Zeman: Argument for withdrawing recognition of Kosovo investigation of Kosovo officials in The Hague (Beta)
Czech President Milos Zeman said in Belgrade on Sept. 12 that the argument for withdrawing the recognition of Kosovo were war crimes investigations, being conducted by the Kosovo Special Chambers in The Hague on the role of Kosovo officials. “You must admit if leading politicians headed by the prime minister are under investigation for war crimes, that that is something different from being investigated for fraud,” Zeman was quoted as saying by the Czech CTK agency. Zeman told journalists, that he would convey this argument to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and the speakers in both houses of parliament at a meeting which he would soon schedule. “Either it will go well or not, such is life” Zeman said. Asked by a reporter whether an electoral victory of pro-democracy forces in Kosovo would change his stance, Zeman replied: “Of course, yes. But you are too much of an optimist if you think that will happen. Unfortunately, prodemocracy parties in Kosovo are poorly represented.” Zeman recalled that the lower house of the Czech parliament had, at one point, adopted a resolution that called on the Czech parliament not to recognize Kosovo. Then prime minister Mirek Topolanek‘s cabinet did not respect that and recognized Kosovo in May 2008. Zeman added that at the summit of presidents of the Visegrad Group and Western Balkans in Lany Castle near Prague he did not invite Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, and he did invite Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on purpose. “I would like the reconciliation of Kosovo’s Albanians and Serbs. Wishes are one thing but cruel reality is another,” the Czech president said. Zeman warned that the 100 percent tariffs that Kosovo authorities had imposed on Serb goods was definitely not a step toward compromise.
Visegrad group: Unification of Europe incomplete without Western Balkans (Beta)
The prime ministers of countries of the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland), adopted a Declaration on the Western Balkans in Prague on Sept. 12, in which they reiterated their unambiguous support to the region joining the European Union. The unification of Europe is not complete without the admission of the Western Balkans, reads the Declaration that was adopted at the meeting with the prime ministers of the Western Balkan countries. In the Declaration, the Visegrad Group urged the EU to open the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and stated it expected the membership negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro to accelerate during the mandate of the new European Commission. The prime ministers of the Visegrad Group said they expected, in keeping with the European Commission’s Strategy for the Western Balkans from February 2018, the accession negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro to be speeded up during the mandate of the new Commission, in accordance with the two countries’ progress. The Visegrad Group also expects the reform processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo to additionally improve their EU membership prospects.
Hahn: Western Balkans cannot progress towards EU without media freedom (Beta)
Johannes Hahn, the outgoing European commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, stated on Sept. 12 that countries of the Western Balkans could not progress on the path to the EU without media freedom. In an address via video-link, Hahn told the participants of the Media Days EU-Western Balkans conference in Podgorica, Montenegro, that media freedom was under threat, not just in the Western Balkans, but also throughout the world. According to Hahn, media freedom is “at the heart” of the EU’s Strategy for the Western Balkans. Media freedom is the key element of the rule of law and an important driver of the democratic, transformation process. There will be no progress on the EU path without the freedom of media and of expression, Hahn stated. Christian Danielsson, the director-general for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said that the freedom of the media and of expression was the fundamental right of every citizen of Europe.
Serbia officially invites OSCE to follow election (Tanjug)
Minister of Interior and president of working group for cooperation with OSCE and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Nebojsa Stefanovic has addressed an official invitation to the ODIHR mission to monitor the election process in Serbia, Tanjug reports. The OSCE mission in Serbia received a letter inviting this organization to send observers to the forthcoming elections in Serbia, the mission announced. “On September 11, the mission received a notice from Minister of Interior Stefanovic officially inviting ODIHR to supervise the election process in Serbia. The mission immediately translated the letter and forwarded it to ODIHR” reads the statement. The OSCE mission in Serbia adds that “preparation are being stepped up for supervision of election process in Serbia, because authorities explicitly expressed readiness to greet the ODIHR observer mission” which as independent institution within the OSCE, supervises elections in member countries. The OSCE mission is in contact with ODIHR to provide necessary support and facilitate communication, the statement adds. The OSCE will soon dispatch a mission to estimate the needs and provide recommendations for the activities of the observer mission, the statement concludes.
Opposition MP waits to hear what OSCE mission would actually be. Not even the possible arrival of monitoring missions from OSCE and ODIHR would not crucially change election conditions in Serbia, even the part of the opposition not supporting the boycott believed, especially if their mission was not complete. “It is one thing if they walk around on the election day or a few days before the elections, and it is completely different thing if they are monitoring a complete pre-election process. If things should happen like they did before, then this would be more of a fig leaf, you could not have the real control of elections regularity” an independent opposition MP Djordje Vukadinovic said.
Vucic with director of UNESCO about cooperation and cultural heritage in KiM (Tanjug)
President Aleksandar Vucic received Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with whom he discussed opportunities for more meaningful co-operation and the protection of Serbia’s heritage in Kosovo and Metohija (KiM). Vucic said that Serbia appreciates the activities of UNESCO in the protection of the endangered Serbian historical, cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo, as it is a heritage of the whole world, the Press Office of the President of the Republic reported. According to the report, Vucic supported the efforts of Director-General Azoulay to preserve the core values on which UNESCO’s work is based and to prevent the politicization of that organization. The President expressed support for the various UNESCO programs in all areas covered by the organization, and in particular in the field of education. The two interlocutors agreed that it is important to prevent the negative impact of modern technologies on the education of young generations. The Azoulay said that Serbia, as a member of the Executive Council, is a great supporter of UNESCO reform efforts.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Izetbegovic: Dodik is growing problem of B&H (TV1)
President of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic, asked about the ongoing crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) that has been lasting for almost one year, said that the side of SDA has clear requests and those are the respecting of the law and constitution, as well as the former decisions of the B&H Presidency. Asked whether Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik is the problem, Izetbegovic said that he is a growing problem in B&H for 10 years. He added that he does not believe Dodik is able to dissolve B&H. ˝He can only bring himself down with his threats. He will not be followed by politicians from Republika Srpska (RS) who were following him until now. The group of politicians around him will fall apart if he continues exposing them to heavy pressure˝ said Izetbegovic. He added that the international community finally reacted and they have new enthusiasm to solve the issues in B&H and the region. Izetbegovic believes things will get more serious in B&H in the future. He said that Dodik was testing the limits in B&H with many acts and now he reached one. Izetbegovic said that Dodik can only harm the RS with his current behavior.
Asked whether they are discussing authority formation currently and if there is room for Dodik to back down, Izetbegovic said that reactions from politicians in the RS force Dodik to hold his hard stances. ˝Article 3 of the agreement on authority formation says that we will act in accordance with the laws in B&H. This basically defines the activation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP). The only thing left for us to do was to find a model for it and for everyone to save face, including Dodik˝ said Izetbegovic.
Commenting on the future of the process of authority formation, Izetbegovic said that he is willing to overcome arrogance of Dodik and to work for B&H, but there is a line which he will not cross. He explained that this is the respecting of the Constitution and the Rule of Law. Asked about the role of President of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic and the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS B&H) in the process of authority formation, Izetbegovic said that Covic is supporting Dodik’s side. He said that Covic does not want to counter Dodik and he wants to form the authorities and to solve the NATO issue then. He added that Covic wants to implement changes to the Election Law at Federation of B&H level. Izetbegovic said that SDA will not do anything in regards of this and will wait for the proposal of HDZ B&H. He said that the halt in the formation of Federation of B&H authorities is also getting more complicated. Asked about what will follow after the Party Congress of SDA on Saturday, Izetbegovic said that the stances of SDA regarding the current political crisis will be confirmed on Saturday. ˝I do not intend to stand back on my stances and if I do, I will resign as President of SDA˝ said Izetbegovic.
Commenting on the fact that Covic and other politicians placed the blame for the crisis on SDA, Izetbegovic said that it is unfair and nonsense. He stressed that he has total support from SDA and there is no need for him to fix this with any hard stances. Izetbegovic added that he told Covic many times that he needs to act differently towards SDA, Bosniaks and the Islamic Community so that they approach him differently regarding issues that Croats want to solve.
Asked about the NATO future of B&H, Izetbegovic highlighted that B&H will not be a member of NATO without the approval of Serbs in B&H. He added that the NATO path will continue when everyone sees that it is good to be a NATO member. Izetbegovic said that NATO member countries are highly organized and have a high living standard. He stressed that B&H is part of Europe and the West and the situation in B&H needs to be improved.
Asked about the expectation he has from the increased presence of the USA in the region, Izetbegovic said that the USA will focus on Kosovo first. He added that B&H will be the focus later on, since it is a more complex issue. Izetbegovic explained that B&H is the place where global powers have interests and not just Serbia and Croatia. He added that those are Russia, The Vatican and Islamic countries. Commenting about the influence of Russia in B&H, Izetbegovic said that thy find it interesting to have a player like Dodik on their side who will stop the NATO path in B&H.
Western Balkan Summit (FTV)
Prime Ministers (PMs) of the Visegrad Group and Western Balkan countries – except for representatives of Kosovo – met in Prague on Thursday. The meeting was organized under the Czech Republic’s presidency of the Visegrad Group. Representatives of countries that are part of the Visegrad Group mentioned illegal migrations and security as the new argument for the EU enlargement in the Balkans. Attendees of the event reached an agreement on engagement on acceleration of accession talks of Serbia and Montenegro with Brussels.
Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic said that the European perspective of the Western Balkans has no alternative. Zvizdic underlined that during these kinds of meetings, it is important to constantly send messages that the European path of B&H has no alternative and that both citizens and politicians stand united about this issue. Addressing media, Zvizdic stated: “In this way, we will actually give real, positive signals to our friends that (they) can continue working on promotion of B&H as potential candidate, future member of the EU and at this moment, help us to get the status of the candidate as soon as possible”. Attendees of the event also discussed the European perspective of countries of the region. The Visegrad Group composed of countries that are members of the EU – the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia – will keep on supporting this part of Europe on the European path. Attendees warned B&H once again of the need to accelerate work on reforms.
Addressing a press conference, the Czech PM Andrej Babis said that negotiations with the Republic of the North Macedonia and Albania are possible in October. Babis added: “There is no doubt that negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro will be accelerated. We expect that the countries will join the EU by 2027. At the same time, we believe that the necessary reforms will be implemented in B&H so that the country can gain the status of the candidate”. “We always underline the importance of close connections between the EU and the Western Balkans countries. We adopted a declaration that affirms our commitment to the policy of enlargement of the EU. This is an extremely valuable mechanism to achieve security, stability and prosperity in the Western Balkans, given the fact that security of the Western Balkans means security of Europe as well.”
Addressing the press conference, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban argued that there would be no huge problems with migrations, if the Republic of the North Macedonia and Serbia joined the EU earlier. Orban said: “We could have controlled it because the migrants did not enter the EU through Romania. They came through the countries that are not members of the EU”. According to Orban, opening the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania would also help in facing the problem of illegal migrations. “The EU should not be asleep. Accepting North Macedonia, Serbia and others who aspire to join the EU as soon as possible would help reduce the number of illegal migrants in Europe nowadays” Orban stated.
Plenkovic: Pupovac has distanced himself from his previous statements (Hina)
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac said “in his own style” that contemporary Croatia had nothing to do with the 1941-1945 NDH regime, and that he actually retracted his claims about Croatia being a factor of instability.
“During his press conference yesterday, Mr. Pupovac stated in his own style things which were articulated differently than those of two weeks ago. He said in his own way that present-day Croatia has nothing to do with the NDH, and that Croatia is not a factor of instability. He clearly stated that this government and this (parliamentary) majority are not the ones who create a climate of intolerance” Plenkovic said at the beginning of his cabinet’s meeting.
Commenting on his recent interview that caused public outrage, Pupovac said yesterday that no one needs to ask him not to compare present-day Croatia to the WWII-era Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH). “I know the difference very well and that’s why I’ve been living in Croatia for these three decades,” the Croatian Serb leader told the news conference.
As for intolerance, Plenkovic today explained that from Pupovac’s point of view, there were people to be blamed for intolerance. The policy we are pursuing is the policy of (the first Croatian president and HDZ founder) Franjo Tudjman and that policy is one of inclusiveness and reconciliation, Plenkovic said. In this context he made it clear that a recent incident in Ceranje Donje, Pupovac’s birth place, where insulting graffiti against Serbs and Pupovac appeared, had nothing to do with the policy pursued by his government and the HDZ party.
Plenkovic said that he could respect different opinions, calling on the public to keep their eyes open to see “who plays which role in this chess game”. The premier underscored that law enforcement and judicial authorities were fast and efficient in dealing with all the incidents that happened in recent months against members of the Serb minority. The police have identified all the perpetrators under circumstances that were not simple, he said. All this proves that we function as a state, and this government and the parliamentary majority are working on developing an inclusive society, the premier said. He also criticized attempts by some political protagonists and parties to polarize the Croatian society and cause divisions. “This is not my cup of tea” he said. It is unnecessary and Croatia, which has accomplished all its strategic goals, does not need that, Plenkovic said, adding that his cabinet is dedicated to improving economic and social standards of citizens. “That is our duty, and that is also a duty of all our coalition partners” he added.
Politicians’ representation in media: Djukanovic runs the show (CDM)
President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanoviv, is the most prominent Montenegrin politician in central TV informative shows broadcast in the first seven months of this year, it was indicated by the research carried out by Arhimed. Monitoring was carried out between 1 January and 31 July. President Djukanovic tops the list of 10 most political figures with the highest media representation in the most watched informative segment. Prime Minister Dusko Markovic came second in the list. President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Ivan Brajovic took third place in the list.
Most represented opposition politicians in the main informative shows were leaders of Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic and Nebojsa Medojevic. Politicians of Liberal party, Andrija Popovic, and president of the URA civil movement, Dritan Abazovic, were least represented in the media. Television of Montenegro has broadcast most information about politicians – 21,93%. TV Vijesti comes second with 19,63%. TV Pink and A1 have broadcast very little information about Montenegrin politicians.
As the research indicated, Milo Djukanovic and Dusko Markovic are dominant in comparison to other political figures. Considering that Djukanovic and Markovic perform important state functions, their high representation in the media could be explained by the fact that the information was mostly related to the functions they perform.
Republic of North Macedonia
Czech Republic ratifies North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol (Nezavisen vesnik)
The Czech Parliament ratified Thursday North Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol.
North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev attended the parliamentary session.
On February 6th, member states signed the protocol on the accession of North Macedonia to NATO. Following its ratification by all 29 states, North Macedonia will officially become a full-fledged member of NATO.
Rama receives support from V4 countries in Prague Summit (Radio Tirana)
Prime Minister Edi Rama attended the Visegrad Summit in Celi, where he also gave good news about the integration of Albania. Rama writes that he has not only received total support from the V4 countries that are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for the opening of negotiations, but also an action plan to achieve this objective. “In Prague with the V4 countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia) and the Western Balkan countries – Not only V4 total support for the opening of Albania and Northern Macedonia negotiations with the European Union, but also an action plan to realize this strategic objective” writes Prime Minister Rama who is at the summit together with the Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Gent Cakaj.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Lavrov: Russia welcomes Serbian commitment to neutral status (Sputnik)
Russia welcomes Serbia’s political course, which aims at preserving the neutral status of the Balkan nation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Serbia’s neutral status is anchored in a 2007 resolution, adopted by the country’s Parliament. “Concerning the attempts to involve all the Balkan nations in NATO, Moscow’s attention to these destructive efforts is well-known. Given that, we welcome the responsible and sovereign political course of Serbia, aimed at preserving military neutrality. Unfortunately, not all its neighbors are capable of resisting external pressure and fall under the influence of NATO with its alleged security guarantees contrary to the will of the majority of their citizens”, the minister said in an interview with the newspaper Trud.
Lavrov pointed out that relations between Moscow and Belgrade were developing in line with the spirit of a 2013 Declaration on Strategic Partnership. The minister also stressed positive developments in bilateral cooperation. “We are ready for the gradual development of relations with anyone, interested in that. Serbia is our leading partner on the Balkan Peninsula. At the same time, we are maintaining constructive, intensive ties with other nations in this part Europe”, Lavrov added.
Russian-Serbian relations have been developing since the 19th century when Russia helped Belgrade to gain independence from the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, in 1914, the Russian Empire decided to provide support for Serbia amid the latter’s crisis in relations with Austria-Hungary, which resulted in World War I. The ties between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were unstable as Moscow and Belgrade had several periods of tensions in bilateral relations. However, the dissolution of both states opened up new prospects for the development of bilateral ties between Russia and Serbia. Moscow, particularly, supported Belgrade in the conflict around Kosovo and refused to recognize the latter as an independent state.