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Belgrade Media Report 23 September

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LOCAL PRESS

Brnabic: New era in relations between Serbia and US (RTS)
Vucic: Serbia had not had such an important agreement with the US since 1881 (Tanjug)
Dacic: We will not be able to resolve Kosovo issue only with economy, a solution is in some combination of Dayton agreement and agreement from Washington (RTS)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

SNS MP Drecun: Komsic and Dzaferovic’s voting for independence of Kosovo in B&H Presidency opens issue of organization of B&H, i.e. future status of RS (Glas Srpske)
Serbian FM Dacic: Political representatives of Bosniaks and Croats in B&H work directly against their interests by voting for Kosovo independence, they thus eliminate arguments against RS’ independence (FTV)
Zvizdic: ‘Mini Schengen’ is important initiative it should be preceded by solving of open issues between member states and should also result in relaxation of political relations (Dnevni avaz)
Attacks on Viskovic resume (ATV)
Montenegro

Mandic: New parliamentary majority to be formed on Wednesday, minority parties can join as well (CdM)
Serbian Orthodox Church involves in negotiations, DF and URA aspire to same departments (CdM)
Medojevic didn’t want to meet with Abazovic: I won’t respond to Misko Perovic’s blackmail (CdM)
DF officials and members to their leaders: Don’t let Dritan blackmail you (CdM)
Krivokapic: I hope we will all be aware that we need to go out in front of people (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Zaev to Bartholomew: Orthodox population in country deserve church independence and autocephalous MOC-OA (MIA)
VMRO schedules a major protest against SDSM corruption and mafia attacks (Republika)
Albania

Electoral reform, opposition seeks assistance from OSCE/ODHIR (Tirana Times)
British Ambassador Norman: 5 June agreement should not be changed; it should continue in a transparent manner (Radio Tirana)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Serbia’s Vucic plays down hopes for quick political deal with Kosovo (Reuters)

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LOCAL PRESS 

Brnabic: New era in relations between Serbia and US (RTS

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that one sentence describes everything, and this is a new era in political and economic relations between Serbia and the US. “This also best summarizes the agreement in Washington that was very well negotiated by President Vucic and our delegation. We have first such agreement signed after 140 years between Serbia and the US. Never has such as powerful delegation from the US visited Serbia. Six agencies plus a US envoy and White House representative,” said Brnabic. She said that funds have been set aside for Serbia, but that it is now up to us how soon we would have ready projects and ideas, emphasizing that investments in five priority areas were discussed yesterday – infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises, the Mini Schengen initiative and the regional economy, economic development in Serbia and agriculture. We discussed firstly infrastructure projects where we have projects worth four billion Euros. “We are discussing with the DFC for the Plocnik-Merdare and the Nis-Kursumlija-Priluzje-Pristina railway. There is also a guarantee scheme for small and medium companies. The DFC would secure one billion Dollars of loans from our side,” she says. The third area is everything that concerns the Mini Schengen initiative, while the fourth topic are conditions for the development of the economy. Asked whether the political points of the Washington agreement were discussed, Brnabic said that they were mostly economic points, and added that Richard Grennell, said that he was told by the US President Donald Trump that we should have an unconventional approach and think about economic normalization in Belgrade-Pristina relations, stating that such an approach was also of President Vucic. Asked about the new government, she says the President decides about this. “Nobody is sitting and doing nothing. The technical government is doing everything it can. Citizens are not losing anything, while we have time until 3 November for the government. President Vucic is not sitting and doing nothing. We won the Washington agreement. We continue to work. I think nobody had seen such implementation of an agreement,” said Brnabic.

 

Vucic: Serbia had not had such an important agreement with the US since 1881 (Tanjug

Serbian Prime Minister Brnabic and Executive Director of the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Adam Boehler signed on Tuesday a Joint Statement formalizing the opening of a regional office of that corporation in Belgrade. Brnabic and Boehler opened the DFC online office, by unveiling a monitor on which a recording of the premises of that office in Belgrade was released, through which US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey walked.

The statement was signed in the Palace of Serbia in the presence of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Vucic pointed out that Serbia had not had such an important agreement with the US since 1881, like the one signed in Washington, which achieved a lot. He stated that the signing of the agreement in Washington opened the door to the old friendship with the US, and he especially expressed his gratitude to US President Donald Trump. As he emphasized, Trump had enough understanding and patience and wanted to show respect for the Serbian people and citizens of Serbia. The talks in Washington were not easy in everything, but we were respected, and we will fulfill our obligations from the agreement, Vucic said. He mentioned that the arrival of DFC in Belgrade, with symbolic significance, i.e., a signal to investors to come and do business here, also means the projects, emphasizing that it is of great importance for our citizens, but also for further economic growth of our country. US Presidential Special Envoy Grenell said that the US is serious in its intention to fulfill the promises to Belgrade and Pristina and to turn them into new jobs. We want to fulfill the promises we gave to the officials of Serbia earlier, we do not only want to deal with words, but to focus on economic development for the benefit of the people, he emphasized. According to him, the symbolism is important, but it does not provide food on the table, and that is why the US will do its best to fulfill its promises and create jobs in Serbia. He pointed out that it would take a year for the citizens of Serbia and Kosovo to feel an improvement, after the signed economic agreement, while the political part of the dialogue should wait until the economy shows progress. He said that economic normalization takes time to show results, but that if the parties return to political debates, the same thing that others have been doing for 21 years would have been done, and that is to just put words on paper until citizens feel results. Boehler assessed that the agreement, which was signed in Washington, is not only historical, but also a reflection of the fact that this country and the region will not be trapped in the past, but will move towards the future. He stated that representatives of six American government agencies arrived in Belgrade, which is a sign of strong relations between Serbia and the US, and announced that the DFC office in the Serbian capital will be permanent. Director of the DFC office in Belgrade John Jovanovic said that this is the greatest part and responsibility for him and that his task is the economic development of the region and for the Balkans to become a symbol of peace and prosperity and a place for young people to return and get jobs.

Dacic: We will not be able to resolve Kosovo issue only with economy, a solution is in some combination of Dayton agreement and agreement from Washington (RTS)  

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has assessed for a RTS broadcast that economic normalization is good but that the problem will not be resolved without the key problem. He says that now it can be seen that a solution lies in some combination of the Dayton agreement and the agreement from Washington and that the EU lacks an iron fist. “We are not running away from the political solution. I think the next step is to see what are the possible political solutions and to go for the some just solution for this issue, otherwise it is not possible only with the economy,” said Dacic. He says that, regardless where the political solution will occur, everything needs to be resolved in the UN Security Council and that it is impossible to resolve without the big states – the US, China, Russia, but also France and Germany. He says the big question is whether it suits more Serbia for things to be resolved in the EU or on the basis of Grenell’s proposal and that, when he sees Germany’s stands and the flexibility of talks with the US, sometimes seems to him that it is easier to talks with the US administration.

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

SNS MP Drecun: Komsic and Dzaferovic’s voting for independence of Kosovo in B&H Presidency opens issue of organization of B&H, i.e. future status of RS (Glas Srpske)

The daily carried an interview with member of SNS Milovan Drecun in the Serbian parliament who said that Croat member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Zeljko Komsic and Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic should think through if they want to recognize Kosovo because then, they will have to change their stances on the future of B&H. According to Drecun, Komsic and Dzaferovic’s voting for independence of Kosovo at the recent session of the B&H Presidency opens the issue of organization of B&H, i.e. the future status of Republika Srpska (RS) and in his opinion, they should know this. “Serbia will not remain calm, sitting and waiting. I believe that Banja Luka will not do it either”. Asked to explain his sentence and whether this mean that the story on independence of the RS could be launched, he said that the RS will not allow that B&H recognizes Kosovo as an independent state and even if this happens and if the RS is circumvented in this process, this would have immense consequences for the entire region. in his opinion, citizens of the RS have the right to say in which kind of a community they want to live. Commenting on the fact that part of the international community (IC) does not share this stance, Drecun said: “No one can take that right away from you, because Serbs are the constituent people in B&H. If you look Albanians, they are national minority. This is why you cannot compare Kosovo and the RS and because of all this, hasty and politically-unbalanced moves lately coming from the duo Komsic and Dzaferovic to vote for independence of Kosovo are risky. In this way, they only jeopardize the future of B&H. No one should have illusions about this”.  Asked whether this means that by recognizing Kosovo, authorities in Sarajevo lose every argument that someone could use to dispute possible independence of the RS, Drecun said: “That is correct. All those who think that Kosovo should be taken away from Serbia and then eliminate the RS are in a big confusion. These are serious geo-political games and Serbia will not allow anyone to erase or abolish the RS and it will use all means to save Kosovo or to find a compromise solution. If Sarajevo continues with the policy that was present until now, Serbia will have to change its national strategy. This means that in these kinds of circumstances, even the issue of independence of the RS would not be disputable”. Asked does he expect that the Albanian side will stick to the agreement signed in Washington, Drecun expressed concern that Albanian politicians will ruin the agreement with their personal and party interests as well as geo-political ambitions and projects. Drecun underlined: “Their politicians are only interested in recognition of Kosovo coming from Serbia which will never happen”.

Serbian FM Dacic: Political representatives of Bosniaks and Croats in B&H work directly against their interests by voting for Kosovo independence, they thus eliminate arguments against RS’ independence (FTV)

Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic stated that, by voting for the independence of Kosovo, political representatives of Bosniaks and Croats in B&H work directly against their interests, because they thus eliminate the arguments against the independence of RS. Dacic wondered based on what they can prohibit an entity to proclaim its independence if they support independence “of a province”. Dacic also said that the past leadership of Serbia, with Vojislav Kostunica and Boris Tadic as the country’s presidents, made a mistake for not bringing the proclamation of the independence of Kosovo in connection to the issue of independence of the RS. The Serbian minister also noted that Europe neglects the fact that SDA led by Bakir Izetbegovic has been conducting the policy based on the Islamic declaration of Alija Izetbegovic for decades. He referred to Zeljko Komsic as “a figure who has been elected (the Croat member of the B&H Presidency) by Muslims”.

Zvizdic: ‘Mini Schengen’ is important initiative it should be preceded by solving of open issues between member states and should also result in relaxation of political relations (Dnevni avaz)

Deputy speaker of B&H House of Representatives Denis Zvizdic told the daily that during the meeting in Ohrid past November he stated that B&H is dedicated to strengthening of the regional cooperation, adding that the idea of ‘Mini Schengen’ was presented on this occasion. In this regard, Zvizdic said that such initiative demands analysis of two group of factors- challenges and advantages and define true interest of B&H in that. He underlined that without any doubt economic and investment reasons for joining ‘Mini Schengen’ are strong because flow of people and goods will result in economic growth and new jobs, as well as increase of competitiveness of the countries in the region, where the single market would be organized through harmonized laws. Stressing that economic benefits are undoubtable, Zvizdic however underlined that every initiative in the Western Balkans, which is still under the burden of difficult past, always has additional political and historic dimension. He deems that this initiative should be preceded by clear and undoubtable respecting of sovereignty and territorial integrity and international subjectivity of all countries in the region, without interfering into internal matters of other countries and swift and successful solving of all bilateral relations.  In regard to B&H this would mean signing of border agreement with Serbia, equal status in implementation of the agreement and refusal to accept anyone’s political or market domination. Zvizdic stressed that ‘Mini Schengen’ should also lead to relaxation of political relations and he deems that the agreement should be ratified by member states every five years in order to follow and evaluate set goals. Inset ‘Important initiative for B&H’- Zvizdic underlined that he deems ‘Mini Schengen’ to be very important initiative and does not represent any kind of substitute for the European integration.

Attacks on Viskovic resume (ATV)

Current target of political Sarajevo is RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic. Namely, some media in the Federation of B&H published part of the transcript of one telephone conversation between the RS Army officers that was used as evidence in trials before the ICTY. According to ATV, the goal of this is to link Viskovic with developments in Srebrenica in July 1995. ATV is in possession of the original transcript of abovementioned telephone conversation which proves that not Radovan Viskovic, but Goran Viskovic participated in this telephone conversation. Media in the FB&H analyzed abovementioned transcript and concluded that it refers to transportation of prisoners in Srebrenica who were later executed. Reporter commented that an expert who testified before the ICTY in regards to this document said that it is not clear what this conversation refers to. Reporter noted that claims of the Memorial Center ‘Potocari’ that the RS Army procured vehicles for alleged transportation of Bosniaks captured in Srebrenica in July, 1995 and their execution are incorrect. Claims that Viskovic is linked with developments in and around Srebrenica are also untrue. Reporter commented that the testimony of RS Army officer Zeljko Kerkez before the ICTY was interpreted out of context and misused. According to ATV, the Memorial Center ‘Potocari’ published only part of the document related to Kerkez’s testimony. Director of the RS Center for Research of War, War Crimes and Search for Missing Persons Milorad Kojic stressed that there was an attempt to link Viskovic with developments in Srebrenica by publishing parts of documents and their misinterpretation, adding that one of the goals of this was to divert attention from some affairs in the FB&H including cases of President of the Court of B&H Ranko Debevec and work of Director of the Intelligence-Security Agency Osman Mehmedagic. Kojic emphasized that this represents an attack on complete leadership of the RS. He underlined that the Memorial Center Potocari is completely in function of some intelligence activities aimed to link RS Prime Minister Viskovic with atrocities in Srebrenica. “It is clear for us that Bosniaks from the FB&H do not want stable the RS and that they have been misusing intelligence and para-intelligence sector to construct cases or affairs that are in no way linked with facts”, explained Kojic. Leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik expressed support to Viskovic. Namely, Dodik said that Viskovic is a good Serb and an honorable man. Dodik claimed that the fact that the witness in this case wants to remain anonymous is proof of the level of the lies put forward by that person. Davidovic reminded that after the war, Viskovic was employed as the executive director of traffic at the ‘Boksit’ company in Milici, and that in certain rulings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) it was stipulated that the company’s trucks were used to transfer bodies of deceased Bosniaks in Srebrenica in July of 1995.  SDA stated on Tuesday that the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H led by Chief B&H Prosecutor Gordana Tadic is inert in case of the role of RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic in the genocide committed in Srebrenica and this inertness is politically-motivated. SDA argued that this is unacceptable relation that additionally ruins the credibility of this judicial institution. According to SDA, Tadic introduced double standards in the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H based on which the RS PM is not being arrested even after suspicions in committing severe war crimes, while Bosniak officials are being arrested and persecuted based on weak indications. SNSD’s Spokesperson Radovan Kovacevic emphasized that SDA has revealed itself as an organizer of the attacks on Viskovic. He added that SNSD strongly condemns the shameful political attack on Viskovic. “This is the evidence of joint acting of SDA and their structures in the Court of B&H and intelligence underground,” stated Kovacevic.

 

Mandic: New parliamentary majority to be formed on Wednesday, minority parties can join as well (CdM)

Leader of the New Serbian Democracy, Andrija Mandic, said that a new parliamentary majority in the Parliament of Montenegro will be formed on Wednesday, adding that the major task of the new government would be to focus on the justice system, fight against corruption and organized crime. According to him, dynamics in negotiations of representatives of the coalition that won a majority in recent elections has been “just fine”. “Having in mind that the new government will comprise many parties, dynamics in negotiations is good. On Wednesday, we’re supposed to secure a parliamentary majority that can form the new government. A majority of 41 MPs have an intention to set up the government, and we also sent an invitation to ethnic minority parties to join us,” Mandic said. He also added that they had sent an invitation even to those parties that had said to take a position after the parliamentary elections. “Our intention to change Montenegro is serious, and we find it especially challenging to fight organized crime and corruption” he underlined. The cooperation with the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, shouldn’t be an option, as it’s an opposition party that has been ruling Montenegro for 30 years. Speaking about his relations with Serbia’s president, Mandic told he was a “Serbian politician from Montenegro” and added that “he has been acting as a representative of the Serbian people”. “I’m telling the truth, as I had the opportunity to see what the previous presidents of Serbia had done. The fact is that no one has done more for the Serbs in Montenegro than Aleksandar Vucic, and that cannot be denied, because the concrete results are visible to everyone.” Mandic underlined. “We cannot expect congratulations until this matter (formation of the government) is brought to an end. I’m sure that congratulations will follow, which was announced by the President of Serbia and the region. My relations to Vucic are well known, as we’ve been trying to find common ground in favor of the Serbs.” Serbs in Montenegro are not a minority nation, according to him, as Montenegro is their country.

Serbian Orthodox Church involves in negotiations, DF and URA aspire to same departments (CdM)

At Monday’s negotiations between the leaders of the Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, and leader of the URA movement and the Black on White coalition, Dritan Abazovic, mediated by bishop Joanikije of Budimlja-Niksic, are still not over. Disagreements between the DF representatives and Abazovic about the new government have deepened, as the DF found it unacceptable that some of its leaders cannot take part in the new government, which URA movement required. Moreover, the two sides still haven’t reached an agreement on the religious freedom law. “The Democratic Front wants each side to propose its people for the new government, suggesting that an ‘experts government’ is not necessary. The DF requires a proportional method, i.e. everything must be aligned with the will of citizens – the number of won seats of the bloc ‘For the Future of Montenegro’,” a source close to CdM said. In addition, the DF doesn’t want to give up on certain departments in the govt, but stresses that the international impact on the ‘Black on White’ coalition is huge as they don’t want the DF to take over the National Security Agency, ANB. Even the influential Serbian Orthodox Church couldn’t affect the agreement on the religious freedom law, having in mind that the coalition ‘For the Future of Montenegro’ requires Abazovic to take a position on its abolition. Meanwhile, Abazovic has been discussing this issue for days with the businessman, Miodrag Daka Davidovic, and bishop Joanikije of Budmlja-Niksic. According to Pobjeda daily, it seems that the leader of the ‘Black on White’ coalition is under great pressure, as there’s the Serbian Orthodox Church on one side and his party members, Bozena Jelusic, Filip Adzic and Srdjan Pavicevic, not backing the abolition of the law, on the other. Leader of the block ‘For the Future of Montenegro’, Zdravko Krivokapic, has announced earlier that a special agreement on this matter was going to be concluded. Leaders of the three coalitions that make a new parliamentary majority, according to Dan daily, will meet today to discuss the programs and priorities of the future government, and how to form it.

Medojevic didn’t want to meet with Abazovic: I won’t respond to Misko Perovic’s blackmail (CdM)

Leader of the Movement for Changes, Nebojsa Medojevic, is not attending the meeting of the new parliamentary majority with Metropolitan Amfilohije, who’s been trying to “reconcile” them in order to be able to form a new government. Medojevic didn’t want to go to the meeting, as he accused the URA movement run by Dritan Abazovic. and one of the owners of Vijesti, who, according to him, backs the Black on White coalition, Miodrag Perovic, of blackmailing the Democratic Front (DF). “I don’t respond to racketeering and blackmail attempts even when they come from mafia or Djukanovic, and I won’t respond to Misko Perovic’s either. We don’t blackmail anyone,” Medojevic commented in one of the Facebook posts.

DF officials and members to their leaders: Don’t let Dritan blackmail you (CdM)

Tensions run high in Montenegro as the three blocks that won the recent elections are trying to reach an agreement on the composition of the new government. Leader of the Movement for Changes, Nebojsa Medojevic, claims that URA movement blackmails the rest of the ruling coalition. The Democratic Front, DF, officials and members have urged their leaders via social media, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, not to allow blackmailing of Dritan Abazovic and the coalition Black on White. Some threaten that they are going to require their leaders to quit if they accept Abazovic’s requests, as it’d be contrary to the will of the people who voted for them on 30 August. Medojevic posted on social networks that Abazovic’s coalition has been blackmailing the rest of the coalition comprising 37 MPs. “URA movement won only 4 seats and is blackmailing us. What part of it do you not understand?” he tweeted. But their dissatisfaction doesn’t seem to cease there. These days, social media have been flooded with disappointment of the DF supporters, primarily their officials and members. A spokesperson of the New Serbian Democracy, Marko Kovacevic, was adamant – Not on behalf of ourselves – clearly stating that he and many others won’t accept giving up on their policy. “Having in mind the recent events and as I see that leaders of my party, the New Serbian Democracy, express readiness to fully accept proposals of URA movement, with all due respect to them, I have to ask the leader of the party where I have been engaged for almost 15 years on various jobs, in whose politics I have never been disappointed, the party which has always taken into account the interests of the people to whom I belong, which has fought faithfully against organized crime: who has the right to just reject the policies and principles that we have been fighting for years, which were a key factor in the victory over the DPS in these elections, on behalf of many others from the New Serbian Democracy and myself?,” he posted on Facebook. He continued by clearly stating that they weren’t fighting for this. “The DPS was offering this same thing and many others to Andrija Mandic and the New Serbian Democracy back in 2013, and we were all so proud that we didn’t even consider it, we never even thought it might be an option, regardless of the positive feedback we’d have got from Europe and the region. We were so proud to have rejected their proposals, as in those times, Andrija Mandic used to represent us. Who is now giving up on all those principles on behalf of all us and myself?” the Nova spokesperson says. A member of the Democratic People’s Party, DNP, Aleksandar Sekulic, also posted on Facebook: “If Milan Knezevic gives in to the pressure of blackmailers, as a member of the DNP management, I’ll ask him to take responsibility and resign for betraying the interests of my party.” Leader of the Movement for Changes, Nebojsa Medojevic, has been saying for days that he’s not going to accept any blackmail.

Krivokapic: I hope we will all be aware that we need to go out in front of people (CdM)

Holder of the list ‘For the future of Montenegro’ Zdravko Krivokapic, said that he expected everyone who claimed victory in the parliamentary elections to demonstrate responsibility at constitutive session scheduled for today. “Those who voted for us don’ care about individual interests of anyone of us. And they shouldn’t care because citizens of Montenegro have defeated a retrograde regime with difficulty, Therefore, I hope we will be aware that we need to go out in front of these people,” Krivokapic said.

 

Zaev to Bartholomew: Orthodox population in country deserve church independence and autocephalous MOC-OA (MIA)

The Prime Minister Zoran Zaev sent a letter to Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, in which he referred to the meeting in Istanbul where his support was sought in the recognition of the autocephalous status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA). “We respect everything that is set by international agreements and conditions. But we demand our church to be free within the borders of our country and be equal with the other Orthodox churches in the world,” reads Prime Minister Zaev’s letter to Bartholomew. The letter emphasizes that the Orthodox faithful in our country deserve church independence that they have been dreaming of for a century and that they expect to see the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric recognized as autocephalous, with the blessing and a written decision of Bartholomew.

VMRO schedules a major protest against SDSM corruption and mafia attacks (Republika)

A large protest will take place on Wednesday afternoon, organized by the VMRO-DPMNE party in response to the mafia links in the SDSM – DUI led government. One reason for the protest, which opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski called for today, is the attack on outspoken government critic Ljupco Palevski. The former magazine publisher and businessman was badly beaten up by two masked men who fled on a motorcycle, at a time when he’s frequently revealing compromising reports on Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Days later, there are still no suspects for the bloody attack in which a critic of the government was beaten on his head with iron bars. This spent government has no capacity to deal with crime and corruption and is becoming part of the mafia, Mickoski said. In his call to protest, Mickoski also named Zaev’s attacks on the press, the refusal of state prosecutors to investigate clear cases of crime and corruption in the government and the continued politicized attacks on former opposition officials. The protest march is scheduled for Wednesday at 18:30 and will begin at the Justice Ministry.

 

Electoral reform, opposition seeks assistance from OSCE/ODHIR (Tirana Times)

Clashes between the opposition and the Socialist majority continue on the electoral reform continue as the two debate whether or not they should seek the assistance of the OSCE / ODIHR in the decision-making process. In a lengthy discussion on Tuesday, the opposition urged the Socialist party to seek answers from the OSCE / ODIHR about the current Electoral Code mechanism for coalitions, the formula for distributing mandates, open lists, changing electoral rules 6 months before elections, as well as violations of equality in the political race. However, SP representative Damian Gjiknuri refused to turn to the OSCE / ODIHR, as long as all parties are still not making an effort to reach an understanding. “It was the opposition that set and imposed the standard and principle stating that as long as we have political debates, we cannot turn to the ODIHR with respective proposals. On the contrary, the document 14 of January states that ‘Compromise is intended and when there is no compromise, OSCE / ODIHR assistance can be obtained to seek compromise, but only on drafts and relevant proposals’,” Gjiknuri said. The opposition said it was concerned about a change in electoral rules a few months before the election by the Socialists because it violated equality in the race, citing suspicion on the Socialists’ proposals on open lists and the electoral system, including the formula of the distribution of mandates. Disagreements between the parties in the Political Council have once again hampered the work predicted by the 5 June Agreement. In July, the parliament approved the establishment of 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 opposition has kept its stance towards the approval of the 5 June agreement, claiming that “unilateral constitutional changes that undermine it, as well as the continuation of political dialogue between the parties, is the only way to maintain the consensus reached, which has been maintained. note from the partners and increases the chances for the start of Albania’s membership talks with the European Union.”

British Ambassador Norman: 5 June agreement should not be changed; it should continue in a transparent manner (Radio Tirana)

The British Ambassador in Tirana focused on the hottest topic of today, such as the political stalemate and the disagreement of the political parties even after successive meetings between the majority and the opposition. Norman said the 5 June agreement should not be changed and that any continuation of it should be done transparently so that there is political consensus. He stressed that if there was political will then elections would be free in the country.  The ambassador said that the cooperation will continue to have a better monitoring of the upcoming elections in the country. Norman also spoke about his attitude towards President Ilir Meta, emphasizing that he has an important constitutional role in the country. Regarding the political stalemate, he said that the Council should continue its work and if this does not happen then it will act arbitrarily. Norman stated that European integration is one of the biggest dreams of the country, and Britain supports Albania in this difficult journey even though it is no longer part of it.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES 

Serbia’s Vucic plays down hopes for quick political deal with Kosovo (Reuters, by Ivana Sekularac, 22 September 2020) 

BELGRADE – Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic played down hopes on Tuesday that a U.S.-mediated agreement on economic cooperation with Kosovo could lead soon to a political deal with the former province. Political normalisation with Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 nearly a decade after it was protected by NATO in a bombing campaign, is a pre-condition for Serbia’s entry into the EU. Serbia and Kosovo agreed to take steps towards economic cooperation, including working on joint infrastructure projects, in agreements signed at the White House this month, which U.S. President Donald Trump called a “breakthrough”. In his first interview with a Western news organisation since his trip to Washington, Vucic described the agreements as a big step in the right direction, but a long way from political normalisation. “I think such agreements are very important in order to preserve peace and that once and for all we resolve our problems to have clear future for our children,” Vucic told Reuters. “I am not saying that we are close to a political solution,” Vucic said, though he described economic cooperation as “key” for any future political deals. On Tuesday, a U.S. delegation headed by Trump’s special envoy for talks between Serbia and Kosovo, Richard Grenell, arrived in Serbia to discuss possibility of financing projects.

The delegation visited Kosovo on Monday.

‘ARGUMENTS WITH EVERYONE EQUALLY’

Vucic, a former ultra-nationalist who pivoted towards a pro-European stance in 2008, is determined to bring his country into the EU, which requires some form of accommodation with Kosovo. Serbia and its ally Russia reject Kosovo’s declaration of independence. EU-mediated normalisation negotiations broke down in 2018 but resumed in July after Kosovo lifted import tariffs on Serbian goods. In his interview, Vucic described a future for his country that would involve balancing ties with East and West, even if this meant occasionally angering both sides. “If you live in a small country which is geographically at the crossroads, then your policy should be maintain peace and stability, either by not having arguments with anyone, which is impossible, or having arguments with everyone equally,” he said. “Serbia is on its European path, but Serbia has to live, and has friends in the U.S. but it also has friends and it is not ashamed of them in Moscow and in Beijing.” Serbia accepted highly publicised offers of aid from China in fighting the coronavirus this year, annoying some European countries who saw the gesture as politicised. More recently, Vucic risked friction with the Kremlin by steering clear of joint military exercises in Belarus, refusing to be drawn into a show of support for embattled leader Alexander Lukashenko, a Russian ally. “Sometimes we have to protect our military neutrality by being all alone,” Vucic said. Vucic said he hoped Trump would visit Serbia. His delegation was warmly met in the United States, long the main supporter of Kosovo’s independence, and the trip irked Moscow. Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman compared Vucic’s White House visit to an explicit film scene, prompting Vucic to accuse Moscow of stooping to “primitivism and vulgarity”. In Washington, both Kosovo and Serbia also agreed to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem, a Trump administration priority. Vucic said Serbia’s chamber of commerce would open in Jerusalem first, with the embassy move to follow.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Peter Graff) 

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