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Belgrade Media Report 16 May

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• Kuburovic to represent Serbia at UNSC on Kosovo (Beta)
• Vucic: There will be no Greater Albania (B92/Tanjug)
• Serbia supports initiative “One Belt, One Road” (RTS)
• What can Serbia expect from the United Nations (RTS)
• Kocijancic: Statements that can be interpreted as political interference in neighboring countries are not helpful in building good neighborly relations (Danas)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Covic: I did not hear single serious remark to Croat proposal of changes to Law on Elections (Vecernji list)
• Brammertz arrives in B&H to prepare report for UN Security Council (N1)
• Bernardic: No coalition with HDZ, snap election only way to end agony (Hina)
• Montenegro reliable NATO ally (RTCG)
• Parties decide local elections will be held in October at coordination meeting, without VMRO-DPMNE (Meta)
• Mayors starting to work without a mandate, Trajanovski says (MIA)
• EP yet again postpones vote on Macedonia resolution (MIA)
• Yee: Boycott not a solution (ADN)
• US: Vetting Law and elections legitimate even without opposition (ADN)


• Bosnian Serbs’ Stale Politics Face Big Shakeup (BIRN)

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Kuburovic to represent Serbia at UNSC on Kosovo (Beta)


The United Nations Security Council will discuss today a new quarterly report on and Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic will represent Serbia at the session. The Serbian government reported that Kuburovic would present Serbia’s views on the latest brief on UNMIK, and on certain political developments between Belgrade and Pristina. Kuborovic is expected to speak about a statement by a former OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission chief William Walker that he was working on a project on the unification of the Albanians in Kosovo and Albania, and expatriates.


Vucic: There will be no Greater Albania (B92/Tanjug)


Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says that Serbian citizens should not be concerned about Ramush Haradinaj’s statements. According to Vucic, who is currently in Beijing, no such thing as a Greater Albania will exist. In addition, he said that Haradinaj’s statements – like the latest urging Washington to solve things between Belgrade and Pristina if Brussels can’t do it – are all part of a concerted policy whose protégé is Haradinaj. When asked by reporters to comment on that statement, Vucic said he does not see it as coming from one of the leaders on the political scene in Pristina. “I would say that this is a concerted policy of everyone, it’s just that they found a protégé, Haradinaj, the one who is supposed to say it,” Vucic said. He added that obviously there are certain ideas and plans and a covert agreement with a part of the international community. “I understand their anxiety, why they must repeat it every day, I understand also that they are in a hurry, but citizens of Serbia should not worry, they will not create any kind of a Greater Albania. And I can’t threaten them, and have no intention to,” Vucic said. “I have never underestimated Albanians, it is a serious nation that we have to respect. But – them conquering Serbs, conquering Serbia, humiliating Serbia, destroying Serbia – no one will see that movie, including them,” said Vucic.


Serbia supports initiative “One Belt, One Road” (RTS)


Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic held a speech at the forum “One Belt, One Road” during a conference on the linking and cooperation, which was held at a conference hall at Lake Yanqi near Beijing. Vucic suggested that the next forum “One Belt, One Road” be held in Serbia. “We have already done a lot on bilateral cooperation with our Chinese friends. We have built a bridge over the Danube which was put into operation during the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang to Serbia. We are building several railways and motorways with Chinese companies, with their technical and financial support. One well-known project, which has just been mentioned by my friend Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, is the railroad between Belgrade and Budapest, which will connect Serbia and Hungary and will be the main section of the railway of Southeast Europe. I hope we will begin works at the end of this year, with the presence of the prime ministers of China, Hungary and Serbia. The Belgrade Airport Nikola Tesla has recently become the fastest growing airport in Europe. We expect offers from several countries for concessions over our airport and I hope that connections with other countries will then be even better. We are also working on “broadband” activities, the modernization and maintenance of our optical systems and I hope that we will also have a better rail and road infrastructure towards Thessaloniki in Greece, about which I have already spoke today with my Greek counterpart Tsipras. I would like to mention something else that is of great importance and is related to the energy sector. We are already part of the Trans-Balkan power network, but what we really need is to find a way to get to the Russian gas in the future.

I would like to refer to the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin and to say that Russia is our responsible supplier of gas. We need to build an interconnector between Serbia and Bulgaria in order to get gas once Russia builds a gas pipeline to Turkey. In addition, we have several projects with the EU to build a motorway between Belgrade and Pristina, which is very important to us. We are doing everything to reinforce our ties. I agree with the proposal of Chile and Greece to hold this forum once a year or once in two years. We are one of the smallest countries here, so I am free to propose that the next forum be held in Serbia. I know that this is not modest from my part, but you are welcome to Serbia,” Vucic said in his address.


What can Serbia expect from the United Nations (RTS, by Jelena Terzic)


Following the bombardment of the then Yugoslavia, the then Ambassador to the United Nations Vladislav Jovanovic criticized the Security Council over the passiveness and overt cooperation with the separatists. Jovanovic says that the United Nations should insist on a comprehensive implementation of Resolution 1244. Only decrees referring to the position and rights of the Albanian side were implemented, while the Serbian side and the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, expelled and Serbia as the state were ignored, so that this resolution has not been fully implemented. This is one of the reasons why the so-called Albanian factor, earlier terrorist, later on rebellious and now formally legalized by the western side, behaves arrogantly and thinks it is allowed everything.

Still, did anything change on the international scene in understanding what had been happening in Kosovo and Metohija? The Racak case and Walker are the latest examples, and this is also the announced topic of the Security Council session in New York?

“Racak and what Walker had done earlier and stated now multiplied by three since he is announcing much greater involvement in the realization of the so-called Greater Albania project – this is more than reason to thoroughly examine the role of Racak in that military and political situation, who requested casus belli since William Walker didn’t do this on his own. Regardless of his pro-Albanian feelings, he was sent to be the head of the OSCE Mission to produce a situation where he will justify a military intervention. This is a task. The other one is for the OSCE to return and examine itself and its actions how much is it responsible or irresponsible when it agreed for a compromised man to become the head of its mission in a very fragile and war-torn part of Serbia.

Serbia is addressing today the most authoritative body of the world organization, the Security Council, and Ramush Haradinaj is denouncing Washington. Can his statements be ascribed only to the early parliamentary elections?

“This is now playing in the balance of power of leaders of the terrorist KLA, now in power, and Washington who had freed them from the terrorist stigma and proclaimed them a liberation army and in the name of this conducted the so-called humanitarian intervention that was not humanitarian but a crime against peace since this is the definition of aggression. These has been outrage in the Haradinaj case since he was humiliated in the world public with the request for extradition to Serbia and spent three months in France with this stigma that he is a potential war criminal, and on other side this vengeance with him and his family towards Serbia and the Serbs as a whole has now erupted because it had existed throughout the war. Many Albanians who were loyal to the state to which they belonged, Serbia, and the Serbs are victims of this group that was the most vicious among members of the so-called KLA. It is expected that Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic will warn in New York about the threats of Albanian political leaders and those who are opposing the formation of the Special Court for crimes committed by KLA members.”


Kocijancic: Statements that can be interpreted as political interference in neighboring countries are not helpful in building good neighborly relations (Danas)


“The EU constantly supports the principles of reconciliation and regional cooperation in the Western Balkans. The European Council has pointed out its support to a clear perspective of the EU integration of Western Balkans. The expects the entire region to continue to build constructive and cooperative relations, as well as intensify the work on reform programs in order to make progress towards European integration,” Federica Mogherini’s spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told Danas. She points out that, just as the EU High Representative Mogherini and the EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn “had stated many times in the past, statements that can be interpreted as political interference in neighboring countries are not helpful in building good neighborly relations and expose the region to risks from escalating rhetoric”.



Covic: I did not hear single serious remark to Croat proposal of changes to Law on Elections (Vecernji list)


Croat member of the B&H and HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic asked to comment on reactions to the Croat proposal of changes to the Law on Elections of B&H said that the reactions were “to say the least, inappropriate”. Namely, Covic argued that he did not hear a single serious remark to the very contents of proposed solutions, instead there were general stories about “too serious and too big a political issue”.  According to the HDZ B&H President, the truth is that there were many agreements before, according to which one people should not elect representatives of other peoples in the Houses of Peoples and the Presidency of B&H. Asked to comment on the fact that the Bosniak representatives said the proposed changes violate the Bosniak vital national interest (VNI), Covic said that Bosniak colleagues’ closing eyes will not last forever, arguing that “if we want to preserve B&H as a state and continue its Euro-Atlantic path, we all will have to make a step in that direction. It is inevitable”.  Asked whether there will be general elections in 2018 without changes to the Law on Elections, Covic said: “it is still too early to predict will there be and when the elections will take place, and in line with which law. I believe we will together have enough political wisdom not to bring ourselves to situation of new crises and new complication of relations”.  Asked what the alternatives are in case the proposed changes are not adopted, Covic said it is a good question, revealing that he will be meeting with SDA President Bakir Izetbegovic today (Tuesday) to talk about this very issue.  “I hope there will be understanding from his part and that we will manage to find a compromise solution” added Covic. Asked if he expects help from the international community and the EU, Covic replied “of course” and that the help has been there for a long time now, arguing that the IC is aware the time has come for the Croat issue to be resolved in order to shift the focus on economic and social issues and Euro-Atlantic path. In addition to this, Covic says he is planning to meet EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn one of these days to talk about this issue. Asked if it is possible that Croats are again excluded from the authorities and what consequences such a scenario would cause, Covic replied by saying he deeply believes one such scenario cannot happen, arguing that something like that happened before, which set the country back big time. He however added there are people in politics who advocate something like that, arguing that such people are against stable B&H.


Brammertz arrives in B&H to prepare report for UN Security Council (N1)


Chief Prosecutor of ICTY Serge Brammertz arrived in a two-day visit to B&H on Monday to prepare his regular semi-annual report for the UN Security Council. He held meetings with acting Chief B&H Prosecutor Gordana Tadic and representatives of associations of victims of war. They discussed war crimes, closure of the ICTY and the institution that will replace it. Following the meetings, Brammertz said that he is very disappointed because there is no reparation system of war crime victims and added that his report will include issues of missing persons, reparation and rights of victims. He said he will also mention the issue of regional cooperation, because the cooperation is not at satisfactory level. Chairwoman of ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ Munira Subasic said she asked Brammertz about cases of former Republika Srpska (RS) President Radovan Karadzic and SRS leader Vojislav Seselj. She said she wondered if Karadzic could be found guilty of genocide in other municipalities in appeals procedure and if Seselj could be taken to The Hague again. Subasic said Brammertz told her that he expects life imprisonment for Karadzic and added that Seselj will not be taken to The Hague.

Representatives of the RS Association of Women War Victims will deliver to Brammertz a list of dozens of concentration camps for Serbs in B&H, which have never been mentioned before nor have those responsible for crimes in those camps been processed. The list will be delivered in Sarajevo on Tuesday (May 16). President of the Association Bozica Zivkovic-Rajilic said that this list was compiled by international organizations on the basis of testimonies of survivors and she noted that there is data related to camps in Zivinice, Tuzla, Banovici, Odzak, Breza, Brod, Bihac, Bugojno, Visoko, Gorazde, Gradacac, Gracanica, Grude, Derventa and Tomislavgrad.


Bernardic: No coalition with HDZ, snap election only way to end agony (Hina)


Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardic on Monday said that he was confident that the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) would not succeed in putting together a new parliamentary majority, that there was no chance of a grand coalition and that a snap election was most likely to take place which would put an end to the agony of the governance of the HDZ and the Bridge party.


Montenegro reliable NATO ally (RTCG)


Diplomatic representatives of NATO member states assessed that the Alliance, with Montenegro’s admission, received a credible and reliable ally. They, at a working lunch with Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic, welcomed Montenegro’s admission to NATO. Boskovic expressed his conviction that Montenegro’s NATO membership represents a “positive signal for the entire Western Balkans region, and that the integration of Euro-Atlantic and European structures is crucial for the stabilization and economic development of the region”.

“I believe we can all agree that the Western Balkans cannot be stable without a clear Euro-Atlantic and European vision, as Europe cannot be safe without the full integration of this region,” Boskovic said. He stressed Montenegro’s readiness to contribute to the efforts of NATO allies to deal with contemporary security challenges, as well as activities aimed at diverting negative external influences. He added that the Army of Montenegro will continue to contribute to the projection of stability and the strengthening of collective defense, through its participation in international missions and operations under NATO, UN and EU. The diplomatic representatives of NATO member states agreed that Montenegro, through the very demanding and intensive reforms of the security sector, as well as other parts of the Montenegrin society, showed its commitment to reaching the highest standards of modern democracies and that Montenegro’s membership in NATO confirmed these results.


Parties decide local elections will be held in October at coordination meeting, without VMRO-DPMNE (Meta)


At the coordination meeting, led by parliament speaker, Talat Xhaferi, representatives of the parliamentary parties agreed that a draft bill amending the Electoral Code is necessary for local elections to be held in the half of October. Therefore the mandate of the current mayors and municipal councilors will be extended until new councilors and mayors are elected.

“Parliament speaker Xhaferi was informed by all the parties that they were all in agreement that the draft bill be effective and to exclude any possibilities for further unnecessary delays,” reported Xhaferi’s cabinet. Xhaferi called on the parties to form a parliamentary group, in order to create the conditions for regular work within parliament. He also expects them to agree on forming working groups to make the amendments to the Electoral Code. “Parliament speaker Xhaferi and representatives from political parties agreed that political dialogue must continue in the parliament of the Republic of Macedonia. All political subjects should be accountable before the people and contribute to the continuation of the democratic processes in the country,” the statement adds.

At the coordination meeting, representatives were present from SDSM and their coalition, DUI, Besa, the Albanian Alliance, and representatives from DPA, however the representative for VMRO-DPMNE and their coalition did not attend.


Mayors starting to work without a mandate, Trajanovski says (MIA)


The mayors of municipalities in Macedonia as of today will perform their duties without having a mandate after it has ended, said Skopje Mayor Koce Trajanovski, who is also the head of the Association of Local Self-Government Units (ZELS). He called on the political parties in Parliament to come to an agreement as soon as possible to pass laws allowing the mayors to work until new local elections were scheduled. “Since there are various interpretations from experts as to whether the mayors might continue to work or not, ZELS wants to be sure and to be strongly undivided – we urge lawmakers to convene as soon as possible and to pass amendments to the Electoral Code and the Law on Local Self-Government, which will pave the way for the next local elections to be scheduled,” Trajanovski stated after a meeting of the Association. On behalf of all ‘concerned’ mayors, he noted, I welcome the deal made by the political parties on setting a date for local elections.


EP yet again postpones vote on Macedonia resolution (MIA)


The European Parliament (EP) has said it won’t vote on a Macedonia resolution with respect to the 2016 European Commission progress report about the country, MIA reports Monday from Strasbourg. The EP has said the resolution on Macedonia will not be put up for voting this week after being already postponed several times. The resolutions on Serbia, Kosovo and Albania – other EU membership hopefuls – aren’t going to be voted as well. They were supposed to be voted by MEPs in March. The political state of play in each of the Balkan countries is citied as a reason for delaying the resolutions to be passed. Namely, Macedonia is without a government for six months after its December elections, which has pushed the country into a deeper crisis. Last week, Kosovo saw its government collapsing and fresh early polls being scheduled on June 11. In Albania, which has been gripped by a political crisis, it is likely that its regular elections slated for June 18 would be held without the opposition.

In February, the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted the Macedonia resolution, which put forward a conditioned recommendation for the opening of accession talks between the EU and Macedonia. The resolution is not legally binding as it has only an advisory role. For the first time in ten years, these documents will not be presented annually. Thus, the next resolution on Macedonia is expected to be released in 2019.


Yee: Boycott not a solution (ADN)


US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Hoyt Brian Yee held a 50-minutes meeting with Speaker Ilir Meta, at the same time the President-Elect on Monday in the parliament’s directorate premises. This meeting was part of the US official’s agenda during a visit to Tirana that aims to put an end to the current political crisis. Both personalities underlined the fact that free and fair elections needs responsibility and inclusiveness. “Boycott is not a solution. Opposition must be part of the electoral process. At the same time majority should do everything to make possible that the opposition be part of these elections,” said Meta. Earlier he held an 80-minutes meeting with Prime Minister, Edi Rama while a meeting with opposition’s leader, Lulzim Basha is expected to take place in the afternoon hours. This series of meetings with majority’s and opposition’s representatives are seen as the last chance to put an end to this crisis that goes on since 86 days. Yee proposed again on Monday in Tirana an agreement for the opposition to be part of the parliamentary elections on 18 June. During his meetings with the political leaders in Albania, Yee returned to the table the proposals of the negotiators. Referring to this package, the opposition can have some ministerial posts as the one of vice Prime Minister and four ministers in the government to monitor the electoral process. This package was discussed during the meeting of Yee with opposition leader Lulzim Basha this Monday and gave to the opposition other 24 hours to react. Otherwise as Yee declared, the parliamentary elections will be considered legitimate even without the presence of the opposition.


US: Vetting Law and elections legitimate even without opposition (ADN)


The US supports all parties to participate on the parliamentary elections of 18 June. But at the same time they declared that the elections will be considered legal even if the opposition will not be part of them. This was the clear message of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department, Hoyt Brian Yee during his visit in Tirana this Monday.  He made clear during the meeting with the journalists that US supports the solution package of McAllister and Fleckenstein weeks ago. “The USA are ready to support parties to participate in the elections, but even without the opposition they will be considered legitimate as well as judicial reform,” said Yee. Despite the critical situation, he was still optimist that at the end political parties in Albania will find a solution. “We hope that there will be a solution and parties need to dialogue because there is not much time available,” he ended.




Bosnian Serbs’ Stale Politics Face Big Shakeup (BIRN, by Srecko Latal, Danijel Kovacevic, 16 May 2017)


The once stagnant and monotonous political scene in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity is now in a state of unusual turmoil, which could lead to major changes.

The RS National Assembly held a no-confidence vote on the RS government on Monday in line with a request from the opposition parties gathered in the Alliance for Change.

Branislav Borenovic, leader of one of the main opposition parties, the Party of Democratic Progress, PDP, told BIRN that the main reasons for the no-confidence vote included poor GDP growth, growing budget deficits, internal and external debts, falling living standards and the general “tycoon-isation” of the RS. The opposition bloc has pressed on with this initiative despite lacking the votes to topple the government; the move is meant primarily to signal the start of a serious offensive against the RS ruling coalition, opposition officials told BIRN. Given the turmoil both within and between the two opposing political blocs in RS, the no-confidence vote may mark the end of years of stale politics in RS and the beginning of a major overhaul, experts say. Tanja Topic, a Banja Luka-based political analyst, warns that the current discussions about reshuffles on the RS political scene are unlikely to bring anything dramatically new, however. “For a [political] alternative you need to have new people and new ideas. With these [discussions], you just have the same faces, differently positioned,” Topic told BIRN. “If you build an alternative with people who were already on the political scene for a decade, where is the new quality?” she asked.


Torn between two dominant forces

Since the first multi-party elections in Yugoslavia in 1991, the beginning of the war in Bosnia in 1992 and the first post-war elections in 1996, Bosnian Serbs have been largely ruled by two parties, the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD. The SDS was the first Serbian nationalist party, established in 1990 by Radovan Karadzic, which earned a bad name by leading Bosnian Serbs in and out of the 1992-5 war. Under international pressure, Karadzic stepped down from the RS and the SDS leadership in 1996 and handed the reins to one of his vice-presidents, Biljana Plavsic, expecting to continue running the show from behind the scene. However, angered by the SDS’s rampant corruption – but not by its radical nationalist views – Plavsic rebelled and expelled some of the closest Karadzic’s lieutenants. It was she who appointed a young and moderate opposition leader Milorad Dodik as RS Prime Minister and the two of them then ruled the RS together with the military, political and financial support of the US and the EU. In the meantime Dodik formed his SNSD party in 1996 and Plavsic her own party in 1997. With ample support from the West and the Bosniak parties, they jointly ruled RS until the SDS won the elections in 2000. The SDS, in the meantime, lost many of its key leaders who were arrested and tried for war crimes. The party went through another overhaul after 2002 when a moderate technocrat, Dragan Cavic, was elected as the new president. Under Cavic, the SDS and the RS leadership moderated their positions but paid a high price politically for this by losing the support of many right-leaning voters. In the 2006 elections, the SDS was duly defeated by the SNSD, whose popularity had surged thanks to Dodik’s increasingly nationalist rhetoric. The SNSD has held power in the RS ever since, although SDS-led opposition bloc came close to unseating it in the 2014 elections. Besides these two parties that dominated RS in the past 25 years, several other actors eventually joined either the SNSD or SDS blocs. The SNSD’s usual allies have included the Democratic National Union, DNS, of former Prijedor Mayor Marko Pavic, and the Socialist Party. The SDS meanwhile in recent years established an opposition bloc, the Alliance for Change. It included the PDP, which was created by economy professor Mladen Ivanic, now the Serb member of Bosnia’s state presidency. Although relatively small, it has rallied many intellectuals in the RS; as has National Democratic Movement, Cavic’s new party, which he established after he left the SDS following its defeat in 2006.


Voters fed up with populist politics

While the RS political scene appears diverse, many voters see it as stale, because none of the parties has a specific ideology and all seem to share much the same Serb nationalist position.

In a situation where all the parties propagate similar policies, and engage in similarly non-transparent and non-democratic practices whenever they are in power, demarcation between the parties is only established through personal quarrels, usually focused on who is the bigger Serbian patriot – or traitor. These populist politics may have worked 20 years ago, but both blocs are increasingly struggling to attract voters. This situation, as well as a worsening economic and social situation, has created new tensions within and between parties and blocs. The first “victim” of this situation was the SDS, which went through a leadership change following its defeat in the 2016 local elections. However, problems and divisions within that party persisted as some, mostly younger, party officials debated further modernization of the party while a group of older politicians pushed for a further hardening of SDS policies as they believed that the SDS’s true position should be on the far right of the spectrum. This clash may come to the fore in the final phase of the SDS’s internal reform, which started in recent months and will be concluded by new internal party elections on May 28. All the other RS parties are waiting to see the outcome of this internal struggle, which will determine the future of the RS political scene one way or the other. Another crucial spat is between the SNSD and DNS whose representatives have clashed in Banja Luka and several other cities. The main cause of this discord, however, is the dispute over the sale of Mines Iron Ore [MIO] “Ljubija” Prijedor. The RS government is determined to sell Ljubija to Israeli Investment Group – an unknown offshore company with little or no experience in digging ore, thereby rejecting an offer from ArcelorMittal – a global iron ore-producing giant, which has been exploiting ore from a nearby mine in Omarska since 2004 and also made an offer. Sources close to the RS government say Israeli investors offered to invest some 47 million euros into Ljubija mines in the next three years while the ArcelorMittal offer was “only” some 32 million euros. The fact that Arie Livne, the RS special representative in Israel and Dodik’s personal friend brought this group to the RS and lobbied for them, made its offer even more attractive. However, this business deal was halted for more than a year by DNS leader, Marko Pavic, who was a key actor in bringing ArcelorMittal to Prijedor, and who has threatened to withdraw from the ruling coalition if the Ljubija mine is sold to Israelis. The decision to sell ended up on the agenda of the RS assembly and the DNS has confirmed it will vote against the sale to the Israeli company. The opposition is trying to use these cracks within the ruling coalition and is supporting the DNS on this issue. Besides saying they would also vote against the sales of Ljubija to Israelis, the opposition bloc has sent an invitation to the DNS to join them in the initiative to oust the government.


DNS kingmaker ponders different offers

Both the SDS and PDP officials have publicly said they are ready to cooperate with the DNS.

“We have no problem working with the DNS and other parties, and with those who are willing to reform and change leaders who have brought us to such a poor conditions,” Borenovic said on May 7. SDS vice-president Mirko Sarovic sent a similar message. “In the future … I see a real partnership between the Alliance for Change and the DNS. It seems natural,” Sarovic said in an interview for the daily “Nezavisne Novine” on May 6. If the DNS accepts the offer to join the SDS, PDP and NDP in the Alliance for Change, that would almost certainly mean the end of a decade-long rule of Dodik and his SNSD, since the SNSD would no longer have a majority in the assembly without the DNS. Political analyst Tanja Topic says that it is logical for the opposition to try to win over the DNS. However, she added, “Regardless of the obvious turbulence between SNSD and DNS, I think their common interest is still stronger than current disagreements”. At the beginning of May, Pavic said the ruling coalition was still stable, yet at the same time DNS officials held meetings with opposition leaders, especially from the PDP and NDP. These meetings have renewed the debate about another option, the creation of a so-called “third political bloc” around the PDP, DNS and NDP. That bloc would include neither the SDS nor the SNSD, but would potentially cooperate with one of those parties in establishing a new RS government that should – in theory – be less populist and corrupt than previous SDS or SNSD governments. The vice president of the NDP Zdravko Krsmanovic confirmed to BIRN that they and PDP were working towards establishing a “third bloc” positioned in the political centre, between the SNSD and SDS. “I am not sure that there is enough courage within the PDP and NDP to go with this – to split from the SDS and go alone as a third option, not even with the support from the DNS. Yes, they invited the DNS but the question is what they can offer them,” says political analyst Srdjan Puhalo. One way or the other, the DNS is in an enviable position, Puhalo says. Although the DNS has been in power since 2006, it does not hold many crucial, visible positions, so it bears little responsibility for the worsened image of the government. “It is a big question whether the SNSD will have an another partner as strong as the DNS. So if Dodik wants to keep Pavic, he must be flexible,” Puhalo said.


‘Grand Coalition’ looks unlikely but is not impossible

The SNSD is increasingly frustrated with the DNS’s usual manoeuvres whereby before elections they distance themselves from the ruling coalition, thus keeping their popularity and steadily increasing their price in coalition negotiations after the elections. Some SNSD officials told BIRN they are pondering ending cooperation with the DNS and opening discussions with the SDS on a so-called “grand coalition” – another idea which was also discussed on and off since before the last 2014 general elections. Krsmanovic also told BIRN that he cannot rule out Dodik offering the SDS an alliance, or some other kind of cooperation. BIRN sources from both parties confirmed that some talks about this option have been held, but ended without concrete results. While no one was sure whether these conversations will continue, some sources said both parties were waiting for the outcome of the SDS party elections. Mladen Ivanic, a former PDP leader and the Serbian member of the Bosnian Presidency – who in the past was seen as a potential running mate with Dodik – said he did not believe a so-called grand coalition is possible. “I don’t see how the RS would benefit from it. I don’t see what would be the point of it after the SDS has spent so many years in opposition,” Ivanic said at the end of April. Analysts agree that the “grand coalition” is the less likely scenario, at least until after the next general elections, scheduled for October 2018. “That would be a shock, an earthquake. It would also be very difficult … for the SDS to explain to its voters a coalition with the SNSD. The only justification would be if such a coalition would save the RS from the potential meteor strike,” Puhalo said. But Tanja Topic said that after the 2018 election anything might become possible, and the outcome will mostly depend on the election result. “The political party whose candidate wins the elections for the RS presidency will have a great advantage,” Topic said. In that race, for now, the ruling SNSD is not doing well. Dodik cannot run for the RS presidency for the third consecutive mandate, while his party lacks a good candidate who can challenge potential opposition candidates such as Mladen Ivanic or Vukota Govedarica. However, most experts also agree that an overhaul of the RS political scene could happen even sooner – especially if the sale of Ljubija to Israelis proceeds, or if the far-right wing of the SDS takes over after party elections at the end of May.


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