Brnabic to EU ambassadors: Serbia remains committed to reform process, EU membership (Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic met on Friday with Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia Sem Fabrizi and ambassadors of EU member states to discuss the process of European integration of our country. She underlined that the government is working continuously to implement reforms that are important for the well-being of citizens and truly transform society in the process of EU accession. She said that Serbia is today an economically stable country, pointing out that economic growth this year will be higher than the projected 3.5 percent, that last year growth was 4.4 percent and that the government is working hard to continue this trend in upcoming years. The focus for next year will be the continuation of infrastructure investments and investments in innovation, as a basis for sustainable economic growth. Brnabic also pointed out that the reforms implemented in the field of public administration have produced good results, and expressed her gratitude for the assistance of the EU and the Member States in supporting the establishment of the National Public Administration Academy, which should play a key role in creating more qualified staff and more efficient and transparent work of public administration. Speaking about reforms in the area of the rule of law, she said that this area will remain in the focus of the government. Speaking about the Draft Media Strategy, which is due to be submitted to the government for approval, Brnabic said that she is extremely pleased with the way this process has been conducted. According to Brnabic, a transparent and inclusive way of adopting a strategy is an example for all important processes in the country. Fabrizi said that Serbia has achieved good results in economic reforms, adding that the fact that the EU is the largest investor in Serbia testifies to our country’s support for reforms. Fabrizi and ambassadors of the EU Member States agreed that greater focus should be on Chapters 23 and 24. At the end of the meeting, Brnabic reiterated that Serbia remains committed to the reform process and membership of the European Union as a key foreign policy objective.
The meeting was also attended by Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic.
Vucic: Belgrade meeting to be historic (Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday said in Tirana that specific agreements had been reached on cooperation of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania and that everything would be finalized by the next meeting in Belgrade at the end of January. “It will be a historic meeting because of what we will have completed by that time,” he told reporters after a trilateral meeting with Albanian and North Macedonian Prime Ministers Edi Rama and Zoran Zaev. Vucic said the agreements included greater cooperation of emergency situations services and joint police and firefighting activities in case of fires, flooding or earthquakes. An agreement on setting up a single database was made as well, he said. “The systems will be networked so that we can help each other and react immediately, and so that all capacities are available to everyone,” he said. He also said a regime allowing travel between the three countries with only ID cards would be made more specific by the end of the year and that software for a single labor market had also been created to make it possible to attract foreign investors. “A single labor market has been agreed, so if an Albanian or a Macedonian moves to Serbia, it’s enough to use their phone or computer and apply for a job. So, if an Albanian goes to Serbia and wants to work, we will already have their information, because we are networked. The same will apply the other way.” According to him, this means that within five days a registration number is obtained and a worker can work in the territory of all three countries. “It’s a revolution and fantastic news. We will plug a lot of holes,” said Vucic, adding that this will bring “a dramatic inflow of investments, because it is important for foreigners to have safety.” He also said that the number of access and customs weights will be increased at the Tabanovci border crossing, and that phyto-sanitary inspection has been established since 1 December. People protesting in Tirana against the regional association are much more turned to the past and without a vision of the future, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, pointing out that he was very pleased with the conversation he had with Rama and Zaev. Responding to a reporter’s question about the protest, where offensive messages were heard at his and Serbia’s expense, Vucic said he was used to protests. He added this was normal in democratic societies and that he saw no particular problem in that, but says that no one can expect bad language to change someone’s political stance. “I am not fascinated when someone wants to change the political stnace with derogatory language, I will not change my relationship, nor will Edi Rama. That’s not how it happens,” said Vucic, adding that he felt great in Tirana as he was greeted hospitably and had no objection to the people who were in his surroundings. He says some people do not understand the reality and do not see that a regional cooperation initiative will bring more money, better living standards to Belgrade, Skopje and Tirana and enable people to stay and survive at their homes. Vucic said agreements made within the “little Schengen” would bring progress to Belgrade, Skopje and Tirana, and would mean a lot to other countries in the region, but, he noted, “some people do not understand the reality, they don’t live in the present and they have no vision of the future.” He said he understands Pristina’s absence, but his brain, he says, does not extend as far as to explain why Sarajevo is absent, who certainly has an interests in these deals. He message is that he is pleased with the meeting: “I have ‘calculated’ the Serbian interest well, I respect the region and I love the region, but my job is to take care of Serbia’s interest,” he said. If all this suits anyone, he says, it’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, and why these people are not in the initiative – his mind doesn’t reach that far. “They must be much smarter than I am, if they are much smarter than me, they see problems in all this,” said Vucic, when asked how he sees the absence of Sarajevo. “I understand when someone from Pristina says that there are political reasons – ‘we hate Serbia, because Serbia will not recognize Kosovo.’ I can’t justify that but I get it they are in an extended election campaign and not sure if they’ll form a government, so I interpret it that way, although it’s not good when you behave partisan-like, not taking care of the interests, as you say, of a country – as we say of the provincial administration – it’s all the same, these are interests that are a little above those of a party,” said Vucic. When it comes to Montenegro, Vucic said that he spoke with Djukanovic a couple of days ago. “And we’ll talk openly tomorrow. It would be good, important. I don’t hide it they could refuse it, anyone can refuse, we don’t have to beg anyone, but we think it would be good for Montenegro and for the whole region,” said Vucic after the tripartite meeting in Tirana.
Cadez: “Little Schengen” initiative has produced results (RTS)
The “Little Schengen” initiative has already produced certain long-awaited economic results, says Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (PKS) President Marko Cadez. In an interview to Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS), he said a Serbia-North Macedonia border crossing at Tabanovce was already operating round the clock and that a North Macedonia-Albania border crossing would soon begin to do the same. Cadez, who attended a two-day “Little Schengen” summit in Tirana at the weekend, said Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania would begin to treat each other’s citizens as locals and that a regime allowing travel between the three countries with only ID cards would be established. “Once you enter with an ID card… you will get a number you can function, work or live with in any of the three countries, and that is something that is really a big thing,” he noted. “You will get a certificate that you are an authorized economic operator, as a company, as a freight forwarding or a logistics firm, and, practically, there will be no delays at borders,” he explained. He added the EU and the EBRD would set aside large funds for the initiative.
Vucic: Tahiri threatening with war and nobody reacts (RTV/Tanjug)
Ivan Todosijevic was tried over the statement on Racak, while Edita Tahiri is threatening with war and nobody is reacting, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday and pointed out that this is hypocritical, that the Albanians are allowed everything unlike the Serbs, but that despite this, Serbia will continue to do everything to preserve peace. “Everything that is allowed to western diplomats and the Albanians is not allowed to us, not even the right to a different opinion. When Edita Tahiri calls on war, not a single embassy has issued a statement. She says there will be war. That is not only a call, that is threat with war. Many Belgrade circles will also keep silent, just as these embassies, western, are also keeping silent,” said Vucic in response to a journalist question on Edita Tahiri’s statement that there will be a war is Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo. He reminds that when he had joined the efforts of the Serb List for a verbal delict or a different stand and opinion not to be punishable with a prison sentence, as was the case with Ivan Todosijevic, four embassies of western countries reacted. “They started lecturing me how I should not change the history that they think they invented, because they cannot agree with the fact that someone has a different opinion, stand. At the same time, these embassies of the EU member states are keeping silent when they tell us that genocide was not committed in Jasenovac and that labor camps were there, that people were not murdered there, they are absolutely silent then,” said Vucic, underlining that at issue is not Racak, a place where 100 or 1000 or dozens and hundred thousands of people were killed, but 40 for whom we claim that one part belonged to the so-called KLA, and they claim they didn’t. Vucic reiterated that his response to all of that is that Serbia will maintain peace. “We will fight to have peace and to ask those who think to be at war with someone and to attack someone, not to do this. Not because we are terribly afraid, but because this is terribly bad for everybody. And that is the only request.”
High level of strategic partnership with Russian Federation (Tanjug/Beta)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met in Moscow on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The interlocutors agreed that the relations between the two countries have reached a very high level of strategic partnership and that this is evidenced by the level of trust existing in those relations, as well as in the very intense dynamics of high-level meetings.
Dacic and Lavrov discussed current issues of bilateral cooperation, deepening bilateral ties in all domains, the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as in our region. Dacic informed his Russian counterpart about the current state of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, expressing appreciation for the Russian Federation’s firm and consistent support for Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Both sides expressed satisfaction with multilateral cooperation, emphasizing the importance of continuing mutual support in international organizations. The two officials pointed to the dynamic development of economic cooperation between the two countries in the previous period, to which the work of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technical Cooperation, chaired by Dacic and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, has given significant contribution. Dacic and Borisov also held a meeting in Moscow to prepare for the next session of the Intergovernmental Committee.
Dacic in Moscow: Russia always on Serbia’s side (RTV)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has stated that Russia is always on Serbia’s side and that it is offering it support at large international forums, adding this support is important for defending our territorial integrity and sovereignty. He told this the press in Moscow following the meeting with Lavrov and Borisov. “At the meeting with Lavrov we analyzed our relations and once again underlined that our political relations are at a high level, that the meeting of the two presidents in Sochi was important, as well the confirmation of our great friendship,” said Dacic. He says he had informed the Russian colleague about the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, about the big problems faced by the Serb people in the Serbian southern province, Pristina’s obstruction, and especially pointed to the latest statements of Pristina’s’ politicians that “there will be a war if Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo”. “All of that threatens to destabilize the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, the dialogue is interrupted and it will certainly not resume until the taxes are abolished,” said Dacic. He says Serbia and Russia will continue communication regarding the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, which is for our country of special importance because that Russia is supporting Serbia at all international forums, it is always on our side, and this is of vital importance for the defense of our territorial integrity and sovereignty.
We need to resolve through dialogue the issue of property of Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro
We need to resolve all status issues of the Serb people in Montenegro in agreement, Dacic said and called the Montenegrin authorities to seriously discuss the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) in order to calm tensions rather than incite conflicts. “We think this is not good and that this could cause big problems. In line with this, everybody should have understanding that this problem can be resolve only with dialogue,” Dacic said in response to a journalist question how will the issue of seizure of the SPC property in Montenegro be resolved regarding the announced adoption of the draft law and the legal status of religious communities in this country. Asked whether he discussed with Lavrov the present situation and political tensions in Montenegro, Dacic said they didn’t touch upon the topic.
DF: Serbian Minister Vulin should know border between Serbia and B&H is on Drina River, this will soon be border between NATO and Serbia (BN TV)
DF led by Zeljko Komsic, Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency, issued a statement on Sunday sending a message to Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin that he should know that the border between Serbia and B&H is on Drina River and that this will soon be a border between NATO and Serbia. DF’s statement reads that this will be a NATO border with Serbia “if Serbia itself does not come to senses and join NATO, too”. Vulin originally reacted to Komsic’s statement that he thinks of Kosovo as an independent country and told him that he should not do to others what he does not want to be done to himself. DF reacted by saying that B&H is not going to do to Serbia what Vulin’s idol Slobodan Milosevic did to the people in B&H. Komsic gave an interview to Radio Television of Kosovo, on which occasion he stated that there is still no mutual recognition of independence between B&H and Kosovo, but he personally believes Kosovo is an independent state. Asked whether there is an agreement (in B&H) on this matter, Komsic replied by saying that: “There is no agreement, but I am entitled to my personal stance. I will not always be saying what has been agreed upon because there are three of us in the Presidency of B&H, this does not mean that I need the consent of the Presidency of B&H to say anything. I must adhere to some diplomatic rules which are in force in B&H when making diplomatic moves. I repeat, for me, Kosovo is an independent state. This is already a done deal, it is only a matter of time when others in the region will accept this”. Komsic also said that no agreement between Belgrade and Pristina can be used as a precedent for solving of problems in the Western Balkans or in B&H. Vulin stated that he presumes Komsic will not mind his own words and their consequences. “Although there is still no mutual recognition of independence between RS and Serbia, this is practically a done deal. Judging the current situation, we will have to wait although I have no dilemma that the RS is an independent state. This is not my statement. I respect the Dayton Agreement and B&H. This is Komsic’s statement in which I replaced Kosovo with the RS” Vulin said. Head of Serb caucus in the parliament of B&H Nenad Stevandic told the daily that Komsic’s statement is not the first incident in the region he has caused. “Komsic is an embarrassment for B&H. He is only additionally embarrassing himself with such statements,” said Stevandic and added that Komsic is clearly aware that the RS has strong political representation in Sarajevo at the moment. Deputy Head of SNSD caucus in the parliament of B&H Snezana Novakovic-Bursac stated that Komsic is clearly promoting his personal stances, as his statements cannot influence the official stance of the Presidency of B&H when it comes to Kosovo.
B&H CoM composition to be confirmed (BHT1, ATV)
The new convocation of the B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM) is to be officially confirmed on Monday (today) at the urgent session of the B&H House of Representatives (B&H HoR). The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) of B&H has concluded the vetting procedure for candidates for the positions of ministers and deputy ministers. The composition of the B&H CoM will be made up of: Chairman Zoran Tegeltija (SNSD), B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic (SDA), B&H Minister of Finance and Treasury Vjekoslav Bevanda (HDZ B&H), B&H Minister of Defense Sifet Podzic (DF), B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic (SBB), B&H Minister of Justice Josip Grubesa (HDZ B&H), B&H Minister of Civil Affairs Ankica Gudeljevic (HDZ B&H), B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Stasa Kosarac (SNSD), and B&H Minister of Transport and Communications Vojin Mitrovic (DNS). However, it remains uncertain whether the post of B&H Minister of Human Rights and Refugees will be awarded to Mladjan Bozovic (DNS). Member of the B&H Presidency from the rank of the Serb people Milorad Dodik said that appointment of the new convocation of the B&H CoM is a closed deal, adding that what remained is to technically implement it. He underlined that there is some opposition in the B&H HoR that will attempt to use some procedures with a goal to prevent appointment of the new convocation of the B&H CoM. “However, majority for appointment of the B&H CoM is not disputable, and it will be manifested during voting,” concluded Dodik. Speaker of the B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic stated that the new B&H CoM) will be formed on Monday, December 23, fourteen months after the last general elections in B&H. Covic stressed that this would create a completely different ambiance especially given that, according to him, an agenda with a clear plan of action of the B&H CoM in the next three years will be adopted soon. “Either whole B&H CoM will be appointed or minus one minister, which will not be a big problem. In any case, we will have the B&H CoM,” Covic underlined.
Parties still without agreement on Mostar (Oslobodjenje)
Anel Kljako (SBB B&H) told the daily that the only way to avoid imposing a solution for elections in Mostar is to exclude Mostar from the package of changes to the Law on Elections of B&H related to the Presidency of B&H and House of Peoples (HoP) of B&H. However, the daily noted, one can hardly expect this to happen because the main negotiators, i.e. SDA and HDZ B&H, strongly maintain their stances. Namely, HDZ B&H insists Mostar to be a part of the package, while SDA has completely opposite stance. “In essence, there are two models which are excellent starting point so a solution, whatever it will be, will probably be in line with those. Parties already clearly said last year that both models are acceptable. We are facing a new step” President of Mostar Board of HDZ B&H Slaven Zeljko said. The daily reminded that SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic said after recently held meeting with a delegation of HDZ B&H that they again disagree on Mostar issue because SDA believes Mostar must be treated separately from other issues and added: “We think we need to hurry up and that the international community, which contributed to having present solutions, should get engaged as well”. Izetbegovic also said on the occasion that he thinks Bosniaks are inadequately represented in agencies and institutions in Mostar. The daily reminded that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered that rules for Mostar will have to be imposed in case no solution is agreed upon and added: “Mostar will certainly have local elections next year”. Kljako warned that the situation is complicated because agony has been present for the past 12 years. “There is no time and no excuses. It is necessary to take a look at concrete living problems, such as the problem related to waste and problem related to health condition of the Mayor. Mostar must be treated separately because it is obvious that changes to the Law on Elections, in the way (HDZ B&H leader) Dragan Covic advocates, cannot happen” Kljako added and claimed that the biggest responsibility is in hands of SDA and HDZ B&H. Kljako also said that he believes participation of SBB B&H in authorities at the state level might contribute to finding a solution soon. “Whenever (SBB B&H leader) Fahrudin Radoncic participated in talks in past, progress was made even in case of Mostar. Therefore, it is important for us to continue to be a part of solution”, Kljako concluded.
OHR: Elected leaders of this country should be ashamed for failing to comply with ECHR ruling (N1)
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary since the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) passed a ruling in the case ‘Sejdic-Finci vs. B&H’, High Representative Valentin Inzko stated that leaders of B&H should be ashamed of themselves for failing to implement this ruling for an entire decade. Inzko warned that, by failing to implement the ruling, B&H leaders maintain existence of discrimination. Inzko reminded that the ECHR passed this ruling on December 22, 2009, establishing that the B&H Constitution and the Election Law contain discriminatory provisions that prevent citizens who do not belong to the category of constituent peoples from standing for election to the B&H Presidency and the B&H House of Peoples (HoP). According to the High Representative, the essence of the ruling is clear – all citizens in B&H should have equal rights, and the aim of the ruling is to eliminate discrimination. The High Representative underscored that this is a central element in making B&H a real home for all its citizens, regardless of their ethnic affiliations. He reminded that this is not the only ECHR ruling that B&H authorities continue to disregard, as the authorities must also take the steps to implement the rulings in Zornic, Pilav and Slaku cases, which would end discrimination based on ethnicity or residence. Head of the EU Delegation and the EU Special Representative in B&H Johann Sattler reminded that almost exactly ten years ago, on December 22, 2009, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rendered a ruling finding that B&H discriminates against its citizens on ethnic grounds. “I wonder how Mr. (Dervo) Sejdic and Mr. (Jakob) Finci felt when they first heard about the ECHR’s decision. Did their hearts race with excitement? Did they celebrate? Plan to stand for election for the highest offices in the land? And what do they think about it all now, 10 years later? Have they lost hope? Ten years is too long; tens of thousands of B&H citizens are still discriminated against based on their ethnic affiliation or lack thereof, or the place of residence”, Sattler wrote. Sattler underlined that no country was perfect, “but valuing the freedom of every person to make a choice for themselves and creating opportunities to turn those choices into real options is what every aspiring EU member state should do”. “In other words, if a Jew or Roma, or any other citizen for that matter, want to run for election in any EU Member State, they must be able to do so”, he wrote. “The Dayton Peace Agreement stopped one of the bloodiest wars in the late 20th century, but I don’t think that its deficiencies were meant to remain unresolved. Rebuilding a long-lasting peace is about overcoming and challenging the retrograde narrative of the past. For a start, by ensuring that one’s rights are not diminished under the pretense of protecting someone else’s”, Sattler noted. “Over the years, I have heard dozens of reasons why the implementation of the ‘Sejdic-Finci’ ruling is overly complicated or even impossible. Regardless, it simply has to be done to ensure that the country protects individual freedoms and provides just fundamental principles. It is also a binding international obligation of B&H and one of the priorities identified in the European Commission’s Opinion on country’s application for the EU membership. Mostar citizens must finally be able to go to the polls and elect their own local authorities in October 2020. All citizens of B&H must be eligible to stand for the Presidency in 2022. Change is never easy, but necessary. Accomplishing what was previously thought to be unattainable is what true leaders do. That is, if willing!” Sattler concluded.
RS parliament to discuss information about Program of Reforms of B&H (ATV)
At its special session scheduled for Monday, the RS parliament will discuss information on Program of Reforms of B&H recently adopted by the B&H Presidency. Reporter commented that it is clear that the opposition in the RS parliament will not give up on its stances that this document is detrimental for the RS. Leader of SNSD and member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that that the opposition would be against this document, regardless of its content. He added that NATO is a serious organization, adding that those who want to resume with NATO integration need to submit the Annual National Program (ANP) – the document that B&H will not submit. Dodik claims that one of most important things regarding this document is that NATO integration and membership in this organization have been put aside. “What we did is that we got this qualification that it does not prejudge NATO membership. Everything depends on our will and for as long as we are sitting there, there will be no NATO integration”, explained Dodik. “This is not the ANP. NATO is not playing with terminology, nor should we. If there is consensus, there will be activities to implement things from this document. If there is no consensus on things written there, they will definitely not be implemented”, stressed member of B&H Presidency from rank of Serb people. RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic stated that if the RS parliament voted on this document, it will be adopted. He added that material delivered to the RS parliament will show attacks and criticism have been ungrounded.
Croatia Presidential Election: Grabar-Kitarovic, Milanovic go to round two (TCN)
According to election results released at 5h CST (with 99.98% votes processed) on December 23, 2019; Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic will advance to round two of the Croatian presidential elections on January 5, 2020. Miroslav Skoro, a popular folk musician, who was closely trailing Grabar-Kitarovic in the early exit polls, will not advance to the second round. Here is a breakdown of the final results for all eleven presidential candidates:
29.55% – Zoran Milanovic – Former Prime Minister | SDP
26.65% – Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic – Current President | HDZ
24.45% – Miroslav Skoro – Folk singer and former Croatian Parliament Representative | Independent
5.87% – Mislav Kolakusic – Former Judge and EU Parliament Representative | Independent
4.61% – Dario Jurican – Legal name: Milan Bandic. Filmmaker and Performance Artist | Independent
2.89% – Dalija Oreskovic – Former Chair Conflicts of Interest Croatian Parliament | Independent
2.31% – Ivan Pernar – Member of Croatian Parliament | Party of Ivan Pernar
1.12% – Katarina Peovic – Former member of Zagreb City Council | Workers’ Front
0.95% – Dejan Kovac – Economist and Princeton graduate | HSLS
0.21% – Anto Djapic – Former Osijek Mayor and Former Member of Croatian Parliament | DESNO
0.15% – Nedjeljko Babic – Regional party candidate | HSSCKS
Milanovic: We are going into second round but not to war, wars are over (Hina)
Zoran Milanovic, who won 29.5 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election, as against 26.7 percent won by incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, said “we are going into a second round but we are not going to war, wars are over.” “We are going into a civilized match and may the better one win. I believe I’m the better one,” he said after his relative victory in the first round of the vote. Milanovic said he would fight to convince everyone for whom Croatian interest came first to vote in the runoff so that Croatia could be a solidarity state because he wanted a country of equals. Whatever will be, will be in two weeks’ time, there’s no bitterness in me, but there’s no fear either, he said. “I think I’m mature, ready and willing to do this job in good faith, but this is more than a job, it’s a way of life.” I’m aware that not everyone likes me, but I will treat everyone as a human being, Milanovic said. “I won’t treat anyone with hate but in good faith. I’m aware that there will be those who won’t like me, but my job is to reach everyone, both those who will support me and the others.” “In Croatia no one must come second and no one must be neglected. You have a right to happiness and a peaceful life,” Milanovic said. “In the Croatia in which I am president, no one will feel as a second-class citizen. I won’t have the strong, financial, executive instruments to achieve that, you’ll have to take my word for it, and what lies ahead is believing two candidates based on what we have done, said and achieved. In this match my chances are big and I once again call on all Croatians, those who didn’t vote, those who did, to think twice, to watch the next two weeks and then vote and give me that little bit of faith without which I don’t exist,” Milanovic said. “When I become president, all my loyalties to anything other than the Croatian constitution will end. I will be a fervent advocate of that constitution. And that’s it, that’s my state, but I am not the state.”
Grabar-Kitarovic calls on Skoro’s voters to vote for her in runoff (Hina)
President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who is running for re-election in a second round against Zoran Milanovic, called on Sunday on all voters to vote for her, notably those who supported Miroslav Skoro in today’s first round of the presidential election. Grabar-Kitarovic thanked everyone who voted today, saying they had shown that it was important that the president was elected by the people in a direct election. She congratulated the other candidates on their election results. She criticized Milanovic and called on those who voted for Skoro to vote for her in the runoff. “I had a fellow candidate in my political spectrum, unlike Milanovic. But now we must all come together and win.” Grabar-Kitarovic thanked everyone in the ruling HDZ party who supported her when she was being called out over alleged mistakes and misinterpreted, “although I’ve never done anything that would damage Croatia and the Croatian people.” She called on everyone to vote “for a better Croatia” in the runoff. “That will be a vote for five years of intense fighting, intense working for our Croatia. I have shown industriousness, work and determination. My second term will be a daily fight for change in our society which, unfortunately, is still divided on futile ideological issues and historical disputes. That takes us back and we are fed up with it. We are tired of that, let’s go into the future.” Grabar-Kitarovic underlined the need for unity, rallying around the same goals, which she said was the key to success. “All of us, not us or them, but all of us. We are all Croatia, one Croatia with equal opportunities for all.” In this election, we are electing the person who will continue to be with the people over the next five years and who will “listen to what you have to say,” she said. We are electing a president who will come from, work for and fight for the people. And when I win your trust again, I will again fight on Croatia’s behalf for a place in the first row, for Croatia, not for myself, Grabar-Kitarovic said. She said she did need more powers. “Your trust is my biggest power. You are at the center of my program and my policy, not I.” Addressing those who did not vote for her, she said she knew that in doing so they expressed a certain dissatisfaction. “Your message is perfectly clear to me. I’ve heard it, I understand it. But now is not the time for new divisions. ‘Us or them’ must not be Croatia’s policy again.” We must not allow the destruction of the policy of unity and a return to the policy of ideological conflicts, she said. “The goal and pattern are always the same – divide and discourage all patriots and then a minority calling themselves ‘us’ will rule. I won’t let that happen.” After 15 years of wandering, we finally found the right course and I dictated the pace of that course and will continue to do so, she said. Commenting on Milanovic’s stance that the president should be elected in parliament, Grabar-Kitarovic said one should wonder why he was running for president if he thought he could achieve nothing. “Today’s vote has shown that the Croatian people wants to elect its president in a direct election, but a president who will work for the people and fight for the people… I will do so in the next five years.” She called on those who did not vote today to rally around her program. “It’s a vote for an even better Croatia, for a Croatia tailored to everyone’s needs, for a Croatia which believes in democracy, which wants more, not less democracy, and for a president who works, who is among you, with you and for you.” “My Croatia is a Croatia for all. That’s the only path and let’s take it now, tonight already,” Grabar-Kitarovic said, adding that she would be “the voice and the hands of the people.”
Djukanovic: Serbian Orthodox Church and some parties are seeking to implement ideology of Great Serbian nationalism (CDM)
Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic said that interests of two very important and quite brutal players had connected now. Players who “are seeking to implement ideologies of great Serbian nationalism in Montenegro” – Serbian Orthodox Church and some political parties.
“Yes. I’m talking about DF and Democratic Montenegro. Democrats have finally decided to shed their image of a pro-European party and showed they are actually a nationalistic, clerical political structure playing the role of a contractor of the great-Serbian nationalism in Montenegro,” said Djukanovic. He said that alleged vulnerability of Serbian people in Montenegro had been in focus in 2007 too. “Whenever leaders of pro-Serbian political parties in Montenegro started to lose some monopoly position, they would try to present it as some sort of violation of their national rights. Back in 2007, they wanted to amend law on general education and bring Serbian and Montenegrin language to a same level. I’m surprised to see that they are trying that again. If somebody irresponsible accepted that compromise, it would mean that we are actually giving up on independence and European path our country has taken. Now they are threatening that there will be elections next year, in which opposition won’t take part, which would jeopardize the legitimacy of election results and bring into question Montenegro’s democratic rating”, says Djukanovic. If we gave up now, we would definitely destroy everything we have been working on after the referendum. “That’s not going to happen, we are moving on. We understand there are still people in Montenegro who oppose its European perspective. We are trying to deal with them through political fight and in accordance with the legal system of Montenegro. No reason for pessimism. We have always been successful in managing such intentions,” says Djukanovic.
Last attempts to blackmail
As far as the Law on Freedom of Religion is concerned, Djukanovic thinks it’s just another attempt to blackmail independent and European Montenegro. “Let’s just remember the time we were getting ready for the referendum. We had a suggestion from Belgrade that we should give up on the referendum. After we refused to do so, there was a request for the interference of Serbian citizens. We refused that too and then, if you remember, came blackmail. Montenegrin citizens will not have right to medical treatment in health institutions in Serbia, Montenegrin students won’t be entitled to study in the universities of Serbia, and other nonsense” says Djukanovic. Commenting on the set of election laws, he says that we are continuously working on the improvement of election legislation and that we are trying to follow what is regarded as god European practice in that domain. Djukanovic states it is very important to have democratic elections. “It is important that election results are recognized by our European partners because then we can achieve our foreign policy goals more easily. One of the most important tasks is exactly the one you insist on. It is very important to continue pursuing a systematic policy of the improvement of our own identity”, says Montenegro’s first man.
He says clearly that he won’t accept any blackmail. Djukanovic denies that the Government has launched proposal for the law and referred it to the Parliament with the aim of bringing adoption of election legislation into question. “None of that is true. We have been preparing that law since 2014. During 2018, there was a very intense discussion with the representatives of religious communities in Montenegro. In the last couple of months, we had dialogues with the representatives of Serbian Orthodox Church. What else can you expect after five years of work? The law has to be referred to the parliament”, says Djukanovic.
A downright lie
Speaking about the Law on Freedom of Religion again, Djukanovic says it’s not true that they are trying to seize property of the Serbian Orthodox Church. “That’s lie, and there’s no euphemism for it. There’s no room for compromise here. The procedure has been followed. The question is: are we ready for the political compromise? Are we ready to give up on everything we have been building for the past two or three decades. Are we willing to give up on our European path and let Montenegro be a Serbian state, guided by SOC”, says Djukanovic. He declined to comment on the remarks from Serbia regarding the Law on Freedom of Religion.
Speaking about the attack on Miodrag Daka Davidovic, Djukanovic said that we should ask ourselves who would have the biggest benefit from such a horrific event. Asked if he had any information on whether Davidovic had right to enter Montenegro’s territory because of his problems with the law, Djukanovic answers no. “Honestly, I didn’t care about it and I didn’t even red what you said. The only question is: does he have problems with the law? If not, he’s a free citizen” says Djukanovic. Djukanovic agrees that taking out relics of the Saint Basil of Ostrog in the convocation in Niksic is a sacrilege. “It’s just another example of disrespect for the laws of Montenegro. There are many others. This is in direct contravention of the law on cultural goods of Montenegro,” says Djukanovic.
No more invitations
Asked if DPS will once again call on the parliamentary parties to enter the government, President says there were some invitations for the establishment of some wider, technical coalition. “That isn’t real now. And we have explained several times why. At the end of 2015, a traditional political partnership DPS-SDP was broke. It was followed by accusations regarding political corruption. We thought we should offer opposition the possibility to enter the Government and see that a very serious and responsible dialogue is held there,” says Djukanovic.
Democratic culture deficit
President says that boycott is never a good choice. “Boycott is a reflection of immaturity of a democratic society and democratic culture deficit. The one who boycotts always pays through the nose. We are very interested in avoiding a boycott. We want to harmonize election legislation just because we believe in our political power and we firmly believe we win. However, if somebody decided to be marginalized and fall short of financial revenues, lose media attention, then they would definitely decide to boycott elections,” says Djukanovic.
Djukanovic on ‘mini Schengen’: A Balkan union cannot replace the EU (CDM)
A Balkan union cannot replace the European Union. No thanks. Our goal is Montenegro as an EU member state. We don’t need any substitute, but we back all the regional initiatives that bring us closer to this goal, said Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic during the Western Balkans Regional Meeting held in Tirana, Albania, while discussing the ‘mini Schengen’. “We want to be part of the EU and we’ve been working hard on that for years on end. We are not ready to change the course. Nothing’s staggered us on the road to the EU,” Djukanovic said. He emphasized that Montenegro has been fully committed to the regional cooperation and that the ‘mini-Schengen’ initiative should align with other initiatives as well. This is an opportunity to boost trust and foster cooperation beneficial for all the countries, added Djukanovic.
“In this way we are strengthening capacities for the EU membership.” Djukanovic participated at the WB Regional Meeting upon the invitation of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. The meeting was organized as part of the trilateral initiative by Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia, initiated by Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and PMs Rama and Zoran Zaev.
Twelve days until Zaev resigns (Republika)
It’s twelve days until outgoing Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is supposed to resign, and VMRO-DPMNE Vice President Vladimir Misajlovski said that this will announce the beginning of accountability for the numerous criminal scandals of the past three years. “It’s 12 days until Zoran Zaev leaves office and three and a half months until VMRO-DPMNE wins the early general elections and begins the renewal of Macedonia. The time of improvisations in politics will be over and we will begin a period of accountability. Everybody who violated the laws and the will of the people will be held responsible,” Misajlovski said during his press conference yesterday. VMRO-DPMNE held a large rally on Saturday and announced elements of its program. Misajlovski said that the right-wing party will ensure billions in foreign and infrastructure investments, reduce air pollution by 50 percent, make sure at least one university enters the ARWU Shanghai list of best universities and reintroduce the old model of calculating retirement incomes.
Xhaferi says interim prime minister can be elected the same day Zaev resigns (Republika)
Parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi says that it is possible a new interim Prime Minister to be elected on the same day when Zoran Zaev is expected to resign on 3 January. Zaev’s government is resigning as part of the 100 days rule, and the parliament should then elect an interim Prime Minister appointed by Zaev’s SDSM party, and allow several candidates from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE to assume major departments such as the Interior Ministry.
“This is something that all parties agreed to and it is not a problem to do the vote on the same day, on 3 January. We would note the resignation of the Prime Minister, notify the President that the government has resigned, he should then appoint a mandate holder who would propose new Interior and Labor and Welfare ministers and new deputy ministers from the opposition, and we can vote on them by midnight the same day,” Xhaferi said.
Tirana: Participants of ‘Regional Meeting Western Balkans’ says doors remain open for B&H to joint Mini Schengen (N1)
A two-day ‘Regional Meeting Western Balkans’ ended in Tirana on Saturday. Albanian Prime Minister (PM) Edi Rama hosted Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, PM of the Republic of the North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, as well as Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic who joined the event on Saturday. The officials discussed issues related to the so-called ‘Mini Schengen’ and during the second day of the event, they visited Durres, the small Albanian town recently hit by earthquakes. Attendees of the event adopted conclusions and announced that doors remain open for Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) to join the ‘Mini Schengen’ that advocates the freedom of people, goods, capital and services. According to announcements, first agreements on easing freight forwarders to cross borders between the aforementioned countries will be signed in Belgrade in February. According to Rama, this will reduce waiting for trucks at border crossings from 24 hours to eight hours of waiting. The reporter noted that during the second day of the event, Djukanovic joined the officials, but he was slightly more cautious when it comes to joining the ‘Mini Schengen’. According to Djukanovic, Montenegro may join some aspects of the ‘Mini Schengen’ but they must take good care to make everything in line with rules of the EU. Addressing a press conference, Vucic said that media can call the initiative ‘Mini Schengen’ or whatever they want, adding that they will try to make a single labor market because this will attract foreign investments. He also mentioned proposals to harmonize other regulations of these countries in order to form a single market. Addressing the press conference, Djukanovic said that now is the time for high-quality and undisputed implementation, because they believe that the cooperation will bring new development chance for the countries. He added that within each regional initiative, it is important to recognize the chance for further progress towards the EU path. Addressing the press conference, Rama stated: “We have the same destiny because we live in the same territory which is why we have the obligation to overcome problems and animosities from the past and to secure a better future for new generations. I cannot understand constant rejecting of Kosovo bodies to join this table. The ‘Mini Schengen’ is in the interest of Kosovo and our vision is to be a bridge that will establish the four freedoms that are valid in the EU, at the level of our countries”. Zaev called on everyone to join them, arguing that their cooperation has already brought some benefits. According to N1, there were no official talks about issues related to a dispute over the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro between Vucic and Djukanovic. It remains unknown whether the two officials discussed this issue, as they had a chance to talk alone during their visit to Durres.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Serbian newspaper Srpski Telegraf, published on December 20, 2019 (Russian Foreign Ministry)
Question: What is your assessment of the developments in Kosovo? What possible solution is there to the problem?
Sergey Lavrov: As of now, in our opinion, there are not yet the necessary prerequisites for positive change in the Kosovo settlement process. The post-election chaos and the struggle for power continue in Kosovo. The European Union’s potential as a mediator has been significantly depreciated, and it seems that the EU cannot influence the Kosovars to compel them to adopt a sensible, constructive approach to the talks with Serbia.
For instance, since 2013, Pristina has stonewalled the implementation of its commitment to create a Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo. Discriminatory anti-Serbian customs duties imposed by the Kosovo government are in effect for a year already.
Russia urges the parties to reach a viable and mutually acceptable solution based on Resolution No 1244 of the UN Security Council. The solution should comply with international law and be approved by the UN Security Council because we are talking about providing international peace and security.
We will only agree to a solution that is acceptable to the Serbs themselves.
Question: You have visited Belgrade several times. What did you like the most and what made the strongest impression?
Sergey Lavrov: The most important thing in Serbia is its people, of course. Their traditional hospitality and friendliness can be felt everywhere, and this was the most vivid and pleasant impression.
I can say honestly that when visiting Belgrade, both my colleagues and I, always feel at home there. And there is nothing surprising about this because our two really fraternal nations are united by common cultural and civilisational roots, spiritual ties and the warmest friendship and affinity.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Serbian government and all our Serbian friends for the attention they pay to the strengthening of Russia-Serbia strategic partnership.
Question: What would you wish the readers of Srpski Telegraf in the new year?
Sergey Lavrov: First of all, I wish the people of friendly Serbia peace, good health, happiness and wellbeing. I am sure that in the upcoming year, we will reach new levels of bilateral cooperation together, and ensure the implementation of mutually beneficial joint projects in the interests of increasing wellbeing and improving the quality of life for the people of our countries.
What Macron plans for Europe (Politico, by Rym Momtaz, 23 December 2019)
The French president’s EU adviser outlines what Paris wants from Brussels.
A little less conversation, a little more action — that’s Emmanuel Macron’s plan for Europe in 2020. The French president has spent the past two years setting up his chess pieces. Now, with the new European Commission in office, he wants to get down to the work itself — breaking the political deadlock he says is holding back Europe on the global stage. “The president has laid out the conceptual framework — we’re not going to do the Sorbonne speech every year,” says Clément Beaune, the president’s point man on Europe, referring to Macron’s landmark speech on Europe in 2017, in which he outlined his vision for the Continent. “We are now in the implementation phase.” Beaune, who has advised Macron since he was economy minister in 2014, rarely speaks on the record about his boss’s plans for Europe. But in an exclusive interview for POLITICO, the soft-spoken redhead opened up about France’s ambitions for the Continent. Macron has been laying the groundwork for France to take on a greater role in the EU since the beginning of his presidency. Since his election in 2017, he has visited 21 EU countries — some of which hadn’t received a visit from a French president in a decade — to build up a web of political alliances. The idea was to create a “strategy of influence,” says Beaune, “which means, ahead of a Commission decision, we can suggest ideas, go on a tour of capitals, make contributions, write papers with other countries.” In 2019, Macron set about building up France’s influence within the European institutions: He established the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament; positioned close allies at the helm of the European Central Bank and the European Council, and masterminded Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination to the presidency of the European Commission. It’s no surprise, then, that the new Commission’s strategic outlook largely maps Macron’s own priorities for Europe: fighting climate change and achieving carbon neutrality; introducing a European minimum wage and eurozone-wide unemployment benefits scheme; boosting the EU’s capabilities on defense; and coming up with a credible policy of security, asylum and migration. The French president’s European ambitions are the reason he pushed so hard to bring the first phase of Brexit negotiations to a close. “We have spent half the European Council meetings over the past two and a half years — and it’s not an exaggeration — discussing Brexit,” says Beaune. “I was struck that at the European Council in March we spent more than half a day on Brexit and two hours on Europe’s relationship with China. It’s not the right proportion.” Beaune acknowledges that the French president’s hard-charging approach — in particular his stance on Brexit and his decision to block the opening of EU accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania — could come across as abrasive. But that, says Beaune, is just because European officials aren’t used to Paris taking the lead after it spent a decade keeping a low-profile on the European stage. “Evidently, creating leadership also means creating friction,” says Beaune. “When the president speaks loudly, his objective isn’t to ruffle feathers.”
Asked what Macron would choose to tackle if he could just push through one reform next year, Beaune answers “migration.” The EU’s inability to find a solution to the problem is an example of its “habit of inertia and indecision” on urgent issues. France’s goal is to turn the ad hoc process used to distribute asylum seekers rescued at sea among EU countries into something more systematic. Another key French goal is to build up so-called European power — a goal Beaune acknowledges hasn’t always gone over well in other EU capitals. “Power has been seen in Europe as a kind of woe,” he says. “Because it was a division of the Europeans, a war of Europeans against each other and a form of auto-destruction. “Europe has to get used to wielding power itself,” he adds. “Europe is the only global bloc that doesn’t think of itself as a power or as a long-term project.”