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Belgrade Media Report 6 January 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 6 January 2020

• Vucic has decided not to visit the Serbs in the north of Montenegro on Christmas Day (Tanjug/B92)
• Dacic: Here we have had a Greater Montenegro aggression (RTS)
• Serbian Patriarch Irinej urges authorities in Montenegro to come to their senses (Kurir/Tanjug/B92)
• Drecun: Hybrid operations conducted against Serbia; Djukanovic will not stop (RTS)
• Bozovic refuses to receive protest note (Tanjug)
• Academic community pleads for solution to Montenegrin crisis (Beta)
• Vulin: Declassified British documents prove those who bombarded RS and Serbia knew Oric’s forces provoked conflict in Srebrenica (Novosti)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik calls on all citizens of RS to come to Banja Luka on 9 January to celebrate Day of RS (RTRS)
• Cvijanovic: RS will last for all times, that is what people have decided (Glas Srpske)
• Salkic calls on Inzko to sanction organizers of 9 January celebration (Hayat)
• UK National Archives declassified documents show that US Administration was divided regarding approach to war in B&H (Nezavisne novine)
• Declassified document on Srebrenica denies verdicts of The Hague Tribunal and plan of leadership of RS to conquer Srebrenica, reactions (RTRS)
• B&H Presidency voices concern over latest developments in Iraq, condemning attack on US Embassy in Baghdad (N1)
• Dodik supported Vucic’s attempts to help Serbian people in Montenegro (Srna)
• B&H officials congratulate Milanovic on being elected new Croatian President (FTV)
• Croatia presidential election: Milanovic defeats incumbent Grabar-Kitarovic (Hina)
• Protests against new religious law continue across Montenegro (N1)
• Cakaj condemns the attack on the Montenegrin Embassy in Belgrade (Radio Tirana)


• Europe’s big problems in 2020 (Politico)

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Vucic has decided not to visit the Serbs in the north of Montenegro on Christmas Day (Tanjug/B92)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced the decision at an extraordinary press conference after meeting with Patriarch Irinej, saying that he did not want to give an alibi to the Montenegrin regime that it was an attack on the country’s independence and constitutional order. “We respect the independence and constitutional order of Montenegro and we have never threatened it in any way, nor are we interested in doing so,” Vucic said. He thanked dozens of believers, mayors and representatives of Serbian political parties who supported his arrival. “I thought it was a normal, ordinary thing for me to do, and then I realized, after reactions from some of the cabinets in Montenegro, that my coming to a private visit, without making any political speeches, without anything, just to come to my church … that this has not been approved by the Montenegrin regime,” Vucic said. He added that he wondered if it was possible that his private visit to a temple could cause this kind of reaction. Therefore, Vucic decided not to go on a private visit to Montenegro on Christmas Eve, saying that Patriarch Irinej agreed with his decision and supported it this morning. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he hadn’t expected that his intended visit to a temple in northern Montenegro would cause the local authorities to invite NATO, but that it was good because, as he said, it showed what kind of anger the Montenegrin authorities show towards Serbia. Vucic urged Serbian citizens to express their political judgment in a dignified manner, with respect for other states and for the state of Montenegro, as well as respect for Serbs in Montenegro, and other citizens of that country, who, as he said, are also Serbian friends and brothers. “I will preserve the unity of Serbia both in Montenegro and wherever Serbs live, and I will not allow Serbian people to serve as a punching bag,” Vucic emphasized, adding that now Montenegrin authorities have the opportunity to “level” to the ground Christmas liturgy and insurgency. He said that if he went on an official state visit to Montenegro, then some would say that Vucic had no problems with the disputed law and that he supported the regime in that country, and when he said that he was going to support the Serbian people in a private visit, then some would say that he went to undermine Milo Djukanovic’s regime. My crucial message to our people in Montenegro is that we belong to one nation, and we will not allow anyone to destroy our past or future, Vucic said. “We will not allow them to destroy us peacefully or in any other way. We will fight for the truth, without weapons, we will oppose the lies they serve, we are in only for the truth. We want to talk to them, because they are our brothers, but they will also have to show respect for their brothers,” Vucic concluded.


Dacic: Here we have had a Greater Montenegro aggression (RTS)


Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic called citizens of Serbia of Montenegrin origin to declare their views regarding Law on Religion Freedoms enacted in that country. Dacic said for Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that it would be a moral obligation of anyone who received Serbian citizenship, who have acquired everything they have in Serbia, who own everything to Serbia and Serbian people – not to remain quiet regarding this issue. “And for those who are supporting Montenegrin regime regarding the battle against Serbian people, the question is whether they should have Serbian citizenship,” he said. Dacic said that Serbia had a legitimate right and obligation to take care of Serbs in Montenegro. He emphasized that the issue was if Law on Religious Freedoms would make way for the further pressure of citizens of Montenegro to give up on their national identity and that the number of Serbs in that census would decrease.

While comparing the position of Serbs in Montenegro with Montenegrins in Serbia, Dacic emphasized that 0.5 percent Montenegrins lived in Serbia. “They were talking about Greater Serbia aggression and here we have had a Greater Montenegro aggression, they have ruled Serbia with 0.5 percent, from political circles to various other business and everything else,” Dacic said.


Serbian Patriarch Irinej urges authorities in Montenegro to come to their senses (Kurir/Tanjug/B92)


Serbian Patriarch Irinej says he believes that the situation in Montenegro, after the adoption of the controversial Freedom of Religion Act, will be resolved peacefully. In an interview for daily Kurir, he at the same time called on the authorities in Montenegro to “reason and come to their senses”, expressing the hope that reason would overcome the problems and that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) holy places would not be seized in that country. “I hope that the Montenegrin authorities will think deeply, because they see the reaction of the people … It is unreasonable what they did, it is a law that no one supports, every normal person is against such a law. Frankly, I did not expect it. I hadn’t expected that they would adopt such a law,” the Patriarch said. Regarding the recent assault on the Vicar Bishop of Diocletian Metodije by Montenegrin police during protests against the controversial law, Irinej said it was an unprecedented act in Europe since the fall of fascism. “I pray to the Lord to reason with the people at the helm of Montenegro to end the violence and the abduction of property of the Serbian church,” the Patriarch emphasized. Warned by some bishops that a similar scenario was being prepared for Kosovo and Metohija, Patriarch said that it was impossible to predict whether such dishonorable intentions exist in Pristina. “We cannot know if there are these dishonorable intentions, there are certain assumptions… Some other winds are blowing out there, we will see how it will end,” the Patriarch said. He added that we have permanent difficult situation at Kosovo and Metohija, burdened with so many unresolved problems. Patriarch Irinej concluded in his Christmas message that the Orthodox faith has to be preserved at any cost. The Church said that Patriarch Irinej will be serving Christmas mass at the Saint Sava Temple in Belgrade on Tuesday at 09:00 am.


Drecun: Hybrid operations conducted against Serbia; Djukanovic will not stop (RTS)


The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has assessed for RTS’ morning press review that Milo Djukanovic’s regime will not listen to the people and that it will cause incidents, which will culminated with elections this year. He says that Djukanovic’s regime cannot win any elections if it doesn’t create an alleged enemy of the Montenegrin independence. Several hybrid operations are being conducted against Serbia, the Serb people and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), as the alleged exponent of the Russian influence, the goal of which is for the state to adjust its foreign policy and internal processes to the interests of other countries, opines Drecun. Information warfare is crucial, and Drecun explains that this is why there was hunt against Vucic on the occasion of the announcement of his arrival, as a believer, to Montenegro on Christmas Eve. The first phase of this operation is the adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion, and the second phase will culminate with the parliamentary elections in Montenegro. They need a situation where incidents can be caused, opines Drecun. “There is no doubt that the planners of such an operation knew there would be a reaction and expression of discontent,” says Drecun, but he doesn’t know whether they expected such massiveness of protests in Montenegro. He quoted Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic who had stated several times that Montenegro is exposed to strong hybrid activities, which are especially expected prior to the parliamentary elections this year. “This is perhaps why the elite US cyber-expert team arrived in the second half of November 2019 and settled in the command center in Podgorica,” notes Drecun regarding the statement of the Patriarch that he doesn’t know from what center the winds were blowing. He points that the US Embassy in Podgorica is not reacting even though they are aware of the possible consequences. “I think that Milo Djukanovic’s regime will not stop, that it will not listen to the people and that it will provoke incidents. This will culminate with elections,” concluded Drecun.


Bozovic refuses to receive protest note (Tanjug)


Serbian Ambassador in Podgorica Vladimir Bozovic has refused to receive a protest note from Montenegro over an attempt to set on fire a Montenegrin flag displayed in Belgrade. According to the Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bozovic was summoned to be handed a protest note, as stated, because of the events in front of the Montenegrin embassy in Belgrade and last night’s attempt to set the Montenegrin flag on fire. As announced, Secretary-General Miodrag Kankaras presented the protest of the Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “in the strongest terms condemning repeated attempts to set the Montenegrin flag on fire and the assault on the embassy premises,” to which, as stated, Serbian officials have failed to react. “Certain public figures’ statements in the previous period jeopardize the security of our diplomats,” Kankaras stressed, expressing his expectation that Belgrade would react immediately in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in order to ensure the inviolability of the premises of the embassy of Montenegro in Serbia, as well as the inviolability of Montenegro’s state symbols.


Academic community pleads for solution to Montenegrin crisis (Beta


Nearly a hundred representatives of Serbia’s academic community and civil activists pleaded that Montenegro’s Religious Freedom Act be amended as soon as possible, based on a dialogue between the state and representatives of all traditional religious communities in Montenegro, also recommending that the Montenegrin state and the Serbian Orthodox Church reach an agreement that would provide a permanent framework for the operation of the Church, relying on the support of the Venice Commission and the EU in the process. They also pleaded for the state to allow each and every citizen of Montenegro to enjoy their right to assemble, protest and voice their views publicly and urged Serbian government bodies to use the relevant institutions and forums more actively to inform the international community on the existing threats to human and property rights and potential risks and help resolve the issue in a bilateral dialogue with Montenegrin representatives. They pleaded that EU representatives assume a more direct role in providing technical and political assistance, and that prominent individuals and representatives of different interest groups in Serbia and elsewhere in the Balkans “should refrain from untrue interpretations and from manipulating historic, legal and political facts that might lead to an escalation and further antagonize the already divided societies in the region.”


Vulin: Declassified British documents prove those who bombarded RS and Serbia knew Oric’s forces provoked conflict in Srebrenica (Novosti)


Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that the declassified documents of the British government confirm that those who bombarded Republika Srpska (RS) and Serbia knew that Srebrenica events were provoked and organized and, in spite of that, they requested the United Nations (UN) to label Serbs as “genocidal people”. Vulin added that the British Government requested back in 2015 from the UN Security Council to pass a resolution on genocidal behavior of Serbs because of crimes in Srebrenica, but now declassified documents confirm that forces of (wartime Srebrenica commander of the Army of the Republic of B&H) Naser Oric provoked the conflict and that leaderships of the RS and Serbia neither organized nor ordered crimes and those also confirm that those were crimes and not genocide in any case. “Will mothers of Srebrenica ask their hero Oric what he did and upon whose orders he did that?”, Vulin wondered and noted that Serbia and RS should ask for formation of a new international commission on the war in B&H and Srebrenica or establish one themselves.




Dodik calls on all citizens of RS to come to Banja Luka on 9 January to celebrate Day of RS (RTRS)


Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Milorad Dodik called on all citizens of Republika Srpska (RS) to come to Banja Luka on 9 January for celebration of the Day of RS. Dodik called on citizens to come to Banja Luka and show that “the gathering on this day is way more powerful and way more important than all those who attack the Day of RS”. Commenting on initiatives of the Bosniak associations from Canada and the US on marking January 9 as the day of the beginning of aggression on B&H, Dodik said that on 9 January 1992, no one did anything to any Muslim in B&H, while Muslims did everything to separate B&H from Serbia and Yugoslavia. Dodik stated: “There were no armed conflicts on 9 January 1992. The political decision on creation of the RS was reached exclusively based on a political will of the Serb people and their representatives. The moment when some countries of the West accepted and recognized B&H is the moment when the war begun and this happened a few months after 9 January”.


Cvijanovic: RS will last for all times, that is what people have decided (Glas Srpske)


RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic said that the RS will never give up on marking 9 January as its birthday, and underlined that this year’s celebration of the Day of the RS will be magnificent. “Key message this year is that RS is stable, that it will be more stable, that we have to be proud of what we are and that we have to take care of citizens’ needs in the future,” said Cvijanovic, adding that the slogan of this year’s marking of the Day of the RS – ‘For All Times’ – is the message to both citizens and all the forces that want to erase 9 January from the history of the RS. “We are here and we will last for all times”, said Cvijanovic, because “that is what people have decided”. She added that she expects negative comments from the Federation of B&H once again, because “they cannot stand some things”, adding that people in the RS should not care about those comments. Cvijanovic said that the RS managed to overcome all challenges in 2019, and proved that it can function in abnormal conditions, as there was no communication with the level of B&H while ministers from the previous convocation of the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H were still in their offices. She reminded that salaries and pensions have been increased, the RS collected more revenues than expected, social rights have been strengthened and the RS implemented projects it was in charge of. Cvijanovic expressed gratitude for Serbia’s support, saying that “Serbia is taking care about RS, but it is not interfering with internal matters of B&H”. “They respect territorial integrity of B&H, but within that, and not just because of special and parallel relations, but from emotional and every other point of view, they are always here for the RS,” said Cvijanovic. Commenting on reactions from the Federation of B&H on Serbian national defense strategy, Cvijanovic briefly said that they do not want to understand that there are special relations between the RS and Serbia. “What Serbia is doing and the way it treats us is not something that would endanger the arrangement called B&H,” the RS President concluded.


Salkic calls on Inzko to sanction organizers of 9 January celebration (Hayat)


RS Vice President Ramiz Salkic warned that insisting of the entity authorities to mark 9 January as the RS Day is unconstitutional, illegal and immoral. Salkic called on High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko to apply sanctions against those who organize ceremonies to mark the holiday. He reminded of the opinion of the Venice Commission according to which the choice to mark 9 January as the RS Day is encouraged by feelings and events that are significant only for the Serb people, while other communities consider 9 January a painful memory. Hayat noted that with a declaration adopted on 9 January in 1992, carrying out of the criminal policy has begun which resulted with persecution, rape, murders, war camps, mass graves, terrorizing, the Joint Criminal Enterprise and the genocide. In his statement, Salkic called his supporters and those that believe in the same things he believes to march against 9 January celebration. “I ask the citizens that do not agree with those that celebrate 9 January to act and make steps that aim to remind the public of disastrous consequences of 9 January 1992. By continuing to mark 9 January they are violating the decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H and, at the same time, they are spreading national hatred,” Salkic said in his statement. Reacting to negative comments of Salkic, B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stressed that nobody can take away the RS Day from citizens of the RS. “You cannot take away 9 January, it remains a holiday of our republic, our state of the RS,” Dodik stressed. He assessed that it is unfounded to dispute marking of 9 January, given that the RS came into existence before the wartime events. He added that Salkic does not have to celebrate the Day of the RS, but he thinks it is immoral to deprive one people of their right to mark a holiday. Dodik asked all RS citizens to attend the celebration in Banja Luka and urged the authorities in the Federation of B&H to stop denying the RS, its name and its very existence. ‘United Srpska’ called on Sunday on all citizens of the RS to come to mark the RS Day together. United Srpska assessed 9 January to be a day for sending a message of Serb unity, harmony and pride. Its leader Nenad Stevandic called for unity among Serb people and urged “all partners in the Federation of B&H” to stop disputing “what is most important” to the RS. According to Stevandic, it is necessary to accept the fact that the RS “cannot change the date of its birth”.


UK National Archives declassified documents show that US Administration was divided regarding approach to war in B&H (Nezavisne novine)


The UK National Archives recently declassified a series of documents of UK government pertaining to the 1992-1995 war in B&H. According to a document from 1995, there was a strong disagreement within the US administration regarding American involvement in the war. Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright advocated a stronger engagement, while former national security advisor Sandy Berger did not want US to get involved. The document indicates that former US president Bill Clinton was leaning towards the more moderate policy advocated by Berger. A document describing a conversation between Clinton and former UK prime minister John Major shows that Clinton wanted to pay the UN to deploy rapid response troops in B&H and he wanted to prevent lifting of arms embargo for Bosniaks, but he faced strong opposition in the US Congress. The document quotes Major saying that Clinton was afraid that Bosniaks are trying to convince US to deploy ground troops, but he was determined that this could not happen. A report on visit of former B&H foreign minister Haris Silajdzic to US shows that he accused US of being complicit in the Srebrenica genocide. Former US diplomat Christopher Hill told Silajdzic that Bosniaks would be alone if they started a wider offensive in 1995. Some documents also reveal details about US reluctance to pay for UN rapid response forces and dissatisfaction of its allies. A lot of documents describe arguments regarding the so-called double key principle whereby NATO can carry out air attacks only if both NATO and UN give their green light. A document from June 1995 shows that the UN refused to approve an air attack on Mahovljani airport near Banja Luka. Several documents describe the situation after several UN soldiers were taken hostage by Serb forces after the NATO attacks had begun. According to the documents, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin was trying to apply pressure on former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic but some foreign officials had their doubts about the extent of Milosevic’s influence on former RS president Radovan Karadzic. One document shows that former French president Jacques Chirac told French troops that each French soldier should rather fight to death than allow to be taken hostage.


Declassified document on Srebrenica denies verdicts of The Hague Tribunal and plan of leadership of RS to conquer Srebrenica, reactions (RTRS)


RTRS reported that a declassified document reads that the military and the RS political leadership did not plan to overrun Srebrenica in 1995 and that the Bosniak side provoked the attack on the enclave. Banja Luka’s Nezavisne novine daily published the document of the UK Ministry of Defense dating from 11July 1995 which, according to RTRS, describes less-known facts that the British witnessed on the day when the RS Army conquered Srebrenica. RTRS noted that the fact that the attack was carried out by a troop of Serbs and four tanks proves that there was no plan for a bigger offensive on Srebrenica. The document also reads that the Serb units decided to enter the center of Srebrenica only when they realized that there was practically no resistance from the so-called RB&H Army. Commenting on this document, Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that the document confirms that a decision of the RS to form the international commission tasked to inquire all war events that happened in Srebrenica and around the Srebrenica was right. He reminded that even before the crimes were committed in Srebrenica in 1995, former US president Bill Clinton promised to late leader of Bosniaks Alija Izetbegovic that NATO will bomb Serbs, if he gets an alibi for the information on at least 5,000 killed Bosniaks. Dodik said: “Archives that are opened and that will be opened clearly prove that this was a staged story. Of course, a serious crime happened there, but it was committed against Muslims and against Serbs. I think that – in order for us to coexist and for the sake of the truth – this truth must be objectivized in the sense to make all sources about the events available”.

Commenting on this document, Director of the RS Center for Investigation of War, War Crimes and Search for Missing Persons Milorad Kojic said that these kinds of documents confirm that they were right all along, but the judiciary at the level of B&H and The Hague Tribunal ignored it as well as the world public that accepted a stereotype imposed by Bosniaks. RTRS noted that the document also presents claims totally opposite to the verdict of The Hague Tribunal that declared former commander of the RS Army Ratko Mladic a person who had a plan to destroy the Bosniaks of Srebrenica. Ratko Mladic’ son Darko Mladic said over phone that the British source confirms all that his defense team tried to prove. President of the RS Veterans’

Organization (BORS) Milomir Savcic, who was recently accused of alleged participation in war crimes in Srebrenica, assessed over phone that “we are witnessing an important turn”. Savcic underlined the importance of the fact that the UK published the document as the country known for advocating in the UN to adopt a resolution that condemns – as they claim – the genocide that Serbs committed.


B&H Presidency voices concern over latest developments in Iraq, condemning attack on US Embassy in Baghdad (N1)


The B&H Presidency issued a statement on Saturday, saying that the Presidency is monitoring the latest developments in Iraq with great concern. The statement reminded that in November last year, B&H joined the EU statement on protests in Iraq and because of paying a big importance to stability of Iraq and the entire region, the B&H Presidency condemned the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad as well as on the military base of the coalition forces. The Presidency expects from the Iraqi government to carry an investigation in a fast and efficient way and undertake all measures to prevent these and similar events on time. According to the statement, B&H believes that it is necessary to avoid further escalation of conflicts and violence and B&H sincerely hopes that a restrained approach of all sides will contribute to preservation of peace in the region.


Dodik supported Vucic’s attempts to help Serbian people in Montenegro (Srna)


The Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik supported the efforts of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to help the Serbian people in Montenegro, where they legitimate gather to preserve their identity within the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). “I absolutely support the approach that Vucic had when he has said that we should help far more than it was. I am convinced, I know, I can testify that Vucic is thinking about this very seriously. My message is only to count on the RS,” Dodik said. Dodik has emphasized that Vucic’s intention to be with the Serbian people on Christmas Eve was strong, but a political story from Podgorica interfered with the intention to demonize it, to the point that they even warned NATO. He has stressed that he supports the efforts of President Vucic to support and assist the Serbian people wherever they are. “We, from RS, will join to the efforts of Serbia and its leadership to help in the capacity in which we can. This means to support the demands of our Church, Synod, our Church in Montenegro to reach that to make the audit to preserve property,” Dodik stated. He considers it is the mistake of the Montenegrin leadership that they tried to ignore the total Serb values. “This cannot leave anyone indifferent, neither Vucic, nor me, nor the Church, nor the ordinary people anywhere. Therefore, the commitment to help this far more, to preserve our identity in Montenegro, and in this respect, that 27 -28 percent of Serbs, as many as there are in Montenegro, should be reinforced by all efforts that both Serbia and RS can support, respecting that Montenegro is an independent state,” Dodik said. He has emphasized that the gathering of the Serb people in Montenegro is quite justified in the function of preserving values and identities, and one of these values is the SPC. Dodik believes that the Serb people today are more unique than ever, and all attempts to make Bosnian, Croatian, Kosovo, and Montenegrin Serbs are the part of a strategy against them that has not passed. “We are a unique people, our values are unique. In difficult circumstances, the SPC has been preserved and it is a great mistake of Djukanovic and his retinue that they are able to desecrate our basic values in this way,” Dodik said. Here, Dodik said, they are aware of the fact that they belong to one nation, Serbian, which is also evident in RS, which will grow stronger. “Our people in Montenegro need to understand that we are very committed to this issue and that in this respect we will not give up our efforts to give them help that reflects certain realities but defends the basic values of the identity of the Serbian people, namely the Church, the letter, the language,”  Dodik emphasized. He pointed out that the identity of the Serbian people was preserved within the Church under very difficult historical circumstances, and considers that it is too ambitious to expect that this identity could collapse. He has emphasized that it is obvious that in the move of Montenegrin government it is about a lack of sufficient identity for the new nation, which Djukanovic is trying to file with the demonization of Serbs and trying to belittle the SOC’s importance, seizing its assets. “He cannot do this with either Muslims, Shiptars or Croats. He tries to do it with Serbs by not allowing Serbian language to be taught, not allowing Serbs to be employed, being part of the public sector, but to force a change of identity and fill in the unfilled Montenegrin identity,” Dodik said.

He has added that any attempt by the Montenegrin government, led by Djukanovic, to seize the Church’s facilities would complicate relations. “This kind of attack by Djukanovic and his authorities is unforgivable. The Serbian people have neither the need nor can forgive such behavior. To be kind to them is obviously a mistake,” Dodik said, recalling that similar efforts had already been made to discredit and disparage the Serb people when Montenegro recognized Kosovo and the representatives of Montenegro went to Knin to mark the operation “Storm”. He mentioned that Serbs are also being threatened rights in Slovenia, where they cannot obtain the status of national minority, in Northern Macedonia, in Croatia, in the Federation of B&H, and now in Montenegro, where it has gone too far. The right-wing government in Croatia, Dodik said, should not have attacked the SPC, there were demolitions during the war, but today the SOC lives there. “Nobody tried to kidnap their shrines. They are now doing it in Montenegro solely because they have an identity problem, which is incomplete. Their policy, I see, is to try to abduct it from the Serbs and force them to declare themselves as Montenegrins in order to increase their capacity. It is a clear game. I support and I am ready to be part of the effort to help Serbs in Montenegro or wherever they are,” Dodik concluded.


B&H officials congratulate Milanovic on being elected new Croatian President (FTV)


Chairman and Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic congratulated SDP Croatia’s candidate Zoran Milanovic on being elected the new Croatian President. Komsic sent a message to Milanovic that the B&H Presidency is open for new bilateral meetings. President of SDP B&H Nermin Niksic also congratulated Milanovic on the election, expecting it will represent a positive turn. Niksic stated that he believes Milanovic will repair shaken relations between B&H and Croatia, which got undermined with Grabar-Kitarovic’s careless statements and moves. HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic also congratulated Milanovic, expressing conviction that Milanovic’s policy will be dedicated to the Croat people in B&H, with the aim to protect and achieve full equality for Croats in B&H. New B&H Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic said that Croatia will preside over the EU in the next six months, arguing it is good that the presidential election in Croatia is over, which will lower unnecessary political tensions and rhetoric and contribute to everyone turning to the serious work on B&H’s EU path in which Croatia has an important role.


Croatia presidential election: Milanovic defeats incumbent Grabar-Kitarovic (Hina)


According to final election results, released at 5:30am CET (Central European Time) on January 6, 2020; former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has defeated incumbent Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and won his first five-year term as President of Croatia.

Here is a breakdown of the final election results with 100% votes processed (updated 5:30am CET): 52.67% – Zoran Milanovic – Former Prime Minister | SDP; 47.33% – Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic – Incumbent President | HDZ. Former Croatia Prime Minister began his career as a diplomat. Zoran Milanovic, born in 1966; was Prime Minister of Croatia from 2011 to 2016. He was also the leader of SDP (Social Democratic Party of Croatia), the largest center-left political party, from 2007 to 2016. He served as leader of the opposition twice, from 2007 to 2011 and for several months in 2016. Milanovic began his career in the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served as advisor at the Croatian Mission to the European Union and NATO and was assistant to the Foreign Minister of Croatia for political multilateral affairs. In June 2007, Milanovic was elected President of SDP and formed a coalition uniting four center-left political parties, which won an absolute majority in the 2011 parliamentary election. He became Prime Minister later that year and oversaw Croatia’s entry into the EU in 2013. His cabinet introduced changes to the tax code and began several large infrastructure projects. Milanovic also supported the expansion of the rights of same-sex couples and introduced the Life Partnership Act. He served as Prime Minister until 2015 and led the four-party coalition until early parliamentary elections in 2016. Milanovic announced his withdrawal from politics following a surprise defeat. He began a career as a consultant and worked as advisor to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

In June 2019, Milanovic announced his campaign for President of Croatia under the slogan “A President with Character.” He ran on a center-left platform, his record as prime minister and promised to be tough on corruption. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, born in 1968; has been the President of Croatia since 2015. She was the first woman and the youngest person to ever assume the office. In 2017, Forbes magazine listed Grabar-Kitarovic as the world’s 39th most powerful woman. Before her election, Grabar-Kitarovic held several governmental and diplomatic positions including Minister of European Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Croatian ambassador to the United States, and NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy. She was the only female candidate in the Croatian presidential elections held in December 2014 and January 2015 and was runner-up in the first round. She narrowly defeated incumbent President Ivo Josipovic in the second round. Her presidential re-election campaign has weathered a series of gaffes and missteps. Last month, she claimed at a campaign rally in Osijek that she had secured jobs for Croatian citizens to work from home for 8000 EUR, after they had received training abroad. However, she later declined to provide details. While she has positioned herself as a centrist, she welcomed endorsements from several controversial and far right-wing political figures. Marko Perkovic Thompson, a singer known for his use of WWII Croatian fascist symbols and language in performances, backed her re-election. And Grabar-Kitarovic’s website featured a video message from Julienne Busic, American-born author and activist, who hijacked a TWA flight in 1976 to promote Croatian independence. The party of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, who is facing corruption charges, also endorsed her candidacy.


Protests against new religious law continue across Montenegro (N1)


Thousands of Montenegrin Serbs continued with peaceful protests against the new Law on Religious Communities in the coastal republic which, they said, endangered their and the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). Since the Montenegrin parliament has passed the law, SPC churches and monasteries have been packed with people showing disagreement and demanding that the authorities reconsider the act and take into account the suggestions made by SPC. Protest walks were held in the capital Podgorica, in northern Montenegro where the majority of the population considered themselves as Serbs, but also in the coastal town of Herceg Novi. SPC and Montenegrin Serbs say the new law would enable the state to take over their holy places, describing the law as ‘theft’. Montenegrin Orthodox Church is not autocephalous, and some media in Serbia quoted Bartholomew I, the current Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, as saying he would never recognize the independence of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Bartholomew is the primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and considered a spiritual leader of some 300 million people worldwide. One of the leaders of the Montenegrin Democratic Front (DF) party, Andrija Mandic, told that the Milo Djukanovic regime has no problem with Serbia but with its citizens and that their wrong moves have taken rivers of people to the streets seeking justice, adding that thousands of Montenegrin citizens will regret the absence of Serbia’s President in Montenegro. “These are tens of thousands of people who are pressuring the Montenegrin regime every night, which is not giving up on its intention to plunder the SPC and take its temples in Montenegro,” Mandic said. He said that thousands of compatriots will regret President Aleksandar Vucic‘s decision not to visit Montenegro on Christmas Day. “The pressures of the Montenegrin regime went so far that they even informed NATO as if it were Serbia’s aggression against Montenegro,” Mandic said. SPC faithful have been protesting in Montenegro for days over the adoption of the Religious Freedoms Law that they claim discriminates against the SPC. At the same time, the authorities in Podgorica, as well as some civic activists in the region, accused the Belgrade regime of organizing protests, thus threatening Montenegro’s stability and independence. The top body of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro on Friday distanced itself from any possible incidents which it said it was reliably informed could be staged on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. The Serbian Orthodox Church marks time by the Julian calendar which means that Christmas eve is on 6 January.

“The Church will not call for violence of any kind but will show determination in defending its holy sites… The responsibility for divisions lies with the people who adopted the unconstitutional and discriminatory law on seizing temples and church properties. It is up to every Orthodox Christian believers no to fall for provocation,” the statement by the Council of Episcopes of the Montenegro Littoral Bishopric said. The Council added that the church had formed an international team of experts tasked with protecting Church interests in Montenegro and before international institutions.


Cakaj condemns the attack on the Montenegrin Embassy in Belgrade (Radio Tirana)


The attack on the Montenegrin Embassy in Belgrade has also been strongly condemned by the Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Gent Cakaj. Cakaj has stated that the attack on the Montenegrin Embassy by Serbian extremists is unacceptable. Among other things, Chief Diplomat Cakaj has stressed that a diplomatic mission should not be subjected to vandalism, but views should be addressed to dialogue. Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) also condemned the act and urged for investigations in order to shed light on the perpetrators of this act. “The Socialist Movement for Integration strongly condemns the attack on the embassy of the Republic of Montenegro in Belgrade. This event requires thorough investigation and punishment of the perpetrators. We believe that such events undermine the relations of cooperation between states, and go against the spirit of good neighborliness and integration between the two countries that have common objectives for European Union integration,” reacted this party. Council of Albanian Ambassadors (CAA) strongly condemned the attack on Montenegrin Embassy in Serbia. The Council of Ambassadors had two appeals: Albanian government should play an active role in reducing tensions in Belgrade; while Serbia should be separated from Milosevic’s politics of 1990s, when the religion was used in nationalist agendas. “The Council of Albanian Ambassadors condemns the violence against the diplomatic headquarters of Montenegro, an untouchable institution that is guaranteed by international conventions, as well as it expresses concern about the spirit of conflict and tension that such action brings. The region needs friendly understanding and communication to advance the aspirations of the Balkan peoples on their journey to the European Union. Good neighborly relations and respect for the fundamental rights of self-determination should characterize relations between countries in our region,” stated CAA.




Europe’s big problems in 2020 (Politico, 3 January 2020)


POLITICO’s predictions for the year ahead.

2019 was the year that multiple European governments collapsed, Boris Johnson crushed his opponents with a promise to “Get Brexit done” and a 16-year-old from Sweden rallied environmental protests across the Continent. As the calendar clicks over into January 2020, POLITICO’s editors predict the major tensions that will shape the coming year. Spoiler: The outlook isn’t rosy — and Brexit isn’t done yet.


Europe goes Chinese

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Protectionism will no longer be a dirty word in EU policymaking. After free-trading Britain leaves the EU, France and Germany will quickly shunt Brussels toward an industrial policy based on state support, central planning and European champions. That will include vetoes on big Chinese buyouts in Europe and European governments excluding Asian companies from public contracts, as the EU picks its next generation of home-grown corporate winners in sectors such as electric vehicles, hydrogen and health care. Expect attempted mega mergers in telecoms and other stone-age industries.

Liberal nations (the Swedes and Dutch) and big recipients of Chinese investment (Greece and Portugal) will lambast the Franco-German industrial juggernaut for hypocrisy. But Paris and Berlin will be deaf to their complaints. It’ll be a much-trumpeted leap back to the supposed glory days of post-World War II reconstruction — and the results will be underwhelming.


A new financial crisis

The tectonic plates of the world’s financial system are building up tension and are overdue for a slip. More than a decade — a typical interval between panics — since the last crisis, protections are more or less in place against a recurrence of those events. But the next crisis is always different, as financiers like to say. Finance officials and economists look with wary eyes to China’s shadow banking system. Alternative sources of credit, away from conventional banks, have boomed along with the economy. Officials have not taken the measure of the phenomenon with any degree of confidence. As China’s economy wobbles, that credit looks shaky. Even a small uptick in losses can wipe out lenders with thin financial cushions. The truce in Trump’s trade offensives has been a taken with a sigh of relief. But the peace, and China’s economy, is fragile. Any political misstep could set off fresh hostilities that would dim growth prospects.

This comes while warning lights are flashing red on the control panels of market watchdogs and analysts. Several classes of stocks and bonds are trading at high prices. Those two forces together are ready to shake the financial world in 2020.


Brexit gets (even) dirtier

Post-Brexit trade talks between the U.K. and the EU will turn ugly in 2020 as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushes for the freedom to diverge from EU rules. With the U.K. now all but certain to leave the EU on January 31, that leaves the really hard question — what kind of relationship the U.K. wants to have with the EU — to be solved in a punishingly tight timetable by the end of December. Anyone expecting Johnson to ditch his hard Brexiteers and go for a trade deal with close alignment with the single market and EU customs union should think again. He and his closest aides are serious about wanting to diverge from EU rules — particularly in areas like financial services and artificial intelligence. And he is banking on France and Germany blinking over trade in food and cars to give him a better deal than they’re offering now. One factor is whether he will tear up his pledge not to extend the transition period beyond December 31, 2020. If Johnson wants to avoid the political embarrassment of breaking his word on an exit date again (remember that “die in a ditch” promise), he will have to take a hit on the terms he accepts — or face the economic shock of leaving without a trade deal. Expect the U.K.-EU trade talks, like every European crisis, to go down to the wire in December 2020 as everybody plays a colossal game of diplomatic chicken.


The climate agenda boils over

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide will hit yet another record in 2020. There will be no sign that the global increase in temperatures is being brought under control. Against that backdrop, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s promise to face the climate challenge will dominate the EU calendar — affecting everything from financial regulations to chemicals rules, airplane taxes, pollution standards for cars and the bloc’s trading relationships with the rest of the world. The political muscle behind her so-called Green Deal program means that big chunks of it will get passed — but it’s going to cause some serious fights this year. One is likely to be within the European Commission. Frans Timmermans, the Dutch Socialist Commission executive vice president in charge of the Green Deal, bears the political responsibility for pushing through the program, but the purse strings are controlled by a rival executive vice president — Valdis Dombrovskis from the European People’s Party. The other is within the bloc itself. The effort to clean up is exposing deep fissures between the greener West of the Continent and the coal-dependent East. Poland says it can’t meet a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050, and that’s going to force the EU to cough up lots of cash to try and get the Poles and their allies on side. But there is no sign that Warsaw plans any kind of a radical (and very expensive) transformation of its economy.


Technology takes control

2020 will be the year that Europe ditches its precautionary approach to new technologies.

As the bloc eyes an industrial policy worthy of outperforming global rivals, it will be forced to confront the reality that a softly-softly approach to artificial intelligence, driverless vehicles and other futuristic technologies is no longer compatible with economic ambitions. Experts say a host of artificial intelligence systems are already in use across health care, education, employment and criminal justice without appropriate safeguards or accountability structures. Driverless trucks are already operating across the bloc’s public roads, albeit under limited controlled trials. Aerospace giants like Airbus and Boeing, tech companies like Uber and even McDonald’s are betting big on drone deliveries and air taxis. Even European governments are already embracing facial recognition technology — disregarding major privacy and civil liberty concerns.


Brussels will be forced to wake up to Iran’s bloodshed

Tehran’s leadership and the Revolutionary Guards will become even more desperate to cling on to power through 2020 as they lose the last vestiges of popular support. The massive welfare and subsidy schemes that held the Islamic Republic together will unravel as American sanctions bite harder. Without a dramatic (and unlikely) recovery in oil revenue, Iran’s leaders know they are facing the battle of their lives and will resort to repressive fear tactics. Brussels will have to stop its love-in with Tehran and should worry about what might come next. Like the fall of Communism in eastern Europe, we will see big cracks in the Iranian elite. Sensing the threat to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, many oligarchs within Iran’s highly corrupt upper echelons will fear the collapse of the whole edifice that keeps them rich, and will be studying the mechanics of an internal coup and a deal with the West.


Warsaw-Brussels relations at breaking point

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party will push ahead with its deep reforms to the country’s judicial system — sparking yet more tension in the fraught relationship with Brussels. Despite winning the 2019 parliamentary election, PiS is fighting for its political life in this year’s presidential vote. Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, is ahead in opinion polls, but presidential races have surprised in the past. If he loses, then the radical changes brought about by PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński would be blocked — killing his revolutionary effort to remake the country. That’s prompting the government to undertake a final push to bring the judiciary more firmly under political control. Brussels is warning that such steps could violate EU treaties by undermining judicial independence. But Warsaw isn’t listening.


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