Vucic expects difficult talks in Brussels (Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday, ahead of the resumption of the dialogue with Pristina in Brussels, that he was not particularly interested in announcements from Pristina officials that they would only come to the talks to get recognition of independence and that, if that was the case, Pristina’s representatives should spare themselves the trip. “I do not care what they are saying. I could be serious and say, without joking: ‘If you think that you are coming to get the things that you are talking about, you should not bother coming’,” Vucic said at the inauguration of a Fischer Automotive Systems factory in Jagodina. Vucic also said that the next few days would not be easy for Serbia but that continuing the dialogue was extremely important, not just because of the EU but also because this would defuse tensions and improve the security of the Serb people in Kosovo. “As to whether it will be simple in Brussels – it won’t be for anyone! They are coming to do their show, and we are coming to be serious and committed to dialogue. The final score is on the scoreboard, but at the end of the game,” Vucic said. Answering suggestions that Serbia needed to decide whether it was heading towards Europe or somewhere else he said: “Serbia is on the European path, and is much farther down this road than those lecturing it,” he said.
Brnabic: Cooperation in the region should be separated from narrow political interests (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic assessed that Thursday’s meeting held as part of the Western Balkans Summit in Tirana was more difficult than she expected and that other topics were discussed more, including the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, than what the region needs. Brnabic told reporters that she tried to focus on good results and cooperation in the region, but that someone else moved the conversation to the field of politics. If you want to talk about politics then we are here to say what the factual state is, but also to say that cooperation is important, she underlined. She stated that during the summit she had an exchange of opinions with Prime Minister of the provisional institutions of Pristina Albin Kurti and that he made provocations and presented ideas on what regional cooperation should look like, but that he received an adequate answer and was told what the factual state of affairs is. She said that Kurti spoke about how it is no longer possible to cooperate in this way, but in a different format in which Kosovo and Serbia would be equal partners. Brnabic underlined that she answered him that that is not possible and that there are big differences because Serbia is a sovereign state and the so-called Kosovo is not and that it is the best to leave such things for the dialogue. She said that important projects are in store for the region, recalling that on 1 July the Agreement on abolishing roaming tariffs in the territory of the Western Balkans is coming into force. She announced that the construction of the so-called Highway of Peace from Nis to Merdare will start in September, and she voiced hope that EU representatives will be in Serbia at that moment. The beginning of the construction of the gas pipeline to Bulgaria is also expected by the end of the year, which is an important regional project, and then the beginning of two more important projects in the first quarter of 2022, stated Brnabic. She explained that one important project is the railway Corridor 10, i.e. the modernization of the complete route from Belgrade to Presevo, and the other is between Nis and Dimitrovgrad. Brnabic specified that the value of the Economic Investment Plan for the Western Balkans is €9 billion, adding that the EU has set aside additional funds, but that will depend on the projects. She also said that an intergovernmental conference is forthcoming in Serbia, as well as several regional summits, including the continuation of the Berlin process at the beginning of July. The summit also featured European Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zoran Tegeltija.
Brnabic responds to Kurti’s provocations in Tirana (Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, the Prime Minister of the Pristina provisional institutions Albin Kurti requested on Thursday that CEFTA be redefined so as to treat the so-called Kosovo as a state, Tanjug learns. Kurti also called on Serbia to recognize Kosovo. Responding to the provocations, Brnabic said the organization’s current format was functioning well and that there was no legal argument to change anything, Kosovo being a part of Serbia. Brnabic reminded Kurti that five EU member states did not recognize Kosovo and that it was not a UN member, and that it could certainly not have a status that was different from the present one. “What are you going to do? Do you want to occupy us?” Kurti replied, to which Brnabic responded by asking: “How do you think we can occupy our own territory?”
Tirana summit ends without joint declaration after Kurti’s request (Tanjug)
The Tirana summit of Western Balkan leaders ended without a joint declaration on Thursday after Albin Kurti made a last-minute request that the term “Republic of Kosovo” be used in the document. According to a Tanjug source, the declaration had been coordinated for days but was eventually dropped. In a statement, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the summit had been more difficult than she had expected because she had tried to focus on good results and cooperation in the region while “someone else” was shifting the topics of discussions to politics.
She said the summit was a run-up to upcoming events such as the next round of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, scheduled for 15 June. When asked if she had had an opportunity to speak with Kurti, she answered negatively, but said she had engaged in an “exchange of opinions” during the summit. “I think there were provocations there and his ideas about what regional cooperation should look like, but I think he got an adequate response and facts,” Brnabic said.
Popovic: Kosovo to stay in preamble to Serbian Constitution (TV Prva)
Kosovo will stay in the preamble to the Serbian Constitution, Serbian Justice Minister Maja Popovic said on Friday. In an appearance on TV Prva, Popovic said constitutional amendments were one of the most significant activities under an action plan on Chapter 23 in the EU accession talks, which deals with the judiciary. Rule of law is where constitutional amendments on the judiciary are the most significant, Popovic said, adding that rule of law led to a legal system where there was legal certainty.
Drecun: Except for KFOR, there should be no other military formation (RTS)
Behind closed doors, a session of the Committee for Kosovo and Metohija was held in the Serbian parliament, at which the security situation in the southern province was discussed at a time when the Kosovo security forces are additionally arming themselves and increasing the number of uniformed persons. “A few days ago, we discussed the information of our security services on the transformation of civil protection structures into an army. Pristina’s plan is to equip the army by 2027, and to make it fully operational by 2029. The United States, Germany and Turkey are helping the transformation the most,” the Committee Chair Milovan Drecun told RTS morning news. At the same time, as he says, the presence of KFOR members is decreasing, so in 2010 there were about 12,000 soldiers, and now there are about 3,000, while the projection is to be reduced to the phase of the minimum presence of 2,500 soldiers. However, Drecun emphasizes, the bigger problem is the intention to introduce military service, which would be obligatory for Serbs as well, as well as the existence of ground regiments that can operate on the ground. “With these capacities, they can attack the bare-handed Serbs and put them under control. No military formation, except KFOR, should be present in Kosovo and Metohija, and they are strengthening special units, building a new base in Djakovica and putting increasing pressure on the Serbs to join the security forces,” Drecun told RTS.
Selakovic: Dialogue only right path to achieving sustainable agreement based on compromise (Beta/RTS)
Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic began his two-day visit to Poland by meetings in the lower house of the Polish parliament –the Sejm, where he had separate meetings with Marshal of the Sejm Elzbieta Witek and Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Marek Kuchcinski.
During the talks, it was noted that the bilateral relations are traditionally very good and friendly and it was agreed that there is potential for their further improvement. Selakovic expressed gratitude to Poland on the support to EU integration of Serbia and underlined that the full membership in the EU is an absolute political priority of our country. He informed his collocutors about the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and pointed out that Serbia is entirely committed to the continuation of the dialogue as the only right path to achieving a sustainable agreement based on compromise. Selakovic also mentioned 13 attacks on the Serbian churches and monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija during this year. He also informed his collocutors about reform activities and economic successes of Serbia, as well as about investment potentials of our country and underlined that our country wants to strengthen economic cooperation with Poland and increase foreign trade exchange and the amount of Polish investments. During a meeting with State Secretary and Head of the International Policy Bureau at the Office of the President of Poland Krzysztof Szczerski, Selakovic said that our country recognizes closeness with the member states of the Visegrad Group (V4) and confirmed commitment to cooperation, both bilateral and within this format. We share the opinion that regional formats encourage cooperation and we are ready to participate together with V4 through regular annual meetings in various formats, such as the upcoming one in Poznan at the end of June, Selakovic said.
Botsan-Kharchenko: Cooperation between Russia and Serbia at an exceptional level, continued support in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina (RTV)
During a recent visit to Moscow, Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic said that due to increased pressure on Serbia, Russia and China should join the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. What is Belgrade asking of Moscow and how a compromise can be seen from the Russian point of view. Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, Russian Ambassador to Serbia, answered these and other current questions in Radio and Television of Vojvodina’s (RTV) broadcast “Right Angle”. “I would start with my assessments and I think that this statement, given the experience of Ivica Dacic, means the following. Of course, he asks that the broadest possible format of mediators exists in dialogue, which is actually the best way to negotiate. The reality is as it is takes place under the EU auspices. Belgrade has agreed to conduct the dialogue in that format, and we have given our support to Belgrade in that dialogue,” said Botsan-Kharchenko. He added that Russia stands behind the request of Serbia that what was agreed must be fulfilled. “We are asking for the fulfillment of what was agreed, I have in mind the Brussels agreement. The formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities is the starting point. What is known is that the formation of this community has not even begun. This is a situation that reduces the EU authority, because if what has been agreed is not being fulfilled, it is difficult to negotiate further,” the Russian Ambassador said. Botsan-Kharchenko recently met with the Serbian President and it was reported that Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia was facing a difficult period on several fronts. Has Russia ever received an invitation to join the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina outside the Security Council, as, for example, the representatives of the United States are involved? “I cannot say that the resolution of the Kosovo issue is happening by ‘bypassing’ the Security Council, discussions are regular and the situation is still being examined there. No decision can be passed without the support of the Security Council. Resolution 1244 remains in force,” Botsan-Kharchenko said. He added that Russia did not have an official invitation to participate in the dialogue in any other way. He said that Russia and Serbia have good cooperation, that Serbia starts from the fact that Russia is a member of the Security Council and we act in that format. “Belgrade did not ask us for anything, nor would we ask Belgrade for anything in that way, but we are cooperating in the best way based on common interests. Resolution 1244 is what is valid. It talks about the special status of Kosovo, but not about Kosovo as an independent state. Russia is ready to consider new aspects, but only if Serbia wants it. If there is an invitation, an official invitation for Russia to participate at a different level, we will certainly consider it,” Botsan-Kharchenko said. Speaking about the double standards, the Ambassador believes that it is not right for America to sell weapons in Kosovo, and to declaratively advocate peace and stability. “Undermining the efforts is, for example, the sale of weapons from America to Kosovo, and that is not acceptable for us. It is an example of double standards. Speaking about the announced military exercise of Russia, Belarus and Serbia, Botsan-Kharchenko says that he does not see anything disputable in that. “We do not understand why this is a problem for someone. When we do exercises alone on our territory, we are criticized for not being able to do it. It is, of course, beyond any normal thinking. Three sovereign states, which have the right to do what suits every state’s interests, cooperation in the military sphere is also quite normal. I do not understand where the problem is,” the Ambassador concluded.
Dodik: Ambassadors from rank of Serb people should act upon my instructions rather than instructions of anyone else in B&H especially not those of FM Turkovic (ATV)
Chairman and Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik reacted to the behavior of B&H Ambassador with the UN Sven Alkalaj on Thursday and he said: “Republika Srpska (RS) needs to be dignified, determined and unwavering. At the level of B&H, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the (B&H) Presidency, it is not possible to express a political position, not even the members of the (B&H) Presidency and especially (not) representatives in diplomatic and consular missions, if it is not harmonized”. Dodik gave a statement for the media: “We still think that B&H is a difficult country to maintain for a number of reasons that are confirmed almost every day, even recently, by the unauthorized appearance of Sven Alkalaj at the session of the UN Security Council. This disrupted the procedures, thus abolished the previously reached consensus that there would be no performance if there was no agreement, and that was respected, but they decided to simply do so. Therefore, we now have no obligation to adhere to such measures. I gave instructions to all our people in the embassies, not to follow the instructions of anyone from B&H, especially the (B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs) Bisera Turkovic, and to address the cabinet of the Serb member of the (B&H) Presidency, and that we will coordinate the activity”. Dodik said this after Alkalaj refused to respect his order not to address the UN Security Council (UN SC) regarding the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)’s final verdict to wartime RS Army Main Staff Commander Ratko Mladic. However, Alkalaj received the support of B&H Presidency members Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic to address the UN SC in this regard.
The Cabinet of the Bosniak member of the Presidency Dzaferovic underlined that diplomats must respect the Constitution, laws, as well as instructions from the B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Turkovic also reacted, saying that she would like to remind Dodik that ambassador Alkalaj received a harmonized stance from the B&H Presidency on his address at the UN SC session up until the point when the Chairman of the Presidency suddenly decided to change his stance. Alkalaj clarified that the only part of his address before the UN SC, which Dodik initially opposed, was the sentence, which reads: “Convicted war criminal, general (of RS Army Novak) Djukic fled to Serbia and has not been extradited to serve his sentence.” Speaking about how the B&H diplomats should act after Dodik’s latest instruction, Alkalaj stressed that three of the four diplomats in the mission are Serbs, whereas one is Bosniak. “This goes on to show what kind of a ratio that is. I can tell you that they are good workers. They never tried to boycott anything, at least for now”, the Ambassador added. He also noted that, when the B&H Presidency fails to deliver a harmonized stance with regard to the B&H diplomats’ activities, then the diplomats tend to consult the ambassadors from the EU.
Dodik and Chinese Ambassador Ping discuss joint projects in field of energy and transport; Dodik: RS not to accept appointment of HR in B&H without UN SC resolution (RTRS)
Chairman and Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik met with Chinese Ambassador to B&H Ji Ping in Istocno Sarajevo on Thursday. The focus of their meeting was set on joint projects in the field of energy and transport. In this regard, Dodik and Ping pointed out that the highway Banja Luka-Prijedor will take place according to planned dynamics and they believe that the works on it will start either in September or October of this year. “We are negotiating on some other routes like Modrica-Bijeljina, too, in order to complete the section Banja Luka-Bijeljina and further towards Belgrade,” Dodik specifically noted. In addition, Dodik and Ping agreed that cooperation of the RS and China in the field of healthcare will be strengthened. Dodik and Ping confirmed that China will continue providing support to Republika Srpska (RS) in terms of purchase of vaccines against COVID-19. Dodik stated that 80,000 doses of ‘Sinopharm’ vaccines will arrive in the RS by the end of this month, which should ensure a stable vaccination process. Ping noted that Dodik and other friends from B&H, especially from the RS, provided support to China when the pandemic in that country was at its peak. However, aside from cooperation, the two officials also touched on some of the current issues in B&H such as appointment of German politician Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative (HR) in B&H as well as the latest UN SC session that was marked by a discussion on work of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) with the emphasis on the final verdict to Ratko Mladic. Dodik noted that “unauthorized address” of B&H Ambassador with the UN Sven Alkalaj at the latest UN SC session violated the earlier agreement on participation of B&H representatives on the international scene. “We are thus no longer obliged to abide by the agreed measures. I issued an instruction to our people in the embassies (officials from rank of Serb people) not to act upon instruction of anyone from B&H, especially not Bisera Turkovic and to contact the Cabinet of the Serb member of the Presidency for coordination of those activities” Dodik specified. Dodik said that the RS will not accept appointment of the HR in B&H without a resolution of the UN SC. Given that China has not been a member of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB) since 2005, the Chinese ambassador stated that China is not in the position of providing its stance on the HR in B&H. The ambassador added that, as a permanent member of the UN SC, China will act responsibly towards the issue of the HR.
Radmanovic: The Hague Tribunal failed in reconciling of peoples in B&H; Accuses SDA for almost all blockades in B&H, saying they constantly whine and weep for Bonn powers (Oslobodjenje)
The daily carries an interview with deputy speaker of the B&H House of Representatives and SNSD Vice President Nebojsa Radmanovic. Asked to comment the rendering of final verdict to Ratko Mladic and what can “we” do to move forward, Radmanovic noted that just as every other verdict of The Hague Tribunal, this one also makes things in B&H more difficult. He stressed that the Tribunal was bad not only for Serb people, but also for B&H, being that every verdict causes avalanche “of ethnic aspirations” and their verdicts failed to improve relations in B&H. He continues that statements of the people who should speak on behalf of B&H showed that they are speaking on behalf of one or two peoples and never on behalf of three and on behalf of B&H. He underlined that the verdict to Mladic revealed essence of relations in B&H, which have not improved at all. Asked what could have been expected after the first-instance verdict, Radmanovic said that judges could have paid more attention to the fact and show that they have a task not only to sanction crimes, but also to reconcile peoples in B&H. He underlined that everything is clear if one takes into the account the fact that one people was sentenced to over thousand years of prison. In terms of consequences for B&H, Radmanovic said that this verdict made the already complex situation, even more complex. On top of that, Radmanovic stressed, there is a situation where B&H Ambassador to UN who should be representing everyone in B&H, gets up before the UN Security Council and speaks against one people in B&H, arguing that this shows the situation that B&H is in. “We can take the example of other institutions in B&H, analyzing the work of OSA B&H, which openly works against the RS, that we know much about, but we do not speak about it in the public. Then advocating of the agreement, economic development and social and democratic development in general, falls into water” said Radmanovic. He stressed that he cannot say how much time will it take for us to overcome these obstacles for reaching of the agreements, underlining that those who were supposed to help us, from the “so called international community” were working in opposite direction. “If you take in account the last session of Peace Implementation Council, their decisions, without Security Council, without agreement of all the peoples here, you can see where we are going. Even the IC does not want to solve the issues, they keep everything open and say: you, reach the agreement. And it is obvious that we cannot do that under their tutorship,” said Radmanovic. He argues that work of the Inter-Agency Working Group for electoral reform needs to be observed in this regard, where the international representatives managed to form this group under pressures and now it is incapable of reaching of agreements. To author’s question if this means that IAWG will not manage to reach agreement on issues that would improve election process, Radmanovic said that he is an optimist, but he does not see any fast solutions when it comes to elections. He underlined that it is necessary to work on further democratization of the elections, but also stressed that a simple matter of introducing of video surveillance opens several issues, such is the fact that several EU countries said that this is against human rights and the fact that half of polling stations in B&H does not even have internet. He stressed that SNSD is of the stance that it is necessary to respect constitutional provision on constituent status of the peoples, arguing that he is not certain that changes will be adopted by end of year. Asked about reaching of internal agreements and all the fuss about the arrival of new High Representative Christian Schmidt, Radmanovic noted that official statements of SDA makes it clear that “they constantly whine and weep after the role of the international community”. “Here is the answer who is preventing us from reaching of agreements. The moment you seek the mediator from aside, you express skepticism for agreement within B&H,” said Radmanovic. He underlined that agreements are prevented by constant seeking of interventions of the High Representative, use of Bonn powers, whose legitimacy is questionable. He bluntly stressed that SDA is the main culprit for failure to reach agreement. Asked about adoption of laws on HJPC and public procurements, Radmanovic said: “You are simplifying the story from the side of Europeans, who write 4-5 things for themselves to do, to write their reports saying they have done that and implemented it, and it is not important at all if we have done that, because next year we will get five new things”. He noted that SDA functions by the same principle, while the RS opposes certain imposing of things and he mentioned the issue of B&H Central Election Commission as an example, stressing that B&H CEC was appointed in a completely illegal manner. He noted that B&H CEC wants to take part in political processes and act as if Parliament does not exist, which is the reason that they are not part of IAWG. He stressed that B&H CEC will ruin the election system and with assistance of the IC they are already ruining it. To author’s remark that it is not possible that SDA is to be blamed for everything, Radmanovic said that they are responsible for almost everything and he underlined SDA role in Alkalaj’s speech before UN SC, politics led by B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as appointing of B&H CEC. He also mentioned SDA’s obstructions in appointing of new leadership of B&H OSA. He briefly commented the SNSD’s issues with rating, arguing that SNSD is carrying out researches of public opinion and some of them are not for public eyes. Radmanovic underlined that SNSD is the strongest party in the RS and he noted that he would not run for another mandate in B&H Presidency.
Kalabukhov: Before one considers extension of EUFOR mission in B&H, one needs to solve issue of High Representative (O kanal)
Russian Ambassador to B&H Igor Kalabukhov has visited the Oslobodjenje media group. This was an opportunity for Ambassador Kalabukhov to discuss the final verdict in the case against Ratko Mladic, but also answer the question of whether Russia will end the mission of EUFOR in B&H. Ambassador Kalabukhov stressed that the mission of EUFOR in B&H is in direct relation to the position of the UN SC on the appointment of new HR in B&H Christian Schmidt. “We believe that the Tribunal was more a political body, or even a geopolitical body, than it was a judicial institution. That is our assessment of what happened in The Hague. Unfortunately, these decisions did not create a basis for the most important thing in B&H and that is reconciliation,” Kalabukhov said, adding that before one considers the extension of the EUFOR mission in B&H, one needs to solve the issue of the HR. “That is our official position and I can explain once again why we have such a position. We believe that the appointment of the new HR without a reaction of the UN SC is not completely legitimate and when we solve that issue, things with the Operation Althea in B&H will be clearer. We are now carefully analyzing this situation,” Kalabukhov underlined. He pointed out that the UN SC has to confirm the mandate of every new HR in B&H. “That is what our Western partners have always strived for. Every time when a new HR arrived, there was a resolution and that were actually decisions of our Western partners. And now when they tell us that the decision of the UN SC is not necessary, we believe that it is not so and we will put this issue on the agenda of the UN SC,” Kalabukhov said. Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova stated on Thursday that attempts to appoint a new HR without consensus in “the managing committee” and within B&H, bypassing the UN SC, is contrary to the interest of stabilization of B&H. Zakharova reminded that Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov recently told his counterparts in Germany and France that it is necessary to close down the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in B&H and hand over complete authority and responsibility for the country’s fate to the authorities of B&H, in line with principles of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA).
Nelson informs Dodik about US’ executive decree on expansion of scope of sanctions regime for Western Balkans; Dodik: Decree is neither democratic nor in spirit of respect of human rights and rule of law (N1)
Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, who is on the US’ blacklist of individuals facing sanctions, had a phone conversation with US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson on Thursday. The phone conversation took place at the US Ambassador’s initiative. On this occasion, at the instruction of the US administration, Ambassador Nelson informed Dodik about the latest executive decree signed by US President Joseph Biden according to which the sanctions regime for the Western Balkan area is expanded in scope. Dodik told the Ambassador that the decree of the White House is neither democratic nor in the spirit of respect of human rights and the rule of law. Dodik presented his stance that the mentioned decree is “yet another instrument used by the US administration for modelling relations in the region and which will make the dialogue, at least when it comes to B&H, difficult”. Dodik pointed out that he considers that Bosniak politicians see the decree as the instrument for disciplining Serbs, due to which it will be difficult to secure a normal dialogue in such atmosphere. The US Embassy to B&H posted on its official Twitter account that Ambassador Nelson and Dodik discussed “the vital importance of putting anti-corruption, rule of law, and mutual trust building at the center of an agenda that will see all in B&H benefit from security, economic growth and opportunity without discrimination.” Dodik warned that the trust of the RS and Serbs in the intentions of the US in B&H has been shaken and that it would be good to first work on rehabilitation of the US’ treatment of Serbs in general. The Presidency Chairman added that the RS is not dealing with secession but rather with its commitment to preserve its autonomy based on the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). Dodik also said: “I simply believe that what the US is doing with some of its decisions is a part of coordination regarding the arrival of a new High Representative so that they can do here what they want. However, we will see. Let them do their job, we will do ours”.
CoE Committee of Ministers: Maintaining of current discriminatory electoral system represents obvious violation of European Convention on Human Rights (O kanal)
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted a decision concerning the implementation of Sejdic-Finci ruling, expressing concern by failure to harmonize the B&H Constitution and electoral legislation with judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). It was underlined that maintaining of the current discriminatory electoral system represents obvious violation of European Convention on Human Rights and this is not only an aggravating factor as regards the State’s responsibility under the Convention for an existing or past state of affairs but also represents a threat to the effectiveness of the Convention machinery. The Committee of Ministers reminded that the ECHR’s rulings established that there is discrimination of persons who do not belong to constituent peoples in B&H, calling on B&H authorities to ensure preparation of the draft proposal of amendments to the Constitution of B&H and the Election Law of B&H by September in order to hold the 2022 elections under conditions that are in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. The CoE’s Committee of Ministers called on B&H authorities to ensure that by September 1, 2021 a draft proposal on amendments to the Constitution and the Election Law is prepared so that the 2022 elections take place under Convention-compliant conditions. There are concerns not only because there has been no progress in the implementation of the Sejdic-Finci ruling, but also because other important verdicts of the ECHR and the B&H Constitutional Court have not been implemented.
Minority activist Jakov Finci stated that he and Dervo Sejdic sued B&H not only to fight for rights of minorities, but also for the right of Bosniaks and Croats to be elected in the RS, and the right of Serbs to be elected in the Federation of B&H. According to Finci, Europe is fed up with irresponsible behavior of B&H institutions, and European countries will insist on equal rights for all citizens. Finci believes that the US decree on sanctions for politicians who undermine democratic processes should also be viewed in this light. He expects the EU to also set an ultimatum for B&H politicians to amend the election legislation before the next election.
Western Balkans leaders request digital green certificates to be recognized by EU; Commissioner Varhelyi stresses importance of closer cooperation and regional market (BHT1)
The Western Balkans Summit was held in Tirana on Thursday and the focus was on regional connectivity and economic recovery from the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. BHT1 reports that the Western Balkans leaders submitted a request to EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi for digital green certificates from the Western Balkans countries to be recognized in the European Union (EU) and for the citizens from the Western Balkans to be allowed free movement. At the summit, Varhelyi said the EU is making efforts to speed up things so that it can fulfil its promise to the region, noting that the EU Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans will not function without the closer cooperation among the countries and the regional market. “We are not there yet, and we need to make progress by July, when the Berlin Summit will take place. We already see the first benefit that will change the lives of the citizens and that is abolition of roaming charges, we have it in the EU, for the territory of the whole Western Balkans. This is only the first step. The citizens should travel with identification card document only, diplomas should be mutually recognized, and the work permits should be abolished,” said Varhelyi. Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Zoran Tegeltija stressed the importance of regional and economic connectivity. Tegeltija said that B&H has prepared projects for the Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) III program that envisages EUR nine billion for the Western Balkans countries in the next seven years and added that EUR 0.5 million grant should operational by the end of this year. “The infrastructural projects include construction of the section of the 5C Corridor through the RS towards the north, the second project is reconstruction of the Doboj-Samac railway and the third project is construction of the Foca-Scepan Polje section,” said Tegeltija. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is of the view that the participation of the Western Balkans leaders is a clear sign of implementation of the EU plan for the single regional market. “The Government of the Republic of Albania, and I personally, from the very start have been with unwavering belief that the project, what I call Regional Schengen is the best solution for us. It is a strategic project with exceptional economic and social benefits, and finally political for the whole region,” said Rama. Commissioner Varhelyi stated that this meeting was dedicated to the joint agenda for the Western Balkans, which will not be designed only by the EU but also by leaders from this region. According to Varhelyi, the agenda cannot be realized if the region fails to function as a whole. He added that the Western Balkan leaders should cooperate on establishing a joint regional market. Tegeltija used this opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting with Rama, at which the two officials discussed challenges the Western Balkan countries face amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Tegeltija and Rama pointed to the advantages of joint regional market as a crucial factor on the path towards the EU. They also discussed future joint projects and connecting of the region for the sake of economic development and with the aim to ease transport of people and goods. In a phone statement, Tegeltija said that he agreed with Rama that there is significant room for improving mutual connecting in the region. Tegeltija stressed that B&H and Albania will work on tourist cooperation, where Albanian seaside attracts B&H tourists during summer while Albanian tourists should be encouraged to visit B&H’s mountains, especially at winter.
Kalabukhov’s op-ed: Why NATO will not solve problems in B&H (Oslobodjenje)
Oslobodjenje carried an op-ed penned by Russian Ambassador to B&H Igor Kalabukhov, who wrote that the main threats to the future of the Balkans countries are inter-ethnic tension in combination with dangers of territorial division. According to Kalabukhov, these dangers are especially strong in B&H, arguing that the worse thing “is a fact that false friends of peoples in B&H are offering them poisonous cures that will definitely not cure the disease”. The Ambassador argues it is illusion to expect that membership in NATO will strengthen B&H’s statehood, arguing that ‘crawling’ separatism in NATO member countries has ceased to be ‘crawling’ and is at full swing. In that context Kalabukhov cites several examples, such as independence referendums in Catalonia and Scotland. “Now we will not discuss who is right in the disputed – Madrid or Barcelona, Edinburgh or London? But let us remember: NATO is not cure for separatism. Not even a placebo!”, wrote Kalabukhov. He further wrote, among other issues, that the military from NATO member countries – France, Canada, Belgium and The Netherlands had assumed responsibility that they would protect the Bosniaks and guarantee their safety. “Like for example in Srebrenica. We will not go into that story because it is too frightening. We will only stress that history is a science and, as any other science, it severely punishes those who do not learn the lessons” wrote the Ambassador. He went on to ask a question if that means that B&H is destined to dissolve, arguing that Moscow believes it does not have to. This led the Ambassador to say that B&H does not need “stingy guards and cowardly ‘defenders’”, instead sides in B&H have to reach readiness to make concessions and reach consensus that the status quo reached in Dayton can only be changed with consent of all three peoples.
Djukanovic: I return with optimism; European future of WB could be both realistic and foreseeable (CdM)
“The frequency of meetings at the highest level in our region, with the participation of high representatives of the European Union, has increased, which indicates the raising of attention by Europe towards the Western Balkans (WB) region and sends a promising message that the European future of the Western Balkans could be real and foreseeable,” said Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Tirana, after attending the WB Regional Summit. According to the President’s cabinet, Djukanovic pointed out that, at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Albania, the WB 6 summit was held. He emphasized that it was an opportunity to discuss two aspects of the region’s European perspective. “We talked about the geopolitical aspect, but, I would say, I have nothing new to say here, the views of Montenegro are known, the less Europe in the WB, the more space for those who act from anti-European positions. I think that the message was understood in Brussels and in important European centers, and I expect further increased EU engagement in the area of our region, which is very encouraging for what the European aspirations of Montenegro are,” Djukanovic added. As he said, the other aspect discussed was the implementation of the economic investment plan, a plan presented about a year ago by EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi. “Montenegro has applied for a dozen projects, some of which are really very important. They concern key projects in the field of road infrastructure,” Djukanovic said. He pointed out that we had, obviously, several very important months ahead of us when we need to analyze the project documentation on these projects so that the funds intended for the infrastructural development of the WB would be operational in the autumn. “I also believe that our government, first of all, and the competent agencies, will do their part, that we will readily wait for that deadline, which, I think is in October this year, when serious funds could be available to start the phase of physical implementation of the infrastructure projects that will better connect Montenegro and the WB region with the EU. I think we had a very productive meeting and I return with more optimism than before,” said Djukanovic.
DF to Krivokapic: We will either agree or ask people (Dan)
Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic said last night that there would be no one in his Government except experts, and that if there is a position that can be vacant naturally, it should be open to experts. He said that his position, even before he entered politics and after the election, was that only an expert government could bring good to Montenegro. Commenting on the views of the Prime Minister, DF MP Jovan Vucurovic said in a statement for Dan that only 10 out of 81 MPs support the Government and that it was a European phenomenon. SNP leader Vladimir Jokovic told Dan that he did not agree with PM Krivokapic. He pointed out that the solution was in an agreement.
Charles to Djukanovic: EU ready to support Montenegrin economic recovery and development (CdM)
President of the European Council Charles Michel has sent a letter of thanks to President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic, on the occasion of the Europe Day congratulations. “This and last year, the pandemic has created extremely difficult circumstances for all our citizens. The EU stands firmly with Montenegro and will continue to provide all possible support to help your country cope with the pandemic,” Michel says. He adds that the EU is ready to support Montenegro’s economic recovery and development, a key building block for peace, co-operation and solidarity at the heart of the European project.
Knezevic: Ivanovic called Krivokapic in Patriarchate telling him not to sign Fundamental Agreement (CdM)
One of the owners of the Vijesti concern, Zeljko Ivanovic, called Zdravko Krivokapic at the Patriarchate in Belgrade, asking him not to sign the Fundamental Agreement, DF MP Milan Knezevic has said in the parliament. Knezevic claims that during the rule of the DPS, two families crystallized. “The first of Milo Djukanovic and the second of Vijesti concern’s Misko Perovic and Zeljko Ivanovic, who have been trying to take over the positions of the first family since 30 August and determine all possible processes in the Krivokapic’s government,” he has pointed out.
Katnic: I don’t know what Krivokapic was doing in Belgrade, nor did I plan to arrest him (Antena M)
Special prosecutor Milivoje Katnic says that there is no information about the alleged plan for the arrest of Zdravko Krivokapic. “I don’t know what the Prime Minister was doing in the Patriarchate. Neither was I informed that he planned to commit the crime of high treason, nor did I plan to arrest him,” Katnic briefly commented for Antena M on Krivokapic’s statement that he had heard that he was supposed to be arrested for high treason if he had signed the Fundamental Agreement in Belgrade.
Macron tells Zaev that he now supports opening EU accession talks with Macedonia (Republika)
French President Emmanuel Macron, who blocked Macedonia from opening EU accession talks in 2019, came out in favor of opening the talks this year. Macron invited Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for a dinner in Paris yesterday, and said that “it is time to act on this decision and we will work to find a solution to open the accession talks”. This time around Macedonia is blocked by Bulgaria, which demands major concessions on matters of national identity and history. Zaev responded with gratitude to the French President, saying that the coming late June meeting of the European Council “is the right opportunity for a step forward and lifting the blockade of our European path”. In 2019, Macron insisted that the enlargement process needs to be reformed – which was done quickly by the European Commission. But in 2020, Bulgaria stepped up as the next veto power against Macedonia. Macron also warned at the time that Macedonia and Albania can’t be decoupled, even though Macedonia’s case was seen as more advanced, because that would cause instability and nationalist outbursts in the Balkans. This year, Albania has an easier shot at opening the accession talks as it doesn’t face the Bulgarian veto, and it’s unclear whether the decoupling idea could be back on the table, but this time in Albania’s favor.
Protests will continue until Zaev reveals what he is negotiating with Bulgaria (Republika)
Protesters were not discouraged by the rain to turn out in Skopje and in cities across Macedonia, to protest the expected new round of concessions which Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is promising to Bulgaria. In Zaev’s own Strumica, protesters blocked the intersection in front of Zaev’s Global shopping mall, calling on citizens to join them and help protect Macedonia. The rain can’t stop the fight for Macedonia and it won’t wash away the embarrassment from the SDSM national betrayals, the protesters said. Meanwhile in Skopje, MP Ivan Stoilkovic joined calls for Zaev to come before the parliament and to explain the nature of the secret negotiations he is engaged in. “We want to warn the Macedonian public, so that it sees that the Government is refusing to publicly face the members of Parliament, on a matter of key national importance. This international treaty deeply affects the European convention of human rights and we will continue to protest against it,” Stoilkovic said. “We need to have clear red lines in the talks with Bulgaria from which there will be no backing down,” said VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski, during yesterday’s protests in Skopje. The opposition party is blocking intersections in Skopje and a dozen cities across Macedonia, to protest the secret negotiations that the Zaev is conducting with Bulgaria. “We insist that the Macedonian language and identity are protected, that the Macedonian history is protected and that the Macedonian national minorities are protected,” Mickoski said while visiting the blockades in front of the parliament building and the EU embassy. The protests take place every day between 15h and 17h, and the protesters use vehicles to block the main intersections.
Socialists remove the President from Office (Tirana Times)
The Socialist Party succeeded in removing President Ilir Meta from office whilst still in control of a rubber-stamp parliament. The President’s removal comes as the result of an acrimonious battle between his office and the government. Whilst it is true that the President’s removal is an unprecedented act in Albanian Politics, the fact that the Socialists carried out their promise to remove the President after winning the general elections should come as no surprise. Even his most fervent supporters would readily admit that Meta’s rhetoric during the election campaign was extremely unpresidential. In light of his rhetoric, he has been accused by the Socialists of inciting violence and public unrest, calling people to arms, denigrating the character of senior government officials and damaging Albania’s relations with the US. Meta has been a central figure in Albanian Politics for the last 30 years. After serving as Prime-Minister in the early 2000’s, he broke away from the Socialist Party along with several of its members in order to form the Socialist Movement for Integration. At the height of its success, the SMI held 19 seats in parliament. For almost a decade, Ilir Meta was the king-maker of Albanian Politics. As a coalition partner, the SPI enabled the democrats to stay in power in 2008 and the Socialists to come in power in 2013. In 2017, Ilir Meta was elected President of the Albanian Republic. After almost 30 years in power, the presidency should have provided Meta with an opportunity to exit from politics gracefully. In 2019, the President had the opportunity to do just that. During that year’s local elections, the President sought to postpone the elections through a presidential decree, in an effort to impede the Socialists from gaining total control of the local administration under what was effectively a single-party system. The President’s decree was simply ignored, and the elections proceeded. And it is in precisely this moment the President should have resigned, for there is little dignity in being President of a State run by a “corrupt regime”, to quote the President himself. Instead of bowing out gracefully, from then on Meta engaged in an acrimonious and very public battle with the government, often voicing the concerns of the opposition parties which had left parliament. And although his behavior was clearly not impartial, many sympathized with the President’s efforts to oppose an increasingly autocratic regime. But his behavior became increasingly erratic during the election campaign, as the President began to incite people to use violence to protect the integrity of the voting process, engaged in a public battle with the US Ambassador and viciously attacked the government in a manner which would lead one to think he were still the leader of the SMI. Meta forms part of a group of Albanian Politicians who seem intent on clinging on to power for as long as they possibly can. Today, the political scene in Albania is dominated from the same players that were in power three decades ago. And whilst it may be unfair to single out the president for his unwillingness to call it quits, through his actions, the president has done a great disservice to the office of the president, which he increasingly used as a platform to voice the concerns of the SMI, now led by his wife, Monika Kryemadhi. The legality of the decision to remove the president is yet to be reviewed by the Constitutional Court. Politically speaking, Meta’s dismissal marks his descent into irrelevance. At a time when the state is ran by a party in control of most state institutions which would otherwise provide some form of checks and balances, the removal of the President is yet another blow to democracy. There is a fine line between seeking to hold a government accountable for decisions which may be unconstitutional, and using the office of the president to advance one’s own political interests beyond the presidency. Unfortunately, the President crossed that line, and in doing so he deprived the Albanian People of a President who is impartial but willing to hold an increasingly autocratic Government to account for its actions.
President decrees laws ratifying Albania-US, Albania-Germany deals (ADN)
Albanian President Ilir Meta has decreed Thursday the declaration of four laws, which ratify international agreements of the Republic of Albania, regarding the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany. These important decrees by the Albanian Head of State have come one day after the Parliament approved his dismissal with 104 votes in favor, 7 against and 2 abstentions. However, President Meta decreed more concretely the laws as below:
– With Decree no. 13096, dated 09.06.2021, he has declared Law no. 67/2021 “On the ratification of the extradition treaty between the government of the Republic of Albania and the government of the United States of America”.
– With Decree no. 13097, dated 10.06.2021, he has declared Law no. 68/2021 “On the ratification of the agreement between the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for financial cooperation 2018, for the project ‘Program for sustainable and climate-friendly management in the waste sector (DKTI)’.”
– With Decree no. 13098, dated 10.06.2021, he has declared Law no. 69/2021 “On the ratification of the agreement between the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for financial cooperation 2019 for the project ‘Rehabilitation of the Fierza hydropower plant (DKTI)’.”
– With Decree no. 13099, dated 10.06.2021, he has declared Law no. 70/2021 “On the ratification of the agreement between the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for financial cooperation 2018 for the project ‘Investment program for integrated regional development’.”
Rama opens the summit of the leaders of the Western Balkans: Plan for economic recovery! (Radio Tirana)
Prime Minister Edi Rama has opened the summit of the Western Balkan Leaders in Tirana.
Rama said that the participation of Balkan leaders in this summit is a clear sign of the implementation of the EU plan and the common regional market. He stressed that this summit is a key instrument that will help the economy recover after the pandemic to move towards sustainable growth. “We start the working session. Thank you for accepting the invitation in such a short time and I am happy to welcome you. Your participation is a clear sign of our willingness to start the implementation of the EU plan and the common regional market. I am very grateful to the EU Commissioner who launched and promoted this grand plan as a key instrument that will help us recover economically in a post-pandemic time and move towards sustainable growth and build on the green and digital transition,” said Rama. After the opening of the summit, the meeting continued with the speech of the European Commissioner without the presence of cameras.
Rama conference with Varhelyi: Commissioner took off the mask of Brussels in Tirana, Schengen regional strategic project (Radio Tirana)
Prime Minister Edi Rama held a press conference with EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi. Rama stated that they have asked the EU for the digital green card of the Balkans to be recognized by the EU. “I want to thank everyone. In my view it is special reason. We are gathered to push forward a process, to advance the realization of the four freedoms of Europe in our region. This process is based on a financial package in the framework of an EU economic and investment plan in terms of the volume of funds made available for regional cooperation and radical improvement of road infrastructure, railways, ports, interconnection and the entire sector of energy, and constitutes the largest historical movement of the EU towards the Western Balkans. It was a pleasure because finally the meeting was not virtual. Because we have the opportunity to welcome our friends without coercive measures and I believe that the commissioner also feels good that he took off Brussels’ masks in Tirana. The work plans are concrete. This is one of those moments when the EU has done its part. It is up to us to do our own. We have been from the beginning and still remain steadfast in our conviction that the regional Schengen project is a strategic project with tremendous economic, social and political benefits for our entire region. I am glad that the synergy of this vision with the EU is complete. We are in a situation where we are mastering the Berlin process and we hope that they will pass into the hands of the European Commission so that the July 5 meeting will be the last in its current format and next year it will be under the auspices of the Commission. This is one of our ambitions that we share with the commissioner. In the meantime, we have decided in parallel with what is related to the programs, a series of ambitious points to link the progress made internally in our region with the way it works. If we are taking steps here towards the implementation of the four EU freedoms, the ambition is for the EU to recognize these steps as well in terms of governance, opportunities from the point of view of economic activity. Within the region but two days ago also with Hungary bilaterally, we have strongly agreed on free movement without extra obligations. Today, all countries have submitted to the EC and the EU the request that the digital green card of the citizen of a country of our region in terms of health security be recognized in the EU,” said Rama.