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Belgrade Media Report 16 June 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 16 June 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: Recognition of Kosovo will not be a topic in Washington, nor will we allow this (RTS/B92/Tanjug)
Grenell: Representatives of Belgrade and Pristina to meet on 27 June in the White House (RTS)
Putin: Russia support Serbia when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija; it is clear that no decision can be made without the UN SC (RTS/RTV/Tanjug)
Vucic: Brussels agreement did not change constitutional status of part of Serbia (Beta/N1)
Dacic on Grenell’s announcement: The problem is that we don’t trust the Albanians in Pristina (Tanjug/RTS)
Dacic: Serbia to request solution to the Kosovo issue to be verified in broadest international framework, ideally within the United Nations (Novosti)
Dacic, Falconi: Constant improvement of political, economic relations with France (Tanjug)
Processing of all war crimes cases is not suitable for Bosniaks (Politika)
RS will not negotiate again on what has already been agreed upon by (Politika)
Another 59 cases (B92)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

SNSD and HDZ B&H against Cikotic’s appointment to the post of B&H Security Minister (N1)
HDZ B&H insists on amending of Election Law as precondition for formation of new FB&H government (BHT1)
Izetbegovic: In order to reach agreement on local elections in Mostar, it is necessary to solve issue of so called double signature; Comments (BHT1)
SDP, DF and HRS say all parties should be involved in negotiations about elections in Mostar (Dnevni list)
Due to stalemate in public administration reform, Sweden and Denmark decide to withdraw their donations (Nezavisne novine)
SIPA members arrest Topcagic for abuse of office (FTV)
SIPA arrests Councilor in Municipal Council of Novi Grad Sarajevo Hasan Hodzic for taking bribe (FTV)
SIPA arrests man in Sarajevo, suspected of public instigating of terrorist activities and threatening US citizens (Dnevni avaz)
EU borders still closed for citizens of Western Balkan countries (N1)
Tuzla Canton continues to be coronavirus hotspot (FTV)
Inspectors in FB&H intensify controls of catering facilities, supermarkets (O kanal)
B&H reports three new Covid-19 deaths, 45 coronavirus infections (N1)
Croatia

One more coronavirus case confirmed in Croatia, a total of 2,255 so far (Hina)
Montenegro

Djukanovic hands Order of the Montenegrin Flag to senior justice advisor in the US Embassy (CDM)
Pazin: There’s unacceptable concentration of power in courts which reflects in multiple terms of office of presidents (CDM)
Moscow does not believe in Serbian tears (Dnevne novine/Regnum)
Republic of North Macedonia

Political parties agree to hold elections on 15th of July (MIA)
Speaker Xhaferi signs decision scheduling 15 July elections (MIA)
International community welcomes agreement on 15 July elections (MIA)
July 15 elections: Three days for casting votes, 14-hour election day (MIA)
Zaev says health protocols to be coordinated for campaign and Election Day (MIA)
SEC plans election activities, wants protocol for their implementation (MIA)
President Pendarovski declares 8-day state of emergency (MIA)
In North Macedonia 134 new cases of Covid-19, 34 patients recover, 8 die (MIA)
Albania

Cakaj calls Roth: German EC presidency, maximum attention to Western Balkans (Radio Tirana)
EPP calls for inclusion of 15 conditions in resolution (Tirana Times)
In Albania 82 new Covid-19 cases (Tirana Times)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Balkan Foes Head to White House as U.S. Swipes Talks From EU (American Journal of Transportation)
Does he want a statue too? Trump to host ‘Serbia-Kosovo’ summit in Washington on ominous anniversary (RT)
Foreign ministers discuss Belarusian-Serbian cooperation over phone (BelTA)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: Recognition of Kosovo will not be a topic in Washington, nor will we allow this (RTS/B92/Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says that recognizing Kosovo in Washington, which were the headlines in certain media, has not and never will be a topic. He denied the allegations that Serbia will recognize the independence of Kosovo on the eve of Vidovdan. “I am ashamed to even answer to the question whether Serbia will recognize Kosovo on the eve of Vidovdan. I am ashamed, because it says more about them. It will never be on our agenda. It speaks about what others have done,” he said. He pointed out that we are facing a difficult period, which will commence with the arrival of Miroslav Lajcak. “I talked to Putin yesterday, we had a long discussion. The day after the election, Lajcak is coming to Belgrade, the day after that I’m going to Moscow. Two days after that, we have to agree which delegation is going to Washington. A few days after, I think that there will be some more important meetings that we cannot talk about right now, because we were told so,” he said, adding that we would try to successfully protect our national interests.

Vucic stated that we should wait to see if the Albanians will comply with Grenell’s request to stop Kosovo’s run for the membership in international organizations. “Don’t forget that Thaci never wanted to accept that. For four years I offered it, for four years he insisted because there was always a terrible campaign against us. For four years they did not accept it, and now we are suddenly informed that they agree to it. We will see,” he said. As he stated, there is a big conflict between United States and Germany, but it is important that Serbia pursues a smarter policy than it did before in relation to the great powers. “No matter how it ends, it is important that we remain unharmed in the fight of elephants. We will not fight with Germany and America,” Vucic said, adding that Serbia wants to talk and not run away from it. He was also asked whether the announced possibility for Pristina to give up the request for recognition in international organizations could mean that there is no solution without compromise. “A big game is being played here between the big players in the international community, for which both we and the Albanians are too small. On the other hand, the Albanians are leading their internal games,” he concluded.

 

Grenell: Representatives of Belgrade and Pristina to meet on 27 June in the White House (RTS)

 

The special envoy of the US President Richard Grenell announced on Twitter that he had received assurances from the governments in Belgrade and Pristina that they would temporarily pause the campaign of withdrawing recognition and requests for membership in international organizations, in order to meet at the White House on 27 June, RTS reports. In another tweet he added that if either side is unsatisfied with the 27 June discussions then they will go back to the status quo after they leave Washington. “As we have consistently said, we must first make progress on growing the economies. This is the focus. I look forward to these discussions,” said Grenell.

 

Putin: Russia support Serbia when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija; it is clear that no decision can be made without the UN SC (RTS/RTV/Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and thanked him for the opportunity to exchange views on various issues of bilateral and international relations again, merely a month after the previous telephone conversation.

Vucic thanked Putin for the invitation to attend the Victory Parade in Moscow on 24 June. He pointed out that it was a great honor for him to participate in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory over fascism as he is proud of the fact that the Serbian and Russian people stood on the same side of freedom in the World War II. “That is why there is not a more important duty than preserving the memory of the glorious history and the truth about the struggle that brought freedom and peace,” said Vucic. The two officials discussed regional issues and dedicated most of the time to the question of Kosovo and Metohija, especially to what is happening on the international political scene concerning this issue. Putin said that he will talk about it in private with Vucic next week in Moscow, during the celebration of the victory over fascism. Putin stressed that Russia will support Serbia when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija and that it is clear that no decision can be made without the United Nations Security Council. Vucic once again thanked Putin for Russia’s active support to the state and national interests of Serbia, based on the principles of international law and justice. Putin confirmed that he will visit Serbia again to attend the central state ceremony of Saint Sava Temple consecration, and pointed out that Russia would help the interests of Serbia and protect the interests of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Vucic stated that he will be honored to host President Putin again, especially on that solemn occasion as Russia has invaluably contributed to the completion of the largest Orthodox church in Serbia, making it one of the symbols of closeness between the two countries and two nations. Vucic said that he was looking forward to the visit of the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, to Belgrade this week. “The fact that he chose our country for his first foreign visit after the forced break caused by the coronavirus pandemic, represents for us yet another confirmation of the closest friendly relations and extraordinary strategic partnership,” said Vucic. He expressed confidence that he will have the opportunity to discuss in detail with Minister Lavrov the issues of Serbian-Russian political and economic cooperation, as well as the situation in the Balkans and current developments in the world. Putin expressed his confidence in the victory of the list headed by President Vucic in the forthcoming elections and wished him every success, both personal and political.

 

Vucic: Brussels agreement did not change constitutional status of part of Serbia (Beta/N1)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that 90 polling stations would be set up in Kosovo for the elections for the Serbian parliament on 21 June. “We will have 90 polling stations in Kosovo for the elections on Sunday. We have always managed to have polling stations open for our elections in Kosovo and that will be the case on Sunday,” he said, rejecting claims in some of the Serbian media that there will be no vote in Serbian communities in Kosovo.  Asked by an N1 reporter about a possible referendum on Kosovo, he said that a referendum is needed to change the constitution and that the constitutional status of Kosovo was not changed by the Brussels agreement. The constitutional legal status of Kosovo and Metohija was not changed with the Brussels agreement but it was changed with Pristina’s unilateral acts and on-reaction of the then authorities that didn’t do anything on that occasion, said Vucic. He says the then authorities, which is now the opposition, didn’t do anything, but it did accept de facto the changed constitutional legal position of Kosovo and that they didn’t ask the people anything. Vucic said that EU envoy for the Kosovo dialogue Miroslav Lajcak is due in Belgrade a day after the elections, on Monday, 22 June. Vucic said that he will travel to Moscow after Lajcak’s visit and might also go to the US and other places he said he can’t divulge.   “We have conducted a serious and responsible policy and managed to get the issue back to the table with the big powers and not suffer political and economic sanctions, not have our state isolated. We have maintained the position of our people in Kosovo… We have done a fantastic thing under horrendous pressure,” he said.

 

Dacic on Grenell’s announcement: The problem is that we don’t trust the Albanians in Pristina (Tanjug/RTS)

 

Serbia can temporarily stop the campaign for withdrawals of recognitions only if Pristina stops the campaign for recognition and membership in international organizations, said Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic commented Grenell’s announcement. Dacic says that this has been Serbia’s stand years behind. “If it is correct what the US special envoy Richard Grenell had published on Twitter, it means that he had received assurances from Pristina it will stop the campaign for recognition of Kosovo and requests for membership in international organizations, and this was the stand of Serbia that had been presented years behind by President Aleksandar Vucic,” said Dacic. “The problem, however, is that we don’t believe anything the Albanians in Pristina, because they had always lied so far, and made unilateral moves. Just when they signed the Brussels agreement, yet they have been refusing to form the Community of Serb Municipalities for seven years,” said Dacic. Dacic says that if what Grenell had published is true, then Belgrade expects Pristina to immediately withdraw requests for membership it had submitted in international organizations. “Just as they had done some week ago in Eurimages, the organization under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Then we will see whether they are serious, or is this just another trick,” said Dacic.

 

Dacic: Serbia to request solution to the Kosovo issue to be verified in broadest international framework, ideally within the United Nations (Novosti)  

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Novosti that Serbia needs to receive the broadest possible international legitimacy for the future solution to the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, because only this would be guarantee for the fairness and longevity of the solution, which we hope will be a result of compromise and respect of our interests. Since Russia and China are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, but do not recognize independence of Kosovo, their stand is constantly extremely important in our struggle for preservation of state interests,” said Dacic.

 

Dacic, Falconi: Constant improvement of political, economic relations with France (Tanjug)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic expressed his conviction today during the talks with French Ambassador to Serbia Jean-Louis Falconi that France will overcome with a strong and resolute action this unprecedented and extremely difficult period that has befallen the whole world. Dacic also expressed sorrow over a large number of victims during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as gratitude on the assistance France sent to Serbia during the period when Serbia also faced the pandemic. Falconi pointed to exceptional cooperation with the Foreign Ministry during the pandemic and conveyed special gratitude to Serbia for its assistance in the repatriation of citizens of that country. The both sides agreed that bilateral relations between the two countries are very good and that they mark constant improvement, both in the field of political dialogue and in the economic cooperation. Cooperation on the international level was also assessed positively. Other topics at the meeting were the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and the announced activities of EU Special Representative for the dialogue Miroslav Lajcak.

 

Processing of all war crimes cases is not suitable for Bosniaks (Politika, by Dusanka Stanisic)

 

The daily reminded that Bosniak ministers in the Bosnia&Herzegovina (B&H) Council of Ministers (CoM), i.e. members of Bakir Izetbegovic’s SDA, have been refusing to support the revised strategy on processing of war crimes cases because of which this document has not been adopted for two years already. At the latest session of B&H CoM, Ministers Bisera Turkovic and Sifet Podzic voted against the adoption of the strategy and Turkovic also proposed three conclusions, one of which suggested that a working group on development of a new strategy should be formed. Minister of Justice of B&H Josip Grubesa told the daily that this conclusion proposed by Turkovic is unacceptable because it would mean returning the matter back to the beginning “so that we could play around again for the next two or three years”. Grubesa assessed that such approach to this matter indicates that someone in B&H is deliberately delaying the process of work on war crimes cases and he added: “The strategy which we already have and which was developed by experts in this field stipulates that all cases should be completed in the next three years but it is obvious that someone in B&H wants this process to last 300 years”. Nevertheless, Grubesa noted that he is convinced that politicizing will end and that the strategy will get the necessary support. Director of the Republika Srpska (RS) Center for Investigation of War, War Crimes and Search for Missing Persons Milorad Kojic stated that Bosniaks are deliberately obstructing adoption of the revised strategy as they do not find establishing of this kind of rule of law to be suitable for them since it would certainly change the image of war crimes they insist on. “It is clear to everyone in the RS that Bosniaks do not find processing of all war crimes in B&H to be suitable for them because it would destroy the image, which they have been building for years, that they are the only people who suffered. Their goal is to keep control over the judiciary, especially when it comes to war crimes against Serbs,” Kojic concluded.

 

RS will not negotiate again on what has already been agreed upon by (Politika, by Mladen Kremenovic)

 

RS Minister of Justice Anton Kasipovic commented on the fact Bosniak ministers opposed the adoption of a revised strategy on processing of war crimes cases and he said that this document has already been harmonized and needs to be adopted immediately because B&H needs it. The daily noted that a general opinion in the RS is that all major cases in which Serbs are responsible have been brought to an end, while families of Serb victims are still waiting for justice. “Many believe that it is not suitable for Bosniak leaders to talk about responsibility of high-ranking Muslim officials for many evil doings against other people,” the daily noted. President of the RS Association of Families of Imprisoned and Killed Soldiers and Missing Civilians Veljko Lazic told the daily that perpetrators of many war crimes against Serbs are well known, yet they are not being processed yet. Lazic assessed that nobody is interested in Serb victims and he concluded by saying that families of victims are even growing more and more sceptic about the outcome of processes which are currently underway.

 

Another 59 cases (B92)

 

Until 3pm there have another 59 cases, in total 12,426 infected. There has been one more death, in total 256 deaths. The number of active cases is 546. There are 15 patients on respirators.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

SNSD and HDZ B&H against Cikotic’s appointment to the post of B&H Security Minister (N1)

 

SDA has filed a request to the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman Zoran Tegeltija to immediately send the proposal to appoint former B&H Minister of Defense Selmo Cikotic to the post of the B&H Minister of Security in the parliamentary procedure, after the party officially informed on Friday that Cikotic is SDA’s candidate for this post. However, SDA’s proposal was not welcomed by SDA’s coalition partners at the level of B&H – SNSD and HDZ B&H. SNSD leader Milorad Dodik expressed his reservations towards Cikotic’s appointment on Friday by saying that Cikotic has recently published his anthology in which there are negative connotations for the Serb people, who were assessed as aggressors. HDZ B&H and the Croat Peoples’ Assembly (HNS) link Cikotic with war crimes against Croatia in the Central Bosnia Canton. N1 reminded that both parties voted for Cikotic’s appointment to the post of the B&H Minister of Defense thirteen years ago, wondering what has changed ever since. Commenting on the issue, B&H Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) stated that coalition partners should support SDA, as the post of B&H Minister of Security belongs to SDA in line with the agreement between parties. According to the speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H Nebojsa Radmanovic (SNSD), the coalition partners should make deals, but stances on SDA’s proposal will be harmonized in the upcoming period. Head of SNSD Caucus in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Snjezana Novakovic- Bursac confirmed that the appointment of Cikotic will be analyzed due to the conduct of SDA. Department for Veterans of the Croat Defense Council (HVO) and the Homeland War of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) of B&H expressed its disagreement with this candidacy. The HNS said that Cikotic’s candidacy “puts salt on the wounds of Croats in Bugojno” as more than 15,000 of them were banished from their homes, several hundreds were tortured in several concentration camps and also many of them were killed during the war in B&H. Member of the SNSD Presidency Dusanka Majkic said that SNSD will have the same approach to this appointment as SDA had towards SNSD. “The level of support we received for the appointment of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) Director, the level of support we received for the appointment of the Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK) Director, well that will be the same level of support that SDA will receive for appointment of this minister,” Majkic stressed. Dzaferovic said such behavior is ungrounded. He emphasized that SDA fulfilled all the elements of the intra-party agreement with these two parties, which SDA also expects in regards to Cikotic’s appointment. Hayat reported that if Cikotic does not receive enough votes, then SDA will have to propose another candidate. “That will be violation of the intra-party agreement which will carry many other implications. I hope it will not come to that,” Dzaferovic said.

 

HDZ B&H insists on amending of Election Law as precondition for formation of new FB&H government (BHT1)

 

BHT1 commented that ministers in current convocation of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) government could stay in their seats until 2022, i.e. until new general elections in B&H. Namely, SDA and HDZ B&H still cannot reach an agreement to form a new convocation of the FB&H Government. The situation got additionally complex following the apprehension of FB&H Prime Minister Fadil Novalic and announcement of SBB B&H that it does not want to be part of authorities at the FB&H level. In an interview for BHT1, leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic said that main problem concerning formation of the new FB&H government is the fact that HDZ B&H does not want DF to be part of the new Government. “If the new FB&H government is formed, we will insist to have DF there,” stated Izetbegovic. On the other hand, representative of HDZ B&H underlined that they are prepared to talk about post-election processes, but only after the Election Law is changed. Head of HDZ B&H’s Caucus in B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Nikola Lovrinovic stressed that the key thing HDZ B&H is interested in is amending of the Election Law in line with decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H. “Once we reach agreement on it, we can talk about everything else,” emphasized Lovrinovic. Also, representatives of SDP and SBB B&H rejected speculations that these two parties, along with HDZ B&H will form the new FB&H government. Secretary General of SBB B&H Sanela Prasovic-Gadzo said that this party is part of the Government in technical mandate. “We are waiting for new the FB&H government to be formed. SDA and HDZ B&H can do it along with DF and SD B&H,” explained Prasovic-Gadzo. She emphasized that SBB B&H does not want to be part of this story.

 

Izetbegovic: In order to reach agreement on local elections in Mostar, it is necessary to solve issue of so called double signature; Comments (BHT1)

 

BHT1 commented that considering statements of participants of the last meeting concerning organization of local elections in Mostar, it is possible that local elections in this city will be held after 12 years. Namely, following the meeting between SDA and HDZ B&H held with assistance of the international community, High Representative Valentin Inzko stated that some 95 percent of the agreement to organize local elections in Mostar were reached. Leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic stated for BHT1 that Inzko’s statement that talks on Mostar might result in the agreement soon are basically true. Izetbegovic added that there is only one thing to reach agreement upon – so-called double signature. Reporter noted that this is the solution according to which all important decisions need to be signed by the Mayor of Mostar and the speaker of the City Assembly. Also, those at the abovementioned positions cannot belong to the same ethnic group. Reporter noted that SDA gave up on introduction of the position of the deputy mayor. However, they insist that authorizations of the speaker of the City Assembly should be expanded.

 

SDP, DF and HRS say all parties should be involved in negotiations about elections in Mostar (Dnevni list)

 

Dnevni list carries reactions to the recent meeting between HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic (who met last Wednesday), which was dedicated to the issue of local elections in Mostar. Daily notes that the two leaders have agreed a number of issues, such as the model of election of City Council of Mostar councilors. President of the SDP City Board of Mostar Arman Zalihic wonder why wait for two years to agree on something that was accepted by all sides two years ago, stressing that SDP is of opinion that all political parties from the city should take part in the talks, not just two parties. “It is sad that everything is hidden from the citizens,” added Zalihic. President of the DF City Board of Mostar Mahmut Trcalo says the city is being served things that were agreed upon two years ago, also believing that everyone should be involved in the negotiations, not just two parties. Similar criticism came from President of HRS (Croat Republican Party) Slaven Raguz, who wonders what’s the point of having the elections and institutions when important decisions are taken at private parties and far away from the parliament, adding it is sad all is dictated by the international community.

 

Due to stalemate in public administration reform, Sweden and Denmark decide to withdraw their donations (Nezavisne novine)

 

Due to the ongoing stalemate in the process of public administration reform, Sweden and Denmark decided to withdraw their donations to the Public Administration Reform Fund in total amount of BAM 5.3 million, and other donors might follow if the situation does not change. Office of the Public Administration Reform Coordinator confirmed this information and explained that Sweden and Denmark withdrew their donations because validity of the Annex to the Memorandum on Establishing of Public Administration Reform Fund was not extended, and because the Strategy for Public Administration Reform for period 2018-2022 was not adopted at the RS level. Office of the Coordinator warned that citizens are suffering because of too slow public administration reform, and that they are hostages of political parties which obstruct the reform. However, the Office warned, without the support of local authorities, citizens will have to wait for a long time for modernization of public administration. The disputable Strategy was created in 2018, and it stipulated completion of the entire reform process by 2022. The recently removed RS Minister of Administration and Local Self-Governance Lejla Resic stated that the RS is dedicated to the reform process, but the proposed Strategy and the method of distribution of money from the Public Administration Reform Fund are not acceptable. The Fund received donations in total amount of BAM 32.3 million, and BAM 19.2 million have been spent since the beginning of the reform process. Major donors to the Fund are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, UK and the Netherlands. President of the RS Public Administration Union Bozo Maric stated that the Office of Public Administration Reform Coordinator has not achieved any significant results so far. According to him, it is also necessary to change the work of the Public Administration Reform Fund, and the Fund must accept the role of a coordinator, and not of a decision-maker. Maric emphasized that the RS Public Administration Union wants to finally resolve this issue and start with the reform process, so that citizens and public administration employees can finally know what to expect based on recommendations of SIGMA (Support for Improvement in Governance and Management) and European Commission. The Head of EU Delegation to B&H Johann Sattler, Ambassadors of Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, UK and Norway, as well as representatives of the World Bank and UNDP sent a letter to the relevant B&H institutions demanding their strong support for continuation of the public administration reform, and asking local authorities to support the process. According to the Office of Public Administration Reform Coordinator, this includes, among other things, adoption of the Strategy and Action Plan for its implementation. The letter also emphasizes that the Covid-19 crisis has shown that public administration reform is more important than ever.

 

SIPA members arrest Topcagic for abuse of office (FTV)

 

Members of the B&H State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) conducted the police operation codename ‘Pero’ in the area of Una-Sana Canton (USC) on Monday. As part of the police operation ‘Pero’, SIPA members arrested Mirsad Topcagic, who is an advisor to the USC Prime Minister. SIPA members raided Topcagic’s office in the building of the USC government in Bihac, seizing certain documentation. Spokesperson for SIPA Luka Miladinovic stated that ‘Pero’ arrestee was transported to the building of the Prosecutor’s Office of the USC. Spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office of the USC Irena Marjanovic-Cavkic said that Topcagic is suspected that, in May of this year, by using his official influence and position, he attempted to influence the USC Minister of Education into initiating misdemeanor proceedings against Admir Hadzipasic and the Center for Adult Education ‘Vita Plus’. FTV recalled that the Prosecutor’s Office of the USC is conducting the operation ‘Pero’ for illegal issuing of university and high school diplomas.

 

SIPA arrests Councilor in Municipal Council of Novi Grad Sarajevo Hasan Hodzic for taking bribe (FTV)

 

SIPA conducted the police operation codename ‘Hotel’ in Sarajevo on Monday. As part of the police operation ‘Hotel’, SIPA members arrested Councilor in Municipal Council of Novi Grad Sarajevo Hasan Hodzic who is suspected of receiving a gift and other forms of benefits. FTV unofficially learned that Hodzic used his position to mediate during certain plans for construction of buildings and houses where he asked foreign nationals, i.e. Arabs, for money. Spokesperson for SIPA Luka Miladinovic stated that one person was arrested in the police operation codename ‘Hotel’. “One location was raided, i.e. residential buildings, and one vehicle,” Miladinovic said, adding that the arrestee was transported to the premises of SIPA and that he will be handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo Canton. FTV recalled that Hodzic began his political career as the Councilor of SDP B&H in the Municipal Council of Novi Grad Sarajevo. He later left SDP B&H and became an independent Councilor. Hodzic in 2016 joined BOSS party, just to leave it in 2020 when he again became an independent Councilor.

 

SIPA arrests man in Sarajevo, suspected of public instigating of terrorist activities and threatening US citizens (Dnevni avaz)

 

Upon the order of B&H Prosecutor’s Office, SIPA members arrested on Monday a person, who was issuing threats and called for racism and anti-Semitism. This man, daily reads, is suspected of public instigating of terrorist activities. According to the evidence, the man used various internet services and communication channels to present racist and anti-Semite stances, issuing direct threats towards US citizens. According to daily’s information, this man was arrested on Monday afternoon in Sarajevo and he has no prior police records. Daily noted that the threats were issued in the last couple of weeks and the man has no connection to Wahhabi movement in B&H. SIPA members raided the premises that the suspect is using and confiscated certain things that will be used as evidence in further criminal procedure.

 

EU borders still closed for citizens of Western Balkan countries (N1)

 

The EU member states have started to ease control measures imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic at internal borders as of 15 June, in line with recommendations of the European Commission (EC) on enabling free movement of people within the EU. The EU borders are still closed for citizens from the Western Balkan countries and world countries and according to recommendations of the EC these citizens are supposed to be allowed to travel to the EU countries as of 1 July. Belgium, France, Greece, Slovakia and other EU countries lifted controls at its border crossings on Monday morning, allowing for the EU citizens to pass their borders without prior carrying out of Covid-19 tests or quarantine measures. However, some of the countries kept restrictions for citizens of countries with unfavorable epidemiological situation, such as Sweden, the UK, Spain, Portugal and France. Spanish authorities have decided to open borders for tourists as of 1 July. Many countries of the EU have also launched campaigns calling on their residents to spend their vacation in home countries. The official Brussels recommended to the EU member countries to start with gradual opening of their borders as of 1 July. However, Croatia should open its borders for B&H citizens before this date. Namely, Croatian Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli confirmed that borders of Croatia should be opened for B&H citizens by 25 June. “It will definitely happen by the end of June. Hoteliers from Makarska called me and asked to open borders with B&H as soon as possible if the epidemiologic situation allows it,” explained Cappelli.

 

Tuzla Canton continues to be coronavirus hotspot (FTV)

 

The Tuzla Canton (TC) continues to be a coronavirus hotspot in the FB&H. Representatives of the TC Crisis HQ are warning that inspection is carrying out increased controls and that citizens need to comply with the measure of physical distance and wear protective masks. Experts warn that death of a patient from Zivinice who was infected with COVID is especially worrying given that he did not have any other health problems. FTV stressed that epidemiological situation in TC deteriorated drastically after restrictive measures were eased, noting that health recommendations are less and less being complied with. “It is really not our intention in the Crisis HQ to introduce any kind of restrictive measures in terms of closing anyone or anything, and to again work in that direction. Also, UKC Tuzla introduced new measures in order to prevent import of Coronavirus in this institution. General Manager of UKC TC Vahid Jusufovic said that all patients that need to be hospitalized will have to be tested for Coronavirus. He added that testing for these patients will be free of charge.

Inspectors in FB&H intensify controls of catering facilities, supermarkets (O kanal)

 

As of Sunday, inspectors in the FB&H intensified controls in catering facilities, shopping malls, supermarkets and other business facilities. Authorities ordered citizens and business facilities to strictly respect measures aimed to protect them from the Coronavirus; to wear masks and to keep physical distance. Sanitary inspector in the Sarajevo Canton Aida Dzinovic told O Kanal that they are carrying out controls in all business facilities. Dzinovic explained that until now, they carried out preventive measures but as of Sunday, they begun to apply repressive measures.

Spokesperson for the FB&H Ministry of Health Zlatan Persic stated that they launched the proceeding for declaration of epidemic on the entire territory of the FB&H. Persic said that before this, they also gave their consent to declare epidemic on the territory of the Sarajevo Canton and the Tuzla Canton.

B&H reports three new Covid-19 deaths, 45 coronavirus infections (N1)

 

Another 45 coronavirus infections were recorded in B&H in the last 24 hours, 33 in the FB&H and 12 in the RS, the healthcare authorities of both regions confirmed on Tuesday. With three new fatalities reported in the FB&H, the country’s death toll is now 168. According to the latest official statistics, B&H’s coronavirus tally stands at 3,085, with 2,178 Covid-19 patients who have recovered to date. The FB&H authorities have performed 674 lab tests in the last 24 hours, 44,986 since the epidemic outbreak. The total of 1,373 Covid-19 patients have been reported in the FB&H to date; 981 have recovered and 45 died due to the virus infection. The new infections were recorded in Tuzla Canton, Zenica-Doboj Canton, Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and Canton Sarajevo. As for the RS, its healthcare authorities have performed 167 coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours, 32,296 in total. Of 1,692 confirmed cases in this part of the country, 1,181 have recovered and 119 have died to date. The Brcko District, a separate administrative unit in the north, has seen 20 confirmed Covid-19 patients, of which 16 recovered and four died.

Competent authorities have once again urged the citizens to obey the measures to prevent the virus spread.

 

One more coronavirus case confirmed in Croatia, a total of 2,255 so far (Hina)

 

One new coronavirus case was reported in Croatia over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 2,255, the national civil protection authority said on Tuesday.  To date, 70,526 persons have been tested, including 272 since yesterday. 4 patients are currently hospitalized and not one is on a ventilator. One newly infected person is from Zagreb County. So far 2,140 persons have recovered from the novel coronavirus and 107 have died, the Headquarters announced.

 

Djukanovic hands Order of the Montenegrin Flag to senior justice advisor in the US Embassy (CDM)

 

At the initiative of the Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stankovic, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic handed the Second class Order of the Montenegrin Flag to the INL Senior Justice Advisor in the US Embassy in Podgorica, Erik Larson, for his substantial contribution, cooperation with state authorities of Montenegro and support for creating and implementation of reforms which have led to the improvement of the rule of law in Montenegro. Djukanovic expressed his gratitude to Mr Larson. While stating that rule of law is key priority of state policy and permanent challenge for our societies, Djukanovic emphasized the importance of understanding and support the US provides. He pointed out that cooperation “will continue”. “I am looking forward to continuing high-quality cooperation with the US government and I believe it will be of vital importance for achievement of strategic objectives,” Djukanovic said.

Larson said he was honored to cooperate with the Prosecutor’s Office in Montenegro for six years. He expressed hopes that US government would continue to provide support for the Montenegrin judicial system. US Ambassador, Mrs Judy Rising Reinke, attended the ceremony.

 

Pazin: There’s unacceptable concentration of power in courts which reflects in multiple terms of office of presidents (CDM)

 

At the session of the Council on the Rule of Law, vice-president of the government of Montenegro Zoran Pazin appealed to all presidents of courts who have been served more than two terms of office to reconsider their determination to perform the function of the president of the court in ten new term of office. “Democratic capacity that you would express in that way wouldn’t challenge their existence because present legislation envisages that after the term of office expires, president of the court remains in office as judge in the court where he was appointed,” Pazin said. He pointed out that Judicial and Prosecutorial council should devote special attention to those issues concerning which European Commission has made serious remarks, such as: staff problem on the occasion of appointment of the president of courts with multiple terms of office, as well as the issue of assessing prosecutors. “I agree with the view of the EC that a sort of power concentration which reflects in multiple appointments of heads of courts is unacceptable in a democratic society. I don’t examine this problem through constitutionality or lawfulness, but rather as need for further democratic development of judicial institutions though staff refreshment and avoidance of inertia, fatigue and other negative consequences that might follow the permanence of the presidents of courts,” Pazin said. He expressed his satisfaction over the fact that EC has recognized progress in the rule of law, with special emphasis on the successful results of Police Department in fighting all forms of crime in the country. However, entire society accedes the EU, not just government, and, therefore, responsibility for Montenegro’s European future must be assumed by other two branches of government. The Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro Aivo Orav welcomed the proactive approach of the Council to discussing findings of the latest Unofficial working document of the EC on the situation in chapters concerning rule of law. He praised progress and Montenegro’s restored commitment in many key areas, including international police cooperation and fight against human trafficking. However, Orav emphasized that Montenegro shouldn’t jeopardize results achieved earlier in specific areas and that it should continue to achieve results in combating corruption and organized crime.

 

Moscow does not believe in Serbian tears (Dnevne novine/Regnum)

 

The Russian news federal agency Regnum published an analysis of the political situation in Serbia, primarily focusing on its relation with Russia. The parliamentary elections in Serbia were to be held on 26 April, but because of the coronavirus epidemic, they were postponed to 21 June. Meanwhile, all the precautions that were in place during the state of emergency were canceled, although it is not clear what the consequences of this decision will be for human health and whether it will lead to an increase in the number of cases. In late May, the President of Serbia and the head of the Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Vucic, trying to balance between east and west, announced that he would meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 17 or 18 June. Since the electorate in Serbia is pro-Russian, it is especially important for all those participating in the elections (including Vucic) to receive support from Russia on the eve of the elections. However, the announced meeting of the two presidents in Moscow will not take place. Instead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Serbia on 18 June, where he will meet not only with Vucic, but also with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic, leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia. The topic of the meeting will be Serbian-Russian relations, which, despite frequent meetings of officials, are in a certain crisis. Vucic last visit to Russia, when he met Putin in Sochi, was not in a very good atmosphere. Shortly before the meeting in Belgrade, a “spy scandal” allegedly involving a Russian military diplomat broke out. The whole incident seemed to be a prepared scenario, the purpose of which was to compromise Russia. The President of Serbia, in response to the appearance of the video “capturing espionage”, convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, which added importance and seriousness to this matter. Addressing the public, he expressed concern about the actions of Russia. This was not the first and not the only case when Russia was accused of negative influence in the Serbian media. Blic daily, which is close to the regime of the Serbian Progressive Party, has been conducting a kind of anti-Russian campaign for several months now. Recently, the journalists of Politika, one of the most famous newspapers in Serbia, behaved unprofessionally towards the Ambassador of Russia, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko. On Victory Day, 9 May, an interview was published on the front page of Politika with a heading that did not correspond to the content of the text. The Russian ambassador said that Russia is committed to solving the Kosovo problem in accordance with UNSCR 1244, and the headline said the opposite: Russia favors amending this resolution. Although diplomatic actions of Russia followed and the “Politics” was required to publish a refutation of the information, the same scenario was repeated. The misunderstanding between Belgrade and Moscow is caused by a divergence of views on the solution of the Kosovo problem. Russia is clearly committed to compliance with international law, Resolution 1244, the Constitution of Serbia and the will of the majority of Serbian citizens. According to the Constitution, the President of Serbia is obliged to represent the same interests, but he is increasingly demonstrating pragmatism that goes beyond formal restrictions. Negotiations on Kosovo and Metohija are currently being conducted in an uncertain format with the direct participation of the United States. Although Russian officials have repeatedly stated their readiness to join the negotiations, subject to receiving an invitation from Serbia, no reaction to this was followed. In addition, Vucic has been trying for a long time to convince the Russian Federation of the positive aspects of a comprehensive solution to the Kosovo problem, which includes the demarcation of Serbia with its southern province. Such a plan would also require the amendment of Resolution 1244, since the purpose of the agreement is for Kosovo to become fully independent, including membership in the UN. It seems that Russia is not ready to support such an idea. Over the past three years, eighteen countries have withdrawn Kosovo’s recognition, and currently this separatist establishment is recognized by 92 countries out of 193 UN members. Despite this, before the start of a new cycle of negotiations with Pristina, the President of Serbia promised to end the lobbying campaign to revoke recognition of Kosovo. On the other hand, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic expressed a contradictory position, saying that Serbia would not stop this campaign.

 

PUTIN’S TRUST IN VUCIC DECLINES

The opposing views of Vucic and Dacic show that there is no consensus in the ruling coalition on a final solution to the Kosovo problem. Moreover, in recent years, other differences of opinion between partners in power have been increasingly visible. The other day in the Serbian media there was a discussion between Vucic and Dacic regarding future relations in the ruling coalition and the possible termination of cooperation between them. In light of what is happening, and also given the deterioration of Serbian-Russian relations over the past few months, Lavrov’s visit to Belgrade and his meeting with Dacicmay be a signal that the Kremlin is unhappy with the Serbian president’s attitude towards Moscow. This may also be the reason for the refusal of the meeting between Vucic and Putin, previously planned for this time in Moscow. No doubt that the behavior of the Russian leadership towards him during the Victory Day parade on June 24, at which his presence is expected, will also serve as an important indicator of the Kremlin’s attitude to the president of Serbia. Judging by the behavior on the eve of the elections, we can say that Putin’s confidence in Vucic continues to decline. Moscow has less confidence in Serbian tears. Over the past three years, eighteen countries have withdrawn Kosovo’s recognition, and currently this separatist establishment is recognized by 92 countries out of 193 UN members. Despite this, before the start of a new cycle of negotiations with Pristina, the President of Serbia promised to end the lobbying campaign to revoke recognition of Kosovo.

 

Political parties agree to hold elections on 15th of July (MIA)

 

The parliamentary elections will take place on 15 July. SDSM leader Zoran Zaev said Monday the date has been agreed with VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski. “We took this step, in order to put an end to this war of nerves, so that the people do not suffer. SDSM is again demonstrating its greatness, understanding and responsibility. July 15 is the final date for the elections,” Zaev told a press conference. He said the opposition leader has agreed on 15 July as the election date, with the homebound, infirm and aged to vote two days earlier, including those infected with the coronavirus. July 15, Wednesday, will be a non-working day, while election silence will begin at midnight on 12 July. VMRO-DPMNE’s Central Committee has unanimously decided that the party will take part at the 15 July elections and expects Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi to schedule the vote, party leader Hristijan Mickoski said late on Monday. Mickoski told a press conference that the agreement over the date for the elections was delayed because he could not accept polls that would cost human lives and people’s health. He added that SDSM accepted two conditions – protocols in place for protection of people voting from home and presence of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission. “These elections are a test, a point of no return, Macedonia’s future is in your hands,” said Mickoski in a message to citizens, adding that the country would experience a renewal. He said voter turnout could be lower due to Covid-19 but urged citizens to go out and vote. DUI welcomes the consensus reached after intensive negotiations between the political parties, preventing a political crisis following the health and economic crisis. “Consensus, public health and preventing deep political crisis has always been our position. If elections were to be held without consensus, the situation would have worsened. Consensus is our main principle of functioning in our multi-ethnic society,” DUI says Monday. In a press release, the junior coalition partner calls on state institutions to prepare all protocols necessary to provide utmost protection of public health during election campaign. The party also urges the political parties to adhere to these protocols. Also, DUI expresses gratitude to the international partners for their constructive engagement while consensus was being reached, states the press release. The agreement that party leaders reached on designating 15 July as the date for the early parliamentary elections is of exceptional interest for the citizens and the country’s perspective. This is the first step to inclusive, fair, democratic, European elections, which should become a regular practice in the future, says Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski. Spasovski says the government will ensure all necessary conditions for administering a safe electoral process from a health standpoint. I assure citizens they will safely exercise their voting right, Spasovski said. President Stevo Pendarovski welcomed Monday the agreement of party leaders to hold the early parliamentary elections on 15 July. Pendarovski expects the elections to be fair and democratic, befitting a NATO member and a country starting EU accession negotiations, the President’s Office said in a press release. The President says the consensus on a date for the early parliamentary elections is another indicator that every mature democracy requires political dialogue that results in coordinated decisions in the people’s interest.

 

Speaker Xhaferi signs decision scheduling 15 July elections (MIA)

 

Parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi said on Monday night he had signed a decision amending the decision on scheduling early elections. The date agreed by the ruling party and the opposition is 15 July 2020, he noted. According to the speaker, this year’s elections will be unique because the parties won’t hold typical election campaigns and the citizens will have to adhere to the health safety measures and recommendations amid the Covid-19 situation. The decision amending the previous decision on scheduling early polls for representatives in the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia on 15 July 2020, has been archived and sent to the State Election Commission, the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry, thus abiding by the deadlines regulated by the Constitution.

 

International community welcomes agreement on 15 July elections (MIA)

 

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, welcomed Monday the agreement on holding the early parliamentary elections on 15 July. “I welcome the agreement reached among political parties in North Macedonia to hold parliamentary elections on 15 July. Looking forward to credible elections and to seeing the country continue to move forward on its European path,” tweeted Borrell. United States Ambassador to North Macedonia Kate Byrnes has welcomed the news that the early parliamentary elections will take place on 15 July. “We welcome the news that elections are now scheduled for July 15. The next parliament and government face significant responsibilities that will affect the country’s future, including managing response to Covid-19 and EU accession talks. Looking forward to continuing and deepening our partnership,” tweeted Ambassador Byrnes. I warmly welcome today’s agreement of the main political parties in North Macedonia on holding of elections on 15 July, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi tweeted Monday. “Important signal for the country, its people and its EU path, this agreement paves the way towards free, fair and inclusive elections, to be observed by OSCE/ODIHR,” he said.

 

July 15 elections: Three days for casting votes, 14-hour election day (MIA)

 

The voting process as part of the 15 July early parliamentary elections will last three days. On election day, polling stations will open at 7 am and close at 9 pm. Under the government’s decree with the force of law, people who are put in home isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 and people ordered to self-isolate will be able to cast their votes on 13 July. The State Election Commission in the municipalities where these people have the right to vote, depending how many they are, will set up more than one separate electoral board made up of three health workers with the political parties having the right to appoint a member in this board. Sick and frail people, as well as voters with chronic illnesses and other people who are entitled to vote one day before election day, according to the Electoral Code, will vote on 14 July. On election day (15 July), polling stations will open at 7 am and close at 9 pm, meaning voters will have two more hours to cast their votes. Typically, polling stations are open for 12 hours, from 7 am to 7 pm. The 20-day election campaign starts 24 June.

 

Zaev says health protocols to be coordinated for campaign and Election Day (MIA)

 

The Commission for Infectious Diseases sent a health protocol to the State Election Commission (SEC) 10 days ago but it would be good if political parties built a common stance too, said SDSM leader Zoran Zaev on Monday. “It would be nice if there was coordination, thus helping citizens to be motivated and come out on Election Day, but also follow the campaign in a safe way,” Zaev told a press conference. According to him, it is logical that these elections will be different. “It is clear there will be no big rallies and gatherings. At this time, SDSM will not even organize small gatherings but we’ll consider all recommendations if they take place. I believe we will coordinate on all health protocols both for the campaign and Election Day,” said Zaev.

He noted that the protocols are already delivered but would be further adapted if necessary, adding that the OSCE/ODIHR observers will launch their mission on 19 June. “Updating of the Voters List is the stage we are currently in. The Ministry of Interior will also have to submit a list of people who are set to turn 18 until 15 July,” said Zaev.

 

SEC plans election activities, wants protocol for their implementation (MIA)

 

Upon receiving the decision on scheduling the early parliamentary elections from the parliament speaker, the State Election Commission (SEC) will start to organize the activities including revision of their timelines, says SEC President Oliver Derkovski. The SEC chief said that the new state of emergency, which is expected to be declared on Tuesday, will last only for the purpose of intervening on the Election Day. Derkovski expects a protocol from the health authorities, which SEC will turn into guidelines and instructions for electoral boards. Regarding reports that a protocol has already been delivered, he says SEC has only received an e-mail with general recommendations on voting. “A recommendation, an optional document, is one thing, but a protocol or a rulebook is another, because it produces rights, obligations and responsibilities. Therefore, we want a document that clearly and accurately states certain procedures. We received two pages of general recommendations for the procedure. In fact, this is something that we are listening on a daily basis, without precisely explaining how people in quarantine, home treatment, isolation would vote. Our electoral boards are not epidemiologists so as to know how to proceed,” says Derkovski. According to him, a problem SEC faces is finding appropriate polling stations, which would be accessible and spatial, in order to observe the protective measures and eliminate the risk of the virus spread. Considering that the elections will take place in the summer, there is an option of outdoor voting, especially in places having a small number of voters, but the secrecy of the voting process will also have to be considered.

President Pendarovski declares 8-day state of emergency (MIA)

 

President Stevo Pendarovski declared late Monday a nationwide state of emergency for the purpose of ensuring continual preparations for the elections. The decision is made in accordance with Articles 125 and 126 of the Constitution of North Macedonia, upon the government’s proposal, for a period of eight days beginning on 15 June 2020. Political parties have reached an agreement to hold the early parliamentary elections on 15 July. Therefore, the decision to declare a state of emergency is made towards ensuring continual preparations for the elections, especially the enforcement of measures for protection of public health during the electoral process, during a coronavirus pandemic declared by the World Health Organization, the President’s Office said in a press release. It adds that the 8-day state of emergency will ensure a continual electoral process, a decision on scheduling the elections by the parliament speaker, and altered timelines adopted by the State Election Commission. Taking into account the political agreement, President Pendarovski expects institutions to undertake all activities in their jurisdiction to fully prepare and implement the electoral process. In this regard, the President expects the state of emergency period to be used solely for the required election-related decisions and protocols, with a focus on the measures protecting public health. Pendarovski expects the early parliamentary elections to be free, fair and democratic, considering the country’s Euro-Atlantic perspective, reads the press release.

 

In North Macedonia 134 new cases of Covid-19, 34 patients recover, 8 die (MIA)

 

The Ministry of Health said Tuesday that 134 new Covid-19 cases have been recorded in North Macedonia over the past 24 hours, 8 patients have died, while 34 have recovered. Most of the new cases are registered in Skopje (97), then Tetovo (11), Resen (7), Kumanovo (5), Struga (3), Krushevo (2), Kichevo (2), and Prilep, Veles, Bitola, Kavadarci, Valandovo, Kratovo and Negotino with one case each. Of the recovered, 6 are from Skopje, 23 from Kumanovo, two from Prilep and from Veles and one from Tetovo. Three patients from Skopje, aged 68, 65 and 76, passed away at the Skopje-based Clinic for Infectious Diseases. A 77-year-old man and a 77-year-old woman from Skopje died at the “8 September” hospital in Skopje. A 68-year-old man from Kumanovo died at the Clinic of Urology in Skopje. Two patients, aged 67 and 71, passed away in Tetovo hospital and were confirmed positive to the virus postmortem. There were 1,173 tests made in the past 24 hours, the press release reads. A total of 45,054 Covid-19 tests have been carried out so far in North Macedonia. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the country has registered 4,289 cases. 1,757 people recovered and the number of active cases is 2,331. The death toll has reached 201.

 

Cakaj calls Roth: German EC presidency, maximum attention to Western Balkans (Radio Tirana)

 

The acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Gent Caka, had a telephone conversation with the Minister of State for Europe of Germany Michael Roth. The call focused on the preparations of the German Presidency of the Council, where the Western Balkans is expected to be in the center of attention and the fulfillment of all obligations by Albania for holding the First Intergovernmental Conference. “We underlined Albania’s inalienable commitment to implementing all the necessary conditions to advance on the European path,” Cakaj said in regard to the conversation with Roth. The talks also focused on the co-operation between Albania and Germany, as well as between the EU in the joint fight against Covid-19 pandemics. “While we positively assessed our efforts, we agreed to coordinate actions for the gradual opening of borders and economic recovery,” concluded Cakaj.

 

EPP calls for inclusion of 15 conditions in resolution (Tirana Times)

 

The European People’s Party (EPP) on Monday urged the European Parliament to include the 15 conditions set by the EU for Albania in March 2020, in the resolution drafted by Croatian MEP Tonino Picula. According to the EPP, Picula’s resolution is too general and does not mention the conditions that Albania will have to fulfill until the first quarter of 2021, when the First Intergovernmental Conference is expected to take place. This prompted MEP Kinga Gal to present a special amendment for Albania, stressing that the resolution needs to mention the fact that the first intergovernmental conference between Albania and the EU member states be convened only after the 15 conditions are met. “The European Parliament Stresses the 15 conditions, decided by the Council of the European Union, that Albania needs to have fulfilled prior to its first intergovernmental conference with the EU Member States,” the statement reads. The resolution on the Western Balkans is expected to be approved during the next plenary session of the European Parliament.

In Albania 82 new Covid-19 cases (Tirana Times)

 

Eighty-two new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected patients to 1672 in Albania. So far, tests have been conducted on more than 20,000 people. A total of 50 patients are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, eight of whom are in intensive care and two are intubated. Furthermore, a 68-year-old man from Puka passed away on Tuesday after being hospitalized for two weeks, bringing the death toll to 37 victims. The victim suffered from several underlying health conditions. However, a total of 1064 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Albania have recovered. The lifting of restrictive measures was not accompanied by an increase of monitoring towards the implementation of hygiene rules and protocols set by the authorities, until Friday of last week. Since then, inspection groups and police have visited premises of several businesses to identify any misconduct regarding hygiene rules.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Balkan Foes Head to White House as U.S. Swipes Talks From EU (American Journal of Transportation, by Misha Savic and Jasmina Kuzmanovic, 16 June 2020) 

 

Serbia and Kosovo plan to start a dialog to mend ties under the auspices of the U.S. later this month, a snub to European Union efforts to bring the former wartime foes back to the negotiating table. Leaders of the two Balkan neighbors are expected at the White House on June 27. The agreement follows both sides suspending rival campaigns over the international recognition of Kosovo, which split unilaterally from Serbia in 2008 almost a decade after NATO bombing forced Serb troops out of its territory. The U.S. envoy for the region, Richard Grenell, announced the plan on Monday as EU diplomat Miroslav Lajcak was on his way to Kosovo to revive EU-mediated negotiations that stalled in 2018.“I welcome the invitation to resume the dialogue process for normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia under the leadership of the President of the United States Donald Trump,” Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said on Facebook. Thaci also said he may refuse to meet with Lajcak, expected in Kosovo on Tuesday, if he has “nothing concrete to say,” reiterating his reservations about the EU mediation. The competing bids to resolve one of Europe’s most stubborn disputes appeared to escalate a transatlantic rivalry for influence in a region where Russia, China and Turkey are also seeking to step up their presence. Serbia insists Kosovo is its historic heartland and refuses to accept its secession. Belgrade has relied on Russia and China to block Kosovo’s admission into United Nations and other international bodies and has intensively worked to reverse the recognition of some countries.

 

Battle of Elephants

Germany’s former ambassador to the U.S., Wolfgang Ischinger, said on Twitter that the U.S. initiative lacked coordination with its European partners. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that, while he accepted Grenell’s invitaiton, the visit to the U.S. wasn’t meant as an affront to the EU. “It’s important that in the battle of elephants we remain unhurt,” Vucic said, acknowledging a disconnect between the U.S. and Germany and saying that he would meet Lajcak after Serbia’s June 21 elections. “We’re not going to fight with Germany or America.”

Grenell oversaw an agreement in February under which Serbia and Kosovo agreed to develop road and rail links to boost economic cooperation before resolving their long-lasting enmity.

“If either side is unsatisfied with the June 27 discussions then they will go back to the status quo after they leave Washington,” Grenell said in on Twitter. “We must first make progress on growing the economies.” The EU and the U.S. were also at odds over the ouster of former Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in March. While German and French ambassadors spoke out against the no-confidence vote that toppled him, their U.S. colleague said he was pleased to see the motion taking place. Kurti slammed Grenell for helping orchestrate his dismissal.

 

Does he want a statue too? Trump to host ‘Serbia-Kosovo’ summit in Washington on ominous anniversary (RT, by Nebojsa Malic, 16 June 2020)

 

Hosting the leaders of Serbia and its breakaway province of Kosovo at the White House on the eve of a major anniversary in Serbian (and world) history raises questions about what President Donald Trump may be up to in the Balkans. While no longer the acting Director of National Intelligence or ambassador to Germany – as of two weeks ago – Richard Grenell is technically still Trump’s special envoy for Serbia-Kosovo talks. It was in this capacity that he announced the meeting, scheduled for June 27. Belgrade has agreed to temporarily halt its campaign to have countries that recognized Kosovo withdraw that recognition, while Pristina has likewise stopped seeking membership in international organizations. The discussions will focus on economic growth, Grenell said on Monday. Kosovo is the province of Serbia that was occupied by NATO “peacekeepers” in June 1999, following a 78-day war waged by the alliance on behalf of ethnic Albanian rebels. Instead of protecting Serbian sovereignty over the province, as outlined in UN Security Council 1244 that authorized the armistice, NATO proceeded to build an Albanian provisional government, which declared independence in February 2008. It has been recognized by the US and most of its allies – about half the world’s governments – but not Russia, China or Serbia itself. Getting Belgrade to recognize the land grab as legitimate has been the endgame of every US administration since – whether it was Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama in the White House. Yet every Serbian government “midwifed” into office by US diplomats and consultants since the 2000 color revolution has balked at that final step, including – so far – the “progressive” President Aleksandar Vucic. There are two eyebrow-raising things about Grenell’s initiative. The immediately obvious one is its timing, on the eve of June 28. That is the anniversary of the 1389 battle between Serbian princes and the Ottoman Turks in Kosovo Field. Serbian oral history memorialized the event as a combination of martyrdom and tyrannicide. This motivated a young Bosnian Serb student named Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary on that date in 1914. Vienna seized upon that as a pretext to invade Serbia, starting the chain of events that escalated into WWI. The other oddity is that while Vucic has welcomed the talks, the Albanians have been divided. Hashim Thaci, militant leader turned “president” of Kosovo, said earlier this month he was hopeful about the initiative. Albin Kurti, a hardliner championing union with Albania who was prime minister between January and March, has accused Grenell of having the “identical stance” with Serbia, rather than being an impartial mediator. Kurti has reportedly argued that Grenell is trying to “rush” a deal between Belgrade and Pristina to get Trump a foreign policy victory ahead of the 2020 election. He also accused Trump’s envoy of orchestrating the no-confidence vote that ousted him back in March. A man named Avdullah Hoti was confirmed as the new PM on June 3, over Kurti’s objections, and will be headed to Washington. Kosovo Albanians may have reasons to be apprehensive. The economic focus of Grenell’s proposal sounds very much like Trump’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian “deal of the century,” which the Palestinians overwhelmingly rejected. The current US president is known for bucking long-standing foreign policy consensus. He is not personally invested with either side in the conflict and may even be prejudiced against the Albanians somewhat, given their obsession with erecting statues to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and other prominent Democrats. Admittedly, there is a statue of President Bush in Albania as well, and former Senator Bob Dole (R-Kansas) has been a champion of Kosovo Albanians for decades – and still is. The Bush and Dole factions of the GOP are by and large opposed to Trump, however. Over in Belgrade, Vucic has been repeatedly accused by his nationalist critics that he intends to “sell out” Kosovo the first chance he gets, and his defeatist rhetoric has not helped him counter that. Western-funded liberals, not surprisingly, lament that he hasn’t done it yet, and want him replaced with someone who will. A general election has been called for June 21, less than a week before the White House meeting and just days before Vucic is scheduled to attend the Victory Day parade in Moscow. Vucic’s party is expected to sweep the polls, giving him legitimacy for pretty much anything – even rewriting the constitution to give up Kosovo, maybe. That said, given that none of Trump’s ambitious foreign policy initiatives have yet born any fruit – from North Korea to Venezuela and anything in between – and that the prospects for his re-election appear fatally undermined by a series of recent events at home, perhaps neither Vucic nor Thaci nor Kurti ought to expect much.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Foreign ministers discuss Belarusian-Serbian cooperation over phone (BelTA, 15 June 2020)

 

MINSK – Belarus Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei and Serbia First Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic had a telephone conversation initiated by Serbia, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The foreign ministers pointed out the friendly nature of the Belarusian-Serbian relations, including their cooperation within international organizations,” the ministry noted. The parties discussed the status of implementation of the agreements reached during Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s official visit to Serbia in December 2019. Vladimir Makei and Ivica Dacic spoke in favor of further intensification of the bilateral trade and economic cooperation. They also exchanged opinions on efforts of the international community to combat the spread of coronavirus infection.

 

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