Vucic: There is no big plan and agreement for Kosovo (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has told a press conference at the Serbian Presidency that there are no essential talks with Pristina until taxes are completely abolished. Summarizing his visit to the US, Vucic says he is satisfied with talks in Washington D.C. and stresses that the doors to our policy in the US are not closed any longer. “I am not building Serbia’s policy and future on dreams and imagination, but it is certain that the US doors are not closed any longer for us, and I am grateful to the people from the Trump administration for showing good will towards our country,“ said Vucic. There is no big plan, nor agreement on the resolution of the Kosovo issue, said Vucic, reiterating that his condition for essential talks on this issue is previous adbolishment of taxes. He says that there had been many untruths over the past days after his return from Washington D.C. and that he wishes to tell citizens the full truth on what is being discussed, what topics are on the table and what is Serbia doing regarding this. “There have been many untrue news on how some big agreements have been made, how there is a plan. This is being dicusssed, but none of these things exist,“ said Vucic. He conveys to Pristina that Serbia will continue to work on further withdrawals of recognitions, until they give up trying to enter international organizations. As regards objections from people in Pristina how we are sending a bad signal to their ’good will’ with our activities on withdrawals of recognitions, he says that he had been warning hundred times that the state needs to respond to Pristina’s requests for admission into international organizations before the end of the dialogue. “The moment when you sign that you will not request before the end of the dialouge, and whether it will successfully end we do not know, admission into Interpol, UNESCO, and other international organizations, we are ready not to further continue with withdrawals of recognitions,“ says Vucic. He says that if an agreement is being mande, then this needs to be a compromise, and that all this he had stated three years and a year-and-a-half ago. In his address to the public today, Vucic also said that Serbia, if needed, would be able to protect its borders and territory from migrants and would be guided solely by the national security and security interests. The President said that Serbian services are taking action and receiving all the vital information and that they will make decisions according to the situation. “If there is a need to protect and preserve the borders, we will do this efficiently. We will act absolutely and exclusively in the interest of our security and safety,” said Vucic. He stressed that citizens should not be concerned and that Serbia has sufficient capacity and strength to act accordingly. “We will also observe the reactions of the EU. We have always shown solidarity with all those who have fled war zones, and we do not want to treat anyone other than as human beings, but we will be able to preserve the safety and security of Serbian citizens,” said Vucic.
Brnabic: Serbian diplomacy has every right to ask countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo (Beta/Politika)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that Serbia had the right to continue diplomatic activities to get other countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. At the Kopaonik Business Forum, Brnabic said that Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic had shown a note from Sierra Leone’s Foreign Ministry and that it was all that she had to say on the subject. Asked to comment on announcements of reciprocal measures from Pristina regarding Serbia’s derecognition campaign, Brnabic underscored that Serbia had the right to continue these activities and that Kosovo’s tax had nothing to do with that. “Serbia has the right to continue its diplomatic activities. The measures that Pristina placed in effect have no connection to Serbia’s derecognition campaign. This is a question of trade and not politics,” she said, adding that Serbia had never and would never place an equals sign between these two things.
Vucic slates regular parliamentary elections for 26 April (RTS/Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated today that he signed the decision on calling regular parliamentary elections for Sunday, 26 April.. “Dear citizens of Serbia, I have just signed the decision on calling elections for the members of parliament. The elections are called for 26 April this year. I wish success to everyone and that the campaign be competitive and peaceful, in a democratic atmosphere. Of course there will be raised tones and passions, there have always been and will be, but what matters is that everything be democratic. The elections are an important act for our country because there people will decide how they want to live,” the President said in his address to the public. Vucic said that the election campaign will last more than 50 days, which will make it one of the longest campaigns ever, so there will be enough time for everyone to present their programs.
Pastor slates provincial elections for 26 April (Beta/Politika)
Vojvodina Assembly speaker Istvan Pastor slated provincial elections for 26 April 2020.
The election will be held according to the proportional electoral system with Vojvodina as a single electoral unit. The Vojvodina Assembly has 120 seats. Pastor called on all citizens to vote and use their right and duty. “Honored citizens of Vojvodina, I would like to invite you to use your right and duty as citizens and go to the polls on 26 April and give your vote to the party, coalition or citizens’ group that you favor. You are the only ones who have the right to decide who will get the chance to represent you in the Vojvodina Assembly in its next term,” Pastor told a news conference. He pleaded with all parties, coalitions and citizens’ groups to bear in mind in the electoral process the fact that the Vojvodina Assembly was an institution which cultivated a high level of etiquette and mutual respect.
Gojkovic slates local elections for 26 April (Tanjug/RTS/Beta)
Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic signed in the parliament building the decision calling the elections for councilors of city and municipal assemblies in the Republic of Serbia. Gojkovic stressed that the decision on the elections does not include the city assemblies of Zajecar, Bor and Belgrade or the municipal assemblies of Kosjeric, Lucani, Arandjelovac, Negotin, Majdanpek, Mionica, Medvedja, Presevo, Kula, Doljevac, Kladovo and Smederevska Palanka which had extraordinary elections in the period between 2017 and 2019. Gojkovic urged the citizens to use their civil right to participate in the regular elections on 26 April where they can cast their vote in the democratic electoral process and decide the future of the local self-governments and their further development. “I would like to ask you to follow the candidates’ programs carefully and elect those whose responsible and serious policies will be able to improve your lives and the lives of your families in the cities and municipalities you live in,” Gojkovic told the citizens. She said that all the candidates in the coming elections should vie for public support with good programs and offer their visions for the development of the local self-governments and refrain from hate speech. “I once again urge all the participants in the elections to compete for votes with their work and responsibility in a fair campaign and respect the will of the people of the Republic of Serbia democratically expressed in the elections on 26 April,” said Gojkovic. She added that the timeline for the electoral activities will be set in motion on the day this decision comes into force and the elections for councilors of city and municipal assemblies will be conducted by the bodies for the conduction of elections as per the Law on Local Elections. The decision to call the local elections shall come into force on the day it is published in the Official Gazette.
New Sarajevo Canton government appointed (FTV)
New Sarajevo Canton (SC) government, composed of representatives of SDA, DF and SBB Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), was appointed at Tuesday’s session of the SC Assembly. FTV noted that up until the very beginning of the session of the SC Assembly, it was questionable whether there will be majority to approve the appointment of the new SC Government. FTV stressed that this issue was raised after SDA representative in the SC Assembly Aljosa Campara stated several days ago that he will not support two SDA candidates for posts of ministers in the new SC government, including Emir Hadzihafizbegovic and Senad Hasanspahic, due to the fact that their names are mentioned in the audio recording known in the public as ‘Asim’ affair. SDA managed to overcome this situation by replacing the two controversial candidates with completely new candidates. In line with that, new SC Minister for Veterans’ Issues will be Hajrudin Grabovica, while new SC Minister for Culture and Sports will be Kenan Alikadic.
In accordance with previously reached agreement, SDA will have seven ministerial posts in the new SC government, SBB B&H will have three ministerial posts, while DF will have two ministers in the new SC government.
Dodik: B&H CC is just called B&H CC, this is occupation court that wants to create new political system (RTRS)
After Doboj, a public discussion titled ‘Odgovornost za buducnost’ (Responsibility for the Future) was held in Prijedor on Tuesday. According to RTRS, citizens of Prijedor were informed about the harmful decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H that aims to deprive Republika Srpska (RS) of part of its property. RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic, Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic and many other officials of SNSD attended the event. On this occasion, Dodik said that the B&H CC is trying to create a new system of property relations and all other types of relations, which is contrary to the Dayton agreement, but the RS is committed to defend its property. Dodik said: “The B&H CC is just called the B&H CC, it is an occupation court that wants to create a new political system, a new system of property and all other types of relations. This is contrary to the Dayton Agreement and of course, the RS has the right to its opinion and we will never decide to give up on our right to defend what belongs to us. To lose the right to manage resources means to lose freedom and the RS is a synonym for our freedom and we do not want to lose that”. Cvijanovic said that she is sure that Prijedor, as many other municipalities and cities in the RS, will recognize the policy of SNSD, that is in her opinion, the policy that strives for a peaceful and a stable RS that guards and defends its competences. Viskovic stated that the main goal is to protect the Dayton B&H with all competences. Viskovic reminded that he often says that Serbs from the RS seems to be the only ones interested in the Dayton B&H, while others who swear in B&H, are ruining the Dayton B&H with all these decisions of the CC. The leadership of SNSD conveyed a message that one cannot trust the international community (IC) or the Office of the High Representative (OHR) that violate the DPA depriving the RS of its vital rights, all with the aim of centralization of B&H. They warned that the B&H CC, which they referred to as an “usurping” institution, has continued to do that as well. They were also quoted as saying that what the B&H CC and the High Representative are doing in relation to the DPA is such a violation that it needs to be stopped. “This is the red line that one cannot and should not cross,” according to the leadership of SNSD. Addressing reporters on this occasion, Dodik stated: “The leadership of SNSD decided to meet with people with regard to this alarming topic, i.e. our right related to the DPA. As far as the DPA is concerned, it is obvious that there are two phases. The first phase is when the Americans in the IC stood behind the text of the DPA, and then they gave up and they are creating some kind of B&H together with Bosniaks, contrary to the DPA, which should be imposed on us through the operations that used to be conducted by the High Representative and now they are conducted by the B&H CC. This is something that we have to stop. We have to say that we do not want that.”
Muratovic: If OHR fails to act, Chairman of B&H Presidency has right to address UN SC and asks for OHR to secure implementation of DPA (Dnevni avaz)
Former Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic commented the newest crisis in B&H and blockade of state institutions, produced by member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, and said that there is a simple solution for the crisis where the High Representative would reach an urgent decision on normal functioning of institutions and removing of all those who prevent this. He stressed that the High Representative needs to take over the responsibility and reach the decisions necessary for normal functioning of the institutions, “whenever domestic B&H bodies are late or when they cannot reach them through agreement or compromise”. Muratovic stressed that such acting of the High Representative is necessary as long as the ultimatums do not stop and until the situation is back to normal. “The USA and the European Union have to help him in this, which practically appoint the High Representative, as well as UN Security Council to which he formally submits his reports. I think that in this moment all conditions have been fulfilled for the HR to act. On the other side, if the OHR does nothing, then the Chairman of B&H Presidency has every right to address the UN Security Council and ask for the OHR to secure implementation of Dayton Agreement,” said Muratovic. He noted that B&H was in similar situation after declaring independence in 1992, when international factors ignored demands of Radovan Karadzic. As for Dodik’s request to establish “border between entities,” Muratovic said that borders between entities were never mentioned and are not part of any agreements. He explained that the word “border” does not exist in Dayton Agreement, but only inter-entity boundary line. He stressed that Dodik’s goal is to place the paramilitary units or police on entity line and establish “border crossings between entities”.
Radoncic: My first responsibility is to defend sovereignty of B&H and B&H citizens and then care about migrants (N1)
B&H Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic reminded that two months ago, he warned about the possibility of “cataclysmic scenario and possibility that Turkey will one day release the dam of three- four million refugees towards Europe”. “We have a scenario for which B&H made no plans whatsoever,” said Radoncic. He reminded that B&H and old B&H Council of Ministers have not invested a single cent into the budget of the Border Police of B&H, enabling it to hire more police, nor have they invested any funds into B&H Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, Intelligence Service, etc. Minister noted that he earlier appealed to municipal officials and that they already secured funds for training of about fifty new cadets and that the European Commission also promised to provide certain funds. “We have lost something that is call time factor. We are now operating by the principle ‘let us save what can be saved’”, said Radoncic. He explained that after the meetings with B&H Border Police, Service for Foreigners’ Affairs and SIPA, they agreed to strengthen eastern border and that part of the contingent from the western side will be transferred to the east and the other police agencies will provide the assistance. “This is a fire drill. In this moment we want to hope that the EU for the first time will respond seriously by now being the first line of defense and luckily Greece now acts in this way,” said Radoncic. Minister said that he is encouraged by reactions of EU officials and their statements that entire Europe is the line of defense. “I hope this will remain to be the case and it will not turn out that the line of defense is the EU border and that all these migrants will come to Serbia, B&H and Montenegro,” said Radoncic. He said that there is no way for entire burden of the crisis to be taken by the Federation of B&H, i.e. cantons with Bosniak majority. “As far as I am concerned, I very much respect the life problems of the people who want to come to the EU, but my obligation is most notably to defend sovereignty of B&H and our citizens and only then care about migrants. So, all country, including Greece, but also B&H, have right to defend by all means necessary,” ends Radoncic. Radoncic said that the EU has no more maneuvering space to treat the migrant crisis as a humanitarian, but as a security issue. He stressed that the solution is to stop them where the problem start, on Greek and Bulgarian border. “We have created a problem to ourselves because of the agreement with Frontex,” said Radoncic.
Number of migrants in B&H is expected to increase to 10,000 (O Kanal)
Head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission to B&H Peter Van der Auweraert, asked if the new migrant crisis caused by opening of Turkish borders for migrants and refugees towards the EU could cause consequences in Europe as it was the case five years ago and how many migrants the IOM expects in B&H, said that it is unlikely that the situation from 2015 and 2016 will repeat. He reminded that tens of thousands of migrants moved from Turkey on the border with Greece, but the number of people who succeeded to enter Greece is still low. Van der Auweraert said that IOM’s assessments show that some 15,000 people are currently stranded between the Turkish and Greek border, adding that apart from the current developments in Turkey the increase in the number of migrants’ arrivals in B&H is visible. However, he stressed that it is important to compare the number of arrivals with the number of people who leave B&H to enter Croatia, reminding that during the past year the number of migrants in B&H remained stable because the number of their arrivals in B&H and departures from the country was about the same. “It is a bit worrying that Croatia will strengthen its border controls with B&H, so it is possible to see the increased number of migrants’ arrivals in a short period of time. The current number is some 700 migrants a week and it could increase to some 1,000 migrants, and the number of departures could decrease. Therefore, it is possible to have a situation in which the average number of people who reside in B&H will increase because they will need more time to enter Croatia. Some 7,000 migrants currently reside in B&H and this number has been rather stable in the past couple of months. It is possible that this number will increase if the number of arrivals remains at the current level and the number of those who leave B&H decreases, and therefore we might have 10,000 migrants in B&H in a couple of weeks or months,” Van der Auweraert assessed. He stated that he agrees with the recent statement of B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic who said that B&H cannot be expected to have capacities for endless number of migrants. Commenting on the fact that B&H has not signed the agreement on cooperation with Frontex although B&H’s border was proven to be porous, Van der Auweraert said that this is a political decision that needs to be taken by B&H authorities and even if B&H signs the agreement – it depends on Frontex’s activities here. He stressed that for instance it would not be helpful for B&H if Frontex would want to strengthen the border between B&H and Croatia, but it might be helpful if Frontex would attempt to strengthen B&H’s border with Serbia or Montenegro. According to Van der Auweraert, even if the agreement with Frotnex is signed now, this does not mean that hundreds of additional frontiersmen would arrive all of the sudden but this would undoubtedly take some time. He concluded that in a short-term perspective, there will be no big difference in the field regardless of whether this agreement is signed or not. He assessed that Radoncic had the right when he said that the state has to take control of the migrant situation in the country and to work on strategic plan to address this issue globally, which is very important because there were several crises in the past due to lack of a comprehensive plan.
Western Balkan countries should jointly protect borders of Western Balkans (ATV)
Europe is facing a new migrant crisis as Turkey decided to open its borders with the EU after the escalation in Idlib, Syria. Hundreds of thousands of migrants are now heading to countries of the Western Europe. The number of migrants who are leaving Turkey in order to cross to Greece has reached 130,000. Due to the announcements of a major influx of migrants, high-ranking officials of RS held a meeting at the RS Palace in Banja Luka on Tuesday. The meeting was organized at the initiative of RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic and it was attended by Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic, RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic and RS Minister of Interior Dragan Lukac. According to conclusions of the meeting, the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI) will undertake all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of citizens and property of the RS. The RS Government will adopt an adequate plan as a response to the announced influx of migrants, at its session in Banja Luka on Friday.
Cvijanovic stated that countries of the Western Balkans should work together in order to protect their external borders from the influx of migrants, just like the EU protects its own external borders. “I am not sure that it will happen, so the RS is responsible to make sure that our MoI and all other capacities, our civil protection and all institutions at the level of the RS conduct certain measures in cooperation with local authorities,” Cvijanovic explained. Dodik assessed that the EU is obviously changing its policy towards migrants and it has to find a way to stop them. “I believe there is a change in the EU’s policy in terms of putting an end to the open border policy and launching the border defense policy that should also imply the use of force, of course. I support that,” Dodik said. All available human and material-technical resources of the B&H Border Police have been redistributed to the northeastern and eastern parts of the border. The RS MoI assists the B&H Border Police with 104 police officers. The number will increase if the situation gets more complicated. It is a priority to protect the citizens and property, according to RS Police Director Darko Culum. “They are sick, nervous, deceived and exhausted when it comes to money. Therefore, they might pose a threat to B&H, to our citizens and police officers, of course. As far as the RS Police is concerned, we will do everything to protect our citizens, to keep the safety at the current level. I am calling on our citizens to cooperate with the police and report where illegal migrants are,” Culum said. He assessed that, with the increase in the number of migrants, there is also a growing pressure for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to come to the external border of B&H. However, as the RS parliament decided, it would be detrimental to the vital interest of the RS as it would mean turning the RS into a reception center, he said. “There are already pressures for the Frontex to come to B&H’s external border with Croatia. It would not benefit us. The Frontex should go to the area of Greece or North Macedonia, to protect the border over there. That is our proposal. Or the Frontex should go to the eastern part of the external border of B&H, in order to protect B&H from the arrival of migrants,” Culum explained. According to attendees of the meeting, the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the RS government will undertake all necessary measures that guarantee safety of citizens and property of the RS. The officials announced that the RS Government will establish a plan for measure to tackle this issue on Friday. Cvijanovic stated that while Greece is currently preventing a wave of 130,000 migrants to pass, the Western Balkan countries should jointly protect external border of the Western Balkan. Addressing media, she stated that she would like if the region had a coordinated relation, adding that Europe is doing the same by protecting its external borders which is the same thing that the Western Balkans should do regardless of political disagreements, but she is not sure that this will happen.
Plenkovic: We all stand in solidarity with Greece (Hina)
The European Union and each member state support and stand in solidarity with Greece, which is facing a wave of illegal migrants, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Kastanies near the Greek-Turkish border on Tuesday. As chairman of the Council of the EU, he visited the border together with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and European Parliament President Davide Sassoli. They arrived to support Greece given its efforts to protect its own and thereby the external EU border, preventing illegal migration. “We have sent the message that the EU and all member states will support and stand in solidarity with Greece,” said Plenkovic. The European leaders flew over the border area in a helicopter to see the situation on the ground. They were joined by Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, who will chair an extraordinary meeting of EU interior ministers on this topic on Wednesday. The Greek army, police and Mitsotakis briefed them on what is being done to protect the border. “It’s important that Greece, with its security forces, prevents a possible new illegal migration wave,” said Plenkovic. He and his colleagues also visited the Greek police barricades on foot. He said Greece would receive support from Frontex and a swift border response team as well as funding for that. He said the situation was similar to 2015 and 2016 but with a key difference. “This Greek government, unlike the previous one (led by Alexis Tsipras), is controlling its border.” “After today’s briefing, I believe Prime Minister Mitsotakis and the Greek authorities will guard their border,” Plenkovic said. EU leaders met in Kastanies amid increasing EU concerns about the arrival of thousands of migrants to the Greek border, after Turkey said it “opened its door” for refugees because dozens of Turkish soldiers had been killed in northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he had refused €1 billion in European aid for holding migrants in Turkey because the EU did not wish to “share the burden”.
Is Montenegro braced for a large wave of migrants? (CDM)
After Turkey opened its border with Greece, thousands of migrants are trying to reach the EU. The EU is trying to address the problem, but tensions are constantly growing. And while Europe is on the alert, Montenegro’s competent authorities say that Montenegro is not in danger. So, what is the situation like? Should Montenegro expect greater inflow of migrants? Zoran Vujicic, coordinator of the human rights and justice program in Civic Alliance, says that this issue is very complex and that migrant routes are constantly changing. “What we see right now is that Greece and Bulgaria refuse to let migrants on their territory, which does not necessarily mean they won’t do that. Inflow to Montenegro is not bigger but even if that happens it will be for a short while,” Vujicic says. Asked to comment on the current situation at Turkish-Greek border, Vujicic says: “Turkey has accepted a certain number of migrants to Europe to inflict some pressure on the EU due to unsettled issues they have. However, there’s great risk that this might escalate and the migrants are the ones who would pay through the nose,” Vujicic concludes. President of the Young liberals in Montenegro, Amar Borancic, gave his view on the whole migrant situation. He says that migrants are being used for political ends. “Migrant crisis today is nothing like the one in 2015 or 2016. Several thousand migrants can’t provoke a serious geo-political problem. Unfortunately, those people are used for political ends. Erdogan’s regime in Ankara is blackmailing Europe by ‘sudden’ inflow of migrants on the EU borders,” Borancic says. According to him, the moment the Middle East situation is stabilized and reconciliation is reached, new migrant crisis will be just an illusion. “It is important to be rational as much as possible. Europe has never been under threat from migrant crisis which would endanger its demographic movements or cause demographic stresses and changes,” Borancic stresses. He has no dilemma – Montenegro is definitely ready to respond to inflows. “Montenegro will not be e key route for migrants, and, therefore, I firmly believe there’s no fear. No need to panic,” Borancic concludes. Head of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, visited the land part of the border between Greece and Turkey. “Today, I am standing here as European. We came here to send a clear message of European solidarity and support,” Von der Leyen pointed out. She said she was fully committed to providing any kind of operational support for the authorities. Von der Leyen called Greece “the shield of Europe” and promised €700 million of assistance. Numerous European leaders attacked Turkish president due to the migrant situation.
Greek Prime Minister said that he wouldn’t allow to be blackmailed and added that the problem was not the problem of refugees anymore. There are currently around 3,7 million refugees from Syria in Turkey, as well as migrants from other countries. Erdogan has accused the EU of failing to provide any help for the refugees and their reception in the safety zones in Syria.
Coalition with Besa – the beginning of the end of SDSM? (Republika/Netpress)
SDSM and BESA signed a pre-election coalition, but they have not revealed which political platform this coalition is based on. They would have done it in the coming period. SDSM’s new and serious contribution to the theory and practice of political science. Everywhere in the world, political parties first negotiate on ideological-political platforms and then sign pre-election or government coalitions. Only SDSM and Besa are doing it wrong. They have serious reasons for this, writes Jovan Donev in his latest column published in Netpress. He points out that the SDSM presents itself as a leftist party, while Besa as a center-right party. Nothing ideologically brings them together, but this remark can also be ignored. Macedonia has so far seen such ideological perversions. But one cannot ignore the fact that an agreement for a joint pre-election coalition was signed by a non-nationalist and a nationalist chauvinistic party. He adds that there is no unitary state without a nation. Whether that nation is ethnocentric or civil is quite another question. But it does exist. The constant reiteration by the SDSM that Macedonia is a multiethnic state, i.e. that the SDSM is a multiethnic party, as well as its actions in the executive and legislative branches of government, shows a non-nationalist approach aimed at denominating the Macedonian nation at the level of an ethnic group. Neither theory nor practice recognize such an approach. Not only is it contrary to the logic of the existence of the nation and the state, but it is also contrary to the principles of a liberal economy, Donev said. Keeping the status of the Macedonian nation is contrary to the agreements with Bulgaria and Greece, but also the Tirana Platform. SDSM did not sign these agreements in order to popularize the Macedonian nation. On the contrary! They are signed to force a process of its denomination through the forcibly amended constitution preamble. Otherwise, Zaev’s government would have respected the result of the referendum and no one in the world would have condemned it. If SDSM really cared about preserving and strengthening the Macedonian nation, its government, immediately after the referendum, should have resigned and run for new elections. It didn’t happen either, Donev emphasized. According to him, the Albanian political parties in the Republic of Macedonia are nationalistic. Their commitment is a national Albanian unification. For them, the existence of the Macedonian nation is an obstacle to achieving this goal. Simply put, as long as the Macedonian nation exists, they will be a national minority. They don’t want it. They will have to follow the fate of the nation. Defining Besa as a nationalist chauvinistic party should come as no surprise. For the sake of truth more or less the other Albanian political parties are as well. The difference between them and Besa is that Besa speaks clearly and loudly about the constitutional redefinition of the Republic of Macedonia, in the function of equalizing the constitutional-legal status of the Albanian minority with the Macedonian nation, he explained. Moreover, he says the existence of the Republic of Albania and the Republic of Kosovo behind the Albanian national minority in the Republic of Macedonia is a reality. This reality has its repercussions on the interethnic relations in the Macedonian society. They existed and will exist. They cannot be escaped, but they can be managed. Provided that the Albanian political parties accept the reality that they are a national minority in the Republic of Macedonia. Thanks to Zaev and his company, they no longer want to think about such a thing. That is why Besa signed a pre-election coalition with SDSM, but without a joint political program. As Donev says, Zaev and the SDSM top leadership support Besa’s efforts to complete the Greater Albanian dream, but they will not say so publicly. They also want to win these elections by again lying to Macedonian voters and fostering the idea of an all-Albanian unification with the Albanian electorate. The coalition between SDSM and Besa is perverse and contrary to the interests of the Macedonian nation and state. If it wins the elections, it will sacrifice the Macedonian national interests for the benefit of the Albanian, the Bulgarian and the Greek. In order to meet the demands of those interested in the exploitation of gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. The only way to prevent this is for VMRO-DPMNE to win the upcoming elections. Wisdom is needed for that to happen. The same one that the citizens showed during the referendum, Donev said.
Dimitrov: If there is no decision on negotiations, the EU will send a bad signal to the region (Republika/Slobodna TV)
After seeing the EC’s favorable report, it’s high time Europe set a date to start negotiations. Still, given our experience, we cannot afford to rejoice yet and should wait, instead, to see the actual decision, according to Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said in an interview with Slobodna TV.
The report is more than good. It’s excellent. Because it says that despite its disappointment in October, Macedonia has boosted—intensified—its efforts to implement reforms and has delivered tangible and sustainable results. Now we have this context with all the ingredients for success; they’re obvious. We have a mini-report saying it’s high time we started negotiating, and I hope Europe will seize this moment and deliver. If the EU doesn’t deliver in such a context, the biggest casualty will be its enlargement policy, i.e., the EU will signal that the door is closed for this region surrounded by member states. But I don’t think they will let this kind of thing happen, Dimitrov noted. If there was one positive to be said about all our futile attempts over the past couple of years, Dimitrov highlighted, it was that the EU had to deal with more problems than we were. “Finally,” he said, “its enlargement policy was put into the focus of attention, prompting discussions at the highest level, so I think the new methodology will make sure this policy is reinvigorated and brought back to the table.” “I think it’s a plus,” Dimitrov added.
Commenting on the French position that the enlargement process is too technical and takes too long, Dimitrov recalled Emmanuel Macron saying at the Munich Security Conference that he’s pleased with the new approach as a first step – and if the reports on Macedonia and Albania are favorable, they will be the second step making sure Paris can seriously consider the question to start talks. According to Dimitrov, things are moving forward toward a successful outcome for all, and the positive is that the region’s European future is undeniable for France, too.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Serbia Keeps Pressure on Kosovo Despite Western Push for Thaw (Bloomberg News, by Misha Savic and Gordana Filipovic, 3 March 2020)
Serbia maintained pressure over international recognition of its former province of Kosovo, even as the U.S. and the European Union step up efforts to bring about a lasting peace between the wartime foes. Serbia announced Tuesday that Sierra Leone had withdrawn its recognition of Kosovo, making it the 18th nation to be lobbied into doing so, though Western countries widely consider it a sovereign state. The move may complicate mediation efforts just days after the U.S. instructed Kosovo to cancel a 100% tariff on imports from Serbia that’s been in place since 2018. Serbia and Kosovo must settle their differences before they can fulfill goals to join the EU.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti offered to gradually remove the levy if Serbia halts the campaign against its sovereignty. But Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the U.S.’s envoy to the region, Richard Grenell, demanded the tax be scrapped unconditionally. “We await the removal of the tax so we can resume dialog,” Vucic said late Monday in Washington after meeting with Grenell, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to state broadcaster RTS. Kurti has come under fire from hard-liners at home for even offering to end the levy before Serbia recognizes Kosovo as a sovereign state. But his government partners are also wary about defying advice from the U.S., the key backer of independence for Europe’s newest country. Kosovo may review its position on the tax this week, Berat Rukiqi, head of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, told a Serbia-organized business forum late Monday. “Everyone agrees tariffs should be lifted, but the mechanisms and time-frame differ,” he said.
Serbian President Sets Election Date as Boycott Threat Fades (Bloomberg News, by Misha Savic, 4 March 2020)
Serbia’s president set elections for next month, ignoring the fading threat of a boycott by opposition groups that complain he’s stifling free speech. The vote will be held on April 26, Aleksandar Vucic announced Wednesday following months of squabbling with his critics and after the European Union encouraged his opponents to participate. “There’ll be more than 50 days for campaigning — enough time for everyone to present their programs,” Vucic said, urging “peaceful and democratic elections.” The proposed boycott has been something of an embarrassment for Vucic as he seeks to steer the biggest former Yugoslav republic toward membership of the EU. But despite the threats from the umbrella opposition group Alliance for Serbia delaying elections, the initiative has begun to unravel of late. One reason for that is a lower barrier to enter parliament: the threshold was recently cut to 3% from 5%, encouraging smaller parties to join the election. Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party, which has dominated politics since 2012, is nevertheless set to win, with a recent poll giving it more than 53% support. The new government is likely to implement a spending spree in excess of $15 billion through 2025 to speed up economic expansion. Vucic is also facing international pressure to mend ties with Kosovo as a condition to join the EU.