Vucic: Serbia economically progresses four times faster than European countries (TV Pink/Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told TV Pink that Serbia’s economy was improving four times faster than those in the European states. He says that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated the European Union countries will record one percent growth, while the economy in Serbia will rise four percent. Vucic also said that the politicians in the country did not understand the recently adopted 2020 budget, adding Serbia had exceeded former Yugoslavia 1989 GDP. He said the unemployment rate of the youth in Serbia was 24 percent, and that Europe ‘grabs’ the country’s youth. “Europe chases people, not territories, as some in Serbia and the region think,” Vucic added.
Dacic: Two thirds of African countries support Serbia in preserving its territorial integrity and sovereignty (RTV/FoNet)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic announced on Thursday at the opening of the exhibition dubbed “Hunting – Customs and Beliefs of the Peoples of West Africa”, at the Museum of African Art, that two thirds of African countries does not recognize independence of Kosovo. “One more large country, Ghana, has recently withdrawn recognition of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo. Of the total of 17 countries, Ghana is the 10th African country that has done so, so I underline with pleasure that two thirds of the African countries support Serbia in preserving its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Dacic says that Serbia will continue to cooperate with African friends and build strategic partnerships. Serbia seeks to further strengthen bilateral and economic ties with the entire African continent.
Vulin: Greater Albania will not pass (Novosti)
The Army of Serbia completely controls the entire territory of the country and fully guarantees the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin stated in the Ground Safety Zone in southern Serbia, the Defense Ministry has stated. Vulin visited the Army of Serbia troops deployed in the Ground Safety Zone, accompanied by the Chief-of-General Staff of the Army of Serbia, General Milan Mojsilovic, and the Commander of the Ground Forces, Lieutenant General Milosav Simovic. “No separatist or political provocations can in any way jeopardize the peace, stability, security, safety and our way of life,” said Vulin. “Ideas about the creation of the Greater Albania and about changing the borders of the Republic of Serbia can set the entire Balkans on fire, but such ideas cannot pass on the soil of the Republic of Serbia,” Vulin stated. The Commander of the Fourth Brigade of the Ground Forces, Brigadier General Slobodan Stopa, said that the situation in the Ground Safety Zone is peaceful and cooperation with KFOR is at a very high level. “We have no problems, members of the Fourth Brigade are fully capable of performing all tasks in the Ground Safe7ty Zone,” General Stopa stated.
Bissel: B&H Presidency’s Program of Reforms represents continuation of reforms with B&H (N1/Dnevni avaz)
Commenting on the recent decision of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency to pass the Program of Reforms for NATO and send it to Brussels in the upcoming days, the NATO Headquarters Sarajevo Commander, Brigadier General Marty Bissell, told that this represents “the continuation of reforms with B&H.” “We have worked on the Reform Program with B&H in the past 15 years, so any document B&H submits will only improve this Program. We cannot comment on the latest document since we have not seen it yet, but we have very good relations with people who usually create such documents. We have worked with them for years through the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), and based on these reforms we see this as the continuation of reforms that we already conduct,” Bissel stated. Bissell gave a brief interview for Dnevni avaz, and said that B&H is the one that is going to determine how fast it is going to move towards NATO membership and what type of cooperation it is going to have. “During the years, NATO has seen that each country has unique relationship with NATO, and they differ in volume and intensity. So, it is up to the country to determine its reform path and choose its mechanism for cooperation with NATO,” said Bissell and pointed out the importance of focusing on the challenges of the Armed Forces of B&H. “But they cannot transform and modernize on their own. They need appropriate and predictable budget that is going to include funds for modernization and salary increase, so the Armed Forces of B&H can improve their capacities and capabilities,” she said. NATO Commander underlined that despite all the obstacles, B&H AF are working hard to improve interoperability with NATO. “For a small country, B&H is very dedicated to contributing to peace and security operations, and more than ten percent of B&H AF personnel have already participated in the peace missions abroad,” she noted.
Kavalec: Agreement on formation of authorities in B&H is good news; OSCE will support and respect B&H’s decision on its NATO path (FTV)
Head of the OSCE Mission to B&H Kathleen Kavalec, commenting on the social and political climate in B&H, said that, in the two months since she assumed her office in B&H, she has seen that the political situation is very complex and that the country was not moving in a positive direction. However, Kavalec welcomed the good news related to the agreement on formation of the authorities in B&H. “Generally speaking, citizens have been saying that they are not satisfied due to not seeing progress in their lives. Many people are leaving the country, because they are concerned over the situation in economy and the feeling that there is no progress when it comes to important issues. There is room for improvement. It is necessary to deal with the issues as soon as possible, in order not to lag behind others,” Kavalec assessed. Asked to comment on the Program of Reforms of B&H that has recently been adopted by the B&H Presidency and the speculations pertaining to whether or not this document is the same as the Annual National Program (ANP) for NATO, Kavalec replied that she does not have detailed information with regard to this issue, adding: “The OSCE is an organization that does not have a stance on whether or not the country should join NATO. We will support and respect the decision that the country passes on its path, in line with the OSCE’s principles.” When it comes to numerous conditions that political leaders have been setting within the process of authority formation and this includes the condition for amending the Election Law of B&H, the OSCE Mission Head underlined that the most important thing is for the elections to be organized in a transparent manner, as well as for the local elections in Mostar to take place in 2020. The OSCE Mission Head called for reaching the political solution for the Mostar elections as soon as possible. She reminded that there are a series of recommendations provided by the OSCE and the ODIHR for the overall election process, and stressed that this organization will gladly help everyone wanting to work on implementation of those recommendations. She considers that “this would bring significant results in a sense of credibility of the election system”. Asked about her opinion on the speculations about Russian influence and influence of other world powers in the area of Western Balkans, Kavalec answered by saying that the Balkans has always been on the crossroads of different cultures, so different influences from various directions are present. “The direction in which B&H should move is clear. B&H belongs to the European community of states and it is very important to observe the direction of movement, rather than dealing with the influences. A long-term direction of movement should be observed,” she specified.
Dzaferovic thanks Mattarella on Italy’s support to European and NATO path of B&H (FTV)
Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome on Thursday. On this occasion, Dzaferovic and Mattarella agreed that B&H and Italy have very good economic and foreign trade relations. Dzaferovic thanked Mattarella on the support that Italy provides to B&H on the European and NATO path. Mattarella welcomed the B&H Presidency’s agreement on authority formation and expressed full support to the European perspective of all countries of the Western Balkans.
Ivantsov and Dodik discuss agreement on formation of state authorities (ATV)
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to B&H Petr Ivantsov and Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik discussed the reached agreement and formation of the state-level authorities during their meeting in Banja Luka. “As far as I understood, the matter of Annual National Program and Membership Action Plan were, for the time being, removed from the political agenda of B&H. That helped the process of unblocking the formation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM)” the Ambassador said. Ivantsov welcomed the agreement on formation of new convocation of B&H CoM reached by political parties in B&H.
Abolish immunity to Americans for sake of path to EU (EuroBlic)
The latest Opinion of the European Commission on B&H application for the membership in the EU noted that B&H mostly adheres to the Stabilization and Association Process but it also presented several remarks. Namely, B&H still has not adopted changes and addenda related to normalization of visa regime for Kosovo citizens and, apart from this, B&H still has a bilateral agreement with USA on immunity, by which US citizens were exempt from jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In this way, the Opinion noted, B&H failed to respect the Joint Stance of EU on the Integrity of Roma Statute or key principles of EU on bilateral agreements on immunity. Member of the Council for Legal Issues of PDP Aleksandar Savovic reminded that USA signed a number of similar bilateral agreements with other countries and he added: “In my opinion and from the point of view of international laws, this is exploitation of the Article 98 of the Roma Statute and violation of international laws. By signing such agreements, USA exempted a wide spectrum of its citizens from international criminal responsibility”. Savovic noted that he can somewhat understand USA because it trusts its own courts and judiciary, but USA must understand that it completely degrades credibility of international laws by its moves. Savovic added that B&H should focus on more important matters in the EU Opinion because “it becomes clear to everyone who reads this Opinion that B&H is nowhere near an organized society” and he reminded that the Opinion warned that B&H does not have established market economy, no rule of law, institutions are under political influence and there are no normal election processes. “However, should the EU demand us to withdraw from this bilateral agreement with USA, then we should simply withdraw from it. As far as I know, the European path is the priority for us and we should let the United Nations deal with those issues that are really important for international laws,” Savovic said and concluded that such requests only prove that there is no clear strategy on the Western Balkans and this will not change any time soon thanks to serious internal problems in the EU.
Plenkovic and Orban open Hungarian student dormitory in Osijek (Hina)
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban formally opened the newly-built student dormitory of the Hungarian Educational and Cultural Centre in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek on Thursday. Plenkovic said that Croatia and Hungary were friends and neighbours and that the Hungarians living in Croatia and Croats living in Hungary were the biggest link in relations between the two countries. He said that the two governments were committed to fostering the identity, culture, education and tradition of the two communities. “These are the standards that Croatia provides to the minorities in Croatia and expects such protection of minority rights for the Croats living in the neighboring countries. It is most important to us that these two communities feel good, both in Croatia and in Hungary, as confirmed by their status and cooperation. Communication through the minorities improves overall relations between the two countries,” the Croatian PM said. Orban thanked the Croatian government for financing the construction of the student dormitory. He thanked the Croats in Hungary for maintaining their Croatian identity and thus contributing to the wealth and diversity of Hungary and the Hungarians in Croatia for maintaining their Hungarian identity and helping the Hungarian people to be even bigger. Orban recalled that “80, 90 or 100 years ago Slavonia and the Hungarian county of Baranya were the richest parts of our state” and were envied by others because of their high living standards. “I simply don’t believe that if we already managed to accomplish something in the course of history we wouldn’t be able to repeat again. I believe that it will happen once again that people will be envious of the Hungarian county of Baranya and Slavonia in Croatia,” Orban said. “Only a person who thinks that the place where they live is the center of the world can be successful” he added. “We must connect our countries, because if we stay on the periphery and isolated, we are destined to fail. If Croatia finally enters the Schengen area, which we fully support, the last obstacle will be cleared and the path will be opened to a free flow of business, culture and sports, and we will be in an enviable position again,” the Hungarian PM said. “Trust me, what I’m talking about is possible. If over the next ten years Croatia has as committed a government as this and if Hungary keeps a nationally-minded government for another ten years, we will come back here with Andrej to check whether what have stated is true,” Orban said.
Rama’s future daughter-in-law is among dozens killed in earthquake (ADN)
The future daughter-in-law of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was among dozens of people killed when an earthquake struck the country Tuesday, Rama’s office has confirmed.
Kristi Reci, the fiancé of the Albanian Prime Minister’s son Gregor Rama, died in the quake with her parents and brother. Gregor Rama wrote that “among the many victims of this tragedy is also the closest person to me, along with her brother, mom and dad” adding the group “were found under the rubble.” At least 40 people died in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which hit the port city of Durres, about 36 kilometers from the country’s capital Tirana, on Tuesday morning. It is the strongest quake to hit the European nation in 40 years. Hundreds were also injured in the incident and several are still missing, with recovery operations ongoing. The region was still seeing aftershocks on Thursday morning, with a 5.0 and a 4.8 magnitude quake recorded, according to Albanian Ministry of Defence spokeswoman Albana Agastra.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Serbian, Chinese police demonstrate joint anti-terrorism capacities (Xinhua, 29 November 2019)
Serbian and Chinese special police units for the first time held a joint anti-terror drill on Thursday in Smederevo, at the steel plant owned by Chinese HBIS Group Serbia Iron & Steel.
The joint demonstration exercise was observed here by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo, as well as government and security officials of the two countries. The scenario staged a crisis situation at the HBIS Serbia in Smederevo, where a group of armed terrorists entered one of plant’s facilities and taken hostages. The “cavalry” of 180 police members consisting of Serbian special anti-terrorism unit, gendarmery, helicopter unit, negotiation team and the crime police directorate as well as Chinese special police units from central China’s Henan Province arrived by 20 various vehicles and three helicopters to overcome terrorists and release hostages. After the exercise, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic thanked Chinese police for engaging in cooperation with Serbian colleagues, sharing experiences and contributing to a higher level of training. “This is the first exercise of its kind between Serbian Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Public Security of China, which aimed to show the high level of training of these units and their ability to cooperate on some of the most complex tasks,” Stefanovic said. He said that the cooperation between the relevant ministries of Serbia and China in charge of internal affairs and public security has proven successful so far, and announced even deeper ties. “We have a great cooperation with the Ministry of Public Security of China, in the fields of fight against organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking. Our task is to deepen our cooperation with China because it is our strategic partner and much more than that — it is a friendly and sisterly country,” Stefanovic added.
Kosovo’s Kurti Set to Shake up Relations with Albania (BIRN, by Perparim Isufi, 21 November 2019)
The rise to power of Kosovo’s Albin Kurti will test relations with neighbouring Albania, where he and Edi Rama have not always seen eye to eye.
On the evening of October 25, Albin Kurti strolled into the office of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the two men shook hands for the first time in some 14 months. Meetings between leaders of Kosovo and neighbouring Albania do not always make headlines, but this time there were television cameras all over Rama’s office. All eyes were on the body language and the statements that would emerge from two left-wing politicians who fell out more than a year ago but have been thrown back together by the results of an October election in Kosovo. Forty-four year-old Kurti is waiting on a final recount of votes from Kosovo’s October 6 election to be installed as prime minister after his Vetevendosje [Self-Determination] party won the most votes, almost 15 years since it was founded as a street movement lobbying against a negotiated settlement with Serbia on the fate of Kosovo. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 with the backing of the West, but Serbia’s refusal to recognise its statehood, backed by Russia, is frustrating the young state’s international integration into bodies such as the United Nations, Interpol and the European Union. Then in the summer of 2018, Kurti took umbrage at Rama’s failure to come out clearly against an idea floated by the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia, Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, to redraw Kosovo’s borders as part of a solution that would clear a path to the EU for both countries. After their October meeting, Kurti said he had received assurances from Rama. “The prime minister does not support the exchange of territories,” he told media. “Territory is not a good to be exchanged. I believe that even though we might have differences and things in common, we are obliged to cooperate better as two governments. He told me so and I have to believe him.” Robelli said it was not just the issue of redrawing borders that soured relations between the two men; in December 2018, the fallout worsened when Vetevendosje sent a number of senior party figures to join students mounting huge rallies to demand better university conditions. Then this year, Kurti, who does not hide his desire to see Albania and Kosovo unite in one state, opened a branch of Vetevendosje in the Albanian capital. The branch is not registered as an official political party, but some analysts in Tirana say its vocal opposition to certain policies of the Rama government suggest it is only a matter of time. Last week, Vetevendosje condemned a police operation in a Tirana neighbourhood in which people were injured while protesting against a municipal infrastructure project. It said corruption and double standards had plagued the project, angering Tirana’s mayor, Rama ally Erion Veliaj. Tirana City Hall pointed out that Vetevendosje had been elected “to govern Kosovo”. It urged the party to reflect and rein in “branches that are seemingly out of control.” Analysts in Tirana say Vetevendosje’s activities in Albanian will leave a mark on relations between the two men. “Rama, of course, does not like Albin Kurti,” Albanian political analyst Armand Shkullaku told Albanian TV Klan, “and Kurti’s victory in Kosovo can be translated into a political drama for him.”
Regional relations a test
With Kurti in line to head Kosovo’s next government, their four-hour meeting was perhaps a sign of the work ahead of them to improve personal ties and the importance vested in the relationship between Albania and its majority-Albanian neighbour. Analysts say Kurti and Rama would do well to leave the past behind them for the sake of both countries. “They must cooperate because neither the prime minister in Tirana nor the one who is expected to be elected in Pristina are private persons,” said Enver Robelli, a Kosovo-born editor at the Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger. “They are politicians with a democratic mandate to represent their respective states.”
But the political activities of Kurti’s Vetevendosje party in Albania risk only making that harder.
Vetevendosje presence in Tirana
Kurti’s rise to power marks a major shift in the political landscape of Kosovo and, arguably, Albania, with the relegation of Thaci’s once-dominant Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, to the opposition benches. But Adrian Collaku, editor-in-chief of the Pristina-based news portal Gazeta Blic, said it was premature to expect any major growth in Vetevendosje’s influence in Tirana.
“I think that it is too early to see Albin Kurti and Vetevendosje’s influence in Albania grow to such a degree that it could pose a danger to Edi Rama,” Collaku told BIRN. It would take a long time and greater organisation to make Vetevendosje as powerful in Albania “as it is now in Kosovo,” he said. “An important factor will be the government model that Albin Kurti will produce in Kosovo, in order for it to reflect on Albania too.” In terms of policies, Albania-Kosovo relations under Rama and Kurti will be tested by regional developments and initiatives such as the Balkan ‘Mini-Schengen’ idea floated by Rama, Vucic and North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for ‘free travel’ among Western Balkan nations, given the EU’s failure to press ahead with enlargement to the region. “To me, it looks more like an idea than a project,” Kurti said of the initiative. Rama predicted Kurti would think again once in power. “I can say that Albin Kurti’s stance will be revised when he becomes a full-time prime minister and pays more attention to this process,” he told Albanian TV Top Channel on November 12. “The only way to remove borders is in agreement with others. How will Albin Kurti remove the border if Serbia is not part of this process, or he will enter into a war?” For his part, Kurti wants to keep Rama out of Kosovo’s EU-mediated dialogue with Serbia, Collaku said. “While Edi Rama involved himself in a way in the issue of negotiations with Serbia, especially on the idea of a land swap, this issue froze his relations with [outgoing] Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, and the same will be with Kurti,” he said. “Kurti has announced that he will lead the dialogue with Serbia and has warned Edi Rama to ‘withdraw’ from this issue.”
‘Naughty boy’ no more
Whatever happens, Kurti’s rise has altered the balance between himself and Rama. In the past, with his anti-establishment activities and radical rhetoric, “Rama looked on Kurti as a naughty boy who amuses people with great patriotic words,” said Robelli. “The situation changed when Kurti started to tackle concrete issues.” When the idea of a land swap between Serbia and Kosovo was first mooted, Robelli said Rama should have used his authority to forge consensus among Kosovo’s political leaders. But he didn’t. “Edi Rama has done a lot to polarise the Kosovo political spectrum,” Robelli told BIRN. Now, in Albania, Kurti is seen “as a different example, a positive model and as a politician who is not corrupted,” he said. “But time will tell if he personally, and those around him, will remain clean when they have control of the levers of government.”
Turkey Urged to Send Special Envoy to Balkans (BIRN, by Hamdi Firat Buyuk, 28 November 2019)
An influential pro-government NGO has called on the Ankara government to appoint a special envoy to the Balkans to coordinate Turkish policy in a strategically important region.
A Turkish NGO, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, IHH, which is seen as close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is calling for the appointment of a special Turkish envoy to the Balkans.
The recommendation comes after the US appointed not one but two special envoys to the region.
President Donald Trump has appointed Matthew Palmer as the US Special Representative to the Western Balkans and Richard Grenell as special envoy for the talks between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo. “Turkey, with its close relations with the Balkan countries and which sees the Balkans as a strategic region, still does not have any official special representative there,” an analysis written by Emin Emin, a political analyst with IHH, says in a report published on Wednesday. The analysis recommends the appointment of a special envoy to the region to better promote Turkish policy in the region. “Despite its shared policies on the Western Balkans with the EU, Turkey is no longer seen as an EU ally but rather as a competitor. This is why Turkey has to review its policies and political strategies regarding the Balkans and be able to reciprocate any step taken by the EU and the US,” the report notes. The analysis observes that while Turkey has good relations with Russia it is also part of the Western NATO alliance, enabling it to play a mediator role in the Balkans. The special envoy’s recommended duties would be build better relations with Turkey’s strategic allies in the region, such as Bosnia and Albania, protect the rights of Turkish and Muslim minorities, coordinate the work of Turkish institutions in the Balkans and create new channels in the region to ease ethnic tensions. The IHH is a humanitarian NGO operating in 135 countries and territories, “establishing a bridge of goodwill stretching from Turkey” to the world, including the Balkans. It is known also for its close ties to the Turkish government. Turkey has become an increasingly important actor in the Balkans in last two decades, conducting a pro-active foreign and economic policy. However, Ankara’s role in the region has come under question since its relations with West deteriorated, because of President Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule and controversial rapprochement with Russia.