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Belgrade Media Report 4 December

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LOCAL PRESS

Merkel to Vucic: Kosovo dialogue, rule of law of crucial importance (RTS; N1)
Vucic: It is a hostile act of Montenegro; I’m horrified (RTS)
Office for Kosovo and Metohija: Continuous efforts to Albanianize Serbian culture and history (RTS)
EU sources: Serbia will not open new chapter in negotiations this year (Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Vulin meets with Lukac and Dodik; RS and Serbia to continue cooperation on migration, terrorism and suppression of organized crime (ATV)
B&H Presidency Chairman Dodik reacts to PIC SB’s Communiqué: Right to self-determination included in Constitution of B&H, Inzko behaves as if he has not read that (RTRS)
Nine of 14 HJPC members deem Tegeltija should resign; Tegeltija: Because of my deciding vote at the session, I will consider possibility of tendering my resignation (BN TV)
EUD to B&H calls on Tegeltija to act responsibly and protect HJPC by heeding calls of HJPC members for his resignation (FTV)
HR Inzko: HJPC is the problem of all problems in B&H (Hayat)
US Embassy: HJPC is in critical condition (BHT1)
Prosecutor’s Office of B&H receives criminal report filed by B&H HJPC President Tegeltija (EuroBlic)
‘NATO 2030’ expert report submitted to NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg: NATO needs to strengthen its role in B&H (Dnevni avaz)
NATO HQ Commander Edwards: NATO expects B&H to submit Program of Reforms for 2021 (Nezavisne)
It is questionable if joint military exercise of B&H and Serbia will be held under auspices of NATO (N1)

Montenegro
MPs to vote on Krivokapic’s government today (CDM)
Abazovic: It is true that I was offered 21 million euros not to overthrow the regime of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic (TV Vijesti)

North Macedonia
Zaev’s political career ends in the coming days: There are coalition partners of Zaev who will support the vote of no confidence in the Government (Infomax)

Albania
European Parliament: The government and the opposition should commit for the upcoming general elections (Radio Tirana)
GRECO: Albania must implement laws to prevent corruption of Government (Tirana Times)

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LOCAL PRESS 

 

Merkel to Vucic: Kosovo dialogue, rule of law of crucial importance (RTS; N1)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke via video link with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. President Vucic and Chancellor Merkel discussed the challenges of the pandemic crisis and plans to combat the infectious disease kovid 19, with special emphasis on measures to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic. The interlocutors also discussed bilateral and economic relations, the process of Serbia’s accession to the European Union and accompanying reforms, as well as the situation in the region, the Office for Cooperation with the Media of the President of the Republic announced. 

 

Merkel, welcomed Serbia’s progress in the economy, and efforts in the European integration, but added the dialogue with Pristina and the rule of law were crucial, according to a statement from Vucic’s cabinet. 

 

Vucic thanked her for what he said was Germany’s continuous support for Serbia’s European integration. He also said the reforms in the rule of law were essential for Serbia’s aim to join the bloc, adding the cooperation with Germany and EU institutions was a right way for the improvement in that area. 

 

Serbia’s President reiterated the need for a clear plan for EU enlargement and a time framework for the membership. Vucic added the process of Western Balkans European integration was essential for peace and stability in the region. 

 

Regarding the continuation of Kosovo talks, the two agreed the talks dialogue was, as well as that the preservation of peace was equally important for both sides. Vucic said that he would take all necessary steps to successfully continue the dialogue and create a constructive and open atmosphere for negotiations. Merkel welcomed Serbia’s readiness for further work on keeping the region safe and reiterated Germany would remain Serbia’s reliable partner in the European integration. 

 

“The economy is a strong link between our two countries” Merkel said. Vucic recalled that German companies operating in Serbia employed over 67,000 workers and that they significantly contributed to the country’s economic development, as well as to Serbia’s reputation as a good place for investments. “We are grateful for Germany’s support of Serbia’s economy. Germany is our largest trading partner, even during the global crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There is a growing interest of German companies to invest in our country, and I am proud to say that Serbia will have the highest growth in Europe this year, despite all the current challenges” Vucic said. 

 

Vucic: It is a hostile act of Montenegro; I’m horrified (RTS)

 

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, said that the expulsion of the Ambassador of Serbia to Montenegro was not a friendly act. “It was not a friendly act, you don’t do that, nor there were convincing reasons for that in any way. I think we acted in a civilized way” he said. He says that Belgrade made a wise political decision not to expel the Montenegrin ambassador. 

 

“I see in which direction this is going, how this fierce anti-Serbian campaign is being imposed from the outside, in order for the certain political factors in Montenegro to have to prove their Montenegrinness, and it is always proven by the negative attitude towards Serbia” Vucic told RTS

 

He says that Serbia is responsible enough, serious and capable of being above that and does not participate in the anti-Montenegrin campaign, stating that he “disapproves with the part of the media in Serbia that participated in the anti-Montenegrin campaign because there is no need for that.” 

 

Vucic said that the expulsion of the Serbian ambassador to Montenegro, Vladimir Bozovic, was not a friendly act and that is something you don’t do, as well as that he believed that the reasons for that were not convincing in any way. He pointed out that Serbia reacted not only to civilized, but also in a responsible way. 

 

As he said, Belgrade acted routinely in the first instance, in accordance with the Vienna Convention, and made the same decision for Montenegrin Ambassador Tarzan Milosevic, but then a wise political decision was made. He states that the first decision to make the Montenegrin ambassador to Serbia Tarzan Milosevic persona non grata was a logical and usual, routine decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that Minister Nikola Selakovic was not wrong, but that then the issue was weighed differently, not only taking into account Vienna convention, but also thinking about life. 

 

“Our message must be directed, show to the Serbs in Montenegro, but also to the Albanians, Montenegrins, Bosniaks, that we are extending them a hand and that they are welcome and that we will not take such acts which are not friendly, that mean the expulsion of ambassadors” said Vucic. As he says, Montenegro must be the closest to Serbia, but Serbia will not force anyone to do anything. 

 

Vucic also said that he was horrified by the campaign being conducted in Montenegro, that Serbs had become occupiers, that false quotes from King Nikola were being made … He says that such a policy has been going on for a long time and reminds that Milo Djukanovic personally accused him of being the direct culprit for his defeat in the elections. 

 

“The only thing in which I had the right to say something and ask is the position of the Serbian people in Montenegro. And when I hear some who say that there are no representatives of Serbian minority in today’s government in Montenegro… so wait, there was no one who declared himself as a Serb, nor in the government or anywhere else, and there are almost 30 percent of Serbs in Montenegro…”Vucic said. He stated that it is Belgrade’s job to take care of its people in accordance with European standards, without asking for anything more, and pointed out that the independence of Montenegro is not endangered in any way. 

 

Asked if he thinks that the new government in Montenegro could be more interested in the “mini Schengen” project and regional cooperation, Vucic said that it would be good for them and for us. “We will not force anyone, I gave up on the longing for someone who will not be at the table. I do not have that kind of complex and frustration that we used to have” said Vucic. 

 

He reminded that at the summit with the EU in Sofia, Belgrade appeared for the first time with Skopje and Tirana as a united front when it comes to green corridors, which is very good, but that it is not his job to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.  

 

He says it would be better for both Pristina and Podgorica to join the initiative. “It would be better for them that we open the borders, for goods to pass without borders, than to have phytosanitary and veterinary inspections non-stop, to save seven percent of costs, to be able to form our market, to be valued more in Europe before we become the part of Europe” said Vucic. 

 

Office for Kosovo and Metohija: Continuous efforts to Albanianize Serbian culture and history (RTS)

In the past two decades, the Serbian religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija has often been the target of destructive attacks, and in that period dozens of churches were burned, looted and destroyed, and some are still under the armed protection of international forces defending Serbian heritage and by doing so defend its own European and Christian identity, the Office for Kosovo and Metohija announced. 

 

However, as stated in the statement, “in parallel with the outbursts of extremist hatred and Islamist religious radicalism, we are continuously faced with a more malignant and perhaps even more dangerous trend, and that is the effort to Albanianize Serbian culture and history, and to adopt it by propagandized and pseudo-historical argumentation, in order to prove in the field of spiritual and material culture the unprovable and essentially fascist thesis that the areas of Kosovo and Metohija have always been Albanian and only Albanian”. 

 

“Therefore, we should not take lightly any attempt to place the central places of our faith and the pearls of Serbian culture in the context of primitive ethnocentric Greater Albania concepts, or even the seemingly insignificant publications of extremist portals such as Pecke Novosti (Peja News)” reads the statement. 

 

“This is an organized and synchronized action inspired and led by ultranationalist Greater Albanian circles, and meaningless claims and provocations such as the latest, that the Patriarchate of Pec is the Orthodox Albanian Church belong to the same ideological matrix from which insane claims were born. Decani was built by Albanians or that the Nemanjic’s were actually a Nimani dynasty. 

 

The Office for Kosovo and Metohija warns the international community that this is a well-organized movement that is obviously strengthening and finding more and more followers, and that it is actually “the most common extremism disguised in pseudoscience, which is basically just fascism.” 

 

“The Albanian people have a rich history and culture to be proud of. Albanians have often helped and protected Serbian holy places in history, and that is why this trend of seizing foreign culture and falsifying history is essentially betraying Albanian traditional values” the statement said The office also calls on all moderate Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija to, in the name of peace and coexistence, oppose the insult and humiliation of Serbian culture and history. 

 

EU sources: Serbia will not open new chapter in negotiations this year (Beta)

 

The EU will not open a single new chapter in negotiations on membership with Serbia before the year ends, because several EU members believe that, despite their promises, the Belgrade authorities have not conducted essential reforms in the key areas of rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression, sources in Brussels told Beta on Dec. 3. 

 

These sources in the European Commission and in the Council of the EU explained to Beta that the latest debates ahead of top-level EU meetings showed that “there is no chance of a decision on opening at least one new chapter, which was earlier believed possible.” 

The European diplomatic sources pointed to the fact that a draft conclusion which is supposed to be adopted by the EU’s foreign ministers at a meeting scheduled for next week says that, where Serbia is concerned, “The Council of the EU regrets that progress in the rule of law has not been as fast or efficient as expected from a country leading negotiations and calls on Serbia to demonstrate a political will, significantly speed up reforms and offer concrete and tangible results in this and other fundamental areas.” 

 

These officials also said that this did not in any way mean that the EU was pulling the breaks on support for the Western Balkans on the road to integration into Europe, but that there were voices saying that it was better to wait a little and get a more quality basis for further progress. 

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina 

 

Vulin meets with Lukac and Dodik; RS and Serbia to continue cooperation on migration, terrorism and suppression of organized crime (ATV)

Serbian Minister of Interior Aleksandar Vulin visited Banja Luka on Thursday, where he met with Republika Srpska (RS) Minister of interior Dragan Lukac and Chairperson of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik.  

 

Vulin and Lukac discussed a number of issues, including migrants, terrorism and cooperation on suppression of organized crime. It was reiterated that the Republika Srpska (RS) Police will continue joint trainings with the Serbian Police, primarily the Gendarmerie and Special Anti-Terrorist Unit of the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI). After the meeting Vulin said: “Illegal migrations equally affects Serbia and the RS, illegal migrations that include numerous risks can and must be addressed jointly. We often witness that great and powerful EU states do not have a single policy on migrations and we then need to fight to maintain everyday life”. Lukac said: “Our countries are exposed to migrations, particularly to those people unknown to us, who may be terrorist offenders, which has been shown on the European territory, i.e. people who crossed our territories via migration waves committed terrorist acts’’.  

 

Serbia and the RS agreed to have a joint exercise of their special police units. After the meeting with Dodik, Vulin said the support from Serbia will continue, and the RS is the priority in foreign policy of Serbia. “Continuous material assistance by the Serbian Government proves that our relation is more than empty words, it is the relation in which the RS citizens are given concrete help to live better, to recognize their Serbia and to feel Serbia is present” said Vulin.  

 

RS has recently received financial assistance from Serbia amounting to EUR 20 million aimed at combating the Coronavirus. Commenting, Dodik said it is a proof of good relations and great cooperation between the RS and Serbia, adding that Serbia makes great efforts with regard to the stability in the region which is good for all countries. “We are of view that we have established a serious framework for cooperation that includes in this segment all activities and measures directed to ensuring stable and safe environment on both sides, i.e. Serbia and the RS” said Dodik.  

 

On this occasion, Vulin stated that he chose Banja Luka to be the destination for his first official visit upon assuming the new ministerial duty. Vulin and Lukac agreed that the Ministries of Interior of Serbia and the RS have excellent cooperation, and they announced that such cooperation will further develop through a new memorandum of cooperation in training of pilots and technicians of Serbia and the RS. The two ministers emphasized that this is particularly important, because the first helicopter for the RS MoI, which was ordered from Russia, has already arrived and that two other helicopters are expected to be delivered in the coming period. They reminded that the joint exercise of special police units of Serbia and the RS is scheduled to take place next year. Both of them rejected the allegations that Serbia is directing the migrants from its territory towards B&H. Vulin pointed out that all security capacities of Serbia are at the RS’ disposal, and he referred to the RS as a priority to Serbia. “Security and safety of citizens of the RS is as important to us as the security of the citizens of Serbia” Vulin said. Vulin noted that the RS has always been a foreign political priority to Serbia. “As long as Aleksandar Vucic is the President of Serbia, all Serbs will always be protected. We therefore have the obligation to cooperate and to make the living of citizens of Serbia and the RS safer” he underlined.  

 

Lukac confirmed the intention to continue everyday exchange of data and close cooperation in the fight against illegal migrations, terrorism, and all kinds of organized crime. Dodik said he has been informed about details of cooperation of the two ministries, and assessed that “a serious framework for cooperation” has been established.  

 

Vulin gave a statement to the press where he said that every endangerment to peace and stability in the RS is a threat to Serbia, and every Serbia’s downfall is the downfall of the RS.  

 

B&H Presidency Chairman Dodik reacts to PIC SB’s Communiqué: Right to self-determination included in Constitution of B&H, Inzko behaves as if he has not read that (RTRS)

Chairman and Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik reacted to the Communiqué that the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB) adopted on Wednesday, with the dissenting opinion of Russia. Namely, the Communiqué reads that entities have no right to secede from B&H and that entities legally exist only based on the Constitution of B&H, which is an integral part of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). The Communiqué also mentions that the decisions of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H are final and binding and that, as such, they need to be implemented.  

 

In his reaction, Dodik said that the right to self-determination is included in the Constitution of B&H, as an integral part of the DPA, and he accused High Representative Valentin Inzko of behaving like he has not read that. According to Dodik, it seems that members of PIC have not read the Constitution. “They keep telling us that the Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms is the integral part of the Constitution of B&H. It reads that peoples, but not ethnic minorities, have the right to self-determination” Dodik added. In addition, the B&H Presidency Chairman noted that none of the PIC’s stances has been implemented so far, and HR’s advice that he should change his policy in six months lacks seriousness as that is not in the HR’s competence. The Presidency Chairman underscored that interference in internal policies is not part of the DPA. Dodik referred to the PIC as “an illegal body” and concluded that it would be the best if Inzko leaves B&H and if the function of the HR is formally abolished. He said that the calls from Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic, who sent him a message that he should change his policy otherwise he could disappear from the political scene, are ridiculous.  

 

“For ten years I have not read the meaningless Communiqué from the PIC because they imagine they should give us tasks as we have nothing better to do. I have not read the last Communiqué and I am not interested. The PIC should finally stop acting in that manner’’, Dodik was quoted as saying. Commenting on the statement by Inzko on giving six-month deadline to political officials in B&H to change the policy or Inzko will request the European Union (EU) to react, Dodik said no one believes Inzko, Inzko does not have mandate for that and “is it under the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) that he can change the policy in B&H’’. Dodik added that the change of the policy is a story coming from Sarajevo related to the new US administration. “He is trying to draw the media attention, because they have been announcing he would leave. Who would he sanction? You know that for ten years the High Representative has not been able to publish any of the decisions in our Official Gazette. You think he will publish it now? Of course not. His threats are unsubstantiated, I dare him to see what he will do, to remove me” said Dodik.  

 

Dodik said that HR Inzko is a ridiculous figure that meets the expectations of the morbid political Sarajevo. Dodik stressed that Inzko cannot determine what kind of policy he should pursue. Commenting the deadline that Inzko set for the removal of plaque from a student dormitory in Pale, as well as the deadline given to domestic politicians to change the policy in B&H, Dodik said that “the new US administration is coming and now Inzko has awoken.” “In order to not lag behind in expectations of the Bosniak political Sarajevo, he is going around and saying something. No one is taking him seriously. When did he meet with a serious politician?… His threats are like firing blanks. I challenge him to see what he will do. Remove me. Come on maestro, let us see how you will remove me” Dodik said.  

 

“Inzko only serves for jokes or to be annoying, and whenever he gives statements in Sarajevo he takes courage and he always invents something because he wants to please the political Sarajevo. Where he will find support for such a thing? What does it mean to change policy? This is the same like a story inducted in Sarajevo about the new US administration for instance, so Inzko woke up now in order not to lag behind these expectations in the Bosniak and political Sarajevo. Therefore, he runs around and says something like that, but no one takes him seriously” Dodik told the press conference on Thursday.  

 

Nine of 14 HJPC members deem Tegeltija should resign; Tegeltija: Because of my deciding vote at the session, I will consider possibility of tendering my resignation (BN TV)

The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) held a session on Thursday to discuss the audio recording compromising HJPC President Milan Tegeltija in regards to employment of former colleague Milijana Buha’s sister Sanja Cegar. The several-hour-long session was concluded with three conclusions. The first conclusion was that unauthorized wiretapping of judicial officials is in violation of their (HJPC members) security and a safe ambient for legal and independent decision making. HJPC members demand competent bodies to work efficiently to protect them and their families. The second conclusion of the HJPC was that they cannot answer to Tegeltija’s responsibility based on the audio recording which was published in the media as they claim its authenticity cannot be verified at this time. The third conclusion was that the HJPC President should consider the possibility of tendering his resignation because the partnership relations with international partners is being affected, which is complicating the work of the HJPC.  

 

After the session, Tegeltija presented the conclusions to the press. “Let me immediately tell you that I personally voted for this third conclusion. It was adopted by seven in favor and seven opposed. My vote determined that it be adopted. In the situation where the votes are undecided, the vote of the Council President is the determining vote” Tegeltija said. He added that he voted in favor of all the conclusions and deemed especially the first two absolutely justified, while the third is the result of the discussions within the HJPC and that it is only natural that he considers the possibility of tendering his resignation based on such discussions. After presenting the conclusions, Tegeltija left and refused to answer any questions from the press. None of the other 13 members of the HJPC were available for comment.  

 

During the session, Tegeltija claimed that he was illicitly wiretapped and that the recording was forged, but most of the HJPC members did not agree with his statements. HJPC member Berina Alihodzic was quoted as saying: “I believe that recording. That is my right and my opinion. I believe it was not forged”. HJPC member Biljana Simeunovic said that the number of affairs related to the HJPC during Tegeltija’s mandate has been increasing and that she knows of two additional cases where Tegeltija promised appointments. Due to this, Simeunovic called on Tegeltija to tender his resignation. She said that if Tegeltija fails to resign and the HJPC fails to remove him, she is ready to tender her resignation. HJPC member Slavo Lakic called on Tegeltija to take responsibility for the recording in order to contribute to the stability of the HJPC. HJPC member Monika Mijic expressed her concern over how Tegeltija’s affairs will affect the body’s cooperation with international organizations which are financing a large part of HJPC’s projects and seminars.  

 

BN TV reports that nine out of 14 members of the HJPC requested Tegeltija’s resignation. Three members were against his resignation: Zeljka Radovic, Duska Bogojevic, and Jadranka Stanisic. The three members deemed that Tegeltija did not harm the integrity of the HJPC and that accountability for this lies with those who were illicitly wiretapping the HJPC President. Judge Kees Van der Weide, the new EU-engaged expert advising the HJPC on judicial alignment with EU standards and best practices said that there has to be accountability for that which was recorded. He said that the situation in the HJPC is very bad and that the logical move is for Tegeltija to remove himself from the institution. 

 

EUD to B&H calls on Tegeltija to act responsibly and protect HJPC by heeding calls of HJPC members for his resignation (FTV)

Following Thursday’s extraordinary session of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H called on President of the B&H HJPC Milan Tegeltija to act responsibly and protect the HJPC institution by heeding the calls of the Council members for his resignation, in order to prevent further prolonging of the crisis in the entire judiciary and to help restore public trust. “The gravity of the most recent allegations casts doubt on the President’s ability to lead the HJPC and the B&H judiciary. They damage the credibility and the integrity of the HJPC and all honest, hardworking, professional judicial office holders in the country. It was good to see that there were real and critical discussions at today’s (Thursday’s) extraordinary HJPC session. The lack of appropriate action would be a slap in the face of the citizens and judicial community, including the HJPC members that properly serve the institution” the EUD to B&H stated in a press release. 

 

HR Inzko: HJPC is the problem of all problems in B&H (Hayat)

The new OSCE report on the state of judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) most of all criticizes the work of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of B&H and lists as problematic the ‘Potkivanje’ affair involving HJPC President Milan Tegeltija. Upon the issuing of the report, political directors of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) called on B&H authorities to carry out reforms pertaining to rule of law and fight against corruption, which are the key part of the process towards EU accession.  

 

High Representative Valentin Inzko said: “Rule of law is the biggest problem in this country. People are leaving now. Not because they are unemployed, but because they are saying that there is no justice in B&H. Of course, the problem of all problems is the HJPC. They have to do everything to return confidence. The reputation of that institution has been seriously violated.” Inzko added that this matter could be resolved most quickly and that he foresees a perspective in one or two years should the work of the institution change. He said that if judges who have over 20 years of experience and who are reputable and honorable, assuring that there are such people in B&H, were to render decisions on appointments the situation would quickly improve. He emphasized that the reform needs to be carried out starting from the HJPC. High reported that HR Inzko has called for Tegeltija’s resignation recently.  

 

US Embassy: HJPC is in critical condition (BHT1

 

Local and international officials have been closely observing the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC)’s work for a while now. Commenting on the affair, the US Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina has stated that the HJPC is in critical condition and that it is necessary to recover the trust in this judicial institution as soon as possible. 

 

Prosecutor’s Office of B&H receives criminal report filed by B&H HJPC President Tegeltija (EuroBlic)

The Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) received a criminal report filed by President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of B&H Milan Tegeltija against unidentified persons employed at or connected with the Intelligence-Security Agency (OSA) of B&H because of the criminal act of attack on constitutional order. The Prosecutor’s Office of B&H stated that a case was formed on grounds of this criminal report and check-ups will be carried out. 

‘NATO 2030’ expert report submitted to NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg: NATO needs to strengthen its role in B&H (Dnevni avaz)

Daily learns that the document about the future of NATO reads that NATO will strengthen its role in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) with special focus on prevention of destabilization, especially via hybrid tools and misinformation all over the Western Balkans. Namely, daily reads, the group of international experts, led by prominent diplomats Thomas de Maizire and Wess Mitchell, prepared the strategic document ‘NATO 2030’ and submitted it to the NATO Secretary General Jens Stolgtenberg.  

 

According to the daily, the prepared report mentions B&H on several occasions underlining that NATO should strengthen its engagement in B&H and pay special attention to prevention of destabilization, especially via hybrid tools and misinformation all over the Western Balkans. One of the recommendations reads that NATO’s open-door policy needs to be supported and revived as “one of key factors so the partners would be able to modernize, integrate and prepare for possible future membership”. “NATO should expand its assistance to their partners who expressed desire to join the Alliance (i.e. B&H), in order to assist the development of the tools and reforms, necessary for meeting of the criteria for membership, working together with political, military, civilian and administrative structures of the partners. Also, NATO should remain dedicated to the decision reached in Bucharest in 2008 which underlines importance of raising of the negotiations on membership to a higher level”, reads the document, which was presented in Brussels on Thursday.  

 

On this occasion, (unnamed) NATO official told the daily that the Alliance has “long-term mutually beneficial partnership with B&H”. “We are dedicated to providing support to B&H in implementation of reforms through many years, because the allies are dedicated to stable and safe B&H, but also the Western Balkans. We welcome our continued cooperation on reform of B&H Armed Forces and structures. We also welcome B&H’s contribution to our Euro-Atlantic security, including the mission to Afghanistan” reads the statement given to the daily.  

 

“Project ‘NATO 2030’ continues and the Secretary General will continue the advising with the allies and he will contact the MPs, civil society, private sector and youth leaders. After this, he will prepare his proposals for allied leaders. His recommendations will provide additional information in which direction the NATO leaders need to decide when they meet next year” daily was told.  

 

NATO HQ Commander Edwards: NATO expects B&H to submit Program of Reforms for 2021 (Nezavisne)

The daily carried an interview with the outgoing Commander of NATO Headquarters Sarajevo, US Army Brigadier General William Edwards. He stated that he appreciates the opportunity he had to learn about Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), its history and people. He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that in order to move forward, B&H citizens need to move together. “We united in fight against the pandemic and we united to support BIH in overcoming this challenge that we are all facing” said Edwards. He emphasized that B&H has many potentials and that NATO HQ will remain dedicated to providing support to B&H citizens and institutions in order to make their future more stable, secure and prosperous.  

 

Asked to comment the challenges of the pandemic, Edwards expressed his condolences to the families of victims and offered his sympathies to all citizens who are affected by it. He underlined that NATO HQ has continued its cooperation with partners in B&H Defense Ministry and Armed Forces.  

 

Commenting the recent joint military exercise of B&H Armed Forces and US Army, Edwards said that it was a very complex exercise, not only because of the Covid-19 prevention measures, but it was very well-organized. The exercise showed that B&H Armed Forces are continuing to improve their interoperability with NATO allies.  

 

Asked if he is satisfied with implementation of the Program of Reforms, Edwards said that it is up to B&H authorities to define the dynamic of implementation based on available resources. However, NATO is expecting to receive the Program of Reforms for 2021 which will build on previous reform efforts and the existing partnership between B&H and NATO. Speaking about relations between NATO and B&H, he stated that there is a long-standing and mutually beneficial cooperation. He explained that the Program of Reforms contains reform goals of B&H authorities and represents a framework for continuous cooperation with NATO. “We continue to provide support to B&H in implementation of these reforms, as we have been doing for years, because the Allies are dedicated to stable and safe B&H and continuation of our talks on cooperation between B&H and NATO, as well as regional security” Edwards concluded. 

 

It is questionable if joint military exercise of B&H and Serbia will be held under auspices of NATO (N1)

The joint military exercise of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and Serbia is planned to take place on Mount Manjaca next year, and its aim is to assess operational capabilities of the Armed Forces of B&H and Serbia. According to N1, the question is whether this military exercise will be carried out under the auspices of NATO. Namely, this question has been raised particularly bearing in mind that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic recently met with US President Donald Trump after which Serbia gave up on military exercises with Russia and Belarus, and put a moratorium on all exercise with both the East and the West. The B&H Presidency unanimously endorsed the military exercise.  

 

Serbian Minister of Interior Aleksandar Vulin said that Serbia is open for cooperation with “all friendly countries and all friendly armies in the world”. Chairman and Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that the military exercise has not been called in question, but he denied its connections to NATO. “NATO is not mentioned anywhere. I do not know where someone reads that or who says that” Dodik noted.  

 

While this exercise is expected to take place next year, B&H should send – as N1 reported – a new, annual report to NATO Headquarters (HQ) in Brussels. Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic confirmed that 70% of the previous program has been implemented. “In fact, we practically submitted the first annual national plan with that Program of Reforms, because it contains all the elements that a national plan has” Dzaferovic said. B&H Minister of Defense Sifet Podzic claims that the military exercise is part of a program of NATO. Podzic assessed that cooperation is necessary. Podzic said that, although NATO will not participate in the exercise, it will be held within the NATO’s Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) program. Podzic confirmed that B&H has carried out all verifications to enable conducting of that exercise, and he noted that the exercise includes respect of sovereignty of both countries. Podzic referred to the exercise as “a positive and good cooperation of the two armies”.  

 

Reporter noted that the announced military exercise would be the first military exercise of B&H and Serbia in the period after the 1990s’ war, even though the two countries’ Armed Forces have cooperated before. 

 

Montenegro 

 

MPs to vote on Krivokapic’s government today (CDM)

 

Members of the Parliament of Montenegro are supposed to vote today on the composition of the new government, proposed by Zdravko Krivokpaic. The session starts at 11 am. Over the previous two days, a fervent discussion took place in the Parliament. Krivokapic said among other things that the new government “will be the government of discontinuity, freedom, equality and that the existing crisis can be overcome by reforms, knowledge, and work on the rule of law”. 

 

The first day of the discussion was marked by Medojevic’s request for a break, so that prime minister-designate had time to fill his exposition. Yesterday’s debate will be remembered by Abazovic’s heated speech, in which he made accusations addressed to DPS members. Representatives of the parliamentary majority said they would support Krivokapic’s government. 

 

Abazovic: It is true that I was offered 21 million euros not to overthrow the regime of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic (TV Vijesti)

 

The leader of the Civic Movement URA, Dritan Abazovic, confirmed that the information was correct that he was offered 21 million euros not to overthrow the regime of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. Abazovic, who is the candidate for Deputy Prime Minister, said that he received offers for that from several sides, but that the money was not offered by businessman Haris Brcvak

 

Businessman Miodrag Daka Davidovic claimed that Brcvak, who is known to the public for his humanitarian work, tried to bribe Abazović with 21 million euros, which Brcvak denied. 

 

Abazovic told TV Vijesti t that “the figure mentioned by Davidovic is not a lie, but it did not come from Brcvak.” “I think all the best about Mr. Brcvak and the things he did for Montenegro are respectful. It would be extremely frivolous to say who offered what” he said. 

 

Speaking about other topics, Abazovic said that after some media reports that he was threatened by the “Naser Kelmendi clan”, he was contacted by “a close member” of the Kelmendi family, who introduced himself and told him that he was disgusted by media reports that one of them threatened. 

 

Earlier, URA announced that Abazovic was threatened by members of “certain criminal groups from Kosovo” but they did not provide details, while the police said that there was no such information. 

 

Speaking about the transfer of power, Abazovic said that he was in a peaceful and dignified way, “which he did not expect because he expected resistance”. “I did not expect a cataclysm, but I expected more resistance. I attribute the credit to all political actors and citizens who showed that they have a greater political awareness than we thought, and I am grateful to international partners whose role was not small” said Abazovic. 

 

North Macedonia 

 

Zaev’s political career ends in the coming days: There are coalition partners of Zaev who will support the vote of no confidence in the Government (Infomax)

 

The Vice President of VMRO-DPMNE, Aleksandar Nikoloski told the Infomax news portal that in the coming days there will be a vote of no confidence in the Government of PM Zoran Zaev. He is convinced that this vote will be successful, because, as he says, there are smaller political parties in the SDSM coalition that cannot keep silent about the national betrayal committed by Zaev. 

 

“The solution is to resign. He will leave. We will submit motion, I cannot say exactly when, in order to keep a little bit of the strategy for ourselves, not to be so transparent. We will submit a motion of no confidence in the Government and I am convinced of success. There are political parties that I think will support it. I say that publicly. There are smaller political parties that are within the SDSM coalition, I am not talking about DUI or BESA. I am talking about smaller parties that are considering leaving the Government Coalition because they cannot stand the national betrayal committed by Zaev. These are parliamentary parties” Nikoloski said. 

 

Albania 

 

European Parliament: The government and the opposition should commit for the upcoming general elections (Radio Tirana)

 

The European Parliament urges the Albanian government and opposition authorities to create a climate for fair elections on April 25th. The European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee has approved a draft report on developments in Albania, which “emphasizes the need to improve the climate of functioning of civil society and urges the authorities to ensure proper and comprehensive consultation and increase the financial sustainability of the non-governmental sector”. 

 

The report states that the standard of April 25 will be basic for the treatment of Albania by the EU. The draft will be debated in the Foreign Affairs Committee and in March 2021 is expected to be voted in plenary session. 

 

“Albania has made continuous efforts on its path to the EU, fulfilling the conditions for holding the first intergovernmental conference; it should be borne in mind that the country must continue to make progress in consolidating democratic institutions and procedures, of the proper functioning of its judicial institutions and in the protection of media freedom and minority rights; It should be borne in mind that continued efforts for key reforms require the joint commitment of all actors; whereas the Commission presented a draft negotiating framework in 1 July 2020” it is said in the draft-report. 

 

It further states that “we welcome Albania’s clear strategic orientation and commitment to European integration, manifested in good neighborly relations and the continued implementation of membership-related reforms; We support the convening of the first intergovernmental conference without further delay, after approval of the negotiating framework by the Council “. 

 

“Recall that progress in membership under the revised enlargement methodology depends on sustainable, deep and irreversible reforms in all key areas, in particular the rule of law and the fight against corruption; We urge the authorities to step up their efforts to strengthen “political dialogue and the functioning of the country’s democratic institutions, improving the climate for media pluralism and civil society” the text reads. 

 

GRECO: Albania must implement laws to prevent corruption of Government (Tirana Times)

 

The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption issued today an official report, recommending Albania to effectively implement the legal framework for preventing corruption in Government, and to improve the capacities of the bodies responsible for its enforcement. These developments should come in parallel with the adoption of a proactive approach to investigations. GRECO stated that “the legal framework for preventing corruption among persons entrusted with top executive functions (PTEFs) and the State Police in Albania as being comprehensive but somewhat disjointed and overly complex.” A way to facilitate the implementation of the framework would be a handbook that would both assemble the regulations and offer guidance to the interested subjects.  

 

While part of the corruption fight has been the adoption and implementation by each ministry of an Integrity Plan, in practice “these plans have not been drafted yet”, says GRECO, which calls a swift adoption of the plans. GRECO also doubts the implementation of Ministerial Code of Ethics, which was adopted in 2013, and whether the Ethics committee foresees its operation. For the moment, it is also suspicious that there are also no examples of persons with top executive functions that have withdrawn from certain policies or discussions as a result of a conflict of interests, casting doubts on the proper functioning of the framework for declaring private interests. 

 

Another recommendation concerns the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflicts of Interest. According to GRECO the e-platform for declaring and publishing the reviewing assets and interests’ declaration by high-officials and police staff must become operational without delay, and the Inspectorate must also improve its monitoring capacity and procedures. Also, GRECO suggests that “the cases forwarded by HIDAACI to the prosecution service need to be given proper follow-up. This calls for the effective functioning of the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor (SPAC) and the establishment of effective cooperation with HIDAACI.” 

 

Another crucial point is the current transitional vetting of the State Police, where GRECO predicts that a high number of qualified staff may leave the job, creating a vacuum that could create problems. The process in itself is also put into question, since it “does not adequately capture all possible integrity risks.” A regular integrity check system throughout the career of the policy staff would be more effective, and post-employment rules need to be reviewed in this context. Regarding the State Police, GRECO considers of particular concern the practice of receiving private donations and sponsorship, as a risk of corruption or possible conflict of interest. Therefore, it suggests for a strict regulation in case such practices will continue. Finally, the Albanian Police should be left outside the political changes in the country. GRECO recommends that middle management positions should be appointed by the General Director of the State Police, instead of the Minister of the Interior. 

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