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Belgrade Media Report 28 December

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LOCAL PRESS

Brnabic in parliament: Focus on rule of law in coming period (RTS/RTV/Tanjug)
Vucic presented three main goals for the next year (B92/Tanjug)
Drecun: EU doesn’t have political capacity to force Pristina to form ZSO (Radio Belgrade)
Petkovic: We are used to attacks from Pristina, unthinkable for someone to place politics above health (RTS/Tanjug)
Belgrade and Pristina still far from converging positions (Beta)
Federici: Security in Kosovo stable (Kurir/Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

B&H CEC orders recount of ballots at seven polling stations in Mostar (Nova BH)
Inzko confirms to Austrian media he could be replaced by former Agricultural Minister of
Germany Schmidt; RS officials deem it is good that Inzko leaves (ATV)
Cvijanovic believes B&H does not need High Representative (RTRS)
Ukraine reportedly demands from B&H to return Orthodox icon previously gifted to Lavrov (BHT1)
Turkovic: No formal request for determining the procedure and path of the icon from Russia to B&H was received by B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Hayat)
Situation in migrant camp in Lipa on verge of humanitarian disaster (Nova BH)
Cikotic: USC authorities made situation with migrants more complicated (O Kanal)
UK to transfer military engagement from EUFOR to NATO (Nezavisne novine)
Montenegro

Krivokapic met with heads of caucuses: Dismissals of DPS staff after amending certain laws (Dan)
SDP demands registration of SPC and that property provisions remain (CdM)
Krivokapic proposed adding one more point on the agenda for parliament sitting (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Zaev: We wanted to be brothers with Bulgaria, but now they want to be our fathers (Kanal 5/Republika)
Mickoski: If Bulgaria doesn’t drop its hardline demands, Macedonia needs to stop the talks and end the 2017 treaty (Republika)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Alexandar Vucic: The Balkan Stream gas pipeline in Serbia is filled with gas (Neftegaz.RU)

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LOCAL PRESS 

Brnabic in parliament: Focus on rule of law in coming period (RTS/RTV/Tanjug

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated today that EU integration remains a strategic priority of the country and one of the most important tasks, noting that the focus will be on the rule of law, since good results have been achieved in the other two pillars of integration – in economic and public administration reforms. In the debate in the parliament on the Draft Conclusion on the occasion of the presentation of the EC report on Serbia for 2020, which was submitted by 15 deputies, Brnabic underlined that the government of Serbia is pro-European. She mentioned that we have opened 18 chapters so far, two are temporarily closed, and five are ready to be opened, pointing out that the EC Report contains the most important recommendations, i.e., what Serbia should work on in the future. She pointed out that Serbia has decided to substantially change things and not to pass laws for the sake of the law, but to work on making Serbia European in terms of results. Serbia is eagerly waiting to see how the new enlargement methodology will be applied, which means opening clusters, i.e., certain areas, instead of chapters, she said. When it comes to the three pillars on which European integration rests, Brnabic said that Serbia has done the most in the economy and that it has received the most praise for it, and that it has come a long way in the area of ​​public administration reform. According to her, e-government essentially means the fight against corruption, which concerns the third pillar, and that is the rule of law.

In the first month since the formation of the government of Serbia, a lot has been done in the area of ​​the rule of law and a clear signal has been given that this will be one of the focuses, she pointed out and noted that Serbia has published GRECO recommendations. Brnabic expressed her gratitude to the parliament for adopting the Code of Conduct for MPs, along with the amendments proposed by the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, which concerned GRECO’s recommendations, as well as for electing the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality as soon as possible. members of the State Council of Prosecutors and presidents of courts throughout Serbia. When it comes to media freedom, Brnabic reminded that the government has adopted an action plan for the media strategy, formed a working group for that, as well as for the protection and safety of journalists whose members will meet at least once a month. Brnabic assessed that the election conditions in 2020 are much better than in 2012, and that the freedom of the media today is incomparable with the one from 2011 and 2012. A working group for the implementation of ODHIR recommendations has been formed, she said, adding that they are still working on improving the election conditions, which is in the interest of both the ruling party and the coalition, because that gives greater legitimacy to the government.

Brnabic pointed out that Serbia has shown readiness for dialogue with Pristina, as well as great flexibility and courage, stating that the speed in that process does not depend only on Serbia.

What we will insist on is the Community of Serb Municipalities, and we cannot go into new agreements if Pristina does not implement the first agreements, said Brnabic, expressing gratitude to EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhely and EC President Ursula von der Layen.

Vucic presented three main goals for the next year (B92/Tanjug

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated the priority interest of Serbia is to preserve peace, stability in the region and vital national interests, despite difficult circumstances. “Having in mind the international and regional circumstances, the realization of that task will not be easy, but I am convinced that by working together we will succeed in achieving our goals and guaranteeing people security and a secure future,” Vucic said. He also looked at the other goals he sets. “The second goal is to preserve the health of the citizens of Serbia and the fight against COVID, while the third is to improve the living standards of citizens from increasing salaries and pensions to improving air quality and building roads,” Vucic said. He added that the second goal includes, in addition to increasing the salaries of health workers, the construction of new hospitals and clinical centers. He referred to the vaccination of the population of Serbia.

“We expect another 76-77.000 Pfizer vaccines. I believe that during January we will vaccinate most people who work in the COVID system and thus protect our health system. We expect the first quantities of vaccines to arrive from Russia before the end of the year, but we are waiting for the Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia’s permission,” he said, adding that vaccines are expected from other manufacturers with which Serbia is negotiating. He announced the continuation of the European integration process. “It is understood that we will continue the process of European integration, but also to preserve friendships with China and the United States, but also with all other countries. We will continue the policy of stability, responsibility and success – the winning policy,” he underlined.

Drecun: EU doesn’t have political capacity to force Pristina to form ZSO (Radio Belgrade

Every political crisis in Pristina is reflected in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and does not only mean calling and holding elections and frequent change of government in Pristina, but is also reflected in the attitudes of the ruling majority, which are not in the function of progress in Belgrade-Pristina relations, the Chair of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun told Radio Belgrade. He stated that, at this moment in Pristina, Belgrade does not have a credible partner with political influence, with whom it could talk and who could implement everything that has been agreed. Drecun also expects that the support that the EU gives to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will be concrete, and not only declarative and verbal. He illustrated his own opinion through the example of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO), whose formation the EU only formally supports.

He believes that the EU does not want to use the so-called ‘soft power’ and force Pristina to act rationally and realize what has been agreed. “The EU does not have enough political capacity to force Pristina to form the ZSO – without which there is no progress in the talks, and to continue the dialogue on other sensitive issues,” Drecun said, reminding that the ZSO is key to the survival of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, their security and economic perspective. He also emphasizes that Pristina wants to create an ethnically pure Albanian territory that would join Albania in the foreseeable future. “That is why the provisional institutions prevent the attempt to create any system that would benefit the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. ZSO is a mechanism for the protection and survival of the Serbs, it protects the Serb people and creates conditions for their return to the province,” Drecun said.

Petkovic: We are used to attacks from Pristina, unthinkable for someone to place politics above health (RTS/Tanjug

We are used during every election campaign in Pristina for Serbia to be the main target of attack, but nobody’s political ambitions should be above the health and lives of people, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic said. He says in a press release that Serbia’s obligation is to ensure sufficient amounts of vaccines for all citizens, without exceptions.

Belgrade and Pristina still far from converging positions (Beta

EU mediator Miroslav Lajcak stated that the two sides are still far from converging their positions, but that they are doing trilateral work on resolving that issue. In an exclusive interview for the Pristina TV Klan Kosova, Lajcak spoke about the process in which he mediates, explaining the positions of the parties and the time when the final agreement between the two sides can be signed as well as the preconditions that must be met. “As a mediator, it is not up to me to tell Kosovo and Serbia what to do. Finding a common language is necessary for both sides to have some benefit for their people. That is what we are doing at the negotiating table,” Lajcak said. He said, among other things, that a comprehensive agreement cannot be reached without discussing the status issue. “Both sides know that and have expressed their views on it. However, we must build a joint agreement on other elements of the agreement, so that we are ready to discuss the status,” he pointed out. Lajcak said it must be clear to both sides what a comprehensive agreement would look like as a whole, in order for substantive discussions to take place on it, but that they have not yet reached that point.

Federici: Security in Kosovo stable (Kurir/Beta

KFOR Commander, Italian General Franco Federici, said on Monday the security situation in Kosovo was stable and that there were no signs of potential unrests or violence. He said that KFOR mission consists of 3,500 soldiers from 27 countries, 19 of which are NATO members and eight the Alliance’s partner states. “KFOR has been successful in securing Kosovo as a safe place for the last 21 years,” the General told Kurir. He also said that KFOR had established excellent and effective communication with local Serbs, as the largest minority in Kosovo, as well as with the Army of Serbia.

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

B&H CEC orders recount of ballots at seven polling stations in Mostar (Nova BH

The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) held an emergency session in Sarajevo on Sunday and ordered the recount of ballots at seven polling stations in Mostar. The recount will start on Monday morning and accredited observers will be able to monitor the process. B&H CEC informed that the Main Counting Center in Sarajevo was ordered to recount ballots according to political subjects and to determine the number of invalid ballots from five polling stations. For one of these five polling stations, the recount of ballots was ordered for candidates of the coalition ‘Ostajte ovdje – zajedno za nas Mostar’ (Remain Here – Together for Our Mostar). Nova BH also reported that the count of ballots that arrived via mail for the local elections in Mostar started in Sarajevo on Sunday. Representative of the Main Counting Center in Sarajevo Adi Agic told Nova BH that they expect the whole process regarding the count of ballots from the local elections in Mostar will be completed by 5 January and they will be ready to recount ballots in case of new complaints and orders from B&H CEC. He confirmed that the ballots from seven polling stations in Mostar will start on Monday morning at the Main Counting Center in Sarajevo, upon the order of B&H CEC.

Inzko confirms to Austrian media he could be replaced by former Agricultural Minister of 

Germany Schmidt; RS officials deem it is good that Inzko leaves (ATV

High Representative Valentin Inzko has confirmed to Austrian media that he could be replaced by former Agricultural Minister of Germany Christian Schmidt. Inzko said that Germany has expressed interest for the Office of the High Representative (OHR), but that there are still some unanswered questions. Commenting on the issue, the RS officials said that it is good that Inzko leaves, but it would be better to close the OHR. SNSD representative in the House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H Sanja Vulic stated that it was high time for Inzko to leave and she is certainly happy because of that, but it would be just to completely abolish the OHR. She added that she comforts herself with the fact that after former HR Paddy Ashdown and Inzko, the next HR cannot be more unjust compared to them. Former RS president and NDP leader Dragan Cavic assessed that Germany as one of the strongest EU countries will have much more powerful influence on B&H through the HR’s role in the future compare to Inzko’s role. According to former RS parliament speaker Dragan Kalinic, whoever is appointed as the new HR will not change the stance of the RS authorities that the OHR’s closure and departure of foreign judges from the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H are necessary. He added that the Election Law of B&H also needs to be changed and that all this is need for B&H to make progress on the EU path of B&H. Representatives of the RS opposition also said that they support the OHR’s abolition and they have no expectations from new HR. PDP leader Branislav Borenovic believes that B&H does not need a High Representative. He said the moment when there would be no High Representative in B&H, would be a moment in which B&H could say it is a normal, successful country that can deal with its problems on its own. As soon as law and justice are established in this country, we will not need a High Representative, Borenovic told a press conference.

Cvijanovic believes B&H does not need High Representative (RTRS

RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic commented on possible replacement of High Representative Valentin Inzko with German Christian Schmidt and said that the stance of the RS is clear – the RS needs neither the old nor new High Representative. Cvijanovic added that “we need a sincere partnership with the EU which will not be burdened by presence of the High Representative who promotes political concept of one of the peoples in a biased manner while openly undermining interests of the other two constituent peoples”. Cvijanovic said that it is true that the High Representative is the Dayton category, but it is also true that the High Representatives granted themselves numerous competencies which the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) did not grant to them. Cvijanovic said that activities of the High Representatives were carried out under the excuse of creation of a functional state which, instead, got worse thanks to the High Representatives. “In essence, the intention was to cave in the concept of the entities, primarily the constitutional power of the RS where the Serb people is dominant, but also to additionally cave in the position of Croat people and prevent them from having political rights as collectivity”, Cvijanovic argued and concluded by saying that if the EU too advocates the stance that B&H needs the High Representative, then this would mean that the EU itself does not believe in European future of B&H.

Schwarz categorically dismisses media reports about Merkel wanting to replace Inzko with 

Schmidt against Biden’s will in order to appease Putin (Face TV

Guest of Face TV Central News was former member of the German parliament Stefan Schwarz who spoke about media reports suggesting that German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to replace HR Valentin Inzko with German politician Christian Schmidt against the will of US President-Elect Joe Biden because Schmidt would be an acceptable choice for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Asked about media reports suggesting that German Chancellor Merkel wants to replace HR Inzko with Schmidt as he would an acceptable for Russian President Putin, as well his own posts on Facebook in relation to these media reports, Schwarz dismissed such media reports, describing them as laughable and “bulls**t”, as well as “fake news and made-up story”.

He urged everyone in B&H to think for themselves and said that Germany is a member of NATO while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not just a good friend of former US President Barack Obama and US President-Elect Joe Biden but she also dislikes Russian President Vladimir Putin very much. He claims that Merkel agreeing to conspire or collude with Putin against Biden is unimaginable and “against our German political genes”. He underlined that current HR Valentin Inzko will step down after nearly 12 years in this post and the appointment of Inzko’s successor is the question of coordination between various countries, including Germany, the US and Canada as members of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB). He pointed out that Russia is a member of the PIC SB as well and it should be involved in talks but this does not mean there is a conspiracy.

Ukraine reportedly demands from B&H to return Orthodox icon previously gifted to Lavrov (BHT1

 

The Ukrainian media reported that the Ukrainian Embassy to B&H demands that the Orthodox Christian icon, which Chairman and Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik recently presented to Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov as a gift, is returned to Ukraine. Namely, the Ukrainian Embassy warned that the icon is part of the material and historical heritage of Ukraine. Due to allegations that came from the Ukrainian Embassy, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs returned the icon to the B&H Embassy to Russia, in Moscow, after which B&H Ambassador to Russia Zeljko Samardzija personally brought the icon back to Sarajevo. While the B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs expected that it would be provided with the icon in order to hand it over to INTERPOL B&H for investigation of origin, Samardzija returned it to the Cabinet of the B&H Presidency Chairman, as the gift-giver. The Ukrainian media further reported: “If the first step has been undertaken and if the icon is in Sarajevo, there is a need to undertake the next step, which is to return it to Ukraine.” In a phone statement to BHT1, Samardzija noted: “The Russian Ministry of Foreign returned the icon to the B&H Embassy in Moscow with a diplomatic note demanding that it is returned to the gift-giver. The gift was given by Chairman of the Presidency, and not the B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As far as I am concerned, this case is closed.” Head of the Cabinet of the B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs (Bisera Turkovic) Denis Hadzovic underlined for BHT1 over the phone that the procedures for the return of the icon are defined and clear, and the ambassador Samardzija violated them by returning the icon to Dodik’s Cabinet rather than to the B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Turkovic: No formal request for determining the procedure and path of the icon from Russia to B&H was received by B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Hayat

In an interview for Hayat central news, B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic commented the ‘Ikona’ (Icon) affair, B&H’s relations with neighboring countries, the migrant crisis, work of the B&H Council of Ministers and her Ministry’s priorities for 2021. Speaking about the manner in which gilded icon gifted by Chair of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik to Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov was sent back to B&H, Turkovic confirmed that no formal request for determining the procedure and path of the icon from Russia to B&H was received by her Ministry. She noted that media outlets in B&H said the icon already arrived in B&H, and that it was returned to gift giver, which is Dodik. “Of course, series of mistakes and actions were made that demand certain sanctioning and returning order to things”, Turkovic underlined. She said the Ministry will react in line with the diplomatic note that came to the B&H Embassy in Russia. The Minister emphasized the need for full respect of determined procedures. Turkovic said no sanctions will be issued until all the facts are determined. She said Ambassador of B&H to Russia Zeljko Samardzija will inform them of the details and she expects him to act professionally and responsibly. He must explain the series of moves he made, Turkovic concluded.

Situation in migrant camp in Lipa on verge of humanitarian disaster (Nova BH

Nova BH reporting that the situation in the migrant camp in Lipa outside Bihac is on the verge of humanitarian disaster. Some 100 migrants who did not leave the camp after it was almost completely destroyed by fire that broke out few days ago are exposed to snow, low temperatures and inhumane conditions. They said that they fear for their lives as they do not have enough food, blankets, water and other crucial things. They warned that they will die unless the UN, IOM and other international organizations help them. It is unknown where some 1,200 other migrants who lived in the camp in Lipa ended up, but it is assumed that most of them found a temporary shelter in abandoned buildings across the Una-Sana Canton (USC). Representatives of the Red Cross in the USC warn that the situation in the camp in Lipa is alarming, calling on international organizations and authorities to try to find solution to adequate accommodate migrants as soon as possible.

Cikotic: USC authorities made situation with migrants more complicated (O Kanal

B&H Minister of Security Selmo Cikotic emphasized on Sunday that the migrant crisis in Una-Sana Canton (USC) got more complicated made situation with migrants more complicated because cantonal authorities failed to respect the agreement to temporarily transfer migrants from ‘Lipa’ reception center to ‘Bira’. Cikotic emphasized that there is a plan to adapt ‘Lipa’ – that is legally not in function anymore – for long-term accommodation of migrants. He stressed that these activities cannot be launched until cantonal authorities relocate migrants who remained in ‘Lipa’. Cikotic also stated that he understands concern of residents of Blazuj. He added that it is necessary to introduce systemic method of solving abovementioned problems. Cikotic said that Bihac Mayor Suhret Fazlic in coordination with international organizations tries to find the best solution according to current accommodation capacities for migrants and regarding their possible enlargement, but that he will leave this job to Fazlic.

UK to transfer military engagement from EUFOR to NATO (Nezavisne novine

The EU and UK have failed to reach an agreement on continuation of security engagement in B&H after Brexit, which is why the UK will have to withdraw from the EUFOR mission by the end of the year. The UK Embassy to B&H explained that due to its serious approach to European security, the UK has agreed to continue contributing to the EUFOR mission even after Brexit, but after December 2020, there will no longer be any legal basis for such arrangement. The UK Embassy emphasized that UK will continue to support EUFOR, also as a member of the UN Security Council, and its military presence in B&H will continue through a stronger engagement within NATO Headquarters. “The UK already has a wide program of engagements through bilateral support in the defense sector which helps B&H Ministry of Defense develop its medical capacities, capacities for support to civilian organizations, gender integration, officer training, international operability, as well as assistance in program of reforms with NATO. This will include practical training and support, strengthening of capacities and helping BIH in making significant contribution to international peacekeeping missions”, the Embassy stated. According to the daily, the decision of the UK to transfer its military engagement from EUFOR to NATO can be indirectly linked to the intention of the EU to reexamine the role of EUFOR mission next year. Namely, the EU believes that Western Balkan countries will have to take more responsibility for their security if they want to become full EU members. EUFOR Mission thanked the UK for its support, noting that the UK has been supporting not only EUFOR, but also UNPROFOR since 1992, making a great contribution in terms of dedication, activities and professionality. The UK Embassy announced that the UK will remain a key stakeholder in the Euro-Atlantic defense and security, as well as a bilateral partner of B&H through its leading role in the NATO.

 

Krivokapic met with heads of caucuses: Dismissals of DPS staff after amending certain laws (Dan

Heads of the caucuses of the parliamentary majority and representatives of the government, including Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic met on Saturday in villa ‘Gorica’ to discuss relations between the government and the parliament, and the continuation of dismissals of people appointed by the former government. According to Dan daily, it was agreed to amend certain laws so that the public administration reform and appointments of new staff might run smoothly. They also agreed to have meetings between representatives of the government and the parliamentary majority every weekend, in order to be able to analyze the social, political and economic trends, and define adequate strategies. One of their conclusions was that the cooperation between the government and parliament should be reinforced.

SDP demands registration of SPC and that property provisions remain (CdM

The Social Democratic Party, SDP, will submit amendments to the Proposal for the Religious Freedom Law for the parliamentary procedure on Monday, requiring mandatory registration or records for all religious communities without exception, as well as the return of property provisions prescribed by the current law, this party told CdM. “It is an elementary obligation of all entities, i.e. legal entities operating in the territory of a state to register with competent authorities of that state,” the SDP believes. They stress that every entity that requires a privileged status and refuses to register primarily demonstrates disrespect for the state in which it operates and in which it strives to exercise its rights. They also remind that no religious community should be above the state or refer to the non-existent centuries-long historical continuity, because it’s clear that the Serbian Orthodox Church, SPC, dates back from 1920, when, after the violent annexation and abolition of Montenegro, the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church was violently and illegally abolished, and that is an elementary historical fact. “The SDP will require keeping the valid provisions of articles 62, 63 and 64 referring to the property issues and the possibility that state property can be established on religious buildings, that is, cultural treasure of the state via an appropriate procedure.” This party expects from the ruling parties stating that they have been committed to the national interest of Montenegro to back their [SDP’s] amendments. “The SDP expects their colleagues from the Civic Movement URA to explain which provisions of the amendments are not in line with the national interests.”

Krivokapic proposed adding one more point on the agenda for parliament sitting (CdM

Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic has proposed that the parliament should add one more point on the agenda for the sitting scheduled for 28 December, referring to the Proposal for the Amendments to the Freedom of Religion Law. If the parliaments accepts Krivokapic’s proposal, the MPs will discuss and finally adopt the proposal for the amendments to the religion law. The government amended the valid law without holding a public debate, and forwarded it to the parliament for urgent adoption. “Pursuant to Article 92, paragraph 2, of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Montenegro, the Prime Minister of Montenegro proposed to the parliament that the agenda of the Fourth Sitting of the Second Ordinary (Autumn) Session should include the Proposal for the Amendments to the Freedom of Religion Law,” the parliament told CdM.

 

Zaev: We wanted to be brothers with Bulgaria, but now they want to be our fathers (Kanal 5/Republika

In a Kanal 5 TV interview, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev complained that Bulgaria misunderstood his expectations of the 2017 Zaev – Borisov treaty, and wants to have a dominant position in the relationship that was supposed to be among equals. I used my narrative toward an honest desire to have excellent cooperation, the best friendship, that we are brothers. We wanted to achieve that through the Friendship Treaty, but suddenly they decided to become our fathers, Zaev said, in his usual style. In the 2017 treaty, Macedonia agreed to rewrite its history, but as time went by Bulgaria increased its demands and now wants all “shared” historic figures to be declared as Bulgarians, and the Macedonian nation and language to be declared as recently derived from the Bulgarian. We have our national roots and uniqueness. Nobody in the world negotiates about the identity and language and neither will we. These delays are because of pure politics, Zaev said, blaming the Bulgarian positions on the coming elections in that country. He also came back to one of his most controversial comments – in which he began revising the World War Two history. In his infamous BGNES interview, Zaev said that Bulgaria did not occupy Macedonia during the war but merely administered it, and later even liberated it, when it switched sides from the Axis to the Allies in 1944. This comment caused a major rift in Zaev’s SDSM party, which long saw itself as keeper of the values of the partisan struggle in the Second World War, and former party leader Branko Crvenkovski, joined by many other former officials, called for Zaev’s ouster. Today, Zaev denied ever saying what he said: I never said that Bulgaria administered Macedonia but that the Bulgarian administration, the Government at the time decided to join the Third Reich. Nobody asked the Bulgarian people at a referendum if they want to join with the fascists. Of course they were occupiers. Macedonia was occupied at the time, and finally it turned out that Bulgaria was also occupied and so it joined the anti-fascist armies. Of course it was occupation of the whole world by fascism. But we can’t paint fascism with an ethnic brush. We can’t say that the whole of Bulgaria was fascist, that is not friendly, Zaev explained. VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski responded to Zaev’s comments, mainly the one about Macedonians being brothers with the Bulgarians: We can be brothers, or a brother and sister, or two sisters if we come from same parents, but we are not brothers. We are anthropologically different. We saw where his friendship policy with a number of countries got us, we are the laughing stock with of the world. They laugh at us behind our backs – look at them, they changed their name, they gave up everything and got nothing. That is how the world sees us. It was an unserious, strategically mistaken approach, from the moment he was allowed to form a government, Mickoski said about Zaev.

Mickoski: If Bulgaria doesn’t drop its hardline demands, Macedonia needs to stop the talks and end the 2017 treaty (Republika

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said that Bulgaria needs to step back from its maximalist demands, and if it doesn’t the Zaev government must stop its negotiations. When it comes to Zoran Zaev, I believe he is capable of anything, of course if it doesn’t cost him or his family. He is ready to sell anything of value that others have fought for and gained. He is fully prepared to sign an annex to the treaty with Bulgaria and accept all maximalist, hegemonic demands. Positions from Bulgaria, like from the deputy speaker of their parliament, is that we and the Bulgarians are one nation. If our positions are so diametrically opposed, then there is nothing to negotiate about. We need to sit down like men and say that the treaty, as it was signed, is exhausted, and we can’t negotiate any further. Either they step back from their positions, or we, as a country, need to abandon the treaty, Mickoski said. The opposition leader pointed to the positions of the European Union officials who, he said, remain silent while Macedonia is being humiliated. I could try to win favors in our eastern neighbor or other neighbors, or before Brussels authorities. But I feel what the citizens are saying about the situation. Macedonian citizens are being humiliated, with the name and Constitution changes, against their will. The credibility of the Parliament was ruined with the trading and pardons given to representatives just so that they will vote for the name change. And we were being assured that all conditions are met, even though we said that other, new demands will arise. And now the European bureaucrats remain silent while Zaev sells out our identity, Mickoski said.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES 

Alexandar Vucic: The Balkan Stream gas pipeline in Serbia is filled with gas (Neftegaz.RU, 28 December 2020) 

The test gas flow went through the pipeline. 

Belgrade – The Balkan Stream pipeline in Serbia (continuation of Turkish Stream) is filled with gas and it will be officially put in operation on December 30. This was reported today to journalists by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, quoted by TASS. “The test gas flow went through the pipeline. We didn’t make much noise about that, but on December 30, everything will start as promised,” Vučić said. “Before the very end of the year we will organize a small party to mark this day,” the Serbian president added, according to BTA. The section passing through the territory of Serbia is a continuation of one of the two pipes of the Turkish Stream set in operation on 8 January 2020, via which Russian gas is delivered to Turkey, and then to Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary. The construction of the Serbian section started in March 2019. The length of the section is 403 km and the projected power – 13.9 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Turkish Stream is a less ambitious version of South Stream, a project Russia developed in partnership with Italy’s ENI and Electricité de France, originally aimed at constructing a pipeline running from the Black Sea port of Anapa in Russia all the way to Varna in Bulgaria. From there, South Stream would reach overland to Austria, crossing Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary. Russia ended up calling off the project in 2014 because of a dispute with the European Union over which gas producers would be allowed to use it.

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