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Belgrade Media Report 28 June

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vulin banned from entering Kosovo (RTS)
• Vucic, Wess Mitchell discuss Belgrade Pristina dialogue (Beta)
• Dacic with Lavrov in Moscow (Tanjug)
• Palma to Putin: Here’s the jersey, here’s the land … (Tanjug)
• “We are waiting for an apology because of Plenkovic and Serbia aggressor” (Vecernje novosti)
• Hague case against Jojic and Radeta ceded to Serbia (Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Council of EU adopts seven conclusions on B&H (Hayat)
• MPs, officials comment on conclusions of Council of EU (Nezavisne)
• Dodik: Ivanic openly defends UK intelligence officers because they come to create pre-election atmosphere to present him to people as eligible (RTRS)
• Federation of B&H President Cavara: Bosniaks hope that OHR will impose Law on Constituencies (Vecernji list)
• Operational HQ for Migration Issues in B&H convenes (N1)
• B&H will not become migrant collection center (Nezavisne)
• Dodik: RS cannot organize centers for migrants (TV1)

Croatia
• Croatia to send warship to the Mediterranean Sea to fight terrorism (T portal)

fYROM
• Mickoski: Macedonia did not receive a date for negotiations, but a date for an assessment (MIA)
• EC starts preparatory work for Macedonia, Albania negotiations (MIA)
• Luxembourg FM Asselborn gives insight into the compromise over Macedonia’s accession talks (MIA)
• Zaev to meet Tusk, Hahn and Stoltenberg in Brussels (MIA)
• EU commissioner Hahn believes in successful referendum (MIA)
• Official announcement for NATO invitation expected tomorrow, says Pendarovski (MIA)
• Spasovski: Macedonia in no position to host migrant camps (MIA)

Albania
• Accession talks, Rama accuses opposition: Sadists and vulgar! (ADN)
• Bushati for Negotiations: There are no extra conditions (ADN)
• EU Ambassador in Tirana Vlahutin: Albania Received 3 positive decisions by EU (ADN)
• Fleckenstein promises support for Albania till end (ADN)
• Albanian and Kosovo’s Police, Cooperation during touristic season (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Fresh tensions in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia (IBNA)
• Greece’s support for fYROM (Ekathimerini)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vulin banned from entering Kosovo (RTS)

The Office for Kosovo and Metohija announced that the Minister of Defense, Aleksandar Vulin, was banned from visiting Kosovo. “We strongly condemn the scandalous decision of Pristina and mediators in the Brussels dialogue” the Office said.

The Office for KiM said it was “clear that such a decision was made in the co-ordination of Pristina and the European External Action Service (EEAS) with the intention of humiliating Serbia”.

“Making it even worse, is that the decision comes after Pristina’s consent at the meeting, in Brussels on Sunday, to obey the agreements reached so far and acts with appreciation and respect for the side with which it allegedly wants an agreement” the statement said.

It is pointed out that Minister Vulin’s visit has been announced in accordance with established procedures and that its ban is the most serious violation of the Agreement on visits of officials, guaranteed by the European Union.

“Representatives of some states in the past several days also tried to introduce verbal delict in our country, trying to suggest to our state officials what kind of messages should be sent on Vidovdan (an important Serb religious holiday), which is an unprecedented event in diplomatic practice,” the Office said in a statement for KiM.

Minister Vulin will hold an urgent consultation with the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, on the issue, the contents of which will be announced to the public in a timely manner.

 

Vucic, Wess Mitchell discuss Belgrade Pristina dialogue (Beta)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell on June 27 talked about the resumption of the dialogue in Brussels.

In a telephone conversation Mitchell welcomed the continued talks between Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and underscored that the U.S. hoped that a compromise solution could be reached, the Serbian president’s office said. Vucic said that Serbia was always ready to talk with others.

“I am known as someone who is not overly optimistic, but we shall invest a great deal of energy and effort to reach a compromise solution,” said Vucic.

Mitchell said that the U.S. saw Serbia as an important country and an important partner, while

Vucic thanked Mitchell for his personal interest in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

The two collocutors agreed to have Belgrade and Washington regularly and frequently exchange information on the course of the dialogue. At a June 26 hearing at the Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, Mitchell said that the U.S. was increasing its engagement in the Western Balkans.

“We have intensified communication with Serbia and Kosovo. We are also promoting reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Mitchell. He told senators that through active diplomacy in cooperation with the European Union, the U.S. had also supported the “visionary leaders” of Greece and Macedonia, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, in achieving a historic success in the two countries’ naming dispute.

 

Dacic with Lavrov in Moscow (Tanjug)

First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic met in Moscow with Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov.

Dacic and Lavrov jointly pointed out that the level of trust and high dynamics of Russian-Serbian contacts show that relations between the two countries are continuously and productively evolving, the Foreign Ministry announced. They discussed the current issues of bilateral cooperation, the deepening of bilateral ties in all areas, as well as mutual support in international organizations.

Minister Dacic expressed his gratitude for the solid and consistent support of the Russian Federation to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Serbia.

 

Ivica Dacic also met with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and co-chairman of the Serbian-Russian Intergovernmental Committee for Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation Jurij Borisov. The meeting between Ministers Dacic and Borisov is the first since his election to this position.

The head of Serbian diplomacy wished the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation a lot of success in carrying out the new function, and expressed his firm belief that the very successful cooperation to date will continue.

Both sides expressed satisfaction with the quality of political dialogue and bilateral cooperation in all segments, as well as cooperation and mutual support within international organizations.

On our part, gratitude for the solid and consistent support of the Russian Federation to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Serbia, was expressed.

The interlocutors discussed the activities and plans for further development of bilateral cooperation in the following period.

Minister Dacic and Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation discussed improvement of economic cooperation, cooperation in the field of energy, agriculture, as well as joint projects in the sphere of economy and industry.

 

Palma to Putin: Here’s the jersey, here’s the land … (Tanjug)

If the US enters the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Serbia will also ask for Russia to join the dialog, President of “Unified Serbia” (JS) Dragan Markovic Palma told in Moscow.

Speaking with a senior official of the ruling United Russia Party, Sergei Zheleznyak, Markovic said that these two parties have many program similarities. He therefore suggested that the JS and the Unique Russia sign a cooperation agreement.

“Also, Serbia will never impose sanctions on Russia” Markovic said, adding that his party has excellent relations with the AKT party of Turkish President Erdogan and in Austria with the Freedom Party of Heinz-Christian Strache.

Markovic offered United Russia 5 hectares of land in the Jagodina industrial zone to be given by party to one of the Russian investors, which would open new jobs in Jagodina. Investor would also get complete utilities and logistics. Markovic also suggested that four Russian students attend one of the faculties in Jagodina from the upcoming academic season. He handed over gifts for Russian President Vladimir Putin – boxing gloves and a football jersey with the inscription “Putin Serbia”.

 

“We are waiting for an apology because of Plenkovic and Serbia aggressor” (Vecernje novosti)

We are waiting for an apology for the insult brought by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, the head of the Serbian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CE) Aleksandra Tomic says. She added that they had met with Chairperson Liliane Maury, who will apologize to Serbia. Tomic says that all members of the Serbian delegation have made a protest to the chairman because of Plenkovic’s insults, but also because his right to speak was not taken away on time.

“I said openly:” Why did you interrupted the Serbian speaker Aleksandar Seselj by taking away his right to speak, then you should have done the same with Plenkovic when he said that Serbia was an aggressor. “The answer was that he cannot interrupt the guest who is speaking, and that never before something like that has happened ” She (Chairwoman) stated that Plenkovic responded to Seselj and his party, that he said he has a good relationship with the Serb minority because its representatives are in the Croatian Government. “I said that this was not the answer and I asked that she apologize in writing, which she accepted” said Tomic.  Tomic adds that she does not expect anything spectacular, but to insist that CE takes a stand on Plekovi’s performance.

“It is quite clear that other rules apply to us when we speak about the rights of the Serb minority in Croatia. Croatia is next one to take over the presidency for six months, so how will it be then? We ask that the Serbian deputies be treated the same way as the others” Tomic said.

Tomic added that there were already fierce clashes with hard words between the Ukrainians and the Russians or the Israelis and the Palestinians, and that nobody forbade them to speak.

“Croatia’s Ruza Tomsic has a similar vocabulary like SRS, but no one interrupted her when she said:” Half of the Serbs we have killed, and those remaining should be expelled” says Tomic.

 

Hague case against Jojic and Radeta ceded to Serbia (Beta)

An international court in The Hague has ruled to cede to Serbia the case against Serbian Radical Party officials Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta, charged by the Hague tribunal for contempt of court, it was announced in The Hague on June 27. The ruling that Jojic and Radeta are to be tried in Belgrade was made by Aydin Akay, judge of the Residual Mechanism, the legal successor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Judge Akay re-issued on behalf of the Mechanism an international warrant to arrest Jojic and Radeta. At the same time, the ICTY-issued warrant was withdrawn. In October 2012, the ICTY charged Jojic and Radeta of tampering with witnesses in the proceedings against Radical leader Vojislav Seselj, using threats, blackmail and bribes to persuade them to change their testimony or not testify.

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Council of EU adopts seven conclusions on B&H (Hayat)

The Council of the European Union held a session Tuesday regarding the enlargement and stabilization and association process of countries aspiring to be EU members. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), the Council recognized previous progress but it also stressed the need for further implementation of the reform processes. During the session, seven conclusions on B&H’s progress were adopted.

 

The Council welcomed the finalization of the country’s answers to the European Commission’s (EC) Opinion Questionnaire on B&H’s EU membership application through the Coordination Mechanism and urged B&H to further use this important mechanism for the preparation of consistent and comprehensive strategic countrywide documents including those requested under the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).

 

The Council welcomed adoption of some EU-oriented reforms in B&H. However, the Council noted with concern that divisive rhetoric and pre-electoral campaigns have significantly slowed down the pace of reforms, particularly as far as the Reform Agenda is concerned. The Reform Agenda is a set of reforms which all levels of the B&H government must implement prior to the beginning of B&H’s EU accession talks. The Council recalled that it expects B&H to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Reform Agenda in line with the action plan agreed by the B&H authorities to the benefit of its citizens and in close cooperation with the EU, international financial institutions and international partners.

 

The Council urged B&H to adopt as its highest priority provisions of the Law on Criminal Procedure of B&H in accordance with international standards. It also calls for the complete adoption of the Law on Conflict of Interests, as well as the Law on the Intelligence Service.

 

The Council took note of the announcement of the general elections scheduled for October 7, 2018, but it regrets unwillingness to compromise shown to date by political parties and strongly called on B&H’s authorities to urgently amend the electoral framework in order to secure implementation of the results of the October 2018 elections. “In this respect, all political leaders need to assume their responsibilities and find a solution with regard to the Federation of B&H House of Peoples. The Council considers that electoral reforms should be approached in a spirit of dialogue, as an important matter”, reads part of the conclusions. The Council members stated that issues of electing members of the B&H Presidency and Mostar elections can be discussed after October elections. “That is not acceptable, of course, but as legalists, we could potentially accept that. Here is why. Because, this decision of the Constitutional Court has not explicitly referred to the election of members of the B&H Presidency, but it has implied to it in a way where one point of the Constitutional Court’s decision says that constituent status means that all three constituent peoples have to be represented by their legitimately elected representatives at all administrative and political levels”, said President of the Main Board of the Croat People’s Assembly in B&H (HNS B&H) Bozo Ljubic. The Council underlined that no legislative or political steps should be taken which would make implementation of ‘SejdicFinci’ ruling and related rulings more challenging.

 

MPs, officials comment on conclusions of Council of EU (Nezavisne)

Commenting on conclusions of the Council of the EU, HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) delegate in the House of Peoples (HoP) of the Parliament of B&H Zdenka Dzambas said that she is concerned as well, and that the international community should do something, instead of constantly expressing concern. “The EU needs to bring B&H back into focus of its interest”, said Dzambas.

SNSD’s representative in the House of Representatives (HoR) of the Parliament of B&H Dusanka Majkic said that non-existent parliamentary majority at the level of B&H is not capable of making any important decision. “Everything that was unsolved at the end of 2017 and the beginning of this year, and was considered priority, is still priority”, said Majkic, adding that she does not believe anything can be done before the elections in B&H. “And when new authorities are formed, one has to immediately start working on Coordination Mechanism. If it remains blocked, there is no way for B&H to start moving towards the EU”, she concluded.

DF’s representative Damir Becirovic said that conclusions of the Council of the EU only confirmed that authorities in B&H are incompetent at all levels. “Another wasted term in the office, which will be remembered by mass emigration of people out of B&H”, said Becirovic.

SBB B&H’s representative in the B&H HoR Mirsad Isakovic said that the report of the Council of the EU is yet another warning to authorities in B&H. “There is nothing new in all of those conclusions, and B&H is a student that keeps on failing the same test year after year”, concluded Isakovic.

 

Dodik: Ivanic openly defends UK intelligence officers because they come to create pre-election atmosphere to present him to people as eligible (RTRS)

Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Mladen Ivanic commented the recent announcement of the British Minister of Defense Gavin Williamson about additional British troops that will be sent to B&H. Williamson stated that the UK will deploy 40 additional people in B&H, who will join the expert, supervision and intelligence team of EUFOR in the next six months. In his interview for ATV, Ivanic said that the talk about the British soldiers is “ridiculous” and he cannot comprehend why “powerful” SNSD is afraid of 40 soldiers.

Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik responded by saying that Ivanic openly positioned himself on the “British side”.

 

According to recent data presented by RTRS, the British troops will be sent to B&H to protect the elections from “malicious” Russian influence. Ivanic said that RS politicians should not fear the British troops, but added that if he ought to receive concrete proof of Dodik’s claims about the British troops’ intentions, he would react to it accordingly.

Dodik stated that he is not surprised that Ivanic defends the intentions of the British troops, because their work will potentially lead to change of government in the RS and bring election victory to members of the opposition parties. “It is clear that he (Ivanic) has, as a member of the B&H Presidency, failed to respond to the question on how it is possible that the British troops will be sent to B&H without the consent of the relevant institutions. B&H is sovereign and anyone from the outside should ask the B&H authorities before doing something like this. He, of course, failed to ask what gives British the right to send and recall their soldiers as they please”, said Dodik. Ivanic said that if the claims about the British soldiers are true, that matter should be discussed by ambassadors of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) in B&H. To this statement, Dodik reminded Ivanic that the next session of PIC will be held after October elections and the soldiers will arrive in B&H by then.

 

Federation of B&H President Cavara: Bosniaks hope that OHR will impose Law on Constituencies (Vecernji list)

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina President Marinko Cavara (HDZ B&H) stressing that recent moves of Bosniak parties show they want the authorities to behave the way they like. “But it cannot happen. There is the Constitution of the Federation of B&H, the Constitution of B&H. Their wish to annul all that and make something that suits only them is something different”, added Cavara. Asked to comment remark that the Bosniak parties label him (Cavara) as the biggest threat to democracy, Cavara says that a campaign has been going on against him in the last 20 days with stories that he is blocking democratic processes. “Bosniak parties present it that way. The fact is that the House of Representatives adopted the Law on Constituencies against the Rules of Procedure. That law is unconstitutional as well. The law they proposed has the sole aim to maintain possibility that Bosniak elect Croat representatives. And nothing more!” argued Cavara. Asked what will happen next, the Federation of B&H President says the law has only arrived to the Federation of B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and one does not know when the HoP will discuss it and what will happen to it. “I said I cannot accept this kind of law because I would violate the Constitution with such way of work. I will look for legislative solutions by which we will fix the law and prevent violation of the Constitution of B&H. The stories about blockades have the aim to trigger the High Representative to proclaim this law. Ha has done it before and the Bosniak expect it again from him” said Cavara.

 

Operational HQ for Migration Issues in B&H convenes (N1)

The regular session of the Operational Headquarters (HQ) for Migration Issues was held on Wednesday in Sarajevo. After the session, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Minister of Security Dragan Mektic addressed the members of the press. Mektic said that he is dissatisfied with the European Commission’s (EC) decision to refuse to fund the adaptation of the ‘Agrokomerc’ building near Velika Kladusa for the temporary accommodation of migrants, because it is “close to the border with the EU”. Mektic told reporters in Sarajevo that this facility is of key importance to B&H and announced that its remodeling will start very soon. He warned that he has the feeling the EU would like to set up camps for migrants in the depths of B&H’s territory, however, state institutions cannot accept that in any case, because firstly there are no capacities, and secondly it would be disastrous for B&H. He reiterated that B&H will never establish permanent camps for migrants who intend to get to the EU countries. Mektic said that B&H can accept hosting only two reception centers, the ‘Usivak’ military barracks near Sarajevo and ‘Agrokomerc’ building near Velika Kladusa. Mektic said that migrants will be accommodated in ‘Agrokomerc’ building soon, but did not wish to explain how B&H institutions will find money for its repair. “This week we will begin setting tents which will be equipped with air-conditioning and heating, and then we will begin working on the ‘Agrokomerc’ building. We will feed them (the migrants) for as long as we can, if someone thinks they should die here, they are mistaken. I disagree with the principle that the center is too close to the EU border”, said Mektic.

 

B&H will not become migrant collection center (Nezavisne)

Chairman of the Council of Ministers (CoM) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Denis Zvizdic claims that authorities in B&H have the situation related to migrants under control, and that B&H will not become some kind of migrant collection center. “What is important for us is that the Council of Ministers and state-level institutions will continue to act in line with the three basic guidelines we have defined at the very beginning, and that is above all human treatment of people in trouble, acting in line with domestic laws, and those are the Law on Foreigners and the Law on Asylum. And finally, we have to adhere to international standards”, said Zvizdic. He underlined that the issue of security is important for all citizens and for the country itself. On the other hand, according to Zvizdic, B&H has enough facilities to accommodate migrants. “If the EU or any EU Member State, especially Croatia, decide to turn the route into so-called blind alley for migrants, of course that we will have an adequate response, in a way that B&H will surely not become a collection center for a huge number of migrants, if they start moving via Greece and Albania towards the Balkans” concluded Zvizdic.

 

Dodik: RS cannot organize centers for migrants (TV1)

Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik stated on Wednesday that Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is incapable and lost to defend itself from any kind of danger, even from migrants. Dodik stressed that the RS cannot organize centers for migrants. “As far as the RS is concerned, regardless of the humane dimension regarding the refugees, we have no possibility to organize any kind of centers where they would stay not even for a day let alone for a longer period of time. Secondly, we do not at all want to accept the EU assistance for building such centers in the RS because we believe that is bringing long term survival of those people in that area through the back door which can make the fragile situation in B&H burdened by a number of things, primarily by history and relations between the peoples, even more complicated and make it completely unsafe,” Dodik underlined.

 

Croatia

 

Croatia to send warship to the Mediterranean Sea to fight terrorism (T portal)

Croatia will send a navy ship with up to 50 members of the military to take part in NATO’s “Sea Guardian” security operation in the Mediterranean Sea. The government officially sent the decision to Parliament on Wednesday. According to the official explanation, the operation in question is a non-combat mission during which Croatian soldiers will conduct inspections of civilian ships suspected of being linked to possible threats such as terrorism, illegal maritime activities, or endangering sailing freedom and safety.

 

The estimated duration of the mission which will take place before the end of the year is around 30 days. It will represent Croatia’s visible contribution to the allied security efforts at sea. According to unofficial information, the mission will include the Vukovar rocket launcher ship of the Croatian Navy.

 

The “Sea Guardian” operation was launched at the NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016 as a continuation of the previous operation Active Endeavour, with the aim of contributing to the development of regional maritime security, supporting the fight against terrorism, and ensuring the freedom of navigation. The operation includes tasks linked to maritime interceptions, providing a contribution to the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, protecting the key infrastructure facilities, and helping to develop the capabilities of the navies of partner countries in the Mediterranean Sea. The decision stresses that the success of the Sea Guardian operation will have a direct impact on potential security threats and the maintenance of a safe and stable situation in the immediate vicinity of the Adriatic Sea, which will significantly and directly affect the Croatian economy and the social development in its entirety.

 

fYROM

 

Mickoski: Macedonia did not receive a date for negotiations, but a date for an assessment (MIA)

The agreement with Greece is a capitulation and VMRO-DPMNE will not participate in the work in sessions regarding this agreement, said the leader of VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski at a press conference. Mickoski also said that Macedonia has not received a date for negotiations, but a date for an assessment of the situation.

“Macedonia did not receive a clear recommendation right away, as Zoran Zaev and his Government promised, but only the hope that this time next year, we will fully meet the criteria for determining a date for negotiations. Macedonia, in effect will be left ‘running on the spot’, because according to the report, more progress needs to be made in the fight against corruption, substantial reforms in several areas and the creation of conditions for an independent judiciary. This incompetent Government has not met the criteria and this is patently obvious”, stated Mickoski.

According to him, the overall plan is to sell-out the country, the trade of national and state interests and on a domestic level – an economic tsunami.

“Zoran Zaev created the circumstance for concessions, where he agreed to erase the name Macedonia, change the Constitution, enabling the change of the constitutional name, altering the broad interpretation of the identity, making the Macedonian language a footnote as well as a series of other deviations and nothing in return even though he promised a bright future, a better life, and what’s more, it was going to happen immediately”, said Mickoski.

He told the Government “instead of wasting time on political persecutions and violent scenarios, just get the job done.”

 

EC starts preparatory work for Macedonia, Albania negotiations (MIA)

The European Commission briefed Wednesday that preparations for the accession negotiations of Macedonia and Albania would begin after yesterday’s conclusions of the General Affairs Council.

“The Commission now starts the necessary preparatory work as stated in the Council conclusions and we will continue to support the two countries to achieve further tangible and sustained results, in particular on the judiciary reforms, including fight against corruption, public administration sectors, which have a great impact on the daily life of citizens,” said EC spokesman Margaritis Schinas. According to the Council decision, Macedonia and Albania will be able to launch the accession negotiations in June 2019 once the required conditions are met.

 

Luxembourg FM Asselborn gives insight into the compromise over Macedonia’s accession talks (MIA)

The ten-hour discussion over a compromise among EU member-states regarding the accession talks for Macedonia and Albania resulted in a positive outcome thanks to Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who spoke to MIA.

About five o’clock in the afternoon, following difficult talks, quarrels and lots of frustration, as well as the impossibility to reach an agreement over the text related to the Macedonia and Albania accession negotiations, the EU FMs were preparing to give up on any conclusions about the enlargement and move towards the other topics on the agenda – Poland and Brexit. The issue was set to be forwarded either to the countries’ leaders at the June 28 EU Council meeting or delayed for a following meeting of the General Affairs Council in July or September.

“If we hadn’t reached a compromise yesterday, how would have leaders found one at the Summit, asks Asselborn.

 

France, the Netherlands, and Denmark to some extent, did not budge over the date, the Intergovernmental Conference, as well as the wording, namely should the text read “the Council has decided to open negotiations”. German Minister of State Michael Roth left the meeting sometime after five o’clock, saying discussions about Macedonia are “disappointing”, in reference to France’s inflexibility. However, this came without knowing that Asselborn, a foreign minister since 2004 and a good connoisseur of the European negotiating methods, would attempt to give the compromise one last chance.

“I told myself we should not repeat 2016, when we produced no conclusions. What would be the consequences? For your government, the Greek government. I said that your country has been a candidate since 2005 and that the name issue is a step away from a solution. For Albania, the situation is quite different than 7-8 years ago. People were killed there during elections, now the situation between the ruling and opposition parties has improved,” says Asselborn. He says this is not a free ticket for both countries, but an encouragement to stay on the right path of reforms.

 

In an attempt to balance positions, Asselborn said the screening process (overview of the legislation towards preparing the country for the start of negotiations) in Macedonia would be carried out before the real opening of the negotiations, that the European elections would have passed by June 2019, so steps could be taken towards an Intergovernmental Conference, if the conditions are met. The conclusions read “the Council sets out the path towards opening accession negotiations in June 2019” and as soon as the decision is endorsed, the first Intergovernmental Conference could be scheduled. The negotiating chapters are opened during Intergovernmental Conferences.

“And then the word ‘decide’ happened. I told them, if I decide to go to the train station, I will not say ‘I have decided to go to the train station’ but ‘I am going to the train station,'” says Asselborn.

Therefore, the wording was settled by using a little bit of creativity and flexibility, with France satisfied by having the accession talks date after the European elections, at the same time “agrees to respond positively” which means the same as “decides”.

Afterwards, Asselborn talked to Macedonian FM Nikola Dimitrov, who thanked his Luxembourg counterpart for his efforts and the compromise, which he said “is not ideal”. But, European compromises are rarely ideal.

However, the wording left a bitter taste among a portion of the Macedonian public – could the ministers hold the same show when negotiations are scheduled to begin next year?

“No, I am sure about this. What we have done here is a will to move forward and I cannot imagine having the same debate next year. Let’s not speculate, now we are on the right track, this issue is too sensitive and too important, you and the EU should maintain composure,” Asselborn tells MIA.

After the difficult discussions yesterday, Asselborn received an applause and says jokingly “even from my Hungarian colleague and we are not always friends”, since the Luxembourg FM is the only European minister in office who openly asked for suspension of Hungary’s right to vote due to violation of democratic standards. The compromise, although not ideal, is proof that the EU is not giving up on the region, and despite efforts by some member-states, the consensus over the Western Balkans’ European perspective is alive, although sometime coming late.

“Now we are on the road, focus on your country,” recommends Asselborn and adds that at the end of the day, reforms are implemented for the sake of the country and its citizens.

 

Zaev to meet Tusk, Hahn and Stoltenberg in Brussels (MIA)

Macedonian government delegation led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev pays a two-day working visit to Brussels where is set to meet with European Council President Donald Tusk.

The meeting will also be attended by Deputy PM and Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska, Deputy PM for European Affairs Bujar Osmani and FM Nikola Dimitrov, Government Press Service told Thursday. The delegation is also set to meet with the EU Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Zaev is to take part at Crans Montana Forum and to address the panel “South-Eastern Europe and the EU Accession.” On Friday, Zaev is scheduled to meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and will hold a joint press conference. While in Brussels, Zaev will also take part at the meeting of the Party of European Socialists.

 

EU commissioner Hahn believes in successful referendum (MIA)

I believe in a successful referendum and a NATO invitation at the coming summit, said Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn on Wednesday. In an interview with Telma TV station, Hahn says that the decision is clear that EU accession negotiations will begin, but Macedonia must deliver reforms in a year, starting from now.

“This is a clear task, perspective and huge reward for the achievements over the past few weeks. We must realize that reforms should be delivered within a year,” stresses the commissioner.

The decision has been made and there will be no further discussions at the EU Council.

“The job is done, people in the country can rely on this outcome. Now we have to start preparing the negotiations,” says Hahn and adds that the rule of law and media freedom will be in the focus of the screening process.

Regarding France’s opposition, he says the majority of EU member-states have strongly supported the opening of negotiations, recognizing Macedonia’s progress.

“A few were skeptical but not against. It is important that the majority was ‘in favor’. The rest had their concerns, but it was nothing that cannot be solved. This is not unusual for the EU, having in mind there are 28 members and the same number of different opinions,” explains Hahn, saying each member-state has the right to exercise the veto right during the accession process.

He says Macedonian citizens have the right to a better and dignified future.

“Now we can really work on this. After all these years and problems, the country looks to a better future,” underlines Commissioner Hahn.

 

Official announcement for NATO invitation expected tomorrow, says Pendarovski (MIA)

Tomorrow, we are waiting for an official announcement from the NATO headquarters in Brussels to be announced that Macedonia will be presented with an official membership invitation at the upcoming summit of the Alliance on July 11-12, said Stevo Pendarovski, the country’s National NATO Coordinator.

“NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will make the announcement the Macedonian citizens have been waiting for years. It will be the closing stage of our association in the Alliance bearing in mind that Macedonia is an infamous record-holder of sorts, with 19 cycles of the NATO membership action plan,” Pendarovski said at the 98th Rose-Roth Seminar taking place in Skopje. In the meantime, he noted, Macedonia has demonstrated a high level of resilience given the fact that it had found itself on the brink twice.

“The first time it was in 2001, when we were in the midst of an internal conflict, but only four years later, in 2005, we were granted with a status of a candidate country for the EU. The second time we retreated from the brink was in 2017. After toppling the hardline authoritative regime of 11 years, it took us only a year to get a membership invitation for the Alliance. Now, one year after the storming of Parliament, we are discussing how Macedonia is becoming a member of NATO and that it got a date to start negotiations with the EU next year,” elaborated Pendarovski.

According to him, last year Macedonia closed three major strategic issues – firstly, the signing of the friendship treaty with Bulgaria, considered a stumbling block on the path to the EU. In terms of internal affairs, Parliament adopted the law on languages – a pillar of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, and lastly, the signing of the name agreement with Greece.

NATO membership, Pendarovski said, is the strongest cohesive factor in the country, namely nearly 80% of the citizens are in favor of joining the Alliance.

Referring to the benefits of being part of NATO, he said that even though Macedonia faced no threat to its territorial integrity, the world was faced with other kinds of threat, such as hybrid wars, cyber-attacks and the effect of fake news.

“We are addressing major issues with religious terrorism with the focus being on wars in the Middle East, especially Syria. Our citizens there have gone there to fight. Cooperation in this sphere within NATO is urgent,” stated Pendarovski.

On Thursday, the seminar offers sessions dedicated to the aspiring countries in the Western Balkans to join NATO, reforms in the defense and security sector and next steps in the EU-integration process. The seminar is organized by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in cooperation with the Macedonian Parliament and is titled “Euro-Atlantic Integration of the Western Balkans: Reinforcing the European Peace Project.”

 

Spasovski: Macedonia in no position to host migrant camps (MIA)

Macedonia is in no position to host migrant camps, Minister of Interior Oliver Spasovski told the Rose-Roth seminar in the Parliament on Wednesday. Minister Spasovski said the country already has two transit camps for short stay of migrants and the situation at the country’s borders is currently favorable.

Regarding the management of a possible future mass influx of migrants, he said the country has extended the state of crisis at the southern and northern borders, while police officers from eight European states have been deployed at the Macedonia-Greece border since the end of 2015. The text of the agreement with Frontex over the deployment of agency’s forces, if required, has also been harmonized.

“Due to its position, Macedonia has found itself in the center of the migrant crisis and is one of the countries that carried most of the burden in the management efforts. About 800,000 migrants transited the country in 2015 and 2016, which is more than one-third of the country’s population,” noted Spasovski.

The country’s full capacities were engaged in the management of the situation, which was seen as a success by all national and international factors.

“Challenges in the field did not end by the closure of the Western Balkans migrant route. We have witnessed permanent illegal attempts to revive the route. Migrants are still trying to illegally transit to the north and their final destinations, either individually or assisted by smugglers,” added Spasovski.

There has been an increasing tendency of illegal attempts to enter the country at the southern border, with more than 3,000 prevented in the first five months of 2018, the same as the whole of 2017.

“Most concerning is the fact that a large portion of the illegal migrants use the services of smugglers, not only in Macedonia but the region in general. In this way, criminal groups make large profits, while migrants put their lives at risk. The uprooting of this phenomenon is one of our priorities,” said Spasovski and referred to the establishment of a national anti-migrant smuggling unit back in March.

The Minister of Interior underlined that the successful management of illegal migration requires joint approach and coordinated response by all stakeholders in the region and beyond, as well as timely information exchange, early warning system, but also joint operational activities.

 

Albania

 

Accession talks, Rama accuses opposition: Sadists and vulgar! (ADN)

The Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, has attacked the opposition during a press conference on Wednesday, by calling them sadists and vulgar for their efforts to destroy the opening of accession negotiations with EU. According to him, the opposition has slandered and lobbied where it could, in order to break Albania’s image and abort the negotiations.

“Painful but unfortunately true, as we received congratulations and serious European media reports about opening of accession negotiations, our sadistic opposition and its media were throwing stones. How can you speak so badly about your country, and how can your voters be so brutally treated” said Rama. He added that the foreigners asked him with curiosity that how could the opposition, pay media in foreign countries to disfigure Albania.

 

Bushati for Negotiations: There are no extra conditions (ADN)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Europe, Ditmir Bushati, said on Wednesday that there are no extra conditions for Albania regarding opening of accession negotiations.

According to him, EU member states responded positively to the commission’s recommendation to start membership talks and set a deadline for when this process will take place.

“EU member states respond positively to the commission’s recommendation for starting membership talks and set a deadline for when this process will take place and thirdly, member states gave the European Commission the green light to work with Albania in the negotiation process. There is no additional condition. Also, the recommendation made by the European Commission in April, had a positive recommendation for starting the talks and following the course of reforms and their depth. The same is reflected in minister’s conclusions,” said Bushati.

He added that, starting from autumn, Albania will take some directions from EU in order to work for the negotiation process and its fulfillment.

 

EU Ambassador in Tirana Vlahutin: Albania Received 3 positive decisions by EU (ADN)

EU Ambassador in Tirana, Romana Vlahutin, said on Wednesday that Albania has received three positive things before EU member states open accession talks next year.

According to her, the last decision of EU is a great deal of work for Albania in the future.

“Albania received three positive decisions, the acknowledgement of all work it has done, a clear date and thirdly, the Council has accepted that Commission starts preparatory work with Albania. It is a great work that will be carried out by the EU and Albania. This is the current calendar and you will hear more about it from the future ambassador. Do not worry, when we have the details we will share them with you. We are happy because they gave us the opportunity to start moving faster” Vlahutin said.

 

Fleckenstein promises support for Albania till end (ADN)

Reporter for Albania in the European Union, Knut Fleckenstein reacted for the first time on Wednesday after the decision that the EU foreign ministers took regarding negotiations with Albania and Macedonia. According to him, it is important that the progress was recognized and the opening of accession negotiation was decided.

“Progress was recognized and the opening of the negotiations was decided. The outcome of the General Affairs Council clearly encourages governments and parliaments to continue with the reform process. You will have my support until we are united in the EU,” said Fleckenstein.

 

Albanian and Kosovo’s Police, Cooperation during touristic season (ADN)

Director of Albanian State Police, Ardi Veliu and Kosovo’s Police Director, Naim Rexha signed on Wednesday a Memorandum of Cooperation on the organization of joint road policing services between the two countries authorities in the territory of the Albanian Republic during the 2018 season. This memorandum aims to establish concrete cooperation for the prevention of administrative violations in the field of road traffic, the reduction of the number of road events and rigorous implementation of road legislation to create a safer environment for all citizens and road users that link the two countries.

After the meeting and signing of the Memorandum, Director Ardi Veliu said that the Kosovo police service will be present together with the Albanian State Police services for the provision of road axes, as well as some tourist areas that are frequented massively by Kosovo citizens.

“Together with the General Director of Kosovo Police, we signed the memorandum of cooperation for the tourist season, where as in other years, the Kosovo Police Service will be present along with the State Police services for providing road axes, at the same time some tourist areas that are frequented massively by Kosovo citizens. This is an experience that has been going on for several years and is a very good experience in terms of exchange and experiences, but at the same time to prevent accidents and increase the road safety parameters in Albania,” said Veliu. Meanwhile, the Police Director of Kosovo, thanked Veliu for the next cooperation between the countries and said that the main purpose of this agreement was the stability in the roads during the touristic season and safety of the citizens.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Fresh tensions in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia (IBNA)

Fresh tensions in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia Fresh tensions in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The Serb Defence minister, Aleksandar Vulin has decided to visit Kosovo today without the permit of the authorities in the country, despite the fact that this is a violation of the Brussels’ agreement. Vulin has decided to participate in a feast taking place in Serb communes in Kosovo. The news that he will enter Kosovo illegally has sparked strong reactions in Pristina. Jetlir Zyberaj, advisor of Foreign minister Behgjet Pacolli says that the Serb minister will be arrested if he attempts to enter Kosovo’s territory illegally. He also says that Kosovo’s international partners have also been informed on the actions that Kosovo will take.

“Belgrade will bear the consequences for each provocation that it makes. Our international partners have been informed on our actions. Everyone is clear that if someone enters Kosovo illegally, police will take action and apply the law”, Zyberaj declared.

Meanwhile, this situation was also seen a few months ago when the head of the Office for Kosovo in the Serb government, Marko Djuric entered Kosovo illegally.

He decided to travel to Northern Mitrovica where the unilateral formation of the Association of Serb Municipalities had been announced. However, he was arrested by Kosovo’s police.

The same thing is also expected to happen to the Serb minister, Aleksandar Vulin. In the early hours of this morning, numerous police forces have arrived in Northern Mitrovica.

The Office for Kosovo in the Serb government has considered the decision to prevent this visit as outrageous.

 

Greece’s support for fYROM (Ekathimerini)

I will not focus the substance of the name deal reached between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYROM) Zoran Zaev, which was sealed in the Prespes Lake region last week – with all its positive and negative aspects.  Much has been written about the negotiations, the gains and the weaknesses, and the government’s politically motivated approach which to a large extent focused on domestic party benefits with the aim of dividing New Democracy.

The arguments in favor and against are strong and should be respected. Any sober observer, whatever their position, recognizes the complexity of the issue and the difficult choices that had to be made. Unfortunately, as had been pointed out early on by this writer, the domestic debate has slipped into dangerous territory and has again brought to light innuendos or even outright accusations of “national betrayal.” All sorts of conspiracy theories have again found fertile ground, dividing politicians and society.

Yet whatever one may think of this complex puzzle, strengthening ties with our northern neighbor is, or should be, a self-evident priority of Greek foreign policy, as it will bring political, economic and strategic benefits to Greece.

If we escape our own domestic tug-of-war and try to assess Greece’s position and role in the region, as well as the dangers it faces, we will easily come to the realization that Greece should – and can – be a close ally and partner of fYROM.  This objective takes on a geostrategic character as it becomes part of a broader attempt to deter, or at least limit, Turkish infiltration in the Balkans, which has been enhanced in recent years, often with a religious dimension, which makes it more dangerous and difficult to manage. Athens’s strong support for bringing fYROM into the European family and the Euro-Atlantic institutions – provided it fulfills the agreed conditions – serves Greece’s major strategic goal mentioned above.  It is a policy that has a positive impact, in the sense that it overturns existing stereotypes and acts as an integral part of the new relationship which we have every reason to want to build with this small country on our northern border and in the heart of the Balkans.  When Zaev, while addressing his people, thanks Athens for its efforts to curb the objections raised by some European Union countries to the opening of accession talks with his country, the wall of negativity against Greece, of mistrust and fear, and even hatred, which was erected over the last 26 years by extreme nationalists such as former prime minister Nikola Gruevski and others, starts to show cracks.  Its demolition will benefit both countries, and significantly boost Greece’s role in the region.

 

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Belgrade Media Report 19 July 2018

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