Vucic: Serbia is secular; State and Church agree on key issues (B92/Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Monday in Belgrade met with Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej. According to Tanjug, he told reporters after the meeting that there was a high level of agreement between them on key matters significant to the state and the nation.
At the same time, Vucic underscored that Serbia is a secular state, and highlighted the role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in preserving the Serbian cultural, spiritual and national identity in the former Yugoslavia and around the world. The patriarch inquired about the country’s economy, reforms and rebuilding, Vucic told journalists. According to the Serbian government, Vucic told reporters that Serbia is a secular state – “but it is good that there is mutual understanding because so much can be achieved – the Church in its spiritual sense, and the government in matters of state.” They also discussed Kosovo and Metohija, the survival of our cultural and religious sites in the southern Serbian province and what the state can do to further and help. Vucic that the Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade will be completed by the end of his presidential term, and added that half of the necessary funds for this will be paid in during the next month. “Completion of the temple is very important, not only in the religious sense, but also in the economic and tourism,” he said and announced that the state will help the monastery of Hilandar, which is considered the most famous Serbian religious site in the world.
Vucic announced he would reveal the name of the new prime minister within a month. After his meeting with Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej, Vucic told reporters that the circle of candidates for the top government job has been narrowed down to two, three names.
Djuric: ZSO to help Serb people to act towards survival (RTS/Tanjug)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric has stated that he doesn’t believe any more in one single deadline and promise of the Kosovo Albanians when it comes to the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO). He told journalists in Glavicica near Gnjilane that he would believe in the deadlines for the formation of the ZSO the moment he sees acts and readiness in Pristina for fulfilling what they had committed to do themselves. “I think that lack of political will hides behind this. We are always ready to talk, we think that talks are in the interest of everybody, that only through talks can problems be resolved. I am posing the question to those who don’t want talks, how will we resolve problems in a way that is good for everybody,” said Djuric. He thinks that talks are absolutely in our interest just as it is in our interest to work devotedly towards Serbia becoming stronger economically, politically, militarily, and in its foreign policy so it can take care more about itself and, by taking care of itself, to take care of all its citizens wherever they reside.
Miscevic: Belgrade has done everything to continue dialogue (TV N1)
There is no word from Brussels how the suspension of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue following Ramus Haradinaj’s arrest might have on Serbia’s EU integration, Serbia’s chief negotiator with the EU Tanja Miscevic said on Monday. Speaking for TV N1, when asked whether Serbia can hope to open new EU membership negotiations chapters if the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has not resumed by June, she said that for Serbia, the condition is the appraisal of what it did in the process of the dialogue. “I do not think there is an argument that could be used to say Serbia has not done all that was possible to ensure a continuation of the dialogue or implementation of agreements,” Miscevic said. She expressed hope that the deadlock in the dialogue will not affect Serbia’s EU path and that it will be recognized that there has been progress. Miscevic said that the next chapters which could be opened are 29, relating to customs union, 7 on intellectual property rights, 6 on company law and 30 on foreign economic relations. She also that the past six months that seen a noticeable increase in support for the process of European integration, from 42 to 46 percent. Speaking about Serbia’s foreign policy and position with respect to Russia, Miscevic said it was not one of balancing, but a clear strategic message – membership, while retaining relationships. Miscevic also appraised that the message of the Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the European Parliament, David McAllister, about the Balkans remaining a very explosive region, and about Russia consciously implementing a policy of destabilization in Serbia may have been addressed to the EU and its member states. “Europe is preoccupied with its own issues, but must be present in the Balkans,” she said.
Vucic says he has no information that Croatia has S-300 (B92)
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has stated that he finds the campaign about Russia arming Croatia in the early 1990s interesting. “This campaign is interesting to me – if it starts from Zagreb’s information system, and is then taken over in Belgrade – it’s all clear to me. We heard a precise and unambiguous explanation from the Russian embassy,” said Vucic. He added that he had no information that Croatia has an S-300 – it’s not a needle. “I don’t want to go into who traded with whom – do we want to strengthen the air defense? Yes, we do, that’s what we will do,” he said on Easter Sunday, as he was visiting a Serbian Army Air Defense (PVO) unit. According to Vucic, he agreed the delivery of MIG-29 planes, tanks and combat reconnaissance vehicles with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We have no agreement on the S-300s, but if I may tell you, I mentioned it first in conversation with Putin, and we talked about it. I also mentioned in conversation with (Belarus President) Lukashenko,” Vucic told reporters.
Speaking on Sunday at a Serbian Army barracks in Jakovo, Vucic, who was accompanied by Defense Minister Zoran Djordjevic and Army chief Gen. Ljubisa Dikovic, touched on other topics, including the extreme Islamic factor. He said that Serbia’s security services are seriously and successfully cooperating with those from Germany, the US and other countries. According to Vucic, Serbia’s security services are also closely monitoring the events in Pristina, where they cooperate with KFOR. “Very monitor very closely, and we are concerned for various reasons. But, we are satisfied, I think it’s good that Islamic State cells are being discovered in time, there’s more in the Balkans,” Vucic said. He added that the Serbian security services had very good cooperation with NATO. Vucic condemned in the strongest terms the damaging of a mosque in the village Labljane in the municipality of Novo Brdo in Kosovo by a Serbian citizen.
Vulin: Rama wants to blackmail EU by threatening with war (RTS)
Serbian Labor Minister Aleksandar Vulin has assessed that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, with his statements, wishes to blackmail the EU and to say that he is ready to provoke war and conflicts in the Balkans. On the occasion of Rama’s statement that a union between Albania and Kosovo cannot be ruled out if EU membership prospects for the Western Balkans fade, Vulin says this is not the first time that the Albanian Prime Minister is threatening peace with his statements. “Unification of Albania and Kosovo cannot be done peacefully and it cannot occur without a war and great misfortune. Rama will repeat such statements and he will continue to blackmail the EU until the EU makes it clear that such behavior is unacceptable and that it will be not only condemned but also punished,” Vulin told journalists. He said that Rama should be told that he cannot provoke wars and that he certainly will not become an EU member with such behavior.
Serbian Chamber of Commerce: Milanovic Inzjenering, Albanian Delia Group sign partnership agreement (Beta)
Milanovic Inzenjering and the Albanian Delia Group, in Tirana, signed a partnership agreement, allowing for joint operations in water supply construction and water waste management projects in Albania, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce reported. The Chamber’s President Marko Cadez said that the pace of Serbian-Albanian economic cooperation had quickened, adding 10 percent to bilateral trade, compared to 2015. “What illustrates the economic ties between our business communities best is the fact that in the past three months I visited Albania four times, together with Serbian companies, such as Lili or the Mlekara Sabac dairy factory, which had substantial talks or have already made arrangements with Albanian businesses. Likewise, Albania’s companies have been exploring the Serbian markets, and there are more and more of them operating in Serbia,” Cadez said.
Masked Albanians shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ assault Serb man (Tanjug)
One of the attackers who late on Monday assaulted a Serb man in northern Kosovska Mitrovica was shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ during the incident. The victim, 31-year-old Bojan Staletovic, was attacked by five persons armed with baseball bats and a pistol. “It happened late last night, after the incidents in Mitrovica earlier that I didn’t know about. I was returning home to Bosnjacka Mahala where I live when a group of young men, I would say, judging by their voices, about 20 years of age, attacked me,” Staletovic said. One of the attackers pulled a gun, he continued, while others beat him with the baseball bats. Staletovic, who suffered injuries to his head and arm, said that all the assailants wore balaclavas. “I managed to pull the balaclava off one of them and I recognized him, since I see him often in Bosnjacka Mahala. He was shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’… that’s just another provocation by them,” Staletovic, who was treated at the Clinical-Hospital Center in Kosovska Mitrovica, said. Regional Kosovo police Chief Zeljko Bojic told Tanjug on Tuesday that the incident happened at 23:20 the previous night, and that the police were looking for one Albanian who has been identified and is suspected of the attack. In a separate incident in northern Kosovska Mitrovica earlier in the evening on Monday, a passenger vehicle was damaged. According to Bojic, six young men of Albanian ethnicity have been brought in on suspicion that they tried to cause riots and were destroying movable property. Information appeared on social networks that a group of Albanians had arrived to the central part of northern Kosovska Mirovica from Bosnjacka Mahala, with some of them carrying baseball bats, provoking Serbs, and using rocks.
Ugljanin congratulates Erdogan (RTS)
The President of the Bosniak National Council Sulejman Ugljanin sent congratulations to Turkish President Redzep Erdogan on the occasion of the victory at the referendum. “On behalf of the Bosniaks of Sandjak and on my behalf, I congratulate to you, your associates and the entire Turkish nation on this important victory and support to the proposal of constitutional reforms. With the voice of the majority of the Turkish nation and with accepting the proposed constitutional reforms possibility are created for further progress of a modern, economically developed, stable and efficient Republic of Turkey,” it is written in the note. Noting that Sandjak Bosniaks and Turkish citizens originating from Sandjak represent a permanent and unbreakable bond of Serbia and Turkey, Ugljanin adds that he is certain that Erdogan will continue further strengthening of cooperation and good relations between the countries and nations, especially those in the Balkans.
Germany ready to commit itself to Western Balkans (Danas)
Due to the political crisis in Macedonia, Germany is determined to take a greater role the Western Balkans. According to the unofficial diplomatic sources in Germany, there is an increased interest in the situation in the Western Balkans, writes Danas. Given the fact that Germany has not led an active policy towards the Western Balkans, it plans to take a proactive approach, and it recently started to write a draft strategy for this region, which would be released after the meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of these countries, writes Danas. As stated, the reason for a more active role of Germany in the Western Balkans is a political crisis in Macedonia. After the appointment of Sigmar Gabriel – the leader of Social Democratic Party of Germany, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Knut Fleckenstein as one of the three rapporteurs for Macedonia, the approach towards Macedonia has changed, as it is explained by the unofficial diplomatic sources for Danas. Prior to the publication of this strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, which will serve as a guideline for policy towards the Western Balkans, the meeting of ministers of foreign affairs from these countries will be held in Berlin. According to the sources, that was one of the reasons of Gabriel’s visit to the region last week. The unofficial sources also point out that the German social democrats are “sometimes more rigorous in criticism towards countries such as Serbia, unlike the conservatives, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.” On the other hand, for conservatives, it is important that stability is preserved in the Western Balkans, and having social democrats and conservatives in the coalition will certainly make foreign policy for this region harmonized, explains Danas.
Izetbegovic: HDZ B&H unilaterally launches changes to B&H Election Law which is impossible; Covic denies HDZ B&H blackmails SDA (TV1)
Member of B&H Presidency and leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic stated that HDZ B&H unilaterally launched the process of changing B&H Election Law, which in his opinion, is impossible. On the other hand, member of B&H Presidency and leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic stated that HDZ B&H is not trying to blackmail SDA in any way. Covic announced that, after Tuesday’s session of the Presidency of Croat People’s Assembly (HNS), proposals of HDZ B&H for B&H Election Law and Law on Public Broadcasting Service will be sent to parliaments at all levels of authority, in the upcoming 15 days. According to Covic, the mission of the Croat member of B&H Presidency and political representatives of Croats is to ensure equality of Croats with the other two constituent peoples. Covic refused to reveal details of proposals related to change of B&H Election Law, while Izetbegovic said that they advocate solutions within the ‘Sejdic-Finci vs. B&H’ ruling which is not the case with HDZ B&H. According to Covic, there was quite high level of consent at some point but then, officials started to deny that an agreement was reached which is why Covic vows for talks in parliaments on these issues. Both Covic and Izetbegovic denied that HDZ B&H is blackmailing SDA in B&H Parliament, conditioning adoption of Law on Excise Duties, with the support of SDA to changing of B&H Election Law. Covic underlined the need to adopt decisions as soon as possible and not in six or 12 months, while Izetbegovic stressed that there are many issues to be solved. According to Izetbegovic, several issues need to be solved and not just the ones that are convenient for one ethnicity. Izetbegovic assessed the abovementioned HDZ B&H’s proposals as “reduced and modified solutions”.
Izetbegovic counts on four SDA MPs to adopt Law on Excise Duties (TV1)
Speaking about the Law on Excise Duties, B&H Presidency member and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic stated on Monday that the Law will be adopted in the Parliament next week and he believes that SDA MPs, who previously did not vote for adoption, will change their mind. Izetbegovic said that he personally got involved in this case and vowed for return of the money collected on the basis of excise duties to agricultural workers, providing even more funds for this population. Izetbegovic concluded by saying that presence of the international community in B&H has weakened which is why political crisis are reasonable and in his opinion, the crisis are part of the process of getting mature and the road to reach full trust.
Karamatic’s statement on revival of Herzeg-Bosnia sparks reactions (TV1)
Vice President of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) and member of minor HSS party Mario Karamatic stated on Friday that B&H might lose the Council of Ministers (CoM) and the Federation of B&H might lose the government, unless SDA accepts the Croat proposals of amendments to the Election Law of B&H and the Law on Public Broadcasting System of B&H. Aforementioned amendments should be sent to parliamentary procedure by the end of April. “We will not let (SDA leader) Bakir Izetbegovic tell us what we can or cannot do in order to secure equal position of the Croat people in B&H,” Karamatic was quoted as saying. He added that unless SDA accepts aforementioned amendments, HNS will request activation of regulations of Vienna Convention, stipulating abolition of the international agreements due to obstructions of one side. Karamatic explained that this means Washington and Dayton agreements would not be valid anymore and that Croats would have right to revitalization of Herzeg-Bosnia.
This statement was reaction to Wednesday interview of leader of SDA Izetbegovic for TV1. Among other things, Izetbegovic stressed that HDZ B&H’s amendments to the Election Law of B&H and the Law on Public Broadcasting System of B&H will not get support of SDA unless HDZ B&H and HNS make it clear that they give up on Herzeg-Bosnia and on forming of two electorates in the Federation of B&H.
Academicians and representatives of several political parties in B&H also commented Karamatic’s statements, and assessed them as fascistic and threatening messages which jeopardize security in B&H. Member of the Presidency of DF Damir Becirovic said that it is sad thing this kind of people hold posts in highest legislative bodies of B&H. Leader of the Civic Alliance (GS) Reuf Bajrovic underlined that Karamatic’s statements are attempts to cause armed conflicts in B&H. He added that – among other things – these attempts would jeopardize tourism as ground of Croatia’s economy. Bajrovic deems that Croatian leadership is smart enough to prevent this to happen. He expressed hope that the West will take such threats seriously. Also, some interpret Karamatic’s statements as direct attack on constitutional order of B&H and the Dayton Peace Agreement. Kurtcehajic deems that the OHR should react to this type of anti-Dayton activities.
Mostar SDA and HDZ B&H disagree with Inzko’s statement on Mostar (Oslobodjenje)
High Representative Valentin Inzko last week informed the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) about the current situation in our country as well as about efforts of the international community to secure long-term stability and prosperity of B&H. Inzko expressed his concern with the fact some politicians do not respect the rule of law by ignoring or even rejecting court decisions, which directly affects citizens. “Citizens of Mostar have been deprived of the most basic right to elect local representatives for years and two strongest parties in the city have demonstrated little initiative to solve the problem,” Inzko said.
President of the Mostar City Board of HDZ B&H Damir Dzeba stated that this represents “a swap of thesis and trick for citizens. They are frustrated because imposed rules were valid in past processes, in which votes of one group of citizens were more valuable than votes of other group of citizens. OHR introduced discrimination and unconstitutional rules in the city, i.e. the rules were not in line with the international agreements on civic and political rights, which stipulates in its Item 25 that each citizen must have the right to elect and be elected in fair elections with equal value of votes”. Dzeba added that OHR introduced violent discrimination in Mostar, which resulted in failure to hold elections in past eight years.
President of Mostar City Board of SDA Salem Maric claimed that OHR is the most responsible for failure to implement the Election Law of B&H in Mostar and added that: “OHR imposed the Statute which is not in line with the European Charter on Local Self-Governance, which B&H initialed back in 2002”. Maric claimed that the international community is deliberately exerting pressures and transfer responsibility onto SDA and HDZ B&H and concluded that these parties do not feel responsible for the problem which was created by something OHR imposed. At the same time, opposition parties welcomed Inzko’s remarks and claimed that he stated exactly what they have been warning for years. DF’s Mahmut Trcalo said that Inzko has stated nothing new, i.e. he noted that SDA and HDZ B&H are the only political subjects which can currently change anything in the city. SDP’s Edin Zagorcic reiterated that Mostar is connected with other problems in the state and noted that failure of parliaments and the Council of Ministers of B&H to function also affect Mostar. “None of ruling parties is currently talking about a partial solution for Mostar without mentioning the Election Law, i.e. laws on RTV service and state servants, which means that they are waiting for big solutions,” Zagorcic concluded.
American Croats lobbying for changes to Law on Elections and reorganization of Federation of B&H (Vecernji list)
Vecernji list daily papers reads that leader of the National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) Steve Rukavina met with several officials of the State Department in order to seek their support for stabilization of relations in B&H. According to the daily, Rukavina presented proposals of changes to the Law on Elections of B&H, which should result in Croats becoming equal in B&H. Author Zoran Kresic further writes that Rukavina also presented a proposal of reorganization of the Federation B&H, which is in line with proposals of the Croat representatives in B&H, which advocate federalization.
Russia denies it sent weapons to Croatia in early 1990s (T portal/Vecernji list)
The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied recent reports published by the Croatian media that Moscow in the early 1990s was supplying Croatia with weapons, including the S-300 missile system, which would be in violation of the then UN embargo. “Russia has consistently complied with its international obligations, including those related to the embargo on the delivery of weapons to the conflicting parties during the Yugoslav crisis from 1991 to 1995,” said deputy spokesman of the Foreign Ministry Artyom Kozhin, as reported by the Ministry’s website.
“We believe that these media reports are a provocation and represent distortion of the facts with the aim of denigrating the policy of the Russian Federation in the Balkans,” said Kozhin in his answer to journalists’ request to comment on reports in the Croatian media on the Russian deliveries of weapons to Croatia in the early 1990s. “It is particularly unacceptable to mention, in the context of all these fabrications, alleged contacts of the Russian Ambassador in Zagreb,” he added, stressing that “the responsibility lies with the authors of such fabrications.”
Vecernji list daily papers published on Thursday a report that Russian Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov had recently invited to the embassy for a meeting Zvonko Zubak, a Croatian businessman who trades in weapons. The Ambassador allegedly asked him to put together a list of weapons which Russia supplied to Croatia, including the S-300 missile system, during the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia while an embargo of the United Nations was in effect.
The report described that in the 1990s Russian transport aircraft delivered weapons mainly by landing at the Pula airport. According to the report, the latest Russian intervention is a result of its unhappiness with Croatian policies, including the way in which the government is trying to solve the problem with Agrokor, whose main creditors are two Russian banks.
From 1992 to 1997, about 160 flights from Russia allegedly brought weapons to Croatia. One of the systems in question was S-300, which was presented at the major military parade in 1995, although it is not clear whether it was completed and usable. In the meantime, the system has disappeared. It is rumored in the Croatian media that it was handed over by Croatia to western countries. It is currently a subject of litigation, because Zubak claims that it was never paid by the government.
Indictment against Mandic and Knezevic submitted (RTCG)
Special Public Prosecutor’s Office has submitted indictments to High Court against the accused who allegedly participated in the preparation of terrorist attacks on Election Day on 16 October, the Television of Montenegro reports. Russian citizens Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov were charged as organizers of a criminal organization, while others were charged for being members of the organization. The indictment includes leaders of DF, Milan Knezevic and Andrija Mandic, the driver of the DF’s leader, Mihailo Cadjenovic, Bratislav Dikic and several Serbian nationals. The indictment will be confirmed in the next 15 days. It was told from the High Court that S.E. and P.V are charged with the criminal offense of creating a criminal organization referred to in Article 401a paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code.
Draft law submitted to parliament (RTCG)
The government of Montenegro has adopted the draft Law on Ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty and sent it to parliament for approval by short procedure. The government has announced that Euro-Atlantic integration and NATO membership since the restoration of independence of Montenegro is one of its strategic foreign policy priorities. Since the restoration of independence of Montenegro, Euro/Atlantic integration and membership in NATO have been established as one of its strategic foreign policy priorities. Learning from the experience of loss of independence after World War I, Montenegro needs to rationally consider all the options available in the current geopolitical circumstances and decide which one would be the most convenient and economically justified in order to protect its national and security interests. This is particularly important considering the regional, but also the broader political, economic and security context, reads the government statement.
Carl Bildt in surprise visit to Macedonia (Meta/Lokalno.mk)
The former chief of Swedish diplomacy Carl Bildt announced on his twitter profile his visit to Macedonia yesterday, Monday 18th and visited Skoplje the same day. Even though he hasn’t revealed any details about the visit, on his twitter profile he also wrote that “No end in sight for the constitutional crisis in Skopje. Trenches look even deeper. Grave situation.” Bildt also announced that he will visit the Belgrade too, as a part of his “quick study trip to the region”. Cabinet of the President of Macedonia informed that Carl Bildt has asked to meet with Ivanov, but was denied, because the President’s agenda had other priorities. More than a month ago, through his twitter account, Bildt asked whether The European People’s party (EPP) will react to the political crisis in Macedonia sharing an analysis of the country’s political situation. “The Macedonian ruling party is playing with fire in the region with even greater instability? Will EPP react?” asked Bildt.
Ivanov: Even if a parliament speaker is elected I will not assign the mandate (Meta)
Forming a government without a justified mandate is legally unjustifiable, said President Gjorge Ivanov in an interview for Austrian newspaper Wiener Zeitung. “Such a government would be without presidential legitimacy i.e. without constitutional basis. It is only a wish. It is legally unjustified. Such a government will have no legitimacy. This is clearly stated in our Constitution. In accordance with Article 90 of the Constitution, only the President of the state can assign the mandate for forming a government. In this case, there would be two governments. The current, which is a technocratic government, and a government without legitimacy assigned by the President i.e. without constitutional basis. That means we shall enter into a deeper crisis”, said Ivanov, when he replied to a question about the possibility of the formation of a government without him assigning the mandate. He stressed that since the proclamation of independence of the Republic of Macedonia, the party which has won the most MPs in Parliament has received the mandate for forming a government. “After the elections of 11 December, I did what I and my predecessors have always done i.e. we assigned the mandate for forming a government to the winner of the elections. However, VMRO-DPMNE didn’t manage to form a coalition with the parties of the Macedonian Albanians within the set time period of 20 days, according to the Constitution. To explain this more precisely, the coalition was actually agreed. But at the last moment there was a telephone call and the coalition fell apart”, said Ivanov, and he refused to go into details about who the caller was. He said that even if a parliament speaker is elected and even if SDSM manages to reach an agreement for a coalition with the Albanian parties, he will remain firm on his position not to assign the mandate because of the Tirana platform.
“I will not assign the mandate to a coalition like that due to political reasons,” said Ivanov.
SDSM: We shall unblock parliament in accordance with the Rules, the Constitution, and the laws (Meta)
The new parliamentary majority is taking the obligation to unblock the democratic processes very soon and a new reformatory government to be formed that will provide a better life for everyone, said SDSM’s morning announcement and it also states that this process will be done in accordance with the Rules and Regulations, the Constitution, and the laws. “The expectations of the majority of citizens of Macedonia and the international public will be accomplished since this is the only right way for Macedonia. The forming of a new government is a top priority for Macedonia’s state interests and the citizens” said SDSM and add that the new reformatory government will provide solutions for many bitter issues for the citizens. The party also said that the democratic processes are unstoppable and that there will be life for everyone in Macedonia.
President remains optimistic political parties will reach solution to crisis (ATA)
President of the Republic Bujar Nishani on Sunday voiced confidence that parties will find a solution to the political crisis that has gripped the country as the center-right opposition has warned it will boycott the upcoming 18 June general elections and insists on its demand for Socialist PM Rama to step down and allow formation of a technical government to lead the country to the polls. “I remain optimistic that politicians will find a solution,” President Nishani told reporters. Asked whether the 18 June polls will be postponed, Nishani said: “The President has set the elections date. Let’s hope a solution to the political deadlock will be found”.
Gabriel: Implement vetting, end parliament boycott (ATA)
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Sigmar Gabriel said the judicial reform must be implemented and there is no alternative besides this, during a joint press conference held with the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, on Monday. “We increasingly encourage governments in the region and Albania as well to continue their path towards EU integration and not to halt already initiated reforms. Sometimes it’s difficult because sometimes there is no alternative to some reforms, such as the justice reform or the fight against corruption and organized crime to which here is no alternative,” said Gabriel. Referring to elections, Gabriel stated “the readiness to deploy more international observers, to discuss on electoral campaign financing but it should be done within the Parliament not in a tent. We urgently advise the end of boycott. If elections are boycotted and the country enters in chaos there will be no support on our behalf and whoever boycotts the parliament removes Albania far from EU integration.” Minister Gabriel pointed out that his standing is on behalf of the German federal government, on behalf of the German Chancellor Merkel and not on his personal behalf. Gabriel reassured that Western Balkan countries can walk on their path towards the EU integration which remains the same, adding that it would require a number of prerequisites, to which as a federal government we can do more to the social-economic development of Albania and other Western Balkan countries. Rama praised the particular support provided to Albania by Germany towards EU integration, highlighting the German aid in certain transforming reforms, such as the judicial reform, strengthening public administration, infrastructure, electrical power, vocational education and so on. Rama said that he introduced the German Minister to the steps Albanian government has undertaken especially in enforcing the vetting process in order to free the judiciary of the corrupt judges and prosecutors and to convey a message to European partners that Albania’s is ready to open accession negotiations to EU. The Premier stated that among others the meeting focused on the current situation in the region, the Berlin process and on the upcoming Trieste Summit to be fruitful to Albania and its European aspirations.
General Elections- Draft decision on “parliamentary mandates” at Law Committee (ADN)
The Parliamentary Law Committee took under examination on Friday the draft decision “on determining the number of Parliamentary mandates for every electoral zone, in the framework of the Parliamentary elections 2017”. The draft decision, approved at the Central Election Commission in December, envisages the division of 140 Parliamentary mandates into 12 zones, according to the regions:
Electoral zone of Berat region 7 mandates
Electoral zone of Dibër region 6 mandates
Electoral zone of Durrës region 14 mandates
Electoral zone of Elbasan region 14 mandates
Electoral zone of Fier region 16 mandates
Electoral zone of Gjirokastër region 5 mandates
Electoral zone of Korça region 11 mandates
Electoral zone of Kukës region 3 mandates
Electoral zone of Lezha region 7 mandates
Electoral zone of Shkodër region 11 mandates
Electoral zone of Tirana region 34 mandates
Electoral zone of Vlora region 12 mandates
The draft-decision is compiled according to the data provided by the General Department of the Civil Registry Office on the total number of the Albanian citizens and those of every region. According to information provided, the total number of citizens is 4.426.963. The number is divided by 140 Parliamentary mandates and equals to 31.621 which is the average number of citizens belonging to every mandate. According to this formula, it is determined the number of mandates for every electoral zone. Following approval of the draft decision by the committee, it will be forwarded to the Assembly convened in plenary session.
Kosovo’s Cover-Up of Ethnic Cleansing of Serbian Christian Minority Continues (Sputnik, 18 April 2017)
An investigation into the wartime and peacetime atrocities committed against Kosovo’s Serbian minority hasn’t been opened due to the current Kosovo authorities’ complicity in the matter, Italian journalist Maria Lina Veca told Sputnik. In an interview with Sputnik, Italian journalist and writer Maria Lina Veca suggested that the current Kosovo authorities were complicit in crimes against Kosovo’s predominantly Christian ethnic Serbian minority, which is why a probe into the issue was never opened. Veca wrote four books about the fate of Kosovo’s Serbs after the 1999 NATO bombings of former Yugoslavia, an event that was followed by Albanian extremists’ clampdown on the Serbian minority in Kosovo. One of her books dealt with the illicit traffic in human organs in Kosovo. According to last year’s Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Report, members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) removed organs from prisoners, many of them ethnic Serbs, held in Albania. Although current Kosovo President and former KLA leader Hashim Thaci has repeatedly dismissed the allegations as “baseless,” many believe that the human organ trafficking was conducted under his auspices. “More than 2,000 Serbs have disappeared right before the eyes of the so-called international community, and no one cares about this. So I wanted to tell the world what I heard from family members of those who were abducted by the KLA, and who were tortured, killed and who had organs cut out,” Veca said. When asked why the reports about the possible role of former KLA leaders in the Kosovo organ trade were put on the back burner, Veca said that “no one was interested in turning it into accusatory processes.” “KLA members became respected politicians clad in suits and ties on the international scene, and nobody wanted to destroy this illusion by trying to get to the truth,” she added. She also remained downbeat about the role of a new special court which is due to deal with the alleged crimes of former KLA leaders. According to her, a scenario where any high-ranking Kosovo politicians face trial is very unlikely. “I do not think that there will be trials related to crimes against the Serbian population [in Kosovo], and no highly placed Kosovo politicians will be affected. The trials against KLA criminals would have meant a failure of the alleged ‘truth’ about Kosovo that the mainstream media and political structures have been promoting for the past twenty years,” Veca pointed out. When asked whether any European state could reconsider the decision on Kosovo’s independence, she said that first of all, “we need to look at what will happen in Europe after Brexit, and will happen to Russian influence in Europe and US foreign policy” in the future. She described the current situation in Kosovo as very complicated and hopeless, something that Veca said “is felt by Kosovo Serbs, Albanians and other peoples.”
Albanian prime minister: EU faces ‘nightmare’ if Balkan hopes fade (Politico, by Andrew MacDowall, 18 April 2017)
A ‘little union’ with Kosovo is possible should Brussels turn its back on the region, Edi Rama tells POLITICO.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s prime minister said a union between Albania and Kosovo cannot be ruled out if EU membership prospects for the Western Balkans fade.
In an interview with POLITICO that also covered a political crisis in neighboring Macedonia, an upcoming election at home and the inspiration he draws from Tony Blair, Prime Minister Edi Rama said Europe would face “a nightmare” if the Balkans “go crazy” because EU accession is off the agenda, with the region becoming a “gray zone in which other actors have more influence than the European Union.”Some Albanian nationalists would like to see Albania unite with Kosovo, the majority ethnic Albanian territory to the northeast that unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Kosovo’s largest opposition party wants to hold a referendum on forming a union with Albania, even though this is explicitly ruled out by Kosovo’s constitution. Asked if he would take a union with Kosovo off the table, Rama said: “No, because the only way to keep the Balkans in this peaceful and cooperative mode … is to keep the path to the EU open, to keep the perspective clear, to keep emotions about the EU positive. No one would like to turn [in] on themselves and look for smaller unions, everyone would like to unite in the big union. But if there’s no hope, no perspective, no space, then, of course, little unions may happen.” Many fear a union between Kosovo and Albania would trigger a new upheaval in the Balkans, which descended into war in the 1990s as Yugoslavia was torn apart. Bosnia and Macedonia would be especially vulnerable if borders were thought to be up for grabs once again. Rama said a union with Kosovo was not “my wish but a possible alternative to the closed door of the European Union.” An artist, ex-national team basketball player and a former mayor of Tirana, the socialist prime minister met POLITICO in his airy office, where the walls are decorated with colorful stencils and a soccer shirt with the name of former Albania captain Lorik Cana hangs over an office chair.
‘Lack of vision’
Alarmed by rising instability and tension in the region, EU leaders last month reaffirmed “unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans.” But the accession process has lost momentum due to the EU’s internal problems, popular opposition in EU countries to taking in new members and concerns about corruption and the poor quality of democracy in Balkan countries. Albania, like neighbors Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, is formally an EU membership candidate. Only Serbia and Montenegro have started accession negotiations, however, and are seen as years away from membership. Kosovo has a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Brussels, an early step towards possible EU membership. Rama warned that stopping accession could destabilize Europe, saying that “the alternative would be a nightmare for the people and countries of Europe.” “There is a lack of understanding, or a lack of vision in not realizing that this region needs Europe, but Europe needs this region too, for a secure and safe Europe,” he said. “How can the union be secure and safe if the Balkans will go crazy? How can the European Union allow at its own heart a gray zone where other actors can have a larger influence than the EU itself? This is nonsense in terms of security, in terms of safety.” Recent signs of instability in the Balkans include bellicose rhetoric between leaders of Kosovo and Serbia, allegations of a Russian-backed coup attempt in Montenegro, threats by Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic to secede and a protracted political crisis in Macedonia, which has left the country without a government. Rama said he did not see a new war in the region as “a first scenario” but calming tensions “very much depends on the EU and U.S.” Support for EU membership in Albania and most other countries in the region remains high, although skepticism is growing in Serbia and Macedonia. Rama said that despite its problems, the EU retains a kind of “magic” for the Western Balkans, just as it did for its founding member countries in the wake of World War II, and had encouraged regional leaders to work more closely together. “Today in Europe, you have a generation that didn’t see any war. We are a generation [in the Balkans], we saw wars, we get the point,” Rama said. “I visited Belgrade 68 years after the last visit of an Albanian prime minister to Belgrade,” he said. “My colleague [Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić] came here [for the] first time ever. Just to show you how much things have moved in the right direction because of this European spell. But if this European spell will fade away, believe me, things might turn really wrong.” Some in Serbia’s government believe Rama is using a more nationalist tone on Kosovo now because he has been accused at home of being too friendly with Belgrade and is just a couple of months away from a general election.
Rama also stands accused of pouring fuel on the Balkan fire through his role in the Macedonian crisis. Parties representing Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority, which hold the balance of power after elections in December, drew up a joint platform after a meeting with Rama in Tirana. It calls for greater rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, who make up about a quarter of the population, including making Albanian an official language countrywide. The platform has been a focus of large street protests, and President Gjorge Ivanov has said that it could “destroy the country” and put Macedonia in “a position of subordination or dependence in relation to another country.” But Rama defended the platform and said he had merely facilitated a meeting between ethnic Albanian politicians from Macedonia and was not trying to intervene in the country’s domestic politics. “There is a myth created in Skopje for political purposes that the Albanian parties are following a platform that is written in Tirana. This is a lie, a myth created by the politics of very bad taste,” he said. “The attack on the platform is very dangerous because it’s a kind of politics that fuels divisiveness and not unity … The last thing Macedonia needs, the last thing we all need, is to fuel interethnic conflict, because you can’t control these kinds of things.” He added that Albanians in Macedonia had an “absolute right to ask for full equality with their Macedonian brothers,” and that the platform largely demands rights and freedoms laid out in the 2001 Ohrid Agreement that ended an armed conflict between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. At home, Rama himself faces a mounting political crisis of his own, with the opposition boycotting parliament and threatening not to field candidates in a general election scheduled for June 18 over claims that the vote will not be free and fair. Rama has thus far rejected demands that he stand down so a technocratic government can manage the elections, which he said would go ahead on schedule. “You can’t kidnap the democratic process, you can’t kidnap the constitution,” he said. With opposition MPs and supporters camped in a marquee outside his office, and problems with a junior coalition partner mounting, Rama will need the political skill of his hero Tony Blair to negotiate the coming months. Rama has used Blair’s political consultancy as advisers to his government (as Vučić has also done) and he has formed a friendship with the former British prime minister and his ex-communications adviser Alastair Campbell. Blair paid a private visit to Rama at a government guesthouse on the Albanian coast last year and Campbell included the Albanian premier in a book he wrote entitled “Winners: And How They Succeed.” “If Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell and New Labour did not exist, I would not have become a politician,” Rama said. “They’ve been inspirational to me. Whatever Iraq was, it’s not at all a reason to forget what great things Tony Blair did, and how great he was as prime minister.”