Vucic: Are you threatening Serbia with a genocide lawsuit? (B92)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says that the lawsuit of the so-called Kosovo for genocide against Serbia is possible only through another state – Albania. “Are you threatening Serbia with lawsuits for genocide? You can only do that through another state, that is, through Albania – that means unification with Albania. I ask Albanians from Kosovo not to do that,” says Vucic and adds: “When you listen to the reactions of people from abroad and as soon as they tell you that they are against changing the borders, you know that they are lying to you openly – they are in favor of changing the borders of Serbia.” “And then they say it’s because of a humanitarian catastrophe. Isn’t it a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq? Still, you didn’t separate Basra from Iraq, or Homs from Damascus. You do that only to Serbia. For Europe, Serbia is successful only without Kosovo. And the great powers have always done the same, namely, they want unification against the Serbs,” he said. Vucic points out that Serbia can easily reach an agreement with all countries in the region, but that foreign actors constantly want to limit and restrain Serbia.
Selakovic: EU must put Pristina under pressure over commitments (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)
There is no room for an approach whereby the EU will set an accession condition for Serbia that no other country has faced before, Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said in Madrid on Tuesday, noting that Serbia was not expecting the EU to request from it a recognition of the so-called Kosovo, but to put Pristina under pressure over its commitments under the Brussels agreement. Selakovic was speaking at a joint press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya. When asked by reporters what Serbia would do if the EU requested that it recognize Kosovo’s independence in exchange for EU accession, Selakovic said that, in the current situation, five out of 27 EU member states did not recognize the so-called Kosovo. He added that, besides Spain, Kosovo was also not recognized by Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece and Romania and that there was no official EU position on the Kosovo issue. He noted that Belgrade was committed to dialogue as the only possible solution and the only way to find a political and diplomatic solution in keeping with international law and the national interests of Serbia and Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. I am certain there is no room for an approach where Serbia will be a country that will face a condition no other country has faced. Serbia’s official position is that solely compromise can be the only sustainable solution, where both sides get enough, but neither gets everything, Selakovic said. Bilateral relations between Serbia and Spain are perfect, Selakovic said at a joint press conference with Spanish counterpart. Selakovic also said Serbia and Spain should exchange visits more frequently and carry over their excellent political relations into the economic sphere as well. Inviting Gonzalez to visit Serbia, he thanked Spain for supporting Serbia and for its principled stance on two issues that are important for Serbia – the EU path and the preservation of Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. He also noted that economic cooperation was an area where more could and should be done, and backed Gonzalez’s initiative that a Serbia-Spain business forum be held as soon as possible.
Selakovic said he had also discussed regional issues with Gonzalez and added that Spain was ready to support the region’s EU accession efforts. He also said there was ample room to deepen bilateral cultural cooperation as well.
Gonzalez: Spain does not recognize Kosovo, supports Serbia (Tanjug/RTS)
Serbia can count on Spain’s sincere support when it comes to preserving its territorial integrity, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said after meeting with Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovic in Madrid on Tuesday. At a joint press conference, in response to a Tanjug query whether Spain’s position on non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence remained unchanged, she said Spain was standing by the principle of not recognizing Kosovo. She also said Spain had defended its stance in the past, was doing so now and would continue to do so in the future. The Spanish Minister noted the Kosovo and Metohija issue should be resolved through the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
Office: Pristina’s provocation unsuccessful buying time (RTS)
Commenting on Pristina’s announced genocide charges, deputy Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Igor Popovic said in a statement that this possibility exists only in their heads, and in the legal sense such an option does not exist even in theory. He added it was a provocation and buying time, since even in Pristina, they know that such a science-fiction scenario is impossible and legally void. The statement states that it has not been recorded in the history of international law that one territory, which Kosovo and Metohija de facto is, is suing its own state. “So-called Kosovo, as a territory under the protectorate of the international community, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, is not and cannot be a subject of international law, and the sooner Pristina accepts reality, the more certain the possibility of continuing dialogue and finding a compromise will be more certain,” Popovic stressed.
Opposition demand: Free national frequency for professional TV channel in Serbia (N1/Beta)
The leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) Dragan Djilas told N1 that one of his demands during Wednesday’s online talks with the European Parliament (EP) members about the election conditions was that an available national frequency was given to a professional TV channel. The representatives of the EP and several opposition parties in Serbia, which accepted the European mediation in talks about election conditions, started an online discussion on Wednesday to prepare the inter-party dialogue that should officially start in June. Djilas said the dialogue was constructive and that the opposition group around SSP presented the platform for further discussion, saying he hoped the dialogue would resume in June when MEPs were expected to be allowed to travels banned due to the coronavirus pandemic. Another possibility is for the opposition to go to Brussels for the dialogue. SSP leader added Wednesday’s agenda included media freedom and pressure on voters the opposition said happened in the last election cycle in 2020. “We presented a lot of concrete examples of what had happened to people across Serbia who thought differently (from the regime), accompanied with photos, data about the access to the media,” Djilas said. He added those reasons led the opposition to insist on changes that would make them participate in the 2022 presidential, Belgrade and possibly early general vote. Djilas said the opposition was aware that the election conditions could not be ideal but that some changes could improve them enough for the opposition to participate. Ahead of the meeting, Zoran Lutovac, the leader of the Democratic Party, told Beta the key issues would be the content, format, time table, and the nature of the talks and implementation of the outcome of the agreed under the EP auspices. On Monday, Djilas told N1 that the opposition that boycotted the 2020 vote claiming unfair conditions, unequal accesses to the media and some foul play during the election process, would try to explain to MEPs what had to be changed. Djilas could not give more details about Wednesday’s talks, saying the deal was not to do that.
Inzko presents 59th report on B&H to UN Security Council (O kanal)
High Representative Valentin Inzko presented the 59th report on Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) to the UN Security Council (UN SC) on Tuesday. In the report, Inzko stated that the rhetoric of SNSD leader and B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik is worrying, noting that there will be no redrawing of the map of B&H. According to the High Representative’s latest report on B&H, the mentioning of peaceful dissolution while also calling for the withdrawal of the international military presence in B&H can only be interpreted as a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H, “and thus to the peace and stability of the country, which is assuredly how a great many of its citizens understood it.” “As a High Representative, I want to be clear: Dayton does not give the right to entities to secede. So, once again, the political atmosphere is poisoned and progress on reforms is sidelined. And it is extremely unfortunate that the Republika Srpska (RS) authorities have chosen this moment when the entire country is still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic”, Inzko stated in his address to the UN SC. In the introductory part of his report, Inzko referred to the dysfunctionality of the B&H authorities in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, more precisely difficulties in procuring vaccines. “Political leaders and authorities in B&H too frequently sacrifice a unified and coordinated approach to combating the pandemic and easing its impact on the population and the economy in favor of scoring political points against one another”, Inzko stated in his report. Inzko also stated in the report that ethnic leaders in B&H continue to deny war crimes, glorifying convicted war criminals. Inzko stressed that the denial of the genocide in Srebrenica, particularly by the RS authorities, remains another stumbling block on the path to reconciliation, regretting the fact that the law banning the denial of genocide in Srebrenica was rejected in the B&H parliament by the Croat and Serb delegates. Addressing the UN SC, Inzko stressed that this is possibly his last address to the UN SC as the High Representative. “Today, I would have hoped that I could declare the job completed. Unfortunately, and much to my regret, B&H remains de facto a frozen conflict with unfinished peace, where political leaders continue to pursue wartime goals, generate divisive narratives and nationalistic political agendas and speak about dissolution of the state,” Inzko told the UN SC.
Russia’s representative to UN SC Evstigneeva says Inzko’s report is unbalanced and does not reflect real situation in B&H (FTV)
After High Representative Valentin Inzko presented the new report on B&H to the UN SC, criticism of Russia’s representative to the UN SC Anna Evstigneeva followed. Evstigneeva said the High Representative’s report is unbalanced and that it does not reflect the real situation in B&H. Evstigneeva stressed that one is seeking to create the illusion of a further need for the OHR in B&H and that Inzko is not helping interethnic dialogue. Evstigneeva said the fierce criticism of Inzko with the message that Russia is in favor of abolishing the OHR, but also that Russia fully supports the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H. Evstigneeva criticized Inzko, saying that the report was presented in a way that all issues are caused by Serbs and Croats. Evstigneeva added that all the statements in the report are actually personal stances that do not show realistic situation in which rights of Serbs and Croats as the constituent peoples are being violated. Evstigneeva stated that the OHR needs to be closed. “Through his actions, Inzko fuels tensions and does not help interethnic dialogue. This is visible through his instructions and ultimatums to authorities in B&H and his implications that Serbs are collectively to blame for the tragic events in the armed conflict. We strongly recommend to Inzko to refrain from a broad interpretation of his mandate, especially in the area of Euro-Atlantic integration and cooperation between B&H, NATO and the EU,” Evstigneeva concluded.
Kovacevic: HR’s criticism towards the RS is something that RS officials have already gotten used to (ATV)
Reacting to the Inzko’s report to the UN SC, Advisor to Chairman and Serb member of the B&H Presidency (Milorad Dodik) Radovan Kovacevic stated that the HR’s criticism towards the Republika Srpska (RS) are something that the RS officials have already gotten used to. Kovacevic was quoted as saying: “They are never based on arguments, the Dayton Agreement. They are based only on his attitude towards the RS, which is obviously the same as that in Sarajevo – that the RS should not exist.” Kovacevic noted that this is yet another proof why it is extremely important for the RS government and the RS institutions to regularly submit their reports to the UN SC. He added that the RS continues its institutional battle for its constitutional position within the Dayton B&H.
Minister Schallenberg: Territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H are unquestionable and cannot be subject of any negotiations (Hayat)
Austrian Minister for European and International Affairs Alexander Schallenberg met on Tuesday in Sarajevo with B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic. Among other things, Schallenberg said that issues like non-paper calling for retailoring of borders in the Balkans are unacceptable, adding that territorial integrity of B&H cannot be a subject of negotiations. Two officials also discussed procurement of vaccines, travel to the EU countries, migrant crisis and the EU path of B&H. Turkovic emphasized that nothing will stop B&H on its EU path, adding that the EU and its members are most important economic and political partners to B&H. She added that B&H is committed to fulfilling of 14 key reforms and to limited constitutional reforms with a goal to implement rulings of the ECHR. Turkovic expressed hope the EU will recognize efforts of B&H and help this country to overcome its internal obstructions. Schallenberg emphasized that Austria has been advocating the EU membership of B&H. He stressed that B&H is a key country in this region, adding that without stable B&H, the region cannot be more stable. Schallenberg underlined that the EU is future of B&H and countries of the region. “We clearly advocate that all countries of the region are included in the conference on future of the EU”, stated the Austrian Minister. Schallenberg said for the media: “In the past days, the phantom ‘non-papers’ have been topical, i.e. non-existent documents, and with regard to that, I would like to outline that playing with the ideas in that direction is absolutely unacceptable and very incendiary. I would like to note that territorial integrity and sovereignty of BiH are unquestionable and cannot be a subject of any negotiations.” “The one who entertains such thoughts, plays with fire and that needs to be avoided,” Schallenberg added.
Cavusoglu: Main Turkish goal in Balkans is to preserve peace and stability in region and increase its welfare (Nezavisne)
The daily interviewed Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu ahead of his visit to B&H. Asked to comment on relations between Turkey and B&H, he said that the relations are excellent based on long-lasting, historic partnership and honest and fair approach, adding that this is why Turkey believes that the relations can be improved and work on this is already underway. In this regard, Cavusoglu mentioned that they encourage their business community to investment in B&H, to create job opportunities and thus, contribute to development of the B&H future. Cavusoglu added: “We are strongly present in B&H with our economic, cultural and development institutions and we aspire to jointly build prosperous future. This is why political unity, territorial integrity and development of B&H are very important for our country – as a sincere friend – also for stability of the geography that we – as neighbors – share.” Commenting on the recent visit of members of the B&H Presidency to Ankara, Cavusoglu reminded that representatives of the two countries signed the agreement on cooperation in infrastructural and civil engineering projects that is important for realization of the project of construction of the Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway. He added: “Our joint goal in this project is to strengthen social and economic relations of B&H, not just with countries of the region but also with EU countries and its much faster integration. This highway is ‘the new heart of the Balkans’. We always stand by B&H always and under all circumstances and Turkey will continue to provide support to finalize this project – that is very important for B&H – as soon as possible.” Asked to comment on various “non-papers” regarding possible change of borders in B&H and the Balkans mentioned over the last couple of weeks, Cavusoglu stated: “The document that no one supported should not be popularized. As of the beginning, Turkey strongly supports political unity and the territorial integrity of B&H and it will keep this stance in the future period. When we observe world history, we see that attempts to launch discussions on borders cause bigger problems. As a NATO member state and a state that is negotiating with the EU on membership, we openly support that Balkan countries and B&H become part of the two organizations based on their own demands. The fact that Turkey was shown as a destabilization factor in the document is another indicator that those who placed it have no good intentions. Instead of scenarios that include divisions of states or nations, the focus should be on solving of the existing problems within and between countries of the region through dialogue. We do not want the region to be the area of rivalry for some countries or actors. The Balkan countries should not lose perspective of the European integration. This issue is of vital importance for future of the region. Unfortunately, the EU still did not give the North Macedonia or Albania the exact date to begin accession negotiations and it is necessary that the EU undertakes encouraging steps in this direction.” According to Cavusoglu, the main Turkish goal in the Balkans is to preserve peace and stability in the region and increase its welfare. In his opinion, this is in the interest of Turkey, countries of the region and Europe. Cavusoglu added that Turkey pays special attention to the importance of principles of inclusion and regional membership that does not exclude any country in solving of problems in the region, which is why Turkey launched formation of the trilateral mechanism of counseling Turkey-B&H-Serbia 2009 and Turkey-&iH- Croatia 2010. He explained: “Through these mechanisms, we try to develop regional dialogue and implement concrete projects like the Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway. We will continue our active policy directed to peace and stability of the region in close dialogue with Balkan countries.” Commenting on Turkish views on possible change of High Representative (HR) in B&H and possible arrival of a German candidate for this position, Cavusoglu said that Turkey believes that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) should continue working until meeting the ‘5+2’ Program that includes all conditions for abolition of the international supervision established within the framework of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) in B&H. He underlined: “Instead of who is a HR, efforts of the OHR to contribute to stability of B&H are important. On the other hand, if an agreement is achieved, we are positive about appointment of Christian Schmidt to the seat of a HR. In case that Schmidt assumes the duty, we hope that he will contribute to efforts to achieve that B&H has peaceful and functional state structure that will be integrated in Europe.” Speaking about the DPA, possible constitutional changes and the B&H Election Law, Cavusoglu stated that Turkey will continue to strongly support sovereignty, political unity and territorial integrity of B&H and within these principles, Tukey will welcome all steps for progress and development of B&H. He added that the DPA brought peace to B&H in line with circumstances in the past but, the DPA should be open for improvements in line with today’s circumstances with consent of all sides. He said that potential constitutional reforms and changes of the B&H Election Law are a matter that should be realized in line with internal agreement in B&H. He underlined: “As a member of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board, as a country of the region, we support and we positively observe changes in these areas if they will contribute to B&H, reconciliation in the country, functioning of democratic institutions and stability.” Cavusoglu said that at the time of the Coronavirus pandemic, Turkey answered calls for support to B&H and offered help in terms of medical and protection equipment, reminding that Tukey sent a total of 40,000 vaccines to B&H over the past weeks. He announced that Turkey will continue to send medical assistance in line with their possibilities and as long as it is necessary.
Former HRs Lajcak, Bildt warn EU has neglected Western Balkan region, which led to occurrence of non-papers predicting new divisions (N1)
Former High Representatives Miroslav Lajcak and Carl Bildt warned on Tuesday that the EU has neglected the Western Balkan region, which led to occurrence of non-papers predicting new divisions. They took part at an online debate on geopolitical games in the Balkans hosted by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), warning that the region as a whole can start moving in a wrong direction unless the EU reacts. Lajcak, who is also the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, assessed that new drawing of borders in the Balkans is not a new idea but it is a very dangerous idea, stressing that the EU’s active role is a key to resolving of accumulated problems. He did not want to say who is the author of the disputable non-paper on new borders in the region, but he insisted that full integration of the Western Balkans in the EU is what represents a solution and that this requires a more active role of the EU member states. “This idea is extremely dangerous and it is a war provoking idea and its application would make the dream of Milosevic and Tudjman come true” Lajcak stressed, adding that this idea must be rejected and the question is why such idea emerges. According to Lajcak, the answer is in the fact that the vision of the EU membership is too distant and less motivating. He concluded that there is no other plan but to accept countries of the region in the EU. Bildt said that moving focus from the region makes room for other actors, although he does not think that foreign factors such as Turkey or Russia represent a problem but history of the region and the risk that it will be repeated represent a true problem. He added, however, that the EU can prevent this problem. “Credibility of the EU enlargement was undermined and this affected B&H as well, because B&H is a complicated place and no one had illusion that it will be easy,” Bildt stated, concluding that B&H’s movement on the right path depends on integration as a credible framework.
RS parliament prepares initiative for talks on possible solutions for B&H calling on FB&H institutions, Bosniaks and Croats to engage in political dialogue on B&H’s future (FTV)
The RS parliament has prepared an initiative for talks on possible solutions for B&H. The essence of the initiative is that in case of ignoring the positions of the RS parliament, the Serb constituent people retains the right to self-determination. According to the initiative, the RS parliament accepts only the entities and constituent peoples of B&H as holders of sovereignty. “Any imposition of sovereignty outside of that has an unconstitutional and anti-Dayton character… Stressing that the Dayton structure of B&H has been changed, to the detriment of the entities, especially the RS, and the constituent peoples, especially Serbs and Croats, the RS parliament calls on the FB&H as a party and the other two constituent peoples – Croats and Bosniaks – to engage in a peaceful and dignified dialogue on possible solutions for B&H. The RS parliament, wanting to play a role in creating a better and more prosperous life for citizens in the RS, demands that the institutions of the FB&H and the other two constituent peoples engage in the political dialogue that would return to the basic principles and text of the Dayton Agreement. In case of ignoring the positions of the RS parliament, the Serb constituent people retains the right to self-determination” the initiative prepared by the RS parliament reads.
Cubrilovic: We should talk among ourselves, without influence by foreign factors, to reach certain level of consensus on functioning of B&H (Nova BH)
Nova BH reminds that Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that the key activity of the RS will be to comprise and articulate its platform for negotiations with the FB&H, as well as with Bosniaks and Croats, on future of B&H, at the next session of the RS parliament. Commenting on this, RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic said on Monday it is a wise and good move. “We should talk among ourselves without influence from foreign factors to reach certain level of consensus on functioning of B&H, to make the relations of the international community easier with such complex state community as B&H is. And, I believe that all leaders in B&H, from the ranks of all peoples, who represent individual groups, will participate in the talks, without prejudging the solution that will arise from the talks,” said Cubrilovic.
SNSD’s initiative on peaceful dissolution does not have support of opposition parties in the RS; Vukovic: PDP will not take part in any talks on peaceful dissolution in B&H because this topic is doomed to failure in advance (BN TV)
BN TV reports that the idea on peaceful dissolution does not have support among political parties in the RS. Namely, leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik has recently invited the opposition in the RS to discuss initiative on dialogue between the RS and the FB&H. Deputy President of PDP Nenad Vukovic said that they will not participate in talks concerning this topic. Vukovic added that SNSD’s narrative on peaceful dissolution is an attempt to impose national topics it has been using to score points among voters in the RS in the previous period. He emphasized that this is a part of SNSD’s preparations for upcoming elections. Vukovic wondered whether the initiative on peaceful dissolution has been harmonized with Serbia, because Serbian officials have been very openly supporting territorial integrity of B&H with the RS as part of it. “If we know these facts, we can only wonder who did Dodik harmonized idea on peaceful dissolution with and whose support he has,” wondered Vukovic. He went on to saying that it is clear no representative of any Bosniak party is interested in abovementioned talks. Vukovic said that PDP will not take part in any talks on peaceful dissolution in B&H because this topic is doomed to failure in advance. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic commented that the same rhetoric has been on stage many times and Dodik is nothing but a classic manipulator and liar in B&H who underestimates citizens.
Leader of DNS Nenad Nesic said that DNS will always take part in solving of issues that are important for destiny of the RS, but they will not take part in a political circus of SNSD. He called on Dodik and SNSD to show a serious approach and to begin respecting conclusions of the RSNA and one of them regulates that Serb representatives will not take part in work of B&H institutions until adoption of a law that will make foreign judges leave the B&H Constitutional Court. According to Nesic, once SNSD respects this conclusion, DNS will answer the call for talks with SNSD. Head of SDS Main Board Milan Milicevic said that he generally supports any talks, but Dodik missed all chances for a single appearance. In his opinion, all Dodik’s calls for talks were a result of his current matches and the intention to gain political benefit. Milicevic said that these are empty phrases which is why he believes they should not accept this call as there are no serious talks of any kind with Dodik anymore. Leader of the United Srpska Nenad Stevandic stated that the fact that parties in the RS have different stances should not be a reason for them not to talk. In his opinion, “the fact that the opposition refused the talks shows their loyalty to some other talks.”
Reactions to alleged document of EEAS (Glas Srpske)
The daily brings reactions to a draft version of a document of the European External Action Service (EEAS) that allegedly reads that the EU and its partners are taking an initiative and strengthen pressure on B&H when it comes to changes to the B&H Election Law and constitutional reforms that arise from this issue with the aim to speed up its European path. According to the daily, members of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) believe that this issue should be solved via internal consensus because imposing of final decisions in the previous period led to dysfunctionality that is currently present in B&H. Member of the IAWF Snjezana Novakovic-Bursac (SNSD) stated that those who are inclined to pressures are the only ones who react to pressures and SNSD finds that the issue of changes to the B&H Election Law is a matter that should be solved within B&H. She added that the EU would help the most by using its authority to establish the principle of internal dialogue and telling all actors that the future lies in internal dialogue, adding that many years were spent expecting that someone from the outside will reach final decisions. Novakovic-Bursac emphasized that aside from internal dialogue, the solution is possible only through respect for the constitutional structure and the Dayton Agreement. According to the daily, SNSD MP Lazar Prodanovic shares her stance on this issue. Prodanovic said that pressures brought no results because the key actors are not willing to reach compromise and there is no benefit of initiative coming from the outside. In his opinion, participation of the EU would be good if domestic actors agreed on minimum of changes and if the structure that includes two entities and constituent status of all peoples is not called into question. Prodanovic argued that the EU’s participation should include the approach to let B&H know what kind of benefit it has from finalizing some issues and what are consequences if agreements are missing. Member of the IAWF Alma Colo (SDA) assessed that pressure should be directed to achieving compromise of all interested sides. She added that some previous solutions failed to obtain support of majority of domestic actors, adding that the most important thing is to begin working in a way more serious way in order to jointly reach some kind of an agreement. Member of the AIWF Sasa Magazinovic (SDP B&H) assessed that the EU has always been involved in talks on changes of the B&H Election Law, reminding that the pressure was visible during formation of the AIWF after giving up on the initial idea that left room only for three parties in the IAWG. Commenting on this issue, former member of the B&H Central Election Commission Vehid Sehic told the daily that no pressure is necessary or solutions of the EU, as domestic politicians should just respect verdicts of domestic and foreign courts and include them in election legislation. He underlined: “It is necessary to include only positive legislation and regulations and make minimum of constitutional reforms that regulate this issue.”
We care about Montenegro and the Western Balkans (RTCG/CdM)
European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi arrived in Montenegro, and our country received the first delivery of 2,340 doses of Pfizer vaccines from the EU. Varhelyi said that the EU is starting to deliver the vaccines as promised. “The doses are there to help Montenegro. We care about Montenegro and the Western Balkans” Varhelyi said. Prime Minister Krivokapic thanked Varhelyi and the EU and, as he told, everyone who showed solidarity with Montenegro. Asked by journalists to comment on Montenegro’s financial situation Varhelyi said “It’s not up to the EU to consider Montenegro’s financial situation. We’re monitoring the reforms of prosecutorial laws and have already talked about it with Zdravko Krivokapic, the European Commissioner stated. “We think that institutional changes must be done if they’re in line with the Constitution and the rule of law. We’re doing everything to help Montenegro deal with difficulties regarding the debt owed to Exim bank. It’s not up to us to consider Montenegro’s financial situation. The government asked for our support. It’s not up to us to repay someone else’s debts. The government asked us to reconsider financial models. I’m not sure whether we can do it or not”, he told the press.
On expelled Ambassador Bozovic
“Well, to be precise, my message on Twitter concerned the Serbian Ambassador to Montenegro Vladimir Bozovic and his expulsion. Persona non grata is a sharp move, so I thought it would be important to calm the debate, as we saw too many bad relations in the Balkans. I said what I said in order to reduce tensions, not inflame them. “
Krivokapic: Fundamental agreement can’t be inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of MNE (CdM)
Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic claims that the fundamental agreement which is to be signed by himself and the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Porfirije cannot be inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of Montenegro. “Montenegro has completely liberated itself. The agreement cannot go beyond the framework of the Constitution and laws of Montenegro,” Krivokapic told the press.
Joanikije chose Democrats, but will the SPC choose him? (Dnevne novine)
According to Dnevne novine , there’s a rumor that leaders of the Democratic Front, DF, asked for help from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, to allegedly use his influence with the administrator of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, Bishop Joanikije, to turn him (Joanikije) to the Democratic Front again instead of the Democrats. It has long been speculated that now they expect the Serbian president to mediate between Joanikije and Serbian Patriarch Porfirije, thus reinforcing the influence of the Serbian church in Montenegro, having in mind that it somewhat weakened in the aftermath of Metropolitan Amfilohije’s death.
Whether this is true or not, we may only guess, but it’s obvious that something is happening since the Niksic local elections, when Joanikije openly backed the Democrats. In addition, there’s yesterday’s statement of the DF in which they reminded Joanikije that all credits for the adoption of the religion law should go the DF (with 21 seats in the parliament) instead of the Democrats (10 seats). Before the DF’s official statement, the leader of the Movement for Changes, Nebojsa Medojevic, posted on Facebook that relations between Democrats and Joanikije were not fair.
Zaev, Varhelyi and Edtstadler at joint press conference: This day is an expression of solidarity and unity (Republika)
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, accompanied by Health Minister Venko Filipce, together with European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and Karoline Edtstadler, Minister for the EU and the Constitution at the Austrian Chancellery visited Tuesday the vaccination center in Skopje on the occasion of the delivery of the first COVID-19 vaccines, donated and funded by the European Union, after which they held a joint press conference. The period when it was difficult to provide the vaccines is behind us and all the indicators and the dynamics of the arrival of the vaccines in the upcoming period announce serious changes for the better. Even in such conditions, the solidarity of the EU for its member states, as well as for the candidate countries was not missing, Zaev said. At the press conference, EU Commissioner Varhelyi expressed satisfaction with the presence in our country and the success of the delivery of the first vaccines provided by the European Union, which as he underlined was not an easy process, but is the result of the hard work of the European Union and the engagement of the Austrian government. I assure you that the EU cares and we have been accompanying the Macedonia and the Western Balkans from the very beginning of this pandemic and we will continue to do so. Now the crucial moment is to bring the vaccines, and we are doing it and this is only the beginning and do hope we can accompany you to end the vaccination campaign, he said. Edtstadler told the press conference that “no one is safe and secure until everyone is safe” and underlined that vaccination centers are places of hope and that only this process can help overcome the pandemic that has caused suffering in Europe and around the world. Today is a day of hope and I am glad that Austria was able to facilitate this process and deliver the first vaccines to the Western Balkans, i.e. to Macedonia, she said, adding that 650,000 vaccines have been provided for the Western Balkans, which will help unburden healthcare systems and return to normality will be ensured.
Mickoski meets Edtstadler at the Austrian Chancellery (Republika)
VMRO-DPMNE leader, Hristijan Mickoski, together with the Vice President of the party Aleksandar Nikoloski and Secretary for International Cooperation Timco Mucunski met Tuesday with Karoline Edtstadler, Minister for the EU and the Constitution at the Austrian Chancellery. At the meeting, Mickoski affirmed the good bilateral relations of Austria with Macedonia and thanked for the principled support for the EU integration path of our country. Mickoski stressed that the opening of accession negotiations, without additional conditions outside the founding principles of the EU, should take place as soon as possible. At the same time, Macedonia needs substantial reforms in the judicial system and the fight against corruption, and unfortunately in recent years we have seen a steady decline in those areas, he said. Mickoski and Edtstadler discussed the need for systematic reforms aimed at legal certainty, depoliticization of the judiciary and the public sector, as well as increased economic and trade cooperation between Macedonia and Austria.
Varhelyi: Start of accession negotiations requires progress from Skopje and Sofia (Republika/MIA)
We are working hard on the case of Macedonia, but we are not yet up to the desired goal. We are working with EU members to find a solution and reach an agreement, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi said, answering a question from MIA whether it is possible to open accession talks in June and decoupling Macedonia and Albania. This is an achievement-based process. Albania has met the conditions, but if there is no agreement for Macedonia, I think there will come a time when we will have to consider that option as well. We talked to Zaev about this issue, we agreed that progress will have to be made by both countries, Varhelyi said. Clarifying an earlier statement, he emphasized that the veto was “dramatic” and said the EC was working to get things back on track as soon as possible.
Rama reiterates the invitation to the opposition (Radio Tirana)
Prime Minister Edi Rama has reiterated the invitation for cooperation for the opposition, despite the statements of its leader Lulzim Basha that the 25 April elections were an electoral massacre, implying the negation of the electoral process. “The losers focus on the winners. The winners focus on the victory! Our third term will not resemble the first two in relation to the losers. Let them deal with us, we will deal with Albania climbing to the top. Our hand will be laid. Our invitation to them is open!” wrote Rama on social networks. The leader of the left majority who will lead the government for another four years said that “Albania deserves the multiplication of our efforts and we will spend all our energy only for the triumph of this country, which we want to be the champion of the Balkans in tourism, energy, agriculture, innovation and digital services for citizens! The old political war is no longer our job!”
Basha’s order to new opposition MPs (ADN)
The leader of the opposition Lulzim Basha gathered in a meeting on Tuesday the new MPs voted by the citizens on 25 April although the opposition decided to not recognize the elections result. “I want to thank anyone, you really tried so hard for our country. Despite the huge theft of votes by the ruling party, we brought a great achievement for our party and for our country. We become stronger. Now, we will fight with all our power until the final victory. Our electoral campaign has not ended, it continues with maximal energy. I will meet people on the field, to thank them and to have a conversation with them. I am asking you to do the same. Together we will win,” said Basha.
Rama: Defender Europe 21, a turning point of US-Albania relations (Radio Tirana)
NATO has launched in Albania the Defender 21 military exercise with thousands of troops from the United States and other member countries. The American troops have been stationed since 26 April in 5 military bases of Albania. From the launch ceremony of the largest exercise Defender Europe 21 in his speech, Prime Minister Edi Rama has considered another important point in further elevating our relations to the highest point with the United States. “This exercise is another important point in further elevating our relationship to the highest point. We consistently appreciate these excellent relationships but the fact is that they can always be even more excellent thanks to a reciprocal interaction,” Rama said while emphasizing that this exercise further strengthens Albania-US relations. “It is a special thrill to have Wolters among us. Thank you for the words you addressed to the Albanian people today and for my appreciation of your proud and successful effort so far against the pandemic. It is a pleasure and an honor for us to have so much stars here in this small country and I am convinced that this exercise is much more than an important moment of all the joint work in order to increase and demonstrate our capacities. This exercise is another important point in further climbing our relationship to the highest point. We constantly value these great relationships but the fact is that they can always be even more great thanks to a reciprocal interaction. Our generation grew up with the idea that you should not be allowed to trespass in this country, and we were molded with the conviction that you are the greatest evil that can happen to Albania and the whole world. For our generation it is a great miracle that has divided life between two worlds, the dark one and this world where we proudly and respectfully welcome our American friends and partners. I want to believe that after your landing in Albania, what will happen to you, what happens to everyone when they come to Albania, that you will want to return again. Our country is not a recommended place because of stereotypes, but whoever comes wants to come back again. Lastly, I believe that what we all need to keep in mind is the obligation to pass on to other generations this trust that is so important for the future of our country. The mandate of this strategic relationship for freedom and democracy not only of Albania but of the whole world, investing to do more for the younger generation and give the younger generation the opportunity to be educated with values, principles and standards, senior NATO forces. It is a historic moment. We want to be worthy and most valuable within this alliance. We give a message to the whole region and to anyone who needs an answer for our stand by the US and all other countries that have decided to pay any price for freedom and democracy,” said Rama.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Serbia vows to never impose sanctions against Russia, says ambassador (Izvestia, 4 May 2021)
Serbia expects that by the time it joins the European Union, Brussels will soften its stance on Russia, Serbian Ambassador to Moscow Miroslav Lazanski told Izvestia. In an interview with the newspaper, the diplomat spoke about Belgrade’s attitude towards Europe’s sanctions policy, and the country’s plans to produce the Sputnik V vaccine. According to the ambassador, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next visit to Serbia may take place before the end of 2021. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said earlier he expects the acceleration of the republic’s accession to the European Union. According to the ambassador, Serbia hopes to become a member of the European Union by around 2025, but the date can be delayed. He noted that Belgrade is doing everything to fully adapt its position to the criteria necessary in order to become a full member of the EU. Meanwhile, the diplomat noted Serbia believes that the EU’s sanctions are not politics, but the lack there of, and the country, as President Vucic said, will never impose restrictive measures against Russia. Since Serbia is not yet a member of the EU, it is not obliged to fully coordinate its foreign policy with that of the European Union, he said, adding that even some EU countries that support the sanctions against Moscow, in practice don’t fully implement them. Concerning COVID-19, Lazanski noted that the pandemic is expected to subside in Serbia as vaccination in the country is progressing well. According to him, 80-85% of Serbian citizens want Russia’s Sputnik V jab. Serbia also plans to be the first country in Europe to start producing the Russian vaccine to try to gain independence in pharmaceutical quality.
Bosnia and Herzegovina must end discrimination to ensure its EU future (EurActiv, by Dragan Čović, 4 May 2021)
Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the crossroads between the success and failure of its European dream. War and secession are certainly not the way forward, but neither is maintaining the status quo, without implementing reforms agreed with the European Union, writes Dragan Čović.
Dragan Čović is the president of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ).
Although it has been twenty-five years since the end of the war, we have recently heard certain political representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina calling for war and secession. This is an irrational approach and must be strongly rejected. Instead, we must start negotiating seriously within Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is no alternative for Bosnia and Herzegovina but the path to EU membership. I am dedicated to pursuing the European path by addressing the 14 key priorities of the European Commission, eliminating discrimination against minorities in electoral legislation in the coming weeks, including limited constitutional change, and preserving fundamental constitutional arrangements which guarantee full equality and parity between the three main national communities – Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. In 2016, as the chairperson of the three-member presidency, I submitted the country’s request for membership of the EU. I am aware that a difficult road lies before us, but it has been made easier due to the 14 priorities mapped out by the European Commission. We committed ourselves in 2019 to implementing them by making difficult but necessary reforms in order to attain candidate status. I am sure that with the support of the EU and its diplomatic representatives, which we are witnessing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we can achieve this key objective. On this path, we count on the support of the US as well. In his recent letter, the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed a very clear stance in regard to what is rightly expected of us. This non-election year provides a chance we cannot afford to miss in the implementation of electoral, rule of law, and economic reforms necessary for a path forward to EU and NATO membership. In this regard, the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which called for an end to discrimination toward candidates who do not identify as Bosniaks, Croats, or Serbs, must be implemented. It is intolerable that a part of our citizenry, including Roma and Jews, cannot run as candidates for the top state institutions. Creating just and fair solutions to these challenges, including through limited constitutional change, is one of the HDZ’s major priorities in the election legislation alternatives we are proposing. This should be a priority for all others as well. Without changes, there will be no European future, and this must be clear to all of us. We are aware that the protection and promotion of human rights around the globe is one of the strengths that define European uniqueness in the world. We must strive to embody and share these fundamental values. I firmly believe Bosnia and Herzegovina can succeed and make its contribution in the near future. Furthermore, the country’s Constitution and the Constitutional Court have often emphasised during the last two decades that full equality and parity of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs is a fundamental constitutional principle. Eliminating this principle or devaluing it in any way would lead to the demise of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Bosnia and Herzegovina. This would also contravene its basic values and norms, and run contrary to the democratic will of our citizens. I doubt that anyone would support a country dominated exclusively by one ethnic group. We, the representatives of the three communities, must therefore build mutual trust in the same way our EU partners did after World War II, pursuing the path of mutual reconciliation, recognition, and respect. Our electoral legislation disenfranchised large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s citizens, including the Croat community in the country. The smallest community, by definition, depends the most on the rule of law and its trust in institutions. It is unconstitutional that the most populous community selects and determines who will represent the smallest constituent community, yet this is what is happening to the Croats and others in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 that the principle of legitimate political representation of constituent peoples, as a direct expression of the democratic principle, must be guaranteed. It is up to each of the communities to decide who will represent them, as this is the standard in European political life. We must adjust and reaffirm a power-sharing system in Bosnia Herzegovina that guarantees equal rights and does not discriminate against anyone. As political leaders, we must now negotiate on the basis of the Mostar Agreement signed in June 2020, respect the signed agreements, and rebuild mutual trust. We have no more time to lose. All of these will bring us closer to EU membership and make us a fairer and more cohesive society.
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