Vucic: Mrs. Merkel wants things kept under control (B92)
A permanent Kosovo solution requires agreement from Germany, France, the EU, the US, Turkey, and Russia, President Aleksandar Vucic said in Berlin on Friday. “We are ready for a compromise, I told that to Mrs. Merkel, but for that, two sides are needed,” Vucic said after his meeting with the German chancellor. He added that in the past, he believed it was easier for Serbs and Albanians to talk to alone. “However, a lasting solution also requires agreement from the Germans, the French, the EU, the Americans, Turkey, Russia, while China should also be informed about everything,” Vucic said. Asked by a journalist about “the price that Serbia is willing to pay when it comes to Kosovo,” Vucic said that he “does not know what that means.” Stability does not have a price, he continued, while “military conflict would set everything back 100 years and more.” “I don’t want some future president to be asked the same about Kosovo in Berlin in 30 years’ time,” Vucic continued. “We better try to solve something, but it does not depend only on us, but on other factors as well.” Vucic also said that he spoke with Merkel about the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) in Kosovo, and that he “went through the Brussels agreement point by point” – and then stressed that he “ate nothing” during their lunch in Berlin today, “and has not slept for days” because of Kosovo. Asked whether he spoke with the German chancellor about “Kosovo’s UN chair,” Vucic replied: “Mrs. Merkel is one of the wisest and smartest interlocutors I have spoken to, and someone who is wise and clever would never speak in such a way. She is fair and concrete, full of self-confidence, and people like that don’t use such vocabulary.” And while the ZSO was discussed, the president said he would not reveal “what Mrs. Merkel said.” “I can say what I said. I analyzed the Brussels agreement, point by point. Mrs. Merkel knows all that. The first six points (of the agreement) have been implemented, after that, nothing. The first six were the obligation of Serbia, those after are not,” he said, referring to the 2013 agreement reached during the EU-brokered Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Vucic then added that the German chancellor “wants things to be kept under control.” “I will say that she told me there is trust between us, and I said that my trust in her is unlimited,” Vucic said, and pointed out that “the tone of the German Chancellor was significantly different in 2011.” “You think she doesn’t know what kind of problems we are facing, you think that people in Serbia really don’t know what the situation is in Kosovo and Metohija. In Serbia, no one is stupid or blind, people see the way we’re fighting, we’re bringing factories, and that we cannot do if we do not have good relations with Germany,” Vucic said. He reiterated that Merkel “knows what Kosovo means to Serbia” and also “understands our position – and a solution is being sought in line with that.” “Does she respect Serbia – yes she does. And I feel special here because you cannot get such respect everywhere,” said the president of Serbia. Asked what about his message to the citizens of Serbia, Vucic said: “It will not be easy about Kosovo, everything else is going in the right direction. I do not lie to people in Serbia, I never have, and people know it. There will be no good solution for KiM, and I’ll tell you that, but a compromise means us all being a little dissatisfied.”
Stefanovic: Security situation in Kosovo is very serious (Beta)
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic informed UN Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Aleksandr Zuev about the current engagement of the Serbian police in multinational police operations, or peace missions of the UN, and highlighted the strong commitment of the Ministry of the Interior and the Republic of Serbia to the efforts to preserve security in the world. Zuev said that the commitment of the Republic of Serbia to participating in peacekeeping missions has been recognized and he informed Stefanovic about the reforms in the UN related to the security, as well as about further steps that the UN will take within the framework of multinational police operations. Recalling that, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the UNMIK is tasked with keeping the rule of law and security in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, Stefanovic underlined that murders of member of the Gendarmerie Stevan Sindjelic and SDP leader Oliver Ivanovic remain unresolved. Zuev stressed that he agrees with Stefanovic that the perpetrators of these crimes must be found and that they must answer before justice.
The two officials also discussed the Interpol warrants issued by Serbia for war crimes, giving shelter to those fleeing justice in Kosovo and Metohija and the ever-growing problem of drug trafficking. Stefanovic said that numerous problems are a confirmation that the overall security situation in Kosovo and Metohija is very serious and reiterated Serbia’s attitude towards the continuing presence of the UNMIK Mission on the ground. Zuev urged Stefanovic to attend a meeting of interior ministers and security chiefs in June at the UN headquarters, chaired by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior.
UNMIK remains important factor of stability in Kosovo (RTS/Beta/Tanjug)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic also met with Zuev. The importance of Serbia’s contribution to the UN’s efforts to preserve peace and security in the world through its participation in peacekeeping operations was highlighted, as well as a high level of professionalism and integrity that the members of the Serbian Army and the police in UN missions throughout the world continuously demonstrate, thus continuing the tradition of Yugoslavia’s participation which began in 1956. Also, full agreement has been expressed on the need to respect UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the necessity of preserving the presence of the UN Mission in Kosovo and Metohija (UNMIK) as a guarantor of the status neutrality of the international presence. Zuev emphasized that UNMIK remains an important factor in preserving stability, but also in the rule of law in Kosovo and Metohija. On this occasion, Dacic also highlighted the importance that the United Nations has for Serbia, as well as our commitment to the priority areas of the UN’s work, with both sides expressing readiness to continue close cooperation and deepening it within the UN peace operations.
Dacic: I guarantee that less than 100 states will be recognizing so-called Kosovo (Politika/Beta)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has told Politika that he can guarantee the number of countries that recognize Kosovo will fall under 100. “Perhaps in half a year, for example, it will be under 100. And what happens when it falls under 96 countries?,” Dacic said. Asked whether there was a realistic chance of this happening, he replied: “I guarantee it.”
Asked about the time frame for this, he replied: “If only I had the time. I can’t manage to deal with all those things, I can’t manage to visit everyone.” Dacic said that attention should be paid to representatives of the countries that might revoke their recognition of Kosovo, and that other ministries in the Serbian government should be doing it, too, in order to avoid “somebody refusing to receive a minister I’m talking to – but they would receive a minister from a large European country.” In that sense, he added, Serbia’s diplomatic network should also be discussed. Dacic told the daily that he had been the first to start working on revocations of Kosovo recognitions, and that this was the reason he was traveling to Africa and Asia often – and the reason Pristina officials are complaining about him. “Since they (Pristina) find it terribly irritating, I formed a team here to deal exclusively with that issue. To me, this is the priority of our political activity,” the head of Serbia’s diplomacy stressed. Commenting on demands coming from the West to quickly solve the issue of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, Dacic stressed this was “no race against time,” because the negotiations in Brussels are technical – while a permanent solution has never been discussed by anyone. Asked whether Serbs in Kosovo would form the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) on their own on April 20, he replied, “Everything depends on our assessment. In any case, it’s very important for us to maintain firm relations with Russia and China. Firm relations need to be kept with those countries that have not recognized so-called Kosovo, there should be dedication to that, and an effort should be made with Germany, France, and the US to reach a certain level of mutual understanding on how the problem can be solved permanently,” Dacic said.
Asked whether Kosovo would get a chair at the UN, he said it would mean Serbia telling Russia and China not to object to it. “Can you imagine me doing that? Telling (Sergei) Lavrov and the Chinese colleague that I was joking before?,” Dacic asked. The minister also remarked that the situation is constantly being presented as Serbia having nowhere to go – but that this is not true.
“Where can they (Pristina) go? That’s why we must go for a compromise,” Dacic said. Asked if the result of a compromise could be giving Kosovo a UN chair, he replied: “It could, if we accept it and if that’s part of the deal. No other way.”
Djuric: Merkel shown evidence about 26 March (RTS)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told RTS on Saturday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was presented on Friday the factual state-of-affairs in Kosovo and Metohija. “We presented and showed evidence about everything that was happening there and the fact that Merkel wished to hear this from the President speaks a lot. This is an important meeting that our side approached responsibly and seriously,” noted Djuric. He says that Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) is a matter on which Belgrade and Pristina, conducted by the Kosovo Serb representatives. “The ZSO can be formed only in the manner agreed. If nothing new should be formed and changed, why did they talk with us,” wonders Djuric.
Kuburovic: I am afraid that Court for KLA crimes will remain a dead letter (Beta/Novosti)
Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic has voiced suspicion that the Special War Crimes Court for KLA crimes will start working at all. I am afraid that this court, insisted on by the EU, will remain a dead letter, Kuburovic told Novosti. “A large number of cases that was launched for crimes against the Serbs have ended with the cessation of procedure without any elaboration,” says Kuburovic, adding that not one procedure that was conducted before Pristina institutions and EULEX has ended with a convicting verdict. She assessed the second-degree verdict by the ICTY to Vojislav Seselj as confirmation of selectiveness of justice applied by this court and an example of violating obligations to end the trial within a reasonable deadline.
Spanish Ambassador: EU should clearly support ZSO formation (Tanjug)
Serbia needs to insist on the formation of the ZSO, while EU institutions should clearly support this legitimate request, the Spanish Ambassador to Serbia Miguel Fuertes Suares told Tanjug. “Spain supports the dialogue in Brussels. It is logical that the key element in this dialogue is the formation of the ZSO, as it had been agreed,” says the Ambassador. Asked how he sees a compromise solution for Kosovo, Suares says it is not on Spain to suggest solutions. However, he reiterates that Spain supports Serbia’s territorial integrity. “It is on Serbia to define its stand that Spain will support,” says the Ambassador.
Covic no longer optimist regarding changes to Election Law (BHT1)
A session of the Presidency of HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) was held in Mostar on Friday. Following the session, HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic said that this party is preparing a program as if elections will take place. Covic stressed that everyone will be losers if agreement on amendments to the B&H Election Law is not reached by the time the elections are supposed to be called. Covic explained that meeting with representatives of the international community on amendments to the B&H Election Law has not been held yet for technical reasons. Covic underlined that he talked with US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack over the phone. Speaking about the position of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) on amendments to the B&H Election Law, Covic said that HNS believes those amendments have to lead to legitimate representation of Croats in the B&H Presidency and houses of peoples.
US Ambassador Cormack: It will be difficult, but solution for issue of amendments to B&H Election Law is possible (N1/Srna)
US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack, speaking about the meeting with representatives of SDA, SBB, SDP and DF held last week, where B&H political leaders discussed proposals for amendments to B&H Election Law, stated that EU and USA are working with all relevant political parties, facilitating their talks in order to help them find a solution. She underlined that the general election must be held in October 2018, and its results must be implemented. Asked why the meeting was not attended by HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic, Cormack explained that a meeting with Covic has not been held yet because of busy schedules, but emphasized that a meeting with Covic will take place soon, probably next week. Commenting the fact that Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) has expressed discontent regarding the conclusions of meeting with SDA, SBB, SDP and DF, Cormack stated that amendments to B&H Election Law represent a complex issue, and a lot of dialogue and compromise will be necessary in order to find a constructive solution. According to Cormack, there are several possible solutions. Asked if B&H political leaders are capable of finding a solution without the support of the international community, Cormack stated that B&H political leaders are the ones who must find a solution. However, she added, this is a difficult process, and the EU and US care about B&H citizens and their interests, which is why they are trying to facilitate political dialogue. Asked if she is optimistic, Cormack said that she is a realist-optimist, and that although there is still a lot of work to be done, a solution is possible. Cormack emphasized that nobody ever mentioned the possibility of establishing a Bosniak entity. She also underlined that USA is strongly dedicated to preservation of the structure of B&H outlined in the Dayton Peace Accords. Cormack also explained that talks on changes to B&H Election Law have been going on since last September, and it has become clear that meetings with large groups do not produce results. Therefore, the international community decided to start a different approach and to try working with smaller groups of political representatives. The meeting with SDA, SBB, SDP and DF was only the first step in a process. Cormack further explained that it is now necessary to focus on amendments related to the B&H Constitutional Court’s decision on Federation of B&H House of Peoples, while other issues can be resolved after the October election.
Asked to comment her relations with Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik, Cormack stated that US administration wants to cooperate with everyone willing to work for better B&H. However, she underlined, Dodik has not expressed the desire to do so. Cormack also underlined that US Embassy does not have any problems with RS institutions or citizens, and there is great cooperation on many projects. She added that US Embassy is always looking for partners throughout B&H, but Dodik is not one of them.
Dodik stated for Srna news agency on Saturday that Cormack started her mandate in B&H with prejudices and personal attitude “towards me and the RS”, adding that it is obvious Cormack will not change her beliefs. Dodik went on saying that the US Ambassador has been publicly speaking about her participation in activities related to changes of the Election Law of B&H. RS President stressed that such interfering in internal issues of B&H undermines sovereignty and integrity of this country.
HR Inzko: If no solution for changes to Election Law is accepted, I will not use Bonn powers (Dnevni list)
High Representative Valentin Inzko stated that changes to B&H Election Law should not be made in the election year, but since this will be the case, it is necessary to seek compromise and the middle way. He noted that some political parties in Mostar are very active, and they give reason for optimism. He noted that OHR proposed two possible solutions in the past, and added that there are dozens of possible solutions. Inzko underlined that in the end, B&H Parliament will have to adopt any amendments to the Election Law. “The international community is of the opinion that Federation of B&H House of Peoples is most important now. However, if none of the offered solutions is accepted, I do not intend to use the Bonn powers, because there is currently no right climate for that in the international community” said Inzko.
Izetbegovic: B&H is at entrance hall to accession to NATO, EU (Hayat)
The 26th anniversary of formation of the RB&H Army and the 13th anniversary of formation of the Second Infantry Regiment of B&H Armed Forces (AF) was marked on Friday. The anniversary was marked with a general message that B&H AF have shown that they are key and irreplaceable partner to citizens and civil structures in B&H. Chairman of B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic expressed commitment to a multiethnic, democratic, and prosperous B&H, as a homeland of equal peoples and citizens. According to Izetbegovic, this can be achieved through full integration into the EU and NATO. Izetbegovic assessed that B&H “is at the entrance hall to accession to NATO and the EU” and he expects that this country will join both NATO and the EU “in the next five to 10 years”. Izetbegovic referred to NATO and the EU as “associations that guarantee peace and stability of this country”. The B&H Presidency Chairman considers that B&H is “right where it planned to be”. However, the B&H Presidency Chairman admitted that there are still attacks on sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H, along with threats with division. He stressed that B&H is moving towards the EU membership, even though economic indicators are not as good as citizens in B&H deserve.
B&H Foreign Minister Crnadak: B&H Ambassador to UN will respect stances of B&H Presidency members regarding Syrian issue (Dnevni avaz)
Asked what stance B&H is expected to take when UN General Assembly discusses the US, UK and French airstrikes in Syria, B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak stated that B&H Presidency is responsible for all matters related to foreign policy. He explained that in case that B&H is required to take a stance and vote in the UN General Assembly, B&H Ambassador will respect the official stances of B&H Presidency members and act accordingly. Crnadak stated that B&H Presidency members have not yet taken a stance, which is why he cannot comment the airstrikes.
Stoltenberg: NATO’s door remains open to countries that aspire to become members (TV1/Oslobodjenje)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO’s door remains open to the countries that aspire to become member states of the Alliance, adding that the accession of Montenegro is the best proof of this fact. “We will continue working with Macedonia, B&H and Georgia. By supporting these countries, which want to become member states, we are contributing to achievement of the Euro-Atlantic goals. However, it is still early to talk about concrete decisions,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the Members of the Defense and Security Committee and the Subcommittee for Future Security and Defense Capabilities (DSCFC) of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is scheduled to pay a two-day official visit to B&H on Monday. The NATO Delegation members are scheduled to meet with members of the Collegium of the both Houses of the Parliament of B&H, members of the Joint Commission for Defense and Security and members of the parliament of B&H Delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly. NATO officials will also meet with representatives of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Security of B&H, academic community and the nongovernmental sector.
Remembrance Day for victims of Ustasha WWII crimes in Jasenovac and Donja Gradina marked (RTRS)
Victims of the Ustasha genocide in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp and Donja Gradina as its biggest scaffold in the World War Second (WWII) were commemorated in Donja Gradina on Sunday. RTRS reminds that some 700,000 people were cruelly murdered in this camp formed by the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), while in four years of existence of the Jasenovac camp Ustashas have killed 500,000 Serbs, 80,000 Roma people, 32,000 Jews and tens of thousands of antifascists – mainly in Donja Gradina. The commemoration, jointly organized by Republika Srpska (RS) government and the Serbian government, was attended by delegations of the RS and B&H authorities, representatives of the international community in B&H and victims’ associations. Addressing the event, RS President Milorad Dodik reminded that Jasenovac was the NDH’s state project for which no one has been found responsible and it still does not have the official categorization as the place of genocide. He stressed that the spiral of crime sites resulted in over a million Serb victims in the WWII, adding that in that war, Serbs – weakened in the previous war – were killed wherever it was possible, without any reason or cause. Dodik said that he has recently realized that Serbs were killed due to two terrible things in their history – fear and illusion – assessing that the strength of the Serb national state was disintegrated in Yugoslavia, and the ideas of that time and illusion again led to the suffering of Serbs. He reminded that the RS was created as expression of the Serbs’ desire for freedom – not desire to do evil things to other peoples. Dodik concluded in his address that the most important thing is to call for peace among peoples and nations now.
Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic stated that hatred and racism as the NDH’s foundations have not disappeared entirely, warning that any attempt of revision of historical facts must not be allowed.
Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin said that the RS was created as resistance against another Jasenovac, extermination of the Serb people and their persecution. “Serbia, as one of the guarantors of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), will always strongly support the RS and this agreement. It will never allow the Jasenovac horror to be repeated”, Vulin told reporters after the commemoration.
EU Special Representative (EUSR) in B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark also laid wreaths, as well as representatives of the Embassies of Russia, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the UK to B&H, and representatives of the OSCE Mission to B&H and the Office of the High Representative (OHR).
US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack stated that she is visiting the ‘Donja Gradina’ Memorial Complex for the fourth time now, solely to honor the victims, war camp survivors and their families.
Jewish community holds separate commemoration for Jasenovac victims (Hina)
The head of the Jewish Community of Zagreb (ZOZ) and of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia Ognjen Kraus said at a commemoration for the victims of the World War II concentration camp Jasenovac that the Croatian government and parliament must respect the constitution and the fact that the Ustasha salute “For the homeland, ready” is unconstitutional. The commemoration for the victims of the Ustasha-run concentration camp, where numerous Jews were killed, was organized by the ZOZ and the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, and it was the third consecutive annual commemoration held separately from the central state-level commemoration. Addressing those who gathered for the event, Kraus explained why this year again, as in the previous two years, the Jewish community had decided to commemorate the victims on its own and not take part in the central commemoration. “We demand that the government and parliament respect the Croatian constitution. After year-long work, the commission for dealing with the past decided that the salute ‘For the homeland, ready’ is unconstitutional. This makes its proposal to allow the use of that salute for commemorative purposes, that is, in exceptional cases – whatever that may mean – even more scandalous,” Kraus said, adding that “Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has announced that those exceptions would be regulated by law.” “In law-based states, if a legal provision is unconstitutional, it is aligned with the constitution, and if administrative acts by relevant institutions are contrary to the law or the constitution, they are put out of force,” said Kraus. “We expect the government to send the parliament as soon as possible a set of legal regulations to be aligned with the Constitution so that this matter is finally resolved by adopting that law. For us, any use or form of the salute ‘For the homeland, ready’ in Croatia is unacceptable,” stressed Kraus. He went on to say that “the Jewish community cannot accept the rewriting of history or, when totalitarianism is discussed, the equating of the National Liberation Struggle (NOB) and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), or the NDH and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The NDH was founded on racial laws, can that really be equated (with the NOB and the SFRY)?” Kraus called on Croatia’s President and Prime Minister to be “clear in their messages, without the constant ‘buts’.” “The contribution of Jews to Croatia’s culture, economy, science, health and other fields of work throughout its history exceeds by far the size of our community in the past, and especially today. That is why we believe that we deserve at least the minimum respect, understanding and dialogue when something is done or decisions are made that concern the Jewish community,” said Kraus, recalling that the NDH was the only European state with racial laws based on the model of Nazi racial laws and expressing hope that next year there would be a single, joint commemoration at Jasenovac. Wreaths were laid at the Stone Flower, a monument erected at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp, by Israeli Ambassador Zina Kalay Kleitman, the ambassadors of France and Canada, and representatives of the German, Austrian, US and Serbian embassies as well as of the Serb National Council.
US grateful for Croatia’s support for Syria strikes (Hina)
The US Embassy in Zagreb thanked Croatia on Saturday for supporting the actions of Western allies against the Syrian chemical program. “We thank the Croatian government for supporting the actions of the U.S, U.K and France against the use of chemical weapons,” U.S. Ambassador W. Robert Kohorst said in a statement. He said that the strikes were a response to the Syrian regime’s actions and were not a provocation against the Russian Federation or its forces in Syria. “Russia, however, cannot claim to be a responsible member of the international community while failing to condemn the use of chemical weapons and failing to take any action to prevent their use. We invite Russia to start supporting the innocent men, women and children of Syria who are being killed with chemical weapons,” the US Ambassador said. The Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs issued a statement in which it states that the chemical attack in Syria represents the worst violation of international law, including the Chemical Weapons Convention. The statement further notes that the Republic of Croatia supports its partners and allies in efforts to prevent any further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to protect the civilian population. The foreign ministry noted that Croatia is continually monitoring the situation in Syria and the wider region. “We consider it essential to prevent any further use of chemical weapons and to provide protection to Syria’s citizens. To this end, we support the OPCW mission and hope that it will be allowed to conduct its work and investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Republic of Croatia is committed to establishing an independent investigative mechanism within the framework of the United Nations that would serve as a deterrence to potential perpetrators.”
Citizens of Montenegro elected the president (CDM)
Leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists, Milo Djukanovic, claimed an absolute win at the presidential elections in Montenegro, with 53, 8 % of votes in the first round of elections. Mladen Bojanic, opposition candidate, won 33, 5 % of votes, and Draginja Vukasanovic won 8, 3 % of votes. At these elections, Djukanovic won 2,6 % more votes than Filip Vujanovic in 2013. State Election Commission reported that the Election Day passed without any conflicts. Mladen Bojanic made objections regarding the election procedure, but they were rejected.
According to the data provided by the Center for Democratic transition (CDT), 64% of the citizens of Montenegro exercised their right to vote. Around 341 000 citizens voted and the total number of citizens who could vote was 532 399. Polling stations in the whole country closed at 8:00 p.m. Election turnout in Podgorica was 63, 2 %, and in the south of the country – 52,1%.
DPS has declared Djukanovic’s victory, and he told the public in his address that his party has fulfilled its promise and won in the first round of the elections. He said that his victory means support to the Montenegrin road to the EU. “I am convinced we are not going to fail the expectations of the citizens and that we are going to take that final step in the next five years,” said Djukanovic and underlined he appreciates dedication and loyalty of the citizens of Montenegro. Current Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic stated he expects Djukanovic to ensure Montenegro will enter the EU in the next five years. He also noted he is proud to be able to say that Montenegro became NATO member while he was the President of the country.
Zaev: Process for increasing parliamentary majority to be completed by late April (MIA)
Talks on increasing the parliamentary majority are resuming this weekend, while the entire process to that effect should be wrapped up by late April, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told on Saturday. Ali Ahmeti, leader of the government’s coalition partner DUI, also supports the process for increasing the parliamentary majority, Zaev said. Broadening of the parliamentary majority with new coalition partners is necessary to boost the efficiency of the highest legislative body, the PM said.
Osmani: 90 percent of the “3-6-9” plan has been implemented, Ivanov to sign the Law on Languages (Meta)
Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European affairs, Bujar Osmani, said that 90 percent of Government’s reform plan “3-6-9” was completed which helped Macedonia to return on the right, Euro-Atlantic path. The Deputy Prime Minister said that 95 percent of the measures would be implemented, but some of the reform laws, such as the law of courts, which require a two-thirds majority of MPs, were not voted yesterday due to opposition’s request for additional consultations. “Among other measures which are not implemented, it is the result of the voting on the law regarding legal aid has been returned to the government to finalize it, taking the code of ethics in Parliament, which is in the draft version and needs a consensus from all parliamentary political parties that we expect will be reached in May for meetings of the “Jean Monnet” process. Prior to adoption, it stands the Strategy for Cooperation between the Government and the Civil Sector and the Law on Foreigners, which is in parliamentary procedure,” said Osmani, and adding that the completion of the “3-6-9” plan does not end with the reform processes. He stressed that all reforms were made through a transparent and inclusive process and that the notes from the civil sector and the opposition were implemented. “I am giving you a message from Brussels that Macedonia has managed to implement a productive reform agenda and the road to the EU has been restored. The plan “3-6-9” has been successfully implemented and on April 17 we expect to be awarded with a positive report, the best for Macedonia so far, and a pure unconditional recommendation for the start of negotiations”, Osmani said. Government’s analysis also includes the adoption regarding the Law on Languages as a final measure, although it is not put into function due to the so-called “pocket veto” by President Gjorge Ivanov. Osmani says this measure is marked as brought to completion because it has undergone all procedures and added that this law expresses the will of the parliamentary majority and the citizens. He urged Ivanov to sign the law and to be a cohesive factor in the society. “Ivanov chooses to leave an empty book regarding his mandate, although he could be a cohesive factor. There are a few more days for him to do it. If he doesn’t do it, there are other ways for the law to be put into force, but we will wait to see what Ivanov will decide,” Osmani said.
Dimitrov: Main difference in name talks – scope of usage (MIA)
Progress has been made during the last round of name talks in Vienna, but the most difficult issues still remain open, such as the Greek request for Macedonia to amend the constitution and the scope of use of the new name, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said. One of the four key elements of the negotiations (new complex name, scope of use, naming of the language and the citizenship) is still a subject of differences, which affects the resolving of others, Dimitrov said.
“The aim is to come up with a solution that will make a distinction between our Macedonia and the Greek region bearing the same name. It’s very important for this solution to be sustainable and to that effect it must be dignified” Dimitrov said.
Zaev: Macedonia wishes to develop friendly relations with Russia (MIA)
Macedonia wishes to develop friendly relations with Russia as the two countries have much in common, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said late Friday. However, there is no other alternative for Macedonia but the EU, NATO membership. Macedonia is not joining NATO to start wars. On the contrary the country is an advocate of peace, Zaev said. “Our soldiers have been taking part in NATO-led missions in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina to preserve the peace. Macedonia is proud of these missions and I believe that Russia will not do anything inappropriate to obstruct the right of over 75 percent of citizens because we have decided to become NATO member,” Zaev said. He pointed out that the Russian diplomat was expelled from Macedonia over inappropriate activities. Macedonia presented evidence to that effect to Russia’s Embassy in Skopje, he added.
Meta supports US, UK and France air strikes in Syria (ADN)
The President of the Republic of Albania, Ilir Meta, reacted on Saturday over the decision of US, UK and France to launch air strikes in Syria in an early morning operation targeting alleged chemical weapons sites. “We fully support the US, UK and France actions against the chemical arsenal of the criminal regime of Assad. We are alongside to our allies and we support President Trump’s determination to protect the lives of people, human rights and all actions that not only punish barbarous acts but create more security and stability around the world,” says President Meta.
EU accession talks, more homework for Albania (ADN)
Albania expects by the European Commission to recommend that the European Union member states open the membership talks in April, also based on the 2016 recommendation. The good news is expected to be given in Tirana by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogherini who will visit Albania on April 17.
But with the good news comes and some ‘bad’ ones. The homework for Albania will increase. EC will require war against organized crime and corruption. At the same time, the Commission will speak for more dialogue between the majority and opposition. “EC considers as necessary for Albania to continue deep reforms in different sectors,” says the report.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Serbia and Kosovo Could Clash amid Increasing Tensions (The National Interest, by Michael R. G. Lyons, 15 April 2018)
The Ivanovic assassination highlights the recent progression of tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that the Serbian military launched an assault on insurgent positions to the east of Belgrade in Pasuljanske Livade. These operations were presided over by the close supervision of President Aleksander Vucic and a handful of foreign observers. Fear not, this operation was all part of a military drill, aptly named Synergy 2018, and those insurgents under assault outside of the Serbian capital were only imaginary assailants. But with this military exercise close on the heels of the Kosovo police using force on Serbs in the town of Kosovoska Mitrovica, and the arrest and subsequent expulsion of an EU negotiator, the fear is that the exercise could be a harbinger of an even darker chapter in the relationship between Pristina and Belgrade. To make matters worse, back in January, an influential Kosovo-Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, was killed in a drive-by shooting by unknown assailants in Mitrovica, the first assassination of a Serbian politician in over a decade. Vucic immediately called an emergency session of the National Security Council and declared the assassination to be an act of terrorism. The Ivanovic assassination highlights the recent progression of tensions between Serbia and Kosovo. Reuters further explained that Vucic and his top Army commander, Gen. Ljubisa Dikovic, were quick to dismiss any notions that Thursday’s training exercise was posturing towards Kosovo, stating emphatically that Synergy 2018 had long been on the military calendar for the 2018 year. Defense analysts have a tendency to grant too much importance to military drills and large-scale exercises. In recent memory, Western officials like Germany’s Van der Leyen sounded the alarm about Zapad 2017, the joint exercise of Russia and Belarus, to practice defending against a NATO-like adversary. But in the former Yugoslavia, particularly between Pristina and Belgrade, these alarms may not be entirely unfounded, as things are going from bad to worse. Since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2006, Serbia has adopted a policy of formal neutrality. While members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, Serbia has held ambitions of joining the larger European and International communities in the form of European Union membership. However, with the failures of Brussels over the last few years, regarding the refugee crisis, debt crisis, etc. many Serbs have begun to question if they will ever be allowed in to the elite club of European nations, or if they even want to be in that club. While the Serbs retreat from Brussels, they fall into closer orbit with the Russian Federation, with whom they already share a set of commonalities: a largely orthodox population, Slavic heritage, and a coming to grips with the collapse of their former nation and loss of much of what was once their territory. Russia, seems a much more kindred spirit and is likely more attractive to the population, particularly considering the air-campaign launched by NATO against Serbia. A recent example of this alignment with the Kremlin when following the unrest in Kosovo, Vucic is reported to have called Moscow for advice. Kosovo on the other hand, has firmly retreated into the arms of the Alliance, and must rely on the political and military institutions of the Transatlantic system for their ambitions of statehood and regional peace. But Kosovo interrupted that peace, when their police force was mobilized against Serbs in their territory and detained a Serbian official. These disruptions could be a spark that starts a much larger fire. In such a once hot area, the fear is that this old flashpoint in the Balkans is brewing back up. What has changed in the equation this time is a Russian nation deeply at odds with the West and as seen in the recent Montenegrin elections has a willingness to intervene in the Balkans, and to exert their influence. Russia’s dangerous and reckless behavior could embolden the Serbians to react to one of Kosovo’s provocations, and considering the presence of Alliance soldiers in region, the West could quickly be drawn in to another conflict it does not want in the former Yugoslavia. Time will tell but an exercise of this nature, just days after Kosovo used force against Serbs, is a clear signal to Pristina, whether intended to be or not. Thus, the hope is that this rapidly escalating situation was just an inconvenience of scheduling and not the signs of a coming proxy war in Europe, which would rapidly involve outside forces. Rather than panic over a denigrating situation, defense analysts should see the progression as a controlled escalation through a symbolic powerplay, and not as an omen of impending doom.
Michael R. G. Lyons is a DC based researcher, who has focused on Security issues in Europe and the Middle East.