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Belgrade Media Report 07 July

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic thanks Indonesia for principled position on Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty (RTS)
Hoti, Vucic travel to Brussels on 12 July to continue EU-mediated dialogue (Beta)
Vucic will address the public at 6 pm (B92/Tanjug)
UNESCO official says Serbia imposed pandemic measures to strengthen authorities (N1)
Travelers entering Montenegro from Serbia facing immediate quarantine (Beta)
Another 299 cases (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Turkovic seeks explanation from Ivantsov for his recent statement about NATO integration of B&H (BHT1)
Dodik: When it comes to NATO issue, part of B&H is behaving submissively (ATV)
Bakalar: Possible failure to adopt B&H budget this week could call holding of local elections in question (BHT1)
Izetbegovic, Covic and Dodik scheduled to discuss current issues at meeting in Istocno Sarajevo (BHT1/N1)
Novakovic Bursac: Thanks to Mektic, adoption of law on termination of mandate to foreign judges stopped (RTRS)
Serbian court sentences B&H citizen Husein Mujanovic to 10 years for war crimes against Serb civilians (Hayat)
Serbia allows B&H doctors to go to Novi Pazar to help their colleagues in fight against Covid-19 (Hayat)
B&H confirms 160 new coronavirus infections (N1)
Croatia

Vucic congratulates Plenkovic, confident there is room for improvement of relations (Hina)
Voters hand HDZ a major victory and a massive blow to SDP (HRT)
SDP’s Bernardic steps down after election disaster (HRT)
Plenkovic says he has 76 signatures required to form a new government (HRT)
Croatia reports 52 new cases of coronavirus infection (N1)
Montenegro

NCB adopts new measures to cope with coronavirus (CDM)
Coronavirus cases in Montenegro surge, Institute reports another 60 cases (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Both Zaev and Mickoski expect landslide wins on 15 July (MIA/MTV)
Alliance for Albanians-Alternativa: It’s time for change (MIA)
Zaev: No interventions expected in EU negotiating framework (MIA)
North Macedonia reports 120 new cases of Covid-19 and 5 deaths (24.mk)
Albania

Meta: The future of Kosovo and Serbia is in the EU (Radio Tirana)
The parliamentary opposition request a meeting with Rama (Radio Tirana)
State Police provides info on the movement of citizens at the border (Radio Tirana)
Albania reports 71 new case of Covid-19 and 2 deaths in past 24h (Tirana Times)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Elections in Croatia: Conservatives retain the parliamentary majority (Open Democracy)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic thanks Indonesia for principled position on Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty (RTS)

 

Serbian Presidetn Aleksandar Vucic met today with the Minister of Law and Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia Yasonna Laoly, who conveyed to him the personal message of President Joko Widodo. President Widodo also congratulated President Vucic on winning the parliamentary elections and conveyed gratitude for his contribution to the exceptional bilateral cooperation between Serbia and Indonesia.  Vucic said that Serbia considers Indonesia an important partner, where mutual relations are characterized by friendship established during the creation and activities of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. He thanked Indonesia for its principled position on the issue of Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, which is particularly evident in international organizations. He also said that Serbia supports Indonesia in protecting its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Vucic expressed his support for the people of Indonesia to cope with the pandemic challenges as soon as possible and return to the path of social and economic progress. He congratulated the Indonesian leadership on the achieved results in the development of the economy. He expressed interest in strengthening economic cooperation, for which there are opportunities in the field of agriculture and food industry, energy, construction, information technology, chemical and specialized industries. Vucic and Laoly agreed that the improvement of the contractual basis between Serbia and Indonesia would improve cooperation in various fields. Vucic sent an invitation to President Widod to visit Serbia.

 

Hoti, Vucic travel to Brussels on 12 July to continue EU-mediated dialogue (Beta)

 

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will meet in Brussels, on 12 July, a spokesperson for the European Commission, Peter Stano, reported on 6 July, adding that the two leaders were continuing a high-level dialogue mediated by the European Union (EU), and that it was the first meeting in the normalization process since November 2018. The meeting is hosted by EU High Representative Josep Borrell, and the talks are mediated by Miroslav Lajcak, the Union’s special representative for Belgrade-Pristina talks and other regional issues in the Western Balkans. The new meeting is scheduled to take place two days after a virtual summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The French presidency reported on 6 July that the virtual conference on relations between Serbia and Kosovo would take place on 10 July under the auspices of France, Germany and the EU, whose goal was to “restart the dialogue” between the two parties and make it easier for them to “resolve their differences.”

 

Vucic will address the public at 6 pm (B92/Tanjug)

 

President Vucic will address the public this afternoon. Office for Media relations of the President of the Republic of Serbia announced that Vucic will speak about the talks on the formation of the new Government of the Republic of Serbia, the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and the plans for suppressing the COVID-19 epidemic. President’s media office announced that the Minister of Finance Sinisa Mali and the Minister of Health Zlatibor Loncar will attend the press conference. The press conference, in compliance with all epidemiological recommendations for protection, will be held at 6 pm, it is stated in the announcement. You can follow the address of the President of Serbia live on B92 TV and B92.net.

 

UNESCO official says Serbia imposed pandemic measures to strengthen authorities (N1)

 

UNESCO Chair of Bioethics official Vojin Rakic told N1 on Tuesday that Serbia is without a doubt the only European country to introduce restrictive measures during the coronavirus pandemic in order to strengthen its autocratic authorities. Rakic, head of the European Division of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, said that UNESCO completed a comparative analysis of European government reactions to the pandemic. The measures imposed by a majority of European countries were proportional to the danger and those governments did not introduce measures for the sake of repression and to restrict human rights and liberties, the professor told the N1 morning show. He said there are four countries which are suspected of imposing measures to strengthen their authorities and just one for which there is no doubt that was the case – Serbia. “Serbia stands out in a negative context. It started in March with the declaration of the state of emergency which many lawyers believe was illegal and a silent coup d’etat. That was when the measure was introduced to report the number of sick and dead from one center only and we later got the probable explanation that has not been denied to date that dual records were being kept: the right ones which only a few people on the Crisis Staff, Prime Minister and President have access to and (the second) the data which we are being told,” Rakic said and added that this was harmful to efforts to suppress the pandemic. Rakic said that one more thing makes Serbia unique in Europe – the reports of the government pandemic Crisis Staff and the completely opposite statements by its members in a single day. “Up to that day there was no danger and on that day one of the epidemiologists said that the situation is threatening and that was on the day after the elections. That makes the data published before the campaign suspect,” the professor said. According to Rakic, there are differences in other countries in the coronavirus death count but added that “those are differences of just a few percent and in Serbia that difference is 300 percent”. “Take into consideration all the patients who contracted COVID-19 and had some other ailment but died of COVID-19 and the difference is around 600 percent. Those are horrific discrepancies,” he said. Rakic said that a large number of mistakes were made, the key one among them was the fact that experts were nt the ones making decisions but were subordinate to politicians. He recalled that some of the medical experts were not even granted access to the coronavirus data base that the BIRN investigative news portal had access to. Rakic warned that the efforts of doctors, nurses and other medical staff to save lives are being undermined by politicians. He called doctors to launch a petition for experts to decide in this situation instead of politicians. “Politicians won’t be able to ignore that because they need doctors. So, doctors can oppose this situation,” he said. The professor also invited President Aleksandar Vucic to a debate. “I have been in science all my life and he has been in politics so let’s see where that will get him,” he said.

 

Travelers entering Montenegro from Serbia facing immediate quarantine (Beta)

 

As of 7 July, everyone traveling to Montenegro from Serbia will previously have to obtain an approval from the Montenegrin Embassy in Belgrade and will be quarantined in state facilities immediately upon arrival. Until now, Montenegrin and foreign nationals with permanent residence arriving from Serbia faced either self-isolation or quarantine. Since 15 March, Montenegro’s entry ban has been in place on Serbian nationals. Beta has learned that Montenegro’s and foreign nationals with permanent residence traveling from Serbia to Montenegro first have to report to the Montenegrin Embassy in Belgrade and get an entry approval. Travels will be organized in the so-called “convoys” on the days to be determined by the Embassy, which will be entering Montenegro at the Dobrakovo border crossing, where travelers will be issued an official paper and deployed to quarantine. Due to limited quarantine capacities, only a specific number of people with the Embassy’s approval will be entering Montenegro in a single day. Until now, it was up to sanitary health inspectors at border crossings to decide whether a traveler would be subject to self-isolation or quarantine. Inspectors would also take into count medical documentation stating that a person could not be quarantined or a negative coronavirus test.

 

Another 299 cases (RTS)

 

Until 3pm there have been another 299 cases, in total 16,719 infected. There have been thirteen more deaths, in total 330 deaths. The number of active cases is 2,942. There are 110 patients on respirators.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Turkovic seeks explanation from Ivantsov for his recent statement about NATO integration of B&H (BHT1)

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic invited Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov on Monday for an interview, after Ivantsov recently stated that NATO integration of B&H are leading the country into instability. Turkovic demanded an explanation of this statement, and she underlined that political leaders in B&H have passed all decisions on foreign policy through consensus. Ivantsov reiterated that the military bloc of NATO does not contribute to peace and stability in the Balkans. Ivantsov stated that Russia supports B&H sovereignty as well as its rights to reach decisions on its own.

 

Dodik: When it comes to NATO issue, part of B&H is behaving submissively (ATV)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stated that a part of B&H behaves submissively, which was shown in the statements that followed after Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov said that “B&H as a sovereign state has the right to approach someone, and that there is no consensus in B&H society on NATO integration”. “If someone influences B&H, then the countries from the West, the EU, the US and others influence. That speaks of B&H, not of Russia or the United States. One part of B&H behaves submissively and is not able to articulate in the right way the dialogue within B&H and certain interests” Dodik was quoted as saying. “There is a certain program cooperation with NATO and that is not disputable, but the decision to go on the path to membership does not exist and there is no decision on B&H’s membership in NATO. This was confirmed by all those who were present in the public dialogue in the previous days” Dodik told the reporters. He reiterated Republika Srpska (RS)’ stance in the matter, saying that all parties in the RS, regardless of whether they are ruling or opposition, have reached a consensus and they do not support the idea of B&H joining the NATO.

Bakalar: Possible failure to adopt B&H budget this week could call holding of local elections in question (BHT1)

 

President of the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) Zeljko Bakalar warned on Monday that possible failure of the B&H Parliament to adopt the B&H budget this week could call the holding of the local elections, planned for November 15, in question. Bakalar said that he cannot prejudge whether the budget will be adopted at sessions of both Houses of the B&H Parliament, but he hopes that will happen. According to Bakalar, elections could be held in Mostar on 15 November if the legislative authorities grant the CEC the authority to work based on shortened deadlines. SNSD leader Milorad Dodik believes that the B&H parliament should adopt the budget of B&H institutions for 2020 and that no one should exert any kind of pressure on the Parliament. “I believe that this has its procedure that will be implemented” Dodik said, commenting Bakalar’s statement that local elections on 15 November will be called into question is budget of B&H joint institutions for 2020 is not adopted this week. Dodik added that SNSD will support the proposed budget if there are no dramatic requests for changes.

 

Izetbegovic, Covic and Dodik scheduled to discuss current issues at meeting in Istocno Sarajevo (BHT1/N1)

 

SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic, and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik are scheduled to meet in Istocno Sarajevo on Tuesday in order to discuss current issues in B&H, including the issue of appointments to posts in state agencies and institutions. Izetbegovic expressed expectation that Tuesday’s meeting will result in agreement on quotas in all appointments. Covic said that he expects agreement on partnership in the next two years, otherwise there is no support for appointments. “HDZ B&H will have a very clear stance towards our partners, and I believe we will solve those issues at the meeting on 7 July,” Covic underscored. Dodik noted that there is an agreement in principle on distribution of functions, and he is confident that the B&H Parliament will adopt the budget. Dodik stated that SNSD is interested in posts in the B&H Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK) and the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) of B&H. The three leaders said earlier that they expect that the agreement on the appointments will be reached on Tuesday. Izetbegovic said that the appointment quotas have to be clearly defined and that this issue should have been resolved earlier in line with the law, stressing that the candidate for B&H Minister for Human Rights and Refugees was actually a joint proposal but all other appointments have to be in line with defined quotas. N1 reported that the leaders will discuss appointments in state institutions, adoption of the Budget of Institutions and International Obligations of B&H for 2020, as well as the issue of elections in Mostar and representation of Serbs in this city. The reporter noted that there are five more issues about which SDA and HDZ B&H should reach an agreement including the issue of Director of the B&H Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) where HDZ B&H rules for years.  Izetbegovic reiterated on Monday the need to define quotas and added that no one should interfere in terms of appointments within Bosniak quotas, Serb quotas and Croat quotas. He also said that it is time to launch all appointments including the appointment of SDA’ Selmo Cikotic as a new B&H Minister of Defense.

 

Novakovic Bursac: Thanks to Mektic, adoption of law on termination of mandate to foreign judges stopped (RTRS)

 

Head of the SNSD Caucus in the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) House of Representatives (HoR) Snjezana Novakovic Bursac stated that thanks to SDS MP Dragan Mektic the procedure of adoption of the law was stopped, based on which the mandate of the B&H CC’s judges, that used to be elected by the ECHR President, is being handed over to B&H citizens. The statement comes after the Constitutional-Legal Commission of the B&H House of Representatives (CLAC) gave a negative opinion on Monday to adoption of the law. The reporter noted that for the second time, the attempt of Serb parties gathered around SNSD and HDZ B&H to adopt the law failed. Novakovic Bursac said that the RS parliament obliged them to do everything that they can to adopt the law and yet, there are activities of a MP whose vote was crucial to stop adoption of the law. Mektic said that he is against the proposal of the law on termination of mandate to foreign judges because a Serb member of the B&H Presidency would appoint one judge and not the RS parliament. He explained that SDS supports departure of three foreign judges, but they are against the principle that a Serb member of the Presidency appoints domestic judges and then, the B&H House of Peoples instead of the RSNA and in this regard, he said that he does not know why the initial agreement was changed. According to Novakovic Bursac, these are excuses and Mektic could have acted via amendments but in this way, he stopped the law not allowing any other possibility for its adoption. Novakovic Bursac said that the only thing &hat can explain the behavior of SDS MP Dragan Mektic, is his need to show obedience towards “the political Sarajevo and SDA”. Novakovic Bursac explained that the CLAC announces its stance only on whether some act is in line with the Constitution or not which is why Mektic’s decision is additionally incomprehensible. According to Novakovic Bursac, she heard from some SDA MPs that they find that the law is in line with the Constitution, but they voted against it in line with the political reasons.  Novakovic Bursac stated: “Applying this analogy, we can conclude that Mektic was also led by reasons that only he knows and that during the voting, he followed political stances of SDA and not SNSD and the RS National Assembly (RSNA)”. She explained that Mektic’s voting means that he stopped further path of the proposal of this law, because even if the HoR accepts the negative opinion or rejects it, both options mean that the procedure for adoption was stopped. In her opinion, Mektic – who explained his voting by saying that he disputes appointment of a third judge of the B&H CC in the RSNA – he could have proposed an amendment instead of enabling stay of foreign judges with his vote. She added: “I have no other explanation aside from that this is another of his moves that he makes and that show on whose side he is”.

Serbian court sentences B&H citizen Husein Mujanovic to 10 years for war crimes against Serb civilians (Hayat)

 

The Higher Court in Belgrade on Monday sentenced former “RB&H” Army commander Husein Mujanovic to ten years in prison for what Hayat called alleged war crime. The verdict rendered by the Higher Court in Belgrade asserts that Mujanovic, as a commander of a military prison in Hrasnica near Sarajevo, illegally detained, treated inhumanely and violated bodily integrity of Serb civilians in the concentration camp in Hrasnica in 1992. The defense team announced that it will appeal against the verdict. Members of Mujanovic’s defense team claim that facts have not been fully established, stressing that all prosecution witnesses took the stand, while witnesses proposed by the defense were dismissed. Wartime commander of the First Corps of the RB&H Army Vahid Karavelic said that he believes courts and prosecutors’ offices are usually politically motivated, noting that defenders of B&H were betrayed by the international community. Karavelic stressed that defenders of B&H defended themselves by complying with international rules of war and that they fought against systemic violence. “Why that man who was arrested on a border crossing was taken to Belgrade after the request of Sarajevo Prosecutor’s Office of B&H to be extradited here and be tried here?” Karavelic asked. Hayat recalled that Mujanovic has been in detention in Belgrade since 3 July, 2018, when he was arrested on Uvac border crossing on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Serbia. Hayat also recalled that Serbia rejected three requests put forward by B&H to extradite Mujanovic so that he could be tried in B&H. Commenting the SDA stated on Monday that Belgrade, where aggression that resulted in genocide against Bosniaks was planned, cannot dispense justice in the Balkans, and it cannot sow fear with the citizens of B&H that they will be arrested if they cross the border just because they were members of the RB&H Army. “Instead of arresting B&H citizens, Serbia should extradite Novak Djukic and other war crimes convicts to whom it has been providing refuge for years,” SDA stated in a press release. SDA stressed that there will be no stable relations between B&H and Serbia if Belgrade continues to carry out judicial terror against the citizens of B&H, and that such actions will have deep repercussions on relations between the two countries. SDA stressed that verdict against Mujanovic represents brutal political abuse of judicial bodies, and leads to further disruption of relations between B&H and Serbia. B&H Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic stated on Monday that Serbia has to face the facts and its own history, as well as terrible mistakes of Slobodan Milosevic‘s regime and the fact that aggression against B&H was carried out, concluding that this is the only way to move forward. “Judiciary of the state of Serbia, which carried out aggression against B&H – those are facts established by the International Court of Justice in its verdict and the ICTY in several of its decisions – is prosecuting those who defended B&H in a situation in which there is the Court of B&H which has jurisdiction over such cases,” Dzaferovic underlined. Dzaferovic assessed the verdict as scandalous and abuse of international law by Serbia, because the country that performed the aggression is trying to legally process those who defended the country. “This is a situation that opposes international law and represents the misuse of international law by Serbia. Institutions that are active in international law will have to discuss this issue. This issue needs to be solved,” said Dzaferovic. B&H Presidency member Zeljko Komsic described Mujanovic’s sentencing as shameful. The fact that it came at the time when 25th anniversary of Srebrenica genocide is being marked shows that Serbian regime does not have any moral responsibility. President of the association ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ Munira Subasic said that this is the continuation of the similar aggression committed by Serbia in the 1990s.

 

Serbia allows B&H doctors to go to Novi Pazar to help their colleagues in fight against Covid-19 (Hayat)

 

B&H Ambassador to Serbia Aida Smajic has confirmed that Serbia changed its mind and allowed B&H doctors to go to Novi Pazar in the south of Serbia, and help their colleagues in the fight against Covid-19. On Sunday evening, the Sarajevo City Hall was illuminated with the colors of the national flag of the Bosniaks of Sandzak, as a sign of solidarity and support for Sandzak, which is facing great challenges caused by the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic. B&H informed Serbia on June 30 on its readiness to send two teams of doctors to Novi Pazar, but Serbia thanked B&H for the offer and said that there is no need for doctors or medical equipment from B&H because Serbia has enough of everything.

 

B&H confirms 160 new coronavirus infections (N1)

 

B&H as recorded another 160 infections with the novel coronavirus, 77 in the FB&H and 83 in the RS, the healthcare authorities confirmed on Tuesday in their daily updates. Ten more fatalities caused by the coronavirus were reported in the country, bringing the death toll to 209.

Both regions have continued the mass testing with 1,290 lab tests performed in the last 24 hours – 962 in the FB&H and 328 in the RS. The FB&H has so far performed 62,184 lab tests and confirmed 2,891 infections. To this day, 1,264 patients have recovered and 68 died in this part of Bosnia. The total of 39,296 lab tests has been performed in RS with 2,692 positive outcomes. So far 1,403 patients have recovered and 134 died. Brcko District has reported 38 Covid-19 patients to date of which 20 have recovered and five died. According to the Civil Affairs Ministry’s official statistics, the country’s coronavirus total stands at 5,621 and 2,693 patients have recovered to this date.

 

Vucic congratulates Plenkovic, confident there is room for improvement of relations (Hina)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Monday congratulated the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on their convincing victory in the 5 July parliamentary election, noting that there was room for the improvement of bilateral relations. “I congratulate Andrej Plenkovic and the HDZ on their convincing victory. I am confident that there is room for the improvement of relations between Serbia and Croatia” Vucic said.

 

Voters hand HDZ a major victory and a massive blow to SDP (HRT)

 

The HDZ won 68 seats in the 151-seat Sabor ahead of the Social Democrats and their Restart coalition, which won 43 seats, with 79% of the votes counted. The HDZ did better than had been expected on the basis of recent polling, while the results were a massive loss for the left-of-center SDP, where the future of its leader, Davor Bernardic, is in serious question. Miroslav Skoro’s Homeland Movement won 15 seats and Most did well with 8 seats. The big surprise was the success of the leftist-green coalition Mozemo!, particularly in the capital, which is poised to take 6 seats. The SSIP with a name that is difficult to translate, the Party with a First and Last Name, along with allies Pametno and Fokus has taken 2 seats and the People’s Party is left with only 1 seat in the chamber. Andrej Plenkovic appears poised for another term as Prime Minister. “A victory like this for the HDZ is not only a big victory but a big responsibility. It is binding, because we had a difficult term with lots of challenges and it looks like the challenges ahead will be even greater. These circumstances call for hard work, energy, enthusiasm, sacrifice, responsibility, knowledge, and experience. This kind of support from voters is massive for us,” said Plenkovic in his victory speech. SDP leader Davor Bernardic thanked supporters and said he was prepared to step down, but that the issue would be discussed by the party leadership on Monday. “We have been the defenders of personal freedoms, the defenders of the rights of workers, pensioners, and all those who have been oppressed and repressed and we will continue that fight because that’s the country we believe in, an open, modern, tolerant country, where everyone deserves an equal chance, equal protection under the law, and to feel equally safe. This is a bad result, of course. I am not running from responsibility and I am ready to step down,” Bernardic said. Miroslav Skoro told his supporters he was very pleased with the success of the Homeland Movement, which has managed to finish third in these elections only a few months after it was formed. “One must be realistic in politics. I think that so far, these 15 seats are a good indicator that we are going in the right direction and that the voters have recognized that. We are at a crossroads. The Croatian parliament will never be the same again. They will hear many more different opinions,” he added. Tomislav Tomasevic of Mozemo! said they had united a platform that could to finally give voters a green and left option for the 21st century. “An option that will fight for social justice, environmental sustainability, democratization of society and gender equality,” said Tomasevic. Most has been in parliament for four years, but leader Bozo Petrov said their time was now coming. He promised voters to continue to fight an impartial judiciary, a country where one could survive from one’s hard work and for a fairer electoral system. “I think we have proven ourselves with our work over the years. Our time is coming,” concluded Petrov.

 

SDP’s Bernardic steps down after election disaster (HRT)

 

Davor Bernardic has stepped down as leader of the SDP after Sunday’s stunning defeat in the parliamentary elections. The SDP and their allies in the Restart Coalition finished with only 41 seats in the next parliament, winning 25 fewer seats that the HDZ. After meeting with other party leaders, Bernardic announced the SDP would hold party elections as soon as possible, perhaps as early as next week, and firmly stated he would not run for re-election. “We are aware of our responsibility, and we are not shying away from it. The people have decided. Turnout, was what it was. I do not blame anyone, in fact I’m assuming responsibility, and right now that’s the most important thing. The SDP will go forward, so you can count on us,” he told a news conference.

Until the intra-party election, Zlatko Komadina will serve as acting party president.

 

Plenkovic says he has 76 signatures required to form a new government (HRT)

 

According to the unofficial results from Sunday’s parliamentary elections, citizens handed the center-right HDZ a convincing win over their biggest rivals, the SDP-led pre-election coalition that gathered a number of center-left political parties under the campaign slogan ‘A Restart for Croatia’. The HDZ are already in negotiations with other political groups and say they already have the 76 votes necessary to for a new government. Speaking ahead of the meeting of the HDZ’s presidency and National Council, party president Andrej Plenkovic said that he has already spoken with all of the national minority representatives and the People’s Party and Reformists. “The good thing is that in all of these talks we have seen a desire to continue our cooperation from the previous parliamentary majority. The all have to go through the procedure now in the party’s or voting bases, so obviously today was not a fixed agreement on the future parliamentary majority, but the commitment exists. Whatever the case 76 signatures are guaranteed,” Plenkovic told reporters.

 

Croatia reports 52 new cases of coronavirus infection (N1)

 

In the past 24 hours, 52 new cases of Covid-19 virus were recorded, and the number of currently ill (active cases) in Croatia is 930. 89 patients are in hospital, of which 5 are on a respirator. Since February 25, 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, a total of 3.272 people infected with the new coronavirus have been recorded to date, of whom 113 have died and 2.229 have recovered. There are currently 4.709 people in self-isolation. To date, a total of 86,860 people has been tested, of which 866 in the last 24 hours.

 

NCB adopts new measures to cope with coronavirus (CDM)

 

Due to sharp aggravation of the epidemic situation in Montenegro, kindergartens will be closed starting from tomorrow. In addition, hospitality facilities will be working until midnight, measures in the northern region have been toughened and Montenegrin nationals coming from Serbia will be directly sent to quarantine, National Coordination Body (NCB) has decided. “These measures will be in force for the next seven days. After the analysis of their effect and overall epidemic situation, NCB will decide if their implementation will be extended”, it was said in a statement. NCB reminded of the measures which are already in force and apply to hospitality workers. “Legal entities and entrepreneurs performing hospitality activity should pay special attention to measures referring to maximum of four persons sitting at one table, eight members of the same household and at least 2 meters distance between tables” NCB stated.

 

Stricter epidemic measures in the north

NCB decided to suspend the work of all hospitality facilities in Pljevlja, Bijelo Polje, Berane, Petnjica, Andrijevica, Rozaje, Plav and Gusinje for one week. Measures that already apply to Bijelo Polje and Berane will be applied in Pljevlja too. Special teams that will be visiting northern part of the country with the aim of assisting, coordinating and consulting with local authorities and medical experts have been formed.

 

NCB recommends working from home

NCB has called on the state administration and local self-government, legal entities and entrepreneurs to organize their work at home if possible.

 

After entering the country from Serbia, epidemic surveillance will be strict

Any person entering Montenegro from Serbia will be quarantined, starting from tonight.

“Montenegro is open to its nationals, but rate of active cases in Serbia requires the strictest epidemic surveillance. Persons entering MNE from Serbia will be directly quarantined” NCB says.

 

Residence permits for foreigners valid until 30 September

After 30 September, residence permit for foreigners won’t be extended in this way.

 

Meeting about elections scheduled for Wednesday

The meeting will discuss measures that should be adopted to enable smooth election process in circumstances of extended coronavirus infection.

 

Coronavirus cases in Montenegro surge, Institute reports another 60 cases (CDM)

 

In the last 24 hours, Institute for Public Health analyzed 511 samples and found 60 Coronavirus positive. Thirty are contacts of previous cases, while in the remaining thirty cases source of infection is still unknown. According to the data collected so far, there are 81 active coronavirus cases per 100.000 inhabitants. Since the beginning of June, a total of 517 coronavirus cases have been reported in Montenegro. Number of active cases is 512, as five persons died.

 

Both Zaev and Mickoski expect landslide wins on 15 July (MIA/MTV)

 

We expect to win the elections by a landslide and to secure a parliamentary majority of over 61 MP seats, paving the way for a government to be formed without conditions, SDSM leader Zoran Zaev said at MTV’s debate ahead of the 15 July elections with VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski. “I’m confident we’ll get a huge majority, it’s not impossible to win a parliamentary majority of 61 seats. We have the broadest possible coalition consisting of all ethnic communities. I’m confident we’ll have enough MP seats to negotiate without any conditions with the others before we form a parliamentary majority and the new Macedonian government,” Zaev said. Mickoski, too, believes VMRO-DPMNE could win a landslide victory and defeat SDSM on 15 July. “I wouldn’t want to speculate with numbers, I’d rather talk about important things, because we’ll see the numbers on July 15 and they will reveal to us the will of the people. I’m confident the VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition will score victory,” he stated.

 

Alliance for Albanians-Alternativa: It’s time for change (MIA)

 

The Alliance for Albanians-Alternativa coalition on Monday night in Kumanovo presented its election program ahead of the 15 July early parliamentary polls. Alternativa leader Afrim Gashi, who is the first candidate on the coalition’s list in the second electoral district, said time had come for change in the Albanian community because “Albanians are stagnating in economic development, education and healthcare.” “None of these changes are possible without a change of the political elite. For 18 years we have been stuck in one place. It would be healthy not only for us, the Albanians, but also for everyone else in the country,” he said. Speaking at the Kumanovo rally, Sela of the Alliance for Albanians said the coalition offered to voters an extensive political platform, justice, economic development, quality education and an end to social deviance. “I believe this society needs real policies for change,” Sela told his supporters.

 

Zaev: No interventions expected in EU negotiating framework (MIA)

 

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev on Monday said he doesn’t expect any interventions to be made in the negotiating framework for EU accession after it has been already presented. It’s a normal thing, he said, that the Prespa Agreement and the Friendship Treaty with Bulgaria have been included in the document’s preamble since it is our task to implement them in the coming years. “The European Commission has adopted the negotiating framework and tasked our country with translating the EU’s acquis in Macedonian. It’s a big deal for me, because it is yet another confirmation of our identity and our Macedonian language. This is the start of making Macedonian official language in the EU, which will be confirmed once the country joins the Union,” Zaev told reporters in Veles.

 

North Macedonia reports 120 new cases of Covid-19 and 5 deaths (24.mk)

 

The Ministry of Health informs that 1.367 tests have been performed in the last 24 hours, and 120 new cases of Covid-19 have been registered in North Macedonia. Today, the Institute of Public Health registered 125 recovered people. A 65-year-old patient died at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions. At the “September 8” CGH, a 46-year-old patient died in which the presence of the virus was proven postmortem. An 85-year-old patient died at a hospital in Kozle. In Tetovo, two people died outside the hospital at the ages of 78 and 76, while one of the dead was diagnosed with Covid-19 post-mortem. The total number of cases diagnosed in our country since the beginning of the epidemic is 7.244, the number of recovered patients is 3.324, the number of deaths is 351, and currently the number of active cases in the country is 3.569.

 

Meta: The future of Kosovo and Serbia is in the EU (Radio Tirana)

 

The President of the Republic Ilir Meta stated at the weekly press conference that the future of Kosovo and Serbia is in the European Union. Regarding the issue of changing territories, Meta said that this idea does not serve to the strengthening of the United Europe foundations.

“I want to stress out once again, without becoming part of the statements or comments of diplomats, the future of Kosovo and Serbia must be in the EU. This is a clearly stated objective by both countries. Undoubtedly, any idea of ​​changing borders is an idea that does not help strengthen the foundations of a united Europe and it is important to work for the EU. There can be no stable, peaceful and European solution, taking into account not only borders but also citizens. I do not believe that the Balkans need old Balkan solutions,” said Meta.

 

The parliamentary opposition request a meeting with Rama (Radio Tirana)

 

The parliamentary opposition is demanding a second meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama and Socialist Group leader Taulant Balla as part of their demands for electoral reform. Democratic Party parliamentary group leader Myslym Murrizi and independent group leader Edmond Stojku said they had not yet received a response to their demands.

Earlier, discussions continued in the Law Commission and the Legislative Council on constitutional changes proposed by some members of the parliamentary opposition. The opposition’s proposal to change the electoral system has been discussed with the Civil Society.

 

State Police provides info on the movement of citizens at the border (Radio Tirana)

 

While many citizens are waiting for the opening of borders with other countries, the State Police has provided valuable information. Although our country has opened the entry borders, this has not happened the other way around, due to the pandemic of Covid-19. It is learned that the situation of restrictions on the movement of citizens at the border, is presented as follows;

• with Kosovo, movement of people and vehicles is free;

• with Montenegro, only people who possess a document issued by accredited Covid-19 testing laboratories, no more than 48 hours in advance, where it is proven to be negative on the PCR test. If there is a group of over 10 people, the test is performed by the Montenegrin authorities at the border;

• with Northern Macedonia movement of persons and vehicles is free;

• with Greece only citizens equipped with a residence permit and those equipped with Greek passports, trucks and cases authorized by the Greek state authorities;

• with other countries in the Schengen area the free movement of Albanian citizens is not allowed, except in cases confirmed by the authorities of these countries.

To travel to Albania the border is open to all foreign or Albanian citizens, according to the rules in force.

 

Albania reports 71 new case of Covid-19 and 2 deaths in past 24h (Tirana Times)

 

Two patients passed away due to the coronavirus during the last 24 hours, a 45-year old woman from Berat and an 82-year old man from Kruja. According to the Ministry of Health, the two victims were suffering from several underlying health conditions. This brings the total death toll to 81 victims in the country. Furthermore, 74 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected patients to 3.083 in Albania. So far, tests have been conducted on more than 29.500 people. A total of 81 patients are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, 7 of whom are in intensive care and two are intubated. However, a total of 1.744 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Albania have recovered. Currently there are 1.213 active cases in Albania, 477 of which are in Tirana.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Elections in Croatia: Conservatives retain the parliamentary majority (Open Democracy, by Vassilis Petsinis, 7 July 2020)

 

By contrast to Serbia and the overwhelming predominance of SNS, though, the composition of Croatia’s Sabor is considerably more even and pluralist.

Less strictly than Serbia, the Croatian government nevertheless proclaimed a countrywide lockdown in mid-March. However, on July 5, 2020, Croatia became the second post-Yugoslav country after Serbia to hold elections for its national parliament (Sabor). Around 46.62% of the registered electorate turned out to cast their vote. Contrary to the predictions of several opinion polls for a tight race, the (centre-right conservative) Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ won a decisive victory and elected 66 MPs to the Sabor (as compared to 61 seats in 2016). What hot-button issues dominated the pre-electoral campaigns of the political parties? What should one expect ?

 

Constitutional provisions and electoral legislation

Following a string of constitutional amendments between 2000 and 2001, a unicameral arrangement was established at the Sabor. Although the Presidential Office maintains certain areas of political authority, as well as vetoing competencies, under its auspices (e.g. the proclamation of a state of emergency and the high command of the armed forces), the Constitution vests the bulk of legislative and executive functions in the parliament. Nevertheless, the victory of former PM Zoran Milanović (endorsed by centre-left Social Democrat Party/SDP), in the presidential elections of January 2019, sufficed to inflict an early blow on the erstwhile firm predominance of HDZ over the country’s political landscape. The electoral procedure was conducted in 12 districts applying the proportional d’Hondt system with a threshold of 5%. As stipulated in the Constitutional Law on the Rights of National Minorities/CLRNM (2002), 8 seats are reserved for the representation of national minorities (District 12) on a proportional basis and in accordance to their size (3 seats for the Serb minority; 1 seat for the ethnic Hungarians, the Italian community and smaller ethnic groups such as the Czechs, the Slovaks and the Albanians). Moreover, an additional ‘special’ district (District 11) has been set up for the votes of Croatian citizens who are resident abroad. These provisions are of particular significance in light of: (a) the frequent participation of the Serb Independent Democratic Party/SDSS as a partner in several governing coalitions since 2003; (b) the reliance of HDZ on the support of voters who are resident outside Croatia (those originating from the ‘stronghold’ of Western Herzegovina, in particular).

 

Hot-button issues

The urgent priority to combat the spread of Covid-19 dominated the platforms of Croatia’s political parties – albeit in a different fashion in comparison to neighbouring Serbia. Primary attention was paid to the impending repercussions of the pandemic on the tourist industry, especially in those regions (e.g. Istria and coastal Dalmatia) that produce the bulk of the national GDP stemming from tourism. In this regard, the currently stagnating state of the tourist industry in adjacent Montenegro, a country very little affected by the coronavirus, generated rather pessimistic expectations this summer. Nevertheless, the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Croatia’s tourist industry and economy as a whole should always be correlated with certain socioeconomic pathologies that have persisted for more than a decade. All the political parties, each from their own angle, also sought to assess the potential impact of the pandemic on: (a) the increase in youth unemployment and the brain-drain; (b) the intensification of regional disparities between the more (e.g. Greater Zagreb, Zagorje and Istria) and the less developed (e.g. several districts in Eastern Slavonia and the Dalmatian hinterland) parts of the country; (c) the deterioration of living standards especially for the social layers that were most heavily affected by the six-year recession (2009-2015) and the ensuing introduction of austerity measures. Amid persistent allegations over the maltreatment of refugees and other migrants along the Croatian-Bosnian borderline by the police authorities, migration issues formed a secondary area of interest. HDZ’s ‘right-wing faction’, as well as the (national conservative) Homeland Movement Led by Miroslav Škoro/DPMŠ, endeavoured to link freedom of movement to the potential spread of the coronavirus and incorporated references to Covid-19 into their earlier calls for the establishment of ‘harder’ borders. At the other end of the spectrum, the ‘Restart’ coalition (built around SDP) and the (green/leftist) Možemo/’We Can!’ initiative juxtaposed calls for a more humanitarian management of the migration crisis – irrespective of the pandemic and its evolution. Lastly, minority issues also formed part of the public debate in these elections, but to a lesser degree than in the past. This debate consisted in the renewed endeavour by nationalist actors (e.g. DPMŠ) to call for the revision of the CLRNM (mainly on the proportional representation of the Serb minority) and the attempts by SDSS to resist it.

 

Parties and performances

Contrary to various opinion polls and signs of public discontent over the more recent increase of Covid-19 cases in Croatia, HDZ won 66 seats at the Sabor. As in the latest victory of the Serbian Progressive Party/SNS in Serbia, this success speaks of HDZ’s efficiency in mobilizing a wide network of supporters in the public sector and state-run institutions, who are highly dependent on the party, along the lines of political clientelism. HDZ’s enduring grip on power also hints at the party’s capacity to mobilize its target-groups among the more socially conservative layers, especially in such parts of the country as Dalmatia and Slavonia, as well as the diaspora voters (HDZ won all 3 seats in District 11). To these, add the external endorsement of party-chairman Andrej Plenković by prominent figures within the EPP group at the European Parliament (most importantly, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen). In the long run, the aggregate of these combined factors has enabled HDZ to transform allegations over the defective handling of the coronavirus emergency into a ‘success story’ in the party-friendly media outlets. Despite this initial encouragement in the opinion polls, as well as Zoran Milanović’s victory in 2019, SDP and its ‘Restart’ coalition occupied the second spot with 41 seats. ‘Restart’ proved rather efficient in mobilizing SDP’s target-groups in its ‘traditional’ strongholds (e.g. Greater Zagreb, Zagorje and Istria). Former SDP-chairman, Davor Bernardić, and his close associates promoted an electoral platform entrenched in the programmatic commitment to: (a) EU values and the project of European integration; (b) anti-corruption, digitalization and transparency in the system of public administration; (c) respect for the collective rights of ethnic and sexual minorities as well as migrants and refugees. Nevertheless, and amid the new challenges posed to Croatia’s socioeconomic realities by the Covid-19 crisis, the social welfare component in the coalition’s electoral manifesto did not seem to be adequately developed – also taking into consideration the involvement of partners with a more centrist/liberal, instead of a social democrat, profile in ‘Restart’ (e.g. the Croatian Peasants Party/HSS and the Istrian Democratic Assembly/IDS). This, in turn, granted the newcomers of Možemo an opportunity which materialized into 7 seats at the Sabor. Initially fashioning themselves as a grass-roots, grand coalition of the left (along the lines of early Podemos in Spain), this initiative soon incorporated a green component into their platform with a powerful stress on environmental themes. By contrast to the inadequate elaboration of socioeconomic issues by ’Restart’, the electoral programme of Možemo offered an anti-austerity core which promptly hinted at the intersections between the Covid-19 crisis and pre-existing socioeconomic pathologies, as well as their negative repercussions on the more disadvantaged segments of the society. Furthermore, Možemo did not face serious competition from smaller actors with an anti-austerity profile. The erstwhile increasingly popular party of Živi Zid/Human Shield suffered a steady decline in its public appeal after one of the founding members seceded and set up the ‘Party of Ivan Pernar’ in July 2019. By contrast to Živi Zid’s vocal and almost rejectionist Euroscepticism, Možemo counter-proposed the refashioning of European integration with a greater emphasis on social cohesion and equality. In the long run, this strategy facilitated the party to extend its appeal beyond the left-leaning circles of Zagreb-based academia and intelligentsia. To these one might add the endorsement of Možemo by prominent figures among the European radical left (e.g. Yanis Varoufakis and the MeRA25 initiative). At the other end of the spectrum, the national conservative DPMŠ was an even more successful newcomer. Under the leadership of, former singer and television host, Miroslav Škoro, this party appointed 16 deputies to the Sabor and occupied the third spot. The electoral platform of DPMŠ largely revolved around themes which HDZ has assigned to its ‘right-wing faction’ such as: (a) the safeguarding of national and Christian values; (b) stricter control of immigration and tougher ‘law and order’ measures; (c) revision of certain prerogatives in the legislation on minority rights. The party benefited from the relative weakening of HDZ’s ‘right-wing faction’ on the municipal and local levels. This was particularly the case with the departure of Vukovar mayor, Ivan Penava from HDZ (May 2020) and his subsequent decision to join forces with Škoro. The state of disarray further along the far-right angle of the political spectrum (e.g. the feebleness and electoral insignificance of actors such as the Croatian Party of Rights/HSP) additionally enhanced the chances of DPMŠ to consolidate themselves as the most potent force to the right of HDZ.

 

What next?

As in Serbia, the results of Croatia’s parliamentary elections hint at the intersections between the Covid-19 crisis and political, as well as socioeconomic, pathologies that have been persisting for a rather long time. By contrast to Serbia and the overwhelming predominance of SNS, though, the composition of the Sabor is considerably more even and pluralist. In addition to the aforementioned parties, the Croatian parliament currently also comprises: the (fiscally conservative and soft Eurosceptic) party of MOST/’Bridge’ with 8 deputies; the (centrist and allied to HDZ) Croatian People’s Party/HNS with one seat; the (centrist liberal) party of Pametno/’Clever’ with 3 deputies as well as the (centrist liberal) People’s Party-Reformists/NS with one seat. The participation of an invigorated DPMŠ to the right of HDZ poses a crucial challenge to the endeavour by Andrej Plenković to shift the official party-narrative more firmly towards the centre. This, in turn, is likely to readjust, to varying degrees, the intra-party equilibrium between the more liberal and the more conservative factions – especially with respect to policymaking areas such as minority rights, migration issues, gender-related themes and the semi-formal partnership between the Catholic Church and the state. In a comparable vein, the entry of Možemo to the parliament may also function as an urgent reminder to SDP over the timeliness and high relevance of social welfare and the extent to which Croatia’s main centre-left party has overlooked this policymaking area.

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