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Belgrade Media Report 16 September

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LOCAL PRESS

Petkovic: Pristina wants to go back ten years and bury the dialogue (RTS)
Serbian Unity Day; Vucic: We will never apologize for the Serbian tricolor again (B92)
Dacic: You can’t bring genocide charges against a nearly exterminated nation (Pink TV)
Tadic: Merkel, Germany know about Vucic undermining democracy, turn blind eye on Kosovo (Beta)
EU to Belgrade: Union will do everything to help Serbia’s inter-party dialogue (FoNet)
Djukanovic has a new plan to neutralize Serbia? (Blic)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

HR Schmidt rejects claims he advocates stances of HDZ B&H regarding Election Law (O kanal)
Covic sends letter to diplomats calling for help in reform of Election Law (FTV)
Covic addresses media: Agreement on amending Election Law of B&H should be reached by end of September (N1)
Zvizdic: Celebration of Serb Unity Day is not good message; Reactions of other B&H officials (FTV)
RSNA adopts proposal of law on protection of Cyrillic in urgent procedure, Bosniaks will invoke protection of VNI (BHT1)
EC’s Von der Leyen announces visit to Western Balkans from September 28-30 (FTV)
Turkovic’s recommendation to former RBIH Army members not to travel to Serbia sparks fierce reactions in RS (Nezavisne)
Tegeltija: Turkovic acted alone, without consulting B&H Presidency, her move was anti-Dayton behavior (ATV)

Croatia
PM Andrej Plenkovic: Truth about homeland war indisputable (Hina)

Montenegro

Krivokapic and the leaders of the Western Balkans with Merkel (RTCG)
Lajcak to help resolve doubts (RTCG)
SDP to offer resolution on stabilizing political situation (CDM)
Opposition’s common position: Crisis biggest since introduction of multi-party system, transitional government and early parliamentary elections the only solution (CDM)
Current government in Montenegro can’t count on EU’s endless patience (Dnevne novine)
URA: If DF and Democrats have necessary majority for Govt. reshuffling, let them schedule Parliament session (CDM)

North Macedonia
Citizens of Bardovci protest against the building of an asylum center (Republika)

Albania

First ever joint session of Macedonia and Kosovo governments (Republika)
Rama’s priority – agreement signed with Vucic, also lobbying for Kosovo’s recognition (ADN)
The German cold shoulder to Open Balkans (Tirana Times)
The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, visits Albania on September 28 (Radio Tirana)

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LOCAL PRESS 

 

Petkovic: Pristina wants to go back ten years and bury the dialogue (RTS)

The director of the office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic, assessed for RTS that Pristina wants to bury the dialogue by announcing some kind of reciprocity and confiscation of license plates. Petkovic reminded that he will not be able to go to Kosovo and Metohija during the campaign for the local elections, since Pristina forbade him to do so. He emphasized that this violates the agreement on the visits of officials, and added that he informed the EU Special Representative for the Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Miroslav Lajcak, at the trilateral meeting in Brussels. 

 

Petkovic expects the dialogue at the expert level to continue in October. Belgrade wants to participate in the continuation of the dialogue, we are open to all topics – freedom of movement, Community of Serb Municipalities, energy, justice, the issue of the missing. 

On the other hand, he said that Pristina is running away from all the topics and that it does not want to fulfill what was promised. 

 

Speaking about the meeting between President Aleksandar Vucic and Serb representatives from Kosovo and Metohija and the candidates of the Serbian List for Mayors in the upcoming local elections, he pointed out that the unity was once again confirmed. “That unity exists between the Serbian List and Belgrade. Vucic once again supported exclusively the candidates of the Serbian List because that preserves the umbilical cord between the state of Serbia and the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija” Petkovic stated. As he emphasized, it is a message of peace and that Serbia cares about its people. “We will support our people even more strongly, we will continue to fight both diplomatically and economically” Petkovic added. 

 

He pointed out that the representatives of the Serbian List conveyed to Vucic the anxiety of the people in Kosovo and Metohija because of the announcements from Pristina related to the violation of the Brussels Agreement, namely the agreement on energy and justice in the light of the shameful verdict against Ivan Todosijevic, but also regarding the announcements of some kind of reciprocity and confiscation of license plates. “This endangers the life and freedom of movement of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija, for which the Serb representatives said that they will not watch it silently. If Pristina continues with similar moves the situation will go back to what it weas ten years ago, before the Brussels agreement” Petkovic said. 

 

About the election campaign 

 

He stated that the campaign for the local elections in Kosovo and Metohija started on Wednesday. He reiterated that the Office for Kosovo and Metohija works every day to make Kosovo Serbs feel like they live in central Serbia. “We are building 17 new buildings in Kosovska Mitrovica and a new university building” Petkovic added. He reminded that, in addition to the regular budget of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, the state provided additional four billion dinars for capital projects and a single assistance to the people in Kosovo of 100 and 200 euros through the budget rebalance. 

 

Serbian Unity Day; Vucic: We will never apologize for the Serbian tricolor again (B92)

 

Serbia and Republika Srpska celebrated, September 15, the Day of Serbian Unity, Freedom and National Flag. This is the first celebration of that holiday, and on that occasion, numerous manifestations were held in Belgrade, while the central ceremony was held on Sava Square next to the monument to Stefan Nemanja. 

 

We forgot to be proud of our flag and our anthem and to wear those symbols with dignity and pass them on to our children, and through them we are much stronger, said the mayor of Belgrade Zoran Radojicic. He told Tanjug that it is a great honor for him to be able to congratulate his fellow citizens on today’s holiday, the Day of Serbian Unity, Freedom and the National Flag, and that he is proud, both because of the holiday itself and because Belgrade is always a place where everyone gathers in glory. Radojicic said that this is a day of Serbian dignity and pride. The mayor expressed special satisfaction that he has the opportunity to host the mayor of Banja Luka, Drasko Stanivukovic, in Belgrade, and that, as he pointed out, “we can all together celebrate this extremely important day for us.” Radojicic called on everyone in Serbia and Republika Srpska (RS) to jointly defend their basic interests, as he said, in different ways in accordance with the room that politics leaves them in that sense, but he emphasized that the most important thing is national unity, which today’s holiday symbolizes. 

 

Vucic: We will never apologize for the Serbian tricolor again 

 

“King Peter the First Karadjordjevic handed over 51 regimental flags to his army, none of those flags were handed over. That is a precedent in the history of modern warfare” Vucic said. “Glory to our great Serbian heroes” “This is a holiday of our identity. The date we have chosen is the date of the breakthrough of the Salonika front, the day on which both our pain and our glory lie,” said Vucic. “On September 15, the only plan was freedom. Even today, it is very important that, celebrating all the victims, we adopt our plan for the future, the one in which we will be proud of our flag” said Vucic. “We want the right to a name, culture, language, religion and tradition. The right to remember, but also the right that many are trying to take away from us without success, and that is the right to decide for ourselves” he said. “To be fully clear, we will certainly never forget this flag and we will wear it with pride” he said. “The same must apply to all people in the Balkans – to be free. It is not a Serbian world that they accuse us of, it is a world of free people, it is a world of those with their own name. And to respond to those who attack us, the ones that do not find even the flag sacred… They say you invented a holiday, if that is so, we also invented Stefan Nemanja, because he didn’t even have a street. Stefan Nemanja invented us” said Vucic. “In order not to accidentally offend someone, we kept silent.” Well, the day of the Albanian flag does not bother anyone, only our flag bothers everyone, they expect us to apologize. We will never apologize for the Serbian tricolor again” he said. Then, President Vucic reiterated that “with all my strength and soul – I will lead Serbia to be even stronger”. 

 

Dodik quoted Santic: We don’t like it when you call us Bosnians 

 

“Everywhere where there is a Serbian soul, there is homeland for me” Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik began his address by quoting Santic. “We are not Bosnians, we are Serbs, I am a Serb, Orthodox, I speak Serbian, I write in Cyrillic, my family saint is St. George, and nothing identifies me with the word Bosnian. Neither in the native nor the character sense, so I just ask you to say that we are Serbs because we are” Dodik told the crowd. Dodik added the Serbs in RS felt Serbia was their fatherland. „We have our republic, but our fatherland is Serbia, our country is not B&H, it’s Serbia”. 

 

Address of the patriarch 

 

“Brothers and sisters, may we have a happy and blessed holiday of national unity, freedom and the flag. God created every man in his image and likeness, and God is the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”, the patriarch began. “Every man is different, not opposed. A man can know himself only in relation to other people.” “The family is not given to be a goal in itself but to be a school of unity and love for another.” “It is good to hear what others think of us, but we must get to know ourselves. Others cannot tell us through their interpretations who we are” the Patriarch said. “You cannot be worldly without being your own. Only when you are one with your people, are you ready to know other peoples. You cannot respect others without respecting yourself. Others will not respect you if you do not respect yourself and your own” he said. “The fact is that we are mature, that in Vojvodina every minority has its own national holiday, but when they celebrate in Vojvodina it is not just their holiday, but it is a holiday of all people living in Vojvodina. I pray, together with all of you, that we will never be turned by petty and selfish passions. That we will never be opposed to each other because of those petty passions and interests” the patriarch said. “We should try to arrange ourselves and our home and try to be an example to others in our virtue” the patriarch concluded. 

 

Dacic: You can’t bring genocide charges against a nearly exterminated nation (Pink TV)

 

The Serbian speaker, Ivica Dacic, said on Sept. 15 that it’s hard to believe that “a nation accused of genocide can be nearly exterminated in the areas it has inhabited.” In a comment to Pink TV on Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti‘s plan to raise genocide charges against Serbia, Dacic said that Kurti’s words made clear “it’s time to campaign.” “If a nation commits genocide, how come the nation is nearly exterminated, and the Albanian population is larger than it was” Dacic wanted to know. 

 

Speaking of a government-opposition dialogue to improve the election process in Serbia, Dacic has said again that he didn’t get the document the proEuropean opposition had sent to the European Parliament on Sept. 14. 

 

Tadic: Merkel, Germany know about Vucic undermining democracy, turn blind eye on Kosovo (Beta)

 

The former president of Serbia, Boris Tadic, stated on Sept. 15 that every citizen of Serbia who is not under the influence of the propaganda of the state and private media controlled by the Serbian Progressive Party, knew that the President of Serbia and of the Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Vucic, and his regime were “lying to them every day.” This was how Tadic, the president of the Social Democratic Party, replied at a news conference to a question about what he had expected from the recent visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Belgrade. “I expected nothing from Merkel’s visit, I only said that I wished to see her reaction and whether she would support the breakdown of democracy and of independent institutions, which Vucic is carrying out, or finally, for the first time, say what she really thought of that” Tadic stated. In that context, Tadic said that German institutions knew “very well about the level of criminalization of Serbia.” “German institutions have been turning a 

blind eye to that fact so far, in a desire to give Vucic the opportunity to cooperate on the subject of Kosovo and Metohija” Tadic stated. 

 

EU to Belgrade: Union will do everything to help Serbia’s inter-party dialogue (FoNet)

 

Serbia is ready to continue full cooperation with the European Union, its institutions and member states, and work intensively to progress and speed up the negotiation process, Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s Parliament Speaker, told the head of the EU Delegation in Serbia Emanuele Giaufret on Wednesday. Dacic added the EU membership was Serbia’s most important foreign policy priority and strategic commitment. Dacic and Giaufret discussed the second phase of the inter-party dialogue, planned for September 17-18. Both said they hoped the authorities and opposition would compromise in the dialogue to improve the election process. Giaufret said the EU delegation in Belgrade would do everything to help the dialogue process and implement everything agreed. 

 

Djukanovic has a new plan to neutralize Serbia? (Blic

 

After the “Kosovo issue” in Serbia, two decades later, it could be Montenegro’s turn where the United States would “operate” to calm tensions, the media write. Whether that will really happen is unknown for now, but these days, there are suggestions for just that – for America to be more engaged in Montenegro. According to Blic, they come from former American diplomats who, in addition to that idea, warn of “Serbian nationalism in the country”, but also of Moscow’s attempts to “use it to destabilize the Balkans”. 

 

According to Blic, the idea for “US interference” came from former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker and Daniel Fried, former US Assistant Secretary of State, but for now no one can claim whether they presented the idea as their own, or it is again just a “test balloon”. 

 

Given what has been happening in Montenegro over the past year, and especially the last ten days with the culmination of the enthronement of Metropolitan Joanikije, and pointing the finger at Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church as the culprits for the Sunday riots, it is quite legitimate to ask whether this is part of a bigger plan whose main “player” could become America, states Blic. 

 

Kurt Volker says that he was disappointed with the scenes from Cetinje, and adds that “Serbian authorities and the Serbian Orthodox Church should pay a little more attention to the general mood in Montenegro.” However, that is only a part of his story, within which he also talks about the path to Serbia and Russia and “dark, Balkan Serbian nationalism”. 

 

“Yes, of course, the Montenegrin people were tired after 30 years of the same party in power. However, that does not mean that they chose a path far from Europe and NATO, in favor of Russia and Serbia,” Volker, currently an associate of the Washington Center for European Policy Analysis and a former special envoy for Ukraine in Trump administration told Voice of America. He also says that Montenegro has a “multiethnic and multi-confessional character”, and that he hopes that “it will not be lost due to the pressure of Serbian nationalism and the opposition of Montenegrins to maintain their independence”. 

 

Daniel Fried, now an associate of the American Atlantic Council, warns of Moscow’s political agenda, which, as he estimates, “wants divisions and conflict and uses Serbian nationalism to destabilize the Balkans and prevent it from joining Europe.” 

 

“They want countries to be in chaos, poor and out of Europe, so that Moscow can control them more easily. These are the Kremlin’s methods under Vladimir Putin. The challenge for Serbia is to decide what it wants to be: an instrument of Russia’s imperialist ambitions or a country that is part of Europe” he assessed. 

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina  

 

HR Schmidt rejects claims he advocates stances of HDZ B&H regarding Election Law (O kanal)

In an interview to BHT1 on Tuesday evening, High Representative (HR) Christian Schmidt rejected claims that he advocates stances of HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) when it comes to changes to the B&H Election Law. Schmidt called on representatives of different peoples and political parties in the country to reach an agreement about this reform. He said: “I am impressed how many mind readers are there in the region because the minds about which they report and that are allegedly hidden in my head are actually not there at all. It is much better to work on a solution, to work on changes to the Election Law that among other things, must include the fight against election frauds. Besides, respect for decisions of the ECHR in terms of participation of the ‘Others’ etc. must be ensured.” Commenting his recent meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Schmidt said that he was invited by Vucic to an official meeting in his capacity of High Representative. He explained that it is necessary to talk about the future of B&H in the capitals of the region, which is what he is doing. 

 

Covic sends letter to diplomats calling for help in reform of Election Law (FTV)

Leader of HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Dragan Covic sent a letter to new High Representative (HR) Christian Schmidt and to other diplomats in B&H and informed them about the situation in B&H and called for help in the reform of the B&H Election Law as the key issue in B&H. According to Covic, this process must end in the upcoming three months in order to remove the existing discrimination and to secure and protect equality. The letter also reads that changing the B&H Election Law is the critical component for holding the elections in 2022, while the reporter noted that many would assume that the elections 2022 will be questionable for Covic without an agreement. The letter claims that parties belonging to the HNS are ready for a more active engagement in dialogue on increase of functionality of the Federation of B&H and B&H in general, when the vital task to change the Election Law is done. “I am saying this fully aware of the past, present and future of B&H – equality, status of constituent people, right to legitimate representation at all administrative-political levels are not subject to political trades and mathematical frauds”. 

 

Covic addresses media: Agreement on amending Election Law of B&H should be reached by end of September (N1)

Following a session of HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency held on Wednesday, HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic addressed media and stated that the agreement on amending of the Election Law of B&H should be reached by the end of September. Covic added that models to change the Election Law are known, adding that talks will be held in the upcoming period. He reiterated that amendments to the Election Law need to be adopted by the end of 2021. In the meantime, SDA sent a letter to the OHR talking about ethnic structure of holders of functions at the Federation of B&H (FB&H) and B&H level.  

 

According to SDA, this structure shows that Bosniaks do not hold as many positions as they should and that narrative about discrimination of Croats in this regard are ungrounded. Covic commented on this letter and said that fabricated information is evidence that some political factors in B&H still do not understand how serious situation is. The leader of HDZ B&H claims that appointments to 97 percent of all positions in B&H are carried out in line with civic model. “Three members of B&H Presidency and Houses of Peoples are elected in line with ethnic principle” explained Covic. He also stated that the only thing HDZ B&H insists on is to act in line with constitutions in B&H in regards to filling in of executive and legislative authorities. Reporter noted that several meetings on amending of the Election Law of B&H should be held by the end of September and representatives of the EU and the US should attend these meetings. This was confirmed on Wednesday by HDZ B&H.  

 

N1 reminds that SDA proposed election of members of B&H Presidency without ethnic prefix – directly or in the Parliament of B&H. SDA also insists on reduction of competences of B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and the FB&H House of Peoples (HoP) to protection of the Vital National Interest.  

 

HDZ B&H’s proposal is grounded on so called Fule’s model. According to this proposal, there would be two virtual electorates in the FB&H. Also, cantons where one people make at least five percent of entire population would participate in distribution of delegates from rank of that people in the FB&H House of Peoples (HoP). New High Representative Christian Schmidt rejected claims the OHR will impose amendments to the Election Law of B&H.  

 

Addressing media, Covic also said: “How can someone think of organizing the elections without changing the Election Law? The (B&H) Constitutional Court demands changes to the Election Law. I think that there are no conditions for organizing the elections unless this is done, while you all others interpret what this means, I do not want to use negative words.” FTV noted that once again, Covic was optimistic and he announced solutions by the end of September when representatives of the US and the EU administrations will arrive to B&H and there will be talks on changes to the B&H Election Law in duration of several days. Covic also reiterated that he wants to secure legitimate representation of Croats and implementation of all decisions of the court in Strasbourg, adding that HDZ B&H, i.e. the HNS accepted measures of limited constitutional changes in order to be able to implement the process of changes of the election legislation. According to Covic, the agreement in Mostar can be a good basis for talks.  

 

Covic announced a series of meetings with senior US and EU officials in late September. Namely, Covic announced that US Special Representative for Western Balkans Matthew Palmer and Managing Director for Western Europe, Western Balkans and Turkey at the European External Action Service (EEAS) Angelina Eichhorst will talk to representatives of political parties of the three peoples in order to bring closer positions regarding the Law on Elections. 

 

Zvizdic: Celebration of Serb Unity Day is not good message; Reactions of other B&H officials (FTV)

In an interview for FTV, Speaker of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) House of Representatives (HoR) Denis Zvizdic commented on the celebration of September 15 as the Day of Serb Unity, Freedom and National Flag. Among other things, Zvizdic said that these are not good messages for good neighborly relations of B&H and Serbia; for Bosniaks and for coexistence. In his opinion, this is just one of the phases of realization of the ‘Serb World’ project that is actually another term for the ‘Greater Serbia’.  Leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic said that right of every people is to plan its future, adding that he is not against anything that is in line with the Constitution of B&H. On the other hand, SDP’s Denis Becirovic stated that joint adoption of law by the Republika Srpska (RS) National Assembly (RSNA) and Serbian Parliament is precedent in modern history of the Europe and direct attempt to destroy B&H. Becirovic underlined that while Milorad Dodik and his followers block B&H institutions, Serbian President and those loyal to him launch Greater Serbia project. 

 

RSNA adopts proposal of law on protection of Cyrillic in urgent procedure, Bosniaks will invoke protection of VNI (BHT1)

The Republika Srpska (RS) National Assembly (RSNA) adopted the law on protection and use of Serbian language and Cyrillic script on Wednesday. The law was adopted in urgent procedure, on the occasion of marking the Day of the Serb Unity, Freedom and National Flag. The RSNA adopted the law in an almost identical form as the law adopted by the Serbian National Assembly on the same occasion. Addressing representatives in the RSNA, RS Minister of Education and Culture Natalija Trivic stated that this law is an important step towards preserving identity of Serb people and it is not directed against anyone. Trivic specified that this law defined expanding the scope of entities obliged to use the Cyrillic script as well as stimulation measures for private entities that opt for using the Cyrillic script. According to Trivic, the Serbian language needs to be protected as “a non-material, cultural heritage” and used as such. Representatives from all RS-based parties voted for the law, while two representatives from the Coalition ‘Together for Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H)’ were against.  

 

Serb representatives in the RSNA expressed belief that this law does not offend other peoples. SNSD’s representative in the RSNA Vlado Djajic said he would not even vote for the law if it offended anyone. “I do my best in life to respect everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, religion, ethnicity”, Djajic noted. SDS’ representative in the RSNA Miladin Stanic noted that the law does not offend other peoples in B&H, adding that laws of the RS and B&H should still be respected. Member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik thanked to everyone who participated in adoption of this law, including those who believe it should be amended. He underlined that since this law was created in cooperation with Serbia, it should be possibly changed within same cooperate. Some MPs in the RSNA underlined that adoption of this law is important for other peoples in the RS. Srdjan Mazalica (SNSD) underlined that all historic figures important for Serbia, the RS and B&H used Cyrillic script. SP RS’ MP Dalibor Stevanovic stressed that it should not be problematic for everyone that all peoples clearly display their identity symbols.  

 

Dodik stressed that this is the result of their joint efforts and unity. Dodik believes that this is the first of many laws the two parliaments will adopt together. He added that Serbs in the RS are not Bosnian Serbs, just as Serbs in Croatia are not Croatian Serbs and they are just Serbs who build their identity through centuries. Dodik also stated that at this moment the RS is stronger and more stable than it was 10 years ago, when even discussion of this type of law in the RSNA would be almost unimaginable and would cause harsh criticism of part of the international community. Dodik assessed the day as a historic one and he stressed that he is proud to belong to the generation of politicians who created September 15 as a holiday and the law adopted on Wednesday.  

 

Meanwhile, Bosniak RS Vice-President Ramiz Salkic harshly reacted to the marking of the Day of the Serb Unity, Freedom, and National Flag on Wednesday. In his reaction, Salkic noted that the separatist policy of the RS authorities has been creating the ambience for Bosniaks that is the same as that in 1992. Salkic noted that Bosniaks feel betrayed, especially now that the RSNA adopted the law on protection of Serbian language and use of Cyrillic script. Salkic assessed that adoption of this law is the harshest form of institutional violence against non-Serb citizens of the RS. Salkic said that the Bosniak people in the RS cannot persevere long-term in such conditions and they are in danger of the second persecution after the war.  

 

Vice President of SDP B&H Denis Becirovic said that the simultaneous adoption of laws on protection of Serbian language and Cyrillic alphabet in Serbia and RS represents a precedent “by which B&H is being destroyed” and he assessed that the care for the alphabet is “a Great Serbia project”. 

 

EC’s Von der Leyen announces visit to Western Balkans from September 28-30 (FTV)

President of the European Commission (EC) Ursula Von der Leyen announced on Wednesday that she will pay a visit to all six countries of the Western Balkans from September 28-30. Ursula Von der Leyen is supposed to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) on September 30. She said that the goal of the visit is to confirm commitment to the accession process and according to Ursula von der Leyen, investing in the future of the Western Balkans means investing in the future of the EU. During the annual State of the European Union address, Ursula Von der Leyen presented main directions of the EU policy, she also reflected on results from the past year and announced priorities for the next year. In this regard, she mentioned acceleration of vaccination, fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, initiatives for economic growth and recovery as well as for formation of European defense union. Ursula Von der Leyen reminded of the previous statement that the US and the EU will always be stronger together and she emphasized that the same goes for neighbors in the Western Balkans. The EU will strengthen its support to the Western Balkans through the new economic, investment plan worth around a third of the GDP of the region.  

 

Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anze Logar said that as the presiding of the Council of the EU, Slovenia pays special attention to the Western Balkans. Logar added: “The enlargement should be one of the strategic priorities of the EU and accession of the Western Balkan countries should be our joint vision.” The EC stated that the visit of Ursula Von der Leyen precedes the Summit EU – Western Balkans which will take place on October 6 in Slovenia.  

 

Von der Leyen said that she will travel to the region to send a strong signal of the EU commitment to the accession process. She stressed that investment in the future of the Western Balkans is the investment in the future of the EU. “Protecting our interests is not only about defending ourselves. It is also about forging strong and reliable partnerships. This is not a luxury, but it is essential for our future stability, security and prosperity. This work starts by deepening our partnership with our closest allies. The European Union and the United States will always be stronger together, and the same goes for our neighbors in the Western Balkans” Von der Leyen stated. 

 

Turkovic’s recommendation to former RBIH Army members not to travel to Serbia sparks fierce reactions in RS (Nezavisne)

Following the instruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic recommending to wartime members of the RBiH Army not to go to Serbia until further notice, NPS leader Darko Banjac told the daily that Turkovic has privatized B&H Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is following orders of SDA Headquarters. MP Sanja Vulic (SNSD) said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of B&H should be renamed into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sarajevo because it is working in the interest of a part of the Federation of B&H (FB&H) and not as one of the joint institutions. “I urge and ask Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to automatically approve the citizenship of Serbia to all citizens of the RS as of today. We will be able to travel with a Serbian passport. Mother country Serbia will protect us” Vulic said and argued that the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of B&H is the proof that present day B&H is the country devised in line with wishes of Bosniaks and that only the RS and Serbia represent safety for Serbs. PDP leader Branislav Borenovic said that Minister Turkovic only illustrates the behavior of one who allegedly protects B&H once they face possible revealing of what their “compatriots” did during the war. “It is high time such behavior stopped and, in case joint institutions start working in this mandate, to launch removal of this person. It is incredible precedent and scandal to have the Minister of Foreign Affairs of one country recommend everyone who might be suspected of war crimes or who committed war crimes not to travel to neighboring, friendly country”, Borenovic concluded. SNSD’s Lazar Prodanovic stated that Turkovic is abusing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for homogenization of one people against the other peoples, noting that such behavior is not acceptable. SNSD’s Dusanka Majkic said that if she could, Turkovic would build a wall along the Drina River. DNS leader Nenad Nesic said that such behavior of Bosniak political elite which “lives in the 19th century” is harming Bosniaks the most. Deputy Minister of B&H Foreign Affairs Josip Brkic stated that Turkovic did not consult anyone in the Minsitry before issuing the recommendation and that he learned about it from the media. Assistant Minister for International, Legal and Consular Affairs Frano Planinic said that he was not consulted either, although his department is usually always involved in issuing of travel recommendations. 

 

Tegeltija: Turkovic acted alone, without consulting B&H Presidency, her move was anti-Dayton behavior (ATV)

After the arrest of Behudin Husic and Edin Vranj, the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a warning, asking all B&H citizens that were part of the defense of B&H during 1992-1995 war not to travel to Serbia, as they might get arrested and processed in this country.  

 

The adviser of the Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency for legal affairs, Milan Tegeltija said he was not surprised when he heard about the issued warning, because B&H Foreign Affairs Minister, Bisera Turkovic, is a “result of the SDA policies” and she constantly commits illegal acts. He added that her moves are not in line with the Constitution of B&H, the laws or the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). Tegeltija said this latest move shows many things, but primarily he emphasized this was anti-Dayton behavior. Turkovic acted alone, without consulting the B&H Presidency – which is in charge of making decisions regarding foreign policy, Tegeltija reminds. He pointed out that the Presidency never determined any issues between B&H and Serbia, and it certainly did not give any order to the B&H Foreign Affairs Ministry for issuing the abovementioned warning. He called Turkovic’s behavior scandalous and said her primary goal was to “change the character of war in B&H, to protect war criminals or people that are charged with war crimes, and to hamper implementation of adequate procedures against those people”.  

 

Commenting Vranj’s arrest, Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said he supports Serbia’s decision, he trusts that this country makes only justified decisions that are in line with the laws. Dodik also said all those that committed war crimes must be processed. He said the courts need to determine if someone is guilty or not, and such assessments do not fall onto B&H Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic and Bosniak member Sefik Dzaferovic.  

 

Tegeltija said Dodik is absolutely right and his approach is a legal one when it comes to the matter of war crimes. Tegeltija said courts and prosecutor’s offices are in charge of investigating and processing these cases. Such activities are performed not only in B&H, but also in Serbia – as it has a universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases. Tegeltija reminds that most European countries have such universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases, which is why Komsic and Dzaferovic should not act shocked that Serbia made the move it did. He concluded that reactions in B&H were quite inappropriate to something that is considered to be a normal activity of one country that operates based on the laws. Tegeltija says there is a kind of “political schizophrenia” in B&H which says that certain rules cannot apply to B&H, even though they apply to all other countries of the world. He concluded that Bosniaks are trying to usurp B&H, make it as only their own ‘Bosniak state’, where all the rules and values are set by Bosniak leaders. Tegeltija said this will never happen as Republika Srpska exists in B&H and will always raise a voice against decisions that are detrimental for this entity and its people.  

 

Croatia 

 

PM Andrej Plenkovic: Truth about homeland war indisputable (Hina)

 

Answering Homeland Movement MP Stipe Mlinaric‘s question when he would seek war reparations from Serbia, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday that the government was “working on this matter” and that the truth about the Homeland War was indisputable. “The issue of war reparations and possible lawsuits against Serbia has been raised to the bilateral level, ministries and experts are involved in the process, we have not forgotten about it,” he said, adding, “It is important that the truth about the Homeland War is beyond dispute in Croatia and internationally.” Plenkovic noted that people gone missing in the 1991-95 war and those who had been detained in prison camps had not been forgotten. 

 

Answering a question from Hungarian minority and independent MP Robert Jankovics about the border with Serbia on the Danube, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said that talks to finally determine the Croatian-Serbian border were ongoing and that at the last meeting of the joint border commission in Belgrade in June 2019 it had been concluded that current inconsistencies regarding the cadastral border were not that big so as to prevent an attempt to regulate the matter by a bilateral agreement. “Should that not be possible, there is the International Court of Justice” the minister said. 

 

Montenegro 

 

Krivokapic and the leaders of the Western Balkans with Merkel (RTCG)

 

The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivokapic, was in Tirana, where he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as part of her farewell visit to the Western Balkans. 

Immediately upon her arrival in the capital of Albania, Merkel met with Edi Rama in the Brigade Palace, in front of which she was given a solemn welcome. After talks with the Albanian prime minister, the German chancellor is organizing a working lunch with the leaders of the Western Balkans in Tirana. 

 

“In Tirana with Chancellor Merkel and the leaders of the Western Balkans. A working lunch will begin soon, at which we will discuss regional cooperation. We wish success and prosperity to all our neighbors. Successful regional cooperation is the backbone of Montenegro’s foreign policy” Prime Minister Krivokapic wrote on Twitter

 

“The topic of the joint meeting with the leaders of the Western Balkan six will be regional cooperation and its improvement,” the Government announced. It should be reminded that Prime Minister Krivokapic had an online meeting with the German Chancellor in February, at which he pointed out that cooperation with Germany is a good way and incentive to continue reforms in Montenegrin society, which are necessary for EU accession but equally necessary for Montenegro itself. 

 

Lajcak to help resolve doubts (RTCG)

Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic is satisfied with the meeting with the European Union (EU) Special Envoy Miroslav Lajcak. He said that their opinions were inconsistent and expressed the expectation that Lajcak, as a sincere friend of Montenegro, would help, as he said, to overcome some doubts and finally focus on the right topics. After the meeting with Lajcak, Abazovic expressed satisfaction with the meeting and said that the special envoy of the European Union best understands the region of the Western Balkans and the political turmoil that is happening. 

 

“I believe that it is extremely important for the Government of Montenegro to once again demonstrate, both symbolically and essentially, that at the top of all our priorities should be a European agenda, regardless of some of the challenges that have emerged in the past and would continue to emerge. Our main goal should be the reform path, our path to the EU and fulfilling our commitments” Abazovic said in a statement for TVCG after the meeting with Lajcak in Brussels. He added that he shared with the special envoy of the European Union his thoughts on how the processes in Montenegro are developing, which should be emphasized in the coming period. 

 

“I think we had a great compatibility between his and my views. I expect him, as a sincere friend of Montenegro, to help overcome some doubts and finally give focus to the right topics. This is what the citizens of Montenegro expect. You know that more than 70% of citizens supports EU membership. We have to deliver results. I am very pleased and I would like that some Montenegrin politicians perceive it in a similar way, the way in which Mr. Lajcak understands what is happening in Montenegro” Abazovic said. Abazovic said that he supported the dialogue between the government and the opposition. 

SDP to offer resolution on stabilizing political situation (CDM)

 

In accordance with the expectations of the Montenegrin public and its international partners, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) will offer the text of the Resolution on the stabilization of political conditions and the European consensus to all parliamentary parties in the coming days, CDM has learned. The resolution text is in the form of a draft. Consultations with international partners on the final text will follow, after which the text will be sent for the parliamentary procedure. According to the SDP, the purpose of this initiative is to try to find a way to reach a common value platform through a broad inter-party dialogue, which will enable the consolidation of political opportunities and an agreement on the European agenda and the continuation of the EU path. 

 

Opposition’s common position: Crisis biggest since introduction of multi-party system, transitional government and early parliamentary elections the only solution (CDM)

 

Everything that happened in the previous days, and especially on 5 September in Cetinje, has showed that Montenegro has a puppet government that is fully instrumentalized in the service of other people’s, anti-state and anti-Montenegrin interests, says a joint statement of opposition parties. 

 

“The last event was not a religious rite, but a new station of the great-power, that is, the Greater Serbia offensive, which aims to depersonalize Montenegro and destroy all its fundamental values. The reaction of the citizens of Cetinje and the majority of Montenegro was aimed at protecting the honor and dignity of the state. Civil resistance prevented the state humiliation that was planned by official Belgrade and the current government” the statement reads. It is assessed that Montenegro is at the crossroads between national and civil, theocratic and secular, medieval and modern state. These parties see the holding of early parliamentary elections as a way out of the current situation in which the Montenegrin society has found itself. 

 

Current government in Montenegro can’t count on EU’s endless patience (Dnevne novine)

 

The European Parliament’s rapporteur for Montenegro, Tonino Picula, warns that the current government in Montenegro cannot count on the infinitely long patience of the European Union. “The inconsistency, improvisation and frivolity of all forms of political institutions and persons will certainly not meet the approval in the ranks of the European Union” Picula points out in an interview for Dnevne Novine. According to him, political turbulences must be calmed down and excessive polarization must be reduced, because they are toxic for a society that can and should prosper. He also says that the international community must follow the development of the situation in Montenegro even more carefully. He also comments on the actions of the ruling structure from Serbia relating to the events in Montenegro and says that the policy of the state of Serbia does not contribute to a stable Montenegro. “That is why the EU should pay more attention to the region and not reduce the enlargement policy to a declarative statement or allow it to serve as a tool for political blockades and blackmail” Picula says. 

 

URA: If DF and Democrats have necessary majority for Govt. reshuffling, let them schedule Parliament session (CDM)

 

At last night’s announcement from the DF and Democratic Montenegro, URA has stated that if the DF and the Democrats have the necessary majority for the Government reshuffling, they can schedule a Parliament session today. 

 

“From last night’s joint statement of the DF and the Democrats, we see that their ministerial seats are more important than the reforms in the Prosecutor’s Office and the fight against organized crime and corruption. The election of the Prosecutorial Council must not be part of the political calculations of any political entity, and reforms in this area cannot be conditioned by anyone’s political appetites. However, that is also a legitimate political path of that spectrum of the political scene” URA says. 

 

In the statement, URA welcomes the synergetic approach of the DF and the Democrats and the almost undivided political position on further political processes in Montenegro. URA underlines that it will not abandon the principles from the agreement signed on 9 September last year by the three leaders of the current majority electoral lists. 

 

North Macedonia 

 

Citizens of Bardovci protest against the building of an asylum center (Republika)

 

Citizens from Bardovci, near Skopje, protested before the Government building and the EU Embassy today, demanding an end to the construction of an asylum center in their village. 

The citizens say they were not consulted about the building of the center, and that they fear for the safety of their neighborhood if it is built. Macedonia is directly on the main Balkan migrant route, and while the crisis days of 2015 and 2016, when up to two million migrants crossed through the country, are now over, hundreds of migrants are making the trek at any given moment, and dozens of them require temporary accommodation. 

 

Albania 

 

First ever joint session of Macedonia and Kosovo governments (Republika)

 

The governments of Macedonia and Kosovo on Thursday in Skopje held the first-ever joint session, led by prime ministers Zoran Zaev and Albin Kurti. Before the start of the joint session, there was an official welcoming ceremony, and a meeting between Prime Ministers Zaev and Kurti, as well as bilateral meetings of the ministers in the Governments of the two countries. 

 

Prime Minister Zaev welcomed his Kosovo counterpart Albin Kurti had a tete-a-tete meeting in the office of Prime Minister Zaev, and the ministers held several bilateral meetings before the joint session. 

 

At the joint intergovernmental session, as announced, among other things, agreements and memoranda on infrastructure cooperation of the two countries will be signed to facilitate and enhance economic cooperation and communication, as well as other memoranda and programs covering cooperation on cross-border projects with the support of EU IPA programs, cooperation in the field of energy, as well as in the field of tourism, culture and promotion of joint initiatives in innovation and technological development. 

 

The joint session of the two governments, according to a statement from the government press service, comes as a confirmation of the excellent friendly relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Kosovo aimed at advancing the mutual interests of the two countries and sharing common commitments for more intensive regional cooperation. 

 

Rama’s priority – agreement signed with Vucic, also lobbying for Kosovo’s recognition (ADN)

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama says one of his government’s top priorities is to hold the first intergovernmental conference on European integration. Moreover, on his priority list is to launch the “Open Balkans” initiative. Also, his priority is the launch of the “Open Balkans” initiative, i.e. the implementation of the agreement reached on July 29 by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, Edi Rama and the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev. The Albanian government emphasizes that it will dedicate itself to regional cooperation “Open Balkans”, and on establishing bilateral relations, Pristina Reporters reports. Rama also pledged “to lobby for the recognition of Kosovo with all countries of the world and its acceptance as a country entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the UN Declaration”. 

 

The German cold shoulder to Open Balkans (Tirana Times)

 

The most recent visit of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel to the region, specifically to Serbia and Albania, was scrutinized into one singular dimension: whether she would endorse the controversial ‘Open Balkans’ initiative. Indeed, government friendly media in Albania, one day prior to the visit, rushed to proclaim that the Chancellor would most definitely speak in favor of this initiative and went as far as saying she would urge the Kosovo side to join in. They were proved laughingly wrong.  

 

It should come as no surprise that Merkel chose instead to throw all her remaining clout (and there is plenty of that left) behind the Berlin process, her own political and strategic baby since 2014. “Nothing can replace the Berlin process”, the Chancellor said with her trademark decisive simplicity.  

 

Caught slightly off guard, Albanian PM Edi Rama had to reiterate that Open Balkans was indeed a byproduct of the Berlin process whose objective was to accelerate it and which had nothing opposed to it. 

 

This however deserves some closer scrutiny.  First, the Open Balkans initiative, unlike the Berlin Process, is not endorsed by all 6 WB countries. On the contrary Kosovo is very much opposed to it whereas Bosnia and Montenegro veer into indifference and annoyance with it.   

Second, if the Berlin Process needs any acceleration, especially pertaining to Albania, this is the Albanian side’s fault. Albania ranks as the least successful country when it comes to preparing and winning relevant projects within the framework. This has to do with the lack of consistency (to say the very least) in its strategic development objectives as well as with the quality of its rule of law. Just as an example, it suffices to mention that not long ago the rehabilitation of one part of the Durres port was part of the Berlin process and now that the port will become a Marina built by an Emirati company that project bites the dust.   

 

Third, it is because it is slow and well thought of that the Berlin process has some sustainable achievements such as RYCO (Regional Youth Cooperation Office) that were reached the long hard way. The Open Balkans achievements, when they come, will be vulnerable and dependent exactly on the kind of consensus over political sensitivities that it eschews.  

 

Prime among them the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo that sits smack into the middle of the ‘freedom of movement’ goal. The abolishing of borders as impediments to trade requires first and foremost the acknowledgement of their existence.  

 

Finally, the diplomatic lingo might accommodate the phrase that “any form of cooperation is welcome” however experts agree that the sheer quantity of regional platforms and mechanisms is taking a real toll on the actual implementation of agreements and overall quality of cooperation.   

 

Rama, Vucic and Zaev might be impatient to promote their initiative in a context when they desperately need a positive story: integration is stagnant and democracies are in peril. Rama however is exceptional among the three in the passionate advocacy he does for it. However, the visit of the Chancellor made it clear that this attempt to upstage the Berlin process has the German cold shoulder. 

 

The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, visits Albania on September 28 (Radio Tirana)

 

The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, will visit Albania on September 28. The news was announced by EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca after the EC President announced the launch of a tour of the Western Balkans later this month. “President Von der Leyen plans to visit Albania on September 28. I can’t wait to welcome her!” writes Soreca. 

 

In her annual address on the state of the European Union before the EU Parliament, Von der Leyen reiterated her support for the region’s integration into the EU, saying it is an obligation for young people who believe in the European dream. According to the EC President, the EU and the Western Balkans will always be stronger together. “Before the end of the month, I will travel to the region to send a strong signal of our commitment to the accession process. We owe it to all those young people. Before the end of the month, I will travel to the Balkans to convey the commitment. We owe this to the young people, who believe in the European future. We are increasing investment in the Western Balkans by about a third of the region’s gross domestic product. Investing in the future of the Balkans is an investment for the EU, “she said. 

 

The visit of the President of the EC to our country comes after the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who underlined that the Western Balkans have many friends in Europe, urging the EU to speak on the integration of the Region. Von der Leyen’s trip comes ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit to be held on October 8th in Slovenia, where the focus will be on the enlargement process. 

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