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Belgrade Media Report 20 October

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: We respect Dayton Agreement, but not what is contrary to it (Tanjug/RTS/RTV)
Selakovic: Despite pressure, Holy See’s position on Kosovo unchanged (Tanjug/RTS/Politika/RTV)
Brnabic: Serbia’s progress noted in European Commission report (RTS/Tanjug)
Varhelyi: Serbia has fulfilled benchmarks for opening Clusters 3, 4 (Tanjug)
European Commission says Serbia achieved limited progress in key areas (N1)
Bilcik: Western Balkans should focus on reforms (N1)
Petkovic: Belgrade-Pristina working group to meet in Brussels on Thursday (Tanjug/RTV)
Stano: Working group to seek permanent solution for registration plates (Tanjug/RTV)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Interview with Serbian President Vucic (Dnevni avaz)
RS parliament to discuss proposal of law on medicinal products and medical devices which stipulates formation of agency for medicinal products of RS on Wednesday (Nova BH)
Tegeltija: RS does not want war and it will respect territorial integrity of B&H (ATV)
Kalabukhov: DPA does not stipulate formation of B&H AF (RTRS/Izvestiya)
Crnadak requests from RS PM to make public record from Monday’s special session of RS government that was dedicated to preparation of new laws (BN TV)
RS opposition: It is inacceptable that return of RS’ competences comes in violent manner (O Kanal)
Izetbegovic: Dodik’s threats to abolish state institutions will not be implemented (N1)
Komsic, Dzaferovic and UN Assistant SG Jenca discuss current political situation and blockade of B&H institutions (BHT1)
Niksic informs PES and Socialist Interna about current crisis in B&H, accuses SNSD’s actions of threatening to cause new war (Oslobodjenje/Glas Srpske)
Vukanovic urges Vucic to bring Dodik to reason so that he stops with destructive policy (BN TV)
EC adopts 2021 Enlargement Package; B&H fails to achieve progress and even makes regression in certain fields; European Commissioner Varhelyi: B&H needs to make progress in all 14 key priorities from EC’s Opinion (FTV)
MEPs comment situation in B&H during presenting of Enlargement Package; Warn about dangers of Dodik’s behavior (Oslobodjenje)
Appointment of five experienced US diplomats to positions in charge of region means US is returning ‘in grand style’ (EuroBlic)
Croatia

PM welcomes B&H deputy chairman in Zagreb (Hina)
Montenegro

Boskovic: Nothing helps, government has come down, institutions are destroyed, new elections likely to happen (Dnevne novine)
Escobar: Montenegro and United States are not only friends but also allies (Gov. Press office)
Latest EC report on MNE: Composition of Assembly unprecedented (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia

Mickoski calls on opposition to unite to topple the government (Republika)
EU releases report on Macedonia – progress and reforms assessed as moderate (Republika)
Varhelyi: EU has to deliver for Macedonia and Albania by year’s end (MIA)
Albania

Key EU report says opening talks with Albania is overdue, highlights concerns on reforms, elections and freedoms (Tirana Times)

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: We respect Dayton Agreement, but not what is contrary to it (Tanjug/RTS/RTV)

In response to a question about an announcement by Milorad Dodik that the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament would pass laws restoring the RS powers, which would imply a re-establishment of a RS army and security service, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday reiterated that Serbia backed the Dayton Agreement and everything that was in line with it but would not support anything contrary to the document. “We will support everything the three constitutive peoples agree on, but we will not support anything that is contrary to that. The most important thing for us is to maintain peace and stability because there are no investors without that. We respect the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), in the way we respect the integrity of RS within B&H,” Vucic told reporters on Tuesday during a visit to Aleksinac, southern Serbia, adding that this, too, was in line with the Dayton Agreement.

Selakovic: Despite pressure, Holy See’s position on Kosovo unchanged (Tanjug/RTS/Politika/RTV)

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said on Tuesday in the Vatican that the Holy See was providing principled support to Serbia in terms of the preservation of its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Selakovic, who is on an official visit to the Holy See, held separate meetings with Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Paul Gallagher.

Selakovic said the support was what made the relations with the Holy See important, representing a serious opportunity for their enhancement. He said he had briefed his hosts on the most recent developments in Kosovo and Metohija and noted Serbia’s commitment to dialogue as the only diplomatically possible means of untying the Kosovo and Metohija knot. He said the meetings had also addressed other issues, including a need for a true beginning of a new phase of cooperation between the Serbs and the Croats, and noted that unresolved past issues were a burden to future cooperation and would bring no good to anyone. The cooperation between the Serbian Foreign Ministry and the Holy See must be stepped up, Selakovic said. “It is important to devote special attention to a state that does not recognize Kosovo despite being under pressure to change its position,” Selakovic said. He said an agreement had been made to continue structural dialogue and consultations between the two states starting from the beginning of next year, and added that the first step in a plan of intensive cooperation was a visit to Serbia by Gallagher, scheduled for late November.

Brnabic: Serbia’s progress noted in European Commission report (RTS/Tanjug)

The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret handed over to Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic the annual report of the European Commission on Serbia’s progress in the EU accession process, presented on Tuesday in Strasbourg. Serbian Minister for EU Integration Jadranka Joksimovic also attended the presentation of the report in the government of Serbia.

Addressing the press, Brnabic assessed that the mentioned report is by far the best report on the progress over the last few years and pointed out that it is especially important that the report stated progress in all political criteria and reforms in the rule of law. The report is complex and covers all segments of our social, political life, foreign and regional policy. In it, the European Commission clearly emphasized that the government of Serbia gave priority to reforms on the European path and especially the rule of law, and that the introductory remarks stated that the focus of the government on reforms can be seen, she stated. She expressed gratitude to the EU Delegation in Serbia and the European Commission for stating that the opening criteria have been met and that it is necessary to open two clusters. According to her, the recommendation for opening two clusters is a strong political message to EU members, but also to our country and the citizens of Serbia, noting that a lot has been done in the area of ​​the rule of law. When it comes to the area of ​​the rule of law, Brnabic said that in connection with the elections, it was stated that the political forces continued the dialogue, and that the government began to implement the recommendations of the ODIR. Speaking about the cooperation with civil society organizations, she specified that the Report praised the fact that a new ministry was formed – the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, but also that the government initiated a session of debates. The report also stated that the Venice Commission gave a positive opinion on the constitutional amendments, but also recognized that the number of old cases in the field of justice continued to decrease and that for the fifth year in a row the judiciary resolves more cases than it receives, Brnabic said. Also, as she mentioned, progress has been established in the areas of the fight against corruption and organized crime, emphasizing that for the first time since 2016, progress has been noted in the area of ​​freedom of expression. This is a big and important thing for all of us, and it especially motivates the government of Serbia to continue, she said and called on media associations to return to the working group and continue to work together to improve conditions for the media. She pointed out that progress in public administration was noted, albeit limited, while in the areas of economy, Serbia received a very good report, praise for sustainability and resilience during the coronavirus pandemic. The green agenda also established good progress, primarily in the field of energy, with a special focus on renewable energy, Brnabic underlined and announced that the government will continue to work on reforms, and that the first meeting will be held on Thursday.

Varhelyi: Serbia has fulfilled benchmarks for opening Clusters 3, 4 (Tanjug)

EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi on Tuesday said Serbia had fulfilled the benchmarks for opening Cluster 3 and Cluster 4 in its EU accession talks. Speaking to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs about the European Commission’s latest report on Serbia, Varhelyi said the Serbian government had prioritized EU-related reforms and delivered on a number of outstanding commitments, in particular on taxation and energy.

“We therefore welcome that Serbia has fulfilled the benchmarks for opening of Cluster 3 (Competitiveness and Inclusive Growth) and Cluster 4 (Green Agenda and Sustainable Connectivity). We support Serbia’s ambition to open, as soon as possible, new clusters in the talks on the basis of continuing reform progress,” Varhelyi said. “In Serbia, there is a renewed commitment to reform, the constitutional amendment to strengthen the independence of the judiciary is on track and should be finalized by the end of this year. Serbia needs to continue and deepen reforms also on the fight against corruption, media freedom, the domestic handling of war crimes and the fight against organized crime,” he said. Varhelyi also said Serbia had made an important political choice by accepting a modified methodology of the process of accession talks, thus confirming its commitment to the EU path. “Serbia’s progress on the rule of law and the normalization of relations with Kosovo is essential and will continue to determine the overall pace of the accession negotiations,” he said.

European Commission says Serbia achieved limited progress in key areas (N1)

The European Commission said in its latest report on Serbia that the country achieved only limited progress in reforming the public administration, improving the judiciary and combating corruption and organized crime. “Serbia needs to ensure merit-based recruitment and a reduction in the excessive number of acting senior manager positions, strong quality control role for the Public Policy Secretariat in policy development and coordination, and a single mechanism for prioritizing all investments regardless of the type and source of financing,” the report said about public administration reform. The European Commission said that “The system for judicial appointments and for evaluating the work of judges and prosecutors needs to be thoroughly revised following the adoption of the constitutional amendments, to allow for merit-based judicial recruitments and careers since the current legal framework does not provide sufficient guarantees against potential political influence over the judiciary.” According to the report Serbia has not adopted a new anti-corruption strategy and action plan nor has it set up an effective coordination mechanism to effectively address corruption … and should step up the prevention and repression of corruption. The country also does not have a “convincing track record of effective investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in serious and organized crime cases, including financial investigations leading to a track record of freezing and confiscating criminal assets”, the report said and added that the number of convictions for organized crime decreased compared to 2019. “Serbia should adapt its approach from one based on cases to a strategy against organizations, and from focusing on cases of low or medium importance to high profile cases aiming at dismantling big and internationally spread organizations and seizing the assets,” it said. The report said that the political climate remained polarized and added that all political actors need to engage constructively and in good faith, and implement the measures identified in September 2021 by the Co-facilitators from the European and Serbian Parliament during the inter-party dialogue. “Inflammatory language against political opponents and representatives of other institutions expressing diverging political views was still used during parliamentary debates. All politicians should counter hate speech and contribute to a political dialogue on EU-related reforms, particularly on the fundamentals of democracy and the rule of law,” the report said. “An enabling environment for developing and financing civil society organizations (CSOs) still needs to be established on the ground, as verbal attacks against CSOs continued, including in Parliament,” it added. It said that Serbia started addressing long-standing recommendations by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR) and the government reinstated the relevant working group on elections. “All key recommendations should be implemented in an inclusive and transparent manner, based on wider political consensus and well ahead of the next elections,” the report said. Serbia needs to ensure the consistent and effective implementation of the legislative and institutional framework for fundamental right. Limited progress was also achieved on freedom of expression with verbal attacks against journalists by high-level officials continuing as well as cases of threats and violence all of which remain a concern. “The overall environment for exercising freedom of expression without hindrance still needs to be further strengthened in practice,” the report said. Serbia’s economy is moderately prepared to develop into a functioning market economy and the tax administration has made some progress on reforms, it said but added that major structural reforms of the public administration and state-owned companies is progressing slowly. It said that there has been no progress in strengthening fiscal rules with the state maintaining a strong footprint in the economy. The private sector is underdeveloped and hampered by weaknesses in the rule of law, in particular corruption and judicial inefficiency, and in the enforcement of fair competition.

The report said that Serbia needs to step up its protection of whistle-blowers and investigate allegations in high corruption cases, in order to strengthen trust in the institutions, adding that 128 of 177 cases filed in 2020 were finalized and specifically mentioning the Krusik whistleblower case which was noted in the previous report. “Serbia overall remained committed to bilateral relations with other enlargement countries and neighbouring EU Member States but relations with Montenegro have been marked by continued tensions. In general, Serbia actively participates in regional cooperation,” the report said. “Serbia needs to make further substantial efforts on the implementation of all past agreements and contribute to reaching a comprehensive legally binding normalization agreement with Kosovo. Such an agreement is urgent and crucial so that Kosovo and Serbia can advance on their respective European paths,” it said. Serbia has done important work on alignment with the EU acquis over many areas, particularly on taxation and energy, the report said.

Bilcik: Western Balkans should focus on reforms (N1)

European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik MEP said on Tuesday that the latest European Commission report on Serbia’s progress towards European Union membership reflects the important message that the EU is trying to convey to the Western Balkans: focus on the reform process. “The marathon towards EU membership is lined with reforms but the pace of running – as in every marathon – must be constant and predictable,” he said in written remarks on the publication of the report. Bilcik said that it is also time to look carefully at the EU’s role in supporting the enlargement process. “We need to be bold in our vision for the region and we need to be engaged on the ground. We across the EU must show genuine interest in the European perspective for the countries in the Western Balkans. While we declare our enlargement goals over and over again, it is imperative that we demonstrate these words through deeds, for example by including our partners actively in the Conference on the Future of Europe. Our European commitment is all the more important as we are witnessing inflammatory rhetoric in a number of countries across the Western Balkans,” he said. He said that Serbia has to dedicate itself to opening up the political landscape to ensure free, competitive and fair elections next year. “This means, on the one hand, that implementation of the Inter-Party Dialogue agreements is crucial, and on the other hand, that all political forces compete in the elections,” said. The rapporteur warned that recent tensions between Belgrade and Pristina point to the fragility of the status-quo. “While I welcome the efforts of both sides to scale down the tension, the situation on the ground demonstrates that we need serious and continued engagement from both Belgrade and especially Pristina towards work on a comprehensive and legally binding agreement,” he added.

Petkovic: Belgrade-Pristina working group to meet in Brussels on Thursday (Tanjug/RTV)

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic announced on Wednesday an EU-led working group that included members of Belgrade and Pristina delegations would hold its first meeting in Brussels on Thursday to discuss freedom of movement and the issue of vehicle registration plates. He said it would not be a meeting of chief negotiators at technical level, but a meeting of experts, as agreed on 30 September. Belgrade and Pristina will each have four experts in the working group, Petkovic said following a visit to Kosovo Serb Srecko Sofronijevic, who remains hospitalized at the Emergency Medical Centre in Belgrade after being seriously wounded in last week’s raid by Pristina’s special police units in the north of Kosovo. “We will start with the first meeting to review all that is needed for the functioning of the working group to reach a proposed solution that should subsequently be adopted at high level,” Petkovic said.

Stano: Working group to seek permanent solution for registration plates (Tanjug/RTV)

EU spokesperson Peter Stano confirmed to Tanjug on Wednesday a working group set up to deal with a Belgrade-Pristina dispute over vehicle registration plates would meet in Brussels on Thursday. He said the objective of the working group was to find a permanent solution to the issue. Stano added that the working group, comprised of EU, Belgrade and Pristina experts, would meet regularly, as agreed on 30 September.

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Interview with Serbian President Vucic (Dnevni avaz

The daily carries an exclusive interview with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Asked about the case of Edin Vranj who was released from prison in Belgrade owing to intervention of Serbian President, Vucic said that he cannot comment individual cases, but the initiative was for representatives of B&H and Serbian Prosecutor’s Offices to sit down and talk. He noted that 30 years after the war conflict, certain things are burdening the relations between two countries and that is the fact that many Serbs do not know whether they are indicted by B&H, just as many Bosniaks do not know whether they are indicted or investigated by Serbia. He elaborates that these people could know whether they are indicted, but they had no way to know whether there is a criminal report against them or whether they are under investigation. Vucic noted that he presented his idea to MICT Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz and the idea was to end this practice and make it clear who is included in investigations and criminal reports on both sides and to demonstrate mutual trust. The Serbian President noted that Serbia did this without any intention to force Sarajevo to do the same, arguing that this “was a unilateral act of our will” which he assumes will contribute to increasing of trust among Bosniaks and Croats, who should be able to move freely through the region. “I think this is an important step and important link in the chain of creating of bigger trust among us and this is why I am fully in favor of this. Not only I have no regrets and not only you do not have to ask for reciprocity, it is enough to show your good will and I hope that there will be good on the other side. Even if there is none, I do not think this is of especially importance. What is important is that today, we can invite anyone to come to visit and that any of Bosniaks in Serbia can invite their Bosniak friend or a cousin to come to Serbia,” said Vucic. Asked to comment “the most recent inflammatory statements” made by member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik and his decision to bring an accordion player to B&H Presidency building, Vucic said that he does not want to speak against Dodik or to interfere with internal relations in B&H. “I can only speak from the corner of regional stability, what I would like to be. Yesterday, I had a very tiring day, I would even lie to you that I saw much. What is most important for Serbia, and for me personally, is to try to constantly talk and that our only politics is not accusation against each other,” said Vucic. He argues that whatever they try to do and whatever good thing they do, the focus of the media and politicians is on the bad things. As for situation in B&H, Vucic said that Serbia, in line with Dayton Peace Agreement, has special relations with the RS: “I respect the RS leadership, I would not like to speak against them, but you might have noticed that I do not say anything against the Bosniak or Croat leadership. This is my principle. If they want to speak against me, that is fine, but I do not want to speak against them,” said Vucic. Asked if he is concerned by the situation in B&H, the Serbian President noted that he addressed this issue during the recent meetings in Slovenia, not so much at the EU- Western Balkans Summit, as much as the EPP meeting, noting that he was one of the rare people who listened to all speakers from B&H and he was rather concerned by different stances and different content of essential things that people in B&H spoke about. “But it is extremely important for us to protect the peace and it is extremely important to see how to cooperate economically,” said Vucic. Speaking about the initiative Open Balkans, and skepticism expressed certain individuals in B&H, Vucic wonders why anyone and especially Bosniaks, would have anything against this initiative. He elaborated that they are currently working with Albania and North Macedonia on the project which would secure that during 2023 the borders between them are completely erased for the people crossing these borders: “You have internationally established borders, therefore internationally recognized countries, B&H and Serbia, etc. But with this you are making it easy for Bosniaks who would come to B&H from Pazar, Sjenica, or Tutin and vice versa. There are number of Serbs from Bijeljina or Banja Luka who would like to go to Belgrade without borders and vice versa. All this would contribute to our economies,” said Vucic. He noted that Serbia will have completely open borders with Albania and North Macedonia, for the trucks which will have single working permits and he argues that this is important for market in the Balkans. He dismissed accusations that this is some Greater-Serb project and wonders if this is the only argument against this project and wonders if there are truly people who 30 years after the war cannot understand that it is necessary to connect the region economically. Vucic said that Open Balkans is a chance for everyone to earn more money and noted that the only argument he heard is that we have Berlin Process, but he argues that this initiative more than Berlin Process and opens doors for even closer cooperation and bigger chances for even higher trust.

RS parliament to discuss proposal of law on medicinal products and medical devices which stipulates formation of agency for medicinal products of RS on Wednesday (Nova BH

 

The latest political crisis in B&H has heated up the situation in B&H. Nova BH stressed that it seems that SNSD leader and Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik has started the transfer of competences from the B&H to the RS institutions, and that the first in line seems to be the B&H Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices. Nova BH recalled that expert teams in the RS are preparing laws on revocation of competences from the B&H Intelligence-Security Agency (OSA), the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) of B&H and the state judiciary. At the same time, the proposal of the law on medicinal products and medical devices which stipulates formation of an agency for medicinal products and medical devices of the RS has already been prepared and RS MPs are expected to discuss it on Wednesday. RS SDS MP Miladin Stanic stressed on Tuesday that the right address to amend this law is the B&H parliament and not the RS parliament. “I believe that tomorrow will be a trial session. I am not sure that someone who is proposing those things will dare to hold such a session, but if he (Dodik) holds it, bravo to him. That is another way for his downfall. As far as we are concerned, we will attend it, but normally we will not support it,” Stanic underlined. RS SNSD MP Igor Zunic stressed that all political parties took part in the transfer of competences and that no party has been amnestied from it. “The circumstances were different. The pressure of the international factor was also different. The view and promises of a quick path to the EU were also different,” Zunic said. Dodik earlier stated that the authorities in the RS are not doing anything that is not in line with the Constitution. “We are not justifying ourselves to anyone. We will do it, whether one likes it or not. We are not attacking B&H and its territorial integrity and we do not want to jeopardize peace,” Dodik underlined.

Tegeltija: RS does not want war and it will respect territorial integrity of B&H (ATV

Advisor to Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik Milan Tegeltija, asked about what is said in the B&H Constitution about the legal organization and competence of institutions, Tegeltija said that the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) defines competences of B&H and 10 of them are listed. He added that everything else that is not listed as a competence of B&H, is competence of the entities. Tegeltija said that Article 3 defines the possibility of the transfer of competences to the B&H level if the entities reach an agreement. He said that the decisions made several years ago were made under duress, due to the high number of foreign soldiers present in B&H and the work of the High Representatives. Tegeltija explained that the RS has the competences that were transferred to B&H still available and it can transfer them back. Asked about the possibility of a conflict and war, Tegeltija said that they are not questioning the territorial integrity of B&H, as well as competences of B&H defined in the DPA. He stressed that the RS advocates a B&H constitutional organization in accordance with the DPA and it does not deny it. Asked how the process of the return of competences will look like, Tegeltija said that the process in the RS parliament will be seen when the times comes. He explained that expert teams appointed by the RS government prepare the proposal of decisions which will be adopted by the RS parliament. Tegeltija said that the basis of B&H laws which define new competences transferred from the entities is the agreement of the RS to these laws and when the agreement of the RS is withdrawn, the legitimacy of these laws will be gone. Asked about the RS opposition and their rejection of the initiatives, Tegeltija said that the opposition ignores the national interests and the significant historical moment for the RS. He said that the RS has the choice to remain in the capacity of the DPA or if it will lose its meaning. Asked about the case formed against Dodik by the B&H Prosecutor’s Office, Tegeltija said that the formation of the case means nothing for now. He added that Dodik as member of the B&H Presidency has guarantees from the DPA for his post, as well as protection and immunity. Tegeltija explained that Article 3 of the DPA defines that elected officials have to be introduced into their mandates and it needs to be ensured that they can fulfil their mandates, unless certain conditions defined by the constitution are met. He added that a criminal procedure against an official does not meet this condition.

Kalabukhov: DPA does not stipulate formation of B&H AF (RTRS/Izvestiya

 

In a statement for Russian Izvestiya daily, Ambassador of Russian Federation to B&H Igor Kalabukhov stated that formation of B&H Armed Forces (AF) is not stipulated by the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), adding that B&H AF were formed in 2008 on the ground of consents, including consent of the RS that was given due to pressure of external factors. This was answer to question about stance of Russia – as guarantor of the DPA – towards intention of member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik to restore the RS Army. Kalabukhov also stated that this and other issues could be discussed within internal dialogue in B&H, adding that such dialogue has not started yet. Russian Ambassador also deems that former High Representative Valentin Inzko is significantly accountable for deterioration of political situation in B&H.

Crnadak requests from RS PM to make public record from Monday’s special session of RS government that was dedicated to preparation of new laws (BN TV

 

PDP’s Igor Crnadak requested on Tuesday from RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic to make public a record from Monday’s special session of the RS government that was dedicated to preparation of new laws that will be discussed at a special session of the RS parliament on Wednesday. Crnadak reminded that information from media indicated that some of the ministers in the RS government presented a different opinion regarding the proposed laws and warned of possible harmful effects on the RS and its citizens, i.e. they said that the RS could face negative consequences, international isolation and possible movement restrictions for citizens. He warned that Viskovic should not play games with fate of the RS and its people and that such important topics must be made public.  Crnadak requested this because allegedly RS Minister of Interior Dragan Lukac opposed Milorad Dodik’s plan to restore competences of the RS through adoption of laws in the RSNA. Allegedly, Lukac stated that if the RS restore competences concerning personal documents, all documents issued by the RS will not be valid. Also, RS Minister of Energy Petar Djokic allegedly underlined that the RS should discuss thoroughly whether competences should be restored.

RS opposition: It is inacceptable that return of RS’ competences comes in violent manner (O Kanal

 

Political party delegations of the RS opposition – SDS, PDP, and DNS – met in Istocna Ilidza on Tuesday. On this occasion, the three party delegations discussed the current political situation in the context of the demands, which they presented during the protest of the opposition that took place on 2 October in Banja Luka, the upcoming snap elections for Mayor of Prijedor, and the initiative of SNSD leader Milorad Dodik for return of competences that were transferred from the entity to the state level. When it comes to meeting of their demands, the opposition assessed that no progress has been made in this regard. The major part of their meeting focused on Dodik’s initiative for restoring entity competences through denying the B&H judicial and law enforcement institutions the right to operate on the territory of the RS. In their response, the opposition made it clear that they will not support Dodik’s initiative in the way he proposed it. The opposition assessed that such initiative, which would be implemented in an illegitimate manner, is unjustified and only leads to deterioration of the current political crisis and disturbs the citizens. Based on the opposition’s common stance, Dodik’s initiative would only cause turmoil and, in the worst-case scenario, conflicts. The opposition reassured the citizens that they have no reason to be afraid of emergence of war conflicts, because neither them as the opposition nor the international community will allow for that to happen. Specifically, the opposition concluded that they will reject everything that might threaten the existence of the RS, and – as O Kanal reported – even of B&H. According to the opposition, the RS authorities are currently only working towards further complication of the political crisis, which Dodik initiates for the sake of achieving personal interests, while they should be working on resolving the issues important for the lives of the citizens such as tackling the corruption and resolving the numerous affairs, especially those that emerged during the pandemic. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic stated that the opposition will not support any “unilateral decisions that would call for war” and they find them “absolutely unacceptable”. Sarovic stressed that the opposition is in favor of restoring the entity competences, but through legitimate methods, which would not threaten the lives of citizens. Sarovic stressed that Russia and Serbia do not support Dodik’s idea, either. “Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sent a message that he is for respect of the DPA, sovereignty, and integrity of B&H, but also sovereignty of the RS, and that he considers it unacceptable to make unilateral decisions that could threaten peace and security in B&H” Sarovic noted. PDP leader Branislav Borenovic assessed that “the ruling elite” has faced huge failure, and warned that such warmongering rhetoric and introducing disturbance among citizens has lasted since the general elections of 2018. DNS leader Nenad Nesic briefly stated: “War will not happen again in B&H. Stop intimidating the people.”

Izetbegovic: Dodik’s threats to abolish state institutions will not be implemented (N1

 

The anniversary of death of first Chair of RBiH Presidency Alija Izetbegovic was observed on Tuesday. Leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic commented on recent announcements of member of B&H Presidency and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik on restoring RS competences and abolition of some state institutions. Izetbegovic believes that Dodik’s threats to abolish state institutions will not be implemented. The SDA leader also stated that he met with leader of HDZ B&H on Monday and that Dragan Covic (HDZ B&H leader) convinced him on this occasion that this party is not planning to enter any bad scenario. Izetbegovic underlined that most probably majority in the RS parliament will be adopting Dodik’s proposals, adding that there are political factors in the RS strongly opposing Dodik’s policies. He also expressed hope that Dodik will resume to lose support for his plans. Asked whether Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic could help in overcoming of current situation, Izetbegovic replied affirmatively, adding that citizens have the biggest power to change situation. Reporter noted that if Dodik decided to start with implementation of his announcements on restoring of competences from state to the RS level and forming of parallel institutions, B&H judiciary should be first one to react. Izetbegovic is of the opinion that Dodik is losing support and encountering enormous resistance in the RS as well. “I believe that that front and determination are slowly crumbling and that many of them will give up, especially if they are helped by some influential politicians from Belgrade and the international community. I predict that it will all come down to a storm in a teacup,” Izetbegovic said. He stressed that the division of B&H will not happen and the decisions adopted will not have any legal foundation.

Komsic, Dzaferovic and UN Assistant SG Jenca discuss current political situation and blockade of B&H institutions (BHT1

 

Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas in the United Nations Department of Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca met members of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic in Sarajevo on Tuesday. The B&H Presidency stated following the meeting that Jenca said that he is worried about the current political crisis in B&H and in the Western Balkans. The press release also reads that Jenca said that the UN is ready to help B&H in solving of the problems in order to avoid any kind of a scenario, while Komsic underlined the need to invest all possible efforts in order to make the constitutional system functional. Komsic and Jenca discussed the current political situation in B&H, with the focus on the current blockades that emerged in the B&H institutions over the decision of former High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko on imposing the amendments to the Criminal Code of B&H on banning genocide denial. Komsic underlined that B&H faces its biggest crisis since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). They concluded that the authorities should focus on making progress on the path of the EU integration.

Niksic informs PES and Socialist Interna about current crisis in B&H, accuses SNSD’s actions of threatening to cause new war (Oslobodjenje/Glas Srpske

 

SDP leader Nermin Niksic sent a letter to the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the Socialist International to inform them about the current political crisis in B&H which is shaking the foundations of B&H’s constitutional order, threatening to destabilize not only B&H, but the entire region. “SNSD, the party led by Milorad Dodik which was thrown out of the Socialist International and PES because of its nationalism, has undertaken a series of unconstitutional activities, openly rejecting the political order established by the Dayton Peace Accords, which are threatening to cause a new war” Niksic stated in his letter. He asked for political measures against those who promote segregation and race-based hatred and for preservation of peace in B&H. Niksic explained that this means support to the High Representative Christian Schmidt for use of his powers to sanction politicians and remove officials involved in undermining B&H’s sovereignty. Dodik commented the letter sent by Niksic and stated that the militant policies of the Bosniak political Sarajevo to which Niksic obviously belongs is continuing to advocate international interventionism. “We are already used to this, and this is the matrix which they follow. I believe that it is already clear to everyone that as militants, they handle guns better than dialogue, and we cannot speak about law and respect for Constitution,” said Dodik. Dodik stated that Niksic is falsely presenting himself as a social democrat, but he represents the same policy which is common to the entire Sarajevo-based Bosniak political body – policy of saber-rattling and calling foreigners for help in creation of unitary Bosniak B&H.

Vukanovic urges Vucic to bring Dodik to reason so that he stops with destructive policy (BN TV

 

RS representative Nebojsa Vukanovic has sent a long letter to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, in which he warned that the RS has been destroyed and devastated to the ground. He stressed that “nothing functions in the RS and everything is under control of only one man and one center of power in which all decisions are made”. In his open letter, Vukanovic called on Vucic to bring Dodik to reason so that he stops with his destructive policy. Vukanovic has stressed that the situation has gone too far because Dodik is planning to sacrifice the whole people and the RS and is gambling with everything and moving into adventure called ‘return to the original Dayton’ with only one goal – to secure amnesty for himself and his associates for crimes committed against his own people.

EC adopts 2021 Enlargement Package; B&H fails to achieve progress and even makes regression in certain fields; European Commissioner Varhelyi: B&H needs to make progress in all 14 key priorities from EC’s Opinion (FTV

 

The European Commission (EC) adopted on Tuesday its 2021 Enlargement Package, providing a detailed assessment of the progress made by the Western Balkans and Turkey on their respective paths towards the EU. According to FTV, the annual report showed that B&H received the worst marks due to failing to make progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime, the reform of election process, the freedom of expression, or the foreign affairs, while it even marked regression in the field of public procurements. The EC warned that continuation of the rhetoric of division hinders overall progress of B&H. The report reads that B&H is required to fulfill the 14 key priorities from the EC’s Opinion, and the blockade of state institutions causes deep concern. The report also points out that a significant decline in the rate of harmonization of B&H with the foreign and security policies of the EU sends a negative signal. The EC provided an assessment of the manner of managing the migrant crisis and emphasized that the B&H authorities failed to establish a sustainable system of migrations and asylum, which led to a humanitarian crisis in December 2020. The EC is also concerned over the selective and non-transparent prosecution of corruption cases. The EC established that the police is prone to facing political interference, while financial investigations and property confiscation are mainly ineffective. “Progress has not been achieved in guaranteeing freedom of expression and media, in protection of journalists from threats and violence by ensuring adequate court measures, or securing financial sustainability of the public broadcasting system (PBS),” reads the report. In addition, the EC detected challenges with regard to freedom of gathering, especially in Republika Srpska (RS) where activists were exposed to intimidation and prosecution. The EC highlighted that the Constitution of B&H still violates the European Human Rights Convention, even after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)’s ruling in the case Sejdic-Finci vs. B&H and related cases. Progress has not been achieved in improvement of the electoral framework, according to European standards, and ensuring transparency in financing political parties. The positive steps made in B&H include holding of elections in Mostar, after a 12-year delay, and the country also continued active participation in regional cooperation and maintaining of good neighborly relations. Presenting the Enlargement Package, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Oliver Varhelyi stated that B&H needs to make progress in fulfilling of all 14 key priorities from the Opinion, in order to achieve progress on the EU path. “We need constructive dialogue and political will of all sides to move forward”, Varhelyi stressed. According to Varhelyi, political leaders in B&H need to support rather than obstruct the functioning of state institutions, and they are required to work on implementation of the rule of law and the judicial reforms. The European Commissioner pointed out: “The EU will continue helping all sides in coming to a solution in line with the EU values.”

 

MEPs comment situation in B&H during presenting of Enlargement Package; Warn about dangers of Dodik’s behavior (Oslobodjenje

 

Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (AFET) held a special session in Strasbourg on Tuesday, during which European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Oliver Varhelyi presented 2021 Enlargement Package, which includes annual report on six countries of the Western Balkans and their progress on the European path. Commissioner Varhelyi underlined that that countries have made progress and he hope that during this mandate at least one of the countries will join the EU. “Western Balkans is part of Europe and needs to be part of EU. We share same history, continent, interests and values. EU is not complete without Western Balkans,” said Varhelyi. The daily comments that the least of the attention during the presentation was dedicated to B&H and media reported that B&H achieved the weakest results and got the lowest marks. During the discussion, several MEPs and members of the AFET asked the Commissioner about current situation in B&H and plans to stop member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik. Representative of ‘Renew Europe’ Group, Klemen Groselj stated that B&H is faced with serious crisis. “You have a huge crisis in B&H and we know that whenever B&H is destabilized the entire Balkans will explode. This thing that Dodik is doing is very dangerous for the region, you know who is involved and if something goes wrong nobody in the region can only stand and do nothing” said Groselj. He asked what is EU planning to do and stressed that he has a feeling that the EU is calming down the situation, but does not solve causes of the problem. Representative of Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Andreas Schieder stressed that EU has to take a stance and stressed that Dodik is playing with fire and has to be stopped. Representative of Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, Thomas Waitz stressed that this is not only playing with fire, but also provoking of new conflicts in the Balkans. “I do not see progress in Serbia, besides theoretic stories. Negotiations have been blocked for two years and Serbia is not using influence in the region positively, but to encourage conflicts and Montenegro and Kosovo are the best examples,” said Waitz, adding that Dodik is doing the same thing in B&H. commissioner Varhelyi briefly responded and stated that they “have problem with everyone, regardless the authority level we are talking about, who try to step outside Dayton framework”. He stressed that it is important to continue to support reforms in B&H.

Appointment of five experienced US diplomats to positions in charge of region means US is returning ‘in grand style’ (EuroBlic

 

The daily argued that, judging by names of five diplomats who were appointed by US President Joseph Biden to positions in charge of the region, USA is returning to the Balkans “in grand style”. The daily reminded that the five diplomats are Gabriel Escobar, Christopher Hill, Jeffrey Hovenier, Michael Murphy and James O’Brien who are all experienced diplomats who “know Balkans like back of their hands” and they all speak Serbian language. The daily reminded of past duties of the diplomats in the region and noted, among other things, that Hill was a participant of talks in Dayton and Rambouillet and ‘Zeit’ described him as a man of trust of former US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whom he assisted to calm down conflicts in B&H. Escobar was recently appointed as the US Ambassador to Belgrade and he is perceived as a man who might speed up solving of the Kosovo issue. Murphy has 29 years of diplomatic experience and he already served in high-ranking positions in Sarajevo and Pristina. He had close relations with former Serb member of the Presidency of B&H Nebojsa Radmanovic, whom he described as “the most professional one and the hardest working one in the Presidency of B&H”. O’Brien, who was appointed as the coordinator of the US State Department’s policy of sanctions, is deemed to be the key American person for development of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), i.e. he is believed to have written the Annex 4 of the DPA, which is in fact the Constitution of B&H.

 

PM welcomes B&H deputy chairman in Zagreb (Hina)

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and the Deputy Chairman of the House of Peoples of the parliament of B&H, Dragan Covic, agreed at a meeting in Zagreb on Tuesday that it was necessary to change B&H’s electoral law to ensure legitimate representation and equality of the constituent peoples. The leaders discussed B&H’s path to EU membership, cooperation between Croatia and B&H in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to the country’s electoral legislation. “The electoral law of B&H must resolve the present situation in which political representatives are imposed, especially at the level of the Presidency and the House of Peoples of the Federation of B&H (FB&H), and ensure legitimate representation of all three constituent peoples in an equal way while ensuring full active and passive voting rights for all citizens of B&H,” Covic said. He said that the solutions he had proposed at previous meetings with political stakeholders in B&H and representatives of the international community fully incorporated the relevant rulings by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. “These solutions are based on the principle which both rulings describe as the foundation of the constitutional system, and that is the constitutionality of the peoples,” he added. Plenkovic said that changes to electoral legislation should be the result of an agreement involving all political stakeholders, observing the spirit and letter of the Dayton Accord and the legitimate representation of all three constituent peoples in B&H. “Our position is very clear – we want the anomaly that puts the Croats in an unfair position rectified. It is not good that one constituent people, in this case the Croats, do not feel good and do not feel represented,” Plenkovic said. He reiterated that Croatia is the strongest advocate of B&H’s EU membership bid, noting that the EU is the only guarantor of the country’s reform and development process.

 

Boskovic: Nothing helps, government has come down, institutions are destroyed, new elections likely to happen (Dnevne novine)

 

In an interview for Dnevne Novine, the Democratic Party of Socialists’ MP Predrag Boskovic assesses that the current government destroyed everything what had been done for the development of a modern, stable country, a reliable ally, noting that the international community has been aware of it, as the NATO allies voiced their concerns through a US official position expressed at the recent Budva Forum. “The DPS has been warning for months that some staff solutions in the security sector (including the highest positions in the government and security sector) are not good and can threaten the trust of the countries within the Alliance we’ve been closely cooperating with. We’ve been talking and warning about the impact of Serbia and Russia for many years, and it’s become even more intensive since the formation of the new government, as the pro-Russian and pro-Serbian politicians got the opportunity to act and work in state bodies,” warns Boskovic.

Escobar: Montenegro and United States are not only friends but also allies (Gov. Press office)

Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary overseeing policy towards the countries of the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar in Washington D.C. Abazovic and Escobar discussed the overall political situation and the approach of the new US administration towards the Western Balkans. Stating that he will visit Montenegro soon, US Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar pointed out that the United States and Montenegro are not only friends, but also allies. Abazovic stressed that Montenegro remains strongly committed to its Euro-Atlantic path and strongly advocates that the Western Balkans become a full member of the European Union. In that sense, Abazovic pointed out that Montenegro wants the best neighborly relations in the Western Balkans and to change region’s international reputation. Abazovic said that the Western Balkans lack freshness and that the region needs new leaders who will change the focus from national and religious topics to the economy and topics that are of vital importance to the population. Speaking about the current political situation in Montenegro, Abazovic emphasized the results that Montenegro has achieved in the fight against organized crime and corruption, especially in combating drug and cigarette smuggling, stating that the new government has encountered many problems that are the product of a corrupt thirty-year rule.

Latest EC report on MNE: Composition of Assembly unprecedented (CdM)

The current composition of the Assembly is unprecedented in the history of Montenegro. Concerning the EU-related reforms, a broad inter-party and social consensus should be reached, as it’s of paramount importance for the country in order to make progress on the road to the EU. This is one of the key messages from the EC Enlargement Package that the CdM portal had the insight into. Brussels criticizes the fact that the ruling majority often initiated or passed laws using accelerated procedure, without the necessary public consultations and without taking into account the requests of the EU accession process. Brussels warns that the negotiation structure has been somewhat weaker by dismissal of 100 of its members, including 16 negotiators for chapters and 24 heads of the working groups. The majority of these positions haven’t been fulfilled yet. There’s another important warning for Montenegro. Brussels says that some of the key ministries haven’t shown enough dedication and constructive engagement in the EU accession process. And it’s not all. They voiced a clear warning that the change of power and the parliamentary majority significantly affected state administration, noting that the amendments to the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees now demand less requirements for competitiveness, independence and merit-based recruitment of civil servants and state employees. The Report also suggests that the recent cabinet reshuffle brought in some significant personnel changes, at the senior management level as well, thus threatening the capacity of Montenegro to keep the experienced people when it comes to the EU-linked matters. Brussels is adamant – Montenegro needs a strong political will for efficient depoliticization of the public sector, optimization of state administration and the implementation of the liability principle of senior staff. Their message is that we need a continuous effort in order to boost professionalism, transparency and responsibility of the State Election Commission.

 

Mickoski calls on opposition to unite to topple the government (Republika)

Following Tuesday’s meeting with the parties from the “For the Renewal of Macedonia” coalition, Hristijan Mickoski, the leader of VMRO DPMNE, called for a united opposition ahead of the voting in the second round of local elections. Opposition votes have shown that there is serious dissatisfaction with the government and they are looking for a new future, I call for a united opposition, Mickoski said. The VMRO-DPMNE leader called on Levica and all opposition parties, but also the ruling in coalition with SDSM who are dissatisfied, to join him to form a majority in Parliament and councils in the municipalities. He said he expected a brutal campaign in the second round. Expect brutality from Spasovski’s police, expect the abusers to behave more violently, he said.

EU releases report on Macedonia – progress and reforms assessed as moderate (Republika

European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi said Tuesday at the press conference on the reports for Western Balkan countries that that he’s working on Macedonia and Albania to hold the first intergovernmental conferences at the same time, by December at the latest. Varhelyi also ruled out the possibility of decoupling Macedonia and Albania in the enlargement process, although he opened that possibility a few months ago, but said the proposal was rejected by most EU members. He believes that both countries are ready to start negotiations, and the postponement of the process harms the credibility of the Union. Varhelyi emphasizes that he is involved in solving the problem with Bulgaria – he recently visited Skopje and Sofia and as he says, he is ready to help. The report on the country notes that instead of enforcing existing laws, the state is focusing on rapid adoption of new laws. The judicial system in Macedonia is “moderately prepared” for EU membership, and the fight against corruption receives the same assessment from the Union. Little progress has been made in reforming the state administration. Although the engagement of the opposition parties in the Parliament is welcomed, its work is accompanied by deep polarization, the European Commission’s report states. The EU Progress Report is published once a year. It contains assessments of the fulfillment of the economic and political criteria and gives recommendations for further reforms of the countries on the road to the EU.

Varhelyi: EU has to deliver for Macedonia and Albania by year’s end (MIA

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi on Tuesday presented the 2021 Enlargement Package, which includes progress reports for Western Balkan countries and Turkey, to the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affair (AFET) and called for opening of EU negotiations with Skopje and Tirana without delay, MIA’s Brussels correspondent reports. As stated in the reports of the European Commission this year, EU Commissioner Varhelyi reiterated before the MEPs from the Committee on Foreign Affairs that the postponement of the negotiations with Macedonia, and with Albania, is detrimental to the credibility of the European Union. “We are working closely to unblock the situation and solve the problem on this difficult topic, for now we have not been successful but we have hope, by the end of this year we must deliver, this must not be called into question, and it is up to us to deliver. When I say us, I mean all EU member states, I mean Macedonia, which is a partner in this. I have traveled to both capitals and I am still ready to help, but this may require more commitment” Varhelyi told the European Parliament.

 

Key EU report says opening talks with Albania is overdue, highlights concerns on reforms, elections and freedoms (Tirana Times

Albania and North Macedonia continue to fulfill the conditions to open accession negotiations, but the delays in the official launch are having a negative impact on the credibility of the EU, the European Commission says in its latest key document on enlargement. The EU’s executive branch adopted its 2021 Enlargement Package on Tuesday, providing a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the six Western Balkan states on their respective paths towards the European Union, with a particular focus on implementing fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead. The EC acknowledges that Albania is being arbitrarily held back due to pending bilateral issues between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, which EC says need to be resolved as a matter of priority. “It is crucial that EU Member States conclude the discussions on the Negotiating Frameworks without further delay and that the first intergovernmental conferences with both countries are held as soon as possible and before the end of this year,” the EC said in a statement. EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi told MEPs that the postponement of the opening of negotiations with these two countries has had a negative impact. … It is important that the members of the European Union understand that. They have met the conditions in order to hold the first intergovernmental conference with these two countries. The report noted Albania is advancing steadily on the EU reform path, but also highlighted several issues of concern. In Albania’s case, needed reforms will continue to target the public administration, the justice system as well as the fight against corruption and organized crime. Other highlights of the report for Albania include concerns over problems with the last general elections and the justice system.  “Concerns remained related to the misuse of public resources or official functions, to allegations of vote buying, and to the leaking of sensitive personal data covering the political preferences of citizens,” the report notes. The report adds Albania’s judicial system is also moderately prepared, noting the slow but steady progress of the justice reform and its vetting process. The EC report also states that no progress has been made on freedom of expression during the reporting period. “The atmosphere of verbal attacks, smear campaigns and acts of intimidation against journalists has not improved,” the report notes, crucially adding: “self-regulation in online media needs to be ensured”. EC’s concern comes as the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama has refused to withdraw a piece of legislation pending in Albania’s parliament that would strip online media from the right to use self-regulation bodies and would force it to use the state’s regulatory body for broadcast media, AMA, which is seen as by many as political and government-controlled. The EC report also notes a sharp decrease of asylum requests from Albania in 2020, contributing to the pandemic and related travel restrictions. The report says all six Western Balkans partners have committed to establishing a Common Regional Market, building on EU rules and standards, and should focus on overcoming the difficulties encountered in order to bring the opportunities of this initiative to the citizens and businesses of the region and to maximize the benefits of the investments under the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan. While the report takes note of the Open Balkan Initiative signed by Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia, it stops short of endorsing it, focusing on the more inclusive Common Regional Market and CEFTA instead and the need to conclude several important agreements to make it functional, which are pending due to bilateral issues, chiefly between Serbia and Kosovo.

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