Patriarch Irinej: Serbia cannot give Kosovo (Politika/TV Hram)
Serbian Patriarch Irinej said last night in an interview to TV Hram that Serbia could never give Kosovo and Metohija. “Kosovo can be seized, it can be occupied as it is at present, but Serbia can never say ‘we are giving this’, because what is given is lost forever, but what is seized by force can also be returned in the same way,” said the Patriarch in comment to the internal dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija. He voiced hope that the leadership of our state is of the same opinion. “As far as I see, the state is making great efforts to preserve Kosovo within Serbia and to find a political solution so that it is to the satisfaction of both sides and for it to remain what it is. We cannot imagine Serbia without Kosovo and Metohija,” said the Patriarch. According to him, we have been calling that part of the state Kosovo and Metohija only in recent times. “That is old Serbia that gave birth to this other part of Serbia. Kosovo is our history, culture, spirituality, it is all filled with Orthodox sanctities,” said the Patriarch. He recalled that Prizren was once the capital of the Serbian people, as well as Skopje, and the Pec Patriarchate the residence of Serbian patriarchs and bishops and the historical house of our church. The Patriarch stressed that the people who are aware of itself and its own history and culture cannot allow for the Pec Patriarchate to be in some other state, as well as other Serbian sanctities for which blood had been shed for thousand years. According to him, Kosovo and Metohija cannot be a noose for Serbia, but a link that links us to old Serbia and the sanctities there.
Stefanovic: Electoral list to be submitted once Belgrade elections have been called (Tanjug)
The SNS is strong enough to be the first to submit its electoral list once the Belgrade local elections have been called, says SNS Presidency member Nebojsa Stefanovic. When asked about the possibility of early parliamentary elections being held as well, Stefanovic said the issue had been raised by the opposition, which he said was insisting on it and making its own conclusions about what the SNS wants and what it does not want.
Gojkovic: Last date for elections in Belgrade is 18 March (Beta/Dnevnik)
Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic stated that Sunday, 18 March, was the last date when the local elections in Belgrade could be held. Gojkovic told the Novi Sad daily Dnevnik that the legal deadlines were clear and the last day for the Belgrade elections would be 23 March, which is a working day, so the last date for the elections would be the preceding Sunday, 18 March.
She said the SNS presidency, of which she is a member, was still discussing the composition of the ruling party’s campaign team for the city elections.
Belgrade elections to be called by 1 February (Tanjug)
The final deadline for holding the Belgrade local elections is 23 March, but since the date falls on a work day and elections are usually held on a Sunday, the last day to hold them is, in fact, 18 March. In that case, with the present deadlines in mind, the elections should be called on January 17 at the earliest and on 1 February at the latest.
Stanojkovic: We are investigating 750 cases from Kosovo and Metohija (Politika, by Miroslava Derikonjic)
The War Crime Prosecution should prosecute all perpetrators of crimes regardless of their nationality, primarily because, through their prosecution, justice is being achieved, at least partially, for the victims of these crimes. However, as soon as there are concrete criminal proceedings against suspects of undoubtedly committed criminal acts of war crimes, there are frequent objections that this prosecution is prosecuting only Serbs, War Crimes Prosecutor Snezana Stanojkovic told Politika in an interview. “The task of the Prosecution is to prosecute all perpetrators of war crimes that are available to it and to offer, within international cooperation, contribution to criminal prosecution of those who are available to judicial organs of other states,” she notes. Stanojkovic reveals in her first interview to the Serbian media that the Prosecution has taken over more than 750 cases from Kosovo and Metohija.
Have you and in what way investigated these cases?
“Following a detailed analyses of all taken over cases, we kept those that include events from the jurisdiction of the War Crimes Prosecution. At issue are 761 cases that are introduced into appropriate registers and distributed to processors for the purpose of proceeding.”
How far are you with the investigation in the cases of missing Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija between 1998 and 2000?
“The Prosecution has for the first time created a database for all victims in Kosovo and Metohija. We haven’t made a division based on nationality. We also created a database for victims from the territory of Croatia, and we are presently working on forming a database for victims from the territory of B&H. We will compare all data with the data of the Serbian Government Commission for Missing Persons, in accordance with the National Strategy for processing war crimes.”
Is the Prosecution still investigating the case of human organ trafficking? The public was acquainted with the testimony of an important witness in this case. Is he/she still available to the Serbian judiciary?
“The case of human organ trafficking, known as the ‘yellow house’, is still active. We should wait for the beginning of the work of the so-called KLA court and see whether some indictments will be issued in regard to these events. I wouldn’t speak about the witness. The data from the preliminary procedure represent a secret, so it would be very irresponsible, even unlawful, to present facts we have come up with.”
Officials have announced the resumption of the investigation against Haradinaj. What is being concretely done in this case?
“The War Crimes Prosecution issued an order to expand the investigation and it is acting within it. Having in mind the secrecy of the investigation, I will only say that at issue are not events for which Haradinaj was held responsible before The Hague Tribunal, nor those over which he was arrested in France in January last year.”
International community might urge HR Inzko to use Bonn Powers (Nezavisne)
Nezavisne novine daily learned that the international community fears B&H political leaders will not be able to achieve consensus to implement a decision of the Constitutional Court of B&H and adopt amendments to the Law on Elections. The final deadline for implementation of the amendments to the Law on Elections is May, when the October elections are going to be scheduled. According to daily’s sources, the international community is discussing whether there is need for High Representative Valentin Inzko to use his Bonn Powers and impose the solutions; most of the members of the Peace Implementation Council is against “revival” of the OHR, but on the other hand they do not want to see chaos after the elections if B&H is unable to implement the election results. Although the decision has not been finalized, learned the daily, it is possible Inzko is going to impose technical solution on temporary basis to make sure delegates in the House of Peoples of the Federation of B&H Parliament are elected in accordance with B&H CC decision. Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov told the daily he is absolutely against the use of Bonn Powers, and expressed belief that majority of the PIC members share his opinion.
Next big crisis in B&H will be related to marking of RS Day (Vecernji list)
Celebration of Day of Republika Srpska (RS) is again problem number 1. Vecernji list daily reads that apart from ‘old’ crises, the first next crisis in B&H will be related to marking of the Day of the RS on January 9. In this context daily reads that whilst Serb representatives claim they abided by decisions of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H and that there is no obstacles to celebrating the entity holiday, Bosniak representatives still believe January 9 as the Day of the RS is still unconstitutional. Daily further reads that the Council of Europe (CoE) will discuss in early 2018 about B&H’s failure to implement the Sejdic and Finci vs. B&H ruling. According to the daily, a report about the issue will surely be very negative because nothing has been done to implement the ruling in last several years. In addition to this High Representative Valentin Inzko assessed the reform to electoral legislation as priority for B&H.
“Slovenian fines for Croatian fishermen in Bay of Piran are meaningless” (Vecernji list)
Croatian Foreign Minister comments on Slovenia’s threats that it will impose fines on Croatian fishermen which come to the disputed part of the Bay of Piran. Croatia calls on Slovenia to resolve the border issue in the Bay of Piran with dialogue and to refrain from any one-sided moves, Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric said, adding that Slovenian threats to impose high fines on Croatian fishermen which could amount to up to 40,000 euros were “completely inappropriate, meaningless and impossible”. Minister Pejcinovic Buric pointed out that Croatia remained firm in its position that the arbitration decision could not be implemented unilaterally and called on Slovenia to return to the dialogue. She also announced that a meeting between fishers and representatives of the competent ministries would be held on Thursday at the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss all issues of concern. “We believe there is no other solution than to return to talks. Dialogue is the only way to resolve this open border issue,” she said, reiterating that the unilateral implementation of the arbitral judgment would be contrary to international law. She stressed that Croatian territory was the same as it was in 1991. “The border line is the line that was established in 1991, and nothing has changed on the ground,” she explained. “This is Croatian territory, which is undeniable, and no Slovenian laws can be implemented on the territory of the Republic of Croatia,” she stressed. If that were to happen, that would mean “changing or attempting to change the situation with violent means, and this is certainly not allowed under international law,” the Minister said. Asked how Croatia would respond to this, the Minister said that Croatia would protect itself with all the resources it had. “All our services control our state territory under our jurisdiction, and the police defend our fishermen,” she said. The Minister voiced her hope that the dispute with Slovenia would be resolved by 2020 when Croatia will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union. She believes that the arbitral judgment has put many of the unrealistic Slovenian demands into a more realistic framework and could be a reasonable basis for the final solution to be reached. “Given the long period in which we have been trying to reach a solution, there are many good things that have happened in this process, and we think that, with goodwill on both sides, we can relatively quickly reach an appropriate solution,” concluded Pejcinovic Buric.
EC calls on Croatia and Slovenia to continue dialogue (HRT)
The European Commission has called on Croatia and Slovenia to maintain their dialogue at all levels with regard to finding a solution to the two countries border dispute. Brussels also called on Zagreb and Ljubljana to avoid taking any action that could disrupt their bilateral talks, and reiterated its willingness to assist in the implementation of the arbitration ruling. European Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva said that the commission is ready to contribute to, or ease if need be, the process, so that the final award of the arbitration tribunal is implemented. She also announced that the commission could revisit the issue to consider ways of contributing to the arbitration court’s decision. Andreeva added the commission commended the leadership of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Slovene Prime Minister Miro Cerar, for continuing their dialogue. The two leaders met in Zagreb on 19 December. The commission discussed the border dispute between the two countries on 20 December. After which the First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, announced that the Plenkovic Cerar meeting in Zagreb was a good sign. Timmermans said that he was an optimist, but acknowledged that there were still no tangible results in the dispute. He added that as far as the commission is concerned, EC president Jean-Claude Juncker had tasked him with mediating between the two sides is they so desired, and that if Zagreb and Ljubljana do request his assistance he will try to bring them closer together. Timmermans also said that his primary responsibility was to ensure that no new incidents occurred at the two countries shared border. He concluded however, that ultimately it was a bilateral issue that needed to be resolved by Zagreb and Ljubljana. After their meeting in Zagreb on 19 December Slovenian Prime Minister Cerar said that the only solution was the implementation of the arbitration ruling in full. Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic said that any future solution must be acceptable to both sides, which will require a dose of flexibility.
Montenegro in the EU before 2025 (MINA)
In the process of joining the European Union, Montenegro will try to further promote the regatta principle, said Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic. He added that before 2025 the country could become a member of the Union. He said that he expected that the regatta principle, ie the assessment of the state based on its own results, would be encouraged in the April report of the European Commission. “We are encouraged by the statement of EC President Jean-Claude Juncker that the EU will have more countries that it has now. I think that we can become a member even before 2025,” Darmanovic said in an interview with MINA news agency.
He also said that Juncker’s statement did not specify that new members could be admitted in 2025, but that it was referred that EU enlargement might be possible by that year.
Zaev: The dinner with Boutaris is a message that there is a will for solving the name dispute (Meta)
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was having a dinner with the Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris on the New Year’s Eve in order to send a positive message that there is a will for solving the name dispute. This was announced today by Zaev, in the first comment with the Macedonian journalists after the dinner with Boutaris. When he was answering questions about the visit to Thessaloniki, he said that the created atmosphere of friendship can be of benefit for improving the circumstances and for finding a solution for the name dispute. Zaev said that during his stay in Thessaloniki he had a telephone conversation with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias. “We are creating a friendly atmosphere and pre-condition in order to enter the process of solving the problem in the right way. I’m convinced that we can find a solution. During the visit, I spoke to the minister of foreign affairs and with Tsipras, but you have to understand that it is not that easy even for the Greek side. But, with a friendly behavior, a solution can be found so we can receive an invitation to join NATO and for starting the accession talks to join the EU” said Zaev, during a joint press conference after the meeting with the Minister of Finance, Dragan Tevdovski regarding the accomplishments of the capital investments in 2017. You must have good relations with your neighbors. The name issue has been inflated primarily because of the stupidity of politicians. People want to find their identity. With concessions from both sides, but also from the opposition, they are ready for a compromise. “Mr. Zaev said he would change the name of the airport, change the street signs” says the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Slovenia-Croatia border dispute underlines fragility of EU’s Balkan project (The Irish Times, by Patrick Smyth, 4 January 2018)
Europe Letter: Inevitably, European Union states have brought with them historical baggage
Brussels – It was never going to be that simple. The idea was that when new states signed up to join the European Union, they would do so with an unequivocal promise to recognise the territorial integrity of every other member state and to acknowledge the legitimacy and inviolability of existing borders. If that meant swallowing some national pride as a price for joining, so be it. Aspirations, such as that around the eventual unification of Ireland, were all very well, but there was a clear understanding that henceforth borders within the union would only be moved by mutual consent. Borders were not to be a matter of dispute inside the union. Eventually, as the union integrated economically and politically, they would all but disappear or, in the Brexit parlance, become “frictionless” – a problem only when the union lost a member. The EU had no intention of importing the legacy of Europe’s 19th- and 20th-century wars. But it was never going to be that simple. Inevitably, states brought with them historical baggage. In cases such as Greece and Cyprus, that was unresolved conflicts with neighbours which, with Turkey, became – courtesy of the national veto – the principal obstacle to their accession to the union. That was also the case with Croatian accession, held hostage for years by member state Slovenia over a bitter 26-year-old territorial dispute involving principally 7.3 square miles of maritime territory in Piran bay in the northern Adriatic Sea. Also disputed is a 416-mile stretch of land along the Slovene-Croatian border that forms the southern frontier of Europe’s Schengen area.
The deadlock appeared to have been broken when the EU persuaded both states to submit themselves to binding arbitration. Croatia was then duly admitted to the EU in 2013, but two years later, with the gate barely closed behind it, it abandoned the arbitration process and refused to accept the court’s ruling last June. While the court awarded some land claims to Croatia, it has given the bulk of the bay to Slovenia and, most importantly, a 10-mile sea corridor through Croatia’s share to give the Slovenes direct, unfettered access to the rest of the Med. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague gave both states six months to implement its ruling, a deadline which ran out, with the ruling unimplemented, last week. “We intend to implement the ruling and expect Croatia to do the same,” Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar said at a news conference following talks in Zagreb with his Croatian counterpart, Andrej Plenkovic. Plenkovic warned against “unilateral acts that could cause incidents on the borders”. Croatia has proposed new talks but the Slovenes are adamant they will not talk, and that the court ruling must stand. Which leaves the EU in precisely the mess its founding fathers were determined to avoid. At a time when the union would like to demonstrate its “peace-engineering” credentials. This is a particular short-term priority of the EU in the Balkans, where the legacy of the collapse of former Yugoslavia has left a scarred and still unstable landscape. Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo all share aspirations to EU membership. The prospect of accession, and the disciplines that process will supposedly impose, remain the best carrot the union can dangle. Above all it remains determined not to import unresolved conflicts into its midst.
Yet, which of these states, all involved in bitter territorial or sovereignty disputes, will take seriously an EU injunction that they must definitively resolve their territorial disputes before they can be considered for membership? Croatia, it would seem, has circumvented any such requirement, and it maintains a long-standing dispute with Serbia over where its territory ends and Serbia’s begins along a 201-mile stretch of land near the Danube. Croatia can single-handedly block Serbia’s accession, a lesson it learned well from Slovenia’s attitude to its own accession. The Croats would like to see a breakaway Croatian territory in Bosnia Herzegovina. Serbia refuses to recognise Kosovo, while Greece will refuse to allow Macedonia into either the EU or Nato because it believes its name reflects ambitions to take over Greek territory. Quite apart from the dangers of instability, and even a return to war on its southeastern flank, the region is of huge strategic significance to the EU. Whether it is in managing future flows of migrants from the south, or providing a political and economic bulwark against the growing influence both Russia and Turkey.
But if the EU cannot resolve what many have seen as just a minor tiff in Piran bay, what prospect now for its ambitious Balkan project?