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Belgrade Media Report 29 December 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Tuesday 29 December 2020


Vucic: Serbia has not violated the Brussels agreement (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Djuric: Serbia will fight to improve overall relations with US (Tanjug)
Jeremic: Main purpose of Mini Schengen is efficient reception of migrants (Centar/Beta)
German official: Serbia recognizes that Kosovo’s independence cannot be annulled (DW/Beta)


Bosnia & Herzegovina

Schmidt: I cannot comment media rumors (Avaz)
New Head of OHR with favors of West to Russia (EuroBlic)
Minister Lucic argues that migrant crisis is not responsibility of B&H Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees (FTV)
Ruznic: Minister Cikotic has let USC citizens down, I will not hold working meeting with him (N1)
Recount of votes from seven polling stations in Mostar begins (O Kanal)
Ukrainian Embassy to B&H requests meeting with Turkovic to discuss gifted icon (BHT1)

Amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion adopted (CdM)
Krivokapic: Despite opposition’s obstruction, violation of Constitution and laws, parliament passed changes to the Law on Religious Freedom (Vijesti)
Bosniak Party: New govt doesn’t strive for genuine reconciliation (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Zaev: If there is no consent from the opposition, a census will not be held (Republika)

Cabinet reshuffles/Olta Xhacka, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Niko Peleshi, Minister of Defense (Radio Tirana)
Meta decrees Bejtje, 7th member of the Constitutional Court (Radio Tirana)


Turkey fully supports Serbia-Kosovo dialogue: FM Çavuşoğlu (Anadolu Agency)

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Vucic: Serbia has not violated the Brussels agreement (RTS/Tanjug/Beta

Serbia will not be prevented by anyone from taking care about the lives of its population in Kosovo, said President Aleksandar Vucic on Monday. “The fact that they control the

administrative crossings does not mean that they can stop life. We did not send either cannons or tanks, but rather medication and vaccines. We are also prepared to send them to Albanians. But don’t say that we have endangered anyone,” Vucic said at a press conference. Commenting the claims that Serbia had in this way violated the Brussels agreement, Vucic requested that it be shown in which way this was supposedly done. “How has the agreement been violated? Don’t make up nonsense, but rather say which item, which article? Serbia has fulfilled everything from that agreement and they did not fulfill the Community of Serb Municipalities,” he said.

Djuric: Serbia will fight to improve overall relations with US (Tanjug

In the new year and before the new US administration, Serbia will fight for a new chance to deepen and improve overall relations with the US, he said. “The relationship with the US is of fateful importance for our people and country, because it depends on it, and it is permeated with all the priorities of our state and national policy”, Djuric told Tanjug from Washington.

Jeremic: Main purpose of Mini Schengen is efficient reception of migrants (Centar/Beta

The leader of the People’s Party Vuk Jeremic said that the main purpose of the regional initiative Mini Schengen was to establish a unique administrative area in the Western Balkans for the reception of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and north Africa, who could be heading toward the EU next year. “The EU hails the Mini Schengen and the removal of border control in the Western Balkans, because it is in the EU interest. That is why it has been turning a blind eye to the suppression of democracy, and also corruption and organized crime in Serbia as it is more important to the EU to stop the wave of migrants outside its borders,” Jeremic told Channel Centar, according to a release from the People’s Party. Jeremic also said that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would not sign an agreement that would facilitate Pristina’s membership in the UN, because he knew that such a signature would produce a similar effect on him as the signature of the Law on Freedom of Religion had had on Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, which had cost him power after nearly three decades of sovereign rule in Montenegro. Jeremic stressed that Vucic would not do it, because if he signed such an agreement, he would be overnight countered by the Church and a vast majority of the Serbian people.

German official: Serbia recognizes that Kosovo’s independence cannot be annulled (DW/Beta

An official of the German Federal Foreign Office in charge of relations with the Western Balkan countries, Susanne Schütz, has said that Serbia’s interest should be progress in talks with Pristina as part of its own negotiations on accession to the EU. “We know it is not easy, but I believe that Serbia, too, recognizes that the independence of Kosovo can no longer be annulled. Also, we should not forget that as of Jan. 20 there will be a different administration in the U.S., which will certainly give the negotiations new impetus,” Susanne Schütz told Deutsche Welle. She added that the territory swap that had been talked about for a while “is not on the agenda.” Schütz said that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was complicated by the political situation in Kosovo, which was to hold a snap election in the near future. In her words, the dialogue should lead to a comprehensive agreement that is “politically applicable in both states,” which “allows Serbia and Kosovo the prospect of association with the EU and contributes to regional stability.”



Schmidt: I cannot comment media rumors (Avaz

In an exclusive statement to the daily, German politician, former minister and Bundestag member Christian Schmidt stated that he cannot comment media rumors, according to which he is a German candidate for a new High Representative. “My interest in B&H is limited to assistance when necessary in functioning of the refugee camp in Una-Sana Canton, where I was lucky to assist last year”, said Schmidt. Asked about possibility for him to be nominated to take over the post of the High Representative from Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, Schmidt said that this is a question for German Foreign Ministry.

New Head of OHR with favors of West to Russia (EuroBlic

Although the appointment of Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative instead of Valentin Inzko seems like a done deal, some diplomats wondered if this means that the West made some kind of a deal on B&H with Russia knowing Russia advocates shutting down of the Office of the High Representative (OHR). The daily reminded that the Russian Ambassador to B&H regularly presents dissenting opinion to stances of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), just like the Russian Ambassador to the UN Security Council (UN SC) does. The daily explained that it is important to know this because the appointment of the High Representative requires a wide international consensus of USA, EU, Russia and Turkey and also reminded that the High Representative is formally appointed by the PIC and the appointment is confirmed by a resolution of the UN SC. “Because of this, many are prone to believe that replacement of Valentin Inzko with German diplomat Christian Schmidt is a mission impossible at this moment. However, should this happen after all, they believe this means Washington and Berlin have made some kind of a deal with Moscow behind the stage on joint approach in B&H”, the daily noted.

Minister Lucic argues that migrant crisis is not responsibility of B&H Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees (FTV

FTV stated that the humanitarian catastrophe that the migrant crisis escalated into in the Una-Sana Canton (USC) is not the responsibility of the B&H Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, so it does not deserve the Minister’s comment. That is what B&H Minister of Human Rights and Refugees Milos Lucic claims. Or to put it more precisely, he is specifically in charge of migrants seeking asylum, and B&H Security Minister Selmo Cikotic is in charge of “those who are frozen in Krajina region”. With a shrug, the state Minister of Human Rights answered the question whether the humanitarian catastrophe in the USC could have been prevented if the B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM) had made a timely decision on the establishment of ‘Lipa’ as a temporary reception center. Human rights, obviously, are not universal and are not the same for everyone. In fact, FTV points, the human rights of migrants are not the responsibility of the Ministry of Human Rights of B&H, so the Minister is not interested. “As for the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, it only deals with these legal migrants, that is – those who have asylum in B&H, so I will ask you to address the Ministry of Security,” said Minister Lucic. For months, it was said that ‘Lipa’ was the only acceptable solution for the migrants, the locals and the international organizations. However, Minister Cikotic claims that decision on declaring ‘Lipa’ an official reception center in B&H was blocked, until recently, by ministers from the ranks of Serbs. These ministers rejected the claims.

Ruznic: Minister Cikotic has let USC citizens down, I will not hold working meeting with him (N1

N1 reports on the difficult situation that migrants who stayed in Lipa face adding that no one shares the burden of this situation with the migrants, since the state-level and the cantonal authorities cannot come to an agreement on how to solve this situation. While the state-level authorities demand that the migrants are temporarily transferred to the former migrant camp ‘Bira’ in Bihac, the authorities in the City of Bihac and in Una-Sana Canton (USC) oppose the reopening of that camp, even on a temporary basis. In a statement to N1, USC Prime Minister Mustafa Ruznic said that everyone had the opportunity to present their solution, yet all they mention now is reopening of ‘Bira’. Ruznic noted: “In July of last year, Brussels concluded there should be no more private centers. On 30 September, we took a stance on ‘Bira’. Why is ‘Bira’ mentioned as a possible solution, when Brussels ordered closing of ‘Bira’ and similar camps?”, Ruznic wondered. Ruznic accused B&H Minister of Security Selmo Cikotic of letting USC citizens down and thus he refuses to hold a working meeting with him.

Recount of votes from seven polling stations in Mostar begins (O Kanal

Eight days after the Mostar local elections, the public is yet to find out who will be the new members of the City Council. The B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) ordered the repeat of vote count several times and the latest procedure was initiated on Monday. Votes will be recounted from seven polling stations. Since there are no confirmed results, nobody dares to speculate on election winners, possible coalitions, majority in the City Council and beginning of negotiations. The reports on election irregularities are still coming in as the recount procedures are being conducted. President of HDZ B&H City Board Slaven Zeljko points that two disputable polling stations were included in the recount decision as the polling station committees could not explain where a number of ballots disappeared. He emphasized that there were too many irregularities during these elections. ‘BH Bloc’ advocates electronic voting and counting for the future, as that is the only way to ensure fair elections and real results of the voters’ will.

Ukrainian Embassy to B&H requests meeting with Turkovic to discuss gifted icon (BHT1

The B&H Foreign Ministry received a request from the Ukrainian Embassy to B&H for a meeting of ambassador with B&H Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic, regarding the icon given as a gift by the Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. They are requesting that the meeting takes place in January. Certain media have also covered that the Ukrainian Ambassador to B&H is requesting a meeting with B&H Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadic.


Amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion adopted (CdM

Montenegrin MPs adopted the amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion two and a half hours after midnight. Forty-one (41) deputies of the ruling majority voted for its adoption. Opposition MPs were not present at the parliament. The adoption of amendments to this Law was accompanied by applause from MPs. Two amendments to the Civic Movement URA became an integral part of the Law. The URS noted that the goal of these amendments is specification of certain articles of the Law and improvement of the legal text. “Deputies of the Black and White Club proposed that in Article 19, after paragraph 1, paragraph 2 be added, which reads: A religious community, i.e. a part of a religious community whose religious center is abroad, which is not registered in the unified records legal order of Montenegro,” the URA Movement stated.  With this amendment, they note, it is ensured that all religious communities respect Montenegrin laws, sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also act within the unified legal order of Montenegro. “The second amendment proposed by the Black and White Club refers to Article 36, which is amended to read as follows: ‘The control of the legality of the earmarked spending of the funds of the religious community from the state budget and the budget of the local self-government is performed by the competent bodies, in accordance with the law’,” the URA Movement explained. After a several-hour break, the session of the parliament of Montenegro continued. Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic and Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic came to the parliament. In the continuation of the session, the parliament speaker Aleksa Becic accused the State Election Commission (DIK) of obstruction because it had refused to verify the mandate of the URA Civic Movement MP Suada Zoronjic, but then announced that there were all legal conditions for the parliament to verify the mandate of this MP, which it later acknowledged. Montenegrin Minister of Justice and Social Welfare Vladimir Leposavic claims that these changes create conditions for the cessation of legal violence that leads to the annulment of man and his rights. “With this legal text, a new era of the rule of law in Montenegro begins, and thus Montenegro begins to exist again, as what it should be and what is in your goals and hearts,” said Leposavic and stated that Bishop Amfilohije and Serbian Patriarch Irinej gave their lives to defend the sanctities.

Krivokapic: Despite opposition’s obstruction, violation of Constitution and laws, parliament passed changes to the Law on Religious Freedom (Vijesti

Montenegrin Prime Minister of Montenegro Zdravko Krivokapic said after the parliament adopted the amendments to the Law on Religious Freedom, that it was a victory for the rule of law and the people. “Despite the opposition’s obstruction, violation of the Constitution and laws, the Parliament passed the changes of the Law on Religious Freedom. After a year, they corrected an injustice which the former regime wanted to bring upon the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), treating and using its property as its own,” Krivokapic said in his tweet following the session. He added the decision made all religious communities equal before the Law and that it was a victory for the legal state “which the people defended in the street for 12 months.”

Bosniak Party: New govt doesn’t strive for genuine reconciliation (CdM

MPs of the ruling majority refused to include the Proposal for Srebrenica Genocide Resolution, proposed by the Bosniak Party, in the agenda of last night’s parliament sitting. “Unfortunately, such attitude towards the genocide shows that the new government doesn’t strive for a genuine reconciliation and is not ready to face the past,” the Bosniak Party posted on Facebook.


Zaev: If there is no consent from the opposition, a census will not be held (Republika

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Monday that efforts are being made to accept the proposals of the opposition regarding the Census Law, pointing out that the opposition parties have been involved in this process for more than a year and a half. All this year and a half since we have been discussing the census, the opposition has been involved. There have been working groups, both from the government and the opposition, the director of the State Statistical Office held several meetings, said Zaev. He explained that there are three categories of census – one are total citizens, the second part resident citizens, i.e. all citizens living in the country and the third group are citizens who have emigrated for a longer period of one year. According to him, that makes the debate on ethnicity or what the percentages and the like are pointless and irrational. The opposition made a new proposal to use fingerprint. I do not know how the citizens who have moved out will use the fingerprint. We make efforts. The Minister of Justice immediately contacted donors to see if we could provide donations, we have embassies that have over 20 million euros of support for the elections in the country, so we ask them to allocate five million euros, then to buy five thousand fingerprint terminals that we use for the elections, but here they will also help the census, said Zaev. The census, he stressed, is the responsibility of the citizens, and they should  registered in full compliance with Eurostat standards. He warned that if one of the political parties, the government or the opposition, does not approve the law, a census will not be held. We have elections in the fall. 2022 is already late. We are one of the few countries in the world, and the only one I think in Europe that has not conducted a census for 18 years, said Zaev.


Cabinet reshuffles/Olta Xhacka, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Niko Peleshi, Minister of Defense (Radio Tirana

Acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj resigned today, while Olta Xhaçka was appointed in his place. Niko Peleshi has been appointed Minister of Defense, while the news has been confirmed by Prime Minister Edi Rama. “After an intensive period of work in the chairmanship of the OSCE as well as the great work with dedication and professionalism of Gent Cakaj as acting minister, this is the moment to jointly pass the duty as Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairsto to Olta Xhacka. I want to thank Gent not only for the dignity in the performance of the task so far, but also for the full readiness to continue the joint effort, returning to the cabinet of the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Niko Peleshi will head the ministry of defense,” writes Rama. Regarding these changes, there was a reaction from the US Ambassador Yuri Kim who praised Gent Cakaj, while calling Olta Xhacka an excellent partner.


Meta decrees Bejtje, 7th member of the Constitutional Court (Radio Tirana

The 7th member of the Constitutional Court is appointed. As the internationals set a deadline for the establishment of this court, there are still 2 more places to be filled. Through an announcement from the Presidency, it is said that President Ilir Meta has signed the decree for the appointment of Sonila Bejtja as a member of this court. The deadline set by the internationals, among them the US Ambassador Yuri Kim, for the establishment of this institution was 31 December. Currently, the ‘Constitutional Court’ has 6 members, as Vitore Tusha, who comes from the ranks of judges proposed by the Supreme Court, remains in office until her replacement.



Turkey fully supports Serbia-Kosovo dialogue: FM Çavuşoğlu (Anadolu Agency, 29 December 2020) 

ANKARA- Turkey supports the Balkan neighbors of Serbia and Kosovo pursuing dialogue to reach agreements as soon as possible, for the benefit of both countries, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Dec. 28. Turkey and Kosovo will take steps to coordinate their foreign ministries, including on matters such as naming new ambassadors and the training of diplomats, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a press conference in the capital Ankara alongside Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla, Kosovo’s visiting foreign and diaspora minister. Çavuşoğlu said they dealt with bilateral relations in every area during their meeting, adding that economic ties are growing but still have room for improvement. He said a free trade agreement signed last year is a great advantage for both countries. Stating that Turkish companies provide jobs to 10,000 people in Kosovo, Çavuşoğlu said that they aim to boost this number in the future. Çavuşoğlu also said they discussed ways to encourage companies to increase Turkish investments in Kosovo and to strengthen the defense industry and military cooperation. He stated that since Kosovo gained independence in 2008, Turkey promoted its recognition, adding that the efforts will continue to push its membership in international organizations. Kosovo’s integration to Euro-Atlantic institutions would contribute to stability in the region, he said.

‘Turkey always stands with Kosovo’ 

Haradinaj-Stublla expressed her gratitude to Turkey for showing unparalleled solidarity during this year of the coronavirus pandemic. She also stated that the country is relying on Turkey’s support to access coronavirus vaccines, just rolling out now in some Western countries. Turkey and Kosovo have long had friendly relations, and Turkey has always stood by Kosovo, Haradinaj-Stubll added. As for dialogue with Serbia, Haradinaj-Stublla stressed that Kosovo continues to be determined to continue the dialogue and to resolve all unresolved problems with Serbia through peaceful means. Stating that Kosovo has proven to be a constructive, reliable partner that keeps pacts, Haradinaj-Stublla added that Serbia has not been a partner that abides by these agreements, principles, and the spirit of good neighborliness. Underlining that Serbia, which wants to become a member of the EU, has taken some non-constructive actions such as supplying Armenia with weapons, Haradinaj-Stublla stated that Belgrade also continues to receive offensive weapon systems.

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