Brnabic to MPs: Six priorities for new Serbian government (FoNet/RTS)
Serbian Prime Minister Designate Ana Brnabic said today that her new cabinet has six goals including the fight against crime and corruption and strengthening the health care system to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking in the Serbian parliament, she said the six goals are: fighting the coronavirus pandemic and strengthening the health care system, preserving the vital interests of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, fighting organized crime, maintaining Serbia’s independence and independent decision making, the rule of law and speeding up reforms on the EU path and strengthening the country’s economy. Brnabic said her cabinet’s first priority are protecting the health of the population and supporting the health care system. The new government will continue investing in roads, railways and river traffic, she said and added that productivity has to be raised because it is at a low level compared to the EU. She said that Serbia is facing a difficult winter with huge political challenges. “Primarily in relations with Pristina, continuing the dialogue to normalize relations and the establishing of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) which we will not give up on,” she said. “The new government will continue to conduct policies to protect vital interests, peace and cooperation in regard to Kosovo with the aim of protecting our people, cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as peace and stability in the entire region. The government will coordinate all of its activities on what she said was perhaps the greatest challenge to the long-term sustainable security and stability of the region with President Aleksandar Vucic, adding that the priorities in terms of Kosovo and Metohija are the talks with Pristina, promoting economic development and living conditions for the Kosovo Serbs and supporting the return of displaced persons. “National and political unity on this issue is our absolute priority,” she said. Brnabic went on to say that the state has to show that it is stronger than organized crime and called the security services to protect President Vucic who, she said, declared war on the Mafia and is under daily attacks to criminalize him. She said that the state will provide protection to everyone involved in the fight against organized crime and added that the sources of financing organized crime and its networks in state bodies, politics and the media have to cut. Brnabic said that Serbia will have a single education information system by April 2021 with a clear overview of the entire education system and added that the country’s telecommunications system has to be upgraded and Internet access brought to every village. She said that AI will be another of her cabinet’s priorities.
Belgrade-Pristina dialogue to continue on Thursday (Tanjug)
The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will be resumed on Thursday, 29 October, with a meeting at the level of experts, Tanjug has learned in Brussels. Both delegations will be led by chief negotiators. It is a round of dialogue that was originally scheduled for the end of September, but was canceled due to the preventive quarantine measure for the staff of the European External Action Service (EEAS), which mediates the dialogue. The agenda remains the same, financial claims and assets will be discussed. In Brussels, they told Tanjug that the meeting will take place in compliance with all measures of protection against coronavirus prescribed by the European External Action Service and the authorities of Belgium, as the host country.
EU: ZSO will not be parallel authority (Beta)
The EU said on Tuesday the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) won’t be a parallel authority, nor will it pass its laws, as former EU High Representative Federica Mogherini had already said. Beta asked Peter Stano, a spokesperson of EU High Representative Joseph Borrell, to clarify what was in a letter that Mogherini sent only to Pristina and not to Belgrade in August 2015. Beta reminded Stano that Lajcak did not want to either comment, deny, or confirm the letter. Stano told Beta that “we will like to address you to the former EU High Representative Mogherini’s statement in the Kosovo Assembly on 6 May 2016, when she clearly explained the EU stand – the ZSO with a Serb majority won’t be a parallel authority within Kosovo and will not bring own laws,” Stano told Beta. Mogherini then also said, Stano recalled, the ZSO “will be established within the framework of Kosovo laws, will follow the Constitutional Court recent opinion as a guideline for the ZSO statute, and when it’s drafted, it will guarantee that the ZSO will reflect Kosovo’s legislative”. Such ZSO would, as Mogherini added then, “enable the Serb community to be fully integrated into the society”. Beta asked Mogherini to say why the letter was kept secret for the Serbian authorities which believed that the ZSO would have executive powers, but she did not answer.
Petkovic: No progress in dialogue without ZSO with all jurisdictions envisaged by Brussels agreement (RTV/Tanjug/FoNet)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic said Belgrade would insist on the implementation of all signed agreements, including the formation of the ZSO, which should have been formed seven and a half years ago. “Without the constitution of the ZSO with all jurisdictions envisaged by the Brussels agreement, there are no possibilities for progress in the dialogue,” he said during the meeting with Simon Geissbühler, Head of the Human Security Division of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, and Urs Schmid, the newly appointed Swiss Ambassador to Serbia. Petkovic added that Belgrade, despite everything, remained committed to the dialogue as the only possible mean for a peaceful solution of disputes and creation of pre-conditions for the economic growth and stability in the Western Balkans.
Dzaferovic, Inzko discuss political situation in B&H and reforms on EU path; Dzaferovic warns that Dodik’s recent statements represent danger for stability of B&H and entire region (BHT1)
Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic discussed with High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko on Tuesday the current political situation in B&H and reforms on the EU path. Commenting on the latest statements about the declaration of SNSD and HDZ B&H that would demand organization of B&H only in line with wishes of the two parties, Dzaferovic said that they represent a danger for the stability of B&H and the entire region. In this regard, he expressed expectations that Inzko himself will also react in line with his competences. According to Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, dissolution is the only solution for failure to accept the joint declaration of Serbs and Croats in which Serbs and Croats would point to the manner in which B&H should function, but that does not mean war. Dzaferovic assessed that this is not only Dodik’s pre-election trick but also a dangerous game, that he warned HR Inzko about. “I spoke to the HR here in B&H and told him that this is a dangerous situation in which representatives of SNSD and HDZ B&H are trying to make some declaration. There is ultimatum that is set on that occasion, that dissolution will follow if this is not accepted in B&H,” Dzaferovic noted. He assessed that there is always something serious in such statements. Reflecting on statements of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Dzaferovic underscored that it seems to him that Russia does not want dissolution of B&H. “As a matter of fact, I think that Russia advocates integral and democratic B&H,” he noted, concluding that, nevertheless, B&H cannot agree to what Russia might be wanting, which is for B&H to change its orientation when it comes to NATO path. Chairman Dzaferovic emphasized that he demanded that the representatives of the international community fulfill their mandate prescribed by the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), in order to prevent a new political crisis and the negative consequences that may result from that,” the press release issued by Dzaferovic’s Cabinet reads. The OHR has stated that instead of making provocative statements that lead nowhere, politicians should focus on future-oriented goals and on improving the lives of the citizens they represent. “Such statements only create tensions over fundamental aspects of the DPA,” the OHR said in response to Dodik’s statements.
US Embassy comments Dodik’s statement: Existence of entities depends of existence of the state of B&H (Dnevni avaz)
The US Embassy to B&H issued a statement for the daily, commenting the recent statements of member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, who stated that Serbs and Croats will draft a joint statement about ways that B&H can function and if this is not accepted the dissolution will be the only solution. The Embassy stated that neither the Constitution of B&H nor the Dayton Peace Agreement give possibility to entities to secede. “US stance on this is well known and remain unchanged. Territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H are guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Agreement. Every activity undertaken with a goal of dissolution of B&H, would represent violation of the DPA. Existence of each of the two entities is completely dependent on existence of B&H. Status of B&H as a state is not a matter of the opinion, but a fact that was established by the international law,” reads Embassy’s statement. The Embassy further stated that the US is ready to support the leaders, who are working on achieving of progress of B&H on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration, which is a path towards brighter future for B&H citizens. “Every amendment to laws or Constitution of B&H has to have wide and inclusive political support and get the country closer to European standards,” reads the statement.
Visit of Russian FM Lavrov postponed since he has to go in isolation due to contact with person infected with Covid-19 (RTRS)
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the previously announced official visits of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov to B&H and Serbia have been postponed. Lavrov is in self-isolation due to contact with a person infected with Covid-19. Namely, Lavrov had been scheduled to pay a visit to B&H on Wednesday and meet with B&H Presidency members in Sarajevo, as well as with the RS leadership in Istocno Sarajevo.
Lavrov: B&H and Serbia have friendly partnership; There is no need for revision of DPA but it is time to end presence of OHR; Claims about Russian malign influence in region are not based on facts (Glas Srpske)
Glas Srpske daily carried an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Asked to comment relations between B&H and Russia, Lavrov said that there is friendly partnership between the two countries, based on pragmatism, mutual respect and mutual understanding regarding many issues. “We have an advanced political dialogue, we offer mutual support on multilateral platforms. We adhere to the same or very similar stances on key international issues” said Lavrov. He emphasized that Russian is one of B&H’s main foreign trade partners and among top ten direct foreign investors in B&H. He noted that Russia is a reliable supplier of gas, and Russian market is open for produce from B&H. Lavrov also emphasized that Russia fully accepts the specifics of Dayton structure of B&H. Speaking about relations with the RS, Lavrov said that Russia and the RS have close historical and cultural dies, and that Russia appreciates the brotherly understanding which exists between Russia and the RS. He also underlined that Russia, as one of the guarantors of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), fully supports the Dayton status of the RS and its constitutional competencies. “It is no secret that significant part of our practical cooperation with B&H consists of cooperation with the RS. Our business people are showing interest in industrial potential of the RS. Russia is considering joining the gasification projects,” said Lavrov. He emphasized that this cooperation is not aimed against anyone. Asked to comment the theory that DPA is outdated and that it needs to be changed, Lavrov said that such claims usually come from outside B&H. “It is obvious that the rules established by the DPA in 1995 contrary to someone’s interest and that they are preventing implementation of guidelines which are being imposed from abroad. We do not by any means believe that these are reasons enough to discuss revision of DPA which has been successfully providing peace, security and stability in B&H and the entire region for a quarter of a century,” said Lavrov. According to Lavrov, the lasting value of DPA lies in the fact that it has defined the internal organization of B&H, established the constitutional position of the two entities, distributed areas of responsibility among different levels of authority and guaranteed equal status of the three constituent peoples. The DPA also secured a verified method for realization of rights of the three peoples which includes the right to veto for protection of vital national interests. He underlined that interfering with these fundamental principles would mean undermining of the foundations of B&H’s statehood. He also underlined that Russia, as one of the guarantors of the DPA, fully supports the Dayton status of the RS and its constitutional competencies. Lavrov also noted that any changes to DPA are acceptable only if they are result of an agreement of the three constituent peoples in line with the prescribed procedure. However, what needs to be revised, according to him, is the presence of the Office of High Representative (OHR). “Nobody can deny the fact that this mechanism of externa control was designed as a temporary measure. There is even the basic decision on its abolition passed already in 2006, but its implementation is constantly being postponed under different excuses. We do not recognize any practical need for the High Representative, his function was exhausted a long time ago. There is even something humiliating about sovereign and independent B&H, which was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and chaired the Council of Europe Ministers Committee, being still under external ‘supervision’. It is time to end this. All responsibility for the future of the country belongs only to its peoples,” said Lavrov. Asked how Russia sees the future of Western Balkans, Lavrov said that Russia sees the region as an area of stability, security, cooperation and development. He underlined that there is no other alternative, and that Russia is very interested in such future. “We are convinced that only dialogue based on international law and mutual respect is a guarantee for prosperity of all countries and peoples in the region. We are always ready to support any constructive initiatives and endeavors which are aiming at strengthening regional peace and stability,” said Lavrov. Asked to comment frequent speculations about Russia’s malign influence in the region, Lavrov said that interestingly, nobody can define that alleged malign influence. “A lot of empty and idle talk and insinuations, but nobody is capable of providing evidence and facts. Where would they get them? Our extensive ties with all countries of the region in different fields are being developed in an absolutely transparent way, they are fully in line with the norms of international law. Russia also continues to play an important role in the process of post-conflict reconciliation and stabilization,” said Lavrov. According to him, this state does not suit the selfish interests of some international players who want to turn the region into an arena for geo-political confrontation and create new divisions.
Dodik: Stories about alleged malignant Russian influence in B&H come from West that has most interfered in B&H (RTRS)
Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, who was scheduled to meet with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday before learning that the visit was cancelled due to the Lavrov’s self-isolation related to Covid-19 contacts, stated on Tuesday that the RS and Russia have good bilateral relations. Dodik presented an opinion that the stories about alleged malignant Russian influence in B&H come from the West, which – according to him –interfered in B&H the most. Dodik noted that B&H cannot even function, due to foreigners’ degradation of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). The Serb member of the Presidency added that, on the other hand, Russian foreign policy is based on respecting the DPA and international law. The Serb member of the Presidency pointed out that, over the past decade or so, Russia has had a dissenting opinion when it comes to all of the communiqués issued by the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) and which were very risky from the perspective of respecting the DPA. “That goes on to show that everything the High Representative (HR) adopted is illegitimate. Consensus of the PIC is required for such decisions and that was never provided. The pressure carried out on the past political structures is very suspicious, because the democratic systems do not allow such pressures – from dismissing people from work to threats. Russia understood all of that and said it does not want to give legitimacy to that kind of decisions. We are grateful for that,” he said. Dodik also said that Russia has been very carefully reading reports the RS has been delivering to the Security Council (SC) of the UN, while HR Valentin Inzko has been talking worst things about the RS before the UN SC. Dodik stressed that Inzko has been lying about the RS and stance of Serbs before the UN SC. According to Dodik, Inzko has been exclusively supporting Bosniaks and affirming their political stances. “As you know, it is the stance of Russia that there is no point for the High Representative to be here anymore, which is off course similar to our stances,” explained Dodik.
Lavrov says EU’s anti-Russian sentiment is stifling Russian-Croatian relations (HRT/Vecernji list)
The Russian Foreign Minister was supposed to have made an official visit to Croatia on Tuesday, however, it has been indefinitely cancelled due to the worsening of the epidemiological situation and the spread of the coronavirus infection in the Russian Embassy in Zagreb. Speaking in an interview for the Croatian daily Vecernji list, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented his views on Russian-Croatian political and economic relations, which he believes are on the rise. He added however, that Russophobic EU countries and the “whirlpool of sanctions being promoted by Brussels” are obstacles to further strengthening Russian-Croatian relations.
Speaking about the LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) terminal on Krk, a project that is expected to be completed in 2021 and has been enthusiastically backed by Washington and Brussels, Lavrov said that it is strictly an internal Croatian matter. “If my Croatian colleagues believe that it is better for the country’s economy to buy liquefied gas rather than cheaper gas that is their business,” Lavrov said. He also emphasized that gas agreements with Russia are not political agreements but are rather based exclusively on commercial interests. Lavrov also touched on the situation in neighboring B&H, noting that Moscow’s approach to B&H is in line with Croatia’s position that advocates for the implementation of the basic postulates of the Dayton Agreement, and that Russia is ready to provide any kind of support in this regard. “We are convinced that the Dayton Agreement remains relevant. Its basic principles enable the maintenance of peace and stability, the secure development of that country,” Lavrov said. The interview with the Russian head of diplomacy and the longest-serving minister in the Russian government was conducted when the details of his visit to Croatia, which was to have been the first in 15 years, had already been agreed to. The visit included, among other things, individual meetings with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, President Zoran Milanovic and Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman.
Democrats provide list of the candidates for ministers (Dan)
According to Dan, last night Democratic Montenegro sent to Zdravko Krivokapic a list of candidates for ministers in the new government. Previously, leaders of DF and president of Socialist People’s Party, Vladimir Jokovic, sent a letter to Krivokapic, urging him to reach an agreement on the division of departments. The letter, signed by Andrija Mandic, informs Krivokapic, that they will give up on one department, Ministry of Science, only to show that positions are not important to them. As Dan finds out, Branko Radulovic decided to give up that department in order to ensure that Nebojsa Medojevic will get the position of the vice-president of the government in charge of reforms and coordination in the fight against organized crime and corruption. “If Krivokapic refuses, then this is not reform government and prime minister-designate doesn’t want leader of the Movement for Changes. The ball is in the court of Krivokpaic now,” Dan unofficially reports. Medojevic said last night that, if Krivokapic decided that the government would be expert and without DF leaders in it, he would vote for it but would not take part in it. He added that reforms required great knowledge, courage, dedication, commitment and love for Montenegro, “which prime minister-designate does not have”.
Mandic and Knezevic met with Russia’s Ambassador to Montenegro (CdM)
The leaders of the Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, met with Russia’s Ambassador to Montenegro, Vladislav Vladislavovic Maslennikov, and used the opportunity to present their views regarding the current political situation in Montenegro. Mandic and Knezevic especially pointed out to the fact that the great democratic victory of the people of Montenegro on the peaceful elections held on 30 August, represented a historical progress towards democratization of Montenegro, while peoples’ expectations in this regard must be respected.
“Parts of the talks between the leaders of the Democratic Front and Russia’s Ambassador were devoted to the improvement of relations between the two friendly countries – Montenegro and Russia – both in the context of a new and broader opening of Montenegro towards Europe, the world and the Russian Federation, which should be one of the foreign policy priorities, along with mutual respect between the two countries and their positions in the international frameworks,” the Democratic Front said in a statement. The DF leaders also presented their expectations regarding the Freedom of Religion Law, primarily the disputed articles of that law allowing the seizure of property owned by the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral.
Dimitrov goes to Paris to lobby for the opening of EU accession talks (Republika)
Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of EU accession talks Nikola Dimitrov met with the French Minister of State Clement Beaune to discuss the latest delays in the next step on Macedonia’s EU path. Macedonia is hoping to open the accession talks by the end of the year, now that France lifted its objections to the methodology that is being used, but Bulgaria threatens to block the move unless major new concessions are made in areas of history and national identity. The principled French support was expressed through the renewed approach to the accession talks and this is another important element in this key period that will enable the opening of accession talks this year. It gives us right to believe that this is the success Europe needs. The sooner member states reach consensus, the sooner we can begin our final phase of accession talks and the successful transformation of our society. This will send a positive signal to the region that the process of Euroization is the only path toward fundamentally strengthening the democratic processes, Dimitrov said during the meeting in Paris.
E. Code, Premier ‘ignores’ international calls for waiting (ADN)
Prime Minister, Edi Rama stated that the parliament would not wait a second for the re-voting of the Electoral Code. PM Rama even underlined that this stance has been made clear to the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, Oliver Varhelyi, with the latter having urged the Parliament not to approve the Constitutional changes immediately but to wait for Venice Commission’s opinion. “I also clarified to the commissioner in a conversation we had that the parliament will not wait a second because we have the elections on 25 April and there is no possibility to enter the spiral of an adventure where Ilir Meta invites us, who does not intend to improve the Electoral Code but intends to sabotage this process from its extremist anti-majority and anti-parliament position. The Venice Commission is definitely welcome to bring when it matures its opinion, that opinion will be discussed with all political forces and given the time we have available, it will remain to address any issues that may arise beyond 25 April. We do not have time to lose and we cannot enter into any adventure, I repeat, because the new structures of the election administration have started working and need to have the election law written in black and white, the implementation of the election law takes its necessary time. Let us not forget that a commitment has been made for biometric identification, the time is extremely tight not to say impossible but we have no reason not to reject Ilir Meta as soon as the time of procedure expires,” Rama said.
SP considers as ‘adventure’ waiting for Venice’s opinion on E. Code Changes (ADN)
Ruling majority in Albania thinks there is no time to embark on an ‘adventure’ and wait for the opinion of Venice Commission on Electoral Code amendments, as the Leader of Socialist Party (SP) parliamentary group Taulant Balla revealed Tuesday. SP Parliamentary Group’s Head also accused President of the Republic of attempting to “put the country in a dangerous spiral” and of not intending to improve the electoral legal framework of Albania. Earlier, the Head of State returned to parliament for review the amendments in the Electoral Code, as there was no consensus with the non-parliamentary opposition. President Meta even asked for Venice Commission’s opinion on the matter and the Enlargement Commissioner Varhelyi called on the Parliament and Prime Minister Edi Rama wait until this opinion is given before it decides to approve the constitutional changes. “The parliament of Albania, through the Laws Commission has dismissed the decree of the President of the Republic for the Electoral Code. For the majority, the Venice Commission is always welcome to bring a mature opinion, which will be discussed by all political forces with attention and will addressed also for issues after 25 April, but now we do not have time to lose, to enter on an adventure. I have explained it also to the commissioner in a conversation we have had, direct friendly conversations, without gloves, that the parliament will not wait a second, because we have the elections on 25 April and we do not have to enter the spiral of an adventure where Ilir Meta invites us, who does not aim to improve the electoral code, but aims to sabotage from his extremist, anti-majority and anti-parliament position in this process. They need to have written black on white the electoral law. The implementation of the electoral law requires its own time, a commitment to biometric identification has also been taken, the time is extremely tight,” said Balla.
E. Code, Presidency repeats reflection appeal to majority (ADN)
Presidency responds to the head of the Socialist Party Parliamentary Group, Taulant Balla, who said in a statement to the media that the ruling majority rejected Ilir Meta‘s attempt to plunge the country into a dangerous spiral by turning down the decree for returning to Parliament the amendments to Electoral Code. President Meta’s spokesman, Tedi Blushi urged Balla to reflect until Thursday. The clash between the Presidency and the Government is about the constitutional changes, as Meta demands that the opinion of Venice be taken, while the majority refuses to wait. “Mr. Balla, reflect until Thursday! The President heard the call of Europe! You must listen to it, too! Enough holding hostage the European future of Albania!” said Blushi.
Law Committee decides on President’s refusal of E. Code Changes (ADN)
Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration, and Human Rights turned down President of the Republic, Ilir Meta‘s decree to return to the parliament amendments to the Electoral Code. 15 out of 17 members present voted against the decree and only 2 in favor – Adriatik Alimadhi and Korab Lita. After a debate for more than 2 hours, the ruling majority has remained convinced that the amendments to the Electoral Code must be approved to begin work on the preparation for the elections of 25 April 2021. The parliamentary opposition at the Law Committee has been divided, with some MPs in favor and some against Meta’s decree. Meta’s advisor, Bledar Dervishaj, was also present at the session and asked for the acceptance of the decree for the return of the President, as well as waiting for the opinion of the Venice Commission that will answer the 8 questions raised by the President. “On 21 October, President addressed Venice with a request for opinion with 8 questions. In the absence of the Constitutional Court, the President turned to the author of these practices for an opinion. The President estimates that after returning the amendments to the Parliament, the majority should reflect. We, therefore, request the acceptance of the decree and the waiting of the Venice Commission” said Bledar Dervishaj. Now, the Electoral Code, as stated by PM Edi Rama, will go to the, parliament on Thursday for voting.