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Belgrade Media Report 02 March

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic meets with Palmer in the course of US visit (B92)
• Vucic: Grenell is right, it is an attempted hoax (Beta/B92)
• Dacic: Kurti is playing maneuvering games (RTS)
• Joksimovic: Serbia preparing for new wave of migrants (FoNet)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Day of RS and 28 years since adoption of first constitution of RS marked in Belgrade (ATV)
• First session of commission for cooperation of RS parliament and Serbian parliament held in Belgrade (RTRS)
• Sattler: End the blockades, decisions of CC of B&H are final and binding (Vecernji list)
• Attendees of last week’s meeting in Istocno Sarajevo receive letter from EUD, OSCE, US Embassy to B&H (N1)
• SNSD Executive Committee rejects EUD, OSCE and US Embassy’s letter as act of pressure; Dodik deems letter as inappropriate interference in B&H internal matters (FTV)
• Ivantsov: Inzko is obstacle to compromise in B&H (Glas Srpske)
• Izetbegovic: We will fully analyze this scandal and sanction all responsible (BHT1/FTV)
• Radoncic: B&H has very limited capacities to fight against influx of migrants (BHT1)
Montenegro
• Vucic meddled in internal affairs of Montenegro. Again. (CdM)
• Djukanovic: European Convention is an inspiration for Montenegrin society (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Zaev-Miskoski debate (Kanal 5 TV)
• BESA doesn’t see other Albanian parties joining their coalition with SDSM (Republika)
• EC expected to again recommend opening of accession talks with Macedonia and Albania (MIA)
Albania
• Meta promises new lawsuits against majority’s officials (ADN)
• Rama praises Kurti’s decision to lift 100% tax (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Serbian president tells ‘Post’ he will buy weapons from Israel (The Jerusalem Post)
• Montenegro’s president accuses Serbia and Russia of undermining independence (Reuters)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic meets with Palmer in the course of US visit (B92)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is on a working visit to the United States, during which he will meet with a number of US officials. Vucic met with Matthew Palmer, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Representative for the Western Balkans. The President of Serbia gave a speech at a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, emphasizing the friendship between the two nations. Vucic spoke after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. First of all, he thanked his hosts on their hospitality on behalf of all Serbian citizens.

“Thank you to the leadership of AIPAC for hosting me. It was an honor to speak at the #AIPAC20 Policy Conference. I strongly support AIPAC’s mission. Serbia, Israel, and the United States can achieve much by working together and jointly pursuing our common interests”. “There are many things that connect our two nations. We have experienced a difficult fate in World War II in the Jasenovac concentration camp, run by the Nazi, vassal state of Croatia,” Vucic said. He stressed that we have always supported each other, which is the case today. “In memory of all the victims of the Holocaust, an Israeli flag was raised at the Presidency of Serbia, and I said at the time that I was proud of the friendship with the Jews and I was glad that the flag was there,” Vucic said, followed by applause. He took the opportunity to announce the opening of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce in Jerusalem. “We were trying to find the best possible way to do something official in Jerusalem. Soon, we will open not only the Serbian Chamber of Commerce in Jerusalem, but also the official State Office in Jerusalem,” Vucic concluded.

 

Vucic: Grenell is right, it is an attempted hoax (Beta/B92)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reacted on the announcement of Prime Minister of so called Kosovo Albin Kurti that taxes will be lifted. “Kurti decided the day before my trip to Washington to suspend tariffs on Serbian goods”, Vucic commented, perceiving such a move as an attempted hoax. “Have you thought of that on your own or someone helped you?”, he asked Kurti, adding that the special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is right and that this is just a game. He told reporters in the central town of Gornji Milanovac that no one form Serbia’s authorities reacted to Kurti’s announcement on partial abolishment of fees, because they wanted to correctly assess what he actually said. US Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Richard Grenell said Kurti made a mistake and that Washington did not support half measure regarding the taxes. “Our position is quite clear: the tariffs must be completely dropped. Mr Kurti is making a serious mistake – and that was made clear to President Thaci at the White House today,” Grenell wrote on Twitter. “US Envoy Grenell is right, this is an attempted hoax. If that’s okay with the EU, I have no problem with it. They can do what they want, but I’ve learned the lesson long time ago,” Vucic said. He said that Kurti deliberately said that a day before Vucic’s trip to Washington to prevent him from discussing the issue, while the start of the implementation was planned to coincide with his (Vucic’s) visit to Berlin. “He decided to lift taxes on raw material, seriously… To suspend tariffs on wheat from Serbia because 20 Euros per ton is cheaper than the one from North Macedonia, because that’s what the businessmen from Kosovo demand. On the other hand, they are not interested in Serbia’s final products where we could make a profit. Has he thought about that on his own or someone helped him? We will wait for them to lift the tariffs and then talk. Until then – we will be patient,” Vucic concluded.

 

Dacic: Kurti is playing maneuvering games (RTS)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is blackmailing Serbia and playing maneuvering games regarding the taxes, saying that the tariffs would be lifted while actually they will stay in effect. “There are those in Kosovo who don’t want the tariffs to be lifted, from Kurti who is playing maneuvering games to revoke something but actually making it stay in effect, while blackmailing Serbia, to those who think that the tariffs must be lifted for the sake of good relations with the US,” Dacic told RTS. “Kurti came up with two ideas – that we stop with the anti-recognition campaign, and just the other day they celebrated because Jamaica supposedly recognized Kosovo,” he added. Dacic stressed that there can be no reciprocity and that Pristina authorities must come to terms with the fact that they are not equal with Serbia. “There are other parts of the American administration, the parts of the so-called deep state, who observe with sympathy, because that was their project, they are pressuring Pristina but they never say what is going to happen if Pristina doesn’t obey them,” said Dacic.

 

Joksimovic: Serbia preparing for new wave of migrants (FoNet)

 

Two Serbian ministers told Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó that Serbia is preparing intensively for a new wave of migrants, including stepped up border control. Serbian Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic told joint press conference with Szijjártó that the Serbian authorities are preparing for a new wave of migrants, recalling that the country had a humane approach to the problem so far.  The Hungarian Foreign Minister said that his country would not allow a single illegal migrant across its borders. He said Hungary would defend its borders and would help Serbia deal with the problem. He warned of a wave of hundreds of thousands of migrants following Turkey’s decision to open its borders.   A press release from Szijjártó’s meeting with Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that communication between the two countries’ police forces is good and recalled that Hungarian police officers have been deployed on Serbia’s border with North Macedonia as part of a European Union project.

Stefanovic said that the situation on the border is stable, adding that his ministry is monitoring the situation on the Greece-Turkey border.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Day of RS and 28 years since adoption of first constitution of RS marked in Belgrade (ATV)

 

The Day of the RS and 28 years since the adoption of first constitution of the RS were marked in Belgrade. One of the messages sent from the reception in Belgrade was that cooperation between the RS and Serbia has never been better and that it will be even stronger. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stressed that Serbs realized that they will lose their freedom if they do not defend their territory. Dodik noted that the RS is proof of freedom and desire to live in peace, adding that many are attacking and contesting the RS today, but that this will not be allowed. “The other day, one of the great ambassadors told me the following. He said, Mr. President, you have to understand that our policy is great. I said, do you want to say that ours is small? Possibly, for you. But for us, and as long as we are concerned, it is very proud and you have a problem with our pride,” Dodik told the reception in Belgrade. Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who attended the reception on behalf of the Serbian President, said that the RS is indeed proud. “Republic of Serbia never left the right of the RS and right of the Serb people to survive and defend themselves to others,” Vulin underlined. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic stressed that Annex 4, which is an integral part of the B&H Constitution, does not provide for B&H to have property. “Then, that same Constitutional Court, 28 years later, is trying to forcibly seize some property for that same B&H,” Viskovic said. Head of the RS Representative Office in Belgrade Mladjen Cicovic said that violence against the B&H Constitution continues to this day. “It is even intensifying as if many are not or do not want to be aware that B&H is possible only on the principles of the original Dayton made up of two entities and three constituent peoples,” Cicovic stressed.

 

First session of commission for cooperation of RS parliament and Serbian parliament held in Belgrade (RTRS)

 

RS parliament and the Serbian parliament held the first session in Belgrade on Friday. RTRS noted that so far, this is the highest form of institutional cooperation of the RS and Serbia. RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic and Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic reminded that the commission was formed based on a previously-signed memorandum with the aim to define the most important joint topics. During the session, attendees discussed three topics: inter-parliamentary cooperation, parliamentary support to development of economic-trade cooperation and cooperation in protection of historic remembrance through joint marking of anniversaries. Cubrilovic said that the session was a good chance to redefine the most important joint topics and how to articulate them, to exchange experience, to improve cooperation and thus, give concrete contribution in reaching possibilities that the agreement on the special and parallel relations between the RS and Serbia gives. Gojkovic stated that Serbia respects the Dayton Agreement, existence of B&H and the two entities with all of their competences, as well as the principle of the agreement of the three constituent peoples without imposing. Gojkovic said that Serbia is strategically committed to preserve the RS, as one of their foreign-policy priorities, as well as continuation of development of special and parallel relations with the RS, with respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H in line with the Dayton Agreement. A delegation from the RS also attended a session of the Serbian Parliament on Friday.

 

Sattler: End the blockades, decisions of CC of B&H are final and binding (Vecernji list)

 

Vecernji list carries an interview with Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H and EU Special Representative, Ambassador Johann Sattler, who was asked, among other issues, to comment on the blockades in B&H, such as the decision of the RS authorities not to respect decisions of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H. Sattler replied by saying that each country must have a final instance, an efficient judiciary, arguing that the CC is the foundation of the judiciary and that decisions of one such court are final and binding. According to Sattler, there can be no efficient state if you do not have one such instance whose decisions are final and binding. “In that sense I can only encourage the responsible leaders to gather around the table again and talk about important issues (…)”, said Ambassador Sattler adding that the other reality is that people are leaving B&H. Asked to comment on statement of MEP Tonino Picula from Croatia, who said that political leaders in B&H are not capable of resolving the crisis without strong involvement of the EU, Ambassador Sattler said it is the diplomats’ DNA to keep the communication channels open, arguing that if one looks at the past, one can see that sustainable solutions must come from responsible politicians. He reminded that the European Commission issued its Opinion on B&H, which outlined 14 priorities B&H has to work on. “If you are serious about becoming a member (of the EU), then you must change the way you solve things. I am talking about the coordination within the country. You will have to take over 100,000 legal acts (…) B&H has that opportunity, but it must improve efficiency in the coordination”, said the Ambassador. Asked if the EU is thinking about introducing sanctions against (SNSD leader Milorad) Dodik, Sattler said that the sanctions are the last measure and that the EU has a framework that is reviewed each year and that it stipulates such a possibility. “In that case there would be a discussion within the procedure of adoption of decision in the sanctions. However, it has not been necessary so far. I am not saying it cannot happen in the future”, stated Ambassador Sattler. Asked to comment on the journalist’s remark that the EC’s Opinion i.e. 14 priorities are raising the issue of failure to implement the CC’s decision and it raises the issue of foreign nationals on the CC of B&H, the Ambassador said ‘we’ are still waiting for answers to the 14 priorities, at the same time calling on responsible local politicians to sit down and provide answers to the 14 priorities. “(…) What we want to see is genuine effort that work is being done on all issues. We want to see action plans, there are things that can be resolved in stages: short, mid and long term. This is not a buffet. You cannot pick what you want and what you do not want to resolve. One of them is the Constitutional Court, professionalism of holders on judicial posts”, said Ambassador Sattler. Asked about foreign judges on the CC, Sattler said the EC’s Opinion reads that the EU membership is not compatible with strong international supervision in B&H. “But it takes a lot of time, to get to the membership (…)”, added the Ambassador. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that one of main sources of frustration among the politicians and Croats in B&H is the Law on Elections, which would guarantee equality of the Croats, Sattler said the most important things for the EU are equality and non-discrimination. “We have clearly stated it in the Opinion and 14 priorities. I repeat, it is not a buffet. We see that some politicians focus only on some court decisions. Yes, we have decisions of the Constitutional Court, but we also have decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. They all must be implemented (…)”, said Sattler.

 

Attendees of last week’s meeting in Istocno Sarajevo receive letter from EUD, OSCE, US Embassy to B&H (N1)

 

Attendees of the last week’s meeting in Istocno Sarajevo received a warning letter signed by Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H Johann Sattler, Head of the OSCE Mission to B&H Kathleen Kavalec and Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy to B&H Ellen Germain. The letter warned attendees of the meeting that they are representatives of the state of B&H and not representatives of the entities at the state level and as state officials, they should represent all citizens of B&H, regardless of ethnic or political background or place of residence. The letter reads:” As state-level officials, you must represent all citizens of BIH, regardless of their or your ethnic and political background, or place of residence (…) It is therefore unacceptable, both for B&H and its European path that you participated in a political meeting that severely compromises your independence and impartiality, and perceptions thereof.” The EUD, the OSCE, and the US Embassy also warned: “Civil servants and other officials, in particular heads of independent institutions at B&H level, while preforming their professional duties, must be independent from political interference and refrain from any action which may question their impartiality and consequently undermine the very independence of the institutions which they represent.” The reporter reminded that High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko also reacted three days ago due to the meeting in Istocno Sarajevo by saying that this is unacceptable, because this “de facto” shows readiness to take part in blockade in reaching of decisions in institutions at the state level. Inzko also said that this calls into question professional, moral and personal integrity of participants and the perception of independence of institutions that they represent. HR Inzko stated: ”Heads of independent institutions have the legal obligation to ensure independency of the institutions from political influence and to abstain from all activities that may endanger the institution that they represents or its independence”.  “The European Commission Opinion underlined the need for public administration in B&H to become more professional, impartial and depoliticized,” reads the letter.

 

SNSD Executive Committee rejects EUD, OSCE and US Embassy’s letter as act of pressure; Dodik deems letter as inappropriate interference in B&H internal matters (FTV)

 

An expanded session of SNSD Executive Committee was held on Friday. Participants of the session rejected as an act of pressure the letter that diplomatic missions of the EU, the OSCE and the US sent to state-level officials coming from the RS who attended 20 February meeting in Istocno Sarajevo. SNSD leader Milorad Dodik announced that he will send a letter to US President Donald Trump in order to inform him about the work of his officials in B&H. Dodik deemed the letter as inappropriate interference in B&H internal matters because, according to him, this violates B&H’s sovereignty and the Vienna Convention. “I will send a letter to Trump to ask him whether this is the position of the US administration… And especially this arrogant Ambassador from the OSCE… They want to govern us. That is the problem. They have to realize that this cannot be done. That there is a team of proud people here in the RS who are not allowing them that… Either B&H will be part of our arrangement as well or it will not exist. Now take sanctions as much as you want,” Dodik said.

 

Ivantsov: Inzko is obstacle to compromise in B&H (Glas Srpske)

 

The daily carries an interview with Russian Ambassador to B&H Peter Ivantsov. Commenting on the statement of High Representative Valentin Inzko that he might use Bonn Powers due to the current political situation in B&H, the Ambassador stated: “Many problems that we have today, that we used to have and which brought to the current situation should be resolved through compromise of the sides in B&H and forces within the country. The HR only obstructs reaching of the compromise and adoption of decisions. Thus with his statements he just heats up this very complicated situation.“ Asked to comment on the fact that the inter-entity border line has not been defined yet, 25 years after signing of the DPA, Ivantsov said: “I do not see anything dramatic in the proposal of the RS. I think that this is about Annex 2 and Item 7 of the DPA’s Article 4. I believe that this is absolutely a technical issue and it does not need any politicization.” Asked if the time has come for foreign judges to leave the Constitutional Court of B&H, the Ambassador said: ”I have said many times, and no one denies it, that B&H is an independent and sovereign country.” He added that B&H aspires to become a member of the EU and one of criteria that should be met in order for B&H to become the EU member is the rule of law. He also said: “One of recommendations of Mister (Erhard) Priebe in this context is withdrawal of the foreign judges from the B&H CC. I believe that it is completely natural and logical that B&H citizens and B&H peoples should resolve their problems alone, without influence of anyone from aside.” He concluded that the political situation in B&H is complicated and tensions are heightened and it should not be further dramatized. He added: “It should be looked for solutions for these open issues though compromise and dialogue of the sides in B&H. All this should be done based on basic principles of the DPA, equality of three constituent peoples and wide authorities of the two entities. Of course with respect to sovereignty and integrity of B&H. This should be done based on democratic procedures prescribed in the B&H Constitution.”

 

Izetbegovic: We will fully analyze this scandal and sanction all responsible (BHT1/FTV)

 

After Head of Sarajevo Municipality of Novi Grad Semir Efendic published an audio recording on the alleged trade of votes at the intra-party elections for the SDA Cantonal Board in Sarajevo, many reacted to the news on Sunday, primarily the members of this party. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic said party bodies will get to the bottom of this scandal and sanction all responsible for the alleged criminal activities. “We will not leave this unfinished and unresolved. The entire process will be analyzed. I believe that integrity of the process was not put in question with this lobbying, but that will also be analyzed”, Izetbegovic told reporters on Sunday in Sarajevo. Asked if he was surprised by this recording, the SDA leader responded affirmatively and added: “However, I was previously aware of some exaggerations, this time, they overdone it with the divisions and too much heatedness”. Izetbegovic said that all actors of this affair will be interviewed. Izetbegovic added that leadership of this party will discuss all issues caused by abovementioned audio recording at the beginning of this week.

 

Radoncic: B&H has very limited capacities to fight against influx of migrants (BHT1)

 

Guest of the news was B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic. Asked if B&H has a response to potential influx of a large number of migrants, given the capacities of the B&H Border Police, financial support and other difficulties that the country is facing, Radoncic reminded that the B&H Border Police currently lacks 1,200 border police officers. He added that the B&H Service for Foreigners’ Affairs and the B&H Intelligence and Security Agency also lack new people. “This sector has been completely neglected. As a society, we have been dealing with humanitarian aspects in a way that the international community was not responsible towards B&H, to provide financial support to our most endangered cantons such as the Una-Sana Canton. We are now in the situation where we have to save the day as much as possible. Over the past two days, I have had a number of meetings with people from the B&H Border Police and the B&H Service for Foreigners’ Affairs. We will transfer a certain number of police officers (…) to the eastern border in order to strengthen it. I think that we are really doing what we can, in line with the current capacities. These capacities are quite limited, as I said,” Radoncic explained.

Asked if it is possible to deploy the Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency), given the opposing views with regard to this issue, Radoncic reminded that “this idea is currently blocked”, which he thinks is completely unnecessary as B&H needs the Frontex very much. “Those are European police officers who are highly trained. Their police officers would not only come to our borders, they would also educate us and enormous funds would be received,” Radoncic explained. He noted that he recently sent a letter to the authorities at the municipal, cantonal and entity levels, adding that Novi Grad, Tuzla and Vogosca have already allocated BAM 220,000 for new border police officers to be trained. “We expect from the European Commission (EC) to be responsible as well. There are indications that they could help us educate several hundreds of police officers. Their education lasts eight months,” Radoncic said.

 

Vucic meddled in internal affairs of Montenegro. Again. (CdM)

 

Regarding the populist and politically driven request of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic that Serbs in Montenegro should have the same rights guaranteed to all other citizens belonging to minority nations, the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights reacted, telling him that the Serbian people in Montenegro are not a minority nation but an equal social factor. “We wish to remind him about the character of our state order – as a civil, non-nation-oriented state, and about the Montenegrin Constitution as an expression of protection and preservation of the political, legal and cultural position of all peoples living in an independent Montenegro,” the Ministry stated. But President Vucic didn’t want to stop with this request but rather added another one – “We want Serbs to have the same rights Albanians do in North Macedonia.”

“We’d like to remind President Vucic that the Serbian community in Montenegro refused to be a minority and thus prevented itself from using rights stemming from the principle of positive discrimination, noting that this possibility always exists as an option in a democratic society,“ the Ministry said in a statement.

 

Djukanovic: European Convention is an inspiration for Montenegrin society (CdM)

 

European convention is an inspiration for the entire Montenegrin society. It was noticed by European partners in the Progress Report on Montenegro 2019 which emphasized progress and stable cooperation with the European court, said Montenegro’s President, Milo Djukanovic, during the meeting with Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, the President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Djukanovic  welcomed president of the court in Strasbourg and expressed satisfaction with the fact that Montenegro has stable cooperation with the institution. “Djukanovic confirmed Montenegro’s preparedness to be reliable partner and promoter of values stipulated in the Convention. He reminded that Montenegro’s way towards the EU was stable and now further encouraged. He reiterated Montenegro’s commitment to the improvement of rule of law,” the President’s Cabinet said. Sicilianos pointed out that he appreciated cooperation with Montenegro and its institutions. “He commended positive results Montenegro made in the domain of the enforcement of judgments of ECHR. He agreed with Djukanovic regarding the importance of respect and promotion of the rule of law, as a prerequisite for the democratic progress of the society and EU integration,” the statement said.

 

Zaev-Miskoski debate (Kanal 5 TV)

 

Zoran Zaev presented his SDSM party as a multi-ethnic movement – a move away from its previously declared Macedonian character. During the Kanal 5 TV debate with VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski, Zaev said that he expects to win more than 61 seats in Parliament with the help of ethnic Albanian voters who support SDSM and his new coalition partner – the declared Albanian party BESA. I wish luck to Zaev in his coalition with BESA. It leaves only one Macedonian party at the coming elections and that is VMRO-DPMNE. Zaev wants to pretend he is the opposition party in the Albanian camp. He is now loudly accusing DUI, after spending three years in coalition with them, Mickoski said, before calling on voters from all ethnic backgrounds to support VMRO based on its program, and not ethnicity. Most parties in Macedonia have a declared ethnic background, and the Albanian parties proudly promote their ethnic character. But faced with a clear defeat among ethnic Macedonian voters, Zaev attempted a coalition with the largest Albanian DUI, but after it refused to join him, he settled for BESA. Mickoski announced he won’t lead a list for the parliament, but will be a Spitzenkandidat – candidate for Prime Minister. Six other party officials will lead the six regional lists for VMRO-DPMNE and they will remain in the Parliament, unlike the previous practice of party leaders resigning from Parliament to become Prime Ministers or members of the government. Mickoski again challenged Zoran Zaev to do the same, in a gambit that would leave the leader of the losing party without a mandate in the parliament and under pressure to retire from politics. Mickoski accused Zaev that he wants to hide behind the immunity given to parliament members after the elections, given the numerous criminal and corruption allegations against him. Zaev again refused to do so, and said that he will lead the SDSM list in the 4th district, which includes his local power base of Strumica.

 

BESA doesn’t see other Albanian parties joining their coalition with SDSM (Republika)

 

The BESA party said it doesn’t expect to see its coalition with SDSM expanded to include other ethnic Albanian parties. BESA deputy leader Kastriot Rexhepi said that they now have a deal with SDSM, and he doesn’t see the Alliance of Albanians or Alternative joining them. We always wanted a coalition that would maximize the potential of our supporters. As for adding other parties, they need to speak up, but given their current positions, it’s doubtful they will join us, Rexhepi said. The DUI party declined SDSM’s proposal of a coalition, and will aim to win the Albanian, as will the Alliance of Albanians, whose leader Ziadin Sela said that the SDSM-BESA coalition is political adventure that harms Albanian voters. SDSM already has its own Albanian wing led by Muhamed Zekiri, and now hopes to add the BESA voters to its numbers, in hope it will reduce its losing margin toward VMRO-DPMNE among ethnic Macedonian voters.

 

EC expected to again recommend opening of accession talks with Macedonia and Albania (MIA)

 

The European Commission will again recommend that Macedonia and Albania should open EU accession talks. EC is working on a new report meant to bolster the odds of the two countries after they were vetoed by France and the Netherlands last October. According to the Macedonian Information Agency, the report is already prepared and will be published some time this week. It contains a positive recommendation for Macedonia and reports that it has delivered on the required reforms. According to MIA, the Commission welcomes some of the controversial moves the SDSM led Government undertook in the judiciary, such as the scandalous adoption of changes to the law on state prosecutors that were prompted by the major Racket scandal. It also notes that some of the cases initiated by the now disgraced Special Prosecutor’s Office hit the statute of limitations as Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva was charged with abuse of office and high level corruption. The report will also welcome the dismissal of half a dozen judges, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who was pushed out by former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Recent leaks reveal that Zaev also maintained a significant level of control over the judge before his dismissal. The EC will also call on the Government to put an end to the large number of nepotistic hiring and promotions in the public administration, that erode the merit system.

 

Meta promises new lawsuits against majority’s officials (ADN)

 

The political crisis in Albania deepens as President promises new lawsuits against majority’s officials in the eve of the rally called by him on 2 March. In an extraordinary press conference this Sunday evening, President warned to sue all those persons responsible for voting a law that violates the Albanian Constitution. “The article 155 of the Constitution predicts that the relief or exemption of certain categories of payers of National, local taxes, taxes and financial obligations and the manner in which they are collected shall be prescribed by law. In such cases the law cannot be given retroactive effect,” says the Constitution as President cited but according to him in violation with this law, majority or what he called the ‘mafia sect’ voted the law and give to it a retroactive effect.

 

Rama praises Kurti’s decision to lift 100% tax (ADN)

 

Prime Minister Edi Rama praised the decision of Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti to lift the 100% tax on Serbian and Bosnian goods. Also, the Premier didn’t spare accusation for former Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, stating that the latter has started a campaign to throw mud on Kurti. “Shamelessly, Haradinaj has begun throwing mud on Albin Kurti! Kurti can be anything but never a servant of Serbia! I wish Kurti does not “surrender” to the attacks due to his decision to lift the tax, which destroyed Kosovo’s international reputation and victimized Serbia in the eyes of the world! Never has a greater idiocy been heard than the sermon that the tax will bring Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo and nothing has done more harm to Kosovo than that tax,” said Rama.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Serbian president tells ‘Post’ he will buy weapons from Israel (The Jerusalem Post, by Benjamin Weinthal, 2 March 2020)

 

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić announced that his country is planning to open a diplomatic mission and an economic office in Jerusalem.

WASHINGTON—The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, told The Jerusalem Post that he intends to buy weapons from Israel in an interview on Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference in Washington. In a response to questions about the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Western Europe targeting Israel, Vučić said the Serbian purchase of weapons from Israel will “not be a small delivery.” His remarks and action can be viewed as stinging rejoinder to the BDS campaign. Austrian’s parliament last week classified BDS as antisemitic. Vučić stressed that Serbia is “not a fertile ground for antisemitic messages,” but rather that BDS is non-existent in Serbia. This is in contrast to a flourishing BDS movement in Western Europe. “No one has heard of the boycott movement in Serbia,” he said. Vučić, who is widely viewed a strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish diaspora, spoke earlier at the conference, which draws 18,000 people from around the world. During his speech, he announced that his country plans on opening a diplomatic mission and an economic office in Jerusalem. “We’re going to open very soon not only an office of our chamber of commerce but, together with our chamber of commerce, an official state office in Jerusalem with a Serbian official flag alongside our embassy in Tel Aviv,” the president said.

Vučić told the Post that his country “will always to do our best to align our interests with Israel.”

The Post asked the president about his country’s voting pattern at the UN where Israel is routinely, according to the Netanyahu administration, targeted with bias.  Vučić said in connection with anti-Israel resolutions that “we can always abstain.” Vučić said it is up to the Palestinians and Israelis to reach a settlement covering their territorial dispute. He “welcomed President Trump’s initiative on that.” Serbia was the first country that passed legislation permitting restitution of unclaimed Jewish property seized during the Holocaust. His paternal grandfather was murdered by the Nazi-supported Croatian fascist Ustaše during World War II. The Croatian fascists expelled his family and they resettled near Belgrade. Vučić is well-versed in the dangers of lethal antisemitism and fascism, as well, and he energetically advocated for a memorial for the Staro Sajmiste concentration camp in Belgrade, where the Serbs, Jews and Roma were murdered during Hitler Germany’s occupation of the Balkan country. “Jews fought neck and neck with the Serbian people” against the fascists and Nazis in WWII, said Vučić. Vučić’ initiated a remembrance day for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in January. A yellow flag, reminiscent of the badges Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, is being flown in Serbia as a “badge of honor” to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the country’s president has said. “Never again,” he told the Post. The flag, featuring a Star of David and the word “Jude,” is being flown alongside the country’s national flag, above the north entrance to the Novi Dvor, or “New Palace” in Belgrade, the official seat of the president of Serbia. Its design evokes the yellow badges Jews across Europe were forced to wear under threat of death, when much of the continent fell under Nazi occupation between 1939 and 1945.

 

Montenegro’s president accuses Serbia and Russia of undermining independence (Reuters, by Aleksandar Vasovic, 28 February 2020)

 

PODGORICA – Montenegro’s president accused Serbia and Russia on Friday of using the Serbian Orthodox Church to undermine his country’s pro-Western government as it seeks European Union membership. Milo Djukanovic, who has ruled for over three decades, said that a series of rallies against a religion law which have been led by Serbian Orthodox clerics in the tiny Balkan country were intended “to question Montenegro’s independence.” Metropolitan Ilarion, a Russian Orthodox Church cleric, has voiced support for the interests of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is loyal to the Moscow patriarchate, joined protests this week in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica. “If you are asking whether this is a continuity of the (attempted) destruction of Montenegro and obstruction of its intention to continue its path to … European and Euro-Atlantic integrations, there’s no doubt in that,” Djukanovic told Reuters in an interview. “Moscow was unequivocal in stating its interests in the ongoing (religion) problem in Montenegro.” Djukanovic accused Belgrade of reviving the nationalistic concept of a Greater Serbia that contributed to the Balkan wars of the 1990s and former Yugoslavia’s collapse.

“We have no doubt that … all the mechanisms of the implementation of the Greater Serbian state project … have been put into motion, and that Montenegro is also a target,” he said. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, dismissed Djukanovic’s remarks, saying: “Nobody could possibly undermine his own doings more than himself.” Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic rejected Djukanovic’s comments. Referring to protests he has faced un the country of 620,000, she said he had “a problem in his own country and with he citizens of Montenegro.” “I am surprised by the rhetoric of President Djukanovic … Serbia has abandoned 1990s long time ago and turned to the future,” Brnabic said, adding that Serbia was demanding for Serbs in Montenegro only the right to their own language and religion.

 

EU AMBITIONS

The protests that began in December are over a law which would allow the state to take ownership of church property if the church cannot prove it owned it before 1918 – when the-then Kingdom of Montenegro joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the predecessor of Yugoslavia. The Serbian Orthodox Church is the dominant religion in Montenegro, a country of 620,000 people, and has around 12 million members, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

Serbia and Montenegro are both negotiating entry to the EU. Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, but Belgrade is not seeking membership of the defense alliance. Ethnic Serbs account for around a third of Montenegro’s population. Many Serbians have roots in Montenegro and families in the country, while tens of thousands of Montenegrins reside in Serbia. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said Belgrade will not interfere in Montenegro’s affairs, but also said Serbia will help the Serb minority there. “Serbia is rushing headlong into a dangerous trap of protection of allegedly endangered rights of (minority) Serbs … while endangering the sovereignty of other states,” Djukanovic said.

 

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