world crises, migrants’ and other crises, Europe is primarily affected by.
VL: Was the Western Balkans on the agenda?
ŽZ: The Western Balkans was a matter of discussion primarily at the meetings in Washington, DC, in the State Department and Capitol Hill, as well as in the organisations funding the think-tank organisations, civil society and media in the Western Balkans. Attention was drawn at those meetings to the critical situation in BiH, due to the pending process of establishment of the government, failure to implement the ruling of the Constitutional Court of BiH and overly frustrated process of the European integration. The American partners expressed their disappointment with the decision not to open the negotiations on accession with the Northern Macedonia and Albania and they shed light on what they planned to do in the future in resolving the issues in the Western Balkans.
VL: Can you please explain the plans?
ŽZ: Their focus will be on resolving the relation between Kosovo and Serbia, even though as far as we can see, America is not very much interested in dealing with the world crises any more, but is more oriented on its internal issues and now also has the pre-election campaign ongoing. The European Parliament has a group for cooperation with the US Congress. In the USA we met the Congressman Jim Costa, who is the Chairman of the delegation of the US Congress for cooperation. As the congressmen were busy with the impeachment for the President Trump, we agreed to organise the next meeting during the Croatian Presidency of the Union. In discussion on trade and tariffs, which was one of major topics, I explained the effects of the crisis on the Aluminium Factory in Mostar.
VL: How did you explain that issue to your American partners?
ŽZ: I described it as a huge blow for the aluminium industry and explained that many workers lost their jobs, what resulted in a big wave of migration of Croats from the country, the demographic loss having a potential to further jeopardise peace and stability in BiH. I also explained that the fact that the crisis would weaken the European factor and attract the other players should not have been disregarded. In this context, the USA must take in consideration the areas where it has a moral responsibility, such as BiH.
VL: Some analytics from the region expect the American comeback in terms of interventionism in relations between Kosovo and Serbia and the situation inB iH. You do not share their opinion?
ŽZ: I don’t. On the contrary – I think America is reluctant to get involved more strongly. They have resorted to a more isolationistic policy. They have assigned their representatives, but that is not much of an involvement. That is the impression we got in the meetings with the US officials and the representatives of the think-tank organisations. They describe it as a not very committed and strong approach. However, our message conveyed in the meetings was that a stronger involvement of theirs was required, with the joint forces with Europe, and not to have just the talks between Washington and Moscow.
VL: Is it up to Europe to let this area to other powers, including Turkey and the Gulf countries?
ŽZ: Absolutely not! Europe does not want to let this area to anyone else and it has the highest responsibility for this area. That is the message we conveyed to our American partners.
VL: Wasn’t the President Macron’s message about closing the enlargement of the Union seen as encouragement for the non-European powers?
ŽZ: There are two strong leverages in the EU – Germany and France. The decision not to open the negotiations was supported by the minority, headed by France. If the President Macron had been strong enough to give the green light, we wouldn’t have had Netherlands and Denmark in opposition to the process. Nevertheless, 24 countries supported the enlargement, aware that such a decision was about peace and stability. This position of France is a matter of internal conflicts and the criminal issues, brought into the country by some groups from the Western Balkans, who misused the no-visa regime and jeopardised the security of the French citizens. Besides, the Western Balkans has been constantly sending messages of the lack of agreement and conflicts, thus creating a very bad image. But regardless of everything, this position of France is far away from the visionary policy of the late President Chirac, who was highly aware of the fact that Europe would not be safe without letting this part of the Balkans in.
VL: Can we still speak about the European integration of this area?
ŽZ: Well, I don’t think this will be a matter of discussion before the local elections in France, scheduled for March next year. The French political parties of both the right centre and the left centre have totally disappeared and now France has only the populistic movement of Marine Le Pen on one and Emanuel Macron on the other hand, who also leads a movement. Here are no different votes anymore, but only one vote dictating the pace. This is isolationistic policy. In those circumstances you may not win the partners on your side.
VL: The European Parliament adopted the Resolution condemning the closure of the Union?
ŽZ: I am very proud that I was supported by almost all groups in the Parliament in the process of drafting the Resolution. The message is clear – the Macron’s no-enlargement decision was wrong, as it may bring instability to Europe. This was a shocking message. Therefore, we told to our American partners that we had to work together and that we had to give some encouragement. If allowed, the dominance by Turkey, Russia, China, the Gulf countries will bring instability and conflicts. That must not happen.
VL: Croatia will take over the Presidency next year and the summit will be held with the Western Balkans. Do you think the current situation may change until then?
ŽZ: The biggest and the most important role of the Republic of Croatia is organisation of two summits in May and on the Eastern partnership. That is how Croatia takes on the leading role in sending messages of encouragement. We know that the process of reconciliation and building stability actually started after the Stability Pact, held in Sarajevo in 1999 and the Zagreb Summit of 2000. It is up to Croatia to keep the reconciling messages. We trust the prime-minister Plenković, who spent almost 5 years in France and has a very good relation with the President Macron. The prime-minister Plenković enjoys huge respect by the German administration as well and he will take on the role of a bridge between the two opposed positions. The timing of the summit is perfect and I really hope it will bring the perspective back to this part of Europe. The accession to the EU closes the door to conflicts and problems from the past.
VL: Some Bosniac political parties claim that after the release of the Opinion of the European Commission, BiH must automatically turn into a unitarian country, in which the rights of the peoples will be annulled. Are those the European values?
ŽZ: Those are political and nationalistic interpretations. In the EU we have Belgium and Italy, who resolved the South Tyrol issue by recognising the collective rights. In Belgium, all three communities have their rights absolutely recognised. They have their own parliaments and governments. That is federalism which resolves the differences in functional terms. Those are the European values. Brussels is the capital of the EU. If we want to recognise all specifics of BiH, the individual and collective rights must be respected. If the American model is to be applied in BiH, the country may be organised in three territorial units, in which all civil freedoms would be respected. What BiH needs the most is equality, peace and co-existence of all its communities. Everyone in BiH must have a clearly expressed interest and position. That is the recipe for the European BiH.
Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Interview with the MEP Željana Zovko
By: Zoran Krešić