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Belgrade Media Report 22 January 2021

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Friday 22 January 2021

LOCAL PRESS

Brnabic to Quint Ambassadors: Initiative to amend the Constitution adopted and forwarded to Serbian parliament (RTV/Tanjug)
Dacic: Italy is one of Serbia’s most important foreign trade partners (RTV/Tanjug)
Djuric: I am convinced that we will establish excellent relations with the new administration as well (B92)
Interstate agreement on encouraging investments signed with the US (Politika)
Godfrey: New administration will continue to improve relations with Serbia (Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

B&H CEC annuls elections in Srebrenica and Doboj (Nova BH)
Dodik: We will appeal decision of B&H CEC even though we have no confidence in the court; SNSD will block elections in 2022 (BN TV)
Cvijanovic condemns CEC’s decisions regarding Doboj and Srebrenica (ATV)
SDS, PDP, DNS hold joint press conference following announcement of B&H CEC to annul election results in Doboj (BN TV)
US Embassy comments B&H CEC decision: We welcome all measures in line with Election Law and CEC procedures (Oslobodjenje)
Inzko: Basically, in some way, my Bonn Powers were taken from me, not formally, but de facto; I believe that it is good that new High Representative will arrive (O kanal)
Izetbegovic: New High Representative just needs to do his job and not allow anti-Dayton activities in B&H; Biden’s win could bring back ‘April Package’ to the table (FTV)
Dodik: If SDA continues with attempts to reorganize B&H, we will host referendum on independence (RTRS)
Komsic slams Covic, says he should stop claiming that Sarajevo wants some kind of Muslim state (Oslobodjenje)
Police clash with migrants, two police officers injured (N1)
SDA: We give full support to police bodies to use all capacities to establish public peace and order in migrant camps (Hayat)
Montenegro

PM now claims he did not offer congratulations for the Day of RS (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Government passes census law with 62 votes, methodology yet to be determined (Republika)
Albania

Serbia-Albania deal on freedom of movement enters into force (ADN)
Albania declares Russian diplomat persona non grata (ADN)
Ambassadors Kim and Soreca at the Constitutional Court; US will continue to strongly support the implementation of Justice Reform (Radio Tirana)

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LOCAL PRESS 

Brnabic to Quint Ambassadors: Initiative to amend the Constitution adopted and forwarded to Serbian parliament (RTV/Tanjug

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic talked on Thursday with the ambassadors of the Quint countries and the Head of the EU Delegation about the continuation of reforms on Serbia’s path to EU membership. Brnabic confirmed that full membership in the EU remains a key foreign policy priority of Serbia, emphasizing that reforms in the area of the rule of law are in the focus of the government of Serbia. She pointed out that Serbia is sincerely committed to the implementation of radical reforms in the field of justice, the fight against corruption, the strengthening of independent institutions and the freedom of the media, and added that much has already been done in practice. Brnabic informed them about the concrete measures that the government of Serbia has taken so far in the area of the rule of law, and pointed to the further fulfilment of the GRECO recommendations. According to her, the initiative to amend the Constitution was adopted and forwarded to the parliament, new members of the State Prosecutors’ Council were elected, and work is underway to establish a unified and centralized case management system. The state is working on further strengthening the cooperation with independent bodies and institutions, as well as on improving election conditions, among other things, by forming a working group for the improvement of election conditions. She pointed out that, when it comes to media freedom, the government has adopted the Action Plan for the implementation of the Media Strategy and formed the Working Group for the Safety of Journalists. The Quint Ambassadors welcomed the measures implemented by the government of Serbia, assessing that these are encouraging steps in the right direction and represent the basis for accelerating the accession process. Brnabic expressed the expectation that the reforms that are being implemented will be recognized and adequately evaluated, and that in 2021, accession negotiations with Serbia will be accelerated.

Dacic: Italy is one of Serbia’s most important foreign trade partners (RTV/Tanjug

 

Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic received Italian Ambassador to Serbia Carlo Lo Cascio,

pointing out that the bilateral relations between the two countries are at a very high level. Dacic said that close cooperation exists in all fields and that Italy is one of Serbia’s most important foreign trade partners. He expressed readiness to continue to work on strengthening the friendly relations between Serbia and Italy in his new position, primarily by intensifying cooperation between the two parliaments. Lo Cascio agreed that the relations between the two countries are excellent, reminding his host that Italy strongly supports Serbia’s European integration and is ready to provide all the necessary assistance in the reform processes. At the interest of his guest, Dacic briefed him on the activities of the parliament and the plans for the continuation of the inter-party dialogue.

Djuric: I am convinced that we will establish excellent relations with the new administration as well (B92

When asked what Serbia can expect from the new administration, Serbian Ambassador to the US Marko Djuric said that he was deeply convinced that excellent relations at the top state level would continue with the new administration. “Having in mind the long-term acquaintance and mutual respect between President Vucic and President Biden, this very fact is a great resource for our country. I personally attended their earlier meetings and talks, which always took place in a great atmosphere, an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation. This is a much more intensive and long-lasting cooperation than was the case with any previous president of the United States, which has established another solid foundation for further improvement of our relations at all levels,” he said. Speaking about how much he had accomplished as the recently elected Ambassador of Serbia to the United States, Djuric says that he has been in that position for only a month, but that he and his team are working intensively every day to strengthen relations between the two countries. “My days are filled with meetings, talks and contacts, not only with officials of the State Department, Congress and the National Security Council, but also with people from the wider political and economic spectrum, public life, civil society, academia and culture, as well as with the Serbian community and associations of our diaspora,” he said. He adds that he will fight for every opportunity to intensify contacts with the highest American officials. “I will do my best to improve the position of our country in local circles of power, to affirm our national interests while improving overall relations and strengthening ties with the United States, primarily in domains that are felt in everyday life of ordinary people, such as economy, education, science, thus building positions for greater political understanding,” Djuric underlined. He notes that during 2021, when we mark 140 years of mutual diplomatic relations, we are looking for inspiration in the historical periods of the alliance, as opposed to negative and unpleasant episodes, believing that the period of the best possible relations between Serbia and the USA is yet to come. “We will certainly try to present Serbia in a new, different and unique way,” Djuric concluded for B92.net.

Interstate agreement on encouraging investments signed with the US (Politika

Serbian Finance Minister Sinisa Mali and US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey signed on Thursday the Interstate Agreement on Encouraging Investments, which is a precondition for starting the activities of the American International Development Corporation (DFC) in Serbia.

After signing the agreement in the Serbian government, Mali said that this act is important because it confirms that the agreement from Washington is still being applied, as well as that the door to further cooperation with the US administration is now getting opened. He said that the goal is to harmonize the guarantee scheme for Serbian companies worth $1 billion with the DFC by the end of the first quarter of this year, as well as to make it available to our micro, small and medium enterprises in the middle of the year. He pointed out that the agreement indicates the great trust that the US administration has in the reforms and perspectives for the growth of our economy. Godfrey stated that the signing of the agreement with the DFC shows that the US commitment to the economic future of Serbia will not change. “Serbia has our support to achieve its goal – full European integration and to be the economic leader in the Balkans,” Godfrey said. Godfrey noted that the DFC is already negotiating to launch a loan guarantee program, which will help Serbian commercial banks increase the volume of loans to small and medium enterprises in Serbia. Director of the DFC Office in Serbia John Jovanovic underlined that Serbia is one of the first countries in the region and around the world to sign an agreement with the DFC on encouraging investments.

Godfrey: New administration will continue to improve relations with Serbia (Beta

After Joseph Biden became the 46th US President, US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey said on Thursday that the new Washington administration would continue to upgrade relations with Belgrade. “I can say that the US will further improve relations with Serbia. We see Serbia as a partner and support its goal to join the EU,” Godfrey said after the signing of the Inter-state Agreement on Investments Encouragement. Godfrey said the US was facing several crises at the same time, but that he saw strength, unity and determination. “Not everything is easy and smooth in democracy, but that is the best form of ruling. The people expressed their will, and we have the new President Biden,” he said.

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

B&H CEC annuls elections in Srebrenica and Doboj (Nova BH)

Due to numerous irregularities, the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Central Election Commission (CEC) on Thursday reached a decision to annul the results of elections for 26 out of 28 polling stations in Srebrenica and for 89 out of 108 polling stations in Doboj. Numerous irregularities related to voting in Srebrenica and Doboj were presented at the session of the B&H CEC. The decision to annul the elections in Srebrenica and Doboj was supported by all members of the B&H CEC, except by Vlado Rogic. B&H CEC member Vanja Bjelica-Prutina supported the decision regarding the elections in Srebrenica and Doboj regardless of the fact that, according to her, she was exposed to pressure. “Everyone should be held accountable for their actions. I would like to say that no one can hide behind me and that no one can expect that under pressure I will not act in accordance with the law,” Bjelica-Prutina underlined. B&H CEC President Zeljko Bakalar said that it is pretty indicative in Doboj that out of 87 verified political subjects for the level of Doboj City Assembly, 67 political subjects got between zero and seven votes. “They had many more members of polling station committees and observers who were physically allowed to enter the polling stations compared to observers of some other political subjects that had much better election result,” Bakalar underlined. At the same time, the B&H CEC reached a decision according to which early elections for the Head of Travnik Municipality will be called, given that the candidate who won the most votes in the elections for Head of Travnik Municipality died on election day.

Dodik: We will appeal decision of B&H CEC even though we have no confidence in the court; SNSD will block elections in 2022 (BN TV)

The decision of the B&H CEC to annul the results of elections for 26 out of 28 polling stations in Srebrenica and for 89 out of 108 polling stations in Doboj has provoked a number of reactions. Leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik announced following his meeting with the leadership of the Doboj City Board that an appeal will be filed against the decision of the B&H CEC. Dodik said that all results from Serb polling stations were annulled, while the Bosniak ones were not, referring to the matter as ‘ethnic engineering’. “We will complain to the court. We do not believe in the court; we do not believe in anything that they do,” Dodik said, noting that everything is done against the Serb people. Dodik accused members of the B&H CEC of taking orders, even commenting private lives of members of the B&H CEC. “The lady who is presenting herself as representing the Serb people is married to, or was married to a Bosniak in Sarajevo. A Muslim. Someone will say – why does that matter? – Do not. It does not matter? – Do not,” Dodik said. He said that this is a shameful coalition of (SDS leader Mirko) Sarovic and (Leader of PDP Branislav) Borenovic who agreed to make a coalition with Muslims in Sarajevo, as Sarovic and Borenovic needed to dispute Doboj and Muslims needed to dispute Srebrenica. “This is why they found a compromise to annul both,” Dodik said. Dodik announced that SNSD will begin preparing activities to boycott and disenable holding of elections in Republika Srpska (RS) in 2022. “Of course this is one of the options. We will not leave the elections, SDS and PDP would love that the most, to appear in elections on their own. However, with such a B&H CEC and non-transparent election conditions, one of the things that could happen is this. If we decide this, I believe it will be very hard to organize elections on the territory of the RS,” said Dodik. He added that the CEC is under the direct influence of foreigners and foreign embassies and claims that the international community ordered the CEC to recognize elections in Mostar and to do whatever they want with Doboj and Srebrenica. Dodik stressed that the B&H CEC cannot annul as many elections as SNSD can win. He added that elections in Doboj will be implemented in accordance with the law and it will not be done by the B&H CEC. Dodik announced that he will personally file criminal reports against members of the B&H CEC.

Cvijanovic condemns CEC’s decisions regarding Doboj and Srebrenica (ATV)

RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic stated on Thursday that the decision of the B&H CEC on annulment of the election results for majority of polling stations in Srebrenica and Doboj challenges the will of the people in those local communities. With the decision the B&H CEC placed itself in the service of political Sarajevo and opposition political parties in the RS. “This scandalous decision represents a sort of revenge to the citizens of Doboj from those political parties that usurped the B&H CEC but are reduced to the level of statistical error in that city,” Cvijanovic was quoted as saying. Cvijanovic noted that SDA, with great support of SDS and PDP, punishes all citizens of Srebrenica for supporting Mladen Grujicic in the race for the post of the Head of the Srebrenica Municipality.

SDS, PDP, DNS hold joint press conference following announcement of B&H CEC to annul election results in Doboj (BN TV)

Following the decision of the B&H CEC to annul the results of elections for 26 out of 28 polling stations in Srebrenica and for 89 out of 108 polling stations in Doboj, SDS, PDP and DNS held a joint press conference to comment the decision and address accusations made by leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic said that voters’ will was stolen in the RS. He said that he who has been continuously stealing the election will of the people does not have a right to moralize. “The one who bought MPs, and MPs in the B&H parliament. The one who trades in icons and who uses such words which are degrading, especially given that such words are spoken by such a highly ranked person as is the member of the B&H Presidency from the RS,” Sarovic said. He said that the least of what could be done is to hold the elections in Doboj again. He said that SDS will not stop at this and will demand accountability of all who participated in the election theft. Leader of PDP Branislav Borenovic said that the decision of the B&H CEC to annul the results of the Doboj election was logical, justified and brave. He said that numerous irregularities of the electoral will of the people were registered, including falsifications and forging of signatures, which are criminal acts. He said that responsibility of all persons who participated in this criminal act will be sought, as well as the persons who ordered such behavior who are at the top of political parties. Borenovic condemned Dodik for calling people traitors and accused Dodik of illegal trade during the war while he himself served for the existence of the RS. Borenovic said that Dodik is a traitor and that he is the one harming the RS and the Serb people. DNS leader Nenad Nesic said that DNS is not completely satisfied with the decision of the B&H CEC and that the party deems that the election results should not have been annulled, rather that new elections should have been called for the City of Doboj. He said that over 80 political parties signed up to participate in the local elections in Doboj, and that this pertains to election malversations of SNSD in order to secure a high number of members of election boards in order to make claims that many observers cannot be present due to COVID-19.

US Embassy comments B&H CEC decision: We welcome all measures in line with Election Law and CEC procedures (Oslobodjenje)

Asked for a comment to the decision of B&H CEC regarding annulling of elections in Srebrenica and Doboj, the US Embassy to B&H stated for the daily: “While facing unprecedented challenges during this winter, Central Election Commission of B&H has done a praiseworthy job of discussing the reported irregularities in Doboj and Srebrenica. We are welcoming all measures that are consistent with the Election Law of B&H and B&H CEC procedures, which are being undertook with a goal of confirming of integrity of election results and detailed investigation of evidence based allegations about frauds”.

Inzko: Basically, in some way, my Bonn Powers were taken from me, not formally, but de facto; I believe that it is good that new High Representative will arrive (O kanal)

The German Bundestag voted on Wednesday and officially confirmed candidacy of Christian Schmidt as Germany’s candidate for the post of the High Representative of the international community in B&H. O Kanal spoke with current High Representative (HR) in B&H, Valentin Inzko, asking him to comment on Schmidt’s candidacy. He spoke of his past work and what he expects from Schmidt. “So, I tried to keep the OHR (Office of the High Representative) here, for it not to be closed; some things we prevented from happening. Many citizens addressed us with their problems, around 8,000 in the past years, mainly connected to property and legal affairs,” Inzko said, adding that much work has been done during his time in B&H. In the recent times, Inzko reacted to the situation in the Tuzla Canton (TC) and intervened when it was clear the decisions were not made in line with the Constitution of B&H. “We intervened again, as legal experts, not using Bonn Powers”, he pointed out, adding: “Basically, in some way, my Bonn Powers were taken from me, not formally, but de facto. In any case, I believe that it is good that now a new High Representative will arrive”. Inzko had only words of praise for Christian Schmidt, reminding that Schmidt already visited B&H on one occasion, when they held a meeting. Schmidt helped with the process of signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) in a matter were the problem was connected to agricultural sector. “He was Germany’s agricultural minister. Some people in Banja Luka thought that that Agreement would harm the agricultural sector, and Germany said it would compensate if some losses in agriculture were reported” Inzko explained. He added that Schmidt was Germany’s defense minister for four years and has 30 years of experience in the German parliament. “He knows how laws are created. It is never bad to have a big country backing you,” Inzko assessed. The HR said he was informed of this change since the beginning and he presumed that Germany would present its candidate, after consulting with partners at the Peace Implementation Council (PIC). “So, that will be concluded to everyone’s satisfaction. And, of course, a bit of fresh air is never a bad thing,” Inzko points out. Inzko reminded that it is up to the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB) to decide when his successor will arrive to B&H and noted that he will remain dedicated to the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) until the very end of his mandate. Inzko also said that he personally thinks that unblocking of the work of B&H institutions and radical strengthening of the rule of law would be a great achievement for his successor but he added: “This is something we need to talk about less. It is necessary to start working. In any case, it is not up to me to define goals but the goals should be defined by my successor who will take over the work”. Nevertheless, Inzko noted that he is sure that the process of the European integration will remain the ultimate goal for everyone in B&H, both domestic and international players. Asked whether Schmidt will manage to secure the support of Russia, Inzko said that talks among leading players of the international community are underway “but stances of everyone, including Russia and Turkey, are clear. As the German government stated on Wednesday, the candidacy was made ‘in close cooperation with international partners and PIC SB’”. Inzko reminded that he enjoyed the support of the German government throughout his mandate and he reminded that members of Germany were quite clear when it comes to glorification of war criminals. Asked whether B&H can expect to see a greater US engagement in the Balkans now that there is a new US Administration, Inzko replied by saying that US President Joseph Biden has been very well familiar with the situation in the Balkans for many years, he visited the region and B&H on several occasion and was actively engaged in international efforts of support to Euro-Atlantic aspirations of this region. “I am convinced that President Biden is a true friend of this country and that he, together with European partners, will bring new dynamics and turn a new page in this part of Europe. I am sure that he and his partners would like to complete the incomplete and partially paralyzed peace,” Inzko said. Finally, he noted that B&H is a country rich in natural beauty and amazing source of human resources unlike anywhere else in Europe.

Izetbegovic: New High Representative just needs to do his job and not allow anti-Dayton activities in B&H; Biden’s win could bring back ‘April Package’ to the table (FTV)

SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, asked if he shares HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic’s joy over announced changes in the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in B&H, referring to the appointment of a new High Representative (HR), said that current HR, Valentin Inzko, is a good friend of B&H and he will not be replaced by Germany’s Christian Schmidt, but a natural course of things has led to this. “He has been here with us for so long, and he has done as much as he could; he could not have done much as he did not have the support of the PIC (Peace Implementation Council),” Izetbegovic points, adding that many things happened during Inzko’s time in B&H, to which the PIC did not react properly. “I hope his successor will have a ‘stronger back” the SDA leader emphasized, referring to the PIC support for new High Representative. The OHR is a functional part of the Dayton package, and it cannot be inactive, it must be able to do its work, Izetbegovic stressed. Commenting if Schmidt’s appointment will bring changes to the OHR’s work in B&H, Izetbegovic pointed out that he just needs to do his job and not allow anti-Dayton activities in the country. Izetbegovic believes that the world powers are restoring their focus to B&H, and SDA was part of that change. He explains that SDA members pointed to the ignorant behavior of the PIC in all important matters in B&H. “I am certain that we contributed. We made them react, not to be quiet, or sleepy. For them not to allow for someone to be insulted, both them and this country, and for blockades to be allowed,” Izetbegovic said. He added that Schmidt would probably be more efficient in his work, but Izetbegovic also hopes that Inzko will do something significant before he leaves B&H. He should be remembered for his work, and not the constant blockades and obstacles in his work, Izetbegovic stated. “For example, the law prohibiting genocide denial, and maybe a few things that would refer to functionality, mobility of the parliament, the Council of Ministers (CoM), things that Mister (former HR in B&H Miroslav) Lajcak started and then stopped” Izetbegovic noted. Asked if these are things that could have been done without the PIC’s support, Izetbegovic responded affirmatively, saying that Inzko should have been more determined and brave in his actions. SDA supports the stay of OHR in B&H and increased capacity of the OHR in the country. On the other hand, SNSD leader Milorad Dodik believes the OHR should leave the country and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic supports the OHR but only if it would operate from outside of B&H. Dodik wants all foreigners to leave this country, so that he would be able to do what he wants, Izetbegovic said. That would lead us to the biggest post-war crisis, and even Dodik would regret his decisions, Izetbegovic assessed. Commenting Biden’s win, Izetbegovic said he expects major changes to be made, especially in regards to the US’ support for B&H. He believes that Biden will have a similar policy towards B&H as former US president Bill Clinton had. Izetbegovic also said that changes in B&H will be possible as soon as SNSD and its members stop with blockades and activities that are harmful for the state and the citizens. When they accept some norms and rules, that exist in any normal democracy, then we will be able to function normally and cooperate in all matters, Izetbegovic concluded. Asked why Dodik threatens with secession every once in a while, and whether he would be able to implement this, Izetbegovic pointed out that Dodik knows he cannot realize this idea. He wants to be known and remembered as the man that kept the idea alive so that if by some chance changes are made in the future, he would be able to say that he was responsible for making the idea come to life, Izetbegovic said. The SDA leader believes that voters that vote for Dodik wish to see his “arrogant behavior” and are “as bad as he is”. When asked if these were unnecessarily harsh words, Izetbegovic said that this, what he said, was the truth, and he cannot bend the truth to the likings of everyone. “The leader, and those that support him, are linked in a major way. As long as they support him, as he is now, and what he does, he will lead them in the wrong direction. They encourage that; they need to change,” Izetbegovic stressed. In further comment on the amendments to the Election Law of B&H, Izetbegovic said he believes changes will be adopted by 2022. These changes will improve the election process and prevent any irregularities and potential frauds, he added. Izetbegovic supports changes to the Law which are aligned with the recommendations of the OSCE and the Council of Europe anti-corruption body, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). In comment on SDS leader Mirko Sarovic’s idea on reshuffling the current B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM), Izetbegovic emphasized that implementation of any idea must begin with a sure knowledge that when the process is completed, things would be better. If they have a way to make changes, without creating additional blockades in the country, and which would result in a functional B&H CoM, then they should go for it, Izetbegovic concluded.

Dodik: If SDA continues with attempts to reorganize B&H, we will host referendum on independence (RTRS)

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stated on Thursday that if SDA continues to insist on the reorganization of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), they will request a referendum on the independence of the RS. Dodik stated this after a video conference between President of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic and members of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. Namely, Izetbegovic suggested the reorganization of B&H and proposed the abolition of entities and cantons. Dodik said that the independence of the RS has a greater possibility of happening than a conference on the so-called ‘Dayton two’, where B&H would be reorganized into multiethnic regions. He believes that the suggestion of Izetbegovic was done in order to position himself within his party and announced that the RS will oppose any attempt for such a process. Dodik stressed that this suggestion is anti-Dayton since it is against numerous things defined in the DPA. He assessed that Izetbegovic is bothered by the fact that numerous areas like economy, judiciary, defense and others are defined as competences of the entities. Dodik said the only political destiny of Serbs is to leave B&H. Dodik sent a message to Izetbegovic that disappearance of the RS is not the will of Serbs and the only basis for relations between the peoples in B&H is the original DPA. “I think their proposal is anti-Dayton in its entirety, because it implies abolishment of entities, cantons, etc. confirmed in the Dayton”. Dodik noted nothing can force Serbs, “of course the NATO can kill us here, but the political will of Serbs is not disappearance of the RS, Bakir Izetbegovic must know that’’.

Komsic slams Covic, says he should stop claiming that Sarajevo wants some kind of Muslim state (Oslobodjenje)

Member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic sent a message to HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic that he should stop lecturing Sarajevo and claiming that Sarajevo wants some kind of a Muslim state. Following Covic’s claims presented for HRT, Komsic asked Covic to name one place other than Sarajevo where non-Muslims can be heads of municipalities or mayors. “Sarajevo is miles ahead of individual areas where, unfortunately, one cannot even imagine a person of other ethnicity to hold the highest positions. Therefore, it is inappropriate for Covic to lecture anyone in Sarajevo. As far as the transformation of B&H into a civic state is concerned, which is another thing Covic finds to be disputable, we will continue to work on that regardless of what Covic says, and it would be better for him not to say anything,” Komsic concluded.

Police clash with migrants, two police officers injured (N1)

Two police officers of the Sarajevo Canton Ministry of Interior (SC MoI) were injured and several vehicles were damaged in a massive fight between some 2,000 migrants that broke out in the migrant camp Blazuj on Wednesday evening. Migrants claimed that the cause for the fight were disagreements between Sunni and Shia Muslims. This was confirmed by B&H Minister of Security Selmo Cikotic. He answered the complaints of the SC MoI, saying that the migrant crisis is being managed better every day. SC Minister of Interior Admir Katica said that significant material damage was registered. He said that 20 vehicles of the SC MoI were damaged, another six vehicles of the International Organization for Migrations (IOM) and vehicles of other organizations were damaged as well. Cikotic said that the person responsible for the unrest was placed in the Immigration center in Istocno Sarajevo and he will be deported. The Trade Union of the SC Police requested the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) to approach their obligations in a serious, systematic and responsible manner. They stressed that this would make the work of the police officers in the filed much easier. Cikotic answered this plea, saying that they work on the crisis every day and more institutions are integrated with the process continuously. The incident started when one migrant made some religious insults towards other migrants, which then attacked him. When the fight started, police was called to the scene and migrants continued the quarrel by clashing with police officers. Around 2,000 migrants took part in the incident and video from the reception center shows them throwing rocks and various objects at members of the police. There were representatives of the IOM present in the center when the incident occurred, and some of them were attacked by migrants. In their comment to the incident, Blazuj residents said they were already afraid of migrants, and this new situation makes them feel even more scared.

SDA: We give full support to police bodies to use all capacities to establish public peace and order in migrant camps (Hayat)

SDA issued a press release following the incident in which almost two thousand migrants participated in a mass fight at the Blazuj migrant camp in the vicinity of Sarajevo by saying that the party gives its full support to police and security agencies in B&H to use all needed measures and capacities to establish public peace and order in migrant camps. The party stated that events such as the one which occurred in Blazuj, property damage and attacks on B&H citizens cannot remain unsanctioned. The party said that all migrants who participate in criminal activities and incidents must be processed to the full extent of the law and deported from B&H.

 

PM now claims he did not offer congratulations for the Day of RS (CdM)

Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic confused the public again, as he announced that on 9 January he had not congratulated Zeljka Cvijanovic on the Day of the RS. He only “made a phone call to her” when he found some free time among numerous obligations. Krivokapic actually says that Cvijanovic was not telling the truth, and also that what his office announced that day was not true – that it was not an official but a private call. That the government did not harmonize the statements and is tangled in amnesia is also seen in the fact that Krivokapic’s first associate and his deputy Dritan Abazovic said that the government of Montenegro did not officially congratulate the Day of RS, nor it should have done so. “To be very explicit, I think that the government of Montenegro should not have congratulated, and it has not officially congratulated the Day of RS. For us, there is the Day of the Republic of B&H, respecting all international principles and common practice of good neighborly relations, but also international policies,” Abazovic said. Cvijanovic said on 9 January: “I thank the Montenegrin Prime Minister Krivokapic, who has called and congratulated all our holidays and expressed his determination that we all work together and improve our cooperation in all areas, for the benefit of all citizens of Montenegro and the RS, i.e. B&H,” said Cvijanovic.

 

Government passes census law with 62 votes, methodology yet to be determined (Republika)

With only 62 votes, the parliament adopted the Law on Census of Population and Households, which is to be held in April this year. The MPs of VMRO-DPMNE did not participate in the vote and announced that they will collect signatures from the citizens for annulment of this law. As expected, the government passed this law, which caused a lot of criticism. What’s disputable is that it is not known how the census process will take place. When the census enumerators come, will the members of the household who are currently present register or will one member of the family be able to tell the ID numbers of the others that are not present, who may be living in Macedonia or may have moved out a long time ago. All this leaves much room for doubt.

 

Serbia-Albania deal on freedom of movement enters into force (ADN)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Albania informed on Thursday that starting from today enters into force the Freedom of Movement between the two countries. According to the deal signed last November citizens of both countries can enter the other country with only their IDs, instead of with passports as was the case until now. Albanian Premier Edi Rama hailed the agreement months ago as “a positive step”. “It is a good step that now Albania has freedom of movement with basically all countries, including Serbia, with which we signed freedom of movement [deals] between our citizens – with no other document (necessary other) than ID cards. I think this is a very positive step,” Rama told the online held press conference last November. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he expected more citizens of both countries to cross over and visit Albania and Serbia. “I am sure now that we have formally solved all obstacles that Serbian citizens can go not only to the territory of Northern Macedonia but also to the territory of Albania only with an ID card, and that there will be many more Albanians in Nis and Belgrade … who want to see Serbia, but also many more Serbs who want to see Durres, Tirana and every other place in Albania,” Vucic said.

Albania declares Russian diplomat persona non grata (ADN)

The Albanian authorities have declared a Russian diplomat persona non grata, Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared on Thursday. This Ministry urged to the Russian diplomat to leave the country in 72-hours as he did not respect the Albanian rules on Covid-19 pandemic. “The Albanian government wants to strengthen friendly relations with the Russian Federation, and regrets that the good will of both parties has been violated by repeated actions of Russian diplomatic staff in Tirana, in non-compliance with the measures of taken by the Albanian authorities, for the protection of the population against COVID-19,” says the statement of the Foreign Ministry. It further added that from last April 2020 until now, the Albanian government had different complaints against a diplomat of the Russian Embassy. “Senior representatives of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs have contacted the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Tirana, Mikhail Afanasiev, expressing concern about the continuing violations of anti-COVID-19 measures by the diplomat. The MFA welcomed and deeply appreciated the ambassador’s fully cooperative role in this matter, with the promise that these acts would not be repeated,” says statement. Unfortunately, despite different promises made, the diplomat continued to violate Albania’s measures forcing ministry to declare him persona non grata.

 

Ambassadors Kim and Soreca at the Constitutional Court; US will continue to strongly support the implementation of Justice Reform (Radio Tirana)

US Ambassador to Tirana Yuri Kim and EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca had a meeting with members of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court became operational within the year we left after 2020, with new members Altin Binaj, Perparim Kalo and Sonila Bejtja. Earlier, the American chief diplomat met with the Head of the Constitutional Court, Vitore Tusha. There was an official reaction from the American embassy to this meeting, where it is announced that Ambassador Kim underlined the fact that the members should be acting independently and with integrity in the administration of justice. Ambassador Kim stressed the important role that the Court plays in ensuring the control and balance of Albania’s institutions and in ensuring the rule of law. “Today, Ambassador Kim and EU Ambassador Soreca met with the members of the Constitutional Court to thank them for answering the call of duty, which has enabled the Court to meet the quorum for functionality. She underlined the requirement for judges to act with independence and integrity to deliver justice, irrespective of which institution had nominated them for the Court. Kim emphasized the important role the Court plays in providing checks and balances to Albania’s institutions and in ensuring the rule of law. She reiterated US support would continue, including through the provision of technical assistance. The United States will continue to strongly support the implementation of Justice Reform, and urges relevant authorities to ensure the Constitutional Court will have a full complement of nine judges within the near future so that the people of Albania have true justice, in line with Albania’s status as a NATO Ally and EU aspirant”.

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