Vucic: We are not changing policy towards Russia; Lavrov: UNSCR 1244 legitimate basis for action (RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has reiterated that Serbia will not be introducing sanctions to Russia and added that he hopes the EU will have understanding for this. “I am a very concrete persons and people in Serbia, both those who like and dislike me, know that when I say something – it will be that way. Serbia will not change its policy towards Russia,” he said. Russia consistently, he recalled, supports the position of Serbia when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija, and in line with internal law. Vucic said that for the first time it was stated in the EC Strategy for Western Balkans that Serbia needs to conduct complete harmonization and coordination with the EU policy before complete accession with the EU, while in the past it stated that this process needs to be completed when joining the EU.
When it comes to Kosovo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reminded that UNSCR 1244 is the legitimate basis for action. He notes that EU efforts to mediate between Belgrade and Pristina were welcomed through the UN as well and that the EU is expected to implement this obligation in a responsible manner. However, Lavrov thinks that the dialogue established between Belgrade and Pristina is not ensuring the implementation of decisions. In that context, he recalled that several years have already passed since the agreement on the Community of Serb Municipalities but that there has been nothing in that regard even at present, and also stressed that the Special Court has not yet been established and especially pointed to the danger of Pristina’s attempts for the Kosovo security forces to be transformed into an army. “I hope the EU and NATO do realize the danger from ceding to the colleagues in Pristina,” warned Lavrov.
Russia appreciates Vucic’s efforts in regard to the tense situation after the murder of Oliver Ivanovic and thinks it is necessary to establish those responsible through an unbiased investigation, to bring them to justice and it also supports Belgrade’s efforts to be included in the investigation. Asked whether he perhaps fears that Serbia will have to join the sanctions against Russia through the harmonization with the EU policy, Lavrov says that he welcomes everything that Vucic had stated on this topic. He says that Russia knows that the EU has a series of conditions in the negotiating chapters with Serbia, including those that concern the foreign policy and sanctions against Russia, but also the conditions on recognizing Kosovo. When it comes to the first condition, he reminds that sanctions had been introduced against Russia according to a falsely understood principle of solidarity, with the possibility of abolishing then only when the Mins Agreements are fulfilled.
Serbia and Russia have been through thick and thin (Tanjug/B92)
Aleksandar Vucic has stressed that in the 180 years since the establishment of Serbia-Russia diplomatic relations, we never went against each other. This is a rare example of any two nations in the world, the Serbian President said. Speaking late on Wednesday during a joint press conference in Belgrade with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vucic said that the two countries are marking 180 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, during which they had been through thick and thin, losing many people in the fight for freedom of nations.
Vucic said that he gave Lavrov a letter for President Vladimir Putin, where he speaks very nicely about the cooperation between the two countries and future relations. He revealed that he wrote another letter, on behalf of the citizens of Serbia – for the family of Roman Filipov, a Russian military pilot who recently died in Syria. The President pointed out that Serbia is an independent country that makes its decisions on its own, and will act this way in the future, too, adding: “And whether those decisions will be liked by everyone at any time? We are not here to be loved by some others, but to do things that are in the best interests of our country and our people,” Vucic said. The President said that Serbia would not change its policy towards Russia, regardless of any possible pressure – i.e., Serbia will not impose sanctions against Russia, and will not to change its policy of military neutrality. “There is a moral obligation to respect what our nations have built during these 180 years, and even before that. Serbia will not impose sanctions on the Russian Federation. We hope that we will have EU’s understanding on this issue because of the specific relations between our countries. If that is not the case – Serbia is an independent and free country,” Vucic said. He also thanked Lavrov for Russia’s support, for respecting the territorial integrity, freedom and independence of our country.
Lavrov attends unveiling of mosaic in Church of St. Sava (B92/Beta/Tanjug)
The central composition of the mosaic in the dome of the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade has been officially presented. Among those attending the unveiling on Thursday were Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Serbian Patriarch Irinej. Vucic recalled that 70 artists from Russia and Serbia worked to create the decoration, made in Moscow – weaving in millions of glittering pieces into one single message of brotherhood and solidarity. Vucic thanked the lead artist on the project, Russia’s Nikolai Mukhin, and Gazprom, who financed it with four million euros. Sergei Lavrov addressed the ceremony to express his sincere admiration and recognition of all those who took part in making the mosaic, the artists in particular. Noting that in some countries – such as Montenegro and Macedonia – churches participate in political games – Lavrov particularly emphasized the closeness of the Serbian and Russian Orthodox churches, and said he believed they would preserve their dignity, demonstrated so far, in the future as well. Patriarch Irinej recalled that the temple is located at the site where Ottoman Turk occupiers in 1595 burned the relics of St. Sava (1175-1236) – the founder and the first patriarch of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). While marking 300 years of this event, the idea was born to build this magnificent temple, dedicated to Serbia’s greatest spiritual and cultural figure, said the Patriarch. “On this occasion from this sacred place, we most warmly thank the brotherly Russia and Mr. Putin for their love toward our people, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church. Of course, we thank also from the heart Serbia, and Mr. Vucic for the great and valuable financial assistance,” said Irinej. Earlier in the day, Dacic and Lavrov laid wreaths at the Memorial Complex of the Liberators of Belgrade, at the Monument to the Soviet Soldier, and at the monument to Russian diplomat Nikolai Hartvig.
Vucic: Church root of our friendship with Russia (Tanjug)
The Church of St Sava is another symbol of Serbian-Russian brotherhood and it should be a firm root of our friendship with Russia that will weather all storms, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said after a mosaic was ceremonially unveiled in the dome of the Belgrade church.
“This dome above us is probably the best place to remind ourselves of the sanctity of some ties, in particular those between the churches and the nations of Russia and Serbia, nations that originated from the same tribe, that were brothers in times of trouble, that fought together against hatred and won freedom for every one of us,” he noted.
Dacic and Lavrov: Тhaci’s statement not changing anything (Tanjug)
The Foreign Ministers of Serbia and Russia, Ivica Dacic and Sergey Lavrov, met today and stated on that occasion that the two countries have broad matching stands in the majority of international issues. Asked to comment the statement by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci that it would help is Russia would recognize Kosovo, the Foreign Ministers said that this stand of his doesn’t change anything. Lavrov said that Russia had presented its stand on the Kosovo issue and that his statement cannot change this. “He, just as most of the politicians in Pristina, should deal with their affairs, especially with the fact that they are accused for perpetrating war crimes,” said Lavrov and reiterated that Russia advocated UNSCR 1244 “unlike some of the European countries”. Dacic said that he thinks that it would be more logical if the US and Great Britain would withdraw recognition, so the Greater Albanian hysteria would calm down, which is the largest threat to stability in the region. Dacic stressed that Serbia’s official stand is that it is satisfied with the level of cooperation with Russia that is not only on paper, but in content, a strategic partnership. “I am very grateful for the permanent support of Russia when it comes to
Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, it is well-known that Russia has vetoed the attempt to charge the Serbian nations with genocide, while it has understanding for Serbia’s position when it comes to the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo,” Dacic told journalists after the meeting with Lavrov. He also said that his country supports the autonomous, independent and multidimensional course of Serbia – because it is guided by the same principles in its own foreign policy. “An unhealthy situation rules in Europe, due to attempts of some members of the EU and NATO to strengthen confrontation, pushing NATO further to the East without taking into account the opinion of the population – and this regards what happened in Montenegro and what is being attempted now in Macedonia, and even in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Lavrov said. He said that Russia adheres to all agreements concerning Kosovo, but also concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina, and added that his country will oppose any attempt to circumvent these agreements and violate them.
Selakovic: Consistent policy of Serbia – EU path but without sanctions against Russia (RTS)
Yesterday’s appearances of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic are confirmation of the consistency of the policy of Serbia, the General Secretary of the Serbian President Nikola Selakovic told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS). He says that Serbia is conducting a policy that has the possibility, regardless of where our officials travels, to Washington, Brussels, Moscow or Beijing, to state that our determination is that Serbia is heading towards the EU but that it will not introduce sanctions to Russia or will it vote against Russia. He says that likewise is Serbia’s policy consistent that it wants a compromise with the Albanians but that it doesn’t want to be humiliated. He says that Serbia is very grateful to the Russia support when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija and the stand that has been proved over the past two decades. He says this position is firm, sincere and hasn’t changed. However, Selakovic says that Russia is using the opportunity to point to Serbia that it will have support for what it wants but that it needs to know that we should not expect of the Russians to be “greater Serbs than ourselves”.
Dodik and Lavrov met in Belgrade (Srna/RTRS)
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov has arrived to an official visit to Serbia on Wednesday afternoon. Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic welcomed Lavrov at an airport in Belgrade, after which he met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in the villa ‘Mir’. According to announcements, political issues, situation in the region, bilateral relations and economy will be topic of talks between Lavrov and Serbian officials. Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik attended a working dinner hosted by Vucic on Wednesday evening. Cabinet of the RS President stated on Wednesday evening that Dodik met Lavrov and discussed the current political situation in the RS, B&H and the entire region. The officials underlined the need to improve already good relations and cooperation between the RS and Russia, to the benefit of both sides. Addressing the press conference after the meeting with Lavrov, Vucic briefly spoke about developments in B&H too. Asked to comment statement by Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic who said that Croat and Serb sides are calling for conflicts, he replied: “I wish that the vocabulary of accusations at expense of other peoples was used less in B&H, and if vocabulary of unity was used more”. He added that Serbia had no pretensions towards B&H but only wants the Dayton Peace Agreement to be respected. Vucic also said that Serbia wants good relations between three peoples in B&H and that he does not think the statements that speak about others will bring any prosperity.
Covic and Izetbegovic discuss Election Law with US Ambassador Cormack in separate meetings (TV1/Dnevni avaz)
Chairman of the B&H Presidency Dragan Covic held a meeting with US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack in Sarajevo on Wednesday, at which the two officials discussed the issue of amendments to the Election Law of B&H. Covic stressed that it is necessary to overcome the differences in negotiations about this issue, in order to reach solutions that would comply with principles of the rulings reached by the European Court of Human decisions reached by the Constitutional Court of B&H regarding the elections for the Federation of B&H House of Peoples, the B&H Presidency and the City of Mostar, he added Rights. Solutions should also ensure consistent implementation of the.
B&H Presidency member Bakir Izetbegovic met in separate meetings with Ambassador Cormack on Wednesday. Izetbegovic emphasized during the meeting it was necessary to reach a solution that would be acceptable to all parliamentary parties. Ambassador Cormack expressed full support of the USA to crucial reform processes and to strengthening of internal political dialogue in the country. Representatives of parliamentary parties in the Federation of B&H and representatives of the International Community should hold a meeting in Sarajevo today, February 22, to discuss changes to the Law on Elections of B&H. According to Dnevni avaz daily, this meeting comes as result of a series of bilateral meetings that representatives of the EU Delegation to B&H and the US Embassy to B&H had with representatives of SDA, HDZ B&H, SBB B&H, DF and the SDP which announced it would withdraw from the negotiations.
RS opposition shocked by SNSD’s refusal to support initiative on constituent status of Serbs in Federation of B&H (TV1)
At the session that took place in Banja Luka on Wednesday, the RS Assembly discussed the lack of support from SNSD and HDZ B&H to the initiative to secure the constituent status of Serbs in the Federation of B&H, among other issues. Members of the opposition parties were “shocked” by the stances of SNSD with regard to this issue. NDP leader Dragan Cavic argued that he cannot understand how come they do not event want to support the initiative that was forwarded to the Cantonal Assemblies, which speaks enough about their “patriotism.” Members of the Alliance for Changes called upon SNSD members, to explain whether they value more their cooperation with HDZ B&H, than the constituent status of Serbs. HDZ B&H is the ruling party in the four disputed cantons, that this initiative refers to and that is why SNSD does not support it, allege members of the Alliance for Changes.
Head of SNSD Caucus in the RSNA Radovan Viskovic explained that the case is about an attempt to give the constitutional competences to someone they do not belong to. “The Parliamentary Assembly is not a place for making decisions on the constitutional-legal status of the peoples in B&H. It is something that is guaranteed by the Constitution. As far as I know, there is a ruling of the Constitutional Court which stipulates that it should be implemented in the cantons where Serbs are not recognized as constituent peoples,” Viskovic stressed.
Decision of SNSD and HDZ B&H in B&H HoR not to endorse initiative of Denis Becirovic (SDP) triggered harsh reactions on Wednesday. Namely, the initiative called on relevant bodies of four cantons with Croat majority to change cantonal constitutions to ensure constituent status and equality of Serbs. The initiative was adopted with 27 votes in favor, while MPs from HDZ B&H and SNSD voted against.
B&H Presidency members meet NATO’s Foggo and Everard (BHT1)
B&H Presidency members met with NATO officials Commander of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples James Foggo and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Everard in Sarajevo on Wednesday. Topics discussed at the meeting included current situation in B&H, implementation of reforms, participation of B&H in peacekeeping missions in the world, as well as the need for better equipping of B&H Armed Forces (AF). Interlocutors expressed content with adoption of the Defense Review document in B&H. This was the chance to reiterate the support of NATO and EUFOR for the reform path of B&H.
Opposition calls for government resignations over Agrokor (Hina)
MOST party leader Bozo Petrov said on Wednesday that, in the wake of the resignation of emergency administrator in the ailing Agrokor food and retail conglomerate, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Martina Dalic should also step down, and he called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to propose a new candidate for Agrokor’s emergency administrator to contain further damage. “I think that the position of the former administrator for Agrokor, Ante Ramljak, had become unsustainable following the scandal with the consultants’ salaries. He is Martina Dalic’s apprentice and she was not HDZ’s candidate, but Andrej Plenkovic’s,” Petrov told a press conference. Petrov called on Plenkovic to “finally come out of his fortress and not provoke further instability, and to make a decision appointing a new administrator so that we do not have to suffer any more damages.” “Martina Dalic and Ante Ramljak are a tandem selected by Andrej Plenkovic. In my opinion, they both need to step down.” “Martina Dalic enjoys Andrej Plenkovic’s personal confidence and he has shown this so clearly. Over the past 15 to 20 days, Croatia is operating on autopilot,” Petrov said. He added that he didn’t think the processes in Agrokor would slow down or end badly, regardless of who will manage those processes as it is the creditors who have the final word. Ivan Vilibor Sincic, the leader of another opposition party called Zivi Zid, said that the entire cabinet led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic should step down due to the political corruption and instability in the country. “This government and parliamentary majority are founded on political corruption which started with the reshuffle and coalition between HDZ and HNS, and (SDP’s MP) Tomislav Saucha crossing the floor. That corruption and conflict of interest has just spread since then, with the inquiry commission into Agrokor being dissolved and then it spilled over to the Conflict of Interest Commission,” Sincic said.
Missing persons issue a priority in Croatia-Serbia relations (Hina)
The issue of missing persons from the 1991-1995 war is of paramount importance to Croatia and the number one issue in its relations with Serbia, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric said on Wednesday, recalling that Croatia was still looking for 1,945 persons unaccounted for from the war. “It’s been over 20 years since the war and we think that victims’ families have the right to know what happened, where their remains are, so that we can close this chapter,” Pejcinovic Buric said in an interview with Croatian Radio. She said it was positive that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had acknowledged this issue and received a delegation of families of missing Croatian soldiers in Belgrade on Tuesday, promising that his office would monitor the search for the missing persons on a weekly basis. “We believe that, if there is good will, this issue can be resolved quickly,” the Croatian foreign minister said, adding that Serbia should open its archives and allow access to information. She also mentioned other unresolved issues with Serbia, such as border demarcation, succession from the former Yugoslavia, the return of cultural treasures, and the Serbian law on universal jurisdiction over war crimes prosecution. “Our priority is missing persons,” she said, adding that the two countries should tackle their unresolved issues, which are the legacy of the war and the post-war period, “frankly, sincerely and without hidden agendas”.
Police suspect that Jaukovic threw a bomb at US Embassy (CDM)
Police suspect that Dalibor Jaukovic (43) was the attacker who threw a bomb at the US Embassy last night, and then committed suicide. For the time being, this has not been officially confirmed, since the autopsy of the body is ongoing. An unknown man threw a bomb at the Embassy of the United States of America in Podgorica at about midnight and then blew himself up. The Police Directorate earlier said that the attacker had had two hand grenades – he threw one at the embassy and made suicide with another one. He threw the explosive device over the Embassy’s fence. No one in the Embassy was hurt and the building itself sustained no damage. The police blocked the Boulevard of Revolution from the National Security Agency headquarters to the US Embassy building.
Opposition needs to find common candidate (MINA)
The leader of the Socialist People’s Party (SNP), Vladimir Jokovic, appealed to the opposition to find a joint presidential candidate which would be supported by all opposition political entities because, as he said, it was the formula for the first round victory. “Given that there is no agreement on the already mentioned candidates, I appeal to the opposition to discuss the third one, which we could all support, and which would really be a unique opposition candidate,” Jokovic told MINA agency. Asked whether the time for reaching the agreement was running out, he pointed out that the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) had not yet proposed its candidate.
“If the DPS cannot find an agreement and propose its candidate, it is no wonder that the opposition, which has seven or eight parties, has not come to a common solution. The fact is that time is not on our side, and I think that we should think and act more quickly in that direction , ” Jokovic said. Asked whether the SNP is prepared to support a candidate of a part of the opposition, or just a single one, he said that the unique opposition candidate was a formula for victory. “However, if that does not happen, all options are on the table and the decision will be made by the SNP party bodies. It is certain that in that case, in the second round, we will support the opposition candidate, whoever it was, in order to gain victory,” Jokovic said.
Kosovo government allocates €153,000 for border demarcation (Pobjeda)
Kosovo government has allocated €153,000 to mark the border with Montenegro, learns Pobjeda from sources from Kosovo’s executive authorities. The Pobjeda’s source says that such a move was interpreted in Kosovo as an announcement that the ratification of the demarcation agreement with Montenegro would get a two-thirds majority in Kosovo parliament.
Name dispute edging toward solution, says Merkel (MIA)
The name dispute between Macedonia and Greece needs to be settled, but there is nothing positive if pressure is being exerted, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint news conference in Berlin with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. “The name dispute between Macedonia and Greece should be settled, any pressure in the negotiations has no benefit. I’m under the impression that the two sides after a long time share the interest to settle the dispute. It is a good precondition,” Merkel said answering journalist question on whether the name issue was tackled in her meeting with Zaev and whether the same issue had been discussed in her phone call with Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras. Macedonia, Merkel said, is closer than ever to settling the name dispute with Greece, which hinders the country’s bid to become a member of the EU and NATO. “I am very pleased and relieved that there is movement in the talks,” Merkel said. “In the last 10 years, the solution has not been as close as now and it would be wonderful if the remaining difficulties can be bridged,” she stated. The two sides, she noted, are acting responsibly in the renewed negotiations and both Greece and Macedonia are well aware of what they can give in order a compromise to be reached. Compromises always hurt, but they are necessary, said Merkel. “It’s the art of diplomacy, and it should not be discussed at news conferences, it needs to be solved behind closed doors. I believe that public statements are more prone to harming the process than to be of any use,” the German Chancellor stated. Germany strongly supports the strategic commitment of Macedonia to joining the EU and NATO, Zaev was told at Wednesday’s meeting in Berlin with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Macedonia got strong support from Germany for its strategic commitment, EU and NATO membership. What we need to do is to keep implementing reforms and keep seeking solution to the dispute with Greece. These are difficult issues, but we will find a solution, and both the opposition and the head of state will be involved, as well as the citizens by asking them to voice their opinion,” stated Zaev. At the meeting, it was concluded that Macedonia wrapped up 2017 as a particularly successful story. “We have managed to initiate processes to settle longstanding differences with our neighbors,” Zaev said referring to the friendship treaty with Bulgaria and the renewed name talks with Greece. The Macedonian government is committed to solving issues with its neighbors and to developing regional cooperation, according to him. Zaev invited Merkel to visit Macedonia this year. The Chancellor said Germany backed Macedonia’s efforts to integrate into the EU and NATO, but noted that every country was evaluated according to its merits in fulfilling the required criteria. According to Merkel, it’s not the date for accessing the Union that counts, it is a matter of whether a certain country has met the criteria. Asked when she expected the Western Balkan countries to become members, Merkel said reforms were the key. “We are focused on seeing reforms being implemented, not so much so on dates. Once they have matured, they would join. There are conditions, criteria of the European Commission, as long as they are met, a country can become a member. Whether the country becomes a member sooner or later, it depends on the implementation of reforms,” she stressed. The Berlin Process, Merkel added, aims to intensify contacts between the six Western Balkan countries and the role played at the moment by Bulgaria – the current holder of the EU presidency – has its own benefit.
She mentioned the Western Balkans Summit in May in Sofia, followed by a meeting in London with the participants in the Berlin Process. Projects in the sphere of transport connectivity were pinpointed as being of major importance for the region. According to Merkel, such initiatives are carried out in all countries. Asked to comment on possible Russian influence on Macedonia’s ambitions for joining the EU and NATO, PM Zaev said Macedonia had no other alternative, but the country wanted to foster good relations with all countries. “We are a small country, we want to have relations with all countries, and we certainly want to improve our relations with Russia, but we have no other alternative but full-fledged membership to NATO and the EU,” stressed Zaev. Furthermore, the Macedonian Premier said Germany expressed its support to Macedonia’s economy. Germany, Zaev said, is the number one trade partner of Macedonia and one of its most important strategic partners.
Macedonia deserves individual assessment over EU accession, Zaev tells Berlin conference (MIA)
Macedonia’s main ambitions in 2018 are the opening of EU accession talks and becoming NATO’s 30th member. I strongly believe Macedonia deserves an individual assessment, said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at a discussion organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in Berlin on Wednesday. PM Zaev referred to the deep political crisis in 2015-2016, after the authoritarian regime captured the country and created tensions in the country and with neighbors, the Government said in a press release. “We have managed to overcome the situation because we were united in protecting our fundamental democratic values and standards. Over this period we committed ourselves to supporting different ethnic groups”, said Zaev. According to him, the civil society was involved in the process, thus mobilizing citizens to rise in the defence of democratic rights and liberties, and the rule of law. “The new perspectives have created a system of good governance based on four pillars. Inclusive management is the first pillar, incorporating the commitment to build independent institutions, a rule of law for all and accessible public services. The concept One Society for All is our second pillar, a citizen-based concept of bypassing ethnic divisions. Then come the equal development of the country and good neighborly policy,” Zaev said. He underlined that citizens in the Balkan region hope for a new generation of transformational leaders who can nurture sustainable peace and stability, develop cooperation and serve the economic interests and well-being of their people. Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office Michael Roth and FES president Kurt Beck also took part in the discussion. Minister Roth affirmed the support to the Western Balkans states in their EU membership aspirations, saying each country needs to be assessed according to individual achievements. He added that domestic political reforms should be accompanied by economic prosperity and improvement of the living standard, in order to motivate young people to stay in their countries. FES president Beck highlighted the need for balance between center left and center right forces on the Western Balkans, thus creating an environment where nations can help each other.
Zaev, Steinmeier commend Macedonia-Germany relations (MIA)
Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier voiced satisfaction Wednesday in Berlin with the favorable, dynamic development of the relations between the two countries. In the year that marks the 25th anniversary of the diplomatic ties, the cooperation between the countries is crowned with the fact that Germany is Macedonia’s most significant trade partner, namely the bilateral trade exchange has reached over EUR three billion, the government said in a press release. It also notifies the business ties between the companies of both countries, saying that German enterprises operating in Macedonia have thus far created about 20.000 jobs. Zaev and Steinmeier also shared opinions about the bilateral cooperation in the sphere of security and defense, as well as about Macedonia’s bid to join NATO. In this respect the engagement of Macedonian soldiers, part of German contingent in Afghan peace mission, was highlighted. Steinmeier praised Macedonia’s overall progress and its substantial advancement in implementing the reforms. A solution to the name dispute with Greece will be favorable for the entire Balkan region and its stability, Germany’s President said.
Macedonia’s government, Zaev said, has been championing a new spirit in the Skopje-Athens relations, namely opening a dialogue for settling the outstanding issues and building of bridges of cooperation, based on mutual trust and respect.
Hahn: EU to back starting entry talks with Macedonia (MIA)
The European Union will recommend starting accession talks with the Republic of Macedonia and Albania, widening the bloc’s push into the Western Balkans, according to Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. “The EU Commission will soon recommend, most likely by the summer, that member states begin accession negotiations with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We believe that both countries have made important reforms in the past, and are thus qualified for this step,” Hahn said. The Republic of Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005 and has recently made a push to solve a name dispute with neighboring Greece that dates back to the independence of the former region of Yugoslavia in 1991. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that a solution “has never been as close as it is now.” Albania, an EU candidate since 2014, “has done a lot in the fight against organized crime,” Hahn said. The two countries will join Montenegro and Serbia, which started accession talks in 2012 and 2014, respectively, and could become members of the EU as early as 2025. The EC should publish the progress reports of the candidate countries for EU membership on April 17.
Zbogar says Juncker’s visit to Macedonia message in itself (MIA)
The upcoming visit of European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker to Skopje is a message in itself, EU Ambassador to Macedonia Samuel Zbogar told MIA on Wednesday.
“It is also known that the European Union is here for you. The European Commission has clearly notified in its strategy that the Western Balkans belongs within the EU. It’s message is encouraging – accelerate the reforms to shorten your road to the EU” Zbogar said. The EU doors are open, he said, and it is up to the political leaders in Skopje to make real efforts, speed up the reforms so that the citizens may take advantage of the EU enlargement strategy, Zbogar said. EC President Juncker is set to visit Macedonia at the end of the month as part of his Western Balkans tour.
Lavrov: EU is passive on Great Albania ideas, Ohrid Framework Agreement violated (MIA)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov referred late Wednesday to the situation in Macedonia in the context of “Great Albania ideas.” At a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Lavrov said there are concerns over EU’s passivity regarding the initiative that had emerged from Tirana, the so-called Tirana Platform, which “is an open call for the creation of Great Albania.” “Following the recent parliamentary elections in Macedonia, the Parliament Speaker put the Albanian flag at the table in his cabinet. These days, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama proudly said that he had initiated the law giving the Albanian language a state status in Macedonia. This violates the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which provided relief after the crisis in Macedonia many years ago,” said Lavrov.
Osmani: With the Swiss experience we will effectively implement the Law on Languages (Meta)
The Swiss experience in the organization and application of a multilingual society, will be a significant contribution to a more efficient implementation of the Law on the Use of Languages in the Republic of Macedonia, said Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Bujar Osmani at a meeting with Krystina Marty Lang, Deputy State Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation. According to the Secretariat for European Affairs (SEA), at the meeting they discussed the continued financial support by Switzerland, one of the first and oldest financial contributors in Macedonia. “In addition to support, Switzerland is also a significant political and social inspiration for the Republic of Macedonia, as well as a positive example of a functioning multicultural society,” said Osmani.
Meta reacts on ideas for division or exchange of territories (ADN)
The President of the Republic, Ilir Meta held a meeting on Wednesday the delegation of the European Council on Foreign Relations, chaired by Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. During this meeting, the President stressed the importance of EU enlargement with the six countries of the Western Balkans, and noted the hope that Albania will join as soon as possible the membership negotiations. He also considered unacceptable, impossible and destructive idea the one for the division or exchange of territories.
“These are desperate attempts to overlap populist agendas on vital integration and stability agendas. The only work program at the table of political leaders should be to solve the problems and the real concerns of the citizens. Priority in each Country must be rule of law and democracy” said Meta. He added that Kosovo should benefit from visa liberalization as soon as the demarcation agreement with Montenegro closes.
US Embassy disappointed by Rama (ADN)
United States Embassy was disappointed by Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks about Kosovo and Albania on the occasion of Kosovo’s 10th Anniversary of Independence. “Careless language alluding to unification is unhelpful and damaging to Albania’s relationships with its neighbors. We call on all leaders to be good neighbors and abandon the divisive language of the past,” reacted this Embassy. Prime Minister, Edi Rama proposed in Kosovo on the 10th anniversary of Independence for a joint President for Albania and Kosovo. After the debate caused on this issue, Rama explained the context of his statement. “Firstly, it was not a statement, but an imagination. That sentence came as a result of a series of previous sentenced, which among others said that Serbia and Kosovo will have successfully completed their difficult dialogue. It was an imagination related to a jubilee moment,” said Rama. He considered as exaggerated the reactions that his proposal caused in Tirana, in Pristina, in the region and in Brussels, while saying that it was removed from the context of his speech. “This national and international sport, where a sentence is often taken out of the context and then unfortunately harm is caused to what one thinks to be making right, and it is left only to daily consumption. Meanwhile, my speech in the parliament of Kosovo was a well-thought and felt speech until the end,” said PM Rama.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Merkel warns against China’s influence in Balkans (South China Morning Post, 22 February 2018)
“I have no objections to the fact that China wants to trade … and to invest,” Merkel said at a Berlin press conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
“We are committed to free trade,” she added, but stressed that “it must be reciprocal” and that openness must come “not just from one side but from all sides”. “The question is … are the economic relations being linked with political questions?” she added, stressing that this would “not be in the spirit of free trade”.
China has invested heavily in a massive “New Silk Road” initiative of overland infrastructure links between Asia and Europe, raising European fears about Beijing’s growing political influence. Recent years have seen China make investments in strategic sectors and critical infrastructure, including the purchase of Piraeus port in crisis-hit Greece.
Some in Europe fear that the Balkan countries benefiting from Chinese investments are more inclined to defend the interests of Beijing in the EU, especially on questions of human rights and trade. In Macedonia, which is seeking to join the EU and Nato, China has invested in highway construction, and Zaev recently thanked Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang for helping his country’s modernisation.
French President Emmanuel Macron on a China visit warned last month that some European countries are much more open to Chinese interests, “sometimes at the expense of a European interest”.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned last August in Paris that “if we don’t develop a [European] strategy regarding China, then China will succeed in dividing Europe”.