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Belgrade Media Report 22 May

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• Vucic: No change of policy (Beta/RTS/Tanjug)
• Dacic: No trade with EU over deadlines (RTS)
• Brnabic: Multiple importance of construction of Nis-Sofia gas pipeline (Novosti)
• Joksimovic, senators from France on European integration of Serbia (Beta)
• Parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija adopted report on the work of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija (RTS)
• Stefanovic: No foreign drones over Belgrade (Beta)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• One should not allow meddling in B&H’s internal matters (Srna)
• Venice Commission experts with representatives of B&H parties (Dnevni avaz)
• Lives of “little stars” embedded in foundations of RS (Srna)
• Increase in number of anti-Serb incidents in Croatia recorded (Hina)
• Markovic: We can defend our national interests (Pobjeda)
• Djukanovic: Fighting for independence was worth it (Pink M)
• Zaev: Republic of Ilinden Macedonia name proposal still in play (MIA)
• Dimitrov: No other more appropriate proposal than Republic of Ilinden Macedonia (MIA)
• Tzanakopoulos: We welcome acceptance of erga omnes, but best solution is choosing one of the names proposed by UN mediator (MIA)
• Court acquits Zaev in Bribe case (MIA)

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Vucic: No change of policy (Beta/RTS/Tanjug)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said his country was firmly on the EU path with a full respect of Russia and China and that Belgrade would not change its policy according to a wish of any politician. Referring to an exchange of statements following the words of Sem Fabrizi, the Head of the EU delegation to Serbia, that Kosovo was the main condition for Belgrade’s EU membership, Vucic said there would not be any change in Belgrade’s foreign policy. “There is no fear that Serbia will change its foreign policy. Who wants to change the course has first to change me and the majority in the parliament, he said, speaking to Serbia’s media in Baku where he is on a two-day state visit. Vucic said he saw nothing disputable in Fabrizi’s statement. “Whether we like it or not… but we knew that the Kosovo problem is the key stumbling block to the European road. So, I haven’t seen anything controversial in his words,” Vucic told reporters.


Dacic: No trade with EU over deadlines (RTS)


Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic had told RTS that the visits of the Serbian delegation, like the one to Azerbaijan, are important and help very much. “Regardless of the size of the country, votes are measured and everybody is equal according to the voting capacity in international organizations. It is important for us to maintain the number of countries that didn’t recognize Kosovo, and in order to maintain this, it is necessary for us to have good bilateral relations and to visit them,” said Dacic. He says it will be difficult to change the stand of the EU member states that recognized Kosovo, because they are defending the policy they conducted in the 1990s. “The unilateral declaration of independence is the end of one such policy. This is their self-defense, but they are very much bothered because the process has not ended. They think it is impossible for the percentage of states that recognize Kosovo to fall beyond 100. If only one country is at issue, there is no consensus. That is why Kosovo is marked asymmetrically in all EU documents,” explains Dacic. He says there are some framework deadlines for EU membership. “Some framework year is 2025. There is no trade from our side over some deadlines. They cannot talk to us this way about a vital topic like Kosovo. It will be more difficult for them, while many countries are thinking about their decisions and we expect a certain number of countries to withdraw recognition,” notes Dacic. Asked about the statement of Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin who said that we should change the foreign policy if Kosovo and Metohija is the only key issue for the EU, Dacic says that he understands Vulin’s reaction, but that Serbia’s foreign policy priority remains to be EU membership. “It is clear that the EU is neglecting that part of the technical negotiations, as well as the achievement of European values in our country, it is only interested in the progress in the dialogue with Pristina. None of us personally determines the government policy, our foreign policy priority is EU membership,” said Dacic.


Brnabic: Multiple importance of construction of Nis-Sofia gas pipeline (Novosti)


Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced that the construction of the Nis-Sofia gas pipeline will start even before it was planned because this project is important to ensure the security of supply of both Serbia and Bulgaria and the entire region. Brnabic told Novosti that the EU, through its IPA funds, allocated more than €50 million for this project. She explained that this project will start before it was planned because the state made a surplus in the budget due to successfully implemented reforms. She pointed out that the realization of the project is significant for several reasons, primarily because it will ensure diversification of routes and sources, while improving the security of supply of both countries, and the entire region.

On the other hand, as she pointed out, the northern part of the gas pipeline system is significantly relieved, and therefore the security of supply of transit route for Bosnia-Herzegovina is increased, as well as the future supply of our southern province of Kosovo and Metohija, as well as of Macedonia and Montenegro. According to Brnabic, the project is also important because besides improving the security of supply of Serbian market with natural gas and enabling further development of the distribution network of central, eastern and southern Serbia, it also enables the integration of existing and future storage capacities of natural gas into a unified energy system.


Joksimovic, senators from France on European integration of Serbia (Beta)


Serbian Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic spoke with a delegation of the Senate of France for European Affairs on the messages of last week’s Summit in Sofia, the process of European integration of Serbia, the reforms that are being implemented, relations of the two states and the situation in the region. Joksimovic thanked France for the renewed interest in Serbia and the assistance and support it provides us in the process of European integration. She pointed out that EU membership is a strategic foreign-political commitment of Serbia, that European integration is the best mechanism for the overall development of the state and that reforms are in the function of higher standards and better living of citizens. Joksimovic reminded that we have opened 12 chapters – of which two are temporarily closed, and that we are ready to open another five: 33 – on financial and budgetary provisions, 9 – on financial services, 13 – on fisheries, 18 – on statistics and 17 – on economic and monetary union. She expressed the expectation that at least two or three chapters will be opened during Bulgaria’s presidency of the EU Council. The members of the Senate for European Affairs Committee stressed that France will continue to support the European path of Serbia, which, as she said, proved to be a constructive partner of the EU and a contributing factor to stability, both regionally and beyond. They noted that the reforms in the field of rule of law are the most important, and that they should be deepened. Senators from France also stressed that after their visit to Serbia, they will prepare a report to be presented to members of the French Senate, in which they believe a generally positive tone will prevail. They emphasized that it is important that we work together to explain and demonstrate the importance of enlargement to both EU citizens and citizens of Serbia. The officials also confirmed that the relations between the two countries are good and that they have the capacity for their further development and strengthening, according to a statement by the Office of the Minister for European Integration.


Parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija adopted report on the work of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija (RTS)


During Monday’s session of the Serbian parliament, Deputy Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Dusan Kozarev has stated that the parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija adopted the report on the work of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija for last year, adding that pressured on Serbian institutions and the Serbian community was increased last year. The greatest part of the allocated 5.7 billion Dinars was spent on infrastructural projects, construction of apartments for returnees, but also on protection of rights and properties of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. Around 800 million Dinars was not spent, so members of the Committee called the Office to help municipalities to apply for these funds. “The greatest achievement is that we managed to keep the institutions in the capacity in which they operated in the previous period. We continue to operate as a state in Kosovo and Metohija, the municipalities and districts are working,” said Kozarev. When it comes to the judiciary and human rights protections, Kozarev says that the Office will continue to help Serbs who are politically persecuted, noting that 10 million Dinars was set aside during 2017, and that one part of the funds concerned the financing of the defense of the murdered Oliver Ivanovic. Kozarev says that the realization of the project “Sunny Valley” continues for the return of 300 families. However, he points out there is also obstruction of the Pristina institutions when it comes to the project, as well as the return of the Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija in general. Opposition MPs objected since there are only several lines about Chapter 35 in the report on the work of the Office. They also wished to discuss topics that are in the report, such as normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations, the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) and the document that the President had received from the West. Dveri leader Bosko Obradovic opines that the budget in the sum of five billion Dinars that Serbian had allocated for Kosovo and Metohija, is small and assesses that this speaks of the fact that somebody at the helm of the state has reconciled with the status and is giving up. “Independence of Kosovo is increasingly being completed. The authorities are taking part in this by acting and non-acting. We don’t see what is Serbia doing for Kosovo and Metohija to remain within Serbia,” said Obradovic. Noticing that the Head of the Office for Kosov and Metohija Marko Djuric had not attended the Committee, he wondered whether Djuric, whom he called anyone an adventurer from Kosovska Mitrovica, was more important than the Committee and pointed out that the political dimension is missing in the report that was presented to the MPs.

Kozarev responded to Obradovic’s words that he would not enter the trap of politicizing and that an adventurer is the anyone who says something like this in order to be popular. He agrees that the budget for Kosovo and Metohija is small, but that within this framework we are doing everything we can, and that the President and Prime Minister are demonstrating how the state should be working. The session of the Committee also discussed the work of the Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo and Metohija whose employees, as the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) MP Miljan Damjanovic said, had written to MPs that they didn’t receive salaries for 14 months, to what Kozarev said that this problem has been resolved, that they received over the past year seven million Dinars and that they are examining how will this function further on. Damjanovic said the MPs should know what is it that will be painful and difficult when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija as President Aleksandar Vucic says, and whether they should wait again for the signed document and to get slapped again. He concluded that Committee needs to be informed about everything.


Stefanovic: No foreign drones over Belgrade (Beta)


Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Monday that none of the drones noticed flying over Serbian territory were downed because they did not jeopardize the country’s security.

Speaking in parliament in answer to a question from an MP, Stefanovic said none of the drones flew over Belgrade.  MP Djordje Vukadinovic asked the minister to confirm or deny reports by some media that drones, allegedly flown by NATO forces, had been flying over Belgrade and other areas of Serbia. “We identified some flights but never over Belgrade, the flights were in southern Serbia. Army of Serbia and Air Force personnel monitored the drone flights, assessed the possible danger they posed to the security of Serbia and tracked them out of our airspace,” Stefanovic said. He said two or three cases of unauthorized drone flights had been registered in Belgrade, mainly operated by people with permits or close to ministries, military facilities and similar buildings, adding that the drone pilots were arrested and turned over to prosecutors.




One should not allow meddling in B&H’s internal matters (Srna)


President of Republika Srpska (RS) Milorad Dodik says he does not see any problem in the visit by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Sarajevo but asserts that one should not allow any kind of interference in B&H’s internal matters. Dodik said that political organizing and actions in B&H are free and that he is fine with the Turkish president’s visit to Sarajevo.

“Erdogan is a great dignitary of a big country and it is all fine until the moment we feel that representatives of that country are trying to get involved in some way in the internal matters in B&H. That’s the point when one should stop and say it is unacceptable,” Dodik told the ATV.

The RS President noted that it remained to be seen what kind of consequences the Turkish President’s visit to B&H would leave.


Venice Commission experts with representatives of B&H parties (Dnevni avaz)


Negotiations between representatives of SDA, HDZ B&H, SDP, SBB B&H and DF on the amendments to the Law on Elections of B&H are scheduled to resume in Sarajevo. The meeting should take place in the building of the EU Delegation to B&H in presence of the experts from the US Embassy and the Venice Commission. The experts of the Venice Commission are coming to B&H in accordance with the conclusion of leaders and representatives of the five parties at the meeting held on May 3, when they accepted an EU proposal to request an opinion of the Venice Commission. The Office of the Council of Europe in B&H stated on Monday that the representatives of the Venice Commission are going to participate in several meetings with relevant collocutors, aimed at offering assistance in the process of continuous discussion about necessary amendments to the Law on Elections. Daily noted that the continuation of negotiations on the amendments to the Law on Elections is a part of efforts of the EU and the US embassies in B&H to have this issue resolved by the domestic politicians, without having to impose outside solutions. The Venice Commission is expected to evaluate presented amendments to the Law on Elections from the aspect of the European standards, the Constitution of B&H and the European Human Rights Convention. Daily learned that the Venice Commission experts are expected to hold the meetings with party representatives and leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday.


Lives of “little stars” embedded in foundations of RS (Srna)


Today marks 26 years since the death of the first baby in the Banja Luka hospital over a lack of oxygen, which could not have been delivered to this medical institution neither via land due to ongoing war nor via air due to the UN Security Council’s ban on flying over B&H. The first baby died on May 22, 1992, followed by agony and the death of other babies. By June 19, 1992, 12 babies died in Banja Luka, who became a symbol of human rights violations and the inhumanity of the international community. The agony was interrupted by the corridor breakthrough and merging Banja Luka region with other parts of RS and Serbia. Secretary of the 12 Babies Association, Zeljka Tubic, told Srna that the lives of 12 babies who died then due to the lack of oxygen in the Clinical Centre of Banja Luka are embedded in the foundations of Republika Srpska. Tubic has stressed that it is highly important the support given to this Association by the RS President Milorad Dodik and RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic who, as she says, believe that the mothers of these little heroes deserve a different status, instead of the status of civilian victims of war. She has expressed expectations that this year the mothers will gain the status they deserve and which they have been waiting for such a long time.


Increase in number of anti-Serb incidents in Croatia recorded (Hina)


A total of 393 cases of violence and other forms of incitement to discrimination against Serbs were recorded in Croatia in 2017, compared to 331 such cases reported in 2016, the Serb National Council (SNV) said on Monday. “We are reporting for the fourth consecutive year that hate speech, calls for violence, various acts of violence, intolerance and historical revisionism are becoming more and more frequent and continue to be tolerated in the public sphere and institutional communication,” SNV president Milorad Pupovac told a press conference in Zagreb. He said that the reason for this was twofold: ultraconservative circles were renewing their campaign and failure by the authorities to enforce the law. “The Ustasha salute ‘For the homeland ready!’ is just the tip of the iceberg. Spreading this kind of ideology and songs has taken on such proportions that it is posing a serious danger to Croatia’s constitutional values and constitutional order,” Pupovac said. Tamara Opacic, the author of the SNV bulletin which includes data on hate speech, historical revisionism and violence against Serbs in 2017, said that the increase in anti-Serb incidents in 2017 was not as dramatic as in 2016 when it reached 57 percent. Eleven physical attacks on members of the Serb community in Croatia or nationals of Serbia, 17 cases of devastation of anti-fascist monuments, 30 cases of damage done to Serb-owned property, mostly Serb Orthodox churches, and at least 107 insults and threats addressed to Serbs, mostly SNV members and journalists with the Serb minority weekly Novosti, were recorded last year. In addition, graffiti glorifying the fascist and Ustasha ideology and inciting to murdering Serbs were recorded in 30 towns, Opačić said, expressing concern about racist and xenophobic language used by many media outlets and problematic statements by politicians.

As examples, Opacic cited last year’s statement by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic that the salute “For the homeland ready!” was an ancient Croatian salute. Opacic criticized the council on the consequences of undemocratic regimes for de facto legalizing the use of the salute “For the homeland ready!” and the slow work of judicial authorities in dealing with cases of threats and hate speech.


Markovic: We can defend our national interests (Pobjeda)


Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic, said that “the most complex and most painful part of the transition has passed and that Montenegro is far ahead other countries of the region”.

During 2015 and 2016, Montenegro was exposed to internal aggression, unseen until then. It was political, security and economic aggression, all at the same time. “We’re witnesses of the consequences of such scenarios. We’re still facing danger. But when you show resistance, determination and capability to defend and protect national interests of vital importance, then the opponents become more careful. Therefore, there’s still danger but it’s considerably lessened”, said Markovic. He pointed out that there were many challenges on the path of development and life standard. He announced drafting of three important laws – law on public – private partnership, law on concessions and the law on public procurement. “We must further improve the business environment, particularly the capital infrastructure – airports, roads, railroad, energy and digital infrastructure. Simultaneously, we have to simplify administrative procedures for the affirmation of our development potentials. That’s why we’re working on these three laws. We want to create necessary legal framework and elevate the level of professionalism and competence so that our administration can provide quality enforcement of decisions regarding investments,” said Markovic. In Markovic’s opinion, the most important accomplishment since Montenegro regained its independence is the life standard of the citizens. He pointed out the importance of the Plan of Fiscal Consolidation which strengthened the macroeconomic stability and improved credit rating of the country. Good economic results mark the first quarter of this year too.


Djukanovic: Fighting for independence was worth it (Pink M)


The new President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, believes that, after 12 years of independence, Montenegro has a lot to be proud of. He said that May 21 of 2006, is a historical date because, back then, we laid the foundations of the sovereign country. “I think we have many reasons to be proud of our accomplishments and to be satisfied because we were capable to accomplish a lot in a 12- year long period of time. We deserve to celebrate this day, and everybody should celebrate this day, not only those who voted for the independence”, says the President of Montenegro. Regaining independence was a very important and necessary decision.

“I’m convinced that all citizens of Montenegro have reasons to be happy. We have reasons to celebrate this day as an opportunity for improvement of the life standard. In these 12 years, Montenegro has reinforced the foundations, experienced dynamic economical and democratic development, and it gained international affirmation,” points out the President. Thanks to the development recorded in the domain of the economy and democracy, Montenegro gained satisfaction from becoming NATO member and opening negotiating chapters with the EU.

“Our vision, declared shortly before the referendum, turned out to be very real and it definitely promises brighter future of the citizens of Montenegro. It was worth fighting for the independence of this country and trace the path of the European development because all this eventually leads to better life. I think that the most difficult part of the task has already been done, and the results are visible”, says Djukanovic. The key thing for accomplishing the main objective, adds Djukanovic, is overcoming differences at every level of the society.


Zaev: Republic of Ilinden Macedonia name proposal still in play (MIA)


Macedonia has not dismissed the ‘Republic of Ilinden Macedonia’ proposal, PM Zoran Zaev said in response to a reporter’s question in front of Skopje’s Criminal Court on Monday. The proposal, according to Zaev, is worth careful consideration, as it fulfills the expectations of most citizens in both countries. “Republic of Ilinden Macedonia, Zaev said, “is a name that doesn’t threaten Macedonian identity—on the contrary, it strengthens it—while giving Greece a compound name with a chronological identifier.” He said that Greek PM Tsipras and himself fully believed in this solution, but they were only one link in the chain. “As Zoran and Alexis, we’ve been called to carry out the process as PMs. At the very outset, we said there was an option that could be acceptable to both sides. “There are institutional processes related to making decisions. On their part, their Parliament needs to ratify the possible agreement, and on our part, we need the approval from Parliament and citizens through a referendum,” Zaev pointed out. According to him, Ilinden of 1903 and 1944 has nothing to do with territorial pretensions and is no threat to Greece in any way. He said the talks would continue, asserting his belief that the proposal was the solution to end the 25-year dispute. “It keeps our dignity intact, while fixing the identity issues and meeting their conditions,” Zaev said. He added the upcoming meeting with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz in New York had been already scheduled for May 24 and 25, adding he believed a solution was possible.


Dimitrov: No other more appropriate proposal than Republic of Ilinden Macedonia (MIA)


Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov has said there is no other more appropriate proposal for the name issue settlement than Republic of Ilinden Macedonia. “I do not see, at this time, any other more appropriate proposal that both negotiating sides agree on,” FM Dimitrov told 1TV station.

He says Ilinden is incorporated in the two preambles of the Constitution and these are the two pillars of the country’s statehood. “If you support Macedonia, you surely must support Ilinden Macedonia,” adds Dimitrov. The FM says he will consider himself responsible if the name talks fail. “I will tender my resignation immediately if I believe this will help Macedonia. The question of my personal responsibility is whether there was something I could have done but did not, and whether I did something that was not helpful,” stresses Dimitrov. He notes that the name package incorporates a recognition of the Macedonian nation and the Macedonian language, translated in all languages, thus maintaining the Macedonian identity.


Tzanakopoulos: We welcome acceptance of erga omnes, but best solution is choosing one of the names proposed by UN mediator (MIA)


Greek side insists that the best solution is choosing one of the names proposed by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said. Tzanakopoulos welcomed the acceptance of erga omnes, emphasizing that positive steps have been made in talks between two Prime Ministers, MIA reports from Athens. In regard to the name he said that positive steps have been made in talks, but there is still a long way to go. Certainly, there are proposals that were put on the table, but still the Greek side insists that the best solution is choosing one of the names proposed by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, Tzanakopoulos said, adding that we also discuss “about the proposals of our neighbor, but still the negotiations are conducted in a specific context and it is good to stick to it.” We welcome the acceptance of erga omnes from our neighbor, we continue to negotiate responsibly, something I do not see that opposition shares and makes, and I speak about the almost entire opposition, Tzanakopoulos said, criticizing New Democracy of refusing to act in constructive manner.


Court acquits Zaev in Bribe case (MIA)


Judge Darko Todorovski acquitted Monday Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in case dubbed “Bribe”.

While reading the judgment, the trial judge said the public prosecutor has not proved that the defendant committed the crime, resulting in an acquittal. At the last hearing, prosecutor Valentina Bislimovska asked for a change of the indictment qualification from “receiving a bribe” into “asking for a bribe”, which stipulates a sentence of 1-5 years in prison. In comparison, the penalty for crime “receiving a bribe” is at least five years imprisonment.

Bislimovska said the evidence presented during the main hearing did not show that defendant Zaev received any money, which has been confirmed by the main witness Ivan Nikolov.

Zaev has said the case is politically motivated, aimed at preventing the release of the wiretapped conversations. Zaev, in the capacity Strumica mayor, is charged of asking a EUR 160,000 bribe from a Strumica businessman for the privatization of construction land.



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