Brnabic: Improvement of overall cooperation with US foreign policy priority (Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic talked on Wednesday with US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey about bilateral cooperation and further strengthening of relations after the US elections and change of administration in Washington, as well as about the situation with COVID-19 and measures taken by the two countries in the fight against the pandemic.
Brnabic pointed out that the improvement of all areas of cooperation with the US is Serbia’s foreign policy priority, and added that this commitment was clearly stated in the program of the new government, as well as by appointing Marko Djuric as Ambassador to Washington.
Serbia is committed to deepening cooperation with the US through the intensification of political dialogue at the highest level, Brnabic underlined, expressing hope that in the future the two countries will continue to cooperate on projects and investments of mutual interest. In that context, she especially pointed to the further strengthening of cooperation with the American International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Godfrey expressed full support for Serbia in the implementation of strategic plans and reforms on the road to the EU, assessing that Serbia has a significant role in preserving the stability of the entire region. The interlocutors confirmed their readiness to continue working on strengthening and improving economic cooperation, despite the impact that the pandemic will have on the economy. Brnabic expressed gratitude to the US for the assistance and support it has provided to Serbia in the fight against the pandemic.
Brnabic: Government resolved to intensify reforms on EU path (RTV/RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stressed in talks with Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi and ambassadors of the EU member states that there is political will and firm preparedness of the Serbian government to intensify the reforms on Serbia’s EU path, which is the country’s top priority in the field of foreign affairs. The meeting was also attended by Serbian Minister for EU Integration Jadranka Joksimovic. Brnabic informed the ambassadors that Serbia will continue working on implementation of the reforms in the area of rule of law and judicial reform, in the best interest of the Serbian citizens and society. She said that efficiency and transparency of the judicial system is the basic foundation of a democratic society Serbia is striving for and an uncompromising goal of this government. Regarding the upcoming activities, Brnabic said that an action plan for the Media Strategy will be adopted soon, and that the government remains dedicated to improving the dialogue with media and journalist associations. The participants in the meeting also stressed the importance of having a ministry dedicated to social dialogue established, as well as its importance for improvement of dialogue among all actors in society. Brnabic underlined that Serbia has accepted the new EU methodology, and that she is expecting a positive signal by the EU in the upcoming period and the opening of new chapters for which Serbia is fully prepared. The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia and the EU ambassadors welcomed the formation of the new government and its clear commitment to expedite Serbia’s path to the EU, including through reforms particularly in the area of rule of law. They encouraged the implementation of these reforms according to the recommendations of the European Commission’s Annual Report on Serbia. They also reiterated their full solidarity with Serbia and its people during the pandemic. Team Europe – the EU, its Member States and Financial institutions like the EIB – will continue to stand by Serbia in this difficult moment. Fabrizi also expressed appreciation for Serbia’s dedicated efforts to maintain stability of its economy in the difficult conditions of the epidemic. Fabrizi pointed out that the European Union will continue to financially support Serbia and the region through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, as well as the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans. Fabrizi explained that this support is particularly important for preservation of the economy and business activities during the pandemic and for boosting a long-term recovery. The commitment to deepening regional economic integration and the creation of a common regional market and the Green Agenda were also assessed positively. Brnabic, the Head of the EU Delegation and the EU ambassadors agreed to remain in close contact and to meet regularly.
Petkovic: Haradinaj Stubla’s statements political violence and violation of agreement (RTS)
The so-called foreign minister of self-declared Kosovo Meliza HaradinajStubla has once again publicly revealed its ambition to be an actor in destabilizing the situation in the region, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic said. “Her statement that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will not be allowed to enter Kosovo and Metohija until further notice is a manifestation of political violence and a clear violation of the Pristina-Belgrade agreement that regulates visits for officials and freedom of movement, as well as all civilized regulations,” he said.
Dacic: Stubla’s statement culmination of Pristina’s hypocrisy (RTV/Tanjug)
Statements of so-called Kosovo foreign minister that President Vucic will be banned entrance to Kosovo until he apologizes for genocide is the culmination of insolence and hypocrisy of Pristina, Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic said. “This is not just a violation of the Brussels agreement, but also the Washington agreement, according to which Pristina undertook to enter the mini Schengen, which implies free movement of people, goods and capital,” Dacic said in a written statement to Tanjug. It is obvious that Pristina, as he added, with the departure of Donald Trump, is renouncing the Washington agreement, that is, the obligations that arise from it.
“Serbia stands behind its obligations agreed in Brussels and Washington, but if Pristina does not want that, then Serbia will think carefully about our obligations. The Washington agreement is either valid or not valid for either side. If the Serbian President is banned from entering Kosovo, what kind of reconciliation are we talking about?! Especially at a time when the whole world is witnessing KLA crimes against Serbs,” said Dacic.
GRECO Report: Serbia has only partially implemented most of anti-corruption recommendations (Beta)
According to the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), Serbia has only partially implemented most of its anti-corruption recommendations covering corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors, which is why this Council of Europe body assessed the situation as globally unsatisfactory. In the latest Compliance Report, adopted by GRECO at its 86th Plenary Meeting taking place in Strasbourg from 26 to 29 November, it says that Belgrade has adequately implemented only two out of 13 recommendations contained in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report. Ten recommendations have been partially implemented, while the recommendation to adopt a Code of Conduct for MPs has not been implemented at all. GRECO comprises 48 European States and the US, and its objective is to improve the members’ capacity to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with anti-corruption standards.
Dodik addresses UNSC: OHR and HR must leave, there is no state property, no room for foreign judges, cooperation with NATO is possible but not membership; Covic criticizes the role of HR Inzko and policy of SDA (RTRS)
RTRS reported about the first speech of an official from Republika Srpska (RS) in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday evening when Chairman and Serb of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik clearly said that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko must leave. Addressing he UNSC on the occasion of marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), Dodik said that there is no state property, no room for foreign judges, while cooperation with the NATO is possible but not membership in this organization. Besides, Dodik made it clear that the Dayton Agreement should be implemented and not interpreted and that HRs including Inzko change the Dayton, violate guaranteed rights of the constituent peoples with their decisions and unilateral reports, while Inzko allegedly advocates only interests of one constituent people; i.e. Bosniaks. Dodik claims that Serbia, Croatia, the RS and half of the Federation of B&H (FB&H) as well as two-third at the joint level of B&H want the HR to leave, while he continues to manipulate with the UNSC by presenting untruth based on applauses in Sarajevo and based on appanage that he receives. RTRS reported that leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic also criticized the role of the HR Inzko and the policy of SDA by saying that he presented the situation in B&H in a superficial way, while numerous solutions of HRs created problems. According to Covic, decisions of HRs changed the B&H Election Law which violated rights of Croats the most. Covic said that thus, the Croat right to elect their political representatives and guaranteed participation in formation of authorities at the levels of the entities and B&H was jeopardized and mentioned election engineering in case of the position of the Croat member of the B&H Presidency on three occasions. Serbia and Croatia support decisions that are reached only in line with competences and agreement among the three peoples with full respect to B&H as a state of the two entities. Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Representative of Serbia in the UNSC Marina Ivanovic underlined that insisting or imposing solutions is unacceptable and Serbia is convinced that B&H can function. Permanent Representative of Croatia to the UNSC Ivan Simonovic called for open dialogue with B&H and within B&H in order to find responses to the disputable solutions. RTRS noted that instead of proposing to solve numerous problems of the constituent peoples in B&H on the path to the European integration, Inzko again spoke about the RS. Inzko stated: “Yesterday, the Chairman of the Presidency again said that no one can prevent integration of Serbia and the RS and that the two Serb states exist in the region”. According to Dodik, Inzko again used the UNSC to protect Bosniaks, targeting the RS as a culprit for failed processes in B&H and its representatives as advocators of separatist rhetoric. Dodik said: “I want Bosnia of peace, Bosnia of stability. I do not jeopardize the Dayton B&H, but I do not accept the imposed B&H because my people does not accept it either. I believe that we can understand each other and successfully work within these frameworks”. According to the reporter, Dodik reminded Inzko before the UNSC that there is no state property in the B&H Constitution and that according to the Venice Commission, the B&H cannot enter the EU with foreign judges. Dodik also reminded that Serbs were convicted of 1,100 years of prison, while Bosniaks were convicted of slightly over 40 years of prison for war crimes. Speaking about the NATO, he underlined that the RS accepts cooperation but not membership in the NATO due to bombing of Serbs. Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya expressed regret with the fact that leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic did not attend the meeting that he initiated. Izetbegovic argued that this was a deliberate attempt of the neighboring countries to derogate the institution of the B&H Presidency by transferring a significant part of competences to leaders of the three political parties. Nebenzya said that the form of the meeting allows to invite unofficial representatives. Izetbegovic demanded from Permanent Representative of the B&H Mission to the UN Sven Alkalaj to read his letter at the meeting but Dodik reacted by saying that Alkalaj does not have the consent of the B&H Presidency. In his address, Dodik also said that HR Inzko hates Serbs and has been talking on behalf of Bosniak people and not the DPA. During his address, Dodik stated that when Inzko speaks about need to form new bodies, he fails to say that it can be done only by signatories of the DPA. “Signatories in B&H are the FB&H and the RS and not you Mr. Inzko. You have nothing to do with it. Why did you violate international law”, emphasized the leader of SNSD.
Covic stressed that all relevant political representatives in B&H deem that Inzko’s reports mostly were significantly defective and shallow. “Most concerning thing is these reports failed to present full integral picture of situation in B&H”, underlined Covic. Covic underlined: “I expect understanding and the support of the IC in solving of this issue that is of vital importance for further democratization and reaching our full integration in the EU”.
US, France, Germany and the UK condemn Dodik’s speech in UNSC, express support to Inzko (O kanal)
The UNSC held an online session on Tuesday, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Serb member of B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik said that Serbia, Croatia, the RS and 50 per cent of the FB&H citizens want the HR Valentin Inzko to leave. German Ambassador to UN Gunter Sautter criticized Dodik in his address and Dodik’s insulting of Inzko adding that verbal attacks and inappropriate address should not be tolerated. Sautter thanked Inzko for this work and announced continuation of support in the future. He also welcomed the work of the Constitutional Court of B&H and foreign judges. US Ambassador Richard Mills said that given the remarks (implying to the speech made by Dodik) which were heard, it is important to note that the US strongly supports the OHR and HR Inzko. He emphasized that the role of the HR is key in the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) and that the role of the OHR in regards to the civic aspect of the DPA remains essential. He said that the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) has established clear conditions under which the OHR can be closed, and that the 5+2 agenda must be fulfilled before B&H is ready to graduate from international monitoring. UK Ambassador Sonia Farrey said that the institution of the High Representative has to be kept in B&H. “I condemn verbal attack of Milorad Dodik and Russian Ambassador truly should have invited member of B&H Presidency instead of political leaders and Dodik’s speech is direct consequence of that. Also, I no way, I can support glorification of war criminals said Farrey. Deputy of Permanent German representative Sautter extended strong support to work of the Constitutional Court of B&H. “I thought that this meeting will open possibility for dialogue about situation in B&H, but instead I have listened for a very long monologue full of personal attacks on High Representative. I do not think this is the way in which Security Council needs to talk,” said Sautter.
Komsic and Dazaferovic comment on Dodik and Covic’s speech before UNSC (N1)
N1 brings reactions to the speeches of Milorad Dodik and Dragan Covic before the UNSC. Member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic characterized Dodik and Covic’ speeches before the UNSC as disgrace. Member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic assessed it is anti-civilizational acts that will never bring any result. Dzaferovic said that once again, the world could see the retrograde forces that they are struggling with within B&H. “Last night’s discussions and the messages made by members of the UNSC are messages of stability, peace. Establishment of a normal, functional state, one civilizational path which we are on,” Dzaferovic said.
Izetbegovic: Dodik and Covic showed their true colors with statements during UNSC online conference (Hayat)
Reacting to the participation of Milorad Dodik and Dragan Covic at the online conference of the UN SC, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic said that they showed their true colors with their statements, where they insulted and criticized Valentin Inzko and Paddy Ashdown. Izetbegovic noted that, during his address, Covic gave up on the idea of a third entity in B&H or any insinuations related to that. Izetbegovic finds that Dodik was very insolent in his address, reminding that he (Dodik) even said he is willing to accompany HR Inzko to Pale to remove the plaque commemorating “war criminal Radovan Karadzic” from the students’ dormitory. “It is good that I did not go, i.e. agree to take part in that format which actually breaks down, denies the institutions of B&H. They need to invite the three members of the Presidency who represent this country and its people or invite the HoP, and not some kind of asymmetric, twisted model that started in Zagreb and Belgrade and now the Russians tried to follow that. Therefore, everyone got a good lesson yesterday (Tuesday),” Izetbegovic stressed. Izetbegovic admitted on Wednesday that Inzko did good job on his behalf. “They heard my stance. It was read for everyone. Then, they heard Mr. Inzko. I think it is much better he is an advocate for situation in B&H than me,” stressed Izetbegovic. President of SNSD’s Political Council Slavko Mitrovic deems that by deciding that Inzko should talk on his behalf, Izetbegovic conveyed clear message High Representative represents him and political Sarajevo. Mitrovic said that Izetbegovic refused to take part in the event and sent a clear message that Inzko advocates his and stances of the political Sarajevo, just like former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told the EU that the US is leading his policy and that he does not want to speak with the EU.
Biden listed his priorities; Cooperation with EU in the Western Balkans (Dnevni avaz)
Daily learns that US President-elect Joe Biden has confirmed that the Western Balkans will be one of the priorities in his foreign politics. Namely, daily noted, Biden’s Cabinet published details about the talks that Biden had with leaders of the European Commission, European Council and NATO. “The President-elect underlined importance of cooperation of the USA and EU on the issue of common interest, including Iran, Belarus, Ukraine and Western Balkans”, reads the Cabinet’s statement. This, daily reads, confirmed earlier speculation that Biden will strengthen US role in the region and especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). Western Balkans was also one of the things that Biden discussed with President of the European Council, Charles Michel, on which occasion Biden underlined his dedication to strengthening of the democracy and cooperation on common challenges. Article noted that the Western Balkans is mentioned in the context of cooperation of between US and EU, which will be strengthened in the following period. Daily concluded that this means that Biden will act with the EU officials, which can be crucial for B&H’s progress towards EU and NATO.
B&H marks its Statehood Day (Hayat)
The Statehood Day of B&H was marked on Wednesday in one part of the country i.e. the FB&H, while 25 November is not recognized in the RS as the Statehood Day. The Statehood Day of B&H was marked on the date of the 77th anniversary of first session of the National Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of B&H (ZAVNOBiH), which took place in Mrkonjic Grad. The ZAVNOBiH’s resolution renewed BiH’s statehood. The ZAVNOBiH’s resolution defined B&H as a country that does not belong to Serbs, Croats, or Muslims only but rather to Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. Bosniak and Croat member of the B&H Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic respectively, laid wreaths at the Eternal Flame memorial in Sarajevo. They were not accompanied by Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik because the RS does not recognize November 25 as the Statehood Day of B&H. “In every country, such a day would be marked at the level of entire B&H because there is nothing bad in that day, in everything that was created that day in terms of equality of citizens and peoples. That was actually a universal value by which we strive to live today,” Komsic stressed. Dzaferovic said that he is convinced that the day when all three members of the B&H Presidency will pay tribute to 25 November and everything that November 25 symbolizes when it comes to B&H will come. “What Mr. Dodik is doing today, i.e. what politicians from the RS are doing is actually illegal conduct. The 25th of November and 1 March are state holidays of B&H,” Dzaferovic underlined. Deputy speaker of the B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, who laid flowers at Kovaci cemetery in Sarajevo, said that to have a country means to have a home, while not having a country means to have no home. “Those who do not have a country know that. Those who have it perhaps sometimes do not appreciate it enough,” Izetbegovic underlined.
Pompeo, US Embassy to B&H, Head of EU Delegation to B&H Sattler congratulate B&H Statehood Day (Dnevni avaz)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated the Statehood Day of B&H on behalf of the US government and reminded that the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), which brought peace to B&H and enabled development of stronger relations between B&H and USA, was marked this year as well. Pompeo added that relations between USA and B&H are the foundation of peace in the Western Balkans and said: “USA commends the progress of B&H towards a greater democratization, which is proven by an important agreement that will enable citizens of Mostar to vote in the upcoming local elections for the first time since 2008”. Pompeo also said that USA supports B&H on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration and concluded by saying: “Finally, I wish safety and health to all citizens of B&H as we work together on overcoming of challenges of COVID-19 pandemic”. The US Embassy to B&H congratulated the Statehood Day to all citizens of B&H: “The Statehood Day! We are still committed to strong friendship and partnership with B&H and its citizens, support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity and we look forward to future strengthening of relations between our two countries in years to come”. Head of EU Delegation to B&H Johann Sattler congratulated Statehood Day as well.
Kohorst: The United States would like Croatia to opt for its F-16 aircraft (HRT)
Croatia is in the process of deciding which fighter jets it will purchase to replace its dated MiG 21 squadron. Four bids have been submitted, and Croatia is currently in the evaluation process that is expected to last until the end of 2020. After opening works on a military hospital at the Eugen Kvaternik Training Grounds in Slunj on Wednesday, the cost of which is being funded by the US Army, to the tune of more than 1.8 million dollars, US Ambassador to Croatia, Robert Kohorst, said that the United States would be happy if Croatia were to decide to buy American F-16 fighter jets, but that it will respect Croatia’s decision, whatever it may be, and expects the partnership between the two countries to continue. “We have a long partnership with Croatia, going back more than 25 years. And it’s cooperation at many levels, the military, politically, humanitarian projects, so we’re thrilled. And of course, we want to continue that partnership, and as I mentioned we feel that American F-16 fighter aircraft are the finest in the world, and we would love to see Croatia make that decision. We recognize that it is a Croatian sovereign decision, and we’ll fully support whatever that decision is, but we would like to see our partnership continue,” Kohorst said. Bids for fighter jets were submitted to Croatia by the USA for the new F-16 Block 70 aircraft, Israel for the used F-16 Block 30, France for the used Rafale, and Sweden for the JAS-39 C / D Gripen. The opening of the works on the military range in Slunj was attended by senior officials from the Croatian Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense. The works on the range, which include the construction of an ambulance and accommodation facility, will be performed by members of the Croatian Army Engineering Corps and a dedicated group of the US Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps.
Leaders of the three winning coalitions prepare new agreement (Dan)
Leaders of the three winning coalitions, Zdravko Krivokapic, Aleksa Becic and Dritan Abazovic, have made an Agreement on program priorities of the expert government which encompasses 13 items. The Agreement envisages adoption of five laws: law on the origin of property, lustration law, law on Government, law on Parliament and law on spatial planning and building structures. Proposal for the agreement was referred to the prime minister-designate and Aleksa Becic by URA several days ago. The latest agreement stipulates adoption of the amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion, with the emphasis on the abolition of disputable articles, as well as continuation of negotiations with the EI, with a view to making progress in Chapters 23 and 24. Consolidation of public finances with a cross-section of the current situation at the time of taking power; Resolute fight against corruption and organized crime with tightening of penal policy in these areas; Adoption of emergency measures to combat the pandemic of the new virus Covid-19; Fundamental reform of electoral legislation and creation of conditions for holding the first fair and free elections; Amendments, revisions and revisions of all discriminatory laws and bylaws, with the priority of adopting amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion as soon as possible, with an emphasis on the abolition of disputed articles; Adoption of a number of new systemic laws, starting with the priority ones: the law on the origin of property, the law on lustration, the law on the government, the law on the Assembly, the law on spatial planning and construction of facilities; Implementation of a set of measures in the field of environmental protection with the aim of branding Montenegro as an ecological state; Revision and review of all concession agreements; Adoption of a declaration on a permanent ban on the construction of small hydropower plants on Montenegrin watercourses; Continuation of active negotiations with the EU with a view to making progress in Chapters 23 and 24; Reform of the health system with the creation of conditions for the beginning of the realization of capital projects (construction of a new emergency center, construction of a clinic for infectious diseases, construction of a clinic for psychiatry); Reform of the education system at all levels with priority depoliticization and return of autonomy to the University of Montenegro, as well as creating conditions for decentralization of local governments through amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government and the Law on Financing of Local Self-Governments implies an agreement.
Medojevic: Krivokapic’s government is weak, it’s a dangerous experiment (CdM)
Government of Zdravko Krivokapic is weak, has support of only four or three MPs. It won’t have stable majority in the parliament, Nebojsa Medojevic, leader of the Movement for Changes, said at the press conference. “This government is very weak. It only has URA and is practically supported by four MPs, if there are four at all. Any legislative proposal will be subject to negotiations as the government hasn’t got stable majority,” Medojevic said. He adds that the new government is a dangerous experiment. He reiterated that Movement for Changes “will vote for the government on 2 December as it is their obligation to citizens”. “We gave our word. We’ll vote for the government but we’ll see yet about the budget. Let’s see how prime minister-designate sees economic policy. Our support for the budget will depend on the relations of others in the political majority,” Medojevic said. He urged the outgoing government to state if there had been any arrangement with IMF. “I demand the Government to answer if an arrangement with IMF has been made. What kind of arrangement it was, what are its basic elements and what does that savings program mean for the new government? The fact is that citizens will pay that program if the new government fails to take billions from Djukanovic family and DPS tycoons,” Medojevic said. President of the Movement for Changes stated that he has his sources. “Negotiations with IMF did take place but we don’t know if any agreement was reached” Medojevic pointed out. He said that tourism loss reached 90%. “My predictions turned out to be correct. I think decline in economy will be higher than 20%,” Medojevic said.
Zaev faces criticism from all sides over his BGNES interview (Republika)
If the Bulgarian rule in Macedonia in World War Two was an administration, does that make our partisans who fought them “terrorists”, asked VMRO-DPMNE party official Ilija Dimovski after the shocking interview by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Speaking with the Bulgarian BGNES news agency, Zaev eagerly accepted all Bulgarian positions on historic disputes, including that the Bulgarian occupation during World War Two was mere “administration” of the country. Are you going to be silent on this, Dimovski said, calling out SDSM party officials who have not yet denounced Zaev’s comments such as Ilinka Mitreva, Irena Stefoska, Ljudmil Spasov, Nikola Dimitrov, and of course, President Stevo Pendarovski, who was personally insulted by Zaev during the interview. “If our grandfathers fought an ‘administration’ between 1941 and 1944, that makes them ‘terrorists’ and ‘murderers’, and not ‘liberators’. At least according to international law,” Dimovski said. He also condemned Zaev for blurring the distinction between the Macedonian and the Bulgarian nation and the respective languages. Zaev said that there is no difference in the language spoken in his native Strumica and the city of Petric, across the border. Dimovski responded that this is the case all along the Macedonian borders, including the border with Greece where the spoken language in the cities of Bitola and Lerin or between Gevgelija and Gumendza are the same, and are dialects of the Macedonian language, not proof that the Macedonian language is Bulgarian. Zaev is facing fierce criticism from many corners of his own coalition, but especially from the right. Aleksandar Pandov, head of the Patriotic Institute of the VMRO-DPMNE party, said that Zaev is disgracing the graves of 24,000 victims of Bulgarian occupation during World War Two when he refers to the fascist occupation as “administration” and later even Bulgarian liberation of parts of Macedonia. What is this common history you speak of, the same history pushed on us by their Defense Minister Karakacanov? Are you agreeing that we speak a Bulgarian dialect? What will Goce Delcev be listed as, a Macedonian born in Kukus, in Aegean Macedonia, or a Bulgaro-Macedonian revolutionary, as you refer to him, Pandov asked Zaev. Former SDSM member of parliament Solza Grceva, who split with her party over its concessions on issues of national identity, also blasted Zaev’s interview with the BGNES agency. “Zaev brought same on my family, who were partisans, by stating that Bulgaria liberated us twice – once as fascists and once as communists. Zaev’s comments defy common sense. We still have alive participants of the anti-fascist struggle, we have their children and grand-children, we know the songs they sang,” Grceva said. She also called Zaev out for his statement that he has ordered the removal of 20 plaques commemorating skirmishes with the Bulgarian army, which used the term “fascists” to describe the Bulgarian forces. Grceva asked Zaev with what right did he order the removal of monuments from the Second World War?
Pendarovski has no comment on Zaev’s shocking BGNES interview (Republika)
President Stevo Pendarovski declined questions from the press to comment on the shocking interview Zoran Zaev gave for the Bulgarian BGNES news site. On top of his claims that Bulgaria was not an occupier but merely an administrator in World War Two, and the blurring of lines between the two nations, Zaev also personally offended Pendarovski, saying that he is an inexperienced politician, unlike himself (Zaev). President Pendarovski will not comment the positions made by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in this interview, Pendarovski’s office told when asked about a comment.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Zaev: Good neighbourliness continues – there is no turning back (BGNES, 23 November 2020)
The Agreement for Friendship and Good neighbourliness has brought many benefits for North Macedonia and Bulgaria and it has ended a system that had poisoned the relations between the two countries. The historic facts regarding our shared history are clear and this cannot be avoided. The Commission must do its work and for this, it has support from both me and Boyko Borisov, says Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in an interview for BGNES.
Friendship Agreement after Two Years
Prime Minister Zaev emphasized that in the past two years as of the signing of the Friendship Agreement many things have changed, in positive direction and he expects that this will continue in future. -Bulgaria can help us a lot in the process of European integration and has already been very helpful. It was the first country that argued within the European Commission for us to receive a date for commencement of negotiations. Bulgaria has shared its overall experience from the process of accession negotiations. It was one of the first countries that had ratified the NATO Accession Protocol – it showed its friendship. I believe that we are also showing ours, said Zaev. The Agreement, according to him, has put an end to the system that was established in 1945 and has poised the bilateral relations for decades. -Both countries have structures that are not happy with the new events; they are part from the past, and there are also structures that are more oriented towards East, states Prime Minister Zaev. He points out that in the past two years a great progress has been achieved in trade and cooperation in the culture. Only in the first ten months in 2018, the bilateral trade has increased by 16.96% compared to 2017. -This is a great percentage and it speaks of the possibilities that we have created for furthering the economic cooperation, says Zaev. The cultural cooperation is increasing – Bulgarian theatre productions have been presented in North Macedonia and vice versa, Macedonian in Bulgaria, and there are other events that contribute to bringing the two people closer.
Corridor 8 is Irreversible Process
On the infrastructural connectivity and Corridor 8, Zaev says that this is an irreversible process and that the Macedonian party works actively on this; mostly on the construction of railway from Kumanovo to the Bulgarian border which needs to be released and placed in operation no later than 2025. -North Macedonia has secured 580 million EUR for construction of the railway from Kumanovo to the Bulgarian border. This will give us a railway line from Skopje to Sofia. The deadline for releasing this railway line is 2025. The first phase is already under construction. At the moment, we are approaching the second phase for what we have received a grant in the amount of 68.7 million EUR from WBIF. The third phase is the largest and it costs 405 million EUR. We have a grant of 60 million EUR from IPA and a loan of 345 million EUR. We signed agreements with the European Investment Bank and the EBRD. This is enormous amount of money for North Macedonia, said Zaev. Furthermore, he added that in parallel, an express way is built from Kumanovo to the Bulgarian border. – The road will be completed in two years and we will no longer travel on roads with potholes when we want to visit Sofia or Skopje, said Zaev.
On Shared History
Regarding the events from the history and their shared celebration, Zaev expects that the Joint Expert Commission will continue its work and soon enough, there will be results on the disputed issues. -The Committee on Historical Issues has been established to construct friendship between the two nations. The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and I, encourage the historians to do their work. We have already reached an agreement for certain historical persons – the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius, St. Clement and Tsar Samoil. We signed the Agreement, we are building friendship, cooperation and good-neighbourliness. In such context, the commission must only build on this, said Prime Minister Zaev, adding that he is convinced that in September, the Commission will achieve results on the open issues.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church Provides Priceless Contribution
In the interview Prime Minister Zaev reflects the role the Bulgarian Orthodox Church plays in resolving the status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. -The Bulgarian Orthodox Church takes bold steps with regards to our Macedonian Orthodox Church – the Archbishopric of Ohrid. The Bulgarian episcopes are visiting the Macedonian churches and the Macedonian episcopes visit the Bulgarian. Our citizens are religious and while seeing the two churches have good cooperation, they support this friendship, says Zaev. Moreover, he underlined that North Macedonia, as a sovereign state, has the right to separate and autonomous church.
The Future of Prespa Agreement
Speaking of the Prespa Agreement and the expectations from the new Government in Greece, Zaev sees as positive the first signals coming from the newly elected Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. -When the Agreement was ratified, Mitsotakis expressed as opposed to it; however, if the Greek Parliament ratifies it, and this involves international ratification, then, we must look forward. I believe that in due time, the Agreement will provide positive contributions for both North Macedonia and Greece, says Macedonian Prime Minister.
The Balkan is not a Powder Keg – it is a European Region
Prime Minister Zaev reminds that the past of the Balkans has shown what changes in borders mean – death, demolition, refugees. In his opinion, the region has changed and it is no longer a European powder keg. -The Balkan became European. Everyone must find positive solution to the problems. We set an example on this, by reaching Agreements with Bulgaria and Greece. I believe the other countries must move in the same direction, says Zaev. North Macedonia supports decisions intended to build friendship and ever-lasting peace, thus providing greater regional cooperation and integration of the region within the EU. – This is a solution that will secure safety for Albanians and Serbs, as well as for all other people who live in the Balkan, stated Zaev.
When asked of the case “Reket” and the information published in the media that Sofia allegedly requires protection of the businessman Orce Kamchev who is under investigation, Zaev claims that there is no such thing. -Boyko Borisov has not called me with regards to the Macedonian businessman, Orce Kamchev, who is under investigation. He would not allow such thing, because he is a European Prime Minister and complies with the rule of law. We are a European country and we want to speak of the future and creating modern policy. This is a policy adopted by Macron and Merkel – policy oriented towards the future, policy that provides perspectives for the young people – concluded Prime Minister Zaev in his interview for BGNES.
North Macedonia PM’s Remarks About History Hit a Nerve (BIRN, by Sinisa Jakov Marusic, 26 November 2020)
North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has ruffled feathers at home by suggesting he no longer viewed Bulgaria as a “fascist occupying force” during World War II – saying it’s high time the two neighbours moved on from their old disputes.
An interview that North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gave Bulgarian news agency BGNES, published on Wedensday – in which he suggested that Bulgaria had not been occupying force in today’s North Macedonia during World War II, has hit raw nerve in his own country.
His remarks have drawn criticism from historians, public figures, as well as politicians, even from his own ruling Social Democratic Party, accusing him of historical revisionism. The opposition called for protests. He was condemned by a member of the Macedonian team in the joint North Macedonia-Bulgaria history commission, Ljubica Spaskovska. “As member of the Macedonian part of the commission, I personally distance myself and condemn the latest remarks of the PM,” she said, adding: “I appeal to politicians to withhold themselves from claims and comments on subjects with which they are not acquainted, and are not in their domain,” Spaskovska wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. She was soon joined by her colleague on the same commission, Ognen Velkov, who also distanced himself from the PM’s statements.
In the interview, Zaev talked about his country’s efforts to persuade Bulgaria to lift its blockade on the start of North Macedonia’s EU membership talks. Turning to contentious historical isurs, he said that “Bulgaria is not a fascist country. Bulgaria is our friend. The new generations don’t know the entirety of this reality that must unite us,” adding that former Yugoslavia, of which Macedonia had been part, had kept Macedonians and Bulgarians from being closer. He later said that his government had removed some plaques on historical wartime monuments that contained the words “Bulgarian fascist occupation,” which Bulgaria deems highly offensive. “We already replaced 20 plaques on which it was written, ‘Bulgarian Fascist occupier’. This is not true – Bulgaria is not a fascist country; it is our friend,” Zaev said. Historians in North Macedonia objected to these words. In 1941, the then Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the Axis powers, and as such was given much of today’s North Macedonia, which it had long claimed as Bulgarian territory. “In the whole of Western historiography, as well as in the domain of public history, the term ‘occupation’ is commonly accepted. The 1947 peace accord [that Bulgaria] signed with the Allied forces, including with Macedonia, as part of Yugoslavia, speaks enough about the role of Bulgaria in World War II,” Spasovska commented. As the Soviet Red Army got close to its borders, in September 9, 1944, Bulgaria switched sides and joined the Allies. Former communist Bulgaria celebrated the day as the People’s Uprising of September 9. Zaev on Thursday said he understood the angry reaction to his interview, but insisted that he had a responsibility to build friendship, and added that Bulgaria could not simply be viewed as a former fascist state. “I understand these reactions, but leaders should lead their countries forward and make the first steps … The anti-fascist fight is part of my own family, too … but that is the historical past and should not limit us from charting our European future,” Zaev said. In November 17, the EU Council of Ministers failed to adopt a negotiating framework for North Macedonia which would allow the start of its accession talks because of objections from neighbour Bulgaria. Bulgaria has insisted on the importance of resolving a history dispute with North Macedonia, insisting that it needs to change its views on some shared parts of history but also on some aspects that tackle the Macedonian identity. Efforts by both sides, as well as by the German EU presidency, are under way to ensure a breakthrough so that the country’s EU path can be unblocked. But Zaev has come under fire for his statements from some of his own party colleagues, too. The Social Democrat mayor of the town of Kumanovo, Maksim Dimitrievski, on Thursday said that “attempts to distort the facts” belonged to the past. “Macedonia was occupied and split in the WW2 by Fascist Germany, Bulgaria and Italy. The Macedonian people and the Partisans rose and in coalition with anti-fascists, won against the occupying forces … During that war, Kumanovo suffered 800 Partisan victims and double that in civilian casualties,” Dimitrievski recalled. Renowned theatre director Vladimir Milcin asked whether, by replacing historical plaques, Zaev had “promoted himself into a monarch?” “Does Zaev know how many plaques and monuments he will need to replace yet? How many books he will need to burn? How many Partisan graves will he need to plough in order to please [Bulgarian PM Boyko] Borrissov and his company? He will need to erase our memory too, but that will be a bit harder!” Milcin commented on Facebook. Stating that Zaev’s remarks “had offended all Macedonians”, the opposition right-wing VMRO DPMNE party leader Hristijan Mickoski has called for protests in Skopje.
Bulgaria – North Macedonia, a short-sighted veto on the road to the EU (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, by Francesco Martino, 25 November 2020)
With the veto on the opening of negotiations for North Macedonia’s accession to the EU, the Bulgarian government plays the nationalist card, above all for contingent reasons of domestic politics. The consequences, however, are likely to be heavy in the medium and long term
North Macedonia and the European Union: a long engagement, which over the years has turned into a frustrating obstacle race that increasingly resembles an odyssey. After Greece’s long veto over the name issue, resolved with the Prespa agreements in 2018, when Macedonia agreed to add the specification “North” to its constitutional name, it is now Bulgaria that says “no” over an issue no less controversial and difficult to understand for most – the historical heritage and the nature of the Macedonian identity and language. After long threats, on November 17 Sofia decided to veto the opening of the negotiating framework of North Macedonia. “We believe that Skopje is not ready”, declared Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, thus freezing the government of Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who replied by speaking of an “unfair decision”. Yet, the dispute with Bulgaria – where the opinion is widespread that a separate Macedonian identity developed only after the end of the Second World War under the violent pressure of the Yugoslav authorities, and that the Macedonian language is only a dialect of the Bulgarian one – seemed resolved even before starting, thanks to the good neighbourly treaty signed in 2017. Sofia, however, is not satisfied with how the treaty is being implemented and, in order to unblock the veto, it demands to include its content within the negotiating framework. There are two other requests on the table: not to use the term “Macedonian language” in the documents (but that of “official language of the Republic of North Macedonia”) and to obtain assurance that Skopje does not claim its own minorities in Bulgaria. The margins to overcome the impasse exist, but are narrow: Germany’s EU presidency semester, considered the best window of opportunity to resolve the issue given the political investment made by Berlin, ends at end of December. If no agreement is reached, the European fate of North Macedonia (but also of Albania, which proceeds in parallel) could dangerously slip over time, fomenting further instability in the area.
Sofia’s match and reactions in Skopje
For months the Bulgarian centre-right government, led by Boyko Borisov, had raised its tone towards North Macedonia, accusing Skopje of not committing to the solution of open issues through the bilateral historical commission established by the 2017 treaty, of continuing to “steal” disputed historical moments and figures – such as that of the revolutionary Gotse Delchev, and of carrying out an incessant smear campaign against Bulgaria. Despite everything, many doubted that it would come to a veto, as Skopje’s entry is in the strategic interests of Bulgaria, but also because Borisov has made EU enlargement to the Western Balkans a pillar of his foreign policy in this third term, including a much celebrated, albeit inconclusive summit in May 2018. Since then, however, the balance in Bulgarian internal politics has been upset: the Borisov government has been undermined by very long street protests – which started during the summer and dragged on until late autumn – accusing the leadership of corruption and nepotism. Borisov managed to avoid early elections, but his electoral base was eroded. The veto therefore seems to be a classic expedient to revive the fortunes of the governing coalition in view of next spring’s elections: a strong dose of nationalist rhetoric on a theme – that of Macedonian identity – which traditionally gathers wide support in Bulgaria, so much so that the opposition has joined in, while the polls show a broad support of public opinion. The risk is to pay dearly for the gamble made for mere electoral purposes: on the Macedonian question Bulgaria finds itself isolated at a European level, and after having long pursued the line of the “model pupil” at the community level – also dictated by Sofia’s strong dependence from the funds donated by Brussels, for the first time it was included in the list of “troublemakers” such as Poland and Hungary, but without the same political weight. Even a last-minute change of mind, which many analysts still believe possible, would still leave an aftermath and doubts about Bulgaria’s credibility. For North Macedonia the Bulgarian veto, especially if reiterated, has serious consequences. Zaev has made EU membership a beacon of Macedonian foreign policy, and a further stop could have repercussions on the stability of his government and the country – even though today he is in a more solid position than in the last autumn, when yet another veto from France, dissatisfied with the procedures linked to the enlargement process, led to his resignation and early elections. After expressing his frustration, Zaev took a conciliatory tone, relaunching the dialogue and declaring his readiness to sign new agreements with Sofia if necessary. After the concessions made to Greece to get to the Prespa agreements, however, his room for maneuver is limited: it is no coincidence that the Macedonian prime minister, aware of the growing discontent in the public opinion, declared that “Macedonian identity and language are not negotiable”.
EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, the risk of cross vetoes
If it is still not clear who wins the dispute between Sofia and Skopje, it is however possible to identify the loser: the credibility of the EU enlargement process to the Western Balkans. Slowed down over the years by the increasingly visible “enlargement fatigue” and growing resistance from some member states, the inclusion of this part of Europe – which Brussels has always defined a “strategic priority” – is once again the victim of crossed vetoes on bilateral issues sometimes – as in this case – almost incomprehensible to those not directly involved in the dispute. The clash between Bulgaria and North Macedonia casts a further shadow on the sustainability of the process and on the achievement of the ultimate goal – the inclusion of the entire region in the EU framework. In fact, many Western Balkan countries have bilateral disputes against one or more neighbours – complex, painful disputes rooted in the still fresh wounds of the conflict that dismembered the Yugoslav Federation. The danger that crossed vetoes will lead to stalemate is real: to avoid this scenario, perhaps the time has come to spare the path of accession from the mechanism of unanimity, which can make a country’s European destiny hostage to myopic logics which have little to do with the spirit and strategic priorities of the Union.