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Belgrade Media Report 31 December 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 31 December 2019


• Patriarch Irinej: Major events in Montenegro – this is not only a problem of Montenegro but also of Serbia (RTV/FoNet/Beta)
• Vucic: I’m ready for the highest level meeting with the authorities in Montenegro (B92/Beta)
• Djuric with Kosovo Serb representatives (Tanjug/RTS)
• Fajon doesn’t expect Serbia’s opposition back to parliament before election (Blic/Beta)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Tegeltija: Council of Ministers will not be dealing with political issues which might block its work (Nezavisne novine)
• Izetbegovic: During political fight that caused crisis in past year, positions of Serb and Bosniak politicians were clear but HDZ B&H was ambivalent (Hayat)
• Radoncic says adoption of Program of Reforms for NATO is biggest success (Hayat)
• Dodik warns people of working age are leaving B&H, migrants without documents and with suspicious past are coming to B&H, suggests what needs to be done to solve problem (EuroBlic)
• Prosecutor’s Office of B&H issues indictment against Mektic and three others for abuse of office (BN TV)
• First presidential debate of upcoming elections held (RTL/Vecernji list)
• Appeal for the condemnation of attempts to jeopardize peace in Montenegro (CDM)
• DPS: Citizens must not allow themselves to be manipulated (CDM)


• Oppression of Serbian Orthodox Church fraught with great problems, says Russian ministry (TASS)

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Patriarch Irinej: Major events in Montenegro – this is not only a problem of Montenegro but also of Serbia (RTV/FoNet/Beta)


Serbian Patriarch Irinej has stated following talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that major events are occurring in Montenegro, where the Serbs are in a huge problem and voiced hope that reason will prevail. That is not only a problem of Montenegro, but of Serbia as well, and also broader in this region, said the Patriarch. Vucic conveyed that he had nothing to add to this and that it was important to preserve peace. “‘We came for advice, we heard words of reason, calm, words that mean support to the Serb people. We agreed, we need full unity of the Serb people, at the same time respecting state borders of other countries,” said Vucic. He underlined that unity of the Serb people is something on which the state of Serbia will continue working, and that this refers to the preservation of our cultural heritage everywhere in the region.

Vucic points out that there is not much that Serbia can do about it and that it should act primarily with employing words, knowledge, legal and other expert opinions. The President said that we should inform everyone in the world what it was about, the Venice Commission, all other commissions, bodies, forums and organizations. “On the other hand, to send a clear message to the Serbian people that we are united and that there are no differences between us Serbs, regardless of the boundaries we draw and which exist between us,” Vucic said. He says that there is no difference between a Serb living in Belgrade, Banja Luka, Podgorica, Budva or any other city, and that all Serbs feel what Serbs in another country feel.


Vucic: I’m ready for the highest level meeting with the authorities in Montenegro (B92/Beta)


President Aleksandar Vucic said today that he is always ready for a state-level meeting with the representatives of Montenegro and announced a meeting of regional leaders in Karlovci or Subotica at the end of January, which should include Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.
Vucic told reporters after meeting with Patriarch Irinej when asked if it was time for a summit of the two countries, that he was always ready for it. “I think there is a meeting that is scheduled in Karlovci or Subotica, in late January or early February, that would gather many leaders from the region. I think it is possible for President Djukanovic to come,” Vucic said. He said he also spoke with Djukanovic in Tirana this month and that he has no problem talking, noting that the two see things in a slightly different way. “But it is our duty to respect the state of Montenegro, to understand the needs and requirements of the Serbian people. Not to be ashamed of being of Serbian origin, it does not occur to us, we have not offended anyone, we have done no harm. If anything bad happened to our people, there is something good in it after all – the presented unity of the Serbian people,” Vucic said. That unity, he said, would not have been possible had it not been for Serbian Patriarch and, as he said, the Serbs did not mature as a nation and realized that they should not gather because we are against someone else, but because we are in favour of something. “We should not build our unity on the negative approach, but on how we will teach children Serbian, have the same letters, guard our Serbian Orthodox Church, as we allow everyone else to cherish their religious feelings here in Serbia”, Vucic concluded.


Djuric with Kosovo Serb representatives (Tanjug/RTS)


The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric met on Monday with Kosovo Serb political representatives with whom he discussed the challenges in 2020. The conclusions of the meeting is that representatives of Serbian institutions in Kosovo and Metohija will reach every Serb household that needs aid and that they will not allow Pristina to intimidate them. He notes it is important to employ people and for Serb representatives to manage to fulfill the quota of seven percent for employing Serbs in the Pristina system. In the following period, all institutions will work intensively on the implementation of the “Serbia 2015” plan, said Djuric, adding that the Serbs are grateful for the solidarity and aid set aside by Serbia for stay and survival. “The Serb representatives are especially grateful and happy over the additional 150 million Euros for stay and survival,” he said, recalling that the Office is one of the most efficient state institutions when it comes to the realization of the budget, higher than 90 percent. Djuric underlined that the other conclusion is that the Serb List has full support for the struggle in institutions and that they request for the Serbs’ rights not to be violated. “Those who think of including them needs to fulfill all legal norms for participation of Serbs in the institutions. If it is prescribed that seven percent of the Serbs need to be employed in the energy sector, in the water power system, agencies, then this is how it needs to be done,” he said. “There is no participation of the Serbs and the Serb List in institutions if there is oppression, and if someone thinks they can prosecute Serb representatives, handcuff Ivan Todosijevic, put a patch on the mouth of Serbs, they will not succeed,” said Djuric. Asked what will Serbia do if Kosovo, as Montenegro, passes a law on religious communities in the spring, Djuric said that Belgrade will do everything as it had before, to protect its centuries-old sanctities in Kosovo and Metohija. He reminded what had been done when Pristina wanted to become a UNESCO member, but also what they are prepared to do and what it they did in the case of Ivan Todosijevic who was sentenced to two years over the statement on Racak.


Fajon doesn’t expect Serbia’s opposition back to parliament before election (Blic/Beta)


European Parliament (EP) official Tanja Fajon said on Tuesday she did not expect Serbia’s opposition to return to the Serbian parliament before the next spring election. Fajon, who co-chairs the EP Delegation to EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee, told Blic that the parliament is the place for a dialogue, not the street, and that it would be easier if the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) was constructively engaged and used the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of election’s conditions. She referred to the dialogue between Serbia’s ruling coalition and some minor opposition parties she mediated and which SzS boycotted. Fajon said the next general elections in Serbia would be held at the latest legal date to leave time for the fulfilment of all 17 obligations agreed during three rounds of talks. Fajon fell short of directly answering the question if the boycott would undermine the legitimacy of the election, reiterating she was sorry that SzS opted for the boycott. “We’ll continue to monitor the implementation of all obligations and will keep on positive pressure on all sides,” Fajon told Blic. She said she expected an EP delegation for monitoring Serbia’s election to be formed to observe the vote as part of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).




Tegeltija: Council of Ministers will not be dealing with political issues which might block its work (Nezavisne novine)


Newly-appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Zoran Tegeltija said that the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H will no longer be a place of blockades, adding that the B&H CoM will not be dealing with political issues which might block its work. Tegeltija said that one year has been needlessly lost, but underlined that there is no need to lose even more time on debating what has happened and why. “But it is important for us to try to find the way to somehow make up for the time lost,” said Tegeltija, and underlined that B&H will have to run or at least speed walk in 2020, instead of simply walking. “As far as I am concerned, and the institution I am at the helm of, we want to work”, said Tegeltija, adding that ministers in the B&H CoM will have to work and that the B&H CoM will have to be a place for making decisions. “There has to be at least one place which will not be blocked because of political issues. I want to say that everyday issues of the citizens of B&H cannot be blocked because of political issues. He reiterated that economy and European integration will be in the focus of the Council of Ministers in the next three years, and noted that the B&H CoM will also be forced to deal with the migrant issue. “As I have said, economy will be the most important thing, and that is why I have held my first meetings with entity prime ministers and employers from the Federation of B&H and Republika Srpska (RS), because I believe that economic issues can resolve many other issues, including those which currently appear to be political,” said Tegeltija. He explained that resolving of some economic issues might make citizens realize that some political issues are not as important as someone wants them to look like at this particular moment. When it comes to the country’s EU integration process, Tegeltija said that in order to get closer to the EU, B&H needs to change itself, to change its practices and procedures, and to make society better and more successful, “because that is what the EU is asking us to do”. “The most important thing is that we need to try and catch up with neighbors, because we used to be way ahead of some of them, and now – because of our political issues – they are ahead of us,” he said. Chairman of the B&H CoM underlined that cooperation with entity governments and prime ministers will be a positive thing, adding that representatives of B&H CoM and entity governments will meet once in three months to see what has been done and whether they have implemented their own agreements – and, if not, why. “We need to publicly say that someone does not want some issue to be resolved. We cannot all be responsible,” said Tegeltija, adding that he believes prime ministers of entities and he personally will always do their part of the job. “Working groups will not only include entity governments and the Council of Ministers, but also employers, international community, international financial institutions, whoever is necessary for us to reach an agreement,” explained Tegeltija. Tegeltija said that the CoM of B&H will do everything it can to improve the cooperation with neighboring countries, adding – however – that it is not all up to them. “I was truly surprised with the level of blockade with regards to the border between Serbia and B&H. What I care the most when it comes to cooperation with our neighbors is the economic cooperation and how to raise it to the next level,” concluded Tegeltija.

Commenting on the Program of Reforms of B&H, Tegeltija said that the document was adopted with consensus. “I hope that the Program of Reforms will be implemented the way it was written, in order for us to improve the cooperation with NATO, and to be a good partner to NATO, which is an unavoidable factor in our region,” said Tegeltija. Tegeltija said that the ‘Little Schengen’ initiative is too much of a political issue for him to be discussing it as the Chairman of the CoM. “How, as Zoran Tegeltija, citizen of this country, I believe that any cooperation is acceptable if it enables faster flow of capital, goods and people,” the B&H CoM Chairman concluded.


Izetbegovic: During political fight that caused crisis in past year, positions of Serb and Bosniak politicians were clear but HDZ B&H was ambivalent (Hayat)


SDA held an annual press conference in Sarajevo on Monday. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic assessed that the year of 2019 was marked with obstructions, crises and deadlocks. According to Izetbegovic, the current position now at the end of the year should have been secured at the very beginning of this year, but still the year of 2019 was not without results. He stressed that this was the year in which the constitutional order of B&H, the rule of law and strategic goals of the country’s EU and NATO integration were defended, along with a basic democratic principle of respecting the voters’ will in formation of post-election coalitions. “Many attacks on B&H happened during this year and they were all based on an attempt to impose the will of an entity on the state. The EU Mission and Ambassadors of the Quint countries offered support in finding solutions regarding relations between B&H and NATO,” Izetbegovic stressed. Izetbegovic said that during political fight that caused the crisis in the past year, positions of the Serb and Bosniak politicians were clear but HDZ B&H was ambivalent. He reminded that HDZ B&H has been blocking the formation of authorities at the Federation of B&H level for 14 months now and sets the adoption of amendments to the election law of B&H in line with HDZ B&H’s model as a condition. Izetbegovic warned that ignoring and blocking the will of voters is intolerable and such relations are not helpful when it comes to finding a solution, adding that relaxation of relations and building of trust are necessary – not ultimatums. Izetbegovic concluded that B&H can get the EU candidate status in 2020, if the formation of the whole structure for legislative and executive authorities is completed, preconditions for holding the elections in Mostar are created and the national program for takeover of the EU acquis is adopted. Izetbegovic stressed that sending of the Program of Reforms of B&H to NATO is the most important step that was made this year. Izetbegovic reminded of HDZ B&H’s stance that the process of formation of new authorities should not be conditioned upon anything, but this stance only referred to the state level, where it was suitable for SNSD.


Radoncic says adoption of Program of Reforms for NATO is biggest success (Hayat)


SBB B&H held an annual press conference in Sarajevo on Monday. Speaking about the results achieved in 2019, SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic assessed that the adoption of the Program of Reforms for NATO is the biggest success, as this document has ensured the continuation of B&H’s path towards the Euro-Atlantic integration. Radoncic stressed that compromise with partners from HDZ B&H would be the best solution to the issue of the Election Law of B&H, adding that it is necessary to make a road map as to what should be solved in the next three months, six months or one year. “In return, we should get a responsible move of HDZ B&H,” he added. Radoncic underlined the importance of the pro-Bosnian bloc in B&H, saying that they will not allow isolation of the Bosniak people.


Dodik warns people of working age are leaving B&H, migrants without documents and with suspicious past are coming to B&H, suggests what needs to be done to solve problem (EuroBlic)


Serb member of Presidency of B&H Milorad Dodik warned that the problem of departure of citizens of RS and B&H abroad grew to a worrying proportion, because of which this issue requires an urgent solution. He went on to say that it is irrelevant whether this is a result of “games of powerful ones” or of “a combination of various circumstances and weaknesses”, but the fact is that the problem is real and solution for it must not be delayed. Simultaneously with this, Dodik noted, there is also the problem of illegal migrations “which, in the area of B&H, resemble more to the process of colonization from the last century. On one hand, there is departure of our people, mostly young and people of working age, to the EU countries and, on the other hand, there are convoys of migrants but EU countries are not interested in them. Even for those less naïve, this is a very serious coincidence. If the EU is not closing its borders for people of working age from the Western Balkans, then it would be useful if they opened the same borders for migrants from Middle East as well,” Dodik said and claimed that the migrant crisis was caused because the EU opened its southern borders and closed its northern borders for migrants. “Now, there is a large parking lot for migrants from several Middle East countries between those two borders and, for the sake of the truth, they (migrants) are saying they want to leave but nobody is assisting them to proceed to the EU in the same way they were assisted to reach this destination,” Dodik said. He also noted that the issues of departure of B&H citizens and migrations are closely connected and will have to be solved by an approach that will be more serious than it was until now and he emphasized that those issues cannot be solved “without those who influenced those processes. By this, I refer to the EU”. Dodik denied the sole responsibility of domestic authorities for departure of B&H citizens from the country and reminded that salaries in this country have always been lower than in the Western Europe, legal security and political stability have always been stronger in the EU countries, “but people have been leaving the country for the past several years only because they were unable to leave earlier even if they wanted it”. Dodik explained that routes for people of working age from the Balkans were created thanks to opening of borders for workers from other countries, primarily in Germany, and he noted that the difference between this route and route used by migrants who are coming to B&H is drastic. Dodik added that migrants who are coming to B&H are coming from a “civilizational frame which is completely strange to us, without a single document, in time when the question of their past must be raised in terms of their engagement in one of wars in the Middle East”, while people who are going from B&H to Western Europe are mostly young and educated people, with proper documents, very similar to citizens of Western Europe when it comes to culture and civilizational values. “Therefore, those migrations, in both directions, legitimize suspicion that this is about a strategic imposture for the Western Balkans countries,” Dodik said and added that the issue of arrival of workers from the Western Balkans is merely a social issue for Germany while the issue of arrival of migrants to the RS and B&H is primarily a security issue and only then a humanitarian and social issue. Therefore, Dodik noted, it is necessary to start educating people for jobs and not for employment bureaus, introduce more order to the education system, continue working on unburdening of economy, strengthen legal and political safety and support the policy of increase of salaries, which is something the RS government has already launched. “Both the RS and Federation of B&H will have to redefine terms for issuing of work permits to foreign nationals, because it is necessary to already start thinking about securing necessary labor force which the market needs. The problem of illegal migrations grew to these proportions because of irresponsibility of people who were expected to solve the problem. Behavior of the responsible ones went to extremes, from complete denial of existence of the problem to absence of control of the problem which escalated so much that we are facing serious security challenges. Unless we define a clear stance on migrations and unless we urgently harmonize ways in which this issue can be solved, B&H should get ready for a new challenge: internal migrations,” Dodik concluded.


Prosecutor’s Office of B&H issues indictment against Mektic and three others for abuse of office (BN TV)


The B&H Prosecutor’s Office filed on Monday an indictment against former B&H minister of Security Dragan Mektic for alleged abuse of office. The indictment was also filed against former Head of Mektic’s office Igor Golijanin, Assistant B&H Minister of Security Samir Agic and owner of Sarajevo-based institute for protection from fire and explosion ‘INZA’ Edin Garaplija, after the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H has conducted investigation upon the report of the Federation of B&H Police Administration on irregularities in the work of competent officials at B&H Ministry of Security. According to the indictment, they committed the criminal offense of high corruption through abuse of office or authority. The indictment also reads that various forms of abuse of office or authority of high-ranking state officials and employees at B&H Ministry of Security committed during implementation of interstate cross-border cooperation project in the field of firefighting, which was financed by the EU Delegation to B&H, has been documented.


First presidential debate of upcoming elections held (RTL/Vecernji list)


On Monday evening first debate in the runoff round of the presidential elections was held on RTL Television. Incumbent Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, HDZ candidate, and Zoran Milanovic, former Prime Minister and SDP candidate met in a presidential debate. They were not given the questions and topics to be discussed in advance, so they were not able to rehearse their answers and reactions. The debate ended up lasting well over two hours, and on several occasions both candidates wondered out-loud if the audience was already fed up with their answers. Supposedly the Milanovic’s team wanted to stop the debate because they thought that it was running too long, although after the debate was over the team denied that. The format was somewhat unorthodox, so they got to ask each other questions. Many of the questions asked in the debate had nothing to do with the actual duties of the President of Croatia, so it seemed that they fought on principle more than on actual topics they can influence when one of them wins the presidency. As is quite customary in Croatian politics, there was a lot of talk about the past, including their relationships to former President Tudjman and former Prime Minister Sanader, who was found guilty in a major court case against him.  Vecernji list commented that neither of the candidates really made a great impression in the presidential debate, as Milanovic seemed much more aggressive, while the incumbent President failed to assert herself more. It is expected that the two will debate at least twice more before Sunday, 5 January 2020, when the runoff will take place, and Croatians will get to choose between the two candidates.


Appeal for the condemnation of attempts to jeopardize peace in Montenegro (CDM)


Republic of Montenegro is exposed to the attempt of violent destabilization, its peace, territorial integrity, constitutional order, rule of law, citizens’ equality and equality of churches and religious communities have been threatened, reads the Appeal for the condemnation of jeopardizing pace in Montenegro, signed by many politicians, lawyers, historians, journalists…

“This is just another attempt of official Belgrade to bring Montenegro back into the state framework with Serbia and prevent its consolidation as independent and sovereign state”, reads the Appeal. Montenegro regained its independence on 21 May 2006. With the adoption of the Law on Religious Communities, formulated in cooperation with Venice Commission and harmonized with the highest European standards, Montenegro has changed the law which was adopted half a century ago. “This law annuls Decree of regent Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, which was passed in 1920, and by means of which autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church was abolished. That’s the reason for the attacks launched by Great-Serbian nationalists” reads the Appeal. Appeal states that Montenegro managed to defend itself from the Russian-Serbian coup in October 2016. If they succeed in the new destabilization attempt, consequences will be manifested in conflicts, losses and material devastation. “The strategist and principal of the last destabilization attempt is official Belgrade, that is, Serbian authorities, Serbian Orthodox Church and the greatest opposition parties”, it’s written in the Appeal. “The goal is the same: keeping Montenegro under the great Belgrade patronage is the safest way to preserve the idea of Great Serbia. “Monuments” of such policy are genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo”.

The Appeal states that Montenegro has been chosen to be the victim regenerated policy of Slobodan Milosevic. “Although Serbian nationalism has lost almost all levers of power, we believe that it is important to warn of the devastating consequences of the Belgrade policy. Regional solidarity is the imperative for the Balkan region, for the nations that must show responsibility and preparedness for the challenges that lie ahead. Owing to Montenegro’s importance, as the state that is leader in the Euro-Atlantic integration process, we think that passivity of European institutions and governments of democratic states in the condemnation of new destabilization attempts in Montenegro is impermissible,” says the document. For the aforementioned reasons, they called on all political actors in the international community and the region to vehemently condemn destabilization of Montenegro, which is incited by official Belgrade.


DPS: Citizens must not allow themselves to be manipulated (CDM)


Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) invites citizens not to allow to be manipulated and to avoid any form of violence. “Adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion is clearly just one of the reasons to incite the public to violence and spread lies about the intention of the government to seize church property. It’s a pretext for destabilizing Montenegro, jeopardizing its peace and constitutional order. The story about the alleged danger for the holy places in structures in Montenegro is nonsense, a downright lie. There’s no need for defending churches, nobody wants to attack them,” said DPS members. Statements made by DF leaders are empty and unconvincing, as entire Montenegrin public could see how they behaved. “But, everybody could also see the resolve of our country to counter the attacks and protect peace, stability and constitutional order in Montenegro. In that context, DPS fully supports Police Department and other state authorities in their efforts to act in accordance with the Constitution and laws,” state DPS members. They urge citizens to assist competent authorities in their activities, especially now when holidays are approaching. “We wish all our members and citizens of Montenegro Happy New Year, best regards and personal success and happiness,” state DPS members.




Oppression of Serbian Orthodox Church fraught with great problems, says Russian ministry (TASS, 30 December 2019)


On December 27, Montenegro’s legislature passed a controversial law on freedom of religion and the legal status of religious communities amid mass protests throughout the country

MOSCOW, Encroachment on property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro and causing people of faith to split are fraught with terrible ramifications, particularly international ones, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a comment after Montenegro’s parliament adopted the law on freedom of religion. “We are seriously concerned by the situation unfolding after the parliament of Montenegro passed the freedom of religion law,” the ministry said. The diplomatic agency noted that the new law grants opportunity to Montenegro’s authorities to seize more than 650 religious properties from the Serbian Orthodox Church situated in Montenegro “possibly transferring them to the schismatic and unrecognized ‘Montenegrin Orthodox Church’ in the future.” “In fact, we are talking about tightening administrative grip on the Serbian Orthodox Church to force it to leave Montenegro,” the ministry added. “We are convinced that it is necessary to strictly respect legitimate rights of canonical orthodox churches,” the ministry added. “Disregarding their opinion, encroaching on the historic realities, attempting to seize their properties, artificially creating conditions to split people of faith are fraught with serious consequences. The law adopted by parliament and signed by President Milo Dukanovic not only affects interests of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral but also elevates this topic to the international level. Unity and solidarity of the Orthodox world, preservation of its centuries-long foundations are a condition to ensure normal development of society.” The ministry also drew attention to the way the new law was adopted. During the vote in the national parliament, unrest broke out right in the meeting hall which led to arrests of 17 MPs from the opposition Democratic Front. Immediately after that mass protests spilt into streets involving religious activists and public figures.


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