Vucic: Wrong are those who think we will give up what is ours (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)
“I speak first because it is known who has the final say,” Vucic began his address. “I informed the Patriarch of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, of political facts and of the political negotiations that are ahead of us or that we have finished, of the visit by Miroslav Lajcak, of Serbia’s position, and even of the fact that Kosovo has failed to get through and gain space at the Conference of European Constitutional Courts,” Vucic said. He said they had also talked about Republika Srpska and all pressures on Serbia that lay ahead and that, as he noted, should come as no surprise to anyone. “In circumstances of deep divisions in the world, where there is no unipolarity or bipolarity, but multipolarity, many will try and do their best to display their power and force upon someone smaller. Our job is to try to ensure it is not us, while preserving the most significant and the most vital state and national interests,” Vucic said. He says that he informed the Patriarch about the situation in Kosovo. They discussed how to preserve peace and stability, as well as how to help the people of Kosovo, especially in an economic aspect. “I think there is understanding on that issue. I am grateful that he had the patience to listen,” Vucic explains. He adds that the position of our people and the Church in the region was discussed. “The state, as much as it helps other religious communities, will help even more and more strongly to rebuild temples and shrines wherever the SPC operates, both in the country and in the diaspora, especially in the environment where temples are endangered by war,” he explained.
“When the state and the Church strive for the same goal, when they set common goals and work and fight together – Serbia will be the first in Europe,” says the President. He believes that cooperation will be in the interest of the entire Serbian people, and he announced that their meetings will be common in the future. Vucic expressed satisfaction that he could learn a lot from Patriarch Porfirije today. “When you talk to him, you feel hugely ashamed that you can’t reach his knowledge and dignity,” he noted. Vucic announced that the state is ready to help, and will build an entire park in front of the Temple of Saint Sava. “Not only the first, but we will also take care of the more expensive second phase in order to complete the construction of the largest Orthodox church in the world. We have many ideas in which together we can invest money in places where Serbs suffered. I think that our relationship will be in the interest of the entire Serbian nation,” Vucic emphasized. He expressed confidence that future meetings will become regular, and that he will always welcome a meeting with the patriarch in the belief that they can jointly do a lot for our people. Serbian Patriarch Porfirije pointed out that today at the meeting with President Vucic, he had the opportunity to hear “in the shortest terms the elementary basis of geopolitics in the narrow sense of the word”. “I indicated to the President that I am not a politician, not because I have no affinity for politics, but because I think that the Church is an organism to collect, dull blades and overcome polarization, regardless of the circumstances. I also emphasized that often we do not choose the circumstances, but they are an expression of God’s providence and for that reason, we have no right to complain, but to roll up our sleeves and face the predicaments and difficulties as a task that we must solve. We will do all in our power, as spiritual shepherds, to make our people live better, but not to the detriment of others. Only through dialogue can we get to know each other, acknowledge each other’s values and thus overcome temptations and misunderstandings,” said Patriarch Porfirije.
It is certain that it will not be easy for us
Vucic says he doesn’t know what was the content of talks of the new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with the EU Ministers, but that what awaits Serbia on Kosovo and Metohija is certainly neither easy nor simple. “Everything that is ahead of us is not easy, it is not something we can look forward to if you know the position of the United States. Not through the fault of today’s government, not even today’s president, but that situation is difficult for us and we will be under tremendous pressure,” he said of the US government’s position. He says that US presence in the Western Balkans will be more dominant, and it is up to us to preserve peace. “Let’s continue the dialogue under the auspices of the EU. That it will be easy for us – it certainly won’t. If they think that we will easily give up what we think is ours – they were wrong,” says Vucic.
Selakovc: EP Report inadmissible call for recognition of unilaterally declared independence of our province (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Foreign Minister Selakovic stated that the Draft Report of the European Parliament, adopted before its Foreign Policy Committee, in an inadmissible and inappropriate way calls on EU states that have not recognized the unilaterally declared independence of our southern province to change their minds. Selakovic stated that the EU, although the majority of its members recognize the self-declared Kosovo, as an umbrella political entity, has been trying for years to at least formally maintain the position of status neutrality. According to him, the appeal of the European Parliament rapporteur Viola von Cramon-Taubadel addressed to a group of five countries to recognize the self-declared Kosovo, is a flagrant deviation from the previous political practice of Brussels. He reminded that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, with the mediation of the EU, takes place with respect for the principle of status neutrality, and that this is a precondition for reaching any lasting and sustainable solutions. He assessed that, to put it mildly, it is undiplomatic, and useless for the negotiation process between Belgrade and Pristina, that the Foreign Policy Committee of the European Parliament allowed personal lobbying initiative of Viola von Cramon-Taubadel to turn into something that should be an official document of the EU institution. I expect that the EU institutions, by remaining in the position of status neutrality, will give a chance to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and not be part of the problem, but part of the solution when it comes to stabilizing the situation in the Western Balkans, Selakovic concluded.
Selakovic: Belgrade fulfilled obligations under Brussels agreement, but Community of Serb Municipalities has not been established (Tanjug/RTV)
Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic talked today via video link with Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Stefano Sannino. Selakovic said that the reforms remain in the focus of the government of Serbia, with a special emphasis on the rule of law, but he pointed out that the significant progress of Serbia achieved in the reform process was not accompanied by appropriate dynamics of accession negotiations with the EU. He reminded that no negotiating chapters had been opened last year and asked for support to show the EU’s readiness to continue the process, pointing out that Serbia is currently ready to open five chapters for which it had submitted negotiating positions. According to him, in order to improve and accelerate the accession process, Serbia has accepted the new methodology and expects to receive clarifications from the European Commission on its application to the negotiation process soon. Serbia is grateful to the EU for its support in the field of structural reforms and economic measures, as well as for investments from the EU and its member states, Selakovic said, and called on the EU to continue implementing the Western Balkans Economic and Investment Plan, which will encourage further economic growth. He stressed that Serbia attaches great importance to regional cooperation in the Western Balkans and wants full EU integration, expressing gratitude to the EU for its assistance and cooperation during the pandemic. Speaking about relations with Pristina, Selakovic said that Serbia is committed to a dialogue that seeks a sustainable compromise solution, emphasizing that Belgrade has fulfilled its obligations under the Brussels agreement, but that, on the other hand, the Community of Serb Municipalities has not been established.He pointed out that the dialogue is characterized by a lack of trust, while the statements about the so-called Greater Albania coming from the winner of the elections in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the lack of EU reaction to that, do not contribute to building trust. Selakovic also said that Belgrade supports the work of EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak and is ready to cooperate with all actors of the international community who can help resolve open issues with Pristina, while, as he emphasized, Brussels remains the central place for dialogue for Belgrade.
Dacic: I start talks with EP mediators, parties join in second half of March (RTS)
Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic has told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the dialogue in which he and European mediators will participate will start at the beginning of March, while meetings with parties are expected in the second half of March.
Dacic says that in fact there will be a video-conference on 1 March between him and David McAllister and four mediators. Thus, other political parties are not participating. At issue is only a video-talk. They consider this some kind of the beginning of these activities, inter-party talks, explains Dacic. He adds that meetings with parties, some of which opted for talks with the help of the European Parliament, and some are against that, will occur only after these initial talks, probably in the second half of March. “It is necessary to define these formats, who will participate. You have a situation that some parties do not want talks with the presence of foreigners, as they put it, and on the other side you have the obligation to hear out their proposals and stands,” notes Dacic. He specified that at issue is inter-party dialogue under the auspices of the parliament speaker, and not under the EU auspices. “The exact formulation is that at issue is inter-party dialogue under the auspices of the parliament, i.e. parliament speaker, assisted by the European Parliament,” explained Dacic.
Blinken, EU Foreign Ministers discuss Kosovo dialogue policy (Beta)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed joint policy towards the Western Balkans with European Union member state foreign ministers, Beta was told on Wednesday by unnamed EU diplomatic sources. The sources said that they discussed joint policy on the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue adding that “the two sides did not enter into the details of their views on the joint policy” during the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brussels. The EU diplomatic sources said that Brussels expects Washington to respect the EU’s leading role in the dialogue to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina. A statement from the EU Foreign Minister’s meeting did not mention the discussion with Blinken and the State Department just said that they discussed a joint response to urgent global issues.
Palmer and Lajcak bringing blackmail (Novosti)
Brussels and Washington, in coordinated efforts, in the form of a non-paper, most likely prepare a series of requests to submit to the state leadership of Serbia. According to Novosti, that document will contain concrete expectations from Belgrade in the process of resolving the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. According to Novosti, in that informal document, which is mentioned in diplomatic circles, Serbia will be informed that it must commit itself to recognizing Kosovo, which will be a kind of second part of the “greeting card” sent to our country, on the occasion of marking Statehood Day, by US President Joseph Biden. Clear indication of this joint action will be a joint visit to Serbia in a very short period – of a mediator in the dialogue with Pristina Miroslav Lajcak and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer, Novosti writes.
Kosovo failed to enter Conference of European Constitutional Courts (Novosti)
Serbia managed to prevent the entrance of so-called Kosovo in the Conference of European Constitutional Courts, Novosti learns. Of 38 present countries, almost 50 percent of constitutional courts supported Serbia, while Pristina needed to receive 2/3 of the votes.
According to indictment Novalic prepared plan with aim to acquire illegal property gain from disputable procurement (O kanal/BHT1)
The trial of the defendants in the ‘Respirators’ case, including Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, suspended Director of the FB&H Civil Protection Administration Fahrudin Solak, owner of company ‘Srebrena malina’ Fikret Hodzic and FB&H Deputy Prime Minister Jelka Milicevic, began before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) on Wednesday. The ‘Respirators’ case is related to the procurement of one hundred respirators from China worth BAM 10.5 million. The beginning of the trial was marked by the defense and the prosecution disagreeing on whether the indictment should be read or not. Novalic’s attorney, Vasvija Vidovic, stated that the indictment has been read already and that the defendants entered a plea, adding that the defense teams conducted consultations and decided to propose not to read the indictment. At the same time, prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H Mirza Hukeljic stressed that parties cannot agree among themselves to waive the obligation prescribed by law on the manner in which a trial begins, noting that the prosecution insists on reading of the indictment. The presiding judge decided that the indictment will be read after all. After reading of the indictment which lasted for an hour, the prosecution delivered its opening arguments, stating that this is an organized group of people who harmonized their every move and acted together. Following the hearing, representatives of the defense teams underlined that there are many deficiencies in the indictment. Vidovic stressed that there is no a single evidence of criminal activities, noting that the defense will use the evidence of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. “If they were interpreted objectively, their evidence would give a completely different result, primarily their evidence. We conducted very thorough investigations in this criminal proceeding on our own. Of course, we questioned our own witnesses, conducted numerous expert examinations”, Vidovic underlined. Hodzic’s attorney, Mirna Avdibegovic, pointed out that the indictment is unfounded. “We have obtained material that directly acquits all the accused, especially Fikret Hodzic, which justifies the price of the respirators of USD 42,000 per piece at that time”, Delalic underlined.
According to the indictment, Novalic prepared a plan with an aim to acquire illegal property gain from the disputable procurement, which ensured through unlawful activities putting the FB&H budget funds at disposal to the FB&H Civil Protection Administration. The prosecution announced that they will again request restrictive measures to be imposed against the defendants. The prosecution also announced questioning of a number of witnesses in this case, including employees at the FB&H Government, the FB&H Civil Protection Administration and ‘Srebrena Malina’ company. The defense said that they will use experiences of countries in which companies engaged in other activities have imported respirators as it was the case with ‘Srebrena malina’. The defense insisted on an argument that the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H has caused public hysteria over impracticability of respirators and thus brought the presumption of innocence in question. Defense attorneys stated that reputation of the FB&H institutions was compromised primarily owing to the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H which is visible in the process of procurement of vaccines against COVID-19 for B&H, because no one wants to deal with the FB&H Government. They concluded that the current blockade in the procurement of vaccines was partially caused by the ‘Respirators’ affair. The main hearing will be resumed on March 5, when evidence procedure will start.
B&H CoM adopts Program of Reforms for NATO and decision on formation of Commission for Cooperation with NATO (O kanal)
B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) adopted on Wednesday the Program of Reforms for NATO and passed a decision on the formation of the Commission for Cooperation with NATO. This information was confirmed by B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic following Wednesday’s session of the B&H CoM. Turkovic said that the Program of Reforms will be sent to NATO already on Thursday. Turkovic specified that the Commission was initially supposed to be in charge of integration into NATO, but it has been renamed into the Commission for Cooperation with NATO. “All Serb ministers voted for it. This means they endorsed the Program of Reforms, in a way that it has been drafted, and it will be sent to Brussels in this form. They also voted for the Commission for Cooperation with NATO,” she confirmed, concluding that the decision on the Program of Reforms was unanimous. Turkovic said that self-assessment has been completed within the B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the B&H Ministry of Defense. “Other institutions also took part” she confirmed. She concluded that the document of Program of Reforms has been prepared as well as translated.
Dodik: Cooperation with NATO acceptable, membership in NATO is not (ATV)
At its session held on Wednesday B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) adopted a decision to change the name of the Commission for NATO Integration Process of B&H to Commission for B&H’s Cooperation with NATO. B&H CoM also adopted Program of Reforms that will be forwarded to Brussels. All Ministers in B&H CoM voted in favor of decision to change name of abovementioned Commission. Reporter commented that the name of this commission had been used often by the opposition in Republika Srpska (RS) to claim that this entity accepted the NATO accession of B&H. Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that cooperation with NATO is acceptable but not membership in this alliance. Dodik added that the RS opposes the NATO integration of B&H. He added that the RS has been insisting on this stance for months so that those advocating NATO membership can finally understand no one from abroad will come and make the RS accept it. He emphasized that all countries have some kind of cooperation with NATO. Delegate in B&H House of Peoples (HoP) Dusanka Majkic (SNSD) stated that adopted Program of Reforms does not prejudice solution in regards to the NATO integration. “It implies only cooperation with NATO” claims Majkic. She stressed that adoption of document ‘NATO 2030’ implies B&H is not even a partner and let alone a member of NATO. “This encourages us. Program of Reforms is goal towards which we are heading and it seems we have consensus for its realization”, explained delegate Majkic. Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija underlined that for the first time abovementioned Commission got an adequate name, harmonized range of work and clearly defined deciding method. Reporter reminded that since beginning of their term, SNSD ministers in B&H CoM have been refusing to support appointment of the Commission for NATO Integration Process of B&H. Namely, they have been opposing the name of this commission because B&H is not on the path of the NATO integration. Tegeltija said for the media that in the adopted Reform Program “the first time the Commission is discussed, i.e. the Commission for the implementation of the Reform Program in defense. In accordance with the Reform Program, we defined the Commission and its name and we harmonized the system, i.e. scope of its work. I think it is good we have finalized it. It will allow us to submit implementation of the Program to the NATO in Brussels and to continue our work in accordance with the Reform Program”.
Sarovic: SNSD’s support to Program of Reforms for NATO is scandalous move and yet another shameful confirmation of SNSD leader Dodik’s true treacherous face (BN TV)
In a written statement on Wednesday, SDS leader Mirko Sarovic reacted to the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM)’s decision to adopt the Program of Reforms for NATO, as well as a decision to form a commission for cooperation with NATO. In his reaction, Sarovic stated that SNSD made “a scandalous move” to accept the Program of Reforms for NATO and referred to it as “yet another shameful confirmation of (SNSD leader and Chairman and Serb member of the B&H Presidency) Milorad Dodik’s true treacherous face and actual policy”. According to Sarovic, SNSD has fully capitulated before the NATO path of B&H and Republika Srpska (RS), and it was only a matter of time when this would be sealed, after the earlier signature coming from SNSD. The SDS leader assessed that moving towards NATO membership is a huge national mistake and an unforgivable betrayal of own people. He concluded that it is clear that the entire people has been deceived for the sake of interests of “one man and his political party”.
Borrell: I reject the idea that the EU is pretending that it wants Western Balkans among its ranks (Dnevni list)
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that he must reject the idea that we, the European Union (EU) that is, are pretending to want the Western Balkans join our ranks, arguing it is not fair to say that the EU is only talking and not acting in terms of the enlargement in the Western Balkans. According to Borrell, the EU is investing a lot of money in order to help the Western Balkans countries implement reforms and improve their economies, as well as political and judicial systems. According to him, the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU is a process that is going step by step, arguing that the priorities in reforms in the Western Balkans countries are independent judiciary and fight against corruption. HR Borrell also said the EU’s economic investment plan for the Western Balkans amounts to EUR nine billion and the EU is also trying to help with the vaccines although the EU is facing challenges in that area.
Palmer: Although US is well acquainted with events in Balkans, it will not solve obligations of B&H officials (FTV/VoA)
In an interview for Voice of America, US Secretary of State’s Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer stated that although the US is well acquainted with the events in the Balkans, it will not solve the obligations of B&H officials, but it will remain a strong partner of B&H. In the interview, Palmer, among other things, spoke of what B&H can expect from the new Biden administration. He stated that important obligations lie before B&H politicians, such as adoption of 14 recommendations of the European Commission (EC), changes to the B&H Election Law and numerous reforms. “One of the things I hear in Sarajevo, which I hear in B&H, is the idea: We should not work on reforms alone. We should wait for the new Biden-Harris administration to come over the hill, on a white horse, with Dayton 2 or a new April package, and solve the problems for us. And that is just the opposite of how one should work. What we would like to see immediately, without delay, is a meeting of the inter-ministerial working group so that it could discuss and implement the recommendations of GRECO and ODIHR to launch this process and start tackling the 14 priorities set out by the EU, and to make progress in the 5+2 agenda, i.e. guidelines for a possible transition from supervision of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), in order to put B&H really firmly on the European path. That is absolutely achievable and what is needed is for the political leaders and leaders of political parties to commit to the reform program and make progress in key reforms,” Palmer was quoted as saying. Palmer commended and congratulated Milorad Dodik for removing the name of Radovan Karadzic from the dormitory in Pale. Stressing that this was a positive signal, Palmer stressed: “However, I would also like to use this chance to underline and strengthen our support to the OHR as an institution, and an important role that High Representative continues to have in B&H”.
Palmer’s statements spark reactions in RS (Glas Srpske/VoA)
US Secretary of State Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer stated in an interview for Voice of America that B&H officials should not expect the new US Administration to solve problems of B&H or do the job of B&H officials. According to the daily, this sobering statement proves that expectations of Bosniak political elites led by SDA are wrong. Head of Serb Caucus in B&H House of Representatives and United Srpska leader Nenad Stevandic stated that Palmer sent a message that Bosniak political representatives should be able to understand, namely that their hopes of someone coming and making all their dreams come true are unrealistic. According to Stevandic, the US Administration will not support only one side and Bosniaks needs to understand this. Otherwise, they might miss the final chance not only for B&H, but also for the Federation of B&H (FB&H) which is currently in chaos. Political analysts Zarko Papic stated that SDA has spent months trying to create the impression that new US President Joseph Biden would come and reorganize B&H turning it into a centralized, unitary state. Papic believes that the US Administration will attempt to introduce reforms, but it will not change the basic organizational structure of B&H. Analyst Milos Solaja stated that ever since the war in B&H ended, the US Administration has held the stance that reforms must be result of internal consensus. Political analyst from Mostar Milan Sitarski stated that the Dayton Peace Accords was created at the height of US power, and hopes for internal reorganization were sparked by individuals such as former High Representatives Wolfgang Petritsch and Paddy Ashdown. However, Palmer’s latest statement should extinguish the unrealistic expectations and force Bosniak politicians to explain to the people that they are unrealistic.
Weber: Crucial for USA and Germany to join forces and define joint strategic policy towards B&H (Dnevni avaz)
Senior Associate of Democratization Policy Council Bodo Weber, talking about the new proposal of this organization sent to Western authorities, concerning the situation in B&H, explained the term ‘pressure sandwich’ as a model for a new strategy in B&H. Weber said that this model is a proposal of the answer to a key question- how to achieve social-political change i.e. the transformation in B&H. He explained that the model is based on long-term experience with Dayton organization after 2005, auto-destructive political logic of maintaining of status quo and institutional dysfunction. Weber explained that the current policy of the West suggests there are only two options- to maintain the current policy of ‘ownership’ or to return to authoritative engagement which was in rule before 2005. However, DPC deems that policy which relinquishes full responsibility to B&H political elites without changes of dysfunctional constitutional and institutional system has failed, but returning to authoritative model is not a solution as it was not feasible. “Structural change, in order to be feasible, has to come from citizens. However, in order for citizens to be factor of a change, it has to be supported from outside, by the international community, which has to create favorable environment so citizens can exert pressure over system and elites towards the changes,” said Weber. Asked about the role of the opposition in this process, Weber noted that the idea is to give a lead role to the citizens, arguing that many times in the past the IC has relied on some new alternative, opposition forces, but the years showed that political logic of Dayton system, neutralizes activities of these alternative forces, either by coopting them or by corrupting them. Asked about US and German approach towards B&H, Weber said that there was no harmonization in the approach during Donald Trump Administration, adding that it seems that German’s initiative to nominate Christian Schmidt for a new High Representative was designed as a preventive measure in case of Trump’s victory. However, Weber deems that now, when Joseph Biden won, it seems that Germany’s move caused certain irritation within US Administration. “Furthermore, we cannot see clear political vision behind this move. Therefore, it is now crucial for USA and Germany to join forces and define a joint strategic policy towards B&H,” concluded Weber. Asked what kind of message should IC convey to Serbia and Croatia, Weber said: “That they are not guarantees of Dayton, as they persistently and mistakenly try to present themselves, and to stop interfering in internal relations and matters in B&H”.
Dodik says statements by Izetbegovic on Serb and Croat representatives being racists are unacceptable (RTRS)
Commenting on the statement by SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic on alleged racism of political representatives of Serbs and Croats directed towards migrants, because the migrant crisis is present only in the parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) with predominantly Bosniak population, Serb member and the Chairperson of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that such qualification is unacceptable, noting that with that position, Izetbegovic shows it is impossible to talk about normal functioning of B&H. “Such qualifications are unnecessary. It would be as if we would accuse Bosniak people that they deal with racism because they are benevolent with regard to arrival of migrants, because they are from their religious environment and in a way compatible space”. Dodik noted that Izetbegovic insists on such qualifications and “as soon as he is on the international scene, he is trying to make accusations in the most brutal way”, said Dodik.
HDZ B&H welcomes establishing of Commission for Cooperation with NATO (Vecernji list)
B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) adopted on Wednesday the Program of Reforms for NATO and passed a decision on the formation of the Commission for Cooperation with NATO. Reacting to this decision, HDZ B&H leader and President of Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) Dragan Covic posted on Twitter that establishing of the Commission for Cooperation with NATO represents an important step forward in the process of B&H’s NATO integration. He underlined that continuous progress on the Euro-Atlantic path contributes to stability. HDZ B&H issued a statement underlining that establishing of the Commission for Cooperation with NATO is a result of strong political efforts of the legitimate representatives of the Croat people, and that it represents significant progress for security and stability of B&H, Western Balkans and South-East Europe. HDZ B&H welcomed the fact that a method for functioning of the commission was identified. “Despite different political understanding and sympathies for NATO in B&H, HDZ B&H will continue with its strong political and diplomatic activities regarding NATO integration”, HDZ B&H stated. According to HDZ B&H, the agreement on Commission for Cooperation with NATO should be used as an additional motive for talks on reform of B&H Election Law.
Politics, SPC and espionage (Pobjeda)
Montenegrin state authorities in charge of security still haven’t provided an answer as to how the fake American diplomat, Stevan Simijanovic, managed to infiltrate, not only the party policy of URA and the People’s Movement, but also Montenegrin state structures, to establish contacts with certain police officers and even to start negotiations on the procurement of ammunition according to NATO standards, Pobjeda writes. Achieving close cooperation with Dritan Abazovic, coordinator of all security services, Simijanovic lobbied for the American Ballistic Company (ABC) to be one of the suppliers of ammunition according to NATO standards. However, until a few years ago, Simijanovic, a little-known Serbian patriot from Bar, gained strong positions and friends among the clergy. This can be seen in a picture from the funeral of Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic. Simijanovic, however, is not Secret Agent 007, nor was the investigation of his activities a difficult task for the state security services. Yet, 15 days after the outbreak of the affair, the authorities still haven’t provided any meaningful answer. The Montenegrin police and security service won’t even say whether Simijanovic took the “diplomatic documents” with him when he left for Serbia, or whether the forged passport was delivered to the US Embassy in Podgorica.
Djukanovic issues decrees: Ambassadors recalled (CdM)
President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic has issued a decree recalling ambassadors from B&H, Serbia, Italy, China, Germany, Poland, the Holy See, the Sovereign Order of Malta and the United Arab Emirates. Earlier, the Government recalled ambassadors from China, Darko Pajovic, Vatican, Miodrag Vlahovic, B&H, Obrad Stanisic, Italy, Sanja Vlahovic, Germany, Vera Kulis, Serbia, Tarzan Milosevic, Poland, Budimir Segrt and the United Arab Emirates, Dusanka Jeknic. President Djukanovic thanked the recalled ambassadors for having professionally and responsibly served the interests of the state of Montenegro.
What just happened!? (Republika)
Macedonians have been accustomed to crazy twists and turns in the political scene and serious security crises but even by the standards of the past six years, the past three days were a bit too much. Some chaos was anticipated as it became clear that the court will make a ruling in the large Target wiretapping case this week. This is the ur-case of the 2015 political crisis as it is supposed to investigate the warrantless wiretapping of tens of thousands of phone lines that were apparently conducted for years and possibly decades back by the UBK police service – the heir to the communist era UDBA police. The tapes somehow made their way to then opposition leader Zoran Zaev, who used them to blackmail Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski alleging that they show serious violations on the part of Gruevski and his top officials, including his cousin and UBK chief Saso Mijalkov. The case originally had Zaev, several UBK technicians and former UBK chief Zoran Verusevski as defendants – the technicians were accused of working with Verusevski to wiretap the phones of Gruevski, Mijalkov and many others, and then editing and giving the tapes to Zaev. But as prosecutors loyal to Zaev were appointed as part of a political deal brokered by the US and the EU, the case was turned on its head, and instead of Verusevski, Mijalkov was blamed for the wiretapping. He was nominally in charge of the secret service, but the charges didn’t explain why Mijalkov wiretapped himself, Gruevski, other VMRO officials, and how did Zaev get the tapes. In any case, Mijalkov faces up to 13 years in prison, while Gruevski received political asylum in Hungary citing the persecution campaign against him launched by Zaev. Even though he was charged with numerous other politically motivated cases, Mijalkov was not detained or placed under house arrest. In fact, he was allowed to freely operate out of the Marriott hotel in downtown Skopje which he de-facto owns, as over the years he moved from a top VMRO official to a major supporter of the Zaev regime – Mijalkov helped Zaev coral former VMRO members of Parliament to vote for the imposed name change in 2019, and since then worked to create factions in VMRO – trying to weaken the new party leader Hristijan Mickoski. All this helps Zaev immensely, and the public realized that the promises of “justice” and “rule of law” made during the Colored Revolution will give way to political expediency. On Sunday afternoon, the prosecutors ordered Mijalkov’s house arrest, in light of the fact that the day of his sentencing is drawing near. Macedonia just had a horribly bad corruption report issued by Transparency International and even the US Embassy – greatly supportive of the effort to rename the country and the characters involved in making it happen – began protesting the slow pace of corruption investigations. Rumors that Mijalkov may actually be sentenced began to grow. A frantic, last minute attempt by his supporters (known as the Marriott coalition) on Saturday to stage what they called a VMRO party congress to put additional pressure on Mickoski came to nothing – several dozen former party officials, many of them badly discredited in the public by Zaev’s wiretaps, gathered to support the call, while on the same day the party leadership collected tens of thousands of signatures across the country to support its initiative to end the planned census – it was clear where popular support stands. And so, on Sunday afternoon, reports began to spread that the police are patrolling the area around the Marriott hotel, as well as several homes Mijalkov owns across the city. By the evening it was clear that the former police chief has gone missing. Social media boiled as the news spread – Zaev continues to face allegations that he allowed Nikola Gruevski to leave the country, and now Mijalkov too? A popular meme showed the Macedonia Gate – where Zaev promised he will erect an electric counter showing all the money he will confiscate from Mijalkov and his businesses – with a counter saying “the cousins” – 2:Zaev – 0. And while Gruevski did not support the imposed name change or Zaev’s efforts to divide VMRO, Mijalkov’s political actions and alleged business ties with Zaev’s brother Vice fanned the allegations that he was allowed to leave the country. This especially after a recent leak showed that Zaev and Mijalkov were conducting back door negotiations during the Colored Revolution – while Gruevski was still in office – and apparently continued to manage political developments in Macedonia ever since. The outrage spread across the political divide. Conservative commentators insisted that this is the final piece of evidence about the coalition between Zaev and Mijalkov that is evident in the vote for the name change, impunity for numerous actual criminal deals, and the blatant attempts by Zaev to use Mijalkov to create a faction in VMRO. Leftists and Colored Revolution activists were faced with yet another in the long line of humiliations, especially after the arrest of prosecutor Katica Janeva in whose defense they marched (in a major corruption case that – of course – involved Mijalkov). Both sides agreed that the few cases that did result with arrests and long sentences – especially the sentence for the protesters who entered the Parliament in April 2017 to prevent the creation of the Zaev Government (unaware that Mijalkov is already in talks with Zaev about the outcome of the political crisis), the frequent detentions of former Transportation Minister Mile Janakieski and the arrest of former Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska – should be seen as a total sham. A call to release Jankuloska and the other political prisoners and end the mockery of justice that is being done in the name of the Colored Revolution spread widely across the social media. Even more incredible was the refusal of Zaev to resign or even appoint a “fall guy” for Mijalkov’s escape. His Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski disappeared for two days, even as the crisis grew, and only gave a press conference on Tuesday. During this, he refused to resign and announced that Mijalkov is probably still somewhere in Skopje (rumors were spreading that he may try to get to the Czech Republic, where he holds a citizenship from the days when his father Jordan Mijalkov was a trade representative) or any of a number of other countries and territories. Prosecutor Vilma Ruskoska, who engineered the collapse of Katica Janeva in the Racket scandal, began to sharpen her knife and publicly accused Spasovski for Mijalkov’s escape.
Zaev’s coalition partners began accusing him of total incompetence, or worse, and suddenly the coalition began to look even shakier than before. And then, on Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after Spasovski’s press conference, an energetic looking Mijalkov showed up before Ruskoska’s office. In a clearly staged entrance, the man who usually never leaves home without a heavy security presence, walked alone to a handpicked reporter who asked the now iconic question: “Mister Mijalkov, you are in Macedonia?” An incredible story followed – Mijalkov claimed that he got a bad fever, went in isolation because he feared to infect people with Covid (which he already claimed he had in October) and left his communication devices so he was unaware that the entire police force is looking for him. “I apologize for any confusion I may have caused”, he said, causing a universal shout of “oh, come on” heard across the country. Prime Minister Zaev issued a triumphant statement, declaring that he went so hard on Mijalkov, threatening his sons, bother and family businesses, that he had no option but to abort his planned escape and turn himself in. Few people are buying it. More likely that another escape would have ended any hope for Macedonia’s EU integration, giving a perfect excuse to the enlargement skeptical countries, and would have destroyed any remaining hope to present the country as a place where minimum standards of the rule of law apply, and that this prevented Mijalkov’s arrangements to leave the country. Focus is now on the sentencing. Prosecutor Ruskoska suddenly found her soft side and did not request a detention – only a comfortable house arrest. Prosecutor Lence Ristoska (from the disgraced Janeva unit) is requesting 13 years in prison for Mijalkov over the wiretapping allegations, and in a matter of days we will know if another deal may be struck through the courts – to keep Mijalkov politically useful to the Zaev regime but still nominally convicted and punished for the myriad of crimes that Zaev and his fellow colored revolutionaries tried to pin on him and the rest of the VMRO in 2015.
Sela: Somebody more powerful than Zaev instructed Mijalkov to return (Republika)
Alliance of Albanians leader Ziadin Sela believes that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had an agreement with former security chief Saso Mijalkov and allowed him to flee Macedonia, but that the deal was obstructed by somebody higher up than Zaev. The dramatic escape and subsequent return of Mijalkov caused political chaos in Macedonia, as it strongly indicated to the public that there is a deal between Zaev and Mijalkov. Saso Mijalkov is followed by numerous scandals but he is still at large. He’s not even being mentioned in the investigation of the April 2017 incident. And he’s now given mere house arrest? A person who obviously escaped from the country Sela said. Sela was badly beaten during the April 27 2017 storming of the Parliament. While Zaev and the circle around him were also attacked, recently leaked tapes and the relationship between Zaev and Mijalkov in the years after show that the two were in coordination before the incident. It is believed that Mijalkov fled to Serbia, and from there negotiated with Zaev about the next steps. He faces sentencing on Friday for the massive wiretapping scandal that broke out in 2015 and which Zaev used to grab power.
Osmani flies directly from Paris to Sofia to meet Zaharieva (Republika/TV21)
Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani flew directly from Paris to Sofia, where he met with his Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva, TV21 reported. The meeting focus on the Action Plan between the two countries, and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced last week that the two diplomats should agree on a date for the intergovernmental conference. As it is known, the two countries have prepared an Action Plan in order to settle the issues, but the content is still unknown to the general public. Government spokesperson Dusko Arsovski told that the coherence of the two documents in one Action Plan is in its final stage. “Returning from the visit to Paris, I stopped in Sofia and met with Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, with whom we discussed sectoral cooperation and preparations for a meeting of the intergovernmental commission as an instrument arising from a good-neighborly agreement immediately after the harmonization of the action plan for sectoral cooperation,” Osmani informed on Facebook. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that at the meeting Osmani and Zaharieva also discussed the current events related to the Covid-19 crisis and the ways in which the two countries cooperate in dealing with these challenges. On this occasion, Zaharieva confirmed that efforts are being made to find a way to deliver the promised vaccines to the Republic of Macedonia, the ministry said.
DP and allies close deal on coalition (ADN)
Few minutes ahead midnight, Democratic Party’s leader Lulzim Basha reached a deal with his allies to run together in the Parliamentary Elections of April 25. DP will run with other 14 political parties and coalition is named ‘Democratic Party – the Alliance for Change. After he submitted the request officially to the Central Elections Commission (CEC), Basha said that this coalition is the coalition of the victory. “For 8 years Edi Rama has failed in every direction. Countries like ours have already been much more successful than us. Albania has lost because of Rama. Edi Rama, the Prime Minister who has not achieved even one success for 8 years, cannot ask for another 4 years to try it. It is time to change. We are the wining coalition. We have serious work plans to lead Albania to victory – the Alliance for Change,” said Basha. In the agreement, it is stated that the political forces are joining to guarantee victory at the upcoming polls and bring change to Albania. These parties share the common values and principles in the general political activity and the vision for the country’s governance. “We unite to guarantee victory in the next elections and bring change to our country. We all know that change is needed. Albanians are strong, Albania is strong. There is only one person responsible for Albania’s failure in the last 8 years and this is Edi Rama. We are sharing the same values and principles in the general political activity, as well as in the vision for the governance of the country. We want to coordinate the commitments and the contribution to the common political victory and therefore, we decided: to form a coalition to run together in the elections for the Parliament of April 25, 2021” as quoted from the agreement. Meanwhile, the agreement defines the name of the coalition “Democratic Party-Alliance for Change”, the initials of the coalition “PD-AN” and the logo of the coalition. It is also said that the leading party of the coalition is the Democratic Party of Albania. Allied parties authorize Lulzim Basha, Chairman of the Democratic Party to submit to the Central Election Commission (CEC) the multi-name lists of candidates for MP, as well as any other documentation necessary for the registration of the coalition and candidates until the end of the election process. On his part, the legal representative of the Democratic Party is also authorized to: Submit a request for registration of the Coalition “Democratic Party-Alliance for Change”, together with this agreement, to the Central Elections Commission. Represent the Coalition during the lottery procedure, at the CEC, for the ranking of electoral subjects on the ballot paper. Appoint Coalition observers to CEAZs, VCCs and BCCs throughout the country. Nevertheless, the concrete terms of cooperation within the coalition will be determined through bilateral agreements of the political parties in its composition. The relevant number of candidates to be nominated by each party within the coalition will be specified at the time of submission of the multi-name list of coalition candidates, according to the model set out in the annex to Instruction No. 1 dt. 23.12.2020 of the CEC. The multi-name list of the electoral coalition will include, for each coalition party, the number of candidates and their ranking, based on the resulting electoral weight for each party. Candidates on multi-name coalition lists, regardless of which party they belong to, will be considered and evaluated as coalition-only candidates, avoiding being treated according to party affiliation. This agreement enters into force immediately on the day of its signing.
Noto Exit Poll: The Opposition is Leading and Gaining Momentum (Tirana Times)
According to the second exit poll done by Antonio Noto, in collaboration with RTV Ora, if the parliamentary election would happen today, the opposition would win against the ruling Socialist majority. From 2,000 participants in the poll, 41-45% of the respondents declared that they would vote for the Socialist Party, 34-38% said that they would vote for the Democratic Party, 8-12% of the votes would go to LSI, and PDIU would receive approximately 1-3% of the votes. From January, the Socialist Party and LSI have both seen a decline in the poll numbers with 1%, while the Democratic Party has seen a rise of 1% in the preferences of the respondents. Meanwhile the number of the undecided voters is still high, around 27%. The interviews were taken through the internet and mobile and telephone. The exit poll done by Noto took into consideration also specific counties such as Shkodra and Elbasan. In Shkoder, the opposition parties would win with 55.5% of the votes, against 34% of the Socialist Party, while in Elbasan, 43-47% of the votes would go to the Socialist Party, 29-33% to the Democratic Party, 4-6% to LSI, and 7-11% the other parties. Compared to the 2017 elections, in Shkoder the DP would gain 10% more support if the elections would happen today, while the SP would lose 1%.
Borrell: EU will start the negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania (Radio Tirana)
“I must reject the idea that we the European Union claim to want the Western Balkans within our framework,”- declared the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. Speaking at an online conference hosted by the Atlantic Council, Borrell said the European perspective remained the engine of reform in the region and that “it is not fair to say that the EU only speaks and does not act” when it comes to enlargement with the Western Balkans. “We are investing a lot of money to help the countries of the Western Balkans carry out reforms and improve their economies and the political and judicial system in order to move closer to the EU system,” Borrell said. According to him, the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU is a step-by-step process. “We will start accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. “We have resumed negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo with the special envoy Miroslav Lajcak and I think we have put that dialogue on the track,” Borrell said.
Kosovo and Serbia, mediated by the European Union, have been negotiating for ten years now to normalize relations. Negotiations should end with reaching a comprehensive binding agreement. Lajcak said earlier that a new round of talks will be organized after the February 14th elections in Kosovo. Borrell cited the independent judiciary and the fight against corruption as priorities in reforms in the Western Balkans. “The countries of the Western Balkans must do their homework, carry out reforms and meet the standards in order to be accepted as members,” he said.