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Belgrade Media Report, 04 January 2022

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United Nations Office in Belgrade
Daily Media Highlights
Tuesday 4 January 2022


• Vucic: Serbia always ready for dialogue, but without dictate (Tanjug/RTS)
• Vucic pleased with acquisition of Kornet missile systems (Tanjug)
• Serbia’s eyes on standards to close Rule of Law Cluster (EurActiv/Beta)
• Selakovic: We must not allow ourselves to suffer in challenging circumstances (Tanjug)
• Selakovic receives New Year’s, Christmas cards from Lavrov (Politika)
• Petkovic: Act of violence (B92)
• Drecun: It is Pristina that is blocking any kind of agreement (TV Pink)
• Gouillon: Kosovo Serbs need solidarity, outreached hand (RTS)
• Serbia’s foreign policy in previous year (Radio Beograd)
• Environmental groups block roads across Serbia (Beta)
• Bishop Grigorije: Stupid to see politics in supporting environmentalist protests (N1)
• Police officers’ singing in Priboj appalled people, Vucic promises reaction (N1)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Schmidt calls for better path in 2022 (Nova BH)
• Komsic congratulates New Year’s Eve to B&H citizens (Nova BH)
• FB&H politicians comment on blockades in FB&H parliament (FTV)
• Cvijanovic talks about challenges and successes of RS in 2021 (RTRS)
• Covic: There will be no B&H without Croats (Dnevni list)
• Krivokapic: Negotiations were held in secret, new government was practically formed (Vijesti)
• Lajcak: I’m very worried because Brussels almost no longer sees Montenegro (Pobjeda)
• Stoltenberg: Montenegro has shown that reforms in the Balkans are possible (Pobjeda)
Republic of North Macedonia
• We expect constructive talks with the new Bulgarian government and a quick unblocking of the process, said Osmani (Republika)
• Mickoski: SDSM is not a factor in the government, DUI governs Macedonia (TV Alfa)
• Western Balkans to be a priority of France’s EU Presidency, but unclear in what form (MIA)
• Albania takes over its mandate in the UN Security Council, here is the focus (Radio Tirana)
• Barsacq: There should be no division in the EU integration process, between Albania and North Macedonia (EuroNews/Radio Tirana)

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Vucic: Serbia always ready for dialogue, but without dictate (Tanjug/RTS)


Serbia is always ready for dialogue, but one without conditions, dictate or orders being issued to Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Pancevo on Monday. When asked about Belgrade’s position on the future of the dialogue with Pristina and whether it was realistic to expect it to be concluded by the end of this year, Vucic said Serbia was always ready for dialogue. “However, you have noticed two things if you have interpreted Albin Kurti‘s statements carefully and seriously. Firstly, of course, he said dialogue was a possibility, but that it must focus on mutual recognition. That was his first point. I realized he did not understand what he was talking about because he said they are purely on the European path and will seek admission to the EU and that Serbia is a member of a Eurasian alliance. He does not understand what it means to sign an agreement as opposed to being a member,” Vucic explained. He said Kurti had probably reached the conclusion by reading reports by some Western media. “Serbia is on the European path and has very good relations with all its friends worldwide – Russia, China, India – and will continue to protect and cherish them,” he noted. Vucic said the upcoming 16 January referendum on constitutional amendments concerning the judiciary was an opportunity for Serbia to demonstrate its commitment to European values. “Above all, that the citizens understand that judges and prosecutors will be elected by professionals themselves without political interference. That is an important message that Serbia is changing,” he said.


Vucic pleased with acquisition of Kornet missile systems (Tanjug)


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Monday said he was very pleased Serbia had been able to acquire Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missile systems and significant quantities of missiles and launchers to boost the operational capabilities of its armed forces. Vucic said this after attending a display of the capabilities of the Serbian Armed Forces 72nd Special Operations Brigade and a presentation of the Kornet missile system in Pancevo. In a speech, Vucic thanked the SAF personnel for protecting the fatherland and looking after its security. “I am particularly pleased the military personnel is happy about the acquisition of Kornets from Russia. It is one of the best anti-tank weapons in the world, or perhaps the best. I am pleased Serbia has been able to purchase significant quantities of missiles and launchers,” Vucic said, adding that the purchases boosted the operational capabilities of the SAF. “That is important. The Kornet is a significant defensive weapon and a deterrent from any potential aggression on our country,” Vucic said.


Serbia’s eyes on standards to close Rule of Law Cluster (EurActiv/Beta)


Serbia’s goal for 2022 is to open the remaining clusters in the accession negotiations with the EU, with special emphasis on reaching transitional standards and those required to close Cluster 1, referring to the basics of the rule of law, Serbian Minister in charge of EU Integration Jadranka Joksimovic said on Sunday. In an interview with EurActiv and Beta, she also said that the pace of the talks depended, among other things, on Serbia’s referendum on changes to the Constitution of Serbia that would reform the national judicial sector. She expected Serbia to maintain productive dynamics in the accession process under the French and Czech presidency of the Council of the EU in the first and second half of 2022, respectively. “I believe that one of the important prerequisites for that to happen is a successful referendum on constitutional amendments that would change the manner in which judicial office holders are elected – a pivotal step for Serbia in reaching the standards necessary to strengthen the independence of the judiciary,” Joksimovic explained. Aside from reforms to support the rule of law in Serbia, the country will also work on the standards necessary to open other clusters, too, the minister said in the interview, adding that preparations were underway to open Cluster 5 on resources, agriculture and cohesion.


Selakovic: We must not allow ourselves to suffer in challenging circumstances (Tanjug)


Changes in EU member states will definitely impact Serbia’s EU path and the attitude of EU member states towards Serbia, but only time will tell to what extent, says Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic. In the complex and challenging circumstances and relations of today, Serbia’s main task is to protect itself and ensure a safe future for its citizens, Selakovic said in an interview to Tanjug. “Today, that is not easy to achieve because there are many political hotspots globally – we need to be aware of the Indian proverb that says ‘When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’ and we must not allow ourselves to suffer in any of those situations,” Selakovic noted. Everyone wants to cooperate with Serbia, which is a safe destination to invest in, because it means that Serbia is stable, legally orderly, predictable, dependable and that it is developing its infrastructure, that it keeps its word and knows what its objectives are, while also protecting and advancing its traditional friendships, Selakovic said. “Everyone wants to cooperate with such a Serbia, and such a Serbia will be increasingly wanted by the EU as well. Can changes in the governments of the member states lead to a change of attitude towards us? That is not ruled out, but the EU is facing challenges within itself and must deal with them,” Selakovic said. He also said looking after Serbs living in the region and the Serbian diaspora worldwide would remain one of the foreign ministry’s priorities going forward, and added that work to preserve the national and cultural identity of Serbs living outside of Serbia would be continued wherever they lived.


Selakovic receives New Year’s, Christmas cards from Lavrov (Politika)


Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic received on Sunday a message on the occasion of the New Year and Christmas holidays from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In his message, Lavrov stated that the previous year, despite the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, was full of dynamic Russian-Serbian cooperation, and that the strategic partnership of our countries is strengthening in all directions. We are satisfied with the high level of cooperation between the foreign policy departments of our countries. We are ready to continue to provide Belgrade with comprehensive friendly support in the protection of national interests and respect for the norms of international law. I wish you and your family to stay healthy and well, as well as peace and prosperity to the entire fraternal Serbian people, the message from Minister Lavrov reads.


Petkovic: Act of violence (B92)


The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic reacted because of the new move on the part of Pristina. He called Pristina’s decision to declare UNMIK officials a “persona non grata” an “act of violence” against the United Nations today. “Pristina’s declaring a legitimate @UNMIKosovo official as ‘persona non grata’ is its act of violence against UN administration, the ultimate civilian authority in K&M”, Petkovic said on his Twitter account. As he said, “In line with the applicable norms of international law and pursuant to UNSCR 1244, the sole legal civilian authority in Kosovo and Metohija is UNMIK as UN Mission.” Minister of Foreign Affairs of the provisional institutions of Pristina Donika Gervala Schwartz announced earlier that, at the request of Prime Minister Albin Kurti, she made the decision to declare a Russian official in UNMIK persona non grata because, as she claims, of his harmful activities in Kosovo. Gervala stated on Facebook that the institutions from Pristina are determined to fight, as she claims, “the malignant influence of the Russian Federation and its satellite representatives in the region, which aim to undermine the achievements of Kosovo and our partners, primarily the USA, NATO and EU”. The proclamation of the Russian official in UNMIK as a persona non grata by the authorities in Pristina is a provocation, the Russian Embassy in Serbia announced. “We consider Pristina’s ‘decision’ to be another anti-Russian and anti-UN provocation to win the favor of Western mentors. We start from the fact that in accordance with international law and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which is crucial for resolving the Kosovo issue, it has no legal consequences,” the Russian Embassy said in a statement.


Drecun: It is Pristina that is blocking any kind of agreement (TV Pink)


Albin Kurti recently stated that he is in favor of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, but that Belgrade has a much bigger share in solving the problem, which, as the Chair of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun says, is a lie, because Albanians never wanted to achieve any agreement with the other side, as evidenced by numerous rounds of dialogue with Serbia, TV Pink reports. Drecun stressed that Kurti, Vjosa Osmani and others like them never wanted any dialogue with Belgrade. “There have been nine rounds of talks, and nothing has been achieved, only an exchange of bodies took place – seven Albanians and three Serbs. There has been no other progress. What worries me is that the Pristina delegation never talked directly, but only through a mediator,” says Drecun. He added that Miroslav Lajcak tried to impose new solutions, but Pristina did not even want to listen, while these solutions were acceptable to Serbia. “They didn’t even want to open the archives, to dedicate themselves to solving problems. They refuse to implement the Brussels agreement, especially the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO),” added Drecun. According to him, that Kurti’s statement that the dialogue depends on Belgrade is not true, because it is Pristina that is blocking any kind of agreement. “What is concerning is that Pristina is committed to a unification of Albania and Kosovo, some ministers talk about it, about some natural way of unification… When on the one hand you have the idea of creating a greater Albania, and on the other unilateral moves that endanger Serbs in Kosovo, those are the things to worry about. On top of all that, you have the army, the strengthening of the police, you have ROSU incursions… All this shows that Pristina doesn’t want any dialogue, but is only demanding that we recognize the fake state of Kosovo,” said Drecun. Drecun added Pristina’s goal is to ethnically cleanse that territory. “Pristina’s strategic goal is the ethnic cleansing of Serbs,” Drecun said, commenting on Edita Tahiri’s statement.


Gouillon: Kosovo Serbs need solidarity, outreached hand (RTS)


Kosovo Serbs need moral support, solidarity and an outreached hand that will show them they are not alone, says Arnaud Gouillon, the founder of the humanitarian organization Solidarity for Kosovo and Head of the Serbian government Administration for Cooperation with the Diaspora. Speaking to RTS, Gouillon said organizing humanitarian convoys was always complex, especially from France and in times of a pandemic, but that, for the 17th consecutive year, the organization’s convoy had succeeded in reaching the most underprivileged Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija to distribute aid gathered in France. He said that, this year, one part of the organization’s volunteers had distributed aid in Kosovo and Metohija villages and that the other part had gone to the Raska District, in the southwest of central Serbia. Having been banned from entering Kosovo and Metohija, Gouillon was with the volunteers who visited the Raska District.

“In conversations with people, I concluded that, in addition to material support, they also need moral support. I remember my first humanitarian convoy in 2005, when I was 19. Then they told us to come again even if we have no gifts for them. Today, 17 years on, the message is unfortunately the same because the situation has not changed much and it is still very difficult and tense,” Gouillon noted. He said the number of attacks on Kosovo Serbs had increased by 50 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year. “In many places in Kosovo and Metohija, you cannot speak in Serbian, you cannot celebrate Easter in Djakovica and demonstrations are staged all the time. I was banned from entering Kosovo in 2018, like many other humanitarians who are helping Serbs and others in enclaves and who speak the truth about the plight of Serbs that has been going on for 22 years now,” Gouillon said. Speaking about the Serbian diaspora, Gouillon said that, as of October last year, around 92,300 expats had returned to Serbia in a trend that had begun in 2015. “If Serbia manages to continue that trend of our people returning from abroad, it will mean quite a lot economically as well as demographically,” Gouillon said.


Serbia’s foreign policy in previous year (Radio Beograd)


The foreign policy position of Serbia in the previous year can be assessed as complex, but despite a number of aggravating circumstances, certain successes have been achieved, especially at the regional level, the interlocutors speaking for Radio Beograd 1 have stressed, RTS reports.

They said cooperation in the western Balkans, at least in part, has been strengthened by concrete agreements within the Open Balkan initiative, which includes of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania. Dejan Miletic from the Center for the Study of Globalization believes that Belgrade is ready to take the region forward in the field of economy. “When it comes to Open Balkan, I think we have gone very far, especially when we consider obstructions that come from unexpected, but also expected places,” said Miletic. He added that Podgorica and the central authorities in Sarajevo are refusing to join the initiative for now, although that would bring them undoubted economic benefits in the form of “bridging bureaucratic procedures, which would lead to great savings”. Miletic says he expected obstructions from the interim authorities in Pristina, while Pristina’s unconstructive behavior makes it difficult to continue the dialogue in Brussels. Several rounds have been held at different levels, but there has been almost no progress. “This also affects the process of negotiations on joining the European Union, where progress has been made after two years, by opening a cluster with four chapters,” Slobodan Zecevic from the Institute for European Studies told Radio Beograd 1. According to him, Serbia cannot be completely satisfied with the speed of the reforms it is implementing, but he believes that the EU has its own role in slowing down the process, especially considering that there were proposals to open two groups of chapters at the intergovernmental conference. “The question remains why that was so. If there were no technical problems related to our preparations for the opening, it is possible that this is a political move to encourage Serbia through the opening of one cluster, but still wait for the definitive change in the field of justice, i.e. the change of the Constitution. It’s possible that the situation in Kosovo and Metohija will be monitored, as well as the April elections,” says Zecevic. In relations with world powers, Serbia is always taking the stance of a reliable partner, although with the change of administration in Washington there has been increased pressure from the United States, Miletic points out. According to him, the situation is much better when it comes to Serbia’s ties with Moscow and Beijing. “We have traditionally good relations with China, they are developing, although in the past year there may not have been so much talk in the media, except when it comes to combating Covid, although a strong Chinese presence in Serbia is visible through investment projects. We can say that relations with Russia have been improved in two aspects – energy, and the military,” Miletic points out. He concluded that despite everything, Serbia managed to maintain the foreign policy positions that suit it.


Environmental groups block roads across Serbia (Beta)


Environmental organizations called three-hour roadblock protests on multiple roads in Serbia on Monday. The protests were organized to demand “abolishing the Jadar project,” that is, that the government withdraw the special purpose plan for the Jadar mine. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that the authorities had accepted the demands of the people who blocked main traffic arteries in Serbia in previous months, and called the continued protests and roadblocks demanding the state cancel all deals with the Rio Tinto company — political game playing. “There will be no steps, no new action by Rio Tinto in the future until we discuss it amongst ourselves in any way. When that will happen — that time is far away since we haven’t received any studies,” Vucic said.


Bishop Grigorije: Stupid to see politics in supporting environmentalist protests (N1)


The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Bishop of Dusseldorf and the whole of Germany Grigorije said late on Monday his support of environmentalist protests in Serbia had nothing to do with politics and described as “stupid” accusations of the political affiliation of those who demonstrated against the Rio Tinto lithium mining plans in the west of the country. In an interview with N1, he said he had to support those fighting for clean air, land, and water as a Christian. “I’m with the protests with my whole being,“ Bishop said, adding that „there is something biblical; the wheel has been set in motion, and the position and the opposition still have to be ground to get people who think systemically, not a single super-smart man who others look at in fear….” Commenting on his idea to gather people who would make systemic changes, Grigorije said he met some aged 70-80 who offered to help with experience and intelligence.

On the other hand, he added, “there are people who are 30-35 years old and act like cowards. We have huge potential; we have chances, we have people out there who are a superclass. They need an opportunity, which will be a horror for those who rule. It is inevitable… A storm is coming – you don’t see it, but you feel it”. Speaking about his talks with MEP Viola von Cramon, he said the meeting was beneficial and was surprised with hostile reactions in tabloids back home. “Her first sentence was that she was a friend of the Albanians, but that she does not want to be an enemy of the Serbs,” the Bishop recalled. He added that “somebody’s friend did not have to be our enemy” and that they talked about an SPC monastery in Kosovo.


Police officers’ singing in Priboj appalled people, Vucic promises reaction (N1)


Video of the celebrations in Serbia’s southwestern town of Priboj with a Bosniak minority showed some of the policemen present singing a song honoring war crimes, caused a stormy public reaction, outrage and condemnation by both Bosniaks and Serbs, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic denounced it and promised the authorities’ reaction. As shown in the video, the police officers celebrated with a song calling for new crimes such as the 1995 Srebrenica genocide or the 1991 destruction of Vukovar in Croatia. The organizer of the celebration of the birth of his son apologized, while the activists say that the government cultivated nationalist sentiments and threats. “It is not okay for anyone to do that, let alone the police. Especially when it glorifies crimes and criminals against one nation and calls for their repetition, particularly when they live and work in a multiethnic environment. That nation cannot believe the police will provide them security but can rather be afraid,” Priboj Imam Harun Eminagic said. Aida Corovic, an activist, said that “it came out of them spontaneously, and that is what the policy of this government is”. The man who celebrated the birth of his son apologized on Facebook to everyone who felt insulted by the song, saying it was released unintentionally and promising to react by turning off the music in the future. Vucic condemned the behavior and said that the state would not allow anyone to feel threatened. Serbia belonged to everyone, he said, but reminded that the Bosniaks had songs against the Serbs. “Hate breeds hatred, and it has not brought good to anyone. I call on all people to take care of their Bosniak neighbors, friends and compatriots as I ask Bosniaks to care for Serbs. When I was in Pazar and Sjenica , wherever I wanted to eat something, someone from the (Military Security Agency) VBA and (civilian security agency) BIA would say: ‘Don’t go there, they sing songs to (Bosniak’s wartime commander) Naser Oric, they sing songs here and there’… I said, leave me alone with the songs,” Vucic said. Vucic promised that the relevant institutions would deal with the case. The Interior Ministry did not answer N1’s queries about the incident.




Schmidt calls for better path in 2022 (Nova BH)


In his New Year’s greeting message, High Representative (HR) Christian Schmidt urged decision-makers in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) to “make a better choice, to work for progress”. “As we move into the New Year, I wish everyone in this wonderful country health, peace, and a good life. And I want to share with you, the citizens of B&H, my firm belief that there is a path forward for this country and its people”, Schmidt emphasized at beginning of message. If the blockade that hampered progress in 2021 continues, then 2022 risks being even worse than previous years. Daily life will be harder than it has to be, social services – including medical services that are urgently needed, not only for combating the pandemic – will remain inadequate and living standards will not improve, Schmidt warned. He concluded that together, B&H citizens, lawmakers, and international officials, can work on creating a better future for this country.


Komsic congratulates New Year’s Eve to B&H citizens (Nova BH)


In his congratulatory messages on New Year’s Eve, Chairman of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic said the coming year will likely be even more challenging than 2021. “We all need a lot of patience, wisdom and determination to adequately respond to the various and complex obstacles that lie ahead. We also need more mutual understanding, compassion and respect. It is the responsibility of all of us to fight for a more prosperous future of our country and all its citizens, who deserve to enjoy equal rights and freedoms,” he wrote.


FB&H politicians comment on blockades in FB&H parliament (FTV)


The executive and legislative branches of the Federation of B&H (FB&H) have been under blockade for a long time. The government is celebrating its eighth year in office in a technical mandate and incomplete composition, noted the presenter. Legislature is in an even more severe crisis. A clear and solid parliamentary majority, established by coalitions after the election, has been lost, added the presenter. The Caucus of Independent Representatives has never been more numerous. Political disagreements over changes to the Election Law, that HDZ B&H insists on, have halted all processes in the FB&H. Representatives in the FB&H parliament worked with everyone or with no one, depending on the agenda, commented the reporter. They worked on drafts, conclusions and some bills, mostly non-crucial ones, with the exception of the Law on the FB&H Pension and Disability Insurance Institute (PIO). The parliamentary majority at the FB&H level should consist of SDA, HDZ B&H, DF and SBB, noted the reporter. Head of the Our Party (NS) Caucus in the FB&H House of Representatives (HoR) Sabina Cudic stated: “A strong parliamentary majority was lost with the departure of individuals from different parties… I must admit that the SDA-HDZ coalition is very functioning in the HoR.” SDP Representative in the FB&H HoR Irfan Cengic pointed out: “Unfortunately, the parliament was dissolved in this mandate, because we have not formed the FB&H government for three years, because the election winners SDA and HDZ are not capable of that. But there is no real parliamentary majority because the winners are incapable of ensuring that.” That there is no majority is best reflected in the FB&H House of Peoples (HoP), added the reporter. It is almost a practice that laws that pass without problems in the FB&H HoR fall in the FB&H HoP. The latest negotiations on changes to the BiH Election Law have shown that they are aware of that in the ruling coalition. The unblocking of the FB&H with an emphasis on the FB&H HoP has been set as a priority for the pro-Bosnian bloc. Head of the SDA Caucus in the FB&H HoR Adnan Efendic stated: “The HoP should deal with what is the issue of protection of vital national interests (VNI) and it should be prescribed through the constitution. If the HoP would remain in its current function, as the second legislative house, then deadlines should be set in which certain solutions will be considered at the HoP so we do not have a situation as it is now.” Vice President of the FB&H Milan Dunovic pointed out: “The HoP is the place of the biggest blockades, and that is the deliberate non-completion of the Constitutional Court, which is why we do not have a full Council for Vital Ethnic Interest as a consequence. Therefore, absolutely every law can be blocked in the HoP.” And the problem is not only the legislative, but also the executive power in the FB&H, added the reporter. The FB&H government has been working in a truncated composition for almost a year, without three ministers. There is no full composition due to disagreements between SDA and HDZ B&H, i.e. the conditions regarding changes to the Election Law. President of the FB&H Marinko Cavara stated: “SDA is not interested at all in electing a new government. It is clear what the game is like, obstruction is being made on all sides, and then someone else is accused of the blockade, in order to present themselves as a victim because, here, someone else is blocking the state, and institutions are being taken over. On the other hand, someone is blocking the FB&H, again those who, in essence, are shouting the most.” Due to political turmoil, the FB&H Constitutional Court was not filled either. There is no ethics committee, which gives HDZ B&H the opportunity to block everything. Delegate in the FB&H HoP Igor Stojanovic stated: “This is exclusively about a political agreement and this was even admitted by colleagues from HDZ and SDA. They admitted that there is no political agreement and that is the reason why we do not have all these things. What SDP insists on is that alternative models of elections and penalties and suspensions must be found. You cannot block the process for seven years so that the democratic will is not implemented. Then you turn us into a tribal community.”


Cvijanovic talks about challenges and successes of RS in 2021 (RTRS)


The RS has managed to maintain its institutional stability in 2021 despite many economic and political pressures and challenges, according to the Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic. Cvijanovic sent holiday greetings to all citizens of the RS for the New Year. Cvijanovic pointed out that 2021 was a year of important decisions, including those related to the defense of competencies and constitutional positions of the RS. Cvijanovic added that such challenges point out the need to unite when it comes to Vital National Interests (VNI). Cvijanovic spoke about increase in salaries, pensions and new jobs in the RS. Cvijanovic claimed that they managed to realize many projects regarding traffic infrastructure, education, healthcare and energy. Cvijanovic pointed out that there is a lot to do in the coming period, which is why it is important to preserve the stability of the RS institutions.


Covic: There will be no B&H without Croats (Dnevni list)


HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic said that the standstill came to be because of relations at the level of three constituent peoples in B&H. According to Covic, this is the most challenging situation in the last 26 years, which will require a lot of efforts on part of the local stakeholders as well as on part of the international representatives, who have special place through the Peace Implementation Council, the OHR and other institutions. He further noted that as far as the Croat representatives are concerned, the Law on Elections is the key issue, arguing the fact is that the non-election year is over, however there is still some time to break the deadlock in the negotiations. In this context Covic said that the Croat people’s aim is that B&H starts functioning and that the Mostar Agreement from June of 2020 is implemented. Namely, it is necessary to secure legitimate representation of constituent peoples in the Houses of Peoples and the Presidency of B&H. According to Covic, he is certain the Law on Elections will have to change, otherwise he fears there will be problems with implementation of this year’s general elections. He further noted that as far as Milorad Dodik’s statement that “the mosque determines representative of Croats” is concerned, the fact is that the Islamic Community “has had a special place in politics in B&H and it is not hiding it”. HDZ B&H leader went on to say there will not be B&H without Croats: “We must sit at the table, talk on how to improve the relations, and that the primary task for the most numerical people that often like to say they conduct pro-Bosnian, patriotic policy”.


Krivokapic: Negotiations were held in secret, new government was practically formed (Vijesti)


In an interview for Vijesti, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic says that certain political actors secretly negotiated the election of a new government, and that it had “literally been formed”.

He adds that he is in favor of “strengthening the government through improvement in certain segments”, where there is great pressure and burden on ministries and ministers. Commenting on the claims that political corruption was being prepared during the vote of no confidence in his government in parliament, which was dropped, Krivokapic claims that the President of the state and the leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists Milo Djukanovic worked on it. Answering the question how he views the Memorandum signed by part of the government, i.e. part of the parliamentary majority, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister with part of the opposition, Krivokapic says that he has had an exceptional relationship with the Deputy Prime Minister from the beginning.


Lajcak: I’m very worried because Brussels almost no longer sees Montenegro (Pobjeda)


“No country should allow itself to completely stop reforms in the integration process, it is really an own-goal. And to repeat what I said during my last visit to Montenegro – I am very concerned that Montenegro has almost disappeared in the eyes of Brussels. This is in stark contrast to other countries in the region whose ambassadors and ministers are constantly coming, calling, taking an interest and fighting to make EU reports as positive as possible. Brussels no longer sees Montenegro and that is a great pity”, EU Special Representative for the Western Balkans Miroslav Lajcak says in an interview for Pobjeda. Lajcak stresses that Montenegro has lost too much time. “There was a democratic change of government last year, which is a normal thing in democracies. That happened in Montenegro after many years, but I would like to emphasize again a nice, cultural, European way of handing over power. Montenegro got a new government and that government declared European integration its priority, which we warmly welcomed. However, the government was formed in December and lost the support of the parliamentary majority in June. In democracies, the government cannot rule without the support of parliament, and that has happened in Montenegro, because no laws have been passed since June and a complete blockade of the system is in place, which is a luxury that Montenegro cannot afford at this stage of integration,” Lajcak explains. “The main thing now is to get a pro-European government again, which has the support of parliament and which will focus all its efforts on European reforms. Everything is written in the Report of the European Commission, it is a guide to which reforms must be implemented in the area of the rule of law,” he says. The interviewer recalls that “the head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro Oana Cristina Popa says that they are monitoring the process of electing the Prosecutorial Council and calling on political stakeholders to provide broad support for the appointment of independent, politically neutral and professional members of the Prosecutorial Council. This message proves that the EU is also concerned that this election is politically colored”. “Ambassador Popa expressed concern and I agree with her. Of course, the EU should carefully monitor whether these processes are in line with European practice. If the EU did one thing and said another, then we would get nowhere. I would not go into those internal matters because Montenegro has its own institutions, but the EU will ask after each election whether it was in line with European rules,” Lajcak says. “Montenegro must have more self-confidence, it is a country that is already a member of NATO, it is a country that decides on its own future. Whatever views are expressed outside the country, they should not influence the decisions made by the state of Montenegro. Montenegro has its own laws and if something happens outside the legal framework, then it must react immediately. Also, if something happens outside of European law and conventions, one must react immediately. It would be good to worry less about what others are saying and work more for our own benefit. Montenegro should not be afraid for its future from the outside, but from the inside,” Lajcak concludes.


Stoltenberg: Montenegro has shown that reforms in the Balkans are possible (Pobjeda)


“NATO is determined to help the Balkan countries implement reforms for the benefit of the citizens, which is not an easy path. It requires real commitment and real progress in reforms and reconciliation, but it is possible, as Montenegro and North Macedonia have shown, so I call on all leaders in the region to show their commitment to reform and reconciliation,” the Secretary General of the Alliance Jens Stoltenberg stated on Monday in an interview for Pobjeda.

Stoltenberg explains that “there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic is putting our economies under serious pressure. I express my regret to all those who are facing financial uncertainty. I know that prioritizing defense spending during the health crisis is not easy, but the security challenges we faced before the pandemic have not disappeared. These include assertive Russia, terrorism, cyber and missile threats, climate change and security implications stemming from China’s rise. That is why we must continue to invest in our security. As I said, we cannot allow this health crisis to become a security one”. “The Western Balkans has come a long way since the 1990s conflict, but we have recently seen rising tensions in both Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with more aggressive rhetoric, stalled reforms and foreign stakeholders working to undermine progress. NATO will continue to promote stability, security and cooperation in the region, including the day-to-day work of our UN-mandated KFOR mission in Kosovo and our offices in Sarajevo and Belgrade,” he points out. “Security and stability in the Western Balkans are important to NATO. This was reaffirmed at our summit in Brussels and during our last meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga,” he stresses. “I had the pleasure of hosting PM Krivokapic at NATO Headquarters in November. It was his third visit to NATO headquarters. This in itself is a concrete demonstration of our close relationship that we have developed over the years with Montenegro. Montenegro is a respected ally, making an important contribution to our common security, with troops serving in NATO’s Multinational Battlegroup in Latvia and our KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. I also welcome the fact that Montenegro is increasing defense spending. All this shows a strong commitment to NATO. Montenegro can always count on NATO. Our Air policing mission continues to keep your country’s skies safe, with planes from Italy and Greece. NATO and its allies also showed strong solidarity and support for Montenegro during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not up to me, as NATO Secretary General, to comment on internal political issues in each Allied country. It is up to politicians, parties in Montenegro to deal with it and decide. What I can say is that I am convinced that Montenegro will remain a loyal ally in NATO, meeting Allied standards, for the benefit of our common security,” Stoltenberg says.


We expect constructive talks with the new Bulgarian government and a quick unblocking of the process, said Osmani (Republika)


We expect constructive talks with the new government in the Republic of Bulgaria, restoration of trust, talks on the essential issues we have on the table and a quick unblocking of the process. And that is the most important thing for us, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Bujar Osmani said at a press conference on Monday. Asked by reporters whether the meeting with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov is scheduled, Osmani clarified that the communication will be intensified in the first days and weeks of this year. However, he emphasized, the new government should be voted in the parliament, so that after that meetings can be formally held between the future Prime Minister and the representatives of the government. In the meantime, the Foreign Minister pointed out, preparatory activities will be carried out for the realization of those activities immediately after the formation of the new government. The purpose of the visit, i.e. that meeting is to return the relations to a normal, European, European integration track, return the trust and joint engagement in overcoming this challenge that our relations are facing, said Osmani. Osmani is pushing a new set of changes to the law on diplomats, all as part of his attempt to create an outsized mission in Vienna ahead of the Macedonian Presidency with OSCE in 2023. Osmani’s initial proposal was to introduce a completely arbitrary condition for sending diplomats to multilateral missions – that their “heart” and ideology are in the right place, or attuned to the mission. The new demand is that the parliament lifts the ban on having diplomats serve in consecutive missions abroad. At the moment, diplomats need to spend two years in Macedonia after each posting abroad. This rule apparently blocks a number of diplomats who Osmani has handpicked for the post in Vienna.


Mickoski: SDSM is not a factor in the government, DUI governs Macedonia (TV Alfa)


VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski commented Saturday in an interview with TV Alfa about the role that DUI will have in the coming period in the government of Dimitar Kovacevski. They are sending a message that they are a factor, SDSM is not a factor in the government. Now Zaev’s pawn, Kovacevski, will come, I guess somewhere in the middle of this month, and he will propose the cabinet. From what I see, he will only continue the Zaevism and practically you will have a much weaker capacity of politicians with political power, but also different I would say. Because as a prime minister-designate, I am afraid that he will not be able to impose either authority or political credibility because he did not go to the polls, did not receive support from the people, did not identify with the platform. DUI comes here, Artan Grubi, Bujar Osmani, Kreshnik Bekteshi, Fatmir Besimi and others who want to say through these messages who is in power in the government, that we will have a new prime minister, a certain Kovacevski Dimitar, who is placed here to continue the character and work of Zoran Zaev. But the real power, which pulls the strings is DUI, said Mickoski. Mickoski added that DUI does not say that only to their voters, but it is also a message to the international community. That is why VMRO-DPMNE warns that this is not the government of SDSM and its coalition partners, but this is the government of DUI. I do not blame DUI here, I do not intend to blame it because they are pursuing their political interest at the end of the day, that is part of their plan and strategy. I blame the political parties that are part of the SDSM Coalition, Goran Milevski, Maja Moracanin, Pavle Trajanov, Ljubco Georgievski and others who de facto support the DUI government, said Mickoski. Mickoski in the New Year’s interview with TV Alfa said that he does not expect a dynamic year of change, adding that in the field of European integration VMRO-DPMNE will not allow the Macedonian identity to be touched and accept the Bulgarian Resolution to be part of the negotiating framework. When we talk about the European perspective, I do not expect that something could change dramatically. I am deeply convinced that there is no 5 + 1 plan or whatever they want to call them, because there is a Resolution of the Bulgarian parliament. There are points in that resolution that are unacceptable for us as a nation, and even for politicians like Zoran Zaev, because it is a seriously negative and assimilation policy. As long as that resolution exists, there is no agreement. We will have a stalled European integration process, said Mickoski. He stressed that the first moment when that resolution will be withdrawn or replaced by another, then there could be an agreement.


Western Balkans to be a priority of France’s EU Presidency, but unclear in what form (MIA)


On 1 January France took the helm of the EU’s rotating presidency for the next six months, and although EU enlargement remains a taboo subject for the Western European public, experts do not rule out progress in the process of Macedonia and Albania, MIA reports from Brussels.

France’s priorities were presented less than a month ago by French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Paris. The word “enlargement” was not mentioned as expected, but the president placed the Western Balkans, along with Africa, in his priorities. We will not be able to build a Europe of peace in the next 50 years if we leave the Western Balkans as it is today, Macron said on 9 December, adding that he would hold a conference on the region in June.

Although the details of the conference are not known, experts on EU enlargement policy believe that this statement is still a sign of courage given the general resistance of the French public to enlargement.


Albania takes over its mandate in the UN Security Council, here is the focus (Radio Tirana)


From January 2022 until the end of 2023, Albania is a non-permanent member of the most powerful UN body, the Security Council. “For the first time, 66 years after joining the UN, Albania sits at the highest platform for peace, security and stability, a responsibility but also a great opportunity for the country to leave its mark in the international arena,” Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhacka said on this occasion. Albania has the right to one vote in the decisions to be taken by the Security Council. The team of Albanian diplomats in New York will have the right to participate in the meetings of the UN Security Council and to present Albania’s positions on the hottest security issues in the world, which endanger peace and stability, said Xhacka.


Consolidating stability in the Western Balkans

Albania aims during its 2-year mandate to work for stability and peace in the region, to consolidate the achievements of the last decade and not let it slide towards destabilization and tensions. Progress in the process of recognizing Kosovo and its membership in international organizations will be another priority of Albania’s mandate as a temporary member of the UN Security Council. “Kosovo has been, is and will be a sacred cause for Albania,” said Minister Xhacka. The UN Security Council consists of 15 members, of which the US, UK, France, Russia and China are the five permanent members with veto power, while the other 10 countries are temporary members with two-year terms.


Barsacq: There should be no division in the EU integration process, between Albania and North Macedonia (EuroNews/Radio Tirana)


The Ambassador of France in Albania Elisabeth Barsacq stated that there should be no division in the EU integration process, between Albania and North Macedonia, even though the latter is being held hostage by the Bulgarian veto. According to the French Ambassador, the position of the EU and France in this regard is to insist on the importance of joint work between the 6 countries of the Western Balkans within the Open Balkans. Speaking about the latter, the French diplomat explained that the real issue in this whole discussion is and remains the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia. She said that she is skeptical of this initiative without Kosovo, and thinks that dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is a priority for Europe. “I believe that everything that has been done in signing the agreements to move forward and increase bilateral exchanges is very good, but if you look at it from a global perspective of the whole region, the real issue remains the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia and the issue of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. We will not be able to sustainably build a truly sovereign Europe if we do not have this dialogue and move forward in this area. To return to very concrete things, as you know, since 1 July 2021, free roaming has been established between the 6 countries of the Western Balkans. When this became possible, I immediately thought of the moment when France and Germany decided to merge coal and steel. It starts with things like that, maybe not very spectacular, to move on to really essential things. Today, communicating freely, using the telephone wherever you are in the region, is more or less like the coal of our communication. “In a region where you can travel quickly because the distances are not very big, from Shkodra you can go to lunch in Podgorica and not have a problem with the phone”, said for EuroNews Ambassador Barsacq.


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Belgrade Media Report 7 July 2022

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