Vucic confirms he will address Holy Synod, thanks Patriarch for invitation (Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed on Sunday he would address the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod on Monday, thanking Patriarch Irinej for inviting him to join the meeting. This is a great honor and an opportunity to speak the truth, and to respond to untruths, said Vucic. “I won’t hesitate to respond with facts and speak about the future of Serbia even to those who asked anathema for me,” said Vucic while speaking in Skopje, where he attended inaugural ceremony for the new President of North Macedonia. Serbian President criticized media allegations of some bishops objecting his attendance, saying that many bishops actually support the Patriarch’s proposal of having him in the meeting. Commenting on foreign media reports saying that he organized the military parade in Nis to build up his personality cult, Vucic replied by asking when was the last time that Deutsche Welle wrote something positive about Serbia. “You don’t remember? Me neither. The parade was exceptional. People had a chance to see how much the country progressed in a military sense compared to the period of five years ago,” Vucic said. Speaking of the activities of the opposition in Serbia, Vucic urged the representatives of his SNS party in the parliament to organize talks with them but he reiterated he would not attend those meetings. “They don’t want me. And I’m not a place for talks. The place for that is in the Parliament,” he added.
Dacic: Nobody can say whether we’ll join EU in 2025 (Tanjug/RTS/B92)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Monday that no one can say precisely whether Serbia will become a member of the EU by 2025. 2025 was in the past mentioned by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, but only as a tentative date. Dacic said that Serbia will do everything in its power, administratively and politically in terms of implementing reforms, to be ready for membership, and added that it will depend on the EU itself. “Much dependent will depend on overcoming EU’s internal problems caused by Brexit, but also some other processes – that is public opinion that is not overly in favor of enlargement,” Dacic said, during a Q&A session with students of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, to whom he gave a lecture at the Serbian MFA in Belgrade. One of these students, who comes from Croatia, asked Dacic whether he thinks that Croatia will help or hinder Serbia’s EU path – as the latter had been the case between Slovenia and Croatia. Dacic replied that neighbors “rarely enjoy good relations” and that this was “the syndrome of small differences, but big conflicts” in the Balkans. “I am constantly saying that we have nobody closer to us than each other, and that instead of focusing on conflicts, differences and problems, we should emphasize on better relations. I think that relations with Croatia should develop in that direction, to define problems and solve them, but to have as good as possible relations with Croatia, for the sake of the present and the future,” said the minister. He recalled that Croatia will next year hold the EU presidency (for six months) and that he expects this period be used to stabilize Serb-Croat relations. “Nobody can convince me that the Germans, the French and the English like each other way they show it, but if they could create the Steel Community, we can also strengthen our entire region,” Dacic said. The minister also said that when he meets a Croat or an Albanian abroad during his business trips, they greet each other “as brothers” – and urged everyone in the region to do so the same here in the Balkans.
Apostolakis: Clear stand of Greece on Kosovo (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin met with his Greek counterpart Evangelos Apostolakis, who attended the military and police parade in Nis. On this occasion, Vulin expressed his gratitude for the continued support of Greece in preserving the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija, which, he said, confirms the true friendship of the two countries. For Serbia, the establishment of the so-called Kosovo Army is absolutely unacceptable and poses a threat to the entire region, he stressed, and said that KFOR is the only guarantor of security in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, in accordance with UN SC Resolution 1244. The ministers discussed the current defense cooperation and assessed that there is room for its improvement, and mentioned the holding of joint exercises as the most important area of cooperation. Vulin pointed to the significance of the participation of the Serbian Army in the HELBROC combat group, where Greece is the leading nation, and within which the Army of Serbia will take active participation from next year. According to him, in the upcoming period, joint participation in the MILEX and TALOS exercises is planned. Apostolakis expressed the expectation that a compromise solution for the issue of the southern Serbian province will be found, and at the same time confirmed the support of his country to the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Serbia.
Troude: It’s time for France, too, to withdraw Kosovo recognition (Novosti/B92)
Thirteen countries have reversed their decision to recognize unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo, so why wouldn’t France the same, asks Alexis Troude. The French historian is one of the petitioners urging Paris to withdraw its recognition of Kosovo, and is also announcing the launch of this initiative in the French parliament. “That would be very good in order to solve the overall situation in the Western Balkans region. It’s clear that a solution can’t be reached as thing are. Giving essential autonomy to Kosovo would make it possible to speed up negotiations and acceptance of the entire region into the EU,” Troude has told Novosti. Otherwise, the issues of Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia will be raised, which, he added, is not in anybody’s interest. The petition in question was signed by more than 1,500 people in only one day, and the goal of organizers from the Peace Collective for Kosovo, chaired by Troude, is to have 100,000 signatures by the beginning of July and the continuation of talks about the future of Kosovo in the Elysee Palace – and at the same time launch a big national debate, the Belgrade-based newspaper writes on Monday. “We want to hold a debate on Kosovo in the National Assembly of France before 1 July and the arrival of President Aleksandar Vucic in Paris. We are already in contact with certain politicians to whom we will hand over the petition. They plan is for them to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee of parliament,” he said. Troude believes that this could change the situation, as there had been no debate in France before that country recognized Kosovo. “Nicolas Sarkozy himself decided to do that one Sunday evening, 17 February, 2008, with the enthusiastic support of his Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. This is an opportunity to finally debate the matter. The team has recently filed alarming reports to several parliamentary missions about the state of human rights and the overall situation in Kosovo,” Troude said. The historian also announced that he would conduct a campaign in the French media next week, adding many MPs, regional councilors, and party officials promised to sign the petition after EU elections.
Dodik: Abolition of RS Army was mistake, this decision was reached under huge pressure of IC; Members of 3rd Infantry Regiment of RS should wear uniforms of RS Army while marking this day (RTRS/ATV/BHT1)
Day of the RS Army and the Third Infantry RS Regiment of B&H Armed Forces (AF) was marked in Banja Luka on Sunday. The ceremony was attended by high-ranking military and political officials of the RS, representatives of the RS government and the Serbian government, as well as by B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik. Addressing the ceremony on this occasion, RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic stated that many lives were sacrificed for the RS in a severe battle in which the freedom of the Serb people and the RS was defended. She stressed that the RS Army was created as the people’s army with the goal not to allow for mass killings of the Serb people from the WWII to happen again. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said that formation of the RS Army on 12 May 1992 was proven to be a key decision to protect and rescue the Serb people in this region. Dodik stated that the decision to abolish the RS Army was a mistake, adding that the RS Army is alive through members of the Third Infantry RS Regiment who will be ready to defend the freedom of the RS and its people. “Members of the Third Infantry RS Regiment, officials in the political system who decide on security issues and the RS Police represent a composing part of security and defense system of the Serb people as a whole”, Dodik stressed. He reminded that he respects the fact that BiH Presidency has supreme command over B&H AF in line with the Constitution of B&H, but for him the supreme command of the Third Infantry RS Regiment of B&H AF that inherits tradition of the RS Army is in Banja Luka. Therefore, he asked from members of the Third Infantry RS Regiment to wear uniforms of the RS Army during next year’s ceremony of marking of the Day of the RS Army and the Third Infantry RS Regiment of B&H AF. Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin said that what was created during the war must not be lost now, adding that the RS would not have been created without persistent and brave fight of the Serb people and the RS Army, or great solidarity of all Serbs. Al Jazeera Balkans – Vulin also said that the RS is always the priority of the Serbian Government, Prime Minister and President. “The RS does not have its army, but the Serb people have their army,” said Vulin. Vulin said that the RS was created by Serb unity and the lack of unity can endanger it. Vulin stated that the RS was created because of the need of the Serb people to decide about themselves and for the genocide in Jasenovac not to be repeated. A memorial service for the fallen soldiers of the Army of the RS was served in Banja Luka on Sunday as well. Dodik said that abolition of the former RS Army was a mistake, but the decision was reached under huge pressure of the international community. He reiterated that the RS will respect decisions of the RS parliament on military neutrality of the RS, adding that the entity will not be connected to any military alliances in the West or in the East. Speaking about the B&H AF, Dodik stated that soldiers from the RS will not attend a military academy in Sarajevo. Addressing media, Dodik said: “A military academy at the level of B&H is also being formed. I just want to say that there will be no political decisions for this kind of formation. We primarily want our officers and other leading staff in the AF to be educated within the military system of Serbia”. “The policy of military neutrality will be pursued now and in the future. Nobody should expect that the RSNA’s decision will be mocked, because we are now aware of the fact that we made a mistake while making the decision to abolish the RS Army – which we were entitled to, in line with the Dayton Peace Accords and the Constitution of B&H – under pressure of the international factor, so that the Armed Forces of B&H is established based on the will we allegedly had,” Dodik explained.
Dzaferovic, Komsic strongly criticize Dodik’s statement regarding soldiers of Third Infantry Regiment of B&H AF (FTV/TV1/Hayat)
B&H officials strongly reacted to Dodik’s statement in which he called on the soldiers of the Third Infantry Regiment (of the RS) of the B&H Armed Forces (AF). Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic said Sunday that Dodik’s statement is a criminal offense and that Dodik is calling for execution of a serious criminal offense. Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic went a step further, announcing that he will file a criminal report against Dodik for provoking rebellion in the B&H AF. “I hope that some people in Sarajevo, who claimed it is not that important, finally realize what Dodik actually wants and how important it is for this country to become a member state of the NATO sooner or later,” said Komsic, reads a statement issued by his cabinet. Hayat also covered that Komsic said that he will submit the criminal report against Dodik. He emphasized that this may be in vain, because the similar criminal report he submitted against Dodik several years ago was rejected. Dzaferovic underlined that this statement of Dodik might be detrimental for him and the RS. Dzaferovic stressed that Dodik is calling for committing of a seerious criminal offense. Dzaferovic added that Dodik, as well as those who obey his request, may end up in prison. He also stated that influence of Russia on acting of politicians from the RS is visible, adding that consequence of this is denial of B&H Law on Defense.
Dodik and Cvijanovic criticize HR Inzko’s report to UN SC (N1)
Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik and RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic addressed a press conference in Banja Luka on Saturday and harshly criticized the report on the status of peace implementation in B&H, which High Representative Valentin Inzko recently presented before the UN Security Council (UN SC). Dodik and Cvijanovic also assessed that the process of formation of authorities in B&H has been halted, because of irresponsible politicians, primarily from SDA. Dodik alleged that Inzko’s report is full of lies and manipulations that are detrimental to the RS, and only draw the attention to the RS due to failed processes in B&H. Dodik announced the intention to demand from Inzko to present a report on work of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) before the RS parliament. Dodik noted that the announced NATO exercise on Mount Manjaca will not be held, because he did not provide his consent for it, adding that there is also no consent for the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) or membership in any military alliance. According to the B&H Presidency Chairman, Inzko uses the method of attacks and slander against the RS. He accused Inzko of trying to keep “his salary of EUR 24,000” through satanization of the RS. Cvijanovic assessed that B&H has entered “a grey zone” and is in the hands of irresponsible politicians “who intentionally block the process of formation of authorities”. She presented an opinion that blockade of the process of authority formation aims to prevent implementation of the will of voters in the RS. On behalf of institutions and people of the RS, Cvijanovic and Dodik dismissed the entire report that Inzko presented to the UN SC, which they referred to as being “full of lies and manipulations”. Cvijanovic was quoted as saying that the report is all about “made-up accusations against the RS, with the aim to draw the attention away from problems that SDA is causing in B&H”. She dismissed a number of remarks that Inzko made in the report. She explained that the commission for Srebrenica was not formed with the task to question the court decisions but to contribute to reconciliation and truth. “Why would someone mind looking for the truth if the foreign factor and Bosniak politicians did everything right in this country?” Cvijanovic wondered. She also dismissed the remarks that formation of a police reserve unit is actually formation of an army of the RS, which she thinks is a “deliberate lie”. In her opinion, referring to the Bonn powers obstructs the European path of B&H. “I dismiss the claim that abolition of the (Office of the) High Representative is being requested by those who want to destabilize the country,” Cvijanovic said, explaining that such requests are actually coming from those who want to see the European path. “It is logical that a country that has the High Representative is not stable in the first place, so we cannot see what could possibly be endangered or destabilized,” Cvijanovic argued.
Dodik and Cvijanovic criticize SDA for standstill in formation of B&H CoM (ATV)
Dodik stated that the RS does not benefit from B&H that he thinks is actually detrimental to the RS, given the fact that the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) still has not been formed and it is uncertain when it will be formed. According to Dodik, there is readiness to form the joint institutions but Bosniaks are constantly trying to be “the most important” in B&H. He argued that SDA’s invitation for SBB B&H to join the coalition proves this fact. “I know that they said three months ago that Fahrudin Radoncic will join the coalition with SDA and that they will be together, but they only need some time, and now they are making it look like a major political agreement. When we talked about which posts belong to him, even Bakir Izetbegovic requested the Ministry of Security in order for Fahrudin Radoncic to be appointed,” Dodik said. He warned that if this situation continues, the B&H Presidency will also get into a position to reduce the level of activities. “Our willingness to participate in the work at the level of B&H is significantly decreasing, although we have said that we would try to tolerate some things,” Dodik was quoted as saying. RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic was also quoted as saying that the process of formation of new authorities and the European path of B&H are being obstructed deliberately. In her opinion, B&H is in a “grey zone” and in the hands of irresponsible politicians as there are attempts to prevent the parties – winners of the elections in the RS – from taking over their posts at the level of B&H in line with the choice of voters. “Of course, it is clear that the current convocation of the B&H CoM has no legitimacy, credibility or authority to participate in any kind of process or to take over or fulfill any kind of obligations. In addition, the Croat Ministers almost do not participate in the work (…) of the outgoing convocation of the B&H CoM, it is clear why B&H has entered a grey zone,” Cvijanovic argued.
SDA calls for formation of strong political alliance at B&H, FB&H level (BHT1/TV1)
A session of SDA Presidency was held in Sarajevo on Friday. Participants of the session called on SBB B&H to take part in formation of the authorities at the B&H and the FB&H level. SDA Vice-President Safet Softic stated that this is an invitation to form a strong pro-Bosnian bloc which would be composed of SDA, DF and SBB B&H. Softic stressed that so far talks between SDA and SBB B&H were unofficial, adding that he hopes those talks will be raised to a higher level. “All contacts between SBB B&H and SDA, except the meeting that was held earlier at SDA headquarters, were unofficial in regard to this issue. How SBB B&H will react to the invitation; this is practically an invitation of SDA Presidency to SBB B&H to be part of the authorities and in coming days, we will see what will be the reaction of SBB B&H leader and their bodies that will be deciding on that. But, this means open doors for as wide bloc as possible and for as many political parties as possible to take part in this alliance which in a way should launch formation of the authorities,” Softic underlined. Members of SDA Presidency further said that they are ready to form the authorities during this month. According to SDA, SBB B&H and its leader Fahrudin Radoncic in particular could obtain the position of the B&H Minister of Security in the future convocation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). SDA Presidency also adopted certain conclusions, welcoming the report of the High Representative Valentin Inzko to the UN Security Council. Members of SDA Presidency also reiterated SDA’s already known position on formation of reserve police force in the RS, calling on cantonal and the FB&H authority levels to start the process of filling of the active police force in the FB&H and to initiate law amendments so that the FB&H could form reserve police force as well. SDA Presidency also welcomed the presence of the United States in B&H. SDA Presidency welcomed the decisive stance of France and Germany passed at the recent summit of Western Balkan countries in Berlin that opposes change of borders in the Balkans. SDA supports the initiative filed by 12 associations of victims of genocide and war crimes in B&H asking the local parliaments to pass the law on genocide denial ban. Furthermore, SDA Presidency welcomed the request filed by EP Rapporteur for B&H Cristian Dan Preda (EPP) who asked the EC to declare its stance on genocide denial and glorification of war criminals in the RS.
Dodik calls on Thaci to stop mentioning and critically speaking about RS (ATV/RTRS)
Speaking for media in Nis on Friday, Chairman of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik called on Kosovo President Hashim Thaci to stop mentioning and critically speaking about the RS, because the RS is real and not imaginary. Commenting on the statement of Thaci “that he does not want the RS in Kosovo”, Dodik said that Thaci should stop mentioning the RS adding that the RS is a constitutional category, confirmed by the Dayton Peace Agreement, which has its own Constitution and its territory. Dodik added that the RS has no territorial pretensions over Kosovo, emphasizing that Kosovo is a part of Serbia. Speaking about a verbal debate with Thaci at a recent plenary meeting within the Brdo-Brijuni Process in Tirana, Dodik said that Thaci is foreigners’ favorite, who thinks that he can speak whatever he wants when he is at the international scene. Dodik stressed that by clearly saying they want unification of Albania and Kosovo and annexation of three municipalities in Serbia, officials of Kosovo and Albania wanted to create atmosphere in which representatives of Serbs would feel they are not welcome to Summit in Tirana. Dodik explained that he did not want to remain silent to Thaci’s provocations. “The RS is great example of solution for conflict and stabilization of society of multiethnic and multinational character,” explained Dodik.
Pendarovski takes over the presidential office from Ivanov (Republika)
President Gjorge Ivanov handed over the villa Vodno residence to Stevo Pendarovski in a brief ceremony Sunday afternoon. Ivanov welcomed Pendarovski with military honors in the official residence and had na short meeting with him, after which they were joined by the official staff, some of whom may be retained by Pendarovski. Pendarovski will begin his mandate in the office by meeting the foreign dignitaries who attended his inauguration, including the presidents of Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo. The Ivanov family posted a farewell picture from the entrance of the villa, which still bears the name Republic of Macedonia – a sign which Pendarovski will likely replace soon.
Pendarovski inaugurated as President, Xhaferi led the ceremony in Albanian (Republika)
Stevo Pendarovski was inaugurated as Macedonian President today in a ceremony in the Parliament. Speaker Talat Xhaferi led the ceremony, opting to speak in Albanian, which strongly emphasized the voting bloc to which Pendarovski owes his election. Outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov was present, as was former President Branko Crvenkovski, but opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski was not invited by Pendarovski. Therefore, Pendarovski’s pledge in his address to work with the opposition could not be heard in person by the opposition leader.
Also, in attendance were the presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo and the foreign ministers of Greece and Montenegro, as well as diplomatic envoys from Turkey, Poland and Slovenia. I pledge to be the President of all citizens, of those who voted for me, of those who voted for the other candidates, and of those who didn’t vote. My first step will be to offer a hand of cooperation to the opposition, Pendarovski said to the attendees who again, did not include the opposition. Pendarovski also promised to work to complete the process of bringing “North Macedonia” into NATO and the EU, for which the country was forced to pay a high price and redefine its name and national identity. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was also absent but by his own choice – he is taking a regional vacation tour after the elections and sent Pendarovski a message of congratulations. Also present at the event were religious and military leaders, representatives from the soon to be renamed Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences and Vilma Trajkovska, widow of late President Boris Trajkovski.
With Pendarovski’s inauguration, Macedonia faces becoming a fully bilingual country (Republika)
The certification given to Stevo Pendarovski by the State Electoral Commission that he was elected as President bore the name “Republic of North Macedonia”, but was also bilingual, under the controversial law for the use of the Albanian language. Pendarovski, who owes his win to ethnic Albanian voters, promised that he will sign the act into law once he assumes office, and some central institutions are already using it after it was signed by Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi and published in the Official gazette. President Gjorge Ivanov refused to sign it into law, or the constitutional amendments that rename Macedonia into North Macedonia. A dozen laws also remain unsigned, because they were submitted to Ivanov under the name “North Macedonia”. Implementation of the clearly unconstitutional law about the Albanian language so far has largely depended on who runs the particular institution. The Customs Office, for example, introduced a new trilingual logo which mixes Macedonian, Albanian and English and its deputy director Irfan Buci, who is Albanian, boasted about the change to the Albanian language media.
Opposition set to continue anti-govt rallies (ADN)
Thousands of opposition supporters from around the country gathered Saturday in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Tirana, after the opposition calls for the next nationwide protest that, according to Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, “would determine the fate of the years to come”. Chanting “We want a European Albania”, they renewed the call they made since February for snap polls after the opposition MPs resigned their parliamentary seats. Saturday’s protest turned violent when some protesters, including a group with masked faces, hurled Molotov cocktails, flares, firecrackers, and other objects as police used tear gas when some in the crowd broke through the cordon and attempted to storm the government building. “We are determined to keep waging a bigger and more resolute battle as long as the government was keeping Albania apart from Europe. We are here with a mission, to liberate Albania from crime and corruption, to make Albania like the rest of Europe,” DP leader Basha told the crowd.
Police representatives urged Basha to remove rioters and petrol bomb attackers from the ranks of protesters. Then the crowd moved near the parliament building where a group of protesters kept hurling petrol bombs and firecrackers, to which police responded with tear gas and water jets. After four hours, the crowd moved to the Tirana police directorate to protest against the arrest of DP organizational secretary, Sahit Dollapi, who was later sent to hospital due to injuries.
Both, policemen and protesters were injured in the violence, reports said. Meanwhile, President Ilir Meta called on protesters and police to avoid acts of violence and confrontation. Calling the opposition’s policies “blind”, Rama said he was saddened to hear an opposition leader begging the government to quit, and their fire harmed not his government but the country.
For the past three months, protests have erupted all over the country calling for PM Rama to quit over his alleged involvement in corruption and election fraud. Protesters have called also for snap elections.
Opposition’s protest, PM Rama urges for dialogue (ADN)
Despite the tense situation, political crisis and the extreme opposition’s decision to ‘burned’ parliamentary mandates and protests on the streets, Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Sunday that he is ready to dialogue with the opposition’s leader, Lulzim Basha. “I have a message for my friend that has lost his road: I am ready to dialogue to discuss with him. Opposition’s MPs ‘burned’ their mandates, but despite this fact, let’s talk and dialogue and to turn in law those things that opposition believes that will improve citizens’ lives. Let’s sit and talk for everything, now that it is not too late,” underlined Rama.
Opposition to protest until the removal of government (ADN)
Opposition will protest until the actual government will be removed and a transitional one will prepare free and fair elections. In a press statement, the leader of Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, refused the dialogue offered by Premier and considered him a dangerous person for Albania, Kosovo and all region. “The actual political crisis can be solved only with Rama’s removal. He brings all criminals in Parliament, betrayed Kosovo and is a danger for Albania, Kosovo and all region. Our duty is to do everything to stop these criminals that want to destroy Albania,” warned Basha.
EU appeals to political leaders in Albania to restraint (ADN)
EU Delegation in Tirana has reacted on Sunday over the violence during the opposition’s protest on Saturday, saying that violence cannot be tolerated in any circumstance. “Peaceful protest is a core value of a modern European democracy. Violence cannot be tolerated in any circumstance. In view of the protests announced for today and in the next days in Tirana, the Delegation of the European Union calls on protesters and their political leaders to show responsibility and restraint. Differing political points of view need to be handled through debate and dialogue,” appealed through a statement EU delegation in Tirana.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
McAllister: EP was very clear, media freedom a key indicator of readiness for EU membership (European Western Balkans, by Filip Lukić, 13 May 2019)
With the European parliament elections set for the end of May, the 5-year mandate of it’s previous composition came to an end. EWB spoke with David McAllister, German MEP from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who – besides being the president of EP’s foreign affairs committee (AFET) – held the office of EP’s standing rapporteur for Serbia since 2014. With McAllister we spoke about Serbia’s EU accession process and its most significant succesess and failures, as seen from his perspective.
European Western Balkans: In your opinion, besides the economic reforms that you have praised many times, what is the biggest progress of Serbia during your mandate as the EP’s rapporteur?
David McAllister: I have indeed commended Serbia’s economic reforms. They continue to produce results, especially in terms of macroeconomic stabilisation, which is to the benefit of all people in the country. Overall, Serbia has progressed in its accession negotiations by opening 16 out of 35 chapters, of which two have already been provisionally closed.
EWB: On the other hand, what would you see as Serbia’s missed opportunities in the past five years regarding the reform agenda?
DM: It is not as much about missed opportunities as about the policy fields where progress is now urgently needed, such as convincing reforms and track records on the rule of law. This concerns in particular judiciary reforms, the fight against corruption and organised crime and the freedom of expression and media.
EWB: What would you point out as the biggest challenge lying ahead in the Serbia’s EU integration process – the rule of law, state of the media or Kosovo issue? Why?
DM: All of the mentioned policy areas are equally important and challenging. The negotiating framework takes particular account of the rule of law chapters 23 and 24 as well as of Serbia’s continued engagement and steps towards a visible and sustainable improvement in relations with Kosovo, negotiated under chapter 35.
EWB: The opposition has left the Parliament, citizens are protesting every Saturday against the government, violence against the journalist culminated when the house of journalist Milan Jovanović was burnt down. It seems that the situation in the society is far worse than it was at the beginning of your term. What is your impression?
DM: It would not feel appropriate from my side to assess the public sentiment in Serbia. However, I took note of the protests. Demonstrations that are conducted peacefully are a legitimate way for the people to express their opinion. Regarding the boycott of the Serbian Parliament, I believe, that the political debate should not take place outside, but inside the parliament.
EWB: In comparison with your first visit to Serbia, when you talked mostly about the economic reforms and Kosovo, during the last visit you have mostly talked about the freedom of media. Considering that you said that you read Serbian media every morning, do you agree with the assessment of Freedom House that Serbia is regressing in this area?
DM: I read the study and some of the findings you will also find in the reports of the European Commission and of the European Parliament. When we talk about media freedom, the European Parliament has been very clear. Media freedom is a key indicator of a country’s readiness to become part of the EU. It implies a commitment to democracy, good governance and political accountability through political dialogue, critical discussion and debate and expression of differing opinions. The freedom of media is crucial for every democracy.
EWB: At the final Press Conference, you have praised the Government of Serbia for overall progress. However, so far Serbia has been opening only four chapters per year, although it is technically ready for much more. Why it seems that reward for the progress is missing?
DM: Serbia is progressing on its path towards the EU. The overall pace of negotiations depends on Serbia’s progress on adopting and implementing reforms in key areas. With all energy focused on adopting and implementing reforms, I am confident that further chapters will be opened soon. The Member States have made clear that sustainable progress on the fundamentals, especially on the rule of law chapters 23 and 24, is therefore necessary.