Vucic: Albanians do not want compromise, Serbs want frozen conflict in Kosovo (TV Kopernikus/Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has told TV Kopernikus that he doesn’t see a solution for Kosovo nor what it could be because the Albanians do not want compromise, and the Serbs want a frozen conflict. “The Albanians at present do not want a compromise at all. People in Serbia who would like this are in such a minority that it is impossible for them to propose anything,” he said. Vucic said that 90 percent of the Serbs are happy over the frozen conflict, even though a frozen conflict can always be ‘unfrozen’ and it is only a matter of time when this can occur. Vucic reiterated that there was no reason to panic when it comes to migrants, and that he was ready to issue orders to the army and police at any point of time. “People need not worry; we will be ready for both physical and technical security measures and measures that our army and police can take. I am ready to issue such an order at any time if Serbia’s security is compromised,” he told TV Kopernikus. He added that regarding the dissemination of information that there would be camps for migrants in Serbia, we are dealing with irresponsible but also politically corrupt people.
Brnabic: US policy clear, I would like EU policy to be clearer (Tanjug/RTV)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said Washington’s decision to halt 200 million Euros worth of investments in Kosovo over Pristina’s taxes on goods was a demonstration of a clear US policy and noted that she would like to see the EU state its policy on the taxes more clearly. “I want to thank the US and the Trump administration because they do what they say really consistently. It is a completely transparent, predictable policy and I thank them for that,” Brnabic said in response to reporters’ questions. It is important to send such a signal – not only for Serbia, but also for all residents in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, she said. She added that she would like to see the EU state more clearly its policy on Pristina’s taxes, which she said had been tolerated for over a year now despite being a clear violation of both CEFTA and SAA.
“It seems to me that a clear policy like this one will prevent all other moves that can further undermine regional stability and cooperation. Big thanks – finally, there is a clear policy,” she said.
Vulin: Тhaci revealed his mission (RTS/Tanjug/Novosti)
Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin has stated that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has revealed his mission – an attempt to grab Bujanovic, Presevo and Medvedja. “Medicine has many names for his state but has not found a reliable cure. I hope a cure will be found and that Thaci will get that therapy in prison after a sentence for human organ trafficking,” said Vulin, commenting Thaci’s statement that his mission is to annex Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja to Kosovo without changing borders. “Fear of a trial for KLA crimes is the reason behind all of Thaci’s madness and attempts to cause a disaster in the Balkans,” Vulin said.
Gojkovic thanks Armenia for not recognizing unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/RTV)
Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic met today with Armenian parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, in official two-day visit to Serbia, and the two parliament speakers signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Gojkovic stressed that it is in Serbia and Armenia’s common interest to advance overall bilateral cooperation, as evidenced in the Memorandum of Understanding signed today to give the parliamentary cooperation an institutional form. Gojkovic said that the Memorandum opens up new avenues to advance parliamentary cooperation, especially at the level of working bodies in charge of foreign affairs, the economy, education and culture, parliamentary friendship groups and the parliamentary delegations in multilateral bodies such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, PACE, OSCE PA and other.
Gojkovic thanked Armenia for its understanding of Serbia’s side in the Kosovo and Metohija issue, the fact that it had not recognized the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and Metohija and for not voting against Serbia’s interests in international bodies. Mirzoyan said that the Serbian and Armenian people share historically friendly ties, cooperation dating a long way back and have in times of trouble shown great understanding and compassion for one another. Mirzoyan emphasized the importance of parliamentary cooperation for the overall bilateral relations, opining that friendship groups and committees can help advance the existing cooperation and highlighting the importance of cooperation in international organizations.
Speaking of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Mirzoyan said that a peaceful resolution is one of Armenia’s foreign policy goals. Mirzoyan said that conflicts are different, but they all share one thing in common – their resolution can be achieved by peaceful means and negotiations, adding that for Armenia it is important that international partners take a balanced view and support dialogue. Gojkovic added that the Free Trade Agreement with the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union the Serbian parliament recently ratified opened up significant new potentials for the development of economic cooperation. Gojkovic and Mirzoyan agreed that the recent abolition of visas for Armenian nationals and reciprocal abolition of visas for Serbian national is especially important for the further development of economic cooperation and ties between the two nations. Gojkovic and Mirzoyan praised the opening of the Serbian Embassy in Armenia, with Gojkovic saying she expected Armenia to open an Embassy in Belgrade soon.
B&H Presidency member Dzaferovic meets with US’ Cormack and Nelson, underlines that blockade of institutions of B&H is unacceptable (BHT1/Nezavisne)
Member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic held a meeting with US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Maureen Cormack and US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson in Sarajevo on Monday. After the meeting, Dzaferovic stated that they talked about the political situation and blockade of the institutions of B&H. He underlined that blockades and blackmails are absolutely unacceptable, adding that nothing can be achieved in this way. Dzaferovic reiterated that the US unconditionally supports sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H, as well as stability, the principle of the rule of law and implementation of decisions of the B&H Constitutional Court (CC). “I requested an absolutely clear message to be conveyed – that this is not the path that B&H should be taking and that we should start working constructively in the institutions of B&H. After that, we should start working primarily on implementation of the Program of Reforms related to our relations with NATO, which we adopted last year, as well as the 14 priorities and the Opinion of the European Commission (EC). All of this should be perceived as a package of activities of the authorities in B&H,” Dzaferovic told reporters. Nezavisne novine daily reported that Cormack’s visit to B&H is actually of private nature, as she arrived to meet the parents of her daughter’s future husband. Unofficially, Cormack’s daughter is planning to marry a younger man of Serb ethnicity from Srebrenica, who has been working for one of the United Nations’ agencies.
Dodik: When it comes to migrants, this is sort of civilizational occupation of Christian world and not humanitarian story (ATV)
Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stated that when it comes to migrants, this is a sort of civilizational occupation of the Christian world and not a humanitarian story. Dodik stressed that this problem became visible in Europe which, according to him, is changing its open-door policy. Dodik also said that it should be coordinated with Serbia to close the border towards North Macedonia. “What we need to rely on is changed European policy and strong borders of Greece towards Turkey, and Bulgaria towards Turkey, which ban and prevent migrants from passing through and that is where we solve our problem. We are not solving it when they come to B&H… I can express satisfaction with the fact that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that the Serbian border with North Macedonia will be treated differently and that they will be prevented there. That is where we from B&H need to see an opportunity and not for us to deploy the army. In Sarajevo, they are always trying to distance themselves from Serbia. We Serbs do not want a strong border on the Drina River,” Dodik underlined. Dodik stated that the states of the region must use the favorable moment and the change of European policy towards migrants i.e. the policy of closed borders. Dodik reiterated that he is against deployment of the B&H Armed Forces (AF) on the B&H border with Serbia, pointing out that solving of this issue needs to be coordinated with Serbia.
Cvijanovic: I would support idea to form mixed police and military units of countries of Western Balkans and deploy them on external borders to prevent influx of migrants (N1)
Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic stated on Monday that she would support the idea to form mixed police and military units of countries of the Western Balkans and deploy them on the external borders of the Western Balkans with the aim to prevent influx of a huge number of migrants, who are expected to arrive. Cvijanovic noted that she does not understand why countries of the region would not come together in responding to this situation. “This is some new time, these are some new challenges, this is something that could change the image of the future not just of the Western Balkans but rather of whole Europe, so – the whole continent where we live. Therefore, I think this requires a concentrated response of all countries. Now, our countries are such that they have been disputing over all kinds of things, and hating each other for I do not know what reasons, instead of working together, and that is a whole other story”, the RS President said. The RS President added that she is willing to support such an initiative, no matter which country in the region proposes it. She concluded that the time has come for the Western Balkans to collectively defend itself.
Markovic: Dialogue to lead to stronger institutions and rule of law (CDM)
The Montenegrin society needs wider dialogue in order to overcome divisions, it was concluded in the meeting between Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and representatives of the Association of Lawyers of Montenegro. Markovic pointed out the importance of gathering overall social and political potential of Montenegro around European values and finding common interest and agreement for the solutions which will accelerate EU integration process.
Representatives of the Association, headed by Branislav Radulovic, pointed at specific issues referring to challenges in the functioning of the institutional democracy and rule of law. They emphasized the importance of dialogue and cooperation with the academic community and professional organizations, as well as their more active participation in the process of preparation of laws and programs. Lawyers stressed the importance of the improvement of negotiation process in Chapters 23 and 24, cessation of acting state in the majority of state authorities, adoption of the new Civic Code, amendments to the Criminal Code, Law on NGO, implementation of the Law on Freedom of Religion, continuation of reforms on public administration, improvement of the process of scientific titles election and models of the education of lawyers in Montenegro.
Djukanovic in Lithuania: The right moment for the Western Balkans to be brought back to Europe (CDM)
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has started his official visit to Lithuania, with the meeting with the country’s President Gitanas Nauseda. Djukanovic firmly believes that it is the right time Western Balkans returns to its European home. “Western Balkans is a very specific European region, which has been wandering out-of-Europe areas for so long. It lagged behind Europe in democratic and economic context. Consequently, Western Balkans has become unstable. But we firmly believe that we should bring the WB back to its European home,” Djukanovic said. He reminds that Montenegro is NATO member and a leader in the EU integration process. “We are certain Montenegro will be the first next EU member,” Djukanovic said. Djukanovic expressed his regret over slow enlargement process. “However, new European Commission has sent some very encouraging messages to WB,” Djukanovic said. He says it is very important that new EC has given enlargement policy priority. He said that Montenegro and Lithuania had stable military cooperation and that economic cooperation should be further strengthened.
Skvernelis: Montenegro and Lithuania face similar challenges and share common values (CDM)
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic met with Lithuania’s Prime Minister. Lithuania’s PM said that his government appreciated Montenegro’s great contribution to cherishing values of freedom and development of the region. He expressed his great satisfaction with Djukanovic’s visit, which would further strengthen bilateral cooperation. Montenegro and Lithuania have same challenges but, as NATO allies, share the values and awareness of the importance of Trans-Atlantic alliance, Skvernelis said. Lithuania pledges its support for Montenegro’s integration.
Djukanovic also had a meeting with the parliament speaker Viktoras Pranckietis who said that Lithuania greatly appreciated relations between the two countries and their parliaments. “Our common interests and European values unite us,” said the parliament speaker. He congratulated Montenegro in its progress in the EU integration and confirmed Lithuania’s interest in further improvement of interparliamentary cooperation. Djukanovic thanked both presidents for their warm welcome and rich program of his visit. He thanked Lithuania for understanding European values and commitments of our country. President agreed that economic cooperation between Montenegro and Lithuania should be intensified.
Mickoski meets Orban, calls for an EU accession talks date for Macedonia (Republika)
VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest to discuss the prospects of opening EU accession talks for Macedonia. Mickoski said that he is urging the opening of accession talks despite the high levels of crime and corruption perpetrated by the current socialist led government. “The citizens and the country should not be held hostages to the disastrous policies of Zoran Zaev and his government. There is no more time to lose. We need a date to open EU accession talks and VMRO-DPMNE guarantees that we will put in place a serious plan to implement reforms that would place the country on a fast track to join the European Union and to make up for the lost time,” Mickoski said following his meeting with Orban. The Hungarian member of the European Commission Oliver Varheyi holds the key enlargement department, which has been greatly supportive of the opening of accession talks with Macedonia. Mickoski noted that Macedonia is currently failing in the requirement to fight corruption and named numerous examples where former Prime Minister Zaev is caught influencing the judiciary and using it to meet his political goals. With the coming European Council, Mickoski asked Orban to use his influence and to call on other heads of EU member states to allow Macedonia to open the accession talks, based on the promise of reforms and the fight against corruption that will follow the 12 April elections. Mickoski also expressed his concern about the growing attacks on the free press perpetrated by the Zaev led Government, as well as other critics in the public sphere. Last week an outspoken critical journalist was sentenced to six months in prison for revealing evidence of Zaev’s links to the major racketeering scandal.
Zaev’s SDSM party drops the hated adjective “North” ahead of the elections (Republika)
SDSM party leader is ordering pre-election billboards that drop the imposed name “North Macedonia”. In one such billboard, Zaev had himself superimposed over the NATO logo to tout what he promises will be the economic benefits of the coming NATO membership. But instead of mentioning the country that is about to join NATO, Zaev used a the #MKinNATO hashtag. MK stands for Macedonia and the sign omits the use of the hated name Zaev imposed on the country, even in a shorthand version RNM or RSM in Macedonian. The SDSM party demanded the head of VMRO nominated Labor and Welfare Minister Rasela Mizrahi, accusing her of violating the Prespa treaty with Greece when she held a press conference using the name Republic of Macedonia. But as the elections draw closer, and as SDSM faces a growing gap in the polls, especially among ethnic Macedonians, they themselves drop the hated adjective “North”, hoping it will improve their chances in the elections.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
EU leaders meet Erdoğan to resolve fight over refugees (Politico, by David M. Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi, 10 March 2020)
Two-hour discussion in Brussels follows a week of tension as refugees massed at Greek-Turkish border.
Was it blackmail or extortion, or just a misunderstanding that led Turkey to send thousands of asylum seekers to the Greek border last week? Perhaps it was simply a difference in perspective.
Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for two hours on Monday evening in what they described as a crucial step in clearing up any such differences. And even more importantly, officials said, the two sides are now back on speaking terms. “It was important on this occasion to exchange our views on different topics related to the relationship between Turkey and the European Union,” Michel said, adding: “We had the occasion to share our different opinions.”
What wasn’t entirely clear after their meeting in Brussels was how much more money — if any — the EU was prepared to pay on top of the roughly €6 billion allocated under the 2016 migration agreement to help Erdoğan’s government manage the nearly 4 million Syrians now living in Turkey. About €3 billion have been disbursed so far. Or if Brussels would, in fact, take any steps toward easing visa requirements, and accelerating the completion of a customs union — as Ankara expected under the 2016 deal in which Turkey agreed to control the flow of migrants and asylum seekers to Europe. That deal was hanging by a thread even before 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air raid in Idlib, Syria late last month, prompting Erdoğan to make good on his longstanding threat to reopen the gates, by allowing thousands of people to mass on the Greek border last week on the promise that they would be permitted to cross. Erdoğan’s move stoked fear of a repeat of the EU’s 2015 migration crisis, and it sent Michel and von der Leyen racing to the Greek-Turkish border, along with Parliament President David Sassoli, where they appeared alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to make clear that the gates were, in fact, closed. The day after that show of solidarity Michel paid a visit to Ankara but it did not immediately ease tensions on the border, which were only heightened by reports of the Greek authorities firing plastic bullets and using other force to repel the refugees.
Over the weekend, in a gesture of good will, Erdoğan ordered his coast guard to resume intercepting migrant boats in the Aegean Sea, and both sides seemed eager to dial down the hostilities as the Turkish leader arrived in Brussels on Monday. He stopped first at NATO headquarters for a meeting with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, then headed to the European Quarter to confer with Michel and von der Leyen. The Commission president said: “I want to stress that it is good that the lines of communication with Turkey remain open and active.” On that point, everyone appeared to agree. “Migrants need support,” von der Leyen said at a news conference with Michel, after Erdoğan had already left for the airport. “Greece needs support. But also Turkey needs support and this involves finding a path forward with Turkey. Clearly, we do have our disagreements but we have spoken plainly and we have spoken openly to each other about these and it was good conversation. It was a good dialogue and it was a constructive one.”
While Michel and von der Leyen apparently expressed the EU’s unhappiness about the pressure created along the Greek border, EU diplomats said that there were tight limits on what the bloc’s leaders could offer Erdoğan. “I expect them to discuss money, and I’m afraid of that discussion,” one diplomat said, saying there was no consensus among national capitals on additional funds.
Without authorization of more money, the EU’s remaining flexibility lies in the remaining amount allocated under the 2016 deal that has not yet been disbursed. Michel said he tried to explain some of this flexibility. “In particular we had the occasion to show in which way the EU has implemented the financial commitments,” Michel said. “We had the occasion to explain the difference for the European Union between the money that has been paid and disbursed, because procedures have been completed and projects realized, and the money that has been contracted.”
Officials said that some of the leaders’ discussion on Monday focused on Turkey’s frustrations over aspects of the 2016 deal that had not been fulfilled to Ankara’s expectations, including money that ended up paid to non-governmental organizations. Turkey is also unhappy about the slow pace on easing visa restrictions and accelerating the customs union — plans that have stalled in large part because of a broader souring of relations between Turkey and the EU that followed Erdoğan’s heavy-handed response to a coup attempt in July 2016. Michel and von der Leyen said that they had agreed with Erdoğan to task the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, with going through the 2016 EU-Turkey statement, as the deal is known, and identifying any and all differences so they can be resolved. “I think it’s always important that we do not fight about numbers and facts,” von der Leyen said. “We have to have the same approach towards that. Of course the interpretation of it can be different or the solutions you draw from facts and numbers can be different. “So it was an important step forward and that was the demand too on the Turkish side, to have a very close look with experts at the EU-Turkey statement to find common ground where things are missing and where we have been successful, and indeed we are going through the whole statement. So every topic will be a matter of discussion.” What happens once those differences are clear remains to be seen. But in one sign of potential movement, EU leaders are expected to discuss Turkey at their regular summit in Brussels later this month, according to an internal diplomatic note seen by POLITICO. “The deal needs maintenance, also on our end,” a second EU diplomat said. “But seeing how far relations have soured … and the limited political space … I think the creativity required to make the deal weatherproof might be left wanting for some time.”
This diplomat said easing visa restrictions was virtually impossible, and that there was no appetite for speeding up completion of the customs union, particularly given other sharp differences between the EU and Turkey, including on oil drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.
A third diplomat said one way or another, it was vital for Brussels and Ankara to reach an accommodation. “I think we should focus on how to make the current deal work again,” this diplomat said. “More money will come eventually. We need an urgent solution for the thousands of people already at the border. We can’t promise visa liberalization unless the respective benchmarks are met but if they continue with the illegal drilling activities it’d be difficult to have all member states on board for something major.”