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Belgrade Media Report 16 January 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 16 January 2020
LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic: Serbia will not give up until the real perpetrators of this crime are discovered (RTS)
• Cadez: Atlantic Council supports Little Schengen initiative (Tanjug)
• Djilas presents “Serbia 2020” Program (Beta)
• Witness to KLA crimes against disloyal Albanians removed (Politika)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Cvijanovic and Vucic comment claims of Nacional that Milanovic and Erdogan talked about need to change DPA (RTRS)
• Croats in B&H should not choose between Serbs and Bosniaks (Vecernji list)
• Delegations of SDA and HDZ B&H meet to discuss solving of key problems at state, entity and local level including solution for local elections in Mostar (Vecernji list)
• SDS, PDP, Our Party, SDP and Independent Bloc discuss ways to change Law on Elections of B&H (Nezavisne)
• OHR provides interpretation of current situation in SC Assembly concluding Kristic is legitimate speaker (BHT1)
Croatia
• Croatia sees Montenegro as next EU member state (Hina)
Montenegro
• Markovic: We are open to dialogue about conceptual agreement (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Varhelyi pledges that enlargement toward Balkans will be a priority for the EU (Republika)
• Pendarovski meets Varhelyi (Republika)
• Xhaferi tells Varhelyi he hopes Macedonia will open EU accession talks in March or May (Republika)
• VMRO has a plan to fast-track Macedonia toward the EU, Mickoski tells Varhelyi (Republika)
• New bribery tape – Zaev says “f… the name” (Republika)
Albania
• Venice Commission to discuss Albanian parliament addressed questions at March session (Radio Tirana)
• EU should carry on the enlargement process (Republika)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Serbia’s campaign to reduce the number of countries which recognise Kosovo is working (Emerging Europe)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: Serbia will not give up until the real perpetrators of this crime are discovered (RTS)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said this morning that, on the second anniversary of the assassination of SDP Civic Initiative leader Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia’s main message is that Serbia will not stop until the perpetrators and masterminds of the crime are discovered. She told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that Belgrade was conducting the investigation on its own, without any support from Pristina and international actors in Kosovo, with EULEX in the first place, while, as she said, UNMIK has no particular authority. She said the Serbian authorities had certain knowledge that she could not communicate in order not to endanger people and the investigation, stating that the situation in Kosovo was such that even the killings of protected witnesses of the Special Court could not be prevented. “We are conducting an investigation with our hands tied by Pristina and the international community,” Brnabic said. She said that the defendants charged with the murder of Ivanovic cannot expect to be properly tried in Kosovo and stressed that the indictment is a farce and that the evidence, if it can be called so, is contradictory. “Serbia and the Serbs, wherever they live, need peace, stability, security and Serbia will know how to preserve peace and security for the Serbs wherever they lived,” said Brnabic, who attended the memorial for Ivanovic, at St. Sava’s Temple on Vracar. She has stated that our institutions have their hands and legs tied in regard to the investigation into the murder of Oliver Ivanovic and adds that the provisional institutions and EULEX should be primarily asked about this. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed to the provisional institutions in Pristina and EULEX, where is now the EU, where is the rule of law, where is the fight against crime, why isn’t anyone saying something, why aren’t EU institutions saying what is happening and what has the investigation found out,” wondered Brnabic. She says that they should be asked why there has been no answer to countless questions posed by the Serbian institutions to Pristina and EULEX in regard to the cameras.

 

Cadez: Atlantic Council supports Little Schengen initiative (Tanjug)

 

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (PKS) President Marko Cadez on Wednesday said in Washington that experts of the Atlantic Council – an influential US-based institute – were supportive of progress in strengthening regional integration in the Western Balkans through the Little Schengen initiative. It is a new agenda for growth and economic strengthening, greater regional stability and accelerated reforms aimed at enabling Western Balkan economies to be more prepared and quicker when it comes to EU accession, he said at a round table with a group of Atlantic Council experts. Outlining the advantages of regional integration, he said ongoing, stepped-up activities aimed at building a single market were now stronger and more effective thanks to the political leadership and the clear political priorities set by the president of Serbia and the PMs of Albania and North Macedonia. “The initiative to build a Western Balkan economic area – a common market and the region as a single investment destination where citizens and businesses will enjoy the benefits of free movement of people, goods, services and capital – will expand the operating space for local businesspeople. It will significantly reduce costs, boost competitiveness, accelerate trade and enable growth of trade within the region and internationally. That is just what the region’s business community, represented by the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum, has been pushing for as well,” he said, noting that the region was a market of 18 million consumers.

 

Djilas presents “Serbia 2020” Program (Beta)

 

The Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) presented the “Serbia 2020” program on Wednesday, which entails significantly better living conditions for citizens just six months after the change of current government. SSP leader Dragan Djilas said at a news conference it took six months to implement the program, which also includes higher salaries for public sector employees, as well as that it is up to the citizens to decide when that will happen. “It is possible this year, if what we have asked for starts today, to put an end to the pressure on voters, and we could have elections in nine months that this government cannot win,” Djilas said. He insisted that despite this program, the opposition alliance does not plan to run in the upcoming elections. Djilas assessed that it was clear to everyone why the lowering of the electoral threshold was being announced, and said that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic “does not know where he is hitting, because everything is falling apart”. “Does anyone know how many parties are represented in parliament? Well, no – there are as many as 32 parties, and there are 21 independent MPs. Do you think the threshold is lowered to increase democracy and even more parties to be represented in it? Everyone knows what this is about,” Djilas said.

 

Witness to KLA crimes against disloyal Albanians removed (Politika)

 

Nazim Rustemi (63), who was killed in Pristina, was supposed to testify against the suspects of killing Albanians who refused to cooperate with the KLA, Politika learns from collocutors acquainted with the work of the Special Chamber in The Hague. Rustemi, a forestry inspector by profession, was found dead a month ago near Lake Badovac, in the vicinity of Pristina, and was initially thought that the murder is linked with the profession he performed. Christopher Bennett, the spokesperson of The Hague Prosecutor Jack Smith, told Politika that the Kosovo authorities are in charge of the investigation into Rustemi’s death. He adds he doesn’t wish to comment “media speculations” on this event. Bennett didn’t wish to respond as to whether The Hague Prosecution is investigating the murder of Rustemi, whether this man had protection, nor has he tried to convince the public in the safety of Hague witnesses. “If it turns out that Rustemi was a protected witness, it would be the first case known that someone was killed in that capacity,” says Milovan Drecun, Chairman of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, and Chairman of the Task Force on gathering facts and evidence in disclosing crimes against members of the Serb people and other national communities in Kosovo and Metohija. So far, international institutions have not acknowledged that any of the assassinated had protected witness status, although about 40 are suspected to have been killed in Kosovo. “That Special Prosecution protection program, if only a pale copy of the protection of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, will not be successful. I have said on several occasions that witness protection procedures raise my suspicion that they will not be effective until the end. On the other hand, there were Albanians who offered to testify but sought the protection program of the Serbian Interior Ministry. They did not believe in the Special Prosecutor’s Office protection program,” Drecun says. If it turns out that Rustemi was a protected witness and was therefore assassinated, according to Drecun, it is an indication of how strong the activity of those who might be found on the indictments is.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Cvijanovic and Vucic comment claims of Nacional that Milanovic and Erdogan talked about need to change DPA (RTRS)

 

Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic commented claims of Croatia-based magazine Nacional that President of Croatia Zoran Milanovic and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have recently discussed possible changing of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). Cvijanovic said that the RS is a fact and permanent category, adding that it will exist with or without the DPA. She also emphasized that Dayton structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) cannot be changed without consent of Serbs as constituent people in B&H. She added that peoples in B&H are only ones who can decide – exclusively on the ground of consensus about how B&H will look alike and what will happen to the DPA. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also commented the abovementioned claims. Vucic underlined that new solutions concerning B&H cannot be achieved without consent of all three constituent peoples in this country. In a statement for Tanjug news agency the Serbian President stated that he does not oppose talks on this issue but is suspicious when anyone talks about changes of the most important agreement about B&H. According to Vucic, many who have been talking about the need to change the DPA deem that these changes should result in reduction of competences of the RS and creation “of a functional state where the RS as an entity would not have competences it has today.” “Everyone has the right to talk about all kinds of topics. Serbia’s position is that there are no new solutions without an agreement among the three constituent peoples. That means that Serbs should also have a say, they should also give consent. Otherwise, there will be no changes to the DPA. As far as Serbia is concerned, we insist on strict compliance with the DPA. We will hardly be persuaded to accept changes to the DPA, since I know in what direction they want them to go. Let us be honest, many people who talk about changes to the DPA think that these changes should go in the direction of reducing the competences and prerogatives of the RS authorities and creating a functional state in which the RS as an entity would not have the competences it has today,” Vucic stressed. According to Nacional, one day after he won in presidential elections in Croatia, Milanovic had telephone conversation with Erdogan and analyzed effects of the DPA framework on current political developments, as well as options to prevent further radicalization in B&H.

 

Croats in B&H should not choose between Serbs and Bosniaks (Vecernji list)

 

HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic, asked to comment claims that Croats in B&H should have better relations with Bosniaks, thus picking that side (Bosniaks) and not Serbs, Covic replied by saying that “in political sense, we should have good relation towards the Serb and the Bosniak people”. According to him, ‘we’ have built good relations with SNSD and had good cooperation with SDS and PDP, adding that he is trying all he can to have good relations with the Bosniaks. “The talks we have with SDA show we want to relax relations between the Bosniak and the Croat people” added Covic. Asked what the key issues with the Bosniaks are, Covic said the number one issue is the Law on Elections, stressing that ‘we’ want to create awareness among the Bosniaks that there is no ground that somebody else elects Croat representatives. “It means that one constituent people should elect its own political representatives,” underlined Covic.

Talking about the EU integration of B&H, the HDZ B&H President said B&H is behind North Macedonia and Albania, arguing that “it is important, whilst Croatia is presiding (over Council of the EU), to use the moment and connect with the institutions”. “If we miss the moment, we will end up outside all financial arrangement,” added Covic. Asked to comment on SDA remarks that they expect the international community (IC) to increase pressure so Covic gives in and allows formation of a new Federation of B&H government, the HDZ B&H leader replied that as far as he is concerned, the Federation of B&H government can be formed immediately, adding that two issues have to be resolved beforehand. Namely, the reorganization of the Federation of B&H Government in line with decision of the Constitutional Court on abolition of unconstitutional ministries (at the Federation of B&H level), which would be followed by agreement on formation of new ministries. The second issue, according to Covic, are changes to the Law on Elections, namely resolving the issue of legitimate representation in the (Federation of B&H) House of Peoples and the Presidency of B&H. He went on to say that the issue of the House of Peoples is the main stumbling block. “The question is how to elect legitimate representatives from ten cantons as constituencies. Our proposal is to do it in line with structure of population from the last census. Meaning, where there are no representatives of one or other people, one has to ask how elect them at all,” said Covic. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that he (Covic) is travelling to Brussels in late January to meet President of the European People’s Party Donald Tusk and the EU officials, Covic replied by saying that ‘we’ will have numerous meetings with officials, believing that ‘we’ will send a positive image and create new momentum that would be noticed at the European institutions.

 

Delegations of SDA and HDZ B&H meet to discuss solving of key problems at state, entity and local level including solution for local elections in Mostar (Vecernji list)

 

Delegations of HDZ B&H and SDA met in Sarajevo on Wednesday with the goal to discuss solving of key problems at the state, entity and local level. The daily reminded that this was a continuation of a series of talks which were launched several months ago. The first part of Wednesday’s meeting was dedicated to finding a solution for implementation of local elections in Mostar in October this year and representatives of Mostar boards of both parties actively participated in this part of the meeting. The key issue was how to elect 35 representatives in the City Council and still respect one of rulings of the Constitutional Court. The other issues discussed during the meeting also concerned implementation of rulings of both the Constitutional Court and international courts with regard to necessary changes to the Law on Elections of B&H, especially concerning legitimate ethnic representation. SDA and HDZ B&H also discussed reorganization of the Federation of B&H government with the goal of achieving its better efficiency through merging individual ministries and establishment of new ministries but without changing the total number of ministries. The daily reminded that an agreement on internal reorganization of the Federation of B&H government is also a precondition to launch talks on distribution of positions and formation of new Federation of B&H government. “This, certainly, is not an urgent matter because the existing Federation of B&H government functions very well, just like the rest of authorities in the Federation of B&H, which is best confirmed by timely adoption of the entity’s budget. Apart from this, it is clear that the new Federation of B&H government, once it is formed, will be mostly comprised of same political subjects,” the daily concluded.

 

SDS, PDP, Our Party, SDP and Independent Bloc discuss ways to change Law on Elections of B&H (Nezavisne)

 

Leaders of SDS, PDP, Our Party, SDP and Independent Bloc met in Sarajevo on Wednesday to discuss ways in which the B&H Law on Elections can be changed, electronic voting introduced and corruption in election process reduced. Leader of the Independent Bloc Senad Sepic said that leaders of the five parties clearly stated that they want to jointly create changes to the Law on Elections of B&H and offer it to the parliament of B&H and he said that the biggest problem is election theft on election day. Sepic added that the five political parties expect other individuals and political parties to support them. He also reminded that there is still five months until the local elections are announced which means that there is still time to prepare everything in line with a new law, should it be adopted.

 

OHR provides interpretation of current situation in SC Assembly concluding Kristic is legitimate speaker (BHT1)

 

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) provided an interpretation of the current situation in the Sarajevo Canton (SC) Assembly concluding that Danijela Kristic from People and Justice (NiP) is the speaker of the SC Assembly. This was announced by SC Minister of Justice and Administration Lejla Brcic. Brcic said: “I am calling on Mister (Bakir) Izetbegovic, Mister (Fahrudin) Radoncic and Mister (Zeljko) Komsic, as the leaders of the three political parties which are forming the new majority in the SC to call on their representatives to respect the Constitution. There is not a single dilemma, legal or otherwise of who was right and who was wrong”. Krstic said that all heads of Caucuses were informed of the interpretation via official SC email and that they are to inform all members of their parties about the document. Kristic announced that Thursday’s session will begin at 9:30 hours at which temporary financing will be discussed and the second session will take place at 10:00 hours, as previously scheduled in all procedures. The B&H Constitution and legal order were not violated during the appointment of Kristic, according to the official interpretation by the OHR. The interpretation was requested by Kristic and SC Minister Brcic on behalf of the Croat Caucus in the SC Assembly. Mirza Celik, who was appointed the speaker of the SC Assembly by the new parliamentary majority, commented on the OHR’s opinion saying that “representatives of Bosniaks and Serbs who agreed that I should be the Speaker are on one side, while Croat representatives did not attend that session”. After publishing in the SC Official Gazette that NiP’s Kristic is the speaker of the SC Assembly, representatives of SDA announced that they will leave the session. The reporter noted that the opinion of the OHR on the position of the Speaker of the Assembly has deepened already-present divisions and as it was expected, the opinion is interpreted in various ways. Both, the current SC authorities and a new majority in the SC Assembly deem that the OHR’s opinion is evidence that a candidate they support should be the speaker of SC Assembly.

 

Croatia sees Montenegro as next EU member state (Hina)

 

Montenegro has made the most progress among EU membership candidates and Croatia sees it as the next member state, Croatian Ambassador Veselko Grubisic said in Podgorica on Wednesday, presenting the priorities of Croatia’s presidency of the Council of the EU. Croatia will fight for its neighbors and their prospects of joining the EU as soon as possible, he said, presenting the priorities to Montenegrin officials. “We’ll continue to help all six countries in the region on their EU journey. We’ll continue to fight for the neighborhood,” Grubisic said, calling on Montenegro’s leaders to double their reform efforts. “Montenegro is the leader in the accession process and must be the next EU member state. Neither we nor you have the right to a different outcome,” he added. He said attention would focus on deepening the single market, boosting competitiveness and promoting investment, digitization and enterprise. “We’ll support the implementation of the European pillar of social rights and underline the need to ensure a better life for every citizen of the EU and Europe.” Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said Montenegro was fully committed to meeting the membership requirements. Montenegro is negotiating under the strictest criteria the EU has ever had in the enlargement policy and in such conditions, with a relatively young administration, it is the leader of the European integration process, he added. Although Montenegro does not advocate changing rules mid-game, its leaders believe “the negotiating process should be made more concrete and more measurable and its results clearer and more visible, both to the participants in the accession process and to all Montenegro citizens,” Markovic said. The head of the EU Delegation in the country, Aivo Orav, said enlargement was a process that was continuing, despite certain difficulties in recent months. The message for Montenegro is that it’s the leader of the integration process, that we have no more time to wait to resolve certain problems in the EU and that it’s better to be ready for joining the EU as soon as possible, he said, adding that the rule of law was in the center of the enlargement policy.

 

Markovic: We are open to dialogue about conceptual agreement (CDM)

 

We remain open to inclusive dialogue and support for all religious communities regarding the implementation of the law, and we are willing to hold talks with the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral about the conditions for the conclusion of conceptual agreement, said today Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic. During the presentation of the program of the Croatian presidency of the EU Council, PM said that very comprehensive and detailed consultations with all religious communities and other interested subjects in Montenegro had been held from the preparations for the draft Law on Freedom of Religion or Religious Beliefs until its adoption. “After we accepted all proposals made by religious communities, we requested opinion of the Venice Commission, Recommendations of the Venice Commission were included in the text of the law”, pointed out Markovic. He said that our country understood the situation in the EU, but stressed that we were already negotiating by the most stringent criteria that the EU had ever had. Although they are not advocates of “changing rules in the middle of the game”, they agree to certain degree that negotiation process should be more concrete and more measurable, PM says. “Montenegro is not in the same position as other states in the region, and therefore, I believe that changes in the process shouldn’t be applied retroactively. We remain open to cooperation,” said Markovic. He stressed that Montenegro stood strong in its eighth year of EU accession process and that EU membership was the only option. He added that Montenegro was willing to share its experience with other WB countries.

Prime Minister said that Montenegro would be committed to fulfilling requirements in the integration process. “We expect intensification of the activities aimed at opening Chapter 8 and closing the chapters that had been already opened. This year, government will be focused on strengthening institutions, maintaining dynamic economic development, reducing unemployment and stabilizing public finances,” said Markovic. He added that our country was aware of the complexity of the Croatian presidency, in the context of challenges but said that Montenegro appreciated greatly that one of the key aspects of its presidency would be enlargement policy. “While following current exchange of opinions and initiative on the new methodology of the enlargement policy, we put our efforts in meeting the requirements of the pre-accession process regardless of the challenges we are faced with. Croatia’s experience in the EU accession process is priceless for us,” said Markovic. He said that Montenegro continuously “confirms itself as political and democratic stable environment”. He emphasized that, despite many subversive activities, we had managed to maintain stability and fundamental values our society cherished. “We resisted inappropriate and aggressive media campaign,” pointed out PM. Markovic said that effects of NATO membership were already visible in the economic plan. “Montenegro is one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe. High economic growth rates and national and foreign investment activity have boosted employment in Montenegro,” said PM.

 

Varhelyi pledges that enlargement toward Balkans will be a priority for the EU (Republika)

 

European Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said that both Macedonia and Albania are prepared to open EU accession talks. “In the coming months we will work on three tracks: proposal to drive EU enlargement forward to make negotiations more credible, predictable, political and dynamic; opening of accession talks with “North” Macedonia and Albania and support for economic development of the Western Balkans. We stand by proposal to open accession talks with “North” Macedonia. Impressive progress on difficult reforms was made and that is why I put forward a performance reward of 50 million Euros,” Varhelyi said. He called on Macedonia to adopt the law on public prosecutors, an issue which has been complicated with the unprecedented meltdown of the Special Prosecutor’s Office. The Commissioner met with with the interim Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski and other officials, and promised that Balkan enlargement will be a priority for the EU. Macedonia and Albania were denied the opening of accession talks in October, due to objections coming mostly from France and the Netherlands.

 

Pendarovski meets Varhelyi (Republika)

 

President Stevo Pendarovski met Wednesday with European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi. The two interlocutors exchanged views and information on the current situation in Macedonia, as well as on the country’s bid to join the EU. President Pendarovski stressed that European and Euro-Atlantic integration remains a strategic goal for our country. In anticipation of the finalization of NATO membership, Pendarovski said at the meeting, that the country’s focus is on the prospect of opening accession negotiations with the EU, the President’s Office said. The president stressed that the country remains committed to the European agenda, given the fact that EU membership has a national consensus among political actors and high support from citizens. He expressed hope that by March this year a new methodology for leading the accession negotiation process between EU member states would be defined. In the context of the early parliamentary elections, Pendarovski called for the responsibility of all political actors and stressed that they should be fair, free and held in a democratic atmosphere, given our country’s aspirations for a future EU member state.

 

Xhaferi tells Varhelyi he hopes Macedonia will open EU accession talks in March or May (Republika)

 

Macedonian parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi, in a press release issued by Xhaferi’s office, it is said that he expressed hope Macedonia will open its EU accession talks in March or May this year. “Despite the grave disappointment at the October European Council, our political factors mustered strength and remained focus on the strategic goal of the country to achieve full membership in the European Union. The reason the date was not give lies in the unresolved internal issues of the European Union,” Xhaferi told European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, according to the press release, and promised to work toward transparent, fair and democratic elections in April. Varhelyi is quoted as telling Xhaferi that he decided to have his first visit to Macedonia precisely because of the work this country did to open EU accession talks, and that he hopes this will be achieved in March, both for Macedonia and for Albania. “The new enlargement methodology will be presented at the end of January and it will include three pillars – a methodology for the whole enlargement process, the opening of accession talks with two countries and a new economic plan for the region,” Varhelyi told Xhaferi, and also reportedly referred to the October decision as a mistake.

 

VMRO has a plan to fast-track Macedonia toward the EU, Mickoski tells Varhelyi (Republika)

 

VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski met with the European Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, who is visiting Macedonia. The two discussed the European perspective of Macedonia and the coming general elections. “My position is that the coming VMRO-DPMNE led government will make a priority out of the realization of our strategic goal, which is also the dream of many generations, and that is to join the European Union. VMRO-DPMNE has a plan and a vision to fast-track the country toward EU membership. I also pointed out that the SDSM led government has failed to implement reforms and bring the country closer to European standards. A key problem for the Republic of Macedonia is the level of crime and corruption that is most pronounced in the highest echelons of the government, witnessed by the many unresolved corruption scandals,” Mickoski said following the meeting via his social media channels. Mickoski also insisted that having democratic and fair elections will be fundamental for the European future of Macedonia. Varhelyi replied, also through his social media accounts, that the opposition plays an indispensable role in moving the EU reforms forward.

 

New bribery tape – Zaev says “f… the name” (Republika)

 

A new, extended version of the infamous 2014 bribery tape of Zoran Zaev was published. Journalist Zoran Bozinovski and the Infomax news site published the video tape which presents Zaev, then the Mayor of Strumica, entering the municipal building for a meeting with what is likely businessman Ivo Nikolov Sicevaliev. The original tape, in which Sicevaliev was working in a police sting operation operated and had a miniature camera, revealed Zaev instructing him to pay an estimated 200.000 EUR to his brother Vice Zaev, and to the “church”, likely a reference to his close ally and business partner, bishop Naum of Strumica. Sicevaliev expressed interest to purchase a large plot of publicly owned land near Strumica for commercial development. Zaev and his interlocutor exchange pleasantries and then get to business. Zaev discusses the manner in which Sicevaliev is supposed to make the payment, and how he should inform him every step of the way. Sicevaliev tells Zaev that he will pay 70 denars (a little over a euro) per square meter for the land to the public budget, and an additional two euros in bribes.

– That goes to the church. Directly to the church, Zaev replies.

– One euro there, and the other?

– Give it to Vice. You know, he owns a currency exchange place (the implication is that the delivery of money won’t be seen as strange).

– I know, there were others before me, the way they did it.

Zaev then goes on to describe how he plans to win the coming elections. “The fix is in with the Americans, with the Europeans,” Zaev tells the businessman, recruiting him for a plan to start moving businesses and funding toward Strumica, away from Skopje. Let’s do away with the Skopianers. They consider me a peasant. They keep bothering me. But now I’m at the top of the SDSM party… We need to put in motion a huge capital, you need to get ready for that. I will put my mark on Strumica for the next 100 years, Zaev tells Sicevaliev. Regarding the name issue, Zaev swears the name away, insisting that it will have to be changed under his mandate. We work with European money, with Greek municipalities and I tell them that there is a problem with the name of our country, but we need to get the European money in any instance. Our people are in Greece the whole summer, there are their people who invest here, like Michailides (tobacco magnate Alexander Michailides), I’m friends with him. Let’s open the life, let’s live, the time is passing by, where is the value, f… the name, f… it, Zaev shouts. Zaev was tried for the bribery case in 2018, at the height of his power and influence over the judiciary. Despite the open and shut case, with an admissible video recording serving as evidence, and Zaev’s clear instructions to the businessman to pay a bribe, he was found not guilty by the court. It was the second similar case of local bribery where Zaev avoided punishment – in 2008 he was pardoned by then President Branko Crvenkovski over a crooked real-estate deal involving publicly owned land.

 

Venice Commission to discuss Albanian parliament addressed questions at March session (Radio Tirana)

 

In March, the Venice Commission will discuss the 5 questions that the Albanian Parliament addressed to it as regards the appointment of members of the Constitutional Court. The news is announced by the Venice Commission itself through a letter sent to Parliament Speaker Ruci.

Thomas Markert, the Commission’s Secretary in a letter to Ruci, writes that the Venice Commission will discuss this issue at the March session. The Special Inquiry Committee on the discharge of Ilir Meta addressed 5 questions to the Venice Commission about the Constitutional Court and the procedures for appointing its members and the role of the President. The President of the Republic has also announced that he will address the Venice Commission regarding the constitutional violations of the Albanian Parliament in the process of electing members of the Constitutional Court.

 

EU should carry on the enlargement process (Republika)

 

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said that the European Union must fulfill its promises to the Western Balkan countries and continue the enlargement process. In this regard, the coming months are “crucial,” von der Leyen said at a plenary session of the European Parliament. We have to do our job now” said Von der Leyen. She emphasized that accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania should be opened, because, according to her, these two countries have fulfilled their obligations and that it is now up to the European side to fulfill its promise.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Serbia’s campaign to reduce the number of countries which recognise Kosovo is working (Emerging Europe, by Craig Turp, 16 January 2020)

 

It’s been nearly two years since a UN member state (Barbados, in February 2018) last recognised Kosovo as an independent country. In that time, 13 countries which had previously recognised the former Serb province revoked their recognition: many as a result of a concerted, global Serb campaign to undermine Kosovo’s independence. While the states which have revoked their recognition are mainly small countries with little global influence (the last to do so, in November 2019, was Nauru, a tiny island country in Micronesia, northeast of Australia, with a population of less than 14,000), the numbers matter. “When we embarked on the diplomatic offensive, 117 countries were recognising Kosovo. Now that number is down to 97,” Serbia’s foreign minister Ivica Dačić said recently. The tactics being used by Serbia are unknown. Kosovo has alleged that payments have been made, and in at least one case, foreign officials have been bribed. Serbia has denied the allegations and Kosovo has not yet provided any proof, citing merely “media reports”.

Kosovo is still not a UN member and Serbia’s aim appears to prevent it from joining. Dačić added that Serbia would continue its campaign “until Kosovo understands that the thing is not finished. Our goal is for that number of recognitions to drop below half of the total number of UN member states”. It was in part as a response to Serbia’s campaign that at the end of 2018 Kosovo introduced a tariff of 100 per cent on goods entering the country from Serbia. Some of those countries which continue to refuse to recognise Kosovo’s independence are members of the European Union: Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. This despite the European Parliament adopting a resolution on in July 2010 calling on all member states to recognise the country. Elsewhere in emerging Europe, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine all fail to recognise Europe’s youngest country, primarily for fear of giving wind to domestic independence movements and de facto states (such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, or Transnistria in Moldova). While the European Union has reiterated on a number of occasions that non-recognition by member states should not preclude Kosovars from enjoying visa-free travel to the bloc, such freedom of movement has yet to happen. As a result, a Kosovo passport is currently one of the least-powerful in the world: holders can travel to just 40 countries visa free, fewer than Eritreans. Talks between Serbia and Kosovo to normalise relations between the two countries have now been stalled for more than a year. Hope that a new government in Kosovo would kick-start talks have faded as the winners of Kosovo’s parliamentary election, held last October, have so far failed to form an executive. A new election may now be required in the spring. On January 15, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell spoke with both the president of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo’s Hashim Thaçi about the latest developments in the two countries and the importance of working towards a resumption of talks. Mr Borrell was reportedly interested in particular in the prospects of Kosovo forming a new government, and invited Kosovo’s political party leaders to proceed rapidly. In the meantime, the number of countries officially recognising the country may fall further. “We certainly expect more revocations of recognition in 2020,” Mr Dačić has said.

A Kosovo passport looks unlikely to become more powerful anytime soon.

 

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