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Belgrade Media Report 19 November 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 19 November 2019

• Joksimovic: French proposal doesn’t refer to Serbia (RTS)
• Ruzic: Census for referendum abolished; decision passed by majority of turned out voters (Tanjug/RTV)
• Miroslav Aleksic: We oppose amendments to the Law on Referendum that are aimed at alleviating recognition of Kosovo by the regime (Tanjug/NSPM)
• “Metla”: Abolishment of census for referendum is preparation for amending the Constitution and recognition of Kosovo’s secession (Tanjug/RTV)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• B&H HoR scheduled to hold urgent session on Wednesday to discuss SDS-PDP Caucus’ initiative for amending HoR Rules of Procedure (FTV)
• Radmanovic and Kristo request convening of B&H HoR Collegium’s session to adopt proposal of decision on appointment of HoR’s permanent commissions (RTRS)
• HNS marks 28th anniversary of establishment of so-called Herzeg-Bosnia (N1)
• Markovic: Montenegro puts quality before speed (CDM)
• Omeragic: Bosniak Party will cooperate solely with progressive parties (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Thimonier: We expect reactions to non-paper from EU member states, rule of law a priority (Republika)
• Dimitrov hopes the French proposal will lead to “EU accession Olympics” (Republika)
• German MEP McAllister calls on EU member states to correct their mistake and approve EU accession talks with Macedonia and Albania (Republika)
• Ruci: NATO’s perspective on security more advanced than that of EU (Radio Tirana)


• The French have got it wrong: An eccentric counterproposal (European Western Balkans)

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Joksimovic: French proposal doesn’t refer to Serbia (RTS)


Serbian Minister for EU Integration Jadranka Joksimovic has told the RTS “Oko” (Eye) broadcast that Serbia will open at least one more chapter in December out of the four, for the time being, prepared chapters and assessed that the French proposal for EU enlargement doesn’t refer to Serbia because we are not a candidate for opening negotiations but an accessing country. “It is important that we open at least one chapter, while I think we can open even two. That is not a grand success, but dynamics that shows we are persistently working, that we will have patience and partnership, that we are not giving up the reform process,” said Joksimovic. This way we are sending a message that we are a reliable partner, she says, so let the EU also send a message that it is a reliable partner, to stick to what had been agreed and signed, and for rules not to be amended in the course of the process. According to her, the French proposal for EU enlargement for Western Balkan countries could be difficult to apply on the negotiating process of both Serbia and Montenegro as the accessing countries. She says the document refers to the candidates such as North Macedonia and Albania, or potential candidates B&H and so-called Kosovo. Joksimovic says that Serbia has a clear negotiating framework that was adopted by 28 EU member states, including France. She says if one would view from the angle that the French proposal is excellent and adopted and that it refers to Serbia, the question is how and who would measure and in what way and with what criteria in what phase are we now according to the new methodology. She reminds that Serbia has already passed the methodology revision and that Serbia is the only one on which the principle was applied that the negotiations need to begin with the opening of the most difficult Chapters 23 and 24 and to end with their closure. “The criteria that these chapters are suspensive – meaning that if there is no progress other chapters are not opened – was introduced for the first time for Serbia,” she said. She says she doesn’t know how it would look in the part of the document that states that the criteria would be tightened when we already have this principle on the example with Serbia. “I don’t know how would it be possible additionally to tighten the criteria at that level because this mechanism already exists,” said Joksimovic.


Ruzic: Census for referendum abolished; decision passed by majority of turned out voters (Tanjug/RTV)


The success of the referendum in Serbia will no longer require the turnout above fifty percent of the registered voters, but the decision of the majority of voters who took part in it will be adopted, as envisaged by the draft Law on Referendum and the people’s initiative, whereby the deadline for collecting signatures for the people’s initiative is extended from seven to ninety days, Tanjug reports. Serbian Minister of State Administration and Local Self-Government Branko Ruzic said that the existing Law on Referendum was restrictive, outdated and inconsistent with the Constitution in a series of it solutions and limits the use of democratic mechanisms guaranteed by the highest legal act. “The current Law on Referendum and People’s Initiative was passed in 1994 and minimally amended in 1998, but the implementation of a number of solutions of that law has shown significant shortcomings in practice, which is why the referendum and people’s initiative are rarely used,” Ruzic said at the draft Law on Referendum roundtable. Assistant Minister Sasa Mogic said that one of the key inconsistencies of the current Law on Referendum with the Constitution is the provision that envisages an  above-half turnout of the registered voters for the success of a referendum. Article 203, paragraph 8 of the Constitution envisages that a decision to change the highest legal act is made if it is voted for by the majority of the voters who take part in it, without setting a lower limit, he said. The public debate on the draft law will last until 22 November, and the previous two were held in Nis and Novi Sad.


Miroslav Aleksic: We oppose amendments to the Law on Referendum that are aimed at alleviating recognition of Kosovo by the regime (Tanjug/NSPM)


The People’s Party (NS) most harshly opposes the announced amendments to the Law on Referendum because the goal of the regime is to make it easier to recognize Kosovo and Metohija as an independent state, NS vice president Miroslav Aleksic stated. “The draft proposal of the new Law on referendum and the people’s initiative that envisages that referendum is successful even if less than 50 percent of voters turn out is a way for the authorities to verify its decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence more easily,” he said in a written statement.

“At this moment, when there is no functional parliament or a normal political environment, as well as secured freedom of expression, and when pressure is exerted on citizens, the condition of

50 percent of registered voters is one of the few barriers against complete arbitrariness of the authorities,” Aleksic added. “By removing this barrier, the authorities are opening the door to implementing their decision to recognize Kosovo and Metohija,” said Aleksic.


“Metla”: Abolishment of census for referendum is preparation for amending the Constitution and recognition of Kosovo’s secession (Tanjug/RTV)


Member of the Presidency of the “Metla” (Broom) Movement Milos Jovanovic has stated that this movement finds unacceptable the abolishment of the census for the referendum, envisaged with the draft Law on Referendum and the people’s initiative. Jovanovic said in a press statement that this movement opposes the adoption of the new law because, he claims, it is in the function of the planned amendment of the Constitution and the preparation of the framework for recognizing Kosovo’s secession. Noting that it is absolutely unacceptable to abolish the current law, which envisages that a referendum is successful if more than half of citizens turns out to vote, Jovanovic says that this way the referendum is made pointless as a form of direct participation of citizens in passing the most important decisions, such as amendment of borders of Serbia and the Constitution. Jovanovic opines that the explanation of the proponents of the draft Law – that the requirement of the above-half turnout is being erased so the new law would be harmonized with the Constitution – doesn’t hold, because the Constitution doesn’t prescribe the required number of turnout voters for a referendum to be valid, but merely indicates that a decision is made by a majority of turnout voters.




B&H HoR scheduled to hold urgent session on Wednesday to discuss SDS-PDP Caucus’ initiative for amending HoR Rules of Procedure (FTV)


The Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) House of Representatives (HoR) received on Monday morning a request for holding of an urgent session of the B&H HoR, which would have only one item on the agenda, namely changes and amendments to the B&H HoR Rules of Procedure. The request has been signed by 18 representatives from SDS, PDP, SDP, SBB B&H, DF. The mentioned session was scheduled for 20 November. The request for holding this session was not signed by representatives of SNSD, SDA and HDZ B&H. SDA previously said it does not oppose the SDS-PDP initiative, while SNSD called upon these two parties to withdraw the proposal. Speaker of the B&H HoR Denis Zvizdic (SDA) convened the session at the initiative signed by 18 representatives from SDS, PDP, SDP B&H, SBB B&H, and DF. The proposal of the SDS-PDP Caucus has thus entered the parliamentary procedure in the B&H Parliament despite the fact that the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament adopted a conclusion proposing that such a document is unacceptable. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic stated that the aim of the SDS-PDP Caucus’ proposal of amendments to the Rules of Procedure is to unblock work of the B&H parliament and to prevent future blockades in terms of appointment of members of parliamentary commissions. “I believe we can obtain the support of at least 27 representatives and perhaps even more – 28 representatives,” Sarovic underlined, and said that this proposal does not include any discrimination. “After the elections, there will be no discrimination – ethnic, entity or any other kind. Everyone can participate in that and form the commission bodies according to their power in the parliament” the SDS leader specified. On the other hand, Head of the SNSD Caucus in the B&H HoR Stasa Kosarac assessed that holding of the urgent session on this matter is not justified. Kosarac confirmed that SNSD is against the SDS-PDP Caucus’ initiative and accused both SDS and PDP of having ignored the RS’ stances for the past five years. Kosarac reminded that the RS parliament concluded that RS’ representatives in the B&H institutions should not launch any initiatives to amend the Rules of Procedure of the HoR. “In this way, they confirmed that they are a part of that perfidious political game where the conductor bat belongs to Bosniaks and that they only carry out those policies with the aim to derogate institutions of the RS,” Kosarac noted. Commenting on the B&H HoR’s upcoming session, SNSD leader and Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik told that it is clear now what SDS and PDP do in Sarajevo, warning that their activities are very dangerous for the RS. He stressed that it is not surprising that Bosniak parties gathered around the rules of procedure that is detrimental to the RS. According to Dodik, the decision to amend the rules of procedure is a one-man decision passed by Sarovic, reminding that Sarovic has said earlier that the RS parliament’s conclusion are not binding for him.


Radmanovic and Kristo request convening of B&H HoR Collegium’s session to adopt proposal of decision on appointment of HoR’s permanent commissions (RTRS)


Deputy speakers of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Nebojsa Radmanovic (SNSD) and Borjana Kristo (HDZ B&H) submitted on Monday a request for convening a session of the B&H HoR Collegium to adopt the proposal of a decision on appointment of members of permanent commissions of the HoR. Radmanovic and Kristo reminded that appointment of members of permanent commissions was included in agenda of the HoR’s second session, on 17 January, but that the session did not take place since not all Caucuses had submitted their proposals of commission members.


HNS marks 28th anniversary of establishment of so-called Herzeg-Bosnia (N1)


The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) organized a formal ceremony in Mostar on Monday evening marking the 28th anniversary of establishment of so-called Herzeg-Bosnia. This anniversary sparks opposing views in B&H, where part of the public – primarily HNS – perceives it as an anniversary that marks survival of Croat people in B&H and as being legitimate, while others perceive it as denial of the ICTY’s verdict in the case ‘Jadranko Prlic et al.’ that represents a para-state creation. The delegation of HNS laid wreaths at the memorial to fallen Croat veterans in Mostar. Leader of HDZ B&H and HNS Dragan Covic said that, when it comes to this anniversary, November 18 represents an important date for B&H and Croat people in particular. Covic noted that the Croat community of Herzeg-Bosnia contributed to the defense and integrity of B&H. “We can testify that institutions of Herzeg-Bosnia in executive, legislative and political authorities were the basis for establishment of B&H, too, and we still cherish many elements of Herzeg-Bosnia” Covic noted. The HNS leader added that “there are many” in B&H who have not achieved their wartime vision and goals and who comment Herzeg-Bosnia in that context. HDZ B&H issued a statement noting that the ICTY did not convict Herzeg-Bosnia but rather officials in the case ‘Prlic et al’. According to HDZ B&H, no one should ever agree with the qualification of the joint criminal enterprise (JCE) that the ICTY defined in this verdict. On the other hand, SDA also issued a statement on the occasion of this anniversary assessing that it represents a harsh offense to families of victims of crimes committed under the Herzeg-Bosnia. Representative of the Association of Prisoners of War (PoWs) in Mostar Emir Hajdarevic noted that Herzeg-Bosnia is a creation based on ethnic cleansing. “It is a slap in the face of the civilization, not just the victims. It is unprecedented in the world to celebrate such a criminal project, ruled as such by courts,” Hajdarevic added. SDA also reminded that The Hague Tribunal determined that Herzeg-Bosnia was the JCE established with the goal to create ethnically clear Croat entity and merge it with Croatia. SDA also reminded that the official stance of the EU and UN is that the rulings of The Hague Tribunal must be respected and that it would be justified to mark the day of abolition of para-state creations instead of marking the day of creation of those.


Markovic: Montenegro puts quality before speed (CDM)


While talking about the accession to the European Union (EU), Montenegro’s Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, said that Montenegro had always been advocating for the “quality before speed” principle. “In the past seven years, we have demonstrated that difficult and demanding reforms contributed to the improvement of quality of life, and we have always been aware that even more demanding reforms lie ahead,” said Markovic at the press conference held after the meeting with his Maltese counterpart, Joseph Muskat, who is in his official to Montenegro.

As PM pointed out, Union’s active presence throughout negotiation process and its commitment to the Western Balkans are the best way towards long-term development and prosperity of the region. Montenegro’s and Malta’s prime ministers agreed that the two countries cherished stable political and economic relations and that they shared opinion on WB countries’ European aspirations. “We appreciate Malta’s continuous and generous support for the reforms and adoption of European standards. We appreciate that Malta shares its own experience. We are thankful for the understanding and respect for the efforts Montenegro devotes to the EU integration process,” Markovic said. Muskat reiterated his country’s support for the Montenegro’s European integration path. “As far as your European aspirations are concerned, Malta has never brought them into question. We fully support Montenegro’s EU membership and we acknowledge great progress you’ve made,” said Muskat. Markovic said the decision of the European Council to reject opening membership talks with North Macedonia was disappointing. “After this disappointing decision was rendered, I have emphasized our commitment to fulfilling our tasks with greater determination. For us, European perspective has no alternative,” he said. Muskat agrees the decision was wrong. “We failed to reach an agreement, provide one clear European perspective for our friends in North Macedonia and Albania. It was a wrong decision. Hopefully, the European Council will revise it,” Muskat said.


Omeragic: Bosniak Party will cooperate solely with progressive parties (CDM)


When it comes to the 2020 election, the Bosniak Party (BS) is open for cooperation with all progressive parties that do not want to return Montenegro to the past, a spokesperson of the BS, Adel Omeragic, claimed in an interview for CDM. After Montenegro joined NATO, he added, it is important to keep up with the EU integration. However, he made a point of being clear about one thing: “I will repeat once again: we are ready to cooperate with progressive forces, but not with those who, even today, almost 25 years after the Srebrenica genocide, do not admit that genocide took place, despite the Hague Court’s unambiguous verdict. Also, those who say that they would build the memorial to Pavle Djurisic, an associate of fascists and a Chetnik criminal, exclude themselves from any cooperation with us.” The Bosniak Party is fully ready for the next round of the elections in Montenegro, according to Omeragic.


Thimonier: We expect reactions to non-paper from EU member states, rule of law a priority (Republika)


France first expects reactions to the non-paper from all EU member states, but will also attentively listen to the remarks from the Macedonian side as well, French Ambassador Christian Thimonier said on Monday, answering a journalist question after meeting with Constitutional Court President Sali Murati. The French non-paper, dedicated to the new methodology in the negotiation process, as Thimonier pointed out, has already been delivered to all EU member states, and following the instructions that the French ambassador received from the French government, the document has also been delivered to the Macedonian government.

“In fact, these are the French opinions sent to all EU member states and I have delivered them to the Macedonian authorities following the instructions of my Government and we expect the reactions of the member states first, but we will also be very careful and hear the remarks from the Macedonian side,” said Thimonier. He announced that he would meet Monday with Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Affairs Bujar Osmani, who he said would hear about his thoughts on the French document, and announced meetings with other officials in the country.

However, Thimonier pointed out, the most important thing is respect and functioning of the rule of law and added that it is a matter that everyone agrees on.


Dimitrov hopes the French proposal will lead to “EU accession Olympics” (Republika)


Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said that the French non-paper proposal to alter the methodology of EU accession negotiations could be beneficial to Macedonia, as it promises that full EU membership is it end goal. Dimitrov was speaking at a joint press conference with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, and compared the accession talks as they are now being reimagined, with “accession Olympics”. “We would like to have conditions for an even competition with all the Western Balkan countries,” Dimitrov said. Dimitrov also welcomed the French proposal that each success in the enlargement talks would unlock structural funds for the candidate countries, saying that it would show tangible benefits to the Balkan citizens. Linde also welcomed the initiative to reform the EU accession process, but said she is not prepared to discuss the French proposal in detail.


German MEP McAllister calls on EU member states to correct their mistake and approve EU accession talks with Macedonia and Albania (Republika)


German member of the European Parliament David McAllister, who sits on the AFET Foreign Committee, called on the member states to correct the mistake from the latest European Council and to approve the opening of EU accession talks with Macedonia and Albania. McAllister pointed to the coming meeting of the European People’s Party in Zagreb as a venue where the conservative parties will be able to discuss the decision, which was blocked mainly by France, and how it can be altered. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, McAllister said that it is good that Croatia is holding the presidency of the European Council and could help its fellow Balkan countries. Still, Croatia has poor relations with Serbia, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has cancelled his participation at the EPP meeting, which could lead to a divided decision on the Balkans.


Ruci: NATO’s perspective on security more advanced than that of EU (Radio Tirana)


Speaker of parliament Gramoz Ruci has again spoken about the European Union’s stance on enlargement with the Western Balkan countries. Present at the conference “NATO Security Challenges Versus Technology,” he emphasized that the North Atlantic Alliance’s perspective on security is more advanced than that of the EU. “NATO’s security perspective is certainly much clearer and more advanced than that of the EU, proved by the fact that many countries in the region today are members of NATO but do not yet have a clear perspective on the EU. Serbia and Montenegro have opened negotiations but are not moving ahead. Albania and North Macedonia were refused opening negotiations at the EC meeting on October 17th, whereas Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have an even more unclear perspective. Naturally NATO has its problems and may not be absolutely perfect, but its vision and security investments are undermined by these confusing EU attitudes.” Ruci further said that not all Balkan countries have a Western vision like Albania. According to him, this approach makes the region weaker.

“I do not think that the EC’s refusal to open negotiations will be directly followed by increased Russian and Chinese influence. But we must admit that not all countries in the region have the same Western vision as Albania. Some of our neighbors are less immune to non-Western influences, which makes our region weaker and more vulnerable to them,” he added.




The French have got it wrong: An eccentric counterproposal (European Western Balkans, by Nikolaos Tzifakis, 19 November 2019)


France’s assessment that EU enlargement has not been functioning for a while is not wrong. However, its proposal outlined in the leaked non-paper would exacerbate rather than resolve enlargement’s functional problems. This is because Paris evades to deal with the two elephants in the room. The first is the inconsistency and obscurity of the accession process. EU aspirant members should comply with two set of criteria. One the one hand, we have the technical requirements linked to the full adoption of the acquis communautaire. Compliance with these terms is an arduous but measurable process that concerns the transfer of a vast amount of EU norms into the legal/bureaucratic order of candidate members. One the other, there are the political requirements, whose content is open-ended and not necessarily confined to the framework of the Copenhagen criteria. EU members have routinely exploited accession negotiations to settle favorably open issues with candidate members. Technical and political requirements are not communicated to EU aspirant members at different instances, nor are they treated differently in terms of EU decision-making. Member-states can raise issues at any stage of the enlargement process, whereas EU institutions take every single decision concerning the advancement of a country’s path to membership with exactly the same procedures (presupposing the unanimous approval of all member states). As a result, accession negotiations is not a predictable, let alone a merit-based process. Whether an EU aspirant would advance towards membership increasingly depends on the context of European decision-making as well. The French proposal correctly points out to the need of increasing the verifiability of progress with the introduction of means from other policies such as the ‘justice scoreboard’ and the ‘European semester’. However, it does not tell anything about the more than seventy member-state opportunities to veto the process and introduce unrelated political requirements. As a result, inconsistency and obscurity is here to stay. The second elephant is the length of the process. No policy circle lasting 20-25 years is optimal. We talk a lot about enlargement fatigue. What about accession fatigue? How can we reasonably expect Western Balkan leaderships to carry out painful concessions on national matters when the reward is not expected to arrive before some years according to the most optimistic scenario? What is the value of European promises whose realization is nowhere visible in the horizon? The French idea of segmenting the accession negotiations process into seven steps promises to create much-needed interim benchmarks and rewards. However, to the extent that candidates should graduate from one step to move to another, accession negotiations would be slowed down rather than accelerated. This is because the possibility of negotiations advancing simultaneously on chapters located at different steps would be eliminated from the picture. The rescue of EU enlargement policy requires a different approach that deals directly with the two elephants in the room. Technical and political requirements should be clearly separated during the accession process. The transfer of EU rules and norms is a very demanding and lengthy process whose beginning should not be linked to stringent conditions. If the EU is a normative power, what is the purpose of setting itself obstacles to the spread of its norms? Ideally, EU norm diffusion should radiate well beyond the framework of enlargement policy and the transfer of EU norms should be available on demand to any country around the world that is willing to internalize them. In fact, if we relabel EU accession chapters to “EU norms” chapters, their potential geographical reach would be immediately increased and EU members would not be scared of opening this type of negotiations with third countries. In that case, if the technical requirements are disassociated from the political requirements in the process, EU members would not need to maintain a strong hold on their veto power at the stage of opening chapter negotiations. Decisions on such institutional steps could be taken by qualified majority and, thus, the corresponding negotiations might be transformed into a fairer and more predictable technocratic process. Once the process of norm transfer is successfully completed, the political requirements of accession negotiations would appear in sight. EU members could at that moment decide unanimously whether they assess that chapter negotiations have been successfully concluded and whether they concede to the full accession of any EU-norm-compatible aspirant member-state. At this stage, the high level of preparedness of candidate countries would contribute to the diminution of reservations in EU members. From that point forward, the EU accession process would only take a few years and any intractable political question would have greater chances of getting resolved efficiently as concessions would be observably linked to the imminent reward of EU membership. In such a scenario, the EU conflict resolution power would arguably be at its best. Interestingly, such a radical change of policy-making does not require a revision of the EU Treaty. In sharp contrast to the complexity and the sophistication of the entire process, the operation of the enlargement process is thinly described in the Treaty of the European Union. Moreover, such a policy change would take into consideration the sensitivities of EU members. Maintaining more than 35 vetoes (on closing EU norm chapters) does not render member-state concerns irrelevant. Still, these vetoes could be raised at a time in which EU aspirant members have been substantially transformed and in which their commitment to EU accession has been unambiguously demonstrated. In addition, France’s demand to focus presently on the deepening of EU integration would be sufficiently addressed. While the Western Balkan countries would be given the opportunity to vigorously move on with the adoption of the entire corpus of EU rules and norms, their EU accession would leave from the top of the European political agenda. This is not necessarily negative to the extent that the debate in Europe on enlargement is currently dominated by negative stereotypes that empower opposition to its advancement. More importantly, the policy change proposed here would not be demoralizing for any of the six Western Balkan countries, which are actually at different stages of the accession process. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, the two laggards, would be given the opportunity to commence negotiations for the transfer of the acquis without any further delay. This is something beyond their most optimistic current expectations. Albania and North Macedonia would also commence immediately negotiations that would be predictable and fair and would not be jeopardized by a more or less sudden change of mood in any EU member-state. This is a great certitude, missing at the present from the process. Crucially, while the proposed revision focuses on process, it does not affect policy orientation. Both North Macedonia and Albania have been unanimously proclaimed candidate members and this is not put here into question. The same goes for Serbia and Montenegro, which would be instantly given the chance to open all remaining chapters. In Serbia’s case, the resolution of the Kosovo question would be dealt later on, at a time in which its EU membership would be in sight. Arguably, at that stage, the EU negotiation power would be at its maximum, while a compromise would be easier to sell domestically in Serbia. To conclude, the EU enlargement policy desperately needs a revision. Still, if the policy stalemate is meant to end, changes should concentrate on the departure of the two elephants from the room.

Nikolaos Tzifakis

Associate Professor at the University of the Peloponnese. Research Associate at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies. Member of Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG).

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