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Belgrade Media Report 21 September

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LOCAL PRESS

Dacic: By defending sovereignty, territorial integrity, we defend international law, UN Charter (RTV)
Odalovic: Opening of archives of international forces would shed light on fate of missing (RTS)
Madrid: Spain does not recognize Kosovo, deal with Belgrade is the solution (Beta)
Stoltenberg: NATO has no problem with Serbia’s weapon procurements (Kurir/FoNet)
Richard Grenell is coming to Belgrade (Tanjug/B92)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Dodik: Meeting with Croatian officials yielded many positive results and can be assessed as successful (RTRS)
Covic: Division of B&H has never been on my agenda (Vecernji list)
Dodik says he wrote letters to Trump on several occasions and reason for that is current US’ policy of non-interfering in internal affairs of other countries (BHT1)
Lajcak: With new EC and high officials of EU, there is clear commitment Western Balkans will be in center of EU attention (Nezavisne)
Djukanovic again accuses Belgrade of interfering in Montenegro’s internal affairs (Face TV)
Abazovic claims that ‘URA’ will end talks with its partners if basic principles of their agreement are violated, completely rules out possible talks and cooperation between ‘URA’ and DPS (Face TV)
Zdravko Krivokapic’s interview for Face TV (Face TV)
Montenegro

Tensions between the three main opposition blocs, discussion over composition of new govt (CdM)
Abazovic doesn’t want Mandic, Medojevic, Knezevic and Milacic in the new govt (Pobjeda)
Bosniak Party ready to negotiate on joining new govt (Dan)
Picula: Moscow can’t overpower Brussels in the region (Pobjeda)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Next Year in Jerusalem: The Serbian Embassy and Kosovo Go On a Pilgrimage with Trump (Balkanist)

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LOCAL PRESS 

Dacic: By defending sovereignty, territorial integrity, we defend international law, UN Charter (RTV

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said today that he is convinced that the defense of multilateralism begins at the national level, by protecting our vital interests and priorities, and that we believe that by defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity we are defending international law and the Charter of the United Nations (UN). At the gathering “Multilateralism and International Security” organized by the Faculty of Security at the University of Belgrade, Dacic said that we cannot help but notice that the crisis of multilateralism is visible in the dimension of international security, where international organizations and institutions have difficulty coping effectively with traditional challenges, as well as with new, asymmetric threats.

The world is facing significant changes in the field of communication and technological development – new challenges such as terrorism, which are carried by non-traditional actors and informal groups, will certainly affect international security, said Dacic. He added that the current crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic only confirmed the need to redefine the concept of national and collective security. According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic changed not only international relations, but also our everyday life. Many rules have been redefined, and special measures have been introduced in a large number of countries to restrict movement and travel, in order to establish a system for controlling the infection, which has also affected the reduction of bilateral and multilateral activities, he pointed out. Dacic assessed that the current challenges we are facing are a good opportunity to remind ourselves of traditional threats to international security, such as armed conflicts, aggression and the illegitimate use of force, which was the primary motive for founding the UN. We are proud to point out that the former Yugoslavia actively participated and contributed to the founding of the United Nations, and was among the first fifty countries that signed the UN Charter, he said. Dacic noted that the UN Security Council, as one of the most important UN bodies, has a primary role in maintaining international peace, but also in collective deterrence from the illegal use of armed force in international relations, and that it is obliged to base its actions on principles based on foundations of the UN.

He emphasized that we are still witnessing, due to conflicting interests on the international scene, occasional recourse to unilateral measures and actions that undermine and question the effectiveness of multilateralism and international cooperation mechanisms and lead to a crisis of legitimacy of institutions such as the UN. This primarily refers to the use of armed force against sovereign states contrary to the basic principles of collective security, without the consent of the UN Security Council, he said. Dacic reminded that Serbia felt the perniciousness of such an approach. I will remind you that the decision on the use of armed force against the FR Yugoslavia in 1999 was made and executed without the consent of the UN Security Council, which not only violated the sovereign rights of our country, but also undermined the UN authority and seriously endangered its primary peacekeeping function. This set a precedent and created space for bypassing and neglecting the UN as a key framework for overcoming disagreements that can be a threat to peace, Dacic pointed out. He emphasized that aggression against the FR Yugoslavia must be a lesson for the future on the importance of consistent respect for the UN Charter and achieved standards in international public law, because countries like the Republic of Serbia must insist on consistent implementation of international public law and respect for the role of international organizations. preventing violations of agreed and agreed rules. In the current circumstances, which have profoundly changed the world in which we live, the Republic of Serbia seeks to make a significant contribution to world and regional security, both bilaterally and multilaterally. We support the efforts of the United Nations in the field of promotion and preservation of peace and security, so Serbia joined the call of the UN Secretary General for a global ceasefire and cessation of all hostilities and conflicts during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is in the spirit of original civilization values ​​since ancient times to date, said Dacic. He also said that it is very important to mention the strong commitment of the Republic of Serbia to continue to support global efforts in the fight against terrorism, primarily through the full implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, as well as To the Global Coalition in the Fight against ISIL. Dacic also used this opportunity to reiterate that the Republic of Serbia remains committed to finding a compromise solution to the issue of Kosovo and Metohija that will ensure lasting peace and stability and is ready to build a common future with the policy of peace and cooperation.

Odalovic: Opening of archives of international forces would shed light on fate of missing (RTS

The Chairperson of the government Commission for Missing Persons Veljko Odalovic told the Radio and Television of Serbian (RTS) morning program that it is necessary to open the archives of international forces in order to more efficiently resolve the issue of the fate of missing persons. “We insist on the archives of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army and their services, which operated in 1998/99 and 2000 on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. But it is very important for us to open international archives, to make available the archives that are in The Hague Tribunal. We are sure that there is a lot of information in these archives that can help us shed light on the fate of missing persons at a time when Serbia had virtually no jurisdiction over Kosovo and Metohija, when most Serbs and other non-Albanians were killed or kidnapped. Of course, there are also the archives of the OSCE and other organizations that were in the area,” Odalovic explains. He emphasizes it is very important for the Albanians to show readiness for cooperation regarding the issue of the missing. “We expect them to show readiness to first search the locations where we justifiably point out that they are potential burial places for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and other non-Albanians, but also to find the strength to open their archives because they have not been available so far. They have persistently claimed that there are no such archives,” explains Odalovic. He adds that in Brussels and Washington, the issue of the missing has made significant progress on the issue of the missing. “It is very important that this topic has been recognized and is on the agenda. Therefore, we have received extra support. How much Pristina will respect this remains to be seen because they often behave quite strangely when it comes to undertaken obligations such as the one it undertook seven years ago, the Community of Serb Municipalities. I hope that they will not behave in the same way when it comes to missing persons,” Odalovic states. He voices hope that Brussels and Washington will put pressure on Pristina to do what is required of it. “The issue of missing persons is important for the overall stabilization of the situation, and that is something also recognized by these two administrations that supported,” Odalovic states. He points out that Serbia is looking for another 1,643 missing persons about whom there is no data yet.

Madrid: Spain does not recognize Kosovo, deal with Belgrade is the solution (Beta)  

Spain still does not recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and will continue to support the EU-mediated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue with a view to a comprehensive

political agreement on the final status of the territory of Kosovo, Beta’s correspondent in Brussels learned from the Spanish Foreign Minister in Madrid. This was the response of the media office of the Spanish Foreign Ministry when asked by Beta to explain a report by the Brussels-based website EUobserver that the Spanish position can be summarized in the following sentence: ‘nothing without an agreement, everything with it’, including the political recognition and the establishment of diplomatic relations. In its response to Beta, the Spanish ministry noted that the government in Madrid was steadfast in its position not to recognize Pristina’s independence and stressed that it felt this as a unilateral act, opposed to law and the Spanish view of Europe as being diverse, tolerant and pluralist. That is why we will continue to support the EU-mediated dialogue, whose aim is a comprehensive bilateral agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the final position of the territory of Kosovo, the message said.

Stoltenberg: NATO has no problem with Serbia’s weapon procurements (Kurir/FoNet

Serbia is a sovereign country and we fully respect the security arrangements it chooses, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, stressing that Euro-Atlantic security and stability in the Western Balkans are directly linked, because NATO forces have been helping to preserve peace and stability in the region since the late 1990s. Stoltenberg said the Alliance does not have a problem with the fact that Serbia has been equipping its army in recent years, mainly with weapons from Russia and China. “We have developed excellent cooperation in the field of defense and security, in which we are helping the Serbian Army strengthen its capacities. Procurement for defense is a national decision,” said the NATO Secretary General. In an interview for Kurir, Stoltenberg said that NATO fully respects Serbia’s policy of military neutrality and reminded that NATO is helping Serbia to develop its security forces and institutions. “NATO is training Serbian troops for international peacekeeping missions, and over a 20-year period we have invested millions of euros to help Serbia destroy more than 230 tons of obsolete ammunition,” Stoltenberg said, expressing the Alliance’s readiness to continue developing a mutually beneficial partnership with Serbia.

Richard Grenell is coming to Belgrade (Tanjug/B92

US President Special Envoy for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina Richard Grenell will arrive to Belgrade on Tuesday, 22 September, the media report. A US government delegation led by Adam Boler, executive director of the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), will visit Athens, Pristina, Belgrade and Jerusalem until 25 September to promote economic cooperation and development, and will be joined by US President’s Special Adviser Richard Grenell, Tanjug finds out. The DFC will lay the groundwork for opening an office in Belgrade to facilitate the implementation of projects that will support economic growth in the region, according to a DFC statement delivered to Tanjug from the US Embassy in Belgrade. It is recalled that DFC and EXIM recently signed Letters of Interest (LOIs) with Belgrade and Pristina to help finance important projects identified by the September 4 agreements in Washington. The delegation will also include Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bonnie Glick, President and Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) Kimberly Reed and other senior government officials from the US Department of Energy and Trade. The delegation will hold meetings with senior government officials and private sector leaders. They remind that the delegation’s trip comes after the historic agreement between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain and the agreement on the economic normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. The DFC closely cooperates with USAID, EXIM, and other government agencies to promote development and advance US foreign policy through its funding tools. The delegation will advance strategic investments that support stock diversification and strengthen energy independence in Greece and the wider region. The delegation will also assess opportunities to expand investment in the region to boost stability and economic co-operation in the Middle East, the statement added.

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

Dodik: Meeting with Croatian officials yielded many positive results and can be assessed as successful (RTRS)

Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik believes his recent visit to Croatia was very successful and one of the main reasons for this is that it was agreed for competent ministers from B&H and Croatia to meet and discuss the issue of Trgovska Gora soon. He announced that the B&H Ambassador will be welcomed in the competent Croatian Ministry in order to discuss this, which has not happened before. Dodik announced that the competent Croatian minister will meet B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Stasa Kosarac. Dodik believes that this represents a step forward in the solution of this issue.

“The first serious reaction on the story of Trgovska Gora happened at B&H level on March in 2019 when I as the Chairman of the Presidency placed it on the agenda and when we adopted conclusions that this is unacceptable to us, that we are requesting from Croatia not to do this, that we are requesting talks on the matter and that if this does not go well, then to establish an international process, arbitration, which should be done. After that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have done this – of course they did not. There was no official meeting on the topic. My stay in Zagreb will ensure that Minister Kosarac will meet with the competent minister in Croatia soon, so that this item can be placed on the agenda,” Dodik said. Dodik said that his visit to Zagreb was also successful because he managed to explain to Croatian officials in which ways the Dayton Peace Agreement is being violated in B&H. He added that his visit to Zagreb was important and successful because Croatia is an EU member and one of the signatories of the Dayton Peace Agreement which is why it should be involved in solving problems in B&H.

Covic: Division of B&H has never been on my agenda (Vecernji list)

President of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic asked why Sarajevo reacted strongly to Milorad Dodik’s visit to Zagreb, replied by saying that Dodik’s visit is a welcome one in circumstances when friends from Croatia are advocating the European perspective of B&H and given the internal relations in B&H 25 years after the Dayton agreement, when divisions are strongly present due to attempts to create a unitary and centralized state. Asked if the talks should continue in order to help B&H, Covic says we should continue with this intensity in order to organize B&H as a country in which legitimate representation will be secured at all levels, stressing that there are now two representatives of the Bosniak and one representative of the Serb people in the Presidency of B&H. “That is the path that must change quickly, not keep quiet about it,” said Covic. Asked to comment on his meetings with Dodik and reports in the Bosniak media, which label their meetings as continuation of division of B&H, Covic replied by saying he has more meetings with Bakir Izetbegovic than with Dodik, however his meetings with Izetbegovic do not attract as much attention as his meetings with Dodik. According to Covic, in talks with Dodik they talk about all issues dealing with life and functioning of B&H and the authorities. “In some 20 years of our cooperation, we did not discuss about Bosniaks without them being present in our meetings,” said Covic. He added: Thinking about division of B&H was never a topic nor part of the agenda of my political thinking. On the contrary, the only thing I am thinking about today when it comes to my homeland B&H is the European B&H and I will do everything that the path to the EU continues”. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that the EU has announced that B&H will have to change the Constitution, whilst the Bosniak parties want to carry out the changes by erasing the position of the three peoples, Covic said that a discussion about B&H’s status of an EU candidate will have to be put on the table soon, which will require changes to the Constitution i.e. to the Dayton agreement. “In how big a scope, depth or width – it will foremost be decided by representatives of constituent peoples in B&H,” said Covic. Asked if an agreement on changes to the Law on Elections of B&H will be reached with Izetbegovic, Covic said that two agreements signed in Mostar are the basis for the talks, adding that “we hope to complete this year key changes that will secure the legitimacy of representation of all three constituent peoples in the 2022 elections”. Asked about attitude towards victims of war in B&H and an idea that was present in the Presidency of B&H when he (Covic) was a member of the Presidency, Covic said that during his last term in the Presidency, there was an agreement that all members of the Presidency, together with religious institutions, should visit places of suffering of each people, the Bosniaks, the Serbs and the Croats. “Unfortunately, it was canceled one day before. I did everything for it to happen. As far as I am concerned, I am ready today, tomorrow or any other day,” said Covic adding that he is prepared to warn about crimes committed by the Croats.

Dodik says he wrote letters to Trump on several occasions and reason for that is current US’ policy of non-interfering in internal affairs of other countries (BHT1)

Following information according to which Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik wrote a letter regarding the latest political developments in B&H to US President Donald Trump, Dodik told reporters on Sunday that he wrote letters to Trump on several occasions and the reason for that is the current US’ policy of non-interfering in internal affairs of other countries. Asked by reporters if he ever got reply from Trump, Dodik said that behavior, stances and less interfering of foreigners in B&H represent the reply. Dodik also denied the allegations according to which Republika Srpska (RS) Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic is connected with war crimes. He stated that Viskovic is a good and honest man and a Serb. “When I say that he is a good Serb, I do not mean that he should hate others a priori. The fact that he respects other people, nations and religions means that he is a man who surely do not have blood on his hands, so what is imposed against him is fabrication” Dodik stressed. Dodik also stressed that the claims made by the protected witness are a lie and the fact that the witness remains protected says enough about their credibility. Dodik wrote to Trump that he is welcoming Trump’s initiative on normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which is an historic agreement that would contribute to peace and stability in the region. Dodik also wrote that he, as a member of the Presidency of B&H, wants to contribute to his peace initiatives regarding Israel, which is why he has initiated moving of the B&H Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Lajcak: With new EC and high officials of EU, there is clear commitment Western Balkans will be in center of EU attention (Nezavisne)

EU Representative for the Western Balkans Miroslav Lajcak said that the EU closely cooperates with the US partners with whom the EU shares the same priorities and the same views on the future of the Western Balkans, adding that the cooperation is of crucial importance for B&H to move forward and implement reforms. He said that this joint work was of the key importance in supporting local leaders to reach the political agreement on holding of the local elections in Mostar before the summer. Lajcak said: “When you applied for the membership in the EU in February 2016, you made a big step forward and a strategic decision to head towards the EU integration road without any doubt. Since then, the Council of the EU adopted a clear roadmap, including the 14 key priorities for the state in order to move on, on this road. The EU is strongly engaged in B&H with the aim to support authorities of your countries in implementation of this agenda. Our people work in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Mostar”. He also pointed out that with the new European Commission (EC) and high officials of the EU, there is a clear commitment that the Western Balkans will be in the center of attention of the EU. The daily reported that Lajcak also commented connecting independence of Kosovo with Republika Srpska – by pointing the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue – by saying that it has the goal to contribute to stability of the entire region.

Djukanovic again accuses Belgrade of interfering in Montenegro’s internal affairs (Face TV)

Guests of Face TV were Montenegrin President and leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS) Milo Djukanovic and President of Montenegrin-based Civic Movement ‘URA’ Dritan Abazovic. Djukanovic and Abazovic spoke about current situation in Montenegro following recent general elections, possible escalation of tensions and possible implications on the countries in the region.  Asked about current situation in Montenegro following recent general elections, as well as possible escalation of tensions and implications this may have on the countries in the region, Djukanovic explained that there was no reason for Montenegro to be a precedent and not to make democratic change after 30 years of DPS-led authorities. He described DPS’ victories in past elections as “slight victories of pro-European policy in Montenegro”, which never cast any doubt over democratic nature of the society in Montenegro. He deems that impending change of the authorities will not diminish the position of pro-European policy in Montenegro in any way. He reminded that DPS-led coalition will have 40 posts in the new convocation of the Montenegrin Parliament while future ruling coalition will have 41 post, meaning that “the pendulum has swung from one side having slight advantage to the other side having slight advantage” but he sees nothing dramatic in this nor is this a reason strong enough for DPS to stop its political fight. Djukanovic underlined that DPS decided to fight for new system of values a long time ago and renewed independence of the Montenegrin state served as a basis in the fight for these new values, first and foremost the fight for civil society, multiethnic democracy and the European system of values. He vowed that DPS will continue to fight for these values even stronger as an opposition party, adding that new experience with change of the authorities will show if DPS was successful in creating democratic and European foundation of Montenegro but it remains to be seen if this foundation is good enough to pass the test of being used by those who did not support Montenegro’s path to join the EU. He emphasized that DPS accepted the elections results without complaints and the party never intended to conduct any type of post-electoral engineering, whatsoever. He noted that “such correction of freely expressed will of the citizens” will not lead to the formation of the authorities capable of restoring trust and making important decisions. “We (DPS) are not tied to the authorities with an umbilical cord. We are tied to Montenegro with an umbilical cord, as well as to the system of values we are promoting in Montenegro. We will fight for this system of values in the Parliament, both as a part of the authorities and as the opposition, and we will fight for Montenegro not just in the Parliament but in forests if needed because generations of ancestors have fought in the same forests and preserved Montenegro’s freedom and the Montenegrin state,” Djukanovic stated. He argued that those who do not see ongoing reinstatement of nationalistic policies from the 1990s are politically blind while current political reality is not much different from that in the 1990s as everything started with the idea to protect the Serb people outside of Serbia from alleged threats. He underlined that DPS accepts the will of voters and change of the authorities they want but DPS does not accept ambitions and aspirations to put Montenegro at risk, regardless if these ambitions are coming from newly formed Montenegrin authorities or from certain international centers that are behind these authorities. Djukanovic reminded that the opponents of Montenegro’s path to join NATO called for a referendum on the country’s membership in NATO, to which he responded that such referendum is not stipulated by the Constitution of Montenegro nor the constitution of almost every NATO member state.

He deems that common people cannot rationally decided whether NATO membership is good for Montenegro or not and the final decision had to be made by the state bodies whose legitimacy stems from the election results. He stressed that DPS stood firmly behind the concept of civil society, worked hard on functioning of multiethnic democracy and partly succeeded in adopting the European system of values, which helped Montenegro to join NATO as certain conditions for membership in the EU and NATO are identical. According to Djukanovic, the cooperation agreement signed by three coalitions within the opposition alliance confirmed that these coalitions and DPS share major values because they vowed not to change the course of Montenegro’s foreign policy, not to try leaving NATO and not to change legal arrangement of Montenegro as a state, as well as to continue the country’s path to join the EU and to respect existing international agreements and decisions, including recognition of independent Kosovo. Nevertheless, he said that the work of the authorities is a whole different issue from possible attacks on Montenegro as a state from within and from abroad because DPS will defend Montenegro from such attacks by any means necessary. He warned that he has his doubts because he tends to make judgement about DPS’ political opponents based on what they did in the past 30 years and not based on their newly signed agreement. He stressed that a large part of newly formed ruling majority did not act independently but in line with interests of other, namely in line with the interests of the Greater Serbia nationalism and global interests of Russia. He reminded that high-ranking officials of the Democratic Front (of Montenegro) openly admitted that they see Belgrade as their capital and their president is Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that the Greater Serbia nationalism and Russia’s global imperial interests did not invest in the Democratic Front for no reason and this party will surely have to meet certain expectations. He pointed out that Montenegro is not the most important part of this whole story but it can serve as a good example of what is going on and what is being prepared for entire Western Balkans.

He claims that the first indications of revival of retrograde ideas came with the proposal for Serbia and Kosovo to swap territories and this proposal was seriously discussed in Brussels and Washington. He criticized the international community for being indifferent and allowing nationalist in the region to gain momentum. According to Djukanovic, he said in a recent interview that Russia continues its anti-European policy and this policy gives boost to all nationalists in the region and especially to the Greater Serbia nationalism whose traditional goal is to permanently turn Montenegro into a part of Serbia. He stated that it seems as if the EU and NATO are willingly leaving the region to influence of anti-European and anti-Atlantic policies and recent experience from Montenegro could serve as a catalyst for such policies. Furthermore, he argued that Montenegro is the leader on the path to join the EU because it already joined NATO and it is moving irrevocably towards the EU membership but numerous politicians in the region were afraid that progress made in the past can be reversed. He warned that this was not fully understood by the EU and NATO and the EU seemed to be more interested in change of the Montenegrin authorities after 30 years than in the European perspective of the countries in the region. He elaborated that inappropriate activities of certain countries in the region are often tolerated for completely unrelated reasons, i.e. such activities conducted by Serbia were ignored in order for Serbia and Kosovo to sign the agreement in Washington. He warned that escalation of tensions and new armed conflicts in one part of the Western Balkans will quickly spread on the entire region because armed conflicts cannot be localized in areas with ethnically mixed population. He claims that this may be the last warning to the EU and the last call for protection of the Western Balkans as one of Europe’s regions. Djukanovic revealed that he did not speak to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic after the elections in Montenegro but they will surely when a good opportunity occurs. He claims to know what Vucic will say and how the Greater Serbia nationalism was targeting Montenegro in the last couple of years. He added that previous Serbian Presidents failed to bring a breath of fresh and were held down by nationalistic projects and aspirations while Serbia continued to slowly turn into a hostage of nationalistic policies and the project of the Greater Serbia. He stressed that the essence is in values and Montenegro will either be civil society with multiethnic democracy or it will cease to exist. He also revealed that he has not been in contact with Vucic and Milorad Dodik for quite some time but said that they do not understand political and social reality in Montenegro while their judgement of the situation is based on the perspective of Serb national interests. He pointed out that he simply does not believe that Dodik’s policy will contribute to wellbeing of Serb people or B&H as a state, which is why he cannot find single common denominator between him and Dodik. Djukanovic confirmed that DPS will support every proposal aiming to strengthen the civil society and multiethnic democracy in Montenegro, as well as move the country closer to the European system of values, but he has no intentions of stepping down before the end of his ongoing mandate as the Montenegrin President. Leader of the Coalition ‘For the Future of Montenegro’ Zdravko Krivokapic said that he is convinced that there will be a peaceful handover of power, although there are always pressures, which, as he says, is natural for Montenegro. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic also reacted to Djukanovic’s interview for Face TV, stressing that Djukanovic lost to his people, not to Serbia. Dacic said that Djukanovic continues to frighten Montenegrin citizens with lies about Serbia and the alleged Greater Serbia state policy. “Serbia did not pursue an anti-Montenegrin policy, but Montenegro pursued an anti-Serbian policy, interfering in Serbia’s internal affairs by recognizing Kosovo’s independence,” Dacic was quoted as saying.

Abazovic claims that ‘URA’ will end talks with its partners if basic principles of their agreement are violated, completely rules out possible talks and cooperation between ‘URA’ and DPS (Face TV)

Guests of Face TV were Montenegrin President and leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS) Milo Djukanovic and President of Montenegrin-based Civic Movement ‘URA’ Dritan Abazovic. Djukanovic and Abazovic spoke about current situation in Montenegro following recent general elections, possible escalation of tensions and possible implications on the countries in the region. Asked about current situation in Montenegro following recent general elections Abazovic said that claims about him not being prone to political conversion and not being political lowlife who is willing to sell his ideals for a post are true but he has an obligation to justify such good reputation, which is why personal or partisan benefits do not play a role in his decisions. He explained that the majority of the public in the region are troubled by recent events and the situation in Montenegro, primarily because impending change of the authorities may lead to change of Montenegro’s foreign policy and the victory of a right-wing party in the elections may cast doubt over what is already established as the country’s heritage from recent past. He reminded that this is the first time the authorities in Montenegro are changed in democratic elections and not as the result of unrest, protests or armed conflicts. He deems that change of the Montenegrin authorities represents long overdue “silent revolution” because the opposition finally succeeded in removing a regime which has turned Montenegro into an authoritarian state privately owned by one family and those with strong ties to this family. He predicted that it may take years to completely dismantle this regime but the authorities had to be changed, whatsoever. As for possible escalation of tensions and implications this may have on the countries in the region, Abazovic stated that there can be no integration in Montenegro if one of ethnicities or peoples is constantly under pressure and labeled as enemies of the state. He explained that he is defending a part of his coalition partners and not their ideology but besides right-wing extremists, there are also others who were discriminated despite their affection for Montenegro. He underlined that it would be irrational to think of 48 percent of Montenegro’s population as traitors, Chetniks or feared as some sort of treat to the country’s existence. He stressed that more than 85 percent of the citizens are loyal to Montenegro but politics made them feels less important and discriminated. He warned that Montenegro cannot pretend to be civil society while a very large ethnic group is being completely excluded from everything. He elaborated that there would be no changes in Montenegro if hypothetic claims about Russian and Serbian influence were taken seriously. “Do all the countries in the region aspire to join the EU? Yes. Can any of us say with absolute certainty that the EU will exist in 10 years from now? No. However, we must have our principles and aspirations which are democratic and we want to conduct inclusion. If anyone is to blame for the state being estranged from the citizens, it is DPS. If the right-wing is on the rise in Montenegro, the authorities from the last 30 years ought to be blamed,” Abazovic stated. He argued that political leaders in the region are in panic because the election results in Montenegro convey a message that it is possible to defeat those who are deemed undefeatable. He dismissed allegations about unavoidable chaos and unrest in Montenegro and said that the citizens of Montenegro have passed a democratic exam but it is necessary to continue in the same manner. He deems that all political blocs in Montenegro have certain fears but initial problems and difficulties have to be addressed in order to establish true democracy in Montenegro. He underlined that Montenegro had to undergo “a shock treatment” at some point but he is convinced the authorities will be changed with very little tensions and disagreements. He revealed that he received certain tips about potential threats to his life but this is completely unrelated to politics and the issue is about deeply incorporated criminal structures within the authorities. He reminded that Djukanovic was active participant in political life during the war in former Yugoslavia while opposition leaders were not. Nevertheless, he admitted that his coalition partners who deny the Srebrenica genocide and war crimes against Bosniaks must be held politically and criminally accountable. He pointed out that the primary goal was to remove DPS-led authorities but the formation of the authorities will not have a perfect outcome, whatsoever. He also revealed that recently signed agreement is historic although it is not the agreement on the formation of the ruling coalition. Abazovic promised to end cooperation with current coalition partners and leave their future coalition if he or ‘URA’ are somehow deceived, outsmarted and unwillingly used for certain purposes. He noted that he cannot be outsmarted or used for something he may not want if he remains committed to his main political principles but he sees no problem if this does happen and ‘URA’ ends up on political margins. He confirmed that the candidate for the Montenegrin Prime Minister-designate has yet to be selected but also that ‘URA’ is willing to end talks with its partners and define new stance if basic principles of the agreement are ignored or violated. However, he ruled out possibility of ‘URA’ engaging in talks with DPS and forming the authorities with this party in case ongoing talks fail to yield results. He said that DPS has to be a part of the opposition, undergo political catharsis and get rid of corrupt officials before it can be recognized as potential partners again. He further elaborated that he and Djukanovic can only speak about peaceful transition of power and nothing more. According to Abazovic, Djukanovic cannot be trusted because he is always doing opposite of what he says and it would be morally right from Djukanovic to resign if the election winners do reach final agreement and form the authorities. He pointed out that Djukanovic cannot avoid being held accountable many things that happened in Montenegro in the past 30 years and Djukanovic will probably be the target of investigations because he personifies corrupt system. He stressed that officials of pro-Serb parties in Montenegro are completely innocent and “clean” compared to Djukanovic and other DPS officials. He further explained that he rejects alleged separation of pro-Serb bloc and pro-Montenegrin bloc, saying that such separation does not exist but it is forced upon the public by the media. He stated that he does not feel as if the future of Montenegro is in his hands although he would like for this to be true because Montenegro would be completely safe in that case. Abazovic explained that some of his partners definitely had help from the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), probably Serbia’s help as well, but he sees nothing wrong here because DPS got the SPC involved in political life with the adoption of controversial law on religious freedoms and DPS now wants to blame others for its own mistakes. He underlined that possibility of the countries in the region being used as pawns in political games of global superpowers cannot be ruled out. He stressed that certain ambitions, preferences and wishes are reality but the election winners in Montenegro should stick to their own plan, namely they should try to reduce tensions, promote anticorruption activities and help Montenegro advance towards the EU.

Zdravko Krivokapic’s interview for Face TV (Face TV)

University professor and politician Zdravko Krivokapic from Montenegro spoke about current situation in Montenegro following recent general elections, as well as possible escalation of tensions and implications this may have on the countries in the region. Asked about current situation in Montenegro following recent general elections, as well as possible escalation of tensions and implications this may have on the countries in the region, Krivokapic said that many people were surprised with the election results but he was not because the citizens wanted changes and after analyzing various polls, he was convinced that the opposition will win the election if the turnout reaches 73 percent and above. He stressed that he has “exceptional relations” with other opposition leaders and they willingly decided to put the past aside while focusing on the future of Montenegro. He claims that the agreement recently signed by the opposition leaders is not ambiguous and it confirms their commitment to keeping Montenegro on its current course, namely pro-Western course, as well commitment to existing international agreements and Montenegro’s membership in NATO. He explained that the agreement was the only proper way to announce cooperation between three opposition coalitions and to show perceive Montenegrin President and DPS leader Milo Djukanovic as the only measure of stability in Montenegro. Krivokapic warned that he expects from everyone in the new Montenegrin authorities to make an effort and work hard on very difficult internal issues. He assessed that it is difficult for those who are deemed invincible to suffer a defeat in the elections but just like athletes, politicians should learn how not to act as bitter losers and instead learn valuable lessons from defeats in the elections. He stressed that he was quite surprised upon hearing that a large celebration will take place in Podgorica one day after the elections and attendees will mostly carry the flags and insignia of Serbia and Russia. He pointed out that such scenario required serious response and the agreement signed by the opposition leaders had to show that they are not involved in organization of the celebration, as well as reaffirm commitment to respecting existing international agreements and obligations of Montenegro. He claims that he was very worried about what may happen during the celebration but he and other opposition leaders were able to quickly arrange a meeting and sign their initial agreement. He underlined that he is not pro-Serb but rather pro-Montenegrin politician and refused to say whether he identifies himself as Serb or as Montenegrin, adding that the citizens of Montenegro should care less about how others perceive them and more about how they perceive and present themselves to others. Krivokapic revealed that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has yet to call him and congratulate on the victory in the elections. He emphasized that he was never in regular contact Vucic and they basically never had any sort of relations. He pointed out that none of high-ranking officials and political leaders in the region, including Milorad Dodik, congratulated him on winning the elections. As for possibility of Djukanovic stepping down before the end of ongoing presidential mandate Krivokapic stressed that he will insist only on what the citizens want to be done although Djukanovic’s victory in the last presidential elections is a reflection of obvious and proven political corruption. He underlined that he supports justice, not vengeance, and he would not have any problems with Djukanovic seeing out the remainder of ongoing mandate as long as Djukanovic is working with strictly defined competences of the Montenegrin President. However, he warned that any sort of exhibitionism in terms of attempts to overthrow election winners could lead to civil unrest. He emphasized that the citizens will not accept acts of political defection regardless of parties or blocs involved. He elaborated that the citizens will not allow attempts to repeat what happened after recent elections in Budva where DPS-led coalition needed political defectors to form the majority in local assembly. He deems that political defectors are rewriting the will of the citizens and anyone who would do such thing in current circumstances would be accused of high treason. He pointed to allegations that defectors would be paid EUR tens of millions but said that no amount is worth of what was achieved in the elections because the citizens clearly decided to send DPS to the opposition. He further explained that three opposition coalitions are in talks over the formation of the authorities but these talks are strictly based on shared principles because announcement of potential candidates for certain posts could attract too much attention and delay the formation of the authorities. He claims that he was not surprised with Djukanovic vowing to defend Montenegro by any means necessary if needed because it is not unusual for a dictator such as Djukanovic to say something like that. He dismissed accusations of him supporting the Chetnik movement and having pro-Russian orientation, saying that he went to Russia twice in his life but only to attend conferences as a professor and he never met with any Russian official in his life. As for allegations that Vucic was glad to sign the latest agreement between Serbia and Kosovo in Washington because Serbia was given Montenegro as compensation for losing Kosovo, Krivokapic said that exchange of territories or in this case whole countries is in the past and Montenegro will never allow Vucic or anyone else to turn such “unnecessary scenario” in reality. He stressed that Vucic and Djukanovic are very close friends and this will be proven at some point because the new convocation of the Montenegrin authorities will try to ensure total transparency in public spending. He deems that the Serbian-based media under Vucic’s control started assaulting him because of Vucic’s close relations with Djukanovic. He pointed out that international conferences and other events where global superpowers were carving countries as they wished are an outdated political approach and wrong policy because false perception they are creating is accepted as reality by a part of the citizens. He stated that the majority of the citizens in Montenegro believe they do not need a mentor and the country has enough power, resources and potential to succeed on its own.

 

Tensions between the three main opposition blocs, discussion over composition of new govt (CdM)

Leaders of the new parliamentary majority, Zdravko Krivokapic, Aleksa Becic and Dritan Abazovic, will discuss the composition of the new government on 21 September, a candidate for the parliament speaker as well as the Law on Freedom of Religion, CdM has learnt from the coalitions ‘For the Future of Montenegro’, ‘Peace is Our Nation’ and ‘Black on White’.

They will put an emphasis of the staff issue in the future government, as the situation has been pretty much complicated having in mind the differences in their views, i.e. whether the departments should be run by experts or politicians. Tensions have risen following the announcement that some party leaders cannot take up ministerial posts in the new government. According to the leader of URA Movement and its candidate standing for the ‘Black on White’ coalition Dritan Abazovic even the Western centers advocate for such a principle. The Democratic Front, on the other hand, doesn’t back this proposal, as they believe they are entitled to run the security sectors in the country, primarily the Ministry of Interior and the National Security Agency. As for the religion law, the three coalitions don’t agree on this matter either – they have a heated discussion as some wish to withdraw the law and some just to amend certain parts, as the Serbian Orthodox Church required earlier.

Abazovic doesn’t want Mandic, Medojevic, Knezevic and Milacic in the new govt (Pobjeda)

Negotiation teams of the three coalitions that won in the recent elections didn’t manage to reach an agreement concerning the principles for setting up the new government on Saturday and failed to agree on chief posts in the parliament of Montenegro, the daily Pobjeda has learned. A source close to Pobjeda who knows about the details from the meeting told that the coalitions didn’t agree on the future parliament speaker even though the parliament’s sitting is due on 23 September. The secretary-general of the Democrats Boris Bogdanovic, who denied the media allegations telling that the Democrats will take the lead role in the parliament, confirmed this information last night. Meanwhile, several sources of Pobjeda tell the agreement can’t be reached because of the conclusion of the URA movement Main Board, stating that certain people from other parties cannot assume posts in the new government. “In this delicate moment and divided society such as the Montenegrin is, people who divide Montenegro by their actions and provoke negative emotions in a certain number of citizens cannot run departments in the new government,” suggests the conclusion of the URA Main Board. It’s expected negotiations to continue in the beginning of next week, when leaders of the three coalitions are going to meet, and when we’ll definitely know whether the new parliamentary majority has its candidate for the parliament speaker. “Right now, it’s unlikely to expect that we could reach an agreement and propose a candidate, so we’ll most probably just verify the mandates for MPs,” Pobjeda’s source has concluded.

Bosniak Party ready to negotiate on joining new govt (Dan)

Political director of the Bosniak Party Suljo Mustafic has said that they are ready to negotiate with the new parliamentary majority, but still, it’s uncertain whether they’re going to take part in the new govt, as it depends on their political program. Mustafic also notes that the Bosniak Party won’t accept any change in the foreign-political goals of the country. “The fact is that leaders of the three coalitions that won the recent elections have signed an agreement and that some of them have given up on their earlier program ideas, such as withdrawal from NATO and some other matters. The Bosniak Party is open to discuss every issue, but we won’t renounce the EU membership, NATO and regional cooperation,” he assessed. Talks will start once the necessary requirements are met, according to Mustafic. “And the conditions are met once we get a letter, not just a declarative invitation to join.”

Picula: Moscow can’t overpower Brussels in the region (Pobjeda)

I think the new coalition perfectly understands that giving up on the current foreign policy of your country is unlikely to happen just like that, having in mind that almost three-quarters of Montenegrins support the EU accession. If members of the coalitions really agree on their joint political goals, they might even set up a permanent government, but the relatively small majority in the parliament would definitely represent a challenge, the EP Rapporteur for Montenegro, Tonino Picula, told in an interview for Pobjeda daily. The former Croatia’s Chief of Diplomacy underlines that Russia’s influence on the Western Balkans will be present but won’t overpower the West’s. Asked to comment on the post-election situation in Montenegro, and whether the opposition might be able to establish a stable govt despite their program differences, Picula noted: “Last week, the coalitions that won the recent elections have signed an agreement on the obligations of the new government. They pledged not to launch any initiatives for changing the country’s national symbols, and more important – they committed to honoring all current international obligations, such as fostering the cooperation with NATO Alliance and carrying out reforms for the successful continuation of the EU accession.” On the EU’s position regarding the Church interventions in elections, he said: “First of all, I wouldn’t underestimate the possibilities of the Montenegrin state to maintain and develop its secular profile. The religious affiliation of citizens and the democratic system of the state do not and should not be in conflict. However, this is about the high politicization and mobilization that followed the adoption of one particular law. The EU didn’t encourage it, but told it was the right of the state to autonomously regulate the matter. The escalation of the problem that has happened and brought to certain political consequences is certainly not Brussels’ fault.” Picula also touched on the assessments that the Kremlin’s impact on Montenegro might overpower the Brussels’ now, saying that he has no doubts that “the EU still represents an attractive project for the majority of Montenegrins, as the recent research has suggested.”

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES 

Next Year in Jerusalem: The Serbian Embassy and Kosovo Go On a Pilgrimage with Trump (Balkanist, 21 September 2020) 

On September 4th, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić met with the PM of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti in the White House, in the presence of Donald Trump, to sign the “Economic Normalization Agreements  between Belgrade (Serbia) and Pristina (Kosovo)”. Trump celebrated Hoti and Vučić as “brave men” for signing the “historic” trilateral agreement. Closer analysis reveals this “historic” encounter as yet another PR gimmick of Trump’s in the runup to the US presidential elections. In a sense, perhaps this serves a purpose similar to the grandiloquence surrounding the recent Israel-UAE peace deal, which Thomas Friedman of the NY Times called “an earthquake” for Peace. According to the text of the treaty, the most radical section calls for a moratorium, during which Pristina and Belgrade will both stop their tireless lobbying either for or against an internationally recognized status of Kosovo–for one year. Procrastination does not solve anything, but it will help the Washington policy hivemind to not think about the Balkans, and will simplify the first troubled year of a possible second term of the Trump administration (also  “an earthquake” but in a more calamitous sense than cheerleader Thomas Friedman intends).

Upon closer scrutiny, the logic of the agreement falls apart. Amounting to a random hodgepodge of promises and obligations, it looks more like the Trump administration’s Christmas wishlist for that corner of the Eastern Mediterranean rather than a coherent document. Recognisable “Art of the Deal” style points include a ban on 5G equipment sold by “untrusted vendors” (Trumpcode for China); as well as a surprisingly more Obama-like campaign to further the decriminalisation of homosexuality. A crucial part of this ornamental treaty also covers relations between the Middle East, Serbia and Kosovo. For example, the agreement states that Kosovo (home to an 88% Muslim population) and Israel agree to “recognise” one another’s legitimacy, while Serbia is encouraged to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by July 2021, shadowing the Trump administration’s historic Jerusalem syndrome. This latest bold and insulting provocation has understandably earned vocal reactions from EU officials. And yet, these same condemning EU officials appear weaker by the moment in their collective failure to enforce disciplinary action on profligate EU members such as those composing the Visegrad group, or to muster an EU foreign policy in toto. In addition, both Kosovo and Serbia pledge to label the Hezbollah movement and Lebanese parliamentary party as a terrorist organization, to be confronted on any territory under Serb or Kosovar jurisdiction. In short, a hope for more division and international involvement by the East European periphery in the volatile Syrian conflicts, in which Hezbollah became embroiled well before Trump’s presidential tenure. The POTUS here takes up the Republican foreign policy tradition summed up by Craig Unger’s 2004 book House of Bush, House of Saud, demonstrating Western willingness to get further embroiled in Sunni-Shia feuds, consequences be damned. Trump also makes the more predictable gestural politics of indulging Israeli fantasies of “recognition” by Muslims of Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. A simple question arises: Middle Eastern politics bear little relevance to the Belgrade – Pristina scenario, so, why did Washington incorporate the Middle East in this document? By forcing Kosovo to “recognise” Israel, and to unrecognise Hezbollah as anything other than a nemesis, Trump seeks to kill two birds with one rock. Firstly, the deal lays out the blueprint for a “diplomatic wall” isolating Kosovo from other Muslim majority countries and Islamic republics. Second, it intends to further the interests of Trump’s and the US Republican establishment’s friends and clients — foremost among these the emirs of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who campaign avidly to promote their Wahhabi version of Islam, by way of Wahhabist sectarian propaganda, and its derivative product-lines in former Yugoslavia among the Muslim communities in the Balkans. Trump may not understand the complexities of the latter cultural warfare in the region. However, he fully understands the need to keep the UAE as well as Netanyahu satisfied as regional clients, with whichever bargaining chips easily present themselves. Kosovo announced its independence in February 2008 — under the beginning of Obama’s tenure, a Democrat like Clinton (the co-director of the 1999 NATO bombing of Belgrade) and therefore a relatively predictable backer of the burgeoning new Balkan state. By negotiation of largely ornamental peace-deals between lilliputians in the Balkans or the UAE and Israel, Trump hopes to secure the status of  “peacemaker” to brag about in the debates, while also claiming to resolve foreign policy fiascos attributed to the Clintons’ legacy. Nevertheless, there are a few complications. For one, Serbian president Vučić had no constitutional right to sign such a treaty. Under Serbian law and procedure only the Prime Minister can do that. For Serbia, a ludicrous “Anti-Hezbollah alliance” represents one of many more self-humiliating steps made towards securing membership in NATO even though the vast majority of its population opposes any Serbian involvement in NATO, which remains widely despised in Serbia. This makes Vučić’s stunt doubly anti-democratic. Understanding the logic of transplanting the Serbian embassy to Jerusalem requires going back to 2017, when Trump “recognised Jerusalem” as the Israeli capital. By doing so, he had made the world fear yet another war. Such boldness also made the US ambassador to Israel one of the world’s loneliest ambassadors, since (despite the copycat promises of countries in the Visegrad Group to do the same) only the Guatemalan embassy dared to follow suit in leaving Tel Aviv. But now Vučić has come ’round to ensure that the US embassy shall not stand alone. Lacking any sense of irony — seeing as the US embassy needs Serbia to defend it– he signed a paper which he may not have read in its entirety , and to which he desperately added passages at the last minute before, during and after  signing. In all likelihood Kosovo will do the same. Though both the Israeli and Palestinian political establishments have long wanted their capitals in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv for the sake of peace remains the internationally recognized Israeli capital city, even after the June 1967 “Six Days War” (which ended up lasting 63 years and counting) and the Israeli seizure of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank — acts still recognized by the UN and international legal entities as violations of international law and obstacles to peace, ensuring the Palestinians a stateless and isolated existence. And yet it seemed Kosovars and Serbs did not have enough problems.

For the general populations, the Kosovo-Serbia moratorium agreement offers a lose-lose with lasting negative international consequences. Peace remains far from the horizon for Belgrade and Pristina: both are economically ruined, politically voided and ruled by corrupted oligarchies eager to help the USA. Apparently, ex-Yugoslavian elites find in Trump an oligarchical face they can relate to. But Vučić’s faux pas only helps his country enter into a diplomatic crisis with the EU, China and Russia.  Kosovo’s move has also struck very off-key notes among allies in the Arab-Muslim world. The two ‘brave men’ (as Trump anointed them) epitomise all that rots in international politics: cronies signing onto a deal that, predictably, benefits only the Empire that forced them, this time led by a celebrity whose famous handbook The Art of the Deal advises the reader on how to “screw” every other party. There are no easy solutions for regional disputes that can conveniently work as gimmicks in November’s forthcoming imperial elections. Clearly, the long legacy of the US and NATO have only contributed to the political spectacle and increasingly damaged the Eastern Mediterranean since the events preceding the Clinton-led NATO bombing of Belgrade. The Serbian-Kosovar peace process now needs a transparent democratic process, forgoing the usual self-appointed mediators. Such a process should strictly apply international law, ideally under UN supervision.

Aleksandar Novaković is a historian and dramatist. He is a member of the DiEM25 movement’s offshoot in Belgrade, and the movement’s discussion group “Peace and International Policy 1” together with co-author Arturo Desimone. 

Arturo Desimone is an Aruban-Argentinean writer and visual artist, currently doing an artist residency in Athens, Greece. His essays on politics have previously appeared in Informed Comment, Open Democracy, and elsewhere. 

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