LJUBLJANA, 3 December 2009 – Today, directors of the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana Zijad Bećirović and Bakhatyar Aljaf received Ambassador of Canada to Hungary, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina resident in Budapest Pierre Guimond.

During the talks IFIMES directors presented the activities of the Institute and its view of the situation in the Balkan region. They also presented the Institute’s position on resolving the Slovenian-Croatian border issue and the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. Special emphasis was placed on the potential escalation of conflicts in the Sandžak region should the Belgrade authorities continue with their discriminatory treatment of this area. The IFIMES International Institute welcomes the ratification of the Vojvodina statute by the Serbian Assembly and believes that long-term stability of Serbia and all of its parts should be ensured through a just decentralisation and creation of functional and economically viable regions. It is therefore of crucial importance for the Sandžak region to gain the status of a region on equal footing with other regions of Serbia. Moreover, international presence in Sandžak should be increased in order to prevent the conflicts. Eventual conflict in Sandžak could namely lead to further destabilisation in the region, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

IFIMES directors pointed to the close connection between politics and crime in the region, noting especially the roles of Prime Minister of Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Milorad Dodik and Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Đukanović, who are closely related with organised crime and corruption, and in case of Đukanović, even with war crimes.

Since Canada is a member of the Peace Implementation Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (PIC) Steering Board and NATO member, it should be more actively involved in resolving the open issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially regarding the latter's accession to NATO, which would ensure long-term stability of this state and alleviate concerns present among its citizens. Moreover, the Peace Implementation Council should express additional support to High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzko and back him in carrying out eventual replacements of political leaders who are contributing to the destabilisation of this state or who intend to carry out secession through an illegal referendum. The Institute expressed concern regarding the events in Bosnia and Herzegovina and called the representatives of the international community to use all available means to ensure the stability of that state, including eventual changes and apprehensions of certain political leaders and their prosecution.
In view of the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina IFIMES directors also expressed concern regarding the announced closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR). Should OHR be closed, the mandates of the High Representative would have to be extended in order to ensure unhindered functioning of the state and prevent various forms of blocking. At the same time, the mandates of foreign judges and prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be extended in order to enable uninterrupted trial of war criminals.

The Institute also expressed concern regarding the freedom of media and religious freedom in the region. It pointed to the discriminatory attitude of the European Union towards the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo, since it did not abolish visa requirements for them.

IFIMES directors called upon Canada to become more actively involved in the economic revitalisation of the Balkan region in order to create the conditions for the elimination of poverty and underdevelopment and provide a strong impetus for the stability of this region.

At the end of the talks IFIMES directors thanked Ambassador Guimond for the visit and presented him with the Institute’s latest publications.

Ljubljana, 3 December 2009