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Belgrade Media Report 22 May 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Friday 22 May 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: If the offer is what I assume, the answer will be ‘no’ (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Vucic meets Quint Ambassadors (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Dacic: Serbia cannot pretend to be blind to the problems of Serbs in Montenegro (TV Studio B/Beta)
Rosocha: Slovakia adheres to the principled stance of not recognizing Kosovo’s independence (Beta)
Godfrey: I hope those responsible for murder of Bytyqi brothers will be brought to justice (FoNet/NSPM)
Djuric: Clash of great powers regarding Albanian leaders in Pristina (TV Happy/Tanjug/RTV)
Biscevic: Stable Serbia in Croatia’s interest (N1)
Entry into Serbia without coronavirus test and commission permission (Tanjug)
No deaths over past 24 hours (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

B&H CoM fails to adopt decision on distribution of 330 million Euros provided by IMF (N1)
Softic: We cannot launch distribution of IMF funds without decision of B&H CoM; IMF: No deadline for distribution of funds and no mechanism exists for funds to be returned (BHT1)
Covic: It is shame B&H is incapable to distribute IMF funds, SDA and HDZ B&H are no longer coalition partners (O kanal)
HDZ B&H: Illegal B&H CEC is an obstacle to election activities (Vecernji list)
Funds needed for preparation for local election not secured for B&H CEC (BHT1)
Ambassador: Russia advocates for abolition of High Representative in B&H (Srna/Russian Gazette)
RS parliament adopts decision to abolish state of emergency (RTRS)
Mandatory 14-day isolation upon entering B&H territory abolished (BHT1)
B&H records 21 new Covid-19 infections for a total of 2,372 cases (N1)
Croatia

Croatia, Slovenia to initial agreement simplifying border-crossing procedure (Hina)
Easing of border restrictions sees 132K foreigners arrive to Croatia (Hina)
Croatia supports Merkel-Macron rescue plan (Hina/Jutarnji list)
Six newly infected in Croatia, a total of 2243, two people died (N1)
Montenegro

Markovic: Those who were against independence are now attacking Montenegro’s sovereignty (CDM)
Boskovic: Attacks on Montenegrin independence are doomed to fail (CDM)
Darmanovic: We won’t allow Serbia to meddle in Montenegro’s internal affairs (Pobjeda)
Serbian national positive for coronavirus transported to Serbia (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Electoral Commission President says that he is under over political pressure as SDSM insists on having elections in June (Republika/Telma TV)
Pendarovski, Kurti discuss pandemic, cooperation in phone call (MIA)
Number of infections in Skopje and Tetovo on the rise (MIA)
COVID-19: 23 new cases in North Macedonia, 9 patients recover, 1 dies (MIA)
Albania

President Meta proposes a “peace” plan (Tirana Times)
Albania to open borders within May (Tirana Times)
Vice Minister and family banned from entering US (ADN)
In Albania 12 new COVID-19 cases (Tirana Times)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Picula: I call for a constructive dialogue in Montenegro (EWB)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: If the offer is what I assume, the answer will be ‘no’ (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters that the European countries discuss the Belgrade – Pristina relations and the powerful give themselves the right everting concerns their interest regardless of what the Serbs and Albanians think about a solution to Kosovo issue. Vucic denied any territory swap talks with Pristina. “No one ever told me about the idea of exchanging 17 Serb villages for Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja,” he said, adding he never commented on what I only heard about in media. Vucic said he did not have a problem with the idea that Kosovo’s issue could not be solved with borders change. “We also have our borders in line with our Constitution and the UNSCR 1244. And let me see what you are going to do now,” Vucic said. He added he had asked the Quint Ambassadors what they saw as a realistic solution to Kosovo problem, apart from empty talks they sell to media. “I haven’t received an answer yet. I assume what that may be. And if so, my answer will be – no,” Vucic said. “Everything in the Balkans must be a matter of compromise, and victories should be sought in the economies, not in territories or expulsions of others,” he said.

 

Vucic meets Quint Ambassadors (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with the Ambassadors of the Quint – the US, Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany, as well as with the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, to discuss Serbia’s European integration, upcoming elections and the situation in the region.

They agreed that it is essential for the elections to be held in a good electoral atmosphere and that all parties have a fair campaign, as well as that voters be motivated for the highest turnout possible. The topic of discussion was also last week’s video conference meeting of the EU and Western Balkans, as well as the stalemate in the dialogue with Pristina, the rule of law and the situation in the region. In an open, constructive and contentful conversation, it was emphasized that we should strive towards good neighborly relations to fully stabilize the political situation in the region. The Ambassadors of the Quint and the Head of the EU Delegation expressed satisfaction with the fight against the infectious disease COVID-19. Vucic thanked the EU and the US for the support we received during the pandemic and briefed the ambassadors about the economic situation and the economic recovery program after the pandemic.

 

Dacic: Serbia cannot pretend to be blind to the problems of Serbs in Montenegro (TV Studio B/Beta)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Thursday that Serbia’s reaction to the latest developments in Montenegro had been very reserved and that Belgrade “cannot pretend to be blind to or not say anything” about the problems of Serbs in Montenegro. “We are trying not to escalate the situation, but Montenegro has reacted very aggressively, they are accusing us of meddling in their internal affairs. However, they interfered in the worst possible way in our internal affairs, by recognizing Kosovo and stamping on our territorial integrity,” Dacic told the TV Studio B. He said that the Montenegrin authorities saw the Serb people as a “factor of disturbances” and that “they are constantly making two things up.” “[Firstly] They are falsely accusing Serbia of interfering in their internal affairs and being against Montenegro’s independence, secondly, [they are saying] that the Serb people oppose Montenegro’s independence,” he said. He added that Serbia was only interested “in the question of the position of the Serb people and Serbian Orthodox Church” in Montenegro and that the status of Serbs in this country “is worse than if they were a national minority.”

 

Rosocha: Slovakia adheres to the principled stance of not recognizing Kosovo’s independence (Beta)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and the newly appointed Ambassador of Slovakia to Serbia Fedor Rosocha assessed on 21 May that bilateral relations were traditionally good and friendly, and advocated their deepening and further strengthening in all fields of mutual interest. They welcomed the fact that the two countries maintained an intensive and continuous political dialogue at all levels and declared the intention for it to continue, the Foreign Ministry has stated.

Rosocha stated that Slovakia intended to continue intensive communication and cooperation with Serbia in all fields. He reiterated that Slovakia, as the statement reads, “adheres to the principled stance” of not recognizing Kosovo’s independence, and that his country would continue to support Serbia’s European integration in full. Dacic said he was convinced that cooperation with the EU special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak would be successful and constructive, as it was while he was the foreign minister of Slovakia, the statement reads.

 

Godfrey: I hope those responsible for murder of Bytyqi brothers will be brought to justice (FoNet/NSPM)

 

US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey said he hoped that those responsible for setting his country’s embassy in Belgrade ablaze in 2008, and those involved in the murder of the three Albanian-American brothers Bytyqi in 1999, would be brought to justice, but that the most of energy should focus on the future, FoNet reported. “I have an open dialogue with Serbia’s ministers about those two cases,” Godfrey said after signing an agreement on US additional aid to Serbia worth over 20 million Dollars for empowering the institutions and the rule of law.

Serbian Minister for EU Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Serbian government, said that regarding the two cases, the government was cooperative. She added that every ongoing process will have its epilogue. “The respective institutions will do their job. There is a constant open dialogue, and the US recognizes it,” Joksimovic said.

 

Djuric: Clash of great powers regarding Albanian leaders in Pristina (TV Happy/Tanjug/RTV)

 

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told TV Happy on Thursday that it is not surprising that the US wants a solution for the Kosovo problem and to have an active role in it, but that it is surprising how boldly the outgoing Prime Minister Albin Kurti and other Albanian leaders are slapping the American diplomacy. Djuric assessed that there is no doubt that there is a clash of great powers regarding domination over the Albanian political forces in Pristina, adding that Serbia should not participate in that. “It’s up to us to preserve peace and, as we have done in the previous seven years, to use everything to strengthen the rest of Serbia, because by doing so we are strengthening our position in Kosovo and Metohija,” Djuric said. He recalled Kurti’s earlier statement that the agreement on the establishment of flights between Belgrade and Pristina does not exist and that he is not interested in it, stressing that Albanian leaders never make such statements without someone powerful standing behind them. He also referred to the recent statement by US Congressman Eliot Engel that Vucic was suppressing Albanian interests in Kosovo and Metohija with an “iron fist,” saying that it showed that Albanian lobbyists are nervous about Serbia’s success in bringing about withdrawals of Kosovo recognitions and preventing Kosovo’s membership in leading international organizations. Djuric assessed that for two decades there had been “apparent harmony” among big western countries on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, but that this has changed because Serbia has actively lobbied for withdrawals of the recognitions of Kosovo’s independence. At the same time, he added, President Aleksandar Vucic put a lot of effort into conversations with the Trump administration and other political circles that were previously not ready to listen to Serbia’s position. Djuric said that Serbia had its own proposals and ideas for resolving the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, unlike in the past, when, he says, we only talked about what we did not want to achieve. As he said, Serbia has worked hard on the ground to consolidate the Serb corps in the southern province through the Serb List, so that the foreign factor can no longer manipulate Serb politicians in Kosovo and Metohija, as was the case during previous authorities. “We did not sit idly by, while Albanians deteriorated their image in the world, we built 1,700 houses for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, during the epidemic we sent humanitarian aid to Kosovo and Metohija, we advocated for the free flow of goods, people and capital,” said Djuric. He welcomed the fact that the American and British ambassadors in Pristina have asked the authorities there to respect the decision of the Constitutional Court and return property to the Decani monastery, but said there is no illusion that a desire to legitimize the institutions in Pristina is a part of what’s behind that.

 

Biscevic: Stable Serbia in Croatia’s interest (N1)

 

Croatian Ambassador to Serbia Hidajet Biscevic told N1 on Thursday that a stable Serbia is in his country’s interest, adding that the two countries have to make sure coming generations look in different directions despite everything burdening their views of the recent past. “A stable Serbia is in Croatia’s interest and how that will happen is not up to us to comment but is up to the Serbian leadership,” the recently appointed Ambassador said. He said that Croatia, which holds the EU Council presidency, could organize an inter-governmental conference to open new pre-accession negotiation chapters for Serbia. “That is in the mutual interest of both Croatia and Serbia,” he said. According to Biscevic, the important thing for Serbia is that the European Union remains its strategic partner. “It is the biggest donor, the biggest investments from the EU, most of Serbia’s exports are to EU markets. Also, the EU offers a certain set of values and is a symbol of those values which I am convinced the Serbian people want to adopt,” he said.

The Ambassador said that his first meeting with Serbian President Alksandar Vucic lasted 45 instead of the customary 10 minutes. “I am encouraged with the way we spoke, topics and mutual efforts to stabilize relations permanently,” he said.

 

Entry into Serbia without coronavirus test and commission permission (Tanjug)

 

At Thursday’s session, the Serbian government made a decision to send one-time financial assistance to various associations in Montenegro, which deal with the improvement of economic, cultural and political cooperation of Montenegro with Serbia and Republika Srpska. The total value of the aid is more than €1.64 million. At the session, the proposal of the crisis response team for the protection of the health of the population from the infectious disease COVID-19 on opening border crossings and free entry of all persons into Serbia was adopted, without the necessary coronavirus test and commission permission. The testing on personal request will cost RSD 6,000 on the territory of the entire Republic of Serbia, while for students and minors, testing will still be free.

 

No deaths over past 24 hours (RTS)

 

Until 3pm there have been another 105 cases, in total 11,024 cases. There have been no deaths. There are 744 patients in hospitals, of whom 12 are on ventilators.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

B&H CoM fails to adopt decision on distribution of 330 million Euros provided by IMF (N1)

 

The fifth session of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (CoM) was held on Thursday. The B&H CoM failed to adopt a single report on work of B&H institutions. B&H CoM also failed to adopt a decision to finance local elections in B&H, as well as distribution of 330 million Euros worth the IMF’s loan. Following the session, Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija confirmed that a Proposal of Budget of B&H Institutions for 2020 has not been delivered to the Presidency of B&H yet, adding that the Ministry of Finance of B&H is still working on it. He confirmed it will be discussed by the B&H CoM next week. Reporter noted that the B&H CoM failed to adopt a decision on distribution of 330 million Euros provided by the IMF. These funds are currently in the account of the Central Banka of B&H (CB B&H). Tegeltija said that CB B&H does not need additional decisions to distribute these funds to Ministries of Finance in B&H. B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic stated that besides abovementioned funds, some 250 million Euros provided by the EU is also waiting for distribution. “This is huge money that economy and citizens of B&H need. I hope that following last night’s talks organized by Ambassador Nelson and attended by Mr. Sattler, brought closer some stances,” said Radoncic.

Softic: We cannot launch distribution of IMF funds without decision of B&H CoM; IMF: No deadline for distribution of funds and no mechanism exists for funds to be returned (BHT1)

 

Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Zoran Tegeltija said that there is no need for the B&H CoM to reevaluate the distribution of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) funds, since this has already been done. “I deem that the Central Bank has everything needed to pay out the entities and the Brcko District and I do not see a need for a new decision to be rendered,” Tegeltija said. According to the Governor of the Central Bank of B&H Senad Softic, they cannot launch the distribution of the funds without the decision of the B&H CoM. The standstill is caused by the inability of HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic to reach an agreement on the distribution of the funding in Federation of B&H (FB&H). Izetbegovic said: “All that is needed is to forward the funding to the two entities, which will then give their portion to the Brcko District, and the FB&H will distribute the funding as it was already decided”. He argued that the only reason for this to be brought into question is if there is an intent to make cantons especially visible and for them to be positioned as a new type of entity. SNSD leader Milorad Dodik said: “We have standstill which obviously states that the decision is not being honored in the part where it should be the obligation of the FB&H authorities to distribute the funds amongst the cantons”. The IMF stated that the submission filed to the body stipulates how funds will be distributed amongst the entities and the Brcko District, but that it does not stipulate how the funds will be divided amongst the cantons. “It is our understanding that the FB&H government agreed that 50 percent of the FB&H funds will be allocated to cantons, and that this allocation is not debatable,” said IMF resident representative to B&H, Andrew Jewell. The IMF stated that there is no mechanism which would allow for funds which have already been allocated to be returned, which means that there is no deadline for its distribution. Jewell said that he is truly saddened by the fact that IMF’s rapid assistance, which was transferred more than a month ago, is not being used. “This is a purely political dispute among the authorities. Amounts which need to be distributed to the entities and Brcko District, have been agreed earlier”, said Jewell. “Politicians in B&H are conveying a message that they cannot hold on to a given word. They said that they urgently needed the assistance and they are not using the assistance that was given. This lack of serious behavior can have negative impact to future relations between IMF and B&H” said Jewell.

 

Covic: It is shame B&H is incapable to distribute IMF funds, SDA and HDZ B&H are no longer coalition partners (O kanal)

 

Leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic stated at last night’s dinner with leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic, US Ambassador Eric Nelson and Head of the EU Delegation to B&H Johann Sattler that it is shame that B&H is incapable to distribute the IMF funds. According to Covic, they discussed this issue but the problem was not solved. During the meeting, Covic also said that HDZ B&H and SDA are no longer coalition partners nor part of the same parliamentary majority. When it comes to holding of the local elections, Covic left the possibility for an agreement on election of the Mostar City Council. Covic said on Thursday that he is not in a coalition with SDA anymore, because his partners are working behind his back. Izetbegovic said that Covic has double standards, one for HDZ B&H and another for his partners. Izetbegovic stated that HDZ B&H and SNSD proposed changes to the Law on the B&H Constitutional Court (B&H CC) on Wednesday in the B&H parliament. He stressed that these changes are anti-constitutional and they would make the B&H CC susceptible to political influence and ethnic division.

 

HDZ B&H: Illegal B&H CEC is an obstacle to election activities (Vecernji list)

 

HDZ B&H issued a press statement which reads that calling of local elections and holding of the elections has been brought in question due to disrespecting the series of laws and legal procedures in the process of appointment of new members of B&H Central Election Commission (B&H CEC), which is the competent institution for carrying out and holding of elections. “We are witnesses who directed the appointment of new members in B&H House of Representatives. To call for responsibility and to be the direct participant of such illegal activities, presents deception of the society and entire public. Self-proclaimed legalists, without any political scruples, have violated absolutely all legal regulations and it is obvious that there is nothing disputable for them”, reads the statement. HDZ B&H stressed that “deeply politicized and illegal institution” cannot be a guarantee of democratic process of holding of elections or implementation of the results. HDZ B&H concluded they will not allow the election processes to turn into mockery of political parties and participants who violate the constitutional order on a daily base.

 

Funds needed for preparation for local election not secured for B&H CEC (BHT1)

 

The deadline for launching public procurement necessary for holding of local election expires on Friday, however, the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) has failed to discuss this matter. The Central Election Commission (CEC) of B&H warned that time is running out as the timeframe needed for all necessary activities ahead of elections is 170 days. The tender procedures, selection of the company which is to print ballots, and signing of the agreement alone takes 65 days. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic expressed hope that the state budget will be adopted by the end of May since all funds needed for elections need to be allocated, and not only parts of it. He said that he does not know what is being waited on, and claimed that this could have been done by now. Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija (SNSD) said that there is funding for holding of elections and that there will always be funds for elections, assuring that it will be in the budget for 2020. He said that he believes this is being insisted upon unnecessarily and that there are groups in B&H which do not want the local elections to be held as they are destined to lose. B&H Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic (SBB) said that the B&H CEC is formed of party members. “There are two from SDS, two from SDA and yesterday you have one from DF. Such a Commission loses its legitimacy. I think it would be good for the elections to be held, but it is up to the people who have the right to veto – SNSD or possibly HDZ- whether they will be against it. If they are, there will be no elections,” Radoncic said. SNSD and HDZ B&H are again questioning the legitimacy of the appointment of the B&H CEC members. SNSD leader Milorad Dodik said that a significant number of reports have been filed in regards to the appointment of the B&H CEC members and that he believes that the Court will show that it is not politically motivated by removing members of the B&H CEC. B&H Minister of Justice Josip Grubesa (HDZ B&H) said that there is something wrong with the appointment of the B&H CEC members as those who submitted their documentation for the position were not received by the B&H CEC. He said that this organization should be a leader in transparency, but in fact it is not at all that.

 

Ambassador: Russia advocates for abolition of High Representative in B&H (Srna/Russian Gazette)

 

Russia has consistently advocated the withdrawal of the foreign protectorate mechanism in B&H and the abolition of the function of the High Representative, as well as the transfer of all competencies to local authorities, Russian Ambassador to B&H Peter Ivantsov told the Russian Gazette, adding it is absurd that the country is still under observation by international community’s administrator who represents themselves as above B&H’s democratically elected institutions. “We are not the only ones criticizing him (the High Representative). Many Bosnian political forces do so as well, showing strong dissatisfaction with the High Representative’s behavior and they are in favor of abolishing his function,” Ivantsov said, Srna news agency reports. He said that “the existence of the High Representative has no practical meaning since peace and stability have reigned in the country for a long time, B&H has long shown itself to be a responsible and respected member of the international community, the country was elected as a member of the UN Security Council, and it even chaired the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.” Ivantsov claims that “the situation in B&H will change for the better when the conditions are created for all peoples to feel at home in their country, instead of being subjected to constant pressure just because they have their own opinion on any important issue.”

The Ambassador states that “rummaging through the country’s Constitution will only open the Pandora’s box” whose consequences can be uncontrolled and dangerous, and that is why there is no need for “Dayton Two.” Speaking about the relations between Bosnia and the Russian Federation and the possibilities of expanding bilateral cooperation, Ivantsov said that Russia is one of the key investors in the country and one of its leading foreign trade partners, but that there are certain differences of opinion, primarily those of a political nature. “I’d like to see a more constructive understanding of Russia’s role in a number of politicians in Bosnia’s Federation entity,” Ivantsov said. He pointed out that Russia’s ties with the RS entity deserve special attention, “where the highest level of trust, friendly and fraternal relations have long been ensured.” “Political contacts between the local Serb and Russian state leaders are traditionally intense, which we will continue to encourage and expand,” Ivantsov emphasized.

 

RS parliament adopts decision to abolish state of emergency (RTRS)

 

At its session held on Thursday, the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament adopted decision to abolish state of emergency in territory of this entity. This decision should enter into force after it is adopted by the RS Council of Peoples (CoP) and published in the Official Gazette of the RS, i.e. most probably on Saturday. Once state of emergency is officially abolished, the emergency situation will be again in force in the RS. This means that citizens will have to resume respecting some preventive measures, including wearing of protective gloves and keeping social distance. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said that abolition of the state of emergency on the territory of the RS will create legal and other pre-conditions to abolish the measure on limitation of movement after 2200 hours. Viskovic emphasized that this does not mean people should stop respecting measures proposed by experts.

 

Mandatory 14-day isolation upon entering B&H territory abolished (BHT1)

 

After the authorities in B&H reached a decision to abolish 14-day self-isolation measure for citizens of B&H entering the country, traffic at the B&H borders increased. Representatives of the B&H Border Police said that they expect more traffic at the B&H borders on Friday and during the weekend. Foreign citizens have also been allowed to enter B&H with the fulfillment of certain conditions, i.e. with a negative COVID-19 test which is not older than 48 hours. At the same time, not all countries in the region abolished measures of self-isolation. Thus, B&H citizens who are traveling to Croatia will get a decision on self-isolation. B&H citizens traveling to Slovenia are not obliged to go into self-isolation, while B&H citizens traveling to Austria can avoid self-isolation only with a negative COVID-19 test that is not older than four days.

 

B&H records 21 new Covid-19 infections for a total of 2,372 cases (N1)

 

B&H recorded 21 new cases of Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, 19 from the RS and two from the FB&H, health authorities said Friday. RS conducted 617 tests for Covid-19, of which 19 came back positive, the entity Health ministry said, adding that the patients are three women and 16 men. So far, this entity confirmed 1,339 cases of coronavirus infection, of which 100 had died. Entity health officials said they tested 23,513 persons since the beginning of the pandemic in the country. FB&H tested 632 samples, the Health Ministry’s Crisis Staff said, adding that only 2 samples came back positive. The Staff said 33,273 people were tested since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 1,013 were positive and 37 had died as a result of the infection.

When it comes to the Brcko District, health authorities there confirms 20 positive cases and 4 deaths, ever since the pandemic began in the country. According to the State Civil Affairs Ministry, the country now has 2,372 confirmed cases, of which,1614 had recovered and 141 had died.

 

Croatia, Slovenia to initial agreement simplifying border-crossing procedure (Hina)

 

By the end of this week Croatia and Slovenia are expected to initial an agreement that would simplify cross-border travel for the two countries’ nationals, after their border was recently reopened, but with significant waiting times for those wishing to cross it. Slovenian government spokesman Jelko Kacin said on Thursday that the two countries’ police commanders had agreed that by the end of the week they would initiate an agreement that would facilitate cross-border travel for Croatian and Slovenian nationals, that would cut waiting time. Considering their similar epidemiological situations, the two countries have already opened their border for cross-border travel. Kacin said that Croatian border police would soon have an application to enable Slovenians who frequently travel to Croatia, after they register with the application for the first time and state their personal information, to be allowed across the border faster than now.

Slovenia plans to sign agreements on cross-border travel with other neighboring countries as well, Kacin said, adding that the first country on that wish list was Austria.

 

Easing of border restrictions sees 132K foreigners arrive to Croatia (Hina)

 

The head of the national Covid-19 crisis management team, Interior Minister, Davor Bozinovic, said on Thursday that over 132,000 foreigners and almost 146,000 Croatian citizens entered Croatia last week after the border restrictions had been partially lifted. “The entry of EU citizens into Croatia has increased. In the period between 13 and 21 May, 277,805 passengers entered, 145,801 Croatian citizens and 132,000 foreigners. In the same period, 225,438 passengers left Croatia, an equal ratio of foreigners and Croatian citizens,” Bozinovic said at a cabinet session. He said border crossings were open first and foremost for EU citizens and that third country citizens could still enter and cross Croatia only under certain conditions. The recommendation is for the EU to not open the borders to third countries before 15 June, he added. Croatia is in phase when many epidemiological measures have been relaxed, which is why the engagement of the civil protection service has been halved from up to 20,000 people initially because there is no more lockdown or passes (to leave one’s place of residence) and there is less monitoring of compliance with restrictions, Bozinovic said. He warned that the number of Covid-19 cases in the world was still rising and that people in Croatia, in order to keep the situation favorable, should continue to act responsibly.

 

Croatia supports Merkel-Macron rescue plan (Hina/Jutarnji list)

 

The Croatian government support the establishment of a €500 billion European fund to help repair the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, Jutarnji list daily reports on Thursday, noting that the money to be obtained from the fund could be used for recovery in the tourism and transport sectors. The government supports the Franco-German rescue plan, which, according to the proposal put forward by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, envisages the establishment of a €500 billion rescue fund which would be set up as part of the EU budget for the period 2021-2027 and be financed with loans to be sought by the European Commission, the daily says. The money from the fund would be directed to regions and sectors worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic. “We welcome the initiative, notably in the segment that refers to the sustainable recovery of the worst-hit EU sectors and regions. There are sectors in Croatia that have been affected, we have been affected as a country, and we also expect funding from the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for cohesion policy,” Zvonimir Savic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic‘s special advisor on economic affairs, told the daily. Savic added that the amount that was being proposed was significant and that Croatia considered as important the fact that it would be part of the new MFF. The initiative itself is a clear message of European solidarity and it is important that the proposal is being put in the context of the MFF because time must not be wasted, he said.

The new EU budget goes into force in 2021 and now is the ideal time for talks on the rescue plan, which, among other things, envisages strengthening the EU’s competences in the health sector, supporting the single internal market and, most importantly, supporting sectors and regions affected the most by the pandemic, Savic said.

 

Six newly infected in Croatia, a total of 2243, two people died (N1)

 

In the last 24 hours in the Republic of Croatia, we have 6 newly infected people with Covid-19, the total number is 2243. Two people have died, said Maja Grba-Bujevic.

The new patients come from Brodsko-posavska region 4, Osjecko-baranjska region 1 and Splitsko-dalmatinska region 1. Since yesterday, two people have died, a man born in 1963 and a man born in 1977. A total of 99 people died.

 

Markovic: Those who were against independence are now attacking Montenegro’s sovereignty (CDM)

 

The same ones who led the anti-independence movement in the referendum campaign in Montenegro are now leading brutal attacks on the sovereignty of Montenegrin state, said Montenegro’s PM Dusko Markovic. He said that the past 14 years had confirmed that Montenegro had chosen its path wisely. “When we made our historic decision to manage our won future, we believed it was our victory: of us who wanted our own country” Markovic said in his ceremonial address. PM said we had believed that 21 May 2006 had brought Montenegrin divisions to an end. “We believed we will find the best interest for us and our families in the new reality of European Montenegro, we believed we would accelerate social and economic progress, that denial of Montenegrin identity would remain on dark pages of our history. Today, 14 years later, we must face the facts: divisions are still there,” PM said. Markovic pointed out that “the same ones who led the anti-independence movement in the referendum campaign in Montenegro are now leading brutal attacks on the sovereignty of Montenegrin state”. “Now with even greater support and unprecedented propaganda campaign. They keep accusing us shamelessly that we want to seize churches and monasteries, that we want to expel Serbs from Montenegro, their media and historians invent stories. However, we have done a lot, we have achieved many objectives and we are going to continue,” PM said. PM said that if we had been more responsible, we could have achieved more. At the end of his address, PM called on citizens to work for Montenegro’s well-being.

 

Boskovic: Attacks on Montenegrin independence are doomed to fail (CDM)

 

Montenegro is celebrating 14 years of the restoration of its independence. A lot has been achieved, but the challenges are still numerous. The country is exposed to attacks. Minister of Defense, Predrag Boskovic, says that Montenegro has been target of some structures for many years, those structures that want to bring Montenegro back under the skirts of the great Serbia.

“This year also started with fierce attacks because this is election year. The first of the attack is Serbian Orthodox Church. Within campaigns that have been created at specific addresses in Serbia and Russia for years, we see constant meddling in our internal affairs and rampant disinformation campaign on daily basis,” Boskovic points out. That intense tempo of fake information is aimed at jeopardizing safety. However, our citizens clearly distinguish the truth from propaganda. “Attempts to undermine our independence are doomed to fail. Our response to every future attempt will be peaceful, determined and dignified,” Boskovic says. Minister adds that dealing with the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic is a very special and demanding phase. Boskovic points out that Montenegro has done great job so far. “When I reflect on those days and our collective determination, persistence and efficiency, I firmly believe that we are going to get through all future challenges and provide high-quality living conditions for our citizens,” Boskovic said. As far as Montenegro’s achievements over the past 14 years are concerned, Boskovic has no dilemma – results are excellent in numerous areas and particularly in the area of defense and security. “Our journey has been very difficult, full of sacrifice and struggles,” Boskovic says. We are resisting all the attacks and we are ready for every new challenge,” Minister says.

 

Darmanovic: We won’t allow Serbia to meddle in Montenegro’s internal affairs (Pobjeda)

 

Montenegro will not allow Serbia to meddle in its internal affairs, said Srdjan Darmanovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

What do you think about statements of Ivica Dacic that “tensions in Montenegro have almost led to the fratricidal war” and that “it is a big lie” that Serbia is meddling into our internal affairs?

Darmanovic Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already made a statement regarding my Serbian counterpart. Montenegro will not allow Serbia to meddle into our internal affairs. It is very irresponsible to use that cheap but not naïve platform to stir up political passions and create tense atmosphere amid epidemic tensions. That can’t be a pattern of benevolent policy. And spice it with a thesis of fratricidal war! That’s not how friends talk and behave and that’s not style of vocabulary of ministers and high diplomats. In reality, the whole story looks differently- those who violated the law were detained in custody; facts have been established, indictment has been brought and, in accordance with the law, they were released after 72 hours. State authorities acted appropriately and professionally. Montenegro is primarily civil and secular state, based on the Constitution and laws. There are no vulnerable nations in Montenegro, and any such claim is unfounded and harmful. The only “vulnerable” ones in Montenegro are those who disrespect the Constitution and Montenegrin laws.

Serbia’s Defense Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, says that “Montenegro is the cause of instability in the region” …

Darmanovic: As far as Vulin’s statements are concerned, I really don’t know if they deserve any attention at all, let alone reaction. Montenegro is known to be epicenter of stability in a chronically unstable region. However, it is not the first time that decisions made by our country are subject to inappropriate comments coming from the highest political addresses in Serbia. That’s the rhetoric Montenegro is very familiar with and is consequence of Serbian nationalism, deeply rooted in their political discourse. Throughout its history, Montenegro was faced with various versions and forms of that imperial and paternal nationalism. The constant of every version is that Serbian church, with its ingrained anti-western and anti-liberal policy has always provided spiritual support and drive. Such rhetoric was once use as the introduction to wider, malevolent political projects and goals. It can also be used for trivial and temporary benefits – election needs or for distraction.

Apart from the political reply, will you take any diplomatic steps against Serbia?

Darmanovic: Montenegro wants stable relations with Serbia. We have one very important, joint foreign-policy objective – EU integration. However, a pre-election race has started in Serbia, so it is not unreal to expect additional negative narrative against Montenegro. Montenegro has always taken diplomatic steps. Whether relations will become more tense or not will depend only on the behavior of our neighbors.

Is the Russian influence on Montenegrin affairs different now, compared with 2015 and 2016?

Darmanovic: There’s no doubt that Russia is trying to carry out its policy of distraction, obstruction, particularization, domination, incitement of internal animosities and rivalry within European community through its state and non-state proxy partners in some WB countries. In the case of Montenegro, Russian role in the 2016 coup attempt can testify that. The fact that Montenegro is part of the collective security system is encouragement for us. We hoped that 2016 taught us some lessons and that Russia-Montenegro relations had started to normalize. However, adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion, Moscow’s interest in the issue was clearly recognized and the continuity of unacceptable meddling in Montenegrin internal affairs was confirmed once again. Adoption of this law, as part of the legal order of one secular, democratic state, makes this question Montenegro’s internal affair and it cannot have impact on the global unity of the orthodox world. Montenegro is able to cope with these challenges.

Fourteen years have passed since the restoration of Montenegrin independence. Our country is NATO member and is on its way to becoming EU member. Are we safer now?

Darmanovic: Montenegro is much safer now. If we need help today, we can count on solidarity and help of our 29 allies. That makes difference. Solidarity, unity and cohesion are fundamental NATO principles and our membership in the Alliance is the basis of Montenegro as Euro-Atlantic country. We are not part of NATO by mistake or temporarily. We are here to stay.

How far have we gone with reforms? Member of EP, Tanja Fajon, says that Montenegro is not leader in the region. What’s your comment on FH opinion that Montenegro is not democratic country anymore?

Darmanovic: Freedom House is a prestigious think tank and we always consider its reports carefully. We are going to devote to those segments that were not ranked well. However, EC report will provide more precise, comprehensive and more objective picture of progress we have made in the implementation of reforms. It might be interesting to explain that “devil lies in details”. Numerical assessment in FH Report has remained unchanged in five important areas: democratic management at national level, election process, independent media and civil society. The only two areas that had experienced decline are legislative framework and independence of courts and corruption.

Presentation of the EC report on Montenegro’s progress has been postponed for October. Is the coronavirus pandemic the reason or is there something else?

Darmanovic: That’s not unusual. COVID-19 pandemic has affected the working processes in every country. Therefore, this decision comes as no surprise. We should bear in mind that the EU has devoted its attention to the WB despite the pandemic and kept the enlargement policy as its priority.

The Government has accepted the new methodology for the EU accession process. In what way will it impact our European path?

Darmanovic: Technically, it is the same for us. There’s only one chapter to be opened.

As for the closing, there’s not much difference. We are happy that the new methodology has confirmed the full membership perspective on the grounds of individual progress. We welcome the approach in which rule of law makes the central part of the negotiation process.

 

Serbian national positive for coronavirus transported to Serbia (CDM)

 

Serbian national who tested positive for coronavirus after he has accident in Montenegro was transported to Serbia by helicopter this morning. To the best knowledge of CDM, Montenegro will pay the costs of transport and treatment. The patient is driver of freight program and he entered Montenegro on 18 May. Repeat testing has established that patient is positive for coronavirus. All contacts of this person are in isolation.

 

Electoral Commission President says that he is under over political pressure as SDSM insists on having elections in June (Republika/Telma TV)

 

Oliver Derkovski, the head of the State Electoral Commission, said that it is impossible to organize elections in just 22 days, as the ruling SDSM party insists. Speaking on Telma TV, Derkovski said that the Commission is under a strong public political pressure as the government is pushing for June elections which oppositions parties say will be dangerous, low turnout and illegitimate. “It is impossible to do all the steps necessary to organize elections in just 22 days. Bear in mind that it is not just the steps that need to be concluded from the preparations that were interrupted when the 12 April elections were canceled, but there are additional measures that need to be taken. These are linked with the newly created situation and the health requirements and protocols. It is clear that we will need more time to prepare and hold the elections”, Derkovski said. The Commissions will be required to train the electoral committees in how to safely conduct voting during a deadly epidemic, how to check voters for possible fever, identify them while they wear masks, safely move them to and from the polling station and ensure they don’t use the same pen, while the premises are scrubbed throughout the day. And yet, the ruling party remains dead set on holding elections at the first possible date, on 21 June, and has dismissed all concerns raised by the opposition and the SEC. “We are exposed to pressure before the eyes of the public,” Derkovski said.

 

Pendarovski, Kurti discuss pandemic, cooperation in phone call (MIA)

 

North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski on Thursday had a phone call with Albin Kurti, Kosovo’s incumbent Prime Minister. Initiated by Kosovo, Pendarovski and Kurti shared views and information on bilateral relations and current political developments in the Western Balkans, the President’s Office said. “They also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures the two neighboring countries are taking to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to tackle the consequences from the pandemic. It was concluded that cooperation between the countries at bilateral and regional cooperation was key, concurring that the support of the European Union for the region was also important to recover from the health and economic crises,” stated the press release.

 

Number of infections in Skopje and Tetovo on the rise (MIA)

 

Over the last five days, Skopje and Tetovo have registered 96 COVID-19 cases, 72 of which in Skopje and 24 in Tetovo. The Ministry of Health says the clusters of the cases in Skopje have been located and come from the same families, with infections resulting from domestic gatherings. Groupings and non-observance of measures are the reasons for the increase of COVID-19 cases in the Tetovo region. “Today we have 10 new cases in Tetovo and its surrounding. Most of them were in contact with infected persons but there are also new clusters. There are three new clusters on top of the existing 25. Tetovo and Bogovinje municipalities, including the surrounding villages, have the largest number of cases,” said Naim Skenderi from the city’s Public Health Center on Thursday. According to data provided by the Ministry of Health, there are 673 infected persons and 24 deaths in Skopje, and 161 infected persons and 15 deaths in the Tetovo region thus far.

 

COVID-19: 23 new cases in North Macedonia, 9 patients recover, 1 dies (MIA)

 

Twenty-three new COVID-19 cases have been registered in North Macedonia in the past 24 hours, while nine patients have recovered and one passed away, the Ministry of Health said in a press release Friday. A 47-year-old patient from Tetovo, admitted for treatment at the “8 September” hospital in Skopje on May 21, has passed away. New coronavirus cases have been registered in Skopje – 12, Tetovo – 4, Kumanovo – 4, Prilep – 2, Negotino – 1. This brings the tally of coronavirus patients in North Macedonia since the onset of the epidemic to 1,921. Of these 1,387 people have recovered, 112 passed away, while the number of active cases in the country is 422. Over the past 24 hours, 702 coronavirus tests have been carried out, of which 365 within the screening process.

 

President Meta proposes a “peace” plan (Tirana Times)

 

President of Albania Ilir Meta has proposed a 14-point “peace” plan regarding the judicial and electoral reforms in the country. In his proposal, Meta highlights the establishment of a Political Council which is to appoint a Chief Negotiator for EU accession as well as decide unanimously for any constitutional or legal amendments. Meta demands that the majority and the opposition (parliamentary and non-parliamentary) should “commit to finalizing the Electoral Reform” based on the OSCE / ODIHR recommendations as well as the 15 conditions set out by the European Concil on 25 March. Among the proposed points is the withdrawal the parliament to change the format of swearing in office of the members of the Constitutional Court after the case Arta Vorpsi, whose oath was refused by Meta. Several other points were made regarding the Judicial Appointments Council as well, in which the President demands the end of Ardian Dvorani‘s mandate with the appointment of three judges of the High Court. Meanwhile, the JAC is to continuously “submit the lists of candidates to the constitutional sequence President – Parliament – the President. “Additionally, Meta proposes that the Ombudsman takes part in all of JAC’s activities. Finally, Meta proposes that the members of the Parliament withdraw the Anti-Defamation Package and any similar legal initiative in the future. The proposal comes at a time of turmoil for the political climate in the country, following protests against the demolition of the National Theatre. The opposition has hinted that it may withdraw from election reform talks due to the current situation. In this line, President Meta held a meeting with the opposition on Thursday, after which he stated that he “informed them of the efforts and proposal of an actual inclusive platform regarding the European integration.” He urged “the ‘United Opposition’ to contribute to the Political Council to show the will to restore the legitimacy of all institutions through free and fair elections.” President Ilir Meta also called on the three new members of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office (SPAK) to remain “uninfluenced by any internal or foreign interference, as well as to always remain faithful only to the Constitution and the laws in its respect.” Meta’s statement sparked reactions from U.S. Ambassador who warned against the obstruction of the justice reform in the country. EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca also wrote about the need to not open fundamental issues regarding the reform, but to enhance its efficiency and reinforce “the resources at its disposal.” Last year, the President raised concern over the ongoing judicial reform as regards the Constitutional Court. Meta addressed the Venice Commission with a lengthy request, in response to a move made by the majority to seek from this body of international experts an interpretation of the situation created on November of 2018 with appointments to the Constitutional Court. The clash between the parties began after Meta decided not to appoint candidate Arta Vorpsi, for the vacancy to be filled by the Head of State, arguing that he had already filled a vacancy and it was up to Parliament to proceed with electing a candidate from the lists. Furthermore, in April this year, President Meta asked the HJC to end Dvoran’s term of office, who, being the incumbent President of the Supreme Court, refused to announce the end of his term. The HJC, on the other hand, claimed that it has no power to do so, while at the same time confirming that none of the recently appointed Supreme Court judges have replaced Dvorani.

 

Albania to open borders within May (Tirana Times)

 

Albania will open its borders within May, as it commences preparations for the tourist season. Prime Minister Edi Rama announced the decision during the parliamentary session on Thursday, during which he also stressed that the government is also preparing in case there is a second Covid-19 wave due to the opening of borders. “Within May, Albania will be fully open, the borders will be open and we will prepare for the tourist season,” Rama said. Earlier, Minister of Tourism Blendi Klosi held a meeting with the members of the Albanian Tourist Union to discuss plans for resuming tourism activity, highlighting the priority of opening the land and air borders.

Borders in Albania were closed in March in order to stop the spread of Covid-19. So far, 969 cases have been confirmed in the country, but the government has taken significant steps into loosening the restrictions in place.

 

Vice Minister and family banned from entering US (ADN)

 

Vice Minister of Education Lorena Haxhiu and her family were banned entering US.

The reason it was learned that is the arrest of her father during the last days as part of a criminal and structural group who sent illegal emigrants with false visas to USA, Canada and England, local media reported this Thursday. Immediately after the arrest of the father, his family including vice minister become part of the US blacklist that ban their entrance to USA.

The father of vice minister, Eduart Haxhiu, 52, was one of those arrested during the operation ‘Crystal Eagle’ that was executed in 6 different cities across Albania and led to 22 arrests.

US Embassy informed three days ago that a counterfeit documents lab was successfully destroyed during the operation ‘Crystal Eagle’ with the support of the DSS-ASP Joint Shield Special Unit, a police unit dedicated to work joint US-Albanian criminal cases. “Yesterday, operation ‘Crystal Eagle’ was executed in 6 different cities across Albania and led to 22 arrests. The operation, a record for Albania, located and arrested all targeted individuals within 17 minutes. Crystal Eagle, was a complete success thanks to the support of dedicated Albanian State Police officers, specifically those from the “DSS-ASP Joint Shield Special Unit”, a police unit dedicated to work joint US-Albanian criminal cases” press statement informed. Diplomatic Security agents from the US Embassy lead operational efforts of nearly 300 police officers to target a counterfeit documents lab. Automatic weapons, drugs, fake documents, computers, vehicles, and money were confiscated during the operation. Most of the 22 arrested are facing 6 to 14 years in jail.

In Albania 12 new COVID-19 cases (Tirana Times)

 

Twelve new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected patients to 981 in Albania. Seven of the new cases were identified in Tirana, two in Fier, two in Kruja and one in Durres. So far, tests have been conducted on more than 13,500 people. A total of 17 patients are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, five of whom are in intensive care. So far, 79 percent of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Albania have now recovered. The death toll remains at 31 victims. Currently there are 173 active cases in Albania.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Picula: I call for a constructive dialogue in Montenegro (EWB, by Sandra Maksimović, 22 May 2020)

 

PODGORICA – European Parliament Rapporteur for Montenegro, Tonino Picula (S&D) called for a constructive dialogue and a calm approach regarding the tensions between Montenegrin authorities and Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), which came after SPC continued holding prayer services despite the ban on gatherings imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a temporary arrest of a SPC bishop and priests. The event caused protests across the country. “All political and social actors must be aware that their actions represent at the same time a level of responsibility towards Montenegrin citizens. And they certainly do not support the renewal and escalation of tensions, instability and further polarization of society,” Picula stressed for European Western Balkans, adding that this is especially important due to the upcoming economic problems that will be felt in tourism and the entire Montenegrin economy. EP Rapporteur for Montenegro explained that the effective fight against the COVID-19 pandemic pointed to the need for greater understanding among citizens. “As well as the need to work together to solve problems that unite, not separate, the traditionally divided Montenegrin society”, Picula pointed out. Tensions in Montenegro rose after the parliament passed the Law on Religious Freedom at the end of December, directly affecting the property of the SPC and inciting daily protests of its supporters.

 

Várhelyi: Montenegro to find a peaceful and European solution

European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi, pointed out this week that it is important to find a peaceful and European solution in Montenegro when it comes to freedom of religion, Al Jazeera Balkans report. “I think that the state cannot function without respecting the freedom of religion. I call on the church to respect the measures introduced to protect against the coronavirus because it concerns both the safety and the lives of believers. At the same time, I call on the country’s authorities to ensure freedom of religion during the COVID-19 crisis as well,” Várhelyi said. The commissioner added that he will continue his engagement in an attempt to calm the situation and find a European solution for the relations between Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. The Chair of the EP Delegation for Serbia, Tanja Fajon also expressed concerns over developments in Montenegro.

“I am really worried about [religious] gatherings [of Serbian Orthodox Church] in Montenegro. I call on everyone to refrain from violence and even greater escalation of tensions. Both countries, Serbia and Montenegro, should build bridges, not tear them down”, Fajon pointed out in an interview for Radio Free Europe. Fajon added that the European Parliament is closely following the development of events, and that the competent committee of the EP will discuss the situation in the coming days.

 

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