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Belgrade Media Report 30 April

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic in Berlin: Media campaign, arguing with Albanians (Tanjug)
• Vucic after the meeting with Mogherini: Serbia is ready – but it’s not up to us (Tanjug)
• Macron: Serbian-Kosovo relationship is summit priority, but no solution to be tabled (Beta)
• Merkel: Resolving Serbia-Kosovo issues progressing worse than before (Beta)
• Proposed Berlin summit statement does not mention redrawing of borders, lifting taxes (Beta)
• Vucic: No Progress, no failure; new talks in Paris in July (RTS, Tanjug)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Mogherini holds separate meetings with B&H CoM Chairman Zvizdic, Serbian President Vucic (BN TV)
• Izetbegovic: We know how to negotiate with Dodik (BN TV)
Croatia
• Croatian Prime Minister attends summit on Western Balkans in Berlin (HRT)
Montenegro
• Djukanovic: An important moment for Serbia-Kosovo relations (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Zaev holds meetings with Merkel and Macron in Berlin (Nezavisen vesnik, Republika)
Albania
• Berlin Summit, PM Rama Received by Chancellor Merkel (AND)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Push for deal between Kosovo and Serbia puts national divisions on display (New York Times)
• Bosnian-Serb Politician Dodik on UK’s ‘Malign’ Influence in Balkans (Sputnik)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic in Berlin: Media campaign, arguing with Albanians (Tanjug)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic‘s comment on Denis Zvizdic saying he was “afraid of border redrawing” has prompted a discussion between the president and Albanian reporters.

Vucic, when asked about the campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) media, deliberately launched ahead of the meeting in Berlin, noticed that this was an established media recipe, where something is first invented, and then “elaborated” in regional media, to the detriment of Serbia, to then state: “There, we had been right, Vucic is doing everything to achieve this or that.”

The media in B&H are citing the British Economist, that said behind Vucic’s idea of demarcation (with Kosovo) stood his intention to unify Serbia and Republika Srpska (RS).

“Have I not repeated it a million times that Serbia respects the territorial integrity of B&H? Did it happen that I ever denied the integrity of B&H? Never,” he said.

He recalled that Albanian PM Edi Rama can be heard talking about the unification of Albania and Kosovo and the creation of Greater Albania, “We are hearing from Albanian politicians from Pristina that there are no borders between Kosovo and Albania.” “Everyone is silent about it, they say it, I do not say anything, and no one writes about what they say, instead they write about what they make up at my expense… Then what are you supposed to do, how to react?” asked Vucic.  He added that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had the chance to see him with the biggest smile to date – “because they pushed Serbia into a corner, a corner from where there is no way out.”

 

“And now we have to defend ourselves and protect the country. We have nothing else to do. What, to defend ourselves from impossible lies?” Vucic said and then returned to the issue of Zvizdic’s statement, to say he didn’t see what he might explain to Zvizdic when it comes to his statement of being afraid of the redrawing of borders.  “B&H, as far as I know, does not recognize Kosovo, and I thank him for protecting the territorial integrity of Serbia. I am very pleased if he said that” Vucic concluded with irony, then turned to Albanian journalists and asked them: “Did you hear that, you Albanians – Zvizdic stands for preserving Kosovo in Serbia? It’s important that you know that, rather than me being the only one.”

 

“It’s not so,” one of the Albanian journalists said, and the conversation followed this way:

Vucic: “It isn’t, eh…?” So Zvizdic actually thinks that Serbia’s borders should be redrawn, but not those of B&H?”

Albanian journalist: “No”.

 

Vucic: “And then why correct it, if that’s not what you said… He could have thought of one border, or that Kosovo is part of Serbia, so there is no border redrawing, and as far as I understand it, it is the official position of B&H, so thank you Zvizdic for respecting the borders of Serbia. If he thought that there should be no border redrawing and that Kosovo was an independent state, it’s a strange principle that it’s possible to redraw the borders of Serbia without redrawing other borders…”  We, Vucic continued, are against redrawing borders, but we are ready to discuss all the solutions, and that is why, he said, he at one point spoke about the importance of a delimitation.  “Because there are borders that are recognized by the Spanish, others by Italians, others Germans, others by Russian… There are different boundaries in mind, and therefore, a solution must come with a compromise.”

 

In addition to this political “clarification,” Vucic also shared with Albanian journalists from Kosovo a few more remarks on “lighter” topics – such as language and sports. Thus, at one point he asked one of them if they were recording his statement with their telephone, commented on the ability of journalistic adjustment, and on the fact the reporter “followed him” (on social media) in Serbian.

 

“Every last one of you from Kosovo speaks Serbian, well done. Only I never learned Albanian,” said the president of Serbia, and when reporters remarked it was “not too late,” he replied: “There’s time. If you think that’s a bad thing, I don’t, I regret not speaking Albanian. I’d find it easier to persuade you to revoke the taxes, to understand what’s good for you and everyone else,” said Vucic, with a smile.

 

Vucic after the meeting with Mogherini: Serbia is ready – but it’s not up to us (Tanjug)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met on Monday afternoon with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Berlin.  Vucic and Mogherini discussed the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, where Mogherini is an intermediary, and the situation in the Western Balkans. Vucic told Mogherini that Serbia was ready to, “as soon as tomorrow” to continue the dialogue – as soon that, is Pristina lifted their taxes on Serbian products.  “Whether that will happen is not in our hands” Vucic told reporters in Berlin. He pointed out to Mogherini that it was about European values, and that the taxes were unsustainable. He added that Mogherini also discussed bilateral issues such as Zelezara Smederevo and steel quotas. “We will not allow our steelworks to be killed off due to different procedures,” Vucic said.

 

He said that Serbia is committed to its European path and will continue to work on it. He announced that he would later speak about the expectations from the afternoon summit on the West Berlin, but that he would not make a circus and in that was meet half way those who are seeking exclusivity and excitement.  We do not want conflicts, but preservation of stability and long-lasting peace, Vucic said, and pointed out that his expectations are not exaggerated, although, he said, they may surprise him. His meeting with Mogherini lasted longer than planned.

 

Vucic says there are no big expectations from the summit in Berlin, but that, unlike those who seek for sensationalism and exclusivity, Serbia does not want conflict, but preserving stability and lasting peace.  “I expect to exchange views in a serious and responsible manner” Vucic said and announced a broader comment after the summit. “I could say a lot of things, but I will save that for tonight, I do not want to make any kind of political circus, I know that people are looking for some type of sensation, exclusivity, to may be create a new conflict, we do not want any conflicts, we want to preserve stability, long-term and long-lasting peace as the best, and the beginning of solving all those problems that hinder everything” Vucic told reporters in Berlin after meeting with Mogherini. Whether we will succeed in this or not, my expectations are not too great, he says. “I am not a great optimist, but I am not an optimist either by nature, it may be for the best. We may be surprised, maybe it will be something good, but I would not bet on it,” concluded Vucic.

 

Macron: Serbian-Kosovo relationship is summit priority, but no solution to be tabled (Beta)

French President Emmanuel Macron said in Berlin, on April 29, that relations between Serbia and Kosovo were a priority for the summit, but that Germany and France would not propose a solution. According to Macron, Berlin and Paris wished to contribute to the continuation of talks between Belgrade and Pristina. “We have no intention of recommending a solution, but we’d rather take into consideration all possible options, to have talks without passion and taboos,” Macron said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Macron suggested that the stability of the region would be discussed at the summit as “a European issue,” since the stability of Europe is dependent on it as well.

 

Merkel: Resolving Serbia-Kosovo issues progressing worse than before (Beta)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin, on April 29 that the subject of a West Balkan summit would be ways to improve relations between Serbia and Kosovo, as the resolving of this issue was unfolding more slowly than before. “We should start a conversation honestly together. We are guided by the idea that the region can only develop jointly. We should review things and see how bilateral negotiations can resume”, Merkel said at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. She noted the resolution of the long-standing dispute between Greece and North Macedonia, which took “brave steps,” as an example. Merkel also said that the West Balkans was the common responsibility of Germany and France.

 

Proposed Berlin summit statement does not mention redrawing of borders, lifting taxes (Beta)

The proposed statement of the summit in Berlin does not mention any redrawing of borders between Kosovo and Serbia or lifting Kosovo’s 100-percent tariffs on Serbian goods, the Pristina website koha.net reported on April 29. The draft was made by the host countries Germany and France, and distributed to the West Balkan leaders. The document reads that the leaders had “underlined the importance” of an agreement on the full normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia and their European outlook, and agreed that the agreement should be comprehensive, politically sustainable and contribute to regional stability. According to the draft, Serbia and Kosovo agree to accelerate engagement in executing deals already in place and constructive involvement to normalize relations, with EU mediation, with a view to achieving a final and comprehensive agreement. The participants underscore the importance of a transparent and comprehensive agreement followed by efforts to build trust. The participants agree to step up activities to create a regional economic zone. All participants have reaffirmed their resolution to cooperate under the so-called Berlin Process. Cooperation, economy, free trade, security cooperation, youth exchange and reconciliation are the main pillars of the process, the statement reads.

 

Vucic: No Progress, no failure; new talks in Paris in July (RTS, Tanjug)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he does not think that “anything has failed”, adding that it is better to have talks than not to have them. Vucic said that Angela Merkel‘s and Emanuel Macron‘s engagement was very important and showed their determination to preserve peace in the Western Balkans, and subsequently preserve the peace in Europe.

Vucic said that official Belgrade’s only condition to continue the dialogue was the revoking of the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods. “Some people thought the dialogue is more important than the tariffs,” he said and added that Merkel and Macron wanted the tariffs revoked.

He also stated that the representatives of Croatia and Slovenia, who were invited to this meeting, behaved fairly, and that he had “nothing to object to them.”  “In addition to minimal disagreements we would not have anything to object to the representatives of Montenegro and (Milo) Djukanovic either. He was fair, having in mind that Montenegro has recognized Kosovo” Vucic said, noting that despite having “no bad word” to say about the presence of these regional countries, the 9-1 ration in favor of those who recognized Kosovo at the meeting “did not suit Serbia.”

 

Responding to journalists’ questions after the meeting in Berlin, Vucic said that the Serbian delegation had repeatedly spoken separately with Macron and Merkel, as did Albanian representatives, but, as he added, it is not proper to discuss this publicly. “We will continue to work. I think they understood well how difficult the situation in the Western Balkans is and how much effort we need to invest in solving the problems” Vucic said.

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced, after the Berlin summit, that a new meeting on the renewal of the dialogue will be held in Paris on 1 or 2 July, prior to a meeting in Poznan within the framework of the Berlin Process. “Until then, I hope that this impulse of responsibility given by Merkel and Macron, in the presence of Mogerini, will be some kind of stabilization of the situation for at least two months, until we try to find a solution to continue with the dialogue” Vucic told reporters after talks in Berlin. He reiterated that he is not happy that someone in the 21st century thinks that the taxes are normal and moral, but added that he is grateful to the hosts, Merkel and Makron, who have spent a lot of time and effort and, if nothing else, their attitude and behavior showed how much they want stability in the Western Balkans.

Vucic said the summit ended with the conclusion that talks should continue with the mediation of the European Union, Germany and France. The President said that there were no formal conclusions, nor did they vote on anything, but that it was an agreement.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Mogherini holds separate meetings with B&H CoM Chairman Zvizdic, Serbian President Vucic (BN TV)

Summit on the Western Balkans, organized by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron commenced in Berlin on Monday. Several bilateral meetings were held prior to the central meeting, including one between Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. Following this meeting, Zvizdic said that all countries in the Balkans have internationally recognized borders and inviolability of borders is ground principle of the EU. Chairman of B&H CoM added that he informed Mogherini about the situation in B&H and said that the main reason for failure to form authorities at the B&H level is rejection of B&H’s Annual National Program (ANP) and activation of NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) by some political subjects. He also emphasized deterioration of political stability in B&H and general stability in the Balkans. “Some have been drawing new borders and talking about exchange of territory on the ground of ethnic principle. We know what these ideas led to in the past” explained Zvizdic.

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic commented Zvizdic’s statements and wondered whether he needs to explain it to Zvizdic that Serbia opposes retailoring of borders and that it respects territorial integrity of B&H. Commenting Zvizdic’s statement that B&H is against retailoring of borders, Vucic said that B&H did not recognize independence of Kosovo. He thanked to Zvizdic for protecting territorial integrity of Serbia. “I am really glad if Zvizdic said that. Did you hear it Albanians? Zvizdic advocates preserving of Kosovo within Serbia. Not only me,” stressed Vucic in rather sarcastic manner. After some journalists said that Zvizdic actually said there is no new retailoring of borders, Vucic wondered whether it means that the Chairman of B&H CoM actually thinks Serbia’s borders should be changed and Bosnia’s borders should not.

 

Izetbegovic: We know how to negotiate with Dodik (BN TV)

Leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic said that he is certain Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) will sign Annual National Program (ANP) concerning activation of NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). Izetbegovic stressed that SDA knows what it is doing and knows how to negotiate with leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik. Izetbegovic underlined that Dodik and leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic are rather “relaxed” in negotiations concerning formation of authorities at B&H level. He explained that if Dodik’s requests are accepted, he will be content and if not, there will be a crisis “and he likes the crisis. He will say that B&H is not functional and the best thing is to divide B&H.” He underlined that there is stalemate in formation of authorities because Serb representatives oppose activation of the MAP and Croat representatives set amending of the Election Law of BiH as conditions for formation of authorities. “We will not give up on activation of the MAP. We will find a method, along with our partners, to activate the MAP. You should let us do it. We know when it is necessary to slow down and when to speed up,” explained Izetbegovic.

 

Croatia

 

Croatian Prime Minister attends summit on Western Balkans in Berlin (HRT)

The focus of the summit is on regional stability with an emphasis on relations between Serbia and Kosovo, whose relationship has taken a turn for the worse in recent months. At the center of the dispute is Belgrade’s refusal to recognize the Kosovo’s independence, after the former province broke away in 2008.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic travelled to Berlin to attend a summit on the stability of the Western Balkans co-organized by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Along with the hosts and the heads of the six countries of the Western Balkans, the Croatian and Slovenian prime ministers were also invited to participate, as was EU Foreign Affairs and Security chief Federica Mogherini. Speaking ahead of the summit the prime minister noted Croatia’s important role as a link between the Western Balkans and the European Union. “We have to clearly articulate our position and bear in mind that this is our neighborhood. The more stable they are, the more economically developed and more organized that they are, with increased social cohesion and the more they meet criteria, will be better for them and obviously for us as a member of the EU and NATO, which has a minority in Serbia and is one of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and which wants to resolve all those issues that have gone unresolved these part 29 years.”

 

Ahead of the summit Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic criticized the organizers for inviting the Croatian and Slovenian prime ministers and not inviting the Bulgarian and Hungarian leaders, who he feels would have backed Belgrade’s position with regard to Kosovo.

 

A Balkan summit in Berlin has ended without a concrete agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding blocked negotiations, but it has been agreed to continue dialogue in order to diffuse existing tensions.

“The key messages from tonight’s meeting was a ‘yes’ to efforts aimed at restarting negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. In any case, the efforts Germany, France and broad European diplomatic community have made will most probably require more talks in order to unblock the situation,” said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic who attended the summit. Plenkovic said there was no agreement because the positions of the two sides were too far apart. He added that the so-called Berlin process on stability would continue in early July with a meeting in Poznan, Poland. Plenkovic said that at a meeting in Berlin he had underscored Croatia’s ambitions for next year when Zagreb will take over the presidency of the European Council. “We will try to combine outstanding political topics that exist between Southeast European countries and the institutional part of drawing closer to the European Union” Plenkovic said.

 

Montenegro

 

Djukanovic: An important moment for Serbia-Kosovo relations (CDM)

A Balkan summit in Berlin contributed to settling the ongoing conflict between Belgrade and Pristina and this was the perfect moment for resolving the complicated relations between the two countries, said the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, following the Western Balkans Summit. It was agreed that the dialogue would continue to be backed by the European Union (EU) and that France and Germany should intervene directly.

“This would ensure that the quality and intensity of the dialogue is sufficiently good, and in next few months, we’ll know whether there’s a potential to solve this issue in this generation” said President Djukanovic. He called in mind that for Montenegro stability meant integration of the Western Balkans. “And stability is a category of interest not only for the Western Balkans, as it’s about the stability of Europe,” emphasized Djukanovic. He also stressed that it was important to reach the standards and insisted on the fact that Europe had to get rid of certain disagreements in its views referring to the Western Balkans.

“The EU should point out to a clear and foreseeable European perspective in order to improve all the Balkan societies, especially the Balkan governments which should keep working on the reforms that lead to reaching of those standards.”

President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, went to the Western Balkans Summit upon the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

He also met with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. President Djukanovic and Mogherini talked about the situation in the region and stressed the importance of regional cooperation and good relations with the neighbors. President Djukanovic thanked Mogherini for the continuous dedication to European perspective of WB and expressed hope that the encounter in Berlin will be a great stimulus for the efforts put in keeping this perspective open.

 

Republic of North Macedonia

 

Zaev holds meetings with Merkel and Macron in Berlin (Nezavisen vesnik, Republika)

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has been invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to attend a conference of Western Balkans leaders and EU heads of state and government in Berlin. He was joined by Deputy PM for European Affairs Bujar Osmani and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.

Political developments in the Western Balkans were discussed at the summit, the government said in a statement. Ways to improve regional cooperation and solve open issues, including normalization of the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue.

“In light of the successful treaties with Bulgaria and Greece, as well as the approach taken to resolve issues and build friendship, North Macedonia has established a model that can be followed by other countries. It is in the interest of all countries and nations to foster peace and stability in the region, improve regional cooperation, advance business cooperation, pursue democratic reforms and accelerate the EU integration process,” said the government. PM Zaev will also hold several bilateral meetings during this conference in Berlin.

Zoran Zaev’s main goal at the summit will be to appease Macron to approve accession talks for Macedonia. France has been one of the most outspoken opponents of further enlargement of the EU before steps were taken to centralize the existing members. The fact that Macedonia is seen as part of a group with Albania makes the decision more difficult to reach, even after the imposed name change. Failure to open accession talks will pour cold water on Zaev’s promises that, with the name change rammed through Parliament, Macedonia is now embraced by the EU.

 

Albania

 

Berlin Summit, PM Rama Received by Chancellor Merkel (AND)

Prime Minister Edi Rama was received this Monday by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, during the proceeding of Berlin Summit. The meeting focused on the progress of the justice reform and the process of Albania’s integration into the European Union.

They talked even on the report that the European Commission is expected to made public at the end of May and even on the situation in the Balkans and the necessity to continue the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. At the end of the meeting, Premier Rama thanked Merkel for her continuous support and the attention that Germany gave to Albania on its road to EU.

 

Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Gent Cakaj, has comment the meeting of Prime Minister Edi Rama and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. According to Cakaj, this meeting confirmed Germany’s support for Albania’s opening of the EU accession. “The meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel confirms once again Germany’s absolute support for opening Albania’s EU membership negotiations” said Cakaj.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Push for deal between Kosovo and Serbia puts national divisions on display (New York Times)

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France met the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia in Berlin on Monday, reaching toward a large prize: a path to a peace settlement between the two Balkan nations, almost 20 years after a war between them came to an end. But if they are to have any hope of easing tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, and breaking a deadlock in talks on the normalization of relations, then analysts say they may first have to broker another peace, between Kosovo’s two leaders.

 

President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, suggested at a meeting in Austria in August that a final settlement could include an exchange of territory and border changes. Mr. Thaci believes that “such an agreement would result in Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo.” That would unlock a lot of potential gains: Though Kosovo formally declared independence in 2008, after NATO wrested it from Serbia’s control in a 1999 air campaign, Serbia has so far blocked it from joining the United Nations and other international bodies, and scores of other countries still decline to recognize it. A settlement might also remove a barrier to Serbia one day becoming a member of the European Union. But Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, is adamantly opposed to any territorial concessions. He has described the idea as “a shortcut to tragedy.” And his stand has proved a potent weapon in his long rivalry with Mr. Thaci. The proposals are profoundly unpopular both with Serbs — most of whom continue to consider Kosovo a part of Serbia, one that holds a foundational place in its national story — and with Kosovars, who regard what is under discussion as a partition of their young country along ethnic lines. In Kosovo, Mr. Thaci’s popularity has plummeted. He is denounced in graffiti across the capital, Pristina, as linked to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

 

“Kosovo is not Crimea,” read one phrase in English.

 

Mr. Haradinaj has capitalized on resentment of what is sometimes seen as the president’s warm relationship with Serbia by moving in a direction that many say strengthens Kosovo’s statehood. In December, the Parliament overwhelmingly approved legislation to form an army, prompting criticism from NATO, which has been keeping a tense peace in the area. A few days later, Mr. Haradinaj’s government imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian exports to Kosovo in retaliation for Belgrade’s sabotage of the accession of Kosovo to international institutions such as Interpol and Unesco. Both decisions were among the most popular by any government in Pristina in a decade of independence.

 

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Thaci dismissed a suggestion of a power struggle with Mr. Haradinaj, the prime minister. He said the two men had been “comrades” in the independence struggle, and “now we are friends.” But they do have differences, he acknowledged. “I am an optimist. I believe that we can achieve an agreement that will bring recognition of Kosovo by Serbia, while the prime minister is more of a skeptic on this matter,” Mr. Thaci said. Mr. Haradinaj was blunt. “Experimenting with borders is unconstitutional,” he said in a separate interview with The Times. “It has nothing to do with personality or power. It has everything to do with the fate of our nation.” He added, “Whoever is advocating it on behalf of Kosovo, is wrong. It’s not on behalf of Kosovo, but on behalf of one man only — the president.” “If any piece of paper says that he had agreed to change the borders he will leave his job,” Mr. Haradinaj said.

 

Lulzim Peci, formerly Kosovo’s ambassador to Sweden and now a director of the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development in Pristina, said people had had enough of bickering. “These two leaders are leaders of the past,” Mr. Peci said. “Their animosities are toxic for the future of Kosovo that should be a multiethnic and a civic state with human rights for all.”

Their meeting in Berlin was a “burial ground for ethnic partitions and land swap ideas that are not part of the future in this region,” Mr. Peci added.

 

A land swap deal would involve a significant shift in position for Ms. Merkel, who has previously declared that borders in the western Balkans are not up for negotiation. German diplomats warn that redrawing boundaries in a region still reeling from war would court disaster.

But there are other believers in the border-change idea, according to Western diplomats. Austria and Hungary appear to be on board. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has endorsed the idea of alterations as long as the demarcation would be in line with international and European law. And, to the surprise of many, John R. Bolton, the Trump administration’s national security adviser, said last year that the United States would be open to such a deal. But the emotions roused when Mr. Vucic and Mr. Thaci floated the idea of exchanging territory may have made a discussion about any settlement impossible, some analysts say, driving Kosovo and Serbia into a chain of tit-for-tat moves against one another and deepening divisions within the two societies.

 

“We need to focus on the big picture here,” said James Ker-Lindsay, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and a Balkans expert. “We need a final settlement between Serbia and Kosovo to get Kosovo a seat in the United Nations and set Serbia on the accession path to the European Union.”

 

In Serbia, faced with months of opposition protests, Mr. Vucic has been using Western pressure on Belgrade as an excuse to strengthen his authoritarian rule and maintain tight control over the country’s economy.

 

Serbia is being pushed to recognize Kosovo and get nothing in return, he said. “Nothing good awaits us there and I expect nothing good,” Mr. Vucic was quoted as saying last week about the Berlin meeting. “The only thing I expect is a start of requests for a new format where the goal would be a recognition of independence without getting anything.”

 

Srdjan Cvijic, a senior analyst with the Open Society European Policy Institute in Brussels, said Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron wanted to affirm that the European Union is united behind the way to reach a final settlement — resumption of dialogue on normalization of relations, “minus the land swap ideas.” “It’s an attempt to dispel the narrative that they stand on the opposite sides of a possible solution to the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia” he said, referring to France and Germany.

 

Bosnian-Serb Politician Dodik on UK’s ‘Malign’ Influence in Balkans (Sputnik)

In an interview with Sputnik, Milorad Dodik, the Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s multi-ethnic joint presidency has spoken about the reasons for the complex political situation in the country, the prospects for its integration into NATO, and the position of the people in Republika Srpska on this issue.

 

Sputnik: I would like to first ask, of course, whether there is any news on the formation of a government in Bosnia and Herzegovina (elections in the country were held on 7 October 2018, but a cabinet has not yet been formed — Sputnik).

 

Milorad Dodik: This is Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country where it is very difficult to achieve a functioning state due to the impossibility of reaching basic agreements because of the very concept of its structure… So we are constantly in state of anticipation of something. At the moment it’s about different political ambitions and Bosniaks, who want to play a dominant role in all processes, regardless of constitutional order and electoral legislation.

 

But this time it will not work. Republika Srpska (RS) knows its status and rights within Bosnia. We do not expect any favors from Bosniaks, we expect to only get what belongs to us, the Serbs, according to law. And according Bosnia’s Constitution the RS elects one third of all ministers in the government. That is, three out of nine. So no one should make any concessions to us. This is our right guaranteed by the Constitution.

 

Sputnik: Is the reason for the disagreement, why the government cannot be formed, the Membership Action Plan (MAP)?

 

Milorad Dodik: Yes, this is a plan for joining NATO. They tell us that this is not about NATO membership. But it actually says that this is a membership plan. So what can it be about? RS has clearly expressed its military neutrality, and we will not bargain on this matter. Bosniaks insist on their own, as if the question of elections or the formation of the cabinet is something that is determined by the decision on NATO. We cooperate with NATO in the framework of the Partnership for Peace. We have an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) within which there are various cooperation mechanisms. At the moment RS is completely unprepared to raise the question of further institutional or contractual cooperation with NATO, taking into account Republika Srpska’s adherence to military neutrality.

 

Sputnik: You recently said that a British center had been formed in Sarajevo to counter “malignant Russian influence”. You also drew attention to London’s activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier, before the elections, and spoke of the 40 representatives of the UK’s special services who arrived in the country with the same goal.

 

Milorad Dodik: Their task was to help their candidates in the elections, and it was not me. However, I was still elected. So, they are not all-powerful. We pay too much attention to them. But if we already know that they are here then we need to resist them. We were tracking these people at the time.

 

Sputnik: How did you do it?

 

Milorad Dodik: In Banja Luka, we were only 30 minutes late to arrest several of them. Today we know, and there is no need to doubt it, the British naively believe that in this way they can suppress the feelings of these people towards Russia. It is impossible, it is nonsense! It is an illusion and a waste of money.

This time they’ve set up an intelligence center in Sarajevo that is run by a Bosniak. They are allegedly trying to identify the promoters of Russian influence, to show that everything is organized and that someone there gets some tasks every day, which, of course, isn’t true. They have a problem with one well-known fact, namely, that these people have historically had fraternal feelings towards the Russian people. I can tell you with confidence that there is no malignant Russian influence here.

 

The British are the ones that have a malign influence. It’s malignant because they want to fight “Russian influence” with intimidation, deception, and fraud. But they have one problem, because here everyone feels respect for Russia and what it does. I’ve met with Putin more than ten times, never once did he say that we need to do something, but I’ve always asked him what he could do to help us and asked to help maintain peace. If this is malignant influence, then I am the first one on the list of Russian agents.

 

Sputnik: Kosovar Albanians are doing something similar to what Britain was trying to do at the UN with the Srebrenica Declaration, according to which Serbs were found guilty of genocide. Now Albanians are trying to push through a resolution on Kosovo and Metohija in the US Congress…

 

Milorad Dodik: I believe in Trump’s policy, I think he understands the situation here, despite the fact that in the three years of his presidency he couldn’t beat the so-called “deep state”. But his statements during the election campaign and the beginning of his presidency show that he’s in favour of a policy aimed at strengthening America, which implies non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. The previous US administration not only intervened, it controlled the macroprocesses in Bosnia. It is known that it supported the Albanian policy in the Balkans and that this old political line of the US presented Kosovo as a precedent, and recommended that Republika Srpska keep quiet while it was in absolutely the same circumstances. There are many countries that refuse to recognize Kosovo — but it was easier for them to recognize Kosovo at the time than to have problems with America.

 

What the Albanians have learned is that if you have money in America, then you can get support for your political ideas. But there is another side to this: we used to all be scared by American declarations and statements. Today this is not so important. It is always important what America will say, but not in the same way as it was before. Today the world is no longer the same, it’s no longer the world of a powerful America. Just remember the situation ten years ago, when the US was the centre of military, political, and financial power… Today it isn’t so. Yes, America remains the most significant military force, but it is no longer the centre of political and financial strength.

 

This story with Albanians and Americans is a repetition of the past. If Americans could’ve passed something through about Kosovo at the UN they would have done it. However, they did not succeed, which says a lot about their political power.

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Belgrade Media Report 13 November 2019

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