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Belgrade Media Report 11 July 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 11 July 2019

• Brnabic: EU must react to Kosovo and Metohija entry ban (Tanjug)
• Mexico will vote again against Pristina’s admission to Interpol (Politika/Beta)
• Schieb: Genocide happened in Srebrenica (Beta)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Last preparations for commemoration and funeral in Potocari underway (TV1)
• Srebrenica Municipal Assembly holds commemorative session in honor of victims in Srebrenica; Grujicic questions number of Srebrenica victims (TV1)
• Coalition supports government reshuffle, opposition wants elections (Hina)
• Djukanovic: I don’t see any reason for coming into conflict with the Serbian Orthodox Church (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Jokes that did not make the government laugh (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Shekerinska: Hybrid, cyber and other attacks aimed at threatening North Macedonia’s bid (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Wilson: Mitsotakis will need to demonstrate that Greece can stick to its commitments to North Macedonia (Nezavisen vesnik)


• Bosnia’s Last Best Hope (Foreign Affairs)

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Brnabic: EU must react to Kosovo and Metohija entry ban (Tanjug)


Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Wednesday said the relevant EU institutions guaranteeing the implementation of the Brussels agreement must react to a ban on entry to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija for Serbian officials. Asked by reporters to comment on Pristina’s decision to ban Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin from entering Kosovo and Metohija, Brnabic responded it was fully in line with Pristina’s policy, which she said was against free flow of goods and services and, evidently, against freedom of movement.

“They said it is a lie that all officials from Belgrade have been banned a priori from entering the territory of Kosovo-Metohija, and that decisions are made on individual basis, as per each request,” Brnabic said. The EU is the guarantor of the Brussels agreement and EU institutions must react, she noted.


Mexico will vote again against Pristina’s admission to Interpol (Politika/Beta)


The Ambassador of Mexico to Serbia Marco Antonio Garcia Blanco said that Mexico has not recognized Kosovo and would vote again against Pristina’s admission to Interpol. Garcia

Blanco stressed at the meeting with the State Secretary at the Serbian Interior Ministry Biljana Popovic Ivkovic that international law had to be respected and therefore Mexico’s position on

Kosovo’s membership in Interpol would remain unchanged. Popovic Ivkovic thanked Mexico for supporting Serbia and respecting international law during last year’s voting on Kosovo’s request for admission to Interpol.


Schieb: Genocide happened in Srebrenica (Beta)


German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb says that Berlin’s and the rest of the European Union members’ stand is that what happened in Srebrenica in 1995 was a genocide and that he expects Serbia to share that view, he told Beta in an interview. On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, Schieb said Germany considered the crime as genocide since the two international courts ruled that it was. “Srebrenica massacre is one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century,” Schieb said. Addressing the Kosovo issue, the Ambassador reiterated that Pristina’s taxes were the main obstacle to the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on the normalization of relations. Schieb added that Germany and France were trying to renew the dialogue and that Berlin had called on Pristina to abolish taxes several times. “The dialogue is of great importance, and that’s why we intended together with French colleagues to host the summit in Paris, but that didn’t happen. That means it is postponed not cancelled, but I cannot say when will it be held,” the Ambassador said. He added that the US could have an essential role in the dialogue, but that the current format – EU facilitated talks – should not change. “I’m an optimist, I believe that the dialogue, with the help from the international community, will soon move forward,” Schieb said. Commenting on the recent statement by the French President Emmanuel Macron that there would not be any enlargement before the EU settled internal issues, Schieb said that Germany’s stand was that those were two different processes and that they could run parallel. “The EU will go through reforms as long as it exists to make itself better and to adapt to new conditions. It’s a constant process which does not prevent the enlargement if the candidate countries meet all conditions. Serbia is conducting tough reforms which will take time, the EU is dealing with its own, and at one moment, Serbia will join the bloc. These are processes that happen simultaneously and not one after another,” German ambassador said. He also said that Berlin was carefully monitoring the media situation in Serbia as one of the essential issues in the accession process. “We share the European Commission (EC) opinion stated in its report on Serbia’s progress toward the EU which marked certain problems in the media freedom which should be tackled,” Schieb said, adding the adoption of the Media Strategy was a good thing and that its implementation would help to make progress in the media freedom. He said he hoped that the date for opening the EU accession talks with North Macedonia would soon be known.




Last preparations for commemoration and funeral in Potocari underway (TV1)


TV1 reported that the last preparations for the collective burial of 33 victims of the Srebrenica genocide were underway in the Potocari Memorial Center on Wednesday evening. As of Wednesday morning, marathon-runners, motorcyclists and cyclists have been arriving to Potocari, to pay tribute to the victims in Srebrenica. Member of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic paid a visit to the Potocari Memorial Center in Srebrenica on Wednesday. On this occasion, he paid tribute to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. Once again, Dzaferovic pointed out denial of the genocide and glorification of war criminals, adding that adoption of a law banning denial of the genocide in B&H is necessary and that this is the least that can be done for the victims and their families. Dzaferovic said: “I call on all those who know locations of mass graves to finally say where they are located. I believe that they will also feel a relief when they say it because the truth could never be buried, the truth always comes out. The truth will win. The truth will win even in this situation”. High Representative Valentin Inzko joined others in Sarajevo who gathered to pay their respects to the remains of Srebrenica victims. The HR: “Each victim deserves our respect. Today it is particularly shocking that the youngest victim was only 16. Every civilized society is valued by how they remember their dead. If we forget them, it is as if they were killed twice.” US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson has briefly joined participants of the Peace March Nezuk-Potocari on Wednesday and paid visit to Potocari Memorial Center along with Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic. Among other things, US Ambassador Nelson said that the dark history of Srebrenica cannot be forgotten and no one of those denying genocide committed in Srebrenica can change it. “History of Srebrenica and history of war cannot be written again and cannot be forgotten. We have to learn from history. We have to look towards the future where this type of atrocities must never repeat” underlined Nelson. President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) Carmel Agius who is visiting Srebrenica, said “being in Srebrenica is always sobering experience. At the place that witnessed so much pain and suffering, it is often hard to express one’s feeling of sadness with words… Even though it can be hard to speak about these events and the genocide that has been committed, it is crucial to do so.” Agius said it is concerning to see the increase in narrative that leads to divisions spreading throughout the world once again, which is why he believes it is important for the world to learn a lesson from Srebrenica. “It seems to me that some of those lessons are being intentionally ignored now; I am talking about genocide denial, which is happening here in B&H.” However, he said, that the ICTY has managed to bring those most responsible to justice and allowed the victims to have their voice heard. Agius went on to say that everyone must work together in revealing and prosecuting the war criminals, but also those who are denying the genocide in Srebrenica and trying to revise history. “I underline once again that the attempts to hide or distort the truth, regardless of their origin, represent serious threat to societies in the region. Denial and revisionism are toxic phenomena that feed divisions… I firmly believe that history is on the side of justice and that deniers are not going to succeed in their mission filled with hatred,” said Agius and underlined that the political leaders in the region must set an example, while those trying to deny genocide will not succeed and they will only further isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Asked if he believes that the ICTY verdicts are going to stand the test of time, he said he is certain of that because all the verdicts were passed after thorough investigations and extensive trials. In conclusion, Agius stated that those accusing the ICTY of failing to do more when it comes to reconciliation have misunderstood the role of this court, adding that reconciliation is a process that must come from within. Chief Prosecutor of the MICT Serge Brammertz talked about the decision of the Republika Srpska (RS) authorities to form a commission tasked to establish truth about developments in Srebrenica and Sarajevo during the war in B&H. Brammertz underlined that this is obviously nothing but political initiative directly connected to the policies of denial of committed atrocities. Brammertz went on to say that anyone who wants to know what happened in Srebrenica or Sarajevo does not need to form any commission but needs to read statements given by around 4,500 witnesses who testified in The Hague, two million pages of transcripts; needs to read more than 90 verdicts grounded on concrete evidence “and then will realize that what happened is the genocide.” Asked to comment the fact that despite numerous verdicts, many in the RS still see Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and other war criminals as heroes, Brammertz said that one of main reasons might be the fact it is rather difficult for people to admit and accept that those who belong to their people did bad things. “I think that this is an attempt to reject accepting of what happened in the past. Some politicians who are in power today are followers of those sentenced in The Hague” emphasized Brammertz. In honoring the victims of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, we must ensure that such acts are never repeated by addressing early indicators of mass atrocities, such as hate crimes, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Director Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir said “The Srebrenica genocide in B&H, in which thousands of Bosnian Muslim boys and men were killed, reminds us that when discrimination, intolerant and toxic public discourse and bias-motivated incidents are not effectively addressed, they can undermine the security of societies by creating or exacerbating wider tensions,” said Gisladottir. “These, in turn, can trigger larger conflicts across ethnic, religious or other communities, intensifying civil disturbances and even resulting in mass atrocities.” Having all this in mind – understanding the root causes and precursors of hate crimes and their relationship to atrocity crimes, together with identifying risk factors that can lead to or enable their commission, will help States, the international community and civil society take the necessary measures to prevent these crimes from occurring, said the ODIHR’s statement. In supporting participating States in preventing such escalations of violence within their jurisdictions, ODIHR works with governments, civil society and other intergovernmental organizations to ensure a more robust and effective response to all forms of hate crime in the OSCE region. Its globally unique set of tools to address hate crime helps societies prevent and respond to the escalation of violence in order to ensure that mass atrocities against vulnerable groups and communities never happen again.


Srebrenica Municipal Assembly holds commemorative session in honor of victims in Srebrenica; Grujicic questions number of Srebrenica victims (TV1)


The Srebrenica Municipal Assembly held a commemorative session in honor of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. Head of Srebrenica Municipality Mladen Grujicic asked about denial of the genocide coming from the ruling authorities in the RS, stated that courts that established this did not convict any Bosniak for crimes against Serbs in Srebrenica and that this is the reason to disrespect verdicts of these courts. Addressing media, Grujicic said: “Definition and qualification of the crimes is made in a way that does not match the truth and the real situation in the field. I call on all institutions to prove the truth and I will accept it”. Asked what is the truth, Grujicic stated: “The truth is that we have evidence that prove that the number is not valid and that nothing changes. This is the truth”. Grujicic also said that crimes committed against all victims should not be forgotten. According to Grujicic, the past should not be forgotten, but further development of this municipality is crucial. Grujicic stated that the “past cannot be changed but it is up to us to create better future”, noting that this is an obligation towards all those who lost their lives in the past war. He called on organizers of the 11 July commemoration in Potocari and the commemoration for Serb victims killed in the Srebrenica and Bratunac villages in 1992 on Friday to make sure that both events pass peacefully and in a dignified manner. Brestovac reminded that the case of attack on former Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Potocari on 11 July 2015 has not been clarified yet. Among other things, it was concluded at this session, that all war criminals need to be processed and that it is necessary to provide all possible assistance to institutions looking for truth and justice. It was also concluded that it is necessary to build peace and coexistence. Reporter reminded that 12 years ago councilors in Srebrenica Assembly adopted decision to hold commemorative session for all killed citizens of Srebrenica on July 10 every year. Grujicic said that no crime or criminal should be justified. “All those who committed war crimes have to be processed, but this justice has to be equal for all,” underlined Grujicic.  Grujicic said that one cannot have faith in a court that has only convicted the Serb people and has not ruled against any other ethnicity. He stated that the rulings of international courts will not be respected since they are aimed against a certain group of people, which is apparent from their rulings. Grujicic announced that he will not be attending the commemoration and funeral in Potocari on Thursday, since the Bosniak local politicians do not visit memorials of Serb victims in Srebrenica.


Coalition supports government reshuffle, opposition wants elections (Hina)


The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, on Wednesday said that the announced government reshuffle was a welcome move that will improve functionality and strengthen the government. “Improved functionality and strengthening the government, in the opinion of our caucus and party, is a welcome move and in that regard, we support the stand of the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union). We are waiting for the prime minister to do what is necessary, that means internal consultations, and for him to decide and assess what needs to be done, after which we too will be informed, I guess,” Pupovac said, whose party is part of the ruling majority. As far as the timing of the reshuffle is concerned, Pupovac believes that there is no need to wait until the autumn. Considering speculations that the number of ministries will be reduced, Pupovac recalled that there had been experiments with fewer ministries, but that did not improve the government’s functionality. He said the prime minister will decide on the number of ministries. Asked whether the reshuffle was possible by Friday or whether parliament would convene for an extraordinary session, Pupovac said that “there is not enough time for serious work” to be done by Friday. Asked whether the government was burdened by scandals involving ministers, Pupovac said “a lot burdens the government, various circumstances in society.” “What we as partners consider to be important is political strengthening, strengthening the government and the political scene in the country because it seems to us that this is a crisis point that needs to be considered and dealt with,” he added.

Reporters asked if that meant that ministers Goran Maric and Gabrijela Zalac and others should be replaced. Pupovac said that the prime minister should be asked that. “When the time comes for talks on that, we will say our opinion, he added. Pupovac dismissed speculation that the SDSS would take over the Public Administration Ministry. The Opposition in parliament on Wednesday called for a snap election instead of a government reshuffle as announced by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. MP Gordan Maras (Social Democrats) said that Plenkovic’s government is the most corrupt since Croatia gained independence. Nikola Grmoja (MOST) considers that Plenkovic’s hands are tied. This government will probably hold out for the full term, unless the HNS (People’s Party) and minority MPs estimate that it would be better for them to leave, yet Croatian citizens will have nothing to gain from that. “We called for a new election long ago, for allowing the people to decide and for not agreeing to political bartering in the parliament,” he said. He believes it is scandalous that someone who is not fit to be in government can sit in the parliament, as former minister Lovro Kuscevic will. Silvano Hrelja of the Pensioners’ Party (HSU) said that he would like the prime minister to have the courage, in the interest of Croatian citizens, to conduct an ambitious government reshuffle and find people who are willing to work in the public interest. “It would be good for Croatia’s mental health if we stopped dealing with scandals and for someone to take the wheel and steer those ministries in the right direction,” he said. As far as Kuscevic’s returning to parliament is concerned, Hrelja recalled that parliament had on several occasions debated whether mayors and municipal leaders should be allowed to run for parliament and whether they should automatically return to parliament. “That all needs to be defined with election legislation,” said Hrelja.


Djukanovic: I don’t see any reason for coming into conflict with the Serbian Orthodox Church (CDM)


President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic that he didn’t see any reasons for coming into conflict with the Serbian Orthodox Church. He thinks they will manage to maintain positive atmosphere between the state and religious communities. “We didn’t start this whole thing with the law with the intention of provoking conflict, but in order to adopt a new law, as part of the legal system of Montenegro, which is supposed to substitute the law adopted in 1977. Such process inevitably entails dealing with the property issue,” said Djukanovic. He says that issue has been a problem for the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. “We have consulted European experts in the area of law and they agreed that we should keep moving the way we started and that it was going to be in compliance with the European legal standards. I really believe that, after the tensions that sparked off at the beginning, we can now arrange this area properly, with better understanding, while maintain the good atmosphere between the state and religious communities” said Djukanovic. Journalists asked Djukanovic whether the agreement between Tirana and Pristina on their joint action regarding their foreign policy meant “creation of the great Albania”. President says that once the European perspective is alienated, such ideas emerge. “And when you let such ideas blossom, anybody who think that he/she will be in absolute control of the situation is wrong,” pointed out the President. Even some people from the 90s, who had greater capacity than those who are here today, weren’t able to keep the situation under control. “That brings us to the basic message: If we are smart to stick to the strategic course of European integration and if we manage to animate the EU to stay open for the integration of WB states, then we will have far better chances,” said Djukanovic.


“I am in contact with Vucic”

Asked if he kept contact with the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, or with president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, Djukanovic said he was in contact with Mr Vucic “more often”. He points out that their conversations are friendly. “The conversations between two state-responsible men. There are some differing opinions, but it’s acceptable since we are both trying to do our job in the interest of the state we represent.  While being constantly aware that such interests can’t be absolute and that they have to be compatible with our common regional interest- stability,” said Djukanovic. He said that the interest of the region was Europe, competitive with other great powers. “We are witnesses to the global political and security pre-composition and we should be interested in Europe’s competitiveness,” said Djukanovic. He said that a lot of time had been wasted as far as WB states are concerned. Other global players have expressed their interest in this region. “WB has to be a civilization, cultural and economic part of Europe. The EU has to be the locomotive which is going to pull that forward,” said President. He points out that WB states have perspective in European and Euro-Atlantic integration.


“Relations with Serbia aren’t as good as they used to be”

“Our relations definitely aren’t as they used to be. However, there are official and unofficial meetings, there’s a communication,” said Djukanovic. He admits that relations between Serbia and Montenegro changed. The reason for that are wrong, regressive theses that jeopardize vital values of all nations that live in the ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s. What theses does the President mean exactly? He says that specific states in the region want to define the rights of their compatriots in other states. “The same reasons led to the war in the 1990s,” said the President of Montenegro. As far as the recognition of Kosovo is concerned, Djukanovic says that the decision was rendered by the sovereign Montenegro on the basis of its own assessment of regional interests.


Jokes that did not make the government laugh (Nezavisen vesnik)


I was the victim of a prank by a well-organized structure, which benefits from new tactics, forms, and tools in an attempt to publicly discredit people and countries with Euro-Atlantic aspirations. I will not resign, and there is neither any fault in my team. I was tricked by frauds, but I represented the interests of the country. The part with the alleged bribe for the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been seriously intervened with and taken out of the context. If any of the countries or politicians mentioned in the conversations asks, I am ready to apologize. I will be more careful in the future. These are some of the points from the one-hour press conference of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who caught himself in a crossfire of questions by reporters who demanded answers about the big gaffe released on social media, in which the prime minister talks to Russian comedians Vladimir Kuzencov and Alexei Stolarov on the phone, thinking that the other side of the line are former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In the three, hours-long conversations in English, one can hear “Poroshenko” asking Zaev to call him Petar the Macedonian because Ukrainian scientists have discovered a gene of Alexander the Great, and also boasting that he had a chocolate factory that he wanted to export to Macedonia, to which Prime Minister Zaev promised to help personally. “Poroshenko” advised Zaev that he can force autocephaly for the MOC in the same way as the Ukrainian: with 100,000 euros for Bartholomew, after which the President of the government pointed out that “they will arrange that in cash.” “This conversation about the autocephalous status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian experience was taken out of context. I’m an Orthodox believer, the autocephaly of the Macedonian church is an open issue and I will continue to help through diplomacy and dialogue to find a solution to that issue,” said Prime Minister Zaev. During these conversations, he gives out the telephone numbers of Wess Mitchell (a former US official) and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, as for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic he says that he is under Russian influence. He says that is against the idea of ​​exchanging territories between Kosovo and Serbia, because he thinks it will open the “Pandora’s box” in the Balkans. “I did not cause any harm, the phone numbers are available to everyone, and if a country or a politician feels insulted, I’ll apologize. No harm has been caused to the country’s interest, I did not reveal state secrets or security sensitive information, I was deceived because I’m open and available to all, but I do not mean to close off now. Certainly, in the future, the protocols for secure communications will be strengthened, and the government, in cooperation with NATO partners, will develop a plan to fight such actions for misinformation and manipulation. I do not think that this is an order from someone in the country because the fraudsters are world-famous and their target are countries that are NATO aspirants, and the country is on the threshold of becoming a full member of the Alliance. This is one of those attempts to directly harm our strategic interests to finish the process of our NATO membership. These are well-organized structures for spreading influences in the interest of other parties,” Zaev stressed. The North Macedonian Prime Minister is in the company of French President Emmanuel Macron, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, musician Elton John etc., who were also victims of the Russian prank duo. However, former Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski believes that Zaev violated the diplomatic protocols for interstate communication, and hence the secrecy of the state’s strictly confidential information, he violated the reputation of the country, and, moreover, undermined the trust of other countries in Macedonia (the USA, Germany, Greece, Russia) by revealing confidential conversations and their positions on sensitive regional and international issues. “Zaev must have known that a conversation between two statesmen is negotiated officially through ambassadors in both countries, it is confirmed through diplomatic advisers in both cabinets, and then archived with the foreign minister. If Zaev did not know this as prime minister, then before resigning, Minister Nikola Dimitrov and adviser Dane Taleski should be also dismissed, whose jobs are to introduce the prime minister with these diplomatic rules. Zaev’s first telephone conversation with the fake Poroshenko occurred in August 2018. Although Prime Minister Zaev conducted the fake conversation in a manner contrary to the diplomatic protocol for interstate communication, after that he had to inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the content of the conversation orally or in writing, and Adviser Talevski was supposed to prepare a written note on the topics from the conversation. Depending on the topics, the written note could be classified as a state secret or strictly confidential. Then Dimitrov ‘s job is to inform the head of state, the country’s ambassador to the embassy in Kiev, the directors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of European and non-European countries, and, according to his estimation, our top diplomats in Moscow, Berlin, Athens and Washington. If he acted like this, it would have been easy to determine that it was a prank or perhaps a spy hoax, and the second and third conversations would not have happened at all,” Miloshoski explains.

Zaev responded that he was only human, and that he had a dynamic agenda and frequent phone calls, which he usually takes from his office on a landline when he is at work, or through the WhatsApp application. His advisers make reports on all his conversations, and these conversations, he said, were shared with the public. The real Poroshenko and Stoltenberg are not informed about the fraud, and there is no reaction from any other party. The conversations were published yesterday in all leading media in Russia. “The Embassy does not comment on the activities of private individuals, especially on jokes of comedians,” said the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Skopje.


Pivovarov: No communication is safe

Former counter-intelligence expert Vladimir Pivovarov says that with today’s advancement of technology, it is absolutely impossible to have a 100 percent secure communication at all times.

“Things were simpler in Communism: Presidents had two phones, a red and a black one, and it was clear who could call one, and who the other, with the services checking five times who called. These are different times, no modern technological communication ever 100 percent safe. No matter how strong are the devices, there is always room for games. You can see that there are similar examples in Germany, America or Great Britain. In these dynamic times, prime ministers have 150, 200 or more telephone calls during the day, it’s impossible for the services to control all of them. But it will obviously that this pace needs to slow down, the flow of information might be reduced, but it will be easier to control,” said Pivovarov.


Shekerinska: Hybrid, cyber and other attacks aimed at threatening North Macedonia’s bid (Nezavisen vesnik)


Asked to comment on the published phone conversations involving Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the Russian pranksters, Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska said we would have to get used to being a target of different hybrid, cyber and other attacks aimed at threatening North Macedonia’s bid to join NATO. Such hybrid warfare and threats are not new, and we would need to be quick to respond to them, Shekerinska pointed out during her visit to the pilot training center in the Petrovec army barracks on Wednesday. Rules of fair play don’t apply here, she said noting that the same instrument had also been used with NATO Secretary General, the French President and many other high officials in international politics. “These attacks and threats will continue. Our country’s security has not been destabilized in this particular attack, so our strategic priorities have not been threatened. However, we need to completely rebuild our security culture,” said Minister Shekerinska.


Wilson: Mitsotakis will need to demonstrate that Greece can stick to its commitments to North Macedonia (Nezavisen vesnik)


Greece’s new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would need to demonstrate that Greece can stick to its commitments, including support for North Macedonia’s potential EU accession, Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson said, commenting on New Democracy’s victory at the early parliamentary election held in Greece on 7 July. “Tsipras was instrumental in reaching an agreement with Greece’s neighbor North Macedonia, which ended a 27-year name dispute and saw the newly-named nation receive an invitation to join NATO. Although New Democracy voted against the name deal – known as the Prespa Agreement – Mitsotakis has hinted that the agreement is legally binding and has shown no indication that he will reverse course” Wilson noted. According to him, the Prespa Agreement had repositioned Athens as a key strategic partner for the U.S. in developing more common strategies toward Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Still, Wilson cautioned that “Mitsotakis will need to demonstrate that Greece can stick to its commitments, as he has affirmed,” including support for North Macedonia’s potential EU accession. “If so,” he continued, “Greece would continue to champion North Macedonia’s integration into the transatlantic community and remain a constructive and leading player in shaping the future of Southeast Europe and Eastern Mediterranean regions.” The Atlantic Council Executive Vice President was also confident that Mitsotakis would continue to build on “the strongest relationship the U.S. has enjoyed with Greece in recent years”. He said that support from Washington during the financial crisis “translated into an extraordinarily close relationship between Washington and Athens, something that seemed unlikely when Syriza first came to power”.




Bosnia’s Last Best Hope (Foreign Affairs, by Kurt Bassuener, 10 July 2019)


How an Unlikely Peacekeeping Duo Can Hold the Balkans Together

It’s been almost a quarter century since the Dayton peace accords ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which approximately 100,000 people were killed. The agreement mandated that a “safe and secure environment” be maintained in the country. NATO first shouldered that responsibility; later, at the end of 2004, the European Union took it on. Over the next decade and a half, implementation of the peace accords stalled. Yet the EU’s force, initially 7,000 strong, withered to an institutional fig leaf of 600 troops, a shockingly small presence that advertises the EU’s lack of resolve. This force can’t defend itself against mounting security threats, much less fulfill the mandate of the Dayton accords.

Weakness invites challenge, particularly in the Balkans. Illiberal actors such as China, the Gulf states, Turkey, and Russia have all rushed in to fill the vacuum left by Western listlessness. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serb-majority entity, Republika Srpska (RS), has fallen under Moscow’s influence to an even greater extent than neighboring Serbia, reinvigorating the Bosnian Serb secessionist movement. Without a liberal, countervailing force to restrain them, Bosnia’s unaccountable leaders grow ever bolder in their ethnic brinkmanship, making renewed conflict more likely and the potential consequences more dire. Bosnia is experiencing a failure of deterrence that only liberal democratic powers have the ability to redress.



Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, now chairing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, has long advocated for the country’s dissolution so the RS can either become an independent state or unify with Serbia. Bosnian Croat leaders openly support him, and NATO-member Croatia does so tacitly, since its ruling party expects to benefit politically from renewed ethnonational strife. Russia’s deepening engagement in the region has only strengthened Dodik’s hand. After he applauded Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 as an expression of “self-determination,” the Russian ambassador rewarded him with a visit. Later, he told Serbia’s then prime minister and now President Aleksandar Vucic that he had Russian support for an independence bid. Vucic refused to back him, presumably because he feared backlash from Western powers, but the two leaders have since grown closer. In May 2014, the RS officially changed its policy on the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR) from support for the mission to calling for its withdrawal. There have been other worrying signs that Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the road to violent dissolution. The RS National Assembly recently drew up plans to establish a 1,000-member auxiliary police unit that many feared could become a de facto RS army, separate from the national armed forces. RS lawmakers backed away from the plan late last month after coming under intense domestic and international pressure, only to turn around and announce a new gendarmerie that is sure to be just as divisive. (The country’s Bosniak-majority federal units predictably responded by planning to muster their own reserve police force.) RS authorities have also cultivated the loyalty of Bosnian Serb-majority infantry units within the country’s armed forces, which are still not completely integrated more than a decade after the war. A joint exercise between troops from one such infantry unit and the thoroughly politicized RS police in May was a troubling escalation in Dodik’s efforts to stoke secessionist fervor.

Should a new round of armed violence threaten Bosnia, EUFOR will not be able to prevent or respond to it. Nearly a decade ago, EU military commanders assessed that a brigade—about 5,000 troops—would be required for EUFOR to meet its responsibilities. The main reason the force has failed to maintain that number is lack of will on the part of Europe. Bureaucratic EU institutions, and most EU member states, are unwilling even to admit there is a security issue in Bosnia, let alone to address it. The United Kingdom, typically inclined toward greater realism on the matter, has a contingent of troops on call to reinforce EUFOR. But the still unresolved Brexit mess has made London less assertive in Europe. So long as its relationship with the EU remains unclear, the United Kingdom is unlikely to intervene in the Balkans.

As European resolve to continue peacekeeping in Bosnia diminishes, the United States has also become a dangerously unreliable leader in the Balkans. The Trump administration, which seems to practice its own form of Balkan politics at home, has actively stoked tensions in the region, both by pushing a land swap between Serbia and Kosovo that would effectively partition the latter—whetting the appetites of all those with unfulfilled agendas—and with its overall nationalist ethos. Given that in the event of a crisis, U.S. forces in Italy are supposed to provide backup to both EUFOR and NATO’s force in Kosovo, the U.S. administration’s apparent lack of commitment to the region—and the departure of its last internationalist, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis—has worrying implications for Bosnia’s stability.



With the United States and Europe unwilling or unable to step up, maintaining peace in Bosnia may fall to two liberal democratic allies already involved: Japan and Canada. As G-7 members, both sit on the body that oversees implementation of the Dayton peace accords. Japan’s ambassadors in recent years have been refreshingly frank about political corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the inefficacy of EU policy there. Canada, although it closed its embassy in Sarajevo ten years ago as part of a broader shift of diplomatic resources to the Asia-Pacific region, has emerged as a leading power promoting liberal democratic values on the international stage in this era of populist retrenchment. Together, these two countries could help restore a credible deterrent to renewed conflict in Bosnia—and by doing so, spark the EU to reassess its policy toward the region, as it should have done long ago. Japan and Canada both have long histories of contributing forces abroad. Credited with having midwifed the United Nations’ first peacekeeping mission in response to the 1956 Suez crisis, Canada has since contributed to blue helmet missions in the Middle East, Africa, and Haiti. More recently, it deployed troops to the Baltics to deter Russian aggression following the seizure of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Japan, restricted by Article 9 of its constitution, which outlaws war as a means to settling the country’s international disputes, only began participating in peacekeeping operations in 1991. Since then, it has contributed to international surveillance and anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa, peacekeeping operations in East Timor, and even the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Still, despite proclaiming itself a “proactive contributor to peace” and promoting an increasingly assertive foreign and security policy, Japan has refrained from contributing to missions with high potential for hostilities, such as the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and limited its deployments to small numbers of officers. In Bosnia, Japan and Canada can make an enormous difference at relatively little cost. By deploying a few hundred soldiers each, the two countries could prevent Bosnia from descending into violence. For example, they could secure Brcko, a city in the northeast of Bosnia that separates the eastern and western halves of the RS and is governed, under the terms of the Dayton accords, as its own district. Recognizing the city’s strategic importance, the United States stationed a significant force near Brcko until it withdrew in 2004. A deterrent force placed there today would deal a major blow to Dodik’s secessionist ambitions and reduce the potential for future conflict. Moreover, if Japan and Canada offered troop contingents to bolster EUFOR and called for others to do the same, EU and NATO allies might be roused to send troops as well.



The United States, long the anchor of the liberal democratic order, has come unmoored under the administration of President Donald Trump. Both Japan and Canada have found this development unsettling, as evidenced by the inability of prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Justin Trudeau to hide their frustration when Trump rejected hitherto standard declarations at the G-7 summit last year. Ottawa has responded to the loss of a predictable North American partner by deepening its ties with Berlin and Paris. Working with Japan to ensure an international peace agreement would strengthen Canada’s liberal foreign policy project.

For Tokyo, leading in the Balkans would underscore its commitment to a rules-based world at a time of national foreign-policy reassessment. By offering to deploy, in short order, hundreds of soldiers to support an EU mission under European command (though with the United Nations’ imprimatur), Japan and Canada could strengthen ties among allies that historically have been more connected to the United States than to one another. With a potential second term for Trump on the horizon, Canada, Japan, and the European Union ought to make such a plan a priority.

That the people of Bosnia must once more look beyond Europe’s shores for allies who are willing to deter or react to a potential conflict is a sad testament to our times. But by demonstrating international, liberal, democratic solidarity on this issue, Japan and Canada can maintain the peace in Bosnia that was so costly to establish nearly 25 years ago.


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Belgrade Media Report 8 July 2020

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