Vucic: Balkans to act united when Europe doesn’t act that way (RTS/Tanjug)
Following the meeting of the “Balkan Four” in Thessaloniki, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated that these four countries – Serbia, Romania, Greece and Bulgaria – in conditions when Europe doesn’t act united, should act more united and resolve problems on the peninsula. When it comes to Belgrade-Pristina relations, he thanked Greece, Romania and Bulgaria for being ready to hear and listen to Serbia’s stand. “I have never interfered in sovereign issues of other countries, including the name of your sovereign neighbor. Still, there is no doubt that in Serbia, for every inhabitant of our country who sees that the two sides, which had opposed stands, had reached agreement, is good news – good news for the entire region. I wish this to continue this in the future, without embarking upon individual interests of countries,” said Vucic.
Vucic: Kosovo most significant topic in all discussions (RTS/Tanjug)
Ahead of Wednesday’s Balkan Four meeting in Thessaloniki, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he would request from Greece and Romania – which do not recognize Kosovo – that they remain firm on their position. “I will speak about the Belgrade-Pristina relationship and the continuation of the dialogue. …And I will try to explain to our Bulgarian friends once again what our positions are,” he said. Asked about the recent remark by Johannes Hahn that Kosovo is not the only thing when it comes to Serbia’s progress on the EU path, Vucic said that at meetings with foreign officials, which last usually around two hours, of 120 minutes of talks, they discuss Kosovo 119 and a half minutes. “Half a minute before the press conference we discuss other things. Simply, people should know and should not think there is some other topic that can be measured and be compared with Kosovo,” Vucic told the Serbian press. “Our international, primarily Western, partners also know this, while everything else is a show for the public,” said Vucic. Asked whether there is shuttle diplomacy on a daily basis and what is going on with the negotiations, he says: “I would be lying if I would say that we do not have talks every week. We do, which is normal. Is there is progress, has anything significant happened – no. That is all I can say, everything else would not be fair and would not be correct,” concluded Vucic.
Djuric: Albanians can’t do anything without talks with Serbia (TV Pink/Tanjug)
Aspirations of Albanians are pretty clear to us, but it should also be clear to then that without talks with Serbia they cannot do anything except to “sell fog” to their people, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told TV Pink on Wednesday. He says it certainly is not a surprise for Serbia when somebody from Pristina doesn’t adhere to the agreement, but this shows that part of them are not ready, and part of them has not fulfilled what had been discussed. “This is precisely why they defend themselves by giving scandalous statements,” said Djuric. “Our interest that, despite the inflammatory rhetoric, we are going the path of talks and we are looking for a solution. Here we also have the international community to fight jointly, but I repeat, this is a very difficult task,” said Djuric.
Serb stabbed in northern Kosovo (Radio Kontakt Plus/B92)
A Kosovo Serb (23), identified only by initials N.D., was seriously wounded in the predominantly Serb village of Priluzje in northern Kosovo after being stabbed in the chest and back, media and hospital reported. Kosovo police said it arrested an Albanian attacker, but could not confirm if the attack was ethnically motivated. The man’s brother was splashed with pepper spray, local Radio Kontakt Plus reported. The Deputy Director of the Kosovska Mitrovica Clinical Centre Dr Zlatan Elek told the Radio that the young man was brought to the hospital early on Thursday with “several stab wounds in the chest and the back.” The man is in stable condition in the hospital’s ER, the doctor said.
SDA’s Kapetanovic calls statements on alleged spying in B&H paranoia; Other comments (N1)
N1 carries that many reacted to the warning of the UK Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) according to which relations between the UK and B&H could deteriorate because of the accusations of spying. While some are defending the stances of Republika Srpska (RS) President and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik, others believe that this is paranoia which can cause great damage to the interests of the state of B&H. SNSD representatives claim that Serb member of the B&H Presidency Mladen Ivanic (PDP) failed to prevent the arrival of alleged spies in B&H, as well as that Ivanic is working to the benefit of the UK. SNSD representative in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Stasa Kosarac said that Ivanic’s role is clear because, according to him, Ivanic belongs to a structure of people who the UK likes, adding that Ivanic likes the UK back. “Thus, it is clear that coordinates of the action of the UK Embassy in B&H are provided by Mladen Ivanic,” Kosarac underlined. NDP leader Dragan Cavic, on the other hand, recalled that more than one hundred UK soldiers came to B&H on the eve of the last elections, describing the current situation as great exaggeration. Cavic stressed that the UK administration provided many causes in that great exaggeration given that the BBC just before sending of 40 UK soldiers to B&H published the news and the statement by UK Defense Minister who gave some kind of qualifications. SDA representative in the B&H HoR Nermina Kapetanovic called the statements on alleged spying in B&H paranoia, stressing that with this BiH is turning its back to those who support it. “I believe that the UK administration has better things to do and much more good intentions towards B&H to reduce that to spying. Therefore, it is paranoia,” Kapetanovic said.
Representatives of the Independent Bloc believe that B&H does not have a clear vision as to who its strategic partners are and where it wants to go.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Canikli pays official visit to B&H (TV1)
Turkey’s Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli paid an official visit to B&H on Wednesday. He first met with B&H Minister of Defense Marina Pendes. Canikli stressed on this occasion that B&H is a special country for Turkey and that Turkey has supported B&H Ministry of Defense for many years through financial assistance and education of staff. Addressing the press conference after the meeting, Canikli stated that Turkey supports B&H’s integration in the EU, especially the NATO integration. He added that peace in B&H is very important for the whole Balkans, reminding that peace and stability within the state is ensured through institutions. He assessed that previous relations between B&H and Turkey are based on friendship. Pendes said that Turkey supports B&H in many fields and that it was jointly concluded at the meeting that peace, stability and safety of B&H are key factors not just for this part of Europe but also for the world. She added that in this regard Turkey’s full support on B&H’s path towards the Euro-Atlantic integration can be expected. Pendes expressed expectation that positive messages for B&H will be conveyed from the NATO summit in Brussels next week. Pendes stressed that Turkey is constantly lobbying in favor of activation of the Membership Action Plan for B&H. Canikli also met with Chairman of the B&H Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic.
RS government allowed the RS CPA to participate in NATO’s exercise in Serbia, although the RS Assembly adopted the resolution on military neutrality (BNTV)
Republika Srpska (RS) government has allowed the RS Civil Protection Administration (CPA) to participate in NATO’s exercise in Serbia in autumn, although the RS Assembly adopted the resolution on military neutrality of the RS back in 2017 – until a referendum that would result in a final decision on this issue. The RS Civil Protection Administration has recently requested from the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) to finance its participation in NATO’s exercise. “If NATO is unable to fully cover the costs of participation of representatives of B&H in exercise ‘Serbia 2018’, we request from the B&H Ministry of Security, i.e. the B&H CoM, to secure the funds for covering the costs of participation of all representatives of the RS Civil Protection Administration and the RS in all activities within this exercise,” reads the letter that the RS Civil Protection Administration sent to the B&H Ministry of Security. Spokesperson for the RS Civil Protection Administration Zeljko Stojanovic explained that the RS Government has adopted a conclusion allowing their participation in NATO’s exercise under precisely defined conditions. “We should participate with the insignia of the RS, with our uniforms and with the flag of the RS in our camp,” he explained. Asked if the Serbian Government approved their participation under these conditions, given the fact that this is a regional exercise and the RS is “unfortunately” just an entity, Stojanovic referred the reporter to address this question to the Serbian government. B&H Minister of Security Dragan Mektic argued that the request of the RS Civil Protection Administration is quite confusing, adding that he cannot understand the current attitude towards NATO. He reminded that the RS has decided that it does not want to organize joint exercises with NATO, and now “they want us to finance their participation in NATO’s exercise”. “This means that they want to join NATO after all,” Mektic assessed. He reminded that members of the Civil Protection Administrations of both entities can participate in the exercise – with the insignia of B&H along with their own insignia. “The B&H CoM cannot pay for the costs if the RS or the Federation of B&H decide to participate independently. If they are allowed to participate in that way, it will be the obligation of the entity governments,” Mektic explained. He added that it seems like the RS only finds it disputable who will pay for accession to NATO and how it will represent itself, while its attitude towards NATO is not disputable at all.
Because of third entity in B&H, Covic targeted by the US (EuroBlic)
Following his meeting with members of B&H Presidency, US Senator Roger Wicker stated that the US will not accept forming of the third entity in B&H and he even announced introducing of “fierce sanctions” for political leaders who prevent democratic progress. Numerous analysts deem that Wicker’s threat was directed against HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic. Analysts reminded that three months ago the US Congress had a serious debate about main culprits for the political crisis in B&H, where Covic was named as one of the main obstructers, stressing that they are convinced that it is only matter of days before Covic finds himself on the US black list. Political analyst Slavo Kukic said that Covic is in the first line of those who could find themselves under the US sanctions, but this does not mean that he is the only one. “However, the fact is that according to the US view on the situation, in this moment Covic is acting as a support to Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik’s defying behavior towards the West and that he acts as part of the team that is directing this country towards some other power centers. I will not be surprised at all if the US strike against Covic happens in following month or two”, said Kukic. He reminded that Wicker and other senators who visited B&H, also openly told Covic that the US will not tolerate further blockade of elections in Mostar and Kukic deems that the fact that Covic with his solutions is blackmailing everyone, including the right of Mostar citizens to elections, represents another argument in the decision of the US Administration to take a stricter stance towards Covic. Political analyst Ivana Maric also deems that Covic is a step away from sanctions, but she doubts this will happen before the elections. “Covic’s stance towards elections, i.e. the decision on whether he will carry out his threats on blockade of authority formations, will be a determining factor for Washington’s decision on introducing of sanctions,” said Maric.
Bosnia demands return of its property in Croatia (Hina)
The Bosnian Presidency has called on all government levels in the country to launch proceedings in Croatian courts for the restitution of properties owned by Bosnian legal subjects, Presidency member Mladen Ivanic said in Sarajevo on Tuesday. The Presidency met to discuss the status of assets owned by B&H, its two entities and its legal subjects in the wake of Croatia’s recent amendments to its law on state assets management, which make it possible to grant concession of up to 30 years on unused properties owned by other states. As a state, B&H has launched proceedings in Croatian courts for the recognition of ownership rights in seven cases, but its entities and legal subjects have not, prompting the Presidency to call on them to take action.
The management of property which B&H legal subjects own in Croatia was also discussed by the Council of Ministers. Justice Minister Josip Grubesa told reporters that the ministers agreed on legal steps to resolve the problem, but said ownership rights were guaranteed by the constitution, so the properties in Croatia would not be alienated. “This is an incentive to bolster bilateral negotiations with institutions in neighboring countries so that the properties can be returned to interested persons in B&H” he said. Asked how much the properties in Croatia claimed by B&H subjects were worth, Grubesa said they were mainly dilapidated structures. “It’s clear we are talking about the most attractive properties on the Adriatic coast. They have their value. But… we shouldn’t speculate on the value of the properties. We should… find a way, through bilateral talks, to continue to manage those properties,” he added.
Parliament endorses law ratifying name agreement in second vote (MIA)
The parliament endorsed Thursday the law ratifying the name agreement with 69 votes ‘in favor’ and one ‘abstained’. This was the second vote on the law after President Gjorge Ivanov failed to sign the decree for its promulgation after the Parliament had initially passed it on June 20.
The opposition did not attend the parliament session. Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said in the elaboration that the agreement guarantees the individuality of the Macedonian identity and language. “The agreement reaffirms and enhances the Macedonian identity as never before. In practice, the agreement will establish the identity and overcome the eternal struggle for language and identity, we will join the EU, including the release of documents in Macedonian language and translated in Macedonian language,” said Dimitrov. He said the President is obliged by law to sign the decree after the second Parliament vote. He referred to the reasons that Ivanov noted when refusing to sign the decree, including the authority of the President to conclude international agreements. “Since the country’s independence, the Parliament has ratified 897 international agreements, of which only five have been concluded by the President,” said Dimitrov. He also mentioned the President’s claim that the agreement brings Macedonia into subordinate position to Greece. “Macedonia was in a subordinate position by the negotiations. The agreement takes us out of that dependency and brings us into a position of independence. It is time to serve the country’s interests and show unity,” underlined Dimitrov. Parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi announced last week that the law could be sent for release to the Official Gazette with only his signature, alongside the Law on the Use of Languages, which President Ivanov has also failed to sign.
Zaev urges President Ivanov to sign law ratifying name agreement (MIA)
President Gjorge Ivanov should sign the law ratifying the name agreement, followed by its confirmation at a referendum, said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Thursday. Zaev said citizens get a chance for the first time after 27 years to decide about Macedonia’s future. “I believe in our people and success of the process that future generations will be proud of,” Zaev told reporters. According to him, the law’s second vote in the Parliament will be followed by a referendum, constitutional revision, ratification in the Greek parliament and the agreement’s entry into force.
Zaev meets British Foreign Office delegation (MIA)
The UK’s substantial support of Macedonia’s bid to join the Euro-Atlantic organizations is yet another motivation for the country to speed up reforms that will bring economic prosperity to its citizens, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told Wednesday in Skopje to a delegation of the British Foreign Office, led by Director General for Political Affairs Richard Moore. The British delegation commended the Skopje-Athens name deal, expressing belief that advancing of Macedonia’s relations with Greece and other neighbors was contributing to realization of the country’s aspirations for the EU, NATO membership. Zaev and his guests also discussed about the preparations of the Western Balkans Summit, scheduled to take place in London on 9-10 July, the government said in a press release.
Zaev: It’s an honor to serve your country as NATO member (MIA)
To be a soldier in a NATO member country means that they will work in improved conditions according to the standards of NATO allies. As soldiers, you should be proud of being the first generation to serve its country as a NATO member, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Wednesday at an event marking the inauguration of 125 professional soldiers in the Macedonian Army (ARM). “Our membership into the Alliance will open greater opportunities for you. The Macedonian Army for years side by side with NATO armies has been participating in peace missions, for which it has been highly graded. Participation in these missions helped ARM boost its capacities. The Ministry of Defense and the government of Macedonia have been working closely to restore the dignity of your profession after a long stalemate in reforms… Our approach to solutions these days have brought us happy news and positive decisions. One of them is the anticipated invitation to become the 30th member of the Alliance,” Zaev said noting that Macedonia would be sitting at the same table with some of the world’s greatest powers.
The government, he said, has started to increase the defense budget and is aiming at establishing a modern army all the while implementing reforms. According to Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska, the NATO invitation due to be extended next week means the start of an era of stability and security in our country. “You are part of the first group of a total of 375 new professional soldiers who will bolster ARM this year. You are beginning your career in crucial times of major challenges, modernization and professionalization of the army. In times in which Macedonia will improve its military and meet the standards of NATO,” stressed Sekerinska.
Angjusev and Mancevski attend Western Balkans Summit in Vienna (MIA)
Deputy PM for Economic Affairs Koco Angjusev and Minister of Information Society and Administration Damjan Mancevski participate Wednesday at the Economy Ministers’ Meeting held in Vienna within frameworks of activities of the fifth Western Balkans Summit.
Angjusev as well as EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and other ministers in the regions are scheduled to address session focused on regional economic area, Government Press Service informs. Mancevski will address the session titled “Collective approach toward digitalized Western Balkans” referring to Macedonia’s Government activities implemented in this direction. The Western Balkans Summit in London will be the fifth to take place under the Berlin Process after Berlin (2014), Vienna (2015), Paris (2016) and Trieste (2017). The Berlin Process is a diplomatic initiative that Chancellor Merkel launched in 2014, and is supported by the UK, France, Austria and Italy. This year the official part of the event will be held three days – Economy Ministers’ Meeting is held today in Vienna, parallel sessions of the ministers of foreign and internal affairs are scheduled for July 9 and Heads of Government will meet on July 10 in London.
No confirmation for Zaev-Tsipras meeting in London (MIA)
The government is still not confirming whether Premier Zoran Zaev will hold bilateral talks with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras on the sidelines of the Western Balkans Summit, held next week in London. “Next week, we are traveling to London for the Western Balkans Summit and to Brussels for the NATO Summit. If the two prime ministers were to meet at one of the two events, we would inform the public,” government spokesman Mile Bosnjakovski said Wednesday. Answering questions at a news conference, Bosnjakovski reiterated that no negotiations had been taking place to change the anthem or some of the Macedonian state symbols. “Neither in the past, nor now, or even sometime in the future, there will be never talks about changing the anthem of the Republic of Macedonia. The anthem will remain as it is now,” stressed the spokesman. Also, there have never been negotiations about changing the other state symbols, according to Bosnjakovski.
Macedonian-Bulgarian joint multidisciplinary commission holds first session (MIA)
In accordance with the obligations for implementing the Treaty of Friendship, Good-Neighborliness and Cooperation, a joint Macedonian-Bulgarian Multidisciplinary Commission for Historical and Educational Issues held its first session on 2-3 July in Sofia. The meeting defined the principles and methodology for the Commissions’ work in accordance with the principles of mutual understanding and positive European experiences, the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release on Wednesday. The work of the Commission was also welcomed by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, who briefly attended the meeting. The Commission decided to hold its second meeting in Macedonia.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Macedonian government rated most transparent in the Western Balkans (bne IntelliNews, 4 July 2018)
The Macedonian government is the most open and transparent in the Western Balkans region, a survey published by Skopje-based foundation Metamorphosis indicated on July 4.
The Regional Openness Index was created within the framework of the regional network Action SEE, which is a Western Balkans citizens organizations’ initiative. The last survey on the openness, accountability and transparency of institutions in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia was conducted in the period from December 2017 until the end of February 2018. This is the second such survey. The survey showed that the openness index of the Macedonian government was 75.61%, considerably up from 52.34% a year earlier. The Social Democrat-led government under Prime Minister Zoran Zaev came on power at the end of May 2017, following a deep political crisis in the country, ending the 10-year rule of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE. The openness index measures the level of openness of the Western Balkan governments towards citizens and society, and was created in order to define to what extent the citizens of the region receive convenient and understandable information from the government institutions. The first measurement was conducted from December 2016 until February 2017. Only Macedonia registered an improvement on the index while the indices of the other five countries in the Western Balkans showed a declining tendency. Macedonia is followed by Montenegro, whose openness index fell to 68.94% from 81.8%. Serbia is on the third place with an index of 56.66% slightly down from 58.97% in the previous survey. Albania is fourth with an openness index of 54.92% compared to 57.94% a year earlier. Bosnia’s index dropped significantly to 45.9% from 60.66%. Kosovo is ranked on the last place with an index of 41.29%, falling sharply from 60.82%. “There is great progress also in all ministries of the Macedonian government,” minister without portfolio Robert Popovski said in a government statement issued after the announcement of the results of the survey. The index also measures the openness of the ministries, with Macedonia now in third place, behind Montenegro and Serbia. According to the minister, the Macedonian government is strongly committed to pursue transparent, accountable and responsible governance and will strive to achieve even better results in the next survey, which will be conducted at the beginning of next year.