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Belgrade Media Report 22 January

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic: No direct answers regarding Serbia’s EU accession (Tanjug/Politika)
• Vucic: We fought for Air Serbia not to fly to Pristina (RTS)
• Dacic: Agreement on flight with Pristina strengthens trust with the US administration (RTV/Tanjug)
• Vukadinovic: How come the Belgrade-Pristina airline is a result of long negotiations if negotiations are not even conducted?! (NSPM)
• Ambassador of Montenegro to Serbia: Politicians should restrain from harsh rhetoric (Mondo)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dunovic: Dodik’s desires are one thing, reality is something else; DF’s priority at state level is submitting of NAP to NATO, which we completed (Oslobodjenje)
• HDZ B&H City Board of Mostar: Local elections in Mostar must be held, simple as that (Vecernji list)
• Mandate of five members of CEC expired as B&H approaches local elections 2020 (O kanal)
Croatia
• Croatian Prime Minister attends 50th World Economic Forum in Davos (HRT)
Montenegro
• Amend the law in parliamentary procedure (RTCG)
Republic of North Macedonia
• The Prespa Agreement hysteria is a “Tirana” flirting with the Albanians (Republika)
• Dimitrov in Davos: It is high time to start accession negotiations (Republika)
• Osmani: Elections to be held according to European standards, show that the state deserves to be part of the EU (Republika)
Albania
• PM to visit conflict-affected area in Ukraine (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Serbia president Vučić ‘fed up of being lectured’ over ties with Russia and China (Euronews)
• Don’t believe the hype. There will be no Belgrade – Prishtina flights just yet (Emerging Europe)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: No direct answers regarding Serbia’s EU accession (Tanjug/Politika)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday said European leaders he had met at a Davos panel earlier in the day had given him no direct answers to a question of whether Serbia would be given the possibility of joining the EU in case the Kosovo and Metohija problem was resolved through compromise. Vucic said this in a statement to reporters after a panel on diplomatic dialogue on the Western Balkans, held at the World Economic Forum (WEF). He noted he could not disclose the answers due to WEF rules concerning closed-door panels, but said they had not been direct. Serbia is definitely on the EU path, and it has to be because our economy is already very dependent on the EU economy, he said. He said the officials attending the panel included Miroslav Lajcak, the PMs of Croatia, Bulgaria and Slovenia, representatives of international organizations as well as government officials from Sweden, Finland, Turkey and other countries.

He also said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whom he also met in Davos, had given him good signals regarding the Western Balkan’s EU accession. The region needs a signal from the EU, he said. He said he would make his final assessment of future prospects after meetings with all representatives of EU member states.

 

Vucic: We fought for Air Serbia not to fly to Pristina (RTS)

 

Commenting talks with Donald Trump’s Advisor Robert O’Brien in Davos, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told RTS that we can speak more openly with US partners than in the past. He says that O’Brien understands well Serbia’s position. “Our situation is difficult, while the US position towards Kosovo and Metohija is opposite to our position. I don’t think they will cross over to our side, but they are ready to hear our requests and problems. We opened the door behind which we can talk more openly with US partners than in the past,” said Vucic.

Following the signing of the letter on intent on the renewal of the Belgrade-Pristina airline, some in Pristina said that Kosovo’s independence was endangered with this. “Independence is endangered in Pristina as soon as they see some Serb,” said Vucic. “We have seen enormous ignorance, so some asked why isn’t Air Serbia flying. It is not because this is not suitable, since we fought for it not to fly and requested this because at this moment it would then have to sign an agreement with their authorities, it was much easier via Lufthansa and KFOR as the mediator,” said Vucic. Vucic announced that he would meet at 8 am on Friday with Trump’s envoy for Belgrade-Pristina negotiations Richard Grenell.

 

It is clear there is no government with Serb List

Commenting the fact that the government has not yet been formed in Pristina, Vucic says it is important that the Serb List had behaved in a united manner, and that it is cleat there is no government in Kosovo without them. He reminds that the key request of the Serb List, apart from the safety of Serbs, is the abolishment of taxes. “This would mean normalization of life and undoubtedly better economic results. Had we not had the taxes we would have been country number two or three according to growth rate, but this way we are in the first six. This speaks enough on who great of significance it is for us,” said Vucic, pointing out he hopes that government will be formed.

 

Talks with Djukanovic in Israel if we get a chance

Vucic is travelling after Davos to Israel, where they will mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and 75 years of the Red Army’s liberation of Auschwitz. Vucic says he will talk with Djukanovic about the Montenegrin Law on Freedom of Movement if they get a chance. “It is always better to talk, but the positions of the two countries are diametrically opposed and I don’t know what kind of result can be expected,” said Vucic.

 

Dacic: Agreement on flight with Pristina strengthens trust with the US administration (RTV/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has stated that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s diplomatic activities in Davos are of enormous significance for Serbia’s international position. “The agreement on establishing flights with Pristina has demonstrated how Serbia is a credible partner and it contributed to strengthening trust with the US administration in seeking a compromise and lasting solution to the Kosovo problem,” Dacic told Tanjug. He notes that numerous talks of President Vucic are an indicator of the changed and strengthened international position of Serbia, which is enormous significance for the country’s future.

 

Vukadinovic: How come the Belgrade-Pristina airline is a result of long negotiations if negotiations are not even conducted?! (NSPM)

 

Serbian MP Djordje Vukadinovic has wondered how come it is possible for an important agreement on the Belgrade-Pristina flight to be negotiated and signed out of sight of the Serbian public. He said at a press conference in the Serbian parliament today how was it possible that the public in Serbia had learned about this agreement from the tweet of US President Donald Trump and the congratulations of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, assessing it is not very often the case for the US President to make statements on Serbia, even on a social network. Vukadinovic points out that the story is wrapped in a mystery of secrets and spins. “As well the negotiations, which obviously took place, and a mystery is where this agreement has been signed. It is unusual that the agreement is signed in a third country (Germany) in the embassy of the fourth country, i.e. the US Embassy in Berlin.” He says there had been announcements only yesterday, on the very day of the signing of the agreement, when the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric presented this as something non-binding, “on a long stick”, which might occur when Pristina abolishes taxes and when negotiations resume, while Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had noted this agreement is favorable, because it doesn’t prejudge independence of Kosovo. Commenting Vucic’s statement that Air Serbia will not be flying to the “Adem Jashari” airport in Pristina, Vukadinovic underlines that if this is an internal flight, then it would have been better for the national airline company to fly there.

 

Ambassador of Montenegro to Serbia: Politicians should restrain from harsh rhetoric (Mondo)

 

Ambassador of Montenegro to Serbia Tarzan Milosevic expects authorities and the media in Serbia to lower tensions over current events after the adoption of the religious freedom law. According to him, politicians must refrain from harsh rhetoric and keep in mind what kind of messages they send, reminding that dialogue is the best solution. Milosevic said that we will all pass away but Montenegro and Serbia, as independent mutually recognized states, are eternal, and added that he hoped they would always be on the same side. “Dialogue represents the best solution and efforts should be made in favor of what we are doing together with Serbia as an important foreign trade partner, with whom we have good economic relations, joint projects and regional initiatives, as well as intensive cooperation in the field of European integration,“ he told in an interview with Mondo. According to him, the government of Montenegro, led by Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, is trying to implement a policy that will contribute to the stability of the region, while good neighborly relations represent one of the three pillars of Montenegro’s foreign policy. “Even though the relations between the two countries are currently tense, Montenegro remains committed to developing good neighborly relations with the Republic of Serbia that are based on real interests, economic, geographical and political orientation towards each other,” Milosevic said. He stressed that as a diplomatic representative of Montenegro, he would do everything to bolster relations with Serbia.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dunovic: Dodik’s desires are one thing, reality is something else; DF’s priority at state level is submitting of NAP to NATO, which we completed (Oslobodjenje)

 

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Vice President and member of DF Presidency Milan Dunovic commented request of SNSD leader Milorad Dodik for getting of the post of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Vice President, noting that he believes that this will not happen and that Dodik’s desires do not depend only on him. Dunovic stressed that election of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Vice President is prescribed by the Constitution. Asked if he believes that HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) leader Dragan Covic will assist Dodik in his intention, Dunovic said that this is possible, but the coalition at Federation of B&H level is composed of more parties and not only of Covic’s HDZ and parties that Covic would like to “drag into the Federation of B&H authority”. Asked if he will remain at the post of Federation of B&H Vice President, Dunovic said that talks on authority formation are ongoing, but personnel solutions have not been discussed yet. “Everything is possible and everything is impossible, but it is fairly easy to guess that, at least when DF is concerned, SNSD will not have the post of Federation of B&H Vice President,” said Dunovic. Asked about appointment of deputy speaker of Federation of B&H House of Peoples and the fact that Serb Caucus for the first time has sufficient number of members, Dunovic admitted that SDP has seven delegates in Serb Caucus, but he goes on and criticizes SDP for being unwilling to enter Federation of B&H authority and wanting to stay in the opposition and now they would like to get the lead posts and they chose to remain in the opposition and to criticize the authorities form the safe distance. Dunovic stressed that lately SDP is spending much of their energy on criticizing the work of the DF, but their criticism turns out to be nothing but empty shell and he stressed that they even questioned the Program of Reforms of B&H which was sent to NATO, and for which the NATO stated that is acceptable. Speaking about forming of the Federation of B&H authorities, Dunovic repeated that they have not discussed personnel decisions yet and he underlined that as far as DF is concerned they main priority at state level was submitting of Annual National Program and this was completed, while at the Federation of B&H level their main goal is preventing of adoption of changes to B&H Election Law in line with desires of Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) and not allowing for HD B&H to implement the ideas they have been advocating for last two years. When it comes to changes of Election Law, Dunovic said that he is optimistic that serious talks will be launched, underlining that changes of Election Law include full implementation of several rulings of European Court of Human Rights, including those which say that B&H has to be organized as civil society. Author asked what are the EU standards that HDZ B&H calls upon, when they say that their proposal comprehends the highest level of human rights and “we are aware that implementation of these demands would result in someone’s vote being worth more only because of the address he lives in”. Dunovic said that this is truly the question for HDZ B&H, being that he cannot find any logic in this. “Value of the vote which is not the same for all B&H citizens cannot be a European principle. This is not a principle applied in European countries and these are two conflicting theses – ethnic vote in the so called virtual constituencies and European values. This does not belong in the same sentence,” ends Dunovic.

 

HDZ B&H City Board of Mostar: Local elections in Mostar must be held, simple as that (Vecernji list)

 

HDZ B&H City Board of Mostar issued a statement which reads that the local elections in the City of Mostar are foremost a legal issue based on the decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H and passive attitude of the parliament of B&H to implement what the CC has determined. The statement further reads that the local elections in Mostar are an elementary civilizational issue “because the elections must be held, simple as that”. HDZ B&H City Board of Mostar went on to say that only an agreement reached by local stakeholders can be a lasting solution, which is why SDA’s call for the OHR’s intervention represents running away from responsibility.

 

Mandate of five members of CEC expired as B&H approaches local elections 2020 (O kanal)

 

The mandate of five members of the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) expired as B&H welcomes the local elections set for October 4, 2020. The Audit Office of the Institutions of B&H established that one member of the CEC met conditions for retirement. According to the reporter, the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) is one of the main culprits for the situation in which mandate of only two members of the CEC is valid. Namely, the B&H HoR’s commission for election and appointment of members of the CEC should have published a vacancy, but this commission has not been formed yet. The reporter added that the second reason for this situation is the fact that as long as one election period lasts, members of the CEC cannot be changed and the election period in B&H still lasts as of the general elections 2018, as the President and a Vice President of the Federation of B&H were not appointed yet. O Kanal raised a question on whether the current convocation of the B&H CEC will welcome the local elections in 2020. If new members of the CEC are not appointed by May 2020, the current convocation of the CEC will remain at their seats until end of the local elections 2020. Commenting on this issue, former member of the B&H CEC Vehid Sehic stated that new members of the CEC can be appointed in April, and warned that it takes a longer period of time to get to know the entire problem of the election process in B&H. “The election process here is very complicated and thus, I expect that this convocation of the CEC will implement the elections in 2020. Anyhow, the HoR is now on the move”. Political analysts assessed that members of the CEC should not be blamed for this situation and reminded that they have a legal obligation to perform their duties until appointment of new members of the CEC. Spokesperson for the CEC Maksida Piric also commented on this issue. She stated that even if the election period already ended, conditions for formation of the B&H HoR’s commission for election and appointment of members of the CEC were created seven days ago. Experts believe that an agreement on conclusion of the process of formation of authorities on all levels in B&H will not be formed soon, which is why it is expected for the current CEC convocation to continue its work and prepare the upcoming local elections which will be held in October. The first step towards appointing new CEC members was made recently, when the Joint Commission for Administrative Procedures of both Houses of the B&H Parliament was formed. This commission appoints three members to the commission for selection and appointment of CEC B&H members. RTRS underlines that with enough political will this process could, in theory, be concluded by May, when CEC will be charged with announcing the local elections.

 

Croatian Prime Minister attends 50th World Economic Forum in Davos (HRT)

 

The 50th World Economic Forum continued in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday. Among the 53 heads of state or government attending the economic forum is the Croatian Prime Minister.

In his address American President Donald Trump rejected the apocalyptic predictions of the climate change lobby, noting that it is a time for optimism and apocalyptic predictions. “Fear and doubt is not a good thought process, because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action. But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse,” Trump said, frequently emphasizing the economic achievements of his administration. After the opening speeches Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was asked to comment on President Trump’s speech: “Listening to President Trump here in Davos, it is clear that his comments were primarily directed at highlighting his economic policies, on activities pertaining to reaching international trade agreements, and what is most important is that his speech can be clearly positioned within the context of an election year in the United States.” Prime Minister Plenkovic also held a number of bilateral meetings in Davos, among them with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook. He also participated in two panel discussions, one focusing on dialogue with the countries of Southeast Europe. “I hope that the May summit in Zagreb will be an opportunity to unblock this situation with North Macedonia and Albania, to make a step forward and to effectively draw out future relations with all of the countries in our neighborhood,” Plenkovic said.

 

Amend the law in parliamentary procedure (RTCG)

 

The Law on Freedom of Religion does not have to be withdrawn, but the disputed provisions of the act should be amended in the parliamentary procedure, independent MP and Head of the Special Caucus Aleksandar Damjanovic said in an interview with the Radio Montenegro. According to Damjanovic, the majority of Orthodox citizens does not accept the Law on Freedom of Religion. This is why it is important to have a dialogue, and who will initiate it is of less importance. “Dialogue is a must. A basic agreement has to be concluded in the same way it was concluded with representatives of the Catholic Church and the Islamic Community in Montenegro, and a mutually acceptable solution should be reached through dialogue with the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral here, in Montenegro,” Damjanovic said. The law, he considers, should not be withdrawn, but the disputed provisions should be amended in the parliamentary procedure. “And the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, I clearly heard some views, confirmed that not all solutions are bad. That some provisions, which are very bad and problematic, should be corrected and possibly that this is one way of solving them,” Damjanovic said. And if the dialogue does not happen: “It will certainly contribute to further destabilization of political circumstances in Montenegro, and will not do any good to anyone.” Processions, Damjanovic claims, are not political rallies. They are acts, he says, of the canonical church defense. In his opinion the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral Amfilohije does not interfere with politics. “The Metropolitan is also a citizen of this state. And he has the right to express his view that if this government does not want dialogue, and is not ready for dialogue, that government should fall. That is his position, that is my position,” Damjanovic said.

 

The Prespa Agreement hysteria is a “Tirana” flirting with the Albanians (Republika)

 

A year and a half later the Prespa Agreement failed to achieve its goal. Still, although formally, Macedonia is at the door of NATO, and there is a long way to go before the door to the European Union. In the meantime, the government led by SDSM and DUI has changed the constitutional name of the state, violated the Constitution, given away and sold the Macedonian identity. And worst of all – it is still trying to obtain electoral points on “the small sacrifice of realizing the great European dream”. At the first press conference following the departure of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, he made accusations against VMRO-DPMNE and its leader Hristijan Mickoski. Zaev says that if Mickoski and VMRO-DPMNE come to power, they will annul the Prespa Agreement. The current leadership of VMRO-DPMNE continues to advocate dangerous ideas for the abolition or cancellation of the Prespa Agreement which led us to full-fledged NATO membership and a step closer to start negotiations with the EU, accused Zaev.

 

What is Zaev afraid of?

It is not VMRO-DPMNE, but the citizens who said “No” to the Prespa Agreement. At the referendum, 65% of the citizens did not go to the referendum and thereby made it clear that they are against changing the name. Even the intriguing question of “Are you in favor of EU and NATO membership by accepting the Prespa Agreement” did not help. The State Election Commission also officially informed that the referendum was not successful because the voting requirement of 50% of the registered voters was not met. Only about 37 percent of citizens turned out for the referendum. Contrary to the will of the people, the government pushed for constitutional amendments and secured a two-thirds majority in parliament, secured by the release of several lawmakers from detention, as well as threats with court processes led against them.

 

Hysteria about flirting with Albanians

The hysteria created by Zaev with the annulment of the Prespa Agreement is nothing but a courtesy to the deceived Albanians, whose support like soap slips out of his hands. The false promises of life, the EU and NATO he made in 2016, and thanks to which they came to power four years later, are almost impossible to ignite again. Therefore, Zaev turns to burning the Albanian wick with hysteria – if SDSM does not even bring you to the EU doorstep, VMRO-DPMNE will take you back to the street. But is it really so? Zoran Zaev is clear that the battle for winning Macedonian votes is lost, so he turns to the Albanians again. The deceived ones. The only reason for this is that polls still show a high percentage of Albanian voters supporting the Prespa Agreement. In this way the Albanians become victims of Zaev’s populism. They did not receive 300 pilots in Aracinovo, water supply in Vejce, asphalt in Kumanovo, but still Zaev returns them before June 17, 2018 and raises them in defense of Prespa Agreement. In other words, the Prespa Agreement with Greece becomes Zaev’s Tirana Platform, with which he will try to win the love of the Albanians, again.

 

Dimitrov in Davos: It is high time to start accession negotiations (Republika)

 

It is high time for our country to take a step forward on its European path – the opening of the deserved accession negotiations with the EU, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said Tuesday during the “Diplomatic Dialogue on the Western Balkans” session, held as part of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Making the long-awaited decision during Croatia’s presidency ahead of the Zagreb Summit is of interest not only to the country and the region but also to the EU itself and to the credibility of the European perspective, the foreign minister said. Dimitrov stressed that in the meantime every idea that would contribute to a faster start of Macedonia’s EU accession talks and would make the negotiations more efficient, stricter and fairer, more substantial and credible, was welcomed. On the sidelines of the Forum, Dimitrov had brief meetings with the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Croatia. At the meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Minister Dimitrov thanked him personally, and Croatia, as the country holding the EU Presidency, for the active support for Macedonia’s EU integration process, keeping our country’s issue high on the EU agenda. At a meeting with Dimitrov on the sidelines of the Davos Forum, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has reaffirmed his country’s support for start of EU accession talks with Macedonia. Borisov expressed the expectation that the work of the joint multidisciplinary commission between the two countries would continue in a constructive spirit and would not be affected by the political situation in Macedonia. Borisov and Dimitrov also discussed the forthcoming joint presidency of the Berlin process in 2020. The focus of their conversation was on the positive development of bilateral relations following the signing of Agreement on friendship, good neighborhood and cooperation, Bulgarian media reported.

 

Osmani: Elections to be held according to European standards, show that the state deserves to be part of the EU (Republika)

 

Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bujar Osmani met with SEC President Oliver Derkovski and said after the meeting that the most important thing now is to hold fair and democratic elections because of the European integration process. “This is really the case this time. All the member states will talk about us in March with a fresh memory, and 26 March will be the fourth day of the election campaign. Any deviation from the normal electoral process will be fresh in the memory of the member states when making the decision. That is why this time the responsibility is greatest,” Osmani said. The specifics of the forthcoming elections, Osmani said, are that they coincide with the extraordinary report we are expecting in February and the decision to start negotiations at the European Union spring summit with all preparation and the start of the election campaign. Hence the need for this election process to be according to the highest European standards, to show the state that it deserves to be part of the EU. Derkovski said that there is a time when all the stakeholders should take responsibility and carry out this process in the most perfect way so as not to give an alibi to anyone.

 

PM to visit conflict-affected area in Ukraine (ADN)

 

On the second day in Ukraine, Prime Minister Edi Rama in the capacity of OSCE Chair-in-Office, will visit one of the eastern areas affected by the conflict with Russia. Tuesday morning, Edi Rama posted a video from the Chuguev military airport in Kharkiv, accompanied by the delegation. During meetings with the President, Prime Minister, speaker of the parliament and Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Rama said that he wanted to personally see the situation in the east.

“I very much would like to see with my own eyes the security and humanitarian situation in conflict-affected areas and the practical impact of Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) on the ground,” he said. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko stated that Ukraine plans to open the Ukrainian Embassy in Albania in 2020. “We believe that this will not only be a successful year of cooperation within the OSCE, but it will also be the culmination of relations between Ukraine and Albania. This year, for example, we will be opening our embassy in Tirana. We have been working on this for a long time. We hope that this step will help our countries be closer to each other,” said Prystaiko.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Serbia president Vučić ‘fed up of being lectured’ over ties with Russia and China (Euronews, by Alastair Jamieson  & Isabelle Kumar, 22 January 2020)

 

Serbia’s president has said he is “fed up of being lectured” by European leaders about close ties with Russia and China, insisting Belgrade remains committed to EU membership despite unprecedented delays to accession. Aleksandar Vučić, a right-winger who has been in power since 2017, told Euronews that Serbia was still on the path to joining the EU despite disillusion with the project. In an interview in Davos, he took aim at critics who say Serbia is too close to Moscow and Beijing, blaming the stalled membership process on “geopolitics.” “Serbia is not very enthusiastic, but we are still committed towards an EU path because we don’t see a real alternative.” he told Isabelle Kumar. “We have been on that path for 20 years already. I think, apart from Turkey, not a single country has been waiting for so many years.”

 

Serbia ‘not jubilant’ about EU — but ‘grateful’

He denied that slow progress in normalising ties with Kosovo, against whom Serbia fought a war two decades ago, was the exclusive reason his nation was behind the curve on accession, blaming a lack of incentive from the EU and Western allies. “It was mainly because of the Belgrade-Pristina relationship,” Vučić said. “But at the same time, even today, I discuss this [issue] not only with European officials, but with [US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo as well. And I asked him if we do that arrangement with Pristina, if we find the compromising solution, if that would be enough to join the European Union. And nobody from the EU — or even from the US because they were co-operating closely — could confirm that we would be a part of the EU.”

He added: “It means that we need to wait for a decision and a conclusion from the European Union, whether they want to see Serbia as a part of European Union or not.” The Serbian leader said he was “not jubilant” about the state of his relationship with the EU, but was nonetheless “profoundly grateful” to Brussels for its help when major floods hit the country in 2014. But he expressed anger when asked when he would choose between Moscow and the EU, saying Western media had “a problem” understanding that Belgrade’s ties with Moscow were “for the benefit of Serbian people and that’s for the benefit of our country.”

 

‘Do your job’

Serbia’s police recently received reinforcements from China to cope with a growing number of Chinese tourists and workers. Vučić said: “I always say to Putin — and I don’t hide it, like many other politicians from European Union, because when they see Putin they forget where they come from — I say to him that we are on an EU path … that’s our strategic goal. “But it doesn’t mean that, even when we become an EU member state, that we will shut all our ties, stop all our links with Russia, with China all the others.” He added: “To tell you the truth, I’m fed up of being lectured and told by all the others about our co-operation with China, Russia, and then I see all the others meeting Xi Jinping and Putin even more often than I do. Do your job. You are sovereign states. Serbia is a sovereign state. We do everything that is for the best for our people and for our country.”

 

Serbia economic growth

Serbia will not make “false” decisions to please the EU or Moscow, he said. “We don’t know whether we’re going to be a part of European Union within three years, five years or seven years. We’ll keep all our ties for the sake of all people and that’s our politics.” He also said his economy was the strongest in the western Balkans, with 4.5% growth last year and 4.1% this year, which shows “that we are heading in the right direction.”

 

Don’t believe the hype. There will be no Belgrade – Prishtina flights just yet (Emerging Europe, by Craig Turp, 22 January 2020)

 

Global leaders including US President Donald Trump and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg have been hailing a deal between Serbia and Kosovo to relaunch flights between the two countries.

“Everybody said it couldn’t be done,” wrote Mr Trump on Twitter, while Mr Stoltenberg called the agreement “an important step”. The deal, brokered by the US and signed on January 20 at the US Embassy in Berlin, “marks another step in our efforts to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia,” said Kosovo President Hashim Thaci in a statement. US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell went so far as to suggest that the deal had moved Serbia closer to recognising Kosovo, and praised Mr Trump for “leading us to another historic victory”. “What we heard from the business community in Kosovo and from the business community in Serbia is we want a more normalized commerce structure and we need a flight. It’s the reason why we went after trying to figure out how do we make a direct flight for the first time in a generation,” Ambassador Grenell told the New York Times. In practice, however, nobody will be booking tickets from Belgrade to Prishtina – or vice versa – just yet. The air link between Belgrade and Prishtina is set to be provided by Eurowings, German Lufthansa Group’s low-cost subsidiary. However, the deal – signed with so much fanfare – importantly includes no actual details on when flights would actually begin. Part of the deal includes Kosovo lifting the 100 per cent tariffs it imposed on goods imported from Serbia at the end of 2018. Kosovo has previously said it would only lift the tariffs once Serbia recognised it as an independent country and stopped blocking its membership of international organisations. The country declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, and is recognised by 97 countries – including 23 of 28 NATO members – but not Serbia, Russia and five EU members. A Serb diplomatic offensive has recently led to a reduction in the number of countries which recognise Kosovo’s independence. Talks between Serbia and Kosovo to normalise relations 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. Mr Thaci will meet his Serb counterpart Aleksandar Vučić this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where the two men will be guests on the same panel. It is not known however if they will discuss further details of the flight deal. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to travel from Belgrade to Prishtina must continue to do so by car or bus. A gruelling journey which takes almost six hours.

 

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