World Progress stalls on EU entry for Western Balkans nations
Russia says it's in sync with US, China, Pakistan on Taliban
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia, China, Pakistan and the United States are working together to ensure that Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers keep their promises, especially to form a genuinely representative government and prevent extremism from spreading, Russia’s foreign minister said Saturday. Sergey Lavrov said the four countries are in ongoing contact. He said representatives from Russia, China and Pakistan recently traveled to Qatar and then to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to engage with both the Taliban and representatives of “secular authorities” — former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who headed the ousted government’s negotiating council with
BRUSSELS (AP) — As European Union leaders gather for a summit on how to keep engaging with their Western Balkans neighbors, the bloc’s once-successful enlargement policy faces an impasse.
The European Commission made repeated promises that the future of six countries in the region lies within the 27-nation bloc. But progress has stalled on admitting Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia amid divisions among member countries and some bilateral issues.
Small islands caught between tourism economy, climate change
NEW YORK (AP) — Come visit the Maldives, its president entreated the world at this year's United Nations General Assembly, moments before switching to an impassioned plea for help combatting climate change. The adjacent appeals illustrated a central dilemma for many small island developing states: their livelihoods, or their lives? The United Nations recognizes 38 member states, scattered across the world's waters, as small island developing states grouped together because they face “unique social, economic and environmental challenges.” This bloc is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Nationalist populism has risen in Hungary and Poland, undermining unity. The entry of well over 1 million migrants in 2015 has exposed stark differences about how to manage them, sparking a major political crisis that has yet to be resolved.
EU expansion has also been routinely sidelined by crises like the Greek financial meltdown and Britain's drawn-out exit, leaving the bloc very focused on its own survival rather than taking in new members. The planned departure of longtime German chancellor Angela Merkel and next year's presidential election in France have deprived the EU of clear leadership, adding to the decision-making burden.
Although EU member countries are expected to reaffirm their commitment to the enlargement process during Wednesday's meeting, they will stop short of providing a clear deadline, according to a draft document seen by The Associated Press.
Warring Senate again stalls borrowing limit increase
Senate Republicans battling plans to pass a massive social welfare spending package blocked Democrats for the second time this week from quickly passing a bill to lift the nation’s borrowing limit. © Provided by Washington Examiner The top Senate Republican objected to a move by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to advance legislation to suspend the borrowing limit using unanimous consent. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said GOP lawmakers would not help Democrats raise the nation’s borrowing limit because it would be used to pay off debt incurred by a $3.
The deadlock is causing frustration among the candidates amid a flare-up of tensions at the border between Kosovo and Serbia, raising questions about the bloc's commitment.
“The dignity of the people has to be preserved, you know. We cannot beg, we cannot stand in the lobby of the European Union when culturally and geographically we are Europe,” said Predrag Tasic, a retired judge in North Macedonia. “Europe without Balkans, without this region, is not Europe.”
The six are at different stages on the EU membership path. Montenegro and Serbia are the most advanced, having opened formal accession talks years ago. Albania and North Macedonia are awaiting the official opening of negotiations, and Kosovo and Bosnia are potential candidates.
'Neglected danger': Nukes not in forefront in speeches at UN
NEW YORK (AP) — It was the Marshall Islands' turn to speak, and the president wanted to remind world leaders of a cause the United Nations has espoused since its founding. “No effort should be spared," President David Kabua told the U.N. General Assembly this month, "to move towards a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear risk." It might seem like a must-discuss topic in countries' big speeches at the annual meeting of presidents, prime ministers and other top officials — perhaps especially in a year when a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty take effect, though without participation from nuclear-armed nations.
After EU leaders did not agree to go further in their negotiations with Serbia in June, the latest wrinkle focuses on Albania and North Macedonia. Those countries have fulfilled the criteria for beginning entry talks, but EU member Bulgaria opposes North Macedonia's inclusion because of a dispute over language and national identity.
Since the Albanian and North Macedonian bids are linked and launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all EU nations, the veto has also prevented Albania from moving forward.
“That actually is holding us hostage at a time where we have fulfilled all our tasks and wait to sit around the table with the European Union to kick off negotiations," said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Albania and North Macedonia were expecting to receive a green light to begin negotiations on joining Europe’s rich club two years ago, but their hopes were ruined at the time because of opposition from France and The Netherlands.
The EU has always said that membership is based on a candidate’s progress in areas such as respect for the rule of law and democratic standards, or the implementation of socio-economic reforms. But in the case of Albania and North Macedonia, the merits acknowledged by the commission are not rewarded.
Activists call for EU ban on fossil fuel advertising
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A coalition of more than 20 environmental and climate groups launched a campaign Monday calling for a ban on fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship across the European Union, similar to bans on tobacco advertising. More than 80 Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Shell's oil refinery in the Dutch port of Rotterdam to draw attention to the launch of the European Citizens' Initiative calling for theMore than 80 Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Shell's oil refinery in the Dutch port of Rotterdam to draw attention to the launch of the European Citizens' Initiative calling for the advertising ban.
“Blocking this process is not in the spirit of this commitment," said North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. “We took all necessary steps and we made all required reforms. We’ll take the additional acceptable steps to unlock EU’s enlargement and we expect that Bulgaria will unlock this process.”
But the government in Sofia, which wants North Macedonia to formally recognize that its language has Bulgarian roots, has not given any sign that it is ready to lift its veto. And other EU countries have not shown a strong appetite for speeding up the process.
Among the EU's major players, only Merkel has been using her influence in support of Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU council and has made enlargement a priority of its tenure.
Integration of Western Balkans: The EU encourages without engaging
© Apa - Darko Bandic in Brdo, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen encouraged Western Balkans to continue their efforts. Gathered in Slovenia, the leaders of the European Union reaffirmed their support for an integration of Western Balkans, without however any date. The Western Balkans is Europe. This is the message that European leaders wanted to pass at the end of their summit in Brdo.
The Albania and North Macedonia bids currently seem to be more popular outside the bloc, as senior U.S. officials have warned that Western adversaries like China and Russia would continue to gain influence in the region if the dispute remains unresolved.
In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar, who oversees the Western Balkans, urged the EU to begin talks this year with the two countries.
Serbia, the largest of the Western Balkan nations, has been forging close ties with China and Slavic ally Russia despite warnings from the West about the two powers’ influence in the region. Some in the West fear that Russia, which has been arming Serbia, could encourage authoritarian Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic to destabilize the still-volatile region.
Public interest in the membership has gradually been dropping in Serbia, and its leaders have very often sent mixed signals about their true EU commitment.
EU top diplomat says Bulgaria should be more flexible on EU expansion to Western Balkans
EU top diplomat says Bulgaria should be more flexible on EU expansion to Western Balkans . © Reuters/BORUT ZIVULOVIC Informal meeting before the EU-Balkans summit in Brdo Bulgaria is against North Macedonia, already a NATO member, joining to EU because of a language dispute. Video: Secretary Blinken meets with President Emmanuel Macron in attempt to repair relations with France (MSNBC) Your browser does not support this video "I think Bulgaria should show more flexibility on this problem that is blocking the start of the negotiation," Borrell said at an event in Madrid.
“All these years and even decades we have been listening about the membership promises from the EU,” said Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic. “The question is which generation will see those promises being fulfilled. Why don’t they simply tell us, ‘we no longer want EU expansion,’ and we will accept it as a reality?”
The prospect of membership has been a powerful driving force for reforms in the Balkans since the former Yugoslavia disintegrated into war in the early 1990s. Croatia and Slovenia have joined, but the EU has not expanded since 2013.
The migration crisis is often cited by experts as one of the major reasons for the paralysis. There are fears that enlargement would create another influx of those seeking a better life.
Lingering tensions between Serbia and Kosovo also don't help. Five EU members — Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain — do not recognize Kosovo as a country.
“It is vital that Kosovo and Serbia normalize their relations,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. “The EU-facilitated dialogue is the only platform to resolve the current crisis.”
While the EU is not in a position to offer a clear perspective to the Balkans candidates, it can at least offer financial support.
The bloc said it will provide some 30 billion euros (about $34.8 billion) to the region over the next seven years in a bid boost the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate improvements in the environmental and digital fields.
Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and AP photographer Boris Grdanoski in Skopje, North Macedonia, contributed.
Russians flock to Serbia for Western-made COVID-19 vaccines .
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — When Russian regulators approved the country's own coronavirus vaccine, it was a moment of national pride, and the Pavlov family was among those who rushed to take the injection. But international health authorities have not yet given their blessing to the Sputnik V shot. So when the family from Rostov-on-Don wanted to visit the West, they looked for a vaccine that would allow them to travel freely — a quest that brought them to Serbia, where hundreds of Russian citizens have flocked in recent weeks to receive Western-approved COVID-19 shots.