Vucic, Borrell discuss Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Tanjug/RTS)
EU High Representative Josep Borrell on Wednesday discussed with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Tanjug learns in Brussels. According to a statement from the President’s Office for Cooperation with the Media, during the conversation, Vucic said that Serbia, in accordance with its regional policy of peace and stability, is ready to continue the dialogue if Pristina abolishes the unjustified and irresponsible unilateral measure of establishing taxes on goods from central Serbia, which, in addition to the Serbian economy, threatens the daily lives of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. He stressed that these taxes are contrary to all European rules on free movement of goods, as well as to the obligations that Pristina has assumed in the framework of regional cooperation. In this regard, he stressed the importance of European institutions and EU member states maintaining their position that it is necessary for the Pristina authorities to abolish taxes on goods from central Serbia in order to continue the dialogue. EU High Representative Borrell welcomed Serbia’s commitment to preserving regional stability. The two interlocutors also discussed the next steps on Serbia’s European path. President Vucic said that Serbia is continuing the reform process with the aim of joining the European Union and expects EU’s clear strategic plan for enlargement and a timeframe for membership – that is, a clear answer about its future in the European Union.
According to the statement, Vucic congratulated Borrell once again on his appointment to that responsible position and wished him success in his work. According to information obtained by Tanjug, Borrell also spoke with Hashim Thaci. Borrell, who has taken over from Federica Mogherini also the role of the main facilitator in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, has noted on several occasions that a resolution of the Kosovo issue would be one of his priorities.
Why didn’t Grenell visit Pristina and what is Walker doing over there (Tanjug/RTV)
US Special Representative Richard Grenell cancelled his visit to Pristina, where he was expected these days even though the government has not been formed yet, while the Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun sees in this a clear message from Washington that it wants institutions to be formed and an exit from political instability. “It is clear from statements by US officials that institutions in Kosovo are not functioning and it is completely clear there are no negotiations until a majority is formed and taxes are abolished,” Drecun told Tanjug. “There are no hints that Belgrade-Pristina talks could resume anytime soon, which means we cannot make even a half-step in resolving the Kosovo problem. The situation is uncertain, at this phase without a perspective,” said Drecun. The US wants a solution of political instability in Kosovo and Metohija to be found as soon as possible and, thus, they are exerting pressure on Pristina for this reason. He says the US is also the only one that can move things in Kosovo from a blind spot, but he assesses that Albin Kurti doesn’t suit them towards resolving the political crisis since he is undisciplined, unlike Hashim Thaci. Kurti is not a political personality that the US wishes to see at leading positions because he is showing intentions to destabilize the situation, said Drecun. “Kurti is not showing readiness for talks with Serbia, to reach a compromise solution, he is unpredictable and undisciplined and in this option they would like somebody like Hashim Thaci, who is proven and can listen to Washington’s suggestions, and who can be, unlike Kurti, more constructive, the way the US expects,” said Drecun. Besides, it is evident that Kurti wants all levers of power, both the post of the president and the prime minister, as well as the assembly speaker, which the Americans would not like – he is an unpredictable factor, because one doesn’t know how will he behave and he is not suitable to be someone who will hold all the strings, notes Drecun. Drecun is not an optimist as far as the further development of the situation is concerned. “If Kurti remains in the majority, there will always be problems with him. He is not taking the path of seeking a solution for open issues, but generates new problems,” said Drecun. Concerning the speculations that former OSCE mission head William Walker has arrived in Pristina instead of Grenell, Drecun says that Walker has no weight in the US, that he is a criminal, one of the most responsible ones for the brutal criminal bombardment and aggression of NATO on the FRY. “A criminal always returns to the scene of the crime. He was awarded by the Albanians for this crime for the truth for the massacre in Racak and I believe that every arrival in Kosovo is filling his pockets,” says Drecun. According to him, perhaps Walker would use his arrival in Kosovo to at least convey some messages to certain politicians. However, the question is from whom could he convey a message and what, whether from the deep state or US intelligence services, whose exponent he is and for whom he had invented the massacre in Racak. “Perhaps he could convey a message, but he has no weight in the US. He is only a symbol in Kosovo, in fact a most common criminal who opened the path for the criminal bombing of the FRY by killing the truth,” said Drecun.
Stefanovic: 28 adult Serbs in Syria, Iraq, warns participation in foreign wars punishable (Beta)
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that there were currently 28 adult Serbian nationals in Syria and Iraq, adding that the state had brought a law that penalized the participation of Serbian citizens in foreign wars. At a lecture at the School of National Defense, “Confronting Extremism and Terrorism as an Important Segment of Serbian National Security,” he said that the law had had the effect of drastically lowering the number of Serbian citizens participating in foreign wars. “According to our information nine have returned to Europe, not just our country, while 12 persons were killed. These statistics do not include data from Kosovo, as we do not have a full insight into that,” Stefanovic was quoted as saying by the Ministry of Interior Affairs. He stressed that battling organized crime and money-laundering was an important aspect of the fight against terrorism and added that almost 40 percent of terrorist attacks were related to organized crime.
Antonijevic expects new meeting with MEPs; topic will be lowering electoral threshold (Tanjug/Politika)
Executive Director of the Open Society Foundation Milan Antonijevic said that he expects new talks in the coming weeks between representatives of the European Parliament, EU’s enlargement commissioner and all political actors in Serbia, and that the topic of talks should be the lowering of the electoral threshold. Antonijevic explained for Tanjug that, according to still unconfirmed information, EP representatives and Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi should visit Belgrade in the coming weeks, and he expects that a round of talks will be held on the topic of changing the threshold. “It may also be a good opportunity for everyone to come together at one table to discuss issues that are important to all citizens and their democratic rights, to discuss censorship and many other topics, to return to the topic of the media and the situation in the media,” said Antonijevic, adding that he considers the visit to be timely. It is good, he says, to see the commitment of the European Parliament representatives to Serbia’s progress. Asked if he would accept the role of a mediator again, Antonijevic said that he would participate, as before, in round tables held in the parliament, that he recalled are attended by civil society as well.
“When we finished the cycle of talks at the Faculty of Political Science (FNP), then the EP became involved and our role is only as experts who can give a clear picture of what has been improved, which of the things put on paper which the government of Serbia promised have been implemented, and which laws have been passed, what the consequences of these laws are and whether we will really see the changes in the picture we see in the media and in the pressure on voters… all that was the subject of discussion at the FPN,” explained Antonijevic. Asked to comment on MEP Tanja Fajon’s statement that radical changes ahead of elections are a “dangerous tactic” – referring to changing the threshold, Antonijevic says that this is a tactic, but that a distinction should be made between political decisions. “A decision to reduce the threshold to three percent is a political decision that can be made, but on the other hand, you have all those legally binding documents and practices, which is that the law is not changed in an election year. I think these are the two sides of the scales that should be measured,” said Antonijevic.
Dodik and Vucic’s statements provoked only couple of reactions from Sarajevo (Oslobodjenje)
Recent statements made on the occasion of 9 January, Day of Republika Srpska (RS) by Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic when they spoke about merging of the RS with Serbia and where Dodik noted that this century should represent “the century of integration and defense” and announced for the next decade if not independence than stronger unity with Serbia, while Vucic noted that the RS could not survive without Serbia. Speaker of B&H House of Representatives Denis Zvizdic (SDA) deems that these are only dreams and that “heated heads” from both sides of Drina should finally abandon the utopia dreams about creation of Greater Serbia. “The facts cannot be disputed by celebrations made out of spite and historic fabrications and the fact is that B&H is thousands-years old historic and state fact. Because of this, it is impossible to use quasi-celebrations and forged documents to create “statehood capacity of the RS”, justify committed crimes and discrimination of non-Serb population, especially of Bosniaks, because its is clear to everyone, naturally except to organizers of this spite-celebration, that January 9 should be a commemoration for thousands of innocently killed and ethnically persecuted Bosniaks and Croats,” said Zvizdic. B&H MP Sasa Magazinovic (SDP) deems that internationally recognition of B&H cannot be changed by someone’s empty desires, repeating that no part of B&H has right to secession or merging with some other state without the bloodshed. “Everyone has right to dream, but nobody has right to push someone else’s children into wars,” said Magazinovic.
Cabinet of Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic did not want to comment these statements, but merely repeated their earlier stance that such issues can most notably lead to abolition of the RS.
Still no agreement on Bozovic’s appointment as B&H Minister of Human Rights and Refugees (N1)
Delegations of SDA and SNSD held a meeting in Sarajevo on Tuesday, which did not result in an agreement on appointment of Mladjen Bozovic as the B&H Minister of Human Rights and Refugees. At the last session of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Commission for Preparing the Election of the Council of Ministers of B&H, SDA abstained from voting in favor of Bozovic’s appointment. The party will take a stance on whether to support his appointment until the next session of the B&H HoR, which is expected to be held in Sarajevo on Thursday. Addressing reporters after the meeting, SDA Secretary General Halid Genjac stated that everyone got informed about SDA’s dilemmas about Bozovic on this occasion. “This time, we discussed the topics on the agenda of the next session of the B&H HoR, as well as certain issues on the agenda of the next session of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM)” Genjac said. He added that as far as Bozovic’s appointment is concerned, SDA will inform the public about its stance until the beginning of the session on Thursday. On the other hand, Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija (SNSD) said that he does not see anything disputable about Bozovic’s appointment. Tegeltija also said that they did not waste too much time discussing Bozovic’s appointment as SDA had made it clear that they will render their decision by Thursday. SDP will not support Bozovic’s appointment and DF said that they too will render their decision on Thursday. In recent days, SDA representatives have been claiming that Bozovic is a party figure and that the agreement with SNSD has been violated because of that. However, DNS representatives denied claims that Bozovic is a member of DNS. Acting President of DNS Nenad Nesic said that Bozovic was never a member of DNS. “If someone can prove that he is a member of DNS, DNS is ready to withdraw such a candidate,” Nesic underlined. Leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik recently said that further contesting of Bozovic’s appointment would bring about a new crisis in B&H. Dodik stressed that a candidate is nominated by the side which has the right to do so, “whether someone likes it or not.We do not want to contest anyone, we will respect proposals of other sides and we ask that the proposals coming from Republika Srpska is respected.”
Dzaferovic rejects media allegations in which he was tried to be brought in connection with Iranian general Soleimani (O kanal)
B&H Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic strongly rejected media allegations in which he was tried to be brought in connection with recently killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated last week upon the order of US President Donald Trump. Dzaferovic stressed that this was an orchestrated attack by the Serbian intelligence agency. Dzaferovic’s comment comes after Belgrade-based Vecernje Novosti published that he had meetings with Soleimani in the capacity of a wartime head of the Security Service Center in Zenica during the past war in B&H. Dzaferovic referred to these allegations as “Greater Serbia propaganda”. Dzaferovic, on several occasions, rejected all accusations and reports against him which claimed that he participated in cover-up of crimes in the area of Zenica and Vozuca. “Even former Federation of B&H Vice President Mirsad Kebo filed reports with the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H against him but Dzaferovic denied everything and said that he is proud of his role in the war and that his conscience is clear when it comes to his participation in it”. Chairman of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic fiercely condemned propaganda of Serbian media against Dzaferovic. He said that these attacks on Dzaferovic are common, unscrupulous lies: “Also, these attacks are not only attacks on Dzaferovic, but continued attempts to discredit the institution of B&H Presidency and state of B&H. Everyone who acknowledge and respect the state and who act in politics are obliged to condemned them and call them their real names”. Iranian Embassy to B&H denied published speculation, saying they are published by citing the tendentious and false foreign sources.
Plenkovic presents priorities of Croatia’s EU Presidency to European Parliament (Hina)
The EU is faced with numerous challenges and it must find a way to respond to its citizens’ concerns, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic warned on Tuesday while presenting the priorities of Croatia’s EU presidency in the European Parliament. “The world is growing more complex by the day, the number of our tasks is growing as is the number of those who offer simple answers and quick solutions, often unfounded and based on false information. Our citizens’ expectations are growing. We must get close to them, listen to them and respond to their concerns,” Plenkovic said at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Plenkovic said the first task of the Croatian presidency is an agreement on the EU’s multiannual budget, which must satisfy all citizens and countries, which is why, he said, cohesion and agricultural policies need to be retained as well as new challenges addressed. Plenkovic said that Europe had to act faster with regard to the budget because otherwise citizens would be disappointed, adding that Croatia wanted fast progress to be achieved during its presidency.
Speaking of Brexit, Plenkovic repeated that there was a wish to complete an orderly exit of Great Britain from the EU but that the period of 11 months for an agreement on future relations between the UK and the EU was extremely short. The PM said that during Croatia’s EU presidency, a conference on Europe’s future would start, its purpose being to bring the EU closer to citizens and consolidate its democratic legitimacy. Plenkovic said the conference provided an opportunity to understand what had led to Brexit and why there was Euroscepticism and why populism was on the rise in a number of EU countries. The conference must guarantee the involvement of all member states, national parliaments and citizens. It must be inclusive and open, Plenkovic said about the initiative, which EU Commissioner for Demography and Democracy Dubravka Suica of Croatia will be in charge of. Speaking of a coming summit meeting on EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, to be held in Zagreb, he said that the purpose of the meeting was to show aspirants that their European journey would not be questioned and that the EU would help them in the process. Plenkovic stressed that Croatia wanted accession talks to be opened with North Macedonia and Albania before the Zagreb summit, after the European Council refused to do it last October. Citing the four priorities of Croatia’s presidency (A Europe that develops; A Europe that connects; A Europe that protects; and An influential Europe), Plenkovic said that special attention would be dedicated to the implementation of the European Green Deal, for which funding needed to be secured.
Describing EU presidency as a historic moment for Croatia, Plenkovic recalled that Croatia had only recently gained its sovereignty. The first free elections in Croatia were held only 30 years ago. They marked the restoration of Croatia’s sovereignty after nine centuries and put the country back on the political map of the world, Plenkovic said to a half-empty chamber, which is common when smaller member-countries present their presidency. Croatia gained international recognition in the difficult circumstances of a war of aggression. Owing to its defenders, it defended and liberated itself 25 years ago, completed the process of reconstruction and embarked on the path of European integration, and it is now for the first time at the EU’s helm, said Plenkovic. Commenting on last week’s visit of the European Commission to Zagreb, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen told the European Parliament that the commissioners witnessed Croatians’ very well-known hospitality as well as the country’s rich culture, traditional folklore and diversity. Three decades after the horrible bloodshed, your country is running the European Union, she said. Nobody could have imagined how fast and how strongly you will be developing since you gained independence, she stressed. That happened because of the will of your people, its sacrifice and commitment to our values, as well as because of the commitment to joining our union of progress, peace and prosperity, she said, adding that the EU would need the resolve, unity and energy Croatians were well known for.
Plenkovic: Croatia won’t become hotspot for migrants (Hina)
Croatia will not become an informal hotspot for migrants, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in the European Parliament (EP) on Tuesday after several MEPs objected to the way Croatia’s police treat illegal migrants. “Croatia will not become a country that will be an informal hotspot,” Plenkovic said and added that unlike other countries, Croatia did not decide to build barricades and barbed wire but to protect the Croatian, European and future Schengen border with 6,500 police officers. The solution is to protect the external border, particularly between Turkey and Greece where the eastern-Mediterranean and western Balkan routes begin, said Plenkovic, adding that Europe can act in crisis areas with its humanitarian aid, economic strength, conflict mediation and other tools. After Plenkovic presented Croatia’s priorities during its presidency of the EU, European Greens leader Ska Keller spoke about reports of alleged violence and abuse by Croatia’s police against illegal migrants on the border with B&H. Addressing the EP plenary session, Keller claimed that migrants’ belongings were destroyed, they were beaten and even shot at, and that the Croatian government has not stopped this nor investigated it. That is not acceptable for any member of the EU nor any country anywhere, Keller said. Croatia’s borders are Europe’s borders, whatever happens there is the responsibility of us all, we will not turn our heads away from that, she concluded. Plenkovic responded that in its treatment of migrants, Croatia respects all Croatian and European laws and international conventions and that not one of those accusations should be taken for granted. “I say that as someone who has visited that border area between Croatia with B&H and I completely understand what sort of terrain that is and what the conditions there are like, Plenkovic said and underscored that all complaints regarding police behavior are investigated.
Most of the critics of Croatia’s migrant policy were from the Greens and the left, including Malin Bjork, who said that she had visited the border between B&H with Croatia and noted that in 2019 alone more than 25,000 pushbacks had occurred there without any administrative procedures being undertaken. Croatian MEP Tomislav Sokol (HDZ) responded that those were untruths as the reports referred to were not by the relevant bodies. He underlined that Croatia is respecting the law, but Bjork said that in the very short time she visited the border she saw 25 pushbacks.
Minister Darmanovic: There’s room for dialogue with SPC (MINA)
There’s room for dialogue between the state and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), assessed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Srdjan Darmanovic, stressing that the most important thing is to preserve peace and stability in Montenegro. He also emphasized that there was no fear of any attack on the property right and added that propaganda of many political structures in Serbia greatly contributed to destabilization of the situation. Commenting on the current relations between Podgorica and Belgrade and whether he thought they [relations] have never been worse since 2006, Minister Darmanovic said that Montenegro has been striving to implement politics which would contribute to the stability in the region and that good neighborly relations have been one of its three main pillars of the foreign policy. “It refers to Serbia as well – our neighbor and a significant partner. However, the latest events on the occasion of the new religious freedom law do not contribute to good relations. On the contrary, they are making the situation even worse,” Minister Darmanovic told MINA news agency. According to him, the recent events represented a form of a serious meddling into the internal affairs of a sovereign country, a NATO member state and a serious candidate country for the EU membership. The most problematic thing, the Minister added, was that the highest-ranking Serbian officials interfered in this whole matter, while they were supposed to contribute to the good neighborly relations and the stability in the region. “Protesters targeted the embassy of MNE to Serbia, tried to burn the Montenegrin flag and the reaction of Serbia’s state bodies was pretty mild, not to say – inadequate.” He also told he hoped there was room for returning the relations between the two countries back to their ‘normal state’, primarily in terms of the EU integrations and many other regional initiatives.
Zaev: US continuously supports the realization of our strategic interests (Republika)
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev met Tuesday with US Ambassador to Macedonia Kate Byrnes. Zaev thanked the US Ambassador for the support that the United States has continuously given to the Republic of Macedonia in building a modern democratic society, as well as in the process of realizing our country’s strategic interests since independence. “At the meeting we discussed several topics, such as the organization of fair and democratic elections, the reform implementation process, as well as Macedonia’s bid to join NATO and the EU,” Zaev said.
Mickoski – Byrnes: Fair and democratic elections key to Macedonia’s future (Republika)
VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski, along with party vice president Aleksandar Nikoloski and international secretary Timco Mucunski, met Wednesday with US Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia Kate Byrnes. “At the meeting we discussed the current political developments in Macedonia, the strategic goals and problems facing the state and the upcoming parliamentary elections. I emphasized that the United States is a strategic partner of the Republic of Macedonia and thanked for the assistance it provides to our country since its independence. I stressed that EU membership would be a key strategic commitment of the new VMRO-DPMNE-led government, and added that the party has a vision and plan to put the country on the fast track to achieve this goal. I have pointed out to my interlocutors that the Republic of Macedonia is facing serious problems on the road to the European Union, and the lack of reforms and crucial problems with crime and corruption are additional argument for opponents of EU enlargement. I have mentioned that there are a number of unresolved corruption cases involving senior SDSM party and state officials. At the same time, I thanked Ambassador Byrnes for the ‘Open Finance’ transparency and accountability tool that provided citizens with insights into how their money is spent, and enabled the detection of numerous abuses by state officials. Regarding the forthcoming parliamentary elections, we agreed that a fair and democratic election process in which citizens will freely express their will will be crucial to the future of the Republic of Macedonia. Jointly we concluded that relations between the two countries are at an excellent level, and that there is a possibility for further cooperation in the field of economy, military cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experience,” said Mickoski.
Albanian political forces reached an agreement to implement electoral reform by 15 March (Radio Tirana)
The main political forces in Albania reached an agreement today to implement the electoral reform by 15 March. A group of 4 members, representing the three main parties Damian Gjiknuri, Rudina Hajdari, Oerd Bylykbashi and Petrit Vasili, agreed to adopt the electoral reform in a transparent, inclusive, consensual way among political parties. The reform agreed to be discussed and drafted outside the parliament at a political party table, and to adopt the consensual product without amendment by the Commission and Parliament. Representatives of the united opposition, leaders of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, as well as representatives of parliamentary groups in the Assembly, attend the Political Council set up between the majority and the opposition. The majority agreed not to change the consensual product with the opposition, in the Commission or in the parliament. In addition to the OSCE / ODIHR recommendations, the parties agreed to discuss any other electoral issues that help achieve international electoral standards.
OSCE and US Embassy hails the agreement reached by political parties on the electoral reform (Radio Tirana)
The OSCE Presence in Albania has assessed the political parties’ agreement on Electoral Reform as an important step towards timely reform, adding that it is ready to continue to contribute to this reform process. “The OSCE Presence in Albania welcomes the political agreement on the electoral reform. We see this agreement as an important first step towards a comprehensive and timely reform that will address all OSCE / ODIHR recommendations to the benefit of all Albanian citizens. The Presence is ready to continue to contribute to the electoral reform process in line with its mandate” reads the statement. The US Embassy in Tirana has reacted after the meeting between the majority and the opposition regarding the Electoral Reform and stated: “We welcome the parties that agreed to work together on electoral reform, an important step to fully address the ODIHR recommendations. The reform will support an efficient and credible electoral processes and strengthen Albanian democracy. We hope that the parties will continue to move forward with this current spirit of cooperation, to ensure that elections in Albania are free from fraud, interference and corruption” said the US Embassy in Tirana.