SNS declares victory at repeated voting (RTS/Tanjug)
The Chair of the SNS Executive Board Darko Glisic has stated that this party has a convincing victory at the repeated voting. He notes that based on processed 221 out of r 234 polling stations, this party won 60.2 percent of the votes. He says turnout was smaller than on 21 June. At present, turnout is on the border of 50 percent and it will be known one all polling stations are processed. “The most important thing and what we are proud of is that the SNS won 60.2 percent based on a sample of 221 polling stations, SPS won 11 percent, and Muamer Zukorlic’s list won 4.7 percent. One we have these 13 polling stations from central Serbia the result will be different There were more polling stations in Sandzak at the repeated elections,” noted Glisic.
He adds that POKS won somewhat more than on 21 June, while Aleksandar Sapic’s list somewhat less. Asked whether POKS will be the fourth party that will enter the parliament, Glisic says this coalition is below three percent according to their data, but remined there 13 more polling stations from where results are expected.
SPS-JS: Coalition won 12.5 percent of votes (RTS/Tanjug)
The SPS-JS coalition announced that, based on 75 percent of processed polling stations out of 234 where voting was repeated, it won 12.5 percent of the votes. The statement reads that the coalition achieved an even better result than on 21 June, whereby it has once again confirmed that it is the second strongest option on the Serbian political scene. Based on this data, SNS won 61.5 percent at the repeated voting. Following SPS-JS is Muamer Zukorlic, SPAS and POKS, reads the statement. These results will not change the election will of citizens voiced on 21 June and the relation of forces in the Serbian parliament will remain unchanged, states the SPS-JS.
POKS: We didn’t cross census (RTS/Tanjug)
The Movement for the renewal of the Kingdom of Serbia announced that it didn’t cross the census at the parliamentary elections and that they lacked several thousand votes in order to reach three percent. The statement reads that the result would probably have been better if the repeated vote was held on a Sunday, and not on a working day in the midst of the second wave of the epidemic. It is added that the election result denies those who have been claiming for days that the SNS will “push” POKS into the parliament.
Ljajic: Two people from Sjenica died after a misunderstanding (RTS)
Serbian Minister for Trade and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic has confirmed for RTS that two men aged 46 and 59 from Sjenica died because they were not admitted to the Uzice hospital. People told me that it was a misunderstanding and that in Uzice they thought there was a ward in Sjenica. Ljajic, who has been in Novi Pazar, where the situation is difficult, for several days, says that the good news is that more and more people are coming to the Covid hospital, while the bad is that the number of those infected is not dropping. “It’s encouraging that more and more people are coming to the Covid hospital. Yesterday we had 250 patients who came for an examination. The bad news is that this trend is not declining, almost a third of these patients have developed significant pneumonia. But, yesterday we had 104 hospitalized patients, and a few days ago there were 123. Almost the entire hospital in Novi Pazar is Covid now,” said Ljajic.
Concerning the news that three-member family died in Tutin from Covid, Ljajic said one member of this family had called him and asked him to deny this news. This person said his father, 89, didn’t die from Covid, and neither did his mother, 76, who died from consequences of a heart attack. His sister died from Covid, and she didn’t live with them and who was in the hospital in Novi Pazar. This whole situation did not arise because someone was not wearing a mask or gloves. The whole situation arose because a huge number of people came to the hospital with a delay, it was already crowded and then the medical staff was decimated. We are talking about organizational mistakes, if you work you make mistakes. This was a situation that was an unknown to us. We had a situation that presented as everything being fine, then the second wave or the second peak of the first wave happened,” he said. He said that yesterday, 183 people came to the Covid hospital in Sjenica for examination, and 75 more in Tutin, which is less than in previous days, but more than during the weekend. “It’s important for us that as many people as possible come to be examined,” Ljajic pointed out. Asked whether there are enough drugs in Sjenica, Tutin and Novi Pazar, the Minister pointed out that medical staff is the key issue, and pointed out to Sjenica in particular. “Sjenica needs internists, all three there are infected and out of the game. Any help in equipment is welcome, but this problem is not solved by devices, but by people and staff,” he said and added that procedure for bringing in doctors from Bosnia and Herzegovina is underway.
Obradovic proposes negotiations to Vucic (Beta)
Dveri Movement leader Bosko Obradovic proposed in a 1 July circular letter to the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, for the opposition and the authorities “to sit at a negotiation table before it is too late.” In the letter, addressed to “the president of the Serbian Progressive Party in an unknown location,” Obradovic asked Vucic: “Where are you while the country is falling apart?” “I hope this letter will find you in good health, which cannot be said for the Serbian state, which you have left at the mercy of your incompetent and corrupt cadres. Your next appearance on TV Pink or any other TV will not obscure the fact that you disappeared from the public while the country is falling apart,” Obradovic wrote. He assessed that, in a country where “all the independent state institutions had been devastated, primarily the judiciary,” even the simplest data – such as the voter turnout at elections, or the number of newly infected or dead from an infectious disease – is unknown. “I am calling on you, before it is too late, that the authorities and the opposition sit at a negotiation table and reach an agreement that would be adopted in the form of a special law, at an urgent session of the old convocation of the Parliament,” the letter reads.
What are the expectations from Germany’s EU presidency? (RTS, by Nenad Radicevic)
After 13 years, Germany is once again presiding over the European Union and Angela Merkel is at its helm again. In 2007, she was faced with the task of resolving the crisis caused by the fact that the French and the Dutch did not support the European constitution at a referendum. This time around, expectations before her are to prevent the economic stagnation of the EU and its eventual disintegration caused by the crisis brought by the coronavirus pandemic. Part of priorities of the German presidency will be the Western Balkans where problems have piled up – from the rule of law and increased corruption, through the non-functioning of B&H and postponement of the EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, to the blocked Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Those familiar with the situation here do not expect much from the German presidency, but they are quite sure that Berlin will have an emphasis on the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina being in the European hands and on erasing any possibility of dividing Kosovo or changing borders. Whether these negotiations will lead to the opening of new negotiation chapters for Serbia within the framework of EU integration, no one in Berlin wants to predict at the moment.
Another 359 cases (RTS)
Until 3pm there have been another 359 cases, in total 15,195 infected. There have been six more deaths, in total 287 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,996. There are 81 patients on respirators.
Meeting of leaders of SDA, HDZ B&H and SNSD will probably take place next week; Leaders to discuss appointments at state level (O kanal)
Appointments of leading officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H)’s institutions have not been completed yet. This process will be concluded after an agreement is reached by leaders of SDA, HDZ B&H and SNSD, Bakir Izetbegovic, Dragan Covic and Milorad Dodik respectively. O Kanal learns that the meeting of these three leaders will probably be held next week. Judging by his recent statements, it seems that Dodik is no longer optimistic about the swift solution for these appointments. “For the past twenty years we have been dragging ourselves through meetings, delaying things, and nothing much has happened. We will meet once more next week and see what can be done”, he told the reporters. HDZ B&H Vice-President Borjana Kristo said HDZ B&H’s stances remain but they are willing to hear the other two leaders’ stances. She added that the meeting was not officially scheduled but it will probably be held next week. If all things remain the same, O Kanal noted, HDZ B&H will not receive the leading post in the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA). This post and the leading post in the Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK) of B&H will most probably go to SNSD. SNSD member Lazar Prodanovic stated that these appointments were removed several times from the agenda of the B&H Council of Ministers’ (B&H CoM) sessions, without any concrete need or explanation. SNSD wants this to be completed and for it no longer to be a stepping stone in B&H, Prodanovic stressed. On 6 June, mandate of Director of the Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) of B&H, Miro Dzakula, expired and in line with the rotation schedule the post should go to Bosniaks. O Kanal reminds that the three main political parties in B&H need to come to an agreement on 30 different posts at the state level. Dodik stressed that there have been many unsuccessful meetings in the past years and it is not a big news now that this meeting will be held but it seems that it is a big news in a country where nothing is functioning. ˝We need to see how to unblock certain appointments where procedures have been finished, everything connected to elections and other things need to be discussed˝ said Dodik. B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM) Chairman Zoran Tegeltija stated that the issue of appointments has been removed several times from the agenda of B&H CoM. However, he added, he will continue to put this issue on the agenda because that is in line with the law. He expressed hope that the leaders will reach an agreement and that the issue will be resolved soon.
SDA’s Maric optimistic changes to B&H Election Law on Mostar will pass B&H parliament (Oslobodjenje)
The Agreement on Mostar was signed by SDA and HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) leaders Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic on June 17 and it stipulated holding of elections in Mostar on November 15 along with local elections in rest of the country. However, daily stressed that signing of this agreement raised a question whether this could have been done earlier and answering this question, President of City Board of SDA, Salem Maric said that truth to be told, who knows when the Agreement would be signed if there were no for the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Maric noted that session of B&H House of Representatives and House of Peoples are scheduled for July i.e. July 8thand it is expected for MPs and delegates to adopt changes to B&H Election Law which concern the issue of City of Mostar. If this is done, Maric noted, there are no reasons for elections in Mostar not to take place on November 15. Maric noted that SDA will do their best to push through the proposal to allow B&H Central Election Commission (B&H CEC) to shorten the procedures for Mostar, so the elections could take place on the same day as in rest of the country. He further noted that SDA and HDZ B&H Caucuses in B&H HoR have already submitted their proposals for changes of Election Law regarding the City of Mostar and they harmonized them and DF already proposed such a model, so Maric believes that there is a chance for changes to Election Law to be adopted unanimously.
The daily noted that SDA still insists on coalition between pro-Bosnian parties in case of elections in Mostar, as it is certain that Croat parties will be unified under the umbrella of Croat People’s Assembly (HNS). Daily noted that SDP and ‘Our Party’ (NS) already stated they will not form coalitions with parties which participated in talks about Mostar and brought the City in today’s situation, while SBB B&H and DF have nothing against coalitions, but they need approval of party leaderships.
B&H FM Turkovic sends diplomatic note to Serbian counterpart Dacic, asking for consent to deployment of two medical teams from B&H to Novi Pazar (Hayat)
B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic sent a diplomatic note to Serbia on Tuesday, requesting from Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic to urgently give consent to deployment of two medical teams from B&H to Novi Pazar. The teams would consist of healthcare workers of the University-Clinical Centers in Sarajevo and Tuzla and the Emergency Medical Service Center in the Sarajevo Canton. However, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated in Novi Pazar on Tuesday that Serbia has not received an official announcement of a visit of medical workers from B&H. Several hours after this statement, Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Zoran Tegeltija said that the stance of the Serbian Government is that this country does not need assistance at this moment, given that the healthcare sector is able to ensure an adequate level of healthcare in Novi Pazar. Meanwhile, the epidemiological situation caused by Covid-19 is very difficult in Novi Pazar, whose citizens expect from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to accept assistance from B&H in order for the epidemiological situation to be improved. Speaking about requests of Bosniaks from Novi Pazar to receive assistance from Bosniaks from B&H, Vucic stated that he sees no problem in this if they think it is needed but he noted that the situation in B&H is not better than the situation in Serbia and he warned that B&H does not have a Covid hospital equipped as well as the one in Novi Pazar.
EU opens borders for citizens of 15 countries excluding B&H, B&H reacts by reciprocal measures (Hayat)
The EU opened its borders for citizens of 15 countries on Tuesday. B&H is not on the list because of the difficult epidemiological situation, unlike Serbia where the situation is even more difficult. The B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) reacted by introducing reciprocal measures for citizens of the EU. B&H CoM Chairman Zoran Tegeltija made it clear that B&H will behave in the same way in which the EU treats citizens of B&H. Spokesperson for the B&H Border Police Franka Vican explained that a foreigner whose spouse is a citizen of B&H is allowed to enter the country, as well as a foreign businessman provided that he shows an invitation from a legal entity and a negative test for Covid-19, among other conditions for foreigners. A number of citizens of B&H who live abroad disapprove the reciprocal measures, as well as hoteliers and restaurant owners who earn for living thanks to visits by foreign tourists.
Weber: EU’s list of safe countries seems to be result of political trade (Hayat)
Commenting on the fact that the EU opened its borders for citizens of 15 countries other than B&H, international political analyst Bodo Weber stated: “The EU’s decision to reopen its borders for only a small number of countries outside the EU is easy to understand given the epidemiological situation in the world. However, if media reports are true – and they are proven by the fact that the list of 15 countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the EU includes Serbia and no other country of the Western Balkans, that means that the list is not a result of the number of new cases of Covid-19 but political negotiations, agreements and trade. In that case, this is a disgraceful decision that will additionally harm the reputation of the EU in the Western Balkans.”
New regime for entrance of B&H citizens to Croatia enters into force (BH Nova)
New regime for entrance of B&H citizens to Croatia entered into force on Wednesday. Namely, National Civil Protection HQs of Croatia decided to lift 14-day-long isolation measure for B&H citizens entering this country. However, B&H citizens interested to enter Croatia will have to meet certain conditions. Among others, those travelling due to touristic and business reasons, as well as those travelling due to education or personal reasons will have to prove purpose of their travel. Diplomats, police officers, civil protection services and passengers in transit are also allowed to enter Croatia. Those fulfilling abovementioned conditions should announce their entrance through application ‘Enter Croatia’ at web site of Croatian Ministry of Interior (MoI). Reporter noted that despite of the abovementioned decision, frequency of traffic at border crossings between Croatia and B&H has not increased significantly on Wednesday. Member of B&H Border Police Unit at Gradiska border crossing Caslav Sobot said that they are acting in line with the last decision of B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) allowing citizens of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro to freely enter B&H.
B&H confirms 180 new Covid-19 cases (N1)
B&H health authorities recorded 180 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, with 58 in the RS and 122 in the FB&H. After testing 311 samples, the RS health authorities confirmed the presence of SARS-COV-2 in 58 persons, 32 men and 26 women. The FB&H health authorities said they tested 1447 persons of which 122 were positive. The entity has 1,167 active cases and the authorities in both entities added that there were no Covid-19 related fatalities over the past 24 hours. The state Civil Affairs Ministry said that B&H has had a total of 4,788 confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic in the country, of which 2,515 recovered and 189 had died.
Croatia hands over EU presidency to Germany (HRT)
Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman attended a ceremony in Berlin, as Germany officially took over the duty of leading European Council meetings and pushing the EU’s legislative agenda for the next six months. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas thanked his Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlic-Radman for what was achieved during Croatia’s EU presidency, which ended on 30 June. “The greatest achievement of your presidency was that, despite these extremely problematic circumstances, you managed to maintain the integrity of the Council, so that even at the height of the pandemic you succeeded in preserving the functionality of the European Union. That task was by no means trivial; I know this very well first hand, because I’ve been involved in everything along the way,” said Maas. Minister Maas added that the coronavirus pandemic would be the link that forever connects the two presidencies of 2020. The German Minister said one of the major successes of Croatia’s EU presidency was the EU-Western Balkans summit, held in early May as a video-conference. It was a strong signal that the EU stands by its partners in the Western Balkans also in these difficult moments, Maas said, noting that Croatia also deserved credit for the fact that during its presidency accession talks had been launched with Albania and North Macedonia. “We started our presidency under the slogan ‘A strong Europe in a world of challenges’ and one can really say that the pandemic is a challenge,” said Grlic-Radman. He said that Croatia had to be “quick, flexible and innovative” in redefining its program in order to adapt to the difficult circumstances. “The key priority was safety, both in terms of health and in terms of economy,” Grlic-Radman said. He expressed confidence that the German presidency would be as successful as it had been for the past 12 times, which is how many times Germany has chaired the EU Council.
In Croatia, 81 new cases of coronavirus infection, two people died (N1)
In the last 24 hours, Croatia reported 81 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the number of active cases to 647. Two people died. Since February 25, 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, a total of 2,912 people infected with the new coronavirus have been recorded to date, of whom 110 have died and 2,155 have recovered. There are currently 4.065 people in self-isolation. To date, a total of 81.437 people have been tested, of which 981 in the last 24 hours.
Borders with Serbia to be open when conditions allow (CDM)
The Director of the Institute for Public Health of Montenegro Boban Mugosa warned that measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus “must be obeyed”. “Persons in self-isolation must stay in isolation. We have provided so many recommendations, instructions, orders. If we adhere to that, out response to the infection will be effective. We are opening in line with European standards. Some European countries did not open to us and that’s fine, they can do whatever they think is correct. I was asked why we haven’t opened borders to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The answer is clear- every country makes assessment of the capacities, system, number of tourists that are allowed to come from every individual country,” Mugosa said. Borders with Serbia to be open when conditions allow.
Institute for Public Health confirms another 28 coronavirus cases (CDM)
Latest data of the Institute for Public Health shows that another 28 persons tested positive for coronavirus. “Of total 28 cases, 18 are contacts of previously known cases. We are trying to trace the source of infection in the remaining 10 cases,” the Institute reports. Total number of cases that have been reported since mid-June is 252. There have been three deaths, which means that number of active cases is 249.
Commission drafts negotiating frameworks for Albania and North Macedonia (MIA)
The European Commission presented to the Council draft negotiating frameworks for Albania and North Macedonia, laying out the guidelines and principles for their accession talks, the EC said in a press release. The Commission was invited to submit these proposals in March 2020 by the General Affairs Council when it took the decision to open negotiations with both countries.
Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi commented: “Today marks another important step on Albania’s and North Macedonia’s paths to the European Union. Delivering on our commitment, we outline concrete frameworks for the conduct of accession negotiations. Our proposals build on the revised enlargement methodology we put forward in February to make the accession process more credible, with a stronger political steer, more dynamic and predictable. I look forward to the discussions with Member States and to holding as soon as possible the first inter-governmental conferences with the two countries. Their future lies clearly in the European Union and I am confident they will continue to deliver on the reforms on their EU path, as they have done so far.” The negotiating frameworks establish the guidelines and principles for the accession negotiations with each candidate country. The draft frameworks are divided into three parts: 1) principles governing the accession negotiations, 2) substance of the negotiations, and 3) negotiations procedure. The objective of the negotiations is that Albania and North Macedonia adopt the EU acquis in its entirety and ensure its full implementation and enforcement upon accession. The draft negotiating frameworks build on the experience of past enlargements and the on‑going accession negotiations. They integrate the revised enlargement methodology, take into account the evolving EU acquis, and duly reflect the countries’ own merits and specific situations. Credibility is reinforced through an even stronger focus on fundamental reforms, starting with the rule of law, the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration as well as the economy of the two countries. The proposals also foresee a stronger political steer of the process, and more dynamism by organizing the negotiating chapters in thematic clusters. The predictability of the accession process can be enhanced by more clarity on the positive consequences progress on reforms can bring, as well as on the potential negative consequences in case of absence of progress, prolonged stagnation or backsliding in reform implementation and meeting the requirements of the accession process. As it committed to in March when the Council decision was taken, the European Commission is presenting the draft negotiating frameworks to the EU Member States, who also receive an update of the progress by the two countries since then. Once the Member States have adopted the negotiating frameworks, the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union will present the agreed General EU Position in the first inter-governmental conference with each country, marking the formal start of the accession negotiations. The negotiating frameworks will be made public at this stage.
Dimitrov: Good news from Brussels, EC adopts draft-negotiating framework (MIA)
We have good news from Brussels, an important breakthrough – the European Commission has adopted the draft-negotiating framework and the document is now in the hands of the member-states. Good luck! says Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov in a video statement. “Based on the General Affairs Council decision of 25 March, confirmed by the European Council a day later, the European Commission adopted the draft-negotiating framework and the document is now in the hands of the member-states. The EC negotiating framework is based on the new enlargement methodology. The basic goal of these changes is that the accession process is more specific, credible, dynamic, with stronger political steer, involvement by member-states, considering objective criteria and a strict positive and negative conditionality, as well as reversibility,” says Dimitrov. According to him, the core of the negotiating framework, which is expected to be discussed on an expert level next week, is to bring European standards at home, primarily democratic principles and values related to the rule of law and economic reforms. “I believe there is nice symbolism that the EC has completed its task on the grounds of the March decision on 1 July, the day when Berlin takes over the Council Presidency. I am convinced that as the Croatian Presidency was historic for us, the German Presidency will be too, so that we can open the first intergovernmental conference with German support in the coming months,” notes Dimitrov. He adds this would be followed by the opening of the first cluster “Fundamentals”, which treats Chapter 23-Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, Chapter 24-Justice, Freedom and Security; economic criteria; functioning of democratic institutions; public administration reform; public procurement; statistics and financial control. “The work on the negotiating framework is not done, but today we have an important breakthrough we need to observe – EC has confirmed the draft and submitted it for adoption, first at a debate and then by member-states. Good luck!” says Dimitrov.
Language designated as Macedonian in EU negotiating framework (MIA/360 Degrees)
North Macedonia will have to translate the European Union law (acquis communautaire) in Macedonian prior to its official accession to the European Union, reads the draft-negotiating framework that the European Commission adopted on Wednesday, learns 360 Degrees. The designation used for the language is Macedonian, without any additional explanations or footnotes. “This is considered an act of official recognition of the Macedonian language at EU level and its promotion as one of the official languages of the European Union in the future, reports 360 Degrees. The Macedonian language issue was formally closed with the Prespa Agreement as the key identity benchmark for ethnic Macedonians from North Macedonia.
North Macedonia reports 173 new cases of Covid-19, 15 patients have died (Libertas)
The Ministry of Health of North Macedonia informs that 1.653 tests have been performed in the last 24 hours, and 173 new cases of Covid-19 have been registered. Today, the Institute of Public Health registers 150 recovered patients. Three people, aged 64,73 and 80, died at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions. Nine people died at the CGH “September 8”, two patients aged 54, the rest aged 60, 61, 75, 45, 74, 57 and 65. Two people from Skopje and Gostivar died at home at the age of 65 and 82, respectively. A 67-year-old patient died at a hospital in Struga. The total number of cases diagnosed in our country since the beginning of the epidemic is 6.625, the number of recovered patients is 2.748, the number of deaths is 321, and currently the number of active cases in the country is 3.556. The 1.653 tests have been performed. So far, a total of 63,383 Covid-19 tests have been performed in the country.
Rama: The blue corridor, an ambition and a priority, which will connect the south of Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece (Radio Tirana)
During the presentation of the Milot-Fier road segment, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that it will be a toll road but there will be free roads with other conditions and other opportunities.
Rama said that the Blue Corridor was part of the Berlin process, but due to delays and bureaucracies, the Albanian government would not wait indefinitely but acted with PPP.
“A road axis that is also part of the dreams, hopes and promises of all years. We have announced our ambition for the blue corridor and it has been placed on the table of the Berlin process, it has become a priority and then it has become possible to finance the technical support, to start the work for this corridor. We chose PPP as a financing mechanic for two parts of this corridor which are of strategic importance within the axis, Milot Balldren and Thumanë-Kashar. All funding of 1 billion and 200 million euros will be provided by the winner of this competition and we will have an axis of the blue corridor that will connect the south of Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece in the ring where a significant part of the traffic moves throughout the tourist season. A colossal transformation will take place in every aspect.
Albania reports 82 new cases and 3 deaths (Tirana Times)
Three more patients passed away due to the coronavirus during the last 24 hours, one aged 63 years old, one aged 65 years old and the other victim aged 60 years old. According to the Ministry of Health, the three victims were suffering from several underlying health conditions. This brings the total death toll to 62 victims in the country. Furthermore, 82 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected patients to 2.662 in Albania. So far, tests have been conducted on more than 27.500 people. A total of 78 patients are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, 9 of whom are in intensive care and two are intubated. However, a total of 1.559 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Albania have recovered. Currently there are 1.014 active cases in Albania, 387 of which are in Tirana.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Orbán says Hungary won’t open borders to any non-EU countries except Serbia (Politico, by Saim Saeed and Lili Bayer, 2 July 2020)
Approach would ‘be contrary to the Hungarian people’s health interest,’ says prime minister.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced this morning that his country will not open its borders to third-country nationals with the exception of Serbia. Hungary “for the time being” cannot comply with the EU’s request to allow people from some non-EU countries to enter “because that would be contrary to the Hungarian people’s health interest,” the prime minister said in a video posted on Facebook.EU countries — including Hungary — on Tuesday finalized a list of 15 countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the bloc. The list is not mandatory for national capitals to adopt, but EU officials had hoped a coordinated effort would help prevent complications at the EU’s internal borders and allow for a smooth reopening in time for the summer season. The recommendations said EU countries can open to fewer countries than those on the list, but not more. It is unclear how countries will screen non-EU travelers from moving within the passport-free Schengen area without border checks.
Dr. Alona Fisher-Kamm – An interview with Israel’s ambassador to Serbia (The Jerusalem Post, by Michael Freund, 2 July 2020)
In a wide-ranging interview with the Magazine, Fisher-Kamm discussed a variety of topics such as Zionism’s roots in Serbia, Holocaust remembrance, global antisemitism and the issue of Kosovo.
In a few weeks from now, Dr. Alona Fisher-Kamm, Israel’s envoy to Serbia, will pack her belongings and make her way back to Jerusalem, completing what by all accounts has been an exceptionally successful stint in Belgrade. During her term, bilateral relations between the two countries have blossomed, boosting trade, tourism, mutual understanding and friendship to new and unprecedented levels. With its strategic location in the Balkans, close ties to both East and West, and a strong historical affinity for Jews and Israel, Serbia has been drawing ever-more attention from Israel’s foreign-policy decision-makers. This is in no small measure to Fisher-Kamm and her team who, despite laboring within tight budgetary constraints, have nonetheless made their presence – and Israel’s – felt in various sectors of Serbian society. A career diplomat, Fisher-Kamm has filled postings as far afield as Buenos Aires, Paris and Madrid. She speaks six languages and holds a doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Since Israel and Serbia re-established diplomatic relations in 1992 after the breakup of Yugoslavia, bilateral ties between the two countries appear to have grown much closer, particularly in the past several years. What are the factors behind this and how would you describe the current state of the relationship?
Relations between Israel and Serbia have been growing steadily, but in the last few years we have been witnessing a significant enhancement, not to be taken for granted. One of the factors is the current president and government. They understand the assets of Israel and their potential contribution, especially for the Serbian economy. Serbia is currently on the EU accession path. It focuses on its economy and strives to increase foreign investments. In addition, it has been very successful in stabilizing and modernizing its economy. It is shifting from low-tech and an agriculture-oriented economy to a hi-tech one, developing a small but dynamic ecosystem. Israel serves as a role model and success story in this sense, as a small country under complicated geopolitical conditions and limited trade exchange with our neighbors.
Serbia and Israel are both small countries surrounded by historical foes. Each has seen their homeland invaded and occupied down through the centuries, and Serbs and Jews were murdered side by side during the Holocaust. How much of a role do these similarities play in terms of bolstering Serbian support for Israel?
Whenever analyzing relations between countries, one should bear in mind the mutual interests as well as the deep feelings of the people, negative and positive alike. In the case of Israel and Serbia, the emotional level and this feeling of solidarity and common destiny are very strong. They are based on the long Jewish presence in the Balkans and its interrelations with the local culture and on the Holocaust, which left its mark on the Serbian collective memory as well.
You feel it wherever you go in Serbia, from lectures in universities, interviews in the media, to meetings with politicians and decision-makers. Yet only in recent years, conditions have been met to transform these feelings into a clear and coherent political agenda beneficial for all.
Last September, for the first time since the Holocaust, a Hebrew center opened in Belgrade. Then, to mark Israel Independence Day, several key locations in Belgrade were illuminated with blue and white lights. Do you think these indicate a trend of some sort? Is there growing interest in Israeli culture among Serbs?
No doubt, we should see these two milestones as part of a growing tendency to enhance the relations in all fields and create more long-term platforms for cultural and academic exchanges. The Serbian public is particularly curious and open to foreign cultural activities and the number of festivals here is impressive. Israel is considered a leading country when it comes to cultural manifestations also thanks to big efforts of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Yet in my opinion, these two events represent more than a regular cultural exchange. The opening of the first academic institute for Hebrew would enable us to create in the long run a cadre of academic experts and researchers on different aspects of Israel and Judaism, and to fill the gap due to years of academic absence here. The lighting of four iconic sites of Belgrade in blue and white to celebrate Israel’s 72nd anniversary is an exceptional gesture of the city that sends another clear message of solidarity.
Several months ago, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic attended the AIPAC Conference in Washington, DC, where he announced that Serbia would be opening an economic and diplomatic office in Jerusalem. How important is this step and what does it signify in terms of international recognition of Israel’s capital?
This historical statement of President Vucic is a huge step forward in the relations between Serbia and Israel. On the one hand, it is the next natural step when you follow the enhancement of relations in recent years. On the other hand, one needs to remember Serbia is a non-EU country, striving to solve its pending issues with its neighbors in the Balkans, a region where big powers have always played an important role. When you take the challenges that Serbia is facing today and you see this statement as part of many other important steps taken by both sides in recent years, you can appreciate its real magnitude.
Ethnic strife and historical memory have played a large role in the Balkans for centuries. How does this impact or complicate Israel’s diplomatic efforts in the region?
In the Balkans, history and the struggle for historical narratives are very dominant in general and in politics in particular. One should be very sensible and attentive to all narratives. It is very easy to fall into the cliché and stereotype trap. I believe the message should be that the will and interest of Israel to develop friendly relations with all the countries in the region do not come at the expense of anyone. On the contrary, Israel’s growing interests in the region serve the Balkans and the will of its governments to guarantee peace, stability, economic growth and prosperity.
What are some of the key points that you stress in your hasbara [public diplomacy] efforts vis-à-vis the Serbian public and media? How receptive have they been to the message?
I repeat the message of historical ties while mentioning the need to nurture them and to work together to fill this friendship with substantial content. While leaning on our common history, we should follow our present interests and look to the future. Another message is the relevance of Israeli know-how to the social and economic goals of Serbia. One of the main challenges that Serbia faces today is the migration of youth. The authorities are investing much effort in attracting them through innovation, entrepreneurship, etc. – all areas where Israel has a lot of experience. We are an important player in this domain through different stakeholders, including MASHAV, the development agency of Israel.
What has Serbia’s stance been regarding the Iranian threat to Israel as well as the dispute with the Palestinians? Do you detect any shift in their position in recent years?
Serbia is not taking sides in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It hardly makes any official statements in this regard. Although I would expect and hope for better voting patterns in the UN arena from such a friendly country, I do acknowledge the growing understanding in Serbia of the challenges that Israel is facing in the region. I believe that with time we can expect even better results in this regard. When it comes to Iran, it is safe to say the world is slowly realizing the destabilizing role it has in our neighborhood, yet raising the awareness is a sluggish process.
Despite international pressure, Israel has refused to recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. Why is that?
Israel, out if its own perspective of the Middle East, rejects in principle the idea of unilateral measures, and in particular, unilateral declarations of independence without a comprehensive agreement. I believe that our allies understand and respect this position that strengthens Israel in the international arena. I hope that new developments in the Balkans will facilitate a process leading to an agreement that will allow the region to invest more efforts in its well-being and prosperity.
A few years ago, Serbia became the first European country to adopt a law regarding the restitution of Jewish property that was seized during World War II. How has this law been implemented?
Indeed. Serbia should be commended for adopting unanimously in 2016 that law that allows restitution of Jewish property, not only to the heirs but also to the Jewish community in case there are no heirs. This is extremely important for countries like Serbia, where 85% of the Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. In addition, the law allocates around $1 million per year from the Serbian budget for the well-being of the Jewish community, for Holocaust survivors and Holocaust remembrance. This is unique and unprecedented in Europe. Today, the law is implemented and the Jewish community can enjoy better conditions as a community and as individuals. Its success should serve as a model to other European states that are reluctant to do so for obvious reasons.
In recent years, trade and tourism between Israel and Serbia have undergone significant growth. In what fields in particular have Israeli firms proven successful? And where do you think there is room for further growth?
Well, the main Israeli investments in Serbia are in real estate: residential buildings, offices and commercial complexes. Israeli investment in this field has had a leading position for many years. In recent years, we see the Israeli investment portfolio diversified. It includes renewable energy, water treatment and management, agricultural technologies, engines, food and beverage, transportation, IT, etc. The embassy has a visible and even prominent role in enhancing the economic exchanges. Yet, I believe there is room for many more areas to be discovered.
Trade between Serbia and Israel is relatively low but is growing steadily – around 15% every year. The signing of an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation as well as other economic agreements should give important impetus to the relations. But the lack of a free trade agreement is an impediment that needs the attention of both authorities. Another significant development is the increased number of Israeli tourists in the last four years, since the introduction of direct low-cost flights between Tel-Aviv and Belgrade. I hope that this tendency will be followed also by an increased number of Serbian tourists to Israel that is growing steadily.
There has been growing academic cooperation between Israel and Serbia, with the University of Belgrade and Kiryat Ono College in Jerusalem forging ties and creating centers to promote mutual study. Do you foresee more such initiatives taking place in the future?
Academic exchange is an important component of relations between two countries. It contributes to better education of the young generation and better understanding of each other. Given the potential in both countries, I would expect more long-run joint academic projects in various fields. In this regard, the cooperation between the University of Belgrade and Ono College is very encouraging. Ono College is supporting the Center for Hebrew Language and Civilization at the Belgrade University, while the University of Belgrade is supporting the Center for Serbian Studies in Ono’s college in Jerusalem. There are several more academic initiatives and projects like the Seminar of Jewish Culture in the University of Belgrade in cooperation with Ben-Gurion University. Medicine, exact sciences, engineering are just some examples of academic areas that are worth exploring.
Antisemitism is on the rise around the world, particularly in Europe. What is the situation in Serbia, and what steps have the government taken to combat it?
Jews and Judaism are well respected in Serbia. Antisemitism has a very low profile here, and during my mandate I have been witness to one severe case of desecration of Jewish graves, which is of course one too many. Generally, Jews feel safe in Serbia, and the few minor incidents I was aware of were always met with the appropriate reaction by the authorities. Yet, hate speech and antisemitism in social media know no boundaries and it would not be wise to assume that any country is immune. Personally, I participated in many events dedicated to this important issue, highlighting the message that fighting antisemitism is not an Israeli or Jewish task but the duty of the governments, as antisemitism serves as a litmus test for society.
There has been growing concern expressed about a revival of nostalgia for fascism in neighboring Croatia, where public displays of support for the wartime Ustaše regime, which was allied with Nazi Germany, have become all too frequent. How worrisome is this development?
Any sign of Holocaust denial, Holocaust relativism or revisionism in Europe and around the world should be of great concern for us and for European society, as it undermines the values Europe is founded on. Education, legislation and Holocaust remembrance are the three pillars to face this challenge. I am very encouraged by the measures that Serbia has been taking in the last years. Just to name a few: the recent adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, the inauguration of the beautiful and historical synagogue in Subotica, the Law of Property Restitution, and the activities dedicated to Holocaust remembrance on the 27th of January and throughout the year. Finally, yet importantly, I would mention the visit of President Vucic to Jerusalem to mark 75 years of the liberation of Auschwitz. This was followed by the gesture of hanging a yellow flag with the Star of David on the balcony of the President’s Residence to send a message of pride instead of humiliation. This does not mean that all measures were taken to ensure that antisemitism will not prevail, but I think these are crucial steps and I wish many other countries would follow.
Earlier this year, the Serbian National Assembly passed a law to create a memorial center at Staro Sajmište, the site of a Nazi extermination camp on the outskirts of Belgrade where thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma were murdered. How crucial is this to ensuring Holocaust remembrance and educating the next generation?
One cannot overestimate the importance of this law, adopted earlier this year after much anticipation and debates. Staro Sajmište (the Old Fairground) is a symbol of the joint suffering of Jews, Serbs and Roma in Serbia during the Holocaust. Yet, for us, the Jews, Staro Sajmište represents the site where Jewish women, elderly and children from Belgrade and beyond were concentrated and sent to death in gas trucks. For years, the place was neglected and is still in very bad shape today. Under the new law, authorities will build a museum, and education and research centers as an appropriate memorial for the victims. By opening the center to the public, Serbs and foreigners will have the opportunity to learn, at last, the history of this camp and its atrocities.
Serbia and some Holocaust scholars have been trying to raise greater public awareness about Jasenovac, the death camp that was run by the Ustaše regime in Croatia where countless thousands of Jews and Serbs were murdered during World War II. Why isn’t Jasenovac more well-known outside the region?
It is a very critical question that maybe others would be able to better answer. I can only guess the historical circumstances that led to this oblivion. What is essential now is to see what we can all do in order to restore justice for the victims of Jasenovac. Yet as the atrocities of this camp, known as “Auschwitz of the Balkans,” are not well documented, deep academic research is still required in order to avoid dominance of political stances. I am glad to see that several steps were taken in this direction.
How did the coronavirus affect Serbia and the functioning of the embassy? Did it have any impact on the bilateral relationship between the two countries?
COVID-19 is a multidimensional crisis that affects us all. At the very beginning of the crisis, President Reuven Rivlin had a very friendly conversation with the Serbian president, where they exchanged views about the situation and explored ways for Israel and Serbia to collaborate in facing the challenge. On behalf of MASHAV, the Embassy of Israel donated to Serbia basic hygienic and food products for the elderly and other vulnerable sectors during the lockdown. Experts from both countries exchanged best practices either bilaterally or in virtual multilateral forums. The crisis in my opinion has shown two things: the importance of having friends and a strong position in the international arena, and the big asset that Israel has, not only as a Start-Up Nation but more importantly, as a social impact nation.
Theodor Herzl’s grandparents are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Zemun, a Belgrade suburb, where Rabbi Yehuda Alkalay, one of the founding fathers of religious Zionism, served as chief rabbi in the 19th century. And Serbia was the first country to recognize the Balfour Declaration in 1917, thanks in part to the efforts of Capt. David Albala, a Serbian-Jewish war hero. Do you think that Serbia’s role in Zionism’s history is sufficiently appreciated?
Before coming here, I was aware that Theodor Herzl’s family originated from Zemun, where Rabbi Yehuda Alkalay served as chief rabbi. I was less aware of David Albala’s crucial role in Serbia becoming the first country to recognize the Balfour Declaration. The more I read, the more I was fascinated and had the feeling that this is not coincidence. Serbia was home to a very strong Zionist movement and activity. In August 2018, Rivlin was the first Israeli president to visit Serbia. In a very emotional event, both presidents named a street after Herzl in Zemun, right next to the already existing Rabbi Alkalay Street. I am not sure there are many cities in the world where you can find in one neighborhood two streets named after the founding fathers of the State of Israel.
As you look back on your four years of service in Belgrade, how would you summarize your term and what advice would you give to your successor?
These years were fulfilling. I had the great honor to take part and contribute to the improvement of relations between Israel and Serbia. I enjoyed a friendly environment that facilitated the activities of the embassy here. It is never easy to leave a country, but this time I find it even harder. Luckily, COVID-19 spared me the traditional farewell parties. It might be easier for me without them. My wish for my successor is that they enjoy the same spirit of collaboration that I did in all venues of society. “The sky is the limit” might be an overused cliché, but no doubt the potential for our bilateral relations needs to be fulfilled for the benefit of the two countries.
The writer is founder and president of the Israel-Serbia Friendship Association.
Serbia, The Election of Losers (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, by Florian Bieber, 2 July 2020)
Everyone ended up losing in Serbia’s recent political elections. President Vučić, because his authoritarian regime has been exposed; the opposition, because the boycott led to nothing; the EU, because it appears less and less capable to foster democratic processes in the area
One person appears to have won the election. His face was everywhere, his name was on the ballot, though not as a candidate, and the virtual rallies were dominated by him. Aleksander Vučić is the apparent winner of Serbia’s parliamentary election last Sunday. While neither running for the election and president official standing above party politics, it was clear that the victory of Vučić was absolute. His party won around 62 percent of the vote, and gaining 191 of 250 seats in parliament, around 76% of the seats. The large majority opens the door to constitutional changes that would allow the regime, like in Hungary, to tailor the constitution to the needs of the ruling party. His long-term coalition partner, the Socialists and their allies gained 10.4% and 32 seats, and the Serbian Patriotic Alliance, the vehicle of New Belgrade mayor Aleksandar Šapić gained 11 seats, just passed the 3% threshold with 3.64%. The threshold was lowered from 5% to 3% just weeks before the election in a transparent effort by the ruling SNS to boost the representation of minor parties in parliament to weaken the effects of the opposition boycott. The remaining 16 seats are held by minority parties, which have a lower threshold. The only opposition in the Serbian parliament are two Albanian MPs from the majority Albanian municipalities of Bujanovac and Preševo, as the minority parties cooperated with the previous governments of the Progressive Party and Šapić also did not run against the government. It is this resounding victory that makes the outcome a defeat for Vučić. A parliament without an opposition cannot serve as a fig leaf to legitimize the supposedly democratic rule of the president. Had more of the 21 running parties and groups entered parliament, such as the different far right and fascist groups or a few scattered democratic and reformists, the Progressive Party could claim that Serbia had a pluralist parliament. Now, it does not and thus reveals the authoritarian nature of the regime. The opposition lost as well. While turnout was probably lower than official numbers, it was according to the independent monitoring NGO CRTA around 48 percent, thus 8 to 9 percent lower than previous parliamentary elections in 2016. This is a minor drop, that could not be claimed solely by the opposition, but rather also by COVID-19 and voter apathy. Clearly the main effort the regime has been to push up voter participation, as most irregularities CRTA noted focused on pushing up voter numbers and SNS official appear to have called potential voter on election day to pressure them to vote. The boycotting opposition has succeeded in delegitimizing the opposition that participated, such as the Movement of Free Citizens headed by Sergej Trifunović that only gained 1.5% or the United Democratic Serbia that gained less 0.9%. At the same time the opposition that boycotted is far from united. The once large Democratic Party has been marred by infighting, including a scuffle at the party headquarter on election day between different wings. Otherwise, the opposition is an uneasy alliance between the far right Dveri, unpopular split offs of the previously ruling Democratic party and few other groups. Now out of parliament, it is cut off funding, without a clear strategy and few international allies and contacts, the opposition has a rough time ahead. The EU is the final looser in the elections. Serbia has long been hailed, uncritically, as the front runner in the EU enlargement. Now, it is confronted with a parliament that lacks a democratic mandate and a regime, whose authoritarian nature has become more visible. A joint statement of the High Representive Josep Borrell and Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi was strikingly critical, noting limited voter choice and media dominance of the ruling party. The European Parties fell, unsurprisingly along partisan lines. The Socialists and Progressives correctly called the elections a mockery of democracy and demanded a slowdown of accession, whereas Donald Tusk of the European Peoples Party congratulated their party family associate SNS, only noting ominously “more power, the more responsibility.” The enlargement process is seriously compromised by the elections. Serbia has been negotiating accession for more than six years, the same period during which democracy and rule of law has been backsliding by every indicator and all organizations monitoring democracy globally, including Freedom House, Bertelsmann Transformation Index, VDem Institute, and Economist Democracy Index. The EU institutions, with the notable exception of the parliament, have been strikingly silent on this. If the EU returns to business as usual after the election, it will not only encourage the further consolidation of authoritarianism in Serbia, but also among others in the region, including Montenegro and Albania. More importantly, it suggests that the EU is not just struggling with keeping autocrats within the EU but also during the accession process, when more tools are available. To confront the authoritarian drift, the EU needs to engage with Serbia. Back in 2014, the EU at first ignoring the authoritarianism of the Gruevski government and the eviction of the opposition. Only the 2015 wiretapping scandal triggered more sustained EU engagement. The risk is that in Serbia the political alternatives will become more Eurosceptic, as they see the government backed by the EU and its member states and as many of the parties already today oppose European integration.
A renewed EU engagement requires several components, namely a meaningful mediation between government and opposition on how to bring the opposition back into the political process based on tackling some of the most serious democratic restrictions. Furthermore, a rule of law mission, such as the Priebe report drafted in 2015 by independent experts that would identify the shortcomings and priorities for reform, and a follow process. The European Party families should work together on their assessment of democracy rather than making democracy a partisan issue in the Western Balkans. Bipartisan statements and mediation by MEPs from the largest European Parties would reduce the risk of authoritarianism being further facilitated by partisan rift. Finally, the Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States need to consider the full range of options regarding the accession talks themselves. These options include not opening new chapters in negotiations, a low-level signal [This is actually what happened in the meantime, the EU member states have not reached unanimity to open chapter 2, ed.]. More serious would be to evoke the imbalance clause, which has been part of the accession negotiations for eight years. It allows talks to the frozen on all chapters if not enough progress is made in regard to rule of law. Finally, the new methodology, set up by the Commission in response to France’s veto over accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania offers further tools to put pressure on accession candidates. It allows Member States to put negotiations in some areas on hold and re-open closed chapters, as well as reassessing funding and other benefits of cooperation. The most serious option would entail suspending accession talks altogether. While the latter option might be counterproductive at the moment, it would be good to consider some of the intermediate measures. The suspension of accession talks, however, has to be a credible threat unless the Serbian government makes some clear and verifiable steps to restoring democratic institutions. Considering the tools the EU has available now to insist on the core values of the EU in the accession talks, not using them would cement the election result as a lost opportunity for Serbia and the EU.
Florian Bieber is the coordinator of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG) and Jean Monnet Chair for the Europeanization of Southeastern Europe at the University of Graz. He recently published The Rise of Authoritarianism in the Western Balkans (Palgrave, 2020).