Serbia and Palestine affirm mutual support (B92/Beta)
Palestinian Ambassador Mohamed Nabhan on Thursday informed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic about Palestine’s reaction to the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “Vucic, on the other hand, expressed the unchanged attitude of Serbia towards the friendly Palestinian people,” Beta has reported, citing a statement issued by the press service of the Serbian president. The statement added that during their meeting, the Palestinian Ambassador “conveyed to Vucic the greetings of President Mahmoud Abbas and informed him of the unchangeable decision of the Palestinian state to firmly support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia, as well as to vote in international organizations against the membership of so-called Kosovo”. Along with expressing his gratitude for such a stance and the friendship towards Serbia, Vucic said that Serbia appreciates traditional friendships and that the country’s foreign policy would “take care not to ignore them at any point”.
Belgrade becomes seat of Western Balkans Transport Community (Tanjug)
Regional transport ministers have decided to make Belgrade the seat of the Western Balkans Transport Community. Tanjug is reporting on Wednesday that this was confirmed today in Brussels. An agreement to set up the Transport Community was signed last summer in Trieste, Italy, during a summit of Western Balkan leaders. The choice of the Community’s seat required consensus of all six partners, Tanjug said, adding that it learned a deal had been reached at the political level for Pristina – which held up the decision – to remain neutral during the voting today. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that the decision that the seat of the permanent Secretariat of the Transport Community of the Western Balkans be in Belgrade is yet another confirmation of everything our country has done in the field of regional integration. Brnabic told Tanjug that our efforts were recognized by the neighbors too, as well as by the EU, who entrusted such an important project to Serbia. We remain committed to regional cooperation and economic integration of the Western Balkans, within which infrastructure projects have enormous significance, she stressed, and expressed the belief that Serbia will justify the trust given. She expressed gratitude to all the neighbors for the support they gave to our country, recalling that we have fought for a long time to achieve this goal, because this is an important issue within the framework of the Berlin Process.
Dacic: Serbia sincerely committed to regional stability (Tanjug)
Serbia is sincerely committed to continuation of its European path, to good-neighborly relations and to improving regional stability, as well as to further strengthening of our economies, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in Vienna on Thursday at the 24th OSCE Ministerial Council meeting. “We are fully devoted to the EU-led dialogue with Pristina and to the implementation of all agreements reached so far, in particular on the long-awaited establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities,” Dacic said.
Tillerson: Some parts of Balkans still unstable (Tanjug)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that despite a certain amount of progress being made, there is still instability in some parts of the Balkans. Tillerson spoke on Thursday in Vienna, Austria, where he is attending the OSCE Ministerial Council. “Governments should accelerate economic and political reforms, including institutional strengthening, the fight against corruption and the rule of law,” he said, according to Tanjug. These are the key steps, the US official said.
Tillerson also mentioned the significance of an agreement on reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina bearing in mind the 2018 elections.
Patriarch Kirill for a just resolution of Kosovo issue (Politika)
During talks in Moscow, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill voiced hope for a just resolution of the issue of the future of Kosovo and Metohija, while the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej spoke about Serbia’s intentions to continue to fight for the preservation of this Serbian province within the country, pointing out at the same time that Serbia is counting on Russia’s help. “Our country has been persistently fighting to preserve this land within our state. They are unjustly seizing this land from Serbia. Our strength is small and this is why we need the assistance of brotherly Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church,” said Patriarch Irinej. He thanked the Russian Patriarch for monitoring the situation related to Kosovo and Metohija, for visiting many times this land and for having the opportunity to get personally acquainted with all the difficulties and challenges faced by the Serb people in Kosovo.
“Key Determinants of Serbian Foreign Policy” Conference (RTS)
The Institute of International Politics and Economics organized a one-day conference, dubbed “Key Determinants of Serbian Foreign Policy”, in cooperation with Hanns Seidel Foundation for Serbia and Montenegro, as another in a series of academic events conceived to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Institute. Within the first panel, the participants discussed demography, diplomacy, geopolitics and defense policy as determinants that impacts current development of Serbia’s foreign policy. The debate within the second panel was centered on the effects of global trends in the post-Cold War international relations, and the impact of the regional relations of Serbia with the neighboring countries in the context of security threats and risks that could shape the implementation of the national foreign policy in decades to come. Presenters and discussants in the third panel highlighted how the Europeanisation process appears as one of the determinants of Serbian foreign policy, with a focus on economic factors related to the functioning of the single market. The fourth panel included the economic determinants of Serbia’s foreign policy, such as the World Trade Organization, foreign direct investments, economic relations with Russia, and migration policies in the context of economic development.
Director of the Institute Branislav Djordjevic notes that European partners are often slowing down the accession process by opening negotiating chapters ‘on a spoon’ and regularly shifting the date for Serbia’s final accession to the EU. He says that Serbia is safely stepping towards its strategic foreign policy goal – EU membership. “In the realization of this strategic goal – EU accession, Serbia is facing a serious challenge of preservation state sovereignty, bearing in mind the illegal, illegitimate, unilateral declaration of independence of the southern Serbian province and recognition by a certain number of states,” said Djordjevic. He says this represents a delicate moment that no European state had faced in its near history. “Serbia’s vital interest at the bilateral level is to improve relations with the great powers – Moscow, Beijing, Washington,” said Djordjevic. He notes that Serbia’s relation towards Russia is not viewed favorably in Brussels and Washington. He says that Serbia advocates regional stability and cooperation, but is exposed to constant obstructions of Western Balkan countries to whom it has lent a hand most sincerely.
Izetbegovic comments on difference of opinions of members of B&H Presidency (BHT1)
B&H Presidency member, Bakir Izetbegovic commented on the difference of opinions of the members of the B&H Presidency and topics that were discussed during their meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Izetbegovic and Chairman of the B&H Presidency Dragan Covic had differences of opinions regarding B&H’s foreign politics. Izetbegovic responded to Covic’s statement where Covic said that “B&H will not recognize Kosovo until Serbia takes a different stand on Kosovo matter, than the one it now has”. Covic and Vucic agreed on this stance during their meeting, but Izetbegovic felt the need to confute with that stance, claiming that Covic can only present such a stance as his own and not the official stance of the B&H Presidency and all of its members. “I tried to communicate with Covic, but when I saw that he was persistent in expressing his opinion that B&H will wait on what will the official Belgrade say, in order to determine our own international politics and positions, I said immediately, on the session, so that he does not repeat that on the press conference, as an official stance of B&H Presidency. He can only speak on his behalf, not mine. If he wants to wait what the official Belgrade will say, let him wait. I felt the need to correct that and to emphasize that the international relations and positions of B&H will be determined in Sarajevo and we will not wait on anybody,” said Izetbegovic.
Dodik: Izetbegovic shows what B&H is (Srna)
Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik has said in a statement to Srna that the behavior of Bosniak B&H Presidency member, Bakir Izetbegovic, during the official visit to Serbia, has shown how B&H is fully disorganized and proved that he is someone who obstructs every possible agreement. “I’m surprised that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic even could think he could reach some arrangements with the Presidency with Izetbegovic as a part of it, who is known for obstructing any possible agreement with B&H,” Dodik has said when asked to comment on Izetbegovic’s reaction, when during a joint press conference in Belgrade with the Serbian president, he denied the allegations about B&H’s position on Kosovo issue, which was announced a few minutes before by B&H Presidency Chairman Dragan Covic. The President of RS has pointed out that Izetbegovic publicly showed an ugly face of bad relations in the B&H Presidency, adding that it is clear that B&H cannot and will not recognize self-proclaimed Kosovo and that the position agreed at the meeting, as it was heard, was absolutely principled, which Izetbegovic tried to deny. “The only new thing is that he did not wait to return to Sarajevo to ruin everything, but he did it on the spot, obviously impatient and irresponsible, which is what he usually is,” Dodik has said. He has assessed that such Bakir Izetbegovic’s behavior is equal to his father’s, the former Muslim war leader, Alija Izetbegovic. “Bakir Izetbegovic has stated that he continues his father’s policy that is written in the ‘Islamic Declaration’, so nothing is unclear there,” Dodik has concluded.
Reactions to Izetbegovic’s act in Belgrade (Srna)
SDS leader Vukota Govedarica stated that act of Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic, during the press conference in Belgrade, presents a form of diplomatic precedent, considering the fact that Chairman Dragan Covic was the one who acted in official capacity. Govedarica said that Izetbegovic once again managed to cause unpleasant surprise with these statements, but this is obviously his style of behavior. SDS leader stressed that he is glad that Serbia achieved a diplomatic victory: “Yesterday, Izetbegovic, by causing a diplomatic scandal, told the public that this issue will be treated in circles of DPA, meaning that this issue cannot be on the agenda without Serb member of the Presidency”, said Govedarica.
PDP leader Branislav Borenovic said that Izetbegovic’s act is sign of frustration and lack of political culture, stating that this was undiplomatic and unnecessary act. “This shows that Bosniak people has issue with the leadership and they obviously lack a person who would make sure for entire region to move forward in a rational, good-neighborly relation”, said Borenovic. that behavior of Serb member of B&H Presidency Mladen Ivanic showed how reasonable and serious politician should act.
NDP leader Dragan Cavic said that it is impossible to take a joint stance in B&H Presidency and to achieve united political approach presenting of the foreign politics. He stressed that it is Izetbegovic who “jumps off the wagon the most” and added that this presents continuation of inability of the Presidency to reach agreement within this institution.
DNS leader Marko Pavic said that Izetbegovic’s act presents another disgrace of B&H and its diplomacy. He stressed that it was better if this visit was at the later time then to go to Belgrade with different stances.
Leader of ‘United Srpska’ party Nenad Stevandic said that Izetbegovic’s act is in line with the politics that he leads and which causes disturbances in relations and political tensions. Stevandic assessed that Izetbegovic is burdened by ‘Sarajevo-centric’ politics, which causes instabilities in B&H.
Crnadak: Outcome of visit to Belgrade is exceptionally good (Srna)
B&H Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak said that that outcome of the visit of B&H Presidency to Serbia is exceptionally good, and the meetings were very open and useful, despite of the fact that the press conference after the meetings drew most attention of the media. During the Wednesday’s meeting with Foreign Ministers of Serbia and Turkey, Crnadak stressed that Serbia and B&H will continue close cooperation in all sectors, especially in field of EU integration. During the trilateral meeting, Crnadak stressed that good political cooperation can and needs to be stimulant for even better and more substantial cooperation.
Lagumdzija on B&H Presidency’s visit to Belgrade (Dnevni avaz)
Former B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Zlatko Lagumdzija, commenting on B&H Presidency’s visit to Belgrade stated that the visit should not have taken place without proper preparation. According to Lagumdzija, B&H Presidency members went to Belgrade lacking harmonized stances on important as well as less important issues. “Today it was evident there is no agreement on serious issues. That represents a reflection of the internal relations in B&H”, Lagumdzija assessed. In addition, the former B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs warned that current B&H leaders are speaking about policy of B&H as if it is divided on three autonomous policies of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. Commenting on the fact that Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic made a remark during the visit to Belgrade that B&H’s foreign policy moves should be agreed on in Sarajevo, the former minister assessed Izetbegovic’s statement as benign. However he criticized Chairman of B&H Presidency Dragan Covic and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for failing to agree with Izetbegovic in this regard.
As for the overall atmosphere at the joint press conference of Vucic and B&H Presidency, Lagumdzija noted that he can only wish for such a press conference never to happen again.
Rape victim offered money not to be witness (Glas Srpske)
Three witnesses in the process against 13 Bosniaks, former members of B&H Army, wartime B&H Interior Ministry and Territorial Defense in Konjic, who are suspected of crimes against humanity against several dozens of Serbs in this municipality, have asked to testify under protection, and one of the rape victims said that she was offered money to give up her testimony. Pressures over witnesses have escalated lately and this brings in question the outcome of the trials, said prosecutor in this case Stanko Blagic, during the hearing of determining of detention to the mentioned 13 suspects. Court of B&H indirectly confirmed this, being that in their deposition of the decision for ordering detention for 10 o 13 suspects, the Court stressed that only detention can prevent suspects to contact the potential witnesses.
Croatia prepares indictments against high ranking Bosniak military officials as revenge for verdict to ‘Prlic et al’ (EuroBlic)
EuroBlic daily learned that the Prosecutor’s Office of Croatia will soon publish indictments against 17 Bosniak Generals and former high ranking officials of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RB&H Army) following the verdict to ‘Prlic et al’. One of Bosniak officers suspected by the Prosecutor’s Office of Croatia for war crimes against Croats in B&H and Croatia is wartime commander of the 5th Corps of the RB&H Army Atif Dudakovic. Dudakovic has been under an investigation of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H for the past 11 years for war crimes against Serbs as well. The sources noted that, following the verdict to ‘Prlic et al’, state and political top of Croatia exerted tremendous pressure on the Prosecutor’s Office of Croatia to prepare and issue indictments against wartime commanders of Bosniak army in the shortest possible time for crimes against Croats in Bugojno, Trusina, Travnik, Grabovica near Mostar but also because of alleged crimes they committed in the territory of Croatia while they were still officers of the former Yugoslav People’s Army (YNA). The sources reminded that media in Croatia reported at the beginning of this year that the Prosecutor’s Office of Croatia has launched an extensive investigation against some 30 Bosniaks suspected of war crimes against Croats.
According to the information published by Croatian media at the beginning of the year, the Prosecutor’s Office of Croatia has prepared indictments against Dudakovic, Jovan Divjak, Sefer Halilovic, Vehbija Karic, Selmo Cikotic, Enver Hadzihasanovic, Asim Koricic, Sakib Mahmuljin, Amir Kubura, Serif Patkovic, Djemal Merdan, Ramiz Drekovic, Salko Gusic, Enes Kovacevic, Bakir Alispahic, Fahrudin Agic and Midhat Cerovac.
Grabar-Kitarovic tells UN Security Council Croats admit crimes but reject collective guilt (Hina)
Addressing the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that Croats admit that some of their compatriots committed war crimes, however, they reject collective guilt that is being assigned to them following the ICTY judgment against six Bosnian Croats. She said the Tribunal had lifted the hopes of thousands of her people who had suffered at the hands of a “merciless aggressor” and had lived up to its expectations. She noted, however, that the Tribunal had spent too much time on procedural and status‑related matters and not enough on providing victims with a true sense of justice.
“The main actor of the project of the Greater Serbia and the tragedy at the area of the former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic avoided the final verdict of the Court (ICTY). This is a huge gap in the legacy of The Tribunal”. She rejected the interpretation of the Court’s recent judgment in the Jadranko Prlic case that the Croatian nation was guilty. Pointing to the ruling of the Appeals Chamber in July 2016, she stressed that the Tribunal did not have the competency to make findings on State responsibility.
Plenkovic: We have not changed position regarding war crimes verdict (Vecernji list)
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic claims there was no change in government’s position on the recent war crimes verdict. “When it comes to respecting The Hague Tribunal’s verdicts, as a responsible member of the United Nations and the international communities, the Republic of Croatia has no dilemmas”. He added that one of the five convicted Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina could demand a revision of the verdict, which would then open up an opportunity for the Croatian government to try to change those parts of the judgment with which it does not agree.
Justice Minister says legal experts are reviewing ICTY verdict (HRT)
Croatia’s Justice Minister Drazen Bosnjakovic said that a team of legal experts are in the process of analyzing the ICTY’s verdict in the case of six Bosnian Croats, when the team of legal experts completes its analysis, Croatian officials will sit down with the defendants in the case, and present the findings. He noted that Croatia cannot submit a motion for a retrial on its own, but that this will have to be initiated by the five remaining Bosnian Croats. The minister also said that based on the findings so far, a retrial could produce a different verdict.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic reiterated that Croatia would respect the Hague verdict, but that it rejected certain aspects of the ruling, specifically those segments that allude to responsibility on the part of Croatia’s leadership.
Do not let Montenegro to become Somalia (RTCG)
URA Chairman Dritan Abazovic has sent an open letter to Ambassadors of the European Union (EU), Embassy of the United Kingdom, the United States and the OSCE due to, as it is stated, “obvious electoral irregularities in the early elections in Mojkovac, Petnjica, Tuzi and Cetinje “. Abazovic states in his letter that citizens’ security have been violated during recent local elections. “This was not the case before, but now we witnessed to attempts of murdering the deputy, attacks to their property, throwing the tear gas on the candidates for the party members, the attacks on the voters at the polls and hospitalizing of the injured in the health facilities at Cetinje and the Clinical Center of Montenegro”, states Abazovic, who submitted to the embassies extensive material confirming these abuses. This material has been handed over to the competent institutions – the Constitutional Court, the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office, the State Election Commission and the municipal election commissions, it is stated in the letter.
“Perhaps the most visible example of abuse and electoral defeat is the ballot papers from which it is clearly seen that ‘authorities’ got support through the coercion. If the voting is done by geometric figures which are not a circle, it is clear that such a mechanism is used to control those citizens who have previously been blackmailed or received money in exchange for support for DPS or one of its satellites. It should be emphasized that no list on which voters voted for the opposition had such symbols, geometric bodies and other methods of marking, which is a clear indicator that the government has influenced the freely expressed electoral will of citizens, “Abazovic quoted in the letter.
Juncker hails Macedonia’s exceptional progress (MIA)
Macedonia has made exceptional progress and the EU wishes to encourage the country to keep on the road it has taken, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said Wednesday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. “We expect for the reform process commenced by Zaev to resume” Juncker said. He affirmed the EC’s commitment to prepare and carry out the next EU enlargement round, especially with the Western Balkan countries.
Zaev held talks with Juncker in Brussels and voiced his expectations for Macedonia to be integrated into the EU Enlargement Strategy for 2018. “We believe we have pretty solid arguments on which our expectations are be founded. We’ve informed Juncker about the arguments and the efforts made by the new government formed after a prolonged and deep political crisis,” Zaev said at the press conference. He mentioned that the government had passed an urgent reform plan, commonly referred to as Plan 3-6-9, noting that all benchmarks of the plan had been implemented ‘successfully and intensively’ in the past five months, the government said in a press release. “A lot of energy has been invested in the areas designated as top priority in the report of the Senior Experts’ Group on systemic Rule of Law, supported by the European Commission, namely judiciary, reforms of intelligence services, reforms in the public administration and reinforcement of the independent regulatory bodies and media,” the Premier said stressing that vital and major steps for substantial reforms had been taken in all of these areas. According to him, the main motive is to build strong public trust in institutions. – The judiciary, public administration and public services are being transformed profoundly. We are accelerating the economic growth in Macedonia,” PM Zaev said. Noting that the government was committed to improving relations with all neighboring countries, he said there was willingness and preparedness to focus on the confidence building measures with Greece and to settle the name dispute in UN-brokered negotiations.
Macedonia, Zaev went further, would deliver results and expected from the European institutions to recognize and evaluate them fairly, so ‘we view the 2018 as vital year for the future of our country and the entire Balkan region.’ ‘We expect for Macedonia to become part of EU enlargement strategy to be published next year. We expect clean European Commission’s recommendation for commencing the EU-accession talks, as well as a possible European Council’s decision for their actual launch in 2018,’ Zaev said. Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn called on Macedonia to keep implementing the reform plan 3-6-9, based on the Przino Agreement and the recommendations of expert group, led by Reinhard Priebe. Macedonia’s EU-accession talks are a process of national interest and all stakeholders should support it as part of the country’s strategic goals, the officials told the press conference.
Zaev-Mogherini: EU commends Macedonia’s tangible progress (MIA)
Making Macedonia a modern, democratic country, one that shares the European values and where the law will rule is the government’s main objective, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Wednesday in Brussels at a meeting with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. Personal engagement of EU high officials in and the support of EU institutions for turning this goal into reality is vital, Zaev said. Macedonia, Zaev said, offers arguments to prove to be the most successful story in 2017, being capable to contribute substantially to advancing the good-neighborly relations, regional cooperation, the stability and security of the Western Balkan region and Europe. Great efforts have been invested for Macedonia to return to the right track after the long-standing political crisis and the time has come for these efforts to bear fruits, the PM said. He expressed belief that the EU would make a decision on launching Macedonia’s EU-accession talks in the first half of 2018, as well as offer possibility for each aspirant country to advance on the road to EU membership on the individual merit-based progress. Mogherini on her part commended Macedonia’s tangible progress for a short period of time, saying that it would also contribute to the country’s advancement on the road to the EU membership. Zaev and Mogherini agreed on the need of ruling and opposition parties to cooperate on the matters of strategic interest of the country, notifying that the upcoming period is crucial for opening of Macedonia’s EU-accession talks.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
‘Mission accomplished,’: UN tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (United Nations Press Release, 7 December 2017)
After more than 24 years of operations, the United Nations tribunal set up to prosecute crimes committed during conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s, has now completed all judicial work, the court’s President told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
“Despite all the sceptics, the naysayers, the deniers who, from the very beginning, embarked on a campaign against the Tribunal and have been at pains to question our legitimacy and integrity and portray a doomsday scenario, I am proud to appear before this esteemed Council today and say: mission accomplished,” declared Carmel Agius, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), in his final briefing to the 15-member body.
Recalling the Security Council’s decision to create the Tribunal back in May 1993, Mr. Agius stated: “In retrospect […] the establishment of the ICTY was one of the international community’s proudest moments.”
Noting that the body had developed a completion strategy and delivered judgements in the final trial case against Ratko Mladic on 22 November and the final appeal case against Jadranko Prlic et al. on 29 November, Mr. Agius said that in supporting the creation of the court, his predecessors had put their signature on an important page in the history of international justice and the fight against impunity.
There was another history, however, he said, namely of those who were afraid to accept the Tribunal and even denounced it, “of those who did not choose to fight impunity, but, for reasons of political or personal gain, blind nationalism and ethnic hatred,” preferred immunity and even glorified those who had committed atrocities.
The Tribunal’s achievements did not begin and end in The Hague, where the body is headquartered, Mr. Agius continued. He was disturbed by the numerous crimes yet to be prosecuted before domestic courts in the Former Yugoslavia. The rise of revisionism and nationalism throughout the region could not be ignored.
“Do not delude yourselves; the absence of war does not mean peace,” he said. Ending impunity for mass crimes is not the preserve of any one institution – it is a common goal that ties all together in the shared quest for justice, peace and stability.
In closing, President Agius stated: “As the international community now looks on while mass crimes continue to take place, even as I speak, and geopolitical roadblocks impede any kind of comprehensive justice solutions, we must not forget the political courage that sparked the ICTY’s existence, the Tribunal’s long trajectory, and the need to stay the course.”
Beyond the Tribunal’s success, reconciliation remains a significant challenge
Theodor Meron, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, affirmed that the Tribunal had made plain that even complex trials could and must be conducted in accordance with the panoply of due process guarantees. As a result, the principles of international law were stronger and, “accountability for grave crimes is increasingly the expectation rather than the exception.”
Describing the current activities of the Residual Mechanism, which will maintain the Tribunal’s legacy and carry out its remaining functions, he said it is “serving as a new, effective and efficient model of international court” in carrying out duties such as preparations for administration disposition of records, in further developing its legal and regulatory framework and working on provision of assistance to national jurisdictions.
The fulfilment of the Mechanism’s mandate depends on the ongoing support of the Council and the broader international community and on the commitment to all concerned to the invaluable legacies of the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
In his remarks, the Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals, Serge Brammertz, said his Office remains focused on expeditiously completing the limited number of trials and appeals transferred from the ICTY and on locating and arresting the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
He acknowledged that the Tribunal failed to achieve reconciliation in the Former Yugoslavia, where many still viewed convicted war criminals as heroes while victims and survivors were ignored and dismissed. “The reality is that there is still no true will within the region to accept the immense wrongdoings of the past and move forward – sadly, most of all among the political leadership,” he said.
Too many people listen to war criminals, who hide behind claims of collective responsibility, when in fact no community bore responsibility for what those men had done. He emphasized that justice is an essential precondition for achieving reconciliation.
Whom to rely on: Serbia between East and West (European Western Balkans, by Aleksandar Radic, 6 December 2017)
In the turbulent era of NATO-Russia relations, paratroopers of the Serbian Armed Forces (AF) had an exercise with their Russian counterparts in June 2017, and in November, the exercise was conducted with the US parachutists. Discourse in public opinion differs from a balanced approach to defense policy – if we judge according to the Serbian media reporting, it relies mostly on Russian military support, but if we analyze the concurrent activities then it is noticeable that the AF are working dynamically with NATO members. Serbian defense policy is based on “military neutrality and independent defense building, but at the same time it relies on cooperation with other countries and international organizations in accordance to its own interests, needs, and principles” – one of the official definitions of the position of the country “on the front line”. According to current views, Serbia’s foreign policy and natural defense cooperation are naturally directed to the US, China, the Russian Federation and the EU as the leading global forces. In relation to NATO, defense policy as an important goal recognizes the development of a cooperation within the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program in order to meet the security standards required for the EU integration. In practice, daily politics imposes a flexible attitude towards partner countries in the defense domain, and therefore, for example, cooperation with China is increasing “on paper” but the increase is extremely modest, almost symbolic, due to the geographical distance of the two countries and the lack of real need for activities such as tactical exercises. In the context of relations with NATO and the Russian Federation, exercises have become the main publicly visible instrument for the development of military-military cooperation. Especially if we focus on the symbolic message of two exercises of the parachute units, it is clear that Serbia wishes to send the idea of maintaining partnership relations with its partners – that is why AF members took part in the “Slovene Fraternity-2017” exercise with the Russian and Belarusian parachutists on the Belarusian polygon near Brest in June 2017. US paratroopers and members of VS sailed in November 2017 from American planes and landed at the deserted area at Lisičji Jarak Airport, which was the final part of the exercise bearing the politically “correct” name “Winter-2017” for the AF and a symbolical “Double Eagle” for American parachutes. In a narrow military comparison of two exercises, the “Slovene Fraternity” was a complex activity involving more than 400 Belarusians, over 300 Russians and 50 Serbs trained to fight against paramilitary formations. Paratroopers used infantry and combat techniques as opposed to “Winter”, which was a presentation of parachute skills of 120 members of the Serbian AF and 96 members of the US Armed Forces. The message of official Belgrade that military neutrality confirms exercises with both forces did not stifle critical tones – in particular the political level of the EU overtly negatively looks at joint exercises of the Serbs with the Russians, and on the other hand, for instance, the exercise “Winter 2017” was followed by the reporting of the two leading world agencies AP and Reuters in a very similar tone of Moscow being wary of the possible NATO expansion in the Balkans. In a regional context, countries that are determined to build a security model as NATO members and have already become full members or are aspiring the membership are openly critical of Serbia’s position, and the over-developed military cooperation between Serbia and the Russian Federation is viewed as a source of the potential breakthrough of the Russian “hard power”. Joint exercises of the members of the Serbian Armed Forces with their Russian counterparts are a recent topic in contrast to activities organized with NATO members that are more of a routine, as they have been taking place since 2006 when Serbia joined the Partnership for Peace program. Military-military cooperation between Russia and Serbia in the past has been reduced to the educational exchange of officers and a few courses. The first joint large-scale activity was the exercise “Srem 2014” held in November 2014 in Serbia. Initially planned to be an exercise with an antiterrorist scenario, but on the background of new global relations following the outbreak of the crisis in the Ukraine, the Russians showed the potential of a strategic maneuver with ready-to-use forces – reinforced airborne troops with 9 combat vehicles BMD-2 were transferred to Serbia from 6 II-76TD four-engine jets. Both parties initially agreed to hold a regular annual bilateral exercise, but the number of participants increased to three – Belarus joined and the exercise was given the symbolic name “Slovene Fraternity”. The first exercise under such a name was held in Russia in 2015. At the BARS 2016 exercise held in November 2016 in Serbia, members of the armed forces of Russia, Belarus, and Serbia practiced anti-terrorist activities. The hosts of BARS in 2017 were Belarusians. Since 2015, exercises aimed at training pilots of the MiG-29 and Mi-8/17 have been held under the name of BARS, which the Russians have chosen for its political and propaganda significance – this is an acronym for the Brotherhood of the Russian and Serbian Aviators. As in the example of parachutists, the hosts of the exercises are the two countries intermittently – the first one in 2015 was held in Russia, then the one in 2016 was hosted by VS and lastly, in 2017, it was again the Russian turn to host the exercise.
Another permanent activity is the participation of the VS in the army games in Russia, where Serbian tanks have been present since 2014, and in 2016, they were joined by the members of the air defense units, and in 2017, by the chefs. In addition to the three regular activities of 2017, 70 members of the 37th mechanized AF battalion were participants in a Russian exercise as a part of the Russian mechanized battalion.
In the activities with NATO and bilaterally with the members of the Alliance, there are dozens and dozens of exercises and the listing of all activities would take too much space.
Generally, it regularly participates in regional exercises, which are part of NATO’s response to the current crisis in the East, and that is why units of the Serbian Armed Forces participated in 2017 in such exercises in Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. In addition, a high-quality cooperation is being maintained with neighbors from NATO through bilateral exercises – with the Hungarians it is being worked on a training of a river fleet (both countries use identical warships built in Belgrade), pontoon and infantry, the exercises of duty forces for control and surveillance of airspace including interceptions with hunting aviation have been held with Romanian counterparts, members of the missile units of air defense in the Serbian Armed Forces have shot at the Shabla camp in Bulgaria, etc. An example of the complexity of the political background of the exercises is shooting at Shabla in July 2017, when the exercise at a bilateral level was first expanded and joined by the Americans and Ukrainians. However, the official reports of the Serbian Ministry of Defence remained silent about who was all on the Shabla field, but it was noticed in the professional circles that the Serbs were just right next to the Ukrainians at that exercise as well as at another NATO exercise in the Bulgarian field Novo Selo in August 2017, which a number of NATO and PfP members took part in.
A special type of cooperation between the Serbian Armed Forces and NATO is the implementation of the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC), a model of training check for NATO units and allies that are potential participants in NATO-led operations.
In the complex mechanism of checking when entering the OCC, the declared units are equipped and trained according to precisely defined NATO requirements and undergo training courses in a period of four years in which the last word is given by NATO officers. All activities with NATO are covered by the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program, which is prepared every year and through a four-year NATO military training and exercises programme (currently, the 2014-2018 plan is in force). Irrespective of these plans, bilateral training is arranged. Then a special area for analyzing cooperation between Serbian Armed Forces and NATO is support for education and training of personnel and donations that enabled the development of some new teams within the Serbian AF – with the support of the US, a Simulation Center in Belgrade was established for exercises supported by computer simulations and a Training Center for Multinational Operation Units in the base “Jug” between Bujanovac and Preševo was created, which will have the status of a “partner” next year, i.e. it will host courses and exercises for NATO members and members of the PfP programs. The Americans donated 40 HMMWV off-road vehicles to the center “Jug” and the infantry troops of the OCC as well as the machinery to the engineering troops of the OCC. As part of the cooperation with NATO, the participation of the AF in UN-mandated missions should also be taken into consideration, as the units are engaged as part of the higher units of Alliance members – in Lebanon in the UNIFIL mission, Serbian troop is part of the Spanish Battalion, and another one is in the sector under the Italian leadership. In the UNFICYP mission, Serbian AF is part of a joint battalion comprised of the Slovaks, Hungarians and the Ukrainians. Also, the reference to international cooperation is participation in EU missions because they are led by the members of NATO with a modest presence of partner countries. Preparations are underway for an engineering troop that is being equipped and prepared with the US support for the participation in one of the multinational operations. Serbian Armed Forces received grants from Denmark, Norway, Great Britain, etc.
On the eastern side, six MiG-29 hunters were transferred from Russia to Serbia in the first week of October, but this is a complex contract with the economic interests of Russian companies that will receive 185 million euros envisaged for the extra-budgetary payment of the MiG program. That is why the question is whether it is a purchase of aircraft under favorable conditions or a donation. As for the value, the first “real” higher donation of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation should be realized in the near future, and this will be 30 tanks T-72 and 30 reconnaissance vehicles BRDM-2. The only realized donation from November 2014 was ten parachutes D-10.
When it comes to contracts of a purely commercial nature, Serbia is heavily oriented to purchases from NATO.
The recent contracts for the procurement of 9 helicopters H145M (six for the AF and 3 for the police), automatic guns FN SCAR-L, and other infantry weapons. Two transport helicopters MI-17V-5 were purchased from Russia in on the “commercial basis” in June 2016. An overview of the cooperation with NATO and the Russian Federation shows that relations with NATO are much more complex and deeper, since various forms of cooperation based on training, equipping and international engagement are intertwined. The picture is dramatically different if one follows the media coverage in Serbia, which is mostly focused on the development of relations with the Russian Federation. In addition, a series of tabloids create an idea of the full strategic reliance to the East, which involves the procurement of large quantities of weapons under favorable conditions.
Aleksandar Radic – Military analyst and publicist. Since 1991, he has written for the British, Czech and Russian military and aviation magazines. From 2007 to 2017, he writes for the official magazine of the Ministry of Defense of Serbia – “Defense”. He is the author of several books.