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Belgrade Media Report 15 July 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 15 July 2020

LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: Missing and internally displaced first dialogue topic in Brussels (FoNet/Tanjug/RTV)
Dacic: Russia against one stakeholder obtaining monopoly over solution to Kosovo issue (TV Happy/Beta)
Dacic to Darmanovic: What would King Nikola say (RTS/Tanjug)
Group of academics, intellectuals announce formation of parliament of free Serbia (Beta/Danas)
Stricter measures in fight against COVID-19 from 17 July (Tanjug)
EU removed Serbia from the list of safe countries: Ban for at least two weeks (Tanjug/Reuters)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Process of appointment of directors of institutions at B&H level unblocked (BHT1)
CEC President Bakalar discusses with IC reps financial problems regarding organization of local elections (BHT1)
OHR: Failure to adopt state budget will have serious consequences and will jeopardize elections process (Oslobodjenje)
DF calls on SDP and Our Party to vote for adoption of budget of B&H institutions and enable holding of local elections (Oslobodjenje)
B&H authorities prevented arrival of Russian diplomat, Vladislav Filippov, suspected of espionage; Russia gives up on Filippov’s appointment to post of military attaché (Dnevni avaz)
Dodik reacts to request Dzaferovic had for President of Swiss Confederation, in regards to her video message for commemoration in Srebrenica (ATV)
US Congress discusses Resolution condemning genocide and other crimes against Bosniaks in Srebrenica (Dnevni avaz)
B&H Embassy to Canada fails to lower B&H flag at half-mast on 11 July (N1)
B&H CoM: Entry to foreigners will be allowed as of 16 July with negative test for Coronavirus (N1)
Croatia

All opposition parties turn down meetings with PM (HRT)
Montenegro

Of 2.000 coronavirus samples sent to Germany, 475 were positive (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Early parliamentary election in North Macedonia (MIA)
Albania

Socialist Party breaks electoral reform agreement (Tirana Times)
Presidency: Current parliament cannot make constitutional changes (ADN)
United opposition against unilateral constitutional changes (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Patriarch Kirill calls on Montenegro to repeal law which discriminates against Church (Interfax)
Trump Ex-Adviser Bolton Laments Lost Opportunity on Kosovo (BIRN)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: Missing and internally displaced first dialogue topic in Brussels (FoNet/Tanjug/RTV)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Belgrade on Wednesday that the first issues in the negotiations with Pristina on the normalization of relations in Brussels on Thursday would include the problem with missing and internally displaced people from Kosovo during the 1998-1999 war there and its aftermath, FoNet reported. “We are ready; I see the Albanians are as well, according to their media. We’ll fight,” he said at the construction site of Dedinje 2 cardiovascular hospital. Regarding his talks on forming a new government, Vucic said he had correct dialogue with the Albanians (on Tuesday), as well as with Muamer Zukorilic’s list and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians on Wednesday. He added he listened to their wishes and suggestion and would meet them in the next ten days and inform them who he would be his choice for the next prime minister.

 

Dacic: Russia against one stakeholder obtaining monopoly over solution to Kosovo issue (TV Happy/Beta)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Tuesday said that during his visit to Belgrade, his

Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov had not said that a Serbian delegation should not attend a meeting in Washington, but that Moscow was against one stakeholder obtaining a monopoly over a solution to the Kosovo issue. “Russia is against the situation where someone would have a monopoly, that is, to have the Kosovo issue resolved in the White House, and America has

realized that. He did not say that Belgrade should not attend the meeting in Washington,” Dacic told TV Happy. He added that Lavrov “only presented their information about what versions or proposals had been prepared by various sides for some sort of long-lasting solution.” Russia, according to him, is not thrilled with the dialogue being held in Brussels, but respects the

UN Security Council Resolution, which defined that matter. “They (Russia) would take part in the talks if expansion of the number of negotiators is being considered,” Dacic said, adding that it was strange to see the indictment against Hashim Tachi announced just ahead of the talks at the White House.

 

Dacic to Darmanovic: What would King Nikola say (RTS/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has told Tanjug that Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic continues to insult and attack Serbia and President Aleksandar Vucic by saying that Vucic wishes to topple the government in Montenegro and that he is making a Serbian state from it. He wonders at the same time what would the last ruler of Montenegro, King Nikola Petrovic I, say to such stands. “I have never heard Vucic calling Montenegro a Serbian state, but I read the Montenegrin King Nikola who stated in October 1913 that courageous armies of two Serbian kingdoms, Montenegro and Serbia, liberated Serbhood in south-east Balkans, as well as that they approached the demarcation among two Serbian kingdoms. What kind of Serb nationalist is King Nikola then, why don’t you give him up?” asked Dacic. At the same time, he told Darmanovic, who is again threatening with NATO forces, that “NATO is not enough and that he had forgotten to also call KLA and mujahedins, tradition historical allies of the Montenegrin people”. Dacic added that Darmanovic is accusing Serbia while Montenegro is conducting proceedings for seizing the properties and sanctities of the Serbian Orthodox Church and while there is not a single Serb in the government, even though it was stated million times that Serbia is not interested in interfering in Montenegrin internal affairs, but only the position and rights of the Serb people, which is “legitimate and in accordance with all international conventions”.

 

Group of academics, intellectuals announce formation of parliament of free Serbia (Beta/Danas)

 

A group of Belgrade professors, academics and intellectuals announced on 14 July the formation of the parliament of free Serbia, which it said would be a response to what they called “false elections” and “a false parliament” which reflects the “self-will of one man and not society’s needs.” The organizational board of the Parliament of Free Serbia is made up of professors Biljana Stojkovic and Cedomir Cupic, academic Dusan Teodorovic and president of the Society for Protecting Constitutionality and the Law Savo Manojlovic. Democratic Party leader Zoran Lutovac has said that formation of the parliament of free Serbia was a good way for “public figures and free citizens to voice their stance on the kidnapped state and regime of one man.”

The Party of Freedom and Justice also hailed the founding of the parliament of free Serbia saying that it is a “direct result of the regime’s attempt to create a government on the basis of false elections.”

 

Stricter measures in fight against COVID-19 from 17 July (Tanjug)

 

The government announced that the latest decisions regarding the prevention of the spread of coronavirus were made at today’s session of the COVID-19 crisis response team. In the territory of the entire Republic of Serbia, regardless of whether a situation of emergency has been declared in a certain municipality or city, gatherings of more than ten people in public places in closed and open space are prohibited. During their stay in public places, there must be a distance of one and a half meters between those gathered, i.e., each person must occupy a minimum of four square meters. The measure concerning protective masks, which is in force in Belgrade, has today been extended to the entire territory of the Republic of Serbia, without exception. Protective masks are also mandatory in the open, in places where it is not possible to provide a distance of one and a half meters, such as queues in front of shops, pharmacies, bus and train stops and the like. In all other public places in the open, it is recommended to wear protective masks. All measures adopted at today’s session of the crisis response team will be valid from 17 July. The Serbian government once again appeals to all citizens to respect all adopted measures for the sake of their own health and the health of their loved ones. If all citizens wore a protective mask constantly every time they left the house, such a measure would be equivalent to a movement ban, because in that way we prevent epidemiologically risky contacts and prevent the spread of coronavirus. We are convinced that together with all our citizens, with the greatest possible discipline and responsibility, we will emerge victorious from the battle against the coronavirus.

 

EU removed Serbia from the list of safe countries: Ban for at least two weeks (Tanjug/Reuters)

 

Ambassadors of 27 EU member states removed Serbia from the list of safe countries to travel through. That will happen for at least two weeks, reports the correspondent of Tanjug from Brussels. Serbia, together with Montenegro, was removed from the list of the EU Council due to the worsened epidemiological situation in the country. It is added that the possibility of opening the external borders of the EU for the citizens of Serbia will be discussed again in two weeks.

The removal of Serbia-Montenegro from the list was proposed late last night by Germany, which holds the EU presidency, and the proposal was supported by several countries, including France, Spain and the Netherlands, officials told Reuters. The list, updated by the EU-27 ambassadors, is a recommendation for member states when deciding which third countries their borders will be open to. The EU Council emphasizes that the recommendation “has no legal character”, and that the member states are “responsible for the implementation of the content of the recommendation”. “Member states can, transparently, gradually raise travel restrictions only for listed countries. They should not decide on lifting travel restrictions for countries that are not on the list before it is coordinated,” the EU Council said in a statement. The European Commission explains that travel restrictions are the responsibility of member states, which can decide for which countries from the adopted list will open their borders, but also which measures (quarantine, self-isolation or tests) will apply to passengers when it comes to public health protection. Citizens of those third countries, including now Serbia, which are not on the list, are not automatically blocked for travel to the EU. All those who have EU citizenship or residence permits, members of their families and those who have a justifiable reason to travel, will still be allowed to travel to Schengen.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Process of appointment of directors of institutions at B&H level unblocked (BHT1)

 

The process of appointment of directors of institutions at Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) level has been unblocked. Namely, at its session held on Tuesday, the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) appointed Darko Culum as a new Director of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) of B&H and Drasko Milinovic as a new Director of the Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK) of B&H. Chair of B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija (SNSD) stated that Dragan Prusina was appointed a Director of the ‘Official Gazette of B&H’ and Marko Vujovic was appointed a Director of B&H Agency for Education and Professional Training. Reporter commented that abovementioned appointments are the result of the strong fight between three ruling parties, namely SDA, SNSD and HDZ B&H, over positions that all three parties were interested in. The process concerning appointment of directors of state-level institutions was completed only in cases where regular vacancy procedures have been completed. Appointments in institutions where the process of selection of candidates has not been completed are expected to happen later. This especially refers to the appointment of a new Director of B&H Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) because SDA and HDZ B&H still have not reached consensus on this issue.

CEC President Bakalar discusses with IC reps financial problems regarding organization of local elections (BHT1)

 

President of the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) Zeljko Bakalar talked with representatives of the international community (IC) in B&H about financial problems regarding organization of local elections. He expressed hope that the Budget of B&H will be adopted at Wednesday session of B&H House of Representatives (HoR).

 

OHR: Failure to adopt state budget will have serious consequences and will jeopardize elections process (Oslobodjenje)

 

Announcing the Wednesday’s session of B&H House of Representatives, at which the MPs are expected to adopt the state budget for 2020, daily asked for OHR’s comment about disputes on this issue. “Adoption of 2020 budget will secure undisturbed work of state institutions and execution of international financial obligations of B&H. At the same time, this will enable B&H Central Election Commission to carry out all technical preparation for local elections in 2020. Politicians, who often talk about democracy and European values, now have the chance to prove that. Speaking about certain values is not the same as carrying them out. Failure to adopt the 2020 budget in B&H Parliament will have serious consequences and will jeopardize elections process and perhaps even prevent B&H citizens to exercise their democratic right. OHR calls on B&H Parliament to adopt, without postponement, the state budget for 2020, which is on hold for a long time” OHR stated.

 

DF calls on SDP and Our Party to vote for adoption of budget of B&H institutions and enable holding of local elections (Oslobodjenje)

 

DF Caucus in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) called, on the eve of Wednesday’s voting on the budget of institutions of B&H, on representatives of SDP and Our Party to come to session and vote for the adoption of the budget, which is a precondition for holding of local elections. “Having in mind that SDP leader Nermin Niksic abstained from voting at the last session, while Chair of SDP Caucus Sasa Magazinovic and Our Party leader Predrag Kojovic did not attend the session, we think public and citizens of B&H will find the will and strength to forgive them their latest irresponsible behavior towards the state, in spite of the attempt to deceive the public by calling them to protests, if they vote for the adoption of the budget and make holding of elections possible” DF stated. DF also called on them to reject “impolite and bullying-like pressures of leader of non-parliamentary party ‘People and Justice’ (NiP) Elmedin Konakovic, in whose interest it is not to adopt the budget but to produce violence and chaos”.

 

B&H authorities prevented arrival of Russian diplomat, Vladislav Filippov, suspected of espionage; Russia gives up on Filippov’s appointment to post of military attaché (Dnevni avaz)

 

The daily received confirmations from several credible sources that B&H has prevented the arrival of Russian diplomat Vladislav Filippov, who spent years spying on behalf of Russia in North Macedonia, from where he was banished in the end. According to daily’s information, Russia gave up on the intention to appoint Filippov as a military attaché, after B&H authorities made it clear that “the Russian intelligence officer with the rank of colonel is not welcome”. Article further reads that B&H OSA and B&H Ministry of Security had a key role in reaction of B&H authorities, adding that this can be observed as part of the wider response to destabilizing role of Russia in the region, which is something that US Congress warned about on several occasions. According to the information that the daily obtained, former Minister of Security Dragan Mektic and Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak were willing to accept the arrival of Filippov, but Director of OSA Osman Mehmedagic warned B&H authorities and Russian side that Filippov cannot be guaranteed freedom of movement. The daily noted that information about Filippov were published last year, when it was revealed that he worked for interests of Russian intelligence for years and after he was banished from Albania and after the murder of Sergei Skripal in the UK. After this, daily learns, Russian Ambassador Petr Ivantsov paid a visit to then Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic asking him to secure freedom of movement for Filippov, which Radoncic refused, saying that he will abide by recommendations of the OSA. Ivantsov met Radoncic on two occasions asking for the same thing but Radoncic held his ground and stated that Filippov was banished from Albania, which is a NATO member and this is the reason enough for B&H to refuse hospitality. In the end, Russia chose to send another military attaché in order to avoid further complications. Daily noted that for years Russia has been carrying out the military- intelligence operation in the region with a goal to create belt of military- neutral countries, which would include B&H, Montenegro, Serbia and North Macedonia and according to research network Belligncat, Filippov has an important role in this. Furthermore, in April 2017, Russian Ambassador to North Macedonia Oleg Scherbak admitted this plan to high- ranking official of North Macedonia Foreign Ministry. ‘Belligncat’ wrote that it was Filippov who worked in these countries, adding that he first came to North Macedonia in 2009 and then went to Albania. Kosovo media connected Filippov to Serbian intelligence officer Goran Zivaljevic, bringing them both in connection with incident in Macedonian parliament, while ‘Belligncat’ bring both of them in connection with Miroslav Lazanski, whom Macedonian intelligence labels as one of the main pro-Russian propagandists.

 

Dodik reacts to request Dzaferovic had for President of Swiss Confederation, in regards to her video message for commemoration in Srebrenica (ATV)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik wrote in a letter, which was sent to President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga, that he was informed that Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic “exerted direct pressure” on Sommaruga’s Cabinet for changing the video message she recorded for the commemoration in Srebrenica, with an “explicit request” that said her address had to contain the word ‘genocide’. Dodik asked Sommaruga to take Dzaferovic’s stances and statements as only his personal stances and statements, which in no way represent the official stance of B&H. Dodik added that Dzaferovic most grossly abused the institution of the B&H Presidency, in which all decisions are made through a consensus of all three members of the Presidency. “In this way, Mister Dzaferovic has caused enormous damage to our bilateral relations. This type of pressure and censorship is not only diplomatically inappropriate, but can seriously damage our friendly relations. The Swiss Confederation is an example of a decentralized country in which language, religious and ethnic differences are valued, while on the other hand B&H is still a country in which Bosniak representatives misuse the joint institutions of B&H, placing them strictly in the service of Bosniak people and the protection of their interests, and at the expense of Serbs and Croats,” Dodik wrote in his statement. As ATV finds, representatives of Sommaruga’s Cabinet stated that Dzaferovic’s pressures are unacceptable for this country and that they will, if Sommaruga’s message is not broadcast in its original form, seriously consider future relations with B&H, especially in context of financial assistance this country sends to B&H each year.

 

US Congress discusses Resolution condemning genocide and other crimes against Bosniaks in Srebrenica (Dnevni avaz)

 

House of the Representatives of the US Congress was submitted on Tuesday with a resolution named ‘Condemnation of genocide and other crimes against Bosniaks, committed by Serb forces in Srebrenica in July 1995’. The Resolution was submitted by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and on this occasion, she stated that “following B&H’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia, Bosnian Serb forces, also called the Army of Republika Srpska, attacked Eastern Bosnia in order to unify and secure Serb territory”.  “During this struggle for control, those Bosnian Serb forces committed crimes of ethnic cleansing and the systematic murder of the non-Serb population. Over 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were systematically executed at Srebrenica in July 1995”, stated Congresswoman. She added that during her work she has had an opportunity to meet the mothers of boys and men killed during the war and heard their stories of grief and sorrow. “As a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia, I have also seen how the country of B&H has overcome many obstacles and developed since declaring independence. Though significant progress has been achieved, there is more work left be done. Peace is fragile in this region and the International community must continue its efforts to ensure that B&H remains a peaceful and inclusive country”, stated Johnson. She added that she presented the Resolution along with the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel. “Resolution in the House of Representatives is honoring those who lost their lives during the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II. The Resolution is also a testament of support for the Bosnian people’s aspiration for greater Euro-Atlantic integration” ends Johnson.

 

B&H Embassy to Canada fails to lower B&H flag at half-mast on 11 July (N1)

 

B&H Ambassador to Canada Marko Milisav stated that he did not obey the instruction of B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic regarding lowering the B&H flag on embassies building at half-mast in order to commemorate the day of Srebrenica on 11 July. Milisav explained that Turkovic’s decision was reached unilaterally and there is no obligatory decision of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) on this issue. The Ambassador stressed that diplomatic- consular network cannot be a place in service of only one people, adding that such behavior undermines B&H’s image. He stated:” Maybe individuals in the Federation of B&H (FB&H) are used to servile behavior and different stances of some previous Ambassadors, appointed by some other parties from RS, but I was appointed upon a proposal of Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik and only he can call me for responsibility”. Milisav also added that B&H is a country of the three peoples and that as the Ambassador, he is obliged to advocate harmonized decisions which according to the reporter, Srebrenica obviously is not.

 

B&H CoM: Entry to foreigners will be allowed as of 16 July with negative test for Coronavirus (N1)

 

The B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) decided on Tuesday that entry to foreigners will be allowed to B&H as of 16  July but with a negative test for the Coronavirus issued 48 hours before entry to B&H. Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija (SNSD) explained that thus, entry will be allowed to citizens of the EU member states and member states of the Schengen agreement to B&H with a negative test for the COVID-19 issued no later than 48 hours before entry to B&H. Tegeltija added that this is not what they expected as they failed to secure full liberalization but bearing in mind the epidemiological situation in B&H, in the neighboring countries, Europe and in the entire world, they believe that this is the level of measures that they can define at this moment. The B&H CoM has also extended the approval for entry of Croatian, Serbian and Montenegrin nationals, who do not need to provide negative coronavirus tests upon entry.

 

All opposition parties turn down meetings with PM (HRT)

 

There will be no talks between opposition leaders and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on their view of key issues for the state. Opposition parties each in turn rejected such an invitation, saying that a joint meeting should have been organized instead of individual ones, with an official invitation, not a phone call from the Prime Minister’s Office. Government spokesman Marko Milic assessed the opposition’s reasons as frivolous, and said that the Prime Minister would not repeat the invitation.  “It seems that the opposition is still unaware that Croatia is in perhaps the most sensitive and challenging moments since the Homeland War and we would like the opposition to be as constructive as possible, and least destructive as possible, in the next four years,” said Milic. he opposition, on the other hand, considers the absence of an official written invitation to be frivolous. “We received a verbal phone call from the Prime Minister’s Office, and we think that the invitation to a bilateral meeting in private is primarily not transparent, it is not good,” said Social Democratic Party Head Secretary Niksa Vukas. The leader of the Homeland Movement Miroslav Skoro also warned about the problem of form. “One can always meet someone for coffee, but I think it would be good to do this through protocol, it’s a serious situation, we can’t sit down leisurely and chat about the euro, I don’t think that’s the proper way, besides I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea,” said Skoro. Apart from the form, the place of the meeting is also a problem, warned Dalija Oreskovic from the Party with a Name and Last Name. “The opposition cannot come to the government offices on its knees, instead the government must come to Croatian Parliament. Debates on Croatia’s future must be held where they belong, publicly and transparently in parliament,” said Oreskovic. Debate on the future of the country should by no means be held in private meetings, warned Tomislav Tomasevic from the We Can platform. “Insisting that these are one-on-one meetings awakens suspicion both among us and in public, we simply do not want to participate in something that could be understood, or that is really is intended, to be a deal under the table,” said Tomasevic. The Most party thinks the same. They were the last to turn down the meeting this morning. “I think it would be better for the Prime Minister to invite all options to a joint meeting, in this case there would be no suspicion that this is a bolstering of the parliamentary majority, which is thin” said Most Party Political Secretary Nikola Grmoja. Government spokesman Marko Milic rebutted saying that the parliamentary majority has been secured. “We do not need the consensus of the entire opposition to pass some laws and proposals, we wanted to meet with them and discuss the challenges facing Croatia, nothing more,” said Milic. He concluded that since the opposition has not shown the political will to meet, there is no need for a new invitation.

 

Of 2.000 coronavirus samples sent to Germany, 475 were positive (CDM)

 

Of 2.000 coronavirus samples sent to Germany, 475 were positive, the Public Health Institute stated. In addition, labs of the Institute carried out PCR diagnostic testing on 426 samples over the past 24 hours and 64 were found to be positive. Therefore, Montenegro now records 1.453 Covid-19 cases.

 

Early parliamentary election in North Macedonia (MIA)

 

The tenth parliamentary and fifth early election is taking place in North Macedonia on Wednesday. 1,814,613 voters are eligible to cast their ballot in 3,480 polling stations. These are the first elections in the country taking place during a pandemic, the voting process spans three days and polling stations on Wednesday will stay open two additional hours. July 15, has also been declared non-working day for all citizens. Polling stations in the six electoral districts open at 7:00 and are set to close at 21:00. 15 political parties and coalitions with a total 1,578 candidates are taking part in the election process. According to SEC statistics, 675 candidates (42.78%) are women and 903 (57.22%) are men. Voters cast their votes in secret, by encircling the ordinal number on the ballot before the party or the coalition that had submitted the list of candidates. All election participants and voters are urged to adhere to coronavirus preventive measures, wear face masks, practice social distancing and disinfect their hands before entering and exiting polling stations. The diaspora will not take part in these elections, an insufficient number of Macedonian nationals living abroad had registered to vote. However, they will be able to cast their ballots if they’re currently in North Macedonia. The State Election Commission (SEC) said Tuesday that 7,861 homebound and infirm, 1,235 inmates, and 234 persons in retirement homes exercised their voting right on the second day of voting at the early parliamentary elections. The voting process started on Monday, when 723 COVID-19 patients and people in self-isolation cast their ballots. Regarding registered voters per electoral district, Kumanovo has the most – 93,603, followed by Bitola – 81,607 and the Skopje municipality of Aerodrom – 66,525, while the smallest electoral district is Lozovo with 1,997 registered voters. Early parliamentary elections in North Macedonia were previously scheduled for 12 April, but were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. SEC called on all election process participants to abide by coronavirus protective measures and respect democratic standards for fair and free election. No incidents were reported during the first two days of the voting process and COVID-19 preventive measures were followed. For several weeks, over 100 new coronavirus cases have been registered in North Macedonia daily. However, the country has been without parliament since February, governed by a caretaker government, whose primary function is to organize fair and democratic election.

 

Socialist Party breaks electoral reform agreement (Tirana Times)

 

The agreement on the electoral reform which took place on 5 June, mediated by the US, the EU and the UK, has been broken, as the Socialist Party officially agreed to an open-list system. The draft was approved on Tuesday and will now be passed to the plenary session of the Albanian parliament, where 94 votes are needed for the Constitutional amendments. The SP and the parliamentary opposition agreed to an open-list system, which stipulates that the voters will be able to choose 2/3 of the deputies in the parties’ list, while 1/3 will be decided by the political parties based on gender representation. Through this agreement, clauses 1 and 2 in articles 64 and 68 of the Albanian Constitution will be amended in order to provide open lists, but will make it impossible from now on to enter the elections with pre-electoral coalitions. The current system favors coalitions by giving more value to the votes of small parties under the umbrella of a large party. However, in the current political system, avoiding coalitions seems to suit the Socialist Party better. The majority decision to support the initiative proposed by the parliamentary opposition for open lists was strongly opposed by the non-parliamentary opposition. A joint statement of the Democratic Party and its allies states that “the attempt to break the June 5 Agreement, achieved with the full support and mediation of the US-EU strategic partners, is the sole responsibility of Edi Rama.” According to the statement, “any dirty game to secretly and unilaterally change the Constitution seriously threatens the political and social stability of the country.” The opposition clarifies that “it fully stands for the return to legal changes, without any change of the 5 June Agreement, as the minimum basis for creating a normalized environment for the elections in Albania.” Additionally, the international community has continuously called Prime Minister Edi Rama not to amend the 5 June agreement. Therefore, this may mark his first serious clash with the internationals since he took over the government in 2013. Both EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi and the OSCE have been clear about not changing the rules of the game, as one of the 15 EU conditions states that amendments on the electoral reform need to be consensual. “Other reforms related to the electoral system, outside the OSCE / ODIHR recommendations, should be approved no less than a year before the elections and require appropriate consultation, as recommended by the OSCE,” he wrote in a Twitter post last week. Furthermore, Ambassador Yuri Kim has stressed that the June 5th agreement between the government and the opposition is closed and therefore each party is expected to follow through with it.

 

The Bundestag warning

The deputy chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, Johann Wadephul, stated that parliament should approve the Electoral Reform according to the agreement agreed on 5 June

In response to the breaking of the agreement, deputy chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, Johann Wadephul claimed that if parliament approves the changes, it would be a serious violation of the 5 June agreement and would undermine the whole reform, stressing that the German parliament will not approve the first intergovernmental conference. “Now we are hearing about decisions in Parliament, to change the 5 June agreements and the constitution, banning the formation of electoral coalitions by the parties before the elections. Both of these changes, if approved by parliament, would be a serious violation of the 5 June and 14 January agreements.” He stated that “the German parliament will not approve the first intergovernmental conference and the opening of membership negotiations, until the 5 June agreement is approved by parliament without any amendments and without constitutional changes that undermine this agreement.” Wadephul added that the adoption of the changes would call into question Albania’s prospects in the European Union. “This would put the Albanian parliament and the ruling majority, including the Prime Minister, against the decision of all the heads of state and government of the European Union, taken in March this year, and would particularly question Albania’s prospects in the European Union.”

 

Presidency: Current parliament cannot make constitutional changes (ADN)

 

Tedi Blushi, spokesman for President of the Republic Ilir Meta, has reacted regarding the constitutional changes approved this Tuesday, saying that the current parliament can’t do it due to impossibility of numbers. Blushi noted that the current parliament has only 82 legitimate MPs, including three MPs who refused to resign after the decision of the united opposition to relinquish their mandates. He was referring to the Constitutional changes approved this Tuesday by Legislative Council and the Legal Affairs Committee, which bans pre-election coalitions for next general elections. “Regarding the latest news about some constitutional changes, the President of the Republic Ilir Meta emphasizes that the current Parliament has only 82 legitimate MPs, including the three MPs who refused to resign after the decision of the united opposition. 182 MPs and candidates for MPs from opposition parties refused to be part of the parliament. Although all lists of opposition parties have been exhausted for 18 months, the parliament formally has only 122 MPs out of 140 MPs which is a constitutional obligation. The replacement process of MPs has been openly unconstitutional and illegal. So, it’s time to put an end to all stupidity, the end of which is clearly known. Albania’s European future is the only alternative of all citizens of this country. All must distance themselves from adventurers and Haxhi Qamili-s! Albania first! Albania like all Europe,” Blushi concluded.

 

United opposition against unilateral constitutional changes (ADN)

 

The united opposition declared that the constitutional changes approved this Tuesday for next elections undermine the integration process, emphasizing that the Constitution and the electoral system are decided only by the citizens through a popular referendum. This was the joint statement to the media of the united opposition, following the approval of the amendments to the constitution at the meeting of the Legislative Council and the Legal Affairs Committee, according to which there will be no pre-election coalitions in general elections. Furthermore, the united opposition stressed this is an attempt of Prime Minister Edi Rama to undo the 5 June agreement on Electoral Reform, which stated also that PM Rama can blow up the European future of Albania only to keep his power. “The attempt to break the June 5 agreement, reached with the full support and mediation of the US – EU strategic partners, is the sole responsibility of Edi Rama. This act undermines the process of European integration of the country and proves before the public opinion, that Edi Rama for his personal power is able to blow up the European future of Albania. Any dirty game to secretly and unilaterally change the Constitution by the man who is terrified by the elections and the will of the citizens, is an evidence of his inevitable end.

This act reconfirms that Edi Rama is an insidious swindler who, for his power, sells the interests of the country and the Albanians, destroys the process of European integration and isolates Albania, seriously threatening the political and social stability of the country,” noted the united opposition.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Patriarch Kirill calls on Montenegro to repeal law which discriminates against Church (Interfax, 13 July 2020)

 

Moscow – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has called on the leadership of Montenegro to stop the persecution of the Orthodox Church and cease attempting to create a new church structure in its place. “I’m calling on the secular authorities of Montenegro to repeal this discriminatory law which has brought about a division and split in Montenegrin society, to stop the persecution of the Orthodox Church, and to cease attempts to create some other church structure in its place. A representative of a secular state cannot found a church. There are and can be no reasoning which would justify a state’s infringement on common holy places preserved by the Church,” the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement published on its website on Monday. As reported, six months ago, the Montenegrin authorities passed a bill aimed at nationalization of the church property, primarily churches and monasteries. At the same time, promises to create “an autocephalous church” in the country involving members of the local schism were voiced. It sparked protests. The authorities started detaining and questioning bishops, members of the clergy, and laypersons affiliated with the canonic Church, and some of them had to leave the country in a hurry as the authorities demanded. Addressing the Montenegrin authorities, Patriarch Kirill compared the situation to Ukraine, where similar events had started developing two years ago, when its secular authorities decided to establish a new church. “Bitter fruit of such policy can be seen in Ukraine, where an attempt ‘to unite the people’ through establishing a new ‘local church’ has failed. This reckless gamble has only deepened the split and caused suffering of millions of Orthodox Ukrainians. It’s no surprise that it brought the political career of the author of this project to an end,” he said. Patriarch Kirill expressed support to the clergy and the believers of Montenegro, which is linked by centuries-old ties of unity in faith with the peoples of Russia. He recalled Jesus Christ’s words, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

Trump Ex-Adviser Bolton Laments Lost Opportunity on Kosovo (BIRN, by Ivan Angelovski, 15 July 2020)

 

Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, told BIRN that Serbia and Kosovo may have retreated from a point where a deal to settle relations was close. The fears associated with a potential land swap are “exaggerated”, he said, and revealed that “serious” Europeans were also looking at the idea.

BIRN interviewed Bolton on Friday, July 10, following publication in late June of his explosive book – The Room Where it Happened – concerning his time in the Trump White House.

BIRN: The Kosovo-Serbia dialogue was supposed to restart on Sunday but that has been postponed because of July 10 summit in Paris. Do you think that dialogue will produce any results?

Bolton: Certainly it looks as though the parties have withdrawn from positions where there was some greater prospect that they could bridge their differences and it may be that we had an opportunity to see the issues addressed and that we’ve lost it now, that’s possible as well.

But I do think that the time has made it clear to both sides that they are not going to make progress in their own respective spheres until these issues are resolved satisfactorily.

BIRN: You said that the idea of a land swap [between Serbia and Kosovo] was acceptable to the US administration.

The question that was put to me and the answer I gave was the administration’s policy – that if the parties themselves felt that as part of an overall solution that adjustments to territory made sense, that the United States would support that. And I think that policy is a sound approach.

[Former US Secretary of State] Jim Baker once said about the Israeli-Arab dispute: we can’t want peace more than the parties themselves. If Kosovo and Serbia were to agree to land swaps as part of an overall solution, really are outsiders, whether from the United States or elsewhere, in Europe, going to tell them that the solution isn’t satisfactory? I don’t think so.

BIRN: [Trump’s envoy to the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue] Richard Grennell said that was actually your idea.

Bolton: He really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At the time in question, Europeans were looking at that as well, and many took exactly the same view. I understand from others in the Balkans the concern that if some borders are changed all borders are at risk. I understand what they’re saying but I think that fear is exaggerated.

And again, I posed the question: what is the alternative? If the parties themselves reach an agreement, is Europe really going to interfere and say ‘No, No, No, that solution isn’t good enough for us’? I don’t think so. To say to the parties you can’t look at different avenues to try and reach a peaceful settlement.

Within Kosovo, within Serbia, a land swap would be controversial on both sides, although obviously for different reasons. But if the leaders thought this was a way to reach an agreement and could persuade their respective parliaments, I just can’t see outsiders saying we’re not going to let you do that.

BIRN: You said you talked with ‘serious Europeans, like Tony Blair, that were involved in this effort.’ In what capacity was Tony Blair talking with you?

Bolton: Well, he has a think tank that looks at the resolution of international disputes, but we also talk to representatives of European governments. The EU, as is so often the case, was not unanimous in that view, but there were serious enough Europeans that convinced the experts both at the State Department and the NSC [the U.S. National Security Council] that it was worth allowing the process to play out.

We were far from certain that, with all of the other obstacles, that the total agreement could be reached, and as we can see today it didn’t happen, but the progress of the negotiations was not negatively affected by the land swap idea. It gave space for Serbia and Kosovo to explore further. And, you know, failure is always a possibility, and failure is what we have here. Continued failure.

BIRN: But why would Tony Blair be interested in this? Did somebody pay him to lobby for one side or the other?

Bolton: No, I don’t think he was representing anybody other than the think tank, he’s been involved in the Middle East peace process, he’s been involved in other international negotiations, obviously something that he experienced during his own term as prime minister, and was thought, I think, by both Serbia and Kosovo to be helpful in a sort of informal channel for the discussions to continue.

BIRN: The reason that I’m asking you is that he was an adviser to [Serbian President] Aleksandar Vucic, and we don’t know how he was paid. So it’s just kind of logical to think that Tony Blair wouldn’t do anything pro bono.

Bolton: I don’t know, I think his think tank does things pro bono but I didn’t ask him for a financial balance sheet when we talked. I never did.

BIRN: Is the Balkans unimportant for the Trump administration?

Bolton: No, I think quite the opposite. I think we have focused on efforts by Russia to cause disruptions in the Balkans. Not necessarily to return to the days of the Cold War but certainly to extend and enhance Russian influence in the region which I think would have been harmful to US interests, but to the interest of the Balkan countries themselves.

BIRN: You never came to the region.

Bolton: I had high hopes of doing it because I did think that the possibility of a settlement between Serbia and Kosovo remained, but there were many places I didn’t go. And most of the criticism I received as national security adviser was that I travelled to too many places. It was an area I considered that was not receiving adequate US attention in the Trump administration, and in the Obama administration before it.

So if I had stayed longer, then I think I can guarantee it would have received more attention.

BIRN: One thing you don’t mention in your book is the alleged coup in Montenegro [in 2016]. If Russia tried to overthrow a European government, I would imagine it would be an important part of a book that deals with international relations. You don’t think the coup actually happened?

Bolton: Look, I think there are all kinds of possible activities by the Russians in the Balkans that cause us great concern. There are stories about payments by Russia to European politicians, not just in the Balkans but many other areas as well. We know the Russians have tried to interfere in American elections, so I don’t have any doubt about Russian efforts to re-extend its influence in places that during the existence of the Soviet Union it did have influence.

Look at the history and look at the geography of the Balkans, there’s no doubt it’s a target and that’s a great concern to me.

BIRN: The [2018] Greece-Macedonia agreement happened on your watch. What was your role in it if any?

Bolton: My personal role was very small, but that was one of the occasions when I met with the foreign minister of Greece who I thought was working very hard from their side to get this resolved. It was resolved and then the government fell, maybe in part because of this name issue, which was very sensitive obviously in both countries.

But to me this was the kind of example; this was a dispute that existed really since the collapse of Yugoslavia. I remember those days well when we came up with the name ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,’ which is just ridiculous, to say the least. People ought to be able to work this out.

It took a long time. There were important issues on both sides, but it came to a successful resolution, which said to me there’s no reason here why the Serbia-Kosovo issue can’t be resolved. One of the reasons I thought perhaps the time as a whole was shifting in the Balkans, and we should be optimistic and try and seize the opportunity.

BIRN: It seems that the European Union has sidelined the US after that failed ‘photo-op’, as you called that meeting that never happened in the White House with Grennell. What do you think – is the US now sidelined?

Bolton: I think in fairness that we are in an election campaign period here for the next four months. Much of the rest of the world is going to get sidelined in an effort to focus on who wins in November. It could be because of [Kosovo President Hashim] Thaci’s trouble with the Yugoslav Tribunal – that needs to be sorted out a little bit more before something might become possible in the future.

BIRN: How do you find the timing of the publication of that indictment? That it happened right before that [White House] meeting? Was that a part of the EU trying to sideline the US?

Bolton: I don’t have any evidence for that. If there were evidence for it, I’d like to know about it. Look, there are those in the EU that don’t like the United States being involved in anything in the Balkans, and all I can say is I’m sorry about that, we have an interest there, we certainly have an interest in seeing stability in the Balkans. We’d like to work with the European Union, and we don’t agree necessarily that only the EU knows what the answers are.

BIRN: Has Vucic now lost his main ally?

Bolton: I don’t think anything is lost. I think we’re simply in a period where many efforts in the wider world are going to have to be put to the side.

BIRN: Reading your book, it seems everything Trump does internationally somehow plays into Russian hands. Is it the same thing with the Balkans?

Bolton: I think he does not make decisions in a systematic way. I don’t think he fully understands what the American interests at stake are in many conflicts and I think the Balkans is a complex area where he’s never studied it very carefully. So it never received adequate attention. But what that said to his advisers was that, because America does have important interests there, we needed to try and fill in.

 

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