Serbia sends aid to Albania in earthquake relief (Politika)
The Ministry of the Interior stated that upon agreement between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, the Emergency Services Sector will send 13 members of the Special team for search and rescue from the ruins in order to provide assistance after the earthquakes that took place near Tirana and Durres. The Special team will use the equipment for earthquake relief, i.e. for the drilling and breaking of concrete and the lifting of the debris caused by the collapse of facilities, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior.
Dacic thanks Iraq for support for Serbia’s territorial integrity (Beta)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met with out-going Iraqi Ambassador Fakhri Hassan Mahdi Al-Issa, the Serbian Foreign Ministry has said in a statement. Dacic thanked Iraq for its support for Serbia’s territorial integrity and voiced his regret over the situation in Iraq. The country has been shaken by several days of protests which have caused numerous causalities.
Al-Issa thanked Dacic for his support and said that he would continue to work on strengthening ties between Belgrade and Baghdad. He said that he was confident that the activities that had started during his term would contribute to the development of comprehensive cooperation between the two states.
Djuric: Kurti fell into the trap of his own blurred reasoning (RTV/Tanjug)
Albin Kurti has fallen into the trap of his own blurred reasoning and remains hopelessly imprisoned in long-overdue expansionist nationalistic projects, like in the nightmare of the 1990s, to which he greatly contributed, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric assessed in a press statement. Due to the incapability to understand the time in which he lives, he is aggressively focused on President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbia, because they are offering solutions from which the entire region and nations in it could benefit. Kurti sees as injustice the fact that nobody has the understanding for his point of view that only the Albanian people enjoys the exclusive rights to existence and expansion to the detriment of others. He can drag the story about reciprocity, and when it comes to reparation we are yet to see in what way the separatists in Kosovo and Metohija should compensate Serbian citizens over the devastation of everything that our state has been investing into the southern province for decades so it could relieve Kurti’s fellow citizens from misery and backwardness,” said Djuric.
Stojanovic: Many appoint relatives, friends to control arms exports (Beta)
Former military intelligence chief Momir Stojanovic said that many current officials were appointing their relatives or friends to “keep things under control” and control weapons exports, and that Branko Stefanovic – the father of the Serbian Interior Minister had “lost his way” and stumbled into the GIM company. Stojanovic said that the information that Serbian MP Marinika Tepic came out with regarding Krusiks’ dealings was not something that “an ordinary citizen” could get and that she “is being briefed by some powerful systems which the incumbent authorities have promised something.” “These systems now want to warn the authorities in Serbia what will happen if their promises are not met,” Stojanovic said at a presentation of a new electoral coalition called the People’s Bloc. Stojanovic claimed that another problem was that when conducting transactions in exporting arms the EU’s list of banned countries and movements was violated and so weapons from Serbia had made their way to the Middle East.
Commission for Preparation of Appointment of B&H CoM confirms candidacy of Tegeltija for new Chairman of B&H CoM (BN TV)
The Commission for Preparation of Appointment of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (CoM) convened in Sarajevo on Tuesday and confirmed candidacy of SNSD’s Zoran Tegeltija for the new Chairman of the B&H CoM. Most members of the Commission were interested to know Tegeltija’ standpoint about the Program of Reforms of B&H adopted. Tegeltija responded by saying: “My stance is clear. I will respect the (B&H) Constitution and the law. When it comes to my stances towards the Euro-Atlantic integration, I do not come to Sarajevo to be the Chairman of the B&H CoM to implement my own policies, but I come to run a body that will implement joint policies for all citizens of B&H. There is no chance for me to comment on a document that I have not seen and to dispute the right of the B&H Presidency to adopt a certain act”. While answering to questions of members of the Commission, Tegeltija stated among other things, that decisions of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament are not binding for the joint institutions of B&H. PDP MP Branislav Borenovic asked Tegeltija about his relation to decisions of the RSNA, primarily the RS parliament resolution on military neutrality, the referendum on the NATO membership and conclusions of the RS parliament special session that call for abolition of a number of agencies at the level of B&H. Tegeltija responded by saying: “I guess that everyone understands that conclusions of the RS parliament are binding for the RS parliament and institutions of the RS”. He also said that the RS parliament cannot solely impose its conclusions or decisions to the joint institutions. Addressing media following the session, Borenovic said: “It is scandalous and shameful to humiliate the RS parliament in this way and send a message to citizens, who live in the RS, on having this kind of a relation and abolition of the decision of the most important legislative body”. Addressing media following the session, Tegeltija commented on this issue and stated: “I never said it,” while Kosarac called on competent services to publish minutes of the record from the session. Kosarac added: “Mr. Tegeltija did not say this”. Tegeltija stressed that the B&H CoM as a supportive body will respect decisions of B&H Presidency, but that he will respect conclusions and decisions of the RS parliament. Tegeltija also said he believes that the B&H HoR will confirm his appointment, after which he will launch consultations with parties of parliamentary majority on the final formation of the B&H CoM. He stressed that his work will be focused on economy as he believes that stable economic development, whose results will reflect on B&H citizens’ living standard, can resolve a number of problems in B&H. Tegeltija denied Borenovic’s accusations, noting that those who accuse him are actually the same persons who used to leave the RS parliament’s hall whenever key decisions for the RS were on the agenda. He concluded that the situation in which he will not respect the RSNA’s decisions will never happen, explaining that he said that the RS parliament cannot implement its decisions alone and that therefore the consensus and cooperation on joint topics within B&H are necessary.
RS parliament rejects request to discuss Program of Reforms of B&H (RTRS)
RS MPs had on Tuesday a heated discussion while adopting the agenda. RTRS stressed that everything revolved around the Program of Reforms of B&H, adding that information on the Program of Reforms was not included in the agenda of Tuesday’s session of the RS parliament, as requested by SDS and PDP. According to RTRS, explanation that their request was not submitted in line with the Rules of Procedure did not prevent opposition MPs from imposing this as a subject during the adoption of the agenda. SDS and PDP representatives stressed that this is an important document whose content the RS parliament and the public should be familiar with before it is sent to NATO Headquarters in Brussels. During the part of the RS parliament’s session where MPs asked ministers in the RS government questions, Head of SDS Caucus in the RS parliament Miladin Stanic asked RS Minister of Interior Dragan Lukac whether he, as a former RS Army soldier and a senior official of SNSD, when looking at the Program of Reforms of B&H, claims that the RS is going to the NATO or not and what are the consequences for the RS police if one goes ahead with the Program of Reforms of B&H. Lukac responded to Stanic by saying that he does not believe that the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI) should undergo any kind of reform for anything, including joining the NATO. “I absolutely have no aspiration towards the NATO and for us to be members there. If one day the RS decides to join the NATO and that the reform of the police should be done in order to fulfill some of their standards, I will not be the minister who will lead this Ministry into the NATO,” Lukac underlined. PDP MPs asked why political subjects from the Federation of B&H are claiming that this is an agreement that inevitably introduces B&H into the NATO and why such an important document has not been made public. “I asked that members of the government and members of the ruling majority. What will you in the government and us in the RS parliament discuss if not such a document?” PDP’s Igor Crnadak wondered. SNSD representatives responded by saying that this is hypocrisy of PDP which, according to them, did not request a session of the RS parliament when its Honorary President Mladen Ivanic, in the capacity of Serb member of the B&H Presidency, signed detrimental Foreign Policy Strategy back in March 2018. Head of SNSD Caucus in the RS parliament Igor Zunic stressed that the B&H Foreign Policy Strategy, which Ivanic signed after the RS parliament’s Resolution on Military Neutrality, says that priority activities of institutions will be directed towards activation and implementation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP). In all their responses before the RS parliament, representatives of ruling parties stressed that the document Program of Reforms unequivocally says that this act does not prejudge B&H’s membership in the NATO. Advisor to the Serb member of the B&H Presidency, Ana Trisic-Babic, stressed that B&H will continue only its cooperation with the NATO. “In all previous documents it was stated membership in the NATO, i.e. that all reforms are being conducted for the sake of membership in the NATO,” Trisic-Babic underlined, adding that the Program of Reforms complies with the RS parliament’s Resolution on Military Neutrality.
Viskovic: ‘Program of Reforms of B&H’ does not prejudge final decision on NATO membership (Glas Srpske)
RS Prime Minister (PM) Radovan Viskovic, who said that the ‘Program of Reforms of B&H’ does not prejudge final decision on the NATO membership. “I will tell you a sentence from the document: ‘This document is submitted without prejudging final decision about the membership, whose adoption will require additional decision of the Presidency and the Parliamentary Assembly of B&H’. Now I want to see the critics to analyze what this sentence says,” said Viskovic. The RS PM stressed it is a joint document in B&H and that it would not be good if there were winners and losers. “It is important to say the document will go one day after formation of the Council of Ministers and if it is not formed for whatever reason, then the document will not be sent,” said Viskovic, adding that the RS would like to see formation of a new Council of Ministers and the Federation of B&H government because of all citizens.
Grabar-Kitarovic to pay visit to Mostar; HDZ B&H offers its full support in her pre-election campaign (Dnevni avaz)
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who is also running in the next presidential elections in Croatia, is scheduled to pay a visit to Mostar on Wednesday, to attend the solemn academy marking the 1st anniversary of founding of the Association of B&H Croats ‘Prsten’. The academy is being held under the auspices of HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic, and Grabar-Kitarovic. Following her visit to Mostar, the Croatian President is going to visit Bugojno and Vitez, where she is scheduled to meet with the representatives of the HDZ B&H Cantonal Board in central Bosnia. Daily noted that at the last session of HDZ B&H Presidency it was determine that the party is going to mobilize all its members and supporters in order to ensure maximum votes for Grabar-Kitarovic from B&H.
Media report that Lajcak will be appointed as Special Representative of EU for WB; Dodik says B&H does not need such representative (N1)
B&H and regional media are reporting that former High Representative Miroslav Lajcak should be appointed a Special Representative of the EU for the Western Balkans (WB). The Serb member of the Presidency of B&H Milorad Dodik was precisely the first in B^H to react to the news about the EU Special Representative for the WB, stressing that B&H does not need such a representative. “Foreigners have been running B&H for 24 years and now they remembered to introduce a special advisor or envoy which is unbelievable. If Lajcak is ready to come here, after he was the High Representative, and to face the negative consequences of international interventionism and to free this space of the discipline of international administration and various brokers, I will support him.” Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) has not provided a concrete answer as to whether the current Slovakian Foreign Minister could be appointed to the new post. N1 quoted Spokesperson for the EC Maja Kocijancic as saying: “We will use all available tools to advance the strategy, in close cooperation with the region, with our Member States, as well as globally. The European Union has a strong network of delegations in the region.” Opposition representatives in the B&H parliament said that they do not understand what would be the role of the possible Special Representative of the EU for the WB. Describing the conditions set by the EU before B&H, SDP B&H representative in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Sasa Magazinovic said that “it is like telling a six-year-old child to jump over a two-meter high ladder and that in exchange he will get a play station.” “They need to say what the reasons are. Are there too many Muslims here to their taste or there is another reason why they are stopping B&H’s integration,” Magazinovic said. PDP leader Branislav Borenovic stressed that he fears no appointments can help B&H unless some internal trust is built in B&H.
Only one process should happen in WB – EU accession (CDM)
There’s only one process that should exist in the Western Balkans (WB) – joining the EU – as all the other processes lead the region in a totally different direction, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Miroslav Lajcak, and President of the Committee on International Relations and Emigrants, Andrija Nikolic, assessed at the meeting held in Bratislava. “Montenegro remains committed to the internal reforms,” said Nikolic. He emphasized that there would be multiple benefits if only Brussels, just as Washington had done, would appoint a special rapporteur on the WB. “Montenegro’s accession to the EU should be completed in line with the rules established at the beginning of the process,” both sides noted.
Commenting on the global politics, both sides assessed that positions of Slovakia and Montenegro on many matters are the same, having in mind that Montenegro, being the EU candidate country, is in the process of aligning its foreign policy with the one of the EU.
“Odupri se” movement set to hit streets again (TMN)
The movement “Odupri se” is set to hit the streets again, and the next gathering is likely on Saturday, 7 December, said movement representative Nikola Grdinic. He explained the new protests required a reorganization of the Odupri Se movement, as well as an analysis of previous work, primarily because of the wrong moves that were made. “The protests must last. Everything that is happening on the political scene, as well as what lies ahead for us next year, will have a much more serious reach in terms of pressure on this arrogant government if we are mature to recognize the value of continuity of protest. The bottom line is that citizens need a guarantee that free elections will take place. No one guarantees it at this point. This authority has shown numerous times that she cannot be trusted and that she is ready for anything to survive. That is why, in the spring, we started a total boycott of all institutions, but we did not reach that goal. We are now in a situation of a partial boycott,” Grdinic said. As he pointed out, the Committee on Comprehensive Reform of Election and Other Legislation works in incomplete composition, as does the Parliament. He sees the way out of many social problems only in the final unification of citizens on the street. “It creates a counterweight to this government, and it is an announcement of control over those who will exercise power after the fall of the DPS. If the situation on the political scene happens to be used as an alibi for going to the polls next year, and these elections, in our estimation, are not sufficiently free, we will work to have protested on the election day and block the polls,” Grdinic announced. Asked how they view the announced protest of the Democratic Front, also in December, Nikola Grdinic said that they are looking forward to any rally aimed at overthrowing the regime. “Within the idea of Odupri se, there is also a section that promotes protest at all levels as one way of civic activism to raise the political awareness of every citizen. Thus, only a growing number of local protests and initiatives by individuals targeting social issues and fighting for the public interest are thorough, argumentative, and courageous. In all these activities, we see blows to the system created by this government on bad values, as well as the hope that an alternative will be created to such a system, and we must all contribute together,” the Odupri se representative Nikola Grdinic concluded.
Dendias in Skopje, Tsipras in Paris to support the European prospects of North Macedonia
Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias was in North Macedonia on his first visit, in order to actively support the country’s European prospects. Amid uncertainty caused by the French “veto” in North Macedonia’s and Albania’s accession negotiations, Nikos Dendias was welcomed by President Stevo Pendarovski and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. “Our support for the commencement of the EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia is without doubt. We are working on this and we are also taking initiatives, in consultation with all our partners in the EU, so that the positive decision of the Union to this end is taken as soon as possible” Dendias stated to MIA news agency before his visit. “It goes without saying that the efforts to harmonize with the European standards on behalf of the Republic of North Macedonia must remain firm as well. It is also a no-brainer that it will have a steady supporter in the Greek side during this effort,” he added. Greece strongly supports North Macedonia’s EU accession, full implementation of the Prespa Agreement, and strengthening of bilateral cooperation, Dendias said, at a joint press conference with FM Nikola Dimitrov. “I am happy to be paying my first visit to neighboring North Macedonia, which is soon to become Greece’s NATO partner and EU hopeful. I am sure accession talks will open soon. You have Greece’s full support,” Dendias said. He underlined dramatic improvement in bilateral cooperation, set to focus in the future on economy, military collaboration, investments, and infrastructure. Regarding the Prespa Agreement, Dendias said there is progress in its implementation, but some areas still require adjustments. “Greece supports the EU accession of North Macedonia and other Western Balkan countries. This is our common goal. Starting talks will be a significant step forward, and its one of Greece’s main goals. We understand the disappointment stemming from the decision to postpone opening negotiations, but you need to look forward. Implementation of European values is crucial, and we offer our full support in this area,” Dendias said. Dimitrov underlined that North Macedonia can count on Greek support on the road towards EU integration. “Greece is our strategic partner, neighbor, and friend. The Prespa Agreement has opened a huge cooperation potential that needs to be utilized,” Dimitrov said. He underlined that he expects the first session of the trademark committee and an expert meeting regarding new border-crossings between the two countries to take place soon. In answer to a reporter’s question whether there’s a possibility of either side disputing the Prespa Agreement, Dendias said the position of the current Greek government is that the issue is a done deal and requires full implementation. “We have a joint future, if we act in good faith,” Dendias added. Dimintrov also underlined that the agreement is part of our legal system and must be respected. At the same time, Alexis Tsipras from Paris called on the French government to support the European prospects of the Western Balkans. “At a time, after 2014, when the Western Balkans’ accession prospects had frozen, crises were rising rapidly (Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro) and waves of nationalism and third-party interventions in the region were reinforced; in 2018 we created a European dynamic, resolving the name dispute that had overshadowed all developments in the Balkans, as well as our relationship with our neighbors, for 27 whole years”, he said in an interview with Figaro. The former prime minister stressed “how imperative it is to maintain this momentum today – with the necessary contribution of France”.
Deadly quake claims at least 22 lives (ADN)
Rescue crews with excavators searched for survivors trapped in toppled apartment buildings and hotels Tuesday as the death toll from a powerful earthquake in Albania climbed to 22.
The magnitude-6.4 quake was felt across the southern Balkans and was followed by multiple aftershocks, with several above magnitude 5. In nearby Bosnia, another temblor with a preliminary magnitude of 5.4 struck southeast of the capital Sarajevo, causing only minor damage. The quake in Albania knocked down apartment buildings and hotels while people slept, and rescue crews worked into the evening to free more people believed trapped. There was no indication as to how many might still be buried in the rubble, as neighboring countries and European Union nations sent search-and-rescue crews to help. 44 persons were rescued so far as searches continue. President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella called on Tuesday President of the Republic of Albania, Ilir Meta, to express solidarity and condolences for the families of victims of earthquake that struck Albania. In this regard, President Mattarella informed President Meta on the arrival of quick aid of specialized emergency personnel and humanitarian means from Italy to deal with the earthquake’s aftermath. President Mattarella expressed the readiness of Italian authorities to contribute in overcoming this dramatic moment for Albania. President of Albania thanked the Italian counterpart for the special attention, solidarity and immediate response, also expressed gratitude for the assistance and support from Italy. President Meta thanked the State of Kosovo for the help provided for Albania during this very difficult situation. Meta was referring to the long line of vehicles of Kosovo’s Security Forces that came to Albania this Tuesday to help the country facing the consequences of devastating earthquake. It is President Meta himself the one who asked help to the Departing Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj. President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci decided on Tuesday to declare November 27, 2019 a national Mourning Day for his country. Emergency teams from Kosovo, Italy, Croatia, Greece, France, Romania and Turkey joined the effort. Italy sent the first ship with specialized tools to help Albanian authorities to rescue more people that are still under the ruins.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will pay an emergency meeting in Albania, following the chaotic situation caused by the devastating earthquake. This news was announced by Dendias himself, while he also announced that this visit will be paid upon order of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “Upon order of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, Greece will offer immediate help for Albania following the consequences of the earthquake that hit the country,” said Dendias.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
European Parliament confirms von der Leyen Commission (Politico, by David M. Herszenhorn and Maïa de La Baume, 27 November 2019)
First woman president cites climate and tech policies as top priorities.
STRASBOURG — The Ursula von der Leyen Commission is ready to roll. The European Parliament on Wednesday voted to approve von der Leyen, the first woman to serve in the EU’s top executive post, and her team of 15 men and 11 women — the closest the EU has ever come to a gender-balanced College of Commissioners. They take office this Sunday, December 1.
The new Commission was approved with 461 votes in favor, 157 against and 89 abstentions. The new Commission will take over a month later than planned, after the Parliament rejected the original nominees from France, Hungary and Romania. In a plenary debate prior to the vote, von der Leyen reiterated her main policy priorities, including an ambitious plan to fight climate change with a European Green Deal, an aggressive focus on digitalization and tech issues, and fresh drives to strengthen EU cooperation on economic and financial policies, and to step up foreign policy initiatives. “Climate change is about all of us,” von der Leyen said, in a line that was emblematic of the aspirations and resolve she expressed throughout her speech. “We have the duty to act and the power to lead.” The Parliament voted to install the Commission without a British representative after the U.K. government refused to send a nominee, citing Brexit and a general practice of not making international appointments during a general election campaign.
The absence of a British commissioner has raised the possibility that some Commission decisions could face legal challenges. But EU lawyers have expressed confidence that they have taken all necessary steps to avoid such challenges succeeding, including by initiating a disciplinary procedure against the U.K. for violating EU law. Many of the abstentions on Wednesday were from the Greens group, which pointedly declared it would not support the new Commission or align with mainstream parties, and intended to continue functioning as an insurgent force despite the new executive’s focus on climate change. In her opening speech asking the Parliament to approve her Commission, von der Leyen noted that it was the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and quoted the Czech statesman Václav Havel, saying: “Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” “I choose this quote because over the next five years, our Union will embark together on a transformation, which will touch every part of our society and economy,” von der Leyen told the Parliament. “And we will do it because it is the right thing to do. Not because it will be easy.” She thanked outgoing President Jean-Claude Juncker, but also said that his Commission had often been forced into a defensive position of emergency response. “In the last years, we had to focus on the here-and-now, managing crisis after emergency, fighting to keep our unity and solidarity intact,” she said, noting that the EU had often been at its best when pushing bold initiatives such as the creation of the euro, the common currency. Von der Leyen insisted that the EU could be a bulwark of stability in an increasingly turbulent era. “This is an unsettled world, where too many powers only speak the language of confrontation and unilateralism,” she said. “But it is also a world where millions of people are taking to the streets — to protest against corruption or to demand democratic change. The world needs our leadership more than ever. To keep engaging with the world as a responsible power. To be a force for peace and for positive change. We must show our partners at the United Nations they can rely on us, as a champion of multilateralism.” In the vote, von der Leyen had broad support from the three biggest mainstream pro-EU political groups — her center-right European People’s Party, the center-left Socialists & Democrats, and the liberal-centrist Renew Europe. Although they abstained, the Greens said they would remain open to allying with von der Leyen and other groups on a case-by-case basis.
The Greens’ stance underscored the continuing difficulties von der Leyen is likely to face as she tries to cobble together majorities in Parliament for her legislative initiatives. While the three largest groups voted to install the Commission, they have not clinched a coalition agreement and they disagree on many points across the various important legislative files. Longtime EU insiders predicated that it would be tough going for the new College.