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Belgrade Media Report 21 November

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LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic: Vucic orders military agency to probe potential spy scandal (Blic/Tanjug)
• Drecun: A series of hybrid operations conducted against Serbia (RTS)
• Ruzic: New regulations on referendum are only harmonization with Constitution (RTS)
• Gojkovic: Progress in dialogue on election conditions’ improvement (TV 02/Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Representatives in B&H HoR adopt changes to B&H HoR Rules of Procedure (N1)
• Document that the Presidency of B&H will send to Brussels is not ANP; Ambassador Ivantsov claims Program of Reforms of B&H is not ANP and is not related to MAP (ATV)
• Russian Ambassador Ivantsov: Russia welcomes B&H Presidency’s decision to appoint Tegeltija as B&H CoM Chairman (RTRS)
• Dzaferovic informs Merkel that B&H Presidency reached agreement on Tuesday (FTV)
• Kocijancic: New authorities in B&H will have to deal with key priorities identified in European Commission’s Opinion (Dnevni list)
• HNS welcomes agreement on authority formation (Dnevni avaz)
• Bosniak Caucus in RS CoP invokes VNI on conclusions of RS parliament special session (BHT1/Fena)
Croatia
• Tusk announces fight against populism in Europe (Hina)
• Plenkovic meets Chancellor Merkel (HRT1)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Mickoski at the EPP summit: Macedonia belongs in the EU (Republika)
• Oliver Spasovski will replace Zaev as interim Prime Minister in January (Republika)
Albania
• US Embassy: Take into consideration the Venice Commission recommendations (Radio Tirana)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Kremlin certain incident involving Serbian officer won’t affect ties with Belgrade (TASS)
• Propaganda video of NATO’s smoke and mirrors over Kosovo hides some inconvenient truths (RT)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: Vucic orders military agency to probe potential spy scandal (Blic/Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has ordered the Military Security Agency (VBA) to investigate a potential espionage scandal involving Russian spies recruiting Serbian agents, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said Wednesday. “I have spoken with President Aleksandar Vucic, he has ordered the VBA to investigate the case. We still do not have all the information, but if this all turns out to be true, it will be a serious issue and a problem for us,” Brnabic told Blic. She said that Vucic, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Serbian Armed Forces, had called a meeting to reveal the results of the probe. Earlier, the Presidency of Serbia announced for Thursday a meeting between Vucic and Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, but it remains unclear who has initiated it and whether it is related to the case. Blic has reported that a YouTube video published on 17 November showed Russian diplomat and military intelligence officer Georgiy Kleban handing money to a man alleged to be a senior Serbian official. According to the report, the footage has been confirmed as authentic, including by Bulgarian investigative journalist Hristo Grozev.

 

Drecun: A series of hybrid operations conducted against Serbia (RTS)

 

The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has told the Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) press review that the case of the publishing of a video with a Russian intelligence officer allegedly giving money to a Serbian agent, shows that a series of hybrid operations had been conducted against Serbs for a long time, with the aim of influencing the foreign and internal policy of the state. He notices that one knows a little and that there are many unchecked issues. The question is who is the author of the video, what service, which is not Serbian, is prepared to conduct such an operation …It would be interesting to find out whether the Serbian services knew about the case since at issue is an old video, says Drecun. Commenting media allegations that the video was aired by the US following fifty attempts thwarted by the Russian service, Drecun says one can only speculate. However, he points out that the Bulgarian investigative journalist seems to be standing behind this publishing.

He reminds that Bulgaria had recently harshly reacted to the presence of the S-400 system at the joint drills of Serbia and Russia and points out that the story can inflict damage on Russian-Serbian interests. He points to yesterday’s reaction of the Atlantic Council in Bulgaria, which passed quite unnoticeably and opines it is directly connected to this topic. “They warned Bulgarian officials that a real hybrid operation is being conducted by Russia on the territory of this country, with the aim to preparing terrorist attacks,” notes Drecun. He reminds that he had earlier presented to the public that a masked intelligence center was established in Skopje, where there are also members of services of neighboring countries, such as North Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria. The case shows that the case is timed before the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is necessary for Serbia to upgrade its mechanism for defending from this, concluded Drecun.

 

Ruzic: New regulations on referendum are only harmonization with Constitution (RTS)

 

The Constitution is the highest legal document and it states that the referendum decision is valid if the majority of turned out voters voter, Serbian Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Branko Ruzic told RTS. He said that the novelties in the draft law on referendum and people’s initiative were envisioned by the Serbian Constitution from 2006, and that only now these matters are being put into a law. “Those who are concerned and are turning this into a political issue, who are talking about high treason should read it first,” said Ruzic.

He stated that the public debate on the Draft Law will end on 22 November, and, according to him, it has been commended for having clearly defined deadlines, for addressing the court protection problems and making certain decisions binding, for extending the deadline for people’s initiatives from seven to 90 days, and similar. Ruzic recalled that to this day, Serbia has had three referendums (1992, 1998, and 2006) and that they had all been proposed by the Serbian parliament, and not the citizens.

 

Gojkovic: Progress in dialogue on election conditions’ improvement (TV 02/Beta)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic assessed that progress had been accomplished in the inter-party dialogue about the improvement of election conditions, and announced that the parliament would debate on three draft laws in that field already in December. “A lot has been done. We have the Serbian government’s Working Group, headed by Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, which is working on the improvement of election conditions, there are three bills in the Parliament that will be on the agenda already in December, training courses are being held, we have held a public debate about the role of the media,” the parliament speaker said in an interview to TV O2.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Representatives in B&H HoR adopt changes to B&H HoR Rules of Procedure (N1)

 

The Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) House of Representatives (HoR) held an urgent session in Sarajevo on Wednesday and adopted amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the HoR. The amendments were proposed by the PDP-SDS caucus in the HoR and they defined a manner of formation of parliamentary commissions in a way that this process cannot be hindered by caucuses that fail to submit their list of commission members. This initiative was a response to SNSD’s previous refusal to provide its candidates for the parliamentary commissions during this entire year. SDS leader and representative in the B&H HoR Mirko Sarovic explained that, in case some party or caucus in the HoR fails to nominate its representatives in the parliamentary commissions, then “a Collegium formed of three representatives” would decide on that. Sarovic added that, if the Collegium refuses to complete formation of the parliamentary commissions, then commissions would be temporarily formed based on the proposals of caucuses that provided their candidates. MP of PDP in the B&H HoR Branislav Borenovic said that nothing was happening for 11 months and 300 various items of the agenda were waiting in party caucuses.

Representatives from rank of SNSD and ‘United Srpska’ assessed that a discussion on this matter was entirely unnecessary. Head of the Serb caucus in the HoR and ‘United Srpska’ leader Nenad Stevandic stated: “Prior to this session, the SNSD Caucus and the Serb Caucus submitted the proposals of members for the commissions. So, this session only served for the purpose of reducing the capacity of Republika Srpska (RS), which will now be represented by less than one third of members in the commission, on a temporary basis.” SDA representatives also supported the proposal, saying work of the HoR and the parliamentary commissions will be improved.

“If in the future, some caucus tries to block the parliament’s work by not submitting names for the commissions, that will not be allowed and the commissions will be formed regardless of such attempts,” said DF MP in the B&H HoR Dzenan Djonlagic. The proposal for changes to the Rules of Procedures was adopted with a thin majority, including the entity majority. MPs of SNSD and HDZ B&H voted against the procedure. Deputy Speaker of the B&H HoR Borjana Kristo (HDZ B&H) said that she is sad about the fact that the B&H parliament did not work for a year, but she does not understand why the session was so urgent. MP of SNSD in the B&H HoR Stasa Kosarac said that the B&H Presidency was blocking their work for 11 months because they were unable to agree on the Chairman of the CoM. Kosarac emphasized that election results have not been implemented for 11 months and that the election will of citizens has been denied in B&H. Kosarac added that SNSD has not been blocking formation of authorities. He warned that amending of the RoP in urgent procedure represents political adventure. Kosarac underlined that despite of a very clear stance and conclusions of the RS parliament not to launch the procedure of amending the B&H HoR’s RoP, SDS and PDP ignored the stance of the RS parliament again and launched the initiative for the urgent session of the B&H HoR, adding that they did it three days after all conditions defined by the RoP have been met, i.e. after all political subjects delivered lists of candidates for the B&H HoR’s commissions.

Reporter commented that SNSD has been warning for days that initiative of SDS and PDP is detrimental for the RS, i.e. that if these amendments were adopted the RS would not have protective mechanism in the B&H HoR and it would be possible to appoint a Bosniak from the RS to Serb positions in the B&H HoR’s commission. Despite of this, SDS and PDP resumed to insist on their amendments. Serb caucus in the B&H HoR assessed that the goal of SDS-PDP initiative was to reduce capacities of the RS in joint institutions of B&H.

 

Document that the Presidency of B&H will send to Brussels is not ANP; Ambassador Ivantsov claims Program of Reforms of B&H is not ANP and is not related to MAP (ATV)

 

Program of Reforms of B&H has been harmonized and analyzed on Tuesday at meeting between members of B&H Presidency and ambassadors of the Quint countries (UK, US, Germany, Italy and France). ATV learns from sources close to diplomatic circles that member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik insisted that the adopted document cannot be interpreted as the Annual National Program (ANP). According to ATV’s sources, Dodik asked members of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic whether the document they are discussing is the ANP. Allegedly, there are written evidence Dodik asked for this. Dodik insisted that Komsic and Dzaferovic, as well as the Quint ambassadors should confirm the Program of Reforms of B&H is not the ANP. According to ATV, ambassadors who met with the Presidency members stated that they consulted with NATO and that this military alliance will accept the reform program from B&H which activates nothing and does not change the status of NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for B&H. This was clearly confirmed by US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson. Ambassadors explained that the Program of Reforms defines cooperation between B&H and NATO acceptable for everyone. Also, Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov confirmed on Wednesday that the document the Presidency of B&H will send to Brussels is not the ANP. He added that this document is not related to the NATO MAP for B&H.

 

Russian Ambassador Ivantsov: Russia welcomes B&H Presidency’s decision to appoint Tegeltija as B&H CoM Chairman (RTRS)

 

Commenting on Russia’s stance on unblocking of formation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM), Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov said that Russia welcomes the B&H Presidency’s decision to appoint SNSD official Zoran Tegeltija as the CoM Chairman-designate, even though more than a year has passed since the general elections. Ivantsov noted that the appointment was delayed due to involvement of “certain issues that were not connected to that process”. Ivantsov expressed hope that the CoM will soon be formed, adding that this should also unblock work of the B&H parliament. Ivantsov pointed out that formation of the CoM and unblocking the work of the B&H parliament is important “as there is a series of interesting initiatives” on inter-parliamentary cooperation with Russia that await discussion. Asked to provide Russia’s stance on the Program of Reforms of B&H that the B&H Presidency adopted, Ivantsov stressed that the B&H Presidency has passed an important decision. “This document reflects all internal stances within B&H, which is that there is no unity when it comes to NATO membership. As far as we understand, it is not connected to further NATO integration of the country. It is not the Annual National Program (ANP) and it is by no mean connected to the Membership Action Plan (MAP),” the Russian Ambassador noted. The ambassador specified that, according to Russia, it is good that some further steps related to cooperation with NATO will be under control of the B&H Presidency. Commenting on work of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) in B&H, Ivantsov assessed that the High Representative (HR) has no useful role in B&H. Ivantsov elaborated on his opinion, by noting: “The HR should promote and encourage processes of stabilization, compromise, interethnic dialogue, equal development of all parts of B&H, and solving of disputable issues. He did not have a useful role in that. We consider that the HR of the international community (IC) in B&H has not been entirely a representative of the whole IC. He tends to choose sides, which is not fair and thus has a negative role.” The Russian Ambassador considers that the time has come for the OHR to close. When it comes to the PIC, the Russian Ambassador considers that the IC should have “some positive role” in B&H, to encourage positive processes and contribute to dialogue. “It is not good for the IC to interfere in internal issues of B&H,” he added.

 

Dzaferovic informs Merkel that B&H Presidency reached agreement on Tuesday (FTV)

 

Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic talked to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Zagreb on Wednesday. Dzaferovic informed Merkel on the current situation in B&H, as well as the fact that the B&H Presidency reached an agreement on Tuesday. He also informed her on the decisions that were adopted on that occasion. The two officials also talked about the migrant crisis.

 

Kocijancic: New authorities in B&H will have to deal with key priorities identified in European Commission’s Opinion (Dnevni list)

 

EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Maja Kocijancic welcomed the appointment of Zoran Tegeltija as the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman-designate. “Formation of new executive and legislative authorities is of crucial importance for the country’s progress in the process of EU integration. New government would have to deal with key priorities identified in the European Commission’s Opinion about the application of B&H for obtaining the status of the EU Candidate Country. We expect the country to make tangible progress on European path, including concrete steps in key sectors for the benefit of citizens, such as reform of judiciary, fight against corruption and organized crime, managing of migrations and social-economic reforms,” said Kocijancic.

 

HNS welcomes agreement on authority formation (Dnevni avaz)

 

The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) welcomed an agreement on authority formation and continuation of the work on the Euro-Atlantic integration of B&H in a statement issued on Wednesday. “The implementation of the election results, implementation of the reform processes and continuation of the Euro-Atlantic integration are stable and achievable goals, which must continuously be based on respect for equality of the constituent peoples,” reads the statement.

 

Bosniak Caucus in RS CoP invokes VNI on conclusions of RS parliament special session (BHT1/Fena)

 

The Bosniak caucus in the RS Council of People (RS CoP) decided to invoke the mechanism of protection of Vital National Interest (VNI) of the Bosniak people regarding the conclusions made by the RS parliament during the special session which took place last Monday. The special session of the RS parliament was dedicated to the attempt of anti-constitutional and anti-Dayton transformations of B&H and the effect of this on the rights and position of the RS. Head of the Bosniak caucus in the RS CoP Mihnet Okic told Fena that “Bosniaks, as constituent people, link their identity to the B&H state, which is being attacked and denied by the Information (on Unconstitutional Transformation of the Dayton Structure of B&H) and conclusions adopted by the RS parliament on 12 November”. Okic added that this means the identity of Bosniaks as constituent people is being attacked and denied as well. He confirmed that the Bosniak caucus has prepared detailed explanation of reasons for invoking veto, and added that the issue of protection of the VNI will be invoked as well. The RS CoP is supposed to discuss the issue on a session scheduled to take place on 4 December.

 

Tusk announces fight against populism in Europe (Hina)

 

The outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk said in Zagreb on Wednesday that he’d had enough of serving as the first European bureaucrat and that he would embark on the struggle against populists as soon as he became the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) group.

Tusk is the only candidate to succeed the EPP president Joseph Daul. On one hand we have political parties of irresponsible populism, and on the other hand there is our party of responsible popularity, Tusk said in his address at the EPP Congress in Zagreb, which is being held on Wednesday and Thursday. After five years I’ve had enough of being the main European bureaucrat. I am ready for the fight, I hope that you are also prepared, Tusk said. His term as European Council president expires at the end of this month. The failure of the European Union to start membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania was a strategic mistake that has resulted in the loss of credibility, outgoing European People’s Party (EPP) president Joseph Daul said in Zagreb on Wednesday, stressing that the move opened the door to other big world powers. We demonstrated a lack of vision and resolve and went back on our promise, thus losing credibility in the region and leaving the door open to Russia, China, Turkey and Gulf countries, Daul said at the start of a plenary session of the EPP, taking place in Zagreb on Wednesday and Thursday. France, the Netherlands and Denmark last month blocked the opening of membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania in the belief that the EU should first reform its enlargement methodology. After it received assurances that its move would help unblock its Euro-Atlantic integration process, Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia at the start of this year after Greece had been obstructing its accession to NATO and the EU for years over its name. Daul, who is to be succeeded in elections for the EPP president today by Donald Tusk, the outgoing President of the European Council, said also that there was a need for a strong, united Europe which could guarantee its position in the international context as no country could face challenges on its own amidst imperialist policies of Russia and China, which he described as giants with a clear vision which did not need to justify their decisions to their citizens. We have to defend our citizens, companies and our values, he said. Speaking of the more significant challenges, he mentioned climate change, to be discussed at the EPP congress, condemning the so-called green populism and pointing to the need to find the middle path. We are the only antidote to populists… policies should be adjusted to challenges, starting with climate change – we cannot learn anything from the Greens in that regard. Between the green populists and insane ideas that deny climate change we have to find the middle path to fight climate change as well as secure jobs and take care of the economy, Daul told around 2,000 delegates who gathered for the conference of the biggest European political group in Zagreb’s Arena sports hall. Europeans worry about the planet’s future as well as about their own future, salaries and pensions, he said. The EPP should also seriously deal with the topic of defense because if we do not have a strong defense line, we will not be able to defend our values, Daul said, stressing also the topic of Brexit, which will happen after Croatia takes over the presidency of the EU, on 31 January 2020. When the UK government decides what it wants, we will be able to build relations with it again, he said.

 

Plenkovic meets Chancellor Merkel (HRT1)

 

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the Congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) which is taking place in Zagreb. Merkel said that relations between Croatia and Germany are good, but that economic cooperation can be improved. When it comes to Croatia joining Schengen, Merkel said that a parliamentary discussion in Germany still has not been held on this matter. Plenkovic stressed that Croatia will do everything it can to convince its partners that it deserves to be part of the Schengen area. Merkel said that she supports Croatia’s initiative to hold a high-level meeting in Zagreb on the EU enlargement, but that it is necessary to work with France which is seeking negotiations in several phases. “We will, I believe in cooperation with Chancellor Merkel, seek solutions that will perhaps improve the methodology and enable the process to move forward,” Plenkovic said. Merkel stressed that “we want to agree as soon as possible so that we could make progress in concrete cases”. “However, there has to be realistic perspective for accession of those countries in the Western Balkans because it cannot happen for us not to fulfill what we promised and that there is no longer perspective for those countries,” Merkel underlined. Plenkovic also met with the leaders of the opposition of North Macedonia and Albania, including VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickovski and leader of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha. Plenkovic also met with President-elect of the European Commission (EC) Ursula Von der Leyen. Plenkovic and Von der Leyen discussed the transition from the old convocation of the EC, headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, to the new convocation of the EC which will be headed by Von der Leyen. Von der Leyen’s goal is for the new Commission to start working as soon as 1 December. Plenkovic and Von der Leyen also discussed Croatia’s priorities during its presidency over the EU.

 

Mickoski at the EPP summit: Macedonia belongs in the EU (Republika)

 

VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski addressed the Zagreb congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) saying that the ruling SDSM party is abusing the levers of power to assault the opposition. Mickoski said that, following the April 2020 elections, a new VMRO-DPMNE led government will set a pro-European course and will rely on EPP’s help to reform Macedonia. “Our political opponents are battling us in the political arena with every tool at their disposal, excluding principles and values. I believe that this is one of the most serious political challenges our political family, the EPP, is facing. We are strong when it comes to sound economic and social policies, we are strong when it comes to keeping our word. But sadly, this is not how our opponents see conventional political action. For the past three years our nation has been led by a social-democratic Prime Minister whose government has been synonymous with widespread corruption. The day to day activities of this government include disregard for the rule of law and overall politization of our society, as well as incapacity to create economic and social change for the 21 century. Yet they brag on a daily basis how transparent they are. I agree, I haven’t seen a more transparently corrupt government anywhere in the world, they don’t deny the corruption but rather hope they will get a day extra in their mandate to continue it,” Mickoski said in his remarks in Zagreb, where he and the VMRO-DPMNE delegation also had a series of meetings with European leaders from the conservative political family. Mickoski said that despite all the pressures and the abuses of the Zaev regime, VMRO-DPMNE will win the coming April 2020 elections and will turn Macedonia toward Europe. “We aim to form a stable and EU oriented government which will achieve this. The new, VMRO-DPMNE led government will oblige itself to create absolute reforms, which will allow functional justice, to bring high EU related criteria and above all to change the criteria for what it means to be a politician in the Macedonian society. As Macedonians, we belong to the European family because we share European values. With the support of our EPP family we will stop the exodus of our most brilliant youngsters, we will tackle the extreme levels of pollution, lower taxes, stimulate the economy and spur entrepreneurship. We must Europeanize our society,” Mickoski said before adding that “Macedonia belongs in the European Union” and calling for help to spread this message. “Our current social-democratic government doesn’t deserve positive impetus from European capitals and Brussels, but our citizens do,” Mickoski said.

 

Oliver Spasovski will replace Zaev as interim Prime Minister in January (Republika)

 

Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski will be named interim Prime Minister, after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev steps down on 3 January as part of the 100-days pre-election rule. Spasovski, who is one of the most loyal lieutenants Zaev has in the government, is supposed to step down with him anyway, as the Interior Ministry will be placed under an opposition VMRO-DPMNE party nominated official to ensure that it is no longer used for attacks on the opposition party. The Spasovski led government will be in place until the elections on 12 April.

 

US Embassy: Take into consideration the Venice Commission recommendations (Radio Tirana)

 

The US Embassy through a press release has reiterated that Justice Reform is one of the highest priorities of the United States in Albania. “The continued progress of reforms is essential to our common goal of Albania’s membership in the European Union,” the statement said. As for the stalemate over the re-establishment of the Constitutional Court, as a result of various legal interpretations of the nomination process, the US Embassy says that it supports the opinion of the Venice Commission. “Judicial reform is among the United States’ highest priorities in Albania. On-going progress on reforms is essential for advancing our shared goal of Albania’s membership in the European Union. Albania is now on the cusp of reestablishing its constitutional court, a major step in the judicial reform process. This necessary progress is stalled, however, due to differing legal interpretations of the nominating process as outlined by the Albanian constitution and the laws implementing judicial reform,” writes the declaration of the US embassy in Albania.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Kremlin certain incident involving Serbian officer won’t affect ties with Belgrade (TASS, 21 November 2019)

 

MOSCOW, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov is certain that a Russian national’s alleged attempt to recruit a Serbian military serviceman will not affect relations between Moscow and Belgrade. “We do not know what kind of an incident that was, we still need to figure it out. Actually, that’s not the presidential administration’s purview. However, we are confident that relations between Russia and Serbia are of such special partnership, fraternal and allied nature that nothing can affect them,” he told journalists commenting on reports that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had instructed the country’s special services to verify media reports on alleged attempts to recruit a Serbian officer by a representative of Russia’s Defense Attache Office.

 

Propaganda video of NATO’s smoke and mirrors over Kosovo hides some inconvenient truths (RT, by Nebojsa Malic, 20 November 2019)

 

A new and strangely timed NATO video paints a flattering – and entirely fraudulent – picture of the alliance’s mission in Kosovo, a Serbian province it occupied in 1999 that now styles itself an independent state. What NATO wants the general public to believe is that it had no choice but to intervene in 1999, because “Kosovo Albanian forces” were fighting the “policy of ethnic cleansing” of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was “not interested” in a peaceful solution. “The conflict had created this dire humanitarian crisis, it was threatening the stability of the region, and the security of the region, and NATO’s intervention was therefore necessary,” NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations Jonathan Parish says at one point in the nine-and-a-half-minute video, released last Friday. Parish’s fantasies have little to do with actual history, in which NATO attacked what was then Yugoslavia in violation of its own and UN charters. The “peaceful solution” the Alliance proposed was in fact an ultimatum designed to be rejected. The 78-day air campaign that followed was waged on behalf of the “Kosovo Liberation Army,” (KLO) an organization of ethnic Albanian militants even the US at one point considered terrorists. The war ended in a negotiated armistice and the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, guaranteeing Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity while authorizing an international peacekeeping mission: Kosovo Force (KFOR). It was the KLA that actually had a policy of “ethnic cleansing,” killing and expelling most of the province’s non-Albanians, burning and looting their properties, leaving wrecked churches and desecrated cemeteries in its wake. Though NATO says KFOR’s mandate is to “impartially provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all inhabitants of Kosovo,” in practice the alliance troops mostly watched as the KLA conducted its reign of terror. When KFOR did get around to doing its job, it was to safeguard the few remaining Serbs in scattered enclaves, surrounded by barbed wire and under constant threat of Albanian violence. One such enclave is Gracanica, where NATO found a Serb restaurant owner to recite its scripted lines like a hostage that he was. In 2007, then-KFOR commander, a French general named Xavier de Marnhac, actually said the ethnic tensions will eventually have a “biological end” as these remaining Serbs die of old age. Perhaps itching to speed up the process a bit, in March 2004 a KLA propagandist launched a story about Serbs drowning several Albanian children in a river – setting off a three-day rampage by some 50,000 ethnic Albanians across the province. With a handful of honorable exceptions, KFOR troops did little to nothing to stop the pogrom. The NATO video makes no mention of it, either – though it does suggest KFOR is well-versed in “crowd and riot control” by showing some training footage. Almost eight minutes into the video, there is at last a moment of truth: a display of the national flag of Albania, with a black eagle on a red field, instead of the fake blue-yellow-white banner created for the equally fake “independent” Kosovo by its NATO overlords in 2008.

NATO’s illegal intervention in Kosovo actually permanently destabilized the Balkans, as evidenced by the subsequent ethnic Albanian rebellion in what is now North Macedonia. Its unraveling of international law also produced fallout in Europe and elsewhere in the world. KFOR’s continued existence is not due to any of that, however, but to NATO’s reluctance to leave a region it considers conquered. Further frustrating its 20-year effort is Serbia’s ongoing refusal to recognize Kosovo as an independent state. In this, Belgrade is backed by Russia, China, and about half the world’s governments, representing two thirds of the world’s population. Watching NATO’s pep talk to itself, one question would not leave me alone. Why now? The actual anniversary of KFOR’s mission was in June, the anniversary of the war in March – November 15 does not figure as an important date at all. Except, of course, just a week prior the French President Emmanuel Macron called NATO “brain dead” and questioned the alliance’s ongoing usefulness. Though the video has surely been in production longer than a week, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if its release was rushed to give NATO something to counter Macron’s narrative. It might be a pack of lies, but that’s beside the point; the audience for which it was intended will eagerly eat it up. NATO’s real weapons have never been bombs, tanks or boots on the ground, you see, but perception management. The people behind that colossal con simply have to keep spinning, lest one day their marks wake up and realize they’ve been had. So they drone on and on about “excellence” and “Russian threats” and “peace and democracy,” and a bright future in diverse communities that are anything but – hoping that the smoke and mirrors will keep working until the inconvenient truths meet a “biological end.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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