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Belgrade Media Report 20 January

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic and Dodik on Dayton Agreement: No changes without consent of Serbian people (B92/Beta/Tanjug)
• Djukanovic: We will not withdraw the law, Vucic has an open invitation to come to Montenegro (Tanjug)
• Selakovic: Djukanovic’s argumentation legally unfounded (Tanjug)
• Djuric: Dialogue to resume only after taxes are abolished (RTS)
• Serbian ministry signs letter of intent on Belgrade-Pristina flights (Tanjug)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Covic announces changes to Election Law, reorganization of Federation of B&H government and formation of Federation of B&H authorities (FTV)
• Covic certain that local elections will be held in Mostar in 2020 (Hayat)
• Dodik: Covic has right to demand changing of Election Law (N1)
• Komsic: Changes of Election Law need to be within European standards (Dnevni avaz)
• Dzubur says changes to Law on Elections must not be precondition for formation of Federation of B&H government (Oslobodjenje)
• Borenovic: Amending of Election Law necessary to enable free and fair elections (BN TV)
• SDA, SBB B&H and DF prepare new agreement that entails for Viteskic to temporarily chair sessions of Sarajevo Canton Assembly (Hayat)
• Komsic confirms NATO Political Committee greenlighted Program of Reforms of B&H (Dnevni avaz)
• Dodik: Self-proclaimed Montenegrin Metropolitan does not deserve any attention (Srna)
• Stevandic: Believers have the right to protect the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro (Srna)
Croatia
• Croatian President Elect Zoran Milanovic gives first TV interview (Nova TV)
• Croatia and Austria push for EU entry talks with North Macedonia and Albania (Hina)
Montenegro
• Message for Amfilohije: Government is formed in the elections (CDM)
• DF: EU to get involved in church issue (CDM)
• Azerbaijanis, Russians and Hungarians have invested the most in Montenegro (Pobjeda)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina (Press release)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic and Dodik on Dayton Agreement: No changes without consent of Serbian people (B92/Beta/Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met in Belgrade with Serb B&H Presidency member Milorad Dodik. Vucic said at the press conference after the meeting that many topics were discussed and stressed that “the urgent need of the Serbian people, wherever they live, is to preserve peace and stability and our main goal is to enable that political stability and peace”.

Vucic said that one of the topics was the Dayton Agreement. “The Dayton Agreement is of great historical importance, because it was the only possible solution in which everyone lost and gained a little, so only such an agreement could preserve peace in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia will respect what the Serbian people, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, decides. No new plans and ideas can be implemented without the consent of all three nations”, Vucic emphasized. When asked if Serbia and RS have a plan if talks on the Dayton revision are intensified, and whether Croatia has the power to raise the issue of the Dayton Agreement being revised, and whether it is in her interest, Vucic said that he did not want to interpret their interests, but that he wants to notice, as someone who is familiar with the situation in the region fairly well, that it would not be in Croatia’s interest. With regard to the Croatian people, the priority interest for them is to respect the Dayton Agreement, as well as for the Serbs, maybe even more to the Croats. I do not see what kind of interest they would find leading to the abolition of the rights of peoples and entities, but I do not rule out the possibility of them interpreting it differently”, he explained. We want RS as an entity within Bosnia-Herzegovina, he emphasized, full respect for the Dayton Agreement, and any amendments and changes to it must get the consent of the Serbian people and the RS. “If there is no consent of the Serb people and the RS, there is no change”, he concluded. Vucic pointed out that it would be better if no one was trying to get into it or impose anything. Vucic said he respected Zagreb’s choice to appoint Hidajet Biscevic as the new Ambassador of Croatia to Belgrade. Vucic stated that he would “quickly” give credentials to the new Croatian Ambassador to Serbia. “I respect the choice of Croatia, it is up to them to know everything about us and it is up to us to know everything about them, and to see to it to establish better relations in the future. In addition to Serbo-Albanian relations, Serbia-Croatia relations are crucial for maintaining peace and stability in the region”, Vucic said. Hidajet Biscevic is the first Croatian Ambassador to the EU and former Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council. He graduated political science in Zagreb, was acting in the capacity of Editor-in-Chief of Zagreb’s “Vjesnik”, and later Croatian Ambassador to Turkey from 1993 to 1995 and to Russia, from 1997 to 2002. According to Belgrade media, he was a close associate of the first Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman.

 

Dodik: Serbia is the guarantor of the Dayton Agreement

“Without Republika Srpska, there is no change under the Dayton Agreement. We have nothing to discuss unless we return to the original text of the Dayton Agreement”, Dodik said. Our goal, said Dodik – considering that we are one nation – is to do everything to make sure our issues are solved in an identical manner. “It is evident that the SPC has been attacked in a number of destinations, both in North Macedonia and now in Montenegro. I think the position we have taken is absolutely sustainable, which is to keep the assets of the SPC. We will not hesitate to protect these assets in the domain permitted by international regulations,” Dodik said. He said that many dare to keep saying something about the Dayton agreement – while for the RS, the agreement’s guarantor is Serbia. He added that any talks on changing the terms of this peace accord would mean “a death sentence to B&H.” “We have no intention, and the RS has enough capacity, of changing it. The RS has a say here, and without the RS, nothing can be changed,” Dodik said. Dodik said he wants to confirm good cooperation adding that B&H has some problems when it comes to defining the border (with Serbia). “We will work to resolve this issue as soon as possible. We resolved the final question regarding the construction of infrastructure for the bridge in Bratunac and we expect it to be opened over the next year and a half. We also spoke about Drvar and I want to thank the president for support regarding Drvar and regarding the people in the RS as a whole,” Dodik said.

 

Djukanovic: We will not withdraw the law, Vucic has an open invitation to come to Montenegro (Tanjug)

 

Montenegro will not withdraw the Law on freedom of religion, says Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in an exclusive interview with Tanjug. Djukanovic points out that the massive protests over this law, which he sees as essentially political, though “masked” in church attire, with a prominent pro-Serbian token, cannot threaten the government or the policies pursued by the government. “If we thought that the law should be withdrawn, we certainly would not have adopted it. All the arguments we have heard against that law, we have heard in the last four years”, Djukanovic says. This is an important period of emancipation of Montenegro, he notes, in which all institutional prerequisites for the further state and spiritual development of Montenegrin society, including the restoration of the autocephaly of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, should be created. Asked by Tanjug – if there is no intention to withdraw the law, which sparked protests and great dissatisfaction with the believers of Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and Serbs, who saw the law as disrespecting their will, and thus the right – what kind of dialogue the Montenegrin government offers to SPC, Djukanovic says: “We urge them to talk about how to implement that law.” The President of Montenegro, in a conversation in which he enumerated, as he sees it, all the historical, legal and political reasons that determined the Montenegrin authorities to such a move and rejected the arguments of opponents of the Law, points out that there is a lot of manipulation on the scene, and the basic is, he says, that this law legitimized the state’s intention to seize SPC property in Montenegro: “It is a brutal fabrication”, Djukanovic said, stating that the property of the SPC was actually the property of the state of Montenegro, and that it was usurped from 1986 to 2000. This, he claims, is testified by “unquestionable historical facts”. The law, he added, will not endanger the religious freedom of the Serb people in Montenegro, nor deny them the right to use the churches and monasteries used by the Serbian Orthodox Church so far. He will do his best to objectively inform every citizen of Montenegro about the goals of this policy. “And of course they have the democratic right to stand for their beliefs, including protests and gatherings organized by the church”. Asked how he sees the accusations of a part of the Montenegrin government at the expense of Belgrade and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, that they are behind the attempt to shake the political scene of Montenegro, that is, whether he resents the President of Serbia for upholding the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church and thus the will, that is, the rights of the Serbian people in Montenegro, Djukanovic says Belgrade has not shaken Montenegro. “There were no offensive tones, no hostile messages on the part of Montenegrin state officials. So, there is no agitation or feeling of instability, we are just performing our state political responsibilities,” Djukanovic said.

“I understand, of course, the interest of President Vucic,” he adds, “to monitor the exercise of the rights of Serb citizens in Montenegro and in other neighboring countries, and his interest in the position of the SPC in the territories of other countries where it operates. But our warning has always been open and very direct – that this policy must be conducted in a very subtle way”, Djukanovic points out, noting that 1990 is still a fresh attempt to regulate the rights of citizens of Serbian nationality in, as he claims, other countries in the region. Asked to whom exactly this warning was addressed, Djukanovic replied: “To all who act in this manner.” “We have been able to read certain statements by senior Belgrade officials these days, including President Vucic. He spoke of his legitimate right to take care of the position of Serb citizens, since there are about 28 percent of them in Montenegro. Of course, I understand his interest in the position of the Serb minority in Montenegro, but in elaborating such a policy, he also spoke about Serbs in Montenegro as part of a unified Serbian national corps, which should pursue a common national interest, which, again, logically defines itself in Serbia, after that we could hear dissatisfaction with the presence of Serbs in the state bodies of Montenegro”, Djukanovic underlined. He emphasizes, however, that citizens of Montenegro, of any nationality, should respect the national interests of Montenegro and not of other states. “Because the national interests of other states, even neighboring countries, can be very much opposed to our national interests,” Djukanovic said, recalling, as he said, “the restoration of independence of Montenegro, as a national interest, which was contrary to the national interest of the state of Serbia”. Montenegro’s interest in NATO membership was contrary to the national interest of the Serbian state”. He added that it was “a retrograde political phenomenon belonging to the past” and believes that “people who have received the legitimacy of the majority public in Serbia and Montenegro must act responsibly towards a common historical heritage and a projection of a common European future.” He emphasizes that relations between Serbia and Montenegro should be regulated as relations between two neighboring countries, which respect everything that we have gone through in history together and which responsibly relate to a common European future.

“We want friendly relations between the two neighboring countries, which have a lot of historical and current cultural heritage in common, we want relations of mutual respect between the two independent and sovereign states,” Djukanovic said. Asked if he intended to visit Serbia, given that such a call had been made publicly by Aleksandar Vucic, or whether the President of Serbia could expect a similar invitation, since he was in some way sent a message that he was not welcome to a private visit on Christmas Eve to Montenegro, Djukanovic says he is ready to talk. “I know I have an open invitation. President Vucic has the same open invitation. In my recollection, the President of Montenegro was the last to visit Serbia, which means that it is President of Serbia’s turn to visit Montenegro”, Djukanovic reminds. “President Vucic hadn’t announced his private visit to Montenegro to me, among other things, because I was outside Montenegro during that period, but I certainly would not have the negative reaction to that the President of Serbia would come to Montenegro on a private visit, whenever he wanted, as that right, I suppose, also applies for me and other Montenegrin officials when it comes to our visit to Serbia”, Milo Djukanovic concluded.

 

Selakovic: Djukanovic’s argumentation legally unfounded (Tanjug)

 

The General Secretary of President Vucic, Nikola Selakovic, who is a lawyer, has challenged the argumentation of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in favor of the Law on Freedom of Religion in Montenegro, and noted that everything that Djukanovic presented was legally unfounded and not valid. Reacting to Djukanovic’s statements presented in the interview to Tanjug – that the state of Montenegro is not seizing the property from the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), because this property, as he claims, is actually the property of the state of Montenegro, was usurped in the period between 1986 and 2000, Selakovic noted that this is not a legal argumentation. “To view everything in narrow time frameworks, as Djukanovic is doing, without looking at everything that were the valid legal regulations during the time when certain property became church property, is not something that can be valid and valid legal argumentation,” Selakovic told Tanjug. He says that prior to the period that Djukanovic had mentioned, the Communist regime was in power for which one knows how it treated the Church, especially the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). He underlines that some of the most relevant international legal bodies had voiced their opinions precisely on this issue, from the Council of Europe to the Venice Commission, and called on the necessity and need of conducting the restitution of the Church property, primarily of the SPC property. “It is important to legally mention that one cannot usurp something that is yours, that has become many centuries before, something that the Church acquired as property with donations, with tributes from trustees, with rulers’ charters, with gifts and all that is in accordance with applicable laws and positive legal regulations,” notes Selakovic, adding that especially interesting is the period that Djukanovic mentions in the argumentation. “The period between 1986 and 2000 largely coincides with the period of his rule in Montenegro, and it is precisely this government that passes, conducts and controls the implementation of the regulations,” concludes Selakovic.

 

Djuric: Dialogue to resume only after taxes are abolished (RTS

 

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric has told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that far more important from the formation of the government in Kosovo and Metohija is the necessity for rights of Serbs to be stopped violated and to fulfill the constitutional and legal norms that are regulated in the public sector – that at least seven percent of Serbs need to be employed. He says that the winning of ten seats of the Serb List out of the ten seats in the Kosovo Assembly has led to the fact that whoever wants to form the government in Pristina needs to knock on the door of the Serb List. He underlines that the dialogue with Pristina can resume only after the abolishment of the anti-civilizational taxes.

“I wish to inform the citizens of Serbia that today we can expect good news from Berlin. I expect the representatives of the Ministry of Economy to sign a memorandum on understanding with Lufthansa, which would represent the first symbolic step in the direction of renewing the airline between Belgrade and Pristina after 20 years,” announced Djuric.

 

Serbian ministry signs letter of intent on Belgrade-Pristina flights (Tanjug)

 

A delegation of the Serbian Ministry of Economy signed on Monday in Berlin with Lufthansa a letter of intent on reintroducing a Belgrade-Pristina flight route. After two decades, this is the first symbolic step towards re-establishing air traffic between the Serbian capital and the largest city of Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo and Metohija, the Ministry of Economy said in a statement. Serbia will send official notification of the intent to reintroduce the route to UNMIK as well as to KFOR, which is, under UN SC Resolution 1244 and the Kumanovo Military Technical Agreement, in charge of control and coordination of the airspace over the Serbian province. Implementation of the letter of intent will require reaching technical agreements with Kfor on standard air traffic procedures pursuant to applicable domestic regulations and the UN SC Resolution. For the flight route to really be re-established, the government of the provisional self-government institutions in Pristina must lift without delay the anti-civilizational 100 percent taxes on goods from Serbia proper and Bosnia and Herzegovina, begin to implement the numerous obligations undertaken and return to the negotiating table in the EU-facilitated dialogue, the statement said.

 

PSG not to take part in Serbian parliamentary elections (N1)

 

The Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) said on Monday that it would not take part in the coming Serbian parliamentary elections. “The Movement has decided that it will turn out for elections but only when the conditions are right. At this time we can only conclude with regret that not even the least of those conditions are in place at this moment,” PSG leader Sergej Trifunovic told a news conference.  He said that the PSG has not considered a boycott campaign. “A boycott is just a tool and we are interested in better election conditions,” he said. Trifunovic said that “a moratorium on freedom of speech and thought is in force” in Serbia at present. “Trust in democracy is at the lowest possible level since a multi-party system was introduced in Serbia,” he said and added that the PSG does not want to take part in a simulation of democracy. He called the European Union to form a working group to analyze the state of what he said are captive institutions in the country.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Covic announces changes to Election Law, reorganization of Federation of B&H government and formation of Federation of B&H authorities (FTV)

 

President of HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Dragan Covic announced that the issue of the Election Law could be solved next week, as well as the reorganization of the Federation of B&H Government which was agreed upon with SDA. Covic believes that all of this can be solved by the end of March, including the formation of new Federation of B&H authorities. “It seems to me that the Election Law is not a problem anymore and there was an agreement reached. If we find a solution to the issue in Mostar, the second part of it will be solved as well,” said Covic. He announced that Federation of B&H President Marinko Cavara will submit the plan for the reorganization of the Federation of B&H government within the next seven days and HDZ B&H will submit previously agreed details regarding the Federation of B&H House of People (HoP).

President of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic did not give any concrete statements in this topic, but rejected any possibility of conditioning recently. ˝We can define some sort of principles, but the solving of the Election Law which we did not manage to solve for the past 15 years in the next 15 days will not happen˝ said Izetbegovic on December 30, 2019. He said that the new Federation of B&H authorities will be formed by March. DF stated that they will not accept the blackmail of HDZ B&H, while SBB B&H believes HDZ B&H will give up on conditioning the authority formation. The plan for the reorganization of the Federation of B&H Government remains unknown. It is certain that the number of ministries will stay the same, but several will be renamed and their work will be redefined. Federation of B&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic believes that a Ministry of Family and Youth should be established, as well as a Ministry of Administration and Local Self-Governance. He added that the topics of the EU integration and IT need to be included as well. Covic announced a meeting of SDA and HDZ B&H officials in February during which these issues will be discussed further. Covic also stated that it is of huge significance for B&H that Croatia, as its neighbor and friend, took over presiding over the EU Council. He added that this exactly can put B&H in focus. He also said: “Judging by the talks I have had with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic during the last few months, it seems that B&H will have it special place. However, we must understand that it depends on us. We must have an initiative, harmonized stances through B&H institutions so that these initiatives can be taken into consideration.” In terms of the EU Summit, which is to take place in Zagreb in May, Covic said that B&H must immediately state that it is unconditionally dedicated to the EU path. He added: “In other words, that all B&H institutions function and then we have a chance, friends who will understand this.”

 

Covic certain that local elections will be held in Mostar in 2020 (Hayat)

 

Leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic stated that he is certain local elections will be held in Mostar in 2020, adding that considering current dynamics of talks between political parties, it is also possible to reach an agreement to amend the Election Law of B&H by the end of March. Covic claims that changes of electoral legislation HDZ B&H has been insisting on are completely compatible with stances of the EU. He also stated that decisions of the Constitutional Court of B&H and the ECHR should be included in amendments to the Election Law. Some analysts believe that in this way Covic wants to preserve optimism among his electorate and exert pressure to other political subjects participating in adoption of changes of electoral legislation. “I think that ideas of federalism we have been talking about and which are completely heritage of the EU is something that connects us with ideas of the EU,” explained Covic. He reminded that it was confirmed by one of decisions of the Constitutional Court of B&H that the Federation of B&H is the federation of constituent peoples.

 

Dodik: Covic has right to demand changing of Election Law (N1)

 

Commenting the need to amend the B&H Election Law, Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik (SNSD) said he is not very optimistic about reaching an agreement in this matter. He underlined that the agreement with SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic does not mean a done deal, as he believes Izetbegovic often makes an agreement with partners just to violate it at the time of its implementation. “(HDZ B&H leader) Dragan Covic has the right to demand changes to the Election Law and if anything can preserve B&H, it is the principle by which all three constituent peoples and their rights are respected”, Dodik told reporters on Sunday. “If anything can preserve B&H, it is the principle of respect of three constituent peoples and their rights. No one should be outvoted, like Croats have been outvoted on multiple occasions. If someone wants to build B&H – like the policy of Izetbegovic and of the international community (IC) from the West do – in a way of telling Croats that they are not Croats but rather a marginal, insignificant minority, that sends a message to us here as well,” Dodik noted. He added that Republika Srpska supports the principle to amend the Election Law.

 

Komsic: Changes of Election Law need to be within European standards (Dnevni avaz)

 

Chairman of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic told the daily that changes to the Election Law of B&H need to be carried out within the European standards, i.e. as it was established in the Opinion of the European Commission. He added that everything else would distance the country from the EU and NATO membership. “I want to remind that one of basic principles of the rule of the law stipulates equality of everyone before the law, without exceptions and this means that everyone has to be equal within the election legislation of B&H. If someone, for the sake of higher level of distribution of political power, wants to annul Euro-Atlantic path of B&H, at least we will know who this is. I believe that such messages will reach the international community very soon,” said Komsic.

 

Dzubur says changes to Law on Elections must not be precondition for formation of Federation of B&H government (Oslobodjenje)

 

DF’s representative in the Federation of B&H parliament Ahmed Dzubur claimed that HDZ B&H is currently the only political party which is conditioning formation of the Federation of B&H government by adoption of changes to the Law on Elections of B&H and he said that this is the only disputable matter. Asked whether he expects someone to cave in, Dzubur replied by saying: “I expect conditioning and blockades to stop, having in mind those have nothing to do with formation of the Federation of B&H government. DF will not give in at any cost because changes to the Law on Elections can only come as a consequence of implementation of rulings of the (European) Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, which will lead B&H to the European family of civic states, having in mind not a single member of the European community has the term ‘constituent’ in its social organization or constitution”. Dzubur argued that rulings of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H are contradictory to the rulings of the ECHR and he reminded that the ECHR, in ‘Zornic vs. B&H’ case, labeled the term ‘constituent’ as a consequence of genocide and ethnic cleansing and noted that this term had to be accepted in order to secure peace. Dzubur went on to say that the ECHR noted, in ‘Sejdic-Finci’ ruling, that a very fragile truce was present in field at the time the disputable constitutional provisions were adopted so the goal of those provisions was to “stop the brutal conflict marked with genocide and ethnic cleansing” and it was “necessary to agree with constituent peoples in order to secure peace”. Because of that, Dzubur said, the ECHR concluded that a democratic organization must be established without granting any special rights to constituent people. Asked whether the Federation of B&H might continue to have the government in technical mandate until next general elections, Dzubur said that anything is possible and he added that DF is aware of complexity and sensitivity of this situation and it hopes SDA and SBB B&H are aware of it as well. “In any case, we will never accept changes to the Law on Elections of B&H in the way HDZ B&H expects it, even if it means we will have to wait indefinitely for the formation of authorities,” Dzubur said and added that the current situation will not bring anything good to anyone, including the international community which has been tolerating HDZ B&H’s blockade of formation of the Federation of B&H Government. “DF did not become a part of the ruling coalition so that it can be compensated or given anything,” Dzubur claimed. Commenting on the appointment of the Federation of B&H Vice President from ranks of Serb people, Dzubur said that this is a complex issue and added that consultations on this matter are currently underway in order to find a solution that would be acceptable for everyone. Finally, Dzubur commented on recent meetings of delegations of SDA and HDZ B&H with the goal to find a solution for holding of local elections in Mostar this year and he said that it is necessary to change the current way of management with City of Mostar, because the existing way brought nothing good to its citizens and he concluded by saying that if SDA and HDZ B&H continue to insist on staying the only partners in running Mostar, it will be extremely detrimental for Mostar citizens.

 

Borenovic: Amending of Election Law necessary to enable free and fair elections (BN TV)

 

Leader of PDP Branislav Borenovic stated that aggravating circumstance for everyone is the fact that B&H entered an election year without amending its election law, because it will make political relations in B&H additionally complicated. Borenovic stated that elections are becoming something enabling some powerful people and powerful structures to achieve good election result without respecting election rules. The leader of PDP underlined that they will do everything in their power to attempt to change the Election Law of B&H over next few months in order to have fair and free elections. “It is really hard to run pre-election activities and participate in elections which are becoming part of manipulative space,” explained Borenovic.

 

SDA, SBB B&H and DF prepare new agreement that entails for Viteskic to temporarily chair sessions of Sarajevo Canton Assembly (Hayat)

 

Former majority, and now minority, in the Sarajevo Canton (SC) Assembly is trying constantly to block the appointment of a new speaker. New SDA-led majority in the SC, together with SBB B&H and DF, has made a new agreement and called on ‘Our Party’ (NS), SDP B&H, ‘People and Justice’ (NiP) and NBL to sign it on Friday. According to the proposal of this agreement, deputy speaker of the SC Assembly Smiljana Viteskic will chair the sessions of the Assembly until the election of the speaker. The proposal also reads that its goal is creating pre-requisites for normalization of work of the SC Assembly and adoption of the decisions, which will secure continuation of financing of budget beneficiaries. The agreement stipulates that Mirza Celik (SDA), Danijela Kristic (NiP), Vibor Handzic (NS) and Viteskic sign it, as well as Heads of Caucuses. Celik stated that Kristic, Handzic and Viteskic were called to sign the agreement on Friday by 1 p.m., which they did not do. Celik said the agreement was a compromise solution, as neither he nor Kristic would be Assembly speakers. He reminds that the Rules of Procedure allow for the oldest representative in the Assembly to chair the sessions, which in this case is Viteskic. There should be no winners or losers, but we should join forces and find a compromise solution, Celik concluded. He confirms that the deadline for signing this agreement was pushed until Tuesday, 21 January, and Celik hopes the other parties will decide to sign it and unblock the work of this institution. Head of SDP B&H caucus in the SC Assembly Igor Stojanovic stated that he has nothing against the decision on placing Viteskic to the post of a temporary Assembly speaker. NS representatives briefly commented, saying the deadline was too short and leaves no room for consultations, while former SC Assembly speaker Elmedin Konakovic (NiP) told reporters that SDA, SBB B&H and DF must send “serious people” for further talks. He believes the current representatives that form the new majority are not such people. Celik reminded that this agreement is the third proposal of the new majority for the opposition, but none of them were accepted nor followed by a list of the opposition demands and proposals.

 

Komsic confirms NATO Political Committee greenlighted Program of Reforms of B&H (Dnevni avaz)

 

Chairman of the B&H Presidency and DF leader Zeljko Komsic confirmed to daily on Saturday that he has been informed that the NATO Political Committee has greenlighted the Program of Reforms of B&H. Komsic briefly confirmed this information, not explaining what exactly does this mean for B&H. The daily reminded that it is now up to Minister of Defense of B&H Sifet Podzic and Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic to present this document in Brussels. Also, the North Atlantic Council – an institution consisting of Permanent Representatives from the NATO Member Countries – is supposed to present its own official stance about the Program of Reforms, thus giving approval for the activation of the first Annual National Program. This means, according to daily, that technical and political part of procedures – which usually last for up to one year – would be significantly shortened and B&H. Former B&H’s military representative to NATO Alija Kozljak has recently told daily that the Program of Reforms would have to be discussed at the level of working and expert groups, composed of representatives of both NATO Member States and B&H. He explained that NATO will not be voting about the Program of Reforms; instead, according to Kozljak, certain assessments will be made on the basis of constant consultations and consensus. Kozljak concluded that the contents of the documents are ‘alive’ and will be a matter on continuous discussion in weeks and months to come.

 

Dodik: Self-proclaimed Montenegrin Metropolitan does not deserve any attention (Srna)

 

The Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik has said that self-proclaimed Montenegrin Metropolitan Miras Dedeic does not deserve any attention and that it would be better if he visited the psychiatric clinic rather than the television. “He is not a metropolitan, nor does anyone recognize him as such. He is ‘self-proclaimed’ and there are many self-proclaimed persons in the Balkans,” Dodik told the reporters in Banja Luka about Dedeic’s allegations at HRT that RS is guilty of war and that it should not exist. Dodik recalled that the Ecumenical Patriarch did not acknowledge that metropolitan, and in his letter indicated that Montenegro could not treat the Serbian Orthodox Church the way it does now. “The fact that Croats give it importance is for their own reasons. All that is happening is that the Serbs could be characterized as bad and that they are being spat on or spread lies. It is nothing new. Something like that always has a high place in their news programs, and this is the reason why this totally marginal guy found there,” Dodik said. According to him, that, so-called religious greatness, they have to introduce into some of his function by force of law in Montenegro. “First of all, he should have the support of the people, as the SOC has in Montenegro today, in order to be relevant to talk about him,” Dodik stressed.

 

Stevandic: Believers have the right to protect the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro (Srna)

 

United Srpska deputy to the House of Representatives of the B&H parliament Nenad Stevandic has said that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) in Montenegro is not someone else’s Church and that all its believers have the right to protect it. Stevandic has said that all who participated in the Epiphany ceremonies in Banja Luka are united in support of the Serbs in Montenegro in defending the shrines. “From those who walked in the litany, served the church service, the representatives of the authorities, to those who swam for the Holy Cross, they were all on the same front, completely unique in the message for our brothers in Montenegro that it was not someone else’s Church. We are the believers of the same SOC and its property are ours and we have the right to protect her and that message has arrived where it was sent,” Stevandic, who participated in the litany in support of Serbs in Montenegro, told reporters in Banja Luka.

 

Croatian President Elect Zoran Milanovic gives first TV interview (Nova TV)

 

Croatian President-Elect Zoran Milanovic gave his first interview to Mislav Bago of Nova TV on 16 January. When asked what people should expect from him as president, Milanovic indicated that he would defend the constitution, fight against thieves and do everything which he promised during his campaign. He also spoke about the murder which occurred in Split last weekend, as Slobodna Dalmacija reported. Here are some highlights from that interview.

 

Nova TV: What can people expect from you as Croatian president?

Milanovic: To defend the constitution, I will fight against thieves and all that I have said in the campaign. I haven’t promise miracles. I’ll do what I promised. Croatia has recently been shocked by the triple murder (in Split), and there are those who have organized and want to take justice into their own hands. It shocked me, as it did you, and all of us. Split thrives on the idea of safety although it’s not a very safe city. But it’s not the worst city in the world either. Croatia is a reasonably safe country and the degree of public security is very good. More work is required on prevention.

 

Nova TV: Rumor has it that you and the Turkish president will initiate changes to the Dayton agreement?

Milanovic: This is impossible, this contract is like a border agreement and cannot be canceled by standard procedure. You would have to reunite all the stakeholders, which is impossible.

 

Nova TV: (Russian President Vladimir) Putin congratulated you and invited you to celebrate May Day in Moscow. Have you decided whether you’ll go?

Milanovic: It’s a legendary Russian parade. I think I’m going to attend, and I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t go. I do not support the annexation of Crimea, but that does not mean that I won’t work on good relations with Russia.

 

Nova TV: You have said publicly that we do not belong in Afghanistan. Will you formally initiate the withdrawal of our troops when you take office?

Milanovic: I will constantly bring this up because it is a completely senseless mission. There is no solution for that situation, and the question is when the US will withdraw. It’s often said, ‘We went in together, we will leave together,’ but it’s not a real combat action to refer to warriors’ honor. It is a mission that our people cannot defend. We entered there a year after the Americans, a year after the Taliban were defeated. We entered there on the initiative of Ivica Racan (served as the prime minister of Croatia from 2000 to 2003), but that does not oblige us. We can withdraw when we decide to without consulting anyone. It cannot be on the principle that several soldiers there earn a slightly higher salary. I’m glad about that, but I’m not glad when they come back wounded or die. The situation is stagnant, and I wonder why. The key question is why.

 

Nova TV: You said that Slovenia needs Croatia to be a strategic partner, but how can this be achieved with all the obstacles we have; like the arbitration issue, for example?

Milanovic: We’ll proceed patiently, as we did in the campaign. Slovenia is naturally our closest partner. Our challenges with them are nothing compared to the problems we have with other countries.

 

Nova TV: Do you think Bernardic could be Prime Minister?

Milanovic: He is the president of a strong political party, if the SDP achieves solid results in the upcoming elections and win more than 76 seats, they will have the mandate. And I cannot foresee what kind of prime minister he will be.

 

Croatia and Austria push for EU entry talks with North Macedonia and Albania (Hina)

 

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and the visiting Austrian Minister for the European Affairs, Karoline Edtstadler, said that their countries would advocate the opening of the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania at the level of the European Council in March. A press release issued by the Croatian government after the Plenkovic – Edtstadler talks in Zagreb on Friday evening reads that the two countries would push for the adoption of a decision on the start of the negotiations with the two aspirants at the level of the European Council, which is supposed to hold a summit meeting on 26-27 March. Plenkovic informed the Austrian minister of the agenda of the Croatian presidency of the EU and its priorities. Considering the adoption of the EU multiannual budget, Plenkovic called for agreement which would also take into account all specificities of each member-state, including the youngest member Croatia. Edtstadler was quoted as saying that Vienna supports Croatia’s activities within the preparations of the summit-meeting of the EU and southeast European countries, set for early May in Zagreb.

 

Message for Amfilohije: Government is formed in the elections (CDM)

 

The government is formed in democratic elections, not in religious processions, was Prime Minister’s message for the Metropolitan Amfilohije who said that the government should be brought down if the Law on Freedom of Religion wasn’t withdrawn. “No government has been elected or brought down in religious processions,” said government representatives. “It is prohibited by Constitution. Church acts separately from the state. The government and all state authorities will be committed to defending Constitution and the laws,” reads government’s reaction. God’s word obliges as believer to pray for the government in the place where he/she lives. “According to orthodox teachings – whoever opposes the law, opposes the God’s order. We really feel sorry that Amfilohije once again proves that he disobeys the law. We expect him to be religious head, the one that this government sees as its legitimate interlocutor”. Government stays committed to dialogue with the Metropolitanate with the aim of fully understanding the law.

 

DF: EU to get involved in church issue (CDM)

 

Leaders of the Democratic Front (DF) Andrija Mandic, Nebojsa Medojevic and Milan Knezevic have sent an open letter to the head of the EU Delegation in Podgorica Aivo Orav, stating that they expect Brussels to become involved in resolving the church issue in Montenegro. Otherwise, they say, the European Union’s already compromised credibility will be questioned and the doubts will arise that they are again backing the last dictatorship in Europe again. In a letter to Orav the three leaders stated that the EU often spoke on some realistically less important topics, and that they expected EU to respond immediately to a crisis that could cause chaos in the region, to obvious and brutal violations of human and religious rights, discrimination, the abolition of political and media freedoms and the arrest of the entire opposition caucus. “If the international community and the EU could justifiably react strongly, for example, to the endangerment of birds in the area of ​​the former Ulcinj salt works, we appreciate that it can also respond to the threat to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the majority Orthodox community in Montenegro, which is openly persecuted and discriminated by the last totalitarian rule in Europe. So, if the Brussels administration is prepared to condemn the regime’s behavior in the case of endangered bird habitats in Ulcinj, whose position is determined by the national legislation, it’s strange that they are not doing the same in the case of endangering and robbing 446.858 believers of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro of their sanctities, but instead, on the pretext that these issues are regulated by the states themselves, make people less important than animals,” the letter said.

 

Azerbaijanis, Russians and Hungarians have invested the most in Montenegro (Pobjeda)

 

Foreign investors from around 60 countries invested capital in Montenegro last year. Soon we’ll find out more about the total foreign investments for 12 months, while the latest data show that the inflow amounted to 290 million Euros, whereas the outflow nearly 362 million Euros, writes Pobjeda daily. According to the Central Bank of Montenegro (CBCG), Azerbaijan is the front-runner when it comes to investments in MNE, but they don’t reveal figures as it’s about only one company. “The largest inflow of FDI in the period from January to October 2019 was from Azerbaijan. It is about an individual piece of information and according to legal provisions, as such, it’s classified as confidential data,” the CBCG explained for Pobjeda daily. The second largest investors, the CBCG say, come from the Russian Federation with 58.2 million Euros, while Hungarians hold the third place with 54.2 million Euros, followed by the United Arab Emirates – 35.4 million, Virgin Islands – 34.9 million, Switzerland – 33.1 million, Bosnia and Herzegovina – 33.1 million, Germany – 31.6 million, the Netherlands – 30.7 million, Turkey 25.9 million Euros…

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina (Press release, 20 January 2020)

 

I welcome the intention by Eurowings and the Lufthansa Group to establish direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina, based on the letters of intent signed today in Berlin. This is an important step, which will make the circulation of people and goods easier and faster within the Western Balkans region. The Commander of our KFOR mission retains the authority in the airspace over Kosovo, according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. And NATO will remain involved through the long-standing Balkans Aviation Normalisation Meeting process, which we lead.

 

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