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Belgrade Media Report 13 February 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 13 February 2020
LOCAL PRESS

• Dacic: Montenegrin President overplays his hand by attacking Serb identity (TV Happy/FoNet)
• Botsan-Kharchenko: Resolution 1244 is the foundation for regulating the Kosovo problem (Sputnik/RTV/NSPM)
• Gojkovic meets with Russian Federation Council Chairperson Matviyenko (Tanjug)
• Djuric and Falconi discuss political-security situation in Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/RTV)
• Custin: Grenell made it clear Pristina’s taxes send bad message (Tanjug)
• Carpenter: No progress on Kosovo before elections in Serbia; solution can’t be complete unless Serbia recognizes Kosovo as independent (VoA/N1/NSPM)
• Djilas criticizes Fabirzi in circular letter (Beta)
• Jeremic: Vucic trying to take control over Montenegro protests (Beta/Direktno)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• RS’ representatives in B&H institutions suspend decision-making on any issue under competence of B&H until adoption of new law on B&H CC in which there will be no foreign judges (Hayat)
• Dodik: Return to Dayton positions or there will be no B&H come spring of next year (Vecernji list)
• Representatives of parliamentary parties in RS deem that aggression of B&H CC has to be stopped (RTRS)
• Dzaferovic: Current crisis is developing because international community did not do its job; Komsic: Lower levels of authority cannot question B&H institutions (Hayat)
• US Embassy in B&H calls for compliance with B&H CC’s decisions; OHR says all moves that would lead to paralysis of institutions would represent step in wrong direction (FTV)
• Inzko: Issue of local elections in Mostar should be solved outside political package (FTV)
Montenegro
• Boskovic: Vulin’s behavior is tragicomic (CDM)
• Montenegrin citizens won’t be allowed to enter Schengen without travel permission (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• New audio leak proves that Zoran Zaev is behind the Racket scandal (Republika/1TV)
• Xhaferi won’t allow a vote to dissolve the parliament just yet (Republika)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• A Plan to Unseat Serbia’s Leader Crumbles as Elections Near (Bloomberg News)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Dacic: Montenegrin President overplays his hand by attacking Serb identity (TV Happy/FoNet)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic had overplayed his hand with the Law on Religious Freedom, adding that it happens when you attack someone’s identity. He added that the protests against the law would be even stronger if the attacks intensified. “Djukanovic hasn’t understood the power of the answer to the attack on something that is not only politics but is also someone’s identity, something that is in your genetic code, what is sacred to you,” Dacic told Happy TV. He recalled that Montenegro was facing elections and charged that the authorities launched a campaign for the country’s independence and that they were bothered with everything Serbian. Regarding Kosovo, Dacic said the most significant concession Serbia could offer was a compromise but did not explain what kind of settlement he was talking about. He added that yet another country was ready to revoke the decision on recognizing Kosovo as a sovereign state, but did not say what was the country, because they immediately go there, adding that we’re working on that.

 

Botsan-Kharchenko: Resolution 1244 is the foundation for regulating the Kosovo problem (Sputnik/RTV/NSPM)

 

Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko told Sputnik portal on Wednesday that there is nothing new in Western efforts to find a compromise in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. According to him, he has heard more things that do no encourage and do not give impetus for establishing dialogue. He underlines that Russia’s stand on Kosovo has not changed and that within the existing efforts and discussion he doesn’t see Resolution 1244, while it must be, because it is the “foundation for regulating the Kosovo problem and solution”. He reiterated Moscow’s readiness to help resolve the Kosovo issue if Belgrade asks for its assistance. “In any case, Russia is not staying out of the situation. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and there can be no solution without the Security Council. Nobody can here state something else, except for some journalists from Albanian newspapers who think this is possible without the Security Council. The international-legal logic is quite simple – if there is one resolution, it is possible to pass another only based on the next solution. Until there is no other resolution, there is Resolution 1244 as our joint guidance,” says Botsan-Kharchenko.

 

Gojkovic meets with Russian Federation Council Chairperson Matviyenko (Tanjug)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic, heading the Serbian parliamentary delegation to the Fifth Session of the Joint Cooperation Commission of the Serbian parliament and the Russian State Duma in Moscow on 12 February, met with the Chairperson of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko. Gojkovic stressed that the cooperation with the Federation Council and the State Duma is testament to the excellent interparliamentary relations between Serbia and Russia. Gojkovic thanked the Russian Federation for its continued principled support concerning the non-recognition of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and Metohija and for respecting Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and the principles of international law. Gojkovic said that Serbia deeply appreciates Russia’s sincere friendship and support in international forums and thanked Russia for never voting against Serbia’s interests. Gojkovic added that Serbia too, which pursues its own independent policies, will never vote against Russia’s interests and has never and will never impose sanctions against the Russian Federation. Matviyenko said that the relations between Russia and Serbia are at the level of sincere strategic partnership mentioning that last year Serbia was visited by Russia’s highest leadership which is a clear sign of Russia’s wish to expand its cooperation with the brotherly Serbian people. Matviyenko added that the two President, Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vucic, met recently when TurkStream was launched and that Serbia has met all of its obligations under the project which will secure a safe supply of gas to Serbia. Matviyenko said that she expected the Serbian President to attend the parade in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, when the two presidents would continue their dialogue. Gojkovic said that at the session of the Joint Parliamentary Commission an initiative was launched to form an Institute of Historical Memory to jointly combat the revisionism of history and the role of Soviet and Serbian soldiers in the fight and victory in World War Two, adding that she would ask the support of Presidents Vucic and Putin for the parliamentary initiative. Gojkovic and Matviyenko agreed that the parliaments are ready to intensify and strengthen cooperation of the delegations in international parliamentary organizations such as IPU, PACE, CSTO PA and OSCE PA.

 

Djuric and Falconi discuss political-security situation in Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/RTV)

 

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric has talked with the French Ambassador to Serbia Jean Louis Falconi about the political-security situation in the southern Serbian province and the problems faced by the Serbs on the ground on a daily basis. Djuric pointed out that Belgrade is ready to resume the dialogue with Pristina as soon as conditions are acquired for this and that the international community can give a valuable contribution for the normalization process to be launched from a blind spot.

 

Custin: Grenell made it clear Pristina’s taxes send bad message (Tanjug)

 

US Special Envoy Richard Grenell has made it clear Pristina’s taxes are detrimental to the Kosovo economy and sending a bad message that Kosovo is not a place to invest and develop a business in, Grenell’s spokesman Dick Custin told Tanjug Wednesday. He was responding to a request to confirm or deny Tuesday’s RTK report that said US investments in Kosovo would be halted until the tariffs were lifted. Grenell has made it clear to political leaders in Belgrade and Pristina that US investments in Kosovo cannot have the desired effect on the local economy if the taxes remain in place, Custin said. He added that Grenell had also said replacing the taxes with new barriers – referred to as reciprocal – would also be counterproductive for job creation and employment of young people.

 

Carpenter: No progress on Kosovo before elections in Serbia; solution can’t be complete unless Serbia recognizes Kosovo as independent (VoA/N1/NSPM)

 

Former senior Pentagon official Michael Carpenter told the Voice of America on Wednesday that any progress in relations between Belgrade and Pristina will be hard to achieve before the April elections in Serbia but urged the forming of a stabilization fund for both sides. “Do I think it’s possible, certainly it is. I think a lot more effort and resources have to be invested but I will say this in defense of Ambassador Grenell – I think he achieved a lot in talks to renew direct flights,” the Senior Director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement said. Carpenter served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and advisor to then Vice-President Joe Biden. He said a decision from the Kosovo government to revoke the 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia would be a very positive signal. “If he (Grenell) manages to achieve that, I think he will at least be able to achieve greater progress in the near future. I think he has to resolve some of the reasons for the dispute and animosity between the two sides, including the tariffs, before he can really get to work on an agreement. That is the road that Grenell is on now,” he said. According to Carpenter, the hard part will be putting something on the table that is acceptable to most Serbs and most Albanians. He said that was never realistic without significant funds and investments, especially a stabilization fund. Carpenter recalled that he has been urging the European Union and US to put the stabilization fund option on the table and show the two sides that they will see reconstruction, jobs, economic growth and infrastructure once an agreement is reached. Carpenter warned that a solution to the conflict can’t be complete unless Serbia recognizes Kosovo as independent. He said that the US has an interest in the stability and security of the Balkans because it allows the countries of the region to join EuroAtlantic institutions.

 

Djilas criticizes Fabirzi in circular letter (Beta)

 

The leader of the Freedom and Justice Party Dragan Djilas stated that the claim of the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi, that the EU is not turning a blind eye to events in Serbia, was as true as the statement that the European integration of Serbia is real. “It is so real that, according to the report by the expert services of the European Enlargement Commission, Serbia, graded 2.38, is behind Albania and North Macedonia (with the grade 3.13), Montenegro (2.88) and Kosovo (3.00) (Djilas marked Kosovo with an “asterisk”), Djilas wrote in his circular letter to Sem Fabrizi. He stated that only Bosnia and Herzegovina, graded 2.0, was behind Serbia. “Based on the results of that index, which rates a country’s success in carrying out the reforms in the EU integration process, Macedonia was given 50 million Euros as a reward, Albania 28 million, while Serbia was given zero euros, in keeping with the grade given to Vucic’s regime for their work,” Djilas stated. He assessed that “it is clear from this that, in this

way, Serbia’s European prospects have not just slowed down, but have also been brought into

question.” He pointed out, however, that “it is not the entire EU that is turning a blind eye to the situation in Serbia” and that the fact that several members of the European Parliament had shown interest in the “dictatorship” in Serbia, corroborated that.

 

Jeremic: Vucic trying to take control over Montenegro protests (Beta/Direktno)

 

People’s Party leader Vuk Jeremic said that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic “has lost his compass” when it comes to the current events in his country, while Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is trying to “take control over the process” by winning over Metropolitan Amfilohije, who is at the head of the people’s protests in Montenegro. “Vucic is currently courting Amfilohije by sending him messages of support and saying that [Amfilohije] can count on his support, while at the same time, [Vucic] is working against him through his Western channels, presenting Amfilohije as an agent of Russian interests. To make the matters more bizarre and horrifying, [Vucic] is doing the same thing to [Amfilohije] in Moscow,” said Jeremic in an interview for the Direktno web portal. According to Jeremic, Vucic and his people in Moscow speak of Amfilohije as someone who is fanatically loyal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and who is doing everything in his power to suppress Russian interests in the Balkans. “To summarize, Vucic and Serbian diplomacy, as we speak, are in both the West and East not only not indifferent, they are aggressively besmirching Amfilohije,” said Jeremic, adding that Djukanovic and Vucic “have entered the whole law on the freedom of religion in Montenegro thing,” hand in hand, and will not part until the very end.” “Their criminal interests are too tightly knit together to be separated. And when Vucic tells someone ‘in confidence’ that, ‘Milo Djukanovic is my adversary, my enemy, I’ll do this and that against him’ – he isn’t telling the truth. Together they are too deeply involved in organized crime to be able to survive one without the other,” concluded Jeremic.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

RS’ representatives in B&H institutions suspend decision-making on any issue under competence of B&H until adoption of new law on B&H CC in which there will be no foreign judges (Hayat)

 

Republika Srpska (RS) officials and members of all parties of the RS represented in the RS parliament and the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) parliament convened at a meeting organized by RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic in Banja Luka on Wednesday. They discussed the recent decision of the B&H Constitutional Court (B&H CC) which ruled that one Article in the RS Law on Agricultural Land is not in accordance with the Constitution. Cvijanovic announced that all RS officials who gathered there unanimously agreed to suspend their participation in decision-making processes in B&H institutions until a new Law on the B&H CC is adopted. The B&H CC ruled that the Article of the RS Law on Agricultural Land, which defines that all state-owned land is becoming the property of the RS by law, violated the Constitution because only B&H level is competent to make decisions on state owned land. Cvijanovic announced that the RS will not respect this decision. The meeting in the Palace of the RS was attended by members of the ruling majority, members of the opposition and President of the RS Constitutional Court Dzerard Selman. Cvijanovic assessed the decisions of the B&H CC in the past years as harmful to the RS and its interests. She explained that all participants of the meeting agreed on their future steps and made two conclusions. One conclusion is that the RS representatives in B&H institutions will suspend their participation in the decision-making process until the new Law on the B&H CC is adopted where the B&H CC without foreign judges is defined and the second one is that an urgent session of the RS parliament is necessary to discuss the decision made by the B&H CC. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that the B&H CC is an occupational court and confirmed that he will not make any decisions on B&H level until a new law is adopted. Dodik announced that he will propose it to the RS parliament to abolish at its urgent session scheduled for Monday earlier given consents to transfer competences from the RS to B&H concerning B&H Armed Forces (AF), indirect taxation and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of B&H. Dodik stated that it is even possible to adopt a decision to form the RS Army, because Constitutions of B&H and the RS allow it. He went on saying that such scenario is not dangerous. “We believe that (foreign) judges in the CC of B&H should withdraw. If they do not get out, the RS parliament – that appointed them – will reach a decision on Monday about their withdrawal from the B&H CC. Simply, either we will agree or there will be nothing from this country”.

 

Dodik: Return to Dayton positions or there will be no B&H come spring of next year (Vecernji list)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik said that the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H adopts anti-Dayton decisions and decisions against RS and the Serb People. According to Dodik, ‘we’ have decided to suspend participation in all decision-making processes in the joint institutions until a new Law on Constitutional Court of B&H is adopted and in which there will be no foreigners. “The RS parliament will adopt this conclusion on Monday and it is important we have reached a consensus about it,” added Dodik. Asked what one such decision will bring, Dodik replied by saying that “whatever they do, now they must know they have turned on the starting position for independence of the RS. We will not give in, this is the red line and it has been crossed. What the OHR has been doing until now by violating the Constitution, the Constitutional Court of B&H is doing now. And they say that the occupation-like, decadent Constitutional Court has to be respected. Of course, it will not be respected and their decisions will not be implemented here. We will implement decision we have taken. And we do not expect the international community (IC) to interfere (…) they are turned into deity, and I heard several months ago in Sarajevo that they pay judges of the Constitutional Court, give them money. I do not have evidence for that, but there is a general story about it in Sarajevo”. Dodik said he, as member of the Presidency, will start to implement the conclusion (on suspension of participation in decision-making process at state level) as of today, which means there will not be a single decision at the Presidency. Asked to comment on relations with other two members of the Presidency of B&H, Dodik said the relations are zero, stressing that Zeljko Komsic should represent the Croat people, whilst he represents the Bosniaks. “Or (Sefik) Dzaferovic, who first has to call his bosses before making any decisions. How can you decide about anything in that sort of situation,” noted Dodik. Asked to comment on relations with SDA and HDZ B&H, Dodik says ‘we’ have long-term relation with HDZ B&H, which is not targeted against the third people (Bosniaks). Dodik went on to say that B&H must return to Dayton positions, that Croats must be reinstated full and essential position of a constituent people and that Serbs must be given security that they will not be victims of deceptions and transfer of competences. “If you want, and if you don’t, I think there will be no B&H come spring of next year. We will support the position of Croats if they define it in terms of request for the third entity in B&H,” said Dodik. He further noted that the EU is not accepting the reality and that the EU itself has collapsed. Asked to comment on his recent statement that he will ‘destroy’ everything that B&H has done in terms of the NATO integration, Dodik said: “Yes, I will destroy everything that comes to me. We do not want to join NATO because of our experiences from the past. As long as I am here, there will not be a single decision in B&H that would contribute to B&H integration into NATO”. Asked to comment on his position regarding B&H’s EU path, Dodik said he supports the EU road, adding that “there is no enthusiasm about it anymore”. “Nobody knows what will happen now the Great Britain has left it, when the Union loses a lot of money. There is serious crisis in Germany because of the departure of Angela Merkel and Germany is stagnating economically. We do not know what will happen to the Union. Macron is right when he says, ‘Let’s first fix the situation in the current EU’. It does not depend on us a lot,” said Dodik. Asked to comment on today’s (Thursday) meeting SNSD will have with HDZ B&H, Dodik says they will address several issues, adding that he believes HDZ B&H has many reasons to be dissatisfied, especially with the situation in the Federation of B&H. “It is a consequence of the Bosniak policy that crates B&H only for themselves and to their liking. They ignore needs and wishes of other,” said Dodik. Asked how the problem of the migrant crisis should be solved, Dodik said: “I think all the migrants should be deported from B&H. I understand wishes of those people, but this is not a humanitarian issue for a long time. If it is a humanitarian issue, Europe should open its borders because they created this problem. We will not be the victims of their humanity”.

 

Representatives of parliamentary parties in RS deem that aggression of B&H CC has to be stopped (RTRS)

 

All parliamentary parties from RS have a joint stance that the aggression of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H has to be stopped. Many of them deem that the court where foreign judges have been helping Bosniak judges to outvote constituents peoples has become a key political instrument of the aggression against the Constitution. Leader of SP RS Petar Djokic underlined that the latest decision of the B&H CC assessing part of the RS Law on Agricultural Land unconstitutional is scandalous and it jeopardizes the constitutional position of the RS within B&H. Deputy President of SDS Rado Savic said that it seems the B&H CC is a political instrument of those political parties that want to weaken and destroy the RS. “That is why we will launch a procedure to adopt a new Law on B&H CC,” explained Savic. Savic stressed that the B&H CC’s decision will be rejected and will not be enforced. “It practically, in a way, is unenforceable given that other necessary mechanisms to carry out that registration to B&H do not exist” Savic said. “SDS will support blockade of work in a decision-making process in the institutions of B&H. The decision of the CC of B&H deeply undermines interests of the RS and we all believe that we must react so that the property is not listed at (the name of) of B&H”.

Commenting the decision that the RS representatives will not participate in decision-making process in B&H institutions, delegate in B&H House of Peoples (HoP) Dusanka Majkic (SNSD) stated that this was only possible way to regulate the work of the B&H CC. Acting President of DNS Nenad Nesic briefly said: “If the Federation of B&H is not implementing decisions of B&H CC, then why should the RS do it”. Nesic added that he, as an MP, will never vote for any solution that would mean the implementation of the ruling of B&H CC and he concluded: “If they want, they can arrest us all for that, but they cannot arrest the entire RS”. Head of the Serb Caucus in the House of Representatives (HoR) of the parliament of B&H Nenad Stevandic said that if Serbs remain united, not a single commission or the house of parliament at the level of B&H will be able to adopt the agenda. Nesic said that they can block everything. “If some of the opposition parties in the RS fails to stick to the agreement, we have enough votes in the House of Peoples,” said Nesic.

 

Dzaferovic: Current crisis is developing because international community did not do its job; Komsic: Lower levels of authority cannot question B&H institutions (Hayat)

 

Following the announcement of RS officials that they will suspend participation in decision making in all B&H institutions due to the decision of the B&H Constitutional Court (B&H CC), which ruled that part of the Law on Agricultural Land is unconstitutional, B&H officials reacted.

Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic said that the current crisis is developing because the international community did not do its job. He stated that the blockade of B&H institutions is a criminal offense and the B&H Prosecutor’s Office and the OHR need to do something about this. Dzaferovic stated that the only solution is the continuous implementation of the DPA. “This also means foreign judges in the B&H CC, the state of B&H and its institutions, entities and a multiethnic state where all three peoples with constituent status, as well all other peoples, are equal. It also means entities where all people are equal,” stated Dzaferovic. He added that there is no possibility for institutions to remove judges and any decision made by the RS parliament would be irrelevant. Dzaferovic stated that such behavior will not be accepted. Dzaferovic deems that the goal of those in the RS was to create some territorial framework of the RS through adoption of set of laws concerning the property issue in this entity in order to create new step towards secession of the RS. “The B&H CC is passing decisions everyone in B&H is obliged to respect and implement,” explained Dzaferovic, adding that refusal to implement these decisions or attempts to obstruct their implementation represent a criminal offense. Dzaferovic views the decision of representatives of the RS as an attack on the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). “If the DPA collapses, peace and stability will inevitably collapse. Everything that was created in Dayton will collapse as well,” Dzaferovic stressed.

Chairman of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic said that lower levels of authority cannot question B&H institutions. He stressed that announcements of disrespect of decisions are acts of rebellion. “The more the institutions are questioned, the more we will defend them. Any anti-constitutional act is unacceptable and no amount of yelling will change the decisions of B&H institutions, including the B&H CC,” said Komsic.  He said that any kind of action outside the Constitution is unacceptable. Spokesperson for SNSD Radovan Kovacevic wondered whether Komsic refers to member of B&H Presidency from rank of Serb people, Chair of B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) and speakers of both Houses of the Parliament of B&H. He also reminded that the RS President organized the meeting in Banja Luka where it was decided that the RS representatives in B&H institutions will not participate in decision-making process in these institutions. Kovacevic emphasized that the RS Constitution – that successfully passed checks of Venice Commission – clearly defines that the RS President expresses interests and unity of the RS.  DF representatives said that they believe this is a desperate move of Serb member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik “who cannot accept the fact that decisions of the B&H CC have to be respected.” SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic categorically said that foreign judges have to remain part of the B&H CC because, according to him, they are a mechanism of protection of the constitutional order. “Last year, Milorad Dodik, with his behavior, took an entire year of mandate away from us just to, after all, accept that the Constitution and the rule of law will be respected in this country. And that is the only good thing that came out of the crisis he produced last year. A reaction of the international community should come out of this crisis because this is practically a silent coup,” Izetbegovic underlined. SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic deemed the moves from the RS as continuity of blackmail policy. “This is continuity of an effort to collapse the institutions of B&H and carry out blatant disrespect of court decisions. That will cause most harm to those who are doing that, while stability of B&H is unquestionable,” Radoncic underlined. SDP B&H representatives reminded that blockades are on the scene, adding that this time around, the B&H Parliament is not the only one that is blocked, but the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) is blocked as well, where SNSD, besides the post of the B&H CoM Chairman, has three ministerial posts. SDP B&H Vice-President Vojin Mijatovic ironically said that love between SNSD, SDA and HDZ B&H lasted long. “This is not the first time and they did this several times before. It was important to distribute election booty and take over positions,” Mijatovic stated.

 

US Embassy in B&H calls for compliance with B&H CC’s decisions; OHR says all moves that would lead to paralysis of institutions would represent step in wrong direction (FTV)

 

FTV carried reactions of the international institutions in B&H to the announcement of RS representatives in the B&H institutions that they will suspend their participation in decision-making on any issue that falls under the jurisdiction of the B&H institutions until a new Law on the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H is adopted. The US Embassy in B&H called for compliance with the decisions of the B&H CC. The US Embassy in B&H also called on elected and appointed officials in B&H to carry out their duties. “Compliance with the constitutional order and constitutional obligations is not a discretion but an obligation in any country in Europe. The Constitutional Court of B&H is ultimate authority which determines what the B&H Constitution prescribes and does not prescribe,” the US Embassy stated in a press release.

US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson stated that he did not hear the details of the discussion, but the constitutional court is the one that determines what the Constitution does and does not say. Nelson added that the B&H CC is the one that interprets what the Constitution says. “I call all sides to respect the decisions made by the B&H CC and to fulfill their constitutional obligations,” said Nelson. He stressed that any changes to the Constitution need to be changed through consensus and constructive and not obstructive approach. The OHR reminded that the B&H CC is the foundation on which the constitutional framework of B&H is standing. The OHR stressed that all moves that would lead to paralysis of institutions would represent a step in the wrong direction. The OHR also stated that they expect all political parties to respect B&H institutions and to ensure they are able to make decisions which lead the country to the EU. The OHR reminds. “The entities are obligated to respect the decisions of B&H institutions, including decisions of the B&H CC, since they are final and obligatory. The presence of foreign judges in the B&H CC is defined by the B&H Constitution. Attacks on the B&H CC or any of its member represents unacceptable meddling in the work of the B&H judiciary,” stated the OHR. High Representative Valentin Inzko stated that B&H CC is cornerstone of the constitutional order of B&H.

 

Inzko: Issue of local elections in Mostar should be solved outside political package (FTV)

 

High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko stated in Mostar on Wednesday that the issue of elections in Mostar should be separated from other reasons for amending the election law of B&H. He reminded that this is a stance of the international community, stressing that citizens of Mostar have not voted in the elections for more than a decade and that such situation needs to be changed. “It is unthinkable that in the 21st century political parties are not capable of reaching a political agreement and compromise. In this way, they prevent citizens from electing the authorities they want and instead, for more than a decade we have witnessed endless political games, shifting the blame on the international community or other parties, and manifestation of uncompromising political stances that result in the fact that main political parties have their rule in the city without any democratic control,” Inzko concluded. stated that the issue of local elections in Mostar should be solved outside the political package. Namely, according to Inzko, the international community has a unanimous stance that the issue of new electoral rules for Mostar should not be solved together with the issue of election of delegates to the Houses of Peoples and the B&H Presidency members, that HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic is insisting on.

 

Boskovic: Vulin’s behavior is tragicomic (CDM)

 

Montenegro’s Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic said from Brussels that Aleksandar Vulin’s behavior, his Serbian counterpart, “is tragicomic”. “If he wasn’t Serbian Defense minister, it would be funny. But it’s tragicomic and his national-socialism jeopardizes Serbia’s interests. Just like this political performance he presented yesterday in Montenegro,” Boskovic said. Serbian delegation, headed by Vulin, intended to enter Montenegro wearing military uniforms. But since they didn’t get authorization of the Montenegrin authorities, they came in civilian suits.

Boskovic said that Montenegro “respects Serbia and every Serbian authority”. Boskovic says that the fact that Vulin placed himself among anti-Montenegrin elements “is his problem”.

“If Serbian state authorities are ok with that, we are OK with that too,” the Minister says.

 

Montenegrin citizens won’t be allowed to enter Schengen without travel permission (CDM)

 

Holders of Montenegrin passports who have been entitled to travel to Schengen without visas, will have to ask for the permission to enter European zone without border controls, starting from 2021. Deputy editor-in-chief of ScnhengenVisaInfo, Granit Sadiku, says that travel permission, known as ETIAS, will apply in countries whose citizens will be allowed to travel to Schnegen zone, starting from 1 January 2021. “ETIAS is an online scheme whose main goal is to follow the visitors and allow entrance only to those who meet the requirements established by visa-free agreements with third countries,” Sadiku says. The permission will enable its holder to travel to through Schengen area. The scheme was supposed to enter into force in January 2020, but the EU decided to delay the decision, so that EU-LISA can have enough time to establish the system.

 

Why will Montenegrins need ETIAS?

Following the conclusion of the agreements on visa reliefs and readmission between Montenegro and the EU, visa liberalization came for Montenegrin citizens came into force on 19 December 2009. Sadiku stresses that ETIAS will refer to citizens of the third visa-free countries, including Montenegro, and reminds that EU has been planning to establish that system since 2016, with the aim of increasing safety of its citizens.

 

Applying for ETIAS: Procedure and other details

When ETIAS comes into force, every passenger who intends to enter some Schengen country will have to submit travel application. “For the first six months, ETIAS is optional, and after it will be mandatory. Montenegrin people must have stable Internet connection and enough funds to pay the fee (€7),” Sadiku says. Sadiku says that a special website for application will be created. “There are many sites claiming to be official web presentation of ETIAS. But they are actually fake,” he warns. Application form contains simple questions – first and last name of the applicant, date and place of birth, sex, data about the passport and citizenship, e-address and phone number. Before submitting, candidates aged between 18 and 70, must pay the fee. “Once the passenger clicks to submit the application, his/her application will be checked in the EU database. If the systems containing data don’t find any irregularities concerning the applicant, ETIAS will be confirmed in a matter of several minutes,” Sadiku says. “Every passenger whose application has been rejected has 96 hours to lodge a complaint, processing of which might take a month. If the applicant is rejected again – he/she will have to submit the application for regular Schengen visa,” Sadiku points out.

 

New audio leak proves that Zoran Zaev is behind the Racket scandal (Republika/1TV)

 

The publication of an audio recording of Zoran Zaev in the parliament blew a huge hole in his claims that he had only a passing acquaintance with Bojan Jovanovski, the extravagant businessman who is now charged in a major racketeering case. VMRO-DPMNE member of parliament Antonio Milososki published the recording, which he says he received from a whistleblower. It shows Zaev discussing Jovanovski’s business, saying how he was in touch with him, talked about his 1TV television and how it is being funded. Zaev specifically says that Jovanovski received the money for the television from a friend in Croatia and from businessman Siljan Micevski, who was the target of extortion by Jovanovski. This shows that, at the very least, Zaev was informed of Jovanovski’s actions, if not directly involved in it. For good measure, Zaev adds that he helped Jovanovski’s TV on several occasions. 1TV was used as a vehicle for extortion – Jovanovski and his and Zaev’s close friend Katica Janeva would reassure businessmen to buy overpriced ad campaigns in the television which was only set up shortly after Zaev grabbed power in 2017, ironically using illegally recorded phone conversations to spark a political crisis. Janeva’s son Lazar was employed as chief marketing officer in the television, and given her powerful position and ability to drag anybody before the court on flimsy charges, it made 1TV’s ad offers difficult to resist. The audio recording confirms the suspicions that there were criminal deals made between Zoran Zaev and Bojan Jovanovski. In it, Zoran Zaev admits that he is funding 1TV, VMRO-DPMNE said in a press release issued today, and the party leader Hristijan Mickoski said that it is now absolutely clear who is at the top of the Racket scandal. Zaev has insisted that as soon as he realized what Jovanovski is up to, he informed state prosecutors. Earlier this week, during one of the Racket hearings, the prosecution did all it could to support this position by selectively releasing a message from Jovanovski’s phone, which meant to show exactly that. Meanwhile, Jovanovski asks that the entirety of his communications is released and has hinted he may start talking and give his side of the scandal in which it is widely assumed that most of the money flowed toward Zaev and his SDSM party.

Zaev and many of his lieutenants were frequent visitors on 1TV. The television parroted SDSM talking points and hired a number of well-paid SDSM supporting journalists from other outlets. Yesterday, during a press conference where he was touting the conveniently presented text message, Zaev said that he is not responsible for Jovanovski, that he never asked him to support SDSM through his TV station, and that he will be held responsible if he has violated the law. But the audio, and the expected release of more like it, instantly collapsed any enthusiasm which Zaev is trying to drum up over the latest step in Macedonia’s lengthy NATO accession process. Even the elections are again thrown in doubt, as Zaev demands that the parliament is not dissolved until it adopts a new law on state prosecutors, which he hopes will sweep the mess caused by Katica Janeva under the rug. The law would, also conveniently, prohibit state prosecutors from using unwarranted wiretaps, like the one revealed by Milososki today, as evidence before the court.

 

Xhaferi won’t allow a vote to dissolve the parliament just yet (Republika)

 

Even though the constitutionally provided period of 60 days ahead of the elections begins today, parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi refused to put the proposal to dissolve the parliament to a vote. The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party made the motion, insisting that the parliament must dissolve today in order to meet the deadlines for organizing elections on 12 April. But under pressure from the ruling SDSM party, which demands that a law on state prosecutors is adopted by this parliament, Xhaferi said that he will give five more days to SDSM. Xhaferi said that he will ensure that the State Electoral Commission has 55 days to organize the elections, implying that the vote to dissolve the parliament may be held over the weekend. Just days ago, Xhaferi was warning that cutting short the period of 60 days that is provided in the Constitution may result with failed elections, if any of the numerous steps required to take to register candidates and vet the electoral rolls goes badly. VMRO-DPMNE refused to vote for the draft law on state prosecutors, insisting that it is made to protect SDSM leader Zoran Zaev from facing responsibility in the numerous corruption scandals against him as it will entrench SDSM loyalists as prosecutors in the near future. Opposition VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski says he sees no reason for MPs from the party he leads to further participate in parliament due to deviation from the political agreement to dissolve parliament. “I really don’t see the need for VMRO-DPMNE’s participation in the parliament anymore. During this day we will have an Executive Committee, we will discuss this issue and the public will be informed in a timely manner about the next steps of VMRO-DPMNE,” said Mickoski answering a reporter’s question regarding their next steps considering that their request to dissolve the parliament was not accepted today. Mickoski said one should not deviate from the political agreement reached on the terms of the dissolution of parliament and elections.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

A Plan to Unseat Serbia’s Leader Crumbles as Elections Near (Bloomberg News, by Misha Savic, 13 February 2020)

 

A plan forged by Serbia’s opposition parties to boycott this year’s elections is falling apart, providing a boost to the person it was designed to hurt. The move had called into question the Balkan country’s democratic credentials as it ramps up efforts to join the European Union. Instead, the protest’s collapse is boosting President Aleksandar Vucic, who can bat away critics accusing him of autocratic behavior and look forward to a solid majority for his party.

The Alliance for Serbia, an umbrella opposition group that has led weekly anti-government protests, is sticking with its plan to field no candidates in the parliamentary ballot expected to take place in April. But EU officials are at pains to uphold democratic standards in both candidate and member states and want all parties to participate, particularly after the government postponed the ballot and changed voting rules to benefit smaller parties. “We’re calling for all political parties to participate in the elections and not to boycott it,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said last week during a visit to Belgrade. “Democracy only works if we all participate.” The dispute has shined a spotlight on a region that’s already under close scrutiny in terms of how it observes the rule of law as the EU struggles with other ex-communist members that are testing the limits of its liberal and multi-cultural values. The Alliance says its boycott as a warning signal against Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party, which it accuses of stifling democratic debate and letting corruption run rampant. Its argument is that there’s no point contesting a vote when the government drowns out dissenting voices with exclusively pro-government messages on state-run media and uses the advertising budgets of publicly owned companies to financially squeeze opposition-leaning news outlets. Vucic, whose pledges of strong economic growth, higher salaries and infrastructure investment have propelled his Serbian Progressive Party higher in opinion polls, says the government has improved the media environment and that the opposition has a fair chance in elections. The Progressives pushed through a law lowering the threshold needed for parties to win seats in parliament to 3%. That has weakened the resolve to boycott among opposition forces that aren’t in the Alliance, including the right-wing Radicals and liberal and conservative groups. “I don’t see the potential to make the future government do anything after a boycott,” said Milos Jovanovic, the leader of the opposition conservative Democratic Party for Serbia. “I’m always for a fight, even if it’s not on equal footing.”

 

Not Ideal

The Progressive Party remains dominant. It has backing of 53.6% of Serbian voters — up from 48.3% in the 2016 elections — followed in a distant second by the Alliance with 10.3%, according to a Faktor Plus survey conducted last month. The president’s Socialist allies rank third with 9.5%. The Alliance is still sticking to its boycott plan, although some members may contest municipal ballots to defend positions at local levels. “A boycott is not an ideal solution,” said Aleksandar Ivanovic, a leader of the Social Democrats, which are part of the opposition cluster. “But it’s even worse to give legitimacy to Vucic’s regime.” If the Alliance stays on the sidelines, the boycott may increase both the share won by bigger parties and help give Vucic’s party an even larger majority in parliament than the 131 of 250 seats it enjoys now. “Those in power could garner as much as 70% of votes in case of a boycott,” Srdjan Bogosavljevic, senior consultant at the Ipsos pollster, said by phone. “It seems certain that the Progressives will win.”

–With assistance from Gordana Filipovic.

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