Vucic: Solution for Kosovo is far away (Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on May 9 that the solution to the issue of Serbian-Albanian relations in Kosovo was far away. Vucic also said that the European Union had not provided the right support to the search for a solution. Addressing participants of the Brdo-Brioni Process summit in Tirana, Vucic said that “all of a sudden, everyone from around the world wanted to be involved in the process” when the negotiators “tried to do something” and negotiations “were not finished.” “Who are you to lecture us about it? That is a Serbian-Albanian issue. It is not an issue for people from Iceland, Slovenia, India or any other country. That is an issue for us, the Serbs and the Albanians” Vucic said. The Serbian president said that “we are now so far from any possible solution, which we will have to wait for who knows how many years. That is bad news for the Serbian and Albanian peoples.” “We heeded the words of the EU and now we are ‘stuck’. That situation will last, I hope not forever, but it will occupy a lot of time of the future generations of the Serbian and Albanian peoples in this region” Vucic said.
Vucic: We need more than encouragement from EU (RTV)
“Today, we are very far from any possible solution and we will have to wait for it for God knows how long. This is bad news for both the Serbian and Albanian people” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated at the Brdo Brijuni Process in Tirana. One should hope that the deadlock in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue “won’t last an eternity”, but in order to achieve progress, we needed stronger support from the European Union than the one we have received so far, he said at a summit hosted by Albanian President Ilir Meta. “Nobody around this table believes in happy dreams”, Vucic declared, “because none of the things Mogherini endorses for Western Balkan countries will happen by June or July – and we all know that” Vucic said suggesting no new negotiation chapters for Serbia and Montenegro will be opened this summer, and no date for the beginning of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia will be provided, or visa liberalization with Kosovo granted. “And we all know that. We are stupid, but not that much. And you all know that I am right” he concluded. It is nice hearing encouragements from the EU, but there is no concrete contribution of the Union, Vucic declared. “Have we received actual support from the EU – no, we haven’t. Everyone heeded only to their own interests. Everyone”, he went on to say. “We would like to hear from the EU not just about enlargement fatigue but also encouraging messages and acts. There have been none so far” he said. “Countries members of the EU do what they want, that is their job. To be honest, ultimately, we don’t care. We do what we can. We need to get closer to the EU in the sense of real values, to grow into that kind of society, which is very important to us. We want to implement the necessary reforms” the Serbian President said. “Who are you to lecture us (about how Belgrade and Pristina will regulate their relations). That is a Serb-Albanian issue. That is not an issue for people from Island, Slovenia, India or any other country. That is an issue that we must deal with”. As for the EU, “if you want us, then say “you must do this or that”, if you don’t want us, that’s okay too, just say that you don’t. We will take care of ourselves and we will survive” he said.
Vucic: Enough with what Hashim wants. Hashim depends on us (Blic)
“You, Hashim, depend on us. I’m pleading with you to talk, not to be saying what you want, and what you don’t want.” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said this to Kosovo President Hashim Thaci during a joint meeting within the Brdo-Brijuni summit held today in Tirana, Albania. According to Blic, Vucic “pointed out that he never spoke about any models for Kosovo, but about reaching an agreement” – and did this commenting on Thaci’s recent statements, constantly repeating that three municipalities from the southern part of central Serbia – namely, Medvedja, Presevo, and Bujanovac – ought to be annexed by so-called Kosovo. “I’ve had enough of hearing what Hashim does and doesn’t want. You, Hashim, depend on us. Things won’t go that way. I’m pleading with you to talk, not to be saying what you want, and what you don’t want. Would you like me to tell you what I don’t want?” Vucic is quoted as saying, and adding: “What America will squeeze you into international institutions? You tried with (Croatian president) Kolinda, with (Slovenian president) Borut… you didn’t succeed. Did you think of it yourself, or did somebody help you out?”
Vucic repeated that he never spoke about solutions, but about reaching an agreement: “If that can happen – super, if not, we’ll live.” He also advised Thaci not to bring up Republika Srpska (RS) – without “really needing to”: “I know why you’re saying that – because Americans don’t want the RS. I could tell you that I won’t let you form an RS inside Serbia, and that is Kosovo” Vucic said.
He added that he “pushed through” many difficult solutions, and was pleading with Pristina to come to its senses. “Imagine if I said what you and (Albanian PM) Rama said yesterday in Tirana? Or what Kolinda said today? About unification. Hang on a minute, I get it, but hang on. If we arrive to a solution – great, if not, hopefully we’ll be smart enough to preserve the peace” Vucic said. He also dismissed Thaci’s announcement that going forward, he would be “demanding from Serbia in all gatherings to recognize Kosovo, plus the three municipalities from southern Serbia.” “Let me tell you something right away – never mind that, people, no way. Neither are they that strong, nor is Serbia that weak” the president told reporters.
Dacic: Imagine that Dodik and Vucic said that they have discussed the national unification and erasing the border between Serbia and RS (RTS)
“Imagine that (the presiding of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad) Dodik and (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic, said that they have discussed the national unification, erasing the border between Serbia and Republika Srpska (RS) and connecting some municipalities from RS to Serbia” Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said for RTS. Such behavior deserved a harsh response from Serbia, he said.
Mogherini: Future of Balkans in the EU a matter of Union’s security and prosperity (Beta)
The participants of the Brdo-Brioni Process summit stated on May 9 that full integration
of the Western Balkans into the EU was important for overall stability in Europe. We call on the EU to consider its enlargement in the Western Balkans as an issue of geopolitical importance, reads the joint statement from the summit that was held in Tirana. The participants of the summit supported the stance of the EU that one of the membership conditions was the solving of open bilateral issues between neighboring countries. We will actively attempt for the dialogue to continue and for trust in the region that we represent to be deepened. All open issues will be solved peacefully, in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, the final statement reads. On the other hand, they also urged the EU to make the negotiation process “more flexible and faster.”
“The leaders of the EU ought to look at the future of the Balkans in the EU as a priority for their economic prosperity, the security of the region and the entire Union” European foreign minister Federica Mogherini said at an EU summit in Sibiu where she arrived from the Brdo-Brioni Process in Tirana. Ahead of the informal EU summit, Mogherini said that she carried a special message from a meeting with the leaders of the Western Balkans – that the process of EU integration there had such great support in the countries of the region that the leaders (of the EU) today and in the coming years ought to consider the future of the Balkans in the EU. “I am bringing this message to you directly from Tirana: support for the EU is around 90 percent,” Mogherini stressed, according to a statement released by the European External Action Service.
Vucic: Serbia’s goals – peace and stability can’t be reached without Europe (Beta)
Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President, said Europe was his country’s choice and that without it Belgrade’s chief aims – peace and stability couldn’t be achieved, the Beta news agency reported late on Thursday. Addressing the gala titled “EU for You”, on occasion of the Victory day, also being the Europe Day, hosted by Sem Fabrizi, the head of the EU Delegation in Serbia, Vucic added that the union which secured peace and stability was created 70 years ago.
“Those countries didn’t have conflicts and wars for 69 years, and that is what our country needs more than anything else. There is no more important reason for accepting the European politics and its values” Vucic said. “Help us and Serbia will be a loyal, good and always reliable partner and a part of Europe,” he added.
Fabrizi said Serbia’s accession to the EU was a process which aimed at making Serbia better.
“Serbia is not alone in that process, the EU is here to help” he added. Fabrizi said the EU was a natural choice for Serbia whose society, as he put is, was genuinely European, adding the EU integration process strengthened democracy and created a more prosperous economy.
Reactions to the convictions for terrorism in Montenegro (Beta)
On May 9, the Higher Court in Podgorica sentenced the leaders of the opposition pro-Serb Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic, and Milan Knezevic, to five years in prison each for attempted terrorism. Two Russian citizens, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, believed to be agents of the Russian intelligence agency GRU, were sentenced to 15 and 12 years, respectively.
The Democratic Party of Serbia said on May 9 that Belgrade must not remain silent after its citizens were convicted of attempted terrorism in Montenegro. The party recalled that, according to the Constitution, the state is obligated to protect the rights and interests of its citizens abroad. “The president and prime minister must not remain silent while Serbian citizens are ruthlessly persecuted. The ‘coup d’état’ court process, orchestrated by the criminal Serb-hating regime of Djukanovic, the victims of which are the convicted Serbian citizens, represents the height of the persecution of the Serbian people in Montenegro,” reads the statement of the Democratic Party of Serbia. The party added that, by the “forceful removal” of the leaders of the Serbs in Montenegro and fighters against its regime, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic was attempting to “eliminate all the guardians of Serbdom in Montenegro.”
The opposition People’s Party stated that the conviction for terrorism of leaders of the opposition pro-Serb party and nine Serbian citizens was “disgraceful.” “Such a disgraceful ruling is not the result of the presentation of valid evidence in criminal proceedings before independent judicial bodies… but a product of the direct influence of executive authorities, which makes the Montenegrin regime unbearably resemble Oriental despotes” reads the statement by the People’s Party. The party stated that the proceedings showed right from the start that the goal was not to establish the truth but to settle accounts with the political representatives of the Serbs in Montenegro. “This made the judicial authority one of the weapons of the regime in Podgorica in its fight against political opponents and in its deconstruction of the Serbian identity in Montenegro” the People’s Party stated. The party added that it was alarmed by the “resounding silence” of the authorities in Belgrade and President Aleksandar Vucic, to the humiliation of the Serbs in Montenegro. “We remind Vucic of the constitutional obligation for the Serbian state to take care of the interests of our compatriots and their safety” Vuk Jeremic‘s party said.
The Serbian Dveri Movement said that the leaders of the pro-Serb opposition and Serbian nationals had been convicted of attempted terrorism in Montenegro in “a staged process.” The party called this “continued repression against the Serbs in which the accused could not have had a fair and honest trial, considering the entire situation in Montenegro and the relentless Serbo-phobia.” “There is reasonable doubt that this ‘attempted terrorism’ was rigged so that the authorities in Montenegro would win elections so that they could strengthen their authoritarian grip on power and increase their already open Serbo-phobia with the help of an atmosphere of fear” Dveri said. The movement called on Belgrade to stand by the Serbs in Montenegro who are under severe repression by the Montenegrin authorities.
Serbia’s first reaction to the judgments in the case of a “coup” (Borba)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has said that the competent authorities of Serbia will carefully consider the “coup” ruling in Montenegro. “We cannot interfere in the first-instance verdict, but there are certainly a lot of strange things and the competent authorities of Serbia will carefully consider the verdict. Serbia has a duty to protect and provide assistance to every citizen and members of the Serbian people” Dacic told Borba. This is Serbia’s first official reaction to the verdict in the case of a “coup” in Montenegro.
Vucic: We must be ready to defend our country (Tanjug)
Serbia will behave responsibly, guard peace and stability, but, although we live as if peace will last 100 years, we must be ready to defend ourselves. President Aleksandar Vucic said this in Nis, southern Serbia, on Friday, where he is attending the military-police parade “Defense of Freedom,” organized to mark WW2 Victory Day. Vucic said that nits of the army and the police are increasingly better prepared and equipped, all of which should serve to deter potential aggressors against Serbia. Vucic pointed out that the defense budget has never been higher, making it easier for a relatively small, independent and sovereign country to lead an independent policy. Following his meetings with commanders of the Serbian Army (VS), the Interior Ministry (MUP) and the line ministers, the president expressed gratitude to all MUP and VS members who are tasked with providing security and safety to citizens and who are working hard, and doing probably one of the most difficult jobs in the country. Vucic told reporters that the meeting discussed three important issues, primarily the security situation in the country and the region, and that he informed members of the Army and the police about the extremely complex political and security situation. “Serbia will act responsibly and seriously, to preserve peace and stability, but, along with many bad things that (Yugoslav president) Josip Broz said, he had a good one – to live as if peace would last 100 years, but to be ready to defend the country at any time” said Vucic.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dodik: Statements by Albanian leaders on unification unacceptable (Srna)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik said on May 9 that the statements of Albania’s and Kosovo’s leaders on national unification and opening borders were unacceptable. These statements threaten talks and do not contribute to solving open issues, Dodik said during a Brdo-Brioni Process summit. Dodik asked reporters how the international community would have reacted if Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and he had released a statement on national unification, as Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci had. Dodik said that Republika Srpska supported Serbia where Kosovo was concerned and that it was taking care not to “fan the flames.” He said that no one had reacted to Thaci’s and Rama’s statement on opening borders and the national unification of Albanians.
Heated conversation broke out at Brdo-Brijuni process summit (N1)
The two-day summit of the Brdo – Brijuni Process ended in Tirana on Thursday. The conclusion of the summit was that the Balkan needs to meet all conditions of the EU and that full integration of the Western Balkans in the EU is important for stability in Europe. The progress of Northern Macedonia and Albania was commended, while the unsolved issues in the other countries remain an obstacle. The biggest open issue remains the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo and the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) still has no state level authority.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Slovenian President Borut Pahor stressed that the EU will not give up on the Western Balkans and that it is necessary to solve the issues through dialogue of all regional forces. President of Poland Andrzej Duda said that they discussed the situation in B&H, as well as the situation in Kosovo. Duda thanked the hosts for their continuous work on promoting the EU integration and accession of the Western Balkans to the EU. He stressed that this is an important element of the process of stabilization. Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic said that the most important conclusion of this summit was to recommend the EU to see the accession of the Western Balkans in the EU as a geostrategic issue. Grabar-Kitarovic said that all issues do not have the same weight and some get more attention and reactions than others. She said that it is better to discuss those at a round table, behind closed doors then to discuss them through media and thus heighten tensions unnecessarily. It was announced that another summit will take place in Slovenia in December and this one will be an extraordinary summit.
A heated conversation about the B&H authority formation broke out between Dodik and Dzaferovic, the focus being the adoption of the Annual National Program (ANP). Another issue was the relation between B&H and Kosovo. Dodik said that the Croat and Serb sides took their stances regarding the B&H authority formation and the only ones who did not are the Bosniaks. He said that it remains unclear whether President of SBB Fahrudin Radoncic will be part of the authorities and Dodik said that Radoncic will be the B&H Minister of Security. Dodik said that the main priority is the authority formation and the Membership Action Plan (MAP) will not be activated. Dodik told the Kosovo President Hashim Thaci that Republika Srpska (RS) will not be Serbia, even though the majority of the citizens of RS want this to happen.
Vucic said that the issue between Kosovo and Serbia will remain unsolved. He stressed that it is the obligation of Serbs and Albanians to solve the issue. Reporter noted that Thaci did not attend the official lunch hosted by the Albanian President Ilir Meta and it was claimed that the reason for this was Dodik. Thaci said that the Albanian authorities did not inform him that Dodik will attend the summit, otherwise, he would not attend it.
Meetings on sidelines of Brdo – Brijuni Process (BHT1)
On the sidelines of the leaders’ meeting, Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik and Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic met with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
Dodik, Dzaferovic and Mogherini discussed the issue of formation of authorities in B&H, as well as fulfilling of the remaining conditions for obtaining the EU candidate status. Both members of the B&H Presidency and the EU High Representative agreed that it is necessary to maintain the dynamics on the European path of B&H, given the current complex situation of the country. Dodik and Dzaferovic assessed that the meeting with Mogherini was useful and realistic. Dodik stated that this was an opportunity to inform Mogherini about the situation in B&H and added: “The authorities have not been formed for more than six months. Someone is stealing the mandate from people, due to considering that there are some other priorities. If we really are a democratic country, then we think it is necessary to respect the right and will of voters.” According to Dodik, the entire system is not functioning and voters’ will is being ignored.
Dzaferovic assessed that the most important thing that happened at the end of the meeting within the Brdo-Brijuni process, is that participants suggested the EU to consider the European integration of countries in the region as “a geostrategic and geopolitical issue”.
Mogherini said that she is personally committed to enable B&H to get status of the EU candidate country as soon as possible.
Dodik met with Albanian President Ilir Meta and Mogherini in two separate meetings on the sidelines of this summit. Dodik said that these two officials wanted to know why B&H authorities have not been fully formed yet. He believes this to be the worst image of B&H sent to the world. Dodik added that implementation of the election results should be the top priority of B&H officials.
Dodik and Dzaferovic, briefly met with Vucic on the sidelines of the summit in Tirana. Dodik, Dzaferovic and Vucic discussed formation of the authorities at the B&H level. Vucic wanted to hear more about the obstacles that are hindering the process of formation of the authorities at the B&H level. Dodik also met with Croatian President Grabar-Kitarovic on the sidelines of the summit. Dodik and Grabar-Kitarovic exchanged opinions on amendments to the B&H Election Law and construction of Peljesac Bridge. Dodik stressed that construction of Peljesac Bridge is not contrary to the interests of B&H, while Grabar-Kitarovic accepted Dodik’s invitation to visit B&H.
HR Inzko says he received big support from UN SC after presenting his report on B&H, especially the usage of Bonn Powers; Strong reactions in B&H (ATV)
After presenting his semi-annual report on the status of peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) before the UN Security Council (UN SC) in New York on Wednesday, High Representative (HR) in B&H Valentin Inzko said that the support he received on Wednesday “was the biggest support he received in the past ten years”. He especially emphasized the usage of Bonn Powers, which he has not used in the past several years. He said that four delegations mentioned the Bonn Powers, which Inzko perceived as the strongest support. Inzko explained that Bonn Powers can be used if the authorities in B&H “do not do their job properly”. “Local solutions must be sought first. If they are not possible to find, then we should think about the Bonn Powers and we should achieve the right climate in the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), so that PIC gives full support for such a step” Inzko said.
Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik met with Polish President Andrzej Duda on the sidelines of the Brdo-Brijuni Summit in Tirana and told him that the stance by Poland’s representative to the UN Security Council (UN SC) after a speech by Inzko and presentation of the 55th report on the implementation of peace in B&H was unacceptable. Dodik told Duda the way in which the Polish representative presented himself in the UN SC, voicing support to the HR and the use of Bonn Powers, and saying that authorities in Republika Srpska (RS) were trying to revise history by forming the Srebrenica and Sarajevo commissions, was unacceptable. Dodik made a conclusion that the formation of the two independent international commissions was not revision of history, but a part of search for the historical truth, and added that the RS was hoping they would help establishing more comprehensive and accurate historical facts about the war. Inzko accused Dodik of calling the RS entity an “independent state”. Dodik responded to this on Thursday, saying that Inzko does not have the power to remove any of B&H officials. He said that he does not support the idea of anyone being removed in such a way. Dodik reminded that the support that Inzko received is not the final decision adopted by the UN SC.
“Such practice will not be implemented in the RS. For someone to be relevant in regard to removal of the (RS) officials, the Official Gazette of the RS would have to publish the decision that says Milorad Dodik or someone else was removed from position. What if we do not publish that? What would he then do? In the past ten years, we have taught him that he cannot do anything. He should try, I dare him”, said Dodik.
RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic also commented the matter on Thursday, reminding that the RS openly supports the idea of closing down the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in B&H. Cvijanovic stated that the RS is committed to the EU path and there is no room for the HR on that path because he behaves in an undemocratic manner, he is not an elected democratic representative and may not be superior to the institutions into which officials were elected by the will of the people. “With such discussions, the promotion of Bonn Powers and statements that the position of the HR, not the European path like we advocate, should be firmer, they show we will keep limping in all major processes,” Cvijanovic believes.
The RS National Assembly (RSNA) Speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic underlined that Inzko has submitted reports that do not correspond to the actual situation in B&H, especially when it comes to the RS. “It is good that the RS Government sends reports on the situation in B&H to the UN Security Council for years. We need to fight for the truth and believe the truth is reachable”, he concluded.
Member of the Presidency of B&H and DF leader Zeljko Komsic welcomed the stance of the Polish Ambassador to the UN Joanna Wronecke about formation of the reserve police unit in the RS, as well as about revising of history in this entity. “I completely agree with the stance of Ambassador Wronecke. Formation of the reserve police unit in the entity of the RS is aimed at formation of entity armed forces, and I am glad that is finally being seen outside B&H, even though the fact that some political parties in Sarajevo are putting their heads in the sand is shocking” said Komsic.
SDA Deputy President Adil Osmanovic stated that the behavior of the RS authorities, especially SNSD leader Milorad Dodik, demands reaction of the OHR. “Violation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and endangering of sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H demands serious reaction. I welcome the initiative to have the international community increase its capacity as long as domestic institutions are unable to independently defend sovereignty of B&H and to launch processes against all the officials who openly violate the DPA,” said Osmanovic.
SDP MP Sasa Magazinovic stated that Inzko did present facts before the UN Security Council, however, “his job is not to collect facts, as he has much more serious mandate”. He went on to say that he hopes for increased engagement of the international community in B&H, adding that he hopes the big powers have finally become aware of the situation in B&H.
HDZ B&H MP Predrag Kozul briefly stated that HDZ B&H disagrees with status of the OHR in B&H, or the use of the Bonn Powers, because they were detrimental to B&H in the past.
US wants to donate two helicopters to B&H AF, if B&H gives up on acquiring Russian helicopters in the future (Vecernji list)
After Croatia and Albania received considerable donations from the US for increase of their helicopter fleet, there is a strong possibility that Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) will be the third country that will fly US helicopters for the donation program. Daily notes that according to information that appeared in the media and military circles, the US offered the Armed Forces (AF) of B&H two helicopters as a donation but on two conditions. Namely, the US will donate helicopters only if B&H buys additional two helicopters and if B&H gives up on acquiring Russian helicopters in the future. Should the second condition be met, most of Russian MiL-Mi-8/17 helicopters would be decommissioned from the already weak (AF) fleet. Daily also carried Head of the SNSD Caucus in the B&H House of Representatives Stasa Kosarac who said that we are witnessing constant interference of the West in the situation in B&H, applying the “take it or leave it” or “you must do this” principles. “Russian influence is not like that, it is down to consistent application of the Dayton agreement” added Kosarac.
President attends Brdo-Brijuni Process Summit in Albania (Hina)
Participants in the Brdo-Brijuni Process summit in Tirana on Thursday called on the European Union to take into account also geopolitical reasons in the process of its enlargement to Western Balkan countries, noting that the full integration of Western Balkan countries with the European system of values would be important for Europe’s overall stability. We call on the European Union to consider its enlargement to the Western Balkans as a matter of geopolitical importance, reads a joint declaration adopted at the summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process. Full integration of Western Balkan countries with the European system of values is an important factor of overall European stability, the document says. Participants in the summit underlined in the closing declaration that candidate countries must meet all EU membership standards and called for a more flexible and faster negotiating process. They also welcomed the Prespa agreement between Skopje and Athens on the change of Macedonia’s name to North Macedonia, which has created the possibility for North Macedonia to continue with its Euro-Atlantic integration process.
We conclude that such examples show the way towards stronger European and Euro-Atlantic ties within the Western Balkans, says the declaration.
The Tirana summit was held several weeks ahead of a summit of EU leaders scheduled for early June, at which a decision could be made on the possible formal start of accession talks between the EU and Albania and North Macedonia, which have the status of candidate countries.
President Grabar-Kitarovic said in her address at the summit that she supported the launching of accession talks with the two countries, but underlined that all EU candidates and potential candidates had to implement the necessary reforms and align their foreign and security policies with the EU’s. The EU must not leave the countries of Southeast Europe alone and Croatia will continue to be their advocate in the EU, she said. Grabar-Kitarovic also said that during its presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020, Croatia would put the issue of enlargement to Southeast Europe high on its agenda, and that it would organize a summit on that topic.
Addressing a news conference, however, Grabar-Kitarovic stressed that she was worried by the lack of progress in the region and Brussels’ lack of interest in the region. She noted in that context that the Brdo-Brijuni Process was important for keeping the EU’s attention on the region.
Discussions in the EU focusing on internal topics have helped create a dangerous vacuum in Southeast Europe, with people in the region beginning to doubt more and more that progress is possible, she said. She added that the vacuum she was talking about was being filled by third parties, which were not necessarily good for the region.
A decision was made that the next summit should be held in Slovenia. President of Slovenia Borut Pahor said that together with President Grabar-Kitarovic he had sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inviting him to be a special guest at the next summit. If Guterres agrees, the next summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process will most probably be held in mid-November this year in Brdo pri Kranju, said Pahor.
Hunt: Failed attempt of Russia to undermine democracy (CDM)
Jeremy Hunt, British Foreign Secretary, commented on the convictions for terrorism in Montenegro and said that verdict against Russian citizens was the example of immoral attempts to undermine European democracy. “Failed coup attempt in Montenegro represents one of the most insolent examples of how Russia is trying to undermine European democracy. The attempt of GRU to meddle into the Montenegrin parliamentary elections are just another example of destabilizing and aggressive behavior of Russia” said Hunt. According to him, the verdict is the result of a legal process whose transparency in Montenegro was unprecedented.
“Moscow has to stop attacking territorial integrity and democratic processes of its neighboring countries. Great Britain is inviting Russia to choose another way – endorse the safety of Europe, respect the international system based on rules, and work with us” concluded Hunt.
US Embassy: Historical day for the rule of law in Montenegro (CDM)
Commenting on the sentences passed on the accused in the case of terrorism attempt in 2016, US Embassy in Podgorica said that today was the historical day for the rule of law in Montenegro.
“This is an important step forward in the rule of law and the message is clear: any attempt of undermining democracy won’t be tolerated”. Accused persons in the case were imposed prison sentences – total of 68 years.
Meta considers Kosovo-Serbia relations as vital (ADN)
President of the Republic, Ilir Meta, declared on Thursday during the Brdo-Brijuni Leaders Process meeting, that Kosovo-Serbia relations are vital, similar to the example of the Prespa Agreement. According to him, a better coordination between the European Union and the United States of America it is needed, on the perspective of dialogue and the region.
“Similar to the example of Prespa Agreement, it remains vital and necessary the responsible and serious cooperation between the two countries, Kosovo and Serbia, as well as a better coordination between the European Union and the United States of America, on the perspective of dialogue and the region” said Meta.
Re-Engaging Dialogue with Serbia, Albania to Support Kosovo Institutions (ADN)
‘Albania will support the efforts of Kosovo’s institutions to re-engage in the dialogue with Serbia, mediated by the European Union.’ This was the declaration that President of the Republic, Ilir Meta, stated this Thursday afternoon during his speech in Brdo-Brijuni Leaders Process meeting.
According to him, a constructive process has the potential to produce the ultimate agreement between the countries. “Albania will support the efforts of Kosovo’s institutions to re-engage in the dialogue with Serbia, mediated by the European Union. A constructive process has the potential to produce the ultimate, legally mandatory, comprehensive and enforceable agreement that fully normalizes relations between the two countries and contributes to the peace, stability and European perspective of the region” said Meta.
Cleaning up North Macedonia requires more than reshuffle (BIRN)
Almost two years after assuming office, the pro-European government in North Macedonia of Zoran Zaev received a wake-up call in the recent presidential elections. Although the candidate of the ruling parties convincingly won Sunday’s run-off, Stevo Pendarovski’s disappointing results in the first round, held two weeks earlier – and a lower than expected turnout – signaled that Zaev’s governing Social Democrats had already lost much of their previous support. Observers attributed the relatively poor results to growing disappointment with the government’s management of several key issues including judicial reforms, the fight against impunity, corruption and the economy. “The message has been received. We will have a ‘broom’ sweeping soon,” Zaev told supporters after the first round of voting, announcing a clean-up of top officials aimed at restoring trust in his cabinet. As the public guesses which ministers might be asked to leave, sources in the ruling party have told BIRN that the list has not been finished yet, and would follow thorough analysis. “It will not only be ministers but also party officials, mayors, MPs and managers who will be asked to leave,” one well informed source told BIRN under condition of anonymity. Meanwhile, observers including a former PM warn that time is running short for Zaev to regain the trust of the public. They call for swift and uncompromising action that does not only focus on reshuffling top posts but on making a qualitative change to the management of burning domestic topics.
Qualitative change needed in handling key sectors:
Zaev’s Social Democrat-led cabinet took power in mid-2017 after a deep political crisis, replacing the government led by the right-wing VMRO DPMNE party, which was widely seen as corrupt as well as authoritarian. The new government fulfilled one of its main promises, which was to revive the country’s stalled NATO and EU accession bids by solving the long-standing dispute with Greece over its name. As a result, the country has been renamed North Macedonia. While this was a major achievement, most observers agree that the handling of domestic issues has been less impressive.
“Personnel changes are not the most important,” political analyst Petar Arsovski said. “What is most important is that the government changes the way it manages political tasks.”
He argues that now that the government has made its breakthrough in securing the prospects for further Euro-Atlantic integration, it is time to shift priorities and focus on domestic issues that have been neglected. One of the government’s main unfulfilled promises is to bring about an economic upturn. This has not happened, prompting Zaev at the start of this year to declare that his administration would now focus on the economy. Asked to pinpoint areas that needed immediate change, Marko Trosanovsi from the Institute for Democracy, a think tank in Skopje, started with unrealized capital investments and the imposition of additional taxes on people. Trosanovski also said major changes were needed in institutions that deal with the environment, given the country’s endemic problems with smog and pollution.
“The environment ministry is nowhere to be seen and pollution is one of the biggest problems that we face,” he noted. Xhabir Deralla, head of CIVIL – Centre for Freedom, an NGO, named other sectors that need radical reform. “The most sensitive areas are those dealing with justice, security, education and health. The people there must either start working more seriously and more effectively, or be replaced,” he said. The justice sector is widely seen as highly problematic, having been subverted for years under the previous administration. But despite promising to extend the mandate of the Special Prosecution, SJO, which is tasked with tackling top-level corruption, the government is stuck in a seemingly fruitless debate over its future with VMRO DPMNE. The now opposition party has little motive to see the SJO work effectively as many of its former and current officials are being investigated or charged by this office.
But with only a narrow majority in parliament, the government has had little option but to work with some VMRO DPMNE MPs. Although the country voted last autumn in favor of the historic “name” agreement with Greece, the ruling parties had to make compromises to get the amendments that allowed the name change through parliament. This included wooing a group of rebels VMRO DPMNE MPs who did not offer their support for free. In a controversial move, late last year, for example, the government passed an amnesty that absolved some of the participants in the April 2017 mob attack on the parliament – in which VMRO DPMNE was deeply complicit. Zaev was accused of compromising his integrity, interfering in the work of the judiciary and of continuing the VMRO DPMNE tradition of applying selective justice. While he denied this, the amnesty tarnished the government’s image. And, despite promising to end VMRO DPMNE-style corruption, some ministers and MPs in the new government have also been engulfed in scandals. The Social Democrats’ secretary general, Aleksandar Kiracovski, is being investigated by the State Anti-Corruption Commission over the employment of his mother-in-law in a state institution.
No more time to waste on analysis:
Unofficially, a ruling party source told BIRN that more than 15 ministers, top managers and other holders of key posts might end up being “swept” away by Zaev’s “broom”. “We are doing a thorough analysis to pinpoint our weaknesses and to draw the frame of the reshuffles, which will then be presented to the party presidency at the end of this month,” the source told BIRN.
Unconfirmed reports tell of likely reshuffles in the Justice, Agriculture, Culture, Health and Information Society ministries. Several top managers and mayors will also likely be replaced, although the Prime Minister has no direct power to change mayors. “The changes will not avoid the ranks of the party either,” the same source added, noting that some party vice presidents might be replaced. But observers say there is no more time to waste on analysing the government’s shortcomings. “If the government has not done the analysis so far, and has not determined which ministries had failed, doing so now is pointless” said Trosanovski, from the Institute for Democracy. Former prime minister Vlado Buckovski agreed that time is running out for Zaev to produce results if it wishes to prevent a further decline in popular support for his government – and possibly lose in the next parliamentary elections due in 2020. “In the next four to six weeks, Zaev will ether manage to secure a fresh mandate, or his actions will bring VMRO DPMNE back to power in the next elections” Buckovski predicted.