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Belgrade Media Report 19 January 2022

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United Nations Office in Belgrade
Daily Media Highlights
Wednesday 19 January 2022


• Ziadeh: UNMIK to continue to support dialogue (Tanjug/RTS)
• Vucic and Erdogan discuss bilateral cooperation, situation in region with focus on B&H (RTS)
• Vucic: Peace, stability priceless (Tanjug)
• Vucic: Someone smarter will lead SNS as of May, June (Beta/Politika)
• Dacic: Serbia works with ODHIR on improving election process (Beta)
• Council of Europe hails Serbian referendum results as important step in de-politicizing judiciary (Beta)
• Fajon, Bilcik concerned about reports that local voting committees were not ready for referendum (Beta)
• Activists attacked in Belgrade, call for new protests, refuses talks with Dacic (N1)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• UK parliament Foreign Affairs Committee discusses situation in B&H (Hayat)
• Field: Elections best instrument to remove unsuccessful politicians, sanctions are not a magic wand (Dnevni list)
• German and Russian Foreign Ministers discuss situation in B&H; Lavrov: Russia, as PIC member, wants return to consensus in PIC (O Kanal)
• Dzaferovic says he is not sure if sanctions will bring any good; Dodik says it is clear whose card Americans play; Other politicians comment on US sanctions (ATV)
• Cubrilovic: RS parliament most likely to discuss Vucic’s request at session in February (FTV)
• Vidovic, Dragisic questioned at Prosecutor’s Office of B&H as part of an investigation on attack on constitutional order of B&H (BN TV)
• HNS B&H adopts proposal for changes to B&H Election Law and Constitution; Comments on HNS members (Nova BH)
• HNS’ proposal of Election Law sparks reactions; Osmanovic: HDZ B&H and SDA should not be the only parties to decide on Election Law (N1)
• Political officials, analysts comment Croatia, Russia policy towards B&H, arguing that they are voice of instability of B&H (Oslobodjenje)
• Plenkovic meets Michel: It would be very important to discuss situation in B&H at high level and to ensure that all constituent peoples in B&H feel better (Dnevni list)
• Milanovic says he sees RS and Dodik as Croatia’s partners in B&H; Komsic reacts to Milanovic’s statement (HRT)
• Krivokapic: Minority government is a fraud, the fairest solution is early elections (CdM)
• URA explains what kind of minority government they want (CdM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Skopje, Sofia resolve name issue (Nezavisen.mk)
• Petkov did not say when or whether will Bulgaria lift its veto against Macedonia (Republika)
• Mickoski met with Petkov: I stood by my positions (Republika)
• Ahmeti calls on the government to accept Petkov’s demands and amends the Macedonian Constitution (Republika)
• Gruevski calls on Petkov to drop his claim that the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria does not exist (Republika)
• Veto holding Albania hostage on integration path, Luhrmann: We have received positive signals from Bulgaria (Radio Tirana)
• Meta congratulates the new President of the EP: I welcome the cooperation in the process of integration of the country! (Radio Tirana)

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Ziadeh: UNMIK to continue to support dialogue (Tanjug/RTS)


UNMIK has announced the arrival of Caroline Ziadeh of Lebanon as the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and some media are reporting that she arrived in Pristina on Wednesday. “UNMIK will remain steadfast in its support for the EU-facilitated dialogue (between Belgrade and Pristina) to reach a comprehensive agreement and long-term peace and reconciliation,” said Ziadeh, who succeeds Zahir Tanin, who assumed the post in 2015. “I look forward to engaging with Kosovo authorities and civil society as well as our international partners in Kosovo and the region. Under my leadership, UNMIK will maintain its commitment to support the institutions and people of Kosovo for the realisation of a more peaceful and prosperous future through promoting human rights, building trust across communities and empowering agents of positive change, including women and youth,” Ziadeh said in a statement released by UNMIK.


Vucic and Erdogan discuss bilateral cooperation, situation in region with focus on B&H (RTS


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic paid a one-day visit to Turkey on Tuesday during which he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Vucic paid the visit to Turkey on the occasion of the third session of a joint high council for cooperation of Serbia and Turkey during which a number of documents important for improvement of bilateral cooperation were signed. RTS reports that the meeting between two officials lasted for some two hours. Vucic and Erdogan discussed bilateral cooperation, investment of Turkey in Serbia, implementation of joint projects and the situation in the region, with focus on situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). Erdogan expects that following April election in Serbia, a trilateral meeting, including leaders of Turkey and Serbia, as well as members of B&H Presidency will be held. While addressing media, the Turkish President said that he talked with Vucic about the current crisis in B&H. He added that they confirmed importance of peace in the Balkans. Erdogan went on saying that support of Serbia to sovereignty and integrity of B&H is very important for peace and stability of the entire region. “Obviously, joint acting with the international community is necessary to solve the crisis in this country”, emphasized Erdogan, adding that all sides should abstain from activities detrimental for territorial integrity of B&H. The Serbian President emphasized that peace and stability are the most important, adding that is why it is necessary to preserve them and to act responsibly and to understand current circumstances. He explained that it is necessary to learn from the past but work for better future. Vucic stressed that he had said during the meeting with Erdogan that Serbia respects integrity of B&H, the same as it respects integrity of the Republika Srpska (RS) within B&H. “This is our policy and it is in line with the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) and it is only policy that can guarantee preservation of peace”, underlined the Serbian President. RTS reports that two officials also discussed additional improvement of trade exchange between Turkey and Serbia. The Presidents of two countries exchanged ideas about joint projects that should be implemented in the future. RTS noted that Vucic visited a mausoleum dedicated to founder of modern Turkey Kemal Ataturk. Vucic told the press conference that he told Erdogan that Serbia respect B&H’s integrity and that it is always important to respect the integrity of the RS within B&H. He stressed that this is Serbia’s policy and it will not be given up on it. Erdogan said that all sides need to avoid moves that endanger territorial integrity of B&H. Vucic assessed that it is necessary to push the countries in the region to the future, rather than to regress towards he past. Erdogan reiterated his commitment to efforts on resolving all issues in the region. “Turkey will continue to exert efforts for calming of tensions at the Balkans,” Erdogan promised. Vucic said that Serbia expects to finalize the construction of 19 kilometers long highway from Kuzmin to Sremska Raca in October. “In a year and a half we will have a modern highway to B&H, the RS, after which the construction of the highway to Bijeljina remains, that will be mostly financed by us”, said Vucic and added that the construction of the Pozega-Visegrad-Sarajevo highway had also been discussed, “and I said it was pointless for us to construct the first section if no one would construct the section from Visegrad to Sarajevo (…) I hope that the authorities in B&H, whichever, because I really cannot go into that, will make an adequate decision”.


Vucic: Peace, stability priceless (Tanjug)


Peace and stability are priceless and it is important that we push Serbia and Turkey forward, rather than into the past, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at an Ankara press conference with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, adding that Serbia’s cooperation with Turkey was growing in all areas and would be continued. Vucic said he was confident he would welcome Erdogan in Serbia for a bilateral or trilateral visit in the coming months. He said they had discussed all topics, bilateral cooperation in a large number of international organizations and all regional affairs. “We tried to find the lowest common denominator in each topic. Essentially, as Erdogan said, peace and stability are priceless and that is why it is important to maintain them, to act in a responsible and serious manner and understand all the circumstances we live in and push our countries forward, rather than into the past,” Vucic said. It is important that we know the past, that we learn the lessons from it and that we study it, as well as that we build a different, better future, he noted. He said the growing economic ties with Turkey were significant for Serbia. He said the bilateral trade volume with the country had been up by as much as 35 percent in 2021 relative to 2020 and that the medium-term objective was for bilateral trade to reach 5 billion Euros. It is also important that Serbia works with Turkey on connecting the region, he said. “We talked about politics much more than we can convey to you here. We had a very good understanding on many matters and I believe we will continue the good cooperation. I expect President Erdogan to come to Serbia soon,” Vucic said.


Erdogan: 2021 was exceptional year for Turkey-Serbia ties

2021 was an exceptional year for the excellent Ankara-Belgrade relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday. At a joint press conference in Ankara, Erdogan said the volume of bilateral trade between the two countries had totaled a record 2 billion Dollars last year but that the objective was for it to reach 5 billion Dollars. He said the meeting with Vucic had addressed regional and international affairs, as well as steps to be taken to boost cooperation further. Erdogan said he was pleased a High Council for Cooperation between Serbia and Turkey had met for a third time, and added that his meeting with Vucic had reaffirmed the significance they both attached to peace and stability in the Balkans. He noted that Turkey had opened a consulate general in Novi Pazar, Serbia, in November, thus becoming the first country to have a consulate in the city. “We hope we will open a consulate in Nis as well this year while, together with honorary consulates in Alanya and Bursa, Serbia has increased the number of its consulates (in Turkey) to five,” Erdogan explained. He said he was pleased with the contribution of Turkish companies to Serbia’s economic development, adding that the more than 1,300 Turkish companies operating in Serbia were employing 8,000 people. He said overall Turkish investments in Serbia had risen in the past decade from 1 million Dollars to 250 million Dollars, and added that Turkish projects in Serbia were worth around 823 million Dollars. “We exchanged views on B&H and discussed Serbia’s support to the territorial integrity of the B&H, which is very important for the stability of that country. Evidently, joint action with the international community is needed to overcome the crisis and it is imperative that all sides refrain from steps detrimental to the territorial integrity of the B&H. Turkey will continue to make efforts and help to reduce tensions in the Balkans,” Erdogan noted. Vucic said he had told Erdogan that respect of the integrity of B&H – as well as of the integrity of the RS within the B&H – was important and that Serbia would not back down from its respect of the Dayton Agreement. He added that this was the only policy that could guarantee maintenance of peace in the B&H. Erdogan said Turkey wanted a joint meeting to be held with the B&H presidential troika after the Serbian elections with the aim of maintaining the territorial integrity of the B&H, and added that the meeting could be held in Belgrade or in Istanbul.


Vucic: Someone smarter will lead SNS as of May, June (Beta/Politika)


Serbian President and the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) leader Aleksandar Vucic reiterated he would not run for the party’s President and said that “certainly some smarter ones” would lead it from May to June. Vucic, unhappy with Sunday’s referendum on Constitutional changes, told reporters in Ankara that a good part of those who voted against the constitutional referendum, among those 39 percent were from the SNS. People in Belgrade, the majority of voters in Novi Sad and Nis are reported to have said no in the referendum. Asked whether he would run again in the presidential elections, Vucic said they would discuss it in the coming days and weeks, but certainly, before 15 February, when the parliamentary and Belgrade elections would be officially called. He said he published the referendum results before the Republic Election Commission (RIK), as, according to him, he had done it before. “We have the best software, we have the most professional people, we have people at every polling station, unlike everyone else,” Vucic said after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. However, he didn’t mention that his party had published results before the RIK, but those from elections, not from a referendum that should not be linked to any party. According to him, SNS is many times more capable, equipped, and professional to collect all the data, calculate them accurately, and honestly communicate them to the nation.


Dacic: Serbia works with ODHIR on improving election process (Beta)


Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic met with the Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Roberto Montella. Dacic pointed out that the Serbian parliament is taking active part in the work of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which he considers an institution of exceptional importance that has for three decades been assisting the participating states in inter-parliamentary dialogue and cooperation. Dacic and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Secretary General discussed the upcoming elections in Serbia, to be held on 3 April 2022. Dacic pointed out that Serbia is actively working to improve its election process and accepting and implementing the recommendations of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). He reminded the guest that Serbia has established a Working Group for Cooperation with the OSCE and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, tasked with coordinating and monitoring the implementation of recommendations for the improvement of the election process. In accordance with the obligations assumed under the Copenhagen Document, after the elections are officially called, the ODIHR, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and all the participating states will be invited to observe them, said Dacic. Montella expressed satisfaction with the good cooperation with Serbia and expressed readiness to continue and strengthen it by organizing the annual meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in the coming period.


Council of Europe hails Serbian referendum results as important step in de-politicizing judiciary (Beta)


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s monitoring rapporteurs for Serbia have welcomed the outcome of Serbia’s referendum regarding amendments to the country’s Constitution, underlining that the goal of those changes is to reduce political influence on the judiciary in keeping with the majority of recommendations made by the Venice Commission.

In a joint statement issued late on Jan. 18, co-rapporteurs Ian Liddell-Grainger and Piero Fassino stated that the amendments are “an important step and a pre-condition for the independence of the judiciary and the consolidation of the rule of law,” adding that their confirmation comes in the wake of a long-standing call from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to bring the constitution into line with Council of Europe standards. The press release further recalled that the referendum — the first held since the adoption of the Serbian Constitution in 2006 — was organized at a time when the country faces democratic challenges, particularly the absence of oppositional representatives in Parliament and a polarized political climate, neither of which contributed to the formation of a wide consensus or the rallying of societies for fundamental constitutional rights. Liddell-Grainger and Fassino called on the Serbian authorities to further strengthen the independence of the judiciary and faith in judicial institutions by adopting necessary bylaws, taking into account the recommendations and unresolved issues highlighted by the Venice Commission, particularly those pertaining to the independence of the prosecution. The co-rapporteurs commended the constitutional changes as a positive first step and stated that they encourage the Serbian government to continue its efforts toward Euro-integrations and alignment with Council of Europe standards.


Fajon, Bilcik concerned about reports that local voting committees were not ready for referendum (Beta)


European Parliament MPs Tanja Fajon and Vladimir Bilcik voiced on Tuesday their concern over reports that voting committees were not adequately prepared for the voting process in a referendum on changes to the Constitution. “We have called on the authorities to improve this area ahead of the upcoming election. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the constitutional changes approved in the referendum, as well as other reforms in the area of rule of law,” the two MEPs said in a joint statement. Fajon and Bilcik also voiced their regret that an agreement was not reached with the authorities in Kosovo to enable voters there to participate in the vote, as in previous votes. They applauded the decision of citizens to support constitutional change toward more judicial independence, calling it an important step by Serbia en route to the EU, the joint statement said.


Activists attacked in Belgrade, call for new protests, refuses talks with Dacic (N1)


The activists of the Kreni-Promeni (Go–Change) Initiative and its leader Savo Manojlovic were verbally attacked outside the Serbian parliament while submitting an urgent request to verify the people’s Initiative to ban lithium mining in the country. Manojlovic called people for a new protest on Thursday at 7 pm due to “the impossibility to pass our demands through institutions.” He later refused to talk to Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic. “We submit the Initiative to the parliament. We asked for an urgent verification and were told it was passed on the (respective) Committee, which said it did not understand why it got it. It’s an obvious administrative obstruction. And now we are attacked and prevented from speaking freely. That’s why we will be outside the Presidency building on Thursday at 7 pm to show that the Parliament is not what Belgrade and Serbia deserve it to be,” he said. In the meantime, Dacic messaged Manojlovic telling him he saw the incident and wanted to talk about the initiative he submitted. Manojlovic, who tweeted screenshots of Dacic’s messages and his response, said he did not want to talk to Dacic and replied that the organization was attacked while a 22-year-old student spoke to the media. Manojlovic reiterated they would be in the street again as of Thursday at 7 pm. He added his organization had an electronic petition signed by 292,000 people.




UK parliament Foreign Affairs Committee discusses situation in B&H (Hayat


The Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK parliament discussed the situation in B&H on Tuesday. Our Party representative at the B&H Parliament Damir Arnaut, Baroness Arminka Helic and Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations Majda Ruge responded to the Committee’s questions. Hayat reports that Arnaut said SNSD leader Milorad Dodik is the most responsible for the current political crisis in the country, Helic reminded that B&H has become very interesting for Russia and China, and pointed out the increasing influence of Hungary, and Ruge said that Hungary and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban played a destructive role in B&H. Hayat reports that sanctions against B&H politicians were also discussed, and Ruge is of view the sanctions will not prevent politicians to manipulate citizens, but, if coordinated well, will weaken them. “In addition to these targeted sanctions, I think it is very important to think about how to approach in the educational and media environment via which these leaders convey their messages. For example, children; it has been 25 years since the Dayton. Several generations of children educated in that education system, especially in the RS, consider the other B&H entity as foreign territory. So, I think we need to target those leaders, but, at the same time we need to think about how to work with the system that provides incentives, funds and mechanisms for spreading divisions and hatred,” said Ruge. “I would absolutely agree with the argument it is necessary, wherever there is a point where we can make pressure on those who undermine the state B&H, to try it, but I would stress that the problem of B&H is not only political instability. It has now become the security problem as well. It has become a security issue and security response is needed, and I would say that, while of course we need to consider a wide range of options we have and cooperate with our allies on imposing sanctions, we must not forget that the problem due to which the citizens of this country, regardless of where they come from, are hostages of corrupt leaders, the issue of borders and promises and fears spread in relation to borders,” said Helic. “I completely agree that the increased NATO presence would certainly send the right message to all those who want to undermine stability of B&H, from inside as well as from outside, and the increase should not be even close to the level of the NATO troops presence after the war in the 1990s. I am not a military expert, so I cannot discuss numbers and locations, however, based on the logic, I fully agree with Baroness Helic that the Brcko District, due to its unique constitutional status in our system and characteristics of its location, would be one of the obvious locations. Having all this in mind, it is important for the NATO forces to be unified in their message that the legal authority for increase in number of troops is undisputable” said Arnaut.


Field: Elections best instrument to remove unsuccessful politicians, sanctions are not a magic wand (Dnevni list


UK Ambassador to B&H Matt Field said that current political situation in B&H poses a risk to stability and future of the country. He stressed that every moment spent in a blockade and every provocative statement is reducing a chance for politicians to provide basic services and improve lives of the citizens. Field said that sanctions are not a magic wand and cannot solve all the challenges that the country is faced with. He further noted that B&H judicial system should meet its responsibility towards the citizens and apply laws without prejudices or without being biased. According to him, elections are the best instrument to remove an unsuccessful politician from the post, while the sanctions can be a useful tool to reinforce the consequences for those who think they will not be punished. “The time has come for those who are in power to be responsible for their activities,” he stressed. The ambassador also said that politicians have to return to the institutions and resume important talks on the future of the country. “We cannot and will not allow malicious actors to divide this country or to downgrade the progress made over the past 26 years,” he emphasized. According to him, the citizens decided already that the EU values and standards offer the best for the future of the country. “More transparent, economically sustainable B&H with stronger democracy will give better answer to the needs of all citizens,” he concluded.


German and Russian Foreign Ministers discuss situation in B&H; Lavrov: Russia, as PIC member, wants return to consensus in PIC (O Kanal


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock discussed the situation in B&H on Tuesday. Lavrov said that Russia, as a member of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), wants the return to consensus in the PIC. “Germany and Russia have a common interest for the situation in the Balkans to develop according to a positive scenario. We, like Germany, are members of the PIC under the Dayton Accords. We are interested in renewing the practice of consensus in the work of this important mechanism,” Lavrov said. Baerbock and Lavrov discussed the role of the High Representative in B&H and the work of the PIC.


Dzaferovic says he is not sure if sanctions will bring any good; Dodik says it is clear whose card Americans play; Other politicians comment on US sanctions (ATV


Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) stated on Tuesday that he is not sure if the US’ sanctions will bring any good and if they will bring anything new for B&H’s political stage. He stressed that it would be the best for Serb member of B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik, his supporters and for everyone in B&H to do their job in line with the Constitution of B&H. As for the sanctions imposed against ATV Banja Luka, Dzaferovic said that Americans do their job well. Reporter reminded that Dzaferovic, who has never been prosecuted for mass murders of Serbs in Vozuca during the past war, has called for sanctions against Dodik at any meeting with foreigners at B&H Presidency. According to Dodik, it is clear whose card the Americans play and they have completely taken the side of Muslims in B&H. He stressed that he has finally realized that Americans reject policies appreciating the RS. “Their contactors who have again invented this new wave of sanctions are actually a part of the establishment that has created their careers based on war and fabrications that Serbs are bad boys,” Dodik asserted. RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic (DEMOS) assessed that sanctions cannot bring any good to anyone and nothing can be achieved through sanctions, adding that he condemns all forms of sanctions. President of the Banja Luka City Assembly Mladen Ilic (SNSD) decisively condemned the US’ sanctions and stressed that they represent a form of infirmity, reminding that the RS opposition has not condemned sanctions imposed on the ATV Banja Luka although they have said earlier that they will stand in protection of all media as it was the case with BN TV.


Cubrilovic: RS parliament most likely to discuss Vucic’s request at session in February (FTV


There is no reason why request of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, for the return to state-level institutions, would not be respected, said RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic, but the same conditions remain. It was stated that imposed changes to the B&H Criminal Code and decisions of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H must be withdrawn. Cubrilovic said that the topic of the return to the state-level institutions will be discussed during the RS parliament session, but he could not reveal the date of the session as the request for scheduling was not sent to the parliament. Cubrilovic reminds that the RS parliament work is still on pause due to the holidays and when the mentioned request comes, they will schedule a regular or a special session. He emphasized that request might not come due to the fact that imposed changes to the B&H Criminal Code and decisions of the B&H CC were not withdrawn. Cubrilovic believes that the session will most likely take place at the beginning of February. Cubrilovic specified that Vucic’s request and all possibilities pertaining to its fulfilment should be discussed at a regular session. Cubrilovic also said he does not know if there would be proposals to annul the RS parliament’s conclusions, taking into account that the condition for that was revoking the law imposed by former High Representative (HR) in B&H Valentin Inzko and annulling the decisions by the B&H Constitutional Court (CC). Addressing the media, Cubrilovic said: “It is a request to political representatives of the RS, and, certainly, the position of the Serbian President is every time carefully considered and taken into account. Especially in these times when the relations between the Republic of Serbia and the RS are at an unenviable level, there is no reason not to consider that request in a most serious manner, and the decision on that will be made by the political representatives of the RS.”


Vidovic, Dragisic questioned at Prosecutor’s Office of B&H as part of an investigation on attack on constitutional order of B&H (BN TV


RS Minister of Finance Zora Vidovic was questioned on Tuesday at the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H in relation to the alleged attack on the constitutional order of B&H. BNTV reports that, after the questioning, Vidovic said for the media that none of the questioned witnesses from the RS violated the B&H Constitution. “These competencies that were taken away from us, we want them to be returned, because that is also in accordance with the B&H Constitution. The B&H Constitution states what the competencies of B&H are, and all others are competencies of the RS. Therefore, I am of view that the formed case does not have the epilogue of any liability for the RS, because, I say that we absolutely respect, and we adopted the conclusion at the RS parliament that everything we do is in accordance with the B&H Constitution. I think the investigation should be suspended,” said Vidovic. Deputy Head of the RS United Srpska Caucus Marinko Dragisic was interviewed. Dragisic stated that, according to him, the RS parliament’s adoption of a declaration on constitutional principles and restoring competences is not inconsistent with the Constitution of B&H or the DPA. He concluded that he does not think that the RS parliament carried out an attack on constitutional order of B&H, but rather that it “is carrying out a legal battle for the RS’ constitutional-legal position, which belongs to it in the Dayton B&H”. B&H Presidency member and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik, RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic and RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic have not been summoned yet. Dodik stated that the accusation that he and the RS leadership are undermining the constitutional order of B&H represents an excellent opportunity. He expressed hope that the Prosecutor’s Office will not suspend the investigation because that will give him the chance to appear in court with 100 attorneys and end the process. “If they find me guilty, we will go on, to the Constitutional Court and European Court. Are they ready to do that, because I am,” said Dodik. He underlined that as an elected official, he only cares about the RS and added that everything that he is doing is for the benefit of the RS and the Serb people. According to him, those who want to destroy the RS are getting nervous and they believe that America needs to come back to finish the job. “I cannot allow that and I believe that people will understand,” said Dodik.


HNS B&H adopts proposal for changes to B&H Election Law and Constitution; Comments on HNS members (Nova BH


The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) of B&H convened on Tuesday to discuss the proposed changes to the B&H Election Law and B&H Constitution. President of HDZ 1990 Ilija Cvitanovic said that their proposal is the minimum for the HNS B&H and they will not accept less. He said that their proposal encompasses the election of a Croat member of the B&H Presidency, as well as members of House of People at both the B&H and Federation of B&H (FB&H) level. Cvitanovic said that the HNS B&H will convene on 19 February and if the negotiations fail, they will adopt quality answers and solutions for this issue. Leaders of political parties gathered around the HNS said that the proposal can ensure legitimate representation as the key demand of the Croat political parties, as well as possibility for everyone to be nominated for any post as required in the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. The proposal was sent to the EU and the US administrations, as well as to SDA and other parties in the electoral reform negotiations. The HNS stated that the new round of negotiations is expected on 28 January. Members of the HNS Presidency rejected requests to correct the role of the Houses of Peoples and to postpone the negotiations due to the political crisis in the country. Abovementioned proposals will be presented by representatives of political parties with a Croat prefix at a final round of talks on changes of electoral legislation of B&H. This round of talks should be held at the end of January and it should be mediated by representatives of the US and the EU. Reporter noted that although their proposals were not publicly presented, representatives of parties gathered around HNS said that this is minimum they will accept. Leader of Hrvatski Nacionalni Pomak (Croat National Progress) Ivan Vukadin underlined that revision of Houses of Peoples is completely unacceptable, adding that the constituent status of peoples and legitimate representation is something that is acceptable for Croat side. Also, HNS announced a special assembly for February 19. If talks on electoral reform face failure, parties gathered around HNS will reach agreement at this assembly about their future activities. Some parties that are members of this association deem that it should be boycott of elections. Leader of Hrvatska Demokratska Unija (Croat Democratic Union) Miro Grabovac Titan emphasized that they believe there will be no legal conditions to hold elections, adding that Croats should not participate in elections due to principles. Cvitanovic said that SDA constantly acts in a way that shows they are not really willing to talk to anybody and that they simply do not wish to reach a solution. “They will maintain the status quo and bring us all in a position in which election call would be announced, and there would be no space for amending the Election Law. Well, if they want that, they will get a response,” Cvitanovic stated. The daily also reads that compared to earlier information about continuation of the talks on electoral reform, on Tuesday it was stated that this process will continue on January 28, 29 and 30.


HNS’ proposal of Election Law sparks reactions; Osmanovic: HDZ B&H and SDA should not be the only parties to decide on Election Law (N1


N1 carries that the joint proposal of political parties of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) for amendments to the Election Law of B&H and partial changes to the Constitution of B&H has led to a question of whether this represents an attempt to unblock the institutions of B&H or to cause new blockades, and if it is a part of the policy of compromise or ultimatums. SDA Vice-President Adil Osmanovic underlined that HDZ B&H and SDA should not be the only parties to decide on the Election Law, and added that blackmail will yield no results. Osmanovic warned that it is difficult to reach an adequate solution regarding the Election Law when SNSD is blocking the B&H parliament. SDP B&H’s representative in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Sasa Magazinovic interpreted HDZ B&H’s proposal as an attempt to ensure a guaranteed election of HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic as the Croat member of the B&H Presidency. It was underlined from SDA that no blackmails are acceptable. They added that this party is open for talks and exchange of arguments. Osmanovic stated that there should not be any ultimatums and that no one should bring into question implementation of elections in October. He stressed that it is necessary to attempt to find a solution, adding that if it cannot be done, then elections should be held in line with existing legislation and in line with the Constitution of B&H. Magazinovic said that boycott of elections is completely legal, while prevention of implementation of elections is not. He also stated that there might be attempts to prevent implementation of elections, adding that it could be done through prevention of adoption of budgets. Magazinovic explained that in such situation, a High Representative should react. He emphasized that otherwise, everyone should come to terms with the fact there will be no elections and entire B&H will become case as Mostar was for years. Osmanovic said difference between SDA and HDZ B&H is that SDA believes the Law on Elections does not have to be changed before the next general elections and that the elections can be held in line with the current law and the current Constitution of B&H. According to him, ‘we’ will not make any step backward that would lead to additional ethnic divisions in the Federation of B&H and B&H.


Political officials, analysts comment Croatia, Russia policy towards B&H, arguing that they are voice of instability of B&H (Oslobodjenje


The daily reads that the meeting between Russian and Croatian Foreign Ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Gordan Grlic Radman respectively, and the concern that Lavrov expressed because of the status of Croats in B&H, provoked reactions in B&H. MP in B&H House of Representatives Sasa Magazinovic (SDP) stated that everyone is interfering in B&H’s internal affairs, some more, some less and this goes for everybody not only regional countries. He noted that sometime this is the reason why it is not possible to reach an internal agreement. Croatian political analyst, Davor Gjenero underlined that B&H is part of European and Euro-Atlantic area and it is not part of Russian interest sphere and in fact it is not important to anybody what Lavrov thinks about solving of internal issues in B&H. “Croatian Government does not need Lavrov because of others, but to reduce the maneuvering space for the Russian player in Croatia, which is Zoran Milanovic,” said Gjenero. In a statement to the daily, SDA’s Adil Osmanovic said that thinks that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Milanovic are talking and even what Lavrov has said and what Milorad Dodik is saying, are in fact unilateral information, which they receive from HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic. He underlined that these are in fact Covic’s words about inequality of Croats in the Federation of B&H and he underlined that both Russia and Croatia are not part of the talks on electoral reform, which is led by US and EU administrations. Osmanovic argues that Dodik should firs declare about the status of Croats in the RS, underlining that if anywhere, Bosniaks and Croats are endangered in the RS. The daily reads that on the eve of arrival of US Special Envoy for Electoral Reform Matthew Palmer and Director for Western Balkans and Turkey of European External Action Service Angelina Eichhorst and continuation of the talks on electoral reform, Head of the EU Delegation to B&H Johann Sattler and US Ambassador Eric Nelson met with the representatives of ‘People and Justice’ (NiP). “We discussed ways to resolve the political crisis. It is necessary to urgently move forward with reforms including electoral reform in B&H”, Sattler wrote on Twitter. Osmanovic underlined that since the beginning SDA argues that other parties need to take part in talks on electoral reform and that this cannot be only matter for SDA and HDZ B&H and in regard to this, SDA welcomes the idea of the international community to talk to opposition leaderships and hear their stances on electoral reform. Magazinovic deems that things got unclear on the side of the IC. “For instance, I am not clear whose stances Mrs. Eichhorst represents. Is this the stance of the Parliament- my collocutors from the parliament say that it is not. Is this the stance of the EC- people also say that it is not. Is it the stance of member states, well if we observe the new stance of Germany, which is in preparation, then it is obvious that it is not theirs either. So, there are things that need to be discussed,” said Magazinovic. Professor at Faculty of Political Science, Asim Mujkic deems that the problem is that there are attempts to use political pressures to solve reforms outside the sphere of law and European values. Mujkic deems that Russia is currently in a very delicate moment, where it is basically on verge of the war and where it tries to achieve regrouping of interest spheres in Europe, through talks with NATO and the West. He said that he has an impression that the moment when Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic came to understand the seriousness of western sanctions and exerted the pressure on Dodik, Russia immediately reacted with a goal to continue “sowing of instability” in B&H.


Plenkovic meets Michel: It would be very important to discuss situation in B&H at high level and to ensure that all constituent peoples in B&H feel better (Dnevni list


Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic spoke about B&H in Strasbourg on Tuesday. He told President of the European Council Charles Michel that it would be very important to discuss the situation in B&H at the high level and to ensure that all constituent peoples in B&H feel better. Plenkovic explained the situation in B&H and stressed that the general elections in B&H should be held in a way that Croats as the constituent people with equal rights elect their legitimate representatives to B&H institutions.


Milanovic says he sees RS and Dodik as Croatia’s partners in B&H; Komsic reacts to Milanovic’s statement (HRT


Croatian President Zoran Milanovic stated on Tuesday that he sees the RS and Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik as Croatia’s partners in B&H. He added that the problem of outvoting of Croats in B&H is impossible to resolve without Serbs, noting that Dodik is a legitimate representative of the Serb people and the RS in B&H, which Croatia respects. According to Milanovic, he does not see that the Serb policy is troublesome for Croats.

Commenting on the issue, Croat member of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic said that the fact that Dodik supports amendments to the Election Law of B&H that would go in favour of Croats is what kills the EU and NATO perspective of B&H. Komsic assessed that this is how the reform program is being destroyed, which satisfies Russia and strengthens Dodik’s separatist policy. He stated that “Dodik’s extremism and violence are a result of ethnic-totalitarian system that HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic wants to underline” concluding that when Milanovic speaks about a man from the US black list as of Croatia’s partners in B&H – he can unfortunately be trusted on that.


Krivokapic: Minority government is a fraud, the fairest solution is early elections (CdM


The minority government that was presented to the public is a scam. These days, members of the SNP are calling me intensively, claiming that at least two of their deputies will not support this scam. I remember the party whose founder I clearly profiled my attitude towards the DPS. Today, he translates his torment and struggle into political points. I think that the membership of the SNP will not allow that. Obstruction of those who want a minority government to transform Montenegro. I know exactly the names of the SNP deputies who will not support the minority government, claims Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic. “Montenegro is in trouble,” he added. According to him, the only two natural solutions are to seek its improvement with a larger number of ministries, and the fairest thing is what the will of the citizens will be – early parliamentary elections in May together with local ones. “Not that someone is hiding behind a list, but with open lists, because I know that some would not go beyond what their families vote for,” Krivokapic said. Answering the question whether he will initiate the procedure of dismissal of the Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazovic, he said that he could not understand that someone said that he would have a rehearsal with the minority government, and if that does not remain the case. “It simply came to our notice then. It’s as if I have a mistress and I tell my wife, wait and see how I will be with her, so if it doesn’t work, I’ll come back to you,” Krivokapic pointed out. Krivokapic claims that he is not thinking about forming a party at all. “This government has put the citizen at the center. We are not changing that,” he said. He emphasizes that it would be incorrect to launch an initiative to dismiss the parliament. “I have not received any dismissal from the ministers. These lists that appear in the media are a pure marketing ploy. I don’t want to be a problem but part of the solution. It is obligatory for me only to do 41 deputies. This initiative was not submitted by those who criticized me, but by those who praised me the most,” Krivokapic pointed out. He announces that each individual or government will be judged on the basis of results. “There is talk of the famous number 49. It is falling and it loses its meaning if two SNP deputies do not approach that option. What is the civic option with a minority government. I think the normal solution is the one that works. Minority government is the worst waste of time. Should a professor who fights against a corrupt regime be a problem, and not a president who is corrupt,” he said.


Amazing atmosphere around the Fundamental Agreement 

Speaking about the Fundamental Agreement, Krivokapic said that when you look at the elements of our position, there is nothing fundamentally disputable in the document we submitted. “The atmosphere around the Fundamental Agreement is astonishing. Signing depends on the government and the Serbian Orthodox Church,” he said briefly.


He’s not naive 

The Prime Minister said that he would be naive if he said that Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic and Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic went to the United States and informed him the day before he left. “When someone wants to play like that, you have to match. Why, after that, two ministers of this Government go to the same place and talk. After that, Gabriel Escobar expressed his unreserved support for this Government. This is the best government in the history of Montenegro. This Government takes care of the citizens, ecology, cultural treasures, the highway,” claims Krivokapic. Minister of Finance and Social Welfare Milojko Spajic is one of the Maradona in my team. He is in the United States and will meet with Escobar tomorrow, “he announced. Krivokapic said that he would resign when I failed. “Now I think this government is successful. The DPS is rejoicing these days, thinking that it will take refuge in the minority government and that we will forget,” Krivokapic concluded.


URA explains what kind of minority government they want (CdM


The Civic Movement URA, which makes up the bloc ‘Black on White’ along with CIVIS, has reiterated that they seek the formation of a minority government without staff from the DPS and the DF. They also say that they want the minority government which would keep the stalled EU integration process alive. “We want a government which would unblock institutions (particularly in judiciary), continue with a decisive fight against crime and corruption, ensure the economic recovery, carry out reforms, continue to increase incomes of citizens, ensure the inflow of foreign investments and EU funds, which have been stalled now due to the current political stalemate in the country,” URA posted on Facebook, among other things. On the Facebook page of the Civic Movement URA they announced that they are asking for the formation of a minority government that will not include DPS and DF staff, which will, as they pointed out, resolutely initiate EU integration, unblock institutions, especially in the judiciary, and continue the resolute fight against crime and corruption. As they pointed out, the minority government would ensure economic recovery and the implementation of reforms and the continuation of the increase of citizens’ salaries, and enable the inflow of new foreign investments and EU funds, which are now stopped due to the unstable political situation. The task of the minority government would be to resolve and finally close the issues that have polarized our society in previous years, but also years ago. “To sign the Fundamental Agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church in accordance with the Constitution and national interests of Montenegro and thus relieve the socio-political development from church issues,” explained the GP URA. They also state that the goal would be to enable the stabilization of relations with neighbors, and the strong maintenance of the character of the civil secular and multi-ethnic society.


Skopje, Sofia resolve name issue (Nezavisen.mk


North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski said on Tuesday that he had arranged with his Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov for Bulgaria to accept the use of the shorter version of North Macedonia’s name, which solved one of their issues. “Petkov and I arranged for Bulgaria to accept the short name of North Macedonia equally as with the long name of the Republic of North Macedonia. That means that Bulgaria will no longer stall the use of our short name in international or bilateral processes,” Kovacevski told a joint news conference after a meeting in the government’s seat in Skopje. According to Kovacevski, Bulgaria will notify the UN of this, while “at the same time North Macedonia has sent a note to the UN on the use of the short and long name of the country which unambiguously confirms that both names are valid and confirms the lack of any implications with regard to Bulgaria’s territorial integrity.” “The removal of these questions from the negotiating table through this harmonized and friendly relationship between the two sides for me poses the first big step in our new chapter. Steps of this kind bring optimism about the future and lead to greater connectivity and stronger cooperation,” North Macedonia’s new prime minister said.


Petkov did not say when or whether will Bulgaria lift its veto against Macedonia (Republika


Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov did not provide answers during his visit to Macedonia about whether the country will lift its veto against Macedonia. Petkov stuck to bland and broad answers while peppered by the local press, which demanded some answers. Petkov did not even name the country he is visiting, its people or its language, such was his level of restraint. Bulgaria is treading a fine line, as it says it is ready to accept that the Macedonian nation and language exist now, but wants Macedonian children to be taught that they were part of the Bulgarian language and nation until the very recent past. The one bit of progress announced by Petkov was that Bulgaria agrees to use the imposed name “North Macedonia” in its short form. The name, imposed on Macedonia by Greece under the 2018 Prespa Treaty, suddenly became an issue with Bulgaria, which fears that it might constitute claims to its region of Pirin Macedonia. It demands that Macedonia is referred to only in the full version “Republic of North Macedonia” but it’s likely that this, by far smallest of the outstanding issues, would not be raised in the future. Bulgaria has been blocking Macedonia’s EU accession talks since 2020. After assuming office, Petkov initially said that he may lift the veto in six months, if there is progress in other areas, apart from history, but then promptly withdrew the offer.


Mickoski met with Petkov: I stood by my positions (Republika


VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski met with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov who is visiting Macedonia. After the meeting, Mickoski’s office issued a statement informing that he stood by the positions regarding the dispute between Macedonia and Bulgaria. VMRO-DPMNE led the process of adopting a joint resolution in the Macedonian Parliament to affirm Macedonian national identity and the historic genesis of the Macedonian nation, and the party also demands reciprocity in minority rights. I held the same positions that are publicly known. What was pointed out at the meeting is the need to build trust, to have open relations and to work on areas where mutual cooperation and mutual benefit for the citizens of both countries is possible. We emphasized the need to cooperate on issues that will provide us our future, such as investments in education, science, the Corridor 8 infrastructure link and other projects important for both countries. Instead of blockades, we need bridges, open relations and mutual respect, Mickoski said. Bulgaria is blocking Macedonia from opening its EU accession talks, as it continues to demand thorough rewriting of Macedonian history and redefining of Macedonian national identity along the Bulgarian narratives.


Ahmeti calls on the government to accept Petkov’s demands and amends the Macedonian Constitution (Republika


DUI party leader Ali Ahmeti called on Macedonia to accept the demands put forward by Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, starting with including the Bulgarian nation to the Preamble of the Constitution. Ahmeti, whose power over his coalition with SDSM keeps growing, made the statement after meeting Petkov, who is visiting Macedonia. Nothing bad will happen to the country if we accept the Bulgarian minority as a constitutional category. It is important that we open the EU accession talks. That is how we build a secure future, Ahmeti said, adding that other nations, such as the Croats and the Montenegrins, can be added as well.

Even Zaev wanted to postpone this move until it is certain that Bulgaria will allow Macedonia to join the EU. VMRO-DPMNE also demands reciprocity from Bulgaria – the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria – which is a major taboo in Bulgaria. Ahmeti added that it is his impression that Petkov wants to move quickly to have the veto lifted, but that it will require concessions from Macedonia.


Gruevski calls on Petkov to drop his claim that the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria does not exist (Republika


Former prime minister and VMRO leader Nikola Gruevski strongly reacted to the recent statement from newly elected Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who denied that there is a Macedonian minority Bulgarian. Petkov made the statement days ahead of his visit to Macedonia, even as he demands that Macedonia ensures a special place for the minority rights of its ethnic Bulgarians. How come Bulgaria wants Macedonia to amend its Constitution to list the Macedonian citizens of a Bulgarian identity in it, but at the same time, the issue of the Macedonians in Bulgaria should not be discussed? Is this the right of the mightier party on display, Gruevski asks in a social media comment. He warns that Petkov’s comment exposes ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria to hatred and recriminations, and makes them especially vulnerable. In his comment, Gruevski shared a video from the plight of ethnic Macedonians in the region of Pirin Macedonia, now in south-western Bulgaria, who were recognized as ethnic Macedonians by the first post-war Bulgarian administration, that of Georgi Dimitrov. The following Zhivkov regime reversed its policy and began to insist that all citizens of Bulgaria are Bulgarians. “Where did these people, you see in this 30 minute long documentary film, recorded just 30 years ago, and their descendants disappear? The censuses Bulgaria conducted in the 1950ies, in which 180,000 people declared as Macedonians, who performed these censuses? It is not becoming of a Prime Minister with such high levels of education to come to a neighboring country openly telling untruths and insulting the Macedonians in Macedonia and in Bulgaria, who are his fellow citizens. He certainly did not learn this from Michael Porter,” Gruevski writes, referring to the Harvard professor. The first bit of information about the new Prime Minister Petkov in the international press is that he is Harvard educated. Gruevski adds that he understands the predicament Petkov is in. “He is afraid to stand up to the commonly accepted positions in Bulgaria about Macedonia so early in his term. But he sought and won mandate to conduct changes. Isn’t he from a pro-European party? Isn’t Strasbourg a European court? Is there another example in the EU, since its founding, that the accession process of a country is blocked to coerce it to accept changes in past events, in its history, from 70, 80 or a 100 years ago? If the changes continue, as his party declares, one of those changes needs to be a new attitude toward the truth about the Macedonians and the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria… Macedonians and Bulgarians were and should be close, the closest nations. And they will be, once politicians from our neighboring country stop to treat the Macedonian issue only through the prism of the votes they expect in the next elections, and leave the problems to those that come after them to be resolved… If Macedonia is the child of Bulgaria, as Bulgarian politicians often say, without giving an opinion on this claim, I would say that, if Bulgaria feels that it is Macedonia’s mother, it should show motherly, unconditional love. Not the conditional, fatherly kind – do this if you want to receive that,” Gruevski concludes. Ahead of Petkov’s visit, the newly appointed Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski said that he will not raise the Macedonian minority issue in Bulgaria. Petkov, on the other hand, is expected to push very strongly on the demands of ethnic Bulgarians in Macedonia, and this is now a key condition Bulgaria raised before Macedonia.


Veto holding Albania hostage on integration path, Luhrmann: We have received positive signals from Bulgaria (Radio Tirana


Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonia in the European integration process has become a serious obstacle for Albania, but the German government does not yet see the separation of the two countries’ path as a solution. During her first official visit to Tirana, German Minister for Europe and Climate Anna Luhrmann said that Bulgaria had given positive signals to find a suitable solution. “For us, it is essential to walk this path at the beginning of the membership negotiations of Albania and North Macedonia. We have received positive signals from Bulgaria and we will try to find the most appropriate solution as soon as possible,” said the German minister. Tirana was the German minister’s second stop for Europe and Climate. The day before, Luhrmann was in North Macedonia. Her visit coincided with the first day of work of the newly formed government by Dimitar Kovacevski. The formal delays created towards Albania in the process of integration with the European Union have worried the government. Deputy Prime Minister Arben Ahmetaj, also Minister of State for Reconstruction, while receiving yesterday in a meeting in Tirana, the German Minister for Europe and Climate, Anna Luhrmann, where the focus of the meeting was the European integration process announced that Albania has done all the tasks of the house for the opening of negotiations. “Albania continues to refer to a 90% support for the EU integration process, I expressed my regret that we have already done all the homework, there is no EU member state to raise an issue in Albania, to prevent the opening of negotiations, although the Commission confirms this, I still believe in the next 6 months we hope to have a formal opening of negotiations,” said Minister Ahmetaj.


Meta congratulates the new President of the EP: I welcome the cooperation in the process of integration of the country! (Radio Tirana


The President of the Republic Ilir Meta has congratulated the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola for the election in this position. Through a post on social networks, Mr. Meta says that he welcomes the close cooperation in the process of European integration of Albania, with the hope for the opening of membership negotiations as soon as possible. “Heartfelt congratulations to Roberta Metsola for being elected President of the European Parliament! I welcome the close cooperation in the process of European integration of Albania, with the hope of opening membership negotiations as soon as possible. I am confident in its determination to uphold European values and strengthen democracy, including all enlargement countries,” writes President Meta. Roberta Metsola succeeds Italian David Sassoli, who passed away last week shortly before his term ended.

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Belgrade Media Report 23 May

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