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Belgrade Media Report 13 February

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LOCAL PRESS

• Serbs love those who love them – FM meets with Austrian VC (Beta/Tanjug/B92)
• Djuric: Brussels informed that we are ready to continue dialogue with Pristina (RTS/Tanjug)
• Ruzic: We need to strengthen inter-municipality cooperation (RTV)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik comments Vucic’s visit to Zagreb (ATV)
• Vucic – Grabar-Kitarovic: Croat member of B&H Presidency has to be elected by Croats (TV1)
• Wigemark: EU and IC will continue helping but will not impose solutions for changes to Law on Elections of B&H (EuroBlic)
• SDP B&H will send proposal of changes to Election Law into urgent procedure (Hayat)
• Dodik: I will not run away from candidacy for office of B&H Presidency member, if elected I will raise issue of state judiciary institutions; third entity would stabilize B&H (FTV)
• Dodik stated that arming of the RS Ministry of Interior will continue (BNTV)
• Konakovic says he left SDA because certain individuals in party protect crime, “SDA has strong influence on judiciary” (TV1)
• Security commission waits for Mektic’s report on paramilitary units (N1)
• US Embassy urges institutions to investigate potential threats (N1)
• Izetbegovic meets UN’s Dieng, underlines importance of legal framework to prevent denial of genocide (Oslobodjenje)
Croatia
• Plenkovic and Vucic discuss war reparations, MP heckles Vucic (Hina)
• Croatia and Serbia give themselves two years to solve border issues (Hina)
• Presidents meet with religious leaders (HRT)
fYROM
• Zaev-Erdogan: Support for settling the name dispute with Greece, more intensive economic cooperation (MIA)
• Turkey’s parliament voices support for Macedonia’s bid to join NATO (MIA)
• Sela is against the name of “Gorna Makedonija” without translation (Meta)
Albania
• Borders management, Albania – EU agreement signed (ADN)
• Albania, progress in freedom of expression (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Western Balkans must break down trade barriers (Politico)
• Arms shipment to Bosnian Serbs stokes EU fears (The Guardian)
• ‘Macedonia’ in FYROM Name Unavoidable, Tsipras says (Greek Reporter)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Serbs love those who love them – FM meets with Austrian VC (Beta/Tanjug/B92)

 

Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache says the problem of Kosovo has not been solved in the long term. And – Belgrade and Pristina need to arrive at a compromise solution, he said in Belgrade on Monday. “Nothing can function unilaterally,” Strache remarked during a joint news conference with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. Strache told reporters that it was a reality that Austria has recognized Kosovo – but it is also a reality that Serbia sees Kosovo within its composition. “That’s a reality to Serbia, therefore this problem has not been solved in the long-term. It is necessary for both sides to meet each other halfway, and find a compromise,” Strache said, recalling that out of 193 UN member-states – 105 have recognized Kosovo. Speaking in Belgrade on Monday, Strache said that he, as Austria’s vice-chancellor, was not interfering on the issue – but added that he had understanding for the Serb side, and the Serb view of the problem – and that a long term solution to the issue cannot be unilateral. “I hope a sustainable solution will be found,” he told reporters. Strache also recalled that in the past – before he joined Austria’s government – he criticized his country’s decision to recognize Kosovo – while Ivica Dacic spoke to say he was grateful to Strache for not backing down from this position, even today. “Austria stands by its decision about Kosovo’s independence, but I have understanding for the position of the Serbs. Serbia is not a problem – Serbia is a part of the solution,” Strache said. “I am grateful to him for adhering to that position,” Dacic said, adding that Strache could have said that he was not a part of the government at the time – and was now no longer allowed to say it. We must not require Strache to be more Serb than we are, Dacic remarked. “Well done, Strache,” he said, and – using the (familiar) second person singular pronoun in Serbian to address him – continued: “The Serb nation owes a great deal to you, and is thankful for that. We have the right to choose whom to love – those who love us.” The Serbian foreign minister added that relations with Strache had been friendly even before he rose to the post of Austria’s vice-chancellor – and that Serbia hoped to achieve best possible cooperation with the new Austrian government. Dacic thanked Austria for the support the country offers to Serbia on the road of EU integration – and added that he expected this support to continue – and in line with EU strategy, for us to become a full-fledged EU member by 2025. “When it comes to Kosovo and Metohija we are aware that Austria recognized independence. We expect them to show understanding for our position that the decision to declare did not close the issue – that dialogue must be held, and a compromise solution sought. In that sense we expect the dialogue to be spurred – rather than the position of everything has been solved to be affirmed,” Dacic said. The time has come to comprehend the reality, he continued – and that is that there can be no solution without engaging in dialogue, and reaching agreements. Strache told reporters that he cared about the friendship with Serbia reviving, and deepening – and added that he and Dacic spoke about economic cooperation, EU integration – and about the Serbs living in Austria. “Austrian companies have invested EUR 2.3 bullion (in Serbia) and (created) 20,000 new jobs. That will intensify. In Austria, we have over 260,000 people of Serb origin, and they are an important element of our society. We wish to support Serbia to the full extent, when it comes to European integration,” Strache said, according to Tanjug. He added that his country had a responsibility to support Serbia when it comes to the migrant crisis – and that Vienna must not leave the country in the lurch.

 

Djuric: Brussels informed that we are ready to continue dialogue with Pristina (RTS/Tanjug)

 

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric spoke today with Head of the OSCE Mission to Kosovo (OMIK) Jan Braathu about the political and security situation in the province and the investigation of the murder of Oliver Ivanovic. Djuric said that he was pleased that, although with a one-month delay, Serbia has finally received the first documentation from Pristina in connection with the investigation of Ivanovic’s murder. According to Djuric, Serbia wants the dialogue to continue, adding that the only obstructions of this process so far have been coming from Pristina, which about a year ago froze the dialogue with a formal decision of the assembly. “We informed Brussels that we are ready to continue the dialogue,” Djuric stated.
He said that Serbia will continue to politically, economically and in any other way help the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija, and in the future this will be even more intensive. Djuric and Braathu also discussed the problem of political and religious extremism in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as efforts to establish a special war crimes tribunal for crimes of the so-called KLA, according to a statement by the Office for Kosovo and Metohija.

 

Ruzic: We need to strengthen inter-municipality cooperation (RTV)

 

Serbian Minister for State Administration and Local Self-Government Branko Ruzic has told a round table of cities and municipalities within the internal dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija in Nis that if we would provide assistance from 10 municipalities and cities from Serbia proper for each of 10 Serb municipalities in our southern province, we would jointly protect our fellow-nationals, help their living standard and create an ambience for the 21st century. Ruzic stressed that a feeling of safety is created with the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija by strengthening cooperation of municipalities. “Serbia is realizing today its influence in Kosovo and Metohija through 29 provisional municipal organs and by preserving them we are maintaining the constitutional-legal order of the Republic of Serbia,” said Ruzic, adding that provisional organs are important for the survival of several thousand of Serb families in the province. “It is important to note that the Ministry for State Administration and Local Self-Government has prepared the draft law on amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government and the Law on State Administration that will enable to establish inter-municipal cooperation in all affairs performed by local self-governments both for the original and the entrusted,” said Ruzic.

He reminded that 1,760 days had passed since the signing of the agreement in Brussels on

the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO), i.e. 1,760 days of the non-fulfillment of Pristina’s obligations regarding the issue that concerns the greater part of the first Brussels agreement. “I will remind that Pristina has done everything so the establishment of the ZSO would not occur and that it has been constantly creating fear that this is an attempt to create something that would resemble the Republika Srpska. That is totally unfounded fear since the well-being of one community in Kosovo and Metohija means the well-being of all citizens after the system of fused vessels. Our concept is that what is good for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is good for all, and not that what is good for the Serbs is bad for the Albanians,” Ruzic said, insisting that what had been agreed and assumed as an obligation should be implemented.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik comments Vucic’s visit to Zagreb (ATV)

 

Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik commented the official visit of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Zagreb on Monday. Dodik stated that he expects that Vucic’s visit to Croatia will have an effect on calming down the tensions in the region and bring the two countries closer to solving many unresolved issues. “I think that his visit to Croatia is a good opportunity to establish new and improved relations between Croatia, Serbia and the RS, and on that note, Vucic is not only representing Serbia in Zagreb, and speaking on its behalf as the Serbian President, but he is also speaking on behalf of all Serb people and he represents them all. He is a relevant and legitimate representative and he can discuss all matters regarding that, in the right way, with any official,” said Dodik. According to Dodik, there are different views on historic events in Jasenovac and each Serb should give his contribution to make the genocide committed in Jasenovac against Serbs visible at the international level.

 

Vucic – Grabar-Kitarovic: Croat member of B&H Presidency has to be elected by Croats (TV1)

 

After the meeting in Zagreb on Monday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic commented for the press on relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and the Election Law of B&H, among other issues. Vucic said that Serbia is ready for any kind of talks or possible trilateral meetings on relations in B&H. He stressed that B&H Presidency Chairman Dragan Covic is always welcome in Serbia and that he has high level of consent with him on various issues. He refused to make comment on the Election Law of B&H, noting that Serbs and Croats have good relations in B&H and Serbia does not want to ruin this in any way but it wants for such relations to be established with Bosniaks as well.

Commenting on amendments to the Election Law of B&H, Grabar-Kitarovic stated that the decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H and the ruling in the ‘Sejdic-Finci’ case have to be respected, as well as the principle of functioning of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) based on equality of the three peoples in B&H. “This means that the Croat member of B&H Presidency has to be elected by Croats, i.e. he has to be political representative of Croats not just their ethnical representative. It is up to B&H peoples and their political representatives to agree on details of the solution to the Election Law of B&H in all its elements,” Grabar-Kitarovic assessed. Covic commented on the Vucic-Grabar Kitarovic meeting in Zagreb on Monday and said that he expects Serbia and Croatia to harmonize stances on all open issues, adding that there is no other option but to jointly seek solutions for the future.

 

Wigemark: EU and IC will continue helping but will not impose solutions for changes to Law on Elections of B&H (EuroBlic)

 

Head of the EU Delegation to B&H and EU Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark stated that the EU will not impose any solutions to B&H when it comes to reform of the Law on Elections of B&H and he noted that this reform will have to be a result of an agreement of domestic politicians and political parties. “Even if we wanted, and we do not want, we cannot impose solutions. I think it would be a step back if the Office of the High Representative (OHR) did it”, Wigemark said and added that changes to the Law on Elections of B&H must be based on consensus and compromise. “There can be no maximalist demands,” Wigemark said and added that both the EU and entire international community (IC) will continue helping but will not impose solutions.

 

SDP B&H will send proposal of changes to Election Law into urgent procedure (Hayat)

 

SDP B&H addressed a press conference in Sarajevo on Monday and announced that this party will send their own proposal of changes to B&H Election Law into the urgent parliamentary procedure, very soon. Thus, the party will propose to lower the election threshold which according to SDP B&H will create conditions for citizens to directly influence the election of officials in the legislative power. SDP B&H MP Sasa Magazinovic said that most MPs in B&H HoR showed understanding for this proposal, adding that he did not discuss this issue with HDZ B&H MPs. Magazinovic explained that SDP B&H will propose to lower election threshold for each candidate from 20 percent to 10 percent. Vice President of SDA Sefik Dzaferovic stated that the moves should lead to implementation of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), respect for the Federation of B&H Constitution and decisions of B&H Constitutional Court, which according to Dzaferovic is missing. “At this moment, I cannot say how the things will develop in the future period. I know about a mediation process coming from the international community (IC); talks with political parties. However, the positions remain the same. If HDZ B&H thinks that something can be achieved with the current positions, I can assure you that nothing can be done”. While SDA told that the IC is trying to mediate in the negotiations about changes to the Election Law, the presenter stated that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) could not confirm this information. Dzaferovic also added that they will not accept solutions that will alienate the country from decisions of the ECHR and which will lead to new ethnic divisions in B&H.

 

Dodik: I will not run away from candidacy for office of B&H Presidency member, if elected I will raise issue of state judiciary institutions; third entity would stabilize B&H (FTV)

 

RS President and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik speaking about upcoming election in October 2018, said that it is too early to say if he will run for the office of B&H) Presidency member from the RS. He explained that since he cannot run for the office of RS President again, it would probably make sense for him to run for another high-ranking office. However, he underlined, this decision will be made in due time by SNSD’s party bodies. He further noted that B&H Presidency is not a very important position for the Serb people as it has very limited competences. Asked what his first act in office will be in case that he is elected for the office of B&H Presidency member, Dodik said that he will fully respect the Constitution of B&H and Dayton Peace Agreement. “I would raise all issues related to the functioning of B&H Constitution. I would not allow any abuse of B&H Presidency in terms of relations with the Council of Ministers which is defined by the Constitution as assistant institution to B&H Presidency”, said Dodik. He underlined that it is crucial for BiH that everybody acts in line with their constitutional competences. Asked if he can be expected to leave past behind and focus on the future, Dodik replied: “We cannot forget the violence committed by the High Representative”. He underlined that High Representative imposed many laws and institutions such as Prosecutor’s Office Court of B&H, fiscal system, State Investigation and Protection Agency or Intelligence-Security Agency. “I am not against reaching an agreement on existence of a state-level court and prosecutor’s office, but it cannot be as it is now. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic arrests SBB leader Fahrudin Radoncic in an attempt to get rid of him politically, but when he fails, his people focus on HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic, Milorad Dodik and so on. This has been going on for years. According to the Constitution, state-level court and prosecutor’s office can be established only though an agreement of the two entities and approval of B&H Parliament. This was omitted”, Dodik said. He noted that there are three foreign judges and two Bosniak judges in the Constitutional Court of B&H who cover up illegality and make unconstitutional decisions. Dodik underlined that by insisting on full respect of the Constitution, he is doing more for B&H than anybody else. Asked if he will feel responsible if a new conflict breaks out in B&H in the future, Dodik said that there will be no conflicts and that citizens can be at ease. “We do not want any conflict. We wish Bosniaks and Croats all the best, wherever they are, but we also wish Serbs all the best. We think that any calls for arms are outdated,” said Dodik. Commenting the statement of SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic who said that establishing of a third entity in B&H would cause a new war, Dodik said that third entity for Croats would be good for B&H because it would help stabilize political situation.

 

Dodik stated that arming of the RS Ministry of Interior will continue (BNTV)

 

RS President Milorad Dodik stated on Monday that arming of the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI) will continue. According to Dodik, the RS MoI has the right to arming and besides 2,500 riffles, the RS MoI will purchase everything else that represents the standard of modern regional police forces. “This is nothing but modernization of police and enhancing of their role. This is also a message to, primarily people in the RS, that we have an organization ready to preserve peace and stability and the message to others, that we are partners in the fight against global terrorism and against any kind of international crime”. Dodik added that he will do his best to abolish police and other agencies and institutions at the level of B&H that are not stipulated in B&H Constitution. Dodik argued that these kinds of institutions are unconstitutional and characterized the SIPA and B&H Ministry of Security as artificial institutions. Asked to comment on the fact that SNSD voted for formation of these institutions, he stated: “Yes, but basically I did not (vote). I used to think that it is needed to make a step to stabilize the situation here. This is a fraud of a High Representative. Even when we naively believed in their statements that we must first adopt something to make a change, and when we voted for the change with the intention to change things, we saw that this was also a fraud”. Dodik also reiterated that the time when the RS will reject the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office is getting closer and closer. He also said that he will fight for abolition of the Security-Intelligence Agency (OSA) that in his opinion, works for leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic and against Serbs and the RS. “We know that the staged information on the alleged para-military formations in the RS- that do not exist – came from the headquarters of the OSA in Banja Luka. This is dirty work of the OSA. It is only a matter of a day when we will declare the OSA- and other institutions that work in this way – a hostile agency and say that it has nothing to do in the RS anymore”.

Federation of B&H Minister of Interior Aljosa Campara commented that this is a large amount of weapons and it raises a question of the purpose of this purchase.

 

Konakovic says he left SDA because certain individuals in party protect crime, “SDA has strong influence on judiciary” (TV1)

 

Sarajevo Canton (SC) Prime Minister Elmedin Konakovic has confirmed that he will form a candidate list for the upcoming general elections in October, after he made public that he left SDA. Addressing the press conference in Sarajevo on Monday, Konakovic said he would not want to calculate with the number of those who could possibly vote in favor of his removal from the post in case that similar initiative arrives in the city parliament. Commenting on SDA’s announcement that the party will demand his removal, Konakovic stated that he will not resign from the post. However, he assessed it would be bigger pity for society to reshuffle the current SC Government than to remove him as the Prime Minister. He reiterated that he left SDA because certain individuals in the party protect crime, stressing that he does not even exclude the possibility for him to be under criminal investigation given that “SDA has strong influence on judiciary.”  TV1 learns that SDA does not have many chances for Konakovic’s removal given the tensed relations with SBB B&H and negative stance of the opposition, i.e. DF and SDP.

 

Security commission waits for Mektic’s report on paramilitary units (N1)

 

Since B&H Minister of Security Dragan Mektic often speaks about possible paramilitary units, such as ‘Srbska cast’ and ‘Askeri’, B&H Parliament’s Joint Commission for Defense and Security requested Mektic to submit a detailed report. When it comes to ‘Srbska cast’, Mektic used to say that it is a paramilitary organization, but in regards with ‘Askeri’, Mektic said that motives of the organization should be checked. Reporter noted that Mektic presents no concrete evidence, except photos and amateur video footages. Experts warned that it is not good to scare the public. Representative of Center for Security Studies Armin Krzalic said that the only relevant institution that can collect information, act preventively and inform the public is the Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA), but added that there is a conflict between certain security agencies and prosecutor’s offices, who race to present certain information or threats. In regards with the report to the Joint Commission, Mektic requested more time. Chairman of the Commission Sifet Podzic said that since they have not received the report yet, the Commission urged Mektic to deliver it soon and to include the information on ‘Askeri’. Asked if there is a reason for concern, B&H Minister of Defense Marina Pendes said that this concern should be raised by B&H Ministry of Security or Interior Ministries. NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo said that they are aware of such concerns and added that these issues should be solved by relevant institutions. They noted that the law prevents formation of paramilitary units in B&H, and said they expect from B&H to apply these provisions in case of violation. The OHR said that any allegations on paramilitary organizations in B&H should be taken seriously and added that relevant institutions should deal with them.

 

US Embassy urges institutions to investigate potential threats (N1)

 

US Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina has told N1 that they are following the situation closely. “Possible existence of paramilitary organizations, illegal training camps and disproportional acquisition of weapons and/or equipment is significant reason for concern and may represent potential threat to stability. We call on all relevant institutions to urgently investigate these issues and take necessary steps, either judicial or administrational, if investigations find them necessary,” the Embassy said.

 

Izetbegovic meets UN’s Dieng, underlines importance of legal framework to prevent denial of genocide (Oslobodjenje)

 

Member of the B&H Presidency B&H Bakir Izetbegovic met with Advisor of the UN Secretary General for prevention of genocide Adam Dieng on Monday in Sarajevo. They agreed the phenomenon of denial and relativization of genocide in Srebrenica is concerning, as well as other war crimes. They pointed out that continuous dialogue is needed to reestablish trust, but it is also necessary to legally penalize any form of hate speech, including denial of war crimes and genocide. Izetbegovic also met with outgoing Serbian Ambassador to B&H Stanimir Vukicevic and stated there is enough space for improvement of cooperation between B&H and Serbia.

 

Plenkovic and Vucic discuss war reparations, MP heckles Vucic (Hina)

 

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic confirmed on Monday that he had discussed the issue of war reparations with visiting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, in line with his earlier announcement. “I discussed all outstanding issues between the two countries with the President of Serbia – the war missing, the border, judicial cooperation, war reparations, protection of minorities, succession and economic cooperation, the European context and relations in Southeast Europe,” stated Plenkovic. Vucic told reporters that one of the topics of his talks with Plenkovic was war reparations. “We discussed many things… one of the topics raised by Prime Minister Plenkovic were war reparations,” Vucic said, adding that his and Plenkovic’s positions on the matter differed. Commenting ahead of Vucic’s visit on war reparations, Plenkovic said that the issue of war reparations for the Great Serbia aggression caused justified public interest and that Vucic’s visit would be an opportunity to discuss that topic, covered by the Agreement on the Normalization of Relations. Commenting on his visit to Zagreb on Sunday, Vucic said that there were no taboo topics for Serbia and that Plenkovic would get “a responsible and serious answer” if he raised the issue of war reparations. As the Serbian President was leaving the government building, heading for the parliament building where he was expected to meet Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic, MOST MP Miro Bulj heckled him. “Don’t think that I’m afraid of you or your remarks. I can answer whenever you want, how much you want and whatever you want,” Vucic retorted. Asked by reporters what he told Vucic, Bulj said that he had asked him when he would visit Glina where he had incited local Serbs to support the Great Serbia ideology and that he had told him to go there and apologies, “primarily to local Serbs for inciting them to attack Croatia and try to create a Great Serbia.” Asked to comment on Vucic’s visit and his messages after talks with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Bulj said that he did not know “what his messages are and what this whole thing is about.” “War reparations should have been paid long ago. Documentation from the Vukovar Hospital should have been (given back) long ago. He should have said long ago where our dead are because he was one of the main war-mongers, he was the main aide to the Chetnik leader (Vojislav) Seselj. He has the information on that,” said Bulj. The MP also said that Vucic could have brought documents from the Yugoslav People’s Army archive. “All the information is in that archive, why did not he bring that today,” said Bulj.

 

Croatia and Serbia give themselves two years to solve border issues (Hina)

 

Croatia and Serbia will try to bilaterally resolve the border dispute on the Danube River, yet if they do not manage to do so within the next two years, the dispute will be referred to an international court or arbitration, the presidents of Croatia and Serbia said in Zagreb on Monday.

Our recommendation to our governments is to continue bilateral negotiations on that for the next two years. If in that period we do not come to an agreement on the border issue, then we will agree on approaching an international legal body, Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said. Her Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, added that the two countries have different starting positions. Croatia is referring to the cadastral books, while Serbia believes the starting point should be the law which it considers to be a stronger legal act. “We will try to resolve that bilaterally over the next two years. If that isn’t possible then we will go before a judicial arbitration body and its final ruling will be recognized by both sides.” Of the 262 kilometers between Croatia and Serbia, 136 kilometers are along the Danube River.

 

Presidents meet with religious leaders (HRT)

 

The presidents of the Croatia and Serbia visited separately today with the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia and the regional leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Aleksandar Vucic met with Cardinal Josip Bozanic, the Archbishop of Zagreb. The Archdiocese released a statement which said that they had “a long and open discussion” during which “questions were raised about the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church, both in Croatia and Serbia.”

Furthermore, the Archdiocese said that the Church had backed the resolution of open issues by agreement and efforts to “strengthen good neighborly relations and peace between the two countries.” The two leaders also met with the regional leader of the Serb Orthodox Church, Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, Porphyry. He said he was grateful for the visit, calling it a brave step forward and a call for peace. He added that he was encouraged by the remarks made today by both leaders.

 

Zaev-Erdogan: Support for settling the name dispute with Greece, more intensive economic cooperation (MIA)

 

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev held talks Monday in Ankara with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who voiced support for settling the name dispute with Greece, saying that it would be favorable for the Balkan region and Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic perspectives.

Zaev and Erdogan agreed that the two friendly countries had a potential to advance the economic cooperation by increasing the Turkish investments in and fresh initiatives from Macedonia, the government said in a press release. Erdogan also supported Zaev’s initiative for Turkey to raise Macedonia’s export quota of veal and lamb meet to Turkey. Erdogan notified that he would also encourage Turkish businessmen to invest in Macedonia. Each and every investment is significant for the citizens of Macedonia in terms of creating jobs and improving their living standard in general, Zaev said. He extended gratitude to Erdogan for the Turkish support for advancing the bilateral economic ties, as well as for Macedonia’s aspirations to join the European Union and NATO, the press release reads.

 

Turkey’s parliament voices support for Macedonia’s bid to join NATO (MIA)

 

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev held talks Monday in Ankara with Turkish parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman, who expressed satisfaction that after three years the two countries restored the cooperation at the highest level. Kahraman reaffirmed his country’s support of Macedonia’s bid to join NATO and the European Union. He also invited his Macedonian counterpart to visit Turkey, the government said in a press release. “Turkey is great Macedonia’s friend and together we shall foster the economic cooperation. The EU, NATO membership are rather important for ensuring better living standard, prospects for Macedonia and its citizens. I call you as a parliament of a great, friendly country to keep supporting Macedonia on this road,” Zaev told Kahraman. On behalf of the citizens and government of Macedonia, Zaev extended condolences over the death of Turkish soldiers. Macedonia and Turkey stand firmly against terrorism and promote peace across the globe, Zaev and Kahraman said. Zaev laid fresh flowers on the part of Turkey’s parliament building demolished during the 2016 coup attempt, paying respect to those killed while defending the state institutions.

 

Sela is against the name of “Gorna Makedonija” without translation (Meta)

 

The President of the Alliance of the Albanians, Zijadin Sela, has asked that the opposition parties and the parties of the Albanians be included in the negotiations. “We, the Alliance of the Albanians, are against the tendencies for Slav influences on the name. As we said, we are opposing the Slavic name of Macedonia we are against the proposal that is wandering through the diplomatic circles where the idea is to use names with a geographic heading that are written in Macedonian such as “Gorna Makedonija.” We are against this since this is a tendency for Slavic influences and adoption of the name,” said Sela. The Forum of Albanian intellectuals in Macedonia has sent a letter to the international institutions and the mediator Matthew Nimetz, demanding that the proposal “Gorna Makedonija” without translation, to be rejected as unacceptable” because it excludes the Albanians and the second biggest community in the country.” Otherwise, the proposal “Gorna Makedonija,” written without translation, is the favorite option for the Greek media.

 

Borders management, Albania – EU agreement signed (ADN)

 

Albania signs an agreement with European Union for the borders management and control, fight on drugs smuggling and illicit immigration in Schengen countries. The agreement was signed on Monday by the Interior Minister, Fatmir Xhafaj and the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. Agreement’s signature enables a higher level of control of the Albanian borders by the European Agency, Frontex. Avramopoulos declared during a joint press conference with Minister Xhafaj that this agreement is an opportunity for a more qualitative management of the borders preventing illicit emigration. “I have seen the major forward steps made by Albania during these last years. I wish to see this country as part of European Union in a near future. The steps undertaken by Albanian government in the judicial sphere are really impressing” said Avramopoulos. He also underlined that the agreement’s technical aspects will be discussed by a group of experts that will soon arrive in Tirana.

Meantime the Interior Minister Xhafaj said that Albania will no longer become part of cannabis producing countries. “Albania will benefit from a number of EU projects during the agreement’s implementation,” declared Xhafaj.

 

Albania, progress in freedom of expression (ADN)

 

Albania has made progress in freedom of expression. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desire confirmed this fact during a visit to Tirana on Monday. His visit agenda started with a meeting with Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati. Two interlocutors shared the same opinion that no democratic society may exist without freedom of speech and free media. Minister Bushati stated that Albania is totally committed toward the legal frame improvement and strengthening aiming the preservation of journalism professional values. “The purpose of these efforts by the government is to maintain this standard of democratic development while bringing Albania closer to the European integration processes,” said Bushati. He also confirmed Albania’s readiness to contribute in the 5th Conference of Eastern Europe countries that is expected to be held next May in Ohrid as a response to main challenges encountered by media and journalism nowadays.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Western Balkans must break down trade barriers (Politico, by Aleksandar Vucic, 13 February 2018)

 

Closer economic ties will help prepare countries for EU accession.

BELGRADE — The future of the Balkans looks far brighter today than many would have predicted two decades ago. The Balkan wars left more than 100,000 dead and caused millions to flee their homes. The region’s economies lay in ruins, and many of our best and brightest left in droves to seek a better future elsewhere. Political leaders from opposing sides did not trust each other, and had no real vision for the future. As a young man at the time, I did not see what could be gained from collaborating across the divide. But I know now that my country paid a high price for nationalist excesses. The situation today shows that barriers can be broken with enough common will. Relations between the region’s countries have transformed dramatically over the past decade. They improved so drastically because we decided to change course. We decided to learn from past mistakes. We decided to put our countries and our people first. If we had not believed in a shared future for the region, in being part of a system that binds us together for a common purpose, we could not have overcome the years of bitter hostility that tore us apart.

We should celebrate this achievement. But we must also recognize that the hard work still lies ahead. Now that most Western Balkan countries are united in our ambition to become part of the European Union — and the EU has published a new strategy for the region — we have a unique window of opportunity in which to act. EU membership cannot be an end in and of itself. As leaders, it is our responsibility to create the conditions that will bring growth and prosperity to our countries. We must live up to the promises we make to our people. The free flow of goods, services, people and capital will make our region more attractive for investment. Individually, we are small players, but collectively, we are a market of 20 million. Over the past 10 years, trade between the Western Balkans and the EU has more than doubled, reaching €44 billion in 2016, with exports to the EU increasing from €7 billion to €18 billion. But while European companies increasingly are seeing the value of doing business in the Western Balkans, private investment still lags far behind. Indeed, cross-border investment in the Western Balkans is four times lower than in the EU. Trade in goods and services accounts for only 30 to 40 percent of GDP in most Western Balkan economies. This is extraordinarily low compared to the average for emerging economies, which is often between 100 to 200 percent of GDP. Youth unemployment in the Western Balkans is also nearly twice as high as in EU countries. Of the eight countries in Europe with youth unemployment rate exceeding 40 percent, five are in the Western Balkans. Creating a common market between Western Balkan countries would double the current level of foreign direct investment and bring at least $8 billion-$9 billion in investments annually, compared to last year’s $4.6 billion. It would also create thousands of new jobs and make our economies more competitive. This could keep the best and brightest from leaving. Not only would a single market create new economic opportunities, it would also serve as a further point of convergence between Western Balkan countries. Economic integration will break down the regional barriers that hold us back from shared prosperity, and will make the borders that separate us less significant. The Western Balkans experienced the destructive effects of nationalism first hand. Now, at a time when many European countries are turning inward, we want to look beyond our borders and focus on what binds us together. Greater economic integration will help forge cultural connections between countries and make the region more politically stable. It will also act as an anchor for those who sought to leave the region to seek a better future for their children. History shows that economic unity is crucial for political stability. The European Coal and Steel Community, which eased enmity between France and Germany after World War II by forging economic collaboration and eventually morphed into the European Union; and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) are just two examples. We laid the foundations for closer regional economic integration in the Western Balkans when we joined our Central and East European counterparts in CEFTA. Now we need to make economic unity a reality by creating a common market. Some skeptics see this shared economic area as an alternative to EU accession. I believe it’s just the opposite. This economic union would serve as an important stepping stone in preparing us for EU integration. The issues that unite us are stronger than those that divide us. We all want stability. We all want economic growth and prosperity. We all want to improve the lives of our people. And we can only achieve these goals through closer economic collaboration.

 

Arms shipment to Bosnian Serbs stokes EU fears (The Guardian, by Julian Borger, 13  February 2018)

 

Purchase of 2,500 automatic rifles raises concerns about Russia’s influence in region

The purchase of thousands of new guns by the Bosnian Serb police has raised concerns over the intentions of the separatist-led regional government and deepening Russian influence in a divided and economically depressed nation. A shipment of 2,500 automatic rifles from Serbia is due to arrive in the Serb-run half of Bosnia in March, weeks before the scheduled opening of a new training centre where Russian advisers are expected to play a role. The weapons are arriving at a time when Bosnia’s long-term stability is in doubt. The Dayton peace agreement ended the Bosnian conflict just over 22 years ago, dividing the country into two semi-autonomous parts: the Republika Srpska (RS) and a Muslim-Croat Federation. The deal stopped the killing but created a system that rewarded ethnically based politics. Nationalist parties have a tight grip on power in their separate fiefdoms, corruption is rife, and the country has the highest official rate of youth unemployment in the world. Earlier this month, the European commission unveiled a new strategy for the region, offering a “merit-based” path to EU membership, but left it unclear how Bosnia can overcome its deep structural problems. Serb civil society activists, the central Bosnian government in Sarajevo and western diplomats believe that a new heavily armed police unit will be used by the Bosnian Serb separatist leader, Milorad Dodik, to entrench his position and intimidate opponents ahead of elections in October. In the longer term they fear that the force could be used to further Dodik’s aims of independence, at the risk of a new war in the region. Russia, which sees Dodik as a bulwark against Bosnian membership of NATO, has shown strong backing for the Serb separatist, who has met Vladimir Putin at least six times since 2014. On Monday, Dodik confirmed the arms purchase, which was first reported by the Sarajevo-based news site Zurnal, and he said he would take further steps to arm the police for “the fight against terrorism”. “It is an entirely legitimate action and we have nothing to hide,” Dodik said. “For 20 years we didn’t have the right to equip the police, now we have decided to do it.” The international community’s high representative in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, expressed concern about the shipment. “I would like the country to have as few weapons as possible. If one side gets these types of weapons then the other side will want them too,” he said.

Diplomats in Sarajevo said that the federal police had also bought a few hundred long-barreled weapons recently, but the bulk of police in the cantons with the federation wore only sidearm.

Inzko said the police in his native Austria only had 400 long-barrelled guns across the whole country. “Normal police do not need them,” he said. The Serb leader was speaking on the day he laid a wreath at a memorial to Russia’s late UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, who two years ago vetoed a security council resolution that would have condemned the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as genocide. Dodik has also cultivated relations with the Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club closely tied to Putin, which is under US sanctions for its paramilitary role in the Ukraine conflict. At the same time, Russian-trained members of a paramilitary group Serbian honor appeared on the streets of Banja Luka. “It is an organization of angry muscle-men that the government is using to threaten and intimidate its own people,” said Aleksandar Trifunovic, a Bosnian Serb journalist. “However, this time they go beyond the usual show. This time it feels dangerous.” Serb officials arguing for a heavily armed police counter-terrorist force point to a 2015 attack on a RS police station in Zvornik by a 24-year-old returned Bosnian Muslim refugee. The attacker, Nerdin Ibric, killed a Serb police officer and wounded two more before being shot dead. But his motives were unclear. Ibric’s father was killed by Serb police in the first days of ethnic cleansing that began the war in 1992. But because he reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” it was deemed to be a terrorist attack. The incident has since been used to justify a build-up in police strength. A sprawling $4m (£2.8m) counter-terrorism training center is due to open in April at the site of a former army barracks at Zaluzani outside Banja Luka. In 2015, the RS interior minister, Dragan Lukac, signed a cooperation agreement with Moscow that envisaged Russian specialists providing counter-terrorist training in RS. A Serb opposition activist, who did not wish to been named, claimed that Russian advisers had already arrived in the Banja Luka area and that both Zaluzani and a planned new cargo terminal at the local airport would eventually be used as a Russian-run “humanitarian center”.

A similar center in Nis in Serbia is suspected by US authorities of providing a hub for Russian intelligence operations, such as an attempted coup in Montenegro in October 2016.

A western diplomat in Bosnia said there was “no hard evidence” so far that Russians were establishing a similar hub in Bosnia. “But we’re watching closely,” the diplomat added.

Kurt Bassuener, a Bosnia expert at the Democratization Policy Council said that by drawing down a stabilisation force to just 600 troops and giving up on a post-war initiative to integrate Bosnia’s divided police forces, the EU had left a vacuum that Russia is likely to fill. “As long as the barriers to entry are non-existent, we are leaving the barn door open,” Bassuener said. “It’s a screaming policy failure we haven’t paid for yet.”

 

 

‘Macedonia’ in FYROM Name Unavoidable, Tsipras says (Greek Reporter, by Philip Chrysopoulos, 13 February 2018)

 

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is meeting in Vienna on Tuesday with Skopje counterpart Nikola Dimitrov and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz to negotiate on the Balkan country’s name.

The two neighboring country’s officials started bilateral talks on Monday and will continue on Tuesday with the UN middleman. Nimetz’s presence was announced suddenly on Monday night.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday that the use of the term Macedonia in the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is unavoidable. Speaking to his SYRIZA parliamentary group, Tsipras said that, “for better or worse, Greece has accepted the term ‘Macedonia’ in the name many years ago”. Tsipras further said Greece was not negotiating not to lose something, but it is negotiating to win something, namely it will make FYROM accept a geographical designation to its name and prohibit Skopje from usurping Greek names and symbols. Reportedly the Greek side has proposed the name “Republika Gorna Makedonija” (Republic of Upper Macedonia) and FYROM has apparently accepted it.

 

Bulgarian, Albanian reactions

Former Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov said: “We recognize Macedonia as the constitutional name, but consider proposals such as Upper Macedonia or Northern Macedonia, are solutions that are in favor of Greece, but at the expense of Bulgarian interests.” Speaking on Bulgarian television on Monday, Parvanov said it is good that the two Balkan neighbors talk to resolve the decades-old dispute, but “Upper” or “Northern” geographical descriptions are against Bulgarian interests. “The name Northern or Upper Macedonia includes the region of Pirin; the Aegean region does not concern us and we do not comment on it, and at the same time the potential claims towards Bulgaria are up in the air. “At least, it must be discussed between the governments of both countries,” Parvanov added. Meanwhile, Albanian parties in FYROM say that the proposed Slavic name “Gorna Makedonija” is not acceptable to them. According to the Independent Balkan News Agency, Ziadin Sela of the Alliance for Albanians said they are against any moves to come up with a Slav name. “We’re against proposals for names in the Macedonian language, such as the case of ‘Gorna Makedonija’. We are against it because this is a tendency to appropriate the name,” Sela said. Artan Grubi, advisor to BDI party leader Ali Ahmeti, said a new name must reflect the multi-ethnic character of the country. “Macedonia is my country and the country of hundreds of thousands of other Albanians. Macedonia belonging to just Macedonians is a concept which doesn’t exist and Albanians cannot be ruled out of this vital process for our common future,” Grubi said.

 

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