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Belgrade Media Report 1 June 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 1 June 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: There’s no doubt – without resolving Kosovo issue, Serbia will not join the EU (TV Pink/Tanjug/B92)
Brnabic: Measures of Pristina have nothing to do with reciprocity (RTS)
Brnabic: Regional tensions caused by inability to keep up with us (Politika/Beta)
Dacic: Dialogue cannot continue unless Pristina reverses decision (RTS)
Borrell: EU for existing borders between Serbia and Kosovo (Beta/RFE)
Vulin: Borrell recalled that dismembering Serbia would cause wars (Beta)
RIK: In Kosovo and Metohija 90 polling stations, 43 abroad (Tanjug/RTS)
Another 18 cases, 6,726 recovered (B92)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Novalic says arrest of Prime Minister is coup d’etat (O kanal/Oslobodjenje)
B&H Court rejects request of B&H Prosecutor’s Office for 30-day detention of Novalic (BHT1)
Izetbegovic says Novalic’s arrest is attack on Bosniaks (O kanal)
Tadic: I do not know how Mr. Izetbegovic came to conclusion that I am working against Bosniaks, this is direct pressure on work of judiciary (FACE TV)
Radoncic says all crimes must be investigated but apprehension in ‘Respirators’ affair cannot mean weakening of Bosniak factors in FB&H government (Hayat)
Komsic says any fight against corruption must be welcomed but political consequences will affect entire country (FTV)
Dodik slams SDA over its reaction to apprehension of Novalic, Solak and Hodzic (BHT1)
Niksic: SDA is inflicting damage to institutions of B&H (Dnevni avaz)
EU Delegation to B&H gathers representatives of European countries and EU member states in Sarajevo (BHT1)
Dodik proposes that entities finance local elections in B&H so that they could be held in October (BHT1)
B&H decides to open its border crossings for Serbian nationals (FTV)
FB&H government abolishes state of natural disaster in FB&H (O kanal)
Another 14 coronavirus cases reported in B&H (N1)
Croatia

Police arrests dozen state officials and business people for corruption (Hina/Jutarni list)
Prime Minister says corruption must end (HRT/Media Servis)
President calls Croatian Statehood Day celebration an election rally (HRT)
Croatia records zero new cases of Covid-19 (Hina)
Montenegro

Montenegro sees no new Covid-19 infections for 27 days in a row (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

President Pendarovski extends state of emergency for another 14 days (Republika)
Xhaferi: Party leaders to use next 14 days to reach consensus on election (MIA)
Spasovski: Election should be held 5 July (MIA)
Bekteshi: DUI holds position that election date should be set by consensus (MIA)
Mickoski: We are dealing with a second coronavirus wave and a Commission on Infectious Diseases that acts under political dictates (Republika)
SDSM’s Zekiri tests positive for Covid-19 (MIA)
Montenegro puts Macedonia on the coronavirus black list (Republika)
In North Macedonia 89 new Covid-19 cases registered, 7 patients die (MIA)
Albania

Venice Commission sides with President Meta in latest opinion (Tirana Times)
Opposition’s proposals for a caretaker govt unveiled, Rule to be applied until Albania’s EU membership (Radio Tirana)
Electoral reform, parties remain at crossroads (Tirana Times)
Only 6 new coronavirus cases in Albania (Tirana Times)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

PM Borissov Confers with Serbian President Vucic (BTA)
A Republic of Kosovo is not what the Balkans needs (The Jerusalem Post)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: There’s no doubt – without resolving Kosovo issue, Serbia will not join the EU (TV Pink/Tanjug/B92)

 

“We have to admit that we were defeated in 1999, but I’m not talking about the negligence of those who attacked us,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told TV Pink’s Hit Tweet show, adding that the verdict of the International Court of Justice was passed in 2010, which shows that we are in a difficult situation. “We managed to keep Serbia respectable, to fulfill its international obligations,” he says, adding that we have managed to take care of our national interests at the moment. “We think it’s Serbia, they think it’s an independent Kosovo.” “If you ask me whether I am very optimistic that a compromise solution will be found – I am not,” he added. “There is no doubt that without resolving the Kosovo problem, Serbia will not become EU member,” he says, adding that this is an unequivocal message from the EU. “It is obvious that there is a big conflict between the two Western powers over the situation in Pristina. We will see what will happen around their government. We are ready to talk,” Vucic said. He, by the way, pointed out on several occasions that Germany came out of the epidemic with new strength. He also says that he does not see how and in what way and what we can agree on, but that we have to talk, to solve countless problems between Serbs and Albanians – we have to. “But when I ask what the solution is, I only hear that there are no border changes. They are waiting for someone in Serbia to say that it is not Serbia, or “we will give up everything so that someone can pat us on the shoulder,” he said. The President of Serbia spoke about the pre-election video and the negative comments it caused on social networks. “You have had that since Zoran Djindjic,” Vucic said, explaining the participation of children in pre-election videos. “If Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) bans it, I will respect that decision. The most ridiculous thing is that the biggest fuss was raised by a television station that we paid for airing that video, they’ve asked REM whether this election video violated the Regulation on the protection of rights of minors in the field of media services”, he says and adds: “I got used to their taking our videos off the air.”

 

Brnabic: Measures of Pristina have nothing to do with reciprocity (RTS)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated on Sunday that Pristina’s new measures have nothing to do with reciprocity and announced that the state, just as until now, will fight with diplomatic means to resolve this situation. Brnabic underlined that everything we do and have done in the past in trade with our southern province of Kosovo and Metohija is in accordance with the CEFTA Agreement. She pointed out that there can be no reciprocity measures if it is not in accordance with the CEFTA Free Trade Agreement, which Pristina also signed. If you want to change the CEFTA Agreement, then let’s sit down as the CEFTA Secretariat and change it, but to change some things, which are contrary to the agreements you signed, including the Stabilization and Association Agreement, then that is the same as if you had 100 percent taxes and that is a violation of both agreements, the Prime Minister underlined. Brnabic stated that the first precondition is to be part of a normal, civilized world where the agreements signed are respected, which Pristina is not doing.

 

Brnabic: Regional tensions caused by inability to keep up with us (Politika/Beta)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Saturday that some politicians from the region are creating tensions between countries and peoples only to cover up their inability of keeping up with Serbia. In an interview for Saturday’s edition of Politika, Brnabic said that Serbia’s economically, traditionally, geographically belongs to the EU, but it is also building a partnership and friendship with China. “I hope that the EU’s image in Serbia will improve quickly because it is in the interest of our citizens. Most of the 65 percent of foreign direct investments come from the EU and we are very grateful for that,” said Brnabic, noting that between 65 and 70 percent of Serbia’s exports go to the EU. Brnabic said that Serbia is one of the countries that is the closest and next in line for full membership in the EU today, and still able to build a partnership and trust with China.

 

Dacic: Dialogue cannot continue unless Pristina reverses decision (RTS)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has described as unacceptable a decision by the government in Pristina to ban Serbian imports unless customs documents are addressed to the Republic of Kosovo, stating also that Belgrade’s talks with Pristina will not continue unless the decision is revoked. “The move conflicts with every agreement reached in Brussels, and Serbia rightfully expects the decision to be reversed,” Dacic told RTS on Sunday, arguing that Serbia had never accepted to include “Republic of Kosovo” in export papers, because that would mean

recognizing the territory’s statehood. Dacic said there was no dialogue, and that Serbia had been implementing everything that was agreed on so far, but that Pristina, regardless of whatever government was in power, should make it clear whether it planned to respect earlier

agreements. The minister underlined that the circumstances had changed, and that Kosovo’s

Western mentors were no longer fulfilling Pristina’s wishes. Speaking of other regional relations, Dacic said that Serbia would be opening all of its borders, and that Montenegro’s decision to not

allow the citizens of Serbia to enter the country was political. Dacic explained that he had spoken with his peers in the region, but not the Montenegrin foreign minister, whom he said he had no reason to call, adding that we won’t beg anyone to let us in.

 

Borrell: EU for existing borders between Serbia and Kosovo (Beta/RFE)

 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell has said that it is very clear that the EU favors existing borders, adding that some EU members oppose any step in that direction. Speaking to a group of Western European reporters at a video conference, Borrell warned that any agreement that Pristina and Belgrade might reach in the future had to be acceptable to the international

community, Radio Free Europe reported. They don’t have a free hand to decide whatever they

want, because any agreement will affect the region. You know very well how sensitive the issue of changing borders is. You start changing borders in one place, and then someone else says they want to change borders, too, Borrell told reporters. Asked about the involvement of the US in the negotiating process, Borrell replied that Brussels was not in a contest with Washington, but that there was only one Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which was initiated by the EU.

 

Vulin: Borrell recalled that dismembering Serbia would cause wars (Beta)

 

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that EU Commissioner Josep Borrell was right when he said that Serbia’s borders, which are recognized by Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Greece, as well as the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, will not change and that the dismemberment of Serbia has provoked wars in the region. Vulin also assessed that the EU, if it wants to take the lead in conducting negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, must first “prove that its word is worth something,” by completely implementing the Brussels agreement, “as it was concluded and as the EU guaranteed it would be implemented.”

 

RIK: In Kosovo and Metohija 90 polling stations, 43 abroad (Tanjug/RTS)

 

The Republican Electoral Commission (RIK) adopted on Sunday the Supplementary decision on determining polling stations for the 21 June parliamentary elections and determined 90 polling stations in Kosovo and Metohija, and 43 abroad. The decision was passed on the basis of the proposal of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija and the Serbian Foreign Ministry. RIK has passed the Decision by a majority of votes, 22 for, three abstained. The Decision on polling stations in Kosovo and Metohija will be valid and is has been passed according to security estimates.

 

Another 18 cases, 6,726 recovered (B92)

 

Until 3pm there have been another 18 cases, in total 11,430 infected. There has been one more death, in total 244 deaths. There are 468 people in hospitals, and nine on respirators. The number of recovered patients is 6,726.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Novalic says arrest of Prime Minister is coup d’etat (O kanal/Oslobodjenje)

 

Spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Boris Grubesic confirmed on Saturday that the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H filed a motion with the Court of B&H for one-month detention of suspects in the ‘Respirators’ case – Federation of -B&H (FB&H) Prime Minister Fadil Novalic (SDA), suspended director of the FB&H Civil Protection Administration Fahrudin Solak (SDA) and owner of the ‘Srebrena Malina’ company Fikret Hodzic. The hearing before the Court of B&H in ‘Respirators’ case ended late Saturday evening. Lawyers of suspects in the ‘Respirators’ case – Novalic, Solak and Hodzic – stated that they expect their clients to be released and warned that ordering of detention could have serious consequences, including the collapse of the FB&H government. Lawyer Vasvija Vidovic said that it was obvious that the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H did not observe the case in the context of time in which it happened nor in the context of regulations on work of a state body. “The Prosecutor’s Office claims the Public Procurement Agency has no right to give its opinions, yet it is its basic task”, Vidovic said and added that the entire process is worrying because it is obvious that it is not based on evidence. Solak’s lawyer Kadrija Kolic stated that he thinks all suspects will be released soon because the proposal on ordering detention is groundless.

Novalic’s lawyer Nikica Grzic stated that ordering of detention to Novalic would bring in question payments of pensions, disability allowances, payment of internal and foreign debt of the FB&H, transfers of funds to lower levels of authorities and other key decisions and financial transfers which are essential for everyday lives of citizens. Prosecutors presented evidence and treated FB&H Prime Minister Novalic as an individual responsible for decisions of the FB&H Government to which defense reacted by citing regulations which clearly state that the FB&H Prime Minister cannot be held individually responsible having in mind that the FB&H Government adopts its decisions as a collective body while the FB&H Prime Minister, as an authorized person, signs those even if he does not support adoption of those decisions.

Novalic addressed the court and denied that the ‘Respirators’ case was a money laundering case and he claimed that the arrest of a Prime Minister is coup d’etat. Novalic said that he is frustrated with this case and reminded that “BAM 2.2 billion went through my hands while I was working on export from B&H, so why should I now gain any benefit from this BAM 10 million?”.

 

B&H Court rejects request of B&H Prosecutor’s Office for 30-day detention of Novalic (BHT1)

 

The B&H Court denied on Sunday the request of the B&H Prosecutor’s Office for a 30-day detention of the FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, FB&H Civil Protection Administration (FUCZ) Director, who is currently under suspension, Fahrudin Solak and owner of the ‘Srebrena Malina’ company Fikret Hodzic regarding the ‘Respirators’ case. Restrictive measures were issued against the suspects that include prohibition of meeting with certain individuals which include suspects meeting amongst themselves. The Court of B&H issued a statement after rendering this decision which reads that the restrictive measures will be in force for as long as needed and that the justification of these measures will be reevaluated every two months. Detention could be introduced afterwards if Novalic, Solak and Hodzic violate issued measures. All of the suspects were released from the custody and left the Court. Defense attorneys are pleased with this decision of the Court of B&H. SDA reacted to this decision by saying that the release of suspects serves as proof that the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H launched a politically motivated process aimed to discredit Novalic. Also, SDA requested the removal of Chief B&H Prosecutor Gordana Tadic. SDA’s statement reads that goal of the prosecution obviously was not to establish facts, but to discredit Prime Minister Novalic and keep him in detention for as long as possible so that his function could be brought into question and so that Bosniak factor within the FB&H Government could be weakened. President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) Milan Tegeltija issued a statement on Sunday, commenting on the recent events tied to the affair ‘Respirators’. He said that it is obvious that there is an attempt to politically obstruct criminal investigations. Tegeltija added that the pressure is used to affect the outcomes and the decisions of judiciary institutions of B&H. He highlighted that the prosecutors in this case have been exposed to previously unseen amount of political pressure, humiliation and declaration of enemies of the state because they do their jobs. Tegeltija called on political representatives of SDA to stop the pressure against the judiciary. Tegeltija underlined that SDA has been expressing political pressure on judicial system of B&H and especially on work of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. Tegeltija stressed that it is evident that the Chief Prosecutor and prosecutors working on abovementioned case have been exposed to high intensity political pressures, belittling and even to being pronounced an enemy of the state for doing their job.

Izetbegovic says Novalic’s arrest is attack on Bosniaks (O kanal)

 

Reacting to the arrest of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic stated that this represents an attack on Bosniaks, calling on the B&H Prosecutor’s Office to immediately present evidence against Novalic to the public. Chairman of the Presidency of B&H Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) said that the public lacks facts as to what the FB&H Prime Minister took part in, with whom, why etc. In this context, Dzaferovic said the public must be immediately presented with information to see if this is about serious crime or use of prosecutor’s office and police for political purposes. Dzaferovic further said that this is a serious situation because the FB&H Prime Minister was arrested and detained, noting that a good part of life in the FB&H depends on Novalic’s work. SDA issued a statement on Friday reading that recent developments concerning this affair, represents coup attempt aimed to eliminate Bosniak factor in the FB&H government so that HDZ B&H can take over control of it. SDA reminded of several affairs recorded in previous period where suspects were not detained and no serious investigations were launched. The statement further reads that it seems the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H has competences only in area where Bosniaks live.

 

Tadic: I do not know how Mr. Izetbegovic came to conclusion that I am working against Bosniaks, this is direct pressure on work of judiciary (FACE TV)

 

Chief Prosecutor of the B&H Prosecutor’s Office Gordana Tadic, asked to comment on the affair regarding procurement of ventilators from China and the arrest of FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, said that this is one of active cases and it is not different from other active cases which include war crime, organized crime, economic crime, terrorism and corruption. She revealed that the case was initially formed by the Sarajevo Canton (SC) Prosecutor’s Office on basis of certain media reports, but the case was handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H after the State Investigation and Protection Agency of B&H (SIPA) independently conducted investigative activities and determined that the case falls under the competences of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. She stressed that a team of prosecutors has been working on this case since the day it was handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. She reminded that her addressed the Parliament of B&H on 11 March and her warnings about potential frauds and irregularities related to procurement during the coronavirus pandemic were mostly laughed off, adding that the Prosecutor’s Office already has significant number of cases related to risking of health and lives of B&H citizens during the pandemic. She claims that the case was handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H after “legal intervention and there was no political intervention here”. Tadic pointed out that entire documentation about the case consisted of four pages and cantonal prosecutor who was in charge of the case formed it primarily in order to preserve order. She confirmed that Novalic, suspended Director of the FB&H Civil Protection Administration Fahrudin Solak and owner of the company ‘Srebrena Malina’ Fikret Hodzic are treated as suspects in this case and the team of prosecutors will continue to work on the case but she could not tell what their next steps will be. However, she also confirmed that the SIPA has the right to keep the three suspects in custody for 24 hours and the Prosecutor’s Office has the right to keep them in custody of additional 24 hours. As for SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic’s public statement in which he strongly condemned the Prosecutor’s Office and Tadic for Novalic’s arrest, Tadic stated that Izetbegovic’s statement is “shameful”, especially because Izetbegovic had the opportunity to speak to her personally a day before as they both attended the session of the House of Peoples of B&H (B&H HoP). She emphasized that certain structures never accepted her appointment as the Chief Prosecutor of B&H and said: “I really do not know how Mr. Bakir Izetbegovic came to this conclusion that I am working against Bosniaks. This is direct pressure on the work of the judiciary, direct pressure on me as the Chief Prosecutor and direct jeopardizing of my safety and my family’s safety that I already experienced before”. She claims that she already received death threats in the past and accusations about selective approach and targeting of Bosniaks are a type of slander. She stressed that no one is allowed to meddle with an investigation and anyone putting pressure on the Prosecutor’s Office or acting irresponsibly in any way can be charged with obstruction of an investigation. She pointed out that the prosecutors in charge of the case will make the final decision about charges against the suspects and she cannot confirm whether or not the suspects will be charged with money laundering. She noted that the case with ventilators is classified as corruption and organized crime. She explained that unlike now, the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) strongly criticized her after the arrest of Croat generals while Izetbegovic jumped to her defense then.

 

Radoncic says all crimes must be investigated but apprehension in ‘Respirators’ affair cannot mean weakening of Bosniak factors in FB&H government (Hayat)

 

Commenting on the ‘Respirators’ affair, B&H Minister of Security and leader of SBB B&H Fahrudin Radoncic stressed that no one in B&H is allowed to blackmail anyone. He went on to say that even if FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic remains in detention, the FB&H government has to resume working in a way where SDA, but also SBB B&H remain main factors and there are not any HDZ B&H’s blackmails. “This apprehension cannot mean weakening or elimination of Bosniak political factors from positions belonging to them” stated Radoncic. He also stated that all crimes must be investigated and all people involved must be punished. Radoncic stressed that any kind of crime should be investigated without an “ethnic umbrella”, adding that one should respect the presumption of innocence no matter who the suspect is.

 

Komsic says any fight against corruption must be welcomed but political consequences will affect entire country (FTV)

 

Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic stated that the ‘Respirators’ affair reminds him of the pre-war ‘Agrokomerc’ affair. He stressed that any kind of fight against corruption should be welcomed, but political consequences will significantly affect the entire country and not only the Federation of B&H, just like the ‘Agrokomerc’ affair that happened just before the war. “Unfortunately, the consequences of this pre-war affair were destructive to the country” Komsic said.

 

Dodik slams SDA over its reaction to apprehension of Novalic, Solak and Hodzic (BHT1)

 

Following the apprehension of the FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, suspended Director of the FB&H Civil Protection Administration Fahrudin Solak and owner of the company ‘Srebrena malina’ Fikret Hodzic in the ‘Respirators’ affair, Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Milorad Dodik stated that the judicial institutions must be allowed to do their work in order to bring closure to this case. Commenting on SDA’s reaction to the arrests in the ‘Respirators’ case, Dodik issued a statement saying that judicial institutions are valid for political Sarajevo only when they strike at Republika Srpska (RS). “How was it not a coup d’état when various cases were conducted against Serbs, and in the end, various trials were arranged against me without any evidence? How come none of the Bosniak politicians said then that a coup was on the scene? Even politicians from the ranks of the Croat people were the subject of various court proceedings and all were silent; at that time Bosniak politicians supported both the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office,” reads Dodik’s statement.

Niksic: SDA is inflicting damage to institutions of B&H (Dnevni avaz)

 

In a statement to the daily, SDP leader Nermin Niksic commented the decision of the Court of B&H release the Federation of B&H (FB&H) Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, suspended Director of FUCZ Fahrudin Solak and owner of ‘Srebrena Malina’ Fikret Hodzic pending trial and stressed that it is unbelievable that SDA is not aware that in this way they are inflicting damage to B&H institutions and in the end to the suspects in this case. He underlined that there are speculations in the public that the Court’s decision is made under coerce of SDA, that they reached a deal with those who set them up the entire affair, etc. and he called on everyone to allow institutions to do their job and to abide by law and Constitution. Expressing the hope that the Court did actually rely on the law and Constitution in rendering of such decision, Niksic stressed that the second question here is how the FB&H government will work, being that the Court issued certain restriction measures, banning mutual meetings and contacts, which leads the FB&H into a complex political situation: “Namely, it is justified to ask how the future functioning of executive authority will look like, being that key persons in the FB&H government are banned from seeing each other or from communicating. Not that the citizens benefited from the fact they were allowed to communicate before, which could have been seen in many affairs which follow each other, nor they expressed desire to do anything for the citizens. Therefore, I would not be surprised if they would now use the Court’s decision to justify their idleness,” ends Niksic.

 

EU Delegation to B&H gathers representatives of European countries and EU member states in Sarajevo (BHT1)

 

The European Commission published the Opinion on B&H’s application for EU membership, expressing the will for closer cooperation, and provided tasks for B&H as a requirement for the EU membership 11 months ago. BHT1 reported that the Office of the EU Delegation to B&H, marking the anniversary of the Opinion publication, gathered representatives of the European countries in B&H, the EU founding states, and newer EU member states at a debate dubbed ‘Together we are EUrope’ in Sarajevo. On this occasion, Head of the EU Delegation to B&H and EU Special Representative in B&H Johan Sattler stated: “I am very happy that after 11 months we can see progress in the process that includes not only the Presidency of B&H, but also the Council of Ministers, the parliament, and most importantly, civil society”. Chair of the Presidency of B&H Sefik Dzaferovic stated at the event that the implementation of election results, after the 2018 elections, were waited for a long time, but finally the Council of Ministers of B&H is formed and there is an initiative to unblock the European path of B&H. German Ambassador to B&H Margret Uebber stated that it will be the most important for B&H to work on the implementation of the 14 priorities of the EU in this period. “The EU and Germany are ready to help you in this process. What is very important is for the civil society to join the process as well,” Uebber said. Participants of the public debate especially emphasized the importance of the rule of law in the countries that want to build their future as part of the EU, given the fact that this is a foundation of every democratic and functional country.

 

Dodik proposes that entities finance local elections in B&H so that they could be held in October (BHT1)

 

BHT1 carries that in the midst of the story about the postponement of local elections in B&H due to the failure to adopt the B&H budget for 2020, SNSD leader Milorad Dodik is offering a new proposal. Namely, Dodik proposed that the entities finance the elections so that they could be held in October. SNSD officials continue to claim that it is unacceptable that elections have been postponed for November 15, asking for the local elections to be held at the beginning of October. “For the first time, I want to say that we, as the RS, are ready to pay part of the local elections from our own funds in order to resolve this situation. Therefore, we have no reason to calculate and we are ready to pay our part, from some BAM 4.5 million,” Dodik underlined. Dodik also announced that SNSD will support any decision of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) which would ensure funds for holding of the elections. Meanwhile, SDA officials reminded Dodik that his proposal represents violation of the B&H Election Law. Head of SDA Caucus in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Adil Osmanovic said that the B&H Election Law precisely defines the way in which municipal elections are funded. “Fifty percent is secured in the B&H budget and fifty percent is secured in municipalities. What Mr. Dodik should primarily do is call on (B&H CoM Chairman Zoran) Tegeltija so that the B&H CoM adopts the budget and sends is to the B&H Presidency,” Osmanovic underlined. NDP leader Dragan Cavic believes that Dodik’s initiative cannot be implemented at this time because there are no capacities in the B&H HoR and the B&H House of Peoples (HoP) for this to become a legislative solution. “The Election Law exists and it does not recognize that option and initiative will probably remain at that level,” Cavic underlined.

 

B&H decides to open its border crossings for Serbian nationals (FTV)

 

B&H has decided to open its border crossings for Serbian nationals. B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic informed her Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic about the abovementioned decision over the phone. The two officials expressed great satisfaction over the fact that usual border traffic between B&H and Serbia has been enabled.

 

FB&H government abolishes state of natural disaster in FB&H (O kanal)

 

Due to the arrest of the FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, the FB&H government on Friday held a telephone session. Article 10 of the Law on the FB&H government stipulates that in the absence of the FB&H Prime Minister or in other cases when the FB&H Prime Minister is unable to perform his duties, one of the Deputy Prime Ministers of the FB&H, designated by the FB&H Prime Minister, fills in for him. In line with this, FB&H Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of the FB&H Jelka Milicevic presided over the telephone session of the FB&H government at which state of natural disaster declared in the FB&H due to the coronavirus pandemic was abolished. Milicevic told the media that members of the FB&H government agreed that the issue of abolishment of state of natural disaster cannot be postponed. “The FB&H Healthcare Ministry Crisis HQ’s proposal is that conditions have been met for the adoption of decision on abolishment of state of natural disaster. We confirmed that at the FB&H Civil Protection HQ,” Milicevic stressed.

 

Another 14 coronavirus cases reported in B&H (N1)

 

Health authorities in the RS have reported 14 new coronavirus cases within the past 24 hours, while none were reported today in the FB&H. A total of 2,524 people have tested positive for the coronavirus across B&H and the country has tested 65,900 of its citizens so far. Of those who caught COVID-19, 154 died while 1,888 recovered by now, the latest report by the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

 

Police arrests dozen state officials and business people for corruption (Hina/Jutarni list)

 

A dozen state officials and business people, including senior officials in Croatia’s ministries of economy, agriculture, and public administration, were arrested on Friday morning on suspicion of corruption following a sweeping investigation by the government’s anti-corruption bureau.

The coordinated police operation, which began early on Friday morning at various locations in the capital Zagreb, southern city of Split, and the towns of Knin and Gracac in the Dalmatian hinterland, related to an investigation of alleged bribery involving the development of a 1.8 billion kuna (€240 million) wind power plant near Knin. The arrested suspects include senior Public Administration Ministry official and former Knin Mayor, Josipa Rimac; sebior official of the Economy Ministry, Ana Mandac; secretary at the Agriculture Ministry, Ruzica Njavro; and the head of the Gracac municipality, Natasa Turbic – all of whom are political appointees and members of the ruling conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party. CEO of the state-owned forest management company, Hrvatske Sume, Krunoslav Jakupcic, and director of the company’s Split branch, Ivan Melvan, were also arrested as part of the probe, as local media reported that Hrvatske Sume owns at least some of the land near Knin where the project – advocated in the past by local HDZ mayor Josipa Rimac – was built. The wind park was described by local media as one of the country’s two most valuable infrastructure projects in recent years, second only in value to the major Peljesac Bridge which is under construction by a Chinese company China Road and Bridge Corporation. The farm near Knin was built by a company based in the small town of Stupnik near Zagreb, a branch of a larger company owned by a Bosnian businessman. According to Jutarnji list daily, Hrvatske Sume had found irregularities in wind farm construction and issued the company with a negative report.

The daily alleges that Rimac is suspected of taking a €45,000 bribe from Basic and Dragan Stipic, board member at Lager, to influence senior managers at Hrvatske Sume to bury the negative report and secure permits for the continuing construction. Jakupcic’s Attorney said on Friday that the suspects were expected to be questioned at the Uskok anti-corruption office later that afternoon. It remains unknown how all of the arrested suspects are connected with the Knin project. The arrests which involved several officials of the HDZ party come at a sensitive time for party leader, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, as the country is set for an early election in July. “If the investigation proves that someone had committed a crime, they should answer for it, regardless of who they are and what party they’re in. No one is above the law and our message is clear: we must put an end to corruption,” Plenkovic said. Later on Friday, the government had dismissed Rimac and Mandac from their position.

 

Prime Minister says corruption must end (HRT/Media Servis)

 

Commenting on the arrests of state officials, including Croatian Forests CEO Krunoslav Jakupcic and Public Administration Ministry State Secretary Josipa Rimac of the HDZ, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that nobody was above the law and that corruption must come to an end. Prime Minister Plenkovic told news agency Media Servis that he had heard about the arrests from a police report. “This is an operation carried out by independent prosecutorial and police authorities, as it should be,” Plenkovic said. “If the investigation proves that someone has committed a crime, they must be held accountable, regardless of their name or party affiliation. No one is above the law and our message is clear: An end must be put to corruption,” said Plenkovic. He added that a continued and uncompromising fight against corruption was his government’s and the HDZ’s policy. Social Democrat MPs Sasa Djujic and Mirela Ahmetovic commented on arrests in Rijeka. They pointed out that what all of the suspects have in common is that they are all members of the HDZ. Prime Minister Plenkovic’s party is burdened by corruption and places personal interests above those of the public, they said. “We hope these investigations will be expanded and that this isn’t just an election ruse to divert attention from all of the other things the HDZ has done with that company,” Djuric told a press conference.

 

President calls Croatian Statehood Day celebration an election rally (HRT)

 

President Zoran Milanovic did not attend the official Statehood Day celebration, calling it a campaign rally for the HDZ. President Milanovic said on Saturday, after a wreath-laying ceremony at Zagreb’s Mirogoj cemetery on the occasion of Statehood Day, that he was not boycotting the commemoration, but that it was an election rally and a promise by a political administration that was now being fulfilled. “On this day 30 years ago, a democratically elected multi-party parliament was constituted in which the absolute majority was held by one political option, for which a relative minority of Croatian citizens voted. Therefore, this cannot be a holiday for everyone. There were other options, at least two or three. To single this date out as a holiday of Croatian statehood is very pretentious,” explained the President. Milanovic suggested a more universally significant date that did not “bother anyone”, adding that Victory Day (August 5) was much more important than 30 May. For his part, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said it was in poor taste for the President to speak in a negative way about the positive legal regulations passed by parliament. He also said he was confident the president would change his opinion on the matter by the end of his mandate. In 2001 the former SDP government changed Statehood Day from 30 May to 25 June, when in 1991 Croatia proclaimed its independence, a date the president says is more meaningful.

 

Croatia records zero new cases of Covid-19 (Hina)

 

There have been no new cases of Covid-19 in Croatia in the last 24 hours, and 3 more recoveries have been reported, the coronavirus crisis management team said on Monday. A total of 2,246 people have been infected with the virus, and 2,075 have recovered, including 3 in the last 24 hours. So far 66.695 people have been tested, including 290 in the last 24 hours. Twenty-two people are being treated in hospitals, including four who are on ventilators. Croatia’s coronavirus death toll stands at 103.

 

Montenegro sees no new Covid-19 infections for 27 days in a row (CDM)

 

No new Covid-19 cases have been recorded in Montenegro for 27 days in a row, while the end of the epidemic will be declared after 28 consecutive days without new infections. Currently, there are no active cases in Montenegro,” the Institute for Public Health announced. Montenegro has become Europe’s first coronavirus-free country since 24 May.

 

President Pendarovski extends state of emergency for another 14 days (Republika)

 

President Stevo Pendarovski has decided to declare a new state of emergency in Macedonia, following a session of the Security Council on Saturday. The new state of emergency is to come into force Sunday (31 May) and last 14 days. The decision, the President underlined, was reached in order to ensure that government and institutions can efficiently manage the health, as well as socio-economic effects of the corona crisis and is in no way related to the election process. Saturday is the final day of the 14-day state of emergency, which President Pendarovski declared on 15 May. President Pendarovski previously declared two consecutive 30-day states of emergency on 18 March, and 17 April, respectively. As stipulated in the Constitution, the Parliament is supposed to decide on the state of emergency, but since it is dissolved, the President is the one declaring it.

Xhaferi: Party leaders to use next 14 days to reach consensus on election (MIA)

 

The next 14 days are enough time for leaders of political parties to reach a consensus on the election date, said outgoing Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi Saturday, following a session of the Security Council. He underlined that finding common ground between political leaders regarding the election is in the best interest of citizens because it will allow functional institutions to be formed and reiterated that once Parliament is dissolved it can reassemble only after an election. “I call on leaders to use this time to talk. It’s their responsibility and in the best interest of citizens to hold election and form functional institutions. In line with legislation, Parliament can reassemble only after an election. The process will certainly not take place as it has in the past due to the current situation, but society must learn to function with the coronavirus which is here to stay,” Xhaferi said. All participants at Saturday’s Security Council session agreed that the state of emergency in North Macedonia should be extended. “The period for which the state of emergency is extended will be enough time for leaders to reach a consensus on parliamentary election. Otherwise, institutions should reclaim their responsibility,” Xhaferi said. He underlined that parliament has fully respected the decision to hold early parliamentary election, reached by political stakeholders in October 2019. “Parliament undertook activities to appoint on 3 January, a caretaker government 100 days before the election, as well as to dissolve 60 days ahead of election day, which was scheduled for 12 April, in order to observe all deadlines,” Xhaferi said. In answer to a reporter’s question, he pointed out that at present North Macedonia has three functional institutions: The President, the caretaker PM, and the caretaker government. “The government, regardless of the fact that it is a caretaker one, has been appointed by Parliament to function until a new one is elected. Due to the state of emergency and the fact that Parliament has dissolved it has the power to make decisions with the force of law,” Xhaferi said. He added that as outgoing Parliament Speaker he has the authority to represent parliament until the next constitutive session. “According to the Constitution, the parliament speaker has the authority to represent parliament until the next constitutive session. Enough time has been granted for political communication and calculations, but at the end of the day institutions have the responsibility to act and solve issues,” Xhaferi said.

 

Spasovski: Election should be held 5 July (MIA)

 

All political parties should take part in the election to demonstrate democratic capacity and offer citizens options, Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said Sunday in Kumanovo after the coordination meeting of MP candidates from SDSM coalition for second election district.

“I wish that political parties reach a consensus, respect laws and the Constitution. All political parties should take part in the election to demonstrate democratic capacity, but if party leaders can’t find common ground, it’s up to institutions to take action. The Security Council decided Saturday to extend the state of emergency an additional 14 days, in order to implement economic measures and this means that the election should be held 5 July,” Spasovski told reporters. He underlined expectations that political parties will rise to the occasion, demonstrate democratic capacity and take part in the election. “At the end of the day, those who wished to take part in the election will do so, regardless of the situation. I expect parties to engage in discussion of their visions, so that citizens can make decisions based on this,” Spasovski said. Regarding the election campaign, the PM underlined, the power of social media will be utilized to connect with citizens, discuss issues, present the election program and SDSM’s vision for the future.

 

Bekteshi: DUI holds position that election date should be set by consensus (MIA)

 

As representative of the DUI political party, Economy Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi told a press conference Sunday that DUI still holds the position that election date should be set by consensus. “DUI’s position since the start of talks on election date has been that the election should be held in June or July. We’re ready to take part in the election, but we must take into consideration recommendations issued by the Committee for Infectious Diseases and the coronavirus tally. DUI holds the position that the election date should be set by consensus. We’ll continue to respect epidemiologists’ recommendations and keep the public informed if the party’s position changes,” Bekteshi told reporters Sunday regarding PM Spasovski’s comments that election should be held 5 July.

 

Mickoski: We are dealing with a second coronavirus wave and a Commission on Infectious Diseases that acts under political dictates (Republika)

 

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski addressed the public after the number of Covid-19 cases is rising every day. According to him, it is not the time for party conflicts. It is necessary to urgently consolidate the system. The number of 62 new Covid-19 cases warns that we are dealing with a second wave and a Commission on Infectious Diseases acting under political dictates. It is not the time for party conflicts, but a robust action to protect the health of citizens. Responsibility also includes leadership. Health must be protected, Mickoski said.

 

SDSM’s Zekiri tests positive for Covid-19 (MIA)

 

SDSM vice-president Muhamed Zekiri posted Sunday on Facebook that he, his wife, and their three-month-old daughter have tested positive for Covid-19. “Dear friends, despite respecting measures and keeping contact with others at minimum, myself and my wife, as well as our three-month-old daughter, have been infected with Covid-19. Fortunately, I show no coronavirus symptoms, but have nonetheless tested positive,” Zekiri wrote. He called on citizens not to underestimate the virus or the chances to get infected and act with caution. “If you or any of your close relatives show even the tiniest symptom, consult with your family practitioner and don’t refuse to get tested. I express my sincerest apologies if I have unknowingly infected someone in the past few days,” read Zekiri’s post.

 

Montenegro puts Macedonia on the coronavirus black list (Republika)

 

Montenegro revised the list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter without preconditions, and left Macedonia out of the revised list. Macedonia was initially not on the list, was later added but is now out again. The reason is the high number of active coronavirus cases in Macedonia, where a post-Ramadan spike is occurring. Montenegro requires that a country has less than 25 active cases per 100.000 citizens in order to open its borders. The popular tourist destination currently has no active coronavirus cases and is trying to balance opening the borders for the sake of the tourist season, and protecting public health. Ireland was also removed from the revised list.

 

In North Macedonia 89 new Covid-19 cases registered, 7 patients die (MIA)

 

89 new coronavirus cases have been registered in North Macedonia in the past 24 hours, the Institute for Public Health told MIA on Monday. It added that in the same period seven COVID-19 patients passed away. Health Minister Venko Filipche is set to hold a press conference at 15:00 to inform the public on the latest Covid-19 developments in North Macedonia. The total number of coronavirus patients since the onset of the epidemic is 2,315. Of these 1,552 people have recovered, 140 passed away, while the number of active cases in the country is now 630.

 

Venice Commission sides with President Meta in latest opinion (Tirana Times)

 

The Venice Commission has deemed President Ilir Meta‘s position regarding the appointment of Constitutional Judges in line with the Constitution while at the same time opposing the Justice Appointment Council’s (KED) stance on the matter. In its draft opinion finalized on Friday, the Venice Commission states that the President’s decision is not unreasonable given the lack of clarity of the procedures and special circumstances created for the appointment of the second candidate of the Constitutional Court. “Moreover, if the President had elected two candidates, the Assembly would have had a list of less than three candidates minimally required by the Constitution. Reservations due to this perspective do not seem unjustified, “the Venice Commission writes, adding that “regardless of which interpretation was correct, the two designating bodies should have met and reached a common position before proceeding.” The draft opinion also backs the President’s refusal of the KED decision to automatically appoint Arta Vorpsi. “While such a suspension is not provided by law, it was a reaction to a situation of legal uncertainty, which could not be resolved in the absence of the Constitutional Court. The suspension showed that the President still wanted to exercise the power of appointment he enjoys under the Constitution and this was confirmed by his appointment as a candidate immediately after the election of the Parliamentary candidate” the Venice Commission states, reiterating that the President’s decision was once again reasonable. In reference to Vorpsi’s attempt to take the oath before a notary instead of before the President the Venice Commission states that “it is clear that taking the oath before the President is a precondition for taking up office.” In their conclusions, the VC points out the problematic situation in Albania, stating that the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court are not yet fully operational. According to the experts, “the constitutional crisis in Albania is not caused by a specific act, but is a consequence of the interaction of several factors.” The VC suggests that the “necessary vetting procedure has had broader effects than originally envisaged” as the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court have become dysfunctional due to “the all-inclusive verification procedure”, adding that “the problems in the implementation of unclear (constitutional) provisions have been exacerbated by the fact that there is no Constitutional Court and the fact that the procedure has become the subject of a war between parliament and the President.” Furthermore, the Venice Commission recommends that the President and the parliament should agree on the appointment procedure, which the KED must be comply with. In case this does not happen, the VC warns that “one or more of the nominating bodies will risk not being able to make a choice between the three candidates, as required by the Constitution. Once the Constitutional Court is set up, it must deal with this issue. In this situation, until an agreement is reached or the Constitutional Court has not ruled, the KED must send the lists to the Assembly, once the President has proceeded with his / her appointment, or after 30 days if he / she does not manage to do so without reason.” The draft – opinion emphasizes the role of KED in its recommendations, demanding that “the People’s Advocate exercise his constitutional right to participate as an observer for the sake of transparency and trust of the public in the procedures of verification and selection of candidates.” Finally, the VC calls for an “absolute need for dialogue and loyal cooperation between state institutions,” adding that “the mandate and competencies of state institutions must be respected, so that they meet their legitimate institutional objectives, always seeking the best benefit for the citizens of Albania.”

 

The appointments

The clash between the parties began after Meta decided not to appoint one of the candidates 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. According to the majority, Meta failed to abide by the 30-day deadline set by the law, and as a result, the top-ranked candidate Arta Vorpsi was automatically named. The parliament followed with the election of two candidates, while Meta subsequently decreed from his list Marsida Xhaferllari who was invited to take the oath, along with the two candidates elected by parliament. Meta spoke about an attempt by the majority to take over his powers and launched a fierce battle against the Chairman of the Justice Appointments Council, Ardian Dvorani, whom he described as the cause of the created situation and a man who had worked on behalf of the ruling majority. All of this, as well as the further decision of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, set up to dismiss Meta as president, to expand the scope of his work, not only on the occasion of the decree canceling the 30 June elections, but also on the appointments to the Constitutional Court constitute the first part of the more than 40-page petition Meta filed with the Venice Commission.

 

Opposition’s proposals for a caretaker govt unveiled, Rule to be applied until Albania’s EU membership (Radio Tirana)

 

The opposition has submitted to the meeting of the Political Council the condition for a transitional government, where they demand that this rule be in force until the country joins the EU. They demand that 100 days before the elections, the parliament approves the composition of the transitional government, which takes office immediately after taking the oath of the President. “100 days before the day of the parliamentary elections, the Albanian parliament approves the composition of the Election Caretaker government, which after taking the oath of the President of the Republic, takes the office to guarantee the standards for free and fair elections, with a special function prohibition of the use of public resources in support of electoral subjects. The Election Caretaker government has the duty to: ensure the neutrality and impartiality of public administration institutions in the electoral process; ensure equality of treatment between candidates and different parties in relation to administrative resources; to ensure equality between all electoral subjects, protecting against possible misuse of administrative resources for political purposes,” the document reads.

Electoral reform, parties remain at crossroads (Tirana Times)

 

Progress on the electoral reform in Albania remains in a rut as parties are struggling to reach a final agreement. The latest meeting of the Political Council which took place on Sunday left things unsolved once again, despite the intervention of a representative of the US Embassy, ​​who met with Socialist Party representative Damian Gjiknuri and Democratic Party rep. Oerd Bylykbashi, to then sit down with two other members of the Political Council, Petrit Vasili and Rudina Hajdari. Both SP and DP representatives clashed on several points of the electoral reform, unable to conclude it. According to Bylykbashi, the SP was not ready to reach a consensus on “important issues”, sticking to its main priorities. “We are ready to continue the work to find this consensus and we are waiting for the SP to show readiness to take its steps towards consensus, as we have done the necessary concessions, ” he added. On the other hand SP member Damian Gjiknuri said that the electoral reform was ready and based on OSCE/ODHIR recommendations as well as conditions set by the DP, but added that there wasn’t any room for new ones. Bylykbashi emphasized that the DP is ready to compromise, without “giving up basic guarantees.” Let us give the SP time to understand why it cannot be the College to put the wet stamp on the scoreboard, to understand that the CEC will not be the shameful institution that is today, which is [the SP’s] property” he said. “The process of setting up an administration,” according to Bylykbashi, “cannot be masked by SP commissioners as independent, and all of this must be inextricably linked to guaranteeing 100 percent biometric voter identification.”

However, Gjiknuri claimed that the DP has an issue with the vetting process, as it refuses to recognize it as part of the electoral reform. Although the parties expressed readiness to renegotiate, no meeting was not scheduled. Gjiknuri even hinted that the parliamentary procedure would continue. “The doors and windows of communication for the opposition are open to continue and conclude those few things that they have begun to change their minds about. Let the opposition join us to advance this process. The parliament is legitimate, it has votes, and the wait cannot be endless,” Gjiknuri said. Responding to Sunday’s events, US Ambassador Yuri Kim urged parties to deliver on their promises regarding the electoral reform. “All sides have shown movement and they are extremely close. You set a goal, you set a deadline of May 31. It is time now to stop insisting on non-viable positions and/or setting new conditions,” Ambassador Kim wrote on Twitter. British Ambassador to Albania Duncan Norman joined other international voices in calling for the conclusion of the reform, stating that “the Political Council was designed to bring inclusive electoral reform in Albania to meet ODIHR requirements. Today is the day to put the people of Albania first and to find the common ground necessary to move the country forward.”

Only 6 new coronavirus cases in Albania (Tirana Times)

 

Six new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected patients to 1143 in Albania. Four the new cases were identified in Tirana, one in Durres and one in Mat. So far, tests have been conducted on more than 16,000 people. A total of 28 patients are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, three of whom are in intensive care. Moreover, 76 percent of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Albania have now recovered. The death toll remains at 33 victims. Currently there are 233 active cases in Albania.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

PM Borissov Confers with Serbian President Vucic (BTA,1 June 2020)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic Monday arrived on a one-day visit here at the invitation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, the Bulgarian Government Information Service said.

Borissov welcomed the guest at Sofia Airport, where the two conferred before leaving on a joint inspection by helicopter of the progress of construction of the Evropa Motorway and the Balkan Stream gas pipeline. “The construction of the Evropa Motorway is important not only for our two countries but is also key to the goods traffic between Europe and Asia,” Borissov said. He noted the progress made on the 17 km motorway section between Dragoman and Slivnitsa. “We are working hard, and I expect 17 km of the motorway between Sofia and the Serbian border to be ready by the end of the year.” Thirty kilometres of the 48 km Evropa Motorway, which links the Kalotina Border Checkpoint with Sofia’s Ring Road as part of Pan-European Transport Corridor X (Salzburg-Belgrade-Nis-Sofia-Plovdiv-Istanbul), are now under construction. The PM also familiarized Vucic with the progress of the Balkan Stream project. The gas pipeline will cross eleven administrative regions in Bulgaria. “The project is exceedingly important for the energy security of the entire Balkan region,” Borissov pointed out. The 474 km long Bulgarian branch of the TurkStream natural-gas pipeline runs from this country’s border with Turkey to the border with Serbia. It will be complete with two compressor stations, at Rasovo and Nova Provadia. Pipes have been laid along 271 km of the route, and 151 km of them have been welded. A total of 324 km of pipes have been transported to temporary construction sites, and another 133 km have arrived at the Port of Bourgas. After the inspection of the two construction projects, the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the Serbian President will continue their discussion of topics of mutual interest over a working lunch in Veliko Turnovo (North Central Bulgaria).

 

A Republic of Kosovo is not what the Balkans needs (The Jerusalem Post, by Alexandar Nikolic, 31 May 2020)

 

The dispute over the autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija should be resolved in compromise, not unilateral action.

One of the two essential rules in Roman law’s concept says: audi alteram partem – let the other side be heard. Having grown up in the Jewish community of Belgrade, I sometimes feel vilified by the unbalanced approach that appears occasionally in the mainstream foreign media or even in Israel, by authors like Akri Çipa (“The new Israeli government should finally recognize Kosovo,” The Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2020). The feeling of being the underdog doesn’t abolish this essential rule, to the contrary, it strengthens it. Çipa’s advocating against Israel’s principled foreign policy, in favor of its recognition of the so-called Republic of Kosovo, is continuously and systematically biased. It is well known that the Jewish people and their only state, the State of Israel, suffered for decades from manipulative and maliciously hostile reporting, perhaps more than any other nation throughout the world. Consequently, Israelis are expected to identify and be wary of such tailor-made attempts to whomever they may be directed, and indeed they were. The State of Israel is sovereign nation, and its leaders’ evaluations and decisions in all areas, including foreign policy, are made in their best interests. The Israeli constellation of disputes and, unfortunately, even conflicting relations with some countries – not only in the region – requires the firm opposition to any solution involving coercion and preconditions, therefore establishing damaging precedent that could be used tomorrow against Israel itself. Regarding the status of the disputed autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija, Israel supports the straightforward negotiations between Belgrade and Priština, and the solution which should result from compromise. In general, as far as the western Balkan region is concerned, the Jewish state proved to both initiate and be innovative in developing balanced relations and cooperation in all fields, especially in the economy. The continuous and highly principled Israeli stance on the Kosovo and Metohija issue is not only the result of this prudent approach, but also of the affirmation of the policy based on the highest principles in foreign relations and international law. National interests are not to be challenged by shifting personae in government, which Çipa advocates, not in a systematically functioning and democratic country such as Israel. Similarly to Israel, many other countries in the world, including five EU members – Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Spain – are opposed to the unilateral Albanian secession of the southern Serbian province. Just like Israel, none of these countries could accept a biased and unilateral solution, which creates precedent and violates the international law. In the past two years, not even a single government has recognized “Kosovo.” On the contrary, 18 countries have withdrawn or suspended their recognition. It clearly demonstrates the problematic issue of the “Kosovo” status, and the declining trend toward the support of the Kosovo Albanian stance. Today, less than half of the UN members have established relations with Priština. Recent votes in various international organizations over “Kosovo“ membership ended devastating for them, even to the extent of taking the step of withdrawing their own applications. HOW MANY Israelis are willing to accept a disastrous forced solution over the holy city of Jerusalem? Even those who are ready to compromise are determined that concessions should be accomplished in the final stage of direct negotiations between the two sides of the political dispute, thus complying with the very basic juristic principles. Similarly, Kosovo and Metohija is the cradle of Serbian national identity. Its monasteries: Visoki Decani, Pec Patriarchate and Gracanica are among the medieval living guardians of Serbian spiritual, cultural and historical heritage. By arbitrary allegations Çipa tries to highlight only Kosovo Albanian suffering in 1999 and to demonize Serbia at the same time. He skillfully avoids the atrocities committed by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, including human organs trade, which includes more than serious allegations. Much worse, articles, such as this one written by Çipa, which attempt to establish linkage with the Holocaust, try to silence the shameful facts of Kosovo Albanian Ballists’ collaboration with the Axis powers and try to hide it behind the noble behavior of many Albanians in Albania. They omit to mention the atrocities done by the Kosovo Albanian 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), the mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS. Needless to remind esteemed Jerusalem Post readers that those units fought against Yugoslav partisans who were overwhelmingly ethnic Serbs. The State of Israel welcomed the Serbian compensation law for heirless Jewish property as a model for other countries, and in recent months we witnessed a list of promotive and moving acts by Belgrade: the law on the Memorial Center “Staro sajmište,” a yellow flag bearing the Shield of David flying from the official residence of the President – Novi Dvor, or ‘New Palace’ in Belgrade – the day before the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem and that Belgrade’s major bridges, buildings and fountains were colored in Israeli Blau-Weiss (blue and white) in tribute to Israel Independence Day. Above all, the address of the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee reaffirms the warm relations and mutual understanding between Israel and Serbia. Israelis are present in numerous fields of the Serbian economy and investments, with encouraging growth trends, with so many described Belgrade as one of the safest and most pleasant destinations of their vacations. If Serbia was the very first state in the world to affirm the Balfour Declaration in writing, via descendant of the glorious Serbian Sephardi community, (Lt.-Col.) David Albala 1886–1942, let Israel persist in being among nations refusing to accept coercion over Belgrade.

The writer is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Serbia in Israel

 

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