Serbian parliament adopts report by Office for Kosovo and Metohija (Beta/RTS/Politika)
The Serbian parliament adopted on 28 May a written report on Kosovo and Metohija presented by the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, ending a special session on Kosovo. The report was presented to MPs by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who had been debating with the MPs for two days. President Vucic was explicit that he was in favor of a compromise with Pristina, instead of a frozen conflict, but wasn’t very specific as to what type of compromise was acceptable for Serbia. After a debate, the MPs passed the 82-page document, in which on 17 pages the Office for Kosovo and Metohija described the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue from 2013 to May 2019, while the longer part listed the most important results of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija from May 2014 to 2019. Part of the opposition described the report as shameful, explaining that no plan of action had been offered, but that the parliament had only learned about what the Serbian government had been doing, or rather had been spending funds on. As for the talks with Pristina, the document was a mere list of what the public knows already, put in chronological order. The opposition parties boycotting the parliament didn’t attend the session on Kosovo. Aside from the ruling majority, the Serbian Radical Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, the Party of Modern Serbia and a few more MPs, either independent or from opposition parties, attended the session.
Vucic: I have never mentioned military intervention (Tanjug)
I have never said Serbia would intervene militarily in case of serious conflicts in northern Kosovo, but that it would protect its people, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Tuesday after a special parliament session on Kosovo and Metohija. Correcting a reporter, Vucic said he had never used the words military intervention and that he had used terms carefully. “I did not say Serbia would intervene militarily; I said Serbia is ready to protect its people – do not add words I did not utter. We do not want to wage a war, we are protecting peace almost at all costs. ‘Almost at all costs’ means if someone thinks they can subject our people to a pogrom. I did not mention any interventions – you did,” Vucic said in response to the reporter’s question.
Vucic denies being informed of Kosovo police operation (Beta/RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday that international community representatives were not telling the truth when they said that Belgrade was informed about Tuesday’s Kosovo police operation. He said there might have been some contacts after 11:30 am but not when the crisis started and peaked. According to Vucic, the Serbian authorities found out that something was coming from intelligence sources, adding that he mentioned the possibility days earlier. “We informed them and called them not to do anything up to 17 May. When they said they had to fight corruption, our people in the Office for Kosovo asked them not to go north but to send summons to the suspects,” he said.
Dacic: Conditioning Serbian on dialogue with Pristina losing its meaning (Beta)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has said in Bratislava that full membership in the EU is Serbia’s key foreign political priority and a long-term commitment of society, adding that in that sense, Serbia does not expect any gifts but only a fair evaluation of what it has achieved.
At an annual meeting of the Visegrad Group and Western Balkan foreign ministers, Dacic said that the conditioning of Serbia’s progress en route to the EU, by evaluating progress in its dialogue with Pristina is losing its meaning and voiced the hope that the deadlock in the dialogue would not affect the dynamic of Serbia’s accession to the EU. Dacic told the participants of the meeting that Serbia was concerned about the events in Kosovo and conveyed its resolve to protect its people if necessary. The Serbian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that Serbia feels great concern and bitterness over the attack by Pristina’s police security forces and special units in northern Kosovo. Dacic said that the EU and Serbia’s Western partners must take every possible step to ensure that Kosovo’s security forces withdraw from northern Kosovo as soon as possible.
Selakovic: Pristina wants sovereignty in the north with provications (RTS)
Serbian President’s General Secretary Nikola Selakovic has told RTS that the goal of the Pristina’ operation in northern Kosovo and Metohija was not fight against corruption and organized crime but intimidating the Serb people. He says that, for a long time, we have been witnesses of such provocations and different attempts of Pristina to achieve its sovereignty in northern Kosovo and Metohija.
Dikovic: They should raise a monument to me, and not an indictment (Novosti)
Retired general Ljubisa Dikovic has stated that he is not surprised with the fact the issue of his alleged responsibility for crimes is raised again in the midst of preparations for processing KLA members. Dikovic told Novosti that the units under his command didn’t commit any war crime, adding that one of the priority tasks during the war operations was care about the local population and refugees. “How much we took care about Albanian civilians during the war in Kosovo and Metohija they should raid a monument to me and not an indictment,” said Dikovic. \
He said that there were up to 15,000 Albanians during the bombing in Serbia, and all of them were taken care of, fed, supplied with medicine. “They didn’t lack anything, we treated them better than our own soldiers,” said Dikoivc, adding that he was saddened by the fact that this indictment was written in Belgrade.
KFOR blames media and politicians (TV Prva/B92)
KFOR spokesman Vincenzo Grasso says Monday’s Kosovo special police raid in northern, Serb areas was regular activity. Asked what the situation in Kosovo was like this morning, Grasso replied that it was under control. “Yesterday there were some tensions, but luckily they remained in isolated locations and were completed during the day, so I have to say that it is peaceful,” he told TV Prva. Asked with whose permission of Pristina’s forces stormed the north, perpetrating brutal violence against Serbs there, Grasso said that what happened yesterday was a police operation carried out after the Kosovo prosecution issued arrest warrants. “The operation was carried out in several municipalities, including municipalities in the north. As far as approval is concerned, the Kosovo police is fully responsible for the rule of law. And when they carry out these duties, they do it without additional permission,” he said. Asked if it was true that Hungarian KFOR members wanted to react when they saw how Kosovo police were treating local population, Grasso said this this information was not entirely accurate. “That did not happen. The Hungarian battalion is part of KFOR and no attempt was made to intervene without the approval of KFOR. They were ready to intervene, but they did not try to intervene,” explained Grasso. When the interviewer said that footage from yesterday leads to the conclusion KFOR who was behind the Kosovo police, not between them and the people, thus having the police’s back, Grasso reiterated that KFOR was monitoring the situation and not interfering because yesterday’s operation had nothing to do with KFOR’s mandate. “At this moment, peace in Kosovo is most threatened by rhetoric, propaganda, provocation and sometimes false statements by politicians. I’ve been here for almost 20 months and there were no major incidents. The greatest threat to peace and stability is caused by the rhetoric used and abused by some leaders, as well as the media taking part in it,” said Grasso. Asked if and in which situation KFOR would have reacted yesterday to protect Serbs, Grasso did not give a concrete answer: “We are the third line of response. The Kosovo police worked and ended the action during the day with no big problems, except for that in Zubin Potok, so if the Kosovo police does not seek our intervention, we will not intervene. Unless the situation is extremely bad, if it threatens peace and stability.” He also said that the KFOR command was constantly monitoring the situation and that there was an exchange of information. “We were in contact even with the Serbian authorities. Everyone was informed about these operations in advance, and there was no surprise,” he said.
Incidents in Kosovo spark series of reactions (Srna)
The incidents related to Tuesday’s operation of members of the Kosovo special police forces (ROSU) in northern part of Kosovo sparked a series of reactions. Chairman and Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik told Srna an operation by the ROSU special forces in Kosovo and Metohija deals a major blow to the fragile peace there and cannot be tolerated by something called the international community either, which is present in the southern Serbian province. Dodik pointed out that the state of Serbia had the right to protect its people, who remained unprotected even by the international forces there, which are supposed to guarantee security to both the Serbs and the Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija. “Explanations that the Tuesday morning raid in northern Kosovo is an act of countering crime are ludicrous because, in order to bring individuals to justice, you do not have to employ special units with long guns which intimidate the entire population there,” emphasized Dodik. According to him, the explanation that that was the way police officers were arrested there was very odd.
“They could have been apprehended peacefully at their workplace, if there were grounds for their arrest. That is why it is absolutely clear this is not a struggle against crime. This is a struggle against the remaining Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and an attempt to provoke their new exodus,” underlined Dodik. Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic said that the operation conducted by the Special Forces ROSU in the north of Kosovo and Metohija is another in a series of provocations organized by Pristina authorities, stressing that self-declared Kosovo is a serious cause of instability in the Western Balkans. “If it were a fight against crime, then such operation would be conducted differently, thus everything suggests that this is a political operation with the use of force, which sends clear messages to Serbs that they will not have peace in Kosovo and Metohija,” Cvijanovic stated when asked to comment Monday’s events that were occurred in Kosovo. Unfortunately, the President of RS pointed out, the international factor’s reactions failed again or were mild as usually, as was the case with the introduction of custom duties and numerous other actions taken by Pristina. “Their inflammatory, warmongering rhetoric filled with hatred that is persistently directed to both Serbia and RS is condemnable. The internationals never discuss such rhetoric, while persistently give us lessons about everything we state,” Cvijanovic emphasized. She stated that self-declared Kosovo is undoubtedly a serious cause of instability in the Western Balkans, a place where human and collective rights of one nation are seriously violated, a space that operates beyond the political and economic rules and regulations of the civilized world, but functioning and lasting as such under the sponsorship of international community. “RS institutions support Serbia’s efforts to maintain regional peace and protect the rights of Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohija, but also the interests and rights of the state of Serbia,” said Cvijanovic. DEMOS led by party leader and speaker of the RS parliament Nedeljko Cubrilovic condemned the ROSU members’ excessive use of force and expressed concern over lack of the IC’s reaction to the Albanian politicians’ announcements about re-tailoring the borders.
Session of B&H parliament’s Joint Collegium not held (BHT1)
A session of the Joint Collegium of the B&H parliament that was scheduled for Tuesday was not held after all. According to leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic, the session was not held because SNSD MPs did not want to take part in the session. According to Izetbegovic, SNSD MPs do not want to take part in work of the B&H Parliament or parliamentary bodies until formation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). Izetbegovic called on leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik for compromise because in his opinion, compromise is possible. Izetbegovic underlined that this is evidence that the work of the B&H Parliament is completely blocked. Izetbegovic underlined that SNSD deems that legislative bodies cannot work prior to formation of the B&H CoM. Izetbegovic stressed that the Office of High Representative (OHR) should present its interpretation of this situation, because it is unacceptable that representatives in the Parliament receive salaries while they do nothing. “Submitting of the ANP does not mean BiH’s membership in the NATO. We are prepared to take such political stance. We expect SNSD and their leader to invest efforts and find a final solution, along with us,” concluded Izetbegovic. Deputy speaker of the B&H HoP Radmanovic (SNSD) told reporters that Izetbegovic again sets conditions for something, adding that this issue is not the topic concerning the process of formation of the B&H CoM. Radmanovic also said that Izetbegovic convened the session of the Collegium without consulting anyone and he included some items to the daily agenda, which Radmanovic believes the MPs could not discuss at this moment. He reiterated that no parliamentary discussions should be held before forming the B&H CoM, as all things should be done in a certain logical order. Radmanovic and Spiric were bothered by Izetbegovic’s attempts to dominate in B&H by violating constitutional rights and equality of Serbs and Croats as constituent peoples. Radmanovic said: “Unfortunately, we sometimes need to remind them that this is not possible. B&H represents an agreement of two entities and three peoples, otherwise it does not exist. He convened a session without consultations and set the items of the agenda that are impossible to discuss. When we told him this, he acted surprised and started accusing others.” When it comes to unblocking the B&H Parliament, Radmanovic assessed that this is possible the moment election winners in Sarajevo provide Serb people with what belongs to them based on the B&H Constitution, namely the post of the B&H CoM Chairman. Commenting on SNSD officials’ criticism, Izetbegovic expressed surprise by it and noted that he is trying to find a way out for the blockade in B&H.
EUD to B&H, US Embassy to B&H and OSCE Mission to B&H send letter to HJPC members, expressing concern re implementation of judicial reforms in B&H (BN TV)
The letter to the B&H High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) signed by Head of the EU Delegation to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Head of the OSCE Mission to B&H Bruce Berton and Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy to B&H Ellen Germain reads, among other things, that there are serious flaws in work of the HJPC. The letter also reads that the HJPC designed and adopted a significant number of very important reforms in 2018 and that the goal of these reforms was to strengthen the rule of law and build trust in the judicial system in B&H. “Recently, unfortunately, we have noticed some worrying trends that negatively affect the implementation of these reforms and they refer to the submission of property records, assessment of work and the procedure of appointment of judges and prosecutors,” reads the letter. Abovementioned representatives of the international community also said that the HJPC was supposed and did not treat the appointment of chief prosecutors in four of ten cantons in the Federation of B&H at its last session. They added that this is not the first time that the HJPC had poor management over the appointment procedure. “Favoring some appointments and postponing the others creates the impression that there are political or other reasons guiding the HJPC in its decision making,” further reads the letter. It also reads that delays and inefficiency in the appointments undermine the rule of law in B&H. Wigemark, Berton and Germain also said in the letter that although independent, holders of judicial functions must be responsible, adding that in order to get trust of citizens, judiciary also must be unbiased, professional and efficient.
EC report on B&H: Opinion on B&H’s candidate status will be positive, but with numerous conditions (Dnevni avaz)
EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn is expected to present a report on the progress of Western Balkan countries before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, including the European Commission’s opinion on B&H application for EU candidate status. The EC’s opinion will also be presented to the members of the Joint Collegium of the parliament of B&H by Head of the EU Delegation to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark. According to daily’s information, the EC opinion will be positive, but with numerous conditions. The main precondition is formation of authority, as well as many short-term and long-term obligations for B&H in the upcoming period. The opinion will point out the need for the country to work on key issues such as reform of the justice system and the rule of law, the public administration reform to make it more efficient and more responsible with transparent procedures. The conditions will also include increase of level of respect for human rights and fight against discrimination. Inset ‘Death penalty in RS Constitution’ – Daily learned that one of the issues the European Commission is going to insist on is the issue of death penalty in the RS Constitution and the need for its abolishment.
Montenegro will not break diplomatic relations with Russia (CDM)
Answering the questions in the parliament of Montenegro, Montenegro’s PM, Dusko Markovic, said this country won’t break diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, but will patiently and reasonably strive to raise relations to a higher level. Namely, the Democratic Front (DF) MP, Nebojsa Medojevic, used the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister if there were risks for peace and stability of the country after the verdicts for coup attempt had been pronounced, and PM Markovic replied: “There are no risks for peace and stability of the country after the verdicts of attempted terrorism had been announced, and there won’t be any risk even after a final verdict. The State must and can ensure the security of every individual and family in Montenegro, and, of course, the execution of decisions made by state bodies.”
Zaev and Ahmeti will discuss the purge this week, Deskoska, Sugareski and Ademi likely to go (Republika)
Economy Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi, who comes from the DUI party, announced a meeting of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Ali Ahmeti for this week, when the two will discuss the expected changes to the Government. Zaev began the promised purge by dismissing about a 100 SDSM party officials, including six deputy leaders, the Secretary General and his powerful adviser Mile Zecevik, but so far DUI has shown little interest to participate. “The negotiations continue but we are mostly exchanging opinion about which departments need to be strengthened. I believe the changes will be in the spirit of preserving the capacity of the institutions and delivering better results for the citizens,” Bekteshi said. According to the Alsat TV, Zaev is expected to remove several ministers whose names were frequently put forward as likely candidates for the purge – Justice Minister Renata Deskoska, Transportation Minister Goran Sugareski and Education Minister Arber Ademi.
Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Exclusive responsibility of Kosovo’s institutions (ADN)
The Albanian President, Ilir Meta, has commented on Tuesday during an interview, the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. According to him, the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue is an exclusive responsibility of the Kosovo leaders and its institutions. Meta said that Albania, by supporting this dialogue will accept any solution which the Kosovo institutions reach in accordance with the Constitution of Kosovo and the will of its people. “Any participation from Albania or any Albanian institution on the topics concerning the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, would be an unnecessary intervention which would not be helpful, and would affect, primarily, the demonstration of the authority and full legitimacy of the institutions of Kosovo. Secondly, it would bring about unnecessary misunderstandings. I have openly and publicly emphasized, that a coordination between the United States in particular, but of Germany as well, is much needed, because Germany is a key factor and will always be, especially regarding the European future of our region, as well as Great Britain that has had and continues to have an important role in our region, especially regarding the Kosovo,” said Meta. The idea of borders correction between Kosovo and Serbia was one of the issued discussed during the interview. Meta was clear: “My position is in full coherence with Albania’s foreign policy and that of the Albanian government”. Meta added that Albania has as its priority, the implementation of European integration policies, not only for Albania but the entire region, and certainly it stands for the non-alteration of the borders. But, according to him, it is up to the Kosovo leaders to make all the right decisions, those that result in success. “Not only the normalization of relations with Serbia, but also decisions that guarantee an absolute long-term applicable agreement which strengthens the stability and the security of Kosovo and our entire region.”
US Delegation praises Albania’s role in regional developments (ADN)
Speaker of the parliament, Gramoz Ruci, received on Tuesday the delegation of the American Congress and the Atlantic Council, who are visiting Albania and some countries of the region.
Ruci expressed gratitude for US support towards Albania’s integration reforms, especially the Judicial Reform, which is irreversible and unbreakable, according to him. He also discussed with the members of the delegation the political situation in Albania, the progress of the reforms as well as the care that should be shown to maintain the Euro-Atlantic course as the only alternative to the development, peace and stability of the region. The US delegation expressed the highest ratings for Albania’s constructive role in regional developments, developments in peace, security and stability in the Western Balkans.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Reforms in the Western Balkans and Turkey: annual assessments and recommendations
(European Commission – Press release, 29 May 2019)
Brussels – Confirming that a credible enlargement policy is a geostrategic investment in peace, stability, security and economic growth in the whole of Europe, the Commission today adopted its annual assessment of the implementation of reforms in the Western Balkan partners and Turkey, together with recommendations on the next steps for those countries.
A firm and credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans remains essential to drive transformation, foster reconciliation, export stability to the region and promote EU values, norms and standards. The Commission’s Western Balkans Strategy of February 2018 generated a renewed engagement by the EU and its Member States and created new momentum across the region. One year on, the partner countries have made concrete progress and demonstrated commitment to the European perspective, even if the overall uptake of reforms varies.
Albania and North Macedonia have embraced the opportunity and delivered on reforms, in particular in the areas identified as crucial by the Council in June 2018. In light of the significant progress achieved and the relevant conditions being met, the Commission recommended today that the Council now opens accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, said: “The Western Balkans are Europe and will be part of the EU’s future, of a stronger, stable and united European Union. The past year has been a year of positive change, across the region. Albania and North Macedonia have shown a strong determination to advance on the EU path and achieved results that are concrete and must be irreversible. Based on that, today we recommend that the Council opens the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. The European Union’s enlargement policy is an investment in peace, in security, in prosperity and in the stability of Europe.” Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, stated: ”Albania and North Macedonia have embraced the opportunity of the reinvigorated enlargement agenda, and delivered on reforms. North Macedonia not only continued its ambitious reform agenda, but also reached a historic agreement with Greece, resolving a 27-year old name dispute, an example for the entire region and beyond. Albania is pursuing profound reforms, in particular a major transformation of its justice system. All these efforts are testimony to the power of attraction of the European Union.” The Commission also issued today its Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership of the European Union, together with an analytical report that reviews, for the first time, the situation in the country against all standards applicable to EU Member States. The Commission considers that negotiations for accession should be opened once Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria and in particular the political criteria requiring stability of institutions, guaranteeing notably democracy and rule of law. Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure it meets a number of detailed priorities in the field of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration reform. The Opinion – a roadmap for comprehensive reforms in these crucial areas – is a milestone in EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina relations, providing new momentum to the country in its EU integration process.
Turkey is a key partner for the EU and a candidate country. Dialogue and cooperation, including at highest level, in essential areas of joint interest have continued, including through effective cooperation on migration and support to refugees. However, Turkey has continued to move further away from the European Union, with serious backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights and through the weakening of effective checks and balances in the political system, brought forward by the entry into force of the constitutional amendment. In June 2018 the Council noted unanimously that Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing. The underlying facts leading to this assessment still hold.
It is now for the Council to consider the recommendations of the Commission and take decisions on the steps ahead.
The current enlargement agenda covers the partners of the Western Balkans and Turkey. Accession negotiations have been opened with candidate countries Montenegro (2012), Serbia (2014), and Turkey (2005). North Macedonia is a candidate country since 2005 and Albania since 2014. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application to join the EU submitted in February 2016) and Kosovo (Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in April 2016) are potential candidates. The EU accession process continues to be based on established criteria, fair and rigorous conditionality, and the principle of own merits. EU accession requires implementation of complex reforms in a challenging environment; it is an objective which can only be achieved in the long term. For the process to move forward, accession candidates need as a matter of priority to deliver more swiftly genuine and sustainable results on key issues: the rule of law, justice reform, fight against corruption and organised crime, security, fundamental rights, functioning of democratic institutions and public administration reform, as well as on economic development and competitiveness. The Western Balkans must also make progress on reconciliation, good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, following the example of the historic agreement between North Macedonia and Greece. The Western Balkans Strategy has provided new momentum to EU-Western Balkans relations. The Strategy focuses on areas where further reforms and efforts are needed from the Western Balkans partners, and on the EU’s enhanced support to the region, through a number of specific commitments grouped in six flagship initiatives. Since the adoption of the Strategy, the EU has focussed on fulfilling its commitments through enhanced political engagement, strenghtening security cooperation, tightening operational links between the Western Balkans and the EU and its agencies, providing wider access to finance and technical assistance, as well as refocussing EU financial assistance under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), which in 2018 alone amounted to an annual allocation for the Western Balkans of over €1.1 billion.