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Belgrade Media Report 10 August

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 10 August 2017

• Government welcomes decision of Croatia (RTS/Tanjug)
• Vucic: Not enough courage for amending the Constitution (B92/Beta/TV Pink/FoNet)
• Vucic: I will present my opinion on Kosovo and Metohija by end of year (RTS)
• Markovic: Montenegro can be a leader in the Western Balkans (Novi Magazin)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Sarovic: I expect agreement with Croatia will be reached soon (Nezavisne)
• SDA and HDZ B&H get in conflict over construction of Peljesac bridge, Serbs do not want to get involved (EuroBlic)
• Croatia has given in and is returning the old prices for the control over the fruits and the vegetables (T-Portal)
• VMRO-DPMNE requests no-confidence vote against Dimitrov (MIA)


• Bosnia’s Muslims, Jews, Christians chide politicians (Reuters)

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Government welcomes decision of Croatia (RTS/Tanjug)


The Serbian government has welcomed the decision of the Croatian government to return the inspection fees for fruit and vegetables from €270 to €12 per plant species. Serbian Prime Minister Brnabic said that the decision of the Croatian authorities in the economic sense is the only correct one, since all countries in the region suffered from price increases and unilateral decisions. Returning prices to the previous level will contribute to the relaxation of relations between the countries in the region, Brnabic said noting that cooperation in all areas is important for stability, and especially for the promotion of economic growth. The Prime Minister urged all parties to refrain from unilateral moves in the future, without consultations and agreements with neighbors. Over the past days, we have confirmed that all problems and outstanding issues can be solved by dialogue, on which Serbia always insists, and especially when it comes to cooperation with neighbors, Brnabic pointed out.

Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic added that the government of Serbia will continue to communicate and cooperate with the ministers of B&H, Montenegro and Macedonia. We want to have representatives of the government of Croatia with us, with the aim of removing all obstacles and duty-free barriers between our countries, said Ljajic. He pointed out that all countries in the region are individually relatively small markets and that only by free movement of goods, people and capital and the creation of a common economic space we can ensure the development and stability of the entire region.

Serbian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management Branislav Nedimovic pointed out that he hopes that such things will no longer exist. Every time someone questions the export of Serbian agricultural products in this way, Serbia will use all internationally allowed means to protect itself. Trade in the region is of top importance and nobody should play with such things, as Croatia did in the past days, said Nedimovic.


Vucic: Not enough courage for amending the Constitution (B92/Beta/TV Pink/FoNet)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated that it clear there is not enough courage in Serbia to amend the Constitution and warned this could stop Serbia’s EU path. “If we don’t have enough strength to amend the Constitution, and I see we don’t, our EU path will be stopped,” Vucic said in an interview on TV Pink last night. Vucic assessed that those who don’t want to amend the Constitution want everything to remain as today, and those who want they want to give up Kosovo, so a solution cannot be reached in a vicious circle. “It is not even crossing my mind to have an Oktroi Constitution and to adopt it by force,” said Vucic, adding the Constitution needs to be a result of a wide consensus. “Presently we are under great pressure of the big powers, I am saying this for the first time this way. It is impossible anymore to appear anywhere in the West without being asked about the Russians, without the Russians objecting that you haven’t done something that they consider to be their interest, but what the West opposes…I think that the biggest achievement that we have managed to establish over the past five years is to have an independent country and state, sovereign state in decision-making,” said Vucic.

If we make an axis of peace and stability on the line ‘north-south’ between the Serbs and Albanians, two largest nations in Western Balkans, we will resolve 80 percent of our political problems in the next 100 years, Vucic told TV Pink. He announced that he will try to institutionalize the internal dialogue in all forums in September. “We are only left then with the important relationship with the Bosniaks. We will keep under control everything else,” said Vucic, adding that this is why he considers the internal dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija very important. That is why he is prepared to take part in finding a compromise solution when it comes to Kosovo, which would be dissatisfying for both sides, since all this, he thinks, can be a compromise. We are deciding now not only on our past, but also on our present and future, he said. He stressed it is important for us to have good relations with the Albanians and to organize them once and for all, and not to maintain a frozen conflict. “My hopes are not high, but they exist,” said Vucic, adding that he wouldn’t have started opening this issue if he didn’t have such hope. According to him, the crucial question is posed here – will we have enough courage to look ourselves in the eyes and say “this is realistic, this is not”.

He recalls that he has heard many different opinions so far, that he is very satisfied over this and that he is analyzing them every day. To the remark that the majority of opinions heard are to either maintain the status quo or that Kosovo should be surrendered to the Albanians, Vucic notes that perhaps everything can be divided into two groups, but notes not everybody is prepared to hear out everything. “Perhaps you can divide it in those two groups, but you will see special nervousness in some media in relation to what Dacic stated. For me it is interesting that such nervousness hasn’t been provoked even when it is stated that nothing should be changed ever, or when it is stated that we need to give everything to the Albanians and to recognize everything. All this tells me about the fact that not everybody is prepared to hear out everything,” said Vucic. He says that he hasn’t yet reacted to any opinion because he thinks that all ideas are welcome and he is yet listening to them. He says there are no ready solutions and that there will be no easy solutions, but that it is important for us to try to additionally institutionalize the dialogue by September in all forums.

Citizens need to be told what all depends on Kosovo and Metohija and on our relation towards Kosovo and Metohija, said Vucic. “We are all talking about the Serbian interest and what we are gaining in the moment,” said Vucic.


Vucic: I will present my opinion on Kosovo and Metohija by end of year (RTS)


Vucic said that he present his opinion on a resolution of the issue of Kosovo and Metohija by the end of the year. “By the end of year,” Vucic told RTS when asked when he will present his opinion on the Kosovo issue. Vucic says that in order to organize Serbia’s future it is important to at least launch an internal dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija. “I cannot speak about anything that is final, I can speak about something that is important for Serbia’s future. I know the Albanians, I know the Serbis, but if we wouldn’t try to organize the future, then I should not be doing this job,” said Vucic. He assessed that it is important for everybody to start thinking in a different way, and not to want for Serbia to stay in place. “If one side is satisfied, and the other is dissatisfied, then there is no compromise,” said Vucic.


Ljajic: Croatia backs down, regional customs war is over (Tanjug)


The customs war between Croatia and regional countries is over, Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic said on Monday. Ljajic said that these fees will in the future cost 90 kunas – according to the old rules. Tanjug is reporting that the cost of a certificate of compliance will be reduced to EUR 12.6 from EUR 270. “I spoke with Minister Tomislav Tolusic, who informed me that Croatia would return the rulebook to the old solution,” Ljajic told reporters. “This is a satisfactory solution to us, but there is no place for triumphalism, or for someone to proclaim victory and defeat,” said Ljajic, and emphasized that the only important thing is to ensure the free flow of goods and to remove barriers. “That is in the interests of our economies, as well as of good neighborly relations in the whole region,” he said. When asked what will happen to those farmers who have already paid the new fees, and whether the state will ask for the money to be returned to them, Ljajic said that they themselves are the only ones who can do it.
“We, as a state, cannot ask for that, but they can seek regular court proceedings if they think they’ve been damaged,” Ljajic said, adding that the state has already done what it could and considers it to be sufficient. “The most important thing is that the problem is resolved, that people can trade, travel and sell their goods in both directions and I hope that this will be the last non-tariff barrier,” concluded Ljajic.


Markovic: Montenegro can be a leader in the Western Balkans (Novi Magazin)


US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Montenegro is not only the most important political event in our country, but it exceeds the frameworks of one country, Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said in an interview with Belgrade-based Novi Magazin. The visit is a clear confirmation of strong ties and the strategic partnership of Montenegro and the United States of America, which positions Montenegro in a new way on the international scene, the PM added.

“US VP’s visit and the Adriatic Charter Summit have been the most important political events in Montenegro since the independence restoration. The fact that the United States has decided to honor Montenegro with the arrival of such a high-ranking official only two months after it became full NATO member state is a clear confirmation of the strong ties and strategic partnership of our two countries. It is also the logical sequence of Montenegro’s civilizing choice – belonging to the Western system of values. In addition, as I said at the Summit, Mike Pence’s visit to Montenegro has a wider significance, which goes beyond the borders of a country. This is proof of the solidity and sustainability of the trans-Atlantic connections, as well as the Euro-Atlantic perspectives of the Western Balkans,” Markovic said. In the interview titled We Can Be a Leader in the Western Balkans, Markovic said that last week’s Adriatic Charter Summit, which was for the first time organized as a meeting of heads of states and governments, sent strong messages of unity over integration goals and gave a new momentum to regional cooperation in the field of security and beyond. “US VP Mike Pence’s presence at the Summit is a signal that the new US administration is committed to the Euro-Atlantic perspective of the Western Balkans. At the same time, the summit promotes regional cooperation in achieving this goal. After this event, Montenegro positioned itself on the international map in a new way. As VP Pence assessed, Montenegro is the leading country in the region when it comes to preserving peace and security in the Western Balkans. It has earned this position with dedicated and responsible work in the previous decade. I believe that the US Vice President’s assessment is based on the fact that Montenegro has no outstanding issues with our neighbors. The country also strongly promotes dialogue as the only way to resolve disputes,” Markovic said.

Asked why Montenegro joined NATO, Markovic said that in our history law and justice were often confronted with the pragmatism of politics and the logic of great powers’ interests.

“Montenegro must never forget what kind of terrible price it paid one century ago, when Montenegro was abolished as a state at the Peace Conference in Paris, although the right and the justice, as well as the sacrifice and the suffering, were on its side. It took almost a century to reach 21 May 2006 when the international community recognized Montenegro’s right to independence again,” he added. PM added it took decades for the people to learn a historical lesson that independence cannot be restored without wisdom and patience. “A generation appeared who understood that the independence of a small country and a tiny nation cannot be taken for granted. It understood that the long-term guarantee of independence is the country’s equal position in an association and at the table where the great and the powerful make decisions. We got that place as the 29th member of the most powerful alliance – NATO. Never again will anyone decide on the fate of our country behind our backs. From all this, it is clear that our membership in NATO is not directed against anyone. It is rather the result of our strategic assessment that in this way we will permanently ensure the independence of our country. That’s why I was motivated to assess that Montenegro’s accession to NATO was a historic event for my country,” the PM said.




Sarovic: I expect agreement with Croatia will be reached soon (Nezavisne)


B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Mirko Sarovic said that he is holding intense talks with Croatian officials over a new Rulebook increasing phytosanitary control fees for fruit and vegetables imported from non-EU countries, and expects progress will be achieved by the end of the week. Asked to comment this decision of Croatian Minister of Agriculture Tomislav Tolusic to increase fees 20 times, Sarovic said: “I can only present my opinion. I presume the reason was to help domestic farmers because the prices were not increased in their case, only for other countries, which leads to a conclusion the intent was to improve competitiveness of their products.” Sarovic noted that Croatian authorities were more than surprised by the reaction from the region, and they understand they must change the decision now. “We addressed Brussels and requested their engagement. We explained our opinion that Croatia’s decision is discriminatory and that we are determined to persevere,” said Sarovic and added: “We avoid to call our reaction as countermeasure. Not even Serbia said publically it is taking countermeasures. Literally, countermeasure would mean our rulebooks with similar decisions. Our public sees countermeasures as measures that will make the trade with a country that adopted such draconic rulebook much harder.” Sarovic said that such measures are always a possibility, but he first wants to negotiate mutual agreement. He noted that they will insist on equal treatment of all producers, which is something the EU also insists on. Asked if the reaction from the region is going to prevent similar decisions in the future, Sarovic said: “Our reaction, the summit in Sarajevo and conclusions we adopted are a clear message what is going to happen if something similar does happen again. I believe that the way we reacted represents some kind of a twist in our previous behavior. Our basic message is that we want discriminatory measures abolished, and if that does not happen we can always implement our own measures,” said Sarovic and noted that this time B&H has shown determination, but also patience and willingness to maintain good relationship with Croatia.


SDA and HDZ B&H get in conflict over construction of Peljesac bridge, Serbs do not want to get involved (EuroBlic)


The daily claimed that the construction of the Peljesac bridge has turned into a new hot political subject for Bosniak and Croat parties, while Serb representatives in B&H institutions have no intention to get involved in it for the time being. Namely, after top officials of SDA presented claims in public that B&H has never given its consent to the construction of this bridge and that Croatia is making one-sided moves while violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Croat MPs in B&H parliament reacted and stood in defense of the neighboring state. Croat MPs claimed that expert commissions of B&H and Croatia agreed in 2006 already on all technical characteristics of the bridge and that Croatia fully complied with requests of B&H. Croat MPs also resented SDA, as its partner in the authorities, for politicizing the entire matter and claimed that SDA already launched election campaign. The daily noted that it is expected the conflict of SDA and HDZ B&H to culminate before B&H parliament after summer vacations. Representative in the House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H parliament Mirsad Mesic (SDP) said that SDA and HDZ B&H are deliberately creating a problem in order to homogenize their voters. “At the moment, SDA has no topics with which it could gain interest of population, so they are playing strict on the case of Peljesac bridge, while HDZ B&H which is a part of Croatian HDZ naturally does not protect interests of B&H but sides with Croatia. We had the information on the construction of this bridge before B&H parliament on several occasions by now and nobody ever said that this is illegal, as they claim now”, Mesic said. SDS said that they do not want to interfere in relations between Bosniaks and Croats and added that the construction of the Peljesac bridge is a problem of the FB&H, since it is in its territory. MP Borislav Bojic said that he would let “the Washington Agreement and FB&H to solve this matter. Unfortunately, there are no more Serbs in those areas, especially not in capacity in which they could represent a deciding factor. It is obvious this matter too will be connected with election campaign, just like all similar matters which will emerge during fall”, Bojic added.


Croatia has given in and is returning the old prices for the control over the fruits and the vegetables (T-Portal)


Croatian Minister of Agriculture Tomislav Tolushic withdrew his decision for increasing the compensation for the phytosanitary inspection of the fruits and vegetables that are imported into Croatia from Macedonia, Serbia, B&H and Montenegro, T-Portal reports. With it, the price for the control of a product will be 90 kuna (12 euro) as it was previously, instead of 2000 kuna (274 euros) per product, as was predicted by the new Rulebook that was passed on the 15th of July.

T-Portal reports that at the Croatian ministry there were talks about increasing the inspection to an amount of 750 kuna i.e. 100 euros, which was accepted by Serbia and BiH but they changed their minds soon since the exporting of Croatian firms in other countries would become more expensive. The rise in prices that are planned with the new Croatian rule book referred only to countries that aren’t EU members while for the EU countries the old prices for phytosanitary control have remained.


VMRO-DPMNE requests no-confidence vote against Dimitrov (MIA)


The VMRO-DPMNE parliamentary group filed Wednesday in parliament a motion of no-confidence against Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Dimitrov. Several reasons for the no-confidence motion have been listed in the initiative with three of them considered as being the main ones, namely the friendship treaty between Macedonia and Bulgaria, the move not to appoint VMRO-DPMNE official Aleksandar Nikolovski Macedonia’s ambassador to the European Union in Brussels and the government’s draft-strategy on refugees and migrants. “First and foremost, the friendship agreement between Macedonia and Bulgaria was signed hastily and is not without consequences. Attempts were made to avoid to put up the treaty for discussions, lies were spread the draft-document could be improved by including remarks of the opposition, only later on to witness the signing of a final text that was not the subject of negotiations. (The signing) was a mere acknowledgement of the Bulgarian positions, for which we congratulate the government of Bulgaria on championing its interest, however, we cannot congratulate the Foreign Minister of Macedonia, who has failed to protect Macedonia’s national interests,” VMRO-DPMNE MP Antonio Milososki told a news conference in parliament. As regards VMRO-DPMNE MP Aleksandar Nikolovski, he said he had completed all the required legal and constitutional procedural stages to be appointed ambassador to the EU. On its part, the Foreign Ministry, according to Milososki, had only sent a notice informing the procedure was being terminated. MP Milososki also pointed out the lack of ‘a clear and firm stance’ on Dimitrov’s part considering the pressure exerted on Macedonia to build migrant accommodation centers and refugee camps. The opposition party is also seeking a motion of no-confidence vote against the minister of agriculture and the minister of labor and social policy.




Bosnia’s Muslims, Jews, Christians chide politicians (Reuters, by Dado Ruvic and Daria Sito-Sucic, 9 August 2017)


SARAJEVO – Bosnia’s religious leaders say politicians are standing in the way of peaceful coexistence between Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities trying to forgive and forget after the atrocities of a devastating 1990s war. Hundreds of churches, mosques and synagogues bear witness to more than five centuries of Bosnia’s multi-faith past, and the capital Sarajevo is known locally as a “small Jerusalem” with its main ethnic groups – Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks – all worshipping within meters of each other. But Mufti Husein Kavazovic, head of the Islamic community in Bosnia, says people of faith cannot achieve peace alone. “It is up to political elites to do more. For a start, it would be good that they stop their ideological manipulation of religion for their own political goals. It is up to us, of course, not to allow them to do that,” he said. Even though nationalists from all three ethnic groups still insist on exclusivity for their own groups, religious leaders are keen to heal rifts after the 1992-1995 war in which about 100,000 civilians were killed and millions displaced. Friar Zeljko Brkic at Kraljeva Sutjeska – among the oldest Franciscan monasteries in Bosnia and dating from 1385 – said: “Bosnia can only survive as a multi-ethnic state, no matter how much politicians try to convince us that this is not possible.” His Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim peers agree. “It is very important that we have here different cultures and religions, and that based on that we can easily build and verify our own identities,” said Nektarije, a deacon at the Orthodox monastery Zitomislici in what is now the Catholic Croat-dominated southern part of the country.  Jakob Finci, the president of the Jewish community in Bosnia, gives Sarajevo as an example of close cooperation, citing Muslims there helping Jews to hide during War World Two and Jews providing food for people of all faiths in the three-year siege by Bosnian Serb forces. “Sarajevo is the best proof that living together is possible and that it represents the only way of life for us,” he said. This week, about 120 leaders from 27 countries arrived in Sarajevo to take part in a meeting of the youth-led Muslim Jewish Conference, founded by Ilja Sichrovski in Vienna in 2010. “We feel at home here,” Sichrovski said.

Reporting by Dado Ruvic and Daria Sito-Sucic; Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Louise Ireland

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