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Belgrade Media Report 02 December 2021

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 2 December 2021

LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: Former authorities gave Rio Tinto sole drill permit (RTS/Tanjug)
Mihajlovic: Lithium is oil of 21st century (TV Happy)
Selakovic: Good relations between Serbia and Romania (Tanjug/RTV)
Vulin in Moscow: Security cooperation at highest level ever (Tanjug/RTS)
Borrell: Western Balkans remains strategic region for EU (Beta)
Stano calls on Belgrade, Pristina to allow official visits (Tanjug)
Serbian media watchdog says remarks against Tepic were discriminatory (N1)
British government appoints special envoy for Western Balkans (Beta/B92/RTS)
Putin’s response to Komsic and Dzaferovic (Politika)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Dodik: I am not against Constitution of B&H but against what has been imposed from aside; Putin never asked me to do or not to do something, this is why I respect him (RTRS)
Russian portal speculates about possibility of Russia sending soldiers to the RS, Izetbegovic and Dzaferovic react (Nova BH/ Pravda.ru)
Third day of negotiations on changes to B&H Election Law ends without much progress and agreement (N1)
Palmer, Eichhorst: Political reps in B&H are not close to agreement on election reform, law banning genocide denial in B&H is important and genocide denial is inacceptable (AJB)
Schmidt: Situation in B&H is bad, I am worried that it turns into something worse (Dnevni list)
Stoltenberg: Dodik’s aggressive rhetoric is concerning (BHT1)
Borrell: Situation in B&H is concerning (RTRS)
Roth meets Dzaferovic and Komsic; Roth: Sanctions are on the table for all those that block work of B&H institutions (BHT1)
B&H Presidency’s meeting with Roth marked by difference in stances after meeting (RTRS)
Baroness Goldie: UK will resume to support sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H (FTV)
Croatia

Austrian government bans HOS symbols (Hina/APA)
Montenegro

Krivokapic: I see opposition initiative as political marketing for Podgorica elections (Pobjeda)
URA: At this moment, we won’t vote for a no-confidence motion against the government, there is no reason for that (CdM)
Abazovic: There’s no cleaner option than elections, DPS won’t return, I’m not interested in what DF thinks (CdM)
There is no future for the EU without the future of the Western Balkans (European Integration Office)
Republic of North Macedonia

Gashi after meeting with Zaev: There’s progress, party consultations to follow (Republika)
Osmani: European perspective of Western Balkans – safest investment in region’s stability (Republika)
Austrian President Van der Bellen in a diplomatic mission between Macedonia and Bulgaria (Republika)
Albania

Nikolla meets Sassoli: European Parliament, Albania’s voice within the EU (Radio Tirana)
Minister Xhacka participates at the NATO ministerial in Riga (Radio Tirana)

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: Former authorities gave Rio Tinto sole drill permit (RTS/Tanjug)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday said the only document permitting Rio Tinto geological explorations and drilling in the Loznica area, western Serbia, had been issued by Serbia’s former authorities in 2012. Responding to critics of the Jadar Project in an extraordinary public address, Vucic displayed nine documents issued by the former authorities to a daughter company of the mining giant between 2004 and 2012. He said a February 1, 2012 decision to allow lithium explorations and drilling was the only one affecting the integrity of land. “This is the first and only such document to date, and it was adopted when DjilasTadicJeremicZelenovic and all those who are now lecturing us were in power,” he said. Vucic said that, contrary to claims by people from the former authorities, a document signed with Rio Tinto in 2017 was not a permit, but a completely non-binding memorandum of understanding. He also noted that Rio Tinto had not yet prepared an environmental impact assessment study for the project and would need at least a year and two or three months to do so.

Mihajlovic: Lithium is oil of 21st century (TV Happy)

Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Zorana Mihajlovic on Thursday said Serbia was rich in critical mineral resources necessary for the future of the global economy and that lithium was the oil of the 21st century. Even though Serbia has proven reserves of lithium, boron, copper, gold and other resources worth a total 250 billion Euros, no new mines will be opened unless all environmental protection standards are met, Mihajlovic said in an appearance on TV Happy.

“The key issue is whether we will make use of the fact that we are rich in critical mineral raw materials and whether we will have not only a mine but a battery factory and an electric vehicle factory as well, but only under the condition that all European and international environmental protection standards are met,” she said. According to a statement released by her office, Mihajlovic said that, if a mine were to be opened, it would rely on subterranean exploitation and new technologies not producing sulphuric acid vapors or liquid waste. “Everything that is done will have to be in line with EU-compliant laws. If all three studies show that everything is in line with those standards, then we will go ahead, and if they show otherwise, we will not. The main message to everyone is that the government will not do anything that is detrimental to the citizens, the environment and the economy,” Mihajlovic said. She noted that, to date, no lithium exploitation agreements had been signed with Rio Tinto, which has been carrying out explorations in Serbia since 2004, and added that a decision on this would be made by the citizens after the completion of all environmental impact assessment studies.

Selakovic: Good relations between Serbia and Romania (Tanjug/RTV)

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic on Thursday met with his Romanian counterpart Bogdan Lucian Aurescu on the sidelines of the 28th OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Stockholm. Selakovic noted that Serbia and Romania maintained traditionally good and friendly relations and that he was pleased to say they were a model of good-neighborly relations in the region, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. Selakovic thanked Romania for its firm stance on non-recognition of the so-called Kosovo, as well as for its support to Serbia in international organizations. Selakovic also said Serbia appreciated Romania’s advocacy for EU accession of the entire Western Balkans and noted that Romania’s support to Serbia on the European path was very important as well. He said there was untapped potential for bilateral cooperation in areas such as infrastructure, construction and trade, and stressed that both sides must engage further to boost economic cooperation. They also discussed the significance and the position of national minorities and the protection of their rights.

Vulin in Moscow: Security cooperation at highest level ever (Tanjug/RTS)

Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin spoke in Moscow today with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu about the continuation of cooperation between the two countries in the field of security. Vulin and Shoigu agreed that cooperation between Serbia and the Russian Federation has never been at such a high level, the Interior Ministry announced. According to a statement, the Ministers were happy to conclude that all the agreed projects from the time when Vulin was the head of the Defense Ministry have been successfully implemented. A special contribution to strengthening cooperation between the two countries, as they pointed out, was given by Presidents Aleksandar Vucic and Vladimir Putin, whose good relations were confirmed during their recent 19th meeting, held in Sochi, thanks to which the Serbian economy has sufficient quantities of energy and gas at the most favorable prices. Vulin thanked Minister Shoigu for his personal contribution to the development of relations between the security forces of the two countries and stressed that the policy of military neutrality, which Serbia is consistent in, enables that cooperation to be even more intensive. Vulin thanked Shoigu for the fact that Russia respects the sovereignty and integrity of Serbia.

Borrell: Western Balkans remains strategic region for EU (Beta)

EU High Representative Josep Borrell stated on Wednesday that the Western Balkans remained a strategic region for the EU, and its stability an issue of the utmost importance. Speaking ahead of the session about the Western Balkans at the NATO ministerial meeting in Riga, Borrell called for the reform of the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the resumption of the dialogue about the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Borrell expressed concern over the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, “where tensions have been observed in recent days, and attempts to nullify 26 years of peace and stability,” and called for the implementation of reforms necessary for preserving the unified state and reform of the election law. Borrell also said that there was a lot of tension in Kosovo and Serbia in recent months, during the summer, and reiterated the need for resuming the dialogue. “The situation is calm now, but there is still a need to return to the dialogue, to continue the dialogue. There is no other way to stabilize the situation,” he added.

Stano calls on Belgrade, Pristina to allow official visits (Tanjug)

EU spokesperson Peter Stano on Wednesday called on Belgrade to reconsider a decision to ban a visit by ministers of the provisional Pristina institutions to the municipalities of Medvedja, Presevo and Bujanovac. In a statement to Tanjug, Stano said the visit had been announced in line with a previous agreement and that there was no reason not to allow it to proceed. He said the message to Belgrade was the same as the one sent to Pristina last week after the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic was denied entry to the territory of Serbia’s southern province. Stano said the EU expected both sides to fully implement all reached agreements, including an agreement on official visits.

Serbian media watchdog says remarks against Tepic were discriminatory (N1)

The Serbian electronic media watchdog said it had launched proceedings against the pro-regime TV Pink over the offensive statements against an opposition leader by a former paramilitary leader. The Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) said in a report that the statements by war-time paramilitary leader Dragoslav Bokan claiming that opposition politician Marinika Tepic is a national enemy because of her ethnic Romanian origins were discrimination. “The negative attitude towards Tepic was in the context of her membership in a national minority and she was even designated national enemy and the state was called to set up defense mechanisms which was a call for a national and state confrontation with the Romanian minority,” the report said. The REM report said that the TV Pink anchor also failed to react appropriately to Bokan’s statements.

British government appoints special envoy for Western Balkans (Beta/B92/RTS)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed Sir Stuart Peach as Special Envoy for the Western Balkans. He states that the region is facing the greatest threat to its stability and security in the last two decades, and that we must not allow a return to violence and divisions from the past, the British government announced today. “The UK is deeply committed to European security. The Western Balkans are experiencing the biggest threat to their stability and security in over two decades. We have a responsibility to do all we can to preserve the gains achieved through peace and dialogue – we cannot allow any return to the violence and division of the past. Sir Stuart’s extensive experience and expertise will reinforce international efforts to protect peace and promote Euro-Atlantic integration in this crucial region,” Johnson said. According to a statement from the British Embassy in Belgrade, Sir Stuart Peach has been appointed as part of Britain’s ongoing commitment to stability and prosperity in the region, and as the Prime Minister’s special envoy in the United States and Europe to support and strengthen regional stability. His work will include promoting strong democratic institutions and open societies, helping to tackle serious and organized crime and other common security challenges, and encouraging the resolution of inherited issues such as war crimes and missing persons. In this regard, the United Kingdom will also continue to lead work on the promotion of gender equality and the implementation of the Initiative for the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict. In Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), Sir Stuart Peach’s activities will support the work of International High Representative Christian Schmidt, who continues to enjoy the full support of the United Kingdom. As for Serbia and Kosovo, he will work with British partners to support the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, with the mediation of the European Union. The statement added that together with international partners, the United Kingdom is working to address all threats to stability in line with the Dayton Peace Accords, which have boosted hard-earned progress in Bosnia-Herzegovina over the past 26 years and helps meet other regional challenges, including supporting Serbia’s normalization and Kosovo and the fight against organized crime. The head of British diplomacy Liz Truss assessed: “Sir Stuart’s appointment is a clear demonstration of Britain’s commitment to the Western Balkans and to the defense and promotion of freedom and democracy in the region. I look forward to deepening our economic and security ties with the Western Balkans and working together to deter malign actors. Sir Stuart will play a key role in that work,” she added. The British Ambassador to Serbia Sian Macleod also welcomed the appointment of Sir Stuart Peach. “Sir Stewart is highly respected and will contribute to this role with his significant experience. He looks forward to working with leaders across the region, on behalf of the UK government and in close cooperation with British embassies, to support and strengthen regional stability and Britain’s continued commitment to strengthening relations with the countries of the Western Balkans and the security and prosperity of this important region,” she said. Sir Stuart Peach will take on the role after stepping down as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee earlier this year, a role he held since 2018. He also formerly served as the UK Chief of the Defense Staff.

Putin’s response to Komsic and Dzaferovic (Politika, by Mladen Kremenovic)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency members Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic on received from Moscow a reply of Russian President Vladimir Putin to their letter in which they recently complained about policies and processes carried out by the Republika Srpska (RS). Russian Ambassador to B&H Igor Kalabukhov conveyed Putin’s response: “The Russian Federation fully supports sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H, the Dayton Peace Agreement and any kind of solution agreed upon in B&H.” Political analyst Vojislav Savic told Politika that B&H has been held hostage by unitarian ambitions of the Sarajevo political elite” for a long time now. “The lengthy neglected culture of dialogue and reaching of consensus, assisted by the High Representatives and other foreign diplomats, has created an atmosphere where it is impossible to discuss anything on an equal basis. Bakir Izetbegovic’s SDA and Komsic’s DF, as well as other political parties from Sarajevo, ambivalent approach has been reflected in the fact that, on the one hand they are imposing force on other peoples as much as they can, (Komsic case), while, on the other hand, they have been presenting themselves to foreign media and statesmen as victims.” Representatives of both Serbs and Croats in B&H have been arguing that the political elite from Sarajevo does not want to discuss organization of the country with the other two people. “I do not see that this will change any time soon. This means in the long term that B&H will be dying out,” assessed Savic.

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik: I am not against Constitution of B&H but against what has been imposed from aside; Putin never asked me to do or not to do something, this is why I respect him (RTRS)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, who is currently visiting Moscow, stated that he is not against the Constitution of B&H, but rather against what has been imposed from aside. Dodik underlined that B&H can survive only by going back to the Dayton Peace Agreement. Speaking about his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dodik stated that he is not going to Russia to plead with anyone and that the difference between Putin and Western leaders is that he listens to him. “Putin never asked me to do or not to do something, this is why I respect him. Unlike him, Western politicians, even those of the lowest rank, appear in my office with desire to impose certain things on me. Putin is neither calculated nor a speculator,” said Dodik. Asked how he became a Moscow’s man now while a decade ago he used to be considered US’ reference point, Dodik said that they split ways, but not because he wanted to, but rather because he refused to accept what the US asked him to do. Commenting on the decision of former High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko to impose amendments to the Criminal Code of B&H, Dodik said that the interventionism of the international community, carried out through the HR and three foreign judges in Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H, undermined the Constitution by creating an illegal system. According to the Serb member of the Presidency, “these people” brought nothing good to B&H and B&H remains the least developed part of Europe. The Presidency member assessed that it is time to change the approach and not to allow foreigners, who are not elected in B&H, to impose laws. With regard to Christian Schmidt’s remarks from the report he submitted to the UN Security Council (UN SC), which read that there is a realistic risk of a new conflict in B&H, Dodik said that this is not true. “Schmidt came here, took the report written by Muslims and signed it. He can speak whatever he wants, I see him only as a citizen, because his appointment was not endorsed by all signatories of the DPA. B&H does not have a HR, which is good news. We are the last colony in Europe, but we are starting to free ourselves slowly,” said Dodik. When it comes to the initiative for formation of the Army of Republika Srpska (RS), he noted that the Constitution allows the RS to have its own army. Dodik announced ahead of his trip that he will inform Putin about all important issues for Serbs in B&H, including the political situation in B&H and the RS. He also said that they will discuss the economic topics as well, adding that the construction of the Balkan Stream pipeline section from Raca to Banja Luka will be also one of the topics. Dodik added that he will also discuss this important topic for the RS with the Gazprom management in Saint Petersburg on Friday.

Russian portal speculates about possibility of Russia sending soldiers to the RS, Izetbegovic and Dzaferovic react (Nova BH/ Pravda.ru)

 

Russian portal Pravda.ru reported on the visit of Milorad Dodik to Moscow. They report that Dodik arrived in Russia at the peak of his conflict with the West which does not exclude sanctions due to his anti-state activities. The portal reminds that Dodik leans on the support of Russia and China, and that he does not care about the possible sanctions. The portal also mentions a certain opposition to the aid of Russia to the RS and the possibility of Russia sending soldiers to the RS. Author of the text Lyuba Lulko stated that there is an option to send a Russian peacekeeping mission to B&H to help the RS. President of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic commented on the claims and said that he hopes this will not happen and President of SNSD Milorad Dodik will not lead B&H into another unfortunate event. Izetbegovic said that the effect of his policy can be measured in billions of BAM lost in B&H and thousands of citizens leaving the country. He stressed that the last thing needed are armies. Izetbegovic said that Russian soldiers can come as a part of EUFOR or any program approved by the B&H Presidency, but no other way. Commenting on the same issue, B&H Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic said that if such announcements come true, that can only cause security destabilization which, according to him, is of no interest to anyone.

 

Third day of negotiations on changes to B&H Election Law ends without much progress and agreement (N1)

 

The talks on the electoral reform in B&H continued at the building of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H in Sarajevo on Wednesday, for the third day in a row. This round of talks will end with another meeting, scheduled at the same location for 8:30 hours on Thursday morning, after which US Special Envoy for Electoral Reform in B&H Matthew Palmer and European External Action Service (EEAS) Managing Director for Europe Angelina Eichhorst will complete their visit. Palmer and Eichhorst have been holding meetings with political parties’ leaders and officials since Monday in an attempt to bring their stances on the Election Law amendments closer. The third day in a row did not yield any concrete results. HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic was not willing to provide comments to media in front of the EUD building. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic told media that nothing new has been achieved, but he is optimistic. Izetbegovic noted that the Venice Commission, which still has the consultative role, considers that the so-called ‘floating’ constituencies, which would be formed on the day of elections, should not have an ethnic prefix. Izetbegovic added that Covic will have to agree to that. When it comes to the B&H Presidency election, Izetbegovic confirmed that indirect election of the Presidency members through the B&H parliament might be acceptable, but “the Serb side rejects this without a strong justification”. Aside from Covic and Izetbegovic, the Wednesday’s meeting was attended by representatives of other parties, including the Federation of B&H (FB&H)-based opposition, and among the officials who participated in the meeting were DF official Milan Dunovic, SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic, SDP B&H leader Nermin Niksic, People and Justice (NiP) leader Elmedin Konakovic, and NiP official Denis Zvizdic. Delegations of HDZ B&H and SDA held a meeting in Sarajevo on Wednesday morning and a few hours later, the leaders of the opposition parties from the FB&H joined them. Izetbegovic confirmed that meeting participants discussed indirect election of B&H Presidency members in accordance with the principle of the April package. Izetbegovic stated that SDA would accept indirect election of B&H Presidency members only if each vote would have the same value. “What is good is that it was, so to speak, a plenum today (Wednesday), that presidents or representatives of parliamentary parties that need to raise their hand for possible changes to the Constitution and the Election Law were there. It was agreed to move more seriously with consideration of blockades in the FB&H Thursday morning and I believe that this is success of the pressure that I exerted, to finally start moving in the direction of putting the negotiations on two feet. Unfortunately, it was a line of least resistance, to meet in fact only the demands of HDZ B&H. Now, everyone understands that that it will not go that way,” Izetbegovic underlined. Radoncic said that he believes”that we worked very hard today and that we reached a strategic agreement with the help of our international mediators. “To raise the standard of the elections, i.e. to introduce electronic voter records and so on, which I believe to be the first, but very important step and success of the visit we currently have. Experts will continue talks tomorrow in regard to the situation in the FB&H and we will take it step by step. There are too many problems, there are a lot of accumulated things, but I remain an optimist in that regard because failure means general disaster and no one, neither the authorities nor the opposition, can allow it,” Radoncic emphasized. Dunovic said that most of the talks were about amending the Election Law of B&H. “Truth be told, there was insisting from representatives of the international community to take into account the integrity and transparency of the electoral process, and I believe that all actors, that is I hope that all actors have nothing against the decriminalization of the electoral process. We will see about that in the future, for each political party what it thinks on the matter. When it comes to amending the Election Law, we again heard some insisting on virtual constituencies. DF will never agree to unequal value of the vote,” Dunovic pointed out. Niksic said that if they want the opposition in these talks, our main condition is adoption of law on fair and honest elections. “A law that will guarantee that we will have electronic voting, i.e. scanning of the ballots, identification of voters and video surveillance at polling stations and only after that will we be ready to discuss other things,” Niksic stressed.

Palmer, Eichhorst: Political reps in B&H are not close to agreement on election reform, law banning genocide denial in B&H is important and genocide denial is inacceptable (AJB)

 

Speaking for Al Jazeera on the electoral reform negotiations, Matthew Palmer and Angelina Eichhorst expressed unanimous stance that political representatives in B&H are not close to an agreement. They said that they will visit B&H once again this month, reminding that the general elections in B&H that will be held in October 2022 need to be called in May 2022- which means that the vote on certain model needs the be take place by April and that before the vote the agreed model should be discussed in B&H parliament in January 2022. Eichhorst stated that it is still early to talk about an agreement, but that she believes that a very important and good thing was done – all political leaders were gathered at one place to hold talks and exchange changes. She also stressed that there is no such a thing as return of the RS’ competences and one cannot unpack what has been built over the years, adding that Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik and all other officials were clearly told that this path leads to nowhere. Eichhorst concluded that territorial integrity of B&H is crucial, and this is a clear message from the EU.

Palmer stated that the US is one of many international actors who have interest in B&H and its future, adding that a lot was invested in B&H’s success and the US does its best to help B&H in making progress, to strengthen the country’s democratic framework and make it stronger on the EU and NATO path. He reminded that Russia has been also active in B&H and in Western Balkans for a long time, but its interests and the vision of B&H are not the same as of the US or the EU. According to Palmer, Russia works on deepening divisions, tensions and distrust across the Western Balkans. He expressed hope that political leaders in B&H understand that and that they understand that the US’ goal is future of democratic and prosperous B&H that will be the US’ partner. Asked to comment if any compromises should be made when it comes to the law banning the genocide denial in B&H, Palmer said that the genocide denial is absolutely unacceptably especially if it comes from officials who are leaders of a civilized society. Eichhorst said that the law banning the genocide denial in B&H is absolutely important and that she believes that the OHR and B&H Parliament have worked on this law.

Schmidt: Situation in B&H is bad, I am worried that it turns into something worse (Dnevni list)

 

HR Christian Schmidt said that the current situation in B&H is very bad, which he stated in a report sent to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council. According to Schmidt, he especially commented on growing dysfunctionality of the state and inflammatory rhetoric, arguing he is worried the most about possibility of this turning into something worse. Speaking about the announcement of Milorad Dodik that the RS will withdraw consent on existence of the Armed Forces of B&H and that the RS Army will be formed again, Schmidt said it is about tactics because it does not look like the current strategy. In this context the HR said the tactics can be simply changed and shift it towards some sort of dissolution. “They say Dodik wants peaceful dissolution, which is in itself is against the Dayton agreement,” stressed Schmidt, adding that many senior officials in the regional countries believe that peaceful dissolution is not an option and that there is a danger of spreading of conflict. “In any case I would like to rule out a possibility of war. Nobody, not even Milorad Dodik with his populist approach is making moves that would lead to a war. Still, his statements could be misunderstood, which is why we should do something,” said Schmidt, adding that the international community should prevent additional complication of the situation in B&H.

Stoltenberg: Dodik’s aggressive rhetoric is concerning (BHT1)

 

Tensions have been rising in B&H and Kosovo in the recent period as “foreign actors working to undermine progress,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the closing press conference following the meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers in Riga, Latvia, adding that member countries have agreed on the importance of their presence in the Western Balkans. Stoltenberg spoke about the ongoing situation in Ukraine and Russia, Afghanistan, as well as the Western Balkans, notably B&H. “The region has come a long way since the conflicts of the 1990s. But recently we have seen tensions rise. Including in Kosovo, as well as B&H. With more aggressive rhetoric. Stalled reforms. And foreign actors working to undermine progress,” Stoltenberg stressed. He said that NATO will continue to promote stability, security and cooperation in the region and that member countries “agreed on the importance” of the Alliance’s presence. “Including our KFOR mission in Kosovo. And our offices in Sarajevo and in Belgrade” he said, adding that NATO cooperation with the European Union remains “essential”. NATO is concerned about the increased tensions in B&H as well as any attempts to undermine multi-ethnic institutions such as the Armed Forces (AF) of B&H, Stoltenberg said. “NATO has been important in helping to build the Armed Forces of B&H into a strong, multi-ethnic institution. Therefore, we are concerned about inflammatory rhetoric of Mister Dodik and Republika Srpska. We continue to support all efforts to reduce tensions, and to continue to provide support, capacity building for B&H,” he added. B&H’s membership in NATO and the European Union is a precondition for stability not just on the Croatian borders, but in the EU as well, said Croatia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman. According to Grlic Radman, B&H as a whole should become the EU and NATO member state as this would bring stability at the border with Croatian and would remove instability from the rest of the EU and NATO.

Borrell: Situation in B&H is concerning (RTRS)

 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell has arrived on Wednesday to the second day of the summit of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs held in Riga. Borrell said that there have been some attempts to try to undo 26 years of peace and stability in B&H. “The Western Balkans remains a strategic region for the EU. Three countries of the Western Balkans are also NATO member states and we have strong ties with them. For security reasons, the stability of the Western Balkans is also important. However, I have to express concern over the situation in B&H where there are tensions and attempts to annul 26 years of peace and stability. We remain committed to B&H as a single country and we call on everyone to preserve that unity,” Borrell told reporters. “B&H is making headlines for all wrong reasons. Instead of celebrating milestones on its EU path, news about B&H harkens back to the past. The political crisis caused by threats to undo 26 years of peace and progress stands to hijack B&H’s potential,” Borrell stressed. “We remain committed to the unity of B&H as a single country and we call on everybody to do the reforms necessary to keep this unity and reform the electoral law,” he said.

Roth meets Dzaferovic and Komsic; Roth: Sanctions are on the table for all those that block work of B&H institutions (BHT1)

 

Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office and SPD member Michael Roth arrived for the official two-day visit to B&H. At the B&H Presidency building, Roth met with Presidency Chairman, Zeljko Komsic, and Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic. At that meeting, Roth said that any attempt of interfering or an attack on the territorial integrity of B&H will have a strong response from Germany. In a statement, it was also revealed that Roth stated that sanctions are on the table for all those that block work of B&H institutions, and he called for an urgent unblocking of the institutions. Dzaferovic emphasized that Germany is B&H’s great friend, and this country wants to see B&H as stable and prosperous. “I expect Germany to help B&H through all the mechanisms that it has at its disposal,” said Dzaferovic, adding that such mechanisms are necessary in helping the process of unblocking B&H institutions. Komsic and Dzaferovic pointed out that Germany has proven many times that it stands by B&H and that one can count on its support. Roth confirmed the continuity of German support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H which it considers unquestionable.

B&H Presidency’s meeting with Roth marked by difference in stances after meeting (RTRS)

RTRS reported that another difference in stances in the B&H Presidency was seen after the meeting that Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic held with German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth on Wednesday in presence of advisors to Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, who was unable to attend the meeting due to his ongoing visit to Moscow. After the meeting, Komsic and Dzaferovic issued a statement noting that Roth confirmed Germany’s support to territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H, while – as the statement suggests – he announced a strong response of Germany to any opinion or attack directed against territorial integrity. Dodik’s advisors Ana Trisic Babic and Radovan Kovacevic, who attended the meeting, assessed the two Presidency members’ statement as unprofessional. Trisic Babic underlined that it was a diplomatic meeting aimed towards seeking a solution to overcome the crisis in B&H and going back to progressing towards the EU. Trisic Babic denied that this meeting included any kind of “lecture or trial” concluding that minister Roth listened to the RS’ point of view. Roth also met with B&H Foreign Affairs Minister, Bisera Turkovic. Roth reminded that Germany is committed to the Western Balkans region and its future in the EU. Roth emphasized that a new ruling coalition in Germany strongly supports the region and that a new High Representative has strong support of Germany. Roth stated during the meeting with Turkovic that the future of B&H is only one, namely a single, sovereign, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional stated.

Baroness Goldie: UK will resume to support sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H (FTV)

 

The UK will resume to provide intensive support to territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H and the policy of divisions is not acceptable. This was stated at the meeting between Chairman of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic and Annabel MacNicoll Goldie, Baroness Goldie, the State Minister at the Ministry of Defense of the UK and Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, State Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the UK. The main topic of abovementioned meeting was the current political crisis in B&H. Baroness Goldie and Lord Ahmad noted that they also met with the High Representative Christian Schmidt who is departing for the UK, where he will meet MPs and ministers. They underlined that UK clearly sees current risks for stability and territorial integrity of B&H. “Plans, suggested by some people from RS will lead to undermining of B&H’s future,” the Baroness and Lord stated and noted that it is necessary to assist in calling for responsibility of politicians. “We want to see a strong, sovereign B&H, which works with NATO and other allies and provides better chances for its citizens. Together with our partners, we will continue to use all our capacities to resist the opponents who strive to undermine our collective security,” concluded Baroness Goldie and Lord Ahmad.

 

Austrian government bans HOS symbols (Hina/APA)

The Austrian government has made a decision to ban additional symbols that are connected with the Ustasha regime, such as the flag and coat-of-arms of the Croatian Defense Forces (HOS), the Greens, a member of the Austrian government, said on Wednesday. “A ban on two symbols of the Ustasha regime is already in force in Austria. However, it has transpired that, at the gathering in Bleiburg, not only symbols that are connected with the Ustasha are put on display, but also symbols of new fascist organizations such as the Ustasha successor organization ‘Croatian Defense Forces’ (HOS). That is why the list of prohibited symbols has been expanded to include these symbols as well” Greens MPs Olga Voglauer and Eva Blimlinger said in a statement. The statement says that the decision to ban the display of HOS symbols in Austria’s territory was made at a government session. “The central memorial, the central fascist symbols and the form of the gathering will or have already been banned in their current form. These steps really constitute a turnaround. The decades-long fight of the Greens against this alleged commemoration and the related public display of Nazi symbols as well as current fascist symbols has eventually proven to be successful,” Blimlinger said. She also notes that the standard in Croatia is that events at which HOS flags are displayed should not be held. “Everyone should, just as Croatian President Zoran Milanovic has done on several occasions since last year, leave official events at which HOS symbols are displayed, let alone Ustasha symbols,” the Greens MP said as carried by the Austrian news agency APA. Last week an expert commission made an analysis for the Austrian Ministry of the Interior recommending a ban on the gathering at Loibach Field in Bleiburg in its present form. Memorial masses are still allowed. In recent years participants in the Bleiburg gathering have been repeatedly arrested for displaying Nazi and fascist symbols which are banned under the Austrian law. A few years ago, Austria put on the list of prohibited symbols, which includes the swastika or the so-called Hitler salute, also symbols of the Ustasha regime, a Nazi-allied regime that ruled Croatia in World War II.

 

Krivokapic: I see opposition initiative as political marketing for Podgorica elections (Pobjeda)

 

Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic has said that he perceives the opposition’s initiative for a vote of no confidence in the government he heads as political marketing for the elections in Podgorica. “The will of the citizens in last year’s elections was directed against the former regime, and the government is facing parliamentary blackmail. Montenegro’s future is guaranteed by the reform approach and reform programs that the government has been working on day and night”, he has told reporters after the panel discussion called Western Balkans: Europe’s Future is Our Common Agenda. Krivokapic has emphasized that exceptional results have been achieved taking into account “the conditions which we live in”.

URA: At this moment, we won’t vote for a no-confidence motion against the government, there is no reason for that (CdM)

At this moment, the URA Civic Movement has no reason to vote on no confidence in the government, URA says. “So far, we have made it very clear what the reasons would be for us to do so – if the government made decisions contrary to national interests and the European path of Montenegro,” URA explains.

Abazovic: There’s no cleaner option than elections, DPS won’t return, I’m not interested in what DF thinks (CdM)

“There is no fear of the DPS returning to power, the citizens can be relaxed, the DPS will not return,” the URA leader and DPM Dritan Abazovic says. To resolve the political crisis, in his opinion, there is no cleaner option than elections. Abazovic claims that he is not interested in what the DF thinks, and emphasizes that this political alliance has blackmailed the government. “We are waiting for 10 December, when the DF should announce something. I do not expect it to be anything spectacular,” Abazovic adds. According to him, if there is a party that has supported this government from its beginning, it is URA.

There is no future for the EU without the future of the Western Balkans (European Integration Office)

 

Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic opened the regional panel Western Balkan: Future of Europe is our Common Agenda. He said that there is no future for the EU without the future of the Western Balkans. The Prime Minister said that, having in mind that membership in the European Union is a strategic commitment of the countries of the Western Balkans, it is important that we look together at the next steps in the process of European integration. That is why a new accession methodology has been developed, in order to improve the problems, and in the case of Montenegro, these are Chapters 23 and 24, said the Prime Minister. He pointed out that the problem in Montenegro is not in ignorance, but in insufficient knowledge and the fact that those who do not have enough knowledge and competence are being promoted, and that young people should be given the opportunity. Montenegro should be an example to the region, and the programmes we have launched – Europe now, Montenegro now and Montenegro works – should enable our young people to stay here. If that happens, then we have won, said PM Krivokapic. The Prime Minister said that, when it comes to EU accession, Montenegro does not seek preferential treatment. We will join the EU when we deserve it. That is why we ask that everyone in the Western Balkans invest their efforts in order to that goal, the Prime Minister concluded. Our goal must be a credible continuation of the EU enlargement process. The future of the European Union is also the future of the Western Balkans, said State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia Gasper Dovzan. He said that sustainable development, stability and prosperity are important for both the Western Balkans and the European Union. As he pointed out, if the goal of the countries of the Western Balkans is to become fully-fledged members of the European Union and fulfill their obligations, the European Union must also show credibility and leave the door open for membership. The European Union must be aware that the Western Balkans is its backyard and that the European Union is the largest trading partner in the region, the largest investor and donor. Therefore, the logical step forward is institutional upgrading. If that does not happen, other actors will use the opportunity to expand their influence and interests in the region of the Western Balkans, Dovzan said. He reminded that Slovenia has included the enlargement process among the priorities of its presidency of the EU Council. This event has been initiated by the European Integration Office of Montenegro and structures in charge of coordinating European affairs from WB6 and it will be organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH Regional project on promotion of EU integration on behalf of the German Government, the Centre for European Perspective in co-operation Gith and under the auspices of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU, with the support of the EU-funded EU4ME project.

 

Gashi after meeting with Zaev: There’s progress, party consultations to follow (Republika)

After the meeting with Zoran Zaev, Alternative leader Afrim Gashi said that he could say that there was a progress and that party consultations will follow. The four-hour meeting between Gashi and Zaev, which took place in the MPs’ Club, was a continuation of the negotiations over the inclusion of Alternative in the government, so that the government would again have a parliamentary majority.

Osmani: European perspective of Western Balkans – safest investment in region’s stability (Republika)

Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani told a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga on Wednesday that joint and strategic actions by NATO and EU in the Western Balkans are the basic prerequisite for the region’s stability and prosperity. During the two-day working sessions, issues of strategic importance to the Alliance were discussed, such as the situation in Afghanistan, addressing current and future security challenges, such as the Russian military grouping along the border with Ukraine, and hybrid challenges coming from Belarus. The topic of the meeting was the situation in the Western Balkans, and the geostrategic interests of the Alliance for a stable, progressive and democratic region by reaffirming the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective of the countries in the region. The Foreign Ministers also discussed the NATO Strategic Concept, as an important document regarding the future geostrategic role of the Alliance. At the working sessions, the Ministers adopted several decisions and documents. They are important for the future action and strengthening of the Alliance, but also for the preparation of the Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government, which will be held next year in Madrid.

Austrian President Van der Bellen in a diplomatic mission between Macedonia and Bulgaria (Republika)

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen launched a push to try to get Bulgaria to lift its veto against Macedonia’s EU accession talks. Bellen had lengthy phone conversations with PM Zoran Zaev and with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. The push comes ahead of the European Council on 14 December, where Macedonia hopes that Bulgaria will lift its veto. Radev told Bellen that Bulgaria expects concrete results from Macedonia before it can approve the opening of EU accession talks.

 

Nikolla meets Sassoli: European Parliament, Albania’s voice within the EU (Radio Tirana)

The speaker of the Albanian parliament Lindita Nikolla held a meeting in Brussels with the President of the European Parliament (EP), David Maria Sassoli, where the latter assured that the SP is the voice of Albania within the European Union and that without Albania and Western Balkans, the union has a huge gap. Nikolla thanked Sassoli for his strong, personal and institutional support for the advancement of Albania and the Western Balkans region on the road to the EU. “Your initiative to establish a dialogue between the European Parliament and the Speakers of the Parliaments of the Western Balkan countries is an important instrument for accelerating the movement of the countries of the region towards the European Union. Despite the challenges and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Albania has advanced in its roadmap reforms towards the EU and has met all the priorities set by the European Council. We are confident that the European Parliament will influence the holding of the First Intergovernmental Roundtable with the EU by 2021. Albania has accepted the merit-based approach to membership talks and now it is the EU’s turn to keep its promises and to bring us closer to the European Union. We think that it is unfair for the holding of the Roundtable for Albania and North Macedonia to be hindered by factors that have nothing to do with our countries meeting the integration standards,” noted Nikolla. She briefed Sassoli on the progress of developments and reforms in the country and efforts to build a positive climate and constructive dialogue with the opposition. “The implementation of comprehensive justice reform has yielded good results and is advancing positively. The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court have already been operational, while Vetting is moving steadily and delivering tangible results. Albania has made progress in strengthening the fight against corruption and organized crime, including increasing co-operation with EU member states and Europol. The Specialized Structure Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) and the National Bureau of Investigation (BKH) are functional,” she said. Also, Nikolla said that, “Albania continues to maintain a 100 percent rate of approximation with the EU foreign policy and has continued to engage constructively in dialogue with neighboring countries, to address bilateral issues and to guarantee good neighborly relations”. “The Albanian parliament is also facilitating the advancement on the path of EU integration, by cooperating closely with the Delegation of the European Parliament within the EU-Albania Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee, as well as through parliamentary diplomacy and cooperation for regional or European initiatives.” she said. Sassoli, thanked the speaker for informing about the achievements of Albania in fulfilling the integration reforms, as well as for the contribution of the Assembly in support of the legitimacy of this process. He underlined that the relations of the European Parliament with Albania and the Assembly are excellent, and the European Parliament has had a constant commitment to the opening of negotiations with Albania. “The European Parliament will continue to insist that the First Albania-EU Intergovernmental Roundtable be held as soon as possible. Albania has met all the requirements recommended by the European Council in 2020. It is important for us that Albania has political stability. The European Parliament will be the voice of Albania within the European Union, because the European Union without Albania and the Western Balkans has a large and visible gap. We should not disappoint the peoples of the Western Balkans with our delays in the enlargement process and allow room for non-Western influence in the region,” he said. Sassoli assured that “the European Parliament will continue the cooperation with Albania during the negotiation process”.

 

Minister Xhacka participates at the NATO ministerial in Riga (Radio Tirana)

The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhacka participated in a discussion on “NATO Perspective towards 2030”, before the start of the Ministerial Ministries of Foreign Affairs of NATO member countries in Riga, Latvia. The meeting was attended by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “Fruitful discussion on NATO Perspective towards 2030, a few hours before the start of the NATO Ministerial of Foreign Ministers, which this time is being held in Latvia,” said Xhacka. “I emphasized that we are already facing constant hybrid threats, which are challenging our collective security. “The strategic concept of 2022, with a focus on unity, solidarity and shared values, is the solution to meet these challenges and ensure security for all allies.”

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Belgrade Media Report 19 January 2022

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