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Belgrade Media Report 14 May

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: Withdrawal of KFOR and UNMIK would be a disaster (Politika/Tanjug/B92)
Zakharova: Decision on withdrawal of KFOR from Kosovo can’t be made by only one state, but collectively, in accordance with international law (Sputnik/NSPM)
Vucic: Serbia insists on respect for UN-defined borders (Tanjug/RTS)
Pahor: Faster EU enlargement in Western Balkans a geopolitical necessity (Tanjug)
Only dialogue, compromise can ensure lasting solution to the Kovoso issue (Tanjug/FoNet)
Petkovic: Osmani as if incapable of understanding concept of peaceful politics (RTV/Tanjug)
Petkovic and Botsan-Kharchenko agree on the need to fully respect UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (Tanjug/RTV)
Advancing cooperation with Montenegro in field of education, science (RTS/Tanjug)
State Department says anti-Semitism rising in Serbia (N1)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Inzko: Borrell will be informed about RS parliament’s decision and we will discuss joint steps together (BHT/FTV)
Dodik claims RS will know how to respond if HR Inzko decides to use his illegal powers (RTRS)
Stevandic warns that Great Britain and others are preparing sanctions due to latest conclusions adopted by RS parliament (RTRS)
SDA Presidency: RS parliament’s conclusions on dialogue on possible solutions for B&H contain series of inaccurate and arbitrary claims (Hayat)
FB&H officials on RS parliament’s conclusions: There is no point in dialogue initiated by the RS (O kanal)
Does SNSD have anyone to talk to in Sarajevo (EuroBlic)
International reactions to the RS parliament conclusions (O kanal/FTV)
Day of RS Army and Third Infantry RS’ Regiment of B&H AF marked; Dodik announced that he will correct a mistake accepting to abolish the RS Army (BHT1)
Dodik: RS Army can be mobilized soon; Reactions (N1)
Dodik meets Greek officials; Dodik: EU integration of B&H is supported but B&H is under international protectorate and cannot count on fulfilling conditions of sovereignty and stability (RTRS)
SDP B&H convenes new meeting of opposition parties from RS and FB&H for 18 May (RTRS)
Balkans countries are losing trust in EU enlargement strategy (Dnevni list)
Croatia

Three equal and constituent peoples are crucial concept for B&H (Vecernji list)
Montenegro

Djukanovic: We think region needs experience of living in a European value system; Orban: We’ll always be on your side (CdM)
Djukanovic: I warn you that 18 years after Thessaloniki, we are witnessing fatigue of a very successful European policy (CdM)
According to first draft, Fundamental Agreement was to be signed by Orthodox Church in Montenegro (Pobjeda)
Despite criticism from EU and VC, ruling majority members voted to amend prosecutorial law (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Zaev promised Tusk that he will fight corruption and work with the opposition (Republika)
Dimovski: Prespa Treaty led to the dispute with Bulgaria (Republika)
Albania

Democrats seek to overturn election results (Tirana Times)

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LOCAL PRESS 

Vucic: Withdrawal of KFOR and UNMIK would be a disaster (Politika/Tanjug/B92

I have worrying intelligence information that one great power will request the withdrawal of KFOR and the UNMIK mission from Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated on Thursday. “It would be a disaster for us and I don’t know if you are aware of what that would mean. I will ask Stoltenberg to use his influence to prevent that from happening,” said Vucic, after visiting the barracks in Dedinje where members of the Guard were vaccinated. Vucic said that important meetings are expecting him, that is, that the President of Slovenia would come to Serbia tomorrow, and that he would go to that country, to the summit, where he would meet with the leaders of the region, but also with Vjosa Osmani. “From there, I go straight to Brussels, and in the evening I will meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for dinner, and that conversation will be very important,” said Vucic. He also said that he could not say which power was in question, but that it was intelligence information from official sources. Vucic said that the meeting with Stoltenberg will be of special importance. He added that Pristina announced that it would allocate 100 million Euros annually for the army, which is incomparable with Serbia, which is at the level of two billion Euros. “These are not comparable data, we should not be afraid, but it is clear what they are up to,” Vucic said. Vucic referred to Wednesday’s statement of Israeli Ambassador to Serbia Jahel Vilan who said on TV Prva that the country recognized the independence of Kosovo under American pressure. “We withstood the toughest pressures, which even the most powerful states like Israel failed. The Israeli Ambassador says: ‘It was American pressure.’ And I personally withstood that pressure in the White House, and it wasn’t a problem. And that’s why Serbia didn’t do what Israel did,” Vucic told reporters. After visiting the vaccination point in the Dedinje barracks in Belgrade, Vucic said that it was possible because he had fought hard for Serbia in the past year in difficult negotiations in Washington and Brussels.

Zakharova: Decision on withdrawal of KFOR from Kosovo can’t be made by only one state, but collectively, in accordance with international law (Sputnik/NSPM

It is not just one state that decides about the withdrawal of KFOR from Kosovo, that is a collective decision, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday, commenting on the possibility of KFOR leaving Kosovo, which Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke about earlier in the day. “There are certain structures that provide mandates and send missions to regions. That doesn’t happen spontaneously, the parties coordinate it. Within these structures, mechanisms are discussed, decisions are made, it is not a decision to be made by one state, but collectively, in accordance with international law. These issues should be discussed within that framework,” Zakharova told a press conference, reports Sputnik. She also referred to the recent visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia Gordan Grlic Radman to Pristina, and his statement that Croatia intends to open a military base in Kosovo and Metohija. “We are not aware of the Croatian side’s plans to open a military base. As for the foreign military presence in the province, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, that function is performed only by KFOR,” said Zakharova. Speaking about the frequent attacks on Serb churches in Kosovo and Metohija, she pointed out that international missions there are under obligation to take measures to ensure security of religious buildings and believers. Russia is also persistently calling for that.  She condemned in the strongest terms the violence of radical Albanians which has been going on for years, and whose targets are Serbs and Orthodox shrines. “This best shows the unsustainability of Kosovo’s quasi-statehood and proves that this region has been turned into a criminal black hole on the map of Europe,” concluded the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Vucic: Serbia insists on respect for UN-defined borders (Tanjug/RTS

Serbia exclusively supports the principle of unchangeability of borders in line with UN decisions and we see anything else as imposition of someone else’s will, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday. Vucic was reacting to a reporter’s question to Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who was asked to clarify a statement he made in Pristina on Thursday in which he said he was an advocate of unchangeability of borders in the Western Balkans. It is the toughest question, especially for countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence, Vucic said, adding that he had discussed the issue openly with Pahor. “I am making no secret of anything I said. We have a differing view on Kosovo’s independence. When I hear that, as Pahor says, there are no border changes without conflict, I agree, and that should be clear to all who have been generating conflicts and wanted to change Serbia’s borders,” Vucic said. Serbia insists on respect for state borders established by decisions of the UN, and Serbia’s position is that borders should not be changed – that has always been and is now the case, he said. “If that is still the case now, then Serbia supports that,” he noted, but added that he was afraid that something else was at work that had to do with the brutal hypocrisy of Western powers that have no principles, or have principles as needed. Speaking to reporters after meeting with Pahor, Vucic said regional processes, in particular, the upcoming Brdo-Brijuni Summit, were the key topic of the discussions and that Serbia’s European integration and bilateral relations had been addressed as well. “Slovenia will be holding the EU Presidency from July and Slovenia’s support on our EU path is important to us,” Vucic said. He said he believed Serbia’s position on Kosovo and Metohija was based on respect for the principles of international law and on firm legal grounds. Our position is not an easy one and it is clear that we have different positions on the Kosovo and Metohija issue than 22 EU member states,” Vucic said. He said Serbia was pushing for the EU-facilitated dialogue with Pristina. “A frozen conflict is not good. You see how that ends, every five years someone unfreezes one. We do not need that, we do not need to leave a conflict to future generations, but to make some kind of compromise,” Vucic said.

Pahor: Faster EU enlargement in Western Balkans a geopolitical necessity (Tanjug

Slovenian President Borut Pahor said in Belgrade on Friday that EU enlargement in the Western Balkans was a geopolitical necessity and that the process should be accelerated. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, Pahor said he expected such a message to be sent unanimously to Brussels from Monday’s Brdo-Brijuni Summit of Western Balkan leaders in Slovenia. He said preparations for the summit were the main reason for his visit to Serbia and countries in the region. Pahor said he was pleased with the very sincere and friendly conversation with Vucic. He said Slovenia was one of the originators of the initiative and that he wanted to see if leaders in this part of Europe were capable of implementing a new, “fresh EU enlargement strategy” to keep the process from stalling. Pahor noted that this should also encourage the reform process in this part of Europe so that an enlargement can happen as soon as possible. He said documents of the Brdo-Brijuni initiative also proposed that the EU must have the entire Western Balkans in mind, and added that it would be great if all countries from that region joined the EU more or less simultaneously.

Only dialogue, compromise can ensure lasting solution to the Kovoso issue (Tanjug/FoNet

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic pointed out on Thursday in Athens that only a dialogue and compromise can reach a lasting solution to the Kosovo issue, without which there is no stability, investment and future for young people. At the Delphi Economic Forum, in a conversation with the editor-in-chief of the daily Kathimerini Athanasios Ellis, when asked about the situation regarding Kosovo, Brnabic said that, although the dialogue was supposed to encourage the Washington agreement and the appointment of an EU envoy, until the changes in Pristina. Brnabic pointed out that she did not understand the fact that the Prime Minister of the provisional institutions of Pristina Albin Kurti believes that dialogue is not a key priority of Pristina, assessing that dialogue should be the main priority because without it there is no permanent solution. She pointed out that Belgrade is waiting for the continuation of the dialogue, but that the move is upon Pristina now, expressing hope that confirmation for a new date will arrive soon. Dialogue is very difficult, it requires brave leaders, but it is the only way to progress. The sooner we continue the dialogue, the better for everyone in the region, she said. Answering the question whether the new American administration plays a role in the search for a solution, Brnabic expressed confidence that the initiative is now in the EU, reminding that the EU High Representative Josep Borrell scheduled the continuation of the dialogue, but it was postponed because of Pristina. When asked about the Prespa Agreement, Brnabic emphasized that Serbia immediately supported the agreement, noting that it was good news, which enabled North Macedonia to continue on its European path. I know that the prosperity of my country is impossible without the prosperity of the entire region. That is why, as the Prime Minister of Serbia, the progress of everyone in the region is as important to me as the progress of my country, she stated. She pointed out that the Prespa Agreement proved that historically difficult issues can be resolved through dialogue, which is also important for dialogue with Pristina. The Prespa Agreement is a good example of how we hope that things will be resolved with Pristina, stated Brnabic, emphasizing that the document shows that, as soon as a compromise is reached, everyone should accept it. Speaking about relations with Greece, she pointed out that she had a very good conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, with whom she reached an agreement on the next meeting of the High Council for Cooperation between the two countries. Brnabic said that the citizens of Serbia love Greece and its sea and that they cannot wait to go on vacation to that country this summer, noting that the two countries previously agreed on a bilateral agreement on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, which will allow citizens to travel without administrative obstacle. Another important agreement, as she explained, is the document that should be signed next week in Athens, and it concerns the abolition of roaming charges, which will be an additional incentive for the citizens of Serbia to come to Greece. According to her, the recognition of digital certificates is already in force, and the roaming agreement should enter into force immediately after signing.

Petkovic: Osmani as if incapable of understanding concept of peaceful politics (RTV/Tanjug

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic points out that contradiction and absurdity are the favorite rhetorical figures of politicians in Pristina, considering that, as he states, they are saying day by day that they want at the same time to talk to Belgrade representatives and sue Serbia for genocide. “If Pristina is sincere in its desire to solve problems through talks, then the ground is not prepared for that by sending meaningless messages about some kind of genocide lawsuit against the interlocutor, but by deviating from hate speech,” Petkovic said, according to a statement from the Office. He notes that Vjosa Osmani either does not want dialogue, and mentions Pristina’s alleged readiness for talks only courteously in order to avoid criticism of the international community, or is completely incapable of understanding the concept of peaceful politics. “It is completely clear that Pristina has neither the basis nor the formal-legal possibility to sue Serbia for genocide, and that this is a miserable attempt to divert public attention in Kosovo and Metohija from the fact that there will not be enough detention units in The Hague to receive all criminals from the so-called KLA,” states Petkovic and says that Osmani should take courageous political steps to direct her compatriots in the direction of facing the crimes committed on their behalf.

Petkovic and Botsan-Kharchenko agree on the need to fully respect UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (Tanjug/RTV

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic discussed on Thursday with Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko the political-security situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Petkovic pointed to Pristina’s daily saber-rattling and anti-Serb rhetoric, which was inspiring Albanian extremists to attack Serbs, their property and holy sites with increasing frequency, which was causing great concern of the Serbs in the province, the Office for Kosovo and Metohija stated. Petkovic informed the Russian Ambassador about the course of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, pointing out that the implementation of all the obligations that were assumed as part of the

Brussels agreement was a prerequisite to achieving progress in the dialogue, while failure to fulfill the obligation of creating the Community of Serb Municipalities, which Pristina is eight years late carrying out, lowers the chance of progress in the process of normalizing relations.

“Despite everything, Belgrade will continue to insist on dialogue because this is the only means for a peaceful resolution of open issues, but it will also continue to use every opportunity to demand the implementation of the agreements reached so far,” Petkovic said. Petkovic thanked Botsan-Kharchenko for the fact that the Russian Federation remains firmly committed to respecting international law and the principle of inviolability of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Serbia, which is an additional confirmation of the sincere and strong friendship between our two countries and the Russian and Serbian people. Petkovic and Botsan-Kharchenko agreed on the need to fully respect UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Advancing cooperation with Montenegro in field of education, science (RTS/Tanjug

Serbian Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development Branko Ruzic and Montenegrin Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Vesna Bratic talked on Thursday about cooperation between the two countries in the field of education and science, as well as possibilities for its further improvement. After the meeting with Bratic, Ruzic assessed that there is a lot of room for strengthening cooperation in that field, which can be enriched with better and more improved contents. He also pointed to the possibility of joint participation in international projects and stronger connection of the academic communities of the two countries.

Speaking about joint projects, Ruzic underlined that cooperation will continue on projects such as “Erasmus Plus” and “Horizon Europe”, but also on the capital project for seven countries in Southeast Europe, in which Montenegro occupies a very important place. Ruzic explained that this is a project that concerns a facility for tumor therapy and biomedical research and represents a scientific and technological step forward for the entire region. The project is worth almost €250 million. This topic is of great importance, not only for these seven countries, but also for our bilateral cooperation, Ruzic pointed out. Bratic expressed gratitude to the Serbian government for the opportunity to jointly establish closer and better relations to the multiple benefit of both sides.

State Department says anti-Semitism rising in Serbia (N1

The State Department said in its 2020 report on religious freedom in the world that there was a rise in anti-Semitism in Serbia during the coronavirus pandemic. “Jewish leaders reported a growth in anti-Semitism online during the pandemic… and anti-Semitic literature continued to be available in some bookstores,” the report said. It cited reports of incidents when unidentified perpetrators wrote anti-Semitic messages and Nazi graffiti on buildings in the northern city of Novi Sad which has a mixed ethnic and religious population. “According to an EU Fundamental Rights Agency report released in September, there were 30 anti-Semitic incidents in the country between 2009 and 2019, 11 of which resulted in criminal charges,” the State Department report added. It said that the Center for Security, Investigation, and Defense NGO issued warnings to the public against Jehovah’s Witnesses’ proselytizing during the COVID-19 pandemic and characterized their proselytizing activities as sinister. “US Embassy officials encouraged parliament to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism. Embassy officials urged the government to continue restitution of Holocaust-era heirless and unclaimed Jewish property, promoted continued interfaith dialogue, and engaged with officials on the status of the government’s relationship with religious groups. Embassy officials continued to meet with representatives from a wide range of religious groups to discuss issues of religious freedom and tolerance, cooperation with the government, interaction between traditional and nontraditional religious groups, and property restitution,” the State Department report said. It added that the leaders of the country’s two Islamic communities said the fact that, due to an internal dispute, neither had authority to deal with the government regarding the entire Muslim community created difficulty in coordinating property restitution claims and in selecting religious instructors for public school courses on religion. According to the report, smaller, nontraditional groups, mainly Protestant Churches, said they encountered continued public distrust and misunderstanding and said some websites and traditional media and members of the public often branded their religious groups as “sects”, a term with a strong negative connotation in the Serbian language.

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

Inzko: Borrell will be informed about RS parliament’s decision and we will discuss joint steps together (BHT/FTV

 

After the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament rejected the demand of High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko, which asked for decorations to convicted war criminals to be withdrawn, it is now Inzko’s turn to make a move in regards to these conclusions. He says that there is a possibility of sanctions, but adds that they will not be the focus. For now, he plans to inform the EU officials of the given situation. Inzko also stated that sanctions are possible and the final decision on this does not depend on him alone. He explained that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell will be informed about the decision and they will discuss joint steps together. Inzko said that it was time for some Serbs to begin evaluating their past in a different way. “They received my letter; they received it in Latin and Cyrillic (script); and now they can send a response to me. And when we get the response, I plan to inform High Representative Borrell, as I previously said. We will see what the next moves will be” Inzko said. He emphasized that sanctions are not the “option number one”. “President Dodik proved himself to be a big coward. There is no place for some self-determination in Dayton, there is no place in Dayton for secession,” said Inzko. The OHR’s statement reads that High Representative is honestly sorry that representatives in the RS parliament missed a historic opportunity to leave the past behind and to lead future generations to better and safer future. It also reads that instead, the RS parliament confirmed connection between the highest legislative body in the RS and the sentenced war criminals, adding that the RS parliament decided not to cut relation with the past marked by acts committed by holders of the RS parliament’s awards.

Dodik claims RS will know how to respond if HR Inzko decides to use his illegal powers (RTRS

 

Serb member and Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Milorad Dodik said that the RS will know how to respond if High Representative Valentin Inzko decides to use any of his powers in response to the most recent conclusions of the RS parliament. Reporter reminded that the RSNA rejected on Tuesday the HR’s request for revocation of awards the Board for Marking the 25th Anniversary of the RS parliament gave to highest officials of the RS – Biljana Plavsic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Radovan Karadzic – in 2016. According to the reporter, the OHR did not say how it would react. “The moment he decides to use any of his powers, which have never been legal, will be the moment when the RS will make its own decisions. Then even Borrell will not be able to help him,” said Dodik.

Stevandic warns that Great Britain and others are preparing sanctions due to latest conclusions adopted by RS parliament (RTRS

 

The leader of Ujedinjena Srpska Nenad Stevandic, asked about the RS parliament’s conclusions regarding HR Valentin Inzko’s request to annul awards given to convicted war criminals, said that these conclusions are based on the principle that B&H was created by entities and they are making decisions about B&H. He dismissed the narrative peddled by political Sarajevo that entities were created by B&H and stated that entities were at war but agreed to live together within B&H after the war. He expressed disappointment over use of inappropriate vocabulary and insults, frequent disruptions and verbal exchange of accusations that occurred during the RS parliament’s session, saying that Milorad Dodik was refraining himself at first as certain representatives were deliberately targeting him in order to provoke an incident and Dodik simply had to react when representatives continued to interrupt him while addressing the RS parliament. He deems that the RS parliament’s conclusions, including the one to reject Inzko’s request, would have been given a specific value had they been adopted during calm and decent parliamentary discussion where everyone is allowed to present their arguments without interruptions and shouting. He warned that the international community is preparing sanctions due to the RS parliament’s conclusions. He claims that the Great Britain seems to be among those preparing certain sanctions because calls for peaceful dissolution of B&H were described as worrying and destabilizing in the latest statement issued by the British Embassy to B&H. He underlined that no one notices how frequent calls for war, most notably by SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, are far more worrying and destabilizing while Dodik is being accused of warmongering despite never mentioning war and armed conflicts. He argued that Dodik is not burdened by his wartime past, unlike Izetbegovic and members of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic (Bosniak) and Zeljko Komsic (Croat) who came from wartime political milieu and learned about politics in such environment. He explained that Dodik was always against war regardless of circumstances while Izetbegovic is basically a threat to safety of everyone in B&H because he is constantly talking about armament and armed conflicts. He said that the Great Britain will probably look to set an example by imposing sanctions against Dodik as the most powerful political leader in the RS and these sanctions will be similar to those imposed by the US. He deems that agreements between global superpowers and smaller countries generally do not apply to those superpowers, meaning that B&H must respect the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) while the US, the Great Britain and other global superpowers can do whatever they want.

Stevandic stated that global superpowers move along strictly defined geopolitical lines while those standing in their path can either “agree to be wiped out, eradicated, assimilated and left without your people” or stand up and fight with dignity at the cost of sanctions as Dodik is doing. He pointed out that aside from Dodik, high-ranking RS officials will also be targeted although sanctions against officials who do not have strong political influence are deemed less effective. He reminded that SDS, PDP and SP RS did not vote in favor the conclusion to adopt SNSD’s initiative for talks about possible solutions in B&H but SDS and PDP were the only ones not to vote in favor of the conclusions regarding the work of the HR and Inzko’s request. He stressed that SDS and PDP are entitled to their own political stance but in this case, it may be based on indications of sanctions which would help make these two parties new favorites of the international community. However, he claims that the time when favorites of the international community were guaranteed to win the elections is over and those who are strong enough and capable of defending their stances in the face of sanctions can win the elections. According to Stevandic, he is only worried that the RS might not be economically strong enough to resist political pressures. However, he ruled possibility of sanctions being imposed against the RS as a whole and said that individual RS officials will be the main target, especially because sanctions against RS would automatically represent recognition of its independence. He pointed out that only in B&H are sanctions generally perceived as a mechanism to remove certain politicians and bring in others as a replacement but this is another proof of B&H not being a democratic country and its citizens not being allowed to make decisions. He deems that it became a habit for Izetbegovic, Komsic and the rest of political Sarajevo to expect from the international community to find them new partners in the RS. He noted that Izetbegovic and others may reject the proposal for peaceful dissolution but at least talks will be in progress and it is possible to discuss other solutions, i.e., transforming B&H into a loose confederation or an asymmetric federation.

SDA Presidency: RS parliament’s conclusions on dialogue on possible solutions for B&H contain series of inaccurate and arbitrary claims (Hayat

 

On Wednesday, the Presidency of SDA passed its conclusions in reaction to the conclusions that were adopted at the latest session of the RS parliament. The SDA Presidency warned that the RS parliament’s conclusions from the session, held on 11 May, on launching the initiative for dialogue between the entities of the RS and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) on possible solutions for B&H contain a series of inaccurate and arbitrary claims, as well as numerous unconstitutional proposals that cannot be implemented. In its reaction, the SDA Presidency concluded that it is untrue that, since signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) in B&H, it has come to unacceptable retailoring and violating of the Agreement, especially the Annex 4, which is the Constitution of B&H. The SDA Presidency underlined that, contrary to the RS parliament’s conclusions, the RS is not a signatory of the GFAP, while the state of B&H is the bearer of its own sovereignty. “It is not true that the Dayton structure and balance in B&H has been undermined and that the constituent peoples are deprived of rights in the manner in which the RS parliament points out. The truth is that the two constituent peoples, Bosniaks and Croats, are discriminated and suffer apartheid on the territory of the entity of the RS, where representatives of the Serb people dominate in all segments of governance and everyday life,” the Presidency’s conclusions read. This political party once again urged High Representative Valentin Inzko to use his powers and impose a Law Banning Denial of Genocide. SDA Presidency says that proposal on talks with the FB&H is unfounded and their representatives will not take part in any talks on the abovementioned topics. SDA expects the international community to react after the RS parliament decision on rejecting the request of Inzko.

FB&H officials on RS parliament’s conclusions: There is no point in dialogue initiated by the RS (O kanal

 

The FB&H officials and the public reacted to the conclusions adopted by the RS parliament during its session on Tuesday. President of ‘Justice and People’ (NiP) Elmedin Konakovic said that the conclusions of the RS parliament are completely unclear and the whole day of the session was wasted on insults and conflicts between the RS parliament representatives and President of SNSD Milorad Dodik. He assessed that maybe it was not so bad to show what kind of politician Dodik is and how he is losing the thread in these processes. MP of SDP in the FB&H parliament Damir Masic said that obviously nothing will result out of that dialogue and time is being wasted on nonsense topics. Following the restart of the negotiations about changes to the B&H Election Law, Konakovic believes that HDZ B&H will join SNSD as their partner in whatever they launch. He added that there is no one among pro-B&H parties who will likely convene with SNSD regarding their initiative. President of ‘Our Party’ (NS) Predrag Kojovic said that B&H as it is today, is the model that populists imagine it to be. He stressed that this model is not functioning and key needs of citizens are not fulfilled.

Does SNSD have anyone to talk to in Sarajevo (EuroBlic

 

Following the decision of the RS parliament to adopt conclusions on dialogue between the RS and FB&H on future of B&H, Chair of the RS SNSD Caucus Igor Zunic told the daily that it is now up to RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic to form a team in charge of talks. Zunic also argued that signals for this type of dialogue came from the EU and certain EU officials, as well as from certain people from the US Administration. SNSD’s Advisor on Legal Matters Marko Sukalo told the daily that the RS President was recommended to include holders of the highest public functions in the RS as well as representatives of Serb people in the joint institutions of B&H in the team. Sukalo added that the task of the team will be to define and present concrete solutions to the FB&H and added: “Whether the talks will take place, this will be up to the FB&H and the other two peoples, but nobody will be able to resent the RS and Serb people for not wanting to sit down and discuss the matter at this point of time”. Sukalo noted that the goal of the talks will be to establish whether there is a joint future of B&H and explained that such future will be possible only if the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) is respected in the same form it was signed and not the “distorted and unpacked one, especially when it comes to the Annex 4, i.e. the Constitution of B&H”. Zunic said that the RS is of a stance that it would be the best to return to the original DPA and argued that problems in B&H are so serious that they cannot be solved within couple of days or months. “However, it is important to discuss the future of B&H without mentorship of foreign factors within B&H. SNSD will never do anything that would jeopardize peace in B&H. It is our democratic right and obligation of the RS parliament to discuss these matters and I think this is a fair and democratic initiative,” Zunic added. Sukalo said that representatives of all parliamentary parties from the RS parliament will be invited to participate in the work of the RS’ team, adding that he is not sure whether they will agree to participate in its work knowing that they did not support the RS parliament conclusion. Representative Jelena Trivic (PDP) said that she sees no reason for opposition parties to participate in the work of the team, because it is clear that “SNSD is doing this for the sake of daily-political purposes” and because it is already clear that nothing will come out of this rhetoric and heightening of tensions. “As I can recall, this topic was first known as referendum on independence, then as the right to self-determination, then peaceful dissolution and now SNSD reduced it down to a comprehensive dialogue,” Trivic said and argued that SNSD leader Milorad Dodik’s goal is preservation of SNSD and not of the RS. Trivic concluded by saying that “we have different views on protecting and strengthening of the RS. SNSD is doing that with a strong rhetoric and no concrete actions while I personally think we need to turn towards life-important topics and crucial problems of our society, i.e. jobs, salaries, chances for youth, better healthcare and better education, better status of veterans and pensioners”. Political analyst Darko Kuzmanovic stated that SNSD is doing everything for the sake of upcoming elections and assessed that it will hardly find partners for talks in the FB&H, although there are some indications that HDZ B&H might participate in it knowing that HDZ B&H insisted on a similar story on the third entity in past. SDA already said that it will not participate in such talks and noted that it is not true that the Dayton structure and balance in B&H has been jeopardized. SDA argued that already defined policies and adopted laws must be respected instead of holding of the dialogue and SBB B&H presented a similar stance.

International reactions to the RS parliament conclusions (O kanal/FTV

 

The US Embassy to B&H issued a statement on Wednesday, reacting to the conclusions adopted by the RS parliament on Tuesday. They assessed the decision of the RS parliament to reject the demand for revoking of awards handed out to convicted war criminals as insulting towards victims and deepening of their suffering. The US Embassy stated that this decision endangers the peaceful future of B&H and stressed that war crime convictions indicate individual responsibility and they do not target a people as a whole. They added that they continue to be disappointed with the rhetoric that questions basic facts. The US Embassy to B&H expressed disappointment in the rhetoric which questions verdicts for war crimes and deemed this as unacceptable. They expressed support to the mandate of the High Representative in the monitoring and implementing of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). The US Embassy reminded that B&H needs to meet certain conditions in order to stop the international supervision. The statement also reads that “retrograde discussions which are sending B&H back to the 1990s will not bring promising future to citizens of this country”. “Actions or threats related to the dissolution of B&H are anti-Dayton and have potential consequences,” the US Embassy concluded. The EU Delegation to B&H (EUD) stated that all political institutions in B&H including the RS parliament have to express full support and respect to the rule of law and the creation of environment appropriate for reconciliation. The OSCE Mission to B&H stated that the denial of crimes, as well as glorification of war criminals are unacceptable. The OSCE called on B&H politicians, institutions, political parties and all citizens to respect the final verdicts made by international and B&H courts. The UK Embassy to B&H stated that the RS parliament should redirect their time and efforts to work on their responsibilities and improving the lives of citizens during the time of crisis.

 

Day of RS Army and Third Infantry RS’ Regiment of B&H AF marked; Dodik announced that he will correct a mistake accepting to abolish the RS Army (BHT1

 

Wednesday marked the Day of the 3rd Infantry (RS) Regiment of the Armed Forces (AF) of B&H and the Day of the RS Army. A memorial service was held at the Kozara Barracks in Banja Luka for the fallen members of the RS Army and civilian victims of the war. After that, wreaths and flowers were laid in the Central Memorial Room of the RS Army. The commemoration is organized on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of the formation of the RS Army and the 16th anniversary of the 3rd Infantry Regiment. The commemoration was attended by B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik, B&H Council of Ministers (B&H CoM) Chairman Zoran Tegeltija, RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic, RS Police Director Sinisa Kostresevic, and representatives of the Serbian Army and RS representatives in joint institutions. The central ceremony was also attended by representatives of the B&H Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of B&H from the ranks of the Serb people, as well as former members of the RS Army and other officers in the B&H AF. The Assembly of the Serb People in B&H, at its session in Banja Luka on 12 May 1992, passed a decision on the formation of the Army of the RS. It existed from 12 May 1992 to 1 January 2006, after which it became part of the B&H AF. Deputy Minister of Defense of B&H Mirko Okolic said that the RS Army was created from the need to preserve people and their lives. The RS leadership stated that the RS Army is lightest reflection of Serb people and it was political and historic mistake to abolish it. Viskovic stated that the RS Army created the RS and the RS is guarantee of survival of Serb people. Viskovic said that the RS Army was established in response to formation of Muslim and Croat para-military forces in B&H. Viskovic expressed gratitude to all of those who made the decision to establish the RS Army, saying that it was the RS Army which created the RS. Okolic said that the RS Army was created out of necessity to defend people and territory. During a ceremony marking the Day of the Third Infantry (RS) Regiment of the B&H AF, Dodik announced that he will correct a mistake that meant accepting to abolish the RS Army. The reporter noted that after the latest announcement on talks on the destiny of B&H, Dodik went even a step further on Wednesday. Addressing a press conference, Dodik stated that the RS Army lives nowadays as a myth and as a reality within the people. Dodik added: “The reality because everyone among us in the RS believes that it is possible to mobilize the RS Army again really fast – in its full content and at all parts of the RS.”  HDZ B&H MP Nikola Lovrinovic said that he does not really know to what Dodik referred to as the RS Army does not exist nowadays, only the Third Infantry (RS) Regiment within the B&H AF. However, some believe that these kinds of announcements should not be neglected. SDA MP Adil Osmanovic stated via phone that SDA observes Dodik’s moves as desperate moves because he is losing at all sides. According to Osmanovic, Dodik is looking for a trouble and these statements obviously can contribute only to sanctioning Dodik as a person and his associates.

Dodik: RS Army can be mobilized soon; Reactions (N1

 

Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stated on Wednesday that the abolition of the RS Army and the Armed Forces B&H (AFB&H) was a historical mistake. He announced that the RS Army can be fully mobilized very soon once again.  The FB&H and B&H officials reacted to this statement on Thursday. Deputy B&H Minister of Defense Mirko Okolic said that B&H has the AFB&H now and is allocating funds for it. He reminded that the AFB&H are receiving at least one third of the B&H budget and they are the biggest spender at the B&H level. Okolic also highlighted that the RS allocates one third of those funds and there is nothing disputable regarding that. Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic said that the NATO membership for B&H means that there is no more conflict with other countries, but it mitigates possibilities of internal conflict as well. RS Vice President Ramiz Salkic said that Dodik’s rhetoric proves that his secessionist policy has a military plan as well. He believes that the statements are serious and a reaction of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) is necessary.

Dodik meets Greek officials; Dodik: EU integration of B&H is supported but B&H is under international protectorate and cannot count on fulfilling conditions of sovereignty and stability (RTRS

 

Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik visited Greece on Thursday. He met senior officials of Greece during several bilateral meetings. Dodik met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and discussed economy with him. Mitsotakis highlighted the need for economic cooperation, especially in the energy sector. He believes that the cooperation in this area can be improved. Dodik assessed that the most significant achievement of the meeting was the agreement to allow B&H citizens to enter Greece under the same conditions as Serbian citizens do. This means that B&H citizens will be allowed to travel to Greece with a negative PCR test or the confirmation that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Dodik informed Mitsotakis about the situation in B&H and explained that the country is deeply divided and complicated. He stated that B&H functions based on the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) and that it exists based on this international agreement. Dodik said that this is made visible with the presence of the High Representative in B&H and foreign judges in the B&H Constitutional Court (B&H CC). He added that the EU integration of B&H is supported but B&H is under international protectorate and cannot count on fulfilling the conditions of sovereignty and stability. The strengthening of bilateral relations between B&H and Greece was discussed as well. Dodik thanked Greece for not being a part of NATO forces that bombed Serbs. He said that he highlighted the double standards applied by the international community regarding Kosovo and the RS. Dodik met President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou and discussed the DPA and organization of B&H with her. Greece expressed strong support to the EU path of B&H. Dodik said that he informed his hosts about the position of the RS within the EU integration process of B&H. He added that he discussed the issues of the internal functioning of B&H as well. Dodik met speaker of the Greek parliament Konstatinos Tasoulas. Tasoulas ensured Dodik that he is fully supporting the EU ambitions of B&H. Dodik said that the rare example of consensus in B&H is the EU path of the country and he thanked the Greek officials for their support. Tasoulas explained that they have tools which could help B&H practically and that is to revive the bilateral relations of B&H and Greece and to accelerate the process through that. Dodik stressed that Greece is a friendly country to Serbs, as they share the same history and issues with preserving the national identity of the people. He assessed that Serbs and Greeks are the most significant people in the Balkans who wish to promote and spread peace. Dodik will attend the Delphi Economic Forum, which will take place in Athens this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SDP B&H convenes new meeting of opposition parties from RS and FB&H for 18 May (RTRS

 

SDP B&H has convened a new meeting of opposition parties from the RS and the FB&H for 18 May. Reporter noted that when it comes to some of the most important issues for the RS – such as the platform for dialogue with the FB&H – there was no consensus with opposition parties in the RS. RS SNSD’s representative Srdjan Mazalica believes that the reason lies in the fact opposition parties in the RS do not want to run afoul of political Sarajevo. Mazalica explained that formation of state-level authorities with election winners in the FB&H is not the same as coalition. “The fact that they (opposition parties from the RS) find political partners with whom they share certain values only shows that their policy is not focused on the RS, but on the contrary – that they have their own vision of B&H, which they share with some parties from the FB&H,” Mazalica said, adding that opposition parties’ vision is surely not focused on the most important thing, which is the RS. Reporter noted that it is no secret SDS and PDP leaders, Mirko Sarovic and Branislav Borenovic respectively, attended a meeting last week with representatives of opposition parties from the FB&H. However, Head of RS SDS Caucus Miladin Stanic did not want to confirm or deny that they were talking about coalition, saying only that “everything is realistic once it becomes realistic”. Reporter noted that one has to wonder if implementation of an agreement between opposition parties in the RS is realistic. Stakic reminded that SDS, PDP and DNS reached an agreement last month on joint participation in the upcoming general elections in B&H. However, DNS leader Nenad Nesic said that DNS will run in the elections independently. “Post-election coalition is possible, but only if stances of the RS and its status are fully respected”, reporter quoted Nesic as saying. RTRS reporter concluded that altering of political scene in B&H, with the ultimate goal of undermining the position of the RS, is the intention of SDP. SDP called on all parties which, as they said, care about territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H, to join them at the meeting on May 18. “We believe that B&H is being defended in the RS, that B&H is defended by opposing ideas about peaceful dissolution,” said SDP B&H leader Nermin Niksic. Stakic noted that SDA supported SDP’s initiative for gathering of all pro-Bosnian parties in the RS. If they are joined by politically and ideologically incompatible opposition parties from the RS, it would be clear that their only motive is desire for power, reporter concluded.

Balkans countries are losing trust in EU enlargement strategy (Dnevni list

 

According to an internal EU document seen by Reuters, the European Union (EU) will have to recognize that the Balkans countries seeking membership are losing faith in Brussels’ long accession strategy. Reuters also argued that Europe and USA say that Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia will one day become members of the EU but influence of both Russia and China is still extremely pronounced in all of those countries. “China and Russia, whose trade and investment levels in the Balkans are far less than the EU’s, are gaining influence, outsmarting the bloc by offering COVID-19 vaccines quickly during the pandemic” Reuters noted. “We need to acknowledge that despite the steadfast commitment to EU integration … the people in the region are experiencing a sense of deep disappointment in the enlargement process”, said the paper by EU officials and sent to EU’s foreign ministries. The paper also noted that a perception of tardy EU delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines has further fed a narrative of disillusionment. Finally, the internal paper concluded: “The widespread perception in the Western Balkans is that the prospect of accession is receding and that European inspirations are lost under a complex set of conditions and procedures”.

 

Three equal and constituent peoples are crucial concept for B&H (Vecernji list

 

Deputy speaker of the B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic met with Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman in Zagreb on Thursday. On this occasion, Covic and Grlic Radman concluded that amending of the Election Law is crucial for stability and functioning of B&H. Covic pointed out that it is important to continue with the dialogue aimed at implementing reforms, towards gaining the EU candidate status. Grlic Radman reiterated that Croatia continues to provide strong support to the EU future of B&H. Grlic Radman noted that the concept of the three constituent peoples with equal rights in B&H is important, adding that this concept is the key concept for a functional B&H.  According to HDZ B&H, the two officials discussed the B&H Election Law and reforms that B&H is yet to implement, especially reform of election legislation and limited constitutional reform, expressing full support to equality and non-discrimination. The two officials also discussed the improvement of the relations between the two countries, support for the fight against COVID-19 and progress on the EU path of B&H. Covic stressed that political dialogue has to be based on the Mostar Agreement signed in June 2020 with the support of international representatives. Grlic-Radman reiterated the stance on the importance of the concept of equality of the three constituent peoples and emphasized that this is the key concept for functional B&H. According to Grlic-Radman, it is unacceptable that some political actors deny and undermine these basic concepts.

 

Djukanovic: We think region needs experience of living in a European value system; Orban: We’ll always be on your side (CdM

In the continued official visit to Hungary, the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic met with the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban. Orban thanked him for the visit. He emphasized that for Hungary, the friendship with Montenegro was continuous and for the good of both countries, the President’s Information Service announced. Djukanovic expressed gratitude to Hungary for the assistance provided during the pandemic, with the expectation that after the normalization of the situation, the already very good economic and investment cooperation between the two countries would be dynamic, based on excellent experiences with investors from that country. With gratitude for the attention paid by Hungary and its Orban personally to the European path of Montenegro and the region, Djukanovic reiterated that we looked with open eyes at everything that was happening in Europe, but also that he firmly believed that integration was the best possible choice for the WB countries. On the line of support for EU enlargement, Orban pointed out that if the EU was seriously thinking about the future, it had to integrate the entire continent to Greece, which is a strategic belief of Hungary. “We will always be on your side,” he said.

Djukanovic: I warn you that 18 years after Thessaloniki, we are witnessing fatigue of a very successful European policy (CdM

President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic has talked via video call to the President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou. Djukanovic has praised the quality of interstate relations with satisfaction for the accepted initiative for talks within the program marking the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the struggle for Greek independence and the 140th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Montenegro and Greece. He has thanked the President Sakellaropoulou for the help that Greece, within the EU and bilaterally through the delivery of protective equipment, sent to Montenegro during the fight against the coronavirus. Djukanovic has also thanked for the strong support of Greece during Montenegro’s accession to the Alliance, and the partnership and allied cooperation of the two countries within NATO, which is carried out through the mission of protection of Montenegrin airspace and training of our soldiers in Greece. The President of Greece has said that it is a great honor for her to talk to the President of Montenegro.

According to first draft, Fundamental Agreement was to be signed by Orthodox Church in Montenegro (Pobjeda

The original draft Fundamental Agreement, which would regulate the relations between the state and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), and which was sent to the Belgrade Patriarchate for harmonization at the beginning of March, contained a provision according to which Montenegro should sign the Agreement with the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which was formed as SPC body in 2006by the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops, Pobjeda has learnt. However, after the harmonization, the Belgrade Patriarchate removed this crucial provision of the Agreement, and now the draft document sent to the Government in mid-April states that the Agreement is to be signed between the state of Montenegro and the SPC. Several Pobjeda sources say that all leaders of pro-Serbian parties in Montenegro were familiar with the original version of the draft Fundamental Agreement, because, unlike the last one, it was delivered to them.

Despite criticism from EU and VC, ruling majority members voted to amend prosecutorial law (CdM

The MPs of the Parliament of Montenegro have adopted the amendments to the Law on the State Prosecutor’s Office. Representatives of the ruling majority – the DF, the Democrats, and the URA Civic Movement, despite the unfavorable opinion of the Venice Commission, supported the amendments to this law. All 41 MPs of the ruling majority voted for the adoption of the amendments to the Law on the State Prosecutor’s Office. The vote was boycotted by opposition MPs. The reaction from the European Commission, Brussels and Strasbourg clearly say that not enough has been done, although they diplomatically welcome the “efforts” of the authorities. Aside from the fact that “efforts” are not efforts, but areas for fraud. That is why the diplomatic message of MessrsCotier and Korcok and Pisonero was either ignored or interpreted and misunderstood as support by ruling authorities. That is why the advice and warnings of the European Commission are in vain, the hand of the opposition is offered in vain. The story of the European future of this country is a phrase and a stepping stone for the entire bunch of them in power. After 48 hours of Orwellian brainwashing to convince us that the lie is true, the majority MPs interpreted the call of the Venice Commission to continue the dialogue as a positive opinion and a green light to push through the law by which the political majority rapes the Prosecutor’s Office. All this violates and circumvents the Constitution of Montenegro and sets a precedent that will turn the imperfect Prosecutor’s Office into an ordinary rag for political confrontations.

DPS MP Predrag Boskovic says that another warning has arrived from the most important European institutions regarding the adoption of prosecutorial laws. This time, the warning has come from the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, Ivan Korcok, who has stressed that the opinion of the Venice Commission must be fully implemented if Montenegro does not want to jeopardize its European path.

 

Zaev promised Tusk that he will fight corruption and work with the opposition (Republika

A day after EPP party leader Donald Tusk issued a warning to the PM Zoran Zaev regime, Zaev met with him in Athens. Tusk spoke on the phone with VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski and afterwards said that the Macedonian government needs to fight corruption, keep its hands off from the judiciary, work with the opposition and ensure fair local elections in October. Zaev’s office issued a press release from his meeting with Tusk, in which it insisted that Zaev is strongly dedicated to fighting crime and corruption, and will maintain political dialogue with all parties. According to the press release, Tusk assured Zaev that the EPP will continue to strongly support Macedonia’s stalled EU integrations.

Dimovski: Prespa Treaty led to the dispute with Bulgaria (Republika

Zaev’s Prespa Treaty with Greece and the redefining of the Macedonian national identity contained in it opened the door for Bulgarian politicians to condition Macedonia, said VMRO-DPMNE official Ilija Dimovski in an interview this evening. Dimovski, who is a well informed participant in the disputes over the Macedonian national identity, pointed to the admission from Zaev that former Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was himself involved in the preparation of the Prespa Treaty. This was a shocking admission. The Prespa Treaty redefines the Macedonian national identity and bans us from evoking the Macedonian timeless civilizational heritage. There is no similar treaty in Europe that would have two countries define what it means when I say that I feel as a Macedonian, what is the meaning of the word on the different sides of the border. Now Bulgaria wants a similar redefining of the Macedonian identity. The ultimate goal of both Bulgaria and Greece is to downgrade the Macedonian national, ethnic and linguistic identity. These two countries may recognize a Macedonian nation in the political sense, but not in the culturological definition of a separate nation, Dimovski added. He warned that Macedonia will not get Bulgaria to withdraw from the dispute, not without making enormously damaging concessions with the Macedonian identity that would be even more intrusive then those provided in the Prespa Treaty. As a consequence, Dimovski sees Macedonia further away from the EU then it was four years ago, before the signing of the Zaev – Borisov treaty.

 

Democrats seek to overturn election results (Tirana Times

In a request submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the Democratic Party has formally contested the results in 9 electoral districts. In its submissions, the DP describes the parliamentary elections of the 25th of April as an “electoral massacre” in which the will of the people was thwarted through electoral fraud. In its allegations, the DP claims that the government engaged in massive vote-buying in an effort to rig the election. Although the full details of the submission are yet to be published, it is clear that the Socialist Party is accused of instrumentalizing the public administration, misusing public funds and enlisting the help of criminal-gangs in order to buy votes. In support of such claims, the DP points to several facts, all of which have been publicized by the media in recent months. In April 2021, a database used by the Socialist Party during the campaign containing highly sensitive personal data from more than 900,000 voters living in Tirana was leaked to the press. The database listed their generalities, details of where they were employed and whether they had any pending applications with governmental institutions, including construction or legalization permits. This is the clearest indication that the government was indeed instrumentalizing governmental institutions in order to coerce citizens to vote for the Socialists in exchange for the granting of permits or other political favors. The DP recently published a set of messages purportedly sent to the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Ms. Belinda Balluku, wherein it is indicated that votes for the socialists would be guaranteed in exchange for legalization permits. In a recently leaked audio recording, a government official is heard instructing his employees to hold off from telling citizens that their permits will be granted until after the elections.

 

Accusations of electoral fraud: what we know so far 

Another set of facts which lends strength to the argument that the government used the public administration and public resources in order to buy votes, relates to the recent bloating of the public administration – almost 10,000 people were hired at the end of 2020 – as well as the large number of payments that were made to citizens in the period leading up to the elections. The funds were withdrawn from the so called “earthquake fund” which was set up more than a year ago. A total of 120 million euros were distributed in the four months leading to the elections from this fund. This signifies a 500% increase in the rate of payment compared to the previous year. In a recent public statement, the Democratic Party stated that they had submitted evidence clearly indicating that citizens were offered cash in return for votes by members of criminal gangs, who the DP claims were enlisted by the socialists in order to gather votes. Such allegations were often publicized throughout the electoral campaign, and in Elbasan a confrontation between members of the “vote-protection unit” created by the Democrats and individuals who were allegedly caught-in-the-act by the unit whilst trying to buy votes resulted in the death of one individual. The DP claims that one of the members of their unit shot one of the individuals in self-defense, and that personal IDs of voters as well a large amount of cash was found in their car. An investigation by BIRN confirms these statements, whereas the chief of police denies that such documents were found inside the car. Investigations into this matter are still on-going. Regardless of whether such accusations are true, the fact that Tom Doshi’s Party (PDIU) and Orlando Rakipi managed to gather enough votes to gain 5 seats in parliament is extremely worrying. On the 24th of April, after a majority of the votes had been counted, Mr. Doshi resigned from his party, purportedly because a few weeks earlier the prime-minister had assured the American ambassador that Mr. Doshi – who has been declared a persona-non-grata by the US State Department – would not be a part of his government. Orlando Rakipi, a 27-year-old newly graduated student with no previous political exposure, ran as a candidate for the Socialist Party and managed to gather almost 16,000 votes in Tirana. Orlando is the son of Aqif Rakipi, an ex-member of parliament who was forced to resign from his public duties in light of his failure to report his criminal dealings.

How hard is it to overturn an election? 

The result of the elections has been certified by the CEC and acknowledged by the International Community. In a preliminary report, the OSCE states that “fundamental freedoms were respected, and electoral could all campaign freely.” However, the report acknowledges much of the claims made by the Democratic Party regarding vote-buying efforts, the misuse of public funds, and the coercion of members of the public administration to vote for the government amongst others. In order for the CEC to overturn an election, it would have to be presented with legal evidence that a number of votes sufficient to overturn the result in a specific district are invalid. Providing legal evidence of numerous cases of vote-buying is extremely difficult. Proving a causal relation between the misuse of public funds or promises made by members of the public administration to citizens in exchange for their votes is also not an easy task. The CEC is more likely to overturn an election due to irregularities during the vote counting process, and the Democratic Party has provided proof of such instances. On the other hand, individuals who engage in vote-buying, coerce citizens or misuse public funds may be prosecuted by the State. The Democratic Party has filed several such cases with the Special Anti-Corruption-Structure (SPAK). It is imperative and in the public interest that the claims presented to SPAK should be reviewed as soon as possible. Previous cases of potential vote-buying efforts such as the infamous “case-file 184”, containing audio-recordings of members of the public administrations have still not been reviewed.

Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is more likely to be correct 

Occam’s Razor is a scientific rule which states that, for a given problem or set of data, the simplest possible theoretical explanation should be accepted. The Socialist Party has consistently denied the claims put forth by the Democrats, with the prime-minister stating that “losers focus on the winners, the winners focus on what’s ahead”. Is it really plausible to think that the database containing detailed information of 900,000 voters was used as a method to “get to know your voters”, as the SP claims? If so, why did the SP need to know where these individuals worked and whether they “needed to get anything done” from the state? Why would a member of the “vote-protection-force” shoot a person unless they acted in self-defense, especially considering the negative publicity that this would attract towards the democrats? How can it be that BIRN, a highly respectable news portal and the chief of police report two completely opposite stories regarding whether ID cards of citizens and cash was found in the car involved in the incident in Elbasan? How can it be that candidates from obscure and irrelevant parties which are de-facto ran by known criminals managed to outperform some of the most popular politicians in these elections? The simplest explanation to these any many other questions would be one which more or less sides with the claims made by the DP. It is in the interest of the Albanian people and democracy that such claims be thoroughly examined by the judiciary as well as the CEC. A careful examination of these issues is also in the interest of the government, especially when one considers fact that only 38% of Albanians believe that the present government may be changed through elections.

 

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