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Belgrade Media Report 05 July

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• Brnabic: Serbia firmly on path towards EU (Beta/Politika/RTS/BBC)
• Zakharova: We don’t want Serbia to choose between us and EU (Beta)
• Drecun: Last attempt to process KLA crimes (N1)
• EU progress of countries of the region (Novosti)
• Kurti: Serbia wants Bosniazation of Kosovo (Danas)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik: abolish marking of 1 March and 25 November (Srna)
• Dodik announces SNSD and HDZ B&H will decide on their partners in state authorities after 2018 elections (TV1)
• Delegation of European Council on Foreign Relations visit Banja Luka (TV1/N1)
• B&H Constitutional Court to discuss unconstitutional provisions of Election Law (TV1)
• Moore: HNS’ proposal of Election Law does not correspond to implementation of ‘Sejdic-Finci’ and ‘Zornic’ rulings (Oslobodjenje)
• No one has been held responsible yet for attack on Vucic in Potocari on July 11, 2015 (Nezavisne)
• European Commission expects Croatia, Slovenia to implement arbitration award (Hina)
• New rules coming to Croatian borders for non-EU nationals (Jutarnji list)
• Political public opinion in Montenegro, June 2017 (RTCG/CDM)
• Macedonia’s government adopts urgent reform priorities draft plan (MIA)
• Hoyt Yee: The USA does not support any changes to the borders in the Balkans (Meta)
• SP starts hearing tour in Albania (ADN)


• Erdogan’s Battles With West Threaten Balkan Stability (BIRN)
• Turkey rapporteur: ‘We are sending a very bad signal to the Balkans’ (EurActiv)

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Brnabic: Serbia firmly on path towards EU (Beta/Politika/RTS/BBC)


Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated yesterday that Serbia stands firmly and strategically on the path towards the EU, but that it also has close relations with the Russian Federation and noted that Brussels should have understanding for that. In an interview to BBC, Brnabic underlined that Serbia took that direction already a few years ago, when we opened the first chapters in accession negotiations. She recalled that ten negotiation chapters have been opened so far, while in the meantime two have been closed. In the future, Belgrade will strive towards a faster accession into the EU, Brnabic stated, but also added that our relations with Russia are close and deeply rooted because the two peoples are linked by religious ties and tradition. She said that in that sense Serbia is trying to maintain balance in these challenging times, and it believes that the EU, as Serbia’s partner, should have understanding for Belgrade’s relations with Moscow, which is the friend of Serbia.


Zakharova: We don’t want Serbia to choose between us and EU (Beta)


The choice between the EU and Russia is a sovereign right of Serbia, but Moscow does not want Belgrade to face such a choice, says Maria Zakharova. This was the response of the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked to comment on Serbian Ana Brnabic’s statement about picking the EU if forced to choose. “It is a sovereign right of Serbia, but we sincerely wish that no one puts either Ana, or anyone before the ‘either-or’ choice. It is optimal to be with both. It is helpful and safe from the point of view of one’s own interests,” Zakharova told Beta. She added that the modern world and various countries have gone through many similar temptations. “And the conclusion is the same: in favor of harmonizing processes, rather than divisions,” Zakharova said.


Drecun: Last attempt to process KLA crimes (N1)


The Chairman of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has stated that the Special Court for KLA crimes is the last chance to process crimes committed by this organization’s members. He told N1 that the working group that was established by the parliamentary Committee, had collected all data possessed by Serbian authorized services in regard to KLA crimes in Kosovo and that they will make them available to the Special Prosecution in Kosovo. “We primarily demand the punishment of those responsible for war crimes regardless of nationality. One must not discriminate victims and the special prosecution is the last attempt of the international community to process these crimes in Kosovo,” said Drecun. He thinks there will be no political pressure on the work of this prosecution and that one large indictment will be issued at the beginning, which will include key KLA commanders. However, according to him, the problem will arise if the important positions in the Kosovo government will be occupied by precisely those who might find themselves on this indictment. “The development that might occur in the political life in Kosovo and Metohija is for the coalition around Hashim Tachi and Ramush Haradinaj to be assigned to the key positions, and then the special prosecution would find itself in a specific situation –if it issues this large indictment, it could have government members on it, which can lead to destabilization,” says Drecun.

Speaking about the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Drecun says this dialogue is essentially important for the people in Kosovo and Metohija, for Serbia, but also for stability in the region and that the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini sent an important message at the Brussels meeting on Monday. “This message passed by quite unnoticed in the public, and this is that, even though the government has not yet been formed in Kosovo and that it is unknown who will be at the helm of the negotiating group, the dialogue needs to resume as soon as possible, that it cannot be slowed down and that the Community of Serb Municipalities needs to be formed,” said Drecun.


EU progress of countries of the region (Novosti)



  • June 1997 – candidate status
  • June 1998 – launch of negotiations
  • June 2001 – negotiations end
  • May 2004 – Slovenia became EU member
  • Croatia
  • June 2004 – candidate status
  • October 2005 – launch of negotiations
  • June 2006 – first chapter opened
  • June 2013 – Croatia became EU member
  • Montenegro
  • December 2010 – candidate status
  • June 2012 – launch of negotiations
  • December 2012 – first chapter opened
  • 28 chapters opened in five years
  • Serbia
  • March 2012 – candidate status
  • January 2014 – launch of negotiations
  • December 2015 – opening of first two out of 35 chapters
  • Ten chapters opened in three yearsKurti: Serbia wants Bosniazation of Kosovo (Danas, by Marija Stojanovic)Following the debacle of his PDK party at these elections, Tachi is trying to compensate lack of civil legitimacy “from below” with international legitimacy “from above”, the founder of the Self-Determination Movement and candidate for the Kosovo prime minister Albin Kurti told Danas in an interview, in comment to Monday’s informal meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Tachi in Brussels with the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. Kurti claims that “who knows, perhaps on the margins of this meeting with Vucic in Brussels, both represent not so much Kosovo and Serbia, but each his own brother, who have become rich people of the Balkan mafia, and could make some new cooperation”.“Unfortunately, the Serb List is an extended hand of the Serbian authorities. It advocates much more the interests of official Belgrade, i.e. personal power of Vucic, than of the Serbs in Kosovo. They operate as personnel of the Belgrade embassy in Kosovo, and not as politicians who represent, in accordance with their beliefs, the Serbs in the Kosovo institutions. The Serb List also deforms the will of Serb citizens in Kosovo and exerts immense pressure on them. The Serbs in Kosovo should represent themselves. They have a right to a dignified life in a joint Republic of Kosovo. Open and democratic dialogue with them will be our priority. In that context, we will also examine their representation in the government as guaranteed by our Constitution and our laws. When a Serb from Ranilug studies in Gnjilane and an Albanian from Vucitrn works in Zvecan, when people of different nationalities work in a united police, municipality or court in Kosovska Mitrovica, then this is progress, development and guarantee of peace, from which the Kosovo Serbs have interest, and not hegemonic and mono-ethnic projects, such as the Community of Serb Municipalities of official Belgrade in Kosovo, which is a guarantor of future destabilization of Kosovo and the region by Serbia, from which the Kosovo Serbs do not have interest.”“The Community of Serb Municipalities with a Serb majority includes ten municipalities where those who are not Serbs (one-fourth of the population there) would become second-grade citizens. Article 9 of this agreement states that the Community will promote only interests of the Serb community. It will be a legal entity of special character, it will have its own small assembly with 30 members, an executive council with seven members, a president and deputy president, flag and symbols, its administration, four municipalities in the north as its core, full jurisdictions for the economy, social services, urban and rural planning…In April 1991, the Community of 14 Serb municipalities in B&H was created, and already in January and February next year it seceded and adopted a special constitution. Serbia obviously wants Bosniazation of Kosovo. The dialogue that had been conducted with Serbia thus far didn’t set any conditions to Serbia, while they discussed internal Kosovo issues. Following this, the outcome couldn’t have been just. Why then didn’t they discuss also Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja? We are not opposed to dialogue in principle, but we are opposed to dialogue without principle, which is turning Kosovo into a topic and Serbia into the one determining the agenda of this topic. Serbia owes a lot to Kosovo and it needs to fulfill a series of conditions. In this situation, without confirmed political subjectivity and state sovereignty, by way of this asymmetrical dialogue, Serbia will become worse and the situation in Kosovo more difficult. This dialogue creates the impression of normalization of relations, but in fact only deepens antagonisms, segregation and ethnic divisions. We intend to first form an investigative parliamentary commission that will examine the basis, procedure, processes, framework on which the Brussels agreements are based, whose implementation has failed anyway in most cases.”“I think that we have the need, as the government of the Republic of Kosovo, to primarily open the dialogue with Brussels on the dialogue with other Balkan countries, including Serbia here, thus a ‘dialogue on a dialogue’, and dialogue between Kosovo and the EU on the dialogue of Kosovo with neighboring Serbia. Agreements in Brussels were signed in August 2015, when the Kosovo Assembly was on vacation. The process was not transparent and the government didn’t think it had to respond to the Assembly. Kosovo is a parliamentary republic and the past governments wanted authority without a republic. We need a national consensus regarding the dialogue with Serbia.”“It is interesting that this is stated today by the then or present associates of those who had created their political carrier with the ideas on the borders Karlobag-Ogulin-Karlovac-Virovitica. Those who were drafted on the hills of seized Sarajevo, who even after the genocide in Srebrenica placed a board of Ratko Mladic at the place of late Zoran Djindjic or as ministers of information held press conferences in front of Grand Hotel in Pristina where Arkan’s para-soldiers were located. Imagine, they are today presenting themselves before the international community as ‘Europeans’ who are ‘fighting against Croatian, Bosniak or Albanian nationalism’. Yet, inside Serbia they are still imitating Milosevic and Seselj, his Greater Serbia ideas and authoritative regime. Either way, they will harm most the citizens of the Republic of Serbia. Unification of Kosovo and Albania is not an issue of dreams. We think that it is not just that we do not have this right, i.e. that Articles 1.1 and 1.3 of the Kosovo Constitution are in absurd collision. This issue will be resolved with the free and democratic will of the people, in a peaceful way, i.e. with legal and legitimate pronouncement of citizens of the sovereign Republic of Kosovo and Republic of Albania, which wouldn’t have consequences for other states of the region. But, we first need urgent measures for the normalization of the state of Kosovo. Two Balkan wars divided the Albanians, and we certainly would not start a third one for unification. Everything only peacefully, democratically and constitutionally. Any kind of constitutional amendments only constitutionally.”“Serbia is endangering these borders, not only in Kosovo or in Bosnia, but also broader. The breakup of the Soviet Union resulted in one large octopus. The Russian Federation is the head of this octopus, while the arms are Belorussia, Eastern Ukraine, Georgia, Transnistria, Kirgizstan, Armenia, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. The breakup of Yugoslavia resulted in a small octopus, or, better said, one ‘quadripod’. In this case, the head of the ‘quadripod’ is Serbia, and Brussels wants to separate the ‘quadripod’ from the octopus. But the ‘quadripod’ insists in its attempts by telling Brussels that ‘if you want me to distance myself from my octopus mother, then help me to strengthen my arms in the Balkans’. In Bosnia, Serbia has Republika Srpska, in Montenegro it has strong neo-conservative opposition structures, in Kosovo it has control over the northern part and enclaves, to a certain extent dictated by Serbian state structures, while in Macedonia influence is exerted through the Serbian Orthodox Church and VMRO-DPMNE leaders. What Serbia hasn’t managed to achieve faster during the war, it now wants to achieve slowly in peace. Therefore, there is a ‘double imitation’, on the one side Vucic is imitating Milosevic, his goals and tactics, scaring the West with Seselj, and on the other side there is an imitation of Putin in the sense of satellite quasi-states in neighboring countries. This double imitation will not lead to lasting peace and stability in the Balkans. On the contrary. As the new government of the Republic of Kosovo, we will strengthen the state of Kosovo and cooperation with international factors, with the EU, NATO and the US, to whom we are grateful for their support and help given to us. The French and German republicanism as an organization of a political system, together with a social state of continental Europe are the model we aspire to.”“The so-called ‘normalization of relations’ is never clearly and precisely defined. Not only do Albanian, Serbian and international politicians and various diplomats have different views of normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, but past normalization of relations unfolded to the detriment of normalization of the state of Kosovo. Kosovo and Serbia are still not normal states. Therefore, instead of rushing in the direction of mutual dialogue, we need a period for normalization of Kosovo, so we can make the first steps in the direction of development and real statehood, employment and justice. Beginning of normalization of Kosovo will also be good for Serbia because it will start to free itself from its appetites towards Kosovo. Also, this normalization will not only quickly transfer to normalization of relations with Serbia, but it will also create conditions for the progress of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue at a new level – good neighborly relations, based on European practice. This should be the intention, as an official duty of Mr. Johannes Hahn. This means we need to transfer from undefined normalization of relations to good neighborly relations and EU integration.”“Hana Arent would say that an act is replaced with behavior and speech with gestures. I didn’t follow his speech, but from what I read afterwards, it seems it was a continuation of the story in first person of a ‘moderate politician’ that is reiterating that his authority is a factor of stability in the Balkans, for a democratic society, neutral on the geopolitical scene between Russia and the West. Everything opposite to the real state-of-affairs in Serbia.”“As regards demarcation, here at issue is not a demarcation or border marking, but the border has been changed. First the border is drawn on a map, delimitation is done, and then this is determined in nature. This procedure, in this case, was not respected at all. There should be a procedure of delimitation before demarcation. We should not blame Montenegro. The blame lies with the State commission on demarcation of borders, i.e. Mr. Murat Meha and those who then placed a stamp on such a document with their signatures in Vienna on 26 August 2015. Tachi and Hyseni. We don’t want deterioration of relations with Montenegro, on the contrary. We want to have good relations with Montenegro. As well as with the Serbs, but the authorities in Serbia are against us.” “I am still young in order to say ‘never’, but also too mature to expect the benefit of that. On the other side, there is not only one Belgrade. You have Belgrade on the water and the Belgrade of the underground, just as you have the Belgrade of streets and Belgrade under the bridge. Now one should primarily think about this other Belgrade, Belgrade as the opposition that almost disappeared. Serbia needs the opposition and this necessity is Belgrade’s duty.”
  • If you become the new prime minister of Kosovo, would you be prepared to visit Belgrade?
  • Your movement opposed the agreement on demarcation of the border with Montenegro. On the other side, the EU insists on this ratification as a precondition for Kosovo to receive the visa-free regime. How can this problem be resolved?
  • How do you assess the speech of the new Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the recent inauguration celebration?
  • What do you expect to be the final outcome of the normalization process of relations between Belgrade and Pristina?
  • The EU states, especially Germany, as well as EU officials, have recently stressed that “there will be no retailoring of borders in the Balkans”. How do you view such statements?
  • How do you assess the rhetoric of Serbian officials who said that your “dream about uniting Kosovo and Albania” will not come true?
  • You oppose the Brussels dialogue. In what way should this process unfold in the future?
  • Your movement harshly criticizes the Brussels agreement. In your opinion, what are the most problematic elements of this agreement?
  • What do you think about the Serb List? Is the Serb List a desirable partner if Self-Determination forms the ruling coalition?




Dodik: abolish marking of 1 March and 25 November (Srna)


Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik deems that true political chaos will emerge if Constitutional Court of B&H enacts some other essential decision, except of abolishing marking of 1 March and 25 November. Addressing the media in Banja Luka, Dodik said that this regards the same issues which caused judges to enact decision on marking of 9 January as RS Day, “by which they stated that this endangers some others and it is known fact that March 1st is not the day that Serbs are marking, thus they are endangered”.  B&H CC’s decision that would confirm marking of 1 March, would prove that “this country has no sense and that after such possible decision, we have nothing to do in B&H”. He further added that he expected that as soon as the majority coalition in RS Assembly filed the motion to B&H CC, marking of 1 March and 25 November would be abolished. “There is nothing else to do, when they dared to do that to us for 9 January,” said Dodik. Article reads that this motion will be discussed by B&H CC on Thursday and reminded that motion was filed part 6 December.


Dodik announces SNSD and HDZ B&H will decide on their partners in state authorities after 2018 elections (TV1)


SNSD leader Milorad Dodik stated that SNSD and HDZ B&H will decide who will be their partners in state authorities after 2018 elections. Dodik said that he already spoke about that with HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic. Chairman of SDA Main Board Halid Genjac stated that the decision on Bosniak partners in state authorities will be made by voters from ranks of Bosniaks. Genjac said that Covic should say if he takes part in Dodik’s plan or not. He said he deems that the message by SNSD and HDZ B&H causes political damage to participants of such agreement. There was no response from HDZ B&H. Deputy Speaker of B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Mladen Bosic (SDS) said he knows that Dodik desires such scenario, but added that he did not hear Covic saying that he already formed post-election coalition with Dodik. Bosic said he deems that it was a wish of Covic, because he wanted to solve his political goals over Dodik. Former HDZ 1990 leader Martin Raguz said that authorities will be elected by voters. He said that political parties should present their program goals before 2018 elections and say who they are ready to cooperate on these goals with and take responsibility for prosperity of B&H. He stressed that existing way of formation of parliamentary majority leads to agony, therefore formation of authorities with only one goal of distribution of positions should be avoided. SDA also reacted and issued a press statement in which they said that this is nothing new because leaders of SNSD and HDZ B&H have been searching for a new Bosniak partner who would please their requests for a while now. “We are aware of the fact that Dodik and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic view SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic, who has been bringing divisions to Bosniaks for two decades already, as a suitable partner. However, it is obvious that Dodik has made an error of judgment because the attempt to install Radoncic as the latest version of Sejdo Bajramovic (Politician from Kosovo whose name is commonly used as a synonym for politicians loyal to regime of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic) will not pass”, the press statement of SDA concluded.


Delegation of European Council on Foreign Relations visit Banja Luka (TV1/N1)


Delegation of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) led by Chair Carl Bildt visited Banja Luka on Tuesday. The delegation met with Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik and RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic. Dodik underlined that the RS is committed to the EU path, but added that functional coordination mechanism must be established. Dodik stressed that he expects the Coordination Mechanism to start functioning, noting that this would accelerate activities related to filing out the European Commission’s (EC) Questionnaire.

Following his meeting with Dodik, Bildt said that he and Dodik discussed the European path of B&H and ways in which B&H can fulfill the conditions on that path. Asked to comment on the nationalism and security in B&H, Bildt said that B&H is no less safe than France, the UK or some other country. On the other hand, Bildt said that he did notice that nationalist rhetoric strengthens in B&H, especially during election years, adding that he hopes this will not be the case next year, when general elections are due to take place. “This is always a problem in the Balkans, especially when elections are approaching. I noticed that party leaders are using nationalist rhetoric in an attempt to win the elections,” Bildt said, noting that almost all party leaders in B&H are doing that. “I hope focus of next year’s elections will be economic and social topics and not topics related to the past,” Bildt underlined.


B&H Constitutional Court to discuss unconstitutional provisions of Election Law (TV1)


B&H Constitutional Court will hold a session on July 6, on which occasion it will make a decision on future of elections in B&H. Since disputed provisions of B&H Election Law were not harmonized with B&H Constitution, they could be put out of effect. SDA Vice President Sefik Dzaferovic said that it is better to keep the provisions in effect, as well as the commitment for finding a solution. “If the provision is erased, those who have various demands will have a tool,” he said. HSS leader Mario Karamatic said that it would be a dangerous precedent in case the Court fails to erase the provisions and added that they would enter a lawlessness zone. State MP Damir Arnaut (SBB B&H) said that it would not be the first time that the Court puts some order out of effect, which was previously declared unconstitutional. Parties within Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) hope that after the Court session, everyone will have to accept the changes of the Election Law and solutions proposed by HDZ B&H. However, Dzaferovic said that the proposal is unacceptable. He said the solution should be in line with the Federation of B&H Constitution, which reads that at least one delegate from ranks of each people should be elected in Federation of B&H House of Peoples, if such delegate exists. “We have to copy that provision from the Federation of B&H Constitution,” he said. On the other hand, Karamatic said he expects that the Court will erase unconstitutional provisions and reject the vital national interest that was invoked by Bosniaks on the changes of the Election Law, to continue with the procedure and get legal solutions. Dzaferovic explained that these solutions have to be constitutional and added that even if the disputed provisions were erased, there is a mechanism for implementation of election results. He stressed that in case of lack of these provisions, the Central Election Commission (CEC) will be obliged to interpret the Election Law, the decision of the Constitutional Court and the Federation of B&H Constitution and find appropriate solutions.


Moore: HNS’ proposal of Election Law does not correspond to implementation of ‘Sejdic-Finci’ and ‘Zornic’ rulings (Oslobodjenje)


Head of the OSCE Mission to B&H Jonathan Moore commented the initiatives for formation of the third entity and stated, that the international community has been saying for years that the third entity is out of the question. He further noted that ‘Sejdic-Finci’ ruling must be implemented, which means changes to the Constitution. Moore recalled that there are various proposals of changes to the Election Law on table and that solutions must be sought for, but that the third entity is not an option. Asked if larger number of constituencies, which some political parties interpret as legalization of the third entity, is acceptable for the international community, Moore replied that other parties except HDZ should give their proposals of changes. “We are partners to the task force which discusses the Election Law. There are many possibilities for solving that problem”, he added. Asked if the international community has mechanisms to prevent possible blockade of implementation of the upcoming elections, he first said that there is still plenty of time to change the Election Law and that compromise is possible. “If someone thinks that postponement of elections is an option, that is out of question. I do not want to speculate what is really going to happen”, he concluded. Responding to the author’s remark that he avoided to give answer, Moore said that he is not sure if the situation from 2010 when the international community played active role in formation of authorities will happen again, and he reiterated that it is better to change the election legislation as soon as possible. Moore agreed with the author that, besides ‘Sejdic-Finci’ ruling, it is also necessary to implement other ruling such as the one in ‘Zornic’ case. He emphasized that all citizens on the whole territory of B&H must be able to run for post of B&H Presidency members and other posts as well. Answering to the author’s remark that it seems as if everyone now talks only about solving of the Croat issue, he said that some do speak like that. “I am not an expert for the constitutional matters, but I think that the Croat People’s Assembly’s proposal of the Election Law does not correspond to implementation of ‘Sejdic-Finci’ and ‘Zornic’ rulings. B&H cannot have only Serb, Croat and Bosniak member in the Presidency of B&H”, he added


No one has been held responsible yet for attack on Vucic in Potocari on July 11, 2015 (Nezavisne)


No one has been held responsible yet for the attack on then Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Potocari on July 11, 2015. According to daily, Deputy Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Commission for Defense and Security of B&H Borislav Bojic (SDS) is of the opinion that institutions of B&H have failed to do their job in this case. Bojic said on Tuesday that one has to seriously deal with the issue of state-level institutions’ efficiency; furthermore, he added that the Parliamentary Assembly of B&H should have also done more in this case, through the parliamentary supervision. “For as long as there is no political will, and political will is obviously lacking, it will be a problem”, Bojic said, adding that persons responsible for attack on Vucic have never been discovered, let alone penalized. Member of the Commission Mario Karamatic (HSS) said that any child with Facebook profile could have identified five or six attackers on Vucic on this social network. “However, our Ministry of Security and our between 10 and 15 police agencies have failed to find a single one. That speaks more about them”, Karamatic said. SBB B&H’s representative in the House of Representatives of the Parliament of B&H Damir Arnaut said that security agencies and competent ministries should explain how it is possible that investigation into the attack on Vucic has not been completed yet. Deputy Minister of Security of B&H Mijo Kresic said that he expects the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H and law enforcement agencies in B&H to finally close the case, and either file charges against persons responsible for the attack, or explain why they have failed to do so.


European Commission expects Croatia, Slovenia to implement arbitration award (Hina)


The European Commission expects Croatia and Slovenia to implement the border arbitration ruling, First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said in Strasbourg on Tuesday. In response to the European Commission’s statement calling on both Croatia and Slovenia to implement the recent border arbitration ruling, Croatia’s Foreign and European Affairs Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday that the decision of the Arbitration Tribunal was not binding for Croatia, neither would Zagreb implement it, however, Croatia “remains open to dialogue with Slovenia to the aim of settling the border issue.” The Croatian members of the European Parliament are agreed that the European Commission’s support for the arbitration ruling on the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia was expected, but emphasize that it is not binding on Croatia.


New rules coming to Croatian borders for non-EU nationals (Jutarnji list)


Instead of stamping passports, info on entry and exit from the EU will be more strictly monitored. Third-country nationals from outside the EU who cross the external border of the European Union or the Schengen Area, which includes the citizens of Croatian neighbors Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro on their entry into Croatia, will soon no longer receive border stamps in passports. Rather, data on their entry and exit dates will be electronically stored, reports Jutarnji list. The political agreement on the new measures has been reached by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, and now they only need to discuss technical details before the decision on the Entry/Exit System (EES) is adopted and implemented. The collected data will be stored in a database for three years, and for five years in exceptional cases. It will help the police and other security services to detect, prevent or investigate perpetrators of serious criminal or terrorist offences coming from outside of the European Union. The new system of entry and exit controls will provide for an easier detection of third-country nationals who enter the Schengen Area but do not leave it within the period during which they were allowed to stay (often 90 days). Also, the new system should speed up traffic at border crossings because passports of third-country nationals outside of the EU are already systematically scanned and checked in databases. The difference is the introduction of another database which will be used to compare the scanned data, while passport stamping will become history. Another new feature which is being discussed within the EU institutions and which is expected to be adopted by the end of the year is the ETIAS system, which will enable the authorities to know who is travelling to the European Union even before they arrive there. Once the ETIAS system is activated, all third-country nationals who are not required to have an EU visa will have to register in advance, pay five euros, and get a permit without which they will not be able to enter the EU. If the routine check shows they are suspicious or dangerous, they will not get the permission. This measure will also apply to nationals of Croatian neighbors, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, who wish to cross the Croatian border.


Political public opinion in Montenegro, June 2017 (RTCG/CDM)


Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has the largest support of citizens (39 percent), followed by Aleksa Becic’s Democratic Montenegro, supported by 19.9 percent of Montenegrin citizens, according to a survey by the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM).

The best-rated politician is President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic with average grade 2.75. He is followed by Aleksa Becic (2.72), Milo Djukanovic (2.48) and Dritan Abazovic (2.24).The third party in rating is the Democratic Front (DF), which according to CEDEM research is supported by 11.6 percent of citizens./Regarding the parties rating, MIodrag Lekic’s Demos has support of 5.9 percent of the respondents, while the Socialist People’s Party (SNP) is supported by 4.9 percent of the respondents. The Civic Movement URA is supported by four percent of respondents, while Ranko Krivokapic’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) is supported by 3.9 percent of respondents. Ivan Brajovic’s Social democrats are supported by 3.2 percent of the citizens surveyed, while the Bosniak party (BS) is supported by 3.1 percent of respondents. When it comes to the boycott of parliament, CEDEM reported that 24% of respondents believe that the opposition will return to the Parliament of Montenegro, while 23% believe it will not. At the same time, 50% of respondents have no opinion on this issue. Concerning NATO, 38.7 respondents support membership in the Alliance, 39.8% are against it, while 21.5% have no opinion. More than 56 percent of respondents believe that Montenegro should be a member of the European Union (EU), while 23.1 believe the opposite. About 27% of respondents say that in foreign policy Montenegro should rely on the EU, about 20% believe we should rely on Russia and about 15% to the USA. Besic said that 38.9% of respondents believe that Montenegro has taken wrong course, whereas 25.4% of them think it’s a right course.


Macedonia’s government adopts urgent reform priorities draft plan (MIA)


At a regular session Tuesday Macedonia’s government adopted a draft plan for implementing the urgent reform priorities, dubbed 3-6-9 (realization time schedule in months), a vital document for the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration process and better living standard of citizens. The government also adopted a report on preparations of Macedonia’s delegation, led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, for the Western Balkans Summit, scheduled to take place in Trieste on 12 July.


Hoyt Yee: The USA does not support any changes to the borders in the Balkans (Meta)


The USA does not support any changes to the borders in the Balkans, said Hoyt Brian Yee, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. “The borders of the Balkan countries are clearly defined, internationally recognized and it is not a controversial issue. Changing the borders in the Balkans will not improve or contribute to the security and stability of the region”, Yee told the Greek daily newspaper “Kathimerini”. He urged politicians in the region to refrain from divisive rhetoric and to pursue political and economic reforms, necessary for Euro-Atlantic integration.


SP starts hearing tour in Albania (ADN)


The twelve Socialist Party (SP) leaders in regions have started their hearing tour, a part of the platform declared by PM Rama with the slogan “The Albania We Want”, after the victory of June 25. This will be an opportunity to collect information about the main problems in each region, and then to do a full analysis for the three main priorities, which will become part of the five working groups in August. These groups will be led by Ruçi, Peleshi, Ekonomi, Ahmetaj, and Xhafaj. The leader of Kukes region, Mimi Kodheli, thanked the residents of Kukes, Hasi, and Tropoja, for voting for the SP lawmakers to represent them in the next parliament.  “I want to thank the SP, the chairmanship of the SP and Edi Rama personally for all the trust they gave me. I want to thank all the winning team of socialists. Thank you for giving me so much trust, because you know now that only the SP can make the Albania we want and the state we want,” Mimi Kodheli said.  Even the leader of the Elbasan region, Taulant Balla, started his tour of dialogue with citizens by thanking voters for their trust and promising the revitalization of the state administration. “All the structures of the SP will do a deep analysis of the results of the last parliamentary elections, the expectations and the factors. On June 25, we won the trust of Albanians and we will not disappoint them. We will turn the pie-pan upside down. There is no more pie-pan. The administration will be formed with people who are hired based on merit, based on performance, and when we talk about merit, that encapsulates all,” Taulant Balla said.  Further on, Balla said that now that the campaign is over, the real work of co-governance with citizens will start. “We are here to celebrate something important for Albania, because on June 25, it was not the SP that won, but co-governance with citizens. We will do all the duties that people will give us in all the meetings. We started co-governance with people here in Peqin, listening to their problems,” Balla said. This hearing tour of socialists will go on for the next four weeks. All the candidates who were part of the June 25 race will be part of it, those who won and those who did not win. They will go to every village, town and city to gather information about problems, and suggestions, and then come up with a comprehensive report in August, which will then become part of the agenda of the five working groups. At the end of August, the report will be presented before the National Assembly of the Socialist Party.




Erdogan’s Battles With West Threaten Balkan Stability (BIRN Team, 5 July 2017)


Turkey’s worsening relations with its old allies including Germany, the EU and the US will have an impact on the Balkan region, too, experts say.

Turkish relations with Germany reached a new low recently, posing new troubles for the EU and for the Balkans as well, experts warn. Last week, the Bundestag backed the German government’s plan to move some 260 German soldiers based at Incirlik, Turkey, to an air base in Jordan. The decision came after Turkey blocked German lawmakers from visiting German servicemen stationed at the Incirlik base, which Germany has used to carry out reconnaissance flights as a part of the international operation against Islamic State. Turkey blocked the German delegation’s visit to Incirlik after Germany prevented Turkish ministers from giving speeches in several German cities in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the presidential elections last April. Then, earlier last week, German media reported that the German Foreign Ministry had warned Turkey that bodyguards for Erdogan who had been involved in scuffles in Washington last month would not be allowed to accompany Erdogan to the upcoming G20 summit on July 7-8 in Hamburg. The ban was seen as humiliating to Erdogan. Experts say worsening relations between Germany and Turkey could lead to a new shift in Turkish foreign policy, away from the EU, US and NATO and towards Russia. This could have a major knock-on impact on the EU and the Balkans, which is affected and by its own internal ethnic, political, economic and social problems, and where Turkish influence is already strong particularly on Muslim leaders and societies. “Turkey’s risky foreign policy has a capacity to affect the EU, NATO and the future of the greater region including the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus, since Turkey is at the centre of many crises in geo-strategic terms,” a Turkish expert on foreign policy told BIRN under condition of anonymity.


Kurdish question overshadows US relations:

Turkey and the US have been strategic allies for decades, and Turkey has hosted several US and NATO bases that are crucial for NATO’s southern flank, for US interests in the Middle East and for the international coalition against ISIS. However, the two powers have disagreed recently, especially over Syria and Iraq – mainly over US support for Kurdish militants fighting ISIS.

Turkey claims the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, PYD, which is fighting ISIS and now controls almost all of northern Syria, is the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, which Turkey, the US and the EU deem a terrorist organization – and which has been fighting the Turkish government for years in the quest for greater Kurdish autonomy. However, despite Turkish claims that the PYD has links with the PKK, the US has supported and armed the PYD with heavy weaponry. Recently, PYD forces started military operations against Raqqa, ISIS’s stronghold in northern Syria. An expert on Turkish foreign policy told BIRN that Erdogan had high hopes that Donald Trump’s administration would change this policy, but they seem to have miscalculated. The expert said Erdogan’s hostile intentions against both the PYD and the PKK would not change, and that Erdogan might now deliver on his warnings in April that Turkey might open a new front against Kurds in Syria, which would further complicate the situation in Syria and Turkey’s relations with its allies. “We warned the US and its President. We will never ever allow a Kurdish state in northern Syria. If the US continues to support Kurdish militants the US will be remembered as a state that finances terrorism,” Erdogan said on June 23 in Sanliurfa. The expert warned that in the last resort, Ankara could even close down the Incirlik Base entirely, and added: “Turkey and the US as two allies must reset the trust … which was lost a long time ago.”


Relations with EU also plummeting:

Ties with Europe are even more strained. Turkey signed an association agreement with the then-European Community in 1963, and submitted a membership application in 1987. Talks about membership of the European Union began in 2005, but the negotiations have been repeatedly suspended over the years due to various obstacles. In recent years, Turkey-EU relations were shaken because of Europe’s growing concern over Erdogan’s authoritarian rule and over Turkey’s worsening violations of human rights and freedoms, as well as Erdogan’s anti-EU language. After Erdogan won his controversial referendum in April on extending his presidential powers, relations between Ankara and Brussels took another dive. This May, the EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that if Turkey reintroduced capital punishment – which Erdogan has threatened to do – EU-Turkey talks on accession would end. “As the proposed constitutional reform package [in Turkey] is not in line with EU membership criteria, the [EU] report calls for the formal suspension of the accession talks if the constitutional amendments are implemented,” the EU Parliament’s Rapporteur Kati Piri was quoted as saying. Oznur Akcalı, a Turkey-EU relations expert at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, told BIRN that Turkey-EU relations were “at a critical stage” following the Turkish referendum in which Turks narrowly backed a strong presidential system with almost no check and balances and Erdogan’s continued push towards reintroduction of the death penalty. “There would be even greater consequences if the relations continue in that way,” she added. Akcalı explained that the fate of these relations now depended on Turkey improving its respect for human rights and democratic values. However, since the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, Turkey has travelled in the opposite direction, and essentially remains under a state of emergency without any democratic checks and balances. “Reintroducing the death penalty is the EU’s red line and if Ankara reintroduces it, that would be a point of no return and naturally the EU would decide to suspend the relations with Turkey,” Oznur Akcalı told BIRN, adding that the official end of the Turkish-EU accession process would have consequences for both sides.


Threat to EU efforts in the Balkans:      

“If Turkey is taken out of EU, the Balkans will also be affected,” she added, explaining that while Turkey had in the past strongly supported the Balkans’ EU path, the end of Turkey’s EU accession process would have a negative impact on the Balkan states’ own EU accession, as well as on the security, political and economic status of the region. In the event of a total fallout with the EU, Turkey could start acting as a spoiler, rather than supporter, of EU efforts in the Balkans, which even without that potential complication face serious problems. This could especially affect countries with a significant Muslim population, where Turkish influence is strongest, a Turkish expert told BIRN under condition of anonymity. However, this expert also stressed that after last year’s departure of former Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – who was the main architect of Turkey’s successful “soft power” engagement in the Balkans – relations between Turkey and these countries had already changed. This was because Erdogan had stopped following Davutoglu’s foreign policy formula and had instead focused more on cultivating personal relations with individual Muslim leaders. “The Turkish government has little or no communications with other leaders, and it is not good for the future of relations,” he said and added that Erdogan’s increased political meddling in internal issues of certain Balkan countries had already created tension between Ankara, local Muslim communities and the governments in the region. The same expert claimed that Turkey could not become an alternative partner to the EU, however, as Turkey’s economic capacity is not comparable with that of the EU. Turkey is also a divided country, with its own internal problems and its leadership lacks a solid long-term vision for the region, and its own role in it. “Relations between Turkey and the Balkans can be easily harmed since these relations go through leaders and not through institutions,” the expert said, stressing that Erdogan’s continued support could spawn a number of old/new Balkan authoritarian leaders, which would have major negative short and long-term consequences.


Turkey fears fallout from Qatar crisis:

Besides its rocky relations with the US, EU and Balkan countries Turkey is also facing challenges in the Middle East. The recent diplomatic crisis among the Gulf countries – which started after Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region and of supporting Islamist terrorists – has troubled Erdogan since Qatar has strong ties with Turkey. Experts say it is no coincidence that the Gulf crisis started soon after Turkey and Qatar agreed to open a Turkish military base and deepen relations, while Turkish government sources told BIRN that they believed that the real target of the Arab countries was Turkey. “Erdogan is the most powerful [foreign force] in Qatar and the other countries, which do not want a strong Turkey in the Middle East, strike Turkey from Qatar. The real target is Turkey!” A pro-government columnist Bulent Erandac on June 6 said on Kanal A TV channel. The situation was made worse by the conflicting signals coming from the US, since while US foreign officials have urged dialogue and reconciliation, Trump has hinted that the move of the Arab countries was justified. “Trump gives confusing signals as always, and some senior names in Turkey think Turkey is the next after Qatar,” A Turkish political analyst on the Middle East told BIRN under condition of anonymity. The same analyst noted that the countries behind the sanctions had now announced their list of demands, which was almost impossible for Qatar to meet. The list includes the closure of the Turkish military base, which the expert said makes the real aim of the sanctions questionable. “If the real aim is funding radical [Islamist] organizations, why did the countries wait so long to announce their list of demands and then ask the impossible from Qatar? “I believe there is a greater agenda behind this decision, which is very political and includes other countries in the region – Turkey, too,” the analyst concluded.


‘Axis of the excluded’ with Russia:

While Turkey has severe problems with its old allies and while its surroundings are full of conflict, the world is wondering whether Turkey will move towards a more Russian-Eurasian axis. “Whenever Turkey has problems with its allies [especially since the 2000s] the country always moves closer to Russia, and Russia is always seen as an alternative,” Habibe Ozdal, a professor of international relations at Okan University in Istanbul, told BIRN. “For that reason, Russia-Turkey rapprochement is described as ‘the axis of the excluded’ by some experts,” she said and added: “When these two countries have problems with the West, they always cooperate and get closer.” But she also noted that Turkey and Russia also have several conflicting positions, which is preventing a more solid alliance. These issues include the Syrian crisis and the breakaway Armenian-populated Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Russia strongly supports the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad and since the beginning of the civil war in Syria has increased its military presence in Syria. Turkey, meanwhile, supports the anti-Assad Syrian rebels and recently finished a military campaign called Euphrates Shield in Northern Syria in order to strength the Syrian rebels’ position,  and stop PYD force from reaching Turkey’s borders. “Both Ankara and Moscow have made a huge effort to improve relations, especially on the economy, since the beginning of 2000s, but it is very hard to talk about them as two allies while looking at their foreign policy priorities and conflicting interests in several issues,” Ozdal said.


Turkey rapporteur: ‘We are sending a very bad signal to the Balkans’ (EurActiv, by Lucia Yar, 5 July 2017)


Turkey has lost interest in accession. Yet the EU continues to believe that it can use the process as leverage, Kati Piri told EURACTIV Slovakia.

Kati Piri is a Dutch Labour Party MEP (S&D) and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey. Piri spoke to EURACTIV.sk’s Senior Editor Lucia Yar.

President Erdoğan said the EU had presented Turkey with a new 12-month timetable for renewing relations. Yet, senior EU officials voiced caution, saying no formal deadlines were set. What is Erdoğan talking about?

I am not aware of a 12-month proposal. In spring 2018, the Commission will come up with a progress report. The Commission is expected to provide an assessment on how the constitutional package complies with the Copenhagen Criteria. Perhaps this is what they have called the “12-month window opportunity.”

Erdoğan was quoted saying he had put the issue of visa liberalisation on the agenda during meetings with the EU officials, and that Turkey and the EU would work together on it. How, from the European perspective, shall they work on this matter?

On the technical level, there are several remaining benchmarks, mainly the 5 that are currently being discussed. For many months, some experts from Brussels have been advising Turkey on such matters as anti-terrorism, and even the Council of Europe got involved. Two months ago, it was Minister Çavuşoğlu who said that the proposals will come. Yet we are still waiting. They are in Turkey, somewhere in ministries, because the experts have already exchanged their ideas. Now, it is a political decision. However, the visa liberalisation is an extremely important for the population of Turkey.

Is it really extremely important, given that only 10% of Turks actually hold passports and the Turkish passport remains the most expensive in the world? Can visa liberalisation be sold to the Turkish public?

If there is one thing that can be sold to anywhere, it is visa liberalisation. Just the mere fact that you can visit friends and family, and that you can have a spontaneous weekend to see Paris if you want – that is a part of the freedom. It is a feeling of freedom which visa liberalisation would give.

The Customs Union renewal with the EU is also a top issue and another carrot on the EU´s stick.

We currently have a totally outdated 21-year-old Customs Union agreement with Turkey. Many of the trade agreements with countries that we do not even trade with much are more modern than the one we have with Turkey. Our economies are very much interlinked. Two-thirds of FDI in Turkey comes from member states. Half of their trade is with the EU. And for us, Turkey is also an important trading partner with a big market of 80 million people. It will not be an easy negotiation because it touches on services and agriculture. Both trade and Turkey are becoming more controversial topics in the EU. On the other hand, there is big interest from the business associations on both sides, which is positive.

Long-running negotiations to reunify Cyprus have deadlocked again, and the UN is unable to break the impasse. You recently called it “very sad news”. Do you think it is also sad for Turkey?

Recently, Cyprus’ two leaders visited New York and had a meeting with the Secretary General António Guterres. They agreed to convene in Geneva sometime in June, which is the minimum.

However, what we see is a very difficult process. It is at the end stage and the question is: Can they make the last, difficult move?

And what is your point of view?

Well, I hope so. It is not only with Turkey in this case. There are two Cypriot leaders involved; there is Greece and also Turkey. I would certainly not say that Turkey is a blocking factor here.

As we admitted Cyprus before the country being reunified, we have a problem in uniting 28 member states in all our policies towards Turkey. You can start the negotiations with a qualified majority on the Customs Union but you can only conclude them with unanimity. Yet, this is where another leverage of the EU lays right now. It is not in the accession process because Turkey indeed does not show an interest in it. It is in the economy.

If Turks don´t seem to be interested in the accession process anymore, does the European Parliament expect that Ankara will stop its negotiations with Brussels?

Turks are indeed showing that they are not interested in the membership. But the EU is also showing it is not committed to Turkey. Thus, the blame game can come from both sides.

The EU certainly did not have the same prospective for Turkey as it had for the Balkans. This is why the accession process never really became the tool, which could help reforms happen in Turkey. The easiest way out would be if the Turkish government would say: Ok, we are not interested in the accession – which will be the break of their last 60 years position – and we want some other type of partnership. If the country does not want it – as we saw with Iceland – you go to other fields of cooperation. Now, it looks like Turkey won´t say it.

Will the EU say it?

We will not say it. 28 member states can´t say anything on Turkey. You need unanimity.

Do you think the negotiations may alternatively be frozen, as happened in the past?

A lot of our and their citizens are getting frustrated and Eurosceptic, saying, “If such events happen in the candidate country, how come we still talk about integration within the EU? “

We are sending a very bad signal to the Balkans, claiming that as long as you are keeping migrants away from Europe and you do not introduce the death penalty, anything that you do as a candidate country will be accepted.

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