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Belgrade Media Report 03 February 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 3 February 2020
LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic: Cooperation with new Pristina authorities to depend on them (Tanjug/RTS/RTV)
• Brnabic: Serb List will not support formation of government in Pristina (Tanjug/Politika)
• Vucic: Any idea of compromise killed, but we are ready to talk to Pristina (Tanjug/Politika/Novosti/Beta/RTS/RTV)
• Dacic: Belgrade ready for continuation of dialogue with Pristina (RTS/Tanjug)
• Borrell: Kosovo dialogue to continue with EU special representative (N1)
• Borrell meets part of the Serbian opposition (Beta)
• Selakovic: Citizens will give legitimacy to elections (Tanjug/TV Prva)
• Odalovic: Experience of Kosovo Serbs leads to caution (RTS)
• Opposition boycotting next vote passes new declaration (Beta)
• Botsan-Kharchenko: The wish for a quick solution for Kosovo and Metohija is a matter of concern (Blic/RTV)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• NATO updates information on relations between NATO and B&H: B&H aspires to join NATO (N1)
• SDS’ Milicevic: Official confirmation by NATO that B&H is in MAP together with North Macedonia is best proof that MAP was activated with Dodik’s signature on Program of Reforms of B&H (Hayat)
• PDP says its claims about B&H’s path to NATO turned out to be true, slams SNSD for allowing it (Klix.ba)
• Dodik: B&H’s path towards NATO is out of question (BN TV)
• SDS and PDP deceive B&H public with statements about NATO (ATV/FTV)
• HDZ B&H and SDA intensify talks about amendments to Election Law of B&H with regard to Mostar (BHT1)
• Embassies of US, Germany call for urgent formation of Federation of B&H government (FTV)
Croatia
• Slovenia: Talks with Croatia possible only on implementation of border arbitration ruling (Hina)
Montenegro
• Amfilohije willing to meet with Markovic (Dan)
Albania
• Meta greets agreement on Kosovo’s coalition government (ADN)
• Rama congratulates the coalition of Kosovo in achieving a long-waited deal to form government (Radio Tirana)
• Basha hails coalition deal, assures support to Kosovo (ADN)
• Kryemadhi congratulates Vetevendosje – LDK agreement (ADN)
• Kosovo’s coalition, Cakaj seeks enhanced cooperation (ADN)
• Sassoli: We want you to become part of the European Family (Radio Tirana)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Bosnia-Herzegovina and the EU: A Limbo Within a Limbo (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: Cooperation with new Pristina authorities to depend on them (Tanjug/RTS/RTV)

 

Belgrade’s relationship with the new provisional institutions in Pristina will depend on the implementation of the Brussels Agreement as well as on Pristina’s attitude towards the illegal taxes on Serbian goods and its treatment of Kosovo Serbs, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said, adding that she was also ready for discussions with Albin Kurti. She was responding to a question about future cooperation with the next Pristina government and whether she was planning to meet with Kurti. “I am ready for discussions with everyone, including with Kurti, to improve the position of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija or anywhere else,” she told reporters. Belgrade has always been ready for discussions and for cooperation, including discussions on the toughest topics, she noted. “What that will look like will depend on them,” she added. Brnabic said she was satisfied that, thanks to the unity of Kosovo Serbs, the Serb List had ten representatives in the Kosovo assembly.

 

Brnabic: Serb List will not support formation of government in Pristina (Tanjug/Politika)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic says that Serbs today are a stronger factor in Kosovo and Metohija than countless times before, primarily because they are united. Brnabic said at a press conference at the Palace of Serbia after a meeting she and the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric had with political representatives of Kosovo Serbs that she is grateful to them for having left their differences aside, because together they managed to become a factor worth respect. Without this respect, they will not support any provisional governments in Pristina. The Serbs, thanks to their unity and the support of President Aleksandar Vucic and the entire government, won 10 out of 10 possible seats and decided not to support the formation of a government in Pristina, she said. She also said that at the they meeting also discussed the economy, i.e. the Serbia 2025 plan, which set aside 150 million Euros for concrete projects, economic empowerment and a better life in the southern Serbian province. According to Brnabic, representatives of the Serbs were also informed of talks with foreign partners related to projects such as the Belgrade-Pristina airline, which will contribute to a better economy and a more stable region. We also talked about introducing rail transport, but also about the important highway of peace we are working on with EU partners, said Brnabic. Asked how much economic development and all other plans are affected by taxes, the Prime Minister reiterated that Serbia is losing a million euros a day due to fees. The issue of fees is a realistic prerequisite for any serious economic cooperation. We made concessions to prove that we wanted to be constructive, so we signed regional roaming while taxes were in place, but this was also important for our people in Kosovo. There are no serious discussions before the tax is abolished, Brnabic stressed. She added that she expects a decision to withdraw the taxes as it also harms Albanian citizens. According to Brnabic, the stronger the Serbian economy, the more chances are to finance various projects, but also to create new jobs. Today, the struggle for the survival of Serbia and the people of Kosovo is an economic struggle for these people to stay there and have good living conditions, which is why the Serbia 2025 plan is crucial to us, the Prime Minister said. Djuric reiterated that the Serb List will not vote in support of the formation of the Kosovo government, adding that this does not mean, however, that they will not speak to Albanian political representatives in the southern Serbian province. Djuric said the decision was made in view of the fact that in the previous period, the provisional Pristina authorities fundamentally betrayed the Serbs and their representatives, but also violated on the rights of the Serbian people.

 

Vucic: Any idea of compromise killed, but we are ready to talk to Pristina (Tanjug/Politika/Novosti/Beta/RTS/RTV)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday said after a Belgrade meeting with EU High Representative Josep Borrell that “we had a chance for compromise with Pristina a few years ago” but that any idea of compromise had now been killed and that he did not see a way to reach one in the future, but that Serbia was ready to talk to Pristina about all substantial topics after a lifting of its taxes. At a joint press conference after the meeting, Vucic said Serbia must do many things, have many things going to its advantage and reach many tough agreements in order to become the next EU member state. He said Borrell had confirmed Serbia’s European future would not be certain without a solution in the dialogue with Pristina, and noted that the citizens of Serbia should know this. Vucic said he and Borrell had had a good, sincere and open conversation on all significant topics. Borrell expressed the hope the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue would be renewed soon. When that happens, the EU will be ready to continue facilitating the dialogue, he told a press conference in Belgrade with Vucic. He noted it was not up to the EU to decide on the outcome of the dialogue and that this was up to Serbia and Kosovo, but that the EU must engage more strongly in facilitating the dialogue than it had in the past few months. He said that, to him, the Western Balkans was a part of Europe, and more than that, and that it should be a part of the EU geographically, culturally, through economic ties and, most importantly, because of the citizens’ aspirations. The US is powerful but it cannot offer Kosovo a UN seat on its own, Borrell said. “There are other countries in the world – not only European countries, there are countries like China, or Russia, or India, that also have their say,” Borrell told a press conference after a meeting with Vucic. “I think everybody understands that without an agreement of the UN Security Council, Kosovo will not be a state recognized by the international community,” he said. He was responding to a Tanjug question about how he would get Belgrade and Pristina back to the negotiating table and what the EU could offer to Pristina, which seems to be focused on the US, its main objective being a UN seat. “Washington is very powerful but they cannot offer a seat in the United Nations to Kosovo,” Borrell said. “There is no difference between the United States and the European Union in our approach to Kosovo,” he also said.

 

Borrell, Vucic on aligning Serbian foreign policy with EU’s

Borrell said Serbia should align its foreign policy with that of the EU, while Vucic noted that Germany, France and Austria – countries that have up to a thousand times larger trade volumes with Russia – could help Serbia to achieve that level of cooperation. “Serbia should progressively align its foreign policy with the one of the European Union. We should more often be addressing international challenges with one voice,” Borell told a press conference after a meeting with Vucic. In a direct comment, Vucic responded Serbia was undoubtedly on the European path and was making no secret of that in contacts with its Russian and Chinese partners but that it would continue to cooperate with those countries. Serbia’s cooperation with Russia and China is not as good as the cooperation maintained by Germany, France, Austria and other Western countries that have up to a thousand times larger trade volumes with Russia than Serbia does, Vucic said. “Those countries need to help us, too, to reach that rather than show concern over Serbia’s relations with Russia and China,” Vucic said.

 

Vucic: Borrell didn’t ask us today to stop lobbying

Vucic said that Borrell did not today demand that Belgrade stop lobbying for the withdrawal of recognitions of Kosovo’s independence, which is a demand of the US and some European countries. Vucic also stressed that Belgrade is ready to discuss this if Pristina stops working on its campaign to secure recognitions – but reiterated that he does not accept putting an equation sign between Pristina’s decision to impose taxes on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Belgrade’s lobbying in some countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo’s independence. “We have the situation where half the world’s countries have recognized Kosovo and half have not. We are ready to talk, if you won’t be working on the recognition campaign, and although you have a small chance of finding some country that might recognize you – here, we won’t work on this, but we don’t want what cannot be measured to be measured against the other… in other words, there won’t be something for nothing, only something for something,” said Vucic. Vucic said we also need to understand why Americans and some European countries have such demands. He thinks it’s because they don’t want differences to be seen in the Western Balkans. “It’s somewhat easier for us, because we are going faster and better, and they don’t want us not to gain an advantage anywhere… If they could they would put all six somewhere, so that the difference between us isn’t visible, that would be the best for them,” said Vucic. He added that he isn’t running away from Serbia being together with everyone in the region, but also that distinction still has to be made about who is ahead in the European integration process and who has fallen behind, who is ahead in economic and all other results, and who lags behind. He says Belgrade must talk to Pristina in any case. “Neither will the Albanians give up their independence, nor will the European countries that recognized Kosovo change their stance, nor will they force the countries that have not recognized Kosovo to recognize it before the Belgrade-Pristina deal. This is a difficult situation for us, we must fight to improve the position of Serbia, and without removing borders there is no strengthening of the Serbian economy,” said Vucic. Vucic said that the authorities in Serbia did not introduce taxes even in 2008 when Kosovo declared independence and asked who the current Pristina government thinks it is to do it now.

 

Dacic: Belgrade ready for continuation of dialogue with Pristina (RTS/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic spoke on Friday with EU High Representative Josep Borrell during his first official visit to Serbia. Dacic expressed his hope that the successful cooperation that Serbia had with the former EU high representatives will continue throughout Borrell’s term. He stressed that the continuation of dialogue on the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations is of particular importance in this regard, emphasizing that the sole culprit for blocking the dialogue is Pristina, which is only interested in achieving unilaterally its irrational goals. On the other hand, our side wants to talk and is ready to continue the dialogue as soon as conditions are created, that is, when Pristina withdraws the decision on  taxes. Borrell confirmed his readiness to further enhance cooperation in order to continue the dialogue on the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as work on jointly tackling the foreign and security challenges facing the EU and Serbia. He praised our country’s participation in EU peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, in which Serbian soldiers cooperate with their European counterparts. The interlocutors agreed that in terms of values, geography, politics and security, Serbia belongs to Europe.

 

Borrell: Kosovo dialogue to continue with EU special representative (N1)

 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell told N1 on Friday that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has to be renewed and that he would appoint a special representative to work on the issue permanently. “Renewed for sure. Until now the dialogue has not been very positive to tell the truth and in the end there was a breakdown… There are still many wounds to be healed and there is a lot of effort to find a basis for peace and solidarity,” he said and cited the example of France and Germany who fought wars and now live in peace. “The EU is about reconciliation and peace and we have given the best example in history of people who were fighting France and Germany and how they live in peace… I think this is something that the Balkans also have to do,” Borrell said and added that the EU would be happy to help all Western Balkans countries follow this example. Asked about the obstacles between Belgrade and Pristina, Borrell said that there are many of them. “All the parties have to make an effort in order to accept changes. But it is not up to me to tell them what to do. A facilitator is not the one who dictates the final result, just the one who tries to bring both parties together and create positive dialogue. I think we need to nominate a special representative because this will require permanent work not one weekend and then let’s see next month. It requires also, not only political skill but technical capacity, mutual trust and overall the will to reach a solution,” he said. He said that he wanted to visit Kosovo and Serbia to show the importance of resuming dialogue to normalize relations “because this is strongly needed on their way to the EU”. He warned that the European prospects of both Serbia and Kosovo are strongly conditioned by the problem of Kosovo. “The EU is just a facilitator … the negotiations will be among them but I think the EU has to be more involved,” he added. “I’ll do my best and I have to be involved because the Western Balkans is not something strange to our history and culture, They are part of Europe and their success will be our success. Their security and stability will contribute to our security and stability,” he said. Borrell added that the EU is investing in the region, not just financially. “This is the less important thing. The most important thing for us is to guarantee stability, democracy and prosperity. If this happens in the Western Balkans this would be good for us,” he said. Borrell warned of looming difficulties because of migration from the region. “Many people are leaving these countries, the population is decreasing and if this continues there will be difficulties. I think we need realism to face the challenge with a will to solving this problem. This can be solved, it should be solved, we need to solve it and I will be very much engaged personally,” he said but added that he would name a representative because he has to deal with many other issues. Asked about his meeting with part of the opposition which was not attended by the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) which advocates a boycott of the coming elections, Borrell said the EU does not want to interefer in the internal issues of countries. “This is an internal issue but we have been talking about it with the government and opposition and I told them that from the European point of view there is no wisdom in boycotting the elections. I encourage both parties to talk and find an agreement on the framework of the Venice Convention and to solve the issues and show that in Serbia you have a democracy that fulfills the highest standards of the election process,” he said.  The High Representative said that for the EU protecting and enhancing the quality of the media is very important as well as defending the diversity of sources of information. “Everything that goes in the direction of limiting freedom of expression is against our principles and the way we understand political life,” he said. “I want to say that we support everything that goes in the direction of freedom of expression and plurality of media,” he added.

 

Borrell meets part of the Serbian opposition (Beta)

 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell met with part of the Serbian opposition on Friday but not with anyone from the Alliance for Serbia (SzS). Beta reported that the meeting at the EU Delegation offices was attended by former President now leader of the Social Democrat Party Boris Tadic, Serbian Patriot Alliance leader Aleksandar Sapic, Liberal Democrat Party leader Cedomir Jovanovic, Party of Democratic Action leader Sulejman Ugljanin, the leader of the Party of Justice and Reconciliation Muamer Zukorlic and independent MP Djordje Vukadinovic. EU Delegation Head Sem Fabrizi attended the meeting.

 

Selakovic: Citizens will give legitimacy to elections (Tanjug/TV Prva)

 

Serbian President’s General Secretary Nikola Selakovic has stated that he is certain that citizens will confirm the absolute legitimacy of elections. Serbian citizens will turn out for the local and parliamentary elections on 26 April, TV Prva announced. He says that the lowering of the census from five to three percent will enable for democracy to return from the street to the parliament, precisely what President Vucic had spoken about. He considers that it is not serious to prepare for elections a month and half or two months before they are held, and that serious politicians deal with politics all the time between two election cycles, and those very serious even more than one election cycle. He pointed that it will be known who will take part in elections by the fact who will submit lists.

 

Odalovic: Experience of Kosovo Serbs leads to caution (RTS)

 

The Serb List will not support the government of Albin Kurti but will participate in the work of the Kosovo institutions. They are led to do this by the bad experience with the past Kosovo governments that didn’t fulfill promises given to the Serbs, the General Secretary of the Foreign Ministry Veljko Odalovic told the RTS morning news. The Serbs and the Serb List took part in the elections in good faith and intention, says Odalovic, adding they will not support the new government. “The past government gave guarantees and promises that the position of the Serbs will be improved, and what was agreed in Brussels has not been implemented, and the Serbs were deceived,” says Odalovic. “Those who are forming the government today have not said anything good nor promised and this leads the Serb List to caution, but the unity of the Serbs is something that will have to be respected, because they are an unavoidable factor in Kosovo and Metohija,” says Odalovic. “It is important what the coalition will offer and what messages it will send to Belgrade, the Kosovo Serbs and the international community. The question is what will be with the taxes and the position of Serbs on which the Serb side will insist. There is also the question of how Hashim Tachi will function with this government and who will represent the Kosovo stands in the dialogue,” said Odalovic. According to him, it is important to find a solution, for the dialogue to resume, and not to be protracted.

 

Opposition boycotting next vote passes new declaration (Beta)

 

The opposition rallied around an initiative to boycott Serbia’s next election in April passed a new

declaration in Belgrade, calling it an attack on Serbia’s constitutional system any attempt to set up a government based on the results of the false election. They said in the declaration that the opposition would consider the authorities elected that way illegitimate and that they planned to use all types of resistance and civil disobedience to fight the new government. “We will continue the struggle for free media and a free and fair election using all legitimate means available, with the ultimate goal of democratizing Serbia,” the boycotting opposition pledged in the document, promising also to resist violence, particularly all forms of extremism linked to the regime. “We vow solidarity with all vulnerable citizens facing the government’s fist over a different opinion or criticism and offer our assistance and protection to vulnerable people and groups,” the opposition said in the declaration. “We will continue talks with representatives of the EU, other states and organizations supporting democratic values, the freedom of the media and fair elections,” the opposition said, adding that it would seek cooperation with organizations and individuals sharing the same goals.

 

Botsan-Kharchenko: The wish for a quick solution for Kosovo and Metohija is a matter of concern (Blic/RTV)

 

Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko has stated that he doesn’t believe there is a quick solution for the Kosovo issue, except if at issue is not an imposing one that is not acceptable for Belgrade, such as recognition of independence of Kosovo. “ The wish for a quick solution is concerning. This resembles the establishment of the famous time frames that were the reason for the previous talks on Kosovo having failed. I have in mind Ahtisaari’s negotiations and talks of the Troika,” Botsan-Kharchenko told Blic in response to the question how he sees the US’ attempts to resolve in a short period the issue of Belgrade-Pristina relations. He reiterated that it is necessary to urgently fulfill Belgrade’s request to abolish the taxes. To the statement that the US requests that Serbia in that case must stop lobbying against independence of Kosovo while Serbian President Vucic responds there can be no equation sign between the two moves, Botsan-Kharchenko assessed that Vucic’s stand completely responds to international law. “There is no connection between these two issues. Independent, sovereign countries are withdrawing recognitions of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo, understanding that Kosovo is not a state, that this violation of international law has consequences not only for the region but also for the harsh international situation, including them as well. This process responds to Resolution 1244,” said the Ambassador. He adds that Moscow will join the negotiations if Belgrade invites it, but that an agreement is out of question without Russia and the approval of the Security Council. “As long as there is not compromise, Resolution 1244 is here. For example, Dayton is a result of talks. Long lasting, intensive and silent. That is why I state that it is outside of reality to reach a quick solution for Kosovo,” said the Russian Ambassador.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

NATO updates information on relations between NATO and B&H: B&H aspires to join NATO (N1)

 

An article concerning relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and NATO published on the NATO web site has been updated and it reads that B&H aspires to join the NATO. The abovementioned article also reads that “support to democratic, institutional, security sectors and the defense reform are the crucial focus of the cooperation”. It also reads that the Program of Reforms represents cooperation with NATO. Part of the article concerning the Annual National Program (ANP) was deleted, while it was added that B&H continues cooperation with NATO stipulated by the Program of Reforms. “This Program of Reforms outlines reforms that the authority intends to take and makes easier providing of the NATO’s support in these efforts”, further reads the article. It was underlined that B&H was invited to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP) as early as in 2010 and that participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision about the future B&H’s membership in the Alliance. Deputy Minister of Defense of B&H Mijo Kresic said that the Ministry is still waiting for an official stance of Brussels on the Program of Reforms and he added that the cooperation with NATO is not questionable but it is necessary to see “in what kind of format this Program of Reforms will be additionally defined”. Former Minister of Defense of B&H Selmo Cikotic told the daily that NATO, since the very beginning, has been searching for solutions which would be useful for B&H and all of its peoples and citizens. Cikotic added that he thinks the current solution is exactly that, i.e. that nobody will lose anything but will only gain from it.

 

SDS’ Milicevic: Official confirmation by NATO that B&H is in MAP together with North Macedonia is best proof that MAP was activated with Dodik’s signature on Program of Reforms of B&H (Hayat)

 

President of SDS Main Board Milan Milicevic stated on Sunday that the official confirmation of NATO that B&H is in Membership Action Plan (MAP) together with North Macedonia is the best proof that the MAP was activated with Serb member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik‘s signature on the Program of Reforms of B&H. Milicevic stressed that now it is clear beyond any doubt that Program of Reforms is the Annual National Program (ANP) under a hidden name and that this is without a doubt an act of betrayal of Serb national interests. He added that the fact that Dodik stalled the formation of the authorities at the B&H level for a year with an explanation that he does not want to sign the ANP and thus activate the MAP just to eventually sign that document under another name is yet another proof that in his only ambition to remain in power, Dodik does not shy away from any concessions at the expense of the interests of the Serb people.

 

PDP says its claims about B&H’s path to NATO turned out to be true, slams SNSD for allowing it (Klix.ba)

 

PDP stated on Saturday that everything this political party claimed about events related to the Annual National Program (ANP) and path of B&H to NATO turned out to be true. “As of the first moment sending of the ANP was mentioned as a part of the package on formation of the authorities at the level of the joint institutions, we publicly said it is a matter of a day when SNSD will accept this step too, just in order to sit in chairs in Sarajevo”, Spokesperson for PDP Anja Petrovic stated. PDP also noted that, immediately after an agreement was reached by the Presidency of B&H, this party said that the Program of Reforms is the same as the ANP for accession to the Membership Action Plan (MAP) “and now we have a confirmation coming from NATO that B&H is officially participant of the MAP”. Petrovic said that it is sad to see SNSD walk over everything they said, but she noted that even more worrying is the fact this is being done by the party which holds all levers of authorities in Republika Srpska (RS) and at the level of B&H too, thanks to votes of their partners from SDA. “If they were ready to take the final step towards the NATO path and step over the Declaration on Military Neutrality adopted by the RS National Assembly, if they were ready to let Bosniaks have the entire security sector and silently allow Serbs employed in individual B&H institutions to be prohibited from marking the RS Day, one has to wonder what else they are ready to do and plan to do on their grand treason path towards complete humiliation and deterioration of constitutional role of the RS,” Petrovic said and concluded that PDP will use all parliamentary and non-parliamentary tools to stop this process.

 

Dodik: B&H’s path towards NATO is out of question (BN TV)

 

After NATO officially stated that B&H is a participant in the Membership Action Plan (MAP), Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, who earlier claimed that the MAP is not being activated with the Program of Reforms of B&H, confirmed on Sunday that NATO’s statement that B&H is in the MAP is correct. “These days you had an opportunity to see certain claims that came from NATO. It is stated there that B&H is focused on cooperation and that there is the MAP which was approved earlier. Of course, I could not abolish the MAP. I wish I could, but I could not because one needs consent within the Presidency for that. But, what I did is that I prevented the Annual National Program (ANP) and tried to maintain some form of cooperation with NATO through a document called reforms,” Dodik underlined. Dodik also stated that B&H’s path towards NATO is out of question. He stressed that the step of integration into the Alliance will not be taken for as long as he is a member of the B&H Presidency.

 

SDS and PDP deceive B&H public with statements about NATO (ATV/FTV)

 

SNSD Spokesman Radovan Kovacevic stated on Sunday that SDS and PDP continue to deceive the B&H public with their false statements about NATO. He added that the only truth is that B&H did not activate the Membership Action Plan (MAP) and did not adopt the Annual National Program (ANP) for NATO membership. Kovacevic stated that the NATO path of B&H was halted with the adoption of the B&H Program of Reforms. He highlighted that NATO stated in their statement that B&H does not wish to join NATO. Kovacevic explained that the NATO website says that B&H is a part of the MAP, but also that activation of the MAP does not prejudge NATO membership. He stressed that a future decision on the NATO membership of B&H will be made by the B&H Presidency and the B&H Parliament. Kovacevic noted that Republika Srpska (RS) has full right to hold a referendum, which will be the binding opinion for RS’ representatives in the B&H institutions. Leader of United Srpska Nenad Stevandic said that B&H is not in the MAP. Stevandic stressed that the RS will not register its military property with state of B&H, because it is opposite to the decisions of the RS parliament and the decisions of the RSNA are binding. Reacting to the allegations of Chairman of the B&H Presidency and DF leader Zeljko Komsic that the Program of Reforms is the same as the ANP, Stevandic said: “B&H is not in the MAP. However, the opposition in the RS and Mr. Komsic are in some sort of a pre-election campaign.”

 

HDZ B&H and SDA intensify talks about amendments to Election Law of B&H with regard to Mostar (BHT1)

 

HDZ B&H and SDA have once again intensified their talks about amendments to the Election Law of B&H with regard to Mostar at the local level, so that the local elections can finally be held in this city. Representatives of both parties said that there is practically no dispute on amendments to the Election Law of B&H. However, the problem lies in the fact that SDA is conditioning this issue with adoption of amendments to the Statute of the City of Mostar at the same time, which is up to future councilors in the Mostar City Council. Chairman of SDA City Board in Mostar Salem Maric stated: “If HDZ B&H is willing enough for certain issues in the Statute of the City of Mostar to be resolved, I think we will certainly have the elections. Actually, we will certainly have the elections, either imposed as a provisional solution by the Constitutional Court, the Central Election Commission or the OHR. At this moment, it might be the most important for us to reach an agreement.” Representative of HDZ B&H City Board in Mostar Vlatko Marinovic assessed that it is completely “legitimate” to talk about the Statute of the City of Mostar, but it should be discussed by future councilors in the Mostar City Council. He added that this issue should not be a matter of ultimatums. “It is a form of violence against future councilors in the Mostar City Council,” Marinovic assessed. Political analyst Milan Sitarski said that he is not sure if it would be legally possible to adopt the Statute of the City of Mostar together with amendments to the Election Law of B&H that refer to Mostar. “Who would adopt it? A lex specialis at the state or Federation of B&H level? Or the High Representative will once again impose something that the parties can agree upon, which would be another precedent that minimizes sovereignty of B&H,” Sitarski said. Meanwhile, the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, which ordered B&H to hold the local elections in Mostar within six months, entered into force on Saturday. The ECHR established in October 2019 that a citizen of Mostar is being discriminated against based on her place of residence, given the fact that the local elections have not been held in this city for 11 years. NS Vice President Irma Baralija, who addressed the ECHR with regard to this issue in the first place, stated that the elections will be held in Mostar either in October or a few months later. “This is the momentum. The elections have to be held, that is the fact,” Baralija concluded.

 

Embassies of US, Germany call for urgent formation of Federation of B&H government (FTV)

 

Commenting on the halt in formation of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina government, the US Embassy to B&H stated: “Over a year after the 2018 elections, it is high time to form the authority at all levels and implement election results”. The US Embassy to B&H also stated: “As we keep saying, we call on all political parties to leave narrow party interests aside and focus on the work of authorities and needs of citizens”. The same warning came from the Embassy of Germany to B&H. US Embassy Press Office welcomed the formation of the state-level authorities in B&H, but said that formation of the Federation of B&H authorities must also be concluded so that important reforms processes are finally implemented. The Embassy of Germany to B&H stressed that it is necessary to form the Federation of B&H government urgently, so that important reform processes can be launched.

 

Slovenia: Talks with Croatia possible only on implementation of border arbitration ruling (Hina)

 

Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said on Sunday that talks on the border issue with Croatia were possible but that they could only be about ways to implement the border arbitration award which Ljubljana considers binding, and that dialogue could be started by Presidents Borut Pahor and Zoran Milanovic. “Talks are necessary. They are possible but they could only be about the arbitration award, that is, ways to implement it,” Cerar said in an interview with Slovenian Television. Dialogue could start between Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Croatian President-elect Zoran Milanovic after Milanovic takes office, since the Slovenian government resigned last Monday and now operates only as a caretaker government. Cerar dismissed criticism in Slovenia that he was responsible for Slovenia losing a case against Croatia before the Court of Justice of the EU in Luxembourg. Cerar said Slovenia had sued Croatia in 2018, at the end of the term of a government that was led by him, but the lawsuit was supported by all parties making up the then ruling coalition and a large portion of parliamentary parties. He said the lawsuit was worth the effort even though the Luxembourg-based court said it did not have jurisdiction over it. Cerar said the lawsuit was worth the effort also because of the media statement the EU court published last Friday before publishing the integral version of its ruling. That statement, even though a sentence with the same wording was not included in the ruling itself, says that Croatia and Slovenia must implement the border arbitration ruling and that the border between them is defined, claims Cerar. The government in Zagreb, however, has dismissed Cerar’s claims as factually incorrect because Slovenian media cited only a part of the court statement. Asked whether early parliamentary elections were possible after Prime Minister Marjan Sarec‘s resignation last week or a new parliamentary majority would be formed, Cerar said both options were possible.

 

Amfilohije willing to meet with Markovic (Dan)

 

Dan daily published the response of Metropolitan Amfilohije to the letter Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, sent him on 28 January, in which he invites Amfilohije to start dialogue on the Law on Freedom of Religion. Amfolohije says the Metroplitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral is willing to meet with Markovic. Metropolitan’s response: We received your letter from 28 January this year. Let me express my opinion regarding specific assertions you stated in Your letter. You claim that adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion will not cause divisions among the Orthodox people in Montenegro, and that’s so contrary to the reality. Starting from 27 December 2019 to this day, a great number of citizens, and not only orthodox citizens, have been opposing the spirit and norms of the new Law so patiently, peacefully and with dignity. We can clearly witness that the Law deepened the old and created new divisions among brothers and neighbors. If you take into account the statement made by the president of your party, that Orthodox religious processions are “a movement of lunatics”, then it’s clear how this Law painfully divided and tore Montenegro apart. We disagree with your claim that “enactment has been harmonized with the contemporary European standards and received positive opinion from the Venice Commission”. The objective of the Law claims otherwise. By that I mean provisions negating and eliminating the many century-long historical continuity of legal subjectivity and property rights of our Church in the first place, and other religious communities. Therefore, we can’t agree with your statement that the “law eliminates cultural, religious and civilizational limitation we’ve found”. It’s as clear as a day that the Orthodox Church is endangered and shaken by means of the new law. We’ve been expecting your call for dialogue on deep and essential problems caused by this law and finding solutions for it. We have to remind you that our call for public and institutional dialogue has always been open, but you, unfortunately, ignored it And now you are calling on us to start dialogue in order to conclude basic agreement on regulating of mutual relations, expressing your preparedness to “consider once again, together, the best possible solutions for the application of articles 62, 63 and 64. We are sorry to say this, but you obviously refuse to see that the existing law and the non-existing agreement, is the cause of the current social problems. For that reason, those serious problems cannot be solved and overcome by “joint consideration of the best solutions” for this unlawful law. However, aware of the historical importance of the throne of Saint Peter Cetinjski and the responsibility we assumed from our predecessors, and since we are worried for the harmony, peace and unity of the orthodox people in Montenegro, respecting the Constitution of Montenegro, we agree to meet with you and hope that you are willing to finally start essential and human conversation aimed at eliminating the law and all the discriminatory provisions it contains. If you are ready and willing to discuss the Law and its elimination, we are glad to inform you that in that case, bishop Joanikije and Atanasije and Dimitrije would be present during talks. We expect you to suggest the term for the meeting.

 

Meta greets agreement on Kosovo’s coalition government (ADN)

 

President of the Republic Ilir Meta welcomed this Sunday the agreement reached between Self-Determination Party and Democratic League of Kosovo regarding coalition government in Kosovo. According to President Meta, a stable governance is not only in Kosovo’s interest, but also in the interest of the region. “I warmly welcome the achievement of the co-government agreement of the Self-Determination Movement and the Democratic League of Kosovo as the two winning parties of the October 6, 2019 general elections in Kosovo. Sustainable governance is in the interest of not only Kosovo but the entire region. I wish the government of Kosovo led by Mr. Albin Kurti great successes and achievements for the benefit of Kosovo in the challenges ahead,” said Meta.

 

Rama congratulates the coalition of Kosovo in achieving a long-waited deal to form government (Radio Tirana)

 

The two major political parties in Kosovo agreed on a long-awaited deal yesterday to form a new coalition government. Prime Minister Edi Rama wishes the government coalition success and hopes for a fruitful cooperation for Albanians across the border. In his message, Rama says he is looking forward to bringing to the table the issue of free movement of citizens and businesses at our border, implying the “Balkan Schengen”, which sparked debate on both sides of the border after Kosovo refused to take part in Tirana summit a few weeks ago. “I wish success to Self Determination and the Democratic League of Kosovo for the new Kosovo government formation! I wish they have an effective cooperation for Albanians here and there, and I look forward to bringing to the table the issue of free movement of citizens and businesses at our border,” Rama writes.

 

Basha hails coalition deal, assures support to Kosovo (ADN)

 

Chairman of Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha hailed this Sunday the coalition agreement of Vetevendosje (Self-determination) Movement and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

After these parties’ chairmen, Albin Kurti and Isa Mustafa signed the agreement, Basha pledged support towards Kosovo in the challenges ahead, which call for engagement and cooperation.

Meanwhile, Basha said that this agreement is a completion of Kosovo citizens’ will, as well as an act of political honesty and maturity of a clear vision of these political parties’ leaders

“On my and Democratic Party’s behalf, I cordially congratulate the LVV and LDK for the agreement reached. Today’s agreement is a completion of the will of the citizens of Kosovo. It is an act of political honesty and maturity of a clear vision of the leaders of LVV and LDK. This agreement is concrete response of the will for change of the citizens of Kosovo. The Democratic Party will be completely in support of Kosovo and its leadership, in challenges that we have ahead and that require sincere engagement and fraternal cooperation,” said Basha.

 

Kryemadhi congratulates Vetevendosje – LDK agreement (ADN)

 

Chairwoman of Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI), Monika Kryemadhi hailed on Sunday Vetevendosje Movement and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) on coalition government deal. This agreement was signed between the chairmen of respective Kosovo’s parties, Albin Kurti and Isa Mustafa, with the former admitting that the process was not too easy. Nevertheless, Kryemadhi wished for Vetevendosje and LDK’s success in establishing a stable government in handling the big challenges at the service of Kosovo’s citizens.

Furthermore, SMI’s Chairwoman expressed the hope for more cooperation and integration between Kosovo and Albania for the good of citizens, also for the strengthening of peace in the whole region. “I express the pleasure and I greet the reaching of Agreement for the creation of the new government of Kosovo between Vetevendosje and Democratic League. I wish the VV and LDK success in the creation of a stable and efficient government in the confrontation with the big challenges in service of the citizens of Kosovo, in new recognitions and further integration in regional and international organizations. I also wish that between our two countries grows further the cooperation and integration in the good of all citizens, as well as for the strengthening of peace and prosperity in the entire region,” stated Kryemadhi.

 

Kosovo’s coalition, Cakaj seeks enhanced cooperation (ADN)

 

Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Gent Cakaj said on Sunday that more cooperation between Kosovo and Albania is required in the many challenges lying ahead.

Cakaj wished much success to Vetevendosje (Self-determination) Movement and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). “We look forward to starting with substantial conversations with the new government of Kosovo to develop a common program in the interest of both countries,” said Cakaj.

 

Sassoli: We want you to become part of the European Family (Radio Tirana)

 

European Parliament President David Sassoli stated that he has come to Albania to express solidarity with those affected by the earthquake. Through a post shared on Twitter, Sassoli points out that he and the member states will work hard to open negotiations as soon as possible. The EP leader has also sent a message to the young Albanians saying they should not lose hope.

“The European Parliament and the European Commission and the leaders of the EU member states are in favor of Albania and North Macedonia to open accession negotiations with the European Union. We will not give up. We will continue to work hard for a positive vote. I want to say especially to the young Albanians please do not despair. We want you to become part of the European Family. Together we can make this happen. We must have faith and continue along the path you have taken,” the President of the European Parliament said.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Bosnia-Herzegovina and the EU: A Limbo Within a Limbo (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, by Alfredo Sasso, 3 February 2020)

 

The EU perspective is less and less present in the public agenda because of many factors: disenchantment with never-ending enlargement, disillusion caused by the image of the EU’s internal crisis, negative perception of the EU’s role in the Balkan route migrant crisis, emigration drain

There is little doubt that 2019 was a lost year for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU integration. Although in the last months some major events did occur both at macro-regional and state-wide level, only low expectations of progress can be foreseen in the immediate future. A state government vacuum lasted from the general elections held in October 2018 until mid-December 2019, when a new council of ministers was formed under the premiership of Zoran Tegeltija (SNSD – Serb conservative nationalists) and with the support of the three main conservative-nationalist parties (SNSD, SDA – Bosniak nationalists, HDZ – Croat nationalists). During the 14-month deadlock, EU-Bosnia relations remained de facto frozen. A turning point was in late May when the EU Commission published its Opinion  on Bosnia-Herzegovina’s application. The document was cautious in language but severe in content, assessing that the country was “at an early stage” of preparedness and recommended “to significantly step up” alignment with EU standards. It identified 14 key priorities in Bosnia’s legislative and institutional framework pertaining to four domains: democracy and functionality; rule of law; fundamental rights; public administration. The checklist included, on the one hand, structural issues such as equal non-discriminatory electoral systems (explicitly mentioning the Sejdić-Finci case and the municipal elections in Mostar, which have not been held since 2008) and the reform of high judicial organs; on the other, it identified recent contextual faults affecting freedom of expression and assembly. Recurring attacks on journalists and restrictions to the social movement ‘Justice for David’ are cited in the Commission’s analytical report  . Following the impasse in government, the Opinion went practically unheeded. In October, the previous caretaker government attempted to put forward an ‘Action plan’  responding to the Commission; however, it did not offer concrete measures for constitutional reforms and lacked political consensus across parties, which is why several analysts and civil society organisations have deplored  the plan. Its failure reinforced the impression that the granting of candidate status to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which applied for membership in 2016, could be delayed well beyond 2020. Further proof that the EU’s main focus in Bosnia-Herzegovina is shifting from socio-economic reforms (an approach which had become dominant  after the 2014 wave of social protests) to the justice system and rule of law is to be found in the Expert Report on Rule of Law Issue. The report  , submitted to the Commission in December 2019 by the legal expert and former Commission Director, Reinhard Priebe, was strongly critical and raised public attention in the country. It stated, among other things, that the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC, the self-management organ for the judiciary, tasked with guaranteeing its independence) is “widely perceived as an unaccountable power in the hands of persons serving the interests of a network of political patronage and influence”. Focus on rule of law is of seminal importance, as it might potentially trigger social change and institutional reforms. The perception of corruption and the absence of opportunities deriving from state capture foster social apathy and emigration  , which deeply affect society. However, some analysts have criticized the Priebe report, either for not making specific recommendations, or for being limited to top-down organs instead of targeting systemic inefficiencies, or for not discussing rule of law issues beyond the judicial system. Hence, doubts arise about the report’s effective chances to serve as a proactive monitoring of rule of law issues – something that happened  with the same author’s report on Macedonia in 2015. The circumstances leading to the formation of a new government restored some limited hope to EU supporters. The involved parties – including the SNSD, which is notably pro-Russian and cooperates  with right-wing Eurosceptic parties – accepted compromise around a program which is declaratively committed to relaunching EU integration and to cementing partnership ties with NATO; nonetheless the document remains deeply ambivalent  about future membership. The active participation in negotiations of the NATO Quint Countries’ ambassadors (USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy) alongside the current EU Special Representative Johann Sattler, shows that the Alliance’s involvement in Bosnia and the wider region is again on the rise. This can be read as another sign of the US’ restored engagement, which follows the recent appointment  of two special representatives to the region, one for the Western Balkans and one for the Kosovo-Serbia negotiations. However, the fact that this mostly NATO-driven initiative – and the incentives which were offered – has succeeded whereas the mostly EU-driven negotiations have failed (in August, talks led by former EU Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark were very close to an agreement, but finally came to nothing) may convey a message of an integration process more “Atlantic” than “European”, more “geopolitical” and less “political”. This message could be detrimental for the EU, particularly in such a delicate moment when the whole model of enlargement in Western Balkans is brought into question. It can prompt a decline in trust and interest towards Bosnia’s EU path among local political actors and the wider popular opinion. Polls are not uniform in depicting this decline: according to a survey  from the Bosnian Directorate for European Integration, support for membership dropped from 76% in 2016 to 56% in 2018. On the contrary, data  from Balkan Barometer show an increase in assessing membership as “good” from 33% in 2016 to 47% in 2019. However, one must recall that this is the lowest figure in the region except Serbia. The EU perspective is less and less present in the public agenda because of many factors: disenchantment with never-ending enlargement, disillusion caused by the image of the EU’s internal crisis, negative perception of the EU’s role in the Balkan route migrant crisis, emigration drain (“Those who wanted the EU in Bosnia have already left”, as Srdjan Puhalo noted  ). A bottom-up relaunch would be needed for the EU in Bosnia-Herzegovina, offering credible goals and tangible benefits. This would increase public pressure on political elites who, in essence, are still willing to keep the status quo and defer social change and EU accession as long as possible.

 

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