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Belgrade Media Report 30 August 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Friday 30 August 2019
LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic announces diplomatic offensive for September (TV Pink/Tanjug)
• Vucic to go to UN, Vatican in September (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)
• No new conditions for Serbia – Brussels source (Tanjug)
• Ljajic: EC message nothing new, Serbia no exception (Tanjug)
• Lajcak: Reality is that Kosovo is not recognized by five EU members; Serbia cannot move in several directions at once (Tanjug)
• Djuric, Braathu on upcoming elections in Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/RTV)
• Vucic meets former MEPs in what looks like EU shuttle diplomacy in Serbia (Beta)
• Former MEPs meet with authorities, opposition in parliament (N1)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Komsic: Dodik’s claims are unrealistic; My stance is clear, I will not approve appointment of B&H CoM chair-designate without ANP (Oslobodjenje)
• Berton says PIC held session on Thursday to be ready in case of realization of Dodik’s threats (N1)
• Wigemark suggests considering option of snap elections if solution to problem of implementation of election results in B&H is not found; B&H MPs agree (BN TV/Avaz)
• Crnadak attends informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Helsinki (Hayat/BN TV)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Dendias: I made it clear to Dimitrov that Greece would insist on strict implementation of the Prespa Agreement (MIA)
Albania
• Meta reveals the only institution that can oppose him (ADN)
• CoE reacts on closure of two talk shows in Albania that criticized Rama (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• The unfulfilled promise of the revolutions of 1989 (The Washington Post)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic announces diplomatic offensive for September (TV Pink/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Thursday announced she would have a series of meetings with international officials next month, including an official visit to Germany and discussions with Chancellor Angela Merkel. “We have a very dense agenda for September – it is a joint diplomatic offensive with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic,” Brnabic said on TV Pink. She said she would travel to Switzerland on 2 September for a meeting with the country’s president, and then also to Luxembourg, where she will meet with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Grand Duke Henri. She said she would attend a Visegrad Group meeting in Prague on 12 September and then go to Germany. She said she looked forward to the trip to Germany and honored by an invitation to pay an official visit because she would have an opportunity to speak with Merkel. “She will never become an insufficiently relevant figure in Germany, she has a lot of knowledge and experience and I have enormous respect for her,” Brnabic said.

 

Vucic to go to UN, Vatican in September (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday announced he would meet with many international officials in September and also travel to the Vatican. “I am going to the Vatican as well, to ask them not to recognize Kosovo, and to ask for many things for our country,” Vucic told reporters in Belgrade. Commenting on a diplomatic offensive announced by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic earlier in the day, Vucic said he would meet with 15 to 20 top foreign state officials and speak at a UN General Assembly meeting unless something changes. Vucic said the presidents of Turkey and the Czech Republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Milos Zeman, would pay visits to Serbia and that Brnabic would go on an official trip to Germany among other visits.

The Serb List should take part in the upcoming early parliamentary elections in Kosovo and Metohija, to win at them and to fight for Serbian interests, said Vucic, stressing that the state will continue to help the Serbs there.

 

No new conditions for Serbia – Brussels source (Tanjug)

 

As in the case of all other candidate countries, Serbia’s accession to the EU and the common European market implies alignment of all trade agreements, including a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a diplomatic source in Brussels told Tanjug Thursday. “That is not a new condition. It is a general rule and sheer logic,” the source said after the European Commission said Serbia must dissolve bilateral trade agreements with third countries or organizations, including the EAEU, on the day of its EU accession. “It is a general rule that applies to all countries that have joined, or are on the path of joining, the EU. It was indicated at the very beginning of the accession negotiations. It is also about sheer logic: if you are becoming a part of the single EU market, you are getting equal rights, but you must also respect common rules,” the source said.

 

Ljajic: EC message nothing new, Serbia no exception (Tanjug)

 

The European Commission’s message that Serbia will have to dissolve a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) once it joins the EU is nothing new and Serbia is no exception in this regard, Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic told Tanjug Thursday. Every country that joins the EU must accept its trade regime, he said in a comment on an EUobserver report quoting an EU spokesperson who said Serbia would have to sever a new trade deal with the EAEU. Ljajic said the report stated an undeniable fact Serbia was familiar with and that the country would not do anything that would be a threat to the EU, its main foreign trade partner. He said the EU’s December 2017 negotiating position for opening Chapter 30 (Foreign Economic Relations) in the accession talks with Serbia clearly stated Belgrade would be required to dissolve all free trade agreements with third countries. The EU requested the same from Slovenia and Croatia, which severed all agreements with countries in the region and within the CEFTA agreement, he noted.

 

Lajcak: Reality is that Kosovo is not recognized by five EU members; Serbia cannot move in several directions at once (Tanjug)

 

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak recalled the facts as he was arriving at a meeting of EU and Western Balkans foreign ministers in Helsinki, while answering journalists’ questions about Kosovo’s position in the European integration process. “Kosovo is a problem because it has not been recognized by five EU member states. That is the reality of Kosovo,” Lajcak said.

Asked if he saw the possibility of this situation changing, the Slovak Foreign Minister – whose country is one of the EU member states that don’t recognize Kosovo – replied by saying what he primarily wants to see in Kosovo itself. “The first change I want to see are positive developments in Kosovo, starting with the abolition of taxes,” said Lajcak. He also believes that the announced signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Union is not bringing Serbia closer to its strategic goal, which is EU membership. “If you are serious about your European orientation then follow the political choices that bring you closer to it. This step is not one of them,” Lajcak said. He said that the announcement of the signing of the trade agreement with a pro-Russian grouping by Serbia was confusing and that one cannot move in several directions at once.

 

Djuric, Braathu on upcoming elections in Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/RTV)

 

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric had talks with the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) Jan Braathu on the upcoming early parliamentary elections and the political-security situation  in our southern province. Djuric said that he expected the OSCE, as before, to do everything for the elections in Kosovo and Metohija to pass by in as regular as possible atmosphere, expressing to OMIK and Ambassador Braathu gratitude on the big and valuable personal contribution to past electoral cycles.

 

Vucic meets former MEPs in what looks like EU shuttle diplomacy in Serbia (Beta)

 

Former European Parliament (EP) members Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Friday to discuss the current political atmosphere and issues that could enable the dialogue between the parliamentarians in the country, Beta reported. There were no immediate statements after the meeting. In what seems to be shuttle diplomacy aimed at persuading the opposition not to boycott elections and the regime to accept some changes in the electoral system, the two had talks with the Deputy Clubs’ leaders of the parliamentary parties and should meet the representatives of the opposition politicians from the non-parliamentary organizations like the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) formed last year, and the Free Citizens Movement.

 

Former MEPs meet with authorities, opposition in parliament (N1)

 

Former European Parliament members Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein gave no statements to the media after holding individual meetings behind closed doors with ruling coalition and opposition MP groups in the Serbian parliament on Thursday. The ruling coalition parties also said nothing after their meetings with the two former MEPs, but opposition MP Marinika Tepic from the Freedom and Justice Party said that Kukan and Fleckenstein were fully aware of the situation in Serbia. She said that the opposition handed them an English translation of the demands on conditions for free and fair elections composed by the 1 in 5 Million expert group, adding that she also informed them of the reasons for the opposition boycott of parliament and the coming elections. She said they expressed reservations about the boycott. “They weren’t clear about the reasons why we are boycotting parliament and we explained that we tried for more than two years to conduct a proper parliamentary dialogue and were punished for our efforts, thrown out, interrupted to the point that it no longer made any sense. And that was reflected on the rest of Serbia,” she said. Tepic said that she told them that President Aleksandar Vucic was “buying time to strengthen his dictatorial regime”. Democratic Party MP Balsa Bozovic also told the media that the two former MEPs were fully aware of the situation in Serbia, adding that the meeting was friendly and encouraging because the European parliament wants to mediate between the authorities and opposition. “There is no pressure on the opposition to return to parliament or run in elections,” he said.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Komsic: Dodik’s claims are unrealistic; My stance is clear, I will not approve appointment of B&H CoM chair-designate without ANP (Oslobodjenje)

 

Asked about the announcement of SNSD leader Milorad Dodik that the RS will withdraw from the Agreement on formation of the Armed Forces of BiH, and the Indirect Taxation Authority, Chairman of the Presidency of B&H and DF leader Zeljko Komsic said: “Dodik’s politics is unrealistic and he basically has unrealistic goals. Often, he openly speaks of those unrealistic goas, so his threats are not realistic as well, which, of course, does not mean they are not dangerous because they are poisoning overall social atmosphere.” Komsic explained that Dodik is threatening to leave the institutions that have been formed in an agreement of three partners – two entities and the state – and in order to dismantle them he needs to have approval of all three sides. He went on to say it is clear that Dodik is willing to endanger lives of thousands of citizens of the RS, soldiers, judges and other civil servants in order to protect his own and Russian interests. “However, I will not let him do that. I care about these people and their existence. I do not care if they do not see me as theirs, I see them as our citizens and I wish them well… With regards to the majorization claims, one only needs to see how the authority is distributed. HDZ B&H, which barely has 150,000 votes is going to have three ministers at the level of state, while SDA, DF and SBB who have total of 450,000 votes will have one minister each… So, what are we talking about? What majorization? That is an aggressive approach to keep their comfortable positions. I do not like to talk about those ‘Bosniaks-Serbs-Croats’ relations, but there are the facts. That is the Dayton (Peace Agreement) that allowed this position to separatist policies.”. “Even though he seems nervous, Dodik is not mad. He cannot scare anyone with his bluffs. All that yelling is going to end up as an initiative to form a reserve police unit of the RS, in the channel. True, that is the consequence of our reaction. I do not know what would have happened if we chose not to oppose it,” said Komsic and added that when it comes to the Annual National Program (ANP), his stance is well known and he is not going to confirm the appointment of the Chairman-designate of the Council of Ministers of B&H without it.

 

Berton says PIC held session on Thursday to be ready in case of realization of Dodik’s threats (N1)

 

Head of the OSCE Mission to B&H Bruce Berton told N1 ‘Dan uzivo’ on Thursday that a session of Ambassadors of members states of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) was held on Thursday morning. According to Berton, the Ambassadors want to be ready in case of potential realization of threats of leader of SNSD and member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik. Berton said: ”I know that the PIC gathered this morning (Thursday morning) and I was not part of this. They do not think that there is an urgent crisis, but they want to be prepared if President Dodik meets some of the things that he threatened to make. I do not know whether he is serious or not”. After his statement, N1 contacted the Office of the High Representative that told N1 that the session of the PIC was not held and that the public would have been informed about this.

 

Wigemark suggests considering option of snap elections if solution to problem of implementation of election results in B&H is not found; B&H MPs agree (BN TV/Avaz)

 

Outgoing Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative (EUSR) in B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark suggested considering the option of snap elections if a solution to the problem of implementation of election results in B&H is not found. Wigemark further said that he believes that it is important to find a way to implement the agreement signed between leaders of SNSD, SDA and HDZ B&H, Milorad Dodik, Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic respectively, by 5 September. BN TV quoted Ambassador Wigemark as saying: “You have exhausted the previous convocation’s term in the office, election results are not being implemented, the country is in a deadlock. New elections are being organized even in Kosovo. If Kosovo can do it, I think that B&H can do it as well.” Commenting Wigemark’s statement, SDA MP Semsudin Mehmedovic told Dnevni avaz that the option of snap elections does not exist in B&H legislation, but he would accept the option immediately. He added that the issue of snap elections was always rejected via entity vote, as the RS representatives were against it. “If they want to, we will gladly reach an agreement to build in snap elections and limit the deadline for authority formation to six months, for example,” said Mehmedovic. SNSD delegate in the House of Peoples of the Parliament of B&H Lazar Prodanovic told the daily that all the countries need a solution for a political blockade, and it is absurd not to have the option of snap elections. “We first must constitutionally define the snap elections and then deal with the issue in the Law on Elections,” he said. SDP Secretary General Elvir Karajbic stated that SDP and other opposition parties have been talking about snap elections for years. “The MPs must be aware that their term can be shorter than four years. Political leaders who signed the agreement on authority formation refuse to act in accordance with it, which clearly shows that we need the option of snap elections,” concluded Karajbic.

 

Crnadak attends informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Helsinki (Hayat/BN TV)

 

EU Foreign Ministers have gathered in Helsinki, Finland, for a two-day informal meeting at which they will discuss a number of issues, such as hybrid threats of the Middle East and Iran and regional cooperation in the Western Balkans. B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak is attending the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. According to Hayat, the goal of the meeting in Helsinki is to exchange opinions on protection and respect for human rights, democratization and the rule of law, as priorities of the Finnish EU Presidency, and on other current topics concerning the Western Balkan region. BN TV noted that besides ministers of countries aspiring to become EU members, outgoing High Representative Federica Mogherini for the first time officially invited a representative of Pristina to take part in the meeting.

 

Dendias: I made it clear to Dimitrov that Greece would insist on strict implementation of the Prespa Agreement (MIA)

 

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Macedonia and Greece, Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Dendias, held their first meeting on the sidelines of an informal meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers with foreign ministers from EU candidate countries (GYMNICH) in Helsinki, MIA reports from Athens. Dendias said in a statement after talks with his EU colleagues that he had met with Dimitrov over the Prespa Agreement. We had our first meeting with Mr. Dimitrov where we discussed the aspects of the implementation of the Prespa Agreement. I made it clear to Mr. Dimitrov that Greece would insist on strict implementation of the agreement, Dendias said.

 

Meta reveals the only institution that can oppose him (ADN)

 

Albanian President Ilir Meta said on Friday that the only institution that can oppose him is the Constitutional Court, the functioning of which is suspended due to Prime Minister, Edi Rama’s will. This declaration was made by the President in an interview to Italian media regarding the political situation in Albania, for which Meta stated that if he hadn’t cancelled the local elections of 30 June 2019, then the clash between political parties would have been inevitable.

Furthermore, President Meta stated that the elections of June 30 were neither constitutional, nor legal, nor legitimate, adding that the new elections date, 13 October 2019, was chosen by him not randomly, as the opening of accession negotiations for Albania and Republic of North Macedonia is to be discussed on 18 October. “The elections of 30 June  were neither constitutional, nor legal, nor legitimate. Only the constitutional court can oppose the President’s decree, and unfortunately the activity of this court has been suspended by the will of Prime Minister Rama. To understand the irregularity of this election process, it is enough to say that Socialists won all 61 municipalities Socialists because they had no opponent, just like during the communist regime. I will tell you more: the prime minister’s party has chosen not only all mayors, but also the members of city councils, including the city of Tirana. Turnout, announced after more than twenty days, was officially 23% but in reality it is lower,” said Meta.

Asked about “Bild” interceptions, he said that it is unacceptable that the investigation for cases like it hasn’t been launched during last years, while he added that another problem in Albania is drug cultivation and trafficking, for which stronger measures are needed.

 

CoE reacts on closure of two talk shows in Albania that criticized Rama (ADN)

 

Council of Europe has reacted on Thursday over the last decision of a local media in Albania, to close two talk shows that were critical to Prime Minister Edi Rama and his government.

In a public reaction titled ‘Latest threats to media freedom’ Council states as below:

“On the eve of the launch of the new television season, the first Albanian 24-hour news television channel, News 24, announced the closure of two talk shows: Ylli Rakipi‘s “The Unexposed Ones” and Adi Krasta’s “Krasta / A Show”. Both programs were critical of Prime Minister Edi Rama and aired for a year on News 24 owned by the Focus Media Group. Journalist Adi Krasta had his employment terminated last weekend after the president of News 24, Irfan Hysenbelliu, was reportedly “threatened” by the Prime Minister and the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj. On 19 July 2019, journalist Artur Cani had revealed that the Prime Minister had met with the owner of News 24 to ask for the dismissal of journalist Ylli Rakipi, warning at the time that Adi Krasta was likely to lose his job as well. Adi Krasta was offered another position within the television channel. Journalist Rakipi has accused Rama’s government of shutting down his show and terminating his contract with the Focus Media Group. Irfan Hysenbelliu denied that the closure of both talk shows resulted from government pressure and the Prime Minister’s office called the allegations “fake news”.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

The unfulfilled promise of the revolutions of 1989 (The Washington Post, by Judy Dempsey, 29 August 2019)

 

The reunification of Europe after 1989 was one of the great achievements of the post-1945 era. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe were finally free to join the Euro-Atlantic organizations of NATO and the European Union. When Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, later joining the E.U. in 2004 along with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, there was jubilation across the region. Those were heady days.

That euphoria has long since faded. The global financial crisis of 2008took a heavy toll on economic growth and the pace of integration. But now the E.U. countries from the former East Bloc appear to have bounced back. Growth is picking up. Living standards in many of the new member states reached 70 percent of the E.U. average by 2016, up from about 40 percent in 2000. Admittedly, the positive gains are slow and fragile, especially in the non-E.U. countries of the Western Balkans. Where Europe has lagged most strikingly is in its efforts to transform a bigger and more prosperous E.U. into a credible foreign, defense and strategic player. Astonishingly, this is unlikely to happen in the near future despite President Trump’s tirades against the E.U. and NATO as well as his undisguised support for Brexit and populist leaders in Hungary and Poland. One big reason for Europe’s failure to embrace a united foreign and defense policy is because governments disagree over the threats facing the bloc. The Baltic states, Poland and Sweden see Russia as a major threat. For the southerners — Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta — the main worry is migration and the unending instability in the Middle East. For France, the primary issue is terrorism and the potential combustibility in the Sahel, concerns now shared by Germany. These different perceptions of threats have made it extremely difficult for the E.U. to agree on a migration policy or on a strategy for stabilizing Libya, where Italy and France have been at loggerheads over which political groupings to support. Given such differences, it is remarkable how the E.U. has been united over rolling over sanctions on Russia.

Europe’s other handicap since 1989 is the unwillingness to match its soft power with hard power. The Western Balkans is a prime example. The E.U. civilian missions in Bosnia and Kosovo have failed to create strong institutions, end rampant corruption or even train competent police forces. The fact that NATO has been in Kosovo since 1999 underlines the E.U.’s incapacity to use hard power to back up its soft power tools of development and economic assistance. The reluctance to even discuss hard power means that E.U. discussions about building a serious defense policy appear toothless. In 1999, the Europeans launched the Helsinki Headline Goal, which aimed at deploying 60,000 troops within 60 days “in response to a crisis” through separation of parties by force, military advice to non-E.U. countries, conflict prevention and evacuation operations. This initiative never got off the ground. Plans by Britain and France in 2003 (with German support) to establish a military rapid reaction force have also gone nowhere. Though some member states are increasing cooperation on defense and training, there is no common strategic culture and goal to bind them together. The E.U.’s weak foreign and security policy is also hampered by the growing role of the member states at the expense of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive. During the 1990s and the early 2000s, the commission held sway. Indeed, the Central and Eastern Europeans believed a stronger commission and a more integrated Europe would defend their interests and protect them against Germany and France and the other big member states. Not any more. With few exceptions, the member states, abetted often by populist leaders, call the shots at the expense of more political and economic integration. Take China’s growing economic role in Central Europe and the Balkans. The commission has been unable to rein in the 16+1 group, which has promoted close economic ties between a number of countries in the region (including 11 from the E.U.). This has given China a strategic foothold in these parts of Europe thanks to Beijing’s deep pockets, its lack of conditionality and the speed at which it modernizes transportation networks. Finally, a robust foreign and defense policy needs the members to trust one another. Britain consistently opposed the creation of an E.U. military planning headquarters, believing it would weaken NATO. With Britain set on leaving the E.U., this could be a chance for Europe to shape its own defense policies. Yet Europeans are divided over this issue. The Baltic states and Poland don’t trust the E.U. to manage defense or provide a security guarantee. They are also suspicious that France would set the agenda for Europe’s defense and strategic doctrine in ways that would weaken NATO — just as several countries oppose France’s drive for more economic and political integration. The bottom line is that without a serious foreign and defense policy to underpin its size and economic weight, Europe will remain a political pygmy. The unification that began 30 years ago has yet to be completed.

 

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