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Belgrade Media Report 26 December 2017

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 26 December 2017
LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic: Serbia will conduct its own policy and protect its interests (TV Pink)
• Dacic: I would like parliamentary elections to also be held (RTS)
• Drecun: Thaci and his band behind attempt to abolish KLA court (RTS/B92/Beta)
• Vulin: My personal opinion that Belgrade should pull out of negotiations if Pristina’s attempt succeeds (RTS)
• Djuric: Solving property relations to lead to normalization (Tanjug/Novosti)
• SNS declares victories in four municipalities (B92)
• Sutanovac satisfied with party’s showing in local polls (B92)
• Opposition parties on elections in five municipalities (Tanjug)
• Five lists cross census in Presevo (Tanjug)
• Tadic: Opposition to unite (Tanjug)
• Left of Serbia supports Djilas (Tanjug)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• US Congressman Turner writes to Tillerson, says Dayton 2 should be signed (TV1)
• Dodik: There is no need for Dayton 2 but for internal agreement without interference of foreigners (TV1)
• Other reactions to Turner’s letter (BHT1/TV1)
• Dodik’s announcement that members of AF B&H will not participate in marking of Day of RS sparks reactions (TV1)
• Covic: Next year will be marked by election campaign and crises (Fena)
• Inzko warns general elections must be held (BNTV)
Croatia
• Croats are constituent people in B&H and no one will reduce them to minority (Vecernji list)
• President stresses demographics as a key problem for Croatia (Vecernji list/HRT)
Montenegro
• DF reveals new facts about attempted election-day coup (CDM)
• DF sent audio recordings to the EU Delegation and embassies (CDM)
• Sekulic: Parliament boycott harmful (Pobjeda)
• Martin calls on parties to bring tensions down (Pobjeda)
fYROM
• Macedonian government gets new health minister (MIA)
• Alliance of the Albanians stays in gov’t coalition until language law is adopted, says Sela (MIA)
• Hristijan Mickoski becomes new VMRO-DPMNE leader (MIA)
• Zaev expects constructive and critical opposition (MIA)
• President Ivanov meets with new VMRO-DPMNE leader (MIA)
Albania
• Opposition’s protests, Basha meeting with Democrats (ADN)
• New political crisis within the opposition (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Hoyt Yee: Athens and Skopje have an excellent opportunity for name issue settlement in 2018 (ANA-MPA)
• British Ambassador: Macedonia should mount high hill to start EU accession talks (Radio Free Europe)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: Serbia will conduct its own policy and protect its interests (TV Pink)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated in an interview to TV Pink that his response to the topic of sitting on two chairs is that Serbia will conduct its policy in a manner to observe its own interests, and not any other foreign powers, either of the US, Russia or the EU, or anyone else. Vucic commented the latest statement by US officials Hoyt Yee and added: “To all that I have a simple answer – the Americans are our friends, all of them are our friends, but we are conducting the country in accordance with our interests.”

He reminded of the internal dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija, stressing that they started to talk about problems, rights, possibilities and future in Kosovo. He pointed out that there is not one single rational reason over which Serbia would introduce sanctions to Russia, and reiterated that this will not happen as long as he is the president of the state. “Russia did not do any harm to us. Why should we impose sanctions to such a country? At the same time we have not been punishing some other countries which did cause us harm,” Vucic says.

He assessed that the following year will be full of challenges, and the crucial one will be Kosovo and Metohija, regional peace and stability, as well as strengthening of the economy.

“We will resume talks, but they will not be as you would like them to be, because Serbia is being asked as well. They will be as Serbia says so. Not because it wants it this way, but because it offers compromise,” said Vucic. Asked about the requests of the Albanians to include the US in the dialogue, but also about the opposition to the Special Court, Vucic says that the Albanians are not doing anything independently, some others are deciding, not them. “You wish to throw in an additional player? If you want to throw in somebody who recognized Kosovo, Serbia will request somebody who didn’t do so, and this is Russia,” he said, adding that he had discussed this with Russian President Vladimir Putin and received consent on this.

Vucic says that, in his opinion, the Dayton Accord is being threatened, but that he had ensured peace, and that any violation of this agreement could lead to unforeseeable consequences. “What was achieved by Dayton is fragile, so anybody going against this agreement risks bad consequences,” he said.

He retold how the agreement on the border between Serbia and B&H looked like, first in the official talks in Sarajevo and then at the dinner. “We discussed in Sarajevo the establishment of borders and I told them we are asking for 13 plus 24 hectares, which concerns the Zvornik and Bajina Basta hydro-electric power plants, and that we are ready to compensate wherever B&H wishes this,” said Vucic. He notes that Izetbegovic said at the time  – this is difficult for us, it is fine for the railway, but this is difficult because Drina is at issue, we can give the right to official use for 30 years, and Vucic, he added, asked this to be at least for 99 years. “Later, in Belgrade, Izetbegovic said – I told this to you at the dinner, but this cannot be resolved in two days. I asked him why we then discussed this at all,” said Vucic.

 

Dacic: I would like parliamentary elections to also be held (RTS)

Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) leader Ivica Dacic said Monday he would like parliamentary elections to be held simultaneously with local elections in Belgrade. In an appearance on the RTS, Dacic said he would like to see this happen because of opposition leaders, who he said were calling in unison for elections while actually hiding behind one another and having no courage to appear on their own. “We went together with the SNS, these were our joint lists in Pecinci, Negotin and Kostolac, and we achieved really great results there, the best result being in Pecinic, but also in Negotin the result was five percent better than at the presidential elections, meaning that this coalition has synergy, that it was accepted among citizens and not only among our members,” said Dacic.

He says they are also satisfied with the result in Mionica, where the SPS went with the traditional partner, the United Serbia (JS), but also with the SRS. He says that the SPS has never been in coalition with Vojislav Seselj, but that the situation in Mionica was such that he decided to accept to be on the joint list.

Serbia wants new friendships and good ties with the US, France and the UK, but it will not neglect old friends, says Dacic. Commenting on the announcement that the US Department of State and the Department of Defense will next year compile a report on the Western Balkan nations’ cooperation with the US, as well as Russia, Dacic said everyone should do their job.
Drecun: Thaci and his band behind attempt to abolish KLA court (RTS/B92/Beta)

 

The initiative to abolish the law on the special court for KLA crimes is a well-designed plan of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and his band, the Chairman of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Decun said, adding that their plan was to send a message to the international community that they could destabilize the situation in Kosovo if they were indicted for the crimes committed by the KLA. “With this move Thaci threw down the gauntlet to Washington and Brussels, because these centers of power were precisely the ones influencing the adoption of the law that formed this specialized chamber,” Drecun told RTS on Sunday, adding that this initiative showed Thaci’s and other former KLA leaders’ “real fear” that they could be indicted by the court. Drecun recalled that the petition to abolish the law was signed by 16,000 (KLA) veterans and emphasized that they represented the power that the establishment of Kosovo was using to make threats, especially toward the western portion of the international community. “We will raise those 16,000 former terrorists who can do anything, if we find ourselves in the indictments’ – that’s their message,” Drecun said. According to him, it is up to Serbia to continue to exert diplomatic pressure for the special court to continue to work but also to do everything to collect as much evidence as possible about the crimes that have been committed. “The Serbian parliament Committee has sent complete information about the crimes committed by the KLA,” Drecun said, adding that if there is no justice for the Serb victims, reconciliation cannot be expected.

 

Vulin: My personal opinion that Belgrade should pull out of negotiations if Pristina’s attempt succeeds (RTS)

 

On Saturday, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said it was his personal opinion that if the attempt in Pristina to abolish the court succeeded, Belgrade should pull out of the ongoing Kosovo negotiations. Vulin told journalists that more than thousand Serbs have been killed since the arrival of the international community to the region of Kosovo and Metohija. Now they are trying to abolish the court so there will never be a chance to try for crimes against the Serbs. If this happens, my stand will be to cease negotiations. Unfortunately, in a large part of the international community there is no readiness to try for crimes against the Serbs. This is absolutely unacceptable for us. Those who would attempt to do this, need to be aware that they will have a decisive reaction from Serbia, and I speak this on my behalf, and this is not the stand of the government since the government hasn’t taken a stand on this issue,” the Defense Ministry quoted Vulin as having said. He says that if the court – that hasn’t even started operating, a court that hasn’t issued one single indictment for crimes against the Serbs – is abolished, then we have nothing to do in these negotiations. “We still don’t have the Community of Serb Municipalities, there is no justification for this, and now if the establishment of the Court for war crimes against the Serbs, for criminals from the KLA, is not allowed, then we have nothing to talk about,” said Vulin.

Asked to comment the statement by Ramush Haradinaj that he refuses participation of Russia in the Brussels dialogue, Vulin says that Belgrade is satisfied with the format of the dialogue conducted with Pristina. “If Pristina or anyone else wishes to change something, then it needs to be known that this cannot happen without the will of Serbia,” said Vulin.

All this came after an attempt failed in Pristina on Friday to schedule a session of the Kosovo Assembly that would consider abolishing the law. Kosovo Assembly speaker Kadri Veseli then announced the winter break that will last until 14 January. The session of the presidency of the assembly was to be held at the request of 43 MPs, who launched the initiative to convene an extraordinary session of parliament to abolish the law on the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

They did so after a petition with over 15,000 signatures, organized by war veterans of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, was handed over to the assembly. These former KLA members are demanding that the process of the formation of the court – which has already been established – returns to the beginning, or make legal changes so that Albanians are not the only ones put on trial for war crimes.

 

Djuric: Solving property relations to lead to normalization (Tanjug/Novosti)

 

Resolution of property relations in Kosovo and Metohija will be one of the key demands of the Serbian side in order for a comprehensive normalization of relations with Pristina to take place, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said. In the next stage of the Brussels dialogue, Belgrade will seek a review of the privatization in Kosovo and Metohija and officially turn to UNMIK and EULEX with this initiative, Djuric told Novosti.

 

SNS declares victories in four municipalities (B92)

 

Ruling SNS leader and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic declared late on Sunday his party’s victory in local elections held on Sunday in four municipalities. Vucic said the SNS won convincingly in Pecinci, Mionica, Negotin, and Kostolac, while the results had not yet arrived at the time of his press conference from the fifth municipality – Presevo. According to unofficial results, the Alternative for Changes led by Shqiprim Arifi won there.
Several incidents have been reported in Pecinci, where the local branch of the Democratic Party said they expected official complaints about irregularities to be filed “by the end of the process” – although the municipal election commission said there had been none by late Sunday.

 

Sutanovac satisfied with party’s showing in local polls (B92)

 

Democratic Party (DS) leader Dragan Sutanovac says the party achieved a cumulative result of 14.28 percent in Sunday’s local elections in four municipalities. He described this as solid and encouraging as he addressed reporters during a news conference in Belgrade on Monday.

According to him, the result shows that the party enjoys a trend of increasing trust. Sutanovac said the DS won 19 percent in Negotin, 13.6 percent in Mionica, 12.57 percent in Kostolac, and 8.56 percent in Pecinci. He said this makes the Democrats the second strongest party in Serbia.”

 

Opposition parties on elections in five municipalities (Tanjug)

 

The Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) has announced that it is satisfied with the achieved results at the local elections. “Our three percent in Pecinci is what we have always won and this result, with all invested effort, is the maximum at the moment. In Negotin, where we were on the list together with the DS, in the sum, we repeated the individual result from the previous elections,” announced the LDP. “We do not have understanding for the boycott of the elections called by Sasa Jankovic and Vuk Jeremic, whereby they directly worked against opposition parties that took part in the elections,” stated the LDP.

Dveri won eight percent of the votes at the local elections in Kostolac, this party announced. The party says this is an excellent result and proof of growth and strengthening of Dveri at all levels.

“Dveri has become a significant factor in Kostolac, while this scenario will also be reflected on the Belgrade elections, and possible parliamentary elections,” reads the statement.

 

Five lists cross census in Presevo (Tanjug)

 

Out of eight electoral lists that took part in the local elections in Presevo, five have crossed the census, including the list of Aleksandar Vucic – For Serbia United, which received 894 votes or 5.88 percent of the voters, the Municipal Election Commission in Presevo announced the preliminary results. Due to illegalities, the Commission annulled results at six polling stations where voting will be repeated.

According to the preliminary results, the list Alternative for Changers – Schiprim Arifi received most of the votes in Presevo, which received 5,504 votes or 36.2 percent of the votes. The list Democratic Party of Albanians – Ragmi Mustafa won 4,550 votes or 29.9 percent, the list Party for Democratic Action – Adita Sinani received 1,870 votes or 12.3 percent, while the list Group of Citizens Reform for Changes of the Democratic Party of Albanians – Sami Salihu received 1,419 votes or 9.3 percent.

 

Tadic: Opposition to unite (Tanjug)

 

The leader of the Social-Democrat Party (SDS) Boris Tadic has stated that this party will make the last effort to unite all ideologically similar opposition parties before the elections in Belgrade, and perhaps parliamentary as well. “If we don’t succeed in this, as we haven’t the last two times, then we will look for individual solutions,” Tadic told journalists on Saturday on the eve of the SDS main board. “I hope that our many years of effort to have a united opposition will yield results before these elections,” said Tadic. He thinks that opposition competitors and leaders need to take into account the fact that they need to fight against Vucic’s system of government, and not among themselves for primacy in the opposition.

 

Left of Serbia supports Djilas (Tanjug)

 

Following the meeting with the leadership of the Left of Serbia (LS) on Saturday, candidate for Mayor Dragan Djilas has stated that his program doesn’t lead to bankruptcy of Belgrade. Following talks, Djilas addressed the press and said that he had expected the support of the Left because his ideas and program are also social-democrat.

LS leader Borko Stefanovic has stated that he will support Djilas and the joint list of the opposition at the Belgrade elections. He says that the social-democrat idea can be seen in Djilas’ program, which they support – fight for rights of workers, economic status… According to him, one can see in Belgrade what Djilas had done, and this vision of his can also be applied throughout Serbia.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

US Congressman Turner writes to Tillerson, says Dayton 2 should be signed (TV1)

 

US Congressman from Ohio and former mayor of Dayton, Michael Turner has sent a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stressing the urgent need for the US to turn towards the Balkan region and take a leading role in the reconciliation process. In the letter, Congressman Turner suggested that Dayton 2 should be signed. Congressman Turner informed Tillerson in the letter that he fears that peace achieved in Dayton has been jeopardized.

“Now is the critical time for the region. This week, I wrote to the Secretary of the State Rex Tillerson, encouraging him to be the host of the Dayton Peace Accords 2. The US has the obligation to lead and support peace that we helped create in 1995”. Turner warned that there is an urgent need for the US to turn towards the Balkan region, by taking over the leading role in the reconciliation process.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee has also recently underlined the need for the western countries to help B&H in solving of the current deadlock. According to Yee, the West should make an effort and help B&H to solve the key political and economic problems, and reach compromise on heated issues such as reform of the B&H Election Law.

 

Dodik: There is no need for Dayton 2 but for internal agreement without interference of foreigners (TV1)

 

Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik on Sunday commented the suggestion of US Congressman Michael Turner that Dayton 2 should be signed. Dodik stressed that there is no need to sign Dayton 2, noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) needs internal agreement without the interference of foreigners. Dodik said that framework called the original Dayton is acceptable as far as he is concerned. Dodik further said that they are dissatisfied with what the High Representative ever did in B&H by imposing solutions.

“B&H is far from being functional and we see that in the joint institutions. Bearing in mind how those congressmen and senators operate in the US system, it is possible that this has to do with someone’s lobbying or something like that,” Dodik underlined.

 

Other reactions to Turner’s letter (BHT1/ TV1)

 

Leader of SP Republika Srpska (RS) Petar Djokic on Sunday commented on the suggestion of US Congressman Michael Turner that Dayton II should be signed. Djokic stated that there is no need to revise the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), stressing that it is necessary to focus on the consistent application of the 1995 agreement which, according to Djokic, represents good framework for permanent stability and security in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H).

Deputy Speaker of B&H House of Representatives Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) said that the initiative of Turner is a goodwill act. According to Dzaferovic, it is about time for the IC, i.e. Washington and the Brussels, to do their part of the job and help B&H.

Leader of PDP Branislav Borenovic stressed: “We must all accept the reality called the Dayton Peace Agreement, the Constitution of B&H, Constitutions of the Federation of B&H and Republika Srpska, which provide us enough room for functioning”.

Head of SNSD Caucus in B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Stasa Kosarac said that B&H is used to different kinds of initiatives coming from foreigners, which in his opinion, were not benevolent.

B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak told that organizing the ‘Dayton 2’ as a copy of a conference organized in Dayton in 1995, will certainly not happen.

Member of SBB B&H Fehim Skaljic said that B&H politicians should take advantage of this moment when US politicians again put their attention to B&H. Skaljic said that this paves the way for new talks and dialogue in B&H and in his opinion that is the only way to reach an agreement.

Commander of NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo, Brigadier General Robert Huston stated that in case of revision of the Dayton Agreement, this process is possible only in case of reaching a deal between all the three signatories.

 

Dodik’s announcement that members of AF B&H will not participate in marking of Day of RS sparks reactions (TV1)

 

Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik’s announcement that members of the Armed Forces (AF) of B&H will not take part in next year’s celebration of the Day of Republika Srpska (RS), has sparked reactions. Speaking about the AF B&H, Dodik has recently said that Serbs will never accept the AF B&H as their own army, adding that they are aware that their presence is necessary in this institution for political reasons. Reported noted that almost one year ago, members of the Third Infantry (RS) Regiment of AF B&H lined up and saluted to Serb member of the Presidency of B&H Mladen Ivanic, as a part of the celebration of the January 9. Eight days after marking of the holiday, the US introduced sanctions against Dodik, i.e. imposed travel ban and blocked his assets in the US. Vice-

President of SDP B&H Miro Lazovic argued that the sanctions may be the reason why Dodik changed his mind about the participation of the AF B&H. Lazovic added that this time, Dodik is trying to remain firm to his opposing attitude towards a decision of the Constitutional Court of B&H on the Day of the RS, but only in a mild form. Lazovic reminded that B&H CC ruled that the holiday is unconstitutional and underlined that Dodik should not celebrate it at all. According to Lazovic, the B&H CC, the international community and judiciary are expected to react after next year’s celebration of the holiday, as Dodik acts against all rules.

SDS member Aleksandra Pandurevic emphasized that this is not the first time Dodik has humiliated and disrespected the members of the AF B&H. “That proves that he has no limits in his attempts to divide the people in the RS. He manipulates everything and he has really lost his compass. The only moral thing for him to do is to admit defeat and resign peacefully and gracefully”, said Pandurevic.

Political analyst Zeljko Raljic stated: “Milorad Dodik knows that if the Armed Forces of B&H are engaged in this celebration, if someone somehow approves that, then all the glory and praise will go to Serb member of the Presidency of B&H Mladen Ivanic. That was the case last time. For Dodik to use this in the right way and to show off his might, he needs the honorary platoon of the RS Police”.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of B&H Igor Crnadak sent an open letter to all the members of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of B&H from the RS on Monday, commenting a recent statement of RS President Milorad Dodik according to which “I do not see you as ours”. “I want to tell you I believe this statement is wrong and harmful, and it represents only a personal stance of Mister Dodik,” wrote Crnadak in his letter and underlined that the people in the RS sees them as their own, as they are the people and they share everything, good and bad, with the people of the RS. “I call on you to continue to do your duty as soldiers, petty officers, officers, generals, civilians and civil servants in a professional and dignified manner, respecting the Dayton Peace Agreement and numerous constitutional and legal mechanisms of protection of the Serb people and the RS, as well as their role in functioning of the defense system of B&H,” wrote Crnadak and reminded them that the best way to help their people is to do their job responsibly.

 

Covic: Next year will be marked by election campaign and crises (Fena)

 

Chairman of the B&H Presidency Dragan Covic stated that the next year in B&H will be marked by election campaign and crises. According to Covic, the most important thing is to have a fiscally stable 2018, arguing that the budgets will be adopted and that their filling will be fine. He however believes there will be many crises, stressing that the tactics on how to win the next elections will be based on slowing down the current authorities. In this context Covic says some are raising non-issues such as construction of the Peljesac Bridge and some issues pertaining to relations with Serbia in order to mask their lack of action, which will continue throughout 2018. It is possible, Covic added, that there will be joint interest to build more motorways in first half of 2018 than it was the case in the last three years.

Commenting on the issue of changes to the Law on Elections of B&H, Covic says the minimum ‘we’ can accept is the legitimate representation of constituent peoples in elections for members of the Presidency of B&H and the House of Peoples and the City of Mostar. He added that HDZ B&H, together with its partners in the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS), will probably come up with a new proposal of changes to the law. Covic also believes that the Central Election Commission of B&H will in any case call the elections, which will be held in October, warning that in case the law is not changed by the time the elections are called, it will be impossible to implement the election results, which would lead to a true crisis. Covic further noted that constitutional changes are necessary. “We cannot open the candidate process with this kind of B&H. In order to open many legal chapters we must reorganize judicial institutions, and then many other things too,” said Covic. When it comes to political crisis in B&H, Covic said that mistake was made when the authority was formed, adding that this is partially his fault as well. “If I was firmer in my stance we would have a completely different authority. When I say “firm” then I think of abiding by the agreement that we had, where the one who forms the authority at lower authority levels continues forming of authority towards the top. In other words, when we saw how authority is formed in cantons, these parties should have composed the Federation of B&H government and you know that we first started with one partner- DF and then we entered the arrangement with SBB and today we see that we do not have them as partner either. On the other side, when we saw that SNSD with their partners is forming authority in the RS, they should have been the partner at B&H level as well. In that case, majority of questions that we talk about today, would not be disputable. We would have the same parliamentary majority, which would have identical interests along the vertical line. Big mistake was made here and we came to realize that and discussed this issue on several occasions,” said Covic

 

Inzko warns general elections must be held (BNTV)

 

High Representative Valentin Inzko said that the upcoming general elections must be held, regardless of differences in opinions or interests in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). Inzko emphasized that decisions of the Constitutional Court of B&H, primarily those related to election legislation, must be implemented as soon as possible and he confirmed that the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) too discussed the necessity of holding elections next year. “There was a debate about this. From opinions that it will be no problem to adopt a new Law on Elections to other opinions according to which there might be a new ‘Mostar case”, which means that there will be no elections at the state level next October. Maybe this is suitable for someone, maybe not. In any case we, as the international community, think that elections must be held”, Inzko said.

 

Croats are constituent people in B&H and no one will reduce them to minority (Vecernji list)

 

President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic asked to comment on Croatia’s relations with B&H, said that “the key to stability of neighboring country lies in true equality of three constituent peoples, Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs, and in cooperation of their political representatives which would be turned towards European and Euro-Atlantic future of B&H”. “Misuse of the ICTY’s verdict in the case of ‘Jadranko Prlic et al.’ for political purposes, especially attempts to impose some sort of collective guilt on Croats in B&H, are unacceptable. Attempts to remove the word ‘Croat’ from the names of public institutions in B&H are equally unacceptable. Croatia has an obligation to care about those things, both on the basis of its Constitution and as signatory state and guarantor of the Dayton Agreement. Croats are constituent people in that country and no one will reduce them to minority,” Grabar-Kitarovic concluded.

 

President stresses demographics as a key problem for Croatia (Vecernji list/HRT)

 

In an interview carried in the Sunday edition of the daily newspaper Vecernji list, the President discussed the situation in society and some of the main challenges going forward.

President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic underscored the interlocked problems of natality, emigration and retaining young people in the country as a key priority. She called on the government to adopt mutually conducive measures to address them.

The president also expressed frustration with some of the things she sees in contemporary Croatian society. “I’m bothered by the constant ideological debates which do nothing to prevent the departure of so many people from the country. We need to focus on existential questions, such as jobs, salaries and the business climate. The central budget cannot be financed by fines, but rather by capital turnover and investment that will allow free enterprise to spread its wings. Our 25% VAT rate is too high for a country like Croatia, and it should be reduced.”

No hybrid war

She also addressed the frequent talk of Croatia’s exposure to hybrid threats. “I want to state clearly that Croatia is not engaged in hybrid ware with any other state. It is, however, a fact that Croatia, like other states, is exposed to certain influences that can be termed as one or another type of hybrid activity,” she said, adding that this is, in a way, “the price we pay for the development of technology and we must deal with that. But it’s not good if some sort of paranoia in society is created as a result. Those of us in public office, who are exposed to such activity more than anyone else, must be prepared to take criticism, whether justified or not, and even when it is the outcome of hybrid activity. This comes with the office that we hold. At the same time, the national security system must be capable of effectively dealing with hybrid threats.”

 

DF reveals new facts about attempted election-day coup (CDM)

 

The Democratic Front (DF) stated that they suspect Montenegro’s Special State Prosecutor, Milivoje Katnic, has not submitted the audio recording of interrogation of the key witness Aleksandar Sindjelic before the prosecutor’s office in Serbia.

One of the Democratic Front leaders, Milan Knezevic, said that thanks to the staff from the Special State Prosecutor’s Office, the Democratic Front got the audio recording from Sindjelic interrogation, which was attended by prosecutor Sasa Cadjenovic and based on which the president of the High Court in Podgorica, Boris Savic, confirmed a “protected witness” status to Aleksandar Sindjelic. Knezevic declared that Sindjelic mentioned neither the DF leaders in his statements nor any potential bloodshed in Montenegro on the Election Day. According to Knezevic, key witness Aleksandar Sindjelic in his audio recording clearly said he had not arrived to Moscow on 26 September and that he had been returned from the airport due to the incomplete documentation. Sindjelic also confirmed he’s not a Russian national but rather a Ukrainian who has poor knowledge of the Russian language. Knezevic also accused Milivoje Katnic of having played role in blocking the opposition’s actions on grounds of the alleged election-day coup. He announced he is about to reveal new details on the alleged “committed terrorist act” after which he expects reaction of Ivica Stankovic and minister of interior, Mevludin Nuhodzic.

 

DF sent audio recordings to the EU Delegation and embassies (CDM)

 

The Democratic Front sent the transcript and audio recordings from the Sasa Sindjelic’s hearing in the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office to the EU Delegation to Montenegro and the embassies of Russia, the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany. The political alliance presented the recordings at the press conference this weekend. “Based on the recordings, one can clearly conclude that, after interventions and pressures from the Special State Prosecutor’s Office of Montenegro, the witness was forced to change his testimony. It was used for fabricating the coup affair in which the opposition leaders from the Democratic Front are accused,” DF stated. Its representatives expect the international community to deal more seriously with this case than it did before. “The representatives of the EU and the embassies we have sent the material to are well aware that there is no rule of law in Montenegro. They are aware of that fact when it comes to the rights of individuals from the civil sector. We are convinced that, when it comes to the DF leaders, the situation is even worse,” they say.

 

Sekulic: Parliament boycott harmful (Pobjeda)

 

The return of a part of the opposition to parliament benefits the democratic processes in Montenegro. Those who continue to advocate the boycott are losing, said the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) MP Predrag Sekulic. “I believe that other colleagues have realized that the boycott is not an effective means of pressuring anyone, especially not DPS,” Sekulic said. He pointed out that he was convinced that democratic processes would contribute to the return of other opposition MPs to parliament. “If not, it seems that they will marginalize themselves in the political life of Montenegro. It is impossible for anyone to explain that you are elected in democratic elections and then you do not want to do your job as an MP, to represent your party in Parliament and to address citizens with their political platform,” Sekulic said.

 

Martin calls on parties to bring tensions down (Pobjeda)

 

The European Parliament’s (EP) Montenegro Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee’s president David Martin encouraged all political parties in Montenegro to bring tensions down. In an interview with Pobjeda, he also said he was pleased that part of the opposition recently returned to Parliament. Martin invited the rest of the opposition to return to Parliament as well. Commenting on the fact that DF leaders are tried over terrorism attempt, Martin said he hoped the proceedings would be finished within a reasonable period. “It’s crucial that OSC/ODIGH recommendations are implemented in a transparent and inclusive way in order to increase trust in the electoral process,” Martin said. Martin expressed satisfaction at Montenegro achieving some results in fighting high profile corruption and organized crime. However, he said that a lot still remained to be done in Montenegro. “In particular, fight against money laundering, human trafficking and seizure of criminal assets seem to be a challenge for Montenegro. Also, I hope that the situation in the field of media freedom will be improved and that the authorities would show stronger commitment to investigating old cases of violence against media, including the murder case and that the media will be protected against unnecessary influence and political meddling,” Martin said.

 

Macedonian government gets new health minister (MIA)

 

Sixty-two MPs voted Monday in favor of electing Venko Filipce as the new health minister. There were no votes against and only one was in abstention.  Speaking in parliament, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the government proposed the neurosurgeon to take up the post of minister of health. “I hope that today the parliament will reach a decision to elect a minister after which the government is going to be completed,” Zaev stated.

The proposals for fulfilling the vacant ministerial posts have been already submitted to the Parliament and the nominee of the Alliance of Albanians – the government’s coalition partner – was unacceptable, Zaev says. He said that none of the government coalition partners was entitled to a certain ministerial post, pointing out that the Alliance of Albanians got the top position of the Ministry of Health in the first cabinet composition because of the references of the party’s candidate – Arben Taravari. The post has been vacant for two months as Taravari from the Alliance of Albanians, who served as Health Minister, was meanwhile elected for Gostivar Mayor at the recent local elections. Zaev views the matter as awkward considering the overall cooperation with the Alliance of Albanians leader, Zijadin Sela, and their ordeal during the incident in the parliament on 27 April 2017. However, as a Prime Minister, I bear greater responsibility, Zaev said.

 

Alliance of the Albanians stays in gov’t coalition until language law is adopted, says Sela (MIA)

 

The Alliance of the Albanians (AA) stays in the government coalition until the bill on the use of languages is adopted, party leader Zijadin Sela said Monday. Sela and his party colleague Surija Rusiti arrived in parliament on Sunday to attend a session on the election of new government ministers. They, however, left the session after their proposals on changing the agenda that envisaged the election of a new health minister were not accepted. Speaking to members of the media during a break in parliament, he said that both Rusiti and he had voted for the agenda of the session because it included proposals on the law on languages, the amnesty law and other laws deemed in the interest of the citizens. The AA leader said he hoped the language bill would be adopted by the end of the day. “From that moment on, AA will no longer be part of this administration that calls itself a reform-oriented government. Day after day, we are being more and more convinced, so does the citizens, that the current administration remains ‘a machine’ to wash away the sins of the criminals and corrupt politicians that are part of the government,” said Sela. According to him, the government is being reshuffled instead of only vacant posts in the government being fulfilled. “The Premier demonstrated that he isn’t respecting the deal reached when the government was formed,” the party leader stressed.

 

Hristijan Mickoski becomes new VMRO-DPMNE leader (MIA)

 

Hristijan Mickoski, opposition VMRO-DPMNNE secretary general, has been elected Saturday for the party’s leader garnering the votes of 376 delegates. 428 out of 438 present delegates participated in the voting process, which produced 52 invalid ballots. My main goal is to consolidate the party to score a victory at the next elections, Mickoski told the gathering. ‘Now is the time to be united to meet the expectations and demands of VMRO-DPMNE and Macedonia. New energy is required as our citizens wish for brightness and hope while the current developments in the country bring only darkness and disappointment,’ Mickoski said.

I envisage Macedonia as prosperous country of happy citizens, Mickoski said, adding that he would work for ‘technological development, investments, better education, health care, employment rate and independent judiciary. Macedonia’s future is within the EU and NATO and the country should make real progress and resolve the problems via dialogue to that effect, the new VMRO-DPMNE leader said. He also criticized the ruling SDSM for lack of ideas, economic collapse of the country and poor living standard of citizens. Mickoski refuted the claims that he would be someone’s puppet, saying that he intended to impose more dynamic working pace, take advice from and make decisions with the party members and fight for their common idea.

Former VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski asked the new one to work on uniting the party. He also called on the political rivals to work on national reconciliation, notifying in this respect the need of adopting a law on amnesty with regards to the 27 April events in the parliament. ‘It’s the only way for the country to move forward and put an end to political vendettas,’ Gruevski said. VMRO-DPMNE delegates attending the congress declared Gruevski for the party’s honorary leader. They also adopted three resolutions on Macedonia’s integration with the EU and NATO; economic growth & development, as well as condemnation of SDSM-led political prosecution.

 

Zaev expects constructive and critical opposition (MIA)

 

Stability of VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM results in stable Macedonia. The election of the new opposition leader is good for the country’s perspective, said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Monday. “I expect a constructive and critical opposition in the parliament. I would like to congratulate the new VMRO-DPMNE leader, wishing that we all now think about Macedonia,” Zaev told reporters regarding the election of Hristijan Mickovski at the helm of VMRO-DPMNE. Asked if he expected the opposition’s return in the parliament, he said this is required because of many important issues to be decided in the coming period. “The opposition’s participation is needed for the democratic processes. The opposition must be part of the reform process and the country’s perspectives. I expect their vote on issues we will reach agreement, but also criticism on issues we fail to agree on,” added Zaev. Regarding a possible fresh meeting with Alliance of Albanians leader Zijadin Sela, the PM stressed they have discussed on Government-related issues for over a month. “I hope they will decide to stay in the government coalition, meaning they will accept the post Vice Premier for reforms,” said Zaev, adding the party would prove itself through this position.

 

President Ivanov meets with new VMRO-DPMNE leader (MIA)

 

President Gjorge Ivanov met Monday with the newly-elected leader of the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski, his office said. Ivanov congratulated Mickoski on his election as party leader and wished him success as president of VMRO-DPMNE. President Ivanov expressed expectation that VMRO-DPMNE, being the largest opposition party in Macedonia, would play an active part in the processes of fulfilling the strategic goals of the country and in maintaining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Republic of Macedonia.

 

Opposition’s protests, Basha meeting with Democrats (ADN)

 

Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration have decided to protest starting from the first days of January 2018 against the election of the provisional chief prosecutor. But these last days of 2017 will not be holidays for them. Starting from this week, the leader of the opposition, Lulzim Basha, will start a tour all over Albania to meet and discuss with the democrats. This tour will be organized in some big municipalities, where Basha will discuss on the next steps that will be followed by the opposition. Three are the option that the opposition is discussing to apply on the next legislature, conditional relationship with the Parliament, boycott of the Parliament, or to give up from their mandates.

 

New political crisis within the opposition (ADN)

 

A new political axis will be created within politics. Ten small parties, DP allies and not, were gathered together to fight against their biggest issue that affect them most, the electoral reform. The head of the Agrarian Environmental Party, Agron Duka, declared that the small parties will fight for their existence and representative in the parliament. “We will create a new political axis composed by ten parties and we will propose a new platform with the main objective, the electoral reform. Our action will start from January,” unveiled Duka.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Hoyt Yee: Athens and Skopje have an excellent opportunity for name issue settlement in 2018 (ANA-MPA,  23 December 2017)

 

Athens and Skopje have an excellent opportunity to solve the name issue in 2018, as the leadership and good will exhibited recently by both governments on this matter are encouraging, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Hoyt Brian Yee, says in an interview with Greece’s news agency ANA-MPA. “The negotiations will be difficult, and both sides must make compromises, but the initial talks under the mediation of UN Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz seem to have been constructive. We continue to support the UN process and encourage both countries to negotiate in good faith, with the facilitation of UN Special Envoy Nimetz” Yee says. The US, he says, is encouraged by the positive tone set by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s government, especially with regard to improving relations with neighbors.

“Zaev’s government has demonstrated a clear commitment to rule of law and transparency, and the US is committed to supporting the government’s ambitious reform efforts” Yee says. He also points out that both rounds of recent local elections were competitive and took place in an environment that respected fundamental freedoms. Yee denies media reports claiming that he will be a new US Ambassador to Skopje, saying that the White House is the only authority on such matters and  ‘it has not made any such announcements”.

 

British Ambassador: Macedonia should mount high hill to start EU accession talks (Radio Free Europe, 26 December 2017)

 

Macedonia should work hard in order to obtain a date for starting the EU accession talks next year, British Ambassador Charles Garrett says in an interview with the Radio Free Europe.

Macedonia should implement the reform plan 3-6-9, set itself free from the ‘captured state’ and address the name issue, Garret says. “Difficult decisions and genuine political courage are required for finding an appropriate solution to the name issue” the British Ambassador says. It is clear, he notifies, that the government is determined to move forward, to deal with the “captured state” and advance the reform program. “Several useful, concrete steps forward have been undertaken. But the road for dealing with the captured state is rather long, which requires substantial, long-term effort. Real program for including citizens in the process is needed for them to approve the reforms. The civic society should be also included. This is not a sprint, but a marathon,” Garrett says. The country should focus its efforts on reforms, clearly notified in the 3-6-9 plan, Garrett says. “We are rather pleased that the British Embassy may work together with Macedonian partners on a range of reforms we believe to be urgent and significant and may benefit most from the British expertise. It refers to sectors, such as the public administration and intelligence system, as well as the strategic defense review, something that was mentioned often during the visit of Defense Minister Radmila Sekerisnka to London,” Garret says. He considers as justified the expectation of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for Macedonia to obtain a date for starting the EU accession talks in June of 2018. “I believe that you should climb a rather high hill to get there by the middle of the next year. There is a lot to be done in regard to the 3-6-9 plan, the captured state and naturally the name issue…So the task is difficult but is correct to be an optimist. If you don’t set your goals high, there could be no great achievements,” Garret says.

 

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