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Belgrade Media Report 16 October 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 16 October 2019
LOCAL PRESS

• Kosovo withdraws application for Interpol membership (Beta/Politika/Novosti/RTS/RTV)
• Vucic: Small tactical victory in Interpol (Tanjug)
• Withdrawal of “Kosovo’s” application at Interpol victory of international law (RTS/Tanjug)
• Djuric: I congratulate Kosovo Serbs on courage (TV Pink/Tanjug)
• Rebic, Drecun: Intimidation of Serbs following defeat in Interpol (RTS)
• The path to EU membership has many obstacles, but the goal is still valuable (RTS/Tanjug/EWB)
• Vucic asks British Ambassador: On which election did Kurti win and whose flag is it? (B92)
• Gojkovic, Indian parliament speaker: India respects Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty (Tanjug/RTV)
• MacKenzie: Bombardment in 1999 and recognition of Kosovo was craziness (Politika)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• SDS and PDP leaders to meet on Wednesday, discuss possible formation of new parliamentary majority at level of B&H (Nezavisne novine)
• SDA and HDZ B&H delegations will meet on 21 October to discuss government formation and amendments to Law on Elections (Oslobodjenje)
Republic of North Macedonia
• EU ministers fail to reach decision on opening accession talks with N. Macedonia and Albania (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Hahn apologizes to the citizens of Macedonia and Albania (Republika/MIA)
• “No” from Brussels takes Zaev to the polls (Nezavisen vesnik)
Albania
• Meta-Conte: Italy one of Albania’s main trading partners (ADN)
• Italian PM appeals for unconditional political dialogue (ADN)
• Yes’ to Albania’s negotiations, Balla thanks Germany (ADN)
• Basha – Glover meeting discussions unveiled (ADN)
• Opposition’s MP unveils reasons for Hajdari’s removal (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Van Rompuy Interview: No EU member state will block a candidate that is fit to join (European Western Balkans)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Kosovo withdraws application for Interpol membership (Beta/Politika/Novosti/RTS/RTV)

 

Outgoing Kosovo Premier Ramush Haradinaj sent a letter to the Interpol General Assembly saying that Pristina had withdrawn its application for membership in the international law enforcement organization. “Considering that early parliamentary elections were held in Kosovo on 6 October, I kindly ask you to postpone the consideration of our application until

the next session of the Interpol General Assembly,” Haradinaj said in the letter, the website Kosovo Online has reported. The 88th session of the Interpol General Assembly is being held in Santiago, Chile, until Oct. 18, which, according to earlier reports, was also to discuss Kosovo’s application for membership. Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, who heads the Serbian delegation at the 88th Interpol General Assembly in Santiago, said that thanks to the largest number of Interpol member states deciding not to support the Pristina institutions’ application, Pristina’s request for admission was withdrawn shortly before that body’s session. He stressed that this is a significant diplomatic victory for Serbia, but also the victory of international law, police and all those states who spoke in favor of not allowing the politicization of Interpol. The Minister expressed his gratitude to all the people from the Serbian team, from the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, but also to all those who have worked tirelessly in the past year and helped to have this outcome. Stefanovic expressed his gratitude to all the states that together with the Republic of Serbia protected international law and those who lobbied with us for the result to be this way. Thank you to the citizens of Serbia who supported us and who believed in our delegation. Thank you to everyone who supported and made the result great for our country. This is a great day for international law and a great day for the Republic of Serbia, concluded Stefanovic. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that a note was sent to the Embassy of Serbia in Paris on Tuesday afternoon, withdrawing Ramush Haradinaj’s request for Kosovo’s admission to Interpol. Dacic said in a statement to Tanjug news agency that the note was delivered shortly before 15.00, noting that the Interpol is headquartered in Lyon.

 

Vucic: Small tactical victory in Interpol (Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday said Pristina’s withdrawal of an application for membership in Interpol was a victory for Serbia and that Pristina had given up on the membership bid after realizing it would receive fewer votes than it had at the organization’s previous General Assembly meeting in Dubai. “You know I am always quite pessimistic but I said I was expecting a victory. I do not like big words, I do not like us to gloat and rejoice because we have not resolved the strategic problem. However, this is a small tactical victory for us,” Vucic told reporters in Belgrade. “They knew from the very beginning they would not make it, but they thought the trend was more favorable compared to the Dubai vote. But they gave up when they realized the trend was less favorable,” he said.

 

Withdrawal of “Kosovo’s” application at Interpol victory of international law (RTS/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic spoke today in Chile with Belarusian Interior Minister Yuriy Karaev about the withdrawal of the application of the so-called “Kosovo” for admission to Interpol. Stefanovic thanked Belarus for its principled support for Serbia’s sovereignty, pointing out that the withdrawal of the candidacy represents a victory for international law and respect for the reputation of Interpol, as the oldest international police organization. He assessed it as a success of our country, but also of all states that respect international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Sterfanovic also met with Cypriot Police Director Kypros Michaelides today during the 88th Interpol General Assembly. Stefanovic expressed gratitude to Cyprus for its support to Serbia, expressing satisfaction that the two countries will have a common position during the next General Assembly, which will be held in Uruguay.

 

Djuric: I congratulate Kosovo Serbs on courage (TV Pink/Tanjug)

 

“I wish to inform Serbian citizens that this morning, around 5:50 a.m., over 100 armed Rosu members intruded northern Kosovska Mitrovica with around 25 vehicles and 40 that were waiting at the entrance of the tow. One of the main targets of this operation was the commander of the KPS operative for the region of North, Zeljko Bojic. Rosu units broke into his apartment, carried out a search and took his son Vasilije Bojic in an unknown direction. One more employee of KPS North Rade Basara, who worked on important cases, was also arrested,” the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told TV Pink. “The goal is clear – intimidation and removal of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija. This is yet another in a series of attempts to make life impossible for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, to criminalize northern Kosovo and Metohija, to criminalize the Serbs, to accuse them of the largest and gravest crimes, but also to accuse the Serbs for the murder of Oliver Ivanovic in Kosovo and Metohija,” says Djuric. He says that the incursion of Rosu is direct playing with peace in the southern Serbian province, because, as he claims, it is known that Rosu members are composed of former KLA members. “Serbia is prepared to protect its people in Kosovo and Metohija in case they attempt expulsion and killings. President Vucic has spoken about this several times,” said Djuric. “I congratulate the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija on the courage they express and wish to tell them that Serbia is with them,” said Djuric.

 

Rebic, Drecun: Intimidation of Serb following defeat in Interpol (RTS)

 

Police Director Vladimir Rebic has told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the Serbian police had information in the course of the night that the Pristina authorities would enter northern Kosovo and Metohija. He says that Belgrade would be prepared to react if an exodus of the Serb people occurred, but he certain that the international community would not allow this. The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has assessed the Rosu operation as a show for the public following the debacle in Interpol. Rebic says that 24 armored vehicles entered the territory of northern Kosovo and Metohija, contrary to all regulations and resolutions. He assesses this as intimidation and a negative reaction following the fourth in a row defeat in Interpol. Drecun says that, according to his information, one of the arrested has been working on investigations towards the head of the operative, adding an intrusion was also possible in the direction of Zubin Potok. He assessed this a continuation of the political in regard to the Serb List and its marginalization. “They want to take their mandates and give them to the Serbs whom the Pristina authorities would want in the institutions,” he says. Pristina wants to provoke further destabilization and wonders why does it need such use of force. He thinks that Belgrade should behave rationally and with a cool head. He wondered whether Pristina was encouraged with such behavior following talks with the US President Donald Trump’s special envoy.

 

The path to EU membership has many obstacles, but the goal is still valuable (RTS/Tanjug/EWB)

 

The EU is valuable for all member states for two reasons: peace and prosperity, and these are also the reasons Serbia should join, said the President Emeritus of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy in Belgrade. Speaking at the discussion “The EU and Serbia: Shared Destiny, a Belgian Perspective”, organized by the Belgian Embassy in Serbia, Van Rompuy stated that the shared destiny means the same values and expressed his opinion that Serbia can also share the peace and prosperity of the EU. “I really hope that you will become a member state and I am very proud that during my tenure Serbia became a candidate and opened accession negotiations,” stated Van Rompuy. Also participating in the event, moderated by the Chairwoman of the National Convention on the EU Natasa Dragojlovic was the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, who emphasized that Serbia’s rational interest is to join the EU but that there is no excitement about the EU – according to him, the emotions lie with the opponents of EU integration. “At least half of our citizens would say that the EU is about the recognition of Kosovo. It is not a problem for me, because rationally speaking, I will always be able to promote the EU. It is always better to be in a club than out of the club,” said Vucic, adding that, much like in elections, the struggle for the EU must be won on the emotional level. However, he stated that there is little encouragement in this area, pointing out that North Macedonia probably will not be rewarded with the opening of accession negotiations for normalizing relations with Greece. According to him, Kosovo is a much harder problem, and it is the only issue EU is really focused on. Van Rompuy agreed that the road to the European Union has many obstacles, but said that all of those are quickly forgotten after reaching the goal, which is still too valuable to be given up on. “I hope that with the help from outside, the climate of trust can be restored, so that the normalization process can be finalized. The ultimate goal is the prosperity of the citizens of Serbia and Kosovo, and prosperity lies not in Ankara, Beijing and Moscow, it lies in Brussels”, said Van Rompuy. He also added that it is in the interest of Serbia to have as many as friends as possible – including Turkey, China and Russia, but that the added value of all these countries is much smaller than the value of the EU. “In order to have a lasting peace in this region, European Union is the best guarantee,” said Van Rompuy.

 

Vucic asks British Ambassador: On which election did Kurti win and whose flag is it? (B92)

 

Serbian President poses a question via his Twitter account to the British Ambassador in Pristina, photographed with leader of Vetëvendosje next to Albanian flag. “I have a question for the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Pristina: On whose elections did Kurti and his party win and whose is the flag in front of which, Your Excellency, you proudly got photographed with Kurti? I will keep asking you this until I get an answer”, Aleksandar Vucic wrote on his Twitter account. The enclosed photo depicts the leader of Vetëvendosje, Albin Kurti, whose party won the majority votes in the recent snap parliamentary elections in Kosovo, and the British Ambassador to Pristina, with the Albanian flag in between.

 

Gojkovic, Indian parliament speaker: India respects Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty (Tanjug/RTV)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic met today with the delegation of the Indian Parliament, headed by the speaker of the House of the People Om Birla, taking part in the 141st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Belgrade. The officials highlighted the decade-long traditional friendship and understanding, grounded in the cooperation in the Non-Aligned Movement. Birla stressed that India supports Serbia in all key areas, respects its territorial integrity and sovereignty and stands firm by its principled non-recognition of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and Metohija. As a true friend, India always supports Serbia’s side in international forums. Gojkovic thanked India for its principled and unswerving support in the matter of Kosovo and Metohija viz. Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Gojkovic and Birla agreed that what gave a special impulse to this friendly relationship were the visit of Vice-President of India Venkaiah Naidu to Serbia in September 2018 and, then Prime Minister and now President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic to India in 2017, as they rang in a new era of relations and ever closer ties between the two countries. Birla said that the economic ties between the two countries have been strengthened in the last few years, with Indian companies investing into tractor production and other areas and India taking part in the agricultural fair in Novi Sad this year. Birla also emphasized the importance of parliamentary cooperation and invited the Serbian parliament speaker to come and visit India with a parliamentary delegation. Gojkovic said she was more than willing to strengthen parliamentary relations and advance cooperation at the level of committees and parliamentary friendship groups, emphasizing the importance of multilateral parliamentary cooperation and accepted the invitation to India.

 

MacKenzie: Bombardment in 1999 and recognition of Kosovo was craziness (Politika, by Biljana Bakovic)

 

Many consider that General Lewis MacKenzie, former commander of the UNPROFOR Sector Sarajevo in B&H, is a great friend of the Serb people. Still, general MacKenzie explains in an exclusive interview to Politika that he has friends of all nationalities from B&H, but that the “truth always poses a problem to those who have a different opinion”. The truth uttered by MacKenzie bothers many. This top Canadian officer opines that it was not genocide but a war crime that was committed in Srebrenica and he also says that the acquittal of Naser Oric was shameful, while the bombardment of Serbia in 1999 and recognition of Kosovo’s independence was a big mistake. General MacKenzie received the officer’s charter in 1960. Following the mission in Sarajevo in 1993, with 35 years of military experience, he resigned. He tried politics, and in 1997 he was elected deputy prime minister. MacKenzie will be one of the most influential guests at the 64th International Book Fair in Belgrade, when the Serbian edition  of his book “Peacekeeper: The Road to Sarajevo”, written 27 years ago, will be promoted.

During your 36-year military carreer you have served in nine peacekeeping missions: in the Gaza Strip, on Cyprus, in Vietnam, Cairo, Central America and in B&H. Where was it most difficult?

“It was certainly most difficult in Sarajevo, B&H, because all other conflicts had unfolded between national forces that had their representatives in the UN Headquarters in New York. In B&H we had to deal with one country with two conflicting factions – Bosnian Serbs on one side, and Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks on the other. As a result, talks were very difficult.”

In March this year, the media in the Republika Srpska announced the beginning of the work of the Commission for investigating the killings of all nations in the Srebrenica region from 1992 until 1995, as well as the Commission for investigating the killings of Serbs in Sarajevo from 1991 until 1995. That was the proposal of the Israeli expert for investigating the Holocaust Gideon Greif. Did you already have some activities regarding this?

“I already wrote some articles about Srebrenica in which I disputed the ‘finding’ that a ‘genocide’ was committed. War crimes – yes, not ‘genocide’”.

Can you say something more about the issues dealt by these two commissions from what you have already stated in the book “Peacekeeper: The Road to Sarajevo”, which was Canada’s bestseller in 1993, and then also in the book “Soldiers Made Me Look Good”?

“I am aware of the existence of the two commissions and I am impressed with the depth of the investigation which corroborates their findings. Those are useful contributions to present day history of the tragic events that occurred in 1990s for all sides involved in the conflict.”

Your service in Sarajevo from May 1992 until March 1993 (it turned out at the very end of your professional military career) still “follows” you, judging by the reactions of certain representatives of the Bosniak Diaspora in Canada towards you. How do you deal with their accusations for, to say the least, pro-Serb activities?

“I served from March until June 1992 when the leadership of B&H asked for my removal. They expected that I will agree with them on all issues, considering that B&H was the newly elected UN member state at the time. As my mandate requested me to be unbiased and objective, they were very upset with my comments on individual problems. Accusations coming from a part of self-proclaimed leadership of the Diaspora of B&H in Canada are crazy, including rapes and murders, so that nobody normal can believe in this. I must add that here at issue is a small number and it is my pleasure that I have friends on all sides that were in conflict, and who are now living happily in my country.”

Because you opposed the NATO bombardment of Serbia in 1999, and later on you criticized your government for recognizing Kosovo’s independence, the Serbs in Canada consider you a friend. How much does this please you, and how much can this pose a problem?

“The truth will always upset those with different opinions. With the development of things from the bombardment, it is clear that the craziness of bombarding a sovereign country and recognition of Kosovo’s independence has created more of a problem than resolving it.”

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

SDS and PDP leaders to meet on Wednesday, discuss possible formation of new parliamentary majority at level of B&H (Nezavisne novine)

 

PDP leader Branislav Borenovic told the daily that he will talk with SDS leader Mirko Sarovic on Wednesday, and that possible formation of new parliamentary majority at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) would be discussed during the meeting. “We will talk about everything, including the possibility to establish new parliamentary majority at the level of B&H,” said Borenovic. He added that two parties have not yet discussed this issue, and underlined that formation of new parliamentary majority is an extremely complex issue. Borenovic explained that first they need to see if negotiations carried out by SNSD, SDA and HDZ B&H have failed, and then they need to see if it is possible for them to have the support of 22 representatives in the House of Representatives (HoR) of the parliament of B&H. “They need to be ready to unblock the work of the Parliament of B&H. That is the first prerequisite for some discussion about the normalization of the work of the Parliament, which is blocked because of SNSD’s MPs decision, as they do not want to submit the names of members of permanent commissions,” said Borenovic. He concluded that it is possible to establish a new parliamentary majority in the B&H HoR, but something like that is not possible in the House of Peoples (HoP) of the parliament of B&H – since SNSD and HDZ B&H have eight out of 15 seats in the B&H HoP under control, because of, as Borenovic said, “the support of SDA”. In a short statement to daily, SNSD’s delegate in the B&H HoP Dusanka Majkic said that SDS and PDP are doing everything they can to remain in power. She explained that every decision would have to be adopted in the B&H HoP, which is why the new parliamentary majority – the one that might be established in the B&H HoR – stands no chance of succeeding. Majkic underlined that SDA is well-aware of this, and concluded that if SDA ever decides to stop with conditioning and establish authorities at the level of state, SNSD would help them complete the job. Vice-President of SDA Safet Softic also said that new parliamentary majority can be established in the B&H HoR, but that would not solve the problem as all important laws would be blocked in the B&H HoP. “I know that talks between members of (current) parliamentary majority are ongoing, that some progress has been made and that it might be possible to reach solution,” said Softic. Head of DF Caucus in the B&H HoR Dzenan Djonlagic briefly told daily that it is pointless to establish some new parliamentary majority with SDS and PDP, because those two parties do not accept sending of the Annual National Program to the NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

 

SDA and HDZ B&H delegations will meet on 21 October to discuss government formation and amendments to Law on Elections (Oslobodjenje)

 

Oslobodjenje daily papers learned unofficially that a meeting of delegations of HDZ B&H and SDA, during which they are expected to discuss the amendments to the Law on Elections of B&H, should take place on 21 October. Member of the Presidency of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) Ilija Cvitanovic told the daily that at a session held in Drvar on Thursday, the HNS has decided to launch an initiative towards legitimate Bosniak representatives, namely SDA, to start talking about the decisions of the Constitutional Court of B&H and the international courts, as well as implementation of the election results, in order to try and find a solution. “I believe there is no time for postponement anymore, and the conditions for opening new talks have improved,” said Cvitanovic and added that he does not see amendments to the Law on Elections as a precondition for formation of the Federation of B&H government. “It is a guarantee to the Croat people in B&H that they are going to have a political protection as a people, just like the other two peoples in B&H, when it comes to electing their representatives for the positions defined by the Dayton Peace Agreement” he said and noted that these two processes should follow one another. Cvitanovic also said that the responsibility lies in the hands of SDA and HDZ B&H leaders, Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic respectively, as well as in the compromise between Bosniaks and Croats. SDA Vice-president Edin Ramic told the daily that the agreement is possible, but not all the conditions will be met. “The condition for the Law on Elections and other laws was present before the formation of the previous convocation of the Government, and we managed to form it without those conditions. However, it is clear there is a need to deal with the issue of electoral legislation, not because of HDZ’s demands, but because of the verdicts we must implement,” said Ramic.

 

EU ministers fail to reach decision on opening accession talks with N. Macedonia and Albania (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

EU ministers failed to reach a decision approving the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, Finnish EU Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen told a news conference Tuesday in Luxembourg after a meeting of EU foreign ministers. Outgoing EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that it was not a moment of glory for Europe, referring to the General Affairs Council meeting. He added that a majority of EU members had backed the recommendation for start of negotiations with the two countries. “There is no doubt that any further postponement would damage our credibility in the Western Balkans and also our ambitions to become a stronger global player,” Hahn stated. Before the meeting Hahn said that the European Union risks losing its influence in the Western Balkans if it fails to send a clear signal for the start of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. “If we do not send a clear signal today or by Thursday’s European Council, considering the two prior delays, then we should not wonder why our influence on the Balkans has diminished,” says Hahn and expresses hope that “reason will prevail” in the issue. According to Hahn, losing influence on the Balkans cannot be in the Union’s interest, because this is “the yard of Europe”. “Many are talking about a strong Europe, but if we cannot function in the immediate neighborhood, there is no need to ask the question about our global action,” says Hahn. He believes that the EU must contemplate using the majority principle in the decision-making process, in order to be proactive rather than reactive. “European countries have to first solve their issues at home – in this case the Balkans – before being an international player,” said Hahn. Three countries, namely France, Germany and Italy, oppose the latest proposal on ‘decoupling’ the two countries and starting negotiations with North Macedonia first. France objects because it doesn’t want more countries to be admitted before the negotiating process is reformed, whereas Germany and Italy are concerned that Albania might be ‘endlessly’ stuck in EU’s waiting room if negotiations are launched only with North Macedonia.

 

Hahn apologizes to the citizens of Macedonia and Albania (Republika/MIA)

 

Outgoing European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who pushed very strongly to support the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev government and impose the name change, was defensive and even emotional at times as he had to deliver the bad news that all the efforts did not result in a decision to open the EU accession talks. At one point he all but apologized to the citizens of the two countries. It’s not only about enlargement per se, there is a political strategy behind it, it’s about reuniting Europe. “North” Macedonia but also Albania, they have done their homework, they have, so to say, partly really painful reforms which probably in most of our countries are not possible. In particular we are talking about the people there, they have their aspirations, wishes, dreams, it’s not about pleasing some politicians. I hope this is not so to say useless, quite the opposite, it will pave the way for a positive solution, Hahn said, before adding “I would like to use the opportunity to excuse myself to the citizens, it was again, not a moment of glory. I have argued and fought in the past to make it possible… They have delivered. Full stop. Now we have to deliver”. Hahn was pressed by the MIA corresponded if he feels personal responsibility for pushing for coupling the two countries together. I hope that the leaders are able to see a broader picture and find a solution which is, in a way, addressing the expectations. I don’t quite understand your question concerning my personal responsibility. One is not always 100 percent successful, but I have no problems if others will be successful at this. I have contributed a lot. I understand if people in “North” Macedonia are disappointed, and I think we need to feel the temperature and we should see our responsibility, particularly in those countries which have not today been able to support (enlargement), Hahn replied.

 

“No” from Brussels takes Zaev to the polls (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

“The Prespa Agreement is central to plans for the country’s future. It is also the essence of your youth ambitions and what we can do together in the years to come. It is a simple, clear and modest message that I want to send you. I cannot take your place because you vote independently in this political debate that is important to the country. You have to choose and decide whether or not to amend the Constitution so that the agreement becomes effective. To become North Macedonia, according to the agreement. I am resolutely ‘in favor’ and firmly believe this deal is good! For you, for the entire region and for Europe. I count on you”.

This is part of the video message French President Emmanuel Macron sent to Macedonian voters ahead of the name referendum in September 2018. Eleven months later, from someone being wind at the government’s back, Macron turned into someone who will blow down the government building on Ilinden Street if he decides not to give Macedonia the green light to start EU accession negotiations. After all, the referendum question was: “Are you in favor of joining the EU and NATO by accepting the agreement between Greece and Macedonia”, whereby the government in Skopje wanted to emphasize that the sacrifice we make by changing the name will be rewarded by moving our country on the fast lane to Brussels. For the past two and a half years, as Prime Minister Zoran Zaev heads the ministers, the emphasis has been on resolving thorny foreign issues. Now it seems that changing the name, however, has not been a decisive factor that will bring us closer to the EU, and additional pressure is being created by Bulgaria, which understands the friendship agreement as a chance to impose its views on Macedonia. “The main themes in my presidential election campaign were joining the EU and NATO as the main strategic goals. We expect to become a NATO member in the coming months. But if EU accession negotiations are prolonged, The Union will lose much of its credibility if the accession negotiations are delayed. The EU enthusiasm in our country will drop significantly. People were asking ‘Why did we change the name?’ and we told them ‘So that we join the EU’. Now people are asking ‘Why is there another delay?” President Stevo Pendarovski says in an interview with Austrian Die Presse. He says no other country has changed its name to become part of the EU integration process. The president said North Macedonia was disappointed in June, when it was scheduled to start the accession negotiations, with the EU saying “Sorry, we are still not prepared”. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is aware that a negative response from Brussels will mean both a loss of reputation and doubt in the policies pursued by his team. The question arises as to why the name was changed then and why all those troublesome moments in persuading opposition MPs to change sides and vote on the treaty, and in return, giving amnesty that destroyed the country’s legal system. Zaev, like all party and government officials, reiterates that they are willing to pay a political price for the failure, but the question is which one? Will the Parliament be dissolved immediately and a technical government formed to organize early spring elections, especially as it becomes clear that the census will be delayed? Or will the government continue to rule until the end of its term, but it will no longer have the strongest argument for a better future? Prime Minister Zaev yesterday rejected the possibility of early parliamentary elections, even if we do not get a date, explaining that we must not jeopardize the predictability in society. “In a situation where we as a country have no alternative to NATO and the EU, politicians are temporary and changeable, but the predictability of the economy should be left to the end of its term. Regularity of elections is regularity of society. Ensuring the predictability of the economy is an important thing, so in my opinion, our country needs regular elections. And regular elections for me are those scheduled for next October,” Zaev added. While EU membership negotiations remain uncertain, there is no doubt that Macedonia will become the 30th member state of NATO. The only dilemma is whether it will happen by the end of this year or March next year due to political problems in Spain. “There may be a consensus among the political parties in the country for holding early elections immediately after joining NATO, so as not to jeopardize that formality” says analyst Petar Arsovski. He does not want to prejudge the decision on the date, nor blame the possible “no” for the government’s fault or the lack of political will in Brussels. “It is a fact that the government will pay a political price. Whether snap elections will be called, a technical government will be formed – I don’t know, but it is clear that the government’s position will not be sustainable in the long run. I think the government has made a mistake in terms of political marketing, so one gets the impression that their entire focus was on the outside, not on solving domestic problems. However, it will do more harm to the rating at home than in the positions outside, because if you look at the EU narrative, there is no one saying that the government has not done its job,” Arsovski concluded. The opposition says early parliamentary elections must take place immediately after the Brussels decision, whether positive or negative. “The road to Europe has many challenges and problems, but one seems to be the biggest and it is pushing the country backwards and taking its future. His name is Zoran Zaev. This man cannot deliver results, let alone a European future. Macedonia is on the wrong track, and the government is just wasting time. Citizens need renewal and are therefore ready to fight like never before,” said Igor Janushev, VMRO-DPMNE’s Secretary General. The Alliance for Albanians has also announced that once the EU news has arrived, they will pressure for holding early elections. The dissolution of Parliament requires 61 lawmakers that the opposition cannot provide, unless the government agrees to such an epilogue. DUI in the past period has stated that it is not time for early elections, because the country’s focus should be on European integration, i.e. on solving the economic problems in the country. However, the party’s position is in line with their conviction that we will receive a date for accession negotiations by the end of the week. They refuse to think of a negative epilogue.

 

Meta-Conte: Italy one of Albania’s main trading partners (ADN)

 

President of the Republic of Albania Ilir Meta received this Tuesday Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte in meeting, where he praised the strategic partnership with Italy. During this meeting, President thanked for Italy’s continuous support to Albania in the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration processes over the years and constant commitment in support of the opening of Albania’s EU accession negotiations. Secondly, President Meta expressed hopefulness for opening of negotiations to be supported by all EU member states and praised the fact that Italy remains one of Albania’s main trading partners. Thirdly, President of Albania acknowledged that many opportunities can be used to further intensify economic cooperation and trade exchanges between Albania and Italy. Finally, Head of State mentioned Arberesh community and Albanian emigration to Italy as strong bridges of cooperation between the two countries. “We hope that the realistic approach of opening in principle of negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia will be supported by all member states. We consider that there are still many opportunities to be used in further intensifying of economic cooperation and trade exchanges. A strong bridge of cooperation between our countries is the Arberesh community and Albanian emigration to Italy”, underlined President Meta.

 

Italian PM appeals for unconditional political dialogue (ADN)

 

Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte urged on Tuesday for ruling majority to propose a crisis-resolution platform to the opposition and unconditional dialogue to take place. During a joint press conference with his Albanian counterpart, Edi Rama, Conte declared that Albania must resolve the political crisis. In addition, he said that crisis’ resolution will signal political and institutional maturity, underlining that resolving of crisis is of interest to both ruling majority and the opposition. “Our attention is focused on Albania’s ability to resolve the political crisis, which will also show a signal of political and institutional maturity. The majority and the opposition have an interest in resolving this crisis. It is important that the majority proposes to the opposition a platform for resolving the crisis and the dialogue to be further held unconditionally,” proclaimed Conte.

 

Yes’ to Albania’s negotiations, Balla thanks Germany (ADN)

 

Leader of Socialist Party (SP) parliamentary group Taulant Balla thanked this Tuesday Germany for its “Yes” on Albania’s opening of accession negotiations. According to Balla, Albania and Republic of North Macedonia have shown commitment regarding the important reforms, adding that the justice reform in Albania is an example for other countries of Western Balkans. “I am grateful to Germany for such a clear stance: in favor of starting the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Both deserve this step forward as both countries have shown strong commitment to important reforms. Justice Reform in Albania is a model for other Western Balkan countries,” said Balla.

 

Basha – Glover meeting discussions unveiled (ADN)

 

Chairman of Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha underlined this Tuesday that Electoral Reform is crucial for Albania and only way out of the political crisis which has engulfed the country. Following the meeting with Head of OSCE/ ODIHR Mission in Tirana, Audrey Glover, he declared that belief and hard work is needed for bringing this reform about. At the end, Basha didn’t fail to announce the Opposition has a clear strategy and that it is time to implement it as soon as possible. “Electoral Reform is decisive for us and the only way to get out of this crisis. Blaming others is the simplest thing but it never gets anywhere! So, we must believe and work hard to realize this reform. The opposition has a clear strategy and it’s time to implement it without losing time! We all have to work tirelessly to build a better future for our children,” stated Basha.

 

Opposition’s MP unveils reasons for Hajdari’s removal (ADN)

 

Opposition MP Alban Zeneli, has spoken regarding the dismissal of Rudina Hajdari from the post of Democratic Party Parliamentary Chairperson and the appointment of Korab Lita to the post. Zeneli said one of the main reasons for the decision was that the management of the group was administratively and organizationally not performing well. “The decision was taken on Thursday with the participation of all members of our group, which is a 9-member group. At the end of the meeting it was decided that other candidacies would be put forward to run for the post of group leader. One of those candidacies was me too, but I withdrew. One of the main reasons was that the management of the group from the administrative and organizational point of view was faltering, and this is the reason, none other,” the MP said in a statement, as he also provided details of the 4-hour meeting. “I told you very clearly that we were 9 MPs present at a 4-hour marathon meeting. If you have noticed I am very correct with the law and regulation. I only implement the rules and the law. I cannot say who is the chairman and who is not the chairman,” Zeneli continued, stressing that he was not afraid of any breakup of the Democratic caucus.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Van Rompuy Interview: No EU member state will block a candidate that is fit to join (European Western Balkans, by Aleksandar Ivkovic, 16 October 2019)

 

At the time of this interview, there are many unknowns about the immediate future of the EU – how will Brexit unfold, when will the new Commission be ready to begin its mandate in full capacity and, most importantly, what the decision on North Macedonia and Albania will be. As much as these issues are important, the wider trends and more permanent developments in the Union, including its long-term position on enlargement, should not be overlooked. This is why we tried to combine both sets of topics in our discussion with one of the most relevant interlocutors on the future of EU – President Emeritus of the European Council, former Prime Minister of Belgium and current Chairman of the Board of the College of Europe in Bruges Herman Van Rompuy. During his visit to Belgrade this week, Van Rompuy participated in the discussion on the common destiny of EU and Serbia with President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic yesterday, and is addressing the students of the Faculty of Political Science today.

 

European Western Balkans: There is a narrative in some parts of the Western Balkans that the European Union is disintegrating, which has become more prominent since the UK Brexit referendum and the rise of right-wing parties. How would you assess the integration tendencies in the EU over the past three or four years?

Herman Van Rompuy: The European Union is not disintegrating, quite on the contrary, the Member States are cooperating on more fields than ever before in the history of the EU. The Brexit is a regretful tragedy, but one country’s decision to leave the EU does not mean the Union is disintegrating, quite on the contrary: faced with Brexit the other member states have shown more resilience and unity than was expected in some circles. A snowball exit effect in other member states has not materialized, and one can rightly claim that once again this crisis offers opportunities to strengthen our Union. It is true, like in every family, the Member States sometimes have their disagreements, but in the end – and as Former President of the European Council I have often witnessed this – we usually find workable compromises. Also, today the European integration is still deepening. In my experience, every European crisis has not led to calls for less Europe, but has made it evident that only more European cooperation and more integration can bring sustainable solutions. The financial crisis led to the banking union, the refugee crisis contributed to a better protection of EU external borders, and I expect the same type of resolve after Brexit.

 

EWB: According to the way the President-elect of the European Commission distributed the portfolios, climate change, digitalization and defence of democracy are the priorities for the next five years of the EU. Do you believe that these issues are indeed the top priority for “ordinary” citizens, especially in recent member states?

HVR: I do. Defence of democracy and our fundamental values are horizontal issues that make up the core of our European DNA. Without strong democratic institutions, the rule of law and an independently functioning judiciary in place guaranteeing the protection of our fundamental rights, there can be no sound food safety policy, no healthy investment climate nor a fair society for all Europeans. The values and core principles that we share constitute the building blocks of our Union. Considering that climate change is the biggest challenge of our generation, it is only normal that this also is a priority of the European Union, including in its newest member states: the impact in terms of loss in agricultural yields, and phenomena such as floodings hit the poorest more than others, and require European and worldwide attention. The Commission’s focus on digitalization, research and development and technological progress should ensure that the EU remains one of the most innovative and prosperous continents in the world. Here again the new member states will benefit, especially if they manage to mobilize their young human resources in sectors that will help to transform the economic and industrial landscape in their home countries. Migration remains, of course, a major political theme for the coming decades.

 

EWB: EU officials keep claiming that enlargement in the Western Balkans is important for the Union, but we can also hear very negative messages coming from some of the key member states. Do you believe there will be a consensus in the EU in favor of enlargement?

HVR: The EU has confirmed time and time again that the Western Balkans belong in the EU and has adopted the 2018 Western Balkan strategy precisely to underline this message. By the way, the EU-enlargement policy goes beyond words and is also translated in hundreds of millions euro per year of financial and material support in a broad range of areas, in order to help bringing the Western Balkans (and Serbia and Montenegro as candidate countries in particular) closer to the EU family, and boost the country’s development potential. As the accession process is fully merit-based, the speed of the process is in the hands of the acceding country. Therefore, I think it is better to double down on the reforms that still need to be accomplished than on speculation about the positions of Member States.  Indeed, at the end of the day, no EU member state will block the entry of a candidate country that has proven to be a perfect fit to the EU family.

 

EWB: It is still unclear who will be in charge of Enlargement in the European Commission. Do you think that the decision to give this portfolio to Hungary is a good idea, given the country’s struggle with the respect of the rule of law in recent years?

HVR: One can never foretell how someone will operate in any professional position, and that is also the case for an EU Commissioner, whatever his or her nationality or portfolio may be. Once you become a part of the EU Commission, it is understood that you shake off your national identity, and work for the common interest of every European citizen. So we will have to give the benefit of the doubt to every Commissioner, and judge him of her on the basis of actions they undertake in their new, European capacity, not on deeds and performances in the past. In any case, decisions are taken by the Commission as a whole.

 

EWB: European Council, which you presided over between 2009 and 2014, is about to make the final decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. Do you believe that apparent reservations some countries have towards taking these countries to the next stage of the accession process is justified?

HVR: It is difficult to respond directly to your question as I cannot speak for other Member States, but personally I am very much in favour of opening negotiations with both countries. Perhaps I can give your readers some insight in and understanding of the origin of some of these reservations by underlining how important the EU is to Belgium. For Belgium, and I believe many EU Member States share this view, the integrity of the EU and its continued success is the most important foreign policy priority there is. This means that principles such as the rule of law, strong, democratic institutions and fundamental values such as the freedom of expression are to remain in the centre of what the EU is about. Indeed, the EU is in our view the most successful political project ever created in Europe. It has brought peace and enormous prosperity to our continent. Against this background it is normal that we are protective of the achievements made and are strict (but fair) with regard to EU accession countries. That being said, I remain an optimist and believe the Western Balkan countries can muster the political will to adopt our Acquis Communautaire in its entirety and will join the European Union.

 

EWB: If North Macedonia does not get the green light for opening accession negotiations despite all progress made in bilateral disputes with its neighbors – most importantly changing its name in order to solve the dispute with Greece – what message could it send to other Western Balkan governments?

HVR: The Western Balkan countries should focus on their own path and their own progress as a society. It has been rightly repeated by many leaders that the reforms undertaken should not just be rolled out to facilitate the path towards EU-accession, but also for their own merits. The reforms demanded by the EU should be implemented first and foremost for the sake of you, the citizens of the Western Balkans, who will benefit from better governance, and the correct implementation of democratic rules and regulations. The EU integration process is not just a matter of superficially ticking boxes, it is an all-encompassing transformation of society that will in essence benefit yourself. When this process has been implemented and completed with full conviction, I assure you, you will be accepted into the EU family with open arms.

 

EWB: Is it possible for the EU to survive as a functioning community without a strict adherence of its members (and future members) to the democratic values? What do you think about the proposal of Finnish presidency that EU budget resources should be tied with the respect for the rule of law? Should something similar be proposed when it comes to pre-accession assistance?

HVR: In its core, the EU is a community of democratic countries sharing fundamental values and principles on how to best govern a country. This makes up the DNA of our countries and the EU and it is indeed unthinkable that we should not adhere to these values. As to the concrete proposals that you mention, I believe that they are also a reflection of the sense of frustration, in many EU countries and the European Commission, who believe their (financial) solidarity with the poorer countries in the Union is not sufficiently matched with a solid adherence to democratic values, to the rules of the game agreed upon on the moment of accession. This is difficult to explain to their public opinion. Solidarity and responsibility should always go hand in hand, to maintain the bonds that keep the Union together. In this respect making progress in and adherence to the principles outlined in Chapters 23 and 24 are indeed crucial for the candidate countries, as a signal that they are serious and responsible actors committed to the  rules applicable in the EU. The reasons for this are manifold. One is because the rule of law is the basis for progress in all other chapters as well. Since the EU accession process consists of transposing the existing EU acquis, its directives and regulations into national law, we must be able to trust that these laws are implemented and impartially enforced. If they are not enforced by the Government, we must be able to rely on an independent and strong judiciary branch and a legal system that works. It all boils down to one simple prerequisite: trust. Serbian and EU citizens must be able to trust the Government institutions, the parliament, the judiciary and those Government institutions must be held accountable. If the Western Balkan countries become a member of the EU, your politicians and Parliamentarians will shape EU policy just as much as Belgian politicians do. This is a big responsibility and therefore we must be certain that your Governments apply and believe in same principles and values as we are.

 

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