Brnabic: Italy’s support for Serbia’s European path stability of region (Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said in a meeting with Italian Minister for European Affairs Vincenzo Amendola that Italy’s firm support for the European path of Serbia and the stability of the region is one of the pillars of successful bilateral cooperation between our countries. Brnabic emphasized that the relations between the two countries are also based on solid economic cooperation, emphasizing that Italy is one of the most important economic partners and the most important foreign investors in Serbia. Brnabic welcomed Italy’s efforts to support the start of negotiations between North Macedonia and Albania with the European Union, which is also a major support for the stability of the entire Western Balkans region.
She pointed out that economic stability is one of the priorities of this government, as well as reforms in other areas, such as improving the work of the state administration and the rule of law. Brnabic emphasized that she is pleased with the results in the development of the Media Strategy, whose draft, in accordance with the procedure, will be forwarded to the government for adoption after the opinion of the competent ministries. When it comes to the state administration, she said that the National Academy of Public Administration will play a key role, which will provide professional staff and better work of the state administration in the interest of all citizens of Serbia. Amendola reiterated Italy’s support for Serbia’s European integration and the efforts our country is making in implementing reforms. He also reiterated the position of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during his recent visit to Belgrade, that Italy is firm in its intention to be Serbia’s ambassador on its European path. He assessed that Serbia was going in the right direction, first of all, when it came to the economic stabilization of the country, and praised the efforts the state is making in economic reforms, increasing the standard of living and economic security of Serbian citizens. Amendola emphasized that Serbia’s great potential lies in its young professional staff, which is the key to the success of each country.
Cooperation agreements between police of Serbia, North Macedonia (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and North Macedonia Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski signed an agreement on Monday in Skopje on the establishment of the Miratovac-Lojana border crossing. On that occasion, cooperation agreements on combating trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants were signed. These agreements will allow the police of the two countries a broad framework of action, Stefanovic said, adding that a faster and better coordination of the two criminal police was agreed on. He explained that the aforementioned border crossing will initially function for local traffic, and, if additional conditions are fulfilled, it will be a common border crossing for international road traffic.
Algeria will continue to respect principles of international law and remain consistent in stance of non-recognition of self-proclaimed state of Kosovo (Tanjug)
The Head of the Serbian parliamentary Friendship Group with Algeria Maja Macuzic Puzic met with the Ambassador of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria to Serbia Abdelhamid Chebchoub. She said that the bilateral and parliamentary relations between the two countries have recently been especially intensified as evidenced by the reciprocal visits of high dignitaries and delegations. Macuzic Puzic thanked the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria for supporting Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as for its support in all international organizations and institutions. Algerian Ambassador to Serbia Abdelhamid Chebchoub tanked the host for the initiative for this visit stressing that the relations with Serbia are excellent and praising the Algerian delegations’ recent visits to the country. He said that the presence of Serbian companies in Algeria is visible and the military cooperation between the two countries is at an admirable level. Chebchoub also praised the excellently organized IPU Assembly in Belgrade in October. He went on to brief her about the foreign policy situation in his country and the aftermath of the presidential elections. “Algeria will continue to respect the principles of international law and remain consistent in his stance of non-recognition of the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo,” said the Ambassador.
Obradovic: Majority of opposition favors election boycott (RTV)
The leader of the Dveri Movement Bosko Obradovic said that more than 35 political organizations in Serbia supported the stance of the Alliance of Serbia on boycotting elections.
Stating that the opposition is to a huge percentage absolutely united about the boycott, Obradovic specified that the Social Democratic Party, the One out of the Five Million association and Slobodan Samadrzic’s Statehood Movement, among others, were behind it. “A few other opposition parties are on the fence. I hope that Sergej Trifunovic and Zoran Zivkovic will opt for the boycott and realize that what was agreed in the parliament about the election is a farce, nothing more than a hoax, and that there won’t be any improvements to election conditions,” he said. Commenting the possibility of New Party leader Zoran Zivkovic running, Obradovic said this would make him one of Aleksandar Vucic’s biggest trump cards, like anyone else who participates in the false election, irregular in advance.
Fabrizi: Region needs normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations (Beta)
The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi said on Monday that the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations is one of the key elements needed for the recovery of the region and to continue Serbia’s EU path. Speaking at a presentation of the 10th Europa Diary for students, Fabrizi said that huge progress has been achieved in negotiations over the past 10 years but that this is not the case at present. He said the EU would continue investing efforts to achieve progress and expressed the hope that Belgrade and Pristina would achieve full normalization.
Fabrizi said that the European Commission had noted progress in the economy, that reforms are underway in the field of rule of law. “The important thing is to agree on the next steps … and for Serbia to join the EU,” he said.
Campaign to start on 5 March, along with parliamentary and local assemblies’ elections (Novosti)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will slate republic elections on 5 March, Novosti has learned. The elections should be held on 26 April, which means the campaign will last 49 days, plus 48 hours of pre-elections silence. Elections for local assemblies in most of the municipalities and towns will also be held together with the parliamentary elections, with the exception of 14 local self-governments that came out of thus rhythm over early elections. These elections will be scheduled by Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic.
Embassies of US, UK, France, Germany and Italy in B&H comment decision of SDA, SBB and DF to oust SC government (FTV)
Embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy issued a joint statement on Monday. After the leaders of three political parties, SDA, SBB Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and DF, reached an agreement with which they could soon oust the ruling coalition in the Sarajevo Canton (SC), the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy said in a joint statement that they will support and cooperate with any local government, as long as it displays “an active, loyal commitment to embrace change for an improved political and social climate around the country.” “Following recent proposals by political leaders to replace the government in Sarajevo Canton, we reaffirm that our commitment is to the citizens of B&H and reforms that support them, not to any political party or grouping”, reads part of the statement. The press release also reads: “In the past 12 months, we could see that the coalition government had a clear and a positive vision on how to improve lives of citizens. We are ready to cooperate with everyone who show active and clear commitment to changes with the aim to create a better political and social climate all over the country. B&H needs politicians who are mature enough for tasks that this country is facing with, and we will continue to support those who are decisive to face with them in an efficient way”. The five embassies also stated that politics and politicians should be judged according to how they respond to citizens’ demands for better government, economic reforms, the fight against corruption and exercising of human rights.
SDA Presidency presents names of candidates for B&H CoM (ATV)
SDA Presidency held a session in Sarajevo on Monday and leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic presented names of the party’s candidates for ministerial posts in the new B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). Addressing a press conference following the session, Izetbegovic stated that they defined candidates for ministerial posts. In this regard, he confirmed that SDA proposed Bisera Turkovic as the new B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nezir Pivic as the new Deputy B&H Minister of Justice, Nedzad Brankovic as the new Deputy B&H Minister of Transport and Communications, Dzevad Mahmutovic as the new Deputy B&H Minister of Human Rights and Refugees and Hazim Rancic as the new B&H Deputy Minister of Finances and Treasury. SDA also expressed expectations that the new CoM will be formed by 23 December.
SBB B&H Presidency confirms candidacy of Radoncic for post of new B&H Minister of Security; Arnaut resigns to all posts in SBB B&H (ATV)
SBB B&H Presidency held a session in Sarajevo on Monday and confirmed the candidacy of leader of this party Fahrudin Radoncic for the post of the new B&H Minister of Security. ATV warned of tensions in SBB B&H due to the coalition of this party with SDA, reporting that member of the B&H HoR Damir Arnaut resigned to all posts in this party on Monday. However, SBB B&H Presidency did not accept his resignation and instead the Presidency decided to remove him from all party functions. The reporter noted that the fact that he referred to the support of the UK Ambassador to B&H Matthew Field and the US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson did not help Arnaut. Addressing a press conference following the session, Radoncic said that Arnaut told them at the session that he met US Ambassador to B&H Nelson in Sarajevo on Sunday. Radoncic stated: “I personally know the Ambassador and I firmly believe that this did not happen. I strongly doubt that the US Ambassador and the UK Ambassador, as experienced diplomats from the countries that strongly help B&H and that never interfered in formation of authorities in a way to favor someone and to order which authorities will make the ruling coalition, I am 100 percent sure that they did not do this. However, you have members of the B&H Presidency who demand from SBB B&H– for a reason – to show its sovereignty when it comes to blackmails of any member of SBB B&H”. Arnaut said on Monday that the US and the UK do not support the tripartite Bosniak alliance (SDA, SBB B&H and DF). In a statement given for media, Arnaut revealed that the tripartite pact was reached in May, but he did not answer to a question on whether he will vote for formation of a new convocation of the B&H CoM or not. Commenting the coalition with SDA and DF, Radoncic said: “You have a situation that Croatia and Serbia are competing in armament. You have a situation where some voices from Serbia, and even from the RS, are saying they are a single territory. There is situation where Albania and Kosovo are abolishing borders. Someone is sending migrants in great numbers into this country, maybe even to the EU. It would be irresponsible of us to leave the Bosniaks without minimal unity and without something called the civic concept at this point”.
Cvijanovic: 9 January will be marked in RS same way it was marked before (BHT1)
Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic stated Monday that 9 January will be marked in the RS the same way it was marked before. Cvijanovic announced that 9 January will be marked as the Day of the RS with a parade. “Everything that is happening this, or at the beginning of the next year, that is related to marking of the Day of the RS is the same as before. Receptions will be organized during the month of December, as will be the case now, on 27-28 December. We will have a series of events and happenings on 8 January and the central event will take place on 9 January, when two key things will be held – the academy and the parade. After that, (celebration) continues in the Brcko District on 10 January, as it was the case before, except that this year we are introducing an event related to Istocno Sarajevo,” Cvijanovic underlined. Cvijanovic said that certain politicians have tried to use 9 January to score political points, which is actually deception of the public. According to Cvijanovic, certain comments on alleged rescheduling the date of marking the RS Day are malevolent.
Markovic: The law has never been subject of electoral legislation (CDM)
Proposal Law on Freedom of Religion and Legal Status of Religious Communities is not the law that stipulates seizure of property of any church community, said Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. “This is the law that will define what belongs to church and what belongs to the state. We aren’t going to expel clergy by virtue of this law, it’s manipulation aimed at sabotaging democratization process in Montenegro,” said Markovic. Speaking about his recent visit to Vatican, Markovic points out that Montenegro and the Holy See agree that the law shall be adopted by general consensus. “We have been working on making it happen. There is no consensus if somebody doesn’t want it. In this case, catholic church doesn’t oppose, and neither does Jewish community disagrees for pretty irrational reasons,” said Markovic. EC delegation, he says, asked about the timing related to the adoption of this law. “There were speculations that we proposed this law with the aim of blocking the dialogue on election conditions. The law has never been the topic of election legislation! This law hasn’t been kept secret, we have been working on it for four years,” he says.
Macedonians in Albania demand that Orthodox Christmas is national holiday (Republika)
Macedonians in Albania demand that Orthodox Christmas is national holiday. Macedonians and other Orthodox minorities in Albania demand that 7 January be included on the official holiday calendar. According to the Ilinden daily, Vasil Sterjovski, MP from the Macedonian Alliance for European Integration (MAEI), submitted a request to the Albanian legislature. “The initiative was supported by the Council of the Municipality of Pustec, which considers it very necessary, given the fact that the Municipality of Pustec is populated by hundred percent of the Macedonian population of Orthodox religion. They celebrate Orthodox holidays, including Christmas according to the Julian calendar,” Sterjovski says.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Conditions for fair elections in Serbia not established after three rounds of dialogue (European Western Balkans, by Aleksandar Ivković, 17 December 2019)
Conditions for fair and free elections in Serbia have not been established after three rounds of dialogue mediated by the European Parliament, which finished last Friday. This is the assessment of the opposition gathered in the Alliance for Serbia, which once again confirmed their intention to boycott the election, but also Chair of EP Delegation for Serbia Tanja Fajon and Rapporteur Vladimir Bilčik, who wrote in last week’s op-ed for Blic that more than 60% of the commitments had not been implemented. It would be incorrect to say that nothing has been achieved since the exchange of letters between Chair of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister and Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia Maja Gojković in September, which kicked off the process. However, the majority of the changes have been limited to formalities and easier and less controversial areas. Some additional commitments and the timetable for their implementation have been determined on Friday, but several important areas, such as pressure on the voters, have not been tackled. European Western Balkans has written both on the occasion of the first and the second round of dialogue, in October and November, that the unwillingness of the government to make meaningful concessions and the unsuitable format of the dialogue that was rejected by a significant part of the opposition in advance do not promise for a great success in establishing conditions that would be fair for all sides. The main question for EU is how it will continue its engagement in resolving the political crisis in Serbia, and whether a delay of the elections until the last legal deadline, agreed on Friday, will change the equation for any relevant player.
Unresolved: Biased media and pressures on voters
According to the Timetable on the Implementation of Commitments agreed throughout the dialogue, the only completely implemented reforms concern the review of the Electoral Roll and enabling the citizens to access it before and after elections, as well as the adoption of laws preventing the abuse of public resources during the campaign. Most of the commitments are only partially achieved or still ongoing, crucially those concerning the Regulatory Body of Electronic Media (REM), an institution responsible for, among other things, ensuring the professional reporting on the political actors during the election campaign. The election of new members of REM, its constant monitoring of media service providers, as well as adoption of a Rulebook for Public Media Service providers on how they should implement the existing legislation during the pre-election campaign and Recommendations for Commercial Broadcasters are all still pending. The case of REM shows that the media are still the most important factor for the ruling parties. Political scientist Boban Stojanović agrees with this assessment. “As long as there are two propaganda TV channels of the ruling party that enjoy the national coverage (Pink and Happy), two other TV channels that are slowly moving in that direction (Prva and O2) and with the public broadcaster RTS being as it is – election conditions are still very far away from being fair. Let us not forget the pro-government tabloid newspaper which employ fake news, propaganda and the worst kind of discreditation of the political opponents”, emphasises Stojanović. He sees the pressure on the voters, not covered by any of the commitments in the timetable, as the second most important advantage of the ruling parties. According to Stojanović, it mostly takes a form of conditioning the citizens employed in the public sector to vote for the government, but the citizens in the private and civil sector working with the state are not excluded from this either. “They have went so far that the votes have to be ensured through private companies and civil society organisations, and submission is expected, as well as limitation of any public speech critical of the government. The lists of voters gathered by the ruling party activists are not “safe votes” – it is a completely different concept of communication with the voters, who are demanded to prove that they have voted for a party”, he says. Stojanović additionally assesses that the commitments that have been implemented are still on the level of wishful thinking, because they are mostly limited to the amending and adoption of the new documents, and not the changes that are visible in practice. “The fact that something is adopted as a rule, as an institution, as a law in Serbia – that does not mean that it is going to be implemented. This is why the several amendments to certain laws and several conclusions of the Government cannot solve the problem of the public officials’ campaign, especially given the fact that it is taking place right now, while the new provisions are allegedly adopted”, he concludes. That a set of amendments to the laws intended to prevent the abuse of public resources in a campaign, adopted in the context of dialogue, are a step in the right direction, but not a sufficient one, is also the assessment of the Transparency Serbia, which in a statement from the beginning of December states that the proposals recently adopted by the National Assembly do not cover many other problems recognised by the public and international organisations. New laws, according to Transparency, still do not prevent public officials’ campaign because they do not prohibit activities that are presented as regular but are actually pre-election promotion, such as visits to schools, hospitals, construction sites, distribution of social assistance and similar. Necessary powers of the Anti-Corruption Agency are also not defined, and the problem of the uneven financing of the election campaign remains unresolved. With shoving the key issues such as the situation in the media and pressures on voters under the carpet and satisfying itself mostly with formalities, even them not without shortcomings, the question is whether the government honestly expected that the opposition will change its position of the boycott of the elections.
What is the next step?
According to Boban Stojanović, the answer to the previous question is that the government wanted to “pull out” as many still undecided parties as possible to the elections and to show that it is ready to cooperate to the international partners. “It is very interesting that some government MPs now say that the reforms that have been implemented are good things and boast with them, and only a few months ago they were saying that all of them are a complete nonsence”, he says.
Because of this, Stojanović believes that it is possible to expect some other format of the dialogue before the elections next spring, but that the only thing that could lead to substantial results are what the citizens of Serbia could see at the beginning of December, when the representatives of European Parliament met with the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) and Free Citizens Movement (PSG) individually. SzS, which is the only opposition coalition guaranteed to cross the five percentage of votes threshold, announced the boycott of the elections three months ago. PSG, which is hovering just above the threshold according to the polls, is still undecided. All other parties, not counting the ruling SNS and SPS, have been polling under 5% for years at this point. One of the outcomes of the meeting on Friday was the agreement that the election should be held as late as legally possible, which means the first weekend of May 2020, so that there is enough time to implement all the commitments. SzS has already declared that this period will not be enough – they demand at least nine months, preferably under a transitional government, in order to participate in an election. The second possibility put forward by the opposition is that there should be a snap election after the regular election in spring, as soon as the fair conditions are established. What will happen in the end will depend on the final list of participants in the regular election, but also the result achieved by the parties not participating in the ruling coalition – it is unlikely that a National Assembly composed only by the two ruling parties and its allies will be seen as a legitimate one, at least for a significant amount of time.