Brnabic: No increased migrant pressure on Serbian borders; zero tolerance for persons trying to cross the border illegally (RTS)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic held a meeting today where she was briefed on the current situation regarding the movement of migrants and the coordination of work of the state bodies.
The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar and Commissioner for Refugees and Migration Vladimir Cucic. At the meeting it was pointed out that there is no increased pressure on the Serbian borders, that the situation on the borders of Turkey and Greece is getting stabilized, noting that the number of migrants is at the same level as in the previous months.
The participants in the meeting informed Brnabic about the measures taken by the state institutions and underlined that the situation is under control and that the security of the country is not threatened, and that there is. The Health Ministry has been instructed to set up a quarantine for migrants, as one more form of protection against coronavirus. All competent institutions will submit reports twice a day on all relevant information regarding the movement of migrants, and all activities will be carried out in coordination with the government and the President of the Republic. The interlocutors of the Prime Minister noted that when it comes to the security situation there is no reason to worry and in that context they pointed out that the concerns of the citizens of Sid diminished within a day. Since the start of the migrant crisis, just over a million migrants have passed through our country, while around 6,000 of them are currently placed in 17 reception centers and this number is not changing.
Dacic: Foreign exchange between Serbia, Russia should be increased (Tanjug/Beta)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic led the delegation of Serbia at the 18th session of the Serbian-Russian Intergovernmental Committee for Trade, Economic and Scientific Technical Cooperation, which was held today in Kazan in the Russian Federation. Dacic took part in the work of this body as co-chairman on the Serbian side, while on the Russian side this function is performed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov. Speaking to the press after the meeting, Dacic said that the relations between Serbia and Russia are exceptional in all spheres, starting from political relations to the economy, culture and education. He said that a goal has been set and that is that foreign exchange reaches $4 billion, noting that last year it stood at $3.560 billion, while in 2018 it was $3.060 billion. Therefore, in relation to two years ago, our foreign exchange has increased by $500 million, i.e. by 16 percent. We are satisfied with this trend, but we think it can be even better. Today we discussed many important topics, and we also insisted that the realization of everything we had agreed on be speeded up, Dacic underlined.
He said that the next session of the Intergovernmental Committee will be in Serbia. Dacic also expressed gratitude to the President of the Republic of Tatarstan on exceptional hospitality with which he was received.
Vulin: Serbia is not a colony (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
“Serbia is not a colony and as long as it is headed by Aleksandar Vucic it will take its own decision on the strengthening and equipping of its military and it will decide on its own which friendly countries it will buy arms and equipment from,” a Defense Ministry press release quoted Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin as saying. “The stronger the Serbian military, the longer peace in the Balkans will last,” he said. Vulin said that no one should be concerned over the fact that Serbia is equipping its military for defense. “As a militarily neutral country, Serbia has to be prepared and capable of defending itself and Serbs wherever they live,” he said.
According to the Defense Minister, there is no reason to impose sanctions on Serbia. “I am certain that no country would do that if it respects international law and Serbia’s right to decide independently on its equipment and weapons,” he said.
US asks Serbia to stop buying arms from Russia (RFE/N1)
The US embassy to Serbia reiterated on Thursday Washington was “worried about Belgrade purchases of the Russian military equipment and call on the authorities to stop with translocations which with Moscow which could lead to sanctions,” Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported. “We call on all our allies and partners to give up transactions with Russia which pose a risk of implementing sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),” the embassy told RFE. The embassy said that the US and Russia “have very different views of the Western Balkans future. Washington strongly supports Serbia’s European path and its declared goal of the European Union membership. Moscow, on the other hand, is active against the Western integration of the region and attempts to prevent the solution to ethnic tensions, marginalise the US and EU influence and slows down or prevents the Western Balkans to follow its independent orientation.” Serbia’s President confirmed on Wednesday that the complete Russian-made anti-aircraft defence system Pantsir arrived in Serbia, RFE said.
It added that “the new purchase of the weapons and military equipment from Russia caused concern in Brussels and Washington, and that Peter Stano, a spokesperson for Joseph Borrell, the EU High Commissioner for Foreign and Security, said on February 25 that Serbia had to adjust its foreign policy to that of the bloc. Matthew Palmer, the State Department special envoy for the Western Balkans, was the first official to mention the possibility of the US sanctions in November last year. Next month, Vucic said Serbia would stop buying weapons, but recently announced a new purchase of the Israel-made arms, adding that would not be “a small order.”
RFE reminds that Belgrade still expects the delivery of the Moscow donation of T-72 tanks and some armored BRDM-2 vehicles, as well four Russian-made MiG-29 fighter aircraft from Belarus which are being repaired in Baranovichi.
Dodik: B&H Presidency already decided that B&H AF will not be deployed at eastern borders; Komsic: By refusing to engage B&H AF in protection of borders, Dodik takes responsibility for all possible consequences of migrant crisis (RTRS)
Focus of the region is on Turkish-Greek border, in this context Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is looking for methods how to prevent migrants from entering this country via its eastern borders. Member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik commented in Istocno Sarajevo on Thursday statements of leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic and B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic that due to the possible new migrant wave, B&H should deploy B&H Armed Forces (AF) at its borders – if neighboring countries do the same. He emphasized that the Presidency of B&H decided earlier that B&H AF will not be deployed to B&H borders with Serbia and Montenegro. He added that this issue should be dealt with in a different and more serious way. “We hope that the EU borders in Greece and Bulgaria with Turkey will remain strong and that the EU will manage to prevent the new migrant wave,” explained Dodik. Dodik underlined that B&H showed that it is incapable to find a quality method to deal with similar issues. “The main problem are policies of the EU which led to the migrant crisis,” explained Dodik. Reporter reminded that upon initiative submitted by member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic, B&H Presidency discussed in 2019 possibility to engage B&H AF in protection of B&H borders. Dodik rejected such possibility. Komsic stated on Thursday that by refusing to engage B&H AF in protection of borders, Dodik takes responsibility for all possible consequences of migrant crisis. He added that this is irresponsible behavior towards all citizens, including those in Republika Srpska (RS). Komsic stressed that if the situation escalates, the engagement of B&H AF could be discussed by the Presidency again, adding that it would be in everyone’s interest.
Komsic said that Dodik has to reasonably review the circumstances regarding the B&H AF engagement on the border, in case the neighboring countries do the same.
Dodik meets with Ivantsov and Koc respectively, says RS representatives in B&H will not participate in decision-making until disputable decision of B&H CC is withdrawn (RTRS)
Member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik met respectively on Thursday with Ambassador of Russia to B&H Petr Ivantsov and Ambassador of Turkey to B&H Haldun Koc. During these meetings Dodik said that Serb representatives in B&H institutions will not participate in the decision-making process until the decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H declaring part of the RS Law on Agricultural Land unconstitutional is withdrawn. Commenting SDA’s reaction to statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry on situation in B&H, Dodik and Ivantsov emphasized that SDA’s claims are untrue and tendentious. Reporter noted that Dodik has been claiming that foreign judges in the B&H CC have been supporting the intention of Bosniaks to dissolve the RS through constitutional system. He stressed that the RS should not be naïve, because connection between foreign judges and Bosniaks has been functional for a long time under auspices of part of the international community. Member of B&H Presidency emphasized that B&H CC is the most corrupted place. Koc denied the press statement of Dodik’s Cabinet and argued that “as we already said in past, we let them know that it is necessary to have active mechanisms of decision-making of B&H institutions in order to continue projects that were already launched”. The daily noted that the reaction was issued after Dodik’s Cabinet said in its press statement that Dodik thanked Turkey and its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “for determination to continue activities of B&H and Turkey on existing projects, which should not be brought in question because of the new situation in B&H”.
Stoltenberg: North Macedonia soon to become member of NATO (Hina)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Wednesday in Zagreb that North Macedonia would become a NATO member within the next few weeks, and the alliance’s chief thanked Croatia for its support to the open-door policy. “We welcome the fact that Croatia has been a staunch advocate for NATO’s open-door policy. And soon, within the next few weeks, North Macedonia will become the 30th member, which shows that our door remains open,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference after his meeting with Croatian President Zoran Milanovic. The Croatian President, who was sworn in on 18 February, said that “his old acquaintance and friend” Stoltenberg was the first foreign guest since he took office, noting that his own diplomatic career had started in NATO. The focus of the two officials’ meeting was on the involvement of Croatian troops in NATO-led missions, and they also discussed current challenges faced by the entire world. Croatia is a committed and highly appreciated ally contributing in various spheres, the general secretary said, mentioning the presence of the Croatian contingents in Lithuania and Poland, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo, and welcoming the fact that Croatia is increasing funding for defense. Speaking about the recent agreement between the US and Taliban on peace in Afghanistan, which should result in the withdrawal of Western forces from the Asian country, Stoltenberg reiterated that the path towards peace was difficult, but that one should remain dedicated to it. When the moment comes and all conditions are met, we will leave together, Stoltenberg stated. Milanovic said that Croatia would follow the developments and that it would slowly but definitely pull its troops from that mission. “However, this will not happen overnight,” he said. Milanovic recalled that one of the first decisions he signed since his recent inauguration referred to the deployment of a new contingent of Croatian soldiers in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, plans are being drawn up in the meantime on the departure of the Croatian troops from that country, he added. A few days ago, the US and Taliban signed an agreement which sets into motion the potential of a full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and could pave the way to ending the war which has been lasting for 18 years. The Doha deal lays out a 14-month timetable for the withdrawal of “all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel.”
Markovic forms expert team for the negotiations with the Metropolitanate (CDM)
Montenegro’s Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, has formed a team of experts for the negotiations with the Metropolitanate and dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church over the Law on Freedom of Religion. He also called Metropolitan Amfilohije for expert-level talks.
“During the talks, the government will be represented by Zoran Pazin, vice-president of the Government; Nebojsa Vucinic, professor at the Faculty of Law; Aneta Spaic, Dean of the Faculty of Law; Dragoljub Bulatovic, chief of the Cabinet of the President of the government; Nikola Martinovic, lawyer, and Srdjan Spaic, lawyer. As we understood, you agree that the first meeting should be held on Wednesday, 11 March, at 10 o’clock in Vila Gorica, Podgorica. We officially confirm that,” says Markovic’s letter. The government has confirmed preparedness to resume the dialogue on the Law on Freedom of Religion.
Amfilohije accepts Markovic’s call for dialogue (CDM)
Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, Amfilohije, said to Dusko Markovic that he accepted his proposal for the meeting at expert level scheduled for Wednesday, 11 March, in Vila Gorica in Podgorica. Metropolitanate has also formed its own expert team, headed by Velibor Dzomic. In his reply, Amfilohije pointed out that the Metropolitanate had expected the call for dialogue earlier. “We need to express our concerns over the fact that the discriminatory law has come into force and that specific repressive measures against clergy have been implemented. Also, radical anti-church public performances of the highest state officials accusing the Church of the alleged anti-state activity should not be neglected either. That’s not good atmosphere for dialogue,” Amfilohije said. Metropolitan added that the expert team was in charge of holding talks about the Law, whereas the Episcopal council will be in charge of making final decisions.
Pazin: Law on Freedom of Religion obliges everyone to respect legal order of Montenegro (CDM)
Law on Freedom of Religion, which meets the highest standards of human rights and freedoms, and which is by far the most liberal law in our surroundings, guarantees every religious community equal rights and obliges everyone to respect legal order of Montenegro, said Zoran Pazin, vice-president of the government, during the meeting with the senator Ron Johnson in Washington. Pazin stressed that Montenegro demonstrated enough strength and wisdom to overcome conflicts caused by misconception about the Law. This Law could only be threat who see their interest in spreading ethnic and religious tensions and instability in the Balkans.
“Current attempts to abuse religious feelings with the aim of undermining fundamental values of a multi-confessional Montenegro show that spirits of the 1990s are still alive,” Pazin said. He added that they appreciated understanding and support of the US. Pazin thanked Johnson for the support the USA provided for Montenegro. “Montenegro is committed to settling internal issues through democratic dialogue, while preserving its fundamental values,” Pazin pointed out.
Senator Johnson emphasized Montenegro’s constructive and positive role in cherishing stable relations with neighbors and said that Montenegro has enormous potential. “I am a great supporter of Montenegro and Montenegrin people. Every country is faced with challenges, but Montenegro really has enormous potential. The key point in Montenegro’s progress was NATO accession,” senator said. He said he particularly appreciated the fact that Montenegro and Kosovo had managed to settle their border dispute.
Sekerinska and Dimitrov will not be holders of candidate lists due to bad ratings (Republika/Vecer)
Holders of the candidate lists of the SDSM-BESA coalition will be Mila Carovska in the first election district, Oliver Spasovski in the second, Ljupco Nikolovski in the third, Zoran Zaev in the fourth, Venko Filipce in the fifth and Bilal Kasimi in the sixth election district, Vecer.mk reported. Radmila Sekerinska, along with Renata Deskoska and Nikola Dimitrov, were also in the run for holder of candidate list in the second election district, but polls showed they do not enjoy the confidence of the citizens. Especially Dimitrov, who has the worst ratings mostly because of the Prespa Agreement. Deskoska was also in the run for the fifth election district, along with Mila Carovska and Venko Filipce.
Pendarovski-Sobotka: Austria gives unequivocal support to Macedonia’s EU perspective (Republika)
President Stevo Pendarovski met Thursday with the Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka, who is paying a day-long official visit to Macedonia. At the meeting, the interlocutors exchanged views on the overall bilateral relations between Macedonia and Austria, where it was assessed that the two countries foster excellent bilateral relations in several areas of mutual interest. Pendarovski voiced expectation for further intensification of the cooperation between the parliaments of the two countries, as an important aspect in strengthening the interstate cooperation. At the meeting, Pendarovski stressed the importance of strong, unreserved and principled Austrian support for the European perspective of Macedonia and the region. In this context, Pendarovski expressed the expectation that soon after the adoption of the new enlargement methodology, a date will be set for the start of accession negotiations with EU, which is in the interest of the stability of the region and the EU.
Meta publishes letter addressed to Brussel: ‘Demounts’ lie mounded in Commission’s Report (ADN)
President of the Republic, Ilir Meta revealed full letter to Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Oliver Varhelyi, so as to avoid malicious interpretations. In this regard, Head of State informed they had to publish the full letter to Enlargement Commissioner, because sources from the ruling majority have served it to a television, to create misunderstandings. “Since sources from the majority have served for a television the official letter of the President of the Republic, Ilir Meta addressed to the Commissioner for Enlargement, to create misunderstandings, we are being obliged to publish it in full to avoid every malicious interpretation” said President of Albania. Full letter of President of the Republic below:
Dear Commissioner Varhelyi, your office issued an update on key findings of the 2019 enlargement package on Albania. I welcome your commitment and efforts to supporting my country’s EU integration process, pending the opening of accession negotiations. I remain hopeful that the member states will endorse your recommendation to open negotiations during this month, also in view of a more scrupulous methodology that ensures a more tangible and sustainable process of due reforms. I remain with the best impressions from our meeting in Tirana, and was indeed encouraged by your realism and eagerness to turn past failures into opportunities. Restoring the credibility of enlargement process is not only a requirement of member states but also indispensable to genuine progress of candidate countries, including Albania. In this view, I cannot hide my regret reading the “photography of facts” related to the process of establishment of the Constitutional Court, where you quote “There is a dispute about one of the latest judges nominated, due to a differing interpretation of the appointment procedure by the President of the Republic.” There is indeed a dispute regarding the procedure of appointments of Constitutional Judges, but this is due to a differing interpretation of the socialist majority, which seeks to capture also the Constitutional Court of the country, and further escalate the sui generis crisis in Albania. The President of the Republic has fully respected and implemented the exact constitutional and legal provisions which stipulate: Article 179 of the Constitution: “…2. The first member to be replaced in the Constitutional Court shall be appointed by the President of the Republic, the second shall be elected by Parliament and the third shall be appointed by the Supreme Court. This shall be the sequence for all future appointments after the entry into force of this law.” Law No 8577/2000, “On the Organization and Functioning of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania” as amended: “4. The renewal of Constitutional Court judges until 2022, shall take place under the following scheme:
- a) The judges who will replace the judges whose mandate expires in 2016, shall be appointed according to sequence, respectively by the President of the Republic and by Parliament.
- b) The judge who will replace the judge whose mandate expires in 2017 shall be appointed by the High Court and shall stay in office until 2025.
- c) The judges who will replace the judges whose mandate expires in 2019 shall be appointed according to sequence, respectively by the President of the Republic and by Parliament.
- c) The judge who will replace the judge whose mandate expires in 2020, shall be appointed by the High Court and shall stay in office until 2028.
- d) The judges who will replace the judges whose mandate expires in 2022, shall be appointed according to sequence, respectively by the President of the Republic, by Parliament, and by the High Court.”
This is exactly what the President has abided to. This is exactly what the Venice Commission recommended for the Constitutional judicial reform adopted unanimously by the Albanian Parliament in 2016. But the political appetite of the socialist majority seeks to break such balance, in order to take political control of the Court. Furthermore, I have published all official documents that prove every constitutional and legal violations committed by the Chair of Justice Appointment Council, Minister of Justice, MoJ Secretary General, and the Center of Official Publications, and petitioned criminal charges against everyone involved in this scheme in the Special Prosecutor’s Office, SPAK. Throughout this time, I have been fully transparent, and have informed EU Delegation office and all EU member states in every step of this process. I have been fully cooperative with the Venice Commission who is invested to examine the entirety of appointments procedure of Constitutional Judges, and not on one judge, as mentioned in your report. To complicate things further, you must know that this majority passed an anti-Constitutional law in Parliament, changing the swearing in office procedure of Constitutional Judges to the President of the Republic, stipulated in Article 129 of Constitution. Let me note, that this law was adopted on the day Venice Commission arrived in Tirana, notwithstanding their pending Opinion also on this matter. I have officially examined this procedure as well, and publicly denounced with official documents how Parliament deceives on alleged support on behalf of other public institutions and NGO’s. The latter have not only denied support of this law, but also stand firmly and publicly against it!! The majority has publicly speculated to enjoy full EU support when adopting a number of anti-Constitutional legislative measures, including on this law. I have asked for an official position on this matter, given permanent silence against such allegations. Let me also note, that the only actor who has inexplicably not replied to a number of official requests by the Albanian Head of State to-date, is the office of EURALIUS V, bound to assisting all official authorities in legal matters related to EU reforms!!!!! Commissioner Varhelyi, While the European Commission will always put its best efforts to have a close cooperation and partnership with every Albanian government, I believe that the European Commission must also keep the best interests of the Albanian people at heart. Any support to further erosion of democracy and rule of law in my country will only escalate current crisis and encourage depopulation of Albania. I will firmly stand to defending the full integrity of the establishment Constitutional Court, as the only hope for governance accountability and check and balance, particularly in face of current dramatic political situation in Albania. Assuring you of my highest esteem, I look forward to seeing you dear Commissioner, at a suitable time, as agreed during our meeting in Tirana.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Dendias: Evidence that border migratory movement is spurred by Turkey (ekathimerini.com, 6 March 2020)
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece has “clear evidence” that the recent movement of migrants and refugees from Turkish cities towards the border with Greece “has been created and orchestrated by Turkey.” “I want to be clear that the European Union will not allow the use of human suffering,” Dendias added as he arrived at a EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
EU foreign ministers will discuss, among others, the situation that is developing at Greece’s eastern land and sea borders with Turkey. “We are facing a massive movement of migrants to the Greek and European borders,” Dendias said, adding that these are “migrants have been living in Turkey for years.”
Migrants dodge tear gas as Greek-Turkish border crisis deepens (Reuters, by Lefteris Papadimas, Joseph Nasr, 6 March 2020)
KASTANIES, Greece/PAZARKULE, Turkey – Migrants stuck on the Turkish side of the border with Greece tried to dodge tear gas canisters on Friday as a tense standoff between Greek and Turkish security forces entered a second week with no sign of abating. Tens of thousands of migrants are attempting to cross from Turkey into the European Union after Ankara said on Feb. 28 it would no longer try to keep them on its territory under the terms of a 2016 accord with Brussels in return for EU aid. Thick smoke from the tear gas canisters wreathed the border posts at the Kastanies/Pazarkule crossing. A Reuters reporter saw Greek forces use a water cannon to try to disperse migrants, only to be met by a volley of tear gas from the Turkish side. “The attacks are coordinated by drones. Apart from intimidation, these attacks are taking place from the Turkish police to help migrants cross the fence border line,” a Greek government official said. Turkey has said any tear gas fired is in response to tear gas fired from the Greek side.
Athens has called the confrontations a threat to national security and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis brought European Union leaders to the border area to press his case for more financial and logistical support to avoid a repeat of 2015, when more than one million refugees poured into the EU from Turkey. Greece says it has repulsed around 35,000 migrants trying to cross its border in the past week. Turkey has deployed 1,000 special police to the area to halt the pushback of migrants onto its territory. Ankara accused Greek forces this week of shooting dead four migrants, a charge rejected by Athens, which says Turkish forces are actively helping the migrants to cross the border illegally.
“THEY WON’T LET US IN”
On the Turkish side of the border on Friday, enterprising villagers were selling fruit, vegetables and bottled water to migrants, though they also expressed sympathy for them. “I hope they will open this border soon and end this tragedy. We just want to get on with our lives,” said Remiz Celik, 43, who was selling apples and potatoes to migrants. The fields were strewn with plastic bags and other detritus left by the migrants, many of whom have been living in Istanbul and other Turkish towns and cities for some time. Some migrants said they might head back to Istanbul in the coming days because they do not expect the Greeks to yield. “They are not going to let us in, we know this, because the Greeks know that if they open the gates they will get many more people on this side of the border,” said Fawzi Uzbek, 37, an Afghan national who has lived in Istanbul for about 18 months. Sitting in a makeshift tent he had constructed near the border for himself, his wife and four children, Uzbek said he wanted to find work in Germany and had begun learning German, but said he would probably return to Istanbul soon. About a quarter of the migrants at the border are Syrian and most of the rest are Afghans, Pakistanis, Iranians and Africans, according to Turkish estimates. European Union foreign ministers were due to discuss the crisis at Greece’s border at a gathering in Croatia on Friday. “We have clear evidence that this population movement has been created and orchestrated by Turkey. I want to be clear the European Union will not let this human pain be exploited,” Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Dendias said as he headed to the meeting. Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million refugees from the Syrian civil war, says it cannot take in any more people and says the EU has failed to provide sufficient financial and other support. “Turkey has a big burden … and we have to understand that. But at the same time, we cannot accept that migrants are being used as a source of pressure,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of Friday’s talks in Zagreb.