Popovic: Grant equal status to Russians clearing NATO bombs (Vecernje Novosti)
Cabinet minister Nenad Popovic says that members of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center (RSCH) in Nis should be given diplomatic status.
In conversation with the daily Vecernje Novosti, Popovic addressed the topic that is often brought up when Serbia’s relations with Washington, Brussels and Moscow are “measured,” and said it was difficult to explain to people that NATO soldiers who were bombing Serbia have this privilege, but the Russians do not.
“Russian humanitarian workers have been saving the lives of our people in floods and fires. They have cleared more than four million square kilometers of unexploded NATO bombs. How can we explain to citizens that NATO soldiers, who rained bombs on Serbia, have been given diplomatic status, while Russian humanitarians, who are cleaning Serbia of those bombs, do not have that status,” he said.
Popovic, who is known for his pro-Russian stance, added that there was no “either-or” relationship, but a “both-and” one – while ties between Serbia and Russia have never been better – and, “there’s no need to be coming up with anything new here.”
“We only have to observe how big countries are working with Russia, like Germany, Italy, Switzerland,” he said.
Mihajlovic: The opinion by the PM is being awaited regarding the humanitarian center (Vecernje Novosti)
Zorana Mihajlovic says that “only Serbia’s interest is important” when it comes to the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center staff’s status. The cabinet minister, who also serves as one of the deputy prime ministers, said this was important, rather than “using the toptic to score points for other purposes.”
Mihajlovic told the Vecernje Novosti newspaper that she “first expected the opinion of Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic” concerning the status of the Russian humanitarians.
“I believe her to be best informed, and what she will be able to, with good assessment, in one of the future sessions present the position to us, the members of the government, which will be the basis for making a decision,” Mihajlovic said.
The daily writes that the government will make this decision in June. Some ministers, among them Nenad Popovic, are asking that the Russians in Nis be granted diplomatic status.
Vulin: In case of war, Serbia would be respected for its strength (Tanjug)
One of the reasons why Serbia’s military neutrality is respected and why it would be respected in future conflicts is the strength of our army. Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin told this to Tanjug on Thursday.
“NATO unconditionally respects our neutrality, just as does the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russian Federation and all other countries, but one of the reasons why it is respected and why in some future conflicts it would be respected is the strength of our army,” Vulin said.
Asked whether the military neutrality of Serbia would be respected “in the event of an open conflict,” the minister said that if the country was strong enough to stand behind its decision, withstand it and oppose anyone who thinks they can turn that military neutrality into the backing of one side – then neutrality would be truly respected.
“If you are weak, if you have no ability to stand behind your own decision and guarantee for it with your own strength, then your neutrality is not respected, then everyone will take from you, or from your country, what they need. This way, we will be militarily neutral, in any sort of world conflict we would remain militarily neutral, and everyone would respect our neutrality because it would make no sense to make a powerful enemy out of Serbia, especially when we are not that to anyone,” Vulin said.
Serbia has no reason to fear anyone as its policy and behavior have not caused anybody’s reaction, the minister continued, and added that this was why he “believes it would be really hard to find a reason for someone to enter a conflict with our country.”
“Times have also changed since the NATO aggression on Serbia, global circumstances have changed, I’m not sure that anyone can even think about attacking Serbia – and why, after all, would they,” the minister said.
He observed, however, that there are “other security threats that are not in any pact or in any country – terrorist, cyber threats, migrations, which, as a global crisis, carry with them numerous challenges, and threats, and answers must be found to all of this.”
“These are not the times of trenches and exchanges of artillery fire, these are the times when threats manifest themselves in other ways and we are trying to respond to everything,” Vulin said.
Hoyt Yee: Serbia must enter reforms faster (Blic)
US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee said that Serbia must enter reforms faster and that it will have to decide which chair it wants to sit on.
When asked whether he saw Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic‘s addition of “American” when referring to the N1 station as “a threat or unpleasant situation for journalists,” Yee said that the U.S. government did not pay the media and that he believed in freedom of the press.
“If it is paying you, then I pity you. I am joking, you are not on the U.S. government’s payroll. Of course the U.S. government is not paying the media, we believe in independent media. Regardless of whether you are Serbia, Croatia, Poland or the U.S., we believe the government needs to create room for independent media,” he said. The State Department’s number one official for South East Europe added that “the government must protect journalists and the media from threats. We must make sure to have freedom, independence of media, to have a government as a partner of media and also to have media report in a correct and responsible manner”, Yee said.
Yee said that the U.S. believed in Serbia’s important role in regional stability and added that cooperation between Croatia and Serbia was important for that and that they must find a solution for the difficult problems they had.
Action plan for EU chapter 23 to be reviewed by fall (RTS, Tanjug)
Serbia will review the action plan for EU accession talks chapter 23, says Cedomir Backovic, head of the negotiating team for this chapter.
After these new deadlines for meeting the related obligations will be set and the job should be finished by the fall, Backovic said.
“We intend to begin an analysis immediately after the holiday season to carry out a review of the action plan in terms of deadlines, but the deadlines will be addressed only after we have established what might need to be changed, and then we will see by what deadlines that is doable. We count on all of the work being done sometime by the fall,” Backovic told the RTS. By mid-January, he continued, the work working draft of Constitutional changes in the area of justice will be published – the document is currently being worked on with Venice Commission experts.
Asked about the plans in the field of fight against corruption, which is stressed as one of the most problematic, Backovic said that it was “a matter of months” before the latest amendments to the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency have been passed.
Ugljanin invites Chief of EU delegation for talks on Bosniaks’ position (Beta)
The president of the Bosniak People’s Council, Sulejman Ugljanin, invited the head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi, for talks on initiatives and requests for regulating the Bosniaks’ position in Serbia. Stating that, according to EU standards, “it is unacceptable to decide on a minority’s position without their participation,” in his invitation to the EU representative in Serbia, Ugljanin called for changes of certain parts of the Action Plan for negotiation Chapters 23 and 24 and the Action Plan for exercising the national minorities’ rights.
“The Action Plan provides the Bosniaks with no hope or prospects for solving their vital interests, because the Bosniak people, which is a numerous minority in Serbia, has many amassed problems and a large number of unsolved issues, such as missing persons, abductions, mass crimes against the Bosniaks in Sandzak, unsolved status of the Bosniak people and of Sandzak,” Ugljanin said, as conveyed by the Bosniak People’s Council.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
RS President Dodik says RS welcomes January 9 in state of institutional stability (RTRS)
Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik said that the RS is going to celebrate January 9 – the RS Day – in the state of institutional stability, with good economic indicators and optimism that the results will be even better this year. He added that earlier obstacles related to marking of the RS Day were removed by the fact that the RS people confirmed in the referendum that January 9 is the date when the RS Day is observed. Dodik called on all RS citizens to celebrate the RS Day and to display the RS flag, assessing that January 9 as the day when the RS was born is indisputably important for everyone in the RS. “These people love the Republic and they are not ready to lose it so they will observe all the dates marked in honor of the RS, with an aim to confirm our commitment and devotion for the Republic”, Dodik stressed.
Meanwhile Glas Srpske daily reported that high-ranking officials in state-level institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) are exerting pressure on employees from the RS and forcing them to work on January 9, the Day of the RS, as they claim that January 9 is an unconstitutional holiday, even though it is celebrated on the basis of the Law on the Day of Republic, which was adopted in the RS in 2016 and which has never been challenged. Glas Srpske claims that employees from the RS are actually allowed not to work on January 9, but their superiors of Bosniak ethnicity are treating this day as a part of those employees’ annual leave – meaning that they are violating decision adopted by the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H in December 2008, while SNSD’s Nikola Spiric was in the office of the B&H CoM Chairman.
Dnevni list daily reports that the employees of the CoM of B&H with the place of residence in the RS will be entitled to a day-off on January 9 and, this day-off will be justified as “a state holiday”.
Klix.ba portal contacted the Secretariat of B&H CoM and asked if January 9 will be treated as a non-working paid day, i.e. as a state holiday, for employees of the B&H CoM. The Secretariat replied by saying that a law on state holidays has not been adopted at the state level so non-working days are determined in line with laws adopted in entities, depending on the place of residence of an employee.
RS President meets member of German Bundestag Neu (RTRS)
Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik met in Banja Luka on Thursday with member of the German Bundestag Alexander Neu. Dodik informed Neu about the political and economic situation in the RS, stressing that the RS is committed to peace and stability. He said that the RS participates in the coordination and fight against terrorism and it also cooperates with all security agencies in the region and Europe. Dodik noted that the RS is firmly committed to the European integration and it takes all the steps needed for a faster pace on this path.
Neu said that he spoke with Dodik about many issues, including the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and mutual relations. He stressed that the meeting was mostly focused on improvement of the Serbs and the RS’ current image in Germany and how he could contribute to the improvement through his activities in the German Bundestag.
Zvizdic: B&H CoM will remain in its current convocation until end of mandate (TV1, FTV)
Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic stated that B&H CoM will remain in its current convocation until the end of mandate. In this regard, Zvizdic reminded that this convocation has worked for 32 months and announced that results of its three-year work will be presented in April. According to Zvizdic, the current convocation has marked best results at the level of CoM in the last decade. The CoM Chairman therefore dismissed allegations of, as he said, “some politicians” who have been saying that the CoM will not be able to survive in its current convocation. “We have been in a pre-election campaign for already a year. We have entered the year of elections. It is obvious that anxiety of certain politicians is slowly growing and transferring into a phase of panic”, he assessed.
B&H Minister of Security Dragan Mektic agreed with Zvizdic, adding that the recent announcements made by SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic in which he stated that B&H CoM will remove its current ministers by April 2018, are only his wishes and not something that will actually happen.
At a press conference held on December 28, Radoncic stated that he expects that Zvizdic will no longer be the Chairman of the B&H CoM by April 2018. Zvizdic said that all these statements made by Radoncic in the last month are only a part of his pre-election campaign.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Yee says BiH does not need ‘Dayton 2’ (N1)
US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee said that Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) does not need ‘Dayton 2’ but the country’s authorities have to exert efforts to implement key reforms. He added that certain progress was already achieved in B&H.
“We see progress and possibilities in B&H, where elections are expected this year. There is a need in B&H to focus on amending the Election Law and reaching the agreement with regard to reforms, in order to have efficient elections in 2018. All sides can use this possibility to resolve other reforms that will make this country more secure and prosperous”, Yee stated. He stressed that there is no need for the ‘Dayton 2’ now and that B&H authorities have to put focus on priorities that will lead to political and economic reforms. Yee concluded that the reforms will help B&H join the EU and accelerate the integration process, which has been unreachable so far.
B&H CoM unanimously adopts Rural Development Strategy (BHT1)
The Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (B&H CoM) unanimously adopted the Strategy for Rural Development of B&H for the period 2018-2021. Earlier, the RS Government gave its consent for adoption of this strategy at the state level. Addressing a press conference after the session, B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Mirko Sarovic said that a lot of work still needs to be done in order for the agricultural sector of B&H to get closer to standards in the agricultural policy of the EU. He added that the first and most important step in this process has just been made, as the Strategy for Rural Development of B&H will help in the process of planning and programming of this sector at all levels of authority. Despite the fact that this document was adopted with delay, Sarovic expressed his hope that B&H will not lose the opportunity to use the EU IPA funds in the amount of EUR 30 million on an annual basis.
The European Commission (EC) and its Directorates have been already informed about adoption of the Strategy for Rural Development of B&H, which is now expected to be adopted in urgent procedure in the B&H Parliament. Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM) Denis Zvizdic noted that they proposed for this document to be put on the agenda of the next session of the B&H House of Representatives (B&H HoR) on January 17, given how serious and important it is. “We expect the Collegiums of the B&H Parliament to show their understanding in this context”, he added.
The EU Delegation to B&H stated for the daily that adoption of the Rural Development Strategy of B&H will open door to financial support within the IPA II 2018-2020 budget.
Head of the EUD and EU Lars-Gunnar Wigemark welcomed adoption of this document, saying that this is a good news for farmers who will finally be able to benefit more from the EU support to agriculture.
MEP Ruza Tomasic wants Croatian Police and Armed Forces to intervene in Savudrija (Novi list)
President of the Croatian Conservative Party and MEP Ruza Tomasic appealed to the government on Thursday to forcefully defend the maritime border with Slovenia. Tomasic stated the government should react to recent actions of the Slovenian police taken against Croatian fishermen by deploying Croatian police forces and the army to Savudrija.
The Slovenian police recently announced they will be imposing high fines on Croatian fishermen in the Bay of Piran. Tomasic stated she believes the Croatian government has to prevent Slovenia from imposing fines in Croatian waters, instead of just reassuring the fishermen they wouldn’t have to pay the steep fees. She called the actions of the Slovenian police illegal, owing to the fact they are taking place in an area which officially remains a part of the Croatian territorial waters until the border dispute has been settled.
She added she thinks it unfortunate that Slovenia opted for “such a one-sided and somewhat crude step”, but that “nobody forced them to do it.”
“They decided to handle the dispute in a forceful manner, so they need to be handled with force in turn”, Tomasic said.
Tomasic appealed to Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic to “be decisive and show that the Croatian police will not allow anyone to forcibly claim the territory of the Republic of Croatia”. She also called on Veterans Affairs Minister Tomislav Medved to be “wise and composed”, referring to the ultimatum given to PM Andrej Plenkovic by the Croatian war veterans.
PM says border solution is closer than it appears (HRT)
Speaking at the cabinet session the Croatian Prime Minister once again called on Slovenia to refrain from taking any unilateral action regarding the two countries shared border. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also called on Ljubljana to refrain from causing any unnecessary incidents. He noted that it would not be difficult for Croatian police boats to begin issuing Slovenian boats that foray into Croatia’s territorial waters fines as well. Plenkovic made it clear however, that if it comes to that Croatia will act accordingly.
The PM said however, that Croatia will maintain its existing practice of avoiding incidents, and called on Slovenia to return to a policy of dialogue. He said that these talks should be held in the vein of what Croatia offered Slovenia during Slovene Prime Minister Miro Cerar‘s recent visit to Zagreb.
The concluded that Croatia has not taken any unilateral action and has been very restrained in trying to resolve the issue in line with international law. Ultimately, he said, he is confident that a solution is much closer than it seems.
Meanwhile, in Ljubljana, at a traditional yearly meeting with Slovene ambassadors, Slovene Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec reiterated that Slovenia insists on the immediate and full implementation of the arbitration ruling.
Erjavec added that Slovenia supports dialogue with Croatia, but only if it has to do with the implementation of the arbitration ruling. He also reiterated that if Croatia does not agree to the implementation of the order arbitration ruling, Slovenia will block its membership of the Schengen border regime and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Meanwhile, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee, has made it clear that the United States will not take sides in the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia. He emphasized that Washington views both countries as strategic partners.
New coalition: Lekic and Krivokapic making a pre-election deal in Podgorica (CDM)
After the announced that the Democrats and the URA Civic Movement will probably form a coalition, Demos and Social Democratic Party (SDP) might enter into an alliance in Podgorica, CDM learns.
According to CDM’s source, the talks on the coalition will be organized after Christmas holidays, when the leaders of the two parties Miodrag Lekic and Ranko Krivokapic will meet.
“This could be the response to the media announcement of the coalition between Aleksa Becic (Democrats) and Dritan Abazovic (URA). Local elections in Podgorica are of paramount importance after the parliamentary elections, so the two leaders will consider the option of getting into coalition to achieve a better result,” the CdM source said. As CDM learns, Socialist People’s Party (SNP) is mentioned in no possible coalitions of the civic opposition so far.
“SNP’s rating is the worst since the establishment of the party. Internal conflicts in that party further aggravate the situation. It is clear that nobody wants to ‘take the risk’ of entering into any kind of coalition with it,” the CDM’s source explained.
Hoyt Yee: Both Skopje and Athens express political will for name dispute settlement (MIA)
There is a political will in both Skopje and Athens for resolving the name dispute, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Hoyt Brian Yee.
“I believe that in 2018 Macedonia has an opportunity to finally solve the name row with Greece. For the first time after a long period there is a political will in both Skopje and Athens so Macedonia has an opportunity to realize this goal” Yee says. Yee reaffirms NATO open door policy, saying that the organization doesn’t force any country to become a member and welcomes those which succeeded to meet the membership criteria.
USA holds dinner for Jerusalem UN vote, invites Kosovo, not Albania (top-channel.tv)
The Consul of Kosovo was present at the dinner organized by the USA for representatives of countries that stood by them at the UN resolution session, but not Albania, which voted against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It seems that the US President, Donald Trump, and his Ambassador at the UN, Nikki Haley, have taken the voting very seriously.
Their signals are very clear, from the warnings before the December votes to the reception organized on January 3rd with the so-called “friends of America”, in which they invited only the countries that abstained the resolution that condemned USA’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The consul of Kosovo in New York, Teuta Sahatcija, was present at the event. The Ambassador of Albania at the UN, Besiana Kadare, was not invited because our country voted in favour of the criticizing resolution.
Sahatcija posted on Facebook the video-message of President Trump for the guests in this reception, telling them he will continue cooperation with these partners until the end.
The Israeli ambassador at the UN, Danny Danon, praised the stance held by Haley and called America as very courageous, adding that “there is too much hypocrisy in the UN. I think that the countries which stood by the side of America, will hear their gratitude for supporting truth”, Danon declared.