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Belgrade Media Report 4 December 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 4 December 2019

LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic with Putin in Sochi (RTS)
• Vucic and Putin: Strategic partnership between Serbia and Russia is getting stronger (Tanjug)
• Putin: Our stance on KiM is immutable (B92)
• Vucic about meeting Putin: We don’t stab friends in the back (Tanjug, Beta)
• Early helicopter delivery gesture from Russia, Vucic says (Beta)
• Vucic: Reforms of army to continue, no more weapons purchases (Beta)
• Vucic and Cerar discuss bilateral cooperation, ties in the region, EU integration (Beta)
• Varhelyi: Serbia needs to speed up reforms on road to EU (Beta)
• Weber: Continuous momentum in integration needed (Beta)
• Jeremic: SzS not giving up election boycott (Beta)
• Serbia receives agreement to open Chapter 4 in Accession Talks in December (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik: NATO membership is not option for RS; This is century of Serb integration (ATV)
• Two-day session of PIC SB begins in Sarajevo (BHT1)
• B&H CoM session takes place; SNSD’s Kosarac: Postponing of B&H CoM’s session and holding of session afterwards only proves disputable behavior of current B&H CoM (ATV)
• B&H Presidency members pay official visit to Slovenia (FTV, Srna)
• Representatives of RS Government confirm that new decision is being prepared with aim of protecting January 9 as Day of RS (Glas Srpske)
• Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis challenges French President Emmanuel Macron over move to block EU enlargement (BHT1)
Croatia
• Nigerian students participating in World InterUniversities Championships exiled to Bosnia! (TCN)

Republic of North Macedonia
• NATO Summit in London – Zaev: Blocking EU negotiations was unfair (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Pendarovski: France will not veto Macedonia from opening EU accession talks again (Republika)
• Zaev’s corruption gives ammunition to the critics of enlargement, Mickoski tells Weber (Republika)

INTERNATIONAL NEWS ARTICLES

• Serbia “shielding” Russia from NATO (Russia Today)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic with Putin in Sochi (RTS)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, on Tuesday, arrived in Sochi in a working visit to Russia, within which he will also meet on Wednesday with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will, according to Vucic, be their 17th meeting. At the beginning of the year, Putin came in an official visit to Belgrade, and Vucic was in Moscow at the end of 2018. In the announcement of the meeting, Tanjug agency writes that, seeing that Vucic’s visit takes place not long after the publication of the video footage showing a meeting between a member of the Russian intelligence service and an officer of the Serbian Army, recorded in December 2018, during which the Serbian officer received money, “this will certainly be one of the topics in the talks”. However, Vucic said on Wednesday evening for RTS from Sochi that, as far as he was concerned, that story had been closed by the talks which he had about this topic with the Russian Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko two weeks ago, immediately after the outbreak of the affair. “Our conscience is clear and I believe that we shall continue the development of the best relations. If the Russians have something to object to us, I would like to hear it” Vucic told the RTS reporter.

 

Relations between Serbia and Russia are currently at their peak, and the meeting between Vucic and Putin “will be yet another confirmation of not only this fact, bur rather, which is far more important, the mutual readiness to continue progressing and raising our cooperation even more” said the Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. He said that there was an endless number of topics for the Dec. 4 talks from developing economic cooperation, to important political and geopolitical questions, such as, for example, relations in the Balkans.

 

Vucic and Putin: Strategic partnership between Serbia and Russia is getting stronger (Tanjug)

The strategic partnership between Serbia and Russia is evolving, strengthening and is being confirmed on a daily basis, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the beginning of his meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Putin welcomed Vucic and stressed that he was very pleased to see the President of Serbia.

 

“Thank you for accepting our call, our relationships are evolving, our strategic partnership is being reaffirmed and strengthened on a daily basis, both in political and economic relations, as well as in the security sphere” Putin said at the start of the meeting, which was open to the public. According to the Russian President, last year foreign trade between the two countries increased by two percent, and in the period between January and September this year, by another nine percent. Putin added that joint committees are actively working on developing relations between the two countries, and that he will discuss this issue more with the Serbian President during the visit. The Russian President has told Vucic that he is expecting to see him in Russia again in May next year. Serbian President Vucic added that he would be honored.

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at the beginning of his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was not optimistic when it came to reaching of final compromise solution between Belgrade and Pristina. Then, announcing the topics that he would like to discuss with the Russian head of state, Vucic informed Putin that the gas pipeline through Serbia is practically finished, which is a great opportunity for the development of our country and which will affect the better future of our citizens. Addressing Putin in Russian, Vucic said he was glad to meet again and thanked him for the time the Russian President had set aside for this meeting, which is personally a great honor for him. “Every meeting with you is of great importance for Serbia” Vucic said, at the beginning of the meeting. The President once again thanked Putin for his continued support to Serbia in preservation of its territorial integrity and national interests. “But I have to tell you that I am not optimistic regarding the reaching of final compromise solution between Belgrade and Pristina, but we will discuss this topic together” Vucic said. He pointed out that economic cooperation between Serbia and Russia is getting better, and that trade in goods is constantly growing. He reminded that projects with RZD are being implemented in Serbia, and praised the responsibility and professionalism of Russian partners. He especially thanked Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu for his co-operation.

Vucic also handed the letter by Patriarch Irinej to Putin.

 

The Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic, the Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin and the Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antic also arrived with the President in Sochi, as well as the Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric.

 

Vucic emphasized that the part of the talks will be devoted to cooperation and joint projects on the modernization of the Serbian railway network, while much attention will be paid to the issue of gas. The President also stated that he expects Russia to assist Serbia in the gas supply, on which the entire Serbian industry depends, and stated that gas is becoming a key issue for us, because it is not known what will happen regarding the relations between Russia and Ukraine in terms of gas supply, and the whole the country may be at risk if these issues are not resolved with Russian partners.

 

Putin: Our stance on KiM is immutable (B92)

President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic said he was grateful for Russia’s support in preservation of the international law regarding Kosovo and the preservation of our country’s territorial integrity. He said at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he conveyed to the Russian head of state his “low expectations regarding the future negotiations with the Albanian side”. “First and foremost, given their statements, announcements and attempts to get the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by using additional pressures, and without Serbia getting anything” Vucic said. This, he said, is neither possible nor realistic and it will not happen. Vucic reiterated his gratitude to Putin for providing Serbia with continuous and firm support.

 

Our position on Kosovo is immutable, the basis for resolution should be United Nations SC Resolution 1244 and the peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Russia, said Putin, is ready to support a possible compromise solution to the Kosovo problem if it is reached between Belgrade and Pristina, and that Russia “will be on Serbia’s side.” He stressed that Russia is for a peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis, respect for Serbia’s sovereignty and integrity, and for adequate respect for the rights of all ethnic groups. Russia has not changed its position – resolution to the issue of KiM should be resolution 1244.

 

“Our peoples fought side by side in World War II and fought against Nazism. Next year we will commemorate 75 years since the end of the Great Patriotic War. Mr. Vucic will be in Moscow on May 9th and we will see Serbian soldiers at the Red Square” Putin pointed out. The Russian President also added that he is in constant and close contact with the Serbian President. “Russia is taking part in strengthening Serbia’s defense capability” said President Putin.

 

Serbian President said he was grateful for the hospitality of the Russian President, saying the talks with Putin were good and meaningful. He also stressed that he is grateful to Putin for his personal engagement. “If in 1999 Putin was deciding, we would have never have been bombed” he noted. Vucic announced that the Russian President will visit Serbia next year to mark the opening of the Saint Sava Temple.

 

Vucic about meeting Putin: We don’t stab friends in the back (Tanjug, Beta)

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said the relations between Belgrade and Moscow “are friendly and brotherly and that if Serbia counts on someone in the international arena that’s Russia as well as they (count) on us” the Beta news agency reported. Ahead of meeting the Russian head of state Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday, Vucic added that Putin had always had an understanding for Serbia what many meetings proved and that he had never conditioned the cooperation. “In the times that are not easy and under many pressures to join against Moscow, we managed to preserve the independence in the decision-making process because we don’t stab our friends in the back” Vucic told Happy TV. He added that Putin “even told me, hey, you should not do that, you put yourself in a difficult position, I know what kind of pressures you are exposed.” Vucic said his country needed cooperation with both the European Union and Russia, although “it’s difficult since no one will be quite happy.” “Some Europeans asked me why I go to see Putin? Well, because you wait three hours (for a meeting), and I don’t have to” Vucic said, adding that the delegation from the West “chase” Chinese representative around the globe to meet them about the economic cooperation. Speaking about Putin, Serbia’s President said he managed to make Russia “a political giant” who had a word in almost all issues in the world, and, according to Vucic, that was the reason why some people did not like him.

 

Early helicopter delivery gesture from Russia, Vucic says (Beta)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he views the early delivery of Russian combat helicopters as Moscow’s extended hand prior to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Serbian military took delivery of four Mi-35Ma multi-role combat helicopters which were flown in to Batajnica air base on an An-124 transport aircraft on Monday.

Vucic told RTS in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi that the “extremely powerful machines” with “fantastic” weapons systems would be presented to the public in the next few days.

“Serbia is increasingly stronger. We had three or four Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters and a few Gazelles and today we have a helicopter fleet four or five times bigger than a few years ago. Besides the helicopters from Russia, two Airbus helicopters came from Europe recently. We are doing this to deter any attempt to endanger Serbia” the President said.

 

Vucic: Reforms of army to continue, no more weapons purchases (Beta)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the state would continue reforming the army but that this did not imply buying more weapons, which was a common misconception, but, to the contrary, that “we will stop buying weapons and the entire defense system will be developed in a smart way” regarding which a lot could be learned from Belarus. “We will be much stronger than today, more mobile and faster” Vucic said in a joint address with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Vucic said a decision had been made to that effect and that he had discussed this with Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin and Serbian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Milan Mojsilovic. Vucic stressed that Lukashenko had not only come to Serbia during the NATO air strikes but had offered for the country’s pilots, “Belarus’ heroes, to fly here and leave their MiGs.” “The leadership then with Slobodan Milosevic canceled at the last moment” Vucic said, adding that these were details that the public did not know.

 

Vucic and Cerar discuss bilateral cooperation, ties in the region, EU integration (Beta)

President Aleksandar Vucic met with Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar to discuss ways to step up bilateral ties, particularly economic cooperation, relations in the region and Serbia’s EU integration process, according to a news release from the Presidency. Vucic noted that deepening a political dialogue was extremely important for strengthening bilateral cooperation, as evidenced by a joint session of the Serbian and Slovenian governments, to be hosted by Serbia in mid-December, and the upcoming visit to Serbia of Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec. Vucic and Cerar said that both countries were sincerely interested in preserving stability in the Western Balkans, the region’s EU prospect and the resumption of the dialogue at all levels. “We welcome Slovenia’s active engagement in the Western Balkan region through its participation in the Berlin Process and also informal meetings within the Brdo-Brioni process” Vucic said, adding he expected that the Berlin Process would in the future again focus on networking, particularly in relation to infrastructure, and also on economic cooperation.

 

Varhelyi: Serbia needs to speed up reforms on road to EU (Beta)

The EU’s new commissioner for enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, called on Serbia to speed up the process of reforms on the road to the EU, stressing that “firm, comprehensive and tangible results in the key areas of democracy, rule of law and freedom of the press” were necessary. At a round table on the Western Balkans’ European integration in the European Parliament (EP), which representatives of the national parliaments of the countries of the Western Balkans participated in, Varhelyi said that the EU’s enlargement would remain a priority to the EP and him personally and that the European Commission would soon come out with a proposal for a new approach in the enlargement process. “Starting next year, the European Commission will present suggestions for the accession process to strengthen the negotiating process” Varhelyi said in his first address to the EP since his election. Serbia also needs a consensus regarding broad election reforms before a general election due to be held in the spring, he said, adding that the parliamentary dialogue being mediated by the EP was of key importance for that. On the subject of Kosovo, Varhelyi said he expected the new Kosovo government to work toward restarting the dialogue with Belgrade, including steps such as lifting a 100 percent tax on Serbian imports.

 

Weber: Continuous momentum in integration needed (Beta)

European People’s Party whip in the European Parliament Manfred Weber said after visiting Serbia that a “continuous momentum in integration” was needed. Commenting on the future of relations between the EU and Serbia, Weber stressed the importance of using the momentum of the EU integration process, a statement from the EU Info Center in Belgrade said. His visit ensued after the inauguration of the new European Commission. “At a time when we face a new beginning I would like to see us in a situation where we can send positive and new signals for reforms in Serbia and the region” Weber said. During his visit to Serbia, which he wrapped up on Dec. 3, Weber met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic, Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic and members of the opposition parties in Serbia. The European Parliament has started a dialogue in Serbia and the plan is to hold an entire series of contacts with all political parties in December, the statement said. In addition to Weber, the meetings were attended by members of the EPP caucus – David McAllister, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Vladimir Bilcik, the EP’s rapporteur for Serbia.

 

Jeremic: SzS not giving up election boycott (Beta)

Opposition bloc Alliance for Serbia (SzS) is not giving up on the decision to boycott parliament elections next spring, leader of the People’s Party and SzS presiding member Vuk Jeremic declared on Tuesday following the meeting with a delegation of the European Parliament. After meeting with David McAllister, Manfred Weber and Vladimir Bilcik at the head office of the EU delegation to Serbia in Belgrade, Jeremic said that SzS will not take part in an inter-party dialogue in parliament later this month, but will separately meet with the EP delegation that brokers these talks. Jeremic said that, in the weeks to come, EP representatives will “heighten their interest” in the political situation in Serbia, especially in election conditions.

 

Unlike the SzS, the Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) will take part in the continued dialogue, and will only after this decide whether to take part at the elections or not, said the PSG secretary Natan Albahari after the meeting with the EP representatives. Albahari said that the movement would be engaged in the future dialogue, but was not optimistic that anything would change.

 

Leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDS) Boris Tadic said that “he would have liked if a situation existed in which the opposition could participate at the elections”. “Boycott is in itself problematic, but in this case, it is a forced solution” added Tadic. Tadic said he had informed the delegation about the situation in Serbia, which he described as bizarre considering that “lies, aggression and pathology” had been injected in the public space for seven years now.

 

Serbia receives agreement to open Chapter 4 in Accession Talks in December (RTS)

In the European Union an agreement has been achieved for, in the accession talks with Serbia, to by the end of the year open up chapter 4 (free movement of capital), reported the Serbian media citing unofficial information in Brussels. The inter-government conference, at which this new chapter will be opened in the accession talks of Serbia, will be held on 10 December in Brussels, reported Tanjug agency and the public service RTS. Serbian officials, including President Aleksandar Vucic, have been insisting for some time now that Belgrade is ready for the opening of four chapters, but that due to the lack of political agreement within the EU on enlargement, only one chapter will be opened. “Also, technically ready for opening at this moment are chapter 2 (freedom of movement of workers) 21 (trans-European networks) and 14 (transport policy)”, reported the RTS. In the course of the accession talks so far, which began in January 2014, Serbia has opened up 17 out of a total of 35 negotiating chapters, and has preliminarily closed two. This year chapter 9 (financial services) was opened.

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Dodik: NATO membership is not option for RS; This is century of Serb integration (ATV)

Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik was a guest of ATV on Monday. He repeated that Republika Srpska (RS) rejects the idea of NATO membership because the alliance stood on the side which fought against Serbs and bombed them with depleted uranium. Dodik said that this century is the century of the Serb integration. He stressed that the RS is the only sustainable republic in B&H and it could live with its current level of economy. ˝If other people have the right to form their own countries, so do we˝ said Dodik. He added that the idea of Serbia and the RS uniting into one state is historically verified and others need to know they want it. ˝This cannot stay at the basis of political statements; it needs to be a plan. It must not happen today or in ten years if we endanger peace. I would like it to happen one day, when we are able to decide as a political people and make the political decision˝ said Dodik.

 

He said that Serbs tend to be historically naive and make historical mistakes. Dodik said that it is important for the RS and Serbia to cooperate in every area and assessed the current relations between the RS and Serbia as never better. He said that Serbia and the RS have a goal to build one object in every municipality in the RS and four Serb municipalities in the Federation of B&H.

 

Dodik assessed NATO membership as the moral clearing of NATO from their acts. He reminded that one of the first sentences in the Program of Reforms says that the NATO membership is not prejudged. ˝The ordinary people need to understand that we need to have some forms of cooperation. But integration means the establishing of NATO bases in the RS and B&H, their standards and integration into their plans and that is not an option˝ said Dodik.

 

Two-day session of PIC SB begins in Sarajevo (BHT1)

A two-day session of Political Directors of member countries of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PIC SB) has begun in Sarajevo on Tuesday. It was confirmed that Steering Board members will discuss the current state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). BHT1 emphasized that the main topic of those meetings was probably the migrant crisis, which could be concluded from the fact that representatives of EUFOR and Director of the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs of B&H, Slobodan Ujic, were also called to attend the session. Authorities of the Una-Sana Canton (USC) previously said they received assurances that during the two-day session, PIC SB will discuss establishment of reception centers for migrants outside of the USC. They say that reception centers will be opened on territories of both entities in B&H.

 

According to the reporter, there is currently no concrete information as to what the Ambassadors discussed on the first day of the session, given the fact that none of them addressed the media before or after the meeting. The reporter also noted that the Ambassadors were accompanied by US Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer, as well as that Director of the B&H Service for Foreigners’ Affairs Ujic and Director of the B&H Border Police Zoran Galic left the building of the Office of the High Representatives (OHR) as soon as the meeting was over, at around 18,55 hrs.

 

B&H CoM session takes place; SNSD’s Kosarac: Postponing of B&H CoM’s session and holding of session afterwards only proves disputable behavior of current B&H CoM (ATV)

The session of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (CoM), which was scheduled for Tuesday and postponed, took place on Tuesday after all. The CoM adopted the development and investment plan for B&H worth BAM 4 billion. B&H Minister of Security Dragan Mektic said that the telephone session started afterwards and they discussed 70% of the agenda which was agreed on for the regular session. He said that all ministers expressed their stances on the items and they were adopted. Mektic said that they did not discuss the appointment of a new Director of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA).

Speaker of the SNSD Caucus in the B&H HoR Stasa Kosarac said that postponing of the session and holding of the session afterwards only proves disputable behavior of the current B&H CoM. He stressed that it is bad practice of the current B&H CoM to work on vacancies and changing staff in B&H institutions. Kosarac explained that they did this in order to employ their own structures in agencies and B&H institutions. ˝I believe the B&H CoM cannot make credible decisions because it is not credible itself˝ said Kosarac. ATV Banja Luka By Natasa Milojevic – Kosarac also said that the new B&H CoM will bring changes to the processes of employment in the B&H institutions. ˝This shows that there is some sort of political fear of those who are leaving the posts in executive bodies on B&H level. They are trying to leave people loyal to their parties˝ said Kosarac.

Reporter reminded that delegate of SNSD in the B&H Parliament Nikola Spiric warned about the practice of employment in the B&H institutions and got to a number of 700 new employees in the past several years. ˝The law is protecting state officials after they are employed and if one would enter legal battles, it would cost the B&H budget millions because these people would win the battles” said Spiric.

 

B&H Presidency members pay official visit to Slovenia (FTV, Srna)

Members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency arrived to Slovenia on Tuesday ahead of their two-day official visit. During their visit, the members of the B&H Presidency are to meet with President of Slovenia Borut Pahor on Wednesday, they are to also meet with the Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec as well as other officials. The officials previously announced that B&H and Slovenia have friendly relations and that there are no outstanding political issues. It was also said that economic cooperation is good, but could be improved.

At a meeting with the first president of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, Serb B&H Presidency member Milorad Dodik said that B&H is a complex state but committed to the European path. “Even though B&H is a complex state, it is important that there is no violence and that peace has been preserved. For us in Republika Srpska (RS), preservation of peace is in the first place, as well as the struggle to improve economic circumstances and life for citizens. Authorities at the level of B&H are expected to be formed soon in keeping with election results so that we could fully commit ourselves to the economy” Dodik said during talks with Kucan. He has stressed that RS is stable in every sense of the word and committed to the path to the EU and getting EU candidate status, but that it remains military neutral. The Serb B&H Presidency member has said that B&H is facing a migrant crisis and that a significant number of migrants are still in its territory.

Kucan has stressed that B&H is a non-functional country and if it wants to join the EU it must first be prepared for it. “You in RS resolved your problem. RS is a fact and this cannot be changed” Kucan said. He has said that the lack of principles will cost the EU and stressed that everyone must take care of themselves. Noting that he respects RS’s commitment to military neutrality, Kucan has said that NATO is behaving like a world police force.

 

Representatives of RS Government confirm that new decision is being prepared with aim of protecting January 9 as Day of RS (Glas Srpske)

Representatives of the Government of Republika Srpska (RS) have confirmed to daily that new decision is being prepared with the aim of protecting January 9 as the Day of the RS. An unnamed source from the Government explained that the Government of the RS will pass decision which would confirm that January 9 is celebrated as the Day of the RS. “We will not adopt a new law, but decision, everything is clear there and it will not be possible to challenge (this decision). This proposal should soon be discussed by ministers as well”, the source told daily. The new decision, according to daily, is response to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) ruling from the March 2019, which challenged the provision of the Law on the Day of the RS referring to January 9 as the Day of the RS. The CC B&H ruled that the aforementioned provision is not in line with the Constitution of B&H. At the same time, the CC B&H underlined that decision does not bring in question the very existence of the Day of the RS, and does not prevent the RS National Assembly (RSNA) from announcing referendum about which date should be celebrated as the Day of the RS. The Law on the Day of the RS, which has only four articles, was passed after referendum at the end of September 2015, when more than 99 percent of citizens voted in favor of January 9 being celebrated as the Day of the RS. According to the Law on the Day of the RS, January 9 is being celebrated as secular, not as religious holiday.

 

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis challenges French President Emmanuel Macron over move to block EU enlargement (BHT1)

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called on the EU to open membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania next year, challenging France’s move to block the process of enlargement to the Western Balkans. Mitsotakis took issue with French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision in October to veto new accession negotiations calling it a mistake. MEPs and members of the national parliaments of the Western Balkan countries held talks on Tuesday in Brussels on the EU integration process and EU enlargement policy. Parliamentarians from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia, including leaders of political and parliamentary groups, shared their views on the challenges and perspectives of EU enlargement policy with European parliamentarians. The roundtable on Western Balkans’ EU Accession was opened by European Parliament President David Sassoli and EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi. This is Varhelyi’s first official visit to the parliament in Brussels since he was appointed a commissioner. Concluding Belgrade-Pristina dialogue by the end of 2020 and releasing new proposals to build upon 2018 Enlargement Strategy are some of the priorities laid out by the new European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi at Tuesday’s high-level roundtable. “We need to sustain and accelerate the reform process in the candidate countries. The best indicator should be economic prosperity, quality of life and freedom of the people in the Western Balkans” stated Varhelyi in one of his first engagements as the member of the European Commission. He said that the Commission will present new proposals to build upon the 2018 Credible Enlargement Strategy. This is aimed to be a reaction to the concerns of the Member States. “We will continue to put emphasis on the rule of law, economic reform and public administration reform”, said Varhelyi, adding that the stronger political commitment in the region is needed, not for the sake of the Union but for the sake of the Western Balkan citizens. European Parliament President Sassoli said that he has seen the Western Balkans as a priority from the beginning of his mandate.

 

Croatia

 

Nigerian students participating in World InterUniversities Championships exiled to Bosnia! (TCN)

An almost unbelievable story about a couple of Nigerian students visiting Zagreb appeared in the Bosnian media. A group of Nigerian nationals (four students and a teacher) participated in the 5th World InterUniversities Championships, which took place on the 13th – 17th of November in Pula, Croatia. 18-year old Abia Uchenna Alexandro represented his Owerri Federal Institute of Technology, playing table tennis at the competition. After the competition, the group returned to Zagreb, where they waited for their flight back home, through Istanbul. As they were in Zagreb for a day or so, they decided to take a walk around the town, which is exactly what he and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, his colleague, did.

 

As soon as they entered the tram, they were stopped by the Croatian police and taken to the police station. They tried explaining who they were, and that their documents are in the hostel where they were staying. The police refused to listen to what they were saying, and they put them in a van in the middle of the night. They drove to an unfamiliar location, where the two cops told them that they were going back to Bosnia. The two Nigerian students tried explaining that they’ve never set foot in Bosnia, that they arrived in Zagreb by airplane, but again, nobody listened to them. The van stopped and they pushed them out into the bushes. Eboh refused to start walking in the direction where police were directing them to, and one of the policemen told him that he would shoot if he didn’t start walking. There were other migrants being pushed back to Bosnia at the same time by the Croatian police, and they helped the two Nigerians get to the camp in Velika Kladusa.

 

They managed to get a hold of one of their colleagues who was still in Zagreb, to send them their documents. Their visa for Croatia expires today, Eboh told Zurnal. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) runs the camp where they are now, and they’ve supposedly confirmed to Zurnal that the two Nigerian students have valid visas for Croatia and that they were at the competition. The organizers of the competition, the InterUniversities Sport Committee confirmed to Zurnal that they’re aware of this case. Alberto Tanghetti from the Committee says that all 5 participants from Nigeria had valid visas. He confirms that they also sad return airplane tickets to Istanbul and then Lagos. They were recorded by Croatian television at the competition, and the police in Pula was notified that they were in Pula. He said that the organization would try to contact Croatian police and see if there’s anything they can do to help the students.

 

Index.hr confirms that they were able to talk to Abia Uchenna Alexandro, one of the students, who confirmed on the phone everything Zurnal wrote about. He added that the Croatian police took all of their money, and that they’re border-line hungry at the camp now, asking Index journalists to help them any way they can.

 

The Interior Ministry on Tuesday responded to the, saying Croatian police did not have their legal departure from Croatia on record and that they did not know how they ended up in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The police told Hina that five Nigerian citizens – four students and their supervisor – legally entered Croatia on November 12 and took part in a sporting tournament in Istria County and that the supervisor and one of the participants in the tournament legally left Croatia via Zagreb’s airport, while one applied for asylum in Croatia. The two Nigerian citizens mentioned in the media checked into a Zagreb hostel on November 16, checking out on the 18th, settling their debts, taking their things and documents, and going in an unknown direction, ministry spokeswoman Marina Mandic said. The police have no record of their legal departure from the country so they cannot say how they ended up in Bosnia, she added. She said the police were checking if this was yet another attempt by foreign citizens to abuse attending a sporting tournament in Croatia. The fifth Nigerian citizen arrived at a Zagreb police station on November 18, saying he lost his passport and was given a decision to leave the country, Mandic said. However, she added, he came back to the station on the 27th and said he wanted to apply for asylum, and he is now at the Porin reception center for asylum seekers. Mandic said that in the meantime that person tried to enter Slovenia “but was sent back.”

Alexandro and Chinedu are now in Velika Kladusa’s Miral camp as illegal migrants. They told Zurnal that police officers had put them in a van, took them to the Bosnia border where, together with several other persons, probably illegal migrants, they chased them away to Bosnia.

 

Republic of North Macedonia

 

NATO Summit in London – Zaev: Blocking EU negotiations was unfair (Nezavisen vesnik)

In response to a question about French President Emmanuel Macron’s blockade in October to North Macedonia’s EU accession process, as part of Tuesday’s ‘NATO Engages’ conference in London, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the decision had caused great disappointment among Macedonian citizens. “It was really unfair for us, we’ve been a candidate country for fifteen years. All 28 countries in the EU Council confirmed we fulfilled reforms, we found a solution with Bulgaria and Greece, we changed our constitutional name… The decision that the EU now needs more time was very destabilizing for us, we were much disappointed but we’re continuing with the reforms and we hope that this mistake will be changed very soon” PM Zaev said.

He thanked Poland and the other members of the Visegrad group for their support to North Macedonia’s NATO and EU reforms. “Poland has been one of the biggest supporters for our country to achieve not only solutions in bilateral issues, but also standards to fulfil to be a full member of NATO and member of the EU. Of course, that kind of politics from all Visegrad Group countries was a good example for us, they shared their experience with us” Zaev noted.

PM Zaev, alongside Deputy PM and Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska, Deputy PM for European Affairs Bujar Osmani and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, is taking part December 3-4 at the NATO Summit in London.

 

Pendarovski: France will not veto Macedonia from opening EU accession talks again (Republika)

President Stevo Pendarovski assured the public that France will not veto Macedonia from opening EU accession talks again. Pendarovski said that he received this promise directly from French President Emmanuel Macron, who he met with recently. “He told me that he wants to come to my country and explain his decision and I said that he will be welcome, but that it will be a difficult visit if he comes bearing negative news and cuts us again. And he told me that he has no intention of cutting us for the second time. That is the best I got from that conversation” Pendarovski revealed, before adding that President Macron did not commit to a positive decision in March given that France is holding municipal elections at the time and EU enlargement is not popular at all.

 

Zaev’s corruption gives ammunition to the critics of enlargement, Mickoski tells Weber (Republika)

VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski met with a delegation of EPP members of the European Parliament led by Manfred Weber which is visiting Macedonia. During the meeting, Mickoski warned that the unchecked corruption and criminal activities of the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev Government will continue to undermine Macedonia’s push to open EU accession talks.

“The fundamental strategic goal of VMRO-DPNE is that the Republic of Macedonia joins the European Union. The new government which will be formed soon by VMRO-DPMNE will put Macedonia on a fast track to the EU. Regarding the challenges we face, main among them are the crime and corruption, especially among the highest echelons of power, which are left unresolved by the judiciary. This provides additional arguments to those who have expressed a dose of skepticism toward EU enlargement and Macedonia’s future place in it” Mickoski told the visiting EPP representatives.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS ARTICLES

 

Serbia “shielding” Russia from NATO (Russia Today)

According to Russian experts, the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Sochi could play a major role in the development of Moscow-Belgrade relations, writes Russia Today, adding that the two presidents will discuss urgent bilateral cooperation issues as well as international issues, as announced by the Ambassador of Serbia to the Russian Federation, particularly economy, especially cooperation in the energy sector.

“This visit will play a significant role” said Elena Guskova, head of the Center for the Study of the Modern Balkan Crisis at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with Russia Today. “During the recent meetings of Vucic with Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, several documents were signed. But now, most likely, it might be about including some content in those documents” she added.

On the eve of his trip to Russia, President of Serbia announced that it is quite possible that he and Putin will propose “their own topics” for this meeting.

According to experts, Russia and Serbia must improve bilateral trade. According to Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO) Political Science Professor Elena Ponomareva, it is “very important for both countries to exceed the level of four billion euros”. Behind the official press release discussing “regional and international issues”, according to Ponomareva, there is a desire on the part of Russian and Serbian leaders to exchange views on the most important topics for both countries. “Views will be exchanged on the Ukrainian crisis, the situation in Syria, the behavior of Albanians in the Balkans, and especially on the Serbia – Kosovo territorial issue”, she said. According to Ponomareva, Belgrade is now under serious pressure from the West, especially NATO, but at the same time the country is trying to maintain military-political neutrality. “We have two allies in the Balkans. These are Serbia and Republika Srpska, which is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And the issue of further NATO expansion rests precisely on the Serb factor” she concluded.

Guskova shares the same view, pointing out that statements about Russia’s “destabilizing” role in the Balkans, which have often been voiced in recent years by Western politicians and centers of expertise, were prompted by the desire to break Serbia’s important ties with the Russian Federation.

 

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Belgrade Media Report 17 January 2020

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