Vucic: If I promised something to the West on Kosovo, why didn’t I fulfill it so far? (RTS)
If I have promised something to the West on the issue of Kosovo, as some claim, how come I have not fulfilled anything so far, Serbian President asked on RTS. He made a guest appearance last night on the “Upitnik” talk show, where he said that he would continue to fight for Kosovo and the Serb people with all his heart and energy.
Asked how he commented on Vuk Jeremic’s statement that “Vucic and Tony Blair are discussing modalities for recognizing Kosovo’s independence at the UN” and whether he promised something to the West, Vucic replied: “How come I haven’t accomplished anything so far and how come they haven’t solved what they thought they did back in 2008 so far? We have withstood heavy pressures and there will be even harder pressures” said Aleksandar Vucic.
“Serbs do not need to run from compromise. I know what Serbs think and I do not ignore public opinion polls. We will continue the fight. A compromise is not a defeat for Serbia. I am aware that it will be very difficult to reach compromise because Serbs do not want to hear it”.
Responding to the host’s comment that he did not announce what a compromise means, Vucic said: “I have never communicated what a compromise means… because someone has to deal with the future in a responsible way. Someone has to understand what’s best, but this would be much easier to deliver than some other things”. He said that he had withstood the toughest pressures around Kosovo and that (Minister of Defence Aleksandar) Vulin and (Director of the Office for KiM Marko) Djuric can testify on that, as it were, during talks on the Brussels agreement.
“Let Suzana tell you, who was against me that night and voted to sign for UN membership, as many ministers in the government and that we have 68 percent of Albanian police officers in the north, even though I was Deputy Prime Minister, I declined it, and today, we have 100 percent of Serbian police officers in the north and we did not approve of Kosovo’s UN membership”.
Vucic said that the previous government helped Pristina in 2009 when Kosovo was pulled out of the UN and transferred under the EU auspices, then in 2010 when a pointless question was raised to the International Court of Justice and in 2011, when borders between Serbs were set on Jarinje and Brnjak. “When we managed to restore everything that should not have been at stake at all, then they started saying that we would hand over something that they had long ago ceded to someone else”, he said. He added that he may be guilty of telling people the truth, but still 96 percent of Serbs supported the Serb List, which was unprecedented so far. “I have had a total of eight or nine days off since I became Prime Minister, for five years now. I had tremendous energy and dreams, I dreamed that our average salary would reach 500 euros and that we have highways built. However, you can be a crook and steal banners, but you can’t steal the highway, it stays on citizens’ disposal” Vucic concluded.
Vucic opponents, supporters face off in front of RTS (N1, VIP)
Rival groups of opponents and supporters of the Serbian President faced off in front of the entrance to the Serbian state TV RTS waiting for Aleksandar Vucic to enter the building to take part in a political talk show.
The 1 in 5 Million organization called its supporters to gather in front of the RTS headquarters to “ask the president questions”. Minutes after they got there, a group of Vucic supporters appeared and the two groups faced off separated by a cordon, chanting with some pushing and shoving. The crowd of Vucic opponents and supporters numbered about 200 people and included supporters of Dveri movement leader Bosko Obradovic.
The streets leading to a side entrance to the RTS building were initially blocked by uniformed police officers but an N1 crew was prevented from walking to the entrance by a group of men in plain clothes who did not identify themselves.
Student activists of the 1 in 5 Million organization said they were waiting at every possible place that the president could have passed but failed to see him. Dveri leader Obradovic said he was there because he and his supporters were there because they no longer want to tolerate humiliation. “We are defending the constitution and laws which Aleksandar Vucic has been breaking for seven years” he said. Obradovic added that he was there in a show of support for the students. He said that Vucic is “the biggest political coward in modern history” and added that anyone watching the talk show “can see the face of a frightened man who is facing the reality of no longer being in a position to rule”.
Announcements of the opposition MPs that on Tuesday evening they will organize a protest in front of the building of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) during the interview of President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic provoked a very strong reaction of the ruling structures and Vucic himself, and they reported through the media they control that the US special envoy Matthew Palmer was behind “organization of the lynch”. The pro-regime TV Pink organized on Tuesday evening a special program in which MP of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and a close friend of the Serbian president, Vladimir Djukanovic said the assassination of Vucic was being prepared, and that all was probably organized by Palmer, who on Tuesday morning met in Belgrade with the opposition leaders. “What’s he got to meet with the opposition?” Djukanovic said after he accused the US diplomat of a sort of preparing a coup. All other participants of the special program in TV Pink agreed that the special envoy Palmer, i.e. the USA, was behind the “attempted assassination” of Vucic. It is quite unclear how it is possible that Vucic’s associates publicly express such absurd accusations, but it is perhaps even stranger that there was no reaction of the US Embassy or any US officials to this on Tuesday.
Serbia’s opposition: Vucic suspends institutions, sends criminals against people (N1)
Serbia’s main opposition group Alliance for Serbia (SzS) accused on Wednesday country’s President Aleksandar Vucic of suspending state institutions and sending “paid criminal groups” on Tuesday night to confront with people who came outside the state RTS TV where Vucic was a guest at the Upitnik political talk show” N1 reported. In a statement following last night’s brawl between the supporters and opponents of Serbia’s head of state, SzS said that Vucic responded by abolishing laws, institutions and the state itself at a rally organized by the Belgrade University students gathering aiming at “once again pointing at an absolute lack of media freedom in Serbia. The protesters carried banners, one reading “why are you spreading false news, provoking and dividing people.”
The statement accused Vucic of sending “paid criminal groups and para-police force to the streets of Belgrade who formed a cordon around the TV headquarters, refused to show any identification, prevented people from free movement, did not allow the journalists to report from the spot, and physically attack people, beating them.” “Vucic’s traditional escort units of bold men with pumped muscles, some wearing hoods, formed two cordons preventing people unhappy with the public broadcaster’s censorship to get any closer” the statement added.
The Alliance warned the public at home and abroad that such Vucic’s behavior “clearly shows his readiness to provoke the conflict between people and his para-military private phalanges who the citizens were forced to defend themselves from” adding that Vucic “will be responsible for everything that will happen in the next period.” The statement also said that the all the media under Vucic’s control described the last night’s students’ rally outside the RTS as “endangerment of the president’s safety,” “the announcement of an assassination,” “call for the lynch of the president” and “forthcoming fascism.” “Cornered with affairs and disclosures of corruption and crimes involving members of the Government and himself, Vucic produces false news, affairs, incidents and conflicts” the SzS statement added.
Palmer calls on opposition to desist from election boycott (N1)
The US are hoping that the opposition in Serbia will give on the boycott of elections and that it will reach an agreement with the representatives of the authorities concerning election conditions, said the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer, and electronic media reported. Palmer said that he “believed that there are many issues concerning equal (election) conditions” in Serbia. “If the opposition does not believe the conditions to be fair, room exists for an open dialogue, and open debate on this. We are hoping that an agreement will be reached and that a way will be found for all the political parties to participate at the elections, so that the Serbian citizens would have a real choice”, Palmer said. He said that the elections were much better if all the parties took part at them and that it was important for the Serbian citizens to have a right to a realistic choice. Palmer expressed hope that the two sides would be able to reach an agreement and that the opposition would take part in the election process, since the US had constantly encouraged them to do so. Palmer denied that he had taken part in the organization of a meeting between the representatives of the authorities and the opposition which was speculated about in the Serbian media. He explained that these were political parties and leaders in Serbia who knew each other well and understood each other well, and that “there is really no need for the US or any other foreign actor to get involved”. Palmer conveyed that it was important for the opposition to find a way to take part at the elections, since this was an important part of the democratic process.
Palmer meets with the opposition leaders (VIP, Beta)
Representatives of the part of the opposition which supports the boycott of the elections conveyed to Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer the conditions in which they act and what they are faced with. Leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) Dragan Djilas published on Twitter that he had, at their meeting, presented a gift to Palmer – the headlines of tabloids, with false accusation of him [Djilas]. Djilas said that he had decided to present to all the diplomats with whom he meets the front pages of the pro-regime tabloids so that he would show them the kind of witch-hunt and dictatorship they were being exposed to. “For them to finally understand the dictatorship we are living in and the kind of witch-hunt we are exposed to. I began this morning with Palmer [he speaks Serbian]”, wrote Djilas on Twitter. Djilas also posted the front pages of the tabloids on which his face is replaced by Palmer’s and his name by Palmer’s, and so among the headlines there are “Palmer Preparing Murders”, “Palmer Seeking Chaos before the Holidays”.
Leader of the Democratic Party (DS) Zoran Lutovac said that he had, at the meeting with Palmer, presented standpoints on the necessity of creating conditions for free and honest elections in Serbia. He told Beta agency that he had conveyed to Palmer that it was necessary to create an all-encompassing agreement on election conditions on the basis of the proposals comprised by independent experts on behalf of the protesting citizens, and which could be improved by proposals of organizations such as Cesid, BIRODI, Transparentnost and CRTA and which would be implemented nine months prior to the elections. Lutovac said that it was necessary to secure a mechanism which would control the implementation of that which was agreed. The American Embassy announced on Tuesday that envoy Palmer had meet “with leaders of a broad spectra of political parties in Serbia”.
Vucic discusses EU integration, dialogue with Kosovo and the environment with Fabrizi (Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi, with whom he discussed European integration and the resumption of EU-mediated dialogue with Pristina. A statement quoted Vucic as saying that Serbia was committed to regional cooperation and added that, in that sense, a meeting in Ohrid, North Macedonia, this weekend would define the priorities of cooperation for the purpose of economically strengthening the region. Vucic stressed that Serbia needed to continue its European path and that the EU’s support was in that sense necessary, both in undertaking reforms and in the matter of regional cooperation. Ambassador Fabrizi voiced his full support for Serbia on its road to the EU and stressed the importance of continuing the process of reforms, especially in the area of rule of law. Fabrizi reiterated the importance of securing a climate that was conducive to the swift continuation of reforms with Pristina in the EU-brokered dialogue and the conclusion of a legally binding agreement on normalization as soon as possible.
“Special” American representative coming to Belgrade, sanctions threatening us? (Vecernje Novosti)
Thomas Zarzecki, who heads the US State Department’s Task Force 231, arriving to Belgrade on Friday, Vecernje Novosti reports. According to the newspaper’s source, this task force is in charge of applying sanctions to the Russian security sector and those who cooperate with it.
Zarzecki’s visit, the newspaper said, was scheduled immediately after it was announced in Serbia that we had purchased the Russian air defense system “Pantsir”. The regulation, which he is responsible for enforcing, is formally called The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and provides for the possible penalizing mechanism of any individual, firm, or state, who is found to have deliberately engaged in “significant exchanges” with the military and intelligence sectors of the Russian Federation.
This document also lists companies in the Russian defense industry that are banned to cooperate with under US regulations. Among the “forbidden” companies are several companies with which Serbia has cooperated with or procured military equipment from them, the newspaper writes.
Among others, there is a KBP bureau which designed “Pantsir” and aircraft manufacturer “MiG”, as well as a public company ROE, through which all sales of Russian arms and military equipment is carried out. The “blacklist” also includes the Company “Russian Helicopter”, which operates a well-known institute in Kazan that produces the Mi-17 helicopters we purchased and the Mi-35 (tank killer) that our country ordered, as Vecernje Novosti source reports.
Dacic: Palmer hasn’t mentioned sanctions over Russian military equipment (Danas, FoNet)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, said on Wednesday that he and Matthew Palmer, the US State Department Special Envoy to Western Balkans, “had a fair conversation,” but that their stands were opposite, the FoNet news agency reported. Speaking to the Belgrade Danas daily, Dacic denied Palmer mentioned possible sanctions against Serbia for its purchase of the Russian military equipment. The Minister added Palmer reiterated the US opinion that Serbia should stop its campaign for the withdrawal of Kosovo’s recognition, but that Belgrade would not do that.
Last Friday, speaking to the North Macedonia Alsat TV, Palmer said there was some concern about the deployment of Russian weapons in Serbia, but also about the possibility that the country demanded Russian specific systems which could lead to sanctions against Belgrade.
“We hope that our partners in Serbia are aware of that and that they will be cautious with such transactions.” Dacic later said Serbia was not stupid to buy something that is banned.
Visegrad Group prime ministers disappointed with EU’s negative signal to the Western Balkans (Beta)
The prime ministers of the Visegrad Group countries warned at a meeting ahead of a summit of friends of cohesion in Prague on Nov. 5 that they were disappointed with the EU’s negative signal to the Western Balkans after it did not approve the start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania on membership. They said that this could send the wrong signal and slow down talks with Serbia and Montenegro. “We are all disappointed. However, if we have not started negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, it is important that we speed up talks
with countries that we are already negotiating with. We can compensate or soften this decision by putting negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro into extra high speed. So that there are no problems with further enlargement” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told reporters at a press conference after an introductory meeting of V4 prime ministers.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
HR Inzko addresses UN SC (BHT1)
High Representative Valentin Inzko addressed the UN Security Council (UN SC) on Tuesday and presented his regular semi-annual report on the status of peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), covering the period from April 16 through October 15, 2019.
Inzko told the UN SC that the current blockade of the B&H Parliament is preventing implementation of reforms in B&H which, according to him, can cause an even bigger problem in the future. Inzko further said that politicians in B&H are not working to the benefit of the citizens, noting that this is the main reason why half of the B&H population left B&H. Inzko stressed that formation of the authorities at the B&H and the Federation of B&H level has not been completed, adding that instead of that, politicians in B&H are dealing with demagogy and failure to respect the Constitution of B&H.
“The Republika Srpaska (RS) authorities have announced a session of their National Assembly later this month, in which they will discuss decisions of the High Representative. Senior RS officials have previously questioned the authority of the High Representative and the validity of decisions that established or helped to establish state-level institutions. Some political leaders from the RS have continued to make statements expressing separatist tendencies or predicting the dissolution of B&H, while some Croat representatives seek a territorial rearrangement of the country. At the same time, the biggest Bosniak party again, as in 2015, adopted the party platform advocating the Republic of B&H which was also not helpful under the circumstances” Inzko underlined.
Inzko also warned about the failure to hold local elections in Mostar and about the failure to implement ‘Sejdic-Finci’ ruling, calling such situation impermissible. “Rulings have to be implemented and citizens have to have an opportunity to exercise their rights” Inzko told the UN SC. The High Representative stressed that he will advocate adoption of a law at the B&H level that would sanction denial of genocide in Srebrenica. Inzko emphasized that the rule of law and fight against corruption should be priority of the B&H authorities because research shows that three quarters of the citizens of B&H are dissatisfied with the rule of law and work of judicial institutions in B&H.
The HR expressed regret that the authority formation process has now stretched for over a year, adding that “although the B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM) from the previous mandate continues to function until the appointment of the new CoM, it remains hamstringed by the politically calculated and unnecessary blockade of the B&H Parliament. This means that no new legislation can be adopted, including the state-level budget, which severely limits the country’s ability to effectively deal with emerging issues, such as the migrant crisis.”
He also stressed that the parties remain at odds over fundamental aspects of the Constitution of B&H, with some parties based in the RS challenging the very role and authority of the State thereunder, as well as previously agreed policies and legal commitments towards the NATO. In this regard, the delivery of the opinion of the European Commission in May on the application of B&H for European Union membership, in which it set out 14 key priorities for the authorities of B&H to meet as part of the process towards opening negotiations on accession, should have motivated the political leaders to overcome their differences and start moving on key reforms. Instead, an agreement made in August on principles for the formation of authorities signed by the leaders of the three largest political parties in B&H expired in September without result, leading to even greater upheaval and threats, particularly from SNSD, to withdraw from existing agreements and roll back previous reforms, which, if they were carried out, would represent clear activity aimed at undermining the sovereignty of the State and its key institutions vested with exercising the constitutional responsibilities of B&H. This has also led to significant rollback in terms of the authorities of B&H meeting their obligations under the five objectives and two conditions that must be fulfilled prior to the closure of the OHR.
In September, SNSD leader and Serb member of the Presidency of B&H, Milorad Dodik, threatened to withdraw the RS from the agreements on legal transfers of competencies from the entities to the state signed by the two entities prior to the establishment of the single Armed Forces of B&H (B&H AF), the single High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of B&H and the Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) of B&H, further claiming that other institutions, including the Court of B&H, the Office of the Prosecutor and the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) of B&H, were established in violation of the Constitution of B&H, without the consent of the RS, and should therefore be considered only as interim and not permanent institutions. Dodik warned that all laws and decisions enacted “under pressure of the High Representative” even those approved in the Parliament of B&H, could be declared to be invalid, and he has announced a session of the RS National Assembly (RSNA) for early November to consider such proposals. The HR reminded that the recent proposal of the electoral reform, particularly of Croat political parties, has a goal to achieve legitimate representativeness through which ethnic representatives in B&H Presidency and the Houses of Peoples (HoP) of the Federation of B&H and B&H could be elected only by voters of the same ethnic affiliation.
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya called for the OHR to be shut down, accusing Inzko of lobbying in favor of the European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes in B&H. In this context, he reminded that there is no consensus in B&H on the path towards the NATO. Nebenzya also stressed that not all war crimes have been equally presented. “I would like to use the opportunity to call on all members of the UN SC to read the RS Government’s report on the situation in B&H, which contains important information on other crimes, especially in and around Srebrenica,” Nebenzya was quoted as saying.
US Permanent Representative to the UN Kelly Craft expressed support to Inzko and stressed that the US supports the frameworks of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). “Today’s generations face the challenges that have existed in B&H and the Balkans for decades – nationalist rhetoric and political leaders who take advantage of the fragile political situation in the country for their own financial games, while the youth leaves the country every day, looking for economic opportunities they cannot find in their own country” Craft was quoted as saying.
China’s Permanent Representative to the UN Zhang Jun recognized Inzko’s efforts to improve the political processes in B&H. “We hope he works strictly within the frameworks of his mandate to play an active role in the implementation of the DPA” Jun was quoted as saying.
German representative to the UN said that he was shocked with the fact genocide and crimes are being denied in B&H, and called on Inzko to do something to improve the situation in this field.
French representative said that her country supports EU integration of B&H and the region of Western Balkans, and called for implementation of reforms in sectors of judiciary and economy.
UN Security Council: EUFOR to oversee peace in B&H for another year (Srna)
The UN Security Council has renewed the mandate of the multinational force for the stabilization of peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) – EUFOR, for another 12 months. The UN Security Council member states called on political parties in the country to form the State-level government, refrain from inflammatory rhetoric, moves or unconstructive policies. Following the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2496, the Council called on all sides to prioritize the implementation of comprehensive reforms, in line with B&H’s European perspective. The Security Council also called for a commitment to the full cooperation of all institutions involved in the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Agreement.
Operation Althea, formally the European Union Force Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR), is a military deployment in Bosnia to oversee the military implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In 2007, EUFOR had 600 troops from 22 countries, mostly from the member states of the European Union (EU). There are, however, additional troops from other non-EU member states such as Chile and Turkey. As of March 2019, the total force of EUFOR are at 600 troops from 20 countries, including EU member states and non-EU “Troop Contributing Countries” (TCC) are present within EUFOR (Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom).
B&H HoR Collegium fails; Zvizdic: Blockade in Parliament continues, we were unable to reach consensus (BHT1)
Speaker of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) House of Representatives (HoR) Denis Zvizdic stated on Tuesday that no agreement was reached regarding the work of the B&H Parliament. Namely, participants of Tuesday’s session of the B&H HoR Collegium failed to reach an agreement on formation of parliamentary commissions which would discuss materials that arrived to the B&H Parliament. Zvizdic stressed that stances on disputable issues remain unchanged, recalling that SNSD has not yet delivered the names of its candidates for posts of members of parliamentary commissions which would mean formation of commissions and which would in a way unblock the functioning of the B&H Parliament. Zvizdic called on SNSD to deliver the list of candidates for new B&H HoR’s commissions so that currently blocked funds can be activated.
SNSD replied by saying that this party will not succumb to pressures nor will allow violation and undermining of the Constitution, laws and election will of citizens of Republika Srpska (RS). Head of SNSD Caucus in B&H HoR Stasa Kosarac said that there is no need to submit the names of candidates for the B&H HoR’s commissions. “We are a serious political party and have a serious approach towards appointment of our people to competent bodies of the B&H HoR”, explained Kosarac, adding that SNSD will not deliver names of their candidates until other bodies at B&H level are formed. Kosarac explained that he primarily refers to formation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). “This is when we will know which parties are opposition and which are ruling parties. Only then we can enter the process of appointment of permanent bodies and delegations” stressed Kosarac.
Dodik: I will not be convening meetings on formation of state-level authorities (Glas Srpske)
Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik told daily on Tuesday that he will not be the one to initiate some sort of ‘trilateral meeting’ with election winners among Bosniaks and Croats, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic. Dodik explained that his party’s interest in formation of authorities at the level of state is constantly decreasing. “I am sure that I will not initiate such meeting. I see no reason to make a fool of myself with regards to this issue. I have also said goodbye to my good intention to do something about it (formation of authorities at the level of state). If they think that the Council of Ministers should be established, Chairman of the Presidency of B&H Zeljko Komsic should convene a meeting so that we can appoint the (B&H CoM) Chairman-designate, and then Parliament of B&H should convene a session and our people and people from our coalition will come to session and complete the job in one day. If they think that things should be like this, they should work like this. That is their choice, not mine” said Dodik.
Commenting on the upcoming meeting between representatives of HDZ B&H and SDA, Dodik said that as far as he knows, the meeting will focus on relations in the Federation of B&H and the position of Croat people, as well as about the formation of authorities at the level of the Federation of B&H and B&H, and the issue of elections in Mostar. “When it comes to authorities at the level of B&H, in joint institutions, I believe that we should not be paying too much attention to this issue anymore. Things are completely clear in terms of the lack of will or conditioning after elections” said Dodik.
He reiterated that SNSD is prepared for the appointment of the new Council of Ministers, but underlined that enthusiasm among his party’s members with regards to this issue has dropped significantly. SNSD leader concluded that those who are talking about implementation of laws are actually violating the law dealing with the appointment of the B&H CoM, which clearly says that the Presidency of B&H has an obligation to propose the B&H CoM Chairman-designate no more than 15 days after the formation of the Collegium of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of B&H. “Of course, that it did not happen. But it is their choice, not mine” concluded Dodik.
Head of RS Representation Office in US Kesic: Bosniaks recently organized network of lobbyists to convince US Congress to adopt resolution against RS (RTRS)
Head of the Republika Srpska (RS) Representation Office in the US Obrad Kesic was quoted as saying that Bosniaks recently organized a network of lobbyists to convince the US Congress to adopt a resolution against the RS. Kesic explained that a lobbyist company run by two former diplomats from the US got a task six months ago to help with undermining the RS and introducing sanctions against HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) leader Dragan Covic. He stressed that Bosniak lobbyists are trying to win over US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for this job. “They work quite aggressively. The main goal is for the RS to be condemned and they are trying in different ways to advocate new sanctions against the RS or against individual politicians in the RS” Kesic explained. Kesic deems that a number of obstacles are ahead of the lobbyists, including the views of US President Donald Trump who certainly has in mind that the Bosniak community votes against him. Kesic said that the Bosniak lobby has three goals. Namely, the first goal is to condemn the RS by advocating new sanctions against the RS or some politicians from the RS. The second goal, according to Kesic, is to introduce sanctions against Croat leaders, foremost against Covic, whilst the third aim is to try and draw the Americans into getting involved in solving problems in B&H via US Special Representative for the Balkans Matthew Palmer and the State Department.
EU will not leave Balkans to Turkey and Russia (Vecernji list)
Member of the European Parliament from Croatia Zeljana Zovko, who recently visited the UN General Assembly in New York and met several US officials at the State Department and the US Congress as member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, asked what kind of impressions she got after meetings in New York and Washington, says they had a meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who explained relation towards all global crises that affect Europe.
Asked if the Western Balkans was discussed during the meetings, Zovko says the Western Balkans was mostly discussed during meetings at the State Department and on the Capitol Hill, during which she drew attention to the catastrophic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) because of failure to form new authorities, implement decisions of the Constitutional Court and the blockade of the European integration process. Zovko went on to say that the Americans are disappointed with halting of the EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, and that Americans have provided an insight what they plan to do in solving problems in the Western Balkans. Asked to elaborate on this, Zovko says the focus will be on solving relations between Kosovo and Serbia, however she believes the US is not particularly interested in dealing with global crises, instead it is turning more towards internal issues as it is in the pre-election campaign. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that many analysts say that the US is returning to the region in sense of intervening in relations between Kosovo and Serbia and in B&H, Zovko says she believes it is not the case, arguing that the US is hesitant about it. “They got involved through a representative for this area, but that is not particularly strong involvement. That is a feeling we got from meetings with officials as well as with representatives of ‘think-tank’ organizations” said Zovko.
Asked if it is down to Europe to leave the region to other powers, such as Turkey and the Gulf countries, Zovko replied it will not happen and that Europe will not leave the region to anyone since the EU bears the biggest responsibility for the region. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that a part of the Bosniak parties stated after publication of the EC’s Opinion that B&H should become a unitary state that would abolish rights of peoples, Zovko replied by saying “I would call it political and ethnic interpretations”. She went on to say that Belgium has acknowledged rights of all three communities, and that their communities have their parliaments and government. “All of those are European values” said Zovko adding the most important thing for B&H is to secure equality, peace and coexistence.
Minister Darmanovic: No land has been surrendered to Kosovo (CDM)
I did not take part in any negotiations surrendering Montenegro’s land to anyone as no such negotiations ever happened, said Montenegro’s Foreign Affairs Minister Srdjan Darmanovic at the Parliament of Montenegro, while responding to the statement of the Democratic Front MP Milun Zogovic suggesting that Kosovo officials were publicly speaking about border demarcation negotiations. The Minister said the issue of border demarcation is closed and recalled that border agreement with Kosovo entered into force in June 2018. Minister Darmanovic reiterated that Montenegro and Kosovo have good neighborly relations relying on the principles of mutual trust and joint EU perspective.
Djukanovic, Etgen: Closing the EU door is not a good message (CDM)
President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, received Fernand Etgen, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, whose delegation is paying an official visit to Montenegro. The meeting tackled the enlargement policy and both sides assessed that closing the door is not a good message for countries that are so close.
The President emphasized serious friendship connecting Montenegro and Luxembourg best proved by the frequent and high-quality dialogue between the two countries. He stressed that Luxembourg has continuously defended the interests of Montenegro in Europe, as well as the whole region, which is particularly significant given the importance of the stability of each Western Balkan (WB) country.
Informing Etgen about the opportunities in Montenegro, the President underlined the priorities: further economic development at the level of modern Europe, adoption of a European system of values and quality of life for our citizens. “What attracts us is the idea of Europeanization of the WB and a return to our European home, whose stability and competitiveness we all need to contribute together.”
Speaker of the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies thanked the President for his warm welcome during his first official visit, assessing that Montenegro has changed a lot over the past years, following the restoration of independence, and that its transformation process ran parallel to the country’s integration into international structures and organizations, including NATO.
Republic of North Macedonia
Palmer: We will try to convince the EU to change its position on the Western Balkans before the Zagreb Summit (Nezavisen vesnik)
State Department Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer said that the United States wants the Western Balkans to have a European perspective, and he said he would try to persuade the European Union. “United States supports the European perspective of the Western Balkans and that it will do everything in its power to convince EU to change its position before the meeting of the leaders in Zagreb in May next year” he said.
Conway-Mouret: France will give the green light for North Macedonia’s NATO membership (MIA)
“We understand that the signal that was given was very negative and we do not want this to cause a reaction against France and its position, but this message should not be perceived as a negative action towards Macedonia. France believes that all countries of the region are part of the European continent, but it is necessary for the EU reform on the inside” says Vice-President of the French Senate Helene Conway-Mouret in an interview with Macedonian news agency MIA.
“It is not a veto or rejection by France, because Paris does not want to block the process. The negative decision on the issue was because maybe the present EU is not prepared to accept new member-states and it is necessary to see certain criteria that would help this process” says Conway-Mouret while elaborating the failure of the European Council to decide on giving a date for the start of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.
“What I can say is that there is a need for urgency, an issue that the executive in France is well aware of, in order to make progress as soon as possible and clarify what is expected of North Macedonia and Albania” adds Conway-Mouret.
According to her, ratification of North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol in the French National Assembly, following its endorsement by the Senate, would depend on the institution’s agenda. However, she adds, this will occur shortly and without any problems. “I cannot confirm whether this is going to happen before the NATO summit in London. I can only say that the vote in the National Assembly will not encounter any problems” notes Conway-Mouret.
Zaev’s advisers are jumping ship (Republika)
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev confirmed that a number of his advisers have resigned, including Mersel Bilali and Lence Nikolovska. “They were among my first collaborators and we continue to work together. There was some criticism that I have too many advisers, even though I had a third of those with Gruevski. And now we have a completely different society and they are allocating themselves where they can contribute in the private sector” Zaev said.
He confirmed that Bilali resigned because he is working get a public-sector job for his daughter, and his continued appointment in Zaev’s office could hinder that. Meanwhile Lence Nikolovska, who was once an adviser to imprisoned media mogul Velija Ramkovski as he was trying to style himself an agricultural tribune, will start a new farming oriented media project. The news was received in the public as advisers jumping ship as Zaev faces uncertain chances at the coming April 2020 general elections.
Zaev endorses proposal to radically change the electoral model (Republika)
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev came out in favor a proposal from 15 of his allies in Parliament to amend the electoral code and roll the six electoral districts into one. The proposal also calls for adopting open lists, which allows voters to pick from a list of candidates, but Zaev didn’t endorse this move.
The electoral system is rarely changed and it’s always been done with the approval from all major parties, but Zaev indicated he may endorse a unilateral push when it is largely believed that the time is short until the April 2020 elections to change the voting system.
There is a pronounced risk that such models bring autocratic behavior in the larger parties but also a democratic path to giving a fair chance to everybody, bearing in mind the multi-ethnic character of the country, Zaev said.
It is believed that introducing a single district would allow more smaller parties to enter Parliament, which could help SDSM use the leverage of power to cobble together a coalition. Zaev insisted that his SDSM party would lose the most from such a move, insisting that it is still the largest party in the country, which is doubtful given recent polls. Members of Parliament are currently elected with a proportionate distribution of votes, in six districts, each of which elects 20 representatives. Theoretically, if a small party has broadly distributed votes, it might win a seat in a one district system, but none under the current system.
VMRO-DPMNE, on the other hand, has proposed the introduction of the first past the post system, with 120 small districts, similarly to the system used in the US and the UK. According to the opposition party, this would guarantee that the elected members of Parliament truly care for the interest of their constituents and are accountable to them, and would reduce the centralized power of the large parties.
DUI is not interested in a pre-election coalition with SDSM, Bujar Osmani says (Republika)
Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani dismissed the option that his DUI party would form a pre-election coalition with its governing partner SDSM, which has been eating away that the DUI voting base for years. “I believe that all of us, every political party, need to appear before the voters and win their trust, and afterwards we can talk about coalitions. I do not discount the option to form a coalition with SDSM. I’m opposed to the process of removing the ethnicity from the Albanian political scene, or any political scene in Macedonia” Osmani said.
SDSM party leader Zoran Zaev insisted that he will soon begin talks with DUI to form a pre-election coalition. SDSM made its first major outreach toward Albanian voters in 2016, and its Albanian wing, led by Muhamed Zekiri, badly damaged DUI in those elections. The Ali Ahmeti led party fears it will be swallowed whole if it allows SDSM to continue on this course, as it lost even the symbolically important Aracinovo mayoral race in 2017 to SDSM. The parties formed a pre-election coalition to elect Stevo Pendarovski as President, but Ahmeti said that general elections are a different matter.
SDSM and DUI combined were roughly even in power to VMRO-DPMNE at the first round of the presidential elections earlier this year, conducted before the major racketeering scandals were fully known and before the European Council denied Macedonia its date to open EU accession talks even after the humiliating name change. Zaev’s calls for a pre-election coalition are seen as likely driven by his fear that he will lose to VMRO-DPMNE in a one on one confrontation, but might pull off another draw if he has the DUI votes in his corner from the start.
Osmani, who is in charge of EU accession, also discussed the French veto. He said that Macedonia will be open to the new enlargement methodology announced by French President Emmanuel Macron, but only if it leads toward full EU membership.
Senate hearing blames Dodik for Bosnia’s stalemate (BIRN)
US Senate hearing speakers on Wednesday accused Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik of sabotaging Bosnia’s progress and of acting as Moscow’s proxy – to which Dodik later responded by suggesting the speakers knew little of Bosnia’s reality.
Speakers at the US Senate’s subcommittee on Europe and regional-security cooperation on Wednesday blamed Bosnian Serb representative Milorad Dodik for the current stalemate in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), which was preventing the formation of a new state government and blocking the NATO integration process. At the subcommittee hearing, entitled “Success and Unfinished Business in the Western Balkans”, two separate panels heard from US Western Balkan envoy Matthew Palmer, Janusz Bugajski, from the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, CEPA, and from Majda Ruge, from Johns Hopkins University, among others.
A year after the last elections in B&H, the country still has not formed a central government, mainly because the leaders of the largest parties cannot agree on whether the country should closer ties to NATO by submitting an Annual National Program, ANP.
Most participants in the debate cited Dodik, now the Serbian member of the B&H tripartite presidency, as the main obstacle to the country’s progress. “We are now working on a compromise to form a Bosnian Council of Ministers [state government]. We are trying to pressure the country to send the ANP. But the main obstacle is Milorad Dodik, blocking all that would lead to progress” Palmer said. Palmer accused Dodik of being more concerned about his position in the Serb-led entity of Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS), than about the position of B&H as a whole.
US analyst Bugajski said the US should consider appointing a special representative to focus on the situation in B&H. “B&H has no effective central government, the Serb entity persistently threatens to secede, Croatian nationalists increasingly demand a third entity, and Bosniaks are trapped frustrated in the middle” he said. “Milorad Dodik has threatened to torpedo a number of state-wide reforms, including the formation of joint armed forces, a state court, and police agency while questioning other competencies transferred from the two entities to state-level” Bugajski recalled. He noted that in this climate of paralysis, “the Serb entity has steadily moved from autonomy toward sovereignty and its leaders, with Moscow’s financial and political support, has raised the prospect of separation and unification with Serbia”.
B&H is the strategic center of the Balkan region and that much of the legal architecture for NATO membership is already in place, Majda Ruge noted, adding that “progress is being blocked by Milorad Dodik, who is acting as Russia’s proxy”.
The United States must simultaneously address the issues of Serbia and Kosovo and B&H. B&H must not be left alone to address its issues, it was heard.
Speaking about the wider region, Palmer said that by refusing to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, the European Council had sent an unwelcome message to Serbia and Kosovo that reforms do not necessarily mean the prospect of EU membership.
“The European Council’s inaction last week risks eroding the EU’s credibility, not just in the Western Balkans, but throughout Europe and globally,” Palmer warned. He said that normalizing Belgrade-Pristina relations is one of the top US priorities that have a significant impact on the entire region and transatlantic security.
Dodik responded to the criticism made at his expense in Washington, accusing Palmer of not telling the whole truth. “Had he told the truth why B&H didn’t form a government one year after the election, I don’t think anyone in the Senate would have believed him that one man, one republic, could stand in the way of anything of the sort, let alone in the way of progress” Dodik told the B&H media on Thursday. “It is a pity that he does not listen to his President, who not too long ago said that the future belongs to sovereign and independent nations, which protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and the differences that make each country special and unique. I am not doing more than what US President Donald Trump said” Dodik continued.