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Belgrade Media Report 17 April

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic: They will request full recognition of Kosovo and Serbia not to get anything (RTS/Tanjug/B92)
• Russia will not allow violation of UNSCR 1244; attempts at pushing through UN Secretariat proposals aimed at undermining UNMIK (RTV/RTS/Tanjug/FoNet)
• Dacic: We will not make any moves without consultations with Russia (RTV/RTS/FoNet/Tanjug)
• Drecun: Belgrade to insist on cessation of provocative actions (RTS)
• Vulin: Serbia committed to peacekeeping missions, because others help Serbia too (Beta)
• Mondoloni blasts certain media outlets in Serbia for scandalous coverage of Notre-Dame fire (Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Party delegations of SDA, SNSD and HDZ B&H set to discuss formation of B&H CoM; Dodik not optimistic (FTV)
• US Embassy, OHR reject Dodik’s claims about secession of RS, say that secession of entities is not possible under DPA and Constitution (Oslobodjenje)
• IC reps comment on formation of reserve police unit; US Embassy to B&H: We will request additional info on purpose of reserve police unit (TV1)
Montenegro
• Boskovic: Protests are politically-colored (Dnevne novine)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Hahn: The outgoing President should not interfere in ongoing judicial procedures (Nezavisen Vesnik)
Albania
• Netherlands votes pro the return of visa regime with Albania (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
• Russia plans to step up foreign policy coordination with Serbia — Lavrov (TASS)
• Greek business chief: North Macedonia deal diminished Turkey’s influence (EurActiv)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: They will request full recognition of Kosovo and Serbia not to get anything (RTS/Tanjug/B92)

 

The Serbian President and leader of the ruling SNS party Aleksandar Vucic told the SNS Presidency meeting in Belgrade that he would face a request to recognize a full independence of Kosovo, without divisions and full and integral territory of an independent Kosovo. He said he would speak with the presidents of China and Russia in Beijing and then head to Berlin for very difficult meetings with the leaders of France and Germany. “I will tell you right away: nothing good awaits us there and I expect nothing good. The only thing I expect is a start of requests for a new format where the goal would be a recognition of independence without Serbia getting anything,” he said. They will request that we return to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue without the Kosovo Albanians scrapping their taxes, he said. “I will not accept a resumption of any dialogue without a scrapping of the taxes, whatever the pressure,” he said. Speaking about the demands and pressure on Serbia to recognize Kosovo, Vucic said he was not exaggerating. “And we should be lucky if they don’t introduce a special tribunal for Serbs and convict u for all sexual crimes committed in the Balkans. I do not exaggerate at all, I even softened it,” Vucic said. Accordingly, he added, there will be great pressure. “They will also support internal elements in order to reduce the strength of the Serbian state and to make it easier to reach that goal,” Vucic said. He recalled that there was nothing that Albanians have not done against Serbs and Serbia, and explained: “They did not meet their obligations from the Brussels agreement, including the key point to form the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO), they have imposed taxes contrary to all international laws, passed a platform against negotiations designed to humiliate and destroyed, and made to recognize Kosovo, they introduced an army contrary to even their own constitution and the position of the NATO secretary general, they have been allowed to do so, we have waited for six months for the taxes to be withdrawn, for the international community to plead with them, to ask their baby to abolish them, but nothing happened, on the contrary.” “In the last few weeks, they have been come to Belgrade, inviting me to various meetings where they insist that we should do something to ‘improve the mood’ of Albanians, so that they can abolish the taxes. You take pause, you don’t believe it, and then the fake stories about land records and diplomas start, that have been used to once again deceive Serbia, regardless of our poor negotiating,” the President said, referring to some earlier points from the Kosovo dialogue. “When you say, ‘that’s impossible without the abolition of the taxes’ – they say – ‘tell me you will no longer work to block Kosovo recognitions’,” he continued. “Let’s make a deal – they shouldn’t work for the campaign to gain recognition, so we will not, but no, no, that cannot be done, it’s normal for them to seek recognition…,” Vucic said, describing the way foreigners have been presenting their case in conversations with him. He also remarked that when he said we had a chance to reach a compromise solution, he was proclaimed a traitor, and that may have been the last chance. Vucic also questioned how it was possible that there is only one target and one topic in Albanian media in Kosovo. “Well, if I’m a traitor, why are they (Albanian language press) attacking me every day, why do they love (opposition) protests in Belgrade so much and are cheering for them so much? Or are they bothered by Vucic because he knew what Serbian interests are, and now it’s important just to topple Vucic?,” he asked. Unless Pristina revokes the taxes by 6 May, a special meeting of the SNS main board will be held to present measures against Pristina, he announced. And he had this message for all those who are used to calling him on the phone and making threats if Serbs even attempt to defend themselves: “Don’t call me. I’m not available.”

 

Russia will not allow violation of UNSCR 1244; attempts at pushing through UN Secretariat proposals aimed at undermining UNMIK (RTV/RTS/Tanjug/FoNet)

 

“We are calling the US and the EU to realize their responsibility for implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions, which have been drafted together with the US and Europe, and to make the Kosovo leaders stop their provocative and confronting policy,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a joint press conference with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic in Moscow. He pointed out that Russia would not allow the Security Council to change the UN mandate in Kosovo. “It seems to us that the west is trying to force the UN Secretariat to push through some proposals that will undermine the UN Mission in Kosovo. That would be direct violation of Resolution 1244, and we will do everything in our power for this provocative plan not to be realized,” said Lavrov. He says that the problem of Kosovo can be resolved only by drawing closer the positions and via consensus and not by setting ultimatums. In response to a journalist question in regard to the idea of double sovereignty in Kosovo, as reported by some Pristina media, Lavrov says that the west wasn’t mentioning double sovereignty at the time of recognizing the illegally declared independence of Kosovo. “But, I repeat, it is up to our Serbian friends to make the decision. As regards the pressures on Serbia and the requests to recognize independence of Kosovo, this pressure will continue,” says Lavrov. He assesses that the US and the current administration are obsessed with the pursuit of reaching as many as possible foreign policy successes in the shortest time by the next elections. This, according to him, requires far more time than setting ultimatums and requesting that they be immediately accepted, but this is the only way towards a stable resolution of problems. “Unfortunately, our western colleagues, in principle, think they are deciding about the fate of the world and the colonial aspects in the mentality have begun to manifest themselves,” said Lavrov. “They are talking less and less about international law, and more and more about rules they invented and that all other countries need to accept, bypassing the UN Security Council and ignoring the very UN,” warned the Russian Foreign Minister.

 

Dacic: We will not make any moves without consultations with Russia (RTV/RTS/FoNet/Tanjug)

 

At a joint press conference with Lavrov, Minister Dacic pointed out that Serbia and the Russian Federation will always work to find the best possible political solutions for the problems that exist in our region. He expressed his gratitude to the Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin and Minister Lavrov for the great support they give us in defending our territorial integrity and sovereignty, pointing out that Serbia is not able to protect its national interest without the help of Russia. “It is very important to us that Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is a factor of stability and security for us, so that, for example, the decision to have Kosovo admitted to membership in the UN cannot be made because the UN Security Council must adopt it. We need the assistance of the Russian Federation and our other friends in relation to Kosovo’s membership in international organizations,” he said. According to Dacic, it is important that in protecting our interests we start consulting with Russia, which is why the meeting of Presidents Vucic and Putin, ahead of the meeting convened by Angela Merkel in Berlin, is very important. Dacic said that Serbia will not make any moves without consulting the Russian Federation, stressing that the Russians will support everything that is in Serbia’s interest.

 

Drecun: Belgrade to insist on cessation of provocative actions (RTS)

 

On the occasion of the upcoming meeting in Berlin, the Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that several things are important in order to achieve progress – to abolish the taxes, to remove aside the Pristina platform and to stop with the treats to the people in north of Kosovo and Metohija. “Pristina needs to stop with the provocative actions that threaten with violence to the Serbs in north of Kosovo in order to have talks. When there is arms rattling there is no progress,” says Drecun. In that context he says that he had seen in the media that former Croatian general Ante Gotovina is with his companions in Kosovo and Metohija, who are there as instructors of the Kosovo security forces. He says that this is true but stressed he doesn’t have information as to whether Gotovina is there. Commenting the allegations that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emanuel Macron will present the idea of double sovereignty at the Berlin meeting on 29 April, Drecun says one should see what this means, i.e. whether this is another name for the idea of delineation. “The only progress would be to agree to resume talks, but this means that taxes need to be abolished, that the platform from Pristina, which was agreed with the regime in Tirana, needs to be placed as acta since there is no room for talks here,” said Drecun.

 

Vulin: Serbia committed to peacekeeping missions, because others help Serbia too (Beta)

 

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said at the 7th annual meeting of the European

Association of Peace Operations Training Centers (EAPTC) taking place in Belgrade that Serbia was committed to UN peacekeeping missions, and that one of the reasons was that it didn’t forget that others had helped it before. “The UN, facing frequent violations of the

international law by the big and the powerful, is often underestimated. The reality aside, for us, small, free peoples, the UN is still one of the large global floors where we can say what we think,” Vulin said. This year’s conference, organized by the Center for Intercultural Communication and Mediation Conflux, brought together more than 130 participants, including representatives of 70 national and international institutions providing training for peace operations.

 

Mondoloni blasts certain media outlets in Serbia for scandalous coverage of Notre-Dame fire (Beta)

 

French Ambassador to Serbia Frederic Mondoloni has said that it is scandalous how certain media outlets covered the fire in the Notre-Dame, presenting the fire as punishment for

raising the Kosovo flag on the cathedral on the anniversary of the end of World War I, but thanked the authorities and citizens of Serbia for their messages of support. Mondoloni told journalists in Belgrade that the negative commentary had struck him deeply and that he had only contempt for people who said things like that. “For me this is not the Serbia that I have come to know and love in the last 18 months since I have been here. I think that the people who do that, pretending to defend their country, are in fact doing a lot of damage,” Mondoloni said. He added that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and many members of the cabinet, as well as Serbian citizens had sent their sympathies and solidarity throughout the night.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Party delegations of SDA, SNSD and HDZ B&H set to discuss formation of B&H CoM; Dodik not optimistic (FTV)

 

Party delegations of SDA, SNSD and HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) are scheduled to meet today (Wednesday) in order to discuss the issue of formation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). The previous meetings of the three-party delegations failed to yield results due to disagreements in stances on current issues and this has hindered formation of the B&H CoM. The issues of the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) activation and distribution of ministries are the main stumbling blocks when it comes to talks on formation of the B&H CoM. According to FTV, distribution of ministries seems to be a bigger issue than the MAP activation especially now that DF has joined SDA as a partner in talks on authority formation. SNSD and HDZ B&H refuse to give their posts in the B&H CoM to DF, which they refer to as the Bosniak partner in talks. In addition, the key issue that HDZ B&H insists on solving is adoption of the Election Law of B&H in a way that it would enable election of – based on the party’s stance – legitimate representation of peoples in the authorities. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic stated that he is afraid that the aim of “the side led by Mr. Dodik” is to prevent reaching of an agreement on formation of authorities, just so that SNSD would have the reason to boycott work of the B&H institutions and carry on with “anti-Dayton activities”. SNSD leader Milorad Dodik announced that, at Wednesday’s meeting with delegations of SDA and HDZ B&H, he will present SNSD’s demand for the posts of the B&H CoM Chairman and three ministerial posts, but also remind that SNSD is against MAP activation. Dodik reiterated on Tuesday that SDA is the main culprit for stalling the process of formation of the authorities at the B&H level. Dodik is not optimistic that the agreement on formation of the B&H CoM will be reached at Wednesday’s meeting.

HDZ B&H Vice-President Marinko Cavara said: “At our last meeting with SDA, we (HDZ B&H) discussed all issues, and I think that we will certainly not be able to agree on everything tomorrow (Wednesday).” DF Vice-President Dzenan Djonlagic confirmed that DF did not set a specific condition in terms of demanding certain ministries, but he noted that DF has nothing against possible establishing of two new state-level ministries, which would be in charge of agriculture and European integration.

 

US Embassy, OHR reject Dodik’s claims about secession of RS, say that secession of entities is not possible under DPA and Constitution (Oslobodjenje)

 

General elections in B&H were held more than six months ago, but the elected officials have failed to form the state-level and the Federation of B&H authorities; stances of political leaders have never been so far off, with SNSD leader Milorad Dodik warning that other institutions in B&H will not be able to function unless the Council of Ministers of B&H is formed soon and even threatening with secession of the RS if Kosovo gets a seat in the UN. Commenting the issue related to the authority formation, the US Embassy to B&H stated for the daily: “The US are willing to support the leaders who are working on achieving progress on road of B&H to the Euro-Atlantic integration and the EU membership. Destructive rhetoric is slowing progress, undermines stability and keeps the investors away, which in the end destroys jobs and speeds up the exodus of B&H citizens to the EU. The US stance on this issue is well known and remains unchanged. Territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H are guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Agreement. Neither the Dayton Agreement nor the Constitution of B&H allow a possibility of secession of any of the entities. Any actions taken with a goal to ensure dissolution of B&H would represent violation of the Dayton Agreement. Existence of any of the two entities is directly related to the existence of B&H.” The US Embassy also pointed out that status of B&H as a country is not a matter of opinion, but the fact. The Office of the High Representative (OHR) stated that B&H is internationally acknowledged country, and its sovereignty and territorial integrity are guaranteed by the Framework Agreement for Peace in B&H, the Constitution of B&H and the international law. “According to the Peace Agreement, the entities do not have a right to secession and they exist only within the Constitution of B&H. Such statements do not have any constructive purpose and they can only additionally complicate already complex process of authority formation at the state level,” stated the OHR and pointed out that the elected officials should stop talking and start actually working on the process of the EU integration of the country.

 

IC reps comment on formation of reserve police unit; US Embassy to B&H:  We will request additional info on purpose of reserve police unit (TV1)

 

The US Embassy to B&H commented on draft amendments to the RS law on police and internal affairs regarding formation of a reserve police unit within the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI). According to the US Embassy to B&H, they will request additional information on the purpose of the reserve police unit, bearing in mind the fact that some competences go beyond the domain of the RS MoI. The US Embassy to B&H pointed out that it supports development of professional law enforcement agencies at all levels in B&H which respect their specific competencies, coordinate activities with other agencies in an efficient manner and act in line with laws without any political influence. The OSCE Mission to B&H also reacted by saying that each initiative aimed to increase capacities must be realized based on joint assessment of security risks. According to the OSCE Mission to B&H, such initiatives should be jointly planned and jointly implemented in order to build a security system in B&H for all citizens. EUFOR Mission to B&H is also monitoring the situation. “EUFOR’s mission is to provide support to local authorities in securing a stable and secure environment for the population of B&H. Changes in the structure of agencies, such as the police, are done by an authorized legislator,” reads a press release issued by EUFOR Mission to B&H. Representatives of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H said that they are closely monitoring all developments and that they are made familiar with the announced changes to the Law on Police and Internal Affairs of the RS. “The EUD and the Office of the EU Special Representative in B&H believe that these draft amendments can be improved in the amendment phase by the proponent. Furthermore, the relevant legislation, as well as the practice of the police forces will be reviewed during the upcoming expert missions that will examine cooperation in law enforcement, as well as status, autonomy and responsibility of police forces throughout the country,” reads a press release issued by the EUD to B&H.

 

Boskovic: Protests are politically-colored (Dnevne novine)

 

Speaking about the protests and the connection of the “dissatisfaction” of the citizens in Tirana, Belgrade and Podgorica, Minister of Defense, Predrag Boskovic, says that protests in Montenegro are politically colored and are not inclined to national values and identity at all. Boskovic firmly believes that problems in the surrounding areas cannot affect Montenegro because the institutions of the system are well organized. Besides we are NATO member.

Minister said that our country had had by 250% higher inflow of FDI in the first year of NATO membership. “A concrete example of NATO system of collective security is the protection of our air space. I’m talking about the Air Policing mission, carried out by Italy and Greece following the model that is being applied to the air space of Albania and that has turned out to be very efficient,” said Boskovic. NATO membership enables Montenegro to take part in the process of the creation of global security policy, to make decisions about the objectives of common interest and about the funds needed to achieve such objectives. “Montenegro retains its full sovereignty in the Alliance. The Alliance can’t render a decision that opposes the national interest of some ally. The Alliance doesn’t bring any losses, decisions are rendered by consensus and the activities are performed following the principle of solidarity,” says the Minister. The region is still faced with many unsolved problems and challenges. However, the Minister assures that such problems cannot affect Montenegro. “There’s no such problem that can’t be tackled and the historical agreement between North Macedonia and Greece proves it. For tackling specific issues, a clear and strict policy is required. European and Euro-Atlantic integration of WB countries is the best guarantee of the stability of this region. Considering that most countries in the region advocate for NATO, UN and EU missions, and that they share foreign policy interests, there’s no need to fear that there will be some negative reflection,” said Minister Boskovic. Security challenges in the region are the same as those that the international community is faced with – hybrid threats, migrations and violent extremism. “In case of Montenegro, hybrid threats require most commitment. However, thanks to its strict policy and strong support of partners and allies, Montenegro manages to resist the temptations and harmful methods,” said Minister Boskovic. He believes that protests in Montenegro are legitimate of expressing dissatisfaction as long as they are peaceful and political interests from the side do not intervene. “However, concrete social requests lack here and, therefore, the characteristic of civil protests is lost. National flags never fluttered during the rallies in Montenegro which means that protests here aren’t inclined to national values. What connects the actors of the protests is the fact that they are trying to take over the power from the street, use of offensive language, threats and a certain level of political misbehavior. This pretty much hinders the stability of the region. President of Montenegro and the Prime Minister have said many times that their door is always open for a fair political dialogue within the institutions. The other side wasn’t willing to do it,” said Minister Boskovic.

 

Hahn: The outgoing President should not interfere in ongoing judicial procedures (Nezavisen Vesnik)

 

Commissioner for EU Enlargement Johannes Hahn gave an interview for Nezavisen Vesnik in which he urged President Gjorge Ivanov not to interfere in ongoing judicial proceedings, instructing him indirectly to forget about amnesty. Hahn also hopes that the Prespa Agreement will not be sacrificed for party-political reasons given that it is part of the campaign for the presidential election. According to him, it will be irresponsible if the EU does not fulfill the promises it has made, including the promises to our country.

 

Commissioner Hahn, for the first time North Macedonia has credible reforms. Yet, we are not sure whether we will get a date for negotiations in June, after the decision was postponed last June. What will happen now?

Hahn: First of all, the European Commission will publish the countries reports by the end of May. If North Macedonia keeps up its reform efforts – and I have no doubt about it – this visible progress as well as the historic breakthrough of the Prespa Agreement will be clearly reflected in our assessment. Following this, it is up to member states to take a decision, which will be hopefully positive and at the earliest possible date, i.e. at the June Council.

 

What are the reasons that some countries still have reservations about North Macedonia? What will be your arguments, as you intend to recommend start of the negotiations, as I understood? What this decision will mean for the country?

Hahn: Indeed, it is well-known that some countries have reservations – as we could see already in June last year. But I hope that in the meantime member states had the opportunity to witness that the government in Skopje is delivering on substantial reforms such as the establishment of the anti-corruption agency, in the area of judiciary where the SPO law is in process and on media freedom, just to mention three key reform priorities. The government is also reaching out to the opposition, the civil society and to the different ethnic groups of the society which is important for a well-functioning democracy. I am doing the widest out-reach possible with member states on the basis of well-founded arguments: first of all, the accession process cannot be a one-way street. If our partner countries deliver on reforms, EU Member States have to deliver, too, by taking the accession process to the next stage. Sticking to our commitment is a question of the EU’s credibility.  Secondly, the EU integration of the Western Balkans is in the Union’s very own interest: it is about creating stability, prosperity as well as democratic and inclusive societies in our immediate neighborhood. The EU perspective is a key driver of reforms. Thirdly, it would be irresponsible if the EU did not deliver on its promises.  Not only because this might lead to a back-sliding of reforms, but because our competitors in the region, such as China, Turkey, Russia, who have different values, might take advantage from our hesitation and increase their influence. If the EU really wants to become a global player, we have to integrate the Western Balkans and join forces in tackling common challenges such as migration, climate-change and organized crime.

 

Why Macedonia is still in the same package with Albania? Is it possible that EU countries don’t see the differences in the situation here and in Albania?

Hahn: It is a principle of the EU accession process, as repeated in our Western Balkans strategy adopted last year, that we are assessing the countries on the basis of their individual merits. This individual progress will certainly be reflected in the country reports.

 

What is still necessary to be done for you to have strong recommendation for the negotiations? Will be that possible without the decision about the SPO’s term or without elected president?

Hahn: I think it is important that the reform efforts are kept up till the very last and that the Presidential elections are conducted in a free and fair way. I commend the agreement between the candidates to stick to this.

 

There are requests for new amnesty from President Ivanov again for the 27 April case, and probably for other cases connected to corruption. What will be your message about this idea?

Hahn: As on previous similar occasions, I can just advise the outgoing President not to interfere with ongoing judicial procedures.

 

The opposition refuses to implement the Prespa Agreement and are promising during the campaign that they will try to change it. Will this influence the integration of our country in EU? Do you think is possible for the country to get NATO membership and EU negotiations and after that not to implement the agreement, as some people think?

Hahn: The Prespa Agreement is an achievement of historic dimensions, acknowledged by the international community. It sends the positive signal to the whole region that reconciliation in the Western Balkans is possible with political leadership and orientation towards the future. I hope that this achievement will not be sacrificed for party political reasons. It is in the country’s interest that this achievement is irreversible as well as the reforms made in key priority areas. It is time for the Western Balkans political leaders to think in long-term strategic terms, i.e. what is the best for their countries and citizens instead of following party-political considerations.

 

Will be there a new commissioner for enlargement in the new EC, will Turkey be there and what changes do you expect after the EU elections?

Hahn: I believe that even if there will be a wider spectrum of parties in the new EP there will be a clear majority of pro-European forces. And this will guarantee institutional continuity. Given the political importance of the EU integration of the Western Balkans and the progress made over the last years, this process will certainly continue, including with a Commissioner in charge of Enlargement negotiations. As for Turkey, the ball is now clearly in Turkey’s court to prove its commitment to European values.

 

Netherlands votes pro the return of visa regime with Albania (ADN)

 

The majority in the parliament in Netherlands has voted pro the return of visa regime with Albania. In the voting process, 150 MPs of the Dutch parliament participated, among whom 105 expressed the support for the suspension of the visa liberalization, while 45 rejected the proposal.

In total there were 9 political parties that gave 105 votes for the return of the visa regime for Albanians. “The parliament, after discussions, pointing out that there has been a significant increase in criminality by the Albanian mafia in the Netherlands and that these criminal organizations abuse the opportunity to travel visa-free through Europe to further expand the smuggling network by putting in it. It seems that the suspension of visas for Albania was forced out of different conditions, including the prevention of transnational crime. We ask the government to submit a request to the European Commission to initiate the emergency halt procedure for visa liberalization,” reads the parliament’s declaration. The three main parliamentary parties, which have mostly supported the drastic move towards Albanians, are the Socialist Party, the Party for Freedom and the Democratic Christian Party. Meanwhile, in Albania, Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) member, Klajda Gjosha, reacted on the decision by the Dutch Parliament and urged the acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Gent Cakaj and Interior Minister Sander Lleshi, to start urgently discussions with Netherlands, in order to stop the decision.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Russia plans to step up foreign policy coordination with Serbia — Lavrov (TASS, 17 April 2019)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic is visiting Russia on Wednesday at Lavrov’s invitation

MOSCOW, Russia will continue efforts on developing foreign policy coordination with Serbia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting in Moscow with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic on Wednesday. “We keep our intensive dialogue, and contacts at the highest level set the tone for it, in particular, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Serbia in January,” Lavrov said. The presidents discussed then the implementation of previous deals and agreed on the new areas of cooperation in economy, foreign policy and inter-parliamentary exchanges, he noted. “Today there is a great opportunity to continue efforts on ensuring intensive and progressive development of our relations, including in the sphere of foreign policy coordination,” Lavrov said.

 

Greek business chief: North Macedonia deal diminished Turkey’s influence (EurActiv, by Sarantis Michalopoulos, 17 April 2019)

 

The North Macedonia name change deal, also known as Prespa Agreement, has helped diminish Turkey’s influence in the country and simultaneously upgrade Athens’s role in the wider Balkan region, Greek business chief Konstantinos Michalos told EURACTIV in an interview. “Through the Prespa agreement, I feel that we have diminished Turkey’s influence, which has been getting higher and higher over the last few years. It also gives us the opportunity as a country to play a predominant role in the Balkans,” Michalos said, referring to the deal reached between Skopje and Athens last July and ratified this year. Together with 143 businessmen, Michalos, who is the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and deputy president of the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Eurochambres), accompanied Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras on a visit in Skopje. According to Michalos, the visit brought tangible results for the businesses as the two governments decided to break down tariffs and double taxation. The Greek businessman said enhanced collaboration in the infrastructure and energy sector will be of high importance for the two countries as well as the Greek know-how when it comes to North Macedonia’s EU path. “When the discussions of EU accession do begin, then there’s going to be a strong base that they can rely on, which is the Greek consulting businesses […] we have tremendous experience and technocratic knowledge which we can offer to this country,” Michalos said. Michalos added that the leftist Syriza government did manage to get the country out of austerity and decrease unemployment, but he insisted that more efforts should be made to speed up foreign direct investments. With regards to the upcoming EU elections, he said the rise of far-right forces highlights the need for pro-EU forces to move along with solidarity and cooperation at all levels. “And we have to remember that we’re still on very fragile ground. The crisis is by no means over,” he said. “Eurochambers has always been pro-European. Unfortunately, we’ve seen with the policies that have been implemented over the last five or six years, the political system within Europe has given rise to this far right wing and also to populism.”

*Amanda Lee contributed to this article

 

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