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Belgrade Media Report 09 May 2018

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 9 May 2018

• Russian, Serb, Israeli leaders take part in Moscow ceremony (Tanjug/B92)
• Vucic: There is no solution for Kosovo without Russia (RTS/Tanjug/Novosti/Politika)
• Dacic: Serbia’s position stronger with Russia and China (TV Prva/B92)
• Dacic: Three firm votes in favor of our territorial integrity (Beta)
• Kuburovic: Serbian MPs not protected from prosecution by UN tribunal (Beta)
• Serbian police turn back Kosovo athletes (Beta)
• Nikodijevic re-elected Chairperson of the Belgrade Assembly (RTS/RTV/Tanjug)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• HR Inzko presents 53rd report to UN SC (TV1)
• Ivanic: Election law main topic of talks with Merkel (Srna)
• Covic comments upcoming meeting of B&H Presidency members with Merkel (Dnevni avaz)
• Wigemark: Amendments to Election Law are internal matter of B&H (TV1)
• Radmanovic: Talks about amendments to Election Law should have been held with Serbs (TV1)
• RS government: Bosniaks want to keep possibility of electing Croat representatives (RTRS)
• Mostar again without local elections (BHT1)
• Mektic: More than 50,000 migrants moving towards B&H; Dodik: Migrants, who are found on the RS’ territory to be transported to the Federation of B&H (Hayat)
• Survey among B&H politicians shows many think blockade of election results is possible (Oslobodjenje)
• Rumors about early parliamentary elections getting louder (Jutarnji list)
• Euroscepticism in Croatia growing stronger (Jutarnji list)
• Ex-Serb paramilitary arrested for war crimes in Croatia (Hina)
• EU gives 35 million to prepare Montenegro for membership (MINA)
• Cardin: Greece should be decisive factor for resolving open issue with Macedonia (MIA)
• Shcherbak: Russia wants good relations with Macedonia (MIA)
• Government launches preparations for second stage of SAA (MIA)
• Xhaferi meets Georgian parliament delegation (MIA)
• DP, criminal charges against Rama, Nikolla and Manastirliu (ADN)


• Meeting with President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic (The Kremlin)
• Investigative journalist shot and injured in Montenegro (The Guardian)

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Russian, Serb, Israeli leaders take part in Moscow ceremony (Tanjug/B92)


Serbian and Russian Presidents Aleksandar Vucic and Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow. The three leaders previously attended the Victory Day military parade in the Russian capital, organized every year on 9 May to mark victory over fascism in the Second World War. The ceremony at the Kremlin Wall included the sounding of the national anthems of the three nations. Putin, Vucic, and Netanyahu also placed flowers at the memorials dedicated to Russia’s Hero Cities. They will also attend a reception at the Grand Kremlin Palace later in the day.
Speaking to reporters earlier, Vucic said Putin had invited him to take part in the Immortal Regiment march in Moscow on Wednesday – an event that gathers hundreds of thousands of people who carry portraits of their family members who fought in the Great Patriotic War.
Vucic said he would participate and carry a photograph of his grandfather Andjelko Vucic, who was killed by the Ustashas – members of the regime of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a WW2-era fascist entity. “My parents found a photograph of my late grandfather who was killed by the Ustashas, so I will walk beside President Putin to show that we want to preserve the memory of those killed by fascism in those difficult times, and with the desire that those times never repeat,” Vucic stressed. Putin will this year once again carry a photograph of his father.


Vucic: There is no solution for Kosovo without Russia (RTS/Tanjug/Novosti/Politika)


Russia will unequivocally and clearly present its standpoints on Kosovo, and without its agreement it is impossible to find a solution for this issue, said the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Moscow following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Without Russia, without the agreement of Moscow it is impossible to arrive at any kind of solution. Russia will in that sense carefully follow the contents of our talks and everything that goes on and will timely react and in a certain way which does not mean direct negotiations, since we are leading them under the EU auspices. But it will, in a very active and essential manner, participate

in the following of the complete process and the relations of Belgrade and Pristina. Particularly the influence of the international factor on that issue,” Vucic told reporters of Serbian media following talks with Putin which were led behind closed doors. “The Russian President had the patience to listen to everything I felt the need to say, explain and present as Serbia’s standpoints on our key problem, and that is Kosovo. It seems to me that we had never before had a longer discussion on the relations between Belgrade and Pristina and the relations within the international community. Our standpoints coincide on many levels,” Vucic said. “I have reiterated several times that Serbia is ready for a compromise with the Kosovo Albanians, but that it was not and never would be prepared to accept its own humiliation and debasement, the complete toppling of international law. We did not appear here in a manner to threat anyone. We asked Putin to, as one of the most important and most powerful global powers in the UN and other organizations, help us in the matter of the resolving of the Kosovo issue,” he said.

He says that we know that compromise is what we want, but he voiced his personal skepticism, hoping, that we will finish things, because the Albanians are not ready for essential compromises, and that those who took part in the illegal offering of support to the so-called independence of Kosovo are even less ready. “I think that we understood each other with President Putin on this,” said Vucic.


Dacic: Serbia’s position stronger with Russia and China (TV Prva/B92)


With the support of Russia and China, Serbia’s position, when it comes to Kosovo, is now much stronger, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told TV Prva. Asked to comment the visit of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Moscow, Dacic says this visit is very important for Serbia. “It is important that Russia, as a country that has a friendly stand towards Serbia and protection of our interests, in this case protection of territorial integrity and sovereignty, is not changing its position and that it has an active role,” he says. According to him, regardless of all efforts of the EU, under whose auspices the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is taking place, the United Nations are the ones that are verifying whether some state has international legal status or not. “That is why we see as important the support of Russia and China that are the permanent members of the UN Security Council, because this is how we are blocking the possibility of declaring Kosovo as an independent state in the UN,” explains Dacic. According to him, Serbia wants compromise and agreement, but it doesn’t want to accept unilateral solutions, the way Pristina thinks the matter is resolved, together with Western friends and thinks that we only need to recognize them. “With this stand of Russia, our position is stronger,” concluded Dacic.


Dacic: Three firm votes in favor of our territorial integrity (Beta)


The most important message after visiting India, Nepal and Sri Lanka is that Serbia has three firm votes in favor of its territorial integrity and sovereignty, Minister Dacic said at the end of his tour of the three countries. “These visits are of great importance as they happened many years after the previous high-level meetings. When it comes to Sri Lanka after 21 years, when it comes to India, after 10 years, and with Nepal after seven years,” Dacic said. He said that all the discussions were “very positive” and that his interlocutors pointed out they would not change their position on Kosovo, the Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday. “Politically speaking, these were very successful visits. In the past, Serbia has not used sufficiently the positive heritage from the past, and left it to the other side to work with our friends, because we were not in regular communication and we did not inform them about what is happening,” he said. Economic relations could be better, Dacic continued, adding that it was very important to organize business conferences, as well as to work on connecting the chambers of commerce. According to the minister, the plan is to continue talking with all friendly countries in order for them to maintain their position towards the territorial integrity of Serbia, while work will also continue with those countries which Belgrade expects to withdraw their recognitions of Kosovo.


Kuburovic: Serbian MPs not protected from prosecution by UN tribunal (Beta)


Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic says that a seat in parliament does not guarantee immunity from prosecution before The Hague Tribunal, Beta reported on Tuesday. Kuburovic said on 3 May in a letter to the UN war crimes tribunal that the fact that Serbian Radical Party (SRS) MPs Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta would not be granted immunity if the tribunal handed their trial over to the Serbian judiciary. She added that Jojic and Radeta are willing to face a court in Serbia.  Tribunal prosecutor Dianna Ellis said earlier that the case should not be handed to the Serbian judiciary because the two SRS MPs would enjoy freedom from prosecution but Kuburovic denied that saying that MPs do not enjoy immunity if they are being brought to trial for crimes which bring a prison sentence.  The Serbian authorities have expressed readiness to bring Jojic and Radeta to trial. They have been indicted by the UN tribunal for threatening, blackmailing and bribing witnesses in the trial of their party leader Vojislav Seselj. The Serbian authorities refused to extradite them claiming that there was no obligation to cooperate with The Hague Tribunal in cases which were not about war crimes. The case has been passed on to the successor court, the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.


Serbian police turn back Kosovo athletes (Beta)


A Kosovo Karate Federation team was not allowed into Serbia on their way to the European championships in Novi Sad. The team and Federation officials were stopped by the Serbian police at the Merdare crossing and told that the Interior Ministry had banned them from entering Serbia. Athletes from Kosovo will not take part in the European Karate Championships in Novi Sad because they failed to abide by an earlier agreement, the Office for Kosovo and Metophija said in a statement on Wednesday. It added that the Kosovo team tried to cross into Serbia proper in two groups and were denied entry both with symbols of the state of Kosovo “despite the precise statement by organizers that the Kosovo athletes would participate and be represented in an exclusively status neutral manner”.  The Office for Kosovo said the agreement on official visits between Belgrade and Pristina was implemented, preventing the attempt to turn the karate competition into a political arena. The statement said request for the karate team to enter Serbia was not submitted on time.


Nikodijevic re-elected Chairperson of the Belgrade Assembly (RTS/RTV/Tanjug)


Nikola Nikodijevic was re-elected today the Chairperson of the Belgrade City Assembly, with 66 councilors voting for him. Nikodijevic said that Belgrade will get a new mayor in the legal deadline of 30 days.  “Belgrade is functioning normally and all existing authorities in the city, from the mayor, deputies and members of the City Assembly, continue to perform their job until the election of new executive authorities,” said Nikodijevic.

The councilors of Dragan Djilas and Vuk Jeremic in the City Assembly will have a joint councilor group that will called “Union for Serbia”. The Chair of this group will be Dragan Djilas, and his deputy with the vice president of the People’s Party Nikola Jovanovic, they told journalists. Their council group will have 18 councilors.

The councilors of the Movement of Free Citizens of Sasa Jankovic will have their own councilor group, and the Chairperson will be Rade Veljanovski.




HR Inzko presents 53rd report to UN SC (TV1)


High Representative Valentin Inzko presented his 53rd regular report on peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) to the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday. HR Inzko stressed the importance of engagement of the EU and the US to help the politicians in B&H reach a solution for implementation of the B&H Constitutional Court’s decision in the ‘Ljubic’ case. “While the institutions and political leaders in B&H have managed to deliver incremental progress in the Euro-Atlantic integration processes, the last six months have also seen a notable deterioration in terms rhetoric and respect for the rule of law within the country,” reads the report. “Crucial issues related to amendments to the Election Law and the Law on Criminal Procedure have remained unresolved, as many parties in authority are focused on consolidating power and playing to their respective voting bases ahead of the electoral campaign season. In its (Interim) Report on B&H, the European Commission (EC) similarly noted that tensions between parties had slowed the pace of reform,” HR Inzko warned. He further wrote that another cause for concern has been the continuation and escalation of divisive and destabilizing rhetoric from political leaders on all sides. For example, Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik has continued to deny the statehood of B&H and advocate secession of the entity, according to the report. “Public comments were also made glorifying convicted war criminals and calling for the return of RS army. Croat member of the B&H Presidency Dragan Covic has mused about the further division of the country, while other Croat politicians have threatened with division of the country if the issue of the Election Law is not resolved to their satisfaction,” HR Inzko said. He also reminded that SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic threatened with war in case of creation of a third entity and that SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic made statements on weapons production in the Federation of B&H. The report also reads: “At the state and the Federation of B&H levels, the opposing views of SDA and HDZ B&H over necessary amendments to the Election Law of B&H continue to damage relations between them. Meanwhile, fellow partner SBB B&H has threatened to leave the ruling coalition at both levels and increasingly votes with the opposition.” HR Inzko also warned that the RS continues to reject the B&H Constitutional Court’s decisions concerning registration of defense property and celebration of the “RS Day” on 9 January. “Authorities have persistently failed to implement the European Court of Human Rights’ rulings in the ‘Sejdic and Finci’ and related cases, leaving in place discrimination against the rights of certain persons,” reads the report. In conclusion, HR Inzko was quoted as saying that ethnic divisions and war rhetoric cannot contribute to a good and secure environment or lead to the EU, adding that the situation in B&H requires permanent attention. US representative in UN SC Amy Tachco said the US shares many concerns voiced by the High Representative, in regards with possible dissolution of B&H and war. Representative of B&H in UN SC Milos Vukasinovic said that B&H remains committed to peace. Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia reacted to Inzko’s report, and said that it is not balanced and based on true information. Nebenzia stressed that the RS has showed that it cooperates and fulfills all demands of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Nebenzia criticized HR Inzko due to as he said, very late publishing of the report, just ahead of the session of the UN SC, calling the report biased and anti-Serb. According to Nebenzia, the report is based on claims that were not previously checked. Nebenzia said: “It is difficult to understand concern due to renewal of weapons in the RS Police although this was carried out totally in line with the laws, without mentioning the same process in the Federation of B&H. We are surprised that the pilgrimage of the multi-national motto-club is mentioned, as the organization that regularly announces its trips to security agencies”. Nebenzia also criticized Inzko due to the approach “more Brussels, less Dayton”.


Ivanic: Election law main topic of talks with Merkel (Srna)


The member of the B&H Presidency from Republika Srpska (RS) Mladen Ivanic told Srna he expects that the main topic of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday will be the B&H Election Law because the issue will lead to instability if it remains open. “I hope that Germany will help with its authority the partners in the Federation of B&H to find a solution to the Election Law that is acceptable to everyone,” said Ivanic. He said he was not expecting any talks about RS in Berlin. “There will also be talk of the regional developments. One should use the positive momentum in the relations with Serbia in order to try and resolve the border issue” emphasized Ivanic. Members of the B&H Presidency Mladen Ivanic, Dragan Covic and Bakir Izetbegovic will travel to Berlin on Wednesday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Presidency said. The meeting, organized at Merkel’s invitation, will take place at 7.00 p.m. in the Chancellor’s office. Press statements are scheduled before the meeting.


Covic comments upcoming meeting of B&H Presidency members with Merkel (Dnevni avaz)


B&H Presidency member and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic commented on the upcoming meeting of B&H Presidency members with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and said that it is good that Germany is again showing interest for B&H at this highest level of communication and he noted that they will discuss political and security situation in B&H and region but also the failure to change the Law on Elections of B&H and crisis that might emerge after the elections. Covic noted that the possibility to change the Law on Elections of B&H ceased to exist because of the fact B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) on Tuesday called the elections and he added that not even talks with Merkel can change this fact. “There is still time for talks, for relaxing of relations and better understanding, but I think there is no more time for changes to this law”, Covic noted. He did not want to comment on latest talks on changes to the Law on Elections of B&H organized by representatives of USA and EU in B&H because he did not want to “depreciate efforts of ambassadors of USA and EU who invested efforts so that we can reach some kind of solution”. “I am sorry colleagues from other parties failed to understand the need to try to accept the one principle everyone agreed with, i.e. that one people should not elect representatives of other peoples”, Covic said and he added that he does not mind experts of HDZ B&H and Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) to discuss changes to the Law on Elections of B&H with experts of the Venice Commission and announced that he will present the same stance at the meeting with Merkel as well. Covic assessed that a part of the meeting with Merkel will be dedicated to relations among members of B&H Presidency, which were much better in past. Covic assessed that, in this context, the discussion with Merkel will certainly be “a bit unpleasant”.


Wigemark: Amendments to Election Law are internal matter of B&H (TV1)


Addressing a press conference in Banja Luka on Tuesday, Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark commented on the issue of amendments to the Election Law of B&H by saying that this is an internal matter of B&H. He added that the remaining issues, which refer to implementation of election results, are yet to be resolved. “We expect from all participants in this process to show their readiness to reach a compromise, instead of repeating the well-known views that do not lead anywhere. It is necessary to make some progress and a step forward now, in the context of the upcoming summit in Sofia, as well as in the upcoming weeks and months, which concerns the EU integration process in general – and not only the Election Law,” Wigemark was quoted as saying.


Radmanovic: Talks about amendments to Election Law should have been held with Serbs (TV1)


SNSD delegate in the B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and SNSD Vice President Nebojsa Radmanovic stated on Tuesday that the talks about amendments to the Election Law of B&H have actually shown a “wrong approach”. He explained that the meetings have been held without representatives of the Serb people. “SNSD has always been saying that Serbs are equal people in the Federation of B&H too, as much as it also pays attention to all constituent peoples and others here in Republika Srpska. Once again, we are expressing dissatisfaction over the fact that discussions on amendments to the Election Law have been held without representatives of Serbs. It is even worse that ambassadors of the European Commission and the US accepted such way of talking about filling the seats in the Federation of B&H HoP and B&H HoP without Serbs. That is unacceptable,” Radmanovic said.


RS government: Bosniaks want to keep possibility of electing Croat representatives (RTRS)


In the report sent to UN Security Council, the RS government warned that refusal of Bosniaks to implement decisions of B&H Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights, because they want to keep the possibility of electing Croat representatives, is a serious risk for free and fair elections. The report reads that the most outrageous example is election of Zeljko Komsic as a representative of Croat people in B&H Presidency from 2006 to 2014, which enabled Bosniaks to have two members of B&H Presidency. “The RS has much better results from the Federation of B&H when it comes to implementation of decisions of B&H Constitutional Court. B&H Constitutional Court deems that the RS implemented the earlier decision of the court by adoption of the Law on RS Day. Remaining eight unimplemented decisions are related to the Federation of B&H and B&H,” the report reads. RS Government’s report further reads that due to stubborn stance of SDA, the ‘Sejdic-Finci’ decision was not implemented for more than eight years. The report stressed that implementation of decisions of B&H Constitutional Court is important for functioning of the Federation of B&H and B&H, while SDA and other Bosniak parties refuse amending the Election Law and deny discussing any law that would disable Bosniak domination in the Federation of B&H.


Mostar again without local elections (BHT1)


The B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) called on Tuesday the 2018 general elections in B&H for 7 October, Mostar is again exception in this story since parliamentary parties in Mostar have failed to date to reach an agreement on amending of the Election Law of B&H or to find a solution on how to return the voting right to Mostar citizens after 10-year election blockade. The agreement on amending of five articles of the Mostar City Statute has stalled negotiations on local elections in Mostar. Commenting on the issue, President of the SDA City Board in Mostar Salem Maric said he truly hopes that local elections will be held in Mostar this year, noting that SDA expects engagement of the international community and the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and their help in implementation of solutions that are yet to be reached by political parties. President of the HDZ B&H City Board in Mostar Damir Dzeba commented that talks on the statute should take place in the Mostar City Council, where newly-elected councilors will discuss amending of the statute – in line with constitutional rules and equal representation.

Representatives of SDP and SBB B&H City Boards in Mostar stated that the situation regarding amending of the Mostar City Statute reflects the political situation in Mostar over the past decade, adding that they are not optimistic when it comes to holding of the local elections in Mostar this year. President of the SDP City Board in Mostar Edin Zagorcic assessed that Mostar citizens are hostages of unrealized wishes of HDZ B&H and SDA regarding the solution to the local elections in Mostar. President of the SBB B&H City Board in Mostar Anel Kljako stressed that SBB B&H is afraid that SDA and HDZ B&H have a secret deal when it comes to amending of the Mostar City Statute, concluding that destructive policies conducted by these two parties in the past decade in Mostar affect citizens the most. Next meeting of parliamentary parties on this issue will be held in Mostar on 10 May.


Mektic: More than 50,000 migrants moving towards B&H; Dodik: Migrants, who are found on the RS’ territory to be transported to the Federation of B&H (Hayat)


B&H Minister of Security Dragan Mektic stated on Tuesday that more than 50,000 migrants are moving towards B&H and concluded that all countries on this route should engage in dealing with this issue. Mektic assessed that it is a serious issue and a route to B&H involves migrants passing through Turkey, Greece, Albania, and Montenegro. Mektic announced that a plan of urgent measures on dealing with this issue will be prepared by the end of the week, with the priority set on finding accommodation for migrants. The 2015 Plan of Urgent Measures stipulates that B&H Defense Ministry should provide a list of military property locations which can be used as housing for the migrants. Yet, the RS government finds it unacceptable that state institutions should suggest the former barracks ‘Zaluzani’ in Banja Luka and ‘Neretva’ in Kalinovik, which are the property of the RS Government and Kalinovik Municipality, to be used for these purposes. On the other hand, the Sarajevo Canton and City authorities will request that B&H Presidency provides barracks for the housing of migrants, as soon as possible. RS President Milorad Dodik believes that it is unacceptable that B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) or any other joint, B&H institution proposes or passes a decision on accommodation of migrants on the territory of the RS. He added: “We shall not allow that migrants are accommodated in Zaluzani in Banja Luka, near Kalinovik or in any other place or facility in the RS. None can pass a decision regarding this one our behalf”. He stressed that he will demand from the RS Government and RS Ministry of Interior to transport all migrants, who are found on the RS’ territory to the Federation of B&H, where migrants have been received so far.


Survey among B&H politicians shows many think blockade of election results is possible (Oslobodjenje)


The daily carried out a survey among domestic politicians and asked them what kind of election results they expect and also asked them if they think whether blockade of implementation of election results might be possible. Dragan Mektic (SDS) said that he expects preconditions for fair elections to be created otherwise citizens will be betrayed and their stance will be made pointless. Mektic noted that he hopes citizens will recognize SDS’ new names as new hope for future of Republika Srpska (RS) so that SDS will come in position to establish authorities.

Safet Softic (SDA) said he expects election victory of SDA and he said that blockade of implementation of election results is possible. Softic blamed HDZ B&H and its leader Dragan Covic for this situation because they presented extremely rigid stance.

Senad Sepic (Independent Bloc) said he expects the Independent Bloc to win and added that Covic “and other politicians of the past” will continue with blockades after the elections. However, Sepic said he thinks “good results of new politics and our friends in B&H and abroad” will prevent blockades and abuse.

Sasa Magazinovic (SDP) said that B&H will face great changes after the elections and he noted that he feels optimistic about granting the status of candidate for EU member to B&H after the elections. Magazinovic added that there will be attempts to create blockades but in the end he does not expect those attempts will be successful.

Borjana Kristo (HDZ B&H) warned that there are no provisions which stipulate how many delegates in the Federation of B&H House of Peoples should be elected from cantonal assemblies and added that elections can be held, but election results will not be implemented.

Dzenan Djonlagic (DF) said that he expects DF’s Zeljko Komsic to be elected as Croat member of B&H Presidency and he added that any blockades will be illegal and unconstitutional.

Momcilo Novakovic (NDP) said that NDP expects to remain parliamentary party, both at the level of B&H and at the level of the RS. Novakovic reminded that, technically, it is possible to change election rules until the end of the campaign but noted that this is not the practice in democratic countries.

Adisa Omerbegovic-Arapovic (SBB B&H) said she expects fair and honest elections without election thefts and added it would be the best to adopt new rules or technologies when it comes to counting of votes.

Elmedin Konakovic (‘Narod i pravda’) said that this political party expects to win in the Sarajevo Canton and he announced creation of coalitions with other political parties in the Federation of B&H.

Dusanka Majkic (SNSD) said that SNSD expects good results but she said that she does not know if it will be possible to implement election results at two levels, i.e. Federation of B&H and B&H Parliaments.

Nihad Colpa (Gradjanski savez) said that Covic’s interpretations of B&H Constitutional Court’s decisions prove that he was cornered and he assessed there is a possibility of violence and blockades after the elections.


Rumors about early parliamentary elections getting louder (Jutarnji list)


There are a lot of indications that the prime minister is getting ready to go to the polls. Will Croatia go to early parliamentary elections this autumn is the central political question these days, but no one knows the answer for sure. One thing is certain: the rumor that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is thinking about having elections in September has not been leaked to the media for no reason. Perhaps this is just a warning to dissatisfied HDZ MPs who have refused to support the government and vote for the Istanbul Convention ratification, a way to let them know that they should not distance themselves from the party leadership since otherwise they will never be nominated as party candidates again. Still, it seems much more likely that Plenkovic is actually considering calling the election since much of what he has been doing recently looks a lot like an election campaign. Over the past months, local projects worth billions have been signed throughout Croatia.  On the other hand, HDZ is not looking particularly good in the latest opinion polls. According to Crobarometer, HDZ has the support of 27.6 percent of voters, which is almost two percentage points worse than in March. This is also the lowest support for the party since the last parliamentary elections. According to the Cro Demoskop survey, HDZ is at 26.4 percent, which is also the worst result since the elections. SDP is at 20.7 percent, and Zivi Zid at 12.7 percent of support. Still, in the last 20 years, HDZ has often achieved better results at elections than forecast by the polls. Also, the existing electoral system favors the leading party, which is HDZ in most constituencies. Everything, therefore, depends on Plenkovic’s assessment whether it is better to depend on a thin majority in parliament for another two years, whether he is willing to risk a possible breakdown in Agrokor and whether he wants to wait for new far-right attacks against him. Another two years of constant pressures would dramatically hamper the launch of reforms demanded by the European Commission. Plenkovic could find himself in the position of Zoran Milanovic, but SDP at least was able to count on a considerable majority in the parliament, while HDZ now depends on indicted MP Tomislav Saucha and a few independent MPs who are not very trustworthy. Also, it is expected that 2019 will bring slower economic growth, so the ruling coalition would enter the regular election year with the stigma of economic decline. While most of the media like to present Plenkovic as an indecisive politician, believing that he will not dare bring down the government, perhaps the actual truth is different. He was decisive when he broke a coalition with MOST and defended Finance Minister Zdravko Maric. Also, despite fierce attacks from conservative and clerical circles, he did not waiver in the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. These examples show that Plenkovic can make a decision when faced with severe risks, despite his public image. In any case, the decision is in his hands. There is a risk in calling the elections, but at this point, it is not clear why it would be worthwhile for Plenkovic to wait for another two years since no one can know what will Croatia look like at that time.


Euroscepticism in Croatia growing stronger (Jutarnji list)


More and more people are disappointed with the results of Croatia’s accession to the European Union. EU membership has been the primary political goal for most Croats for years, and all Croatian governments – led by both HDZ and SDP – have worked intensively on its realization. But today, roughly five years after becoming part of the EU, Croatia is facing the opposite trend – Euroscepticism is growing stronger. This is demonstrated by public opinion polls and the rise of those political parties and movements which focus on opposition to the EU and NATO membership. The latest is Zivi Zid, which is now the third most popular party in the country and is quite open about demanding Croatia’s exit from the EU and NATO. The latest survey, published in November, showed that Croats are slowly turning their backs to the European Union. Indeed, Croatia is one of EU members with the stronger increase in anti-EU sentiment over the past year. In the fall of 2017, the EU was seen positively by just 31 percent of respondents in Croatia, considerably less than the EU average which stood at 40 percent. On the other hand, 18 percent of respondents saw the EU negatively. That is somewhat lower than the EU-wide average, which is 21 percent, but still shows the strengthening of Euroscepticism in Croatia less than five years after accession. The share of “neutral” respondents, which stood at 50 percent, was the highest in the EU with the exception of Latvia. This means that half of all Croats are not sure whether EU membership is a good or bad thing for the country. “It is evident there has been a rise in Euroscepticism in Croatia. However, we have two opposite trends: while Euroscepticism is rising, on the other hand, many Croats are emigrating to other EU member states, and the emigrants also include Eurosceptics,” notes Zeljko Lovrincevic from the Zagreb Institute of Economics. “Populist parties want to attract Eurosceptic because they realize that citizens cannot follow complex policies led by the EU. Supporting such movements is also perceived by citizens as a challenge to the prevailing political views,” says Ivan Rimac, a university professor and a political analyst. He adds that Brexit has also caused the growth in Euroscepticism in Croatia and other member states. Eurosceptic messages, which used to be heard on the political margins, have now moved into the political arena, through Zivi Zid and far-right political parties. Euroscepticism was present during the pre-accession phase as well, mostly linked to the issue of cooperation with The Hague war crimes tribunal and the problem of co-operation between Croatia and countries in the Western Balkan region. However, these issues have been more or less resolved before Croatia joined the EU. “I think this is more about a disappointment of many people. Expectations from membership were large, but they have not been realized. This is also seen in political relations: Croatia has disputes with almost all its neighbors, and it was expected that EU membership would strengthen our negotiating position. Now, however, it is clear that this has not happened,” says Lovrincevic, adding that people should not blame the EU for Croatia’s own failures. Corruption, nepotism and non-compliance with rules are just some of the problems which hinder Croatian society and have nothing to do with Brussels. “We wanted to become something which we are not overnight, and now we have to face our weaknesses. But, instead of looking for causes in our own backyard, we are looking for them elsewhere, and the result is growing opposition to the EU. Similar processes will take place in other countries of Southeast Europe: after they join the European Union, they will get their own Zivi Zid’s,” says Lovrincevic. Another question is what would Croatia really get by leaving the European Union, especially when its neighboring countries are already members of the Union or want to become one. “Such ideas are not very productive for Croatia’s development,” says Rimac. Lovrincevic says that leaving the European Union, in the case of both Croatia and other continental members, is just a hypothetical question. The realization of such a scenario would bring enormous costs. “That would mean shifting the whole social matrix. The costs of leaving the European Union would undoubtedly be great,” concludes Lovrincevic.

Simply put, it would be an adventure with enormous consequences, both for the lives of citizens and the state as a whole.


Ex-Serb paramilitary arrested for war crimes in Croatia (Hina)


Stevan Budac, accused of war crimes committed in Croatia in the 1990s, was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant in Romania on 5 May, Osijek County Court, which issued the warrant, said on Tuesday. Budac was indicted by the Osijek County Prosecutor’s Office on 18 December 1996. On 21 March 2002, after being tried in absentia, he was found guilty of war crimes against civilians in the Baranja region and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment pending appeal.

After the attorneys representing Budac and the other defendants in the case appealed, Croatia’s Supreme Court quashed the verdict on 19 January 2006 and ordered a retrial. The 51-year-old Budac is accused of participating in the abuse, expulsion and intimidation of Croats and Hungarians in the village of Batina from the summer of 1991 to the autumn of 1995. At the time, he was a Serb paramilitary.


EU gives 35 million to prepare Montenegro for membership (MINA)


The EU annually gives an approximate 35 million Euros of assistance to Montenegro in order to help her along the path of accession, the Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Mr. Aivo Orav, said in Niksic. He explained the EU wants Montenegro to be the perfect candidate when it becomes a member state, which is realized through economic and democratic reforms, especially in the field of ecology, media freedom and the fight against corruption. The EU delegation went to Niksic not only to check on the progress but also to announce the marking of Europe Day, 9 May. “We have very good cooperation with Niksic as we provide them with financial assistance through EU funds for projects, the most important of which is the construction of the airport in Kapino Polje, the reconstruction and expansion of the sewage network, assistance in the field of agriculture, as well as the support to small and medium-sized enterprises,” Mr. Orav said before he was saluted by Mayor Veselin Grbovic who expressed his satisfaction with both EU funds and the visit.


Cardin: Greece should be decisive factor for resolving open issue with Macedonia (MIA)


Greece should not support destabilization trends in the region but be a decisive factor for settling the open issue with Macedonia, US Senator Benjamin Cardin said late Monday at a debate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. Cardin said he wished for the Athens-Skopje name negotiations to yield result, MIA correspondent reports from Washington. ‘I’m aware that this is a challenge for both Macedonia and Greece. However, a settlement of the name issue would be rather beneficial for the region,’ Senator Cardin said.

The CSIS debate, dubbed ‘Four Years of Sanctions: Assessing the Impact on the Russian Economy and Foreign Policy’, also tackled the Western Balkans, namely the diplomatic attempts of official Moscow to prevent the countries of the region to join NATO.


Shcherbak: Russia wants good relations with Macedonia (MIA)


We sincerely want successful and constructive development of relations between Macedonia and the Russian Federation, in the spirit of cooperation, mutual understanding and equality. Russia makes efforts into being a good partner, while Macedonia’s stance is its sovereign right, said Russian Ambassador to Macedonia, Oleg Shcherbak on Tuesday. “Russia and Macedonia are two friendly states sharing historic and spiritual ties. We largely share the culture, even parts of the languages, as well as spiritual roots. We sincerely want successful and constructive development of relations between Macedonia and the Russian Federation, in the spirit of cooperation, mutual understanding and equality. Bilateral ties in international relations are very important, this is like a two-way street. As in tango, this requires two partners. Russia makes efforts into being a good partner, while Macedonia’s stance is its sovereign right,” Shcherbak told reporters at the sidelines of the observance of May 9-Victory Day. He labelled claims that Russia is meddling in the Balkans so that countries do not join NATO and in the Macedonia-Greece name issue as “propaganda lies”. Asked if the world is on the edge of a new cold war, the Ambassador said this is not initiated by Russia. “Russia is doing everything to reduce global tension and acts to stop this horrible anti-Russian propaganda spreading across the globe. We are doing everything to quash these attempts of starting a cold war,” said Shcherbak.


Government launches preparations for second stage of SAA (MIA)


The government endorsed Tuesday the Report on the preparations for the second stage of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between Macedonia and the EU, and charged Vice Premier for European Affairs Bujar Osmani with coordinating relevant institutions for the transfer to the next stage of SAA. The ministries and other state administration bodies are charged with drafting an analysis and providing the latest status of related provisions, which they should submit to the Secretariat for European Affairs by 11 May at the latest. The government’s decision comes after the Greek Liaison Office filed a verbal note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 February 2018, saying that Greece has no reserves over Macedonia’s transfer to the second stage of the SAA.


Xhaferi meets Georgian parliament delegation (MIA)


Macedonia’s speaker Talat Xhaferi had a meeting Tuesday with a delegation of Georgia’s Parliament, led by First Deputy Chairperson Tamar Chugoshvili. Macedonia and Georgia should work on developing of their relations and cooperation, Xhaferi told the guests. For the last several months Macedonia has become an example of establishing good neighborly relations, demonstrated by intensifying the (name) negotiations with Greece and ratifying the Friendship Treaty with Bulgaria, Xhaferi said. The Georgian delegation voiced readiness for establishing cooperation between the two parliaments, as well as on other levels and spheres, the Speaker’s Office said in a press release. The guests invited the Macedonian speaker to attend the Open Government Partnership Summit 2018, scheduled to take place in Tbilisi on 17-19 July.


DP, criminal charges against Rama, Nikolla and Manastirliu (ADN)


Democratic Party files on Tuesday criminal charges against the Minister of Education, Lindita Nikolla, Minister of Health, Ogerta Manastirliu and Prime Minister Edi Rama for duty abuses.

The democrat MPs, Albana Vokshi and Bardhi Spahia urged for the suspension from duty of premier and ministers for ordering the Albanian citizens to give their ID cards numbers.

“They abused with their position for electoral purpose. That’s why we submitted criminal charges against premier and his ministers. They will try to destroy the evidences for this crime,” said Vokshi.




Meeting with President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic (The Kremlin, 8 May 2018)


Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin with President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, who is in Moscow to take part in the celebrations of the 73rd anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. During the meeting the two presidents discussed the current state and future prospects of Russia-Serbia cooperation, as well as the implementation of joint investment projects. Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vucic also exchanged views on current regional issues.


President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, I am happy to see you in Moscow again.

The reason for our meeting this time is certainly important – both for Russia and Serbia. I am referring to the end of World War II or the Great Patriotic War, as it is called here. Naturally, there are glorious pages of history in the historical memory of our people when Serbia and Russia were fighting together against a common enemy. This year we will celebrate the 180th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our states. Our trade is growing – last year it increased 23 percent. I am very pleased that we have an opportunity to talk informally about the package items in our relations this evening.


President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic (retranslated): First of all, Mr President, I would like to thank you for this incredibly warm reception. I would like to congratulate you on your exceptional victory in the Russian presidential election and wish you every success in your work. On behalf of Serbian citizens, I would like to thank you for the support that you have always granted Serbia in times of trial. As you know, nothing is less enduring in international relations than gratitude, and I would like to thank you once again for what you did in 2015 when you literally saved the Serbian people, that have been one of the most suffering nation during the past century, from the stigma of genocide by vetoing the UN British resolution. I would like to assure you that the Serbian people will never forget what you have done. You have protected Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty many times. I would also like to say that I am very satisfied with the growth of our trade. In the first three months of this year it has already increased by 10 percent compared to the corresponding period of 2017. Serbia will preserve its independence. Serbia will preserve its military neutrality and is not going to become a member of NATO or any other military alliance. In concluding my introduction, I would like to say that Serbia has demonstrated that it is a reliable partner to the Russian Federation. Serbia has never acted against the interests of your country when Russia was going through hard times. Thank you for the warm reception once again. I would like to express hope that we will further promote our cooperation and improve it in all areas.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.


Investigative journalist shot and injured in Montenegro (The Guardian, 8 May 2018)

Olivera Lakić wounded outside her home in the country’s second attack on a journalist in a month

An investigative reporter who covers crime and corruption in Montenegro has been shot and injured in an attack that prompted calls from the European Union and the US to protect journalists in the Balkan country. Olivera Lakić, a journalist for the Montenegrin newspaper Vijesti, was wounded in the right leg outside her home in the capital, Podgorica. She was taken to a hospital and was reported out of danger. Police said the attack happened around 9pm. A search for the attackers was underway, including increased controls throughout the city and a review of surveillance cameras in the area, police said. Vijesti’s chief editor, Mihailo Jovović, said Lakić told him a man approached her and shot her, while two other men ran away.

She was attacked six years ago after she wrote a series of articles about alleged murky dealings over a tobacco factory. That perpetrator was jailed for several months and Lakić had police protection for a while. “I am speechless,” Jovović said in comments published on the Vijesti website. “For how much longer will this be happening? A lot of stories she wrote have not been investigated [by the authorities]. For how much longer must we live in fear of such cowards?”

Prime minister Duško Marković condemned the attack and urged a “swift and efficient investigation” to discover the motive as well as who might have ordered it. The assault, the second against a journalist in a month, prompted international concern. Last month a bomb exploded near the home of a prominent journalist in the northern town of Bijelo Polje.

The US embassy in Podgorica tweeted that it was “following with concern the attack tonight on journalist Olivera Lakić.” It said journalists “are the guardians of democracy and must be protected so they can do their jobs in safety”. Aivo Orav, head of the EU delegation in Montenegro, called the attack “very worrying.” In the tweet, Orav said that “journalists must be protected.” Montenegro is a former Yugoslav republic that joined Nato last year and is now also seeking EU membership. The long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists has faced accusations of widespread crime and corruption. The EU, which Montenegro hopes to join by 2025, along with international human rights and media organisations have been insisting that the authorities solve a string of attacks against journalists and media organisations. Many of the dozen or so assaults in the last 15 years, including the 2004 murder of editor Duško Jovanović, remain unresolved.



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