Brnabic: Montenegrin officials have so far not been open to talk (Tanjug/RTV/B92)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated on Monday that it is very important that the rights and freedoms of the Serbian people in Montenegro be preserved, and added that our country is ready to do whatever it takes in this regard. Answering a question from a journalist during her visit to the Scientific and Technology Park in Belgrade, Brnabic pointed out that Montenegrin officials have so far not been open to talk about these topics and reiterated that we are always ready to talk if the other side is ready. However, official Podgorica should, first of all, talk to Serbs in Montenegro and that Serbia can react respecting the sovereignty of Montenegro, she said and added that it is Serbia’s constitutional obligation and human duty, as well as our desire, to provide support to the Serbian people in that country. This is not contrary to any international rules, it is something that goes without saying and what any serious country would do. It is a topic in the talks with some international officials too, Brnabic explained. Asked about relations between Belgrade and Pristina during the coronavirus crisis, Brnabic said that throughout the crisis, Serbia tried to have good regional cooperation and support all regional partners, regardless of differences and confrontations, emphasizing that the most important thing in the previous two months was to preserve lives and health of people. He says that Serbia helped everyone in the region in difficult circumstances through continuous export of oxygen, donation of tests, export of flour and other food products. She said that during the crisis, there was certain communication with Pristina, and that the government tried to make those relations better than usual, in the interest of people’s lives and health. “I would not say how Pristina reacted to that, it is not important, but how we reacted is what matters. When we donated 1.000 tests to Pristina, we did not want to collect political points. That was once again an outstretched hand towards the region”, Brnabic said.
Vucic: Serbia agrees to open borders on 1 June (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic participated in a video conference meeting between the representatives of the High Cooperation Council of the Republic of Serbia, Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Greece and Republic of Romania, where gradual easing of measures was discussed to facilitate the transport of people and goods between the countries of the Quadrilateral.
Vucic pointed out that, to promote economic activities, Serbia agrees to open the borders on 1 June, with the application of appropriate epidemiological measures. He stressed that mutual agreement to ease restrictions on border crossings is one of the key elements for boosting the economy, especially in the field of tourism. The interlocutors concluded that all four countries were successfully fighting the coronavirus and stated that the opening of borders would enable faster recovery of national economies. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis proposed opening of the Greek border from 1 June for business travel, seasonal workers, and family members living in other countries, while the opening of the border for tourist travel is scheduled for 15 June. A meeting of the High Council in Bulgaria in early June has also been agreed, where – before the meeting of the Council – a bilateral meeting between President Vucic and Prime Minister Borisov will be held to discuss joint infrastructure projects. This will be the first meeting to continue the good practice of the three-quarterly meetings of the High Council leaders.
Dacic: Importance of regional cooperation during coronavirus pandemic (Tanjug/RTS)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said today that the current crisis caused by the pandemic of coronavirus has shown how important regional cooperation is, since the virus knows no boundaries, the degree of economic development of a country or any other differences.
Dacic participated in a video conference of the ministers of foreign affairs of the Western Balkans and the EU members which are the immediate neighbors of the region (Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia) on the topic “How to successfully contribute, through joint cooperation, to the next phases of dealing with socio-economic consequences of the pandemic.” Dacic reiterated that Serbia is ready to continue to work actively to strengthen economic ties and the common market of the region. He welcomed the decision to establish the “green corridors” in the region, which enabled unimpeded transport of medical equipment and basic foodstuffs through the region during the crisis, without congestion at border and administrative crossings. He also stated that Serbia has undertaken concrete steps towards the gradual opening of borders, while respecting epidemiological recommendations. When it comes to Serbia’s European path, Dacic underlined that, despite the current circumstances, Serbia has not forgotten the importance of this path and the comprehensive reforms of society it entails.
Djuric: Kurti is afraid of Vucic (FoNet/TV Pink)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric has stated that resigned Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is in a panic fear of the resumption of the dialogue and talks where President Vucic be on the other side. In order for this not to occur, he and his government are introducing additional taxes, inventing reasons for this not to happen. They would probably prefer to see some of their friends and like-minded people on the other side. We know who their friends and like-minded people are in Belgrade, Djuric told TV Pink. He says that a real cult is being made around the Kosovo Constitutional Court and its decisions, as if at issue is the highest court of the US or France, while in fact everything is a political game and an attempt to postpone the formation of the Kosovo government where Kurti would not be playing the key role. According to Djuric, this is a serious situation in which the Kosovo Serbs must see not to be dragged into the inter-Albanian conflict.
Jeremic: 21 June elections uncertain, boycott to last until fair conditions are ensured (Beta)
People’s Party leader Vuk Jeremic said today the elections had been scheduled for 21 June, but it was still not certain whether they would be held on this date, adding that this party would be boycotting elections until conditions were created for holding free elections in democratic conditions. “It will require at least one cycle of serious boycott for the authorities to realize that election conditions had to be changed. We will keep our word and boycott the bogus upcoming elections until normal conditions are established,” Jeremic said in a talk organized by the Serbian American Leadership Conference, an organization of Serbs living in the US. Jeremic stressed that Serbia was no longer a democratic country, recalling that US government –funded Freedom House had categorized Serbia as “a hybrid regime”. “It is a true display of the situation in Serbia – it is not even known when the elections will be held. It is very difficult for the opposition parties to present their platforms to the voters on media as almost all outlets are controlled by the government, which has no restraint in abusing state resources in the election campaign. Under such conditions, running in the elections is out of the question,” Jeremic stressed.
Godfrey:Everyone should take part in Serbia’s June elections; solution to Kosovo issueonly if both sides want it (TV Prva/Beta/RTV)
US Ambassador to Serbia Antony Godfrey urged today all parties to run in the 21 June general vote because different views and stands should be presented in a new parliament, Beta reported. Speaking to TV Prva, Godfrey said the US “supports Serbia’s goal to join the European Union, and to develop and become a prosperous country with matured democratic institutions; that there is a peace and that the trade with neighbors raises.” Asked about the situation with media in Serbia, Godfrey said “there are things which Serbia should work on,” and that both Serbia’s President and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and Ana Brnabic respectively agreed with. “I think there is still a lot to be done regarding the media scene in Serbia to secure better access and equal coverage,” the Ambassador said. Godfrey added he expected the elections in Serbia to be fair and democratic. Asked how that would be possible with such media situation, he said he hoped that “media freedom will be at the highest level during the campaign.” “That’s important not only because of the OSCE evaluation of the atmosphere but more than that because the people who want to cast a ballot, wish that a new parliament to have a full legitimacy, i.e., that all views are represented,” Godfrey said. Speaking about a solution to Kosovo issue, he reiterated that the US supported the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue as a safe way to find a solution, “but only if both sides want it.” “Serbia should rely on itself and the dialogue, while the US and EU are here to help,” Godfrey said.
Fajon: Image of Serbia not good (N1)
Tanja Fajon MEP told N1 on Monday that the image of Serbia that the outside world sees is not good because of divisions and a polarized society and called the opposition to find the strength to stand in the coming elections under difficult conditions. “We see all that as we follow the situation in the country. People are angry, divided, society is polarized. I am concerned about the situation before the elections,” the head of the European Parliament Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee said. Fajon said open questions still exist before the elections and cited freedom of the media, hate speech, the pandemic and international election monitors. She said that it’s important for as many voters and politicians to turn out for the elections, adding that a boycott is a final choice and not the best decision. “It could be a way to raise some important issues but in the end you’re not part of the process and we won’t have a big democratic opposition in parliament, which concerns me,” the MEP said. She said that she would always stand in elections and called the opposition to field candidates. The MEP said that she does not think that anything has changed in terms of freedom of the media. “Politicians are using the media for hatred, divisions or political manifestations. My feeling is that the media are very much divided. There aren’t enough independent media, nor safety for journalists, nor conditions for the media to operate normally especially in the election campaign,” she said. She warned that tensions are dangerous because they breed more tension, adding that divisions, hatred and violence have no place in a democratic society. Fajon also wondered why the European Union was losing credibility in Serbia and why politicians are using criticism from the EU for hate speech. “That is irresponsible,” she said.
Another 34 cases, 4,904 recovered (RTS)
Until 3pm there have been another 34 cases, in total 10,733 infected. There have been three more deaths, in total 234.There are 808 people in hospitals and 15 on respirators. Those recovered is 4,904.
Political parties in the RS launch several initiatives to lift curfew (N1)
The Republika Srpska (RS) authorities assess that the lower number of new cases of coronavirus infection registered on a daily basis makes the epidemiological situation in the RS optimistic, which is why several initiatives by political parties in the RS to lift the curfew in the RS have been launched. However, growth in the percentage of death cases to 7,19 percent after 92 deaths by COVID-19 have been registered in this entity to date is not so optimistic. Competent authorities argued on Monday about COVID-19 death rate. Deputy General Manager of the RS University Clinical Center in Banja Luka and head of the team tasked with monitoring of implementation of measures imposed by the RS Crisis Headquarters Nenad Stevandic (‘Ujedinjena Srpska’) stated that the World Health Organization (WHO) has not clearly defined how to calculate the death rate in this case, warning that speculating about the with death rate percentage can be abused in frequent targeting the RS University Clinical Center.
RS deputy speaker Milan Petkovic submitted initiative for lifting the police curfew in the RS, and for putting out of force the decision and all changes to decision on restriction and prohibition of movement of elderly persons in the RS. “Having in mind the fact that current epidemiological situation in the RS is stable, that lifting of the state of emergency is planned at the next special session of the parliament, that citizens feel all restrictions with regards to movement of elderly persons should be abolished, and that police curfew has been lifted in the Federation of B&H and Serbia, I believe that the same thing needs to be done in the RS as well,” said Petkovic. He added that he has submitted the initiative to the RS Crisis Headquarters and the Ministry of Interior of the RS on his own behalf and on behalf of a number of citizens who have asked him to do so. PDP also called on the RS Crisis HQ and the Government of the RS to urgently pass decision on abolition of curfew. The statement issued by PDP reads that there is not a single reason to keep the curfew in force. PDP also believes that there is no need to wait for the session of the RS parliament – as announced by the government of the RS – because decision on introduction of police curfew in the RS can be put out of force by the RS Crisis Headquarters. The daily reminded that the RS parliament is scheduled to hold a special session on Wednesday and discuss the proposal of decision on lifting the state of emergency in the RS, since the epidemiological situation in the RS is under control. The proposal of decision reads that the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Protection of the RS believes that the life in the RS should gradually return to normal, and that preconditions have been met to lift the state of emergency.
Tegeltija confirms opening of B&H borders on 1 June (O kanal)
Chairman of the Council of Ministers (CoM) Zoran Tegeltija confirmed that B&H will open its borders on 1 June. He announced that business people will be able to enter B&H before that date. The conditions they need to fulfill in order to enter B&H will be a negative test for COVID-19 which is not older than 48 hours and an invitation letter of the company they are visiting. It remains unknown what the conditions for the entrance of citizens after June 1 will be. The opening of the borders will be discussed by the CoM this week during a regular session.
Tegeltija calls on B&H CEC to do its job, stressing that funds to finance elections will be ensured by competent authorities (N1)
A special session of the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) on the implementation of the 2020 local elections in B&H will be held on Wednesday. B&H CEC has previously proposed for the elections to be postponed due to the fact that the B&H budget has not been adopted yet and consequent problems when it comes to financing of the election process. B&H CoM Chairman Zoran Tegeltija has called on B&H CEC members to do their job, stressing that funds necessary to finance the elections will be ensured by competent authorities. Commenting on the issue, political analyst Slavo Kukic said that he sees Tegeltija’s call as a possibility to redirect funds for the elections into private pockets. According to President of the Strategic Board of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections ‘Pod Lupom’ and former member of B&H CEC Vehid Sehic, he has not seen a single rational reason to postpone the elections, reminding that no one in Croatia and Serbia has considered positioning the elections in these countries, except for part of the opposition in Serbia. SDP B&H stated that B&H CEC’s job is not about financial aspect but they should continue with preparations for the elections. SDP B&H leader Nermin Niksic assessed that SDA’s proposal to postpone the elections represents fear of losing the elections, noting that even in case that B&H budget fails to be adopted – there is no reason to postpone the elections.
SDA calls on B&H CoM to act in line with conclusion of B&H Presidency and prepare budget as soon as possible (Glas Srpske)
SDA called on the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) to act in line with the conclusion of the Presidency of B&H, prepare the 2020 budget of B&H and make the adoption of budget possible. The statement issued by SDA reads that the budget is the source of funds for preparation and implementation of the local elections in B&H. According to daily, SDA also commented on the statement issued by SDP B&H two days ago – when SDP accused SDA of not wanting local elections in B&H to take place in 2020. “SDP should not worry about that, because we can barely wait for the elections to beat them once again, just like we did in the previous three election cycles,” reads the statement issued by SDA.
Radoncic: It would not be bad to merge local and general elections in two years (Vecernji list)
B&H Minister of Security and SBB B&H President Fahrudin Radoncic commented on the issue of local elections on Monday by saying it would not be bad to merge the local elections, which should take place in October, with the general elections in two-year time, so B&H is not in a constant election campaign. “In two years, we could first de-politicize the Central Election Commission and then organize fair elections. It is more important that the elections are organized in a fair manner than having them in two or three months,” said Radoncic.
Radmanovic: There is no parliamentary majority to support proposal of law on appointment of foreign judges at B&H CC in B&H HoR (RTRS)
The latest session of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) that was terminated on Friday will resume on Tuesday, when MPs are supposed to vote on the law proposal on appointment of judges at the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H. The proposal was previously rejected by B&H HoR Constitutional and Legal Affairs Commission (CLAC). In case that MPs adopt CLAC’s negative opinion the proposal will be withdrawn from the parliamentary procedure, and in case that CLAC’s opinion is rejected the law will be in the parliamentary procedure again. B&H HoR Speaker Nebojsa Radmanovic said on the eve of the session that there is no parliamentary majority to support this proposal. According to Radmanovic, this means that foreign judges will not yet leave B&H CC. Head of the HDZ B&H Caucus in B&H HoR Nikola Lovrinovic commented that the time has come that B&H CC has only citizens of B&H in its structure, which is in line with the Constitution of B&H. As for PDP and SDS MPs, they said that they are against the proposal because of transfer of competences, as B&H Presidency appoints and B&H House of Peoples (HoR) confirms three B&H judges – including one judge from Republika Srpska (RS). Head of the PDP-SDS Caucus in B&H HoR Mirko Sarovic reminded that this Caucus is against the work of foreign judges at B&H CC, but that the manipulation by SNSD in cooperation with HDZ B&H represents transfer of competences. SDA’s Alma Colo commented that replacing three foreign judges at B&H CC with judges from B&H requires amending the Constitution of B&H, reminding of SDA’s stance according to which foreign judges should remain at B&H CC.
EU might postpone presentation of enlargement package for October, in order to present it simultaneously with economic investment plan for WB region (Nezavisne)
The daily unofficially learns that the EU might present the enlargement package – including reports on progress of countries on their path to membership in the EU – in October, instead of in June as originally planned. Sources from Brussels told daily that decision should be made on Tuesday, when public will be given more information. One of the reasons for possible postponement, according to daily’s sources, lies in the fact that the EU wants to present the enlargement package simultaneously with the economic investment plan for the Western Balkans region. The daily learns that officials in Brussels assessed the most recent EU-Western Balkans (WB) Summit as successful, and they underlined that the EU remains committed to the region, as manifested with the package of support for dealing with the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to daily, the country is expected to continue working on fulfilling key recommendations from the Opinion published by the European Commission exactly one year ago.
Radoncic: I will not allow opening of a new migrant camp in Sarajevo (N1)
The B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) is to discuss on Thursday the possibility of opening up B&H borders as of June 1, as announced by the B&H Minister of Security, Fahrudin Radoncic. “It is very important for us that the borders be relaxed because of the entry of business, businessmen, and industrials who have been expecting this for a few months. But it is also very, very important that the CoM does so in line with requests of medical professionals,” Radoncic said. Radoncic warned that B&H can expect a new wave of migrants from Greece. “That which I am advocating is a very, very firm and energetic approach and their discouraging, their stoppage, their legal deportation. Some others think that we should be quiet. That we should make new camps. I will not allow a new camp to be made in Sarajevo for 3,000 people. We already have 3,000 people. Illegal migrants,” Radoncic said. He assessed that the key to resolving this issue is the eastern border and regional cooperation. He called on representatives of the European Union to react since migrants are entering from the Greek border and are leaving Greece to enter B&H. “I will not allow a new camp for 3,000 people to be made in Sarajevo. We already have 3,000 people, illegal migrants. We cannot allow 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000 of them to come to the area inhabited by Bosniaks only. Why is it that Mr. (Milorad) Dodik and (Dragan) Covic are not being persuaded and forced to accept migrants? They are only persuading Radoncic and the area inhabited by Bosniaks. This will stop. I will not accept this,” Radoncic said.
B&H Ambassador to Pakistan Foric: I did not falsify visas for the Pakistanis, I expect apology from Dodik and Radoncic (Dnevni list)
B&H Ambassador to Pakistan Sakib Foric reacted to a claim of member of the Presidency of B&H Milorad Dodik that he (Foric) falsified entry visas for 3,000 Pakistanis, who entered B&H. According to the daily, the information in question was recently presented by representatives of the Ministry of Security of B&H at a meeting at the Presidency of B&H. Namely, Foric vehemently claims that neither the B&H Embassy (in Pakistan) not he personally issued any falsified visas. Ambassador Foric also expressed hope that investigative bodies in B&H will undertake urgent action to get to the bottom of the scandal, expecting apology from officials in B&H that came up with such information. In addition, Foric says that the authorities in Pakistan are surprised with statement of top officials in B&H, namely Presidency member Dodik and Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic according to which there are 3,000 Pakistanis in B&H with falsified visas.
B&H confirms 19 new Covid-19 cases and 1 death (N1)
Over the past 24 hours, B&H health authorities recorded 19 new cases of Covid-19 – 14 in the RS and 5 in the FB&H, along with 1 death at the RS clinical Centre in Banja Luka. After testing 328 samples, the RS University Hospital confirmed the presence of coronavirus in 14 samples – 8 men and 6 women. So far, this entity confirmed 1,292 cases of coronavirus, of which 93 had died. The entity Health Ministry said that 658 patients had recovered from the disease and that they tested 22,006 persons for coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic. When it comes to the FB&H, the Health Ministry there said they tested 900 samples and confirmed only 5 new infections. This entity had tested 30,712 samples for coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic in the country, of which 1,009 came back positive. To date, the Ministry said 848 patients have recovered from the disease and 37 had died. When it comes to the fatality, the Banja Luka University Hospital said a male patient in his late 80s had died last night, adding that he suffered from multiple chronic diseases, as well. The state Civil Affairs Ministry said that the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country is now 2,321. Of this number, 1,292 were recorded in the RS and 1,009 in FB&H. The ministry said that 1,522 people have thus far recovered and 134 had died as a result of Covid-19.
In Croatia, 4 new cases of infection, a total of 2232, 1 person died (N1)
Currently, it has been confirmed in Croatia that a total of 2,232 people have been infected with the coronavirus, and 1,967 people have recovered. 96 people died. Croatia has reported 4 new cases of Coronavirus and 1 more fatality in the past 24h.
Two years of office: President’s public address (CDM)
Although still very little is known about the coronavirus, it is a pleasure to state that healthcare system in Montenegro has gone through the first phase of the fight successfully. That phase is the most important and the most difficult one, said Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, during press conference held on the occasion of marking two years since he took over his presidential duties. “We know that every death is a huge loss but still, I think we can all agree, that our country has achieved great results: a total of 324 registered cases accounts for 0,005% of the overall population, 311 recovered cases, nine deaths and four patients who are almost recovered. That’s the balance that gives reasons for satisfaction. Still with precaution, until we are able to declare the end of this fight in Montenegro,” the President said. He says it wouldn’t be too soon to state that entire Montenegrin society has demonstrated some new features in this new experience. “Primarily, a great level of social responsibility. Great level of organization, commitment and competence of the entire healthcare system in Montenegro,” Djukanovic points out. All institutions have shown serious progress in terms of functionality, great sacrifice, courage and responsibility. Key messages and priorities presented in the inauguration speech delivered on 20 May 2018 still apply. “Achieving European quality of life is naturally our most important state objective. Montenegro continues its tempo towards the desired direction” President said. “We have made considerable progress despite paralyzing pandemic shocks, despite the crisis. If we could do that now, then we must not lack self-esteem and optimism for our own future. Many projects can corroborate this,” the President said. The most precious development opportunities are just starting to be valued. After the completion of the most important highway section, full effects of this capital project will come into light. Several electricity production projects are also very important. Food production, president says, is becoming a very inspiring business in Montenegro. “We have great foundations for the development of manufacturing aluminum and wood-based industry,” the President said. In his opinion, prerequisite for everything is agile and comprehensive country’s response to the next phase of the fight against coronavirus pandemic. “Forecasts of the relevant international organizations regarding the depth of the possible fall of global economy in 2020 are scary. However, haven’t we already proven that we can do better than ominous forecasts? Yes, we have. We just need to hang on. Not a single day until the end of 202 should be wasted,” Djukanovic said. Of course, he adds, this crisis is a good motive for ignorant and evil politically-motivated statements: can Montenegro do it alone? Is security greater in partnership with Europe or in Euro-Asian brotherhood? Are liberal economy and democracy right concept to choose? Have we gone too far with the development of tourism and services? “All these dilemmas have one common shortcoming. Crises don’t last forever. We can’t judge past and we can’t project future. Otherwise, we might think that state of emergency is the best environment for settling all social problems,” Djukanovic says. Before our formal independence, we defined strategy of the Europeanization of Montenegro as way to return our society to the European civilization circle. “And when market economy and democracy reach stalemate in dealing with the challenges of the accelerated development. I t is clear we won’t find answer in state economy and authoritarian models of state administration. Every crisis teaches clever people and societies some lessons. Aren’t we proud of our freedom, stability, democracy, multi-ethnicity, standard? We haven’t gone too far with the development of tourism. In fact, we have just begun and we are going to step up the tempo,” Djukanovic said. The question of the strategic choice of the future of our region is conditioned with two main circumstances: the clarity of the vision of each of the Western Balkan (WB) countries that they want to be part of the European system and that there’s will and capacity for the implementation of reforms in that context. Montenegro has been great example and a pointer for years. “Owing to clear vision and dogged determination to overcome serious obstacles and resist false alternatives. And because we are united in knowing that the basic cause of staying behind the developed neighborhood is the historically-rooted instability. Therefore, anyone who is intrigued, will know why average salary in the region barely surpasses €500 while it is four times higher in Europe. It is also very clear what is that we need to provide if we really want to reach European quality of life in near future,” Djukanovic said. Challenges are numerous. Both national and international. The most difficult internal challenge is how to overcome the accumulated awareness which is resisting the new and the unknown. “Unprepared to meet the unknown and become capable of becoming competent for the United Europe market. That’s why status quo is the best choice. It is better to stick to the familiar inconvenience, than to look for the unknown chances. International challenge is, unfortunately, the fact that the Balkan region is still the battlefield of political domination of the greats. Currently – the battlefield of the fight against the spread of the influence of NATO and the EU by offering alternatives that don’t even exist. We are not just geographical part of Europe. We are part of the cultural and civilization European circle,” Djukanovic pointed out. It is clear that alliances which haven’t got same system of values in their bases can’t be our alternative. The EU and NATO are communities of identical values. That’s why Montenegro carefully creates its policy of reinforcing stability. “Overcoming certain divisions takes time. Emancipation is the process that requires persistence and careful management. However, taking account of the inherited differences and careful management of necessary changes does not imply unsteadiness and giving up before the resistances of the Europeanization of Montenegrin society,” Djukanovic said. “Is Montenegro able to establish rule of law which is not just an imperative for the European integration but also for the normal and civilized life in our country? Or are there some subjects which claim some exclusive rights, such as Serbian Orthodox Church, to take over Montenegro and determine its character and future development? To be more precise, is Montenegro democratic multi-ethnic society or is it medieval, theocratic, Serbian societies, as we are being taught by church dignitaries? Does Montenegro belong to Europe? And logically, should Montenegro exist at all, considering it has made so many “wrong” choices over the past 14 years, or somebody else should make decisions instead of Montenegro?”, the President asked. His reply is clear. “Montenegro’s choices were not hasty. Our choice is independence and sovereignty. Multi-ethnicity. European system of values. Our choice is NATO as guarantee of stability. Our choice is protection of human rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion as long as every religious community is equal to one another. And our choice forever is anti-fascism as permanent vertical of Montenegrin duration,” Djukanovic said. The messages Montenegro receives from the EU are encouraging. “Clear confirmation of the European perspective of the region, negotiation talks with North Macedonia and Albania, financial support in fight against coronavirus pandemic, announcement of the new strategic Investment framework for WB are convincing stimulants for the renewal of the European enthusiasm in this part of our continent. It is essential that we now do our part the best we can. I would like to take this opportunity and congratulate Montenegrin citizens 21 May- the Independence Day. The day we brought our state and national dignity back, repaid the debt to our ancestors and opened new, European perspective,” Djukanovic concluded.
Djukanovic: Enough of the Serbian Orthodox Church circus (CDM)
Anybody who is not able to accept independent and sovereign Montenegro is against the question of autocephalous Montenegrin church. They want monopoly. Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) is not entitled to appropriate somebody else’s property, avoid financial inquiries, evade taxes and assemble unlawfully hundreds f its priests in Montenegro. Its heads are not entitled to lead popular uprisings. Enough of that circus. They will have to be who and what they are: religious community as part of the society and nothing more than that, said Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in the press conference organized on the occasion of marking two years since taking up on his president duties. “The law has brought up the question of the survival of Montenegro. Specific structures want to take Montenegro’s destiny into their hands. That would mean bringing Montenegro to the Serbia’s altar. Do not offer us bloody formulae for the future of Montenegro and the Balkans,” Djukanovic said. “We have renewed the state. It’s time we renewed the church. We have offered solution of one orthodox church which will bring together all orthodox believers. If SOC rejects that, it will be a national Serbs in Montenegro. But then we are going to create a church of national Montenegrins. And we will make sure such church is autocephalous,” Djukanovic said. He states that SOC should stop undermining Montenegro. “Even today, SOC claims that Montenegrin church has never existed, although documents state otherwise. SOC is trying to establish monopoly over orthodoxy in Montenegrin, which is turning into great-Serbdom”, President said. He said that Bishop Joanikije and priests of the SOC had jeopardized public health and human lives. President pointed out that statements on Montenegrin stability came from the most relevant political addresses. One of them is that Montenegro was an anchor of the stability of the Balkans and the other is that Montenegro is the greatest democratic projects of Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall. Djukanovic stressed that mistrust between the east and the west was scary. “Montenegro has found itself in the line of fire. We are expected to give up on our future. Great forces can expect that. But Montenegro has decided to manage its own future. For its own national interests,” Djukanovic said. He added that Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, had addressed him “on personal grounds, qualifying me as traitor of Russian interests”. Djukanovic says that this is being promoted by the self-appointed leaders of the Serbian people in Montenegro. “DPS is surely party which gathers the majority of the members of Serbian people. Some do this because they have benefits from Belgrade and others because they are threatened by court penalties. They are trying to manipulate part of Montenegrin population calling themselves Serbs. They have been instigating destructive energy for decades. And then hypocritically ask why there aren’t enough of them in state authorities, and they keep rejecting Montenegro and its authorities,” Djukanovic says. Djukanovic says that state authorities will definitely investigate the report. “I don’t underestimate the right of democratic public to make assessments. I believe more in the assessments of the EU and NATO. Reporters from Montenegro who were involved in the FH research were not inclined to Montenegrin politics,” Djukanovic said. Responding to the accusations of Metropolitan Amfilohije that “he didn’t mind Russian money while he was creating the country” Djukanovic said that “that doesn’t exist as possibility”. “Amilohije has gotten a little carried away. I don’t owe anything to anybody”, Djukanovic said. Commenting on Dusko Knezevic’s accusations, Djukanovic says Knezevic is a thief and pathological liar. “The goal is to make Dusko Knezevic unreachable for judicial authorities”, Djukanovic says. Asked how divisions in Montenegro can be overcome, Djukanovic answered that decision-makers “are trying to demonstrate required sensibility for differences in Montenegro”. “The main division is within the orthodox being. Settling church issue is key to overcoming divisions,” President said. Djukanovic announced that parliamentary elections in Montenegro would be held in autumn. “As President, I have right to take part in the campaign,” Djukanovic said. Commenting on the statement he made earlier, that some participants of religious processions “are movement of lunatics” Djukanovic stressed that he “is president of all citizens”. “Serbs are neither discriminated nor privileged. I qualified so those who work against their country, and celebrate the date Montenegro disappeared,” Djukanovic said.
Democratic Front won’t boycott the elections (Pobjeda)
Leader of the New Serbian Democracy and one of the leaders of the Democratic Front, DF, Andrija Mandic, held a video conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and presented a joint list of all Serbian organizations for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Pobjeda reported. Several sources close to Pobjeda said that Mandic thus denied claims of a part of the opposition referring to the boycott of all elections and institutions and the initiative for the postponement of the elections for next year. Mandic’s plan, according to the daily Pobjeda, envisages litanies as the most important platform for the pre-election campaign. “Litanies represent the main political platform for the future coalition of all Serbian organizations,” a source close to Pobjeda told. Following the video conference with President Vucic, Mandic announced the economic plan as well, revealing that is going to stick close to Serbia. “The Serbian organizations are united and we’ll jointly win in the forthcoming elections,” the New Serbian Democracy said.
Montenegro halfway to the end of the epidemic (CDM)
There have been no new cases of coronaviurs in Montenegro for 15 days. The Institute for Public Health reported today that all the samples were negative. There are currently 4 active cases. In order for the epidemic to be considered over, there have to be 28 days with zero infections reported. Total number of cases is 324. Recovered cases amount to 311, and 4 cases are still active
Leaders’ meeting: No agreement on election date (MIA)
The party leaders on Monday at their second meeting, hosted by the President, failed to reach a consensus over a date for the country to hold the early parliamentary elections. Originally, the election was scheduled on 12 April before being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic under a government decree with the force of law. It is expected the parties in the coming days to have talks with each other.
Zaev: Elections should be held on 21 June (MIA)
An agreement has not been reached on having the elections at the first available opportunity, said SDSM leader Zoran Zaev after the leaders’ meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski on Monday. Zaev said the Commission for Infectious Diseases, constitutional provisions and even OSCE/ODIHR have confirmed this aspect, adding that 21 June is the first date for elections after the end of the state of emergency and based on the government’s decree. According to him, SDSM has not yet contemplated the option of having elections without the participation of the opposition. “Irresponsibility, immaturity and thinking only about the party seat has led us to this outcome of having no consensus,” added Zaev. He said the behavior of VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski is detrimental for the country, accusing him of being afraid from the citizens and the vote. “They want to drag the health and economic crisis in order to create a new political crisis. We will not let this happen,” said Zaev. He noted that the election activities should continue after the end of the state of emergency. “We believe that elections can be administered. The caretaker government, whose primary role is to administer elections, in parallel with the protective measures, should restart the pre-election processes towards holding fair and democratic elections while fully considering the people’s health. I also expect the institutions charged with preparing the elections, primarily the State Election Commission, to do its job,” underlined Zaev.
Mickoski: VMRO-DPMNE proposed August 23 and 30, September 13 as possible election dates (MIA)
VMRO-DPMNE proposed 23 and 30 August, and 13 September as possible dates for the early parliamentary elections at the leaders’ meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski on Monday. Party leader Hristijan Mickoski said after the meeting that the dates are not fixed but depend on the situation, with the most optimal being the one with the least coronavirus risk on the people’s health. Mickoski expressed hope there would not be, as he put it, ‘a unilateral act of violence’ by several parties regarding the election date. He expects consensus so that parties demonstrate that citizens, not political interest, is important for the political parties. “Let’s abandon the political reasoning and follow the people’s and the statehood reasoning by following the pandemic development,” added Mickoski. He noted that the Commission for Infectious Diseases provided ‘a pale and incomplete report’ at the meeting, enlisting only the existing protective measures and recommendations. “We believe that the end of August and the beginning of September will be a time when the virus’ intensity will drop to the minimum, thus posing the least risk to the people’s health. We put forward these dates but we will monitor the situation and give our assessments accordingly,” said Mickoski. He said the leaders’ meeting also produced several legal dilemmas that were elaborated. “VMRO-DPMNE set the dilemma over the diaspora voting and the updating of the Voters’ List with the persons who have turned 18 in the meantime,” said Mickoski.
Gashi and Sela favor 26 July elections (MIA)
Alliance for Albanians (AA) and Alternativa favor 26 July as the date for the early parliamentary elections. Alternativa leader Afrim Gashi said after Monday’s leaders’ meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski that SDSM favored elections in June, while VMRO-DPMNE favored the onset of September. “I hope we will meet in the coming days in order to agree on a date through consensus. We should take into consideration that the state needs institutions but also that people’s health is not put at risk on Election Day,” said Gashi. AA leader Zijadin Sela referred to the Commission for Infectious Diseases’ report that the coronavirus situation is improving but there is still a high risk to the people’s health. The State Election Commission (SEC) has said it cannot administer the elections within 22 days after the end of the state of emergency, while OSCE/ODIHR has noted its preparedness to send observers but the date and the health protocols need to be agreed first. “That is why our proposal is 26 July because it will be less risky for the citizens, while the borders will open so that the international observation mission can attend. At the same time, SEC will be able to check the Voters’ List,” said Sela and urged political parties to reach consensus. He asked the President and the Prime Minister during the meeting if the state of emergency would end on May 30 and “they were not sure.” “We should not determine a hypothetical date without knowing if the state of emergency will continue or not. I told them we should meet again and talk about elections when they are sure about the state of emergency,” noted Sela. He added that President Pendarovski would inform the parties on the date of the next leaders’ meeting.
Ahmeti: Election date must be set by consensus; people’s health is top priority (MIA)
The election is important, but a date must be set by consensus and in line with health measures. People’s health is top priority, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti told reporters Monday, after a leaders’ meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski. “It’s important that we are all responsible and united during this state of emergency. We realize that the country is without parliament and governed by a caretaker government, a situation brought on by a global pandemic due to a dangerous virus,” Ahmeti said. He added that political stakeholders reviewed during the meeting documents they’ve received from competent institutions. All political parties, Ahmeti underlined, expressed concern over the situation and agreed it should be carefully monitored. He added that no one should take advantage of the situation for political gain. In answer to a reporter’s question regarding parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi’s refusal to reconvene parliament, Ahmeti stressed that Xhaferi’s decision is in line with the Constitution, as confirmed by legal and constitutional experts. Regarding the fact that mosques will stay open over Ramadan Bayram (24 May) despite a possible 24-hour lockdown, DUI’s leader stressed that measures and recommendations issued by health institutions must be respected.
Kasami: Election date to be determined after state of emergency ends (MIA)
Besa leader Bilal Kasami regretted Monday the fact that party leaders failed to reach agreement over the date for the early parliamentary elections, saying it should be determined after the end of the state of emergency. “Experts say the coronavirus situation will continue until a vaccine is available and we will have to find common ground on a date for the elections after the end of the state of emergency. We postponed the elections through a political decision and the timelines are ongoing. We favored June, but this will be decided after the end of the state of emergency,” said Kasami after the leaders’ meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski. According to him, institutions should prepare citizens for the elections. “The elected Government can better handle the health and economic crisis,” added Kasami.
No outcome of second leaders’ meeting means use of defined timelines, says Zaev (MIA)
The elections are important primarily for the people’s health, for the economy, for democratic institutions and that is why we should reach an agreement. The failure to find a solution at the second leaders’ meeting means that we hold the elections in accordance with the defined timelines, i.e. 22 days after the end of the state of emergency – 21 June, says SDSM leader Zoran Zaev. He said that laws have to be observed when an agreement cannot be reached.
“Timelines have to be observed in circumstances when there is no agreement. The state of emergency ends on 30 May, the elections take place 22 days after, namely 21 June. The law and the rule of law has precedence when an agreement is not reached. 21 June can be delayed if the state of emergency is extended, but serious arguments are needed for this,” says Zaev. He says VMRO-DPMNE is afraid from the elections because they are aware of their low ratings, but this is not a reason for the country to be left without legitimate institutions. “We must act responsibly, in the interest of the people and the state. We initially agreed to have the elections on 12 April, which were postponed due to the coronavirus. The elections are already scheduled, the parliament is dissolved, the candidate lists are submitted and confirmed. The opposition fears elections and knows it is heading for a defeat, but this is not a reason to put the country into jeopardy, having no institutions that are required for the people’s health, the economy and the democracy,” notes Zaev. He says the State Election Commission (SEC) is obliged to administer the elections within the timelines prescribed in the government’s decree adopted once the state of emergency entered into force. “SEC enforces decisions. It receives timelines prescribed by the parliament speaker, who is scheduling the elections, and they proceed on these timelines. The speaker cannot schedule new elections, the existing timelines remain. They have only been frozen due to the health crisis,” says Zaev. According to him, it is not a question whether VMRO-DPMNE will take part at the elections, but in the election campaign. “VMRO-DPMNE is taking part in the elections, they accepted the 12 April elections, afterwards they accepted their postponement, they submitted candidate lists, everything is prepared for the elections,” says Zaev. The SDSM leader underlines that he is prepared for dialogue in order to find a mutually acceptable solution over the election date, saying the country must use the period with the least threat on the people’s health, because the risk will increase with the opening of the borders, schools, kindergartens.
Spasovski: The date for holding elections has been determined since the adoption of the Decree having the force of law to stop all election activities (Republika/TV Klan)
The date for holding elections has been determined since the adoption of the Decree having the force of law to stop all election activities, which means that after the state of emergency the election deadlines continue, Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said in an interview with TV Klan.
“It is not a matter of wanting or opposing elections because we have a state that is determined, provided by the Constitution and the laws. You know that the early parliamentary elections were determined as a result of such a leaders’ meeting, at which the parties decided that it would be good to hold the parliamentary elections on 12 April 2020, and that was sometime in October and then they agreed that the elections should be held on 12 April,” said Spasovski. Spasovski reminded that the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a global health crisis, requires from everyone a serious responsibility in making any decision, above all, as he said, because it concerns the life and health of citizens. According to him, the Decree of the government which determines the date for holding of elections should be respected.
Covid-19: 22 new confirmed cases, 50 patients recovered, 2 died (MIA)
Twenty-two new confirmed Covid-19 cases registered the Institute for Public Health in the past 24 hours after 533 tests were conducted. Of the new cases, 8 are in Skopje, 2 in Shtip, 2 in Prilep, 3 in Tetovo. one in Struga, 4 in Veles, one in Sveti Nikole, and one in Gostivar. A 78-year-old patient from Skopje, treated at the 8 September General Hospital in Skopje since May 7, and a 77-year-old patient from Tetovo, died in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Tuesday. Fifty patients have recovered from Covid-19 recently, including 16 in Skopje, 10 in Kumanovo, 6 in Prilep, 15 in Tetovo, 1 in Veles, 1 in Kriva Palanka, and 1 in Valandovo. This brings the total tally of COVID-19 confirmed cases to 1,839 since the outbreak of the epidemic. 1,351 patients have recovered. Death toll has reached 106. Currently, there are 382 active cases in North Macedonia, stated the press release.
Citizens gather in protest against demolition of National Theatre (Tirana Times)
Hundreds of citizens gathered on Monday afternoon in front of the ruins of the now-demolished National Theater, as part of the protest organized by the Alliance for the Protection of Theater. A day after authorities demolished the building of the National Theater, the boulevard was filled with artists, civil society activists, citizens as well as opposition leaders who protested against the demolition and called for. Robert Budina, director and member of the Alliance for the Protection of Theater who has strongly opposed the demolition of the building since 2018, stated that the Theatre served as a symbol for democracy. He condemned the government’s act, calling the demolition unconstitutional. “The demolition of the Theater highlighted all the issues of the Albanian democracy. The symbolism of the National Theater was not only in the walls, but the standing position of democracy which was demolished by unconstitutional laws. “The protest of the Theater was a candle that lit many other candles of protest, that hope cannot be killed,” said actor Neritan Liçaj. Many of other artists who spoke, including Budina, accused the police of using violence against those who were in the building at the time. “We were dragged away, and the demolition began while there were still people [inside],” he said. Analyst and publicist Fatos Lubonja who was also present at the protest, stated that the demolition has left a blow to the freedom and desire of the Albanian people to live in “a peaceful democratic country.” He added that citizens are facing “a very dangerous gang and we need to think deeply and long about how to act to get rid of this gang that has seized the state.” According to Lubonja, the citizens should demand the resignation of the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, and that he and others, be held accountable for the destruction of public property. Shortly before the start of the protest, President Ilir Meta, through a Facebook post, called for an international investigation into what he called “the unconstitutional, illegal and the most anti-European way of destroying the National Theater.” He added that he is to cooperate with the Alliance for the Protection of Theater, as well as any European and international institution for Culture. Finally, Meta urged protestors not to practice violence but believe instead that democracy can prevail “over ‘Talibanism’ and oligarchy.'” Artists stated that they will continue to resist and protest against the Rama government, while Budina once again called on President Ilir Meta to dissolve the parliament. Later, he announced that protests will continue on to Wednesday at 17:30.
Gjiknuri makes an appeal to the opposition to carry on the negotiations for the electoral reform and take their role (Radio Tirana)
Damian Gjiknuri, member of Commission of Legal Affairs at the parliament (Socialist Party) urged the opposition to return to discuss and approve the electoral reform, as the DP leader Lulzim Basha said he would withdraw from the election. Gjiknuri assessed the lack of opposition at the negotiations for the electoral reform is an unfortunate event, and reiterating that the electoral reform is in the interest of all parties. “Unfortunately, today the meeting of the negotiating group did not take place. This is an unfortunate event. The electoral reform is in the interest of all parties and should be completed within May. I don’t see any serious reason for it to be stopped, it has nothing to do with the government or the opposition, but with the rules of the game,” said Gjiknuri.
Basha informs on topics discussed with ambassadors (ADN)
Democratic Party (DP) Chairman, Lulzim Basha revealed two topics discussed with Ambassadors this Tuesday: European integration process and the economic crisis country is facing due to Covid-19, both being affected negatively by government’s decisions.
Basha also commented on the boycott of the round-table on Electoral Reform, emphasizing that ruling majority does not have the will for political cooperation as it has rejected any proposal of the opposition. “The crisis is deepening because of Edi Rama. The actions of recent weeks are deepening the political crisis and leading Albania far away from Europe. Today we asked the ambassadors for the help of the member states so that Albania has the support to open negotiations and to face the crisis due to the devastating consequences of Covid-19. The government is obstructing integration and I have assured them that the opposition will do everything to move forward in the integration process,” said Basha.
UN team in Albania expresses concern following the tensions triggered by the collapse of TK! (Radio Tirana)
The United Nations Agency in Albania reacts to the situation in the country after the demolition of the National Theater. While it is emphasized that the UN is following developments with concern, there is a need for transparency, dialogue and the avoidance of risks that would damage national unity in Albania. “The United Nations Country Team in Albania has noted with concern the tension caused by the demolition of the national theater in the early hours of Sunday morning 17 May. The UN in Albania underlines the importance of strengthening national unity of purpose and building trust between authorities and the population, particularly while managing the Covid-19 pandemic. More than ever, extra efforts to ensure dialogue, transparency and extra time to ensure full consistency with the rule of law can help mitigate risks associated with actions that might disrupt national unity. The UN in Albania notes the importance of the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, in accordance with the law and good democratic practice”.
Only 1 new COVID-19 case in Albania (Tirana Times)
Only one new coronavirus case was confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected patients to 949 in Albania. This marks the lowest number of cases since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. So far, tests have been conducted on more than 12,500 people. A total of 15 patients are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, three of whom are in intensive care. So far, 77 percent of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Albania have now recovered. The death toll remains at 31 victims.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece Agree on Travel Without Quarantine (BTA, 19 May 2020)
Travel between Bulgaria and Greece will be without quarantine as of June 1. The decision was made at a video conference of the leaders of Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania and was announced Tuesday by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. He said that the quarantine requirement for travel between Bulgaria and Serbia will also be scrapped as of June 1 but travellers will have to fill out bilateral declarations stating that they have no COVID-19 symptoms, are not quarantined in their own country, agree to travel at their own risk and leave a phone for contact. Borissov said that he hopes the Romanian Parliament will make a similar decision because their government has resigned. The quadrilateral video conference was held on Borissov’s initiative and included also Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Ministers Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and Ludovic Orban of Romania. They discussed measures for easing travel and restore tourist exchange without heightening the health risk for people.
The ministers of foreign and internal affairs, tourism, health care and transport also participated in the discussion. The leaders of the four countries will meet in person in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna on June 1, said Borissov. As he made public the decisions made at the meeting, Borissov said that Bulgaria has handled well the pandemic and is now among the first to ease the restrictions. “It is important to learn to observe the hygiene measures and to learn to live with the coronavirus and with a calculated risk so that more systems resume operation and there is more money for people and the public purse,” said the Bulgarian government leader.