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Belgrade Media Report 12 February 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 12 February 2020
LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic: Non-interference in Montenegro’s internal affairs (RTS/Sputnik)
• Stefanovic: I appreciate US pressure on Pristina, but it seems it could be greater (RTS/Tanjug)
• Vulin: Why do the authorities in Montenegro have a problem when somebody from Serbia is coming (RTS)
• Gojkovic at Russia-Serbia Parliamentary Commission session (Tanjug/RTV)
• Cucic: Enough room for migrants in reception centers (Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik: B&H CC’s decision on Law on Agricultural Land of RS is attack on territorial organization of B&H (RTRS)
• Ramic on B&H CC’s decision on Law on Agricultural Land of RS: OHR should impose law (N1)
• Talks on formation of FB&H government fail to bring results; OHR, US Embassy, EUD call for formation of authorities at all levels of power (N1)
• Commission for Appointment of SC government rejects all 12 candidates for new convocation of SC government (FTV/Oslobodjenje)
• Colo: HDZ B&H has to stop with obstructions and only international community can make them do that (Oslobodjenje)
• Palmer: We are worried about Russian intentions about Western Balkans (N1)
• Kosarac hosts meeting on Croatia’s intention to build nuclear landfill near border with B&H (Hayat)
Croatia
• Government to provide legal aid for survivors of Serb concentration camps (HRT)
• Tensions within the HDZ continue to rise ahead of intra-party elections (HRT)
Montenegro
• Metropolitanate hasn’t launched initiative for assessment of constitutionality of new law (CDM)
• Erdogan to visit Montenegro soon (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Macedonian parliament ratifies the NATO accession protocol (Republika)
• Zidan: Macedonia has done more than any other EU candidate (Republika)
• Di Meio: Regardless of methodology, EU talks shouldn’t be delayed (Republika)
Albania
• Mini-Schengen provokes first ‘dispute’ of Albania and Kosovo PMs (ADN)
• Kosovo may be positive example of good governance in region (ADN)
• Ruci: Kurti’s government to successfully overcome challenges (ADN)
• Opposition leader guarantees support to Kosovo’s PM (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Serbian leader lauds upcoming WWII victory celebrations (TASS)
• Balkan spies ‘feed’ EU’s police database via Czechs (EUobserver)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: Non-interference in Montenegro’s internal affairs (RTS/Sputnik)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated that his visit to Munich on Thursday and Friday, where he will take part in the security conference, is of great importance for Serbia because he will be able to estimate better what are the further steps of the Pristina government, what are the steps of Germany, the American and all others in the international community. He says he will meet Angela Merkel, that he knows the exact date, but still cannot announce it. He told Sputnik that he also expects a meeting with US special envoy Richard Grenell during the Munich security conference, and that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti will be perhaps present, so “we will see what the atmosphere will be and how will that look like”. Asked about how the state can help the Serbs to defend their sanctities in Montenegro, he says he thinks that “we are doing this in the wisest and very dignified manner”. “Therefore, by non-interference in Montenegro’s internal affairs, but underlining and fighting for the rights of our people in Montenegro, for the survival of the Serbian Orthodox church, not in a violent manner, but in a decent, democratic, legal manner, I think we have found the best possible measure,” said Vucic. Asked whether the hoped that Montenegro would withdraw the disputable Law on Freedom of Religion, Vucic says he always hopes, but cannot expect that. “It would be pointless for me to say that I expect this. I hope, it would be good, but even if this doesn’t happen, this voice that has been raised is the voice of a disobedient people, people who will not give up from its sanctities and its identity. If somebody touches identity of a people, then they receive such a response like the one we have seen over the past weeks. So, whatever then do legally, essentially, people behave differently on the ground,” noted  Vucic.

 

Stefanovic: I appreciate US pressure on Pristina, but it seems it could be greater (RTS/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic has stated that he appreciates the pressure exerted by the US on Pristina to abolish taxes, and that he expects that this will yield results. “Still, I have not been always an optimist, because it seems to me this pressure could be greater,” Stefanovic told journalists in the Serbian Interior Ministry. He says that the issue of t axes is a purely issue of international law, since Pristina signed the CEFTA agreement, in accordance with Resolution 1244. He says that the Pristina institutions are primarily violating the CEFTA agreement, and that, unfortunately, there not enough sanctions for this. “There is not enough harsh messages first of all from the EU, because when you sing something, when you accept something, you cannot unilaterally violate this, or you should simply leave and say you are not on the EU path. Then there are different rules of the game,” says Stefanovic. Stefanovic underlines that the Brussels agreement has not been respected for seven years now and that no measure is right if there are no sanctions behind it but only a warning. He says that big and powerful states can certainly influence Pristina. “I expect that international law will be respected and that this will the key argument that will win, because taxes are most of all disrespect of international law. I expect the world will realize this, most of all the EU, which was the guarantor of that,” concluded Stefanovic.

 

Vulin: Why do the authorities in Montenegro have a problem when somebody from Serbia is coming (RTS)

 

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that he is not a critic of Montenegro, as he is frequently called, but a critic of the authorities that are trying to seize temples and monasteries from the Serbian Orthodox Church. He says that he visited yesterday the grave of former Yugoslav defense minister Pavel Bulatovic, 20 years since his murder. However, the Serbian delegation was not allowed to enter Montenegro in uniforms. He says he didn’t expect this and that he wasn’t on a private visit but he arrived on behalf of the Defense Ministry. “It is very interesting that they have a problem when somebody from Serbia is coming. We are neighboring countries, what is bad in this,” wondered Vulin.

He notes that Bishop Amfilohije thanked the Serbian delegation, but added that it is shameful that the Montenegrin Defense Minister didn’t come to give respects to Bulatovic. Regarding the ban to enter in uniforms, Vulin says that the Serbian delegation had absolute permission up until 2:30 pm on Monday by the Montenegrin authorities, but that they called the Serbian Ambassador at 9:30 pm to tell announce him the changed decision. “They did everything so we would say we will not come,” said Vulin.

 

Gojkovic at Russia-Serbia Parliamentary Commission session (Tanjug/RTV)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic, who is heading the Serbian parliamentary delegation to the Fifth Session of the Joint Cooperation Commission of the Serbian parliament and the Russian Duma in Moscow, met today with the Chairperson of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin. Gojkovic and Volodin discussed advancing parliamentary and overall bilateral cooperation between the two countries and after the meeting opened the session of the Joint Parliamentary Commission. Gojkovic said that the dynamics of the Commission sessions best testifies to the quality of the relations and strong mutual interest to expand and advance cooperation. Gojkovic thanked the Russian Federation for the continued principled support on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, especially at the multilateral level, stressing that with it the Russian Federation once again confirms its important role in respecting international law and the fundamental principles and objectives proclaimed in the UN Charter. “The Russian Federation’s support for Serbia’s efforts to come to a sustainable and mutually acceptable solution in direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is invaluable for us,” said Gojkovic emphasizing the special importance this support gains in the face of Pristina’s series of violent and unilateral moves. Speaking on the Commission session’s topics, Gojkovic said that the Serbian parliament is ready and eager to work hard to make sure the agreements between the two countries, made in their mutual interest, be put into operation as easily as possible. Gojkovic said that the parliament recently ratified the Agreement between the Serbian government and the government of the Russian Federation on the Handover of the Petersburg Page of the Miroslav Gospel to the Republic of Serbia and the Paintings of Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich to the Russian Federation which has enormous symbolic significance, and is soon to ratify the Free Trade Agreement between the Republic of Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union which will significantly add to the development of overall cooperation. Gojkovic added that the parliament also fully supports energy cooperation i.e. project TurkStream, information and communication technologies and digital economy, and praised the renewed cooperation between the two countries in the domain of peaceful nuclear energy use based on tested and innovative technologies. Speaking of cooperation in international parliamentary organizations, Gojkovic said that Serbia greatly values its cooperation with Russia at the multilateral level and stressed that the delegations of the Serbian parliament will never vote for decisions aimed against the interests of the Russian delegation. In that context, Gojkovic said that Serbia, confirming its sovereignty and independence of its international position grounded in principled policies, political independence and military neutrality, has never and will never impose sanctions against the Russian Federation and Russian people. She also spoke about protecting historical memory and oppose heroization of Nazism in the context of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, stressing that Serbia remembers the heroism of the Russian and Soviet volunteers and soldiers who fought along our units to liberate our country from occupation. “Our common fight then and through the centuries, sufferings and victories oblige us to keep the memory of the sacrifices made for freedom,” said Gojkovic adding that Serbia is grateful for the great sacrifices Russia had to make through the centuries not wanting to leave Serbia alone to face its enemies’ attacks. “For years we have been commemorating our big battles and sacrifices, but, thanks to our courage, skill and dedications, victories as well. This memory is especially vivid in years such as this one when we celebrate 75 years of triumph over fascism, a big victory that decided the fate of the world,” said Gojkovic. “A people that does not remember the past has no future”, said Gojkovic. The Chairperson of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin said that Serbia and Russia can thank for their dynamic relations to Presidents Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vucic, adding that it is up to the parliaments to substantiate the agreements through the legislative process. Volodin said that the Free Trade Agreement between the Republic of Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union will open new cooperation prospects in the Eurasian dimension and lend new impulse to what has been achieved so far. Volodin said that the Serbian people had greatly contributed to the victory against fascism, organized a big anti-fascist movement and the war claimed one in ten Yugoslav citizens, a total of 1.7 million people, more than half of them Serbs. Volodin said that today we have to honor the memory of those who gave us the opportunity to build our lives and plan our future, and to do all we can to protect the memory of the role of the Soviet soldiers who gave their lives for freedom, to rid the world of fascism, adding that the attempts to negate their contribution are unacceptable. Volodin said that Serbia and Russia view the need to keep historical memory the same and thanked Serbia for everything it does to keep the memory of the Soviet soldiers and officers who died in the liberation of Yugoslavia. “We would like to thank the Serbian people for their care of the cemeteries and memorials where our soldiers are buried side by side, which is something that brings us even closer together,” said Volodin adding that we have to support one another today and do everything in our power to keep the memory alive. To that end, Volodin suggested forming an Institute of Historical Memory in view of both the Serbian and Russian people’s enormous sacrifice. Volodin said that it would help bring us to together, now in the humanitarian and educational sphere, and take steps to protect the truth of the memory of those who died and to keep an objective view of that time. He said that, within parliamentary cooperation, launching this initiative is a step toward that goal and Gojkovic supported the initiative.

 

Cucic: Enough room for migrants in reception centers (Beta)

 

Serbian Commissioner for Refugees and Migration Vladimir Cucic told Beta that there was enough room for migrants in reception centers.   He dismissed reports that the number of migrants was beyond Serbia’s capacity to accommodate and shelter them. “Serbia has sufficient means and supplies for all the needs related to migrants,” Cucic told Beta. He recalled that last week several hundreds of migrants reached the border crossing Kelebija on the Serbian-Hungarian border, where they were faced with barricades and Hungarian tactical police units.

According to Cucic, all migrants who have attempted to cross over to the EU territory have been accommodated in reception centers.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik: B&H CC’s decision on Law on Agricultural Land of RS is attack on territorial organization of B&H (RTRS)

 

Member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik said on Tuesday that the latest decision of the B&H Constitutional Court (CC) represents a coup d’etat because it represents an attack on the territorial organization according to which Republika Srpska (RS) is entitled to 49 percent, while the Federation of B&H is entitled to 51 percent of the territory. Thus, Dodik commented on the decision of the B&H CC according to which the Article 53 of the RS Law on Agricultural Land is unconstitutional, arguing that regulation of the state property is under exclusive competences of B&H. According to Dodik, this is the red line and no one should doubt that the RS will fight for its rights guaranteed in the Constitution of B&H.

Dodik said that the Constitution of B&H reads that B&H functions with modified internal structure and within the existing, internationally-recognized borders. “This means that the territory belongs to the entities, while foreign border represents the internationally-recognized border of B&H”. He emphasized that “the state property cannot be the property of B&H, because B&H is not determined as ‘a state’ or ‘a republic’ or in any other way”. Dodik underlined: “The property can exclusively be in the ownership of the RS and the Federation of B&H, while B&H only has the border. There is a sign of equality between the land and the territory, and the territory exclusively belongs to the entities”. Dodik argued that the constitutional basis for the latest decision of the B&H CC is totally unacceptable which is why it is necessary for institutions of the RS to undertake all necessary activities to protect the Dayton structure of B&H and autonomy of the RS. Dodik emphasized that the decision of the B&H CC is political and that a response from the RS will not be missing. Dodik underlined: “This is our red line for the judiciary apparatus of B&H that seems to be doing nothing by trying to impose an unlawful solution and adjudicate to the RS, starting with a coat of arms, anthem, flag, the RS Day to the territory”.

 

Ramic on B&H CC’s decision on Law on Agricultural Land of RS: OHR should impose law (N1)

 

N1 reported that reactions to the decision of the B&H Constitutional Court (CC) according to which agricultural land represents the property of the state and not the property of the entities keep on coming. N1 reported that B&H still did not adopt a law on state property due to disputing coming from Banja Luka, while the Office of the High Representative (OHR) warned that disposal with the state property is possible only with a decision of the B&H Parliament. The reporter also reminded that political structures from RS tried to regulate this issue at the entity level. RS MP Edin Ramic (SDA) commented on this issue for N1 saying that authorities of the RS do not want to adopt this kind of a law in order to be able to continue developing their “theory of the constituent entities and not the theory about the constituent peoples”. Ramic added: “What they really want is to explain that the entities are the states that have their property, their army and everything they need and they joined to make the state of B&H and at one point, they will decide to separate”. Ramic concluded by saying that if the law cannot be adopted in the B&H Parliament due to obstructions from the RS then the OHR should impose the law at the state level. N1 reminded that in 2005, High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko reached a decision, i.e. the law on temporary ban on disposal with state property and according to the law, the ban remains in force until the law – regulating criteria for determination of the property – enters force. The RS parliament adopted the law on the status of the state property in 2010 according to which all property that is on the territory of the RS is in ownership of this entity. However, this was not implemented because HR Inzko issued an order that suspended the application until reaching the final decision of the B&H CC, upon the appeal of late SDA’ Sulejman Tihic. In 2012, the B&H CC reached the crucial decision according to which the state of B&H is the owner of the entire property of the former Yugoslavia until the B&H Parliament has the exclusive competence to arrange this issue. The reporter noted that the RS responded with a set of new laws, adding that bans that the HR imposed are not respected in the RS and in the Federation of B&H. N1 concluded by saying that distribution of the state property is one of the conditions for closure of the OHR and one of the conditions for accession to the EU.

 

Talks on formation of FB&H government fail to bring results; OHR, US Embassy, EUD call for formation of authorities at all levels of power (N1)

 

Several-month-long talks of SDA and HDZ B&H on formation of the Federation of B&H government failed to bring any results. According to N1, SDA calls on HDZ B&H to propose a candidate for a President of the Federation of B&H that will unblock the process of appointment of the new Federation of B&H government, while on the other hand, HDZ B&H conditions formation of the Government with changing of the B&H Election Law and reshuffling of ministries in the Federation of B&H. The Office of the High Representative (OHR) called for formation of authorities of the Federation of B&H without any delay. The OHR told N1 on Tuesday that blockade of the process in order to get the wanted changes to the Election Law not only deepens the existing divisions in the country, but it also aggravates reaching any kind of compromise. The OHR also said that “citizens voted for new authorities 18 months ago and it is time for the elected officials to deliver this to citizens”. The US Embassy to B&H emphasized for N1 on Tuesday that it is the final time to form authorities at all levels of power. The US Embassy called on all parties to leave narrow, party interests aside and focus on exercise of power and the need of citizens. According to N1, the EU Delegation to B&H told N1 that formation of authorities at all levels of power is of crucial importance for the process of the EU integration.

 

Commission for Appointment of SC government rejects all 12 candidates for new convocation of SC government (FTV/Oslobodjenje)

 

Proposed names of ministers for the new convocation of the Sarajevo Canton (SC) government have been rejected by the Commission for Appointment of the SC Government. Out of seven commission members, four voted against. The Commission is headed by Elmedin Konakovic (People and Justice – NiP leader), who told reporters after the Commission’s decision that he plans to resign the post in the Commission. All 12 candidates for ministerial posts were rejected because the Commission votes on the matter in a package deal. Konakovic stated many reasons why some of the ministers are not adequate for the mentioned posts. The biggest number of complaints were stated against candidates proposed by DF. It was stated that Rusmir Mesihovic and Goran Mackic were not adequate candidates. New majority in the SC Assembly said that the names of ministers will be confirmed soon regardless of the Commission’s decision. Speaker of SC Assembly Mirza Celik (SDA) said the Commission members are just stalling the entire process without any concrete reasons. Even though it was scheduled for Tuesday, a session of the SC Assembly Collegium will be held on Wednesday. The majority is expected to agree by then on the next steps that will be made in regard to formation of a new government. Oslobodjenje daily reads that considering the fact that opposition has majority in the Commission, there are speculation that only possible solution will be to schedule the Assembly session, appoint new commissions and then go with appointing of the new government.

 

Colo: HDZ B&H has to stop with obstructions and only international community can make them do that (Oslobodjenje)

 

SDA representative in the B&H House of Representatives Alma Colo commented the DF’s proposal for changes of the Election Law of B&H and amendments to B&H Constitution, noting that this proposal is acceptable to SDA, as it is similar to constitutional amendments form 2006 a.k.a. ‘April Package’. However, she noted that she does not believe that such “radical move” can pass the parliament, considering the stances of SNSD and HDZ B&H. Asked if it is possible for HDZ B&H to harmonize stances, Colo noted that stances have to be harmonized, adding that the Council of Europe constantly monitors B&H and fulfilling of the obligations, because B&H is unable to implement the rulings of European Court of Human Rights and B&H has promised to do that. “These amendments move in direction of harmonization of our Constitution with rulings of the ECHR and this is why they are good. This is why all the parties in parliament should support these amendments,” said Colo. Asked about conditioning for forming of the Federation of B&H authorities, Colo said that there is obvious obstruction by side of HDZ B&H, which is conditioning formation of authorities by changes to Election Law. Colo noted that the HDZ B&H wants to implement this change in order to meet the condition of legitimate representation of the Croat people. She also said that the CoE noted this and the High Representative noted this in his report to the UN Security Council, where he said that HDZ B&H insists on this legitimate representation, which is their understanding of equal representation considering that they are the smallest people, with insufficient election capacity and they want to elect their representative in B&H Presidency. Colo further noted that this issue cannot be solved without the international community, which has to exert pressure over HDZ B&H without whom it is impossible to appoint the Federation of B&H President. She believes that none other than the international community is able to force HDZ B&H to do this, adding that HDZ B&H must not be allowed to obstruct processes.

 

Palmer: We are worried about Russian intentions about Western Balkans (N1)

 

Speaking for the Bulgarian service of Radio Free Europe, US Special Representative for the Western Balkan Matthew Palmer stated that the US is worried about Russian intentions about the Western Balkans. As an example of malicious activities of Russia, Palmer pointed to Russian efforts to undermine the support to the Athens-Skopje Agreement (the Prespa Agreement). He added that Russia prefers the Western Balkans that is fragile and divided, suspicious and has elements of chaos as the region where Russians can increase the level of tensions to exploit the situation and create a rift between the Western Balkans and the international community.

 

Kosarac hosts meeting on Croatia’s intention to build nuclear landfill near border with B&H (Hayat)

 

B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Stasa Kosarac hosted the meeting on Croatia’s intention to build a nuclear landfill in Trgovska Gora near the border with B&H, in Sarajevo on Tuesday. The meeting was attended by Republika Srpska (RS) Minister of Spatial Planning, Civil Engineering and Ecology Srebrenka Golic, Federation of B&H Minister of Environment and Tourism Edita Djapo, representatives of the Green Caucus in the House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H and heads of municipalities located downstream of the Una River basin. Participants concluded that Croatia will not be able to implement its plan and it would be the best if this country would give up on the location of Trgovska Gora, because B&H will never agree to building of a nuclear landfill near its border. Addressing the press conference after the meeting, Kosarac wondered how Croatia would react if B&H authorities would say that they want to build some landfill near Dubrovnik, noting that such moves do not develop good neighborly relations but quite the opposite. Djapo said that the issue of possible construction of the nuclear landfill in Trgovska Gora represents an open issue between B&H and Croatia, but that she hopes it will be resolved in a way to persuade Croatia to give up on Trgovska Gora through diplomatic circles and talks between competent ministries.

According to participants of the meeting, the Croatia’s intention is completely unacceptable, because it could pose a risk to health of 300,000 people in B&H. The B&H Presidency tried to solve this issue through a diplomatic manner, by sending a protest note to Croatia, but the Croatian authorities never responded. Participants of the meeting concluded that, if the diplomatic activities fail to yield results, B&H will legally seek its rights, which are based on the European conventions. Kosarac stated: “Today, we concluded that it is necessary to open a discussion with regard to this matter at the sessions of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) and to propose concrete measures and conclusions. We should primarily pass a decision on forming a legal-expert team that will represent B&H’s interests.” Kosarac announced that he will soon demand that the B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs gets involved in dealing with this issue, and that ambassadors of B&H in the EU countries engage in trying to find a solution. Golic said that she is in favor of solving this in a diplomatic way, because she completely stands in protection of the citizens who are at risk of being affected. Golic considers that no one would want to buy healthy food and honey produced by the local residents living close to the border in question, in case they are located near a nuclear waste disposal site.

 

Government to provide legal aid for survivors of Serb concentration camps (HRT)

 

The Croatian Prime Minister met with representatives of former prisoners of Serb-run concentration camps on Tuesday. The focus of discussion was on an HDLSKL initiative that would see Croatian citizens interned in Serbian concentration camps during the 1991-1995 Homeland War file individual lawsuits against Serbia for reparations. It was agreed that consultations would continue with relevant government departments, notably the ministries of justice and veterans’ affairs, on providing legal and professional aid to former camp prisoners, and that a special commission would be established to that effect. Veteran’s Affairs Minister Tomo Medved: “We concluded that we will form an expert team that will provide support with the goal of making the best possible preparations and creating the preconditions necessary for their reparations.” Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that the government was aware of the importance of problems faced by war veterans and their families and that it would continue to support the work of the HDLSKL. Along with the Veteran’s Affairs Minister, the meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman, Justice Minister Drazen Bosnjakovic and HDLSKL President Danijel Rehak.

 

Tensions within the HDZ continue to rise ahead of intra-party elections (HRT)

 

The HDZ, which is the senior member of the incumbent coalition government, is preparing for intra-party elections on 15 March. If needed a second round will be held on 22 March.

The incumbent HDZ party chairman and current Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, is facing strong opposition from more conservative elements within the HDZ. On Tuesday members of his cabinet tried to downplay the growing tensions within the HDZ. Finance Minister Zdravko Maric: “All of this needs to be toned down a little. We just need to hold democratic elections, as foreseen, and everything will be alright.” “I won’t contribute to raising tensions. What’s more I call on all interested sides to present well argument programs to the party’s membership, and to contribute to the intra-party election campaign in that way,” added Veteran’s Affairs Minister Tomo Medved. One of Plenkovic’s harshest critics is HDZ vice-president Milijan Brkic, who recently claimed that he was opposed to forming a coalition government with the HDZ’s first coalition partner, MOST, as well as with its current partner, the HNS, which is traditionally left of center on the political spectrum. Brkic claims that he had favored reaching a deal with the HSS instead, given that the HSS is a traditionally right of center party. Plenkovic has rejected this assessment, saying that Brkic was openly in favor of partnering with the HNS. Senior MOST official Nikola Grmoja says the HDZ’s talks with the HNS had started even before Plenkovic assumed the party reigns. “They were holding negotiations with the HSS and the HNS. In the end they reached an agreement. But it wasn’t just Plenkovic’s government that was negotiating with the HNS, because negotiations with the HNS were also being conducted by Plenkovićc’s predecessor, during the tenure of Tomislav Karamarko, and not just with the HNS, but with the SDSS as well, meaning minority representatives. I am known as Plenkovic’s harshest critic in parliament, but these kinds of complaints against him don’t pass the smell test, because they were all negotiating with the HNS and SDSS.”

 

Metropolitanate hasn’t launched initiative for assessment of constitutionality of new law (CDM)

 

Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral has stopped those who wanted to launch initiative for the assessment of constitutionality of the Law on Freedom of Religion so that it can do it itself. However, the Metropolitanate hasn’t done that yet but requests that the law should be withdrawn. Meanwhile, they keep saying that the Law in contravention of the Constitution and aimed at “seizing the holy structures”. “In the night between 26 and 27 December, Parliament of Montenegro, adopted the discriminatory and unconstitutional Law on Freedom of Religion, and rejected three amendments proposed by DF members,” Metropolitanate has said. So, why the Metropolitanate hasn’t launched the initiative yet? The adoption procedure has been completed. The Metroplitanate now should launch initiative before the Constitutional Court of Montenegro they love and respect. If they are not satisfied with the Court’s decision, there’s a remedy. There’s an international court that will finally render decision. Meanwhile, while we’re all waiting for the initiative, Metropolitanate says that Montenegro’s president “is threatening that the Law won’t be withdrawn”. However, the Metroplitanate doesn’t want court’s action, but requests withdrawal of the Law. Does that mean it wants to administer its own form of justice? Because, so far, the Metropolitanate has not demonstrated willingness to open dialogue. Unconstitutional fight of the Serbian Orthodox Church is sign of weakness, not power.

 

Erdogan to visit Montenegro soon (CDM)

 

President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, received Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who conveyed the greetings of Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announcing his intention to visit Montenegro soon. President Djukanovic assessed that dynamic dialogue and comprehensive collaboration between Montenegro and Turkey best confirm the quality of the 141-year-old diplomatic relations. He voiced satisfaction with the bilateral ties, a good contractual base based on which close cooperation in all sectors has been established, especially in the area of defense and internal affairs. “Montenegro and Turkey have strong ties in the field of culture, health and education, which is confirmed by the data on 300 students from Montenegro studying in Turkey, and excellent cooperation between the Clinical Center of Montenegro and Turkish health departments,” Djukanovic added. He also pointed out to the significance of investment from Turkish companies in the area of infrastructure and tourism. Djukanovic thanked the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister for TIKA’s development assistance, being a very important aid for Montenegro’s diverse development. “Montenegro is ready to fully commit to further improvement of interstate cooperation in the context of NATO partnership as well, and a long history of mutual relations.” Both sides emphasized the importance of mutual cooperation and trust in the Balkans, and the improvement of relations between the Balkan countries and Turkey.

 

Macedonian parliament ratifies the NATO accession protocol (Republika)

 

The Macedonian parliament voted with 114 votes in favor to ratify the NATO accession protocol. Members of parliament and high-level guests were gathered for the ratification, that was approved by all political parties. Macedonia went ahead and ratified the protocol without waiting on Spain, which is the last NATO member state that still hasn’t done so. NATO representatives, members of the diplomatic corps and opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski are in attendance as the protocol is about to be put to the floor. The ratification interrupted the tense debate over the proposed PPO law on state prosecutors, which the (former PM Zoran) Zaev regime hopes will solidify its control over the judiciary. Both were expected to be adopted before the parliament dissolves to make way for the early elections. It is expected it will dissolve tomorrow, although Zaev’s insistence that the PPO law is adopted by this parliament may lead to attempts to postpone the dissolution. Under the NATO ratification ceremony, the Alliance flag was being raised in front of the parliament. Customarily, the candidate country waits until all the member states ratify the protocol before doing so herself, but due to the political crisis in Spain and the delays there, Macedonian politicians decided not to postpone the NATO accession on their part and go ahead with the vote. Macedonia was blocked from joining NATO by Greece, which vetoed Macedonia’s accession at the 2008 Bucharest summit. The blockade lasted until the imposed Prespa treaty, which aims to rename Macedonia into “North Macedonia”. Even after today’s ratification, Macedonia is not yet a NATO member state – this will have to wait until Spain completes the ratification process.

 

Zidan: Macedonia has done more than any other EU candidate (Republika)

 

Macedonia has proved to be a democratic country, meeting required reforms and making enormous progress in the field of interethnic relations. The country is on the Euro-Atlantic path and has done more than any other candidate country, said Slovenian parliament speaker Dejan Zidan in an address before MPs in Skopje on Tuesday. “I sincerely wished we could celebrate another important step together, which is the beginning of Macedonia’s accession negotiations with the EU. I personally shared the disappointment of your top officials and the citizens of your country with the October vote of the European Council. A historic mistake, as the EC president called it, though it was short-lived, nevertheless meant hope for Macedonia’s progress,” said Zidan. The Slovenian parliament speaker emphasized that he expected EU leaders to fulfill their previous promises with all seriousness, and said he hoped for a constructive debate on the enlargement methodology based on the EC proposal released a few days ago. He announced that the Western Balkans and its European perspective would be a key priority during Slovenia’s EU Presidency in the second half of 2021. He also reminded that his country was the first country after Greece to ratify the NATO Accession Protocol, which, he said, is evidence of support and best wishes for the future of the country.

 

Di Meio: Regardless of methodology, EU talks shouldn’t be delayed (Republika)

 

Regardless of what methodology will be used to negotiate, the start of EU talks shouldn’t be delayed because it comes down to a question of political will, according to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Meio. Italy’s leading diplomat, who is in an official visit to Macedonia, held a press conference together with Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov. In response to a reporter’s question, Minister Di Meio said that assuring the rapid pace with which the EU will come up with the new methodology “is a highly ambitious matter.” “Guaranteeing the speed with which the EU will move forward,” Di Meio said, “is a highly ambitious matter. We are 27 states, all of which should decide on their own” he continued, “although our shared goal is to do it as soon as possible. This applies both to the new methodology and the start of negotiations. Whether the methodology is old or not, the key point is that the start of EU negotiations shouldn’t be delayed because what it comes down to is only a question of political will, Di Meio said, adding that if the EU’s founding countries stand together behind the decision, it will open a new chapter for Macedonia’s citizens. Minister Dimitrov agreed that it might indeed be too bold to give any predictions, bearing in mind the country’s experiences in June 2018, July 2019, and October 2019. “Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes. We have all the elements to succeed together, and it seems the methodology will enable positive signals to move the entire process further along. Coming up are the Commission’s reports on the Macedonian and the Albanian dossier and I think it would be a colossal strategic mistake if we didn’t seize this chance, we in the region and the EU itself,” Dimitrov said. Dimitrov also noted that 11 February is a landmark date for the country, considering that parliament is to ratify Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol. He highlighted that the country, despite last October’s lack of decision, remained stimulated and worked even harder on—and with a greater commitment to—the ongoing reforms. Dimitrov also thanked Rome for its unflagging support in achieving the strategic goals of joining NATO and the EU. The two ministers agreed that opening the negotiations will bring multiple benefits for the country, the region, and the EU.

 

Mini-Schengen provokes first ‘dispute’ of Albania and Kosovo PMs (ADN)

 

The Balkan Schengen initiative appears to have triggered the first ‘dispute’ between Prime Minister of Alania Edi Rama and his Kosovo counterpart, Albin Kurti. At a joint press conference, Prime Ministers Rama and Kurti responded to media interest regarding the Mini-Schengen. But while Albin Kurti spoke about the Albanian macro-Schengen, Prime Minister Rama stressed that there is no Albanian macro-Schengen without the Balkan mini-Schengen.

“This is the first meeting, there are many topics that we will discuss in the future and this was a topic we dealt with, but briefly. The meeting today was mostly for the Albanian macro-Schengen, then for the Balkan mini-Schengen,” said Kurti. Meanwhile, Rama stated that the Albanian macro Schengen is closely tied to the regional one. “It is true that at this point, we have a discussion to move forward. I think there is no Albanian macro Schengen without the Balkan mini-Schengen. I believe that the Albanian macro-Schengen is closely linked to the regional one,” Rama said.

 

Kosovo may be positive example of good governance in region (ADN)

 

President of the Republic Ilir Meta met with Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti, emphasizing to him that Kosovo has the opportunity to be a positive example of good governance in region. Initially, the President congratulated Kurti for his new duty, while he wished him much success for the good of Kosovo, its people and the European future. Moreover, Meta also stated that Albania supports Kosovo-Serbia dialogue to normalize the relations between the two countries. “Cooperation between Albania and Kosovo is considered strategic, stabilizing for the region and orienting for the Euro-Atlantic perspective. We must concretize the Strategic Partnership with Kosovo, making it a model and encouragement for regional cooperation. US and EU efforts to resume dialogue between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia are also welcomed. It is important that all Kosovo’s political forces are united around a comprehensive platform in the process,” said Meta. In the end, Meta encouraged close cooperation with strategic partners: the US, Germany, United Kingdom and other partners, which have played a crucial role in Kosovo’s independence.

 

Ruci: Kurti’s government to successfully overcome challenges (ADN)

 

Speaker of the Albanian government Gramoz Ruci expressed his optimism that the new government of Kosovo will successfully overcome the difficult challenges. This optimism was shown as Ruci received in a meeting this Tuesday the new Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, where the Speaker of the Parliament stated Albanian Parliament will be as always in support of cooperation between two countries and will further encourage the intergovernmental cooperation. “Under your leadership, the Government of the Republic of Kosovo will successfully meet the difficult challenges of developing, integrating and strengthening Kosovo’s role and contribution as a factor of peace, security and stability in the region. Your sacrifices as a consistent politician are a guarantee of accomplishing this mission and implementing an ambitious government program. The Albanian Parliament will, as always, support co-operation between the two countries and will further promote intergovernmental cooperation,” said Ruci.

 

Opposition leader guarantees support to Kosovo’s PM (ADN)

 

Chairman of Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha has ensured new Prime Minister of Kosovo that his party will provide any kind of help and will make any decision in support of Kosovo.

After meeting with Kosovo PM Albin Kurti, Basha notified that they had discussed about all the important political and regional developments, also how to stop the departure of many youngsters from both countries. Furthermore, Basha stated that Kosovo may continue to rely on DP, today as a united and powerful opposition and tomorrow, in leadership of Albania.

“I assured Prime Minister Kurti that the government of Kosovo, the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo and our brothers and sisters – the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo – can continue to rely on Democratic Party of Albania, today as strong and united opposition, and tomorrow in direction of the country, to provide any help and make any decision in support of Kosovo,” said DP’s Chairman.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Serbian leader lauds upcoming WWII victory celebrations (TASS, 12 February 2020)

 

BELGRADE, Various celebratory events organized by Russia and Serbia in honor of the 75th anniversary of victory in the Second World War reflect the traditions of freedom prevalent in both states, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday during the meeting with Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko. The Serbian leader’s press service informed that Vucic and the Russian envoy had discussed the celebratory events timed to the 75th anniversary of victory in the Second World War. “This will be another opportunity to highlight the traditions of freedom of two brotherly nations,” Vucic said. The Serbian leader and the Russian diplomat have also discussed the schedule of high-level visits. Earlier on Wednesday, the Serbian Ministry of Defense informed that Russian defense chief Sergei Shoigu plans to visit Belgrade on February 17. Earlier, Vucic confirmed his attendance of the celebratory events in Moscow on May 9, 2020, deeming the invitation “a great honor.” The celebratory events timed to the 75th anniversary of victory in the Second World War will take place on May 9, 2020 in Moscow. Russia has sent invitations to US President Donald Trump, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as a number of European leaders. Leaders of India, Cuba, France, the Czech Republic, Venezuela, Belarus, Armenia, Bulgaria, and Serbia are among those who confirmed their attendance.

 

Balkan spies ‘feed’ EU’s police database via Czechs (EUobserver, by Nikolaj Nielsen, 12 February 2020)

 

Secret services in at least one non-EU Western Balkan state are indirectly feeding the EU’s police database with alerts on suspected foreign terrorist fighters, according to a confidential document seen by this website. Drafted by the counter-terrorism section of the Czech Republic National Organised Crime Agency, the nine-page document says over 250 alerts have been flagged by the Western Balkans since last summer. The alerts are entered by the Czech Republic into the so-called Schengen Information System (SIS) as part of a pilot project – which follows revelations of widespread abuse of the same database by the UK. The document does not reveal which Western Balkan state issues the alerts. It also does not reveal the criteria on which those alerts are based or if the Czech Republic has turned any down. But Cornelia Ernst, a German MEP from the European United Left–Nordic Green Left, says such alerts could pose problems because they may end up targeting the innocent. “We do not know how the assessment on which such an alert is based has come about. On what criteria was it based? Was it facts, or rumours, or guesswork?,” she said, in any emailed statement. “The biggest question is about the reliability of this information, can we trust it enough to use it in SIS?,” she, noting such alerts are illegal if unjustified. According to the document, the alerts are triggered under article 36/3, also known as a “discreet check”. A discreet check means information about the suspect is gathered covertly, including anyone associated with them. Should someone get caught up with a discreet alert hit at a border, they’ll be strip searched. For its part, the Czech agency praises the Western Balkan secret service input and says it wants to continue sharing “post-hits” of foreign terrorist fighter suspects “in a systematic way.”

 

Accession zone

The entire region is of strategic importance for the EU’s counter-terrorism efforts – and comes amid a renewed push to open enlargement talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Earlier this month, the European Commission said the prospect of full EU membership for the Western Balkans “is in the Union’s very own political, security and economic interests.”

In total, the whole of the EU last year registered three terrorist attacks, five attempts, and 17 plots, according to the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, an European think tank. Of those, “two retournees”, or so-called foreign terrorist fighters, had been involved. Almost all took place in France, with the remainder in the Western Balkans.

 

‘Battlefield information’

But the EU’s security interest in the Western Balkans is not limited to the Schengen Information System. Another confidential document dated from earlier this month and also seen by EUobserver provides a detailed overview of those interests and efforts. Drafted by the previous EU presidency under Finland, the 90-page report describes how internal and external security is becoming increasingly intertwined. It said efforts have been stepped up since last July to get “trusted third countries” to not only feed SIS with alerts on foreign fighters but also “battlefield information.” Those efforts were discussed among military officers, legal experts, and border police from the United States and EU states along with Interpol and EU agencies. Their plan was to find out how “to better collect, share and use battlefield information” and make it available to EU databases so that it can be made accessible at the borders. Separately, the document also noted an agreement had been sorted in the margins of a ministerial conference on security and migration held in Vienna in September 2018. That agreement, described as a memorandum of understanding with Western Balkans, allows for the “automated exchange of DNA, dactyloscopic [finger print] and vehicle registration data”. The following month, a joint action plan on counterterrorism for the Western Balkans was also signed with the EU. The EU’s police agency Europol then agreed to dispatch agents to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Albania received its first Europol agent in June last year with Serbia expected to receive an agent sometime soon.

 

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