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euobserver.com, April 29, 2010
EU top brass to drop out of Sarajevo event

ZELJKO PANTELIC

In a political blow for next month's planned Sarajevo conference, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele have indicated they will only attend if the presence of all Western Balkan countries, including Kosovo, is guaranteed.

According to diplomatic sources in Brussels, Ms Ashton and Mr Fuele intend to follow the approach taken by EU council president Herman Van Rompuy, who stayed away from a EU-Western Balkans summit in Slovenia last month as Serbia refused to attend alongside Kosovo.

The so-called High Level Meeting between the EU and the Western Balkans is to be held on 2 June in Sarajevo and organised by Spain, current holders of the rotating EU presidency. Mr Fuele has also turned down an offer by Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to join him in sending invitations for the conference to all EU and Western Balkan capitals.

"Commissioner Fuele has learned a lesson from the controversial EU-Western Balkan summit in Slovenia", an EU official told WAZ.EUobserver. "The commission and Fuele don't want to take part in a project without minimum conditions for success. In the case of the Sarajevo Conference, this is the presence of all Western Balkan countries, including Kosovo."

Despite Spanish assurances that the Sarajevo meeting will take place, there is growing doubt among EU diplomats in Brussels and in member states that it may not. The Serbia-Kosovo issue is just one of several tricky problems. The content of the planned Sarajevo declaration is also controversial, as is the level of the meeting. It is supposed to be ministerial, but it is no longer excluded that some EU member states will just send political directors or even ambassadors based in Sarajevo.

The key preparatory meeting for the Sarajevo conference is scheduled for May 12 in Vienna, bringing together political directors of the EU and Western Balkan countries. The gathering will be opened by the Austrian and Greek foreign ministers, Michael Spindelegger and Dimitris Droutsas, who launched a new EU enlargement initiative a few months ago. The content of a joint letter by the two ministers could be the basis for the Sarajevo declaration, diplomats said.

The Sarajevo event was called to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Zagreb Summit during which the EU promised future membership to all Western Balkan countries.
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