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Belgrade Media Report 09 January 2018

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 9 January 2018

• Dodik decorates Nikolic (N1/B92)
• KFOR: Situation in Kosovo calm, stable (Tanjug)
• Kostic: SANU is not a political party to have a platform on Kosovo (RTS/Tanjug)
• Priests of the Montenegrin-Littoral Metropolitan support Amfilohije (Tanjug)
• Top SNS officials want early parliamentary elections (Novosti)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Marking of RS Day officially starts in Banja Luka (TV1/BHT1)
• Dodik: Bosniaks will not prevent 9 January from being republic day (Srna)
• Lukac: Some 700 police officers will secure RS Day manifestation (ATV/BNTV)
• Vucic and Brnabic not to attend RS’ Day marking (Hayat/N1/RTRS)
• Vucic congratulates RS Day (Srna)
• Coalition ‘Domovina’ files motion for assessment of constitutionality of Law on RS’ Day (FTV)
• SDA slams SDP because its delegate in RS CoP Suljkanovic failed to support filing of motion for assessment of Law on RS Day (Avaz)
• Softic comments on RS Day (TV1)
• OHR: Decisions made by B&H Constitutional Court are final and binding (BHT1)
• Yee resigns (Al Jazeera)
• Juncker: “Arbitration judgement must be respected” (Index)
• Covic wants Zagreb to support Electoral Law reform (tportal)
• Amfilohije: No agreement with terrorists regarding Kosovo (In4S)
• Kotzias: Compound name for all uses, differentiating from Greek Macedonia (MIA)
• Solution to name issue possible by mid-2018, Zaev tells Greek TV (MIA)
• Tsipras: Window for name solution has been opened (MIA)
• First 100 days, what promises the government did and did not keep (Top Channel)


• EU sets date for next wave of enlargement (EUobserver)

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Dodik decorates Nikolic (N1/B92)


Former Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic in Banja Luka received a decoration from RS President Milorad Dodik. Nikolic was honored for special merits in developing and strengthening cooperation and political relations between Serbia and the RS, as well as for his outstanding contribution of a broader significance to the affirmation and post-war development of the RS, N1 is reporting. According to this, Nikolic said during the ceremony: “If the road to our unification is your autonomy and independence, I wish you autonomy and independence, from the heart. There must be no deviation from this road. There will be another one hundred obstacles, but we are merely those people who go ahead of the will of the people, and it is clear – Serbia and the RS will be deciding jointly about a joint destiny.” The former president also said that a part of the international community was taking away the sovereignty, independence and the right of the RS, by putting it under some sort of common state, which he does not yet see functioning. “My most difficult challenge for the RS was the resolution on Srebrenica in the Security Council, and I knew that if it came to a vote, we would not stand a great chance. If they voted the way they planned, then the RS will not stand a great chance, either. I then decided to do something that was not diplomatic, but it was desperate – to address our mother Russia and the great President Putin… I wrote a letter to Putin and I stated that with this, we are sealing the fate of the RS. Vladimir Putin vetoed the resolution on Srebrenica, raised our heads, encouraged us… Ever since, I have not really been liked by these little friends of ours – and what kind of a man would I be if people who do not think well to my people loved me.” According to N1, along with Nikolic, Dodik today, among others, honored filmmaker Emir Kusturica and Austrian Vice-Chancellor Hans Christian Strache.


KFOR: Situation in Kosovo calm, stable (Tanjug)


The situation in Kosovo is calm and stable and KFOR will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement across the territory of Kosovo, KFOR said on Monday.

In a statement sent to Tanjug, KFOR said that, as part of its mandate, it was maintaining close contacts and frequent exchange of information with institutions in Pristina, Belgrade, neighboring countries and international organizations. “Referring to Albanian and Serbian media reports regarding the information that KFOR allegedly shared with the Serbian military authorities, KFOR assesses that the situation in Kosovo is calm and stable. KFOR will continue to work to ensure a safe environment and freedom of movement throughout territory of Kosovo,” KFOR said. “Therefore, in case of any warning that might affect the security situation, KFOR is prepared to take any necessary measures to make Kosovo safe, in close coordination with the Kosovo police and EULEX, in the benefit of every citizen living in Kosovo,” said the statement.


Kostic: SANU is not a political party to have a platform on Kosovo (RTS/Tanjug)


The Serbian Academy of Science and Arts (SANU) is not a party to have a political platform on Kosovo, instead, it can only offer opinions of individuals, SANU President Vladimir Kostic told journalists. “Do not expect from SANU to take a joint stance on Kosovo and Metohija by outvoting. This is not in the essence of the Academy. The Academy can offer opinions of individuals, and they differ to the extent present in the society,” Kostic told journalists commenting expectations from SANU in the internal dialogue on Kosovo. He also added all the members of SANU are obliged to express their stances individually. “I do hope, that in the next couple of weeks we would have in written stances of individuals in the SANU,” Kostic said. Asked to comment on the statement of Metropolitan Amfilohije, Kostic said that everyone should be patient and if the dialogue is “since the beginning marked with mutual reproofing, accusations and divisions, then it would lose its sense,” Tanjug reports.


Priests of the Montenegrin-Littoral Metropolitan support Amfilohije (Tanjug)


The priests of the Montenegrin-Littoral Metropolitan have stated that they support Metropolitan Amfilohije and that they condemn the reactions to his statement, calling it a hunt against the Metropolitan. The priests criticize the Serbian politicians Nikola Selakovic, Zorana Mihajlovic, Marko Djuric and Aleksandar Vulin, noting that the Kosovo issue is not a Belgrade issue but an all-Serbian issue.


Top SNS officials want early parliamentary elections (Novosti)


A large number of Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) officials want early parliamentary elections to be called simultaneously with the Belgrade local elections, the Novosti reported ahead of an extraordinary SNS Presidency session scheduled for Wednesday. The most vociferous and the most influential advocate of the idea is SNS Presidency member Nebojsa Stefanovic, who is seconded by Zorana Mihajlovic, Novosti report.




Marking of RS Day officially starts in Banja Luka (TV1/BHT1)


B&H Presidency member Mladen Ivanic said on this occasion that he will take part in the marking of 9 January this year as well and that the RS and the Serb people have the right to mark the RS Day. “The RS passed the law that was not disputed by anyone, so 9 January is substantially, formally and legally the day when the RS was created. Therefore, those who do not recognize this should at least respect legal norms,” Ivanic told reporters in Banja Luka. He also visited the Third Infantry RS Regiment of the Armed Forces (AF) of B&H at the Kozara Barracks in Banja Luka. Ivanic stated that any way of obstructing of the celebration of the Day of the RS, only strengthens the will of the RS people to celebrate that Day.

Addressing the reporters, RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic emphasized that 9 January is welcomed with a special respect and feelings, honoring those who gave their lives for the RS. She added that the most important thing is that the RS makes progress in the time of peace and it gets more and more stable, with full political and institutional stability and visible economic progress.


Dodik: Bosniaks will not prevent 9 January from being republic day (Srna)


RS President Milorad Dodik has said that the fact that the Bosniaks demanded the denial of the Law on RS Day cannot and will not prevent 9 January from being republic day. Commenting on the initiative challenging the Law on RS Day sent by the Bosniak deputies in the RS Council of Peoples to the B&H Constitutional Court, Dodik told reporters in Banja Luka that the people clearly declared themselves in the referendum to mark 9 January as republic day. “We do not believe in the decisions of the Constitutional Court of B&H, which is political and was formed to judge RS,” Dodik has said. He has assessed this initiative as their daily game. Dodik has stressed that RS is a democratically organized community, and that the Bosniaks make part of it. “RS is the state of the Serb people, but also of all other peoples, regardless of differences, in which every nation can live freely enjoying democratic rights,” added Dodik.


Lukac: Some 700 police officers will secure RS Day manifestation (ATV/BNTV)


RS Minister of Interior Dragan Lukac said that some 700 police officers will be engaged in securing the central manifestation. The solemn academy will be held as well as reception in the RS government’s Administrative Center. Lukac stated that 500 police officers will participate in the solemn parade, which will include over 2,000 people. He concluded that all security measures have been undertaken and all preparations have been completed for marking of the RS’ Day


Vucic and Brnabic not to attend RS’ Day marking (Hayat/N1/RTRS)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic will not attend marking of the RS’ Day in Banja Luka on Tuesday. Vucic explained that he has previously scheduled obligations that he needs to fulfill on Tuesday. However, Serbian Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic and Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin are scheduled to represent Serbian government at the RS’ Day marking. In 2017, Vucic excused his absence with a business trip, while this year he made no statement. Reporter said that there are no messages from Belgrade on the eve of the RS Day, and added that first messages of Serbian official are expected in Banja Luka on Tuesday.

Serbian Patriarch Irinej arrived in Banja Luka on Monday. He led a religious sermon at the Banja Luka temple, after which he attended a reception together with Dodik, Cvijanovic and Speaker of RS Assembly Nedeljko Cubrilovic.


Vucic congratulates RS Day (Srna)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sent a letter to RS President Milorad Dodik congratulating the RS Day. In his letter, Vucic emphasized that Serbia will always stand by the RS, offering sincere and generous support and developing economic, cultural and spiritual ties. “On behalf of the citizens of Serbia and in my personal name, I would like to congratulate you, the Government and the People of the RS the Day of Republika Srpska, with strong belief in your will and preservation to secure prosperity and well-being for the RS, while at the same time preserving peace and stability in the RS and in B&H”, wrote Vucic in his letter. Dodik thanked Vucic for his letter, and for everything that he is doing for successful cooperation between the RS and Serbia. According to Dodik, Vucic called him earlier on Monday as well. Dodik noted that relations between the RS and Serbia have never been better, with many joint projects being implemented. “Our cooperation and European path are not questionable. We would like to see RS very visible on this path in line with our rights and the competences that we have, and to reject any possibility of that European path being the path to abolition of the RS,” said Dodik.


Coalition ‘Domovina’ files motion for assessment of constitutionality of Law on RS’ Day (FTV)


Most political representatives of Croats and Bosniaks in the RS signed a motion for constitutional review of the Law on the RS Day, during a meeting held in Banja Luka on Monday. Attendees of the meeting, convened by the RS Vice President Ramiz Salkic (SDA), agreed that the motion will be filed to the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H. According to attendees of the meeting, unilateral marking of the RS Day is unacceptable, bearing in mind a decision of the CC and a stance of the Venice Commission on this issue. Addressing media after the meeting, Salkic said that they expect and demand from the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH, to inform the public about activities that they carried out, in relation to failure to implement the decision on unconstitutionality of the RS Day. Salkic also called on the CC to inform the public about their steps, taken in terms of implementation of previous decisions, related to holding of the unconstitutional referendum on the RS Day.

Delegate in the Croat Caucus in the RS Council of Peoples (CoP) Zeljko Stipic (HSP) stated that the date is disputable for returnees in the RS. According to Stipic, authorities should define another date that will be convenient for all the three peoples in the RS.


SDA slams SDP because its delegate in RS CoP Suljkanovic failed to support filing of motion for assessment of Law on RS Day (Avaz)


SDA issued a press statement on Monday in which it expressed its “astonishment with the fact SDP supported marking of 9 January as the RS Day”. SDA noted that it is impossible to offer any other interpretation to the fact delegate in the RS Council of Peoples (CoP) Enes Suljkanovic (SDP) refused to support filing of a motion with the B&H Constitutional Court (CC), which was signed by both Bosniaks and Croats and by which they requested putting out of force the latest law on holidays of the RS. SDA also noted that, until the SDP delegate signs the motion, SDA will maintain that “SDP is willing to neglect mass violation of human rights caused by proclamation of 9 January as the RS Day, all for the sake of struggle for power”. SDP reacted by publishing a press statement and said that this party “is shocked with the latest quantity of lies and deceits coming from SDA’s kitchen and SDA’s lapsed leader Bakir Izetbegovic”. SDP also reminded SDA that representatives of SDA in the RS Assembly supported celebration of the RS Day by voting for the RS budget, which included funds for marking of this date. SDP called Izetbegovic to ask for assessment of constitutionality of the Law on the RS Day on his own instead of doing it by “hiding behind the Bosniak Caucus in the RS CoP”.


Softic comments on RS Day (TV1)


Commenting on the marking of 9 January as the RS Day, Deputy Speaker of the House of Peoples (HoP) of B&H Safet Softic stated on Monday that it is clear that the RS authorities are committing a criminal offence by disrespecting the decisions of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H. He reminded that the RS authorities demonstrate defiance with regard to the marking of the RS Day every year, noting that everyone is aware of what this date celebrates and feelings of those who experienced the genocide in B&H. “Until when this is going to last is a question for local politicians and the international community, which still has both its rights and obligations in B&H,” Softic concluded.


OHR: Decisions made by B&H Constitutional Court are final and binding (BHT1)


In the light of Tuesday’s celebration of the RS Day, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) has issued a statement. “The decisions of the B&H Constitutional Court are final and binding, so they must be respected. We want to repeat our previous stance, OHR does not have anything against the fact that the RS should have its day to celebrate, but the RS Day must be aligned with the legal framework and in full respect of the rule of law”, stated in an official statement by OHR. OHR also called upon all politicians in B&H to show responsibility and to refrain from the negative rhetoric and actions that could worsen the situation and draw attention from the necessary reforms in B&H.


Yee resigns (Al Jazeera)


US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee has resigned from his post and State Department confirmed this information to Al Jazeera. Yee is one of the US diplomats with the longest engagement in the Balkans, being that he is active in this region ever since 1993, when he served as young assistant to US Special Envoy for the Balkans Charles Redman and he was taking notes during all key meetings and negotiations, aimed to halt the war. Since then, Hoyt Yee has worked on various posts in the US diplomacy and NATO and in last years he became the key persons in the State Department for the South- Eastern and Central Europe.


Juncker: “Arbitration judgement must be respected” (Index)


The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said that the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia was not only a bilateral issue but that it affected the entire European Union and that it was a much more important issue than many in Slovenia and Croatia think, reports Index.hr. “This is not just a bilateral issue, but a problem that affects the whole EU, and in this spirit, the Commission has proposed mediation between the two sides. This is a much more important issue than many people in Slovenia and Croatia think,” said Juncker before a meeting with Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who visited Brussels. Juncker pointed out that the mediation proposal “was not well-received.” He said that the unresolved border issue between Croatia and Slovenia affected the prospects of other Western Balkan countries who aim to become EU members.

Slovenian President Pahor stated that the Croatian statements about the unresolved border dispute were not correct. “The border issue has been resolved by the arbitral judgement. We’re talking about the implementation of a signed agreement, which is part of the agreement on Croatia’s accession to the European Union,” he said. The EU devoted a lot of attention to this case, which is also confirmed by Juncker’s announcement that future members will not be accepted until they resolve their border issues. “The outstanding border issues between Slovenia and Croatia affect the perspective of Balkan countries when it comes to EU membership,” said Juncker, according to the Slovenian media. Juncker also stressed that the arbitral judgement must be implemented, regardless of the problems. “There is no war between the two countries,” Juncker said, adding that both sides must respect the judgement. “We have the arbitral judgement, we have to respect it,” he said. “The European Commission is trying to mediate between the two positions on the basis of the judgement. The arbitration agreement is part of the agreement on Croatia’s accession to the European Union,” Juncker said, adding that the Commission “did not want incidents” between the two countries. “We’re now in a period when we have to see how we can make a move towards arbitration implementation and I don’t want the two countries to enter into a conflict.” He added that the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute was not of interest to anyone in Europe and that no one knows what it involves. For one country, this is a bilateral issue, and for the other it is a European issue but, in the substantive sense, “the differences are minimal,” the EC president said. “This isn’t a big problem,” Juncker added.

“Croatia has become a member of the EU owing to the arbitration agreement, and it consists of two parts. In the first part, Slovenia has pledged to remove the blockade and help Croatia become a member of the EU. We have implemented this part of the agreement, without which Croatia would not have become a member of the EU. In the second part, Croatia has pledged to respect the arbitration decision on the land and sea border, and Slovenia is rightfully expecting Croatia to keep these commitments,” Slovenian President Pahor said.

The Slovenian President called on “Croatian friends to send Ljubljana and Brussels a message, officially or unofficially, that they will respect the arbitration judgement.”


Covic wants Zagreb to support Electoral Law reform (tportal)


Chairman of the B&H Presidency Dragan Covic said on Monday, before the meeting between Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, that he expected the government in Zagreb to lobby for the equality of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in favor of changes to the country’s electoral law, reports tportal.hr. “My communication with the authorities in Croatia is regular, and I ask them, as well as all the others, to help achieve legitimate representation of constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for us to turn towards the European path,” Covic said on Monday at a press conference in Mostar. He added that he would not speculate about “who would lobby and how.” Čović said that the Croatian President would visit B&H next week. The Croatian media reported that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic would seek support at her meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Tuesday for amendments to B&H’s electoral law, in view of the influence which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has on Bosniak political leadership, and especially on the leader of the most powerful political party SDA (Party of Democratic Action), Bakir Izetbegovic. Covic expressed his optimism that the electoral law would be amended so that the elections scheduled for October this year could be called. “This is a major issue because we need to regulate something which is now empty. We have to change the electoral law, and I’m confident that we will succeed in ensuring that the elections are called on 7 or 8 May,” Covic said. He expressed his expectation that there would be “enough wisdom” to carry out the necessary reforms related to the European path of the country. Asked how HDZ in Bosnia and Herzegovina would react if Bosniak parties tried to nominate Zeljko Komsic, who was elected twice by the votes of Bosniak voters as the Croatian member of the B&H Presidency, Covic explained that his party, along with other Croatian parties, had an alternative.

“HDZ is the main party of the Croatian people, and together with the other Croatian parties, we have a clear plan on what we want to do in B&H in the next two, four or ten years. We have an alternative for each event,” Covic said. The current electoral law in B&H allows Bosniaks, which are much more numerous than Croats, to vote for the Croat member of the B&H Presidency and in that way elect a candidate which does not have the majority support among Croats in the country.


Amfilohije: No agreement with terrorists regarding Kosovo (In4S)


“Neither myself nor the Church are attacking anyone, instead we are expressing concern about the fate of the most important and most sacred part of the Serb state,” Metropolitan Amfilohije said, speaking about Kosovo.  He says it is unacceptable to reach any binding agreements with terrorists who run the occupied Kosovo and Metohija and assessed that the issue of Kosovo and Metohija is a matter of the destiny of the nation. “Mr. Vucic is the President of Serbia and the great responsibility is on his shoulders. However, he has no right to remove this responsibility from himself, something that is now a tendency. Kosovo is a question of all of us, and without the language of the Church, the liberation of Kosovo and Metohija in 1912 would not have happened, we would not have preserve the Pec Patriarchate and the Visoki Decani,” said Amfilohije. He says the acceptance of the Brussels agreement marked the start of the renouncing of Kosovo and Metohija. “I hope that Vucic does not belong to those who are willing to give up their history, traditions and the greatest values ​​of their people, as the Duklja-Montenegrin authorities in today’s Montenegro have done,” Amfilohije said.


Kotzias: Compound name for all uses, differentiating from Greek Macedonia (MIA)


Greece prefers a compound name for all uses, which differentiates “FYROM” from Greek Macedonia, says Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, MIA reports from Athens. In an interview with Antenna TV station, FM Kotzias refers to the name issue and Greece’s position, saying Panos Kammenos, leader of the Government’s junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), is against the use of term ‘Macedonia’, but in Greek. He also says there is no need to schedule a referendum over the issue in Greece and adds the country cannot join NATO if there is no agreement. Regarding the possible name solutions reported in media, the Greek FM says the Athens government has its own proposal that it will present before the Skopje authorities. According to him, Greece’s objective is a compound name, which may or may not include a geographic qualifier. “There are series of proposals from the past, such as ‘New Macedonia’ as two words or as one. These proposals will be used when making our choice. I repeat, a compound name for all uses,” stresses Kotzias. He also explains the position of the Government’s junior coalition partner ANEL and its leader Kammenos. “Kammenos has not said that he disagrees with the use of term ‘Macedonia’, but the use of term ‘Macedonia’ in Greek language. This is very important. We will see the outcome from the talks,” adds Kotzias. Pertaining to a possible referendum in Greece, the FM says there is no need for this, because there is a responsible government and a parliamentary majority in place. He says there is also no reason for a referendum in Macedonia because of the possibility of rejecting a possible agreement, resulting in negative consequences for the country. “The 1995 Interim Treaty produced the compound name that includes term Macedonia, namely former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. No referendum was held over this name,” stresses Kotzias. Regarding Macedonia’s NATO accession, he says the authorities in Skopje know the country cannot join international organizations without a name solution. In addition, he accused Greek opposition party New Democracy of creating the name problem and failing to solve it while in power. “New Democracy does not want this problem solved even now, when in opposition,” underlines FM Kotzias.


Solution to name issue possible by mid-2018, Zaev tells Greek TV (MIA)


Optimism and confidence that the two countries have the capacity and willingness to find a solution to the name dispute by mid-2018 was exuded by Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in an interview with a Greek TV outlet aired on Sunday evening. Zaev told Alpha TV that the solution should be acceptable for the two countries adding that such a solution existed, but fell short of revealing any more details so as not to ‘ruin the negotiating process.’ “I’m confident that there is a solution and it is appropriate the very solution to be announced to the citizens of Greece by their premier Alexis Tsipras, whereas it will be my responsibility to unveil the solution to the citizens of my country. I believe there is a chance by the end of the middle of 2018 to find a settlement, which will definitely improve the cooperation between our two countries and which will allow me, as premier of my country, to say that we have gained yet another great ally, our southern neighbor,” Zaev told Alpha TV, MIA reports from Athens.

Asked about red lines, he said if there had been red lines, they would have only hindered the process of seeking a solution. “Our red line is the line that shines bright as a beacon on our path to find a final solution to the issue,” stressed the Macedonian PM. In the interview with the Greek TV outlet, Zaev underscored that Macedonia’s strategic determination was to become part of NATO and the EU and that it was committed to fostering friendship with Greece. “I believe time is up in the Balkans as a powder keg and time has come when the Balkans will start producing peace, stability, cooperation, free flow of people, goods and ideas,” Zaev noted.

During the interview, the PM also stressed that it was important to leave the past behind and to look forward to the future. Referring to Alexander the Great, he said the historical figure could be someone that united people, instead of dividing them. Asked about the airport and highway in Skopje getting renamed, Premier Zaev said Macedonia was willing to discuss the issue if it was of major importance.


Tsipras: Window for name solution has been opened (MIA)


In addition to the economy and a new set of reforms, Greek ministers on Monday at their first session in the new year also discussed the name issue despite not being tipped as the main issue of the meeting, MIA reports from Athens. The name issue between Macedonia and Greece was mentioned by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in his address to his cabinet. He said there was ‘a window for a solution to be found.’ “We have a window for solution unless it is proven that the shift in our neighbor about its name position is sincere. A solution that if it was to be found will be beneficial for peace and cooperation in the Balkans and in favor of a fresh dynamic of our country in the region. The next coming days will be crucial to see to which extent it is possible for real steps to be made,” Tsipras told the ministers saying 2018 would be “full of challenges and significant opportunities for foreign policy too.” Tsipras only briefly touched upon the name issue in his 20-minute speech, which mainly focused on economic issues.


First 100 days, what promises the government did and did not keep (Top Channel)


More than half of the promises for the first 100 days of the second government term, which were announced on October 7th were related to the economy and services to the citizens, including the functionality of the administration.


Easier bureaucratic procedures

The government has removed more than 40 documents that used to be required by public institutions, to be provided by citizens when applying for services. This promise was kept within the first 100 days, but through the “e-Albania” portal which was created a few years ago.


New phase in the battle against informality

The operation against informality entered its fourth month. The Tax Office led more than 20,000 inspections on businesses, collecting 23 million EUR of due taxes, and 1720 subjects have moved from small to big businesses.


Including small business in the VAT scheme

The promise was kept, but it was criticized by the International Monetary Fund. In fact, the government started a very aggressive project for including every small business in the VAT scheme but withdrew later. Businesses with an annual turnover less than 2 million ALL were excluded from the VAT, same as farmers and artisans. But despite the fact that the new law was much lighter, the policy was still opposed by the IMF.


Encouraging foreign investments

With the new fiscal package, the government reduced taxes for new hotels with 4 and 5 stars. This is the main measure for encouraging foreign investments, a sector with problematic results for the government. But in contrast to this move, the only brand of international hotels in Albania, “Sheraton”, has left the country. In the past four years, the government didn’t get any big business coming to Albania, and nothing can be seen on the horizon.


Preferential and strategic relations with Kosovo

In November, both governments of Albania and Kosovo held a joint meeting in which they signed a series of agreements. But is there real progress in the relations between Albania and Kosovo? The Minister of State for the Diaspora is not very enthusiastic. “If there is one show of bad treatment, it is the fact that people are not allowed to move freely between Albania and Kosovo. This can be considered wrong to a criminal level”.


Cleaning of national roads

The operation for cleaning national roads from signs and other objects by the roadside started since October. The Ministry of Transportation says that they have removed 1400 signs and 124 kiosks from roadsides. They also removed sites for collecting tires, inert materials and other objects. As for the fight against pollution, the national cleaning action started on November 24th and, according to the Environment Ministry, the number of registered volunteers mounts up to 280,000, or 1/10th of the population. However, Top Channel has reported during the entire month of December the dramatic situation in roads, fields and rivers of Albania, for which nothing was done.


Fight against water waste

The operation started in October. The government left three-month deadline to those who have illegal water connections. They were asked to sign regular contracts with the Aqueducts. According to the plan, inspections on terrain would start on 1 February.


Winners of the Vlora and Fier bypass bids

This promise has not been kept. The government promised to declare the winners for the bid within the first 100 days, but the bid is still open.


Completion of the Tirana-Elbasan highway

This is another unrealized objective. The government promised to complete it within 2017, but it was not realized. Now they don’t even have a new date about its completion, without mentioning the recent landslide that blocked part of the road with massive rocks.


Unique offices for registering farmers

This is another promise that has not been kept. Despite promising to open five unique offices for registering farmers within 100 days, the government has not opened any so far.


Food safety

The Prime Minister promised to start a fierce fight against slaughterhouses throughout the country. The promise could be considered kept, but the opposition has declared that this is a corruptive act for monopolizing the meat trading business through clients who have ties with the government leaders. The government has kept the promise of organizing the test for hospital directors and partially kept the promise for the Nurses Portal, which has been created, but it is not functional yet. In conclusion, the government unfolded a very modest program for the first 100 days. Their main economic achievement may be considered the removal of many bureaucratic procedures, but other areas didn’t have any important result. However, three months are not enough to judge a government.




EU sets date for next wave of enlargement (EUobserver, by Andrew Rettman, 9 January 2018)


The EU is preparing to pledge a 2025 deadline for the next wave of enlargement, but Balkans disputes could hold things back. “The Western Balkans partners now have a historic window of opportunity. For the first time, their accession perspective has a best-case timeframe,” the commission is to say in a strategy paper to be adopted on 14 February. “With strong political will, the delivery of real reforms, and lasting solutions to disputes with neighbours, Montenegro and Serbia should be ready for membership by 2025,” the text is to add, according to a draft seen by EUobserver. It aims to say Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo “should also be well advanced on their European path by then”, or, according to alternative words in brackets, that their “negotiations … should be well advanced.” The paper marks a shift in tone after commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said in 2014 there would be no EU enlargement in the foreseeable future. Serbia and Montenegro have already opened accession talks. Albania and Macedonia are hoping to do it this year, if Macedonia can resolve its name dispute with Greece.

Bosnia is angling to gain EU “candidate” status, while Kosovo is considering to formally ask to be named a candidate. The commission paper warned that local disputes could hold back what it called its “ambitious” timeline. “The EU cannot and will not import bilateral disputes. This is why all the Western Balkans partners concerned must resolve such disputes as a matter of urgency,” the draft said. It proposed that border issues should be solved by international arbitration, for instance in The Hague, and that any rulings must be “binding, final” and “fully respected”.


Thorny bramble

The thorniest dispute is Serbia’s non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence. The commission paper said, nodding to Belgrade, that “frontrunners on the EU path have a strategic interest” in advocating the EU “aspirations of their partners”. It added that a “comprehensive normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo in the form of a legally-binding agreement” was “crucial” for both their EU prospects. Kosovo’s problems go beyond Serbia, however.

Five EU states also do not recognise its independence. Meanwhile, its new leader, Ramush Haradinaj, has vowed to block an EU tribunal in The Hague on Kosovo guerrilla war crime allegations. The US, on Monday, refused to grant him a visa to attend an event in Iowa on 11 February in what looked like punishment. A Serb general said the same day that Nato had “specific” information on a “security threat” in Kosovo due to the court row.


Name calling

The Macedonia-Greece name dispute could be resolved by June. Greece has blocked Macedonia’s EU and Nato entry talks for decade on grounds that Macedonia’s name implied a claim to a Greek region of the same name. But Skopje and Athens say they are close to reaching a UN-mediated deal. “We have a window for a solution,” Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday after holding talks with Macedonian leader Zoran Zaev. Zaev said: “I believe there’s a chance by the end of the middle of 2018 to find a settlement.” The Greek foreign minister said Macedonia should adopt a composite name with a geographical qualifier. Zaev declined to comment, saying: “I don’t want to ruin the procedure of the imminent negotiations”.


Laundry list

The list of Balkans disputes goes on 20 years after the wars there ended. Croatia and Slovenia, which are already EU members, cannot agree on their maritime border in what Juncker said on Monday could hold back wider enlargement. Croatia also has open border talks with Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Kosovo had agreed on its border with Montenegro, but Pristina is now refusing to honour the accord. Juncker’s Balkans agenda is taking shape under Bulgaria’s six-month EU presidency, which started on 1 January. The EU will hold a Western Balkans summit on 18 May in Sofia – the 15th anniversary of a previous EU event in Thessaloniki, Greece, when member states first promised to take in the region. The commission also aims to publish its regular progress reports on the Balkans aspirants in April. “We will decide … in the next eight, nine months how to proceed with each and every of these countries,” Juncker’s spokesman said on Monday.


Russian spoiler

Juncker’s plans are also taking shape in the context of increased Russian activity. Russia is flooding Balkans media with anti-EU propaganda and stoking Serb nationalism with arms deals.

Last year, suspected Russian spies were behind a failed coup in Montenegro designed to stop it from joining Nato. The Albanian foreign minister, Ditmir Bushati, recently told EUobserver he expected similar tricks in Macedonia this year. “This is a possible scenario,” Bushati said.


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Belgrade Media Report 20 April 2018

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