Brnabic: Government revokes spatial plan for Jadar (Tanjug/RTS)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced on Thursday night that the government at today’s session revoked the decree and spatial plan of the special purpose area for the implementation of the project of exploitation and processing of jadarite mineral of 13 February 2020. At the press conference after the government session, Brnabic said that the spatial plan for Jadar no longer exists, and stated that all administrative acts related to Rio Tinto were annulled – all permits, resolutions and decisions. We have never had contracts with Rio Tinto, as we have said many times, Brnabic pointed out. According to her, the decision on the formation of the Working Group for the implementation of the Jadar project from 2021 was revoked. Thus, we have fulfilled all the demands of environmental protests and put an end to Rio Tinto in Serbia. With this, as far as the Jadar project and Rio Tinto are concerned, everything is over, said Brnabic. She reminded that protests had been held in recent months regarding the Jadar project and the Rio Tinto company, i.e., its affiliate in our country, which has been in Serbia since 2004, when it received the first decision allowing investigative actions. She added that the Mining Law was amended in 2006, introducing the principle of continuity, which means that the explorer has the exclusive right to exploit, and that in 2012, Rio Tinto received a decision on the construction of large diameter wells. Brnabic called on all interested environmental organizations to contact the government of Serbia and take over the documents related to Rio Tinto, and pointed out that the representatives of the previous authorities, who concluded all those agreements, are now trying to build a political future on the green agenda. She also showed all the documentation related to Rio Tinto and business in Serbia through the affiliate company Rio Sava Exploration. It has been there since 2002, when the agreement with the FRY was signed, which was ratified by the Assembly of Serbia and Montenegro on 5 May 2004 – through the first decision of the Ministry of Mining and Energy of 8 June 2004, approving geological research. decisions from 2012 for the execution of works issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection under former minister Oliver Dulic for wells. There is also a law from 2006, which introduces the principle of continuity in order to ensure that Rio Tinto has the exclusive right to exploitation, the Prime Minister explained.
Environmental protests funded by foreign organizations
Brnabic said late on Thursday foreign organizations and foundations had flocked to Serbia over the past year and a half to finance local environmental organizations and get involved in their establishment and work and fund protests. At a press conference, Brnabic said she could not find words to describe the hypocrisy of foreign organizations, noting that the largest financiers of protests included the US, the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, the Open Society Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, the UK’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the British Council, as well as some German organizations. “It would not be a problem if they were interested in the environment and were it not for the hypocrisy where those who are funding the protests are criticizing companies from their own countries, while we are supposed to defend them and get weaker politically. Is that the game we are playing?” Brnabic said. That shows that some want to have their cake and eat it, too, which means that they are funding protests to weaken President Aleksandar Vucic‘s position while knowing that Vucic is committed and serious and that he will keep pushing for those projects until their completion if he thinks they are in Serbia’s interest, Brnabic said. “So they get both – they get to weaken Aleksandar Vucic and they get their companies to stay. But that won’t be possible anymore! I have had enough of that hypocrisy,” she said.
Rio Tinto voices concern over statements by Serbian government officials (Tanjug/Beta)
The mining corporation Rio Tinto on Thursday voiced concern over recent statements by Serbian government officials about a potential withdrawal of the spatial plan for its Jadar lithium project in western Serbia. In a press release, Rio Tinto said it was committed to development of the project in line with all Serbian and international regulations while taking into account the public concern for the environment. It also said it believed fact-based discussions and dialogue should be the foundation of any decision by the Serbian government about project development.
Dacic: Friendly relations between Serbia and Venezuela (RTV/Tanjug)
Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic received the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Dimas Jesús Alvarenga Guerra. Dacic said that Serbia and Venezuela enjoy traditionally good and friendly relations, expressing readiness to contribute to the intensification of overall bilateral cooperation through the strengthening of parliamentary ties. He reminded the guest that as foreign minister, he had the opportunity to visit Venezuela, as well as to host his then colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs Arreaza. Guerra said that Venezuela sees Serbia as a friendly country and that Venezuela is grateful for the solidarity that Serbia has always had for its people. He expressed readiness to strengthen relations between the two countries through concrete forms of cooperation. In the course of the meeting, the officials discussed the potentials for cooperation between the Serbian and Venezuelan parliaments through the work of parliamentary friendship groups and realization of parliamentary visits.
Dacic: I will not run for president so as not to endanger Vucic (TV Pink/Beta)
The leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) Ivica Dacic has stated that he will not run for president of Serbia in the upcoming elections. Dacic told TV Pink that he would not do that because he would not like to jeopardize the possibility of the incumbent President Aleksandar Vucic winning in the first round of elections. “We have been cooperating for ten years and I do not want it to be interpreted that I am on the side of those who want to overthrow him. We are trying to win in the first round,” Dacic said. Dacic said that the decision on whether the SPS will run in the elections independently or in a coalition with the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) will be made on the basis of public opinion polls, by 1 February. He stated that the SPS will support Aleksandar Vucic for the second term as President of Serbia if he runs, but that otherwise that party will have its own candidate. Commenting on the allegations of some opposition parties that a part of the votes in the referendum on amending the Constitution of Serbia was falsified, Dacic assessed that as “search for an alibi’ before the upcoming elections, which should be called on 15 February. Dacic added that a set of election laws would be discussed today at a meeting of the Control Body for the Implementation of Agreements from the Inter-Party Dialogue with some opposition parties.
Petkovic: We continue to fight for “Brezovica” (TV Tanjug)
On the occasion of the decision of the so-called Kosovo privatization agencies (KAP) to form the social enterprise “Brezovica”, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic said on Thursday, that the ski center was not handed over to Pristina, as well as that Belgrade will continue to fight for “Brezovica” and help the management and workers. Speaking on TV Tanjug, Petkovic said that the decision of the KAP was another unilateral action by Albin Kurti, but those, who were in power when the agency was formed, which usurped all Serbian property and companies, especially south of the Ibar in Kosovo and Metohija, were happy to hear this news here. He also said that all decisions of KAP are illegal, unilateral and made without the rightful owners. “We have not handed over anything regarding the ski center Brezovica and we continue to support all our workers and management. And we will help the ski center Brezovica, as we have helped all these years. Our people in Strpce and Sirinicka zupa can be calm and peaceful,” Petkovic emphasized. He mentioned that the ski center “Brezovica” is one of the companies that is the “lifeblood” of the survival of our people in that part of Kosovo and Metohija. “We continue to help the Brezovica ski center, but we will help for the real owners, namely the Ski Resorts of Serbia and Inex – Interexport in Belgrade, to seek all the necessary legal protection in order to protect the ski center in terms of property,” said Petkovic. He reminded that this is not the first time that the state and the Office for Kosovo and Metohija protect “Brezovica”, since the illegal privatization of the ski center was stopped a few years ago, when foreign investors were interested in it. We informed the consortiums and investors that they have no right to do so, and when they realized that the real owners are the Ski Resort and Inex – Interexport, they withdrew, he says.
RIK: 59.59 percent of voters voted “yes” in Serbian referendum (Tanjug)
According to the latest figures released by the national election commission based on 99.89 pct of polling stations processed, 59.59 pct of voters in Sunday’s referendum on amendments to the Serbian constitution voted “yes” while 39.38 pct voted “no”. In the northern province of Vojvodina, 99.94 pct of polling stations have been processed and 59.72 pct of voters voted in favor of the amendments while 39.14 pct voted against. A hundred per cent of polling stations in the Belgrade region have been processed and 44.32 pct of voters voted in favor and 54.84 pct voted against. A total of 99.82 pct of polling stations have been processed in the Sumadija and Western Serbia region, with 65.33 pct of votes cast in favor and 33.64 pct against. In the Southern and Eastern Serbia region, 99.87 pct of polling stations have been processed, with 67.13 pct of votes cast in favor and 31.8 pct against.
Power: US has shown we will not hesitate to act against those who pursue corruption, destabilization and division at expense of citizens of this country (O Kanal)
USAID Administrator Samantha Power started a three-day visit to B&H. Following the meeting with three war camp detainees, Power addressed media on Thursday and said that B&H is at a serious crossroad. She added that stories heard from former war camp detainees are a clear message that B&H cannot go backwards. Power stressed that politics is hard and difficult, but war is terrible. The USAID Administrator should meet with young people and representatives of entrepreneurs in B&H. Power explained that she will use this opportunity to hear opinion of young people and entrepreneurs about their vision concerning the future of B&H. Power emphasized that threats from the Republika Srpska (RS) about withdrawing from state institutions do not have any economic or functional sense and are actually threats to stability achieved 26 years ago. She added that the focus of state institutions should be on creation of economic growth and new jobs, underlining that it is necessary to talk about corruption that is a huge obstacle to economic prosperity of B&H. The USAID Administrator also met with investigative journalists in B&H. This meeting was held in premises of Oslobodjenje daily and O Kanal. One of the topics at this meeting was discovery and combat against corruption. Director of O Kanal Almir Seckanovic expressed content they were a host to a high delegation and because work of Oslobodjenje and O Kanal has been recognized in international circles. Seckanovic deems that is probably more difficult to be journalist in today B&H than in war and post-war period, because journalists are today under huge economic and political pressure. Also, Power stated that the US will not hesitate to react against corrupted ones and against those leading towards divisions and destabilization at expense of B&H citizens. Power should meet with all three members of B&H Presidency on Friday. The USAID Administrator stated that she expects an honest dialogue with the Presidency members about reforms B&H desperately needs and that should be beneficial for everyone in B&H. Power said that it needs to be clear for everyone that inciting of fire of divisions is dangerous, underlining that this will not create better economic opportunities. Addressing the media on Thursday, Power said: “The US has shown we will not hesitate to act against those who pursue corruption, destabilization and division at the expense of the citizens of this country.” Power reminded permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UN SC) that they all individually were part of diplomatic activities during the aggression against B&H and during the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) and that, in accordance with that they have the responsibility towards the country. “With regard to various actors in the international community it is our collective responsibility to support peace and unity. We truly have the responsibility to support unity, freedom, prosperity, and to build on what we have already invested, because strengthening of dividing forces is not in the interest of any individual or any country,” said Power. Power conveyed a US President Joe Biden’s message that the US is with the citizens of B&H, it was with them during the aggression, during the 26-year-long peace, but it is also with the citizens now “at the moment of political stalemate” and noted she is looking forward to hearing from interlocutors “what else the US can do for the citizens and their ambitions”.
Kovacevic criticizes Power’s statements regarding RS and its representatives (Nova BH)
Radovan Kovacevic, the Advisor to Milorad Dodik, criticized the statements of the Administrator of USAID Samantha Power regarding RS and its representatives and called them a one-sided approach. According to Kovacevic, as long as Serbia and the RS are presented as bad and Bosniaks as victims, this will not contribute to resolving the crisis in B&H Kovacevic stated: “We have also heard messages that the RS and representatives of the Serb constituent people are destabilizing B&H by reacting to a foreigner coming from the outside, who is not elected by B&H citizens, and giving himself the right to impose laws and completely destroy B&H’s sovereignty. This is something we do not accept, especially when it is clearly directed against Serbs, against the RS and against the citizens of this country.” According to Kovacevic, many times he heard the Americans telling Dodik that he has to give up on the fight for to the letter compliance with the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) and the Constitution of B&H and on returning the rights the RS is entitled to in line with the Constitution of B&H and the DPA, but he has never heard them telling him that he has to give up on the alleged corruption. Kovacevic pointed out that the RS is not doing anything to destabilize B&H. “The RS is not a source of crisis. The RS is just trying to protect the B&H Constitution, protect the Dayton Agreement and return rights to the RS which belong to it,” Kovacevic stressed.
Spiric states moratorium on so-called Inzko’s law is sufficient for return to institutions of B&H (Srna/BN TV)
Deputy speaker of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) and SNSD member Nikola Spiric said for Srna that moratorium on the law imposed by Valentin Inzko would be sufficient for return to the institutions of B&H. “It is sufficient to put a moratorium on the so-called Inzko’s law that is neither the result of internal agreement, nor the institutional work at the level of B&H. If we are to respect the Constitution, laws, fair inter-party and interpersonal relationships, then the problems are resolved. In the institutions of B&H, we will adopt decisions and laws, not the foreigners,” said Spiric in a telephone statement.
RS ruling coalition preparing proposal that might serve as solution to ongoing crisis in B&H (Glas Srpske)
Glas Srpske learns that the ruling coalition in RS is in talks about new models that would be acceptable to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H), which would also put out of force the “Inzko’s law” and enable active participation to the Serb representatives in the institutions of B&H. The daily reminds of the law changes that were imposed by now former High Representative Valentin Inzko, which introduced a ban on genocide denial with punishments of up to five years in prison for breaching the law. In response to that decision, the RS authorities adopted the Law on Not Applying High Representative’s Decision as well as amendments to the Criminal Code of RS, which introduced prison sentence for those who mock or humiliate the RS symbols and for calling RS and its people genocidal or aggressors. According to the daily’s source, these amendments to the Criminal Code should serve as a ground for an official proposal that the ruling coalition would send to the parliament of B&H. United Srpska leader Nenad Stevandic told the daily that he hopes the Bosniaks will be offered a model i.e. a law according to which, no people in B&H can be called genocidal – neither the Serbs, Croats or Bosniaks, nor the entities or B&H itself. “We need to see how much the other side is ready to reach a joint stance, i.e. that genocide must not be misused, but that offending any people, ethnic group, individual in terms of calling them genocidal is punishable,” he explained. Stevandic said the talks within the ruling coalition are currently underway but that they would offer it to the opposition too to join them in creating the final solution. DNS leader Nenad Nesic told the daily that only compromise can solve the situation caused by Inzko. However, he added, there is no will on the Bosniak side, who see themselves as an absolute winner. “It is possible to find a solution that would honor the victims on all three sides, which would not offend anyone, and that the law is applicable on the territory of whole B&H,” said Nesic.
Izetbegovic says there is no agreement on meeting of leaders of three peoples with Presidents of Turkey and Serbia, B&H will be represented by institutions (Dnevni list)
SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic stated that there is no agreement on holding of a meeting of leaders of the three people in B&H with Presidents of Turkey and Serbia and he argued that the matter was interpreted in a wrong way. “This is, in fact, about a trilateral meeting between B&H, Serbia and Turkey that has been agreed a long time ago. B&H will be represented by institutions and not by representatives of parties or peoples”, Izetbegovic stated. Izetbegovic concluded by saying that the meeting is expected to take place soon and noted that B&H will be represented by the Presidency of B&H. Sasa Cekrlija, the advisor to former Minister of Foreign Affairs of B&H Igor Crnadak, told the daily that Izetbegovic too came in focus of the attention of the international community, especially after the visit of Croat member of the Presidency of B&H Zeljko Komsic to Vatican, although it seems as if the international community is focused on Serb member of the Presidency of B&H Milorad Dodik only. Cekrlija added that Vatican is still waiting for answers to numerous questions which the Minister of Foreign Affairs of B&H (Bisera Turkovic, SDA) failed to answer. Cekrlija also argued that representatives of Vatican, during their meeting with Komsic, were especially interested in SDA and relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and he claimed that SDA is trying to “fake distancing from Turkey” because of this. On the other hand, professor Enver Kazaz assessed that Izetbegovic is right this time and added that “he was right when he warned that B&H is not simply a sum of three ethnic and political identities and that it is represented by institutions of the system at the international scene”. Kazaz concluded by saying that there are no hidden intentions in Izetbegovic’s statement and noted that Izetbegovic made a smart move having in mind that “he has no legitimacy to represent anyone, including Bosniaks, at the international scene” because he did not win more than 50% of Bosniak votes in elections.
Analysts say dialogue between representatives of peoples in resolving crisis in B&H is not option for Bosniaks because they still do not give up on idea of civic state (RTRS)
Analysts have stated that a dialogue between the representatives of peoples in resolving the crisis in B&H is not an option for Bosniaks because they still do not give up on the idea of a civic state which, according to the analysts, is much easier to implement through Zeljko Komsic. The Cabinet of the Croatian President Zoran Milanovic confirmed readiness to sit down with the Serbian and Turkish presidents, as well as representatives of the constituent peoples because, according to Milanovic, only in that composition would the interests of all parties in B&H be protected. Regional analysts stressed that the initiative for the states that are signatories to the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) together with Turkey, which has a great interest in B&H, to conduct a kind of mediation among the peoples of B&H in order to overcome the crisis is concrete and useful for everyone in B&H. Political scientist Nevenko Vranjes underlined that it is not surprising that SDA rejects such a concept, regardless of the participation of the Turkish President because “they are not giving up on their goal – B&H as a civic state.” “It suits SDA in the political sense not to accept such an idea, of course harming its interests and the interests of the peoples, including the Bosniak people, but they decided to do so probably motivated by keeping Zeljko Komsic and his position, on one hand, and on the other, probably under some outside influence, some political mentors,” Vranjes emphasized. Political scientist from Belgrade Cvijetin Milivojevic pointed out that political mentors, like America, must be aware that while they were not interested in B&H, the interests of Russia and Turkey have developed in B&H and cannot be ignored now. Milivojevic added that attempt to exclude parties representing Croat and Serb interests would not be good for resolving the crisis. “We see that Izetbegovic calls for the intervention of the part of the international community that would like to annul the constituent status of the peoples in B&H. That is part of the story. On the other hand, even the presence of Turkey does not suit him, if Turkey will be one of the parties interested in the situation in BiH, and the other two Croatia and Serbia,” Milivojevic said. Journalist Branimir Galic stressed that Bosniaks perceive representatives of the international community, led by Americans and some Europeans, as part of the institutions as they often seek their mentorship in resolving B&H’s internal affairs.
Sattler: US and EU are ready to provide necessary support next week; Elections will take place on 5 October (Dnevni avaz)
The daily carries an interview with EU Special Representative Johann Sattler, asking him about electoral reform and the upcoming visit of US Special Envoy for Electoral Reform Matthew Palmer and Director for Western Balkans and Turkey of European External Action Service Angelina Eichhorst. Sattler noted that political talks in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) are perceived as a game, where there are no winners and this is a problem, because there are no steps forward toward the other side, no concessions. The Ambassador noted that mediators, the US and EU, are ready to provide necessary support next week. “There is no much time left, but we have to remind ourselves what is the goal, which is to eradicate corruption from the election system. To secure elections which are held in a transparent, fair way, without election thefts which we witnessed in earlier elections. Other part of the reform is implementation of judgements of European Court of Human Rights, which regard directly the removal of discrimination from the system. We also believe that reaching of an agreement on electoral reform can relax relations in the country, as well as relations between Bosniaks and Croats” said Sattler. The Ambassador explained that the US and EU are merely mediators in the process, while the compromise has to come from political leaders and it is important for this to be turned into an agreement, which will pass the parliamentary procedure, meaning that B&H Parliament will have a final saying. “As for the question whether the elections will take place, my response is very clear- elections will take place on 5 October 2022. Any form of threats to this are unacceptable because they are not in line with democratic foundations,” said Sattler.
New final round of negotiations on changes to B&H Election Law expected to begin on Monday; HNS puts forward its proposal which has been assessed as discriminatory (N1)
A new final round of negotiations on changes to the B&H Election Law is expected to begin on Monday, 24 January. B&H politicians are announcing a new crisis if no agreement on the reform of the electoral legislation in B&H is reached. The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) was the first to come out with its proposal, but it is already clear that positions have not been brought closer together, and the proposal of HNS is being assessed as discriminatory. According to the HNS’ proposal, instead of from the ranks of Bosniak, Croat and Serb people, members of the Presidency of B&H become a Bosniak member representing Bosniaks and ‘The Others’, a Croat member representing Croats and ‘The Others’, and a Serb member representing Serbs and ‘The Others’. The HNS’ proposal further stipulates that after the direct election, the Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Bosniak delegates in the Federation of B&H (FB&H) House of Peoples (HoP), the Croat member of the B&H Presidency must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Croat delegates in the FB&H HoP, while the Serb member of the B&H Presidency must be confirmed in the RS parliament. Representatives of HNS believe that this resolves the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, because every person with the right to vote can run in the elections. However, legal expert Vehid Sehic does not share that opinion. Sehic said that the ECHR clearly defined in the Zornic case that active and passive suffrage must be enabled to Azra Zornic, as a citizen of B&H who does not belong to any of the three ethnic groups. “It is unacceptable for someone to give a proposal where such people are being pushed on the list from the rank of Bosniak, Serb or Croat people. On the other hand, we see that confirmation of the HoP is being asked for,” Sehic underlined. According to Sehic, the election model itself is also controversial. Namely, according to the HNS’ proposal, the candidates in the FB&H who won the largest number of electoral votes win the elections. The electoral units are cantons, and the total number of electoral votes in the FB&H is 17. Each of the ten cantons in the FB&H is awarded as many electoral votes as the Bosniak or Croat delegates are elected to the HoP from that canton. The HNS’ proposal also defines a model for the election of delegates in such a way that the distribution of mandates includes cantons that have at least five percent of a constituent people out of the total number of that people in the FB&H. Things become clearer when one sees the calculation where, for example, there would be no Croats from Sarajevo Canton and Tuzla Canton in the FB&H HoP, and thus no electoral votes for the election of the Croat member of the B&H Presidency, while in Canton 10 and Posavina Canton there would be no Bosniak delegates nor could they participate in the election of a Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency. Sehic claims that all of the above violates the existing Constitution of the FB&H, but also leads to deeper divisions and new discrimination. “Now within one people, there is discrimination. There are some Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs who are worth more,” Sehic pointed out. However, the representatives of the HNS parties, who previously called the abovementioned proposal a red line, do not agree with this. HDZ 1990 leader Ilija Cvitanovic said that the HNS parties agreed that HNS’ proposal is the minimum we seek. SDA representatives did not want to comment on the HNS’ proposal, which they said has not been officially published. But SDA’s position has not changed in relation to the unblocking of the FB&H, the abolition of ethnic prefixes, and the HoP which, according to SDA, should exclusively decide on matters of vital national interest. SDA’s Safet Softic earlier stated that no verdict treats what HDZ B&H wants at the moment. “That is a political request of HDZ B&H which was backed by the entire Croatian state and the Croatian authorities,” Softic underlined. HNS has also proposed an alternative – indirect election of the B&H Presidency members – which both the RS authorities and the opposition are against.
CEC asks for OHR’s help in solving the issue with financing of elections (Glas Srpske)
Glas Srpske carries that the first preparations for the 2 October elections have started with the adoption of first procurement-related decisions during the B&H Central Election Commission’s session on Thursday, while the commission is lacking the money on its accounts. The author reminds that similar situation was recorded two years ago when local elections were even postponed due to the fact that the budget for B&H institutions was not adopted, and they were operating on the interim financing, with only one fourth of the previous budget amount available. After the CEC did not receive the requested amount for these purposes, it announced another one. But, according to the daily, although this was not said, there is a possibility of postponing the elections this year again. CEC President Zeljko Bakalar was unavailable for a comment but he earlier said that after the Ministry of Finance and Treasury failed to approve BAM one million for the organization of elections, the CEC have also addressed the OHR. He also explained that the CEC is operating under the interim financing rules and that the budget is equal to the one from 2020 when previous election cycle took place. B&H CEC adopted all items on its agenda on Thursday, including those concerning the upcoming elections. The Commission also adopted the procurement plan for 2022, while necessary contracts will be signed afterwards once the requested funds are secured. Oslobodjenje reads that it is still uncertain whether funds for general elections in October will be secured and after B&H CEC stated that Finance Ministry of B&H did not approve their operational plan, B&H CEC’s Collegium issued an order to Secretariat that will be submitted to the Ministry, as well as members of Council of Minister, OHR, Peace Implementation Council, EU Delegation and OSCE Mission. In a statement to the daily, Bakalar noted that a new document was signed on Thursday and submitted to the mentioned addresses.
Western Balkans important to Macron in security context (Hina)
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday the EU should give a clear European perspective to the Western Balkans although he is not an advocate of enlargement without reforming the EU, while several Croatian MEPs feel that part of Europe is important to him for security reasons. We must not distance ourselves from the Western Balkans anymore. They should get from us a clear perspective of EU accession within a reasonable time, Macron said at a plenary in Strasbourg, but added that enlargement is not possible without reforming the EU.
Croatian MEP Tonino Picula (S&D/SDP) told Hina Macron is looking for his place in that security architecture of the world, notably Europe. Macron is interested in all that is in some way dubious from the aspect of Europe’s security. Macron is “aware that if Europe doesn’t fill some gaps, someone else will,” the President of the EP Working Group on the Western Balkans added. Croatian MEP Zeljana Zovko (EPP/HDZ) told Hina the issue of enlargement to the Western Balkans “is first and foremost a security challenge if that region is left to third countries looking for their own strategic position and interest.” Enlargement “won’t happen at any cost” and without all the requirements being met, the co-rapporteur on the pre-accession assistance to Southeast Europe instrument added. Zovko said Macron’s statement should be viewed in the context of the French presidential election due in April given that a majority of the French are not in favor of enlargement occurring soon. “The fact that he underlined that Europe needs to reform for enlargement to continue (indicates that) that process won’t take place any time soon.”
Picula, too, said Macron’s address was first and foremost a pre-election address because he was speaking in Strasbourg and to French citizens. Croatian MEP Tomislav Sokol (HDZ/EPP) told Hina pro-European groups should be given an incentive to continue to fight for the European path so that those countries reach the European standards of human rights protection, rule of law. He added, however, that some Western Balkan countries are still far from that. “There is practically no opposition in Serbia, where all media or all-important media are controlled by the authorities. The story about a Serbian world, which is an attempt to spread Serb influence in neighboring states… Montenegro’s ruling coalition consists of political groups that range from pro-European to fiercely anti-European. In Bosnia and Herzegovina we have one people looking to the West, instead of Turkey and Russia, without a hidden agenda, the Croats,” he said. Last November, Macron supported Croatia’s accession to Schengen, and reforming the area is one of the priorities of the current French Council of the EU presidency. Croatian MEPs don’t believe that will change if France gets a new president. Sokol said he was confident that if Valerie Pecresse, the center-right presidential candidate, won the election, the support to Croatia’s Schengen entry would be even stronger. During the plenary debate, independent Croatian MEP Mislav Kolakusic told Macron, “Given the rescinding of numerous rights and freedoms in France during the pandemic, I ask you just one thing, while you preside over the Union, do the exact opposite of what you did in France.” “On the other hand, today you said you were proud that there is no death penalty in Europe. Tens of thousands of citizens have died as a consequence of vaccination. Mandatory vaccination represents the death penalty,” he said, adding that vaccination against Covid “must remain” a personal choice.
PM says Croatia to respond “clearly and resolutely” if Russia attacks Ukraine (Hina)
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that Croatia would react “clearly and resolutely” if Russia attacked Ukraine. Russia has caused concern in Kyiv and the West by amassing troops and equipment near the border with Ukraine and there are fears that it is preparing for an attack. Moscow denies this and says it has the right to deploy its troops on its territory any way it wants. Speaking in the Croatian parliament, Plenkovic said that the situation in the east of Ukraine was very worrying and the tensest since 2014 and conflicts between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels. “Croatia does not want the situation to escalate and it will react clearly and resolutely to prevent any instability,” the PM said without being more specific. An EU member, Croatia is also a member of NATO which has warned Moscow a number of times that it will face serious consequences if it attacks Ukraine. On several occasions, Zagreb has offered Ukrainian authorities its experience in the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region, which in the 1990s was under occupation by ethnic Serbs. Submitting his annual report on meetings of the Council of the EU to the parliament, Plenkovic said that Croatia would raise the issue of people gone missing in the 1991-95 war as part of Serbia’s EU accession talks. “When the relevant policy chapters are put on the agenda, we will put the topic in the context of Serbia’s further progress” he said. He, added, however, that it is not wise for a new member in a forum like the EU to block those who act slightly differently than we think they should. Speaking of the most important topics of the Council of the EU meetings, Plenkovic cited the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the response to energy price increases and EU enlargement to the east, including the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Government seeks shortening of parliament’s mandate (CdM)
Yesterday, the government of Montenegro has submitted to parliament a proposal for a decision on shortening the mandate of parliament, PM Zdravko Krivokapic has tweeted. On the agenda of yesterday’s electronic cabinet meeting was the proposed decision on shortening the mandate of the parliament submitted to Krivokapic. After the clear intention of the URA, DPS and its satellites to elect a new minority government in an unconstitutional way, it becomes clear that the new elections are the only way to resolve the worst political crisis in recent history of Montenegro, prepared by ‘avant-garde’ daredevils,” Krivokapic said. “In the given circumstances, the only democratic solution for overcoming the current political situation is to shorten the mandate of the Parliament of Montenegro, which would create conditions for calling early parliamentary elections, which can be held together with the upcoming regular local elections in May,” the statement says, among other things.
Elections suit government now that it’s about to fall (CdM)
The government of PM Zdravko Krivokapic is coming to an end, so now the early elections suit it. Namely, the Prime Minister’s cabinet has called on the Black on White coalition today to give back the mandate to the citizens. “The tower of untruth, which was the basis for the construction of the minority government, is collapsing to the ground. Aggressive propaganda, that the international community is allegedly behind this frivolous project, turns out to be incorrect. It is obvious that the initiators of this attempt, persistently and for a long time, spread inaccurate information to embassies and other relevant international addresses, while fully participating in the work of the current government and emphasizing it as a functional and best solution to the transition period on the European path,” says a statement by the Krivokapic’s cabinet. “Also, it is added in the statement, at the same time, they publicly praised the economic results and the Europe Now reform, which brings higher salaries and a better standard of living for citizens, which is the result of the work of their colleagues. Now they are on the same side with those who did not want better living conditions for the citizens, but challenged the program, which jeopardizes economic reforms,” the statement says.
There is no place for the DPS on the road to the EU (RTCG)
The DPS will not return to power and there is no place for that party on the road to the EU, but the government has difficulties with the parliamentary majority, which is why we must look for a functional solution if we want to reach number 49 and unblock the process, GP URA vice president Filip Adzic said. Adzic points out that the government has difficulties with the parliamentary majority, due to frequent obstructions of coalitions, parties and MPs, so it is clear that such a situation cannot last forever, despite significant results achieved by the government especially in the fight against organized crime and corruption and social plan. He is categorical and says that the DPS will not return to power and that there is no place for that party on the road to the EU. “URA’s destiny is to lead the processes, make decisive moves and create policy. We do not want to be silent observers of the process, nor to accept the stagnation of Montenegro on its European path due to petty party interests,” Adzic said in a statement. He also points out that it should be noted that there were four models for resolving the political crisis. “One model involved the reconstruction of the government at the expert level, and we supported that model, rejecting the other model, which involved reconstruction in terms of the entry of party-colored politicians into the government. As thet wo models did not get required majority, the option of a minority government or the option of early parliamentary elections remained. Not wanting to lead the election-torn state back into a long election process, we offer a model of a minority government to all deputies,” Adzic said. He points out that the model offered by the Black on White coalition represents reconciliation and inclusion of all those who see Montenegro in the EU, as a civil, modern and democratic state, whose future is decided exclusively in Montenegro.
Spajic meets Escobar (Gov. Press service)
During his working visit to the United States, Minister of Finance and Social Welfare Milojko Spajic met with Mr. Gabriel Escobar, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs overseeing policy towards the countries of the Western Balkans.
The United States praised the economic results of the government of Montenegro achieved in 2021, including the highest economic growth in Europe as well as the reform efforts made through the “Europe Now!” and “Montenegro Works” programs, solving the burning inherited problems such as the hedging arrangement of the Exim Bank of China loan, it was concluded at the meeting. Escobar said that the United States supports the current government of Montenegro, as long as the government headed by Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic is committed to the Euro-Atlantic path and the uncompromising fight against crime and corruption and the economic well-being of citizens. Escobar emphasised that the United States respects the democratic will of the citizens of Montenegro and that it will not interfere in the internal political processes in Montenegro. Spajic thanked the United States for its support and informed Escobar about the next reform steps of the government of Montenegro.
US Embassy: We have no position on the proposals regarding the composition of the government (CdM)
At the meetings of American officials with Montenegrin government and political leaders, we continue to emphasize that it is not up to the United States to determine the composition of the government, said the US Embassy regarding the no-confidence motion against the current government and the proposal to shorten the Assembly’s mandate. As they stated, the United States does not have a position on the proposals in the parliament that refer to the composition of the government. “While Montenegro’s elected leaders must find a way forward, the United States will work with any democratically formed government to ensure Montenegro’s progress on the Euro-Atlantic path, including accelerating EU accession, strengthening NATO membership and supporting common values,” the US Embassy statement said.
Details of Krivokapic’s letter to Porfirije: Part of the Fundamental Agreement is not in accordance with the Law on Freedom of Religion (CdM)
The letter sent by Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic to the Serbian Patriarch Porfirije gave an explanation of the government’s proposals for changes to the original Draft Fundamental Agreement. These changes refer to the need to harmonize certain provisions of the agreement with the legal system of Montenegro, as well as to additional terminological clarifications of certain solutions, the government of Montenegro announced. The original version of the draft agreement uses the term “judicial investigation”, in addition to the fact that in Montenegro for ten years the investigation has not been under the jurisdiction of the courts, but the prosecutor’s office. It was pointed out that the use of the term “security measures” in the original Draft Agreement is not compatible with the provisions of the Criminal Code of Montenegro, given the manner in which the institute was defined. In addition, when it comes to determining the parties to the agreement and conditions for the construction of religious communities in Montenegro, it was pointed out that the original draft agreement decisions are not in accordance with applicable Articles 10 and 42 paragraph 4 of the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Legal Status. religious communities. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s letter points to the need to finalize the provisions of the agreement concerning the special protection of Church property, which also represents the cultural heritage of the state, and refers to the application of the Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage. Regarding the issue of restitution of church property, the letter states that the proposed changes equate that part of the contract with the solutions from the contract signed with other religious communities. Finally, it is stated that the changes proposed by the government contribute to improving the quality of the document, so that it could not later be challenged in whole or in part. In the letter, the Prime Minister expressed readiness to complete the harmonization process as soon as possible, so that the Fundamental Agreement could be signed. The conclusion is that these are more technical issues and full harmonization with the acquis communautaire of Montenegro, than some essential issues that call into question the relationship between the state of Montenegro and the SPC.
Protests against the minority government held in several cities (RTCG)
Protests in Podgorica and several other Montenegrin cities in protest of the initiative of the Civic Movement URA and the opposition for a vote of no confidence in the cabinet of Zdravko Krivokapic, continued last night. The gathered citizens said that such an initiative is unacceptable, and that it must be withdrawn as soon as possible. As previous night, those gathered blocked traffic on the Blaz Jovanovic Bridge. The protest in Podgorica was attended by, among others, representatives of Democratic Montenegro, True Montenegro and Alternative Montenegro. The removal of the first man of URA and Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic has been requested. The protest said that they would not allow the formation of a minority government, because, as they stated, it was a deception and betrayal of the electoral will of the citizens.
Grubi: Even if there is no technical government, there will be an Albanian Prime Minister (Sloboden pecat)
First Deputy Prime Minister Artan Grubi told Sloboden pecat that there must be a consensus to amend the Electoral Code. DUI is pushing for the abolition of the technical government. Grubi says that even if there is no technical government, there will be an Albanian Prime Minister in the last 100 days of the government. The Electoral Code should be adopted by consensus, not unilaterally because the code sets the rules for everyone. Regarding the abolition of the technical government, this is the position of DUI since before the elections because it is absurd for a NATO member and a country with the green light to start negotiations for EU membership to have a technical government to conduct elections due to distrust in institutions through dysfunctional system that blocks the government. It was also part of the coalition agreement and there are no consequences after the agreement for the first Albanian Prime Minister because they are not mutually dependent because the abolition of the technical government and political prime minister with full powers in the last 100 days was and remains part of the agreement, which we see VMRO-DPMNE respects as well, but the parliamentary parties of the Albanians also promised to vote in favor,” Grubi told Sloboden Pecat.
Kovacevski hopes to improve relations with Bulgaria by early summer (Republika)
In a TV interview, Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski said that he hopes relations with Bulgaria will be sufficiently improved by June or July, so that we are a step away from resolving the open issues. This corresponds with the earlier announcement from Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov that he hopes the veto could be lifted in six months, an announcement Petkov later withdrew. I never get tied up in dates and concrete deadlines. I’m an optimist, but a rational one, and I believe in accomplishing the goal, Kovacevski said. Regarding the most divisive Bulgarian demands – to redefine the Macedonian national identity and language, Kovacevski said that the language and the identity are non-negotiable. “They are defined, they are not something that should be negotiated. That is why we have talks and a diplomatic process through the Foreign Ministry, to resolve the different opinions. Of course, without intruding in the national interests of our country or of Bulgaria, and with respect for the resolution of the Macedonian parliament,” Kovavevski said. The resolution, that was proposed by VMRO-DPMNE and unanimously adopted, instructs the government not to negotiate about the Macedonian national identity.
Work begins / NATO air base in Kucova; Peleshi: Message for actors with rival intentions in the Western Balkans (Radio Tirana)
Work for the realization of the project for the modernization of the air base in Kucova has kicked off. It will be turned into a NATO air base. The Minister of Defense Niko Peleshi said during his speech that the selection of Albania is an opportunity to take more responsibility while emphasizing that they would not be here without the help of allies. “I want to thank the Prime Minister for his attention to this project. We are ready to lay the foundation stone for the start of works. We would not be here without the help of our allies. This project came to life three years ago when they officially received the news of this project. Selecting Albania is an opportunity to take on more responsibilities. This development comes at a turbulent period in the eastern borders of the alliance,” said Peleshi. For the Minister of Defense, Niko Peleshi it is an indicator of the strengthening of relations between Albania and other allied countries, but also a message for actors with rival goals in the Western Balkans region. “Clear evidence of the consolidated ability to take on more responsibility, a message to actors with rival goals in the Western Balkans region. It strengthens our stance towards US-EU. It is an important event for Albania, and confirms the presence of NATO in our country. It will have an important impact and direct cooperation of our countries and allies.” said the Minister of Defense, Niko Peleshi.
Rama: Kucova air base increases our political and military role! (Radio Tirana)
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama at the launch ceremony for the new Kucova air base, said that the decision taken by NATO to select this space as a new environment to address security challenges, transforming it into a tactical air base of the alliance in the region, confirming the fact that small Albania is nevertheless an added value to this alliance and that believes in some principles and values that are worth fighting for. “For us this was very welcome news. Not only did it create this new value in our entire defense infrastructure, but at the same time it conveyed a new energy in our effort to use our position in the geographical, political and military aspect with as much intelligence and pragmatism as possible,” said Rama. “We are very aware of the size of our country and the volume of our contribution in relation to other countries, but also thanks to the joint work, which is really a work that has taken cooperation with the United States to another level, but also thanks the support we find from the US we are becoming more and more aware that if we invest intelligently and address our path of strengthening and at the same time increasing the quality of our military forces as it should, we can be an added value for NATO with other projects as well. Today we are seeing the realization of a project that was initially ridiculed as news because it was unreliable for everyone when it was made public 3 years ago,” he said.
US Embassy shares details on new NATO base in Kucova (ADN)
The US Embassy in Tirana has announced through a post on social networks that the next NATO base, which is expected to be built in Kucova, will be able to hold 6 fighter jets. While distributing photos from the meeting held this Thursday at the base that is expected to be built, which was attended by Ambassador Yuri Kim, Prime Minister Edi Rama, Minister of Defense Niko Peleshi, and Chief of General Staff Begaj, the embassy emphasizes that this investment of 50 million euros makes the alliance even stronger. “We are making a strong alliance even stronger! US Ambassador Yuri Kim attended a ceremony at Kucova Air Base, marking the start of a 50m-euro NATO reconstruction project. In the coming years, NATO will fund the renovations and complete construction of the Kucova air base. Upon completion, the base will be able to maintain six fighter jets on a periodic basis. Prime Minister Edi Rama, Minister of Defense Peleshi and Chief of General Staff Begaj gave their full speech, affirming that this is another step, in increasing Albania’s role as a member of the alliance,” the Embassy said in a statement.
Military ships from Albania and the USA, manoeuvre operations in the Adriatic (Radio Tirana)
The US Embassy on Thursday released some photos of the US Navy from maneuvering operations in the Adriatic Sea conducted by Arleigh Burke, USS Gravely and USS Bainbridge-class guided missile destroyers, along with the Coast Guard vessels Albanian Lissus (P 133) and Oriku (P 132). The US Embassy stressed in a response that, USS Gravely and Bainbridge are together with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike group in a planned deployment in the US Sixth Fleet operations area, in support of naval operations to maintain maritime stability and security, and protect the interests of the United States, its allies and partners in Europe and Africa. “In the spirit of the close US-Albania partnership and as NATO Allies, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Bainbridge with Albanian Coast Guard ships Lissus (P 133) and Oriku (P 132) conducted maneuvering operations in the Adriatic Sea last week. USS Gravely and Bainbridge are deployed with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to maintain maritime stability and security, and defend U.S., allied and partner interests in Europe and Africa,” writes the US Embassy.
President Meta decrees date for local by-elections (ADN)
President of the Republic Ilir Meta has decreed 6 March as the date for local by-elections for the 6 municipalities without mayors. Meta says he wishes this process to be an example of trust in democracy and free voting. “Dear citizens, I have just decreed 6 March 2022, for the holding of partial local elections for mayor in Shkodra, Dibra, Durres, Vora, Rrogozhina and Lushnja. I wish this process to be an example of trust in democracy and free voting,” said Meta. Although so far the Central Elections (CEC) has returned answers for only 3 vacancies, Ilir Meta said that the elections will be held in 6 municipalities of the country that are without a mayor, while adding that he received a guarantee from Taulant Balla that the Socialist Party (SP) will not boycott the process. Meta met for consultation only with the Socialists. This brought the reaction of the Democratic Party through the General Secretary Gazment Bardhi. He described the consultation between Balla and Meta as another meeting between the Bermuda Triangle.