Brnabic: No successful EU integration without regional stability (RTS/Tanjug)
Speaking at the Belgrade Security Forum about the contribution of the Serbia-NATO partnership to the security in the Western Balkans, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said today that there can be no successful EU integration and sustainable economic development without regional stability, and that in the previous period Serbia has been sending good signals that it is an open and flexible country. Brnabic said that the EU has advocated for this region through the Berlin Process, and that Serbia is a source of stability in the region. She stated that there are three pillars of stability in the Western Balkan region: connecting through infrastructural projects, such as the Nis-Pristina-Tirana highway and gas connections with Bulgaria, economic cooperation and the establishment of youth offices. She pointed out that Serbia is the largest country in the region, but it is a small market, which is why if we have any instability we will not be seen as a successful country, despite all investments and economic results.
Dacic: Bilateral disputes are region’s problems (Tanjug/FoNet/B92)
The EU has a great interest in the Western Balkans becoming a part of it for security reasons, too, because it is better to have the EU control security processes in the region than have it not control them, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said during a break in the Belgrade Security Forum, adding that bilateral disputes were the biggest problems of the region. “It is better to make it a part of problem-solving, rather than a region where problems are generated,” Dacic told reporters. Dacic says the status of the Russian Humanitarian Center in Nis has not yet been solved because huge pressures are being exerted. According to him, more reasons are that the issue has been politicized, and, we do not want it to become a subject of political disputes.
Dacic stressed that this should be resolved in line with the Vienna Convention. “I hope this will happen quickly,” he said.
The US ambassador in Belgrade should not meddle in Serbia’s internal affairs – our ambassadors abroad don’t do it, Dacic said in comment to US Ambassador Kyle Scott’s Twitter post about Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who was recently described as praising a convicted war criminal – i.e., Yugoslav Army (VS) General Vladimir Lazarevic – in an AP report carried by the Washington Times. FoNet is reporting that Dacic remarked that while Lazarevic has served his sentence, Ramush Haradinaj is yet to serve his – and Croatian General Ante Gotovina, who has been acquitted of war crimes, is preparing to become Croatia’s president.
Dacic: Interference of third party unnecessary (Tanjug/RTV)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic stated in Budapest yesterday that the main foreign policy and economic priority of Serbia is full EU membership. At the annual meeting of foreign ministers of the countries of the Visegrad Group and the Western Balkans themed “Speeding up enlargement in the Western Balkans”, Dacic rejected the attempts to present the foreign policy of Serbia as sitting on two chairs. Our relations with our Eastern partners should not be judged all the time because these relations are traditional, friendly and with a strong economic segment, he underlined. He warned that linking the normalization process of Belgrade-Pristina relations and opening of other negotiating chapters can have detrimental and decelerating effects on Serbia’s EU process. “Endless insisting on linking progress in the negotiating process at all costs with the progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue not only represents unnecessary bureaucratic deceleration, but is also politically detrimental,” he said. Pointing to the fact, which exists only in Serbia’s negotiating process, Dacic says that monitoring the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue as a criterion for opening negotiating chapters is completely a novelty and unique in our case.
However, he adds, it is imperative that the EU member states accept the fact that dialogue and progress in dialogue do not only depend on Belgrade’s readiness. “Introducing a third party in the assessment of our progress would unnecessarily complicate matters and leads to, which is clearly visible, to deceleration of the negotiating process, even in cases when Belgrade is not responsible for this. The issue of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina should be exclusively within Chapter 35, without drawing parallelism between this and other chapters, nor representing this chapter as a condition of all other chapters,” said Dacic. He, however, pointed out that security issues are more current than ever, but that the political moment and security are two issues that go together and cannot be separated. “In that context, when we speak about accelerating EU integration of the states of the region, therefore Serbia as well, there are several things that need to be mentioned, that need to be taken into account, and possibly, finding new answers to questions that have been keeping us politically awake for some time now,” said Dacic. He recalled that, for some time now, there has been talk of extreme fatigue in the member states, first of all in the countries that are founders of the EU. “Nevertheless, we were happy with the speech of the President of the European Commission Jena-Claude Juncker several weeks ago, which we hope the member states will also support, in which he called for the creation and implementation of a strategy for successful EU accession of Serbia and Montenegro by 2025, as the leading candidates in the region. We think this is a viable goal,” said Dacic.
Vulin: Serbia conducts balanced defense policy (Tanjug)
In talks with NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, in Belgrade, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin underlined that Serbia is determined to pursue a balanced defense policy and this is why it cooperates both with the East and West. He assessed that participation in the activities under the auspices of the Partnership for Peace represents for Serbia an optimal framework for achieving security goals and boosting defense capacities, along with respecting the policy of military neutrality. Vulin pointed out that KFOR represents the only partner in the Army of Serbia in securing the administrative line and the only guarantor of security in the region of Kosovo and Metohija, as well as protection of our national, cultural-historical and religious heritage. Any solution of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue needs to be in accordance with the Constitution, UNSCR 1244, the Military-Technical Agreement and other documents that define communications channels and procedures on the ground.
Dikovic completed visit to Serbian peacekeepers in Central African Republic (Politika)
The Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, General Ljubisa Dikovic, completed a several-day visit to the members of the Ministry of Defense and the Serbian Armed Forces engaged in the missions of the UN (MINUSCA) and the EU (EUTM RCA) in the Central African Republic. In the second part of the visit, the Chief of General Staff visited the MINUSCA HQ in Bangui, where he spoke with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, and also the Head of Mission, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. They discussed the prospects of peacekeeping operations under the United Nations mandate and the engagement of the Serbian Armed Forces in MINUSCA. Dikovic also met with the Mission Support Director Milan Trojanovic, in the MINUSCA Logistics Base at Boganda Avenue in Bangui, where he discussed the prospects for supporting the military hospital role 2 in MINUSCA. Dikovic visited the members of the Serbian Armed Forces deployed to the EUTM RCA, stationed in the UCATEX base, where he met with EU Mission Force Commander Major General Fernando Garcia Blazquez. The two generals discussed the current security situation in the Central African Republic, the activities of the forces in the EUTM RCA mission, and they particularly analyzed the engagement of our medical advisor and medical team in this mission. In the final part of the visit, Dikovic spoke with the MINUSCA military component commander Major General Balla Keita on the security situation in the Central African Republic. During his stay in the Central African Republic for several days, Dikovic reviewed the dislocation, order and organization of work in UN and EU missions in the Central African Republic and the engagement of our members in these missions. At the end of the visit, Dikovic assessed that our peacekeepers consistently carry out all the tasks and gave them recognition on the worthy representation of the Serbian Armed Forces and the Republic of Serbia in the international environment.
Dodik to send letter explaining reasons why Serbs should leave judiciary institutions of B&H (TV1)
Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik said that he will send letters to all Serbs employed in the B&H Court and Prosecutor’s Office and explain why it is important to leave these institutions. He added that the letter will read that the RS is prepared to provide employment for these people, as well as to offer them similar salaries they receive in B&H judicial institutions. Dodik also announced that he will invite representatives of political parties in the RS Assembly and B&H House of Representatives (HoR), as well as of veterans’ organizations and other associations for a meeting to discuss work of the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. Dodik specified that he will invite them to attend the meeting on Saturday, October 14. Dodik referred to the acquitting first-instance verdict of the Court of B&H to Naser Oric as intolerable. Dodik also noted that the RS cannot move past “such work” the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. Dodik claims these judicial institutions have no constitutional basis so the RS cannot support them. He emphasized that the RS needs political unity to reject the work of the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. Dodik stated on Wednesday that there is majority in the RS Assembly necessary to adopt Resolution on military neutrality at a session scheduled on October 17. Dodik explained that this document will present stance of the RS that it does not support NATO integration process of B&H and that the RS will follow position of Serbia in regards with this issue.
SzP: Credibility of Court and Prosecutor’s Office of B&H irreparably undermined with acquitting verdict to Oric (BNTV)
Representatives of political parties gathered around the Alliance for Changes (SzP) held a meeting on Wednesday. They said that credibility of the B&H Court and the Prosecutor’s Office has been irreparably damaged because of the scandalous acquittal of former commander of the so-called Army of RB&H in Srebrenica Naser Oric. “That is why deprivation of their jurisdiction for war crimes trials is inevitable. It is necessary to determine exclusive jurisdiction for the prosecution of war crimes in entity judicial institutions,” SzP said in a press release. SzP also said that “it is also inevitable, due to the general bad situation in the B&H judicial institutions, to exclude the appointment of the Chief Prosecutor in the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H and appointment of the President of the Court of B&H from the jurisdiction of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of B&H, and that the entire procedure of their election and appointment is carried out in the B&H Parliament.”
Oric’s attorney: Serbia has no legal ground to carry out proceeding against any citizen of B&H, including Oric (Dnevni avaz)
According to Serbian media, that country will not annul warrant after wartime commander of Srebrenica defense Naser Oric, regardless of verdict that the B&H Court may pass. Oric’s attorney Lejla Covic commented in a statement for the daily that court decisions are binding no matter in which country they are passed. “We are waiting for final verdict, and its timing depends on those who file appeal to the first-instance verdict and the judges who are deciding in this case. If information carried by media in Serbia is accurate, then it is a clear sign that Serbia does not respect decisions of the Court of B&H, and that is concerning. Serbia has no legal ground to carry out proceeding against any citizen of B&H, including Oric, especially not for something that happened on territory of B&H,” Covic underlined. Oric refused to comment allegations about Serbia not willing to annul the warrant.
A committee of the UK Parliament House of Lords session within the inquiry about the UK policy towards the Western Balkans after Brexit (Dnevni avaz)
A committee of the UK Parliament House of Lords held a session on Wednesday, within the inquiry about the UK policy towards the Western Balkans after Brexit. Among other issues, they discussed performance of Serbian Foreign affairs Minister Ivica Dacic before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Serbia this week. Namely, Dacic sang a traditional Turkish song during a solemn dinner prepare din Erdogan’s honor. The topic was brought up by Baroness Arminka Helic during discussion on whether Serbia is able to keep the balance “while riding several horses at the same time” between the EU, the USA, Russia, Turkey, etc. Economic expert and analyst Laza Kekic, who took part in the discussion, replied that, for now, Belgrade is doing quite good balancing between different centers of power. The committee members discussed the situation in the Balkans for two hours, focusing among other matters on influence of Russia, China, Turkey and Arab countries in the region. When it comes to B&H, Director of ‘New Europe’ Timothy Less said that Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik and the RS leadership are doing everything to implement secession of this entity and its merging with Serbia. “They may have ambition to implement independence by end of this decade”, he stressed, adding that Dodik’s policies are giving the West a headache. Less also deems that this may force the USA to send “a new Holbrooke” to the region. Less emphasized that the RS’ activities may change the Washington’s policy towards Balkans, which is currently not among priorities of the US Administration. “The way the things are right now, I do not think that the Dayton 2 could take place. What I see is that even Russia is calming down leaders of Bosnian Serbs, because, among other things, it does not want a conflict with Turkey because of the Balkans. Moreover, the RS is unsustainable and indefensible the way it is right now. Its economy is too weak, and territory stretched. In order to start its independence, they must have support of Russia and Serbia and, at least, silent consent of Bosnian Croats and official Zagreb. I do not see clearly that they have any of it,” concluded Less. Kekic noted that the main problem of the Balkans is their frozen relations, which disables progress of economy. He also deems that the USA did lose interest in the Balkans, but that we witness their engagement since the beginning of this year.
These are members of the working group for OSCE’s recommendations (CDM)
At the parliament speaker’s collegium, held on Tuesday, the decision on forming a working group to deal with OSCE/ODIHR recommendations has been made. The group is tasked with analyzing the application of electoral legislation and considering and suggesting the method of implementation of recommendations from the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission’s final report on 2016 general elections. “The decision stipulates that the working group will use expert knowledge of the OSCE/ODIHR and other relevant international organizations, and if necessary, consult representatives of the State Election Commission, the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, the Personal Data Protection Agency, the Agency for Electronic Media, universities, NGO sector and other organizations and institutions that can contribute to its work,” Parliament states. As it adds, the working group is open to representatives of the parliamentary opposition who have not determined their representatives in the group yet. PM Dusko Markovic requested the OSCE to mediate in resolving the political crisis in Montenegro.
Lekic: Invitation to OSCE proves that country is in a crisis (Dan)
Demos leader Miodrag Lekic commented on the latest DPS call to OSCE for assistance. He said that it was the regime’s confession to the country going through a crisis that needed solving. Lekic said he wouldn’t underestimate such a move on the part of the government no matter how confusing or forced it may be. He also said he didn’t believe that OSCE could get involved in resolving the Montenegrin political crisis without including the opposition being invited to the process as well. Lekic said that the opposition had to bear its part of the responsibility in the process but that it had to be consistent with its principles and flexible at the same time. This means, as Lekic said, that the opposition mustn’t give up on parliament boycott but that it also has to remain ready for a dialogue that would result in a compromise.
Dimitrov: We shall convince Europe that Macedonia deserves to commence the talks for the EU membership (Meta)
We want to use this historical opportunity and we shall do everything to convince each EU country-member and the European Commission that Macedonia deserves to move on the next chapter on its European road and to start acquisition talks with the EU in June next year. This was stated by the Head of the Macedonian diplomacy, Nikola Dimitrov at the meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the countries-members of the Visegrad group and the Western Balkans that took place in Budapest. Dimitrov also stressed that the region has been out of EU’s attention for several years, but luckily, for several reasons, including the migrant crisis “the attitude has now has been widely accepted that Europe is less safe if the Western Balkans region is not a part of the EU.”
Szijjarto: Macedonia should start EU, NATO accession talks as soon as possible (MIA)
Hungary wants the European Union and NATO to speed up the integration processes of Western Balkan countries, the country’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Wednesday. “We want a date to be set for launching of negotiations with Macedonia and Albania in the first quarter of 2018 at the latest,” Szijjarto stated at ministerial meeting of the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Western Balkans in Budapest. NATO, he added, at a ministerial meeting in December should make a decision to start membership negotiations with Macedonia. Acceleration of the accession process is a guarantee for security, Szijjarto said at a news conference with his counterparts from Central and Eastern Europe and Western Balkan countries. “An unstable and tension-riddled Western Balkans is a serious risk to all of Europe,” he noted. At the forum in Budapest, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said his country ‘will do everything to convince each and every member, including the European Commission, that Macedonia in June next year deserves to enter the next stage of the EU integration process and to start negotiations with the EU.’
Government already focused on reforms in security system (MIA)
The government of Macedonia is already focused on pursuing reforms in the security system, including the Security and Counterintelligence Administration and the Law on Interception of Communications. This has been stated by the government’s press service after mounting public interest in relation to a decision of the government to forward an opinion to the Constitutional Court – after the Court has made the request – involving the suspension of a procedure to review the constitutionality of Article 175 of the Law on Interception of Communications. Suggestions by the working group, prepared in line with the recommendations of international and local experts, have entered the final stage and will be published soon, according to the press release.
“It is also part of the priorities of Plan 3-6-9. While preparing the changes, the government of Macedonia is guided by the idea the reform in this area to be implemented in a transparent, thorough and comprehensive fashion and under complete control of the institutions,” the statement reads. Therefore, it adds, the government at a session on October 10 passed an opinion that the Constitutional Court should suspend a procedure reviewing the constitutionality of Article 175 of the Law on Interception of Communications, because the initiative is deemed partial and falling short of approaching the matter comprehensively. In fact, the government’s opinion was passed after a request of the Constitutional Court to the government to offer an opinion involving the initiative. It is a regular practice of the communication between the government and the Constitutional Court of Macedonia, said the government’s press service.
Albanian President awarded Order of Independence during visit to Kosovo (ATA)
The President of Albania Ilir Meta was awarded the Order of Independence during a ceremony at Kosovo President’s office on Wednesday in recognition for his contribution to Kosovo’s independence. Kosovo President Hashim Thaci praised Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta for his around three-decade long personal contribution towards Kosovo people, Kosovo Liberation Army and achieving aspiration for independence as well as broader international recognition of the Republic of Kosovo and its membership in international bodies. Receiving the award, Albanian President Meta said in his remarks that visit to Kosovo in the capacity of the President of the Republic gave him sheer pleasure and rare emotion. Meta and Thaci also signed a joint on brotherly ties and relations of strategic partnership between the two countries. By signing the joint declaration, the President of Albania Ilir Meta and the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci agree to support the renewal of the governments’ efforts of the two respective states in the development of democracy, rule of law, market economy and social cohesion with a common goal of achieving European standards as soon as possible; reconfirm the mutual will for the growth and deepening of fraternal and strategic cooperation with international partners as well; express gratitude to friend countries and strategic partners for the unsparing and extraordinary support they have provided over the years, a support that remains indispensable for the future as well. The statement underlines that the two presidents welcome the re-engagement of the European Union in the Western Balkans through the Berlin Process, whose mission we see in Delors’ light of “Competition that stimulates, cooperation that strengthens, and solidarity that unites”; reconfirm their sincere willingness to open and effective cooperation with all countries of the region, to the benefit of the citizens and the integration processes; express solidarity towards challenges faced by friend countries and our strategic partners and pledge to give the contribution of the two respective countries in dealing with these challenges.
The two presidents strongly reject any other alternative that runs counter the strategic projects of European and Euro-Atlantic integrations and promote coordinated action, focusing on:
- The symmetric acceleration of the integration processes of all countries in the region, wishing to join the EU and NATO; since integration into the EU and NATO remain deeply political processes, with tremendous impact on the completion of peace processes in the region;
- Drafting a strategic document for Kosovo’s full membership in the EU and NATO;
- The fastest possible visa liberalization between the European Union and Kosovo, Kosovo’s commitment to make every effort to resolve in good faith and mutual understanding the issues related to the border marking agreement with its neighbor Montenegro;
- The continuation of the final phase of the dialogue on the normalization of relations between the state of Kosovo and that of Serbia, inviting a renewed EU engagement and direct participation of the USA, with a view to final recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state by Serbia, as a process that will have positive effects for the entire region.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Visegrad countries call for EU enlargement in Western Balkans (Xinhua, 12 October 2017)
BUDAPEST — The Visegrad countries, namely Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, have strongly made a stance in favor of the enlargement of the European Union (EU) regarding the Western Balkans, here Wednesday following a meeting of the foreign ministers of the region.
The acceleration of Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans region is a security and economic interest for all of Europe, said Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto. Szijjarto emphasized the integration of the Western Balkans was best supported by Central European and South-Eastern European countries because they lived “here in the neighborhood.” “Guaranteeing the security of the Western Balkans is accelerating the EU and NATO accession processes,” he underlined. He said if a new wave of migration started from the south, it could only be stoppable by stable and strong Western Balkans countries. But if the Western Balkans were unstable, a wave of migration would “come to the southern edge of Hungary in no time.” “Every EU integration effort should be supported,” Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said.
Slovak State Secretary Ivan Korcok said: “The members of the Visegrad Cooperation will guarantee that the Western Balkan countries always remain parts of Europe.”
“The Visegrad countries are clearly open to enlargement, since neither the EU nor NATO can be complete without the Western Balkans,” according to Jakub Durr, deputy minister of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Czech Republic.
Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said Western Balkan countries needed to accelerate reforms to build strong institutions, “as this could lead to the region’s rise and European integration.”
“The security and integration of the Western Balkans would be the priority of the Bulgarian EU Presidency in the first semester of 2018,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva announced. “If the Western Balkan states are not part of the EU, the European project will not be completed,” she warned.
Remarks by EU HR/VP Federica Mogherini following meeting with Ms Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia (EEAS, 11 October 2017)
Ana [Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia], it is a real pleasure for me to welcome you here in Brussels to the European Union institutions for what is your first official visit outside of the region, and this tells everything about our common agenda.
We are really proud to have you here as the Prime Minister of Serbia visiting us and we take this as it is: a strong signal of recognition of the common work we have. First of all, on the future of Serbia. It is not the first time I say it: we both believe strongly Serbia will be inside the European Union and this is the direction towards which we are working consistently and stubbornly.
But it is also a sign of the approach that your government and your country is taking, not only towards the European Union, but also towards a certain way of working. The commitment you are showing to the region, to coordination and cooperation in the region, trying to overcome some of the ghosts of the past and trying to build the bright avenues for the future. Starting from economic cooperation, infrastructures and a cooperative manner of working together which is really a European way of living with neighbours – and improving the lives of the citizens.
The economic results that Serbia has had in the last years are remarkable, the role you are playing in the region is appreciated and I have to say meeting very often with you, with other colleagues in the Western Balkans, I see how the perspective is there not only for Serbia to join the European Union in the future, but also for the entire region. And the determination that you personally and your government are putting in working towards the European Union integration is perfectly reflected in the determination and the political will that we have as European institutions to guarantee that this path brings us to a positive result. We also discussed about the dialogue that I facilitate between Belgrade and Pristina that – as you know – has entered a new phase with President [of Serbia Aleksandar] Vučić and [President of Kosovo Hashim] Thaçi exchanging now two or three times in the recent months with, I think, a constructive perspective to which we are fully dedicated. So, again, Ana, thank you very much for your visit which is also a symbol and we will make all we can to turn the symbol into a reality.
Q: About the new phase of the dialogue that you mentioned. Could you tell us about the possible next steps? What are the concrete steps that you expect in this? Also about the format: did you discuss the format? Does it mean that it will be on the level of Presidents, as it used to be the case, or maybe you as a Prime Minister will participate in that as well? Thank you.
FM: Thank you. I don’t like to answer ‘no’ to journalists, but in this case, I will not share ideas on next steps, because we are exactly in these days, in these weeks, in the process of discussing this with the two parties. I often say: the dialogue is not ours, the dialogue is of the parties. The role that we are playing is that of facilitating. But it is Belgrade and Pristina identifying the scope, the steps, the rhythm, the formats as well. We are there to facilitate agreements and understandings and not to dictate anything. We are now in the process of defining with Belgrade and Pristina what the next steps will be, so we will not share this publicly. One of the responsibilities of the facilitator is to keep some of the confidentiality of the work that is done.
But I can tell you that, yes, the Presidents have met informally or formally in Brussels or elsewhere with us. In Belgrade, there was a very useful idea to launch an internal, a national dialogue on the dialogue that I believe will help moving the responsibility and the focus of the dialogue to the national agenda and not only the government agenda which is going to be I think healthy and important to make sure that whatever decision or step is taken is felt by the entire population as something that they can own and sustain.
But I am very positive that this new phase can bring us to good results. I feel myself also a bit as a part of the region. Formality is not our strong point. But we normally get where we want to be. This is not to escape the question, but, yes, the Presidents have met several times. I see that the format is not something set in stone and can be adjusted depending on what is on the agenda, which are the steps that are needed. So we stay open to different options.
But at the moment, the Presidents are talking with our facilitation on the definition of this new phase with a full ownership of the entire national environment. Obviously we discussed with the Prime Minister this new phase and the government has a big responsibility in that. Also for this I am particularly happy and grateful to Ana, because I see also there a strong determination to bring this process forward.
Q: On the dialogue [for the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina]: you said a couple of weeks ago that you expect a qualitative leap forward towards the end of the year. Now we are talking about the future next months – 2 months in fact until the end of the year. Do you see that qualitative leap forward at sight and does this leap mean only a new phase or a new dynamic?
FM: I mentioned the fact that I would expect theses exchanges we had with the Presidents during the summer already to bring results on this new phase of the dialogue by the end of the year. This does not mean that I expect the qualitative leap to happen from now to December on the results of the dialogue – that would be more of a miracle than a dialogue. But I would expect that the new phase of the dialogue can be at full speed by the end of the year. We are actively working on content, not only on frameworks.
And, yes, I see a possibility for this qualitative leap to happen from now to let’s say the end of 2018. That is a long run and I might expect results even before. I think that both parties are determined, do have political conditions at home that were not there before. And I see a lot of determination in achieving results. Let’s keep always in mind that the scope and the purpose of the dialogue is the normalisation. And together with the full implementation of the agreements already signed, I believe that we have now a good opportunity to make this qualitative leap forward.
Serbian PM: Kosovo major obstacle in EU talks(euronews, by Dr. Stefan Grobe, 11 October 2017)
For Serbia, it’s time to open more chapters in its membership negotiations with the European Union. The EU Commission is expected to give its assessment on Serbia’s progress by early next year. Serbia and Montenegro are the frontrunners for the next round of EU enlargement, likely to take place in 2025. But one big obstacle remains, explains Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, and that is Kosovo. “It’s a very sensitive issue. And what’s extremely important for us is that the EU Commission remains neutral about the status of Kosovo and Metohia, and that really is the cornerstone of, not only the Belgrade/Pristina dialogue, where the EU Commission is a mediator, but also of our European integration.” Unlike the Prime Minister, some Serbian nationalists accused the EU of a double standard that would allow for the independence of Kosovo, but not Catalonia. “We completely agree with the EU Commission on everything that has been said with regards to Spain and respecting the Spanish Constitution, respecting the international law and sovereignty of the kingdom of Spain.” What is worrying the EU is the economic and political influence of Russia in Serbia and Montenegro. That’s one of the reasons why Brussels is taking the accession perspective of both Balkan states very seriously. But: “We are not a kind of Trojan horse for Russia in the EU. Russia is our important trading partner and our friend, but this, in any way, does not basically limit our strategic EU integration”.
Serbia’s Parliament Using Penalties ‘to Silence Opposition’ (BIRN, by Maja Zivanovic, 12 October 2017)
Opposition MPs in Serbia say the speaker is handing out a very disproportionate number of penalties to opponents of the ruling coalition in order to silence them.
After 60 of the 62 penalties given to Serbian MPs last year were reportedly given to opposition MPs, some of them have accused the speaker of parliament of using the disciplinary measures as a tool to silence them in sessions. “MPs from the ruling coalition have degraded parliament … with a clear goal of crushing the only serious debate in the country,” opposition Nova Stranka [New Party] MP Marinika Tepic told BIRN. Tepic was punished on May 29 with a reduction of 40 per cent of one month’s salary after she accused parliament of allowing fascism, after an MP from the ruling coalition showed pictures at a session of the child of a fellow MP, Zoran Zivkovic, attending anti-government protests – in support of an argument that opposition parties were behind the protests. Tepic called the penalty system “a successful tool for punishing the opposition” which, besides fines, carries the risk of a 20-day exclusion from parliamentary sessions. She claimed the parliamentary majority had “a clear intention … to exclude and sack as many opposition MPs as possible from the debate about the budget for 2018”. She maintained that such disciplinary measures should be used only to deal with serious security risks and threats, not with the purely political risk that an MP might say something the authorities do not like. The number of penalties being imposed on MPs is disputed. Vecernje novosti newspaper reported on September 29 that some 22 MPs had been punished since June 2016 with 46 penalties handed out for interfering with or interrupting the work of parliament. But Dveri party MP Bosko Obradovic claims the number of penalties has risen to 62 with some MPs being punished more than once at the same session. The money from the penalties is used to help fund the medical treatment of children and the work of public kitchens in Kosovo. Obradovic on October 10 told Serbian public broadcaster RTS that the authorities were trying to silence opposition voices. He himself was punished several times this year for “insulting” parliament, once for bringing in a stone from the former province of Kosovo, which he used as a metaphor for Kosovo’s importance in the eyes of Serbia. His colleague MP, Marija Janjusevic, was punished on October 7, after she accused the speaker of violating of the rules of procedure. Her microphone was turned off before she even finished her speech, after which she approached the speaker’s lectern and tried to turn his microphone off. Obradovic got two warnings at the same session, while another Dveri MP, Srdjan Nogo, was excluded from the session for trying to raise a discussion about whether people close to the Government were tapping citizens. Janjusevic told BIRN that the spike in penalties showed that the regime was “beginning to fear and feel insecure.
“The regime’s stance toward the opposition is actually the most authentic possible picture of the government’s treatment of its people. The regime is completely deaf to the disgrace and rebellion of a large number of citizens,” she added. The opposition Democratic Party has also condemned the number of punishments handed out to MPs who are not part of the ruling coalition.
In May, three Democratic Party MPs were punished with 10-per-cent cuts in salaries for insulting parliament. In September, another of its MPs was punished with a 20-per-cent cut in salary. Democratic Party MP Aleksandra Jerkov told BIRN that the ruling majority was blatantly ignoring the parliament’s own rules of procedure. “They do not apply them [the rules] and the presidency [of parliament] enjoys the use of naked force and the suppression of moral and legal norms,” she said. She said it was time for citizens of Serbia “to clearly see who [in parliament] is there to obstruct and who is fighting for the interests of everyone in Serbia”. BIRN sent questions to the president of parliament about the allegations of unfair treatment but did not receive an answer by the time of publication.