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Belgrade Media Report 21 January

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic congratulates Biden (Beta/RTS)
Vucic: KFOR has a vital role in maintaining peace and stability in Kosovo and Metohija (RTS)
Brnabic: Washington agreement remains (TV Happy/Tanjug/RTV)
Selakovic: I expect a meeting between Vucic and Biden by year’s end (RTS)
Selakovic: Serbia has understanding towards Bulgaria’s position regarding Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)
Office for Kosovo and Metohija: Pristina’s attempt to prevent vaccination in Serb communities (Tanjug/Politika)
Dveri calls on boycott of Kosovo elections (RTV/Tanjug)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

B&H officials congratulate Biden (Fena/N1)
Dodik: Structures in Sarajevo expect much from Biden (ATV)
Russian Embassy to B&H: Russia continues to be of opinion OHR should be closed (RTRS)
Izetbegovic addresses EPP group in EP: We have to remove mechanisms which enable blockades (Oslobodjenje)
Mostar: Results of local elections leave parties discontent, deadline for formation of authorities is 14 days, negotiations are underway (Dnevni avaz)
Croatia

Milanovic after Biden inauguration: Light ultimately triumphs over darkness (Hina)
Montenegro

Djukanovic congratulated Biden: Montenegro reliable partner and responsible ally (CdM)
Reinke: When cohabitation fails, everyone loses (CdM)
Djukanovic’s office: Meeting will be held in President’s office, it’s not about foreign policy consultations (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Macedonian leaders congratulate Biden on his inauguration (Republika)
Audio tape between Zaev and Verusevski causes a stir, Gruevski responds (Republika/Infomax)
Zaev: With Bulgaria we are negotiating about the name, about hate speech and minority issues (Republika)
Mickoski and Nikoloski meet with Jansa to discuss Macedonia’s stalled EU integration (Republika)
Zaev on census results: The percentages will not affect acquired rights (Republika)
EC expects Macedonia to hold a census in line with European standards and regulations (Republika)
Albania

President Meta conveys congratulations to new US President (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Bulgaria’s President Had Meeting with Foreign Minister of Serbia (Novinite)

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LOCAL PRESS 

Vucic congratulates Biden (Beta/RTS

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sent US President Joe Biden a message of congratulations on his inauguration, wishing him good health and success and inviting him to visit Belgrade.

A press release from Vucic’s cabinet quoting him as saying that he believes Biden will perform his duties as president “with true commitment, inexhaustible energy and a clear vision which reflects your long political career and rich experience of a statesman”. “This year we celebrate the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Serbia and the US. In the previous period, we marked important jubilees from our common history, remembering the bright examples of our alliance on the side of truth and justice. Precisely those examples were a strong incentive for us in Serbia to strive to bring back relations with the US to the level of true partnership, the way they used to and should be, despite scars left by times of lack of understanding and disagreements. I am convinced that, with mutual respect and common values, you will be our partner in strengthening political dialogue and economic cooperation. Allow me, therefore, to extend to you the invitation to visit Serbia, now as the US President, with a hope that you have fond memories of a visit in 2016 and that a wish for richer Serbian-American ties is mutual,” reads Vucic’s congratulation message.

Vucic: KFOR has a vital role in maintaining peace and stability in Kosovo and Metohija (RTS

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met today with Admiral Robert Burke, Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, to discuss forms of cooperation with NATO within the policy of military neutrality of Serbia. Vucic pointed out that regular dialogue between our country’s representatives and officials of the Alliance’s political and military structures has been established in addition to Serbia being a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program for fifteen years, which has contributed to strengthening mutual understanding and mutual trust. Given that the NATO Joint Force Command in Naples is in charge of KFOR, Vucic said that the members of that mission have a vital role in maintaining peace and stability and protecting Serbs and other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo and Metohija. He also emphasized the importance of scientific and technological cooperation projects and cooperation in other areas, especially in civil protection and emergencies, within which in 2018 we hosted the most extensive exercise ever organized with about 2,000 participants from member countries and NATO partners. The importance of Serbian Army members’ participation in the UN and EU international missions was emphasized in the conversation, which contributes to peace and stability in different parts of the world. Admiral Burke pointed out that NATO appreciates Serbia as its partner and respects its military neutrality. He indicated a significant number of held and planned joint activities that also contribute to Serbian Army members’ readiness. Admiral Burke pointed out the importance of Serbia for peace and stability in the region. Vucic conveyed greetings to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and thanked him for his readiness to listen and understand Serbia’s views.

Brnabic: Washington agreement remains (TV Happy/Tanjug/RTV

There is no more irresponsible move than the announcement of the temporary Pristina authorities that they will seize vaccines that arrive in Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia proper, said Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and assessed that in that way they reduce the political campaign to an attack on human health. Brnabic said that in any case, Serbia will not allow the health of our citizens in the southern province to be endangered. Brnabic pointed out that during the hearing of the new candidates before the US Congress, the Washington agreement was pointed out as one of the positive things of the Trump administration. The implementation of the Washington agreement remains, she underlined, and in that sense stated that the US International Development Financial Corporation (DFC) remains in Belgrade and the signing of contracts and financing of our companies continues, Brnabic repeated.

Selakovic: I expect a meeting between Vucic and Biden by year’s end (RTS

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has had a serious and good relationship with the newly elected US President Joseph Biden and that it will continue to be so. “I am convinced that by the end of the year, thanks to the strong and serious contacts that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has made in previous years, we will have a bilateral meeting between President Vucic and President Biden. I am convinced that this will happen knowing our president and knowing that those contacts are good,” noted Selakovic. He also assesses that it is a good sign for Serbia that the inauguration was attended, along with a small number of people, by the Ambassador of Serbia to the US Marko Djuric. “Our representative, our Ambassador Marko Djuric, who was accredited in Washington, was one of 1,000 people who had the opportunity to attend the inauguration ceremony, so in addition to numerous members of the House of Representatives, Congress, senators, friends, there was also the Serbian Ambassador and I think it is important for us, that it is an important message for us and for Serbia itself,” Selakovic said.

Selakovic: Serbia has understanding towards Bulgaria’s position regarding Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/RTV/RTS

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic talked on Wednesday in Sofia with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov about political, infrastructural and economic cooperation between the two countries, as well as measures taken in the fight against coronavirus. At the meeting, which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, it was stated that excellent personal relations between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Borisov are of great importance for bilateral cooperation between the two countries, which, however, needs to be intensified through political dialogue. As Selakovic emphasized, Serbia attaches special importance to the further development of overall bilateral relations with Bulgaria, as a particularly important neighborly and friendly country, in the spirit of mutual respect and close ties between the two peoples. At the joint press conference after the meeting with Zaharieva, Selakovic spoke about the joint infrastructure projects that our country is undertaking with Bulgaria, and on that occasion expressed Zaharieva’s support for Serbia in European integration, expressing hope that this support will continue. Selakovic also stated that our country has an understanding towards Bulgaria’s position regarding Kosovo and Metohija, which it recognized, emphasizing that it is important for Serbia that a solution to our most important state and national issue is sought through dialogue. “Our request is to give dialogue a chance and not to take any steps that could harm the dialogue process itself,” the Minister emphasized. Special attention in the talks was paid to the maximum provision of protection of minority rights for the Bulgarian national minority in Serbia. We have agreed on a direct line of communication, and if a problem occurs, we should hear each other in person, automatically lower that case to lower levels and solve problems in the mutual interest, Selakovic pointed out. Zaharieva said that Bulgaria will not change its attitude towards Serbia on the issue of European integration. She also announced that the section of the Belgrade-Sofia highway on the Bulgarian side will be completed by the end of the year, while Serbia has already completed its part.

Office for Kosovo and Metohija: Pristina’s attempt to prevent vaccination in Serb communities (Tanjug/Politika

The Office for Kosovo and Metohija announced that the inspection of the Ministry of Health of the temporary Pristina institutions, followed by members of the police, broke into the Strpce health center, which operates within the Serbian anti-COVID-19 health system. The statement states that a search was carried out at the Vaccination Department, the COVID Department and the Department of Surgery, which caused anxiety among the employees of the health center. Inspectors made a report, which states that they did not find vaccines, and the director of the health center was warned that possession of ‘illegally acquired vaccines’ is a criminal offence.

There is no administrative or political excuse to justify Pristina’s inhumane behavior, especially given that this is not the first attempt to prevent adequate and timely protection and treatment of Serbs in Kosovo. During the entire epidemic, Serbia and the Office for Kosovo and Metohija took non-discriminatory measures in order to protect people’s health and lives, without making any distinctions on national or religious grounds, and that is the only correct and civilized way to face the common threat. The Office for Kosovo and Metohija will inform the competent international instances about Pristina’s anti-civilization actions through all available channels, because political interests and reasons cannot and must not be an obstacle to the realization of the basic human rights of Serbs in Kosovo. Serbia is conducting a mass vaccination against coronavirus, and our citizens living in the southern province are already exercising the right to the vaccine, it is added in the announcement.

Dveri calls on boycott of Kosovo elections (RTV/Tanjug

The provincial board of the Dveri Movement for Kosovo and Metohija called on Wednesday on a boycott of the Kosovo elections slated for 14 February. In a statement, Dveri notes that the upcoming elections are illegal and illegitimate, and that the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija would keep their honor by boycotting “separatist elections”. Dveri claims that the Serbs, by eventual participation in the elections, would be deceived once again by the current government, which they accused of handing over, one by one the competencies of the state of Serbia, to so-called independent Kosovo. The Movement states that the three registered lists of Kosovo Serbs for the upcoming elections are supported by official Belgrade, i.e. to run in the elections “at the insistence of Belgrade”.

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

B&H officials congratulate Biden (Fena/N1)

Zeljko Komsic, the Croat member of the B&H Presidency, said the policy of new US President Joe Biden will contribute to the acceleration of B&H’s Euro-Atlantic path, adding that his victory restored hope for democracy and freedom worldwide. “First of all, I wish Biden a lot of success and luck during his presidency. His victory in the US presidential election restored hope for democracy and freedom across the world, including here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to those familiar with his true and good intentions towards our country and all its citizens,” Komsic told Fena ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. He is convinced the new US President will respond in the best manner to the great challenges lying ahead of the American people and state. “I also believe that the policy Biden and its team towards B&H will contribute to the acceleration of B&H’s Euro-Atlantic path as well as our strategic aspirations to build the country of equal people. I am convinced the friendship of our countries will grow stronger,” he added. The United States will “once again be at the forefront of positive change on the international stage” and Bosnia will have “a great, proven friend in the White House,” Komsic said in his congratulatory message to Biden. “I would like to convey to you my most sincere congratulations, on my own behalf and on behalf of the citizens of B&H, for assuming office as President of the United States of America,” Komsic said in his message, adding that he, as well as many B&H citizens, are happy about Biden starting his term. “It is with great joy that I received the news of your victory in the elections, and today, together with a large number of citizens, I look forward to the beginning of your mandate, in which America will once again be at the forefront of positive change on the international stage and B&H will have a great, proven friend in the White House” he said. “Encouraged by the start of your administration, we will make additional efforts to strengthen relations between our two countries, strengthen our alliance, and accelerate B&H’s path to a modern, civil state, in which everyone has equal rights regardless of religion or ethnicity, modelled after the United States,” he said. Komsic wished Biden luck and great success, adding that he is convinced the new US President will “overcome all challenges,” he will face. HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic, was among the first political leaders in B&H to congratulate Biden, posting on Twitter that he looks forward to “working together for a stable, developed, European” B&H. “Congratulations to United States President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris! As we continue to witness the importance of solidarity and cooperation in these challenging times, I look forward to working together for a stable, developed, European B&H,” Covic tweeted. The Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic also congratulated Biden. “Dear President Biden, I heartily congratulate you on taking the oath and officially assuming the office of President of the United States. I am absolutely sure that with your experience, democratic capacity and policies that promote freedom, equality and respect for human dignity, you will successfully overcome all the challenges faced by the American nation,” Dzaferovic said. “Your inspired address at the inauguration instils hope not only in the great American nation but also in all well-intentioned people around the world that we are facing a period of global stabilization, understanding and renewal of multilateralism as a mechanism to guarantee world progress,” he said. Dzaferovic called Biden “a great friend” of B&H. “I am sure that during your mandate, friendly and partnership relations between B&H and the United States will be further strengthened in mutual interest,” he stressed. “May Dear God help you in your mission,” Dzaferovic concluded.

Dodik: Structures in Sarajevo expect much from Biden (ATV)

Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik told RTRS on Wednesday that political structures in Sarajevo expect a lot from US President Joe Biden. He added that the reason for this is that people who expressed anti-Serb relations will return to the White House. Dodik said that this is not good and added that it depends on the stance of Republika Srpska (RS) which will not accept any sort of imposing, especially when it comes to changes to the constitution. Meanwhile, member of the Commission on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H Sasa Magazinovic assessed that the appointment of Joseph Biden as the new US President will not change the stance of USA on B&H but it will result in a stronger engagement of USA. Magazinovic added that he personally expects to see continuity in B&H and a stronger engagement of USA, knowing that USA was the key factor in B&H in 1990s and saved tens and hundreds of thousands of lives by ending war conflicts. Magazinovic assessed that the US’ stance on B&H, unlike Europe’s, was identical in all past years and it never happened that USA proposed any kind of solution which it would not implement in its own country while, on the other hand, Europeans did do that. Finally, Magazinovic noted that the fact that the new US administration is very well familiar with B&H represents an additional advantage and a big chance for B&H.

Russian Embassy to B&H: Russia continues to be of opinion OHR should be closed (RTRS)

Following the announcement of Germany confirming the candidacy of Christian Schmidt to the post of the High Representative, the Russian Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) stated that Russia’s stance on need of closing down the Office of the High Representative (OHR) remains unchanged. RTRS reported that Russia has reiterated several times that the OHR should be closed down as B&H does not need international protectorate such as the HR.

Izetbegovic addresses EPP group in EP: We have to remove mechanisms which enable blockades (Oslobodjenje)

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of signing the Dayton Peace Agreement, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic addressed the members of European People’s Party group in the European Parliament. On this occasion Izetbegovic asked why the embargo on importing of weapon was imposed to “defenders of B&H”, why Srebrenica and Zepa were abandoned and left to slaughter and why Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic’s side was left with half of the state. “In a word- why perpetrator of crimes and genocide on B&H soil were awarded in Dayton,” said Izetbegovic. He also listed positive improvements that were made such as establishing of B&H Armed Forces, B&H Border Police and Intelligence-Security Agency. He also addressed blockades of the state by side of HDZ B&H and SNSD and said that the solution is in ‘Dayton 2’ and gradual transfer to ‘Brussels phase’. “We have to remove mechanisms which enable blockades because in this pace we could travel to the ‘Brussels phase’ for the next 30 years,” said Izetbegovic. He reminded that in certain parts of the country, war criminals are treated as heroes and that returnees are discriminated.

Mostar: Results of local elections leave parties discontent, deadline for formation of authorities is 14 days, negotiations are underway (Dnevni avaz)

After the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed the election results for Mostar, preparations have started for the inaugural session of the Mostar City Council which should take place within 14 days. Before the inaugural session B&H CEC will present the newly elected councilors with certificates of mandate. Political parties are also expected to negotiate on appointment of City Council leadership and election of the new Mayor. SDP and Our Party which won six seats in the Council as part of the BH Bloc coalition have already started with consultations. SDP’s Aner Zuljevic stated that this is a logical move for coalition partners who need to define their next steps in the political atmosphere of Mostar which is always specific. According to him, the election was only the “first half-time”, and the next step is the fight for a new Statute which will not represent legalization of the concept of “two cities under one roof”. SDP B&H, Our Party and ‘The Platform for Progress’ believe that the new convocation of the Mostar City Council would not be the same if all ballots were counted, but there is no option to file an appeal against the final decisions of B&H CEC. President of the SDP B&H Main Board in Mostar Arman Zalihic said that there will be people in the Mostar City Council without election legitimacy. Zalihic argued that if all ballots were counted, some people would not be part of the Mostar City Council. In his opinion, this will additionally burden relations in the Mostar City Council. Zalihic said that it is hard to talk to those who stole their votes but he added: “We will see. This additionally burdened relations in the City of Mostar. We will see in which direction relations between the ruling ethnic parties – SDA and HDZ B&H – will move on when it comes to functioning of the city council. We will see whether they already reached an agreement or they will make some blockades.” HDZ B&H that won 13 mandates in the Mostar City Council is open for negotiations on formation of authorities. President of the HDZ B&H Main Board in Mostar Slaven Zeljko said that this is the election will of citizens that should be respected during the process of formation of authorities. He noted that HDZ B&H never wanted to impose its will when it comes to legitimate representatives of others, and expressed hope that it will be possible to reach a compromise to benefit the citizens. HDZ B&H’s candidate for Mostar Mayor Mario Kordic told the daily that HDZ B&H won the election and it expects to get the post of Mayor as well. Representatives of SDP and Our Party met on Wednesday and adopted guidelines on the future work and on stances during upcoming talks. Sabina Cudic (Our Party) assessed as very important the fact they share the same opinion as their colleagues from SDP on future activities and election of Mostar Mayor. Damir Arnaut (Our Party) criticized the Court of B&H and noted that it is necessary for the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to get engaged in the entire matter: “It would be good if they reinstated the principle according to which the Mayor is elected in the third round by majority of votes of all elected councilors, i.e. that 18 votes are necessary for the election”.

 

Milanovic after Biden inauguration: Light ultimately triumphs over darkness (Hina)

 

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the new president of the United States on Wednesday he was glad to see that the light ultimately triumphed over the darkness. “Watching President Biden as he entered the White House, I have to say that (as a non-religious person) I am glad when it is confirmed that faith in the light ultimately triumphs over the darkness,” Milanovic said. Meanwhile, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said after the inauguration Biden on Wednesday that he was looking forward to strengthening bilateral ties with the United States. “Congratulations to the new President of the United States Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Croatia and the United States are friends and partners. Looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations and our transatlantic alliance,” Plenkovic said.

 

Djukanovic congratulated Biden: Montenegro reliable partner and responsible ally (CdM)

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has congratulated Joe Biden on behalf of the citizens of Montenegro and on his own behalf, on taking office as President of the United States of America and has sent his best wishes for the success in performing this responsible function.

Djukanovic has told Biden that he will have a sincere friend in Montenegro and, within Montenegro’s potential, a reliable partner and responsible ally, as well as a stable regional actor in facing and finding answers to complex global challenges and open issues in the Western Balkans. “Your proven commitment to the transatlantic community, decades of commitment to the complexities of relations on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as your commitment to global processes and strong faith in international cooperation and multilateralism, raise hope that only united can we continue building a free and safe better world,” Djukanovic has written in his congratulatory message. He has also said that he looks forward to new meetings with Biden, the continuation of successful cooperation based on mutual trust built during traumatic events and changes in our region, and strengthening of more than 140 year-long interstate and diplomatic ties between Montenegro and the United States, for the benefit of all Montenegrin and American citizens. “Please accept the expressions of my deepest respect and friendly regards,” Djukanovic concluded.

Reinke: When cohabitation fails, everyone loses (CdM)

US Ambassador Judy Rising Reinke called on the citizens of Montenegro to redouble their efforts and accept those who they might find different, because, as she said, strength comes from diversity. She assessed that it is time to see more cooperation in management, both in the US and in Montenegro. “Frankly, I would have wanted to see our own transition of power go as smoothly, as it had for over 200 years, and, fortunately, at the end of the day, our institutions held. At the same time, I think it is time to see more collaborative governance both in my country and in Montenegro. When cohabitation fails to work, when politicians cannot compromise, when politics supersedes governance – everyone loses,” said Reinke, adding that the recent parliamentary elections in Montenegro are an important and encouraging step towards the maturity of the Montenegrin system of power. Referring to  taking the oath of office by the new US President, Joe Biden, she said that the US has just passed an important milestone. “As our society has become increasingly divided and polarized, the previously unthinkable – an attack on the U.S. Capitol designed to impede our lawmakers from certifying the results of our election – has happened, leaving me, many of my fellow Americans, and our friends around the world, stunned. It is with a heavy heart that I recognize similar societal divisions here in Montenegro. These divisions – this “us” vs. “them” narrative of blame and reproach – leave our societies weaker, hollowed out, and less able to respond to challenges, both internal and external,” Reinke emphasized. As she has said, during her time in Montenegro, she has often been asked whether she favors the government – both the old one and the new one. She has explained that the US does not favor certain governments nor certain political parties. “The United States favors democracy, and we work with democratically elected governments. We support “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” as President Lincoln said. It is the US commitment to supporting and promoting democracy both at home and abroad that leads us to contribute to Montenegro’s ability to strengthen its own democracy. The U.S. Embassy in Podgorica works to strengthen the freedom of the press and freedom of speech by supporting a free and independent media and the teaching of media literacy so that citizens can have access to facts and news and make informed decisions about matters that affect their lives,” said Reinke. She emphasizes US to be supporting freedom of assembly and public expression, working with law enforcement officials to exercise their powers appropriately, respecting the fundamental freedoms and rights of citizens to assemble and express their views publicly, while maintaining law and order. “We support the strengthening of the rule of law, as we train investigators, prosecutors, and judges to improve their ability to administer justice for all citizens by addressing the scourge of corruption and organized crime. We promote tolerance, human rights, and inclusion through our work with non-government organizations,” said the US Ambassador.

Djukanovic’s office: Meeting will be held in President’s office, it’s not about foreign policy consultations (CdM)

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic has called a meeting with the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic to discuss the issue of ambassadors, Tamara Brajovic, President Djukanovic’s Foreign Policy Advisor, told the CdM. The government stated that Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic and Minister Radulovic called on the President to hold foreign policy consultations on Tuesday, 26 January, over the recall of ambassadors. “It’s not about foreign policy consultations between the President and the Foreign Affairs Minister, but the initiative of Minister Radulovic to hold a meeting with President Djukanovic and discuss the ambassador topic. The President welcomed the initiative, as well as the proposal to invite Abazovic to attend the meeting,” Brajovic said.  The meeting will be held on 26 January in Djukanovic’s office.

 

Macedonian leaders congratulate Biden on his inauguration (Republika)

Macedonian leaders extended their congratulations to Joe Biden on being inaugurated as President of the United States. Congratulations to the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden. It is a responsible challenge but also an exceptional opportunity to preserve peace, protect democracy and secure the future. Citizens expect bridges of cooperation, stability and perspective, said VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski. President Stevo Pendarovski said that the United States are the strategic partner of Macedonia that supports our Euro-Atlantic integrations. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that “he looks forward to the time ahead in which I believe we will deepen the alliance between North Macedonia and the United States, and the close ties of friendship between our citizens”. Zaev and Pendarovski, along with Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani viewed the inauguration with US Ambassador Kate Byrnes. And DUI leader Ali Ahmeti expressed his expectation that under Biden, the US will remain a strategic partner to Macedonia, the Albanians and the entire Balkans “in an irreversible process of our full integration in the European Union. All of our successes we achieved together. May God bless the Albanian – American friendship,” Ahmeti said.

 

Audio tape between Zaev and Verusevski causes a stir, Gruevski responds (Republika/Infomax)

A new audio leak has elevated political tensions in Macedonia. Published by muckraking journalist Zoran Bozinovski, it shows Prime Minister Zoran Zaev negotiating a deal in 2016 with former security chief Saso Mijalkov from the then still ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, through an intermediary. Brief excerpts of the conversation were already leaked to the public in the past, in audio form, and they reveal how Zaev is apparently making a deal with the former head of the UBK security service and top VMRO-DPMNE party official Mijalkov to stop the long running fight between the two main parties in Macedonia. According to the tape, Zaev had a long lunch with Aleksandar Verusevski, the son of his security adviser and former UBK chief Zoran Verusevski. Zoran Verusevski was involved in both the 2000 and the 2015 wiretapping scandals, during which he released numerous recorded conversations, and in both cases it was done to weaken the then ruling VMRO-DPMNE party and help SDSM grab power. Both scandals caused major security crises – in 2001 the wiretapping affair was followed by a brief civil war with Albanian terrorists and in 2015 by the SDSM led Colored Revolution and the Albanian terrorist attack on Kumanovo. From the tape, it appears that Zaev has the utmost trust and confidence in Zoran Verusevski, but his son Aleksandar, who faced charges for an attempted mafia style murder and in 2007 received a presidential pardon, has sided with VMRO, more specifically with Mijalkov. Zaev frequently goes back to the political division in the Verusevski family, and Verusevski responds that he comes to him to bring a peace offering from Mijalkov. Zaev confides to Verusevski that he is facing serious problems in his businesses, with hefty fines slapped on them, and with financial inspections of his work as Mayor of Strumica, which he believed was the work of Mijalkov. Aleksandar Verusevski responds that that is a natural response after all that Zaev did since early 2015, publishing wiretaps that hit at VMRO-DPMNE, but that he can help Zaev and have Mijalkov end the investigation. Both Zaev and Verusevski talk about the international support they are having in the process of the Colored Revolution. Zaev says that he is supported by “the Americans, under their umbrella”, using a term that was popularized in 2015 to denote that his SDSM party, the publication of the wiretaps and the protests against VMRO are under foreign protection and support. Verusevski insists that it is the British who are leading the developments in Macedonia. Eventually, Verusevski proposes a direct meeting between Zaev and Mijalkov, and Zaev begins dictating his demands – first among them – the end of inspections in his notoriously corrupt management of the Strumica town hall. After Zaev’s power-grab in 2017, following a major incident in the parliament, Mijalkov began working on creating a faction in VMRO-DPMNE, and the few members it had in the previous parliament voted with SDSM and Zaev. New party leader Hristijan Mickoski had Mijalkov expelled from the party. Former prime minister and VMRO leader Nikola Gruevski (who is also Mijalkov’s cousin) responded to the tape when reached for comment by the Infomax news site. Gruevski was asked mostly about the personal nature of the wiretaps, which is alluded to by Zaev and Verusevski in their conversation, including, as Bozinovski claims, Gruevski’s alleged violent temper toward his wife and a tape that allegedly shows him in a homosexual affair during a vacation trip to the Seychelles. They have tried to discredit me in the past in a similar fashion, releasing such rumors in the public. They claimed that I was beating my wife, they would try to create affairs with women who they would photograph with me on the street. Obviously when you have high support among the people you must expect blows below the belt. I’m not active in politics for a while now but I still remain the target of certain politicians in Macedonia, Gruevski told Infomax in a phone conversation from Budapest, where he received political asylum to escape Zaev’s politically motivated trials. Infomax also spoke with his wife Borkica Gruevska, who denied all allegations made by Verusevski and Zaev in their conversation. “Nikola is not that kind of a man. None of what they say is true. I’m especially unpleasantly surprised by journalists who seem to gloat in the allegations and share them without investigating the reports. The tape that is being discussed was already published, Nikola and I were there together, we had a security detail with us. You can even hear my voice on the tape, I recorded him, Borkica Gruevska told Infomax.

Zaev: With Bulgaria we are negotiating about the name, about hate speech and minority issues (Republika)

Regarding the growing dispute with Bulgaria, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that the issues that are now being debated include the minority issues, the name that will be used, hateful speech between the countries and historic issues. Zaev insisted that he will not negotiate about the Macedonian national identity or the language, both of which Bulgaria insists were derived from the Bulgarian. Bulgaria accuses Macedonia of raising the issue of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and wants it to stop, as well as pointing at instances of hateful comments aimed at Bulgaria in the social media, during events or the very existence of World War Two memorial plaques that mark a place where a partisan was killed by Bulgarian forces, often marked as “fascist occupiers”. A relatively novel problem is the use of the name Republic of North Macedonia. The name was imposed on Macedonia to “solve” the dispute with Greece, but Bulgaria worries that it could be understood as a territorial claim to the region of Pirin Macedonia, in south-western Bulgaria, so it demands that Macedonia only uses the full imposed name. Zaev said that he will wait until the elections in Bulgaria to discuss the political elements of the dispute. “Why would we expect positive movement now when it was not possible to have it last year, when the elections were further away” he said. He announced a meeting of the joint committee of historians, where a member who was critical of Zaev’s acceptance of Bulgarian terms was recently removed. There will be a preparatory meeting and I believe that there will be a step forward then, and a bigger one in February, Zaev said. Bulgaria is blocking the opening of EU accession talks with Macedonia, demanding significant concessions on historic issues and matters of national identity.

Mickoski and Nikoloski meet with Jansa to discuss Macedonia’s stalled EU integration (Republika)

VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski and his deputy Aleksandar Nikoloski met with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa in Slovenia, on the second leg of their tour in which they also visited Budapest. Mickoski and Jansa discussed Macedonia’s blocked EU accession prospect, currently vetoed by Bulgaria, the high levels of corruption in the country and other failings of the Zaev regime. “Our economy is devastated as a direct result of the incompetence of the government. Our citizens can’t wait any longer,” Mickoski said following the meeting, pointing to the quickly rising unemployment which was not tamped down by the “poorly designed stimulus programs”. Jansa expressed his support to help Macedonia open its EU integrations as well as to work with VMRO-DPMNE to advance the cooperation of the two parties in the EPP group. Slovenia will hold the rotating EU presidency in the second half of the year. Mickoski and Jansa also discussed Slovenia’s active push to vaccinate its population, which is by far the most advanced in the region.

Zaev on census results: The percentages will not affect acquired rights (Republika)

Regardless of the number of percentage representation the census shows, it will not affect the acquired rights, the Constitution, the laws, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Wednesday. As he said, the numbers may be relative as a result of the free movement of people. It is a statistical and realistic procedure. There will be no reflection in the part of acquired rights… these are acquired rights and variables are possible, in a global village of migrations, of departure and return of citizens, in the country, professional engagements, definitely should not and will not affect any of already established legal solutions, said Zaev.

EC expects Macedonia to hold a census in line with European standards and regulations (Republika)

The EU Commission expects Macedonia to hold a census in line with European standards and regulations, spokeswoman Ana Pisonero told Republika. Candidate countries are encouraged to conduct a census in line with the EU Regulations as part of the pre-accession preparations. The applicable EU legislation defines the reference year and the program of the statistical data and metadata, the technical specifications of the topics to be covered in the census. The breakdowns and the modalities and structure of the quality reports and the technical format for data transmission are also defined, Pisonero said in a statement for Republika.

President Meta conveys congratulations to new US President (ADN)

President of the Republic Ilir Meta conveys his congratulations to the 46th President of the United States Joe Biden, who has just been sworn in. In his message, the Head of the Albanian State emphasizes that we are convinced that our relations will continue to develop further, while together we will strengthen transatlantic cooperation in NATO. “The most sincere congratulations of Albanian people and mine for the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden and Vice President, Kamila Harris. We are convinced that our relations will continue to develop further, while together we will strengthen transatlantic and NATO cooperation. Albania will continue to rely on the strategic partnership with the US, as a vital guarantee for peace and stability in our region and on important global issues,” Meta highlighted. The leader of the Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha also congratulated Biden. Basha writes in his message that he expects to work with President Biden to further strengthen the US-Albania alliance. “Congratulations to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the US-Albania alliance. You have proven that democracy is strong and that change is possible. Warmest congratulations from all the citizens of Albania,” underlined Basha.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES 

Bulgaria’s President Had Meeting with Foreign Minister of Serbia (Novinite, 21 January 2021) 

Bulgaria and Serbia need to encourage mutual investment and economic partnership in areas with high added value such as information technologies. It is time for the economic exchange to have priority over trade and to work towards creation of joint ventures and exports to third markets. This was stated by President Rumen Radev, who, together with Vice President Iliana Yotova, held a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Nikola Selakovic who is in Bulgaria on official visit. Bulgaria’s Head of State and Vice President defined the first after 2014 visit of Serbia’s Foreign Minister as a proof that the new government of Serbia sets the development of good neighborly relations and cooperation between Bulgaria and Serbia as its high priority. The visit is also a sign of commitment to accelerate the work on the construction of transport and energy infrastructure which connects the two countries and creates more favorable opportunities for business. Nikola Selakovic underscored that mutual economic cooperation has been developing well, and the good results are based mainly on the trade. “In 2019 our trade turnover exceeded EUR 1 billion, but in the last year, marked by coronavirus, the trade turnover slumped to EUR 870 million in the first 10 months. We have to step it up,” Serbian Foreign Minister said. President Radev and Nikola Selakovic shared the opinion that opening of more border checkpoints between Bulgaria and Serbia would contribute to further development of economic, social and cultural relations between the two countries and would give a strong impetus for tourism. Rumen Radev affirmed Bulgaria’s support for the European integration of Serbia while Selakovic stressed that his country has no other alternative except EU accession. In the course of the meeting President Radev assessed highly the commitments of President Vucic taken during the visit to Serbia of the Bulgarian Head of State in June 2018 as well as the actions taken towards the timely solution of problems which the Bulgarian ethnic minority in Serbia faces, such as financing more Bulgarian-language media outlets, development of regions inhabited by our compatriots in Serbia, etc. On her part, Vice President Yotova expressed hope that the issues pertaining to education in Bulgarian language will be also resolved on time.

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Belgrade Media Report 08 March 2021

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