Brnabic: Vucic not interfering with my job (Nedeljnik)
The function of prime minister carries great power with it, but on the other hand we have a man (Aleksandar Vucic) who is the president of the strongest political party and has the majority in parliament and he obtained 55 percent support at the direct election, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic declared and underpinned that this does not undermine her power and responsibility as prime minster, and that Vucic does not interfere with her job. He is not a micro manager and this is one of the greatest misconceptions about him in the Serbian public- that he likes to control everything and that he gives orders for everything that is being done in this country, Brnabic declared in an interview to weekly Nedeljnik. I often get answers from him the likes of: “Do whatever you think is right”, Brnabic declared. She underlined that she never visited either the Russian or any other ambassador to justify herself, and recalled the Bloomberg interview case which was the reason why she had brought the interview stenogram to Russian ambassador Aleksandr Chepurin in order to convince him that the statement on the choice between the European Union and Russia was misinterpreted. I met the Russian ambassador here in the government building. And I learned that, when you talk to media, your statement may be drawn out of context, which happened then, she went on to say.
She also said that there is a dilemma on whether to choose the EU or Russia, but added “this dilemma is not ours”. Our policy is completely clear and sincere, Brnabic said and repeated that Serbia belongs in the EU.
Brnabic said she “has the impression” that media in Serbia are free. A part of journalists in Serbia think that there is no media freedom. I want to hear them, but not only media are in that group; that group also includes non-government organizations, but the Association of Journalists isn’t with them. And they are not my enemies, Brnabic said.
What seems apparent to me is that everything in Serbian may be the object of criticism. Vucic’s call for internal dialogue on Kosovo is an example of it. How else can this move be viewed except a responsible and courageous decision by a statement? Who else would open this issue? Why would Vucic do it unless he wants to resolve the problem for future generations”, she pointed out. To the statement that if one calls for a dialogue, one must accept criticism, Brnabic replied: “I understand criticism from rightwing opposition, but this comes from the opposition that claims to be pro-European and civil, which seems incredible to me. This is the most serious national issue so let’s not attack the man who is trying to resolve that, she underlined.
If we miss this opportunity, we will have to wait for another ten years. So people, what we need is a little bit more responsibility and that we all back key objectives, Brnabic said.
Brnabic said that Djilas cannot lead the capital city in an adequate way. “He (Djilas) does not understand the minority rights or his legal obligations He does not support the Pride Parade,” Brnabic explained.
When asked what she thinks about Sasa Jankovic, who is now the leader of the Movement of Free Citizens (PSG), the premier replied that she did not hear any serious position on country or national issues from him. She also denounced Jankovic over his alleged claims about Pride Parade. “He (Jankovic) can freely change the name (of his group) into Movement of Some Free Citizens,” Brnabic underlined.
She claimed that the Democratic Party (DS) and its leader, Dragan Sutanovac, strive to present the current situation in Serbia worse than it actually is. “It is sad when during the parliamentary session, we hear the news that new chapters in the accession process with the EU are to be opened, but only MPs of the ruling coalition applaud,” Brnabic said.
However, Brnabic noted that she respects Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Wishing to explain why she respects him, she stressed that since his stance is a widely and well-known stance, one can always be certain about it.
Vulin: Threat from Pristina will endanger peace in region (Tanjug)
Open threats with war and conflicts coming from the authorities in Pristina will endanger peace in the entire region, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said in reaction to the statement by Daut Haradinaj that the first arrest for the Special Court will re-activate the former KLA.
“Any attempt at the KLA criminals not to be brought to justice must be prevented and punished,” said Vulin, adding that UNMIK, KFOR and EULEX are not capable of ensuring peace and safety for all living in Kosovo and Metohija, “if they are not capable of ensuring the establishment of the court for KLA criminals then it is time for them to admit failure”. If the court for KLA crimes is not established, I think that Serbia should cease talks with Pristina, request the Serb List the toppling of the Kosovo government and request from the international community to assume responsibility and protect all those living in Kosovo and Metoihija from KLA terrorists.
Brussels gives no precise answer about date for Community (Tanjug)
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic on Thursday gave no precise answer when asked by Tanjug when Pristina could be expected to fulfil its obligations from the Brussels Agreement and form the Community of Serb Municipalities.
Lajcak: Dayton 2 unrealistic (Beta/N1)
Nobody in the international community is seriously thinking about Dayton 2, says UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak. The idea concerns “redefining” the Dayton Peace Accord signed in 1995 to ended the war in B&H. According to the former Slovak foreign minister and former high international representative in Bosnia, it is not realistic to once again sign an agreement that would define that country, N1 and Beta are reporting on Friday. His comments come after US Congressman and former mayor of Dayton, Ohio Michael Turner proposed signing a so-called Dayton 2, and sent a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressing the importance of Washington turning toward the Balkans and leading the process of reconciliation. “During Dayton, B&H was at war, there was no functional state, today it is a state that has its own governments, institutions, has had a series of regular elections, it is absolutely unrealistic to think that some world powers can solve the issue of the functionality of the state,” Lajcak told N1 in an interview, and added: “The answer to this question is in B&H. If there is no desire of the legitimately elected political leaders to agree on a better functionality of their country, then no one else can solve that.” Lajcak also assessed that progress has been made in regional communication over the past five or ten years, and said he expects cooperation to be even better after the European Union’s signal that the prospects of membership are strong and exist.
SDA holds New Year’s press conference (TV1)
SDA held a New Year’s press conference in Sarajevo on Thursday. B&H Presidency member and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic assessed on this occasion that the year of 2017 was marked by a severe political crisis, but also by significant progress on the EU path of B&H and in terms of economic development of the country. He reminded that the ICTY has completed its work with verdicts in the case of wartime commander of the RS Army Ratko Mladic and the case of six former leaders of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia, thus sealing up the story about ethnical cleansing and terrible war crimes in B&H. Izetbegovic reiterated that the ICTY’s verdicts refer to individuals and they were a chance to remove the burden of responsibility from people’s shoulders and ensure an intensive reconciliation process, but that Serb and Croat politicians in B&H and those in Serbia and Croatia missed that chance.
Commenting on the crisis in the state-level coalition, he assessed that the crisis was made even deeper due to the fact that the Alliance for Changes (SzP) did not support the set of laws on excise duties. Izetbegovic also said that relations with HDZ B&H were deteriorated since RS President Milorad Dodik and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic “have started at their joint meetings to agree on non-implementable things that cannot exclude participation of Bosniaks.” Izetbegovic reiterated that SDA will not support the HDZ B&H’s proposal of amendments to the Election Law of B&H. He concluded that B&H will get the EU candidate status and activate the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) in the second half of 2018, amid all the wrangles, disagreements and threatening with referendums.
Izetbegovic said that he maintains contact with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and he added that a leader of SDA, no matter who it is, can have good relations with them if he “does not seek justice or truth, or let them exploit your huge resources, or let them build bridges wherever they find fit or to transfer responsibilities from B&H onto Belgrade, and only then you would be good”.
Radoncic: 2017 was year full of conflicts and lies, SBB B&H has strategic problem with SDA (TV1)
SBB B&H held a New Year’s press conference in Sarajevo on Thursday. SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic said on this occasion that the year of 2017 was marked by a trend of blockades of B&H’s reform path towards the EU, reminding that the European Commission’s (EC) Questionnaire was not completed and there is still no the EU candidate status for B&H. He said that a number of conflicts within SDA and conflicts within the ruling coalition also marked this year, assessing that it was a year full of conflicts and lies given that many promises were failed to be met. He explained that SBB B&H has a strategic problem with SDA given that this party does not understand the nature of coalition relations and it had the same problems in the past with SDP, SB&H, DF and A-SDA.
Radonicic explained that he assumes that B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman Denis Zvizdic (SDA) “will no longer be at his post as of March of April 2018, so there is no need for Jusko to resign for nothing.” “Zvizdic does not deserve to be a chairman since out of 64 laws that he himself promised, he sent only seven laws into parliamentary procedure. It is naïve to think that realistic political forces will not demand his removal in the Parliament of B&H,” Radoncic asserted.
Dodik organizes reception on occasion of RS Day (RTRS)
RS President Milorad Dodik organized a solemn reception on the occasion of the Day of the RS, 9 January, which took place in Banja Luka on Thursday. A number of delegations of the RS Assembly and the RS government, the most successful entrepreneurs, cultural and scientific workers, athletes, students and journalists attended this event. On this occasion, Dodik said that in order for the RS to achieve the highest possible level of independence within the frameworks of the Constitution of B&H and the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), they should all accept the RS as a state in full capacity. “We should not allow others to lead us. We must have our own, authentic policies, being aware that we have to live with the others and those who are different, but also with an aim to strengthen the RS,” Dodik was quoted as saying. He also asked the local communities to support the Day of the RS in a symbolical way, by choosing one street that will be named after 9 January.
Cormack: It is high time for politics to stop with pressures over economy and judiciary (Dani)
Dani carried an interview with US Ambassador Maureen Cormack, who is magazine’s person of the year among foreign officials. Asked about the announcement of the ‘Atlantic Council’ concerning the big return of the USA to the Balkans, Ambassador underlined that US never left the Balkans and most especially not B&H, adding that their Embassy in Sarajevo is one of the biggest in this part of Europe, which reflects strong dedication of the US to B&H. Cormack noted that ‘Atlantic Council’, as well as other NGOs and ‘think-tanks’ in the USA have a huge role in democratic dialogue there, they make the US democracy alive and they provoke people to think differently, thus launching the dialogue, even though this does not represent the official US’ policy. The Ambassador reminded that President Donald Trump published ‘National Security Strategy’, which underlined that America is on the first place, but Administration of President Trump recognizes the fact that the only way to succeed is through close cooperation with allies and partners. This, Cormack noted, carries an important message for the Balkans and for B&H, as the document clearly stated that the US is not withdrawing, they confirm their dedication to NATO, to their allies and partnerships, such are the ones in B&H and it once again confirmed that rule of law and democracy are crucial for future of US partners. To author’s repeated question if it is possible to expect increase in US interest for B&H, the Ambassador stressed that US remain dedicated and continue to support B&H citizens, as long as they follow the path towards democratic, stable and prosperous future. “We deem that this future is in Euro- Atlantic institutions and we are working with our partners in EU and NAT, in order to assist B&H to make progress on this path,” said Cormack.
Asked about Russian policy in B&H, the Ambassador said that she can comment only the US stance, which is clear- US wants to work with Russia as a partner on issues where their interests and goals are the same, whilst it is clear that the US will defend their own interests in matters where Russia and US disagree. “We also deem that our allies and partners have the right to follow their selected path. When it comes to this part of the world, this path is clearly defined through Euro-Atlantic integration. We deem that countries here need to follow this path freely. I truly believe and hope that Russia can- as was the case since beginning of PIC work in B&H- again be a partner here and on issues where our interests are not the same and where interests of B&H are not the same, we will strongly support B&H,” said Cormack. Author noted that she advocates “Macedonian scenario”, to which the Ambassador noted that this statement can be separated in two parts, underlining that she is not certain that they would wish for B&H to go through Macedonian scenario, being that that was a problematic and difficult period in Macedonia. As for the other part of this statement, if B&H can have the authority which would focus on rule of law, improvements and fight against corruption, the Ambassador said that she hopes that this is possible. “It is necessary to be optimistic, as this truly is not the situation in which B&H is now,” said the Ambassador, underlining that this requires a lot of hard work, by politicians, international community and by side of citizens who need to demand this from their leaders. Cormack stressed that a new Chief Prosecutor of B&H is about to be appointed, noting that every previous Chief Prosecutor was replaced or left because of corruption or disciplinary procedure, which has to change. She noted that other countries in the region are not perfect either, but they have leaders who are willing to work on solving of these issues, which is something that B&H lacks.
Asked about RS President Milorad Dodik and the fact that he does not have a problem with the US President, but only with the Ambassador and US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee and if it possible for Dodik to return to the list of desirable collocutors, the Ambassador noted that everyone are clear that this is not about her or about Yee but about a political decision of the US Administration, which was reached by numerous agencies and it is up to Dodik to decide if he will return to the list of desirable collocutors. Cormack stressed that US policy in B&H is clear, the US supports B&H, its territorial integrity, Dayton Constitution and path that B&H chose i.e. Euro-Atlantic path. She stressed that US is ready to work with all political leaders, which are also dedicated to these goal and underlined that this does not refer to the RS or the RS citizens, being that US government cooperates both with the citizens and with RS institutions, underlining that Dodik made this choice on his own and all it takes is for him is to stop puling B&H backwards, to speak about secession and object path of the country. Cormack underlined important role that PIC still has in B&H, adding that this is clear proof of support of the IC to progress in B&H. As for NATO path, Ambassador noted that B&H needs to activate MAP and the matter of activation depends on sole issue – registering of military property.
Xhaferi: Opposition to return to parliament, no need for elections (MIA)
Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi expects and beliefs that the opposition will take part in the work of the parliamentary bodies and sessions as of 9 January 2018 when the session on law on languages and election of constitutional judges is scheduled. Macedonia does not need new elections in 2018, Xhaferi told reporters on Thursday. Xhaferi said that the political crisis in Macedonia ended six months ago. “Turmoil within the political parties is expected to the surpassed in the first days of new year, as of January 9. The parliament should work in its full composition with participation of the opposition and all political parties considering their previous statements that they will attend the parliament’s sessions. And especially for the reform laws, in the context to expectations from the EC Progress Report and Macedonia’s progress,” Xhaferi said. Xhaferi expects parliament to work on regular basis in 2018 adding that he expects the same from the political parties as well. Draft version of the parliament’s Rules of Procedure is created, which together with the Code of Ethics should be reviewed within the Jean Monnet process, a meeting of representatives of the parliamentary groups which is expected to be held near Paris on Jan. 25 and 26, Xhaferi said.
Sela: Zaev gets new ministerial post, but loses serious partner (Telma)
By the election of a new health minister and the decision of the Alliance of Albanians (AA) to quit the administration, the government has lost morale, party leader Zijadin Sela said late Thursday in the TV Telma ‘Top Theme’ program. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has gotten yet another ministerial post, but lost a rather serious partner in terms of reform process and the efforts for overcoming the political crisis, Sela said. In the political game of DUI, whose popularity among ethnic Albanians has been tumbling down on daily basis, Zaev saw an opportunity to get an important ministry, such as the one of health, in order to keep working on his business plans, not on reforming the sector, Sela said. At the onset, he said, the government’s intention was not to build a new clinical center, but to give priority to resolving the numerous problems in the health care sector. ‘Therefore the Ministry of Health was not very attractive for the Prime Minister and other partners of the government coalition. So it has not been assigned to the AA because of (Arben) Taravari as political players claim,’ Sela said. He notified that for 15 years the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia ‘have been living in monism, there is only one party that always scores victory at the elections’. ‘It doesn’t mean that the Albanians wish for that political option, the practice is imposed by the Macedonian partners – until recently it was VMRO-DPMNE, and now at the local elections SDSM followed the suit. They (SDSM) protested for democracy, but the most serious problem related to recent local poll was that Zaev obstructed the possibility for democracy and changes to become tangible for ethnic Albanians as well,’ Sela said.
AA office-holders tender resignations (MIA)
Office-holders of Macedonia’s government junior coalition partner – the Alliance of Albanians (AA) – tendered their resignations on Thursday. The Deputy-Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Transport & Communications, Labour & Social Policy – Arta Toci, Remzi Memedi and Elmi Aziri respectively, as well as State Secretary with the Ministry of Justice Zulfi Adili, submitted their resignations to the government, AA’s Elmi Aziri told the Alsat-M TV. Eight directors of state institutions are also expect to resign in the next few days. Yesterday AA leader Zijadin Sela said the party would join the opposition as the agreement with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has been breached. Zaev on his part said he expected the resignations as Sela didn’t accept the offer for the post of Vice Premier for reforms.
VMRO-DPMNE starts procedure for changing the statute (Republika)
In accordance with the announced commitments of VMRO-DPMNE president Hristijan Mickoski to start a process of amending the statute of VMRO-DPMNE with the aim of strengthening the party bodies, their independence and additional democratization of the party, we inform that the Statutory Committee starts the procedure for amendment of the Statute of VMRO-DPMNE, the party informs. Based on the fact that the internal reform initiative in June 2017 submitted to the Central Committee of VMRO-DPMNE a draft Declaration on democratization and modernization of VMRO-DPMNE and draft amendments to the Statute of VMRO-DPMNE, we invite them with representatives to take part in the work of the Statutory Commission, in order to harmonize the views on the changes in question, reads the statement of VMRO-DPMNE and adds: “At the same time, we call on all the bodies of the party, as well as members who want to participate in the process of democratization of the Statute of VMRO-DPMNE with their proposals to turn to the Statutory Commission of VMRO-DPMNE.” The purpose of such a procedure, VMRO-DPMNE says, is to achieve greater efficiency of the functioning of the party bodies, strengthening party bodies, and greater independence in decision-making by them. Any change will be made through a process of open intra-party dialogue and consultation, as well as using the positive experiences of the democratic right-wing sister parties from Europe, the statement said.
Ombudsman: Arrest of MPs constitutes violation of parliamentary immunity (Republika)
The arrest of three MPs in November constitutes a violation of the right to parliamentary immunity and the principle of presumption of innocence because the rulebook on police affairs hadn’t been respected, the Ombudsman of Macedonia has concluded. The conclusion comes as a result of processing a complaint filed by the parliamentary group of VMRO-DPMNE and the For Better Macedonia coalition, the Ombudsman Ixhet Memeti told a press briefing on Thursday. According to him, it is indisputable that police officers had failed to act in line with the rulebook on the manner of performing police affairs, which stipulates that police officers should not arrest an individual who has been granted a status of immunity. The Ombudsman said a recommendation has been sent to the Minister of the Interior proposing launch of an investigation into the conduct of police officers on Nov. 28, establishment of accountability and penalties for the police officers who had violated the rights of the MPs. Additionally, the Ombudsman said one should ask the question why the court had issued an arrest warrant for people with parliamentary immunity without the MPs having their immunity lifted beforehand. Memeti said his institution was satisfied with the cooperation with the Interior Ministry over the procedure, even though the ministry had failed to respond directly to questions. Nevertheless, the ministry had sent all documents with which the Ombudsman’s office was able to locate the problem, he said.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Serbia expects Russian top diplomat’s visit in February (TASS, 28 December 2017)
BELGRADE, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to visit Serbia on February 21-22 to take part in events marking the 180th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Belgrade, the Serbian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday citing Lavrov’s New Year greetings to Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic. “I have warm memories of our meetings in the outgoing year and expect that our meaningful dialogue will continue in Belgrade on February 21-22, 2018, during a visit to mark 180 years since the establishment of Serbian-Russian diplomatic relations,” the press service cited Lavrov’s letter. “We are ready to further coordinate with the Serbian partners moves on the global arena,” the letter said. The Russian diplomat stressed that “Russian-Serbian strategic partnership fully meets the interests of the two peoples, and a dialogue has got a boost at all levels”. The Foreign Ministry of Serbia said that Ivica Dacic met on Thursday with Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Chepurin. The Russian diplomat handed over to Dacic New Year greetings from Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The interlocutors reviewed results of this year, noting that the recent visit by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Moscow “was highly successful’.
Dacic, for his part, thanked Russia “for consistent support for integrity and sovereignty of Serbia,” said the report that TASS received on Thursday.
Government and Opposition Trade Blows Over FYROM Name Dispute (Greek Reporter, by Theo Ioannou, 28 December 2017)
The FYROM name dispute, namely the use of the term “Macedonia” in its name, by the former Yugoslav republic, is the longest standing issue of Greek foreign policy after the Cyprus reunification process. With representatives of the Greek government, the FYROM government and the UN appearing optimistic that the dispute could be resolved within the next few months after 25 years of stagnation, Greek political parties are publicly bickering over the issue.
Main opposition New Democracy conservatives have been attempting to cause a rift in the coalition government, pinpointing the fact that Defence Minister and junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos, appears set against any resolution that includes the term “Macedonia”.
In fairness, the minister and president of ANEL has on one hand stated that he would not vote for any FYROM name that includes “Macedonia” in parliament, but on the other hand, has asked for a resolution on the issue through a council of all political leaders under the auspices of the president of the republic. This way, Kammenos has attempted to bypass all apparent rift issues between him and a potential use of the “Macedonia” term his partner; the PM, might come up with, using the council as a way of achieving consensus on the polarizing issue.
Syriza; on the other hand, is trying to deflect any issue about a potential government rift, by using New Democracy’s difference of opinions during its previous administrations. Under the late Konstantine Mitsotakis, the conservatives had favoured a resolution that might include the term “Macedonia” as a geographic determination. But former PM Antonis Samaras, a more nationalistic figure in conservative politics who had previously disagreed with Mitsotakis when he was in cabinet, has repeatedly refused to accept any terminology including “Macedonia” in a potential FYROM name. By pinpointing this past discrepancy, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos has been accusing New Democracy of hypocritical behaviour. “They should resolve their own position first before accusing the government, which will be discussing the issue through proper channels,” he said.
New Democracy spokesperson Maria Spyraki counterattacked by underlying that the Kostas Karamanlis administration had achieved an international consensus, according to which the resolution of the FYROM name conflict is a precondition for the Balkan country’s entry in forums such as NATO and the EU.
The Greek Communist party too has weighed in on the bickering by claiming that it is the only parliamentary party which has adopted the resolution of the use of “Macedonia” only as a geographic identification in a potential resolution of the FYROM name conflict.
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