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Belgrade Media Report 18 January 2022

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United Nations Office in Belgrade
Daily Media Highlights
Tuesday 18 January 2022
LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic: Pristina’s decision disgraceful (TV Prva)
• Brnabic: Government soon to make decision on Rio Tinto (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)
• Odalovic: Absurd that Kurti could have voted in another country – Albania, and Serbs cannot in their own (RTS)
• Giaufret: Higher turnout would be better, but referendum results positive (RTS)
• Stano urges Belgrade-Pristina agreement enabling Kosovo Serbs to vote (Tanjug)
• EU hails Serbia referendum as important step towards more independent judiciary (Beta)
• EU welcomes results of Serbian referendum (Tanjug)
• Leading MEPs welcome constitutional changes approved in Serbia’s referendum (N1)
• Donation by Serbian UNIFIL troops to monastery in Lebanon (N1)
• Schmidt wants to kick Dodik out from politics? (Novosti)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Escobar: Sanctions result with effect, there will be more, corruption is main problem in Western Balkans (VoA/O Kanal)
• Lavrov: US continues to interfere in internal affairs of B&H and approves attempts to turn B&H into unitarian state (BN TV)
• Kalabukhov: PIC violates spirit and letter of DPA (AJB)
• Dodik says Vucic’s suggestion to return to B&H institutions should not be ignored although he himself believes that RS representatives should return to B&H institutions in full capacity only after demands that arise from RS parliament conclusions are met (RTRS)
• Zunic: Talks about Vucic’s proposal for return to institutions of B&H in the following days (Glas Srpske)
• SDS, PDP members hold meeting: Only place where decisions about RS should be made is RS parliament (BN TV)
• Petkovic questioned at Prosecutor’s Office of B&H as witness in ‘Attack on B&H’s constitutional order’ case (BHT1)
• Schmidt’s statement on Dodik sparks reactions in RS: Dodik depends solely on support of Serb people (Nezavisne)
• USAID’s Power expresses support to Schmidt (AJB)
• Kavazovic meets Schmidt: It would be good B&H parliament confirms changes to B&H Criminal Code that ban denial of genocide (FTV)
Croatia
• Grlic Radman meets Lavrov in Moscow (HRT)
Montenegro
• Abazovic: We offer minority government without DPS and DF, it would be phenomenal if they also supported it (CdM)
• DF: We are not ready for new experiment, we are for election of new government (CdM)
• Sehovic: Krivokapic’s government fall and election of new one in February (Pobjeda)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Mickoski calls on Kovacevski to hold snap elections without a technical government! (TV 24)
• Petkov insists that he will not undermine the Macedonian nation and language (Sitel TV)
Albania
• Turkish aid to Albania, growing ties and friendship with PM highlighted during President Erdogan visit (Tirana Times)
• President Erdogan addresses the Albanian parliament (Radio Tirana)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: Pristina’s decision disgraceful (TV Prva)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated today that the decision of Pristina to prohibit Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohija from voting at the referendum on the change of the Serbian Constitution is disgraceful and that she does not understand partners from the international community who did not react to that. She told TV Prva said that this will be one of the topics of talks during her visit to Brussels on 25 January, where she will attend a session of the Council for Stabilization and Association, as part of Serbia’s pre-accession talks with the EU. Brnabic added that she will also have meetings with EU officials there and that she will ask them what they are planning to do regarding the decision of Pristina to prevent Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohija from casting their votes at the referendum that was held on 16 January. Pristina deprived Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija of a basic right and this will have far-reaching consequences. They depend on how Pristina will behave in the case of elections that will be held on 3 April, but this will surely be on the agenda of all our meetings with them in the future, Brnabic stated and added that the consequences will surely be political as Serbia always maintains peace and stability. She noted that a 30 percent turnout at the referendum on the change of the Constitution in the field of judiciary is extremely good and that she is satisfied with the result.

 

Brnabic: Government soon to make decision on Rio Tinto (Tanjug/RTV/RTS)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Monday said the government would soon make a decision on whether the mining corporation Rio Tinto would be operating in Serbia. She said the decision would be made following consultations with President Aleksandar Vucic. “I think we should not be having a problem with this – we are not the ones who brought them to Serbia and we have not given them anything. To make this absolutely clear – we have no contract with Rio Tinto whatsoever, and we are not those who are now blocking international traffic routes after bringing Rio Tinto to Serbia,” Brnabic told reporters in Novi Sad. Brnabic noted that, as far as she was concerned, Rio Tinto need not stay in Serbia and added that she had no problem with saying this.

 

Odalovic: Absurd that Kurti could have voted in another country – Albania, and Serbs cannot in their own (RTS)

 

The Secretary General of the Serbian parliament Veljko Odalovic told the morning press review of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the turnout in the referendum was expected, and that the results confirmed that the path taken by the government and the proponents of the Act received support. Odalovic says that Albin Kurti tried to get the verification of his positions in the Kosovo Assembly, which he stated earlier, and that he took many actions to prevent Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija from voting in the referendum. “I am sorry that those who put pressure on him did it quite gently, and he assessed that it was irrelevant. They failed to force him to change his rhetoric and attitude,” Odalovic points out. He says that it is absurd that Kurti could have voted in another country – Albania, and Serbs cannot in their own. “He is not interested in that. He has a goal of his own and he is quite autistic. It is obvious that he could not do this without some support. The strength of those who convince him is much greater than the way they act. European and American mediators, they all have mechanisms,” believes Odalovic. He stressed that he hopes that reason will prevail and that those, who keep repeating that dialogue is the only solution, will force Pristina to return to dialogue and find a solution that will not humiliate either Belgrade or Pristina. “This is a moment of alarm for the international community to understand what is going on in Kosovo and Metohija,” Odalovic stresses.

 

Giaufret: Higher turnout would be better, but referendum results positive (RTS)

 

The Head of the EU delegation to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret said on Monday the EU saw the adoption of Constitutional amendments in the country’s referendum as a positive result in strengthening the independence of the judiciary. Giaufret told RTS that it was good news for the EU that the citizens who went to the polls and supported the reforms. He added the EU would like the turnout was but said: “that (turnout percentage) does not affect the result of the referendum”. “Certainly, reforms are good if they result from consensus, but the result from yesterday is obvious. We welcome the fact that this step has been made, “Giaufret said. Asked whether Brussels would monitor the adoption of numerous laws to implement the changes in practice, he said the rules were a priority because what has been achieved must be implemented. “We welcome the government’s intention to keep the Venice Commission involved in the implementation. And the EU will closely monitor, but also support it financially and technically,” he said. He added that this is not just about Serbia joining the Union, but also about the rule of law. “We know that this is an important condition for EU membership,” he said, stressing that Serbia should work on reforms, the fight against corruption and organized crime, media strategy and freedoms, and greater security for journalists. Giaufret said that some parties that supported European integration were against the reforms. “There is no consensus on Serbia’s political scene on the issue, and that is understandable. What is important is that at the end of the day, the majority of voters who turned out voted yes,” he told RTS. Asked whether Brussels could do more than ask the Kosovo authorities to allow Serbs in Kosovo to vote in the referendum, Giaufret said Pristina was publicly asked to conduct the vote. “We called on Pristina to carry out the same procedures as in previous years, to allow the OSCE to count the votes and transport the ballots to the voters … We are sorry that in the end, we could not find a way to have the same procedures as before,” he said.

 

Stano urges Belgrade-Pristina agreement enabling Kosovo Serbs to vote (Tanjug)

 

EU spokesperson Peter Stano on Monday said the EU regretted that Kosovo Serbs had not been allowed to vote in Sunday’s referendum on amendments to the Serbian constitution. He urged Belgrade and Pristina to agree on a mutually acceptable solution that would enable Kosovo-Metohija Serbs to vote in future Serbian elections. “Although there is no agreement within the EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on organizing Serbian elections in Kosovo, we would now expect the parties to start negotiating mutually agreeable modalities which would allow Serbs in Kosovo to vote in future Serbian elections and we are ready to facilitate this,” Stano said. “The position of the EU was very clear already before, that all eligible Serbs in Kosovo should have had the possibility to cast their votes through a collection of ballots operation facilitated by the OSCE. We regret that it was not possible to conduct such an operation, collection of ballots… This is something that has been done in the past, facilitated by the OSCE, this is a long-standing, established practice,” he said. “The consent of both sides would have been necessary in order to make such an operation possible and feasible and while we, as the EU, have always supported the negotiations between both parties through the OSCE, in the end, it is on the parties themselves to negotiate and find an agreement on this.” Speaking about a resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Stano said it was not true that the dialogue was postponed. “The work on the dialogue continues with everyday work and engagement by all those who are involved in it, at least on the EU side,” he said. “The fact that there is no high-level dialogue – a high-level meeting in the dialogue – is no proof that the dialogue is postponed so the work continues and once the conditions are right there will be another meeting either at the level of chief negotiators or at the level of PMs and presidents, so we work together with EU partners, with other partners such as the US, very closely in order to bring this message home to both parties that progress in the EU-facilitated dialogue is necessary as soon as possible, and not for us, but for the benefit of the people both in Kosovo and Serbia,” Stano said.

 

EU hails Serbia referendum as important step towards more independent judiciary (Beta)

 

The EU welcomes the outcome of the referendum in Serbia confirming constitutional amendments toward a more independent justice system, Ana Pisonero, spokesperson for the European Commission, said in Brussels on Monday. Pisonero called the success of the referendum to amend the section of the Serbian Constitution dealing with the justice system an important step in executing reforms on the road to the EU. Pisonero pointed out that an independent judiciary was crucial to Serbia’s bid to join the EU and that the Serbian government now needed to amend numerous laws. The EC will work with Belgrade to make those important legislation changes a reality, Pisonero added.

 

EU welcomes results of Serbian referendum (Tanjug)

 

In a statement following Serbia’s referendum on constitutional amendments related to the judiciary, the EU said that, according to preliminary results, voters who had gone to the polls on Sunday expressed support to the proposal. “The EU welcomes the completion of this important step in the Constitutional reform with a view to strengthening the independence of the judiciary, in line with Serbia’s strategic choice to accede to the EU. The reform process to strengthen the independence of the judiciary does not end here and needs to continue. A number of laws need to be amended for the effective implementation of the constitutional amendments. These should be prepared as a matter of priority through a holistic reform of the relevant laws, in line with European standards,” the statement said. “We welcome the Serbian government’s intention to continue involving the Venice Commission in the next steps. The EU will continue to closely follow this process and provide financial and technical support for the implementation of justice reforms. At the same time, the EU regrets that it was not possible to find an agreement with the government of Kosovo allowing the OSCE to collect the ballots in Kosovo, in accordance with past practice,” it also said.

 

Leading MEPs welcome constitutional changes approved in Serbia’s referendum (N1)

 

Vladimir Bilcik (EPP from Slovakia), Standing Rapporteur for Serbia and Tanja Fajon (S&D, from Slovenia), Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee, welcomed on Monday the result of the country’s referendum on Constitutional changes in the judiciary held on Sunday in which the majority of the people who turned out had voted in favor of the government proposal. “We welcome the decision of Serbian citizens to support the change of the Constitution reinforcing the independence of the justice system. This is an important step on Serbia’s EU integration path,” the two MEPs said. However, they added that they “are concerned about the reports on inadequate preparedness of electoral boards to conduct the voting process and call on responsible authorities to ensure improvements in this area in the run-up to the upcoming elections. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the constitutional changes as approved by the referendum as well as other reforms in the rule of law area”. According to the official results, just over 30 percent of the electorate turned out with a majority voting yes. However, residents in Belgrade, northern and southern cities of Novi Sad and Nis, and the central town of Kragujevac said no to the proposed changes. In the meantime, several opposition parties and organizations which called for a no vote ahead of the referendum claimed foul play during the voting, some saying the votes were ‘stolen’, while one demanded the annulment of the referendum. Observers said President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) could not be happy with either the turnout or the overall result which, according to them, could be a signal ahead of the presidential, early general and Belgrade elections in April.

 

Donation by Serbian UNIFIL troops to monastery in Lebanon (N1)

 

Serbian UNIFIL troops donated a video projector and tablet to the Orthodox Christian monastery in Deir Mimas, south of Lebanon’s capital Beirut. The monastery is located in the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon’s sector where the Army of Serbia (VS) has deployed an infantry company, the Serbian Defense Ministry said in a press release. The funds for the donation came from Serbian troops in the 22nd VS contingent with UNIFIL. The previous contingent made a similar donation to the Orthodox Christian school at Marjayoun. The VS initially deployed troops with UNIFIL in December 2010. The infantry company is part of the Spanish battalion with some VS staff officers and support elements in Sector East as well as a security platoon with the Italian contingent in Sector West. The Defense Ministry press release said that the VS contingent has won the trust and respect of UN personnel, contingents from partner countries and the local population.

 

Schmidt wants to kick Dodik out from politics? (Novosti, by S. Misljenovic)

 

High Representative Christian Schmidt stated that he would do everything in his power to make sure that things in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) develop without SNSD leader and B&H Presidency member Milorad Dodik. Dodik responded by attacking Schmidt and describing him as “citizen Christian Schmidt who falsely presents himself as High Representative” who sends false messages about the future of B&H which is false as well. He called Schmidt a liar and said that he was not legally appointed to the office of High Representative. Political analyst Vojislav Savic stated that Schmidt is not doing the right thing by threatening Dodik who is currently the strongest politician in B&H. He noted that Schmidt obviously does not understand democratic processes and the fact that citizens elect their representatives. According to Savic, Schmidt intends to directly disturb the election process which can only lead to further destabilization of the country. He warned that if Schmidt decides to ban Dodik from participation in the next election, this decision will lead B&H to the greatest crisis ever, and Republika Srpska will probably decide to hold its own election independently. Political analyst Velizar Antic stated that Dodik brought himself to his current difficult position by constantly raising the stake, while knowing that he would not be able to fulfil all his plans. According to Antic, Schmidt is aware of this, and that is why he is acting in a more aggressive manner. However, Antic does not believe that Schmidt will use any sanctions against Dodik.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Escobar: Sanctions result with effect, there will be more, corruption is main problem in Western Balkans (VoA/O Kanal

 

Special US Envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar stated for the VoA that sanctions have effect and added that there will be more of them. During the conversation, Escobar presented the claim that corruption is the main problem in the Western Balkans region. Escobar said: “I do not want people to think that the US are engaged in the region primarily via sanctions. Efforts of our partners in the region are to live in countries free of corruption and that are getting closer to Europe. However, this administration is very committed to fight against corruption and one of the means in this fight are the sanctions. I can say that there will be more of that but this will not be the primary mean of our engagement. The sanctions are not directed against countries or certain peoples but against individuals who are deeply involved in corruption. I would say that the sanctions were an important mean in stabilization of the region and I can tell you that they brought effects.” Escobar also said: “Specifically, I cannot comment and I will not comment on details, and I cannot discuss details of our diplomatic engagement with various people in the region. I can tell you that sanctions prevent people from transferring the money. They prevent them and lead to closing of off-shore companies used to transfer money, particularly public funds, through non-transparent processes beneficial for only few people.” As for the fact that the EU has not introduced any sanctions on SNSD leader Milorad Dodik and the impact that the lack of unity in the EU has on the efficiency of the US policy in the Balkans, Escobar said that Washington and European partners have a joint stance about the most important part. He added that there are intensive talks in the EU about what they can offer to supplement the US measures.

 

Lavrov: US continues to interfere in internal affairs of B&H and approves attempts to turn B&H into unitarian state (BN TV

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov assessed that America continues to interfere in the internal affairs of B&H and approves the attempts to turn that country into a unitary one, “encouraging the demonization of the RS”. “With the encouragement of some Western countries, primarily the United States, the demonization of the RS and its leadership is being used for these inappropriate purposes,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with his Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlic Radman. Lavrov also said he hopes the EU will help B&H return to the Dayton principles and will stop treating the Western Balkans as a zone of its influence. He recalled of the words of former chief of the EU diplomacy Federica Mogherini, quoting her as saying that the Western Balkans is the place where the EU will be dealing with all problems and that the others better do not interfere with it. “This is a matter of spheres of influence. We find it very indicative in terms of the US approach to the problems in the Western Balkans,” he added.

The daily carried Grlic Radman who said, among other issues, that various representatives made the so-called crawling changes to the Law on Elections, which were detrimental to the Croats in B&H. According to him, now it is necessary to work on changes to the election law in order to tackle all forms of discrimination and inequality in the election process. The daily further carried Lavrov as saying, among other issues, “we see an obvious discrimination of B&H Croats”. “The electoral reform must be carried out on basis of the Dayton agreement,” added the Russian FM.

 

Kalabukhov: PIC violates spirit and letter of DPA (AJB

 

Ambassador of the Russian Federation to B&H Igor Kalabukhov reacted to the recent interview given by US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson. Kalabukhov said that due to pressure of Washington, the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) violates not only spirit, but also a letter of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). Kalabukhov emphasized that existence of the Office of High Representative (OHR) is disastrous and leads to destabilization, not only in B&H, but in entire region. The Russian Ambassador described sanctions imposed against few politicians in B&H as “educative measures” imposed without a trial and investigation. In his reaction, Kalabukhov asked about famous “beyond reasonable doubt” and whether it means that in regards to politicians from B&H there is no need for evidence. Talking about Nelson’s claim that Russia would not allow B&H to become a member of NATO, Kalabukhov described this claim as lie. He emphasized that unlike the US, Russia has not been imposing foreign policy priorities to B&H. He added that B&H, which Russia considers to be friendly country, has a sovereign right to choose. Kalabukhov underlined that if their choice is NATO membership – although it is clear there is no consensus within B&H in this regard, while the current situation is completely different when compared to 2000s – Russia has full right to react to this hypothetical development of situation in line with its national interests.

 

Dodik says Vucic’s suggestion to return to B&H institutions should not be ignored although he himself believes that RS representatives should return to B&H institutions in full capacity only after demands that arise from RS parliament conclusions are met (RTRS

 

Addressing the press conference on Monday, Serb member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik reiterated that despite pressures and sanctions, the RS continues the policy of return of competencies. Dodik said that Serb representatives will return to the B&H institutions when the problem because of which we left – Inzko’s imposed decision – is resolved. Dodik stressed that possible return to the joint institutions will be decided by the RS parliament. Dodik pointed out that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic did not ask or order, but suggested and proposed that the representatives of the RS return to the joint institutions in full capacity.

Dodik stressed that conditions for the RS representatives to take part in decision-making at the B&H level have not been met yet, i.e. imposed law of former High Representative Valentin Inzko has not been put out of force. Dodik announced talks with the officials and elected representatives of the RS on overcoming this problem in the coming days. “Only after the circumstances in regard to the RS parliament’s conclusion are removed we can return in full capacity to the work of the institutions, although we do not believe that even after that position will be possible to make some steps forward,” Dodik underlined. Dodik emphasized that the opposition in the RS is trying to shift the burden of the decision on return to the joint institutions onto him although, as he stated, the RS parliament’s conclusions which are in force were proposed by SDS. Dodik said that in this way, the situation is being additionally complicated and the pressure on the RS is increasing. Dodik said that there is an undisguised desire of the opposition for them primarily to return to the joint institutions and to blame someone else for that. “As far as we are concerned, we will consider reasons and conditions why we do not participate there and we will try to discuss those reasons and conditions also with the opposition in the RS and see how we can put that issue on the agenda,” Dodik underlined. Dodik also commented on Christian Schmidt‘s statement for the Federation of B&H (FB&H) media that he sees B&H’s future without Dodik. The Serb member of the Presidency and SNSD leader stressed that Schmidt’s engagement is disgrace to both the West and Germany because he was not appointed in accordance with the prescribed procedure. In that regard, Dodik pointed out that any kind of moves by Schmidt would be illegitimate. “Future with Schmidt who is illegal, what would that look like, that would be an illegal future. It would be a false future, because he is false as well. He does not exist… I believe he is mad, that he is under great pressure by the Muslims to do something. What would it look like for him to do something? I do not know. I cannot speak hypothetically whether he will remove Milorad Dodik or not. That would be another farce in which the man who got the largest number of votes in the previous elections is removed by a foreigner without mandate,” Dodik said. Dodik also commented on the US sanctions imposed against him, stressing that he sees all of that as pressure on the RS because he advocates the policy of returning competencies or respecting the DPA which, as Dodik said, he will not give up on. Speaking about the changes to the B&H Election Law, Dodik said that the RS will accept everything that does not encroach on the essence of election of Serbs to the joint institutions, reiterating that election of a member of the B&H Presidency in the B&H Parliament is unacceptable and that only direct election of Serb member of the B&H Presidency is possible. US Special Representative for the Balkans Gabriel Escobar has announced new sanctions and Dodik said that these are individuals who became the executors of works for Bosniaks. “I know that Escobar personally. I believe that the man has potential to order someone to be liquidated because those are such people, such potentials. In any case, it should not worry us at all. The RS looks good. The RS has stable accounts. The RS also has his friends and the RS will exclusively deal with the issues of the Constitution of B&H and its position,” Dodik emphasized. He also stated that US representatives Escobar and Eric Nelson have been lying that the recent sanctions imposed against him have already achieved effect.

 

Zunic: Talks about Vucic’s proposal for return to institutions of B&H in the following days (Glas Srpske

 

Head of the RS SNSD Caucus Igor Zunic told the daily that the SNSD leadership will hold a meeting in one of the following days and talk about the proposal by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who asked the Serb politicians to return to the institutions of B&H. He added that the final decision about this matter can be made only by the RS parliament. Zunic expects that the Serb political parties will reach a consensus on this issue. According to him, there were no official talks on this topic but a special RS parliament session might take place at the beginning of February. Since this is a strategic decision, he stressed, the talks should involve the representatives of all parliamentary parties. “One thing remains for sure, that we will never give up on revoking of the imposed ‘Inzko’s law’,” added Zunic. He also deems that Vucic does not interfere with the internal affairs of the RS but is always interested in and concerned about the status of the RS within B&H. He assessed Vucic’s proposal to return to the institutions of B&H as his wish for the tensions to calm down.

 

SDS, PDP members hold meeting: Only place where decisions about RS should be made is RS parliament (BN TV

 

The RS parliament is the only place where key decisions on return of RS representatives to the B&H institutions should be made, said representatives of opposition after the SDS Presidency session and also the inter-party meeting between SDS and PDP. The opposition believes that initiator of adoption of the RS parliament conclusions should now go before the lawmakers and inform them of the plans for further action. They say it is not acceptable for an individual to make decisions on his own and which refer to the entire RS and its lawmakers. They say such a person cannot do that and then speak of some sort of Serb unity. Serb member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader, Milorad Dodik, and his SNSD, were proponents of the RS parliament conclusions, the opposition reminds that they expect Dodik and his party to also present a new solution at this moment. The opposition says past few months were lost, and a solution for the imposed ‘Inzko law’ was not found in that time. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic told reporters that they will decide on participation at the RS parliament session when the time comes, and they will also reveal their stances at that time. He said Dodik dragged the RS in a “spiral of conflicts, and a crisis that was never seen before”. Sarovic said he is waiting for Dodik to go before the people and to say that things will be done differently from now on. “We shall see what he has to propose”, the SDS leader added. When assessing policies of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, PDP leader Branislav Borenovic said Vucic always had “reasonable, wise and calm” policies and proposals that went in the direction of acting in a serious and responsible way when it comes to political processes in B&H and in the region as well. Borenovic assessed that Dodik’s policies that are loud and quarrelsome have failed. As far as I can see, Borenovic says, Dodik and SNSD will return to the joint institutions of B&H with their heads bowed. “They return to their friends in SDA, and their comrade Bakir Izetbegovic,” Borenovic concluded.

 

Petkovic questioned at Prosecutor’s Office of B&H as witness in ‘Attack on B&H’s constitutional order’ case (BHT1

 

RS parliament deputy speaker Milan Petkovic was questioned as a witness in the case ‘Attack on B&H’s constitutional order’ at the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H on Monday. The case was formed based on several reports filed with the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H and it is focused on activities that undermine B&H institutions regarding the special session of the RS parliament on return of the RS competences from the level of B&H that was held on 10 December 2021. Several RS officials and representatives of the RS opposition have been questioned in this case so far. Addressing the reporters after the questioning, Petkovic said that he explained to the competent prosecutor the method of functioning of the RS parliament Collegium, who were the proponents and propagators of the 10 December session’s agenda. He also said that he presented his stance according to which there are no elements to conduct the investigation in this case. According to Petkovic, there are no elements to confirm a criminal offense of the attack on the constitutional order because there were no threats to violently change the constitutional order. He assessed that the case has nothing to do with change of B&H’s constitutional order as the defense sector, judiciary and indirect taxes are not part of B&H’s constitutional order or the Constitution of B&H. Stressing that he does not want to influence the course of the investigation, Petkovic said that he expects an order on suspension of the investigation to be made because, as he stated, with the declaration and conclusions of the RS parliament, the RS seeks to restore its own competencies. “I presented my opinion which I legally explained, that I believe that there is absolutely no basis to conduct this investigation and that there are no elements of criminal offense of attack on the constitutional order because there was no threat of force nor violent changes to the constitutional order. On the other hand, this has nothing to do with changing the constitutional order of B&H because defense, judiciary and indirect taxes, i.e. Indirect Taxation Authority, are not part of the constitutional order of B&H,” Petkovic emphasized.

 

Schmidt’s statement on Dodik sparks reactions in RS: Dodik depends solely on support of Serb people (Nezavisne

 

Head of SNSD Caucus in the B&H House of Representatives Snjezana Novakovic Bursac said on Monday that citizens of every democratic country and not someone from aside decide in elections about who will be their official representative. “Insinuating that the future of B&H should happen without SNSD leader Milorad Dodik confirms the intentions of one part of the international community to model an election process with help of certain institutions and political parties, and to remodel the will of citizens, which can only bring us into a deeper crisis,” said Bursac commenting on the recent statement of High Representative Christian Schmidt.

Head of the Serb Caucus in B&H House of Peoples Nenad Stevandic also commented on the same statement, noting that Schmidt cannot determine the future of one people. “Dodik depends solely on support of the Serb people,” he added. Stevandic also said that Schmidt joined those who offend the families of the Serb victims as he never paid a visit to a memorial to 12 Banja Luka babies. RS SNSD MP Natasa Kolasinac said that the Bonn powers of so-called high representative in B&H should not become a practice with imposing of laws or when threatening with removals of elected officials. MP Lazar Prodanovic (SNSD) noted that the messages of an international official, who hints that the future in the RS or B&H should happen without any of elected officials, are not good. Prodanovic explained that such messages make senseless the basic role of elections – that citizens are the ones who decide who will be representing them. He also said that the rhetoric on all sides should be replaced by rational talks about important matters that are in the interest of both entities, constituent peoples and every citizen of B&H.

 

USAID’s Power expresses support to Schmidt (AJB

 

Ahead of her visit to B&H, USAID Administrator Samantha Power talked with HR Christian Schmidt. Power confirmed the US’ support to and his competence in applying of all necessary authorizations, including Bonn Powers until 5+2 agenda is completely implemented and until B&H meets criteria for functioning without international supervision. Schmidt and Power agreed that prosperous future of B&H depends on political leaders and citizens who need to invest joint efforts to implement reforms necessary to achieve democratic and economic aspirations of B&H.

 

Kavazovic meets Schmidt: It would be good B&H parliament confirms changes to B&H Criminal Code that ban denial of genocide (FTV

 

The Head of the Islamic Community in B&H Husein Kavazovic and HR Christian Schmidt met in Sarajevo on Monday. Among other things, the officials talked about changes to the B&H Criminal Code that former HR Valentin Inzko imposed on the prohibition of denial of the genocide. Kavazovic presented the stance of the Islamic Community in B&H according to which it would be good that the B&H Parliament confirms changes to B&H Criminal Code that ban denial of genocide and glorification of convicted war criminals. He supported Schmidt in his work and asked him to be patient and committed to preservation of B&H. Kavazovic also asked Schmidt to undertake the necessary moves so that B&H continues its safe road to the Euro-Atlantic integration in the most peaceful possible atmosphere.

 

Grlic Radman meets Lavrov in Moscow (HRT

 

The Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister is on an official visit to Russia. This is a return visit after the Russian Foreign Minister visited Zagreb in December of 2020. The focus of discussion was on bilateral relations and the situation in the wider region. Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman is on an official visit to Moscow, where he met on Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Among the key issues they discussed were economic cooperation, the situation in the Western Balkans and relations between Russia and Brussels. The visit comes amid the crisis in Ukraine and stalled talks between Russia, the US and NATO. Grlic Radman came to Moscow with the message that Croatia shares the position of the EU and NATO and recognizes the territorial integrity of Ukraine but at the same time, it wants to strengthen bilateral and economic ties with Russia. “We talked about the situation in the Western Balkans, in B&H, relations between Belgrade and Pristina, and about relations between Russia and the EU and Russia and NATO. We told our Croatian friends that we highly appreciate Croatia’s position on resolving the problems accumulating between Russia and the European Union,” Minister Lavrov said after their meeting. For his part Minister Grlic Radman thanked Russia for its support over the past 30 years: “In these thirty years Croatia has made significant achievements, and Russia never stood in our way in that regard, and I thank her for that. I would also like to thank Russia for the constructive role it played in the difficult circumstances in the 1990’s.” With respect to the situation in the Balkans, Lavrov said that Russia sees the obvious discrimination of Croats in B&H and Russia insists on full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and implementation of election reform. Lavrov underlined the need for election reform in order to remove the discrimination. According to Lavrov, Russia advocates strict respect for the Dayton Agreement. In his opinion, all issues must be solved within B&H and Russia expects that the EU will help in return to the Dayton principles and stop treating the Western Balkans as a zone of its interest. According to Grlic-Radman, Russia and Croatia are concerned about stability and functionality of B&H. Grlic-Radman expressed gratitude to Lavrov in relation to the fact that B&H – made in the Dayton and Paris – is necessary to secure equality of the three constituent peoples because only stable B&H that implies the constituent status has a future.

 

Abazovic: We offer minority government without DPS and DF, it would be phenomenal if they also supported it (CdM

 

The Black on White coalition has proposed that a minority government be formed in order to overcome the political crisis in Montenegro. DPM and URA leader Dritan Abazovic has announced that he would offer the creation of a minority government and that he would offer it to all MPs. He states that everyone should support the concept of a minority government with at least 49 MPs, but adds that there is no place for DPS and DF in it. However, he has stressed, it would be phenomenal if they supported it. Abazovic points out that he expects the response of political entities on the offer of forming the minority government by the end of this week.

Abazovic claims that the Europe Now program is functional. “There is no need to worry about future economic development. If there is no solution to the situation, elections remain one of the solutions. The policy of the cooperative in Montenegro has to disappear. That is our idea, so if we cannot realize it from the power, we are going to the opposition. That is our policy,” he has added. Abazovic has said that he informed PM Zdravko Krivokapic about the possible formation of a minority government. “I talked to the Prime Minister and his associates. We continue to have fair civil relations. I do not feel that I have a special moral obligation to anyone,” Abazovic has stated at the press conference.

 

DF: We are not ready for new experiment, we are for election of new government (CdM

 

The issue of electing a new government is a democratic issue. That is why every decision in this regard is a matter of respecting the will of the people and respecting the majority of citizens who were in favor of removing the Democratic Party of Socialists and changing the previous government. The crisis in the functioning of the current government arose precisely as a consequence of disrespecting the democratic will of the citizens and ignoring the majority in the parliament, says the Democratic Front (DF). According to the DF, the procedure of voting no confidence in the current government in the parliament presupposes a previously reached sincere and meaningful agreement of all representatives of the parliamentary majority on the principles, priorities and composition of the future government, to which DF is fully open.

 

Sehovic: Krivokapic’s government fall and election of new one in February (Pobjeda

 

The deputy leader of the Social Democrats of Montenegro (SD) and this party’s MP Damir Sehovic says in an interview for Pobjeda that the time has come to clear up the political situation in the country. He has added that he expects the fall of Krivokapic’s government at an extraordinary parliament session in February. “I believe that it is a matter of days when the initiative for a vote of no confidence in this government will enter the parliamentary procedure again. I am quite sure that it will get the parliament support at the extraordinary session that will be requested on that occasion, so it is not excluded that we will vote on no confidence in the current government in February, but we will also get a new government,” Sehovic has told Pobjeda. At the same time, he has announced some kind of regrouping on the political scene and closer program cooperation of civic-oriented parties. “In order for that to happen, for programmatically related political entities to cooperate, all parties must finally understand that the protection of small, particular interests is no longer an option, and that we must all change together – both the government and the opposition. This change does not mean anyone’s capitulation, but the recognition of mistakes, which, without a doubt, were made by both sides, and the maturity to recognize the needs of citizens and the new times we live in,” Sehovic points out. When commenting on the Europe Now program, Sehovic says that “we are absolutely convinced, just like the IMF, i.e. a great deal of the professional public, that the increase in the minimum wage, as well as the complete Europe Now program should have been implemented through phases. Thus, due to insufficient prudence demonstrated, without serious economic analyses and more complete consideration of the effects of the proposed measures, and artificial increase in wages to such an extent that is not the result of higher productivity, employees from the most vulnerable micro and small enterprises belonging to low-profit activities are fired, and the companies themselves shut down because they are unable to withstand such sudden levies,” Sehovic explains.

 

Mickoski calls on Kovacevski to hold snap elections without a technical government! (TV 24

 

The leader of VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski in an interview with the TV 24 says that he is ready to discuss changes in the Electoral Code regarding the technical government, as well as one constituency in order to reach early parliamentary elections, and the citizens to get a government that will implement quality reforms. “Let’s hold early elections because we think we need a strong government majority, a majority that will be resistant to blackmail, a majority that can implement reforms, economic policies, reforms in the judicial sector, and so on. I am absolutely aware that this is not acceptable for Kovacevski or the people around him at this moment, do not think that I live in a parallel world and I hope that they will suddenly sit down and say let’s hot early parliamentary counts. That is why I am even ready to offer what we talked about with Zoran Zaev at the time, to intervene in the Electoral Code to delete the part with a technical government. There may not be a technical government anymore and I am ready to sit down and talk. If they mind the technical government let them accept early elections, and to shorten the campaign deadline, instead of those 100 days to have the Constitutional 45 to 60. And all this in order for the citizens to get a more efficient government and a government with the support of the people to be able to implement the policies that it will present to the people,” said Mickoski.

 

Petkov insists that he will not undermine the Macedonian nation and language (Sitel TV

 

In a Sitel TV interview, conducted ahead of his visit to Macedonia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that Bulgaria will not push to negate the Macedonian identity or language.

In no way do we bring under question the identity and the language, Petkov said. Bulgaria demands that Macedonia redefines its national identity and language as originating from the Bulgarian nation and language. Bulgarian officials are trying to declare 1944 as the year when the Macedonian nation and language were formed. It remains to be seen what position will Petkov take, during his meeting with newly elected Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski.

 

Turkish aid to Albania, growing ties and friendship with PM highlighted during President Erdogan visit (Tirana Times

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held an official visit to Albania on Monday, highlighting Turkey’s close strategic relationship with Albania – with the close friendship between Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Erdogan also being a feature throughout the visit.  The visit started with an official welcome by Rama at Tirana International Airport, traveling together to the nearby town of Lac, where a new 522-apartment housing district for people affected by the November 2019 earthquake was built with Turkish aid of 42 million Euros. “The sign of brotherhood is not when one comes to your aid after being called, but to stand by your brother when he needs it. And from now on we will always be close,” Erdogan said at the inauguration of the new housing units for those affected by the earthquake. Rama and Erdogan then moved to the Albanian government headquarters for an event that saw a meeting and the signing of seven bilateral agreements. The agreements include cooperation between the two state news agencies, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in law enforcement training as well as cooperation in the areas of youth and sports. Agreements on better disaster management and cultural ties were also included.

 

Rama-Erdogan relationship highlighted 

Turkey has increased its political and economic influence in the Balkan region and in Albania in particular during the eight-year rule of Prime Minister Rama, who is known for his close relationship with President Erdogan. At the joint press conference Prime Minister Rama lavished praise on President Erdogan for helping Albania after the earthquake and during the pandemic. In his remarks throughout the Erdogan visit, Rama also focused on the importance he personally attaches to the friendship between the two, for which Rama said: “I feel proud.”

Rama also had a response to those who view the relationship with suspicion, saying that “President Erdogan says what he does and does what he says. It is not easy in today’s world, even in today’s diplomacy, to find people who when they say ‘yes,’ they mean yes,” Rama said, adding that the new apartments, a brand-new hospital in Fier and the COVID-19 vaccines from Turkey came at the most needed times and were the materialization of Erdogan’s word. Both leaders were asked at the press conference if they saw a conflict between the growing relations between Albania and Turkey and prospects of joining European Union, which has completely stalled Turkey’s bid and has slowed Albania’s membership process to a crawl. The answer was that there were none. Rama said the EU is a strategic partner for Tirana, and that Turkey is a great friend, and that the EU would benefit from having Turkey as a member. “No one in Albania or in Europe should be worried about this relationship, because this is a traditional relationship,” Rama said.

 

Parliament speech calls for Albania to fight FETO 

President Erdogan then gave a speech to the Albanian parliament. In addition to the earthquake and pandemic aid, both of which were substantial, in his speech to the Albanian parliament, President Erdogan emphasized Turkey’s economic impact as a foreign investor and trade partner of Albania. He also asked Albanian authorities to show “commitment to the fight against FETO.” The Turkish president sees FETÖ, also known as the Gulen Movement, as being behind the attempted coup that sought to oust him in 2016. “Unfortunately, members of this organization five years later continue to be in Albania,” Erdogan told parliament. “We expect Albania to take immediate measures on this issue so it doesn’t hurt our relations.” Tirana has said before that the judiciary would deal with Gulenist cases according to Albanian and international laws, which often prevent the type of action Turkey is seeking. Albania is also under pressure from the European Union, Council of Europe and the United States to follow its commitments under international law. The last stop of the visit was at Tirana’s downtown Et’hem Bey Mosque, a historical site on Skanderbeg Square recently reconstructed with funding and expertise from Turkey. The huge new Namasgja Mosque, also funded by Turkey, has not yet opened although it should have finished construction, partly because the Albanian Muslim Community, which is supposed to take ownership, contains followers of the Gulen movement, several local news outlets reported Monday.

 

President Meta sidelined 

President Erdogan bypassed a meeting with Albanian President Ilir Meta, which is usually foreseen by protocol in visits of its kind. President Meta is a harsh critic of Prime Minister Edi Rama, whose party has impeached the president and the case is waiting to be heard by the Constitutional Court. Meta started the day paying respects to Albanian National Hero Skanderbeg, whose 554th anniversary of death was also marked on Monday.

 

President Erdogan addresses the Albanian parliament (Radio Tirana

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the Albanian parliament, emphasizing the close relations between the two countries. In his welcoming speech, the Turkish President said that the two countries will not allow anyone to ruin the beautiful relationship established between Albania and Turkey. “Immediately after the proclamation of the Republic of Albania, one of the first agreements was the one called the eternal friendship agreement basically revealing that our relations are not only between states, but also people. Although there are physical borders between us, for us Albania is our neighbor by heart. The traces of our common history are in the solid buildings of Shkodra. These cooperation agreements, which have deep roots, are strong and unshakable. The Prime Minister’s statement in 2013, that Turkey is one of the strategic partners, is the panorama of what we are seeing today. We have formally raised our relationship to the level of strategic partner. We must contribute to the peace and tranquility of our countries, the region and the world. When Turkey and Albania shake hands, with God’s permission there is no problem we cannot solve. As long as we defend our brotherhood and determination, I sincerely believe that together we will not allow this beautiful panorama that we are all seeing together to be ruined. We follow the role that Albania has played in the Balkans and for the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, whether by NATO allies who have made a special contribution. Albania’s role has been constructive. We are in solidarity with Albania. On this occasion, I would like to congratulate Albania on its provisional membership in the United Nations Council. We will have the pleasure to share with Albania the experiences we have had in the past, the Turkish people stand with the Albanian one as it has always been,” Erdogan said.

 

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