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Belgrade Media Report 10 June

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic, Palmer: Taxes obstacle to Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Tanjug/Beta/RTS)
• Vucic asks Merkel to help revive dialogue with Pristina (Beta)
• Dacic: Russia’s support for Kosovo at UN Security Council session (RTS/Tanjug)
• Drecun: One more UN SC session, not “D Day” (RTS)
• Gojkovic at opening of National Convention session (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Covic: We need formation of B&H CoM and proposal for changes to Election Law, only then we can discuss formation of FB&H government (Avaz.ba)
• Covic addresses ceremony marking 29th anniversary of HDZ B&H in Zepce (Vecernji list)
• FB&H MoI: Preliminary draft amendments to Law on Internal Affairs prepared to form reserve police unit in FB&H (BHT1)
• Reactions of RS’ officials to FB&H MoI’s initiative (ATV)
• Participation of Dodik and Cvijanovic in economic forum in St. Petersburg result in agreed gasification of RS (RTRS)
• Dzaferovic: Dodik’s agreements with Russia regarding gasification of RS is not official stance of state since these issues were not discussed in Presidency (Hayat)
• Migrant crisis in USC at critical level (Klix.ba/Vecernji list)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Parliament cancels debate on the new census law after objections from the opposition, boycott is now an option (Republika)
Albania
• President unveils main reason of elections cancelation (ADN)
• Borchardt: Cancellation of elections an internal affair of Albania (ADN)
• Germany supports Meta’s decision to cancel local elections (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Enlargement, going back to square one (New Europe)
• Montenegro football coach Tumbakovic fired over Kosovo game (DW)

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic, Palmer: Taxes obstacle to Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Tanjug/Beta/RTS)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer agreed on Monday in Belgrade the taxes on Serbian goods were an obstacle to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Speaking to reporters after meeting with Palmer, Vucic said he had dismissed the allegations in sections of the Western public that Serbia had used Pristina’s taxes to shut down the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. “I told him the essence was this: How can you talk to someone who is preventing the flow of goods and services in the 21st century?” Vucic said.

“If you are unable to ship cookies from one territory to another, what else can you talk about? And we need to talk about much more complicated and more important issues,” Vucic said.

He said he would do all he could for Serbia to build better ties with the US but that this did not mean he could not say his opinion on the NATO aggression on Serbia and the relations with the US in the past. “If Serbia thinks it should go towards the future and have a bad relationship with the US, find another president and another government,” Vucic told a press conference after meeting with Palmer in Belgrade. Vucic added he would do everything in his power for better relations and a different future. “We must… be able to respect ourselves and our past, but above all, to respect the future of our children and think about that… Not forget things, but also … that what will happen is always more important than the past,” he said. Asked about the NATO air campaign, Vucic said that there was no sufficient reason for the NATO aggression in 1999 which destroyed many lives and the economic and political infrastructure of Serbia in terms of attitudes towards the West. “The Serbian people have paid a price that they did not deserve to pay even though we were not always angels,” the Serbian President said. Palmer said that Washington wants Pristina to revoke the 100 percent taxes it imposed so that both sides can return to negotiations and reach an agreement for the sake of the entire region. Palmer said that an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina would make the European future of Serbia and Kosovo and the Western Balkans region easier to achieve. “We see that the taxes are an obstacle. We would want to see them revoked and both sides returning to the table to reach an agreement,” Palmer said and added that he had told the Serbian President that Belgrade can count on US support for Serbia’s EU prospects. Asked about his expectations of the coming summit in Paris, Palmer said that the US support what their European partners are doing. “I can’t say what the outcome of the talks in Paris will be, but we are fighting together to reach an agreement which would contribute to the normalization of relations. I hope that the meeting will be constructive and that both sides will head towards an agreement,” he said. Palmer said that the US understand how sensitive the NATO air campaign is for people in Serbia. “We are very sorry about the loss of life but NATO took the decision for reasons which can absolutely be explained. Instead of looking back all the time we should encourage people to look forward,” he said.

 

Vucic asks Merkel to help revive dialogue with Pristina (Beta)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the phone to help with breaking the deadlock in the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, Vucic’s office said on Saturday. Serbia is completely committed to the dialogue which is facilitated by the European Union with the intention to reach a compromise, a solution that is acceptable to both sides and secures stability in the region, he told Merkel. He thanked Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for initiating a meeting in Berlin and Paris which is supposed to take the process forward but explained that, in order to get out of the deadlock, Pristina needs to abolish the tariffs it introduced for Serbian products. He asked Merkel for help in making that happen. He also said that Serbia will stay committed to peace and cooperation in the Western Balkans, thanking Merkel for initiating the ‘Berlin process,’ which he said significantly contributed to the stability of the region. Vucic also asked Merkel to support forming a Regional Economic Zone, as it would be key for attracting investments and the economic development of the Western Balkans.

 

Dacic: Russia’s support for Kosovo at UN Security Council session (RTS/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with whom he discussed the situation in Kosovo ahead of the Security Council session, which will be held on 10 June. Dacic told a press conference in St. Petersburg, where he is taking part in the International Economic Forum, that the head of the Russian diplomacy was informed in detail about Serbia’s plans on Kosovo and Metohija. Dacic stated that Lavrov had told him that Moscow absolutely supports Serbia and that this support would be clearly expressed in the upcoming UN Security Council session. The meeting was very important because it came about after the latest events in the province, that is, after the incidents and intrusion on the north of Kosovo and attacking the UN forces, that is, the UN mission and the Russian representative of UNMIK, on ​​the eve of the Security Council session, he said. Dacic stressed that he had informed his Russian counterpart that Serbia is ready for a compromise, but that the Albanian side does not want and constantly breaks down all the agreements, since it does not want to fulfill what it has signed six years ago. According to Dacic, Pristina does not want to form the Community of Serb Municipalities, abolish taxes, nor to respect the obligations that the security and armed forces do not come to the north of Kosovo. Dacic will represent Serbia at the UN Security Council session on Monday, when the report of the General Secretary on the work of UNMIK from 16 January to 15 May will be discussed, the Ministry said on Sunday. Dacic will point out the need for the continuous examination of the issue of Kosovo by the UN Security Council, as well as the need for UNMIK to stay engaged in the consistent implementation of the set goals to the same degree and with an unchanged mandate, especially having in mind the increasing tensions and the unstable security situation in Kosovo. The recent operation of Kosovo’s special police in northern Kosovo and the arrests and attacks on staff of the UN Mission will be on the agenda, Dacic’s office said.  It also added that the Foreign Minister will speak about the series of Pristina’s provocative activities, which, apart from not respecting what was agreed in the Brussels dialogue, also gravely breach the UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

 

Drecun: One more UN SC session, not “D Day” (RTS)

 

The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has told RTS press review that it is good that Serbia will have an opportunity to point to the brutal use of force towards intimidating the Serbs in northern Kosovo, but that he doesn’t expect accord among the permanent Security Council member states. It is good to examine in continuity the situation in Kosovo in the SC because there had been attempts to completely throw out this issue from the agenda of SC sessions. Serbia will have an opportunity to speak about Pristina’s irresponsible behavior since it is trying to block the resumption of the dialogue, forceful intrusions into the north of Kosovo. At issue are heavily armed special forces that are intimidating and provoking the Serbs by using excessive force and introducing almost an emergency situation,” said Drecun. He assesses that this is not a “D Day” but only one more SC session where all interested parties will bring forward an opinion on the situation in Kosovo and where the key factors will not agree, as usual.

 

Gojkovic at opening of National Convention session (RTS)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic spoke at the opening of the seventh plenary session of the National Convention on the European Union on the part of the EU report on Serbia concerning the Serbian parliament. Gojkovic said that, as she pointed out in her meeting with the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi, the report contains certain political assessments and areas that could use some work to improve certain segments of the Serbian parliament’s work. “I have defined a set of guidelines and measures how to improve the work of the Serbian parliament,” said Gojkovic stating that the measures she wishes to put into effect concern chiefly passing laws by urgent procedure, adding that she had asked the government not to propose that the parliament pass laws by urgent procedure when the motion is uncalled for and has been met with understanding by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in that matter. Gojkovic said the Serbian parliament had in 16 instances not accepted the motion to put the documents in question under urgent procedure and the use of urgent legislative measures had gone down by 65% compared to 2016, to 44% according to the latest report. However, she still believes the percentage to be high and in future laws will be eligible for urgent procedure only in exceptional circumstances, as stipulated by the Rules of Procedure, primarily the ratification of important international agreements due to unforeseen circumstances. “The parliament will no longer put documents under urgent procedure unless the reasons for it are obvious and will return them to the government to be submitted by regular procedure,” said Gojkovic. Gojkovic said that very soon, in June, the Serbian parliament will consider the reports of the independent regulatory bodies for 2018 and thus demonstrate that it supports and respects the work of the independent regulatory bodies and their role in society. Gojkovic said that the ruling majority MPs have stopped submitting multitudes of amendments as far back as January of this year, which the report has failed to note, though it should have considering that it covers the period March 2018 – March 2019. “In talks with the MPs who submitted them, they explained that these amendments were a response to the opposition’s obstruction of the parliament’s work through the practice of submitting hundreds and even thousands of amendments stating “to be deleted” or similar proposals with no real content,” said Gojkovic adding that the Serbian parliament also ran into problems trying to adopt the agenda since the opposition MPs lodged between 170 and 220 addendums to the agenda with no true content which is a practice that must cease no matter where it comes from. Gojkovic said she would also insist that the parliament committees, in line with the Rules of Procedure, recommence with the practice of public hearings especially in the case of system laws, so as to ensure that the best possible responses be incorporated into the laws. “For the sake of truth and the citizens, it is important to note that the report also contains information on positive developments and the progress achieved, such as the increased number of sessions where the MPs question the government, the parliament’s continued practice of organizing debates on Serbia’s negotiating positions on the EU accession chapters, and exchange of views with the National Convention on the EU,” said Gojkovic. Speaking of the parliament’s oversight of the executive, Gojkovic noted that the report completely disregards the work of the committees, that is the fact that all the ministers come and defend their activity reports before the committees that control their work. Gojkovic reminded the attending that she had invited on numerous occasions the representatives of the minor part of the opposition boycotting the parliament’s plenary work, though they do work within the committees and parliamentary delegations, to come and discuss how to improve the parliament’s work. “I will continue to invite the heads of the parliamentary groups to talk about how to improve the operation of the parliament and discuss these measures,” said Gojkovic, adding that she was happy to see one parliamentary group and some independent MPs who had so far boycotted the plenary, come back to the sessions. Gojkovic said that the parliament is the best place to talk and thanked the National Convention on the European Union as a network of civil society organizations, saying that together we can “fix the mistakes we or some before us had made”.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Covic: We need formation of B&H CoM and proposal for changes to Election Law, only then we can discuss formation of FB&H government (Avaz.ba)

 

HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic visited Bugojno Municipal Board of HDZ B&H on Saturday. Following the meeting with local HSZ B&H officials, Covic stated that the main problem related to formation of authorities lies in the lack of trust. According to Covic, it is necessary to immediately form new B&H Council of Ministers and start the process of changes to B&H Election Law in order to secure legitimate representation in the future. “As soon as this is set as priority, when it comes before B&H parliament in form of proposal, we can talk about FBIH level of authorities and there will be no more obstacles to its complete functioning”, said Covic.

 

Covic addresses ceremony marking 29th anniversary of HDZ B&H in Zepce (Vecernji list)

 

HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic stated that future of this region cannot be envisioned without HDZ B&H. “No matter how much disappointments there are in the process of reaching of an agreement between us, three representatives, three partners, it is too important for us to be part of this political game and who ever tries to remove HDZ from this process, it is clear how this would end”, said Covic. He noted that through its political activity HDZ B&H did not allow that to happen, adding that he will motivate the members of the party to continue this path. According to the press statement issued by the party, Covic congratulated the party leadership for their committed fight and efforts towards fulfilling of party’s goals and interests in Zepce region and called them on to continue this path. “It is important for us to convey a message from Zepce, from this part of Zenica Doboj Canton, from entire BiH as a family. I am more than proud to things we did in these 29 years. Those who are little older know how difficult that time was and that it was the time of challenges”, said Covic.

 

FB&H MoI: Preliminary draft amendments to Law on Internal Affairs prepared to form reserve police unit in FB&H (BHT1)

 

The FB&H Ministry of Interior (MoI) has issued a statement which reads: “Since the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the international community (IC) have not undertaken concrete measures to prevent introduction of a reserve police unit in the RS so far, the FB&H MoI has undertaken measures and activities to recover undermined security and maintain balance between the police forces in the entities.” Namely, preliminary draft amendments to the Law on Internal Affairs of the FB&H have been prepared as a direct response to introduction of a reserve police unit in the RS. The amendments imply establishment of a reserve police unit of up to 50 percent of the total number of police officers within the FB&H Police Administration.

According to the announcement published on the website of the FB&H Ministry of Interior (MoI) on Sunday, given that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the international community have not taken concrete measures so far to prevent formation of the reserve unit of the RS police – the FB&H MoI has taken concrete steps and activities aimed at returning the deteriorated security situation and maintaining the balance of police forces in entities. The FB&H MoI also informed that functional version of a law that would ensure formation of the reserve unit of the FB&H police was drafted as a direct response to formation of the reserve unit of the RS police. The announcement sparks reactions in the RS.

 

Reactions of RS’ officials to FB&H MoI’s initiative (ATV)

 

RS Police Director Darko Culum stated that he is not interested in such announcements from the FB&H and “they can do whatever they want.” He stated that the main problem is that in the FB&H there is no fight for improvement of the security situation but the only purpose of formation of the reserve unit of the FB&H police is to oppose the RS. Head of the SNSD Caucus in the House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H Stasa Kosarac said that the RS has no intention to compete with the FB&H, but it will be careful when it comes to intentions of the FB&H. He reminded that the RS’ permanent commitment is to have peace and stable situation in B&H and the region, but due to inadequate behavior of joint level of authority in B&H the RS institutions are forced to take certain actions aimed at protection of interests of the RS citizens. Commenting on the issue, experts in the field of security assessed that they see no problem in any increase in the number of police officers but the problem is that the FB&H does not mention the reasons for formation of its reserve police unit unlike the RS.

 

Participation of Dodik and Cvijanovic in economic forum in St. Petersburg result in agreed gasification of RS (RTRS)

 

RTRS analyzed the results of participation of Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik and RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic at the international economic forum in Saint Petersburg, which took place on June 6-8. Namely, during the forum, Dodik and Cvijanovic agreed on a project of gasification of the RS through construction of a gas pipeline from Bijeljina to Prijedor, Dodik met with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, and Cvijanovic signed a roadmap on cooperation between the RS and St. Petersburg. All of these results are expected to speed up economic development of the RS. When it comes to the project of gasification of the RS, it has been agreed that Russian company ‘Gazprom’ will provide EUR 300 million for this project, while more details with regard to the route and dynamics of work should be defined later on. Construction of two gas-fueled power plants is also planned to be carried out within this project and they would be located in Banja Luka and Prijedor. There is a possibility to extend the gas pipeline towards Croatia and the FB&H. Dodik and Lavrov discussed economic cooperation along with the political situation in B&H. Dodik confirmed that ‘Gazprom’ would be in charge of construction of the gas pipeline while the RS authorities would solve the property legal affairs along the route. Elaborating on the roadmap on cooperation between the RS and Saint Petersburg that she signed with Governor of St. Petersburg Alexander Beglov, Cvijanovic specified that this document has defined realization of numerous projects in the field of medicine, tourism, economy, agriculture, culture, and education for the next three years. Cvijanovic stated: “Having a systematic approach to the market of the entire Russia and especially St. Petersburg will mean a lot for the small economy of the RS. I am also pleased with the fact that we will participate in joint projects that imply training of our personnel in the fields like veterinary, phytosanitary protection, and healthcare.”

 

Dzaferovic: Dodik’s agreements with Russia regarding gasification of RS is not official stance of state since these issues were not discussed in Presidency (Hayat)

 

Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic issued a statement regarding the agreements on the gasification of the RS made between the Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik and Russia, during Dodik’s visit to Russia. Dzaferovic stated that this does not represent the official stance of the state since this was not previously agreed upon at the Presidency level. He underlined that gas and international gas pipelines are solely under the jurisdiction of the state which is why adoption of a state level law is essential as well as formation of an independent state level operator.

 

Migrant crisis in USC at critical level (Klix.ba/Vecernji list)

 

The security situation in Una-Sana Canton (USC) has deteriorated because of illegal migrants to the level where citizens are living in fear for their personal security and security of their property. Article reads that groups of illegal migrants are moving around without any control, trespassing the private property and they are often armed with knives. This fact, daily noted, should be a wake-up call to the authorities, adding that USC police forces, despite all the efforts, simply do not have enough members or level competencies to get into solving of this issue. At the same time, daily noted, appeals of the local community leaders remain ignored, especially considering the fact that things are getting more and more complex and that migrants are frequently entering mass fights. Daily reminded of some of the recent fights and carried a statement of USC Interior Minister Nermin Kljajic for Klix.ba, where he warned that there are more than 6,000 migrants in USC and the plan stipulated 3, 200 migrants in this canton. He stressed that someone wants this canton to turn into migrant center and intentionally aims to destroy the canton, as well as people living there.

 

Parliament cancels debate on the new census law after objections from the opposition, boycott is now an option (Republika)

 

The parliament discussion on the proposed new census law, which was supposed to take place today, is being cancelled. The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party accused the SDSM – DUI led majority of attempting to push through a law which fails to respect Eurostat standards, and are using an expedited procedure to limit the possibility to discuss the law. Main issue with the law is the provision that Macedonian citizens who live abroad will also be registered, using an online application. This is a key request of the ethnic Albanian parties, who fear that due to high emigration levels, the Albanian share of population has dropped below 20 percent – a limit set in the 2001 Ohrid peace treaty as the threshold where additional voting rights in parliament kick in for the Albanians. VMRO-DPMNE said that if the opposition is not included in the making of the law, a boycott of the census is possible. The 2011 census was interrupted mid work, after Albanian parties insisted that emigrants are counted as residents in Macedonia using the social media.

 

President unveils main reason of elections cancelation (ADN)

 

Albanian President Ilir Meta made public early this Monday all the constitutional reasons that forced him to cancel local elections of 30 June, and the main one is the real risk for unpredictable civil confrontations. First of all, he cited the constitution saying that “the President is only one who can decree the elections date and without a date proposed by the President, local or parliamentary elections cannot be held,”. In this way he made it clear, that without a value decree issued by him, actual government cannot realize elections on 30 June, despite the threats of Prime Minister Edi Rama and ruling majority that say: elections will be held on the same date.

 

Meta declared on Monday that the local elections cannot be realized without the presence of the opposition. According to him this kind of elections cannot be considered free and fair and the Albanian people has the right to choose. Reminding the results of the opposition achieved on the last elections, he said that parties must run all together in elections and citizens should have the right to elect among different candidates. “I have tried many times and I have done all my tentative for dialogue but parties still do not collaborated. With their statements parties risk to bring the country to a real for public security and peace. My main duty is to guarantee the unity of the people,” said Meta. According to him elections without opposition would be a fictitious and false. He expressed his readiness, in an extraordinary press conference, to decide for another elections date, after dialogue and consults with all political parties, while he calls for reflection and collaboration between majority and opposition. “Parties should reflect for the future of Albania and in the support of the interest of the Albanian people. They should not think about themselves anymore, dialogue and find a institutional and constitutional solution,” said Meta.

He criticized all parties for not reflecting but deepening their conflicts. “I appeal to all political factors and international to contribute in dialogue and find a solution,” appealed Meta.

 

Borchardt: Cancellation of elections an internal affair of Albania (ADN)

 

The Head of OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, declared this Monday that the cancellation of elections is an internal affair of Albania. This reaction came following the interest of Albanian reporters, after the meeting of Prime Minister Edi Rama with the EU Ambassadors. The meeting was held after President Meta signed the abrogation of the decree for the date of local elections. According to the Ambassador, it is Albanian institution’s duty to decide which party has the best legal arguments. “It is an issue that belongs to the parliament and the Constitutional Court. The Albanian Institution will decide which party has the best legal arguments. I am sure that the political parties will do the best,” said Borchardt.

 

Germany supports Meta’s decision to cancel local elections (ADN)

 

The vice chair of the CDU group in the German parliament, Johann Wadephul, supported on Sunday the last decision of the Albanian President, Ilir Meta to cancel local elections date.

In a press statement, Wadephul said that there is a new political situation in Albania, and political parties should accept the decision of the President on the elections. “After the last decision of the Albanian President exist a new political situation in Albania. All parties must dialogue now. All must accept President’s decision and then participate on the electoral race. Everything else with not be European and will obstacle the integration process. In democracy every government should accept a critical opposition, and every opposition should accept an effective government,” said Wadephul.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Enlargement, going back to square one (New Europe, by Kassandra, 10 June 2019)

 

Legendary EU insider, uncovering the deepest and darkest realities of EU governance and administration

North Macedonia and Albania are inexorably tied by the delay in their long course to join Europe, yet for different reasons. Albania has the perpetual problem of narcotics production that cannot be overcome unless Tirana provides Brussels with unquestionable proof that the city of Elbasan is no longer the Medellin of Europe. This is difficult, extremely difficult, but not impossible.  However, there should be no doubt that it will take years…many years.

North Macedonia is a different case. For almost two decades Greece vetoed the start EU accession negotiations unless the dispute over the name of the then-former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was resolved. With last year’s signing of the Prespes Agreement, which settled the Name Dispute after the two countries agreed on the name of “North Macedonia”, Athens lifted its veto on the country’s NATO membership while the agreement also required the lifting of Greece’s right to hold up Skopje’s EU association process. Taking one issue at a time, NATO membership is beneficial only for the North Atlantic Alliance, while it bears significant costs for Skopje as the North Macedonian government will gradually have to double the size of its defence budget, but see few compensatory offset benefits. Skopje’s inclusion into NATO successfully prevented the Russians from securing an important foothold in the Balkans. As a result, Russia’s only political presence in the region is now in Serbia, and even this doesn’t seem likely to last for much longer. NATO membership, which still needs some time to be official, will only bring major new obligations and losses for North Macedonia. In practical terms, North Macedonia’s only hope is its accession to the European Union, but the distress felt in Skopje was at its greatest when the North Macedonian government realised that it will not get a date to start accession negotiations any time this year. The real reason is that certain Member States – France, The Netherlands, and now, apparently, Germany, as well as others – do not have any desire to further enlarge the European Union until the impact of the Brexit anomaly is settled. This means that the EU – before considering further enlargement – must exercise some efficient damage control of the various centrifugal events that add instability to the bloc. In addition to Brexit, the dangerous weakening of traditional mainstream political parties and immigration issues are equally serious threats to the socio-political stability of the European Union and must be addressed before thinking of any enlargement. That the EU has prioritised the initiation of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, two countries that are institutionally weak in terms of prerequisites for EU association, implies that the bloc is not ready to enlarge. If the Union had indeed realistically wanted to grow it would have started with Serbia, a country that many see as being in even better condition to join the EU than others that are already members, including Hrvatska. North Macedonia provided all of the excuses needed for the European bureaucrats to defer the association process. For the past two decades, Skopje has been engaged in a meaningless worldwide battle to pressure Greece into recognising it as ‘Macedonia’. At the same time, North Macedonia was doing next to nothing about the reforms that were necessary to get the country institutionally closer to the EU. In some cases, such as the rule of law, Skopje was actually moving considerably backward. When the Name Dispute was resolved last year, North Macedonia was unprepared to make the jump into the Union. Consequently, Brussels has a very good excuse not to open negotiations for the time being. The attempted blackmail by North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who warned Brussels that if his country was not immediately going to get a date to open EU accession negotiations he would call early elections and the anti-EU opposition might win, according to one of them who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Berlaymont gurus took it as a “grotesque joke”. Negotiating with the most sophisticated administrative machine in the world takes much more than empty threats by an applicant partner with little actual leverage. Brussels already got what it wanted from North Macedonia – a new NATO member to block Russia’s mischief in the region at zero cost. As to whether the Zaev government will stay in power or not, the European Commission could care less and the European administration will have additional arguments to delay the opening of enlargement negotiations if a new Eurosceptic government comes to power in Skopje.

 

Montenegro football coach Tumbakovic fired over Kosovo game (DW, 8 June 2019)

 

Football officials in Montenegro fired national coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic after he refused to lead the team in a qualifier with Kosovo. Tumbakovic’s homeland Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as a country.

Serbian-born football coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic was removed from his position as Montenegro’s national team chief on Saturday after he boycotted the game between Montenegro and Kosovo. The two Balkan nations finished the Friday European Championship qualifier with a 1-1 draw. The Montenegro Football Association said the decision to oust Tumbakovic was made “unanimously.” The coach’s decision was “not only an unpleasant surprise, but also a breach of his professional duties stipulated by his contract,” they added. Tumbakovic is a Serbian national. The government in Belgrade sees Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, as a breakaway province and rejects its statehood. In contrast, the small nation of Montenegro recognizes Kosovo as an independent nation.

Red Star players stay away

In addition to Tumbakovic, two Serbian-born Montenegro players also boycotted the Friday match. Both Mirko Ivanic and Filip Stojkovic play for Red Star Belgrade, and local media reported intense pressure from fan groups in Serbia to keep them away from the pitch.

Montenegro football officials also referred to “pressure from certain circles” to push Ivanic and Stojkovic into boycott. Non-sporting matters “won out against football and sport in this case,” they added. Montenegro played against Kosovo behind closed doors, with no fans present. The country had been given a crowd ban after its fans hurled racist abuse at dark-skinned England players in March. England won the match 5-1.

 

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