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Belgrade Media Report 01 August 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 1 August 2019

LOCAL PRESS

• Ljajic: Without 260 million Euros in eight months over taxes (Novosti)
• Strengthening of Serbian-Russian cooperation in all spheres (RTS/Beta)
• Drecun: New evidence for Haradinaj’s crimes in Yellow House case (Politika)
• New pressures on Serbia over the burning of US Embassy and the Bytici brothers case (Politika)
• Djilas: Organizers wanted meeting behind closed doors (N1)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Croatian Ambassador: President Grabar-Kitarovic’s alleged statement about B&H is false (TV1)
• Wigemark: I do not consider that B&H is unstable country (TV1)
• US Embassy: B&H remains reliable partner in dealing with security challenges (Dnevni avaz)
• B&H Presidency adopts 2019 state budget (BHT1)
• Izetbegovic says he offered SNSD leader Dodik to accept reduced annual national program for NATO MAP activation, and it is now up to Dodik to make next move (BHT1)
• Dodik: B&H has shown that it is incompetent and unnecessary country (RTRS)
• UNMIK forensic knew about “the yellow house” (Srna)
Croatia
• Grabar-Kitarovic resolutely dismisses Jerusalem Post allegations (Hina)
• Croatian FM: It is not common to comment on unverified statements (N1/HRT1)
Montenegro
• Democrats will be part of the Committee (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Besa winks at VMRO-DPMNE, but it is still far from love (Nezavisen vesnik)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
• Merkel’s ‘Shakes’ Perceived As EU Tremors In The Balkans (RFE/RL)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Ljajic: Without 260 million Euros in eight months over taxes (Novosti)

 

Serbian Minister of Trade Rasim Ljajic has told Novosti that in eight months, the period how much Pristina’s taxes have been in force, goods worth 260 million Euros were less sold than in the same period last year. “These are direct financial losses, but long term damages will be even higher, since our businesspeople might lose completely this market,” said Ljajic. Others have already used this. Thus, Greece increased three and a half times exports to Kosovo and Metohija in May, Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Croatia more than two and a half times, while North Macedonia by 50 percent, reports Novosti.

 

Strengthening of Serbian-Russian cooperation in all spheres (RTS/Beta)

 

In talks with Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Harchenko, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic once again thanked the Russian Federation on the principled respect of Serbia’s territorial integrity, as well as the valuable support regarding the prevention of admission of so-called Kosovo into Interpol. Botsan-Harchenko said that Moscow considers Kosovo to be an integral part of Serbia and will help prevent Pristina from joining not only Interpol, but all international institutions. The Ambassador told Stefanovic that Russia is very satisfied with cooperation between the two countries in all fields and expressed Moscow’s readiness to continue providing support to the Serbian police through training, a ministry statement said. Stefanovic said that the Serbian Interior Ministry has very good cooperation with competent Russian Federation services in the field of security, especially the Federal Security Service, National Guard, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Ministry of Emergency Situations.

 

Drecun: New evidence for Haradinaj’s crimes in Yellow House case (Politika, by Dorotea Carnic)

 

The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has told Politika that there is new evidence against the prime minister in resignation of the provisional Pristina institutions Ramush Haradinaj for crimes for which he was not tried. He says that the Serbian authorities have found a way to talk with the prosecutor in The Hague, even though this is part of the judiciary of non-recognized Kosovo. “Communication with them has been realized since our interest is to reach justice and to process those responsible regardless of the fact that this court was formed in Pristina. We have established a mechanism to avoid any kind of interpretations that we recognized the self-declared Kosovo through cooperation with the prosecution,” said Drecun. Excruciating testimonies of Albanians who took part in the abductions and molestation of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and their draining to Albania, where their vital organs were taken away, data on how much money was being made on this, but also mentioning of brothers Ramush and Daut Haradinaj, was published by the Srna agency in three sequels and carried by Politika. The author of these articles, a journalist of this agency, with a request to remain anonymous, revealed for Politika that he/she is just about to give the names of the killed Serbs, as well as information after the exhumation of Serb compatriots from the mass graves in Kosovo and Metohija. “It is clear that at issue are witnesses who had conditioned their testimonies, over safety, to be marked with numbers and that all of them were accomplices in transferring the Serbs and other prisoners from Kosovo to Albania. At issue is material on some 30 pages. All of the testimonies had been forwarded to a certain Jonathan Sach, according to my information, a representative of the prosecution in The Hague,” the colleague from Srna told Politika. He elaborated that she/he had acquired the document, whose content he had published, about a month ago. It contains statements of protected witnesses about the crimes of Albanians, about abductions, draining routes and names of Serbs who were abducted, as well as places where their organs were taken, and how they were drained from an improvised hospital, known as the yellow house, to the Rinas airport, and then to Damascus via Istanbul with regular flights. Startling testimonies about the crimes against the Serbs had also been published in the past in the media, but so far nobody has been arrested over this. The public in Serbia doesn’t have trust in the new international tribunal, but over the justice for the victims, all hopes have for years been directed towards the prosecution and some future indictments. Even under the assumption that there is political will to fully shed light on the crimes in the ‘yellow house”, a strong case against those who traded with the organs of the Serbs and made money from this, can be built only if there is evidence and witnesses. Taking care of witnesses is a priority for prosecutor Jack Smith, just as it was the case for his predecessor David Schwendiman, but there are still no indictments. The public has already heard promises from the Chairperson of the specialized chambers Ekaterina Trendafilova that witnesses will be safe and the court unbiased. Safety of witnesses is the most important task of this judiciary, because without their statements in court everything the media are publishing will remain only a dead letter on paper.

 

New pressures on Serbia over the burning of US Embassy and the Bytici brothers case (Politika, by B. Bakovic)

 

The only dilemma when it comes to the advocators of the US interventionist policy is whether they are immoral or amoral, the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) responded with a statement to the accusation of the former US deputy ambassador in Belgrade Jennifer Brush that former Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica is the main culprit of the attack on the US Embassy in February 2008. It takes unimaginable impertinence for representatives of the US, a country that performed aggression against Serbia by brutally trampling on international law, to quote international law and conventions, bombarded it with depleted uranium and cluster bombs, killed civilians, destroyed infrastructural and industrial facilities, the DSS assesses, at the helm of which Kostunica was from its establishment in 1992 up until 2014. The former DSS leader and the prime minister of two Serbian governments from 2004 until 2008 never wished to respond to the accusations that he is responsible for the attack on the US Embassy, but his party has several times rebutted such allegations. The DSS yesterday also announced that “about this event and the issue of anyone’s eventual responsibility the last who have the right to speak are those whose troops had committed monstrous crimes against civilians in Serbia and throughout the world with impunity”. Until they are held responsible for the conducted aggression and perpetrated crimes their mentioning of obligations from the Vienna Convention is a reflection of arrogancy and aggressive policy that made the US the most hated state in the world, reads the statement.

The resolution of the case of the murder of the Bytici brothers and sanctioning of the culprits for the burning of the embassy that was located in the Kneza Milosa St. had opened the problems that burden the most bilateral relations between the US and Serbia. The priority is the “Bytici” case and this was also confirmed by the candidate for the new US ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey at the hearing before the Foreign Policy Committee in the US Senate, which should confirm his nomination. As he noted, his priority in the work in Belgrade will be normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations and he will encourage both sides to return to the negotiating table, but also pointed out that he will continue to pressure the Serbian government to end the investigation into the murder of the Bytyci brothers in 1999 and that he will do everything for the responsible to be brought before justice, regardless of the position and rank. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also confirmed that the Americans also find important the case of the attack on their embassy, i.e. revealing the alleged political background, following talks with the then deputy assistant US secretary of state Brian Hoyt Yee at the end of October 2017. “If Vojislav Kostunica’s cabinet or somebody from the political leadership is not directly blamed for the burning of the embassy, they will not be satisfied,” said Vucic on that occasion. In September 2012 we learned that former US ambassador Cameron Munter “took revenge” for the setting of the embassy on fire by allegedly influencing that Kostunica loses elections and the possibility of forming a government by “dissuading” the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) from cooperation with him. This was published by the Foreign Policy, carrying excerpts of the book by US journalist Nicholas Kralev.

 

Djilas: Organizers wanted meeting behind closed doors (N1)

 

Serbian opposition politician Dragan Djilas told N1 on Wednesday that the organizers demanded that participants in the meeting between the authorities and opposition keep quiet about what they discussed. Djilas said the meeting was what he expected and added that there were no secret negotiations but that this was a round table about the reports by the CRTA and CeSID election watchdogs. “We in the Alliance for Serbia can’t negotiate about the demands made at protests. We can’t negotiate about the 42 recommendations and six conclusions,” he said.  “The meeting was not secret,” he said and added that he came to the meeting because the Alliance has been urging a dialogue between the authorities and opposition for eight months. The meeting was more about seeing if we can talk politely, with no insults or scoring of political points which, he said, was exactly what the organizers wanted to avoid. Djilas said he would come to future meetings but does not expect anything special to happen.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Croatian Ambassador: President Grabar-Kitarovic’s alleged statement about B&H is false (TV1)

 

Chairman and Croat member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Zeljko Komsic invited Croatian Ambassador to B&H Ivan Sabolic to an urgent meeting in the B&H Presidency building in Sarajevo on Wednesday, in order to discuss the media allegations that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said B&H is an unstable country controlled by militant Islam. On behalf of the Croat member of the Presidency, his advisors Branimir Jukic and Slaven Kovacevic held the meeting with Sabolic at which the ambassador presented the official stance of the Office of the Croatian President and the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. Sabolic explained that, according to the official stance, the alleged statement in question is false. The two advisors drew the attention to entry of armed members of the Croatian Ministry of Interior (MoI) on the B&H territory, warning that this directly undermines territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H. Sabolic also condemned the statement of Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic “who brought a nonexistent statement of the Croatian President into connection with the joint criminal enterprise”. Komsic’s advisors informed Sabolic that it happens a lot to Grabar-Kitarovic that her statements end up in media and then she has to dismiss them later on. They referred to the situation when Grabar-Kitarovic said that there are around 10,000 Islamist extremists in B&H who pose a security threat to Croatia as well. Komsic stated that he regrets the fact that Grabar-Kitarovic has continued her propaganda activities that are detrimental to B&H by telling “brutal lies”.

 

Wigemark: I do not consider that B&H is unstable country (TV1)

 

EU Special Representative (EUSR) and Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark commented on Wednesday on the media allegations that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said B&H is an unstable country controlled by militant Islam. In his comment, Wigemark stated that he does not consider that B&H is an unstable country. Wigemark expressed confidence that B&H can become a member of the EU, but that there is a series of measures and decisions it is required to implement in order to make that happen. The EUSR called on politicians in B&H to focus on issues that are of importance for the citizens. Wigemark said that it is evident that the international community is present in B&H, including the EUFOR, but it does not mean that B&H is an unstable country.

 

US Embassy: B&H remains reliable partner in dealing with security challenges (Dnevni avaz)

 

The US Embassy to B&H commented a statement of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarevic who said that B&H is an unstable country under control of militant Islam. The Embassy stated that B&H and its institutions remain a reliable partner in joint efforts to deal with security challenges. “Considering the dedication of the region towards the Euro-Atlantic integration, we continue to offer support to constructive dialogue and good neighborly relations,” stated the Embassy.

 

B&H Presidency adopts 2019 state budget (BHT1)

 

B&H Presidency adopted the Law on Budget for 2019, at the special session in Sarajevo on Wednesday. B&H Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic and B&H Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic voted in favor of the law and B&H Presidency member Milorad Dodik voted against the Law. Komsic confirmed that the law will be sent to parliamentary procedure for further adoption. Dodik stated that the budget of B&H institutions for 2019 was adopted at Wednesday’s phone session of the B&H Presidency, confirming that his proposal to first form the new convocation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) and then adopt the budget was not accepted. Dodik announced that the Law on Budget for 2019 will be rejected in one of the houses of the parliament of B&H. “I wanted us to have consensus about the issue of budget, because that is the most important document, which is being adopted every year, but colleagues have continued with the practice of outvoting. I wanted the Council of Ministers of B&H to be established first and to have the new Council of Ministers adopt the budget as well, but obviously some do not care about institutions at the level of B&H functioning in line with election results,” said Dodik.

 

Izetbegovic says he offered SNSD leader Dodik to accept reduced annual national program for NATO MAP activation, and it is now up to Dodik to make next move (BHT1)

 

SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, asked to comment on the blockade in the process of formation of authorities in B&H, said that he offered SNSD leader Milorad Dodik to accept the reduced annual national program (ANP) for the NATO MAP activation and that the issue of NATO membership is considered in latter negotiations. He added that he made clear that SNSD remains one of the main partners in the process of formation of authorities and it is now up to Dodik to make the next move. He noted that SDA is ready for the reduced annual national plan in order to continue the cooperation with NATO, as well as to sign a statement that clearly says that NATO membership is impossible without new consensus, but he concluded that SDA is not ready to give up on the rule of law and the Constitution of B&H. Izetbegovic stressed that the recently mentioned possibility for PDP and SDS to be considered as possible partners in the formation of authorities is implementable through different convocation of B&H Council of Ministers (CoM), but that this would not be constructive or good for the future of B&H. As for the recent statement given by HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic who said that no progress in the process of formation of authorities can be expected until September, Izetbegovic stated that Covic’s optimism is unrealistic considering HDZ B&H’s demands on immediate amending the Election Law of B&H on one side, and SNSD’s demand to stop B&H’s path towards the NATO integration on the other, which are impossible to implement. He reminded that HDZ B&H sets conditions that are impossible to realize and supports similar conditions set by SNSD. “This is not just about NATO, but also about the principle and precedent to allow the entity that is incompetent for international relations and B&H’s defense to set an ultimatum to the state. Once we accept it, Pandora’s box will be opened and then the Constitution of B&H and the rule of law will no longer exist” Izetbegovic assessed. He reiterated that this is not only defense of the NATO path of B&H but also defense of the rule of law and the Constitution of B&H. Commenting on recent tensions between SDA and SNSD and if it is possible to calm the situation in order to expect the formation of authorities in the upcoming period, Izetbegovic said that Dodik’s recent statement according to which the RS will have response in the case of failure to form authorities by the end of the year means that Dodik is expected to deepen the crisis, because such situation suits him. He explained that the option A is that Dodik realizes entity dictatorship over the state, and in case that this domination fails to be realized the option B is to deepen the crisis in B&H. He underlined that SDA is forced to defend its principles and Dodik is free to find partners along with SDA if possible. “I think that the bloc led by Dodik has to accept that this country has its constitution and laws”, Izetbegovic asserted. He said that B&H is yet to face problems due to blockade of the budget, blockade in the work of certain institutions and projects on hold, concluding that this will lead to blockade of the Euro-Atlantic integration of B&H and the country will face the deepest postwar crisis that has to be avoided at any cost.

 

Dodik: B&H has shown that it is incompetent and unnecessary country (RTRS)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that B&H has proven to be an incompetent and unnecessary country that cannot achieve a single good result. He assessed that Sarajevo has decided to play a game of ultimatums, but Republika Srpska (RS) will not accept that. Speaking about the failure in the process of formation of new authorities at the level of B&H, Dodik said that he expected this story to come to an end back in December, but it is obvious that SDA once again wants to elect representatives of the RS. “Last time, political Sarajevo chose a minority from the RS to form the authority at the level of B&H. If it once again chooses the opposition in the RS as its partner, which is really difficult, an act about dissolution of B&H will be made,” Dodik was quoted as saying, adding that it is time to put an end to the disrespectful attitude towards the will of the Serb people. “Either you will talk to relevant representatives of the Serb people who formed the parliamentary majority and the government, or you will get what you are asking for. The first thing we will do is adoption of decisions that are already prepared – one should have no doubt about it – and we will adopt them overnight. We will put an end to the indirect taxation system,” Dodik warned while speaking about the planned measures in case that SNSD – as an election winner in the RS – does not become a partner in formation of a new convocation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). Dodik stressed that all measures are part of a realistic scenario because members of the outgoing convocation of the B&H CoM have not been working in the best interest of the RS for years.

In Dodik’s opinion, another proof that B&H is dysfunctional and unsustainable is the fact that B&H CoM Chairman Denis Zvizdic is expected to perform two functions in the executive and legislative authorities as of August 6, due to the failure in formation of a new convocation of the B&H CoM. “How is it possible for the man to be the B&H CoM Chairman and the Speaker of the B&H House of Representatives at the same time? There is no such thing. And they are telling me that I am the one who is a dictator,” Dodik argued. He stressed that B&H is “uncontrolled” on its path but he can guarantee peace for citizens of the RS, calling on them to support a decision of the RS parliament and take part in a referendum when the time comes.  Dodik also said that, in case “someone wants to play and appoint SDS leader Mirko Sarovic as Chair of the Council of Ministers of B&H”, the RS will re-establish the original Dayton system and organization of B&H through decisions of the RS parliament and this means that the RS will end the system of indirect taxation, abolish competencies of “illegal and dysfunctional” Prosecutor’s Office of B&H and State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) of B&H in the territory of B&H and annul all decisions the High Representative imposed.

 

UNMIK forensic knew about “the yellow house” (Srna)

 

Srna is in possession of confidential correspondence between the Head of the Mission for the Investigation of Crimes to Skopje and Pristina Eamon Smith and the Head of the Investigation Mission, Patrick Lopez-Terres, in which Smith, at Terres’ request, reports on the outcome of the talks he had with UNMIK’s Justice Department Paul Kofi regarding the crimes in Kosovo and Metohija, with particular reference to the Yellow House (Zuta kuca). The report follows a correspondence between UNMIK forensic chief Jose Pablo Baraybar and a certain Clint, which was labeled “highly confidential”. In the correspondence Baraybar said that he wanted to briefly present Clint with the evidence gathered over the past year concerning the fate of the missing Serbs and others who were abducted or “disappeared” in Kosovo and Albania. Witnesses to the organ trafficking crimes, which UNMIK investigators refer to in codes, in order to protect them, cited the names of the members of a terrorist KLA, under whose command Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija were kidnapped and transported to Albania and killed and buried in graves which have already been dug. Smith concluded that middle-ranking and senior officers of KLA terrorists, as well as doctors from Kosovo and Metohija and abroad, knew and participated directly in the trafficking of organs of abducted Serbs, and expressed his hope that investigations about it will not be “buried”. In the UNMIK Internal Document, Smith informed Terres, of “details of crimes committed by Albanians against kidnapped Serbs” and stressed that the report was also delivered to Jonathan Sach of The Hague tribunal. Smith points out that all “sources” have conditioned themselves before making statements that their identities must be hidden since they “fear the revenge and fate experienced by many of their congregants because they have spoken.” Hiding the identity of the “source”, he states that it was a KLA soldier who claimed to have directly participated in the transport of prisoners from Kosovo and Metohija to northern and central Albania, a soldier who joined the KLA in 1999 and accurately cited the route of transport of prisoners from Kosovo to hospital, an Albanian from the northwestern area of ​​Kosovo who joined the KLA in 1998 and served as a regular soldier. One of the “sources” is also a KLA driver directly involved in the transport of prisoners from Kosovo to northern and central Albania, an Albanian from Montenegro who served in the KLA as an ordinary soldier and driver, and claims to have directly participated in the burial of the bodies of Serb civilians in Kosovo and that he was transporting prisoners from Kosovo to northern Albania, an Albanian from Kosovo who was a middle-ranking logistics support officer in the KLA and was close to Ramush Haradinaj. In his report Smith cites the names of the abducted Serbs whose organs were taken and whose bodies were in one of the mass graves, which the “criminals” attempted to destroy by burning and then by burying them.

 

Grabar-Kitarovic resolutely dismisses Jerusalem Post allegations (Hina)

 

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Wednesday resolutely dismissed a Jerusalem Post article which says that during her meeting with Israel’s president she said that B&H was “controlled by militant Islam” and had “in some respects been taken over by people who have connections with Iran and terrorist organizations” which was strongly condemned in Sarajevo. “Absolutely not. I repeat, I didn’t say that. With President Reuven Rivlin I talked in the context of what I’m always saying about B&H and our neighbors and what I, after all, said at the press conferences with Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which is that I wish to see all our neighbors as European Union member states as soon as possible,” Grabar-Kitarovic told Croatian reporters covering her state visit to Israel. “I have no idea how that statement came about because I didn’t talk with any reporter, didn’t give interviews nor made any statements other than those you heard” she added. She said this was about comments on comments made by the journalist who wrote that. The Croat and Bosniak members of the B&H Presidency, Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic respectively, on Tuesday strongly attacked Grabar-Kitarovic over her alleged statement that B&H was “unstable” and “controlled by militant Islam.” Komsic said Grabar-Kitarovic was “unstable and not B&H” while Dzaferovic accused her of “repeating lies which spread xenophobia” and that Croatia had a “fascist policy” towards B&H. “I repeat, I didn’t say that. And I completely reject these strong responses in which Croatia is compared with fascism or a fascist state” Grabar-Kitarovic said, calling it complete nonsense. She said it was high time to think a little about Croatia-B&H relations. “Recently we have seen B&H take many steps about Croatia which are quite aggressive, from accusations about the illegal operations of our secret services to judicial threats concerning the Peljesac bridge.” The two sides should talk about cooperation and how to deal with common issues and the threats which are evidently reappearing in our region, and about how we can help each other resolve those problems, the President said. “On the other hand, Croatia is here and Croatia is willing to help any neighboring state, including B&H, in the reform process and everything else which they must comply with in order to become EU members as soon as possible,” she added. Asked about Iran and terrorist organizations connected with it that operate in B&H, the president said she did not mention Iran at all at the press conferences in Israel. “Regarding the talks with the president and the prime minister, I talked in the context of the views the European Union shares on Iran, namely on honoring the agreement on nuclear weapons, i.e. the use of nuclear energy for peacetime ends.”

 

Croatian FM: It is not common to comment on unverified statements (N1/HRT1)

 

With regard to harsh reactions to the media allegations that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic made a statement that B&H is an unstable country controlled by militant Islam, Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman said on Wednesday that it is not common to comment on unverified statements. Grlic-Radman underlined that, in the first days of his mandate as the newly-appointed Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, he is establishing dialogue with everyone and wants to build his own path in that atmosphere. According to Grlic Radman, Croatia faces open issues with the neighboring countries so it is necessary to approach a mission of good will and peace. “The President neither gave any interview nor did she spoke to journalists. That is the information”, the Croatian minister confirmed, concluding that it is necessary to move forward. Radman said that reactions were inappropriate and that the dispute should have been resolved diplomatically in order to avoid unnecessary reactions. Member of the Croatian Parliament Pedja Grbin (SDP) stated: “Oops, she did it again and blamed it all on journalists. If she had done that for the first time, probably we would have trusted her.” Former Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor apologized to B&H after Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement. ˝Apologies to our neighbor and friend B&H. To all people,” wrote Kosor on her twitter account. Croatian State Secretary of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad Zvonko Milas pointed out that Croatia’s relations with B&H move in the direction of fight for the rights of Croat people and their equality as a constituent people. Croatian presidential candidate Zoran Milanovic commented that it is incomprehensible for such media reports to be published after a meeting of two presidents. “Someone close to the Israeli President obviously spoke to the journalist. It is possible that the published statement is authentic. Once they saw that the text caused damage and offended the guest, they then withdrew it and tried to make the situation better. That is not how things work”, Milanovic said. He finds that Grabar-Kitarovic should be more careful who she meets with and in whose presence she speaks about something. Croatian SDP MP Arsen Bauk told the daily that he would prefer if Grabar-Kitarovic’s denial was true, because the other possibility is unacceptable. Croatian SDP MP Domagoj Hajdukovic told the daily that this is “Kolindism”, but he cannot be certain the President did say what the Israeli media originally claimed.

 

Democrats will be part of the Committee (CDM)

 

With the mediation of the Head of EU Delegation to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, it was agreed after a set of meetings with representatives of political parties that Democrats should delegate representatives who will be part of the Committee on the Reform of Electoral Legislation. President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Ivan Brajovic, scheduled an extraordinary parliament meeting with only one item on the agenda – Draft Decision on the Amendments to the Decision on the Establishment of the Committee on the Reform of Electoral and Other Legislation. The main reason for the meeting is the expansion of the Committee.

Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) is going to propose a document today they said was going to be “acceptable” to Democrats. In a statement, Democrats reiterated the same requests they had presented last year. In cases where a consensus is impossible and members of the Committee support the proposed solution (11 out of 14 members of the Committee), such solution shall be adopted regardless of the fact consensus hasn’t been reached. That’s one of the key amendments Democrats requested. Members of DPS will state their opinion. Brussels wants everybody to take part in the reform of electoral legislation.

 

Besa winks at VMRO-DPMNE, but it is still far from love (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

The VMRO-DPMNE and Besa winked at each other and established the first step towards cooperation, but whether this cooperation will be transformed into a coalition before, or after the parliamentary elections, is too early to discuss. These are the comments in the two parties that have come after the reign they took over in the parliamentary the Committee on Elections and Appointment Issues at the expense of the ruling duo: SDSM and DUI. The recent meeting between the leader of the VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski and the leader of Besa Bilal Kasami resulted in a nearly synchronized performance for the two first issues that came up on the agenda: the debate at the Committee on Elections and Appointment Issues, but more importantly, the law on Public Prosecution and Besa’s promise not to accept the government’s proposal unless it has undergone serious changes. Although the part of the party that stayed with Kasami, not Afrim Gashi, who in the meantime changed his party’s name to Alternativa, has been reduced to two MPs, the latest presidential elections showed that Besa in coalition with the Alliance for Albanians would be at least equal to the DUI, which was also confirmed by recent polls. “The numbers are clear, the mood among Albanian voters is absolutely in favor of the opposition. This was also shown by the result of our joint candidate, Blerim Reka, in the latest presidential elections. We are focused on field presence among the people. We will listen to their requests and wishes, and then evaluate if and with whom we will cooperate,” said Besa. VMRO-DPMNE officials emphasize that they are in regular contact not only with Besa, but also with other political parties in the Albanian bloc: Ali Ahmeti’s DUI and Zijadin Sela’s Alliance for Albanians. “We see that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is running from early elections, while the regular are to be held next year. We are confident that we will win, and after the elections we will ally with the party or parties that will be ready to accept our concept and ideas for the functioning of the law and economic prosperity for all citizens and throughout the entire country,” VMRO-DPMNE responds. The cooperation between VMRO-DPMNE and Besa has been rumored since the formation of Bilal Kasami’s party in the context of the events on 27 April 2017. The party was divided into two parts, so of the five MPs, three went with Gashi and became part of Zaev’s government. The Alliance, meanwhile, entered the government building at Ilinden Street in it full formation, but left after Arben Taravari was dismissed from the helm of the Ministry of Health. The three opposition parties were once a coalition in the Council of the Municipality of Debar when they outvoted the SDSM and DUI groups, but that was short-lived. The ruling party’s candidate won the early local elections that were held after the death of Debar’s mayor. The Alliance for Albanians accused that VMRO-DPMNE voters not only failed to support their candidate, they also helped the DUI candidate win the race. On the other hand, it was expected that those who voted for Blerim Reka, who dropped out in the first round of the presidential elections, would support Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova in the second round, but this didn’t come true – on the contrary, Stevo Pendarovski received a much higher number of Albanian votes, which did not happen just because of DUI’s mobilization.

 

Mickoski to visit Orban, but not Gruevski

VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski is traveling to Austria and Hungary for a working visit. According to the party, during his short stay in Vienna, Mickoski will have a meeting of a scientific nature, exchange of experiences and information related to his professorial activity at the University “St. Cyril and Methodius”. Meanwhile, Mickoski and VMRO-DPMNE Vice President Aleksandar Nikoloski will meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest. “At this meeting, we plan to discuss issues related to the current political and economic situation in the Republic of Macedonia, as well as exchange of information at the level of sister-parties on the directions for further action ahead of the upcoming European People’s Congress and the election of the new leadership” reads the statement. The visit to Budapest raised the question of whether he will also meet with former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who is also the honorary president of VMRO-DPMNE. “There will be no such meeting,” the party told Nezavisen Vesnik. Gruevski was granted political asylum in Hungary, where he regularly comments on developments on the Macedonian political scene. He fled the country before being sent to prison to serve a two-year sentence for the purchase of a luxury 600,000-euro Mercedes for the Ministry of Interior. Mickoski and Orban also cooperate through the Union of European People’s Party (EPP) in which both VMRO-DPMNE and Fidez are members. This spring, there was another fuss over Mickoski’s trip to Vienna, bypassing Budapest, and VMRO-DPMNE accused of being followed and watched by the Zaev family’s Bentley. The party then too claimed that Mickoski had not met with Gruevski.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Merkel’s ‘Shakes’ Perceived As EU Tremors In The Balkans (RFE/RL, 1 August 2019)

 

Montenegrins eager for the political and economic benefits of closer cooperation with the European Union can use all the influential voices they can get in Brussels. But that point might be lost on some members of the ruling coalition in Podgorica. “We don’t need to remind anyone of the increased frequency of Angela Merkel’s trembling, which would be something like weltschmerz today,” Nikola Divanovic, a lawmaker for Montenegro’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), told fellow parliamentarians during a discussion of EU integration hopes on July 26. Sixty-two-year-old Angela Merkel, already the fourth-longest-serving chancellor in Germany’s history, was forced to reassure the public she was in good health after visibly shaking at different appearances in June and July. “Weltschmerz” is a word coined by an 18th-19th-century German Romantic author that translates roughly as world-weariness. “But I doubt it would provoke empathy today,” Divanovic added, since “the aim is to present Merkel as a steely leader and the EU’s main sponsor and banker.” There was a riposte from a right-wing deputy about Divanovic’s comment, but silence from the DPS, a successor party of the Yugoslav Communists that has been part of Montenegrin ruling coalitions for nearly three decades.

 

The episode has spurred talk of rising Euroskepticism in a tiny country that’s waist-deep in negotiations for eventual EU membership and where support for accession surged to a five-year high of around 65 percent late last year. “I think that kind of metaphor is inappropriate, to put it mildly,” Podgorica-based political analyst Sergej Sekulovic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service. “But on the other hand, it would not surprise me nor be particularly controversial to see that there are Euroskeptic voices also within the DPS, but they should be more open and clear if that was the point of Divanovic’s discussion.” During her four terms, Merkel’s governments have been a consistent voice for integrating Western Balkan states like Montenegro into Western institutions.

 

Power Vacuum

Critics say EU interest in the Balkans has waned as the bloc grapples with internal debates such as those over Brexit and immigration, and that Britain’s new prime minister could further diminish Western attention. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, a longtime DPS party leader, warned in May that “third parties like Russia and China are making gains due to a lack of concrete EU activity” in the Balkans. After Divanovic’s jab at Merkel and Berlin on July 26, opposition lawmaker Branka Bosnjak countered that “it is highly incorrect to compare Angela Merkel’s trembling to the trembling of Europe, that is, of Germany.” She added that Djukanovic had been urged to greater action by German officials frustrated with the pace of Montenegro’s reforms during his most recent visit to Berlin. But another DPS lawmaker, former TV host Aleksandra Vukovic, doubled down on Divanovic’s comments by saying of Merkel: “She is anxious and trembles at what the future of such a conceptual Europe and the EU will be.” The German Embassy has not commented on Divanovic’s remarks or the broader criticisms that emerged from the July 26 debate in Podgorica. Montenegro and its neighbors have labored to combat illegal entries since migrant inflows skyrocketed four years ago. Measures to stop the stream of refugees included requesting a status agreement with the EU’s border and coast-guard agency, Frontex. Merkel risked political backlash at the height of a fractious European debate in 2015 by opening Germany to hundreds of thousands of migrants as millions of Syrians, Afghans, and others braved perilous Mediterranean and Balkan journeys in hopes of reaching the relative wealth of the EU. Recent census data suggest that around one in eight of the nearly 20 million Germans with immigrant roots comes from the Balkans. Fellow former Yugoslav republics Slovenia and Croatia are already in the EU, while North Macedonia and Serbia are in membership negotiations alongside Montenegro. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered “potential candidates.” More than a dozen people, including two alleged Russian military intelligence officers, were convicted in Montenegro in May for their roles in a 2016 plot to overthrow the government that was said, in part, to have been aimed at blocking Podgorica’s accession to NATO.

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