Vucic: We will be Germany’s ally, but we have right to our own stance (Tanjug/Politika)
Serbia will do everything it can to be a dependable ally to Germany and not to endanger peace in the Western Balkans, as well as to be a stabilizing factor, to cooperate politically and be the best place for German investments, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said after meeting with German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Thursday. However, no one should stop us from having our own stance and our own opinion, Vucic told a joint press conference with Lambrecht. Responding to a question about Germany’s expectations from Serbia and whether there was maneuvering space for compromise with Kosovo on the issue of recognition, Vucic said a compromise solution must be found, rather than a solution “100 percent favored” by either Serbs or ethnic Albanians. “Unlike an imposed solution, a compromise solution will be the only one that will maintain peace over the next 50 or 100 years. Difficult political times are ahead for Serbia, but I believe we will succeed in surviving and being a dependable partner to all of our friends in the West and in being fair to everyone, as well as in adhering to international public law and acting without bias,” Vucic said. Responding to a Deutsche Welle query about territorial integrity, Vucic said: “Speaking of the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), Ukraine and all other countries, there was no talk about Serbia’s territorial integrity in 1999. No one was interested in that at the time, and it was trampled underfoot in the most brutal way in order to secede a territory from a sovereign, internationally recognized state.” “After that failed…, all those who are constantly talking about territorial integrity are lecturing us that we should forget about UN SC Resolution 1244. I understand what power politics is and I know how small we are and what we have gone through. That is why I want us to maintain peace and stability. We know very well what path we are on, but I would just like to ask you to show some respect for this country, in which 82 children were killed in the 1999 aggression,” Vucic said. He said Serbia, as a country that had been under sanctions for years, had reservations about imposing sanctions on Russia, but noted that he absolutely agreed with everything Lambrecht had said about the legal nature of the conflict in Ukraine and about developments in the region. Speaking about the territorial integrity of B&H, Vucic said he had made over 6,000 public statements about the territorial integrity of the B&H and the integrity of Republika Srpska (RS) within the B&H, as well as about respect of the Dayton Agreement but that, regardless of that, there had been at least 10,000 reports alleging that his statements were untrue and that an attack by Serbia was imminent.
Lambrecht: Germany dependable partner of Serbia on EU path (Tanjug/Politika)
Germany is a dependable partner of Serbia in the EU accession process, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in Belgrade on Thursday, noting that stability in the Western Balkans was important to her country. “But we are an open and sincere partner – and that is what our discussions were also like – which implies that it must be said clearly what one partner expects from the other on that path. It is our desire and hope that the process of normalization of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina gets a new impetus,” Lambrecht said after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. She said she was pleased to have heard a clear statement that Serbia supports the territorial integrity of B&H. “Putin’s offensive war against Ukraine has demonstrated to us how important it is that we who share the same values – peace, freedom and territorial integrity – advocate and clarify them. That is what we have in common, and we noted that in the conversation,” she also said. She said Germany welcomed the clear position taken by Serbia on those values in the UN, and added that the values were also important when it comes to Serbia’s EU accession.
Stefanovic meets with Lambrecht (Tanjug/RTS)
Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht met in Belgrade on Thursday. The Ministers agreed the visit reflected the successful bilateral defense relations as well as an intention to advance them. Lambrecht said defense cooperation between the two countries was highly developed but that there was also room to advance it further. Stefanovic said the most significant aspect of cooperation in military technology was a purchase of, and crew training for, H-145M helicopters for the Serbian Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement. He also said a German donation of Dingo military ambulance vehicles would help to advance military medical cooperation, established by joint participation of Serbian and German troops in an EU mission in Mali, the most developed field of defense cooperation between the two countries. Stefanovic and Lambrecht also discussed possibilities for advancement of cooperation in military education and engagement as part of the EU Common Security and Defense Policy.
Serbia to donate humanitarian aid for endangered population in Ukraine (Tanjug/RTV)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic participated on Thursday via video link in the International Donors’ Conference for Ukraine, held in Warsaw, Poland. Starting from its own experience with a large number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in its territory, of whom a great number are unfortunately still internally displaced, the Republic of Serbia is aware of the importance and need to send humanitarian aid to civilians caught in war conflicts, especially to children as exceptionally vulnerable category of the population. That is why the Republic of Serbia will donate humanitarian aid worth €3 million to children, as well as displaced persons inside and outside Ukraine, which will be directed through the UN system, of which €1.5 million through the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and €1.5 million through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Brnabic said that Serbia, since the start of the conflict, follows with special attention the consequences to the civil population in the first place, the difficult humanitarian situation and the increase in the number of refugees and IDPs and added that it is necessary to create conditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid and support all efforts aimed at stopping the conflict. Brnabic recalled that on 24 March the Republic of Serbia voted in favor of the Resolution on the Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine in the UN General Assembly. In addition, on 27 February the Serbian government adopted a decision on sending humanitarian aid to the endangered population of Ukraine and activated for the first time the Interim protective mechanism for displaced persons coming from that country. “The citizens of Serbia sympathize with citizens of Ukraine in their wish to return to normal life in which future generations will live without fear of war”, Brnabic concluded in her speech. The conference was organized by Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, in cooperation with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Vucic meets with Brammertz (Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with Chief Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Serge Brammertz on Friday. Brammertz is in Belgrade as part of preparations to submit his next report to the UN Security Council. Vucic and Brammertz discussed cooperation between the Mechanism and Serbia, implementation of a national strategy on punishment for war crimes, judicial cooperation between countries in the region in relevant cases and the issue of finding missing persons. They agreed that Serbia’s cooperation with the Mechanism was good and proceeding continuously with efforts being made by both sides, and that joint programs in the form of training and other forms of support had been helpful in Serbia in the implementation of a strategy on war crimes. Vucic reiterated that Serbia, despite disagreements on some issues, would continue to treat the cooperation in a serious and responsible manner, with emphasis on advancement of regional judicial cooperation, Serbia being sincerely committed to helping reconciliation in the region in that manner, too. Brammertz welcomed Serbia’s role in regional efforts when it comes to punishment for war crimes, and added that Serbia had been very transparent about exchanging indictments and information about investigations, which he said had greatly helped to accelerate proceedings in some cases. Vucic and Brammertz also exchanged views on possibilities for investing further efforts to solve the issue of missing persons as soon as possible to relax regional relations to some extent. Vucic particularly noted Serbia had been taking the issue extremely seriously from the very beginning and that it had demonstrated this with a series of activities but expected the same from other parties as well, the presidential press office said in a statement.
Improvement of cooperation between Office of Prosecutor of Residual Mechanism and judicial organs of Serbia (Tanjug)
Serbian Minister of Justice Maja Popovic met on Thursday with Chief Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Serge Brammertz, who is on a visit to Serbia as part of preparations for his regular biannual report to the UN Security Council. Popovic and Brammertz discussed the improvement of cooperation of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Mechanism with the relevant judicial organs of Serbia, as well as mutual cooperation between the countries of the Western Balkans in war crimes cases. The status of criminal proceedings conducted in Serbia and the issues related to finding missing persons were also examined.
Selakovic: Serbia firmly determined for further improving overall cooperation with India (RTV)
Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic met today with the Ambassador of India Sanjiv Kohli. Noting the traditionally friendly ties and cooperation between our countries, Selakovic pointed out that Serbia is firmly committed to further improving and deepening the overall cooperation with India. The Minister reminded that the relations between the two countries are based on UN principles and the values of the Non-Aligned Movement, and that, as he stated, they are adorned with mutual respect and a high degree of support in the most important issues in international forums. Selakovic especially thanked India for its principled and consistent support for preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, that is, for its firm position on non-recognition of the unilaterally declared independence of the so-called Kosovo, as well as the support it provides us in international organizations. He especially referred to the participation of the Indian delegation at the April session of the UNSC on the work of UNMIK, when, as he reminded, it supported the role and mandate of UNMIK and advocated for its further engagement.
Drecun: I am not an optimist in regard to continuation of dialogue on 13 May (Tanjug/RTV)
The conversation alone is not enough to make progress in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, said the Chair of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun and said that he was not optimistic about the continuation of negotiations on 13 May in Brussels. “In order for there to be progress, an agreement should be reached, at least a preliminary one, so it should be worked out through expert teams and then finally adopted,” Drecun told Tanjug. Commenting on yesterday’s conversation between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Prime Minister of the Provisional Institutions in Pristina Albin Kurti and the EU Special Envoy for Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina Miroslav Lajcak, Drecun pointed out that there had been no progress. He said that immediately after that meeting, one could hear a new request made by Kurti, asking the EU to put pressure on Belgrade to recognize the documents issued by so-called Kosovo, which, as he stated, Serbia will not do, because it would indirectly recognize a false state. He also stated that Kurti came out with the position that Kosovo will apply for membership in the NATO Partnership for Peace program, although, as he said, they do not have an army and are not recognized by all members of this alliance, and that they expect an invitation from the Council of Europe in Pristina to join that European organization. “From only two of Kurti’s statements, you can see not that there was no progress in the talks with Vucic, but that Kurti is going to further strain relations with Belgrade, everything is calculated,” Drecun emphasized. According to him, that leads to a situation when some in the West will say that it is not expedient to talk in such a way and will insist that the dialogue focuses not on fulfilling the already agreed Brussels agreement, including the Community of Serb Municipalities, but on “mutual recognition”, and in Drecun’s opinion, these are also Kurti’s intentions. “As long as the US and key EU countries like Germany initiate mutual recognition, and they know that no government in Serbia will do that, nor will the citizens allow it, there is no way out of that vicious circle,” Drecun said. “You have Miroslav Lajcak, who has been conducting a dialogue in front of the EU, and he has not achieved anything for two years. No result. The security of the Serb people has deteriorated in those two years, we have had hundreds of ethnically motivated attacks on the Serb people,” Drecun recalls. He believes that the Western diplomatic offensive related to the Kosovo issue is the result of the global environment, which is related to the war in Ukraine, because, he says, it is important for Western countries to completely marginalize Russia’s presence and influence in the Balkans. He also stated that the current initiative of Berlin can be interpreted as an attempt of German diplomacy to strengthen Lajcak’s position, and that visits of high German officials and a meeting with Chancellor Scholz were realized, along with his announced visit to Serbia and the region, Germany’s attempt to alleviate its leaders position in the EU compared to France.
Cochard: Serbia’s position on war in Ukraine needs to become clearer (Beta)
French Ambassador to Serbia Pierre Cochard said on 5 May that Serbia needed to take a clearer stance on the war in Ukraine and that Belgrade needed to adopt the EU’s position as far as responding to joint threats was concerned. At a conference called Europe After Presidential Elections in France, in Belgrade, Cochard said that due to the fact that Serbia was a candidate for membership in the EU there “is a need to align” with the EU and that it “is normal for the EU insist on the existence of a joint vision and analysis of what is happening on the continent”.
Cochard also said that it was important that Serbia had recognized Russia’s invasion as a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and had supported the UN General Assembly’s resolution but that “Serbia needs to adopt a clearer position and analysis”. “We know what Serbia experienced in the past and that it has difficult memories where sanctions are concerned. However, there must be a clear position with regard to the fact that what is happening in Ukraine is unacceptable and a violation of international and humanitarian law at the national and international levels,” Cochard said, adding that the European perspective of Western Balkan countries needed to be genuine and that a clear dynamic must be secured.
Giaufret: It would be great if Serbia joined sanctions against Russia (RTV/Beta)
The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret has said that the EU expects Serbia to join its sanctions against Russia and that it would be great if it did that. “The general standpoint is that the Union wants Serbia to be with us. That means Serbia must clearly say that it wants to head toward Europe and form a foreign policy in line with that. Alignment with sanctions (against Russia) is the expectation we have and it would be great if Serbia did that,” Giaufret told Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV). When asked whether imposing sanctions against Russia was a prerequisite for opening a new cluster in Serbia’s accession talks with the EU, Giaufret replied that “it does not always work that way”. “We cannot set preconditions, it is not always automatic. There are certain technical elements that must be met, but for a political decision we have to know that there is a sense that Serbia is going down the European road, that it is expressing solidarity with the policy and goals of the EU. Sanctions are an excellent way to clearly say this, but what is important is the whole message Serbia is sending,” said Giaufret.
He went on to say that he believed Serbia’s future was “with the EU and European values”. “We believe that Serbia wants freedom, democracy, rule of law, prosperity, that people want good environmental standards. The EU offers that, but we are faced with a brutal aggression and we must stand up to it. The EU will impose sanctions that affect its economy and there is a price the Member States and citizens of the EU must pay to support their own and Ukrainians’ freedom. There is no doubt that, in the long run, Serbia’s interests will be with the EU,” added Giaufret.
US Ambassador: No one is an expert on the Balkans (N1)
US Ambassador Christopher Hill said that he doesn’t think anyone is an expert on the Balkans. The Ambassador told N1 that Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic said that Hill is an expert on the Balkans “I replied that I think no one is an expert on the Balkans,” he said, adding that he is learning something every day. Hill said that they discussed Serbia’s desire to join the EU and Belgrade’s efforts. He said that the US administration fully supports Serbia on that road. Hill said that his job is to explain America’s view on all issues. “My role is to explain our position, understand what is happening in Serbia, the views of the government and parliament,” he said.
Israeli Ambassador says Serbia is neighbor (FoNet)
Israeli Ambassador to Serbia Yahel Vilan said that Serbia may not be his country’s neighbor geographically but is its neighbor at heart. “You don’t have to be a historian, poet or prophet to see the similarities between our two people. Our close relations come from a common historic past, current challenges and future dreams,” the Ambassador told a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. He said that the Jewish community was always an integral part of the Serbian people, sharing good and bad times, adding that relations between the two people were never really broken off. The Ambassador recalled that the 30th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations is due to be marked this year. Diplomatic relations between Yugoslavia and Israel were broken off in 1967 and renewed in the autumn of 1991 with the Embassy of Yugoslavia reopened in Tel Aviv in the spring of 1992.
HR Schmidt identifies major threats to stability and integrity in his report to UN Security Council; Report says RS is seriously violating DPA and Cavara is blocking Constitutional Court of FB&H (O Kanal)
In a recent report that he will present to the UN Security Council, High Representative to B&H Christian Schmidt identified major threats to stability and integrity. The report emphasized that the political leadership of RS is seriously violating the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), while the Federation of B&H (FB&H) President Marinko Cavara is blocking the Constitutional Court of the FB&H. The talk of a third entity is increasingly present, which, according to Schmidt, further destabilizes B&H. The new report also stated that the RS authorities are actively working to undermine the state of B&H by paralyzing its institutions. “These actions undermine the constitutional obligations of the state and the institutions established to carry out those obligations, which represents the annulment of key reforms implemented under the General Framework Agreement for Peace. They not only undermine the foundations of the Peace Agreement, but directly threaten to undo more than 25 years of progress in building B&H as a country firmly on the path to EU integration.” Schmidt paid special attention to the events of 6 to 9 January, when a large number of hate speech and threats against Bosniaks took place in Bijeljina, Doboj, Visegrad, Prijedor, Foca, Nevesinje and the Brcko District. Schmidt also mentioned attempts to establish an RS Medicines Agency and that he used the Bonn powers to react to the adoption of the RS Property Law. Schmidt will present his report to the UN Security Council on 11 May. The key issue for B&H in the coming period will be the extension of the EUFOR mission, whose mandate expires in November, noted the reporter. Even though the report is new, the content is familiar, commented the presenter. The report clearly stated that the RS authorities, led by the SNSD leader Milorad Dodik, have been doing everything since 2021 to bring state competencies down to the RS level through adoption of RS laws. Schmidt reminded this is why he used Bonn powers and suspended the Law on Immovable Property of the RS. This is why, as Schmidt said, the structure of the state, established by the DPA, is falling apart. The denial of genocide continued despite the law imposed by the former High Representative to B&H Valentin Inzko, added the reporter. The term ‘political turbulence’ dominated throughout the report. Political turbulence is the most visible in the B&H Presidency where there is no harmonized stance on anything, according to Schmidt who emphasized the aggression on Ukraine. A special part of the report was dedicated to a burning issue, i.e. election reform. Schmidt reminded of a series of failed negotiations, due to which there are mentions of a possible blockade of the election process and dangerous rhetoric of political parties with the Croat determinant. “The lack of agreement mainly between Bosniak and Croat parties in the FB&H on election reforms has prompted Croat parties to question the holding of the 2022 general elections, including denying of election funding. Croat political representatives have suggested that territorial reorganization may be needed, raising tensions due to the war aspirations for a third entity”. Schmidt also touched on the FB&H level of authorities, namely the FB&H government, which was not appointed since 2018, also because of the conditions set by HDZ B&H. Another problem on the FB&H level is the Constitutional Court of the FB&H, i.e. lack of appointment of the judges. “The two vice presidents of the FB&H submitted their final proposals to (the FB&H) President Marinko Cavara and invited him to forward the candidacies to the FB&H parliament. However, Cavara refused to forward the act, blocking the appointment process and leaving the Constitutional Court of the FB&H dysfunctional.” The problem faced by the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) was also highlighted, which called general elections, but the B&H state authorities did not secure the funds. It was especially emphasized that this problem can be solved by the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) with a special decision and without adopting the budget. With all the problems with the election process outlined in the report, it has been made clear on several pages that the holding of elections on October 2 is not in question, noted the reporter.
Dodik: Schmidt’s report on B&H is false report, he is main culprit for situation in B&H (Srna/ATV)
Serb member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik told Srna news agency on Thursday that RS’ efforts to continue exercising certain constitutional competences do not endanger stability in B&H but contribute to it, and that “a false report by a false High Representative (HR) to the UN Security Council (UN SC), written by Muslims, is just proof of false B&H”. Dodik pointed out that “everything has failed in this B&H, which can be seen in the effort to submit a false report of the false HR to the UN SC”. Dodik was quoted noting: “Absurd and false, all next to each other. This false report was actually written in the Muslim offices in Sarajevo and represents their views, and Schmidt is their real spokesman.” Namely, among other things, Schmidt whom ATV referred to as “a HR who is not recognized by the RS”, wrote in the report to the UN SC that the RS authorities are working to undermine B&H, its competences and institutions. Dodik also said that Schmidt is the main culprit for the situation in B&H. He stressed that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is involved in all this as he has submitted with the UNSC “Schmidt’s false pamphlet, regardless of the fact that the UNSC has not confirmed the appointment of Schmidt as the HR”. “This false report attacks only Serbs and Croats, and there is no word about full mosques of youth as security for B&H, or about pro-Bosniaks not being able to tolerate the minority, Serbs and Croats to make decisions,” Dodik concluded. Dodik said that he is surprised that Guterres has submitted with the UNSC Schmidt’s false pamphlet, regardless of the fact that the UNSC has not confirmed the appointment of Schmidt as the HR. “The culmination of that cynicism, a hoax involving the highest level of the world organization, is that Guterres sent that false report to the chairman of the Security Council, claiming that there are some members who do not support the High Representative,” Dodik said, explaining that such a claim is not true because the UNSC never appointed anyone and that is why Schmidt could not write the report. Dodik stressed that no one can dispute the RS’ tendency to continue the path paved by Dayton. Dodik added that the RS government is the most functional body of authority.
RS government adopts 27th RS’ report to UN SC emphasizing full commitment to DPA and calling on international members to respect DPA and rule of law (ATV)
The RS government adopted the 27th report of the RS to the UN SC, emphasizing that the RS is and will remain fully committed to the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), which includes a commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional order of B&H. The report covers the period from October 2021 to May 2022. The report of the RS government, which is undersigned by RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic, has been sent to UN Secretary-General (UN SG) Antonio Guterres and UN SC member countries. The report reads that the RS resolutely demands that members of the international community respect the DPA and the rule of law. The RS emphasizes that the peace that has been in force in B&H since the signing of the DPA has not been endangered in any way, and that the RS consistently and categorically rejects any resort to violence and insists on resolving disagreements in B&H exclusively through peaceful dialogue. “The claims of its opponents that the RS is planning de jure or de facto secession from B&H are false propaganda aimed at attracting support for the anti-Dayton plan to centralize B&H under the exclusive rule of one people,” mentions the document. In addition, the document emphasizes that the decentralized structure of B&H and the mechanisms for the protection of the constituent peoples through which the DPA preserved peace are in no way in conflict with European values, as shown by similar examples across Europe. As it is further stated in the report, the source of B&H’s dysfunction is not the DPA but the illegal subversion of DPA “especially by the Office of the High Representative (OHR)”. According to the RS government, B&H is not helped by the fact that some in the IC do not respect B&H’s democratic procedures and the results of its free elections, and the RS continues to advocate for dialogue in good faith in order to find a solution to the current political crisis in B&H. “Finally, the RS calls on the members of the IC to understand that its moves, aimed at further performing the tasks within its competence given to it by the B&H Constitution, are a simple issue of domestic policy and an attempt to resolve political dysfunction and provocations from political Sarajevo and OHR, which are, in fact, a source of instability in B&H,” reads the report. The RS expressed commitment to B&H’s progress on the path to European integration and believes that B&H can succeed if all key actors, foreign and domestic, finally respect and adhere to the DPA.
EU Delegation urges politicians to secure funding for 2022 General Elections (Glas Srpske)
Spokesperson to the EU Delegation to B&H Ferdinand Koenig stated that politicians in B&H need to cooperate in order to create conditions to hold the General Elections in October. “In line with the election framework of B&H, the 2022 elections is scheduled for 2 October and we expect all political stakeholders in B&H to cooperate in good will in order to secure the funding for the upcoming election in a timely manner”, said Koenig. The EU Delegation also stated that it expects B&H politicians to act with full dedication to the integrity and transparency of the election process.
B&H CEC changes Rules of Procedures on Holding of Elections to prevent election thefts (EuroBlic)
The Central Election Commission (CEC) of B&H changed the Rules of Procedures on Holding of Elections and, among other things, stipulated that voting booths should be facing members of polling station committees and observers, which sparked a debate on whether this will help prevent election thefts. B&H CEC President Suad Arnautovic said that this change was introduced in order to prevent photographing of ballots and so called ‘Bulgarian train’, as well as abuse through assistance of another person in voting. Vehid Sehic from Coalition for Free and Fair Elections ‘Pod lupom’ said that turning voting booths towards observers was a good decision because it will reduce abuse. “Photographing of ballots has turned, in a way, into a usual practice because certain political parties requested their voters to do that in exchange for jobs, money or something else,” Sehic argued. Asked whether this change will jeopardize privacy of voters, i.e. whether there is any fear that observers might see who voters voted for, Sehic said that there is no room for such fear because observers will not be that close to voters. Political analyst Darko Kuzmanovic said that only those who used frauds in past election cycles can oppose the latest change and he rejected claims that privacy of voting will be jeopardized in this way. Kuzmanovic added that the latest change is encouraging but he noted that much more is needed in order to improve election process “primarily introduction of scanners of ballots, personal identification documents and fingerprint as well as introduction of two-round election system for all top positions in the country”.
Dodik: CEC follows policies of Komsic and Izetbegovic; Dodik criticizes Arnautovic’s statement (ATV)
SNSD leader and Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik noted that B&H is already not functioning, and “these few foreigners who are concerned about it is all that is left of B&H”. Dodik assessed that the CEC cannot be trusted and that this can be seen by “an unconstitutional, dangerous and incitement statement” by CEC Chairman Suad Arnautovic, who said that it is unacceptable to vote in the elections based on ethnicities and entities. Dodik noted that the CEC follows the policies of DF leader and Croat member of the Presidency Zeljko Komsic, whom the HNS does not recognize as legitimate representative of Croats claiming he was elected by Bosniak electorate, and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic “and that is why that is a Muslim CEC, that is why Croats are voicing their discontent”. Head of SNSD Caucus in B&H House of Representatives Snjezana Novakovic Bursac stated that Arnautovic’s words completely unmasked B&H CEC and showed what this institution has become. She noted that B&H CEC is supposed to be a technical institution responsible only for the process of election, its members wish to have legislative powers and to create new internal relations. According to Novakovic Bursac, B&H CEC members are encouraged to behave in this way by the political parties whose interests they represent, as well as the judiciary by deciding that there was nothing disputable in appointment of B&H CEC members. She emphasized that all of this represents synchronized action directed by the political center of power in Sarajevo. She noted that interestingly, PDP and SDS fit in this very well. Leader of ‘United Srpska’ Nenad Stevandic stated that B&H CEC is acting like an interested party in the process, and it does not seem to be an unbiased regulator anymore. He underlined that such behavior is unacceptable as it can seriously impact the election process. SP RS leader Petar Djokic said that there have been a long-year attempts to impose a practice in which B&H is modeled through a different structure and relations, reminding that it is well-known that B&H is defined based on ethnic principles through the DPA and this basic principle cannot be changed. DNS leader Nenad Nesic commented that Arnautovic and other competent officials should respect the Constitution of B&H and laws, as long as the current Constitution of B&H and the Election Law of B&H are in effect. On the other hand, SDS leader Mirko Sarovic does not see anything wrong in the CEC’s decisions. Sarovic said: “The CEC is authorized to pass bylaws and some novelties we, too, proposed earlier.”
OHR responds to Covic’s letter by saying that elections must be held according to existing Election Law; Funds for the elections have to be secured (O Kanal)
The Office of the High Representative (OHR) responded to HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic who, after the B&H CEC called elections on Wednesday, sent a letter to many international officials in which he denied that there are conditions for holding the elections without, as Covic said, necessary changes to B&H Election Law. The OHR stated that general elections must be held according to the existing Election Law and that funds have to be secured. The OHR issued a statement which reads: “In the absence of an agreement by political parties on the election reform, the next general elections must, like the previous ones, be held in accordance with the existing legislation. The CEC’s decision to call the general elections on 2 October is a reflection of that commitment. It is now up to the B&H Council of Ministers to fulfill its legal obligation and provide the necessary funds to finance the elections.” The OHR reminded Covic that initiatives for constitutional changes can be implemented only through engagement of all interested parties, under stipulated procedures. Meanwhile, the US Embassy to B&H has conveyed a message that obstructions of financing and holding elections, as well as threats with further division of B&H are anti-Dayton, destabilizing and contrary to the B&H’s Euro-Atlantic path. While the UK Embassy to B&H said that the announcement on territorial reorganization of B&H is seen as destabilization, reminding of sanctions that were recently imposed by the UK against Serb member of B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik. “As the UK has recently shown with the use of sanctions, we take seriously attempts to destabilize or threat B&H,” reads the statement.
SDA Presidency: Covic’s threats related to territorial reorganization of B&H are direct attack on DPA; Izetbegovic: Insulting statements and moves of Milanovic damage relations between B&H and Croatia (Hayat)
The Presidency of SDA convened in Sarajevo on Thursday. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic said that the SDA Presidency believes that the rhetoric, insulting statements and moves of President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanovic are causing damage to the relations between B&H and Croatia and that they represent unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of B&H. Izetbegovic pointed out that Milanovic’s public statements cause additional damage to the relations between Bosniaks and Croats. “I have no more answers about the unwise, insolent policy that comes from Milanovic, from Zagreb, from here in B&H. I am waiting for them to change. It will take time to fix some things, to calm down, for us to finally do what is necessary,” Izetbegovic stressed, adding that he is ready for talks with the Croats. The SDA Presidency also condemned HDZ leader Dragan Covic‘s threats of territorial reorganization of B&H, deeming them as direct attack on the DPA. Izetbegovic referred in particular to Covic’s letter which he sent to the international community representatives after the decision of the B&H CEC to call the B&H general elections. Izetbegovic said that Covic presented a series of untruths, including that Croats are discriminated against. “It is claimed that Bosniaks are attacking the identity, the civic and political rights of Croats. We are here dealing with a situation in which the HNS (the Croat People’s Assembly) is stopping the formation of the government, i.e. the implementation of the election results from three and a half years ago. Now they are telling us that there will be no elections at all. They have blocked filling the Constitutional Court (of the FB&H). Out of one hundred important positions at the state level, Croats have 34, Serbs and Bosniaks have 33, which is against the law,” Izetbegovic underlined. Izetbegovic said that he spoke with High Representative Christian Schmidt over the phone and that Schmidt said that there will be elections. Izetbegovic said that the budget of B&H could be adopted soon after which preparations for this year’s elections would go smoothly. “I believe that we should have a budget in May. I believe that there is readiness and that both HDZ B&H and SNSD are preparing for the elections, as far as I know. These elections are part of the Dayton Agreement and he (Schmidt) is obliged to protect the Dayton Agreement,” Izetbegovic said. Izetbegovic also confirmed that Schmidt will not impose changes to the B&H Election Law. The SDA Presidency adopted 17 conclusions regarding the situation in B&H. They welcomed the decision of the CEC to call the general elections in October and called on the B&H Council of Ministers to urgently consider the situation of financing the BHRT public service. They called on institutions at all levels of government to help the B&H public service to make its functioning unquestionable because it is in the state interest. The SDA Presidency welcomed the report of HR Schmidt to the UN Security Council. “The last attempt of the territorial reorganization by creating Croat’s self-government resulted in an indictment against the then HDZ leader Ante Jelavic, who saved himself from it by escaping to Croatia,” Izetbegovic was quoted as saying. Izetbegovic also said that SDA has never “proposed a Croat Presidency member, nor any Croat in the House of Peoples. Why is it my duty to resolve such an issue? I also do not have the capacity to resolve it, but Milanovic connects me and the issue between civic political parties and HDZ in B&H, and Finland’s NATO membership. I truly do not know how to comment on all that. It is far from reason”. SDA representatives said after the session that it is unclear how come that the legal obligation is an attack on security in B&H, assessing that Covic’s statements according to which Croats performing functions in the FB&H are endangered are untrue. Izetbegovic stated after that holding the general elections in B&H is priority, rejecting the possibility mentioned by Milanovic that HR Schmidt should impose a new election law of B&H. Izetbegovic reminded that he was not in communication with Milanovic for the past six months because after their last meeting Milanovic presented untrue statements on the meeting. He commented on Covic’s letter to the international community, stressing that many things said in the letter are untrue and not based on arguments. Izetbegovic reminded that steps on reorganization of B&H were taken through self-government more than 20 years ago, which was a reason why Jelavic was tried and escaped from B&H. He also reminded that former political leader of the Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia (HZHB) Jadranko Prlic and others in the Prlic et al case were sentenced for attempting to create an ethnically cleansed Croat entity in B&H.
Dzaferovic advises B&H’s neighbors, including Croatia, to leave B&H alone (Hayat)
Hayat carries that creation of a third entity and letter to the international community which HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic sent after the announcement of the elections in B&H are just a basis for further escalation of tensions and blockades. B&H Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic commented on Covic’s intentions on Thursday, advising B&H’s neighbors, including Croatia, “to leave B&H alone”. “We will arrange our relations the way we think we should arrange them. We are an independent, internationally recognized state and they, according to the DPA, have an obligation to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H. We should build good relations with our neighbors, and we will not take any steps to further aggravate this situation… What is being done is in fact interference in the internal affairs of B&H. Elections in B&H will be held as prescribed, there is a law that applies, under the valid Election Law, and I call on all political subjects that want to take part in the campaign to turn to this election process, which practically began yesterday (Tuesday) with the announcement of the elections by the Central Election Commission,” Dzaferovic said.
Komsic: It is high time to say no and that is enough to official Zagreb (Hayat)
B&H Presidency member Zeljko Komsic said on Thursday that it is high time to say “no and that is enough” to official Zagreb. Komsic commented on the statement of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia Gordan Grlic Radman who said that the B&H Central Election Commission cannot make decisions on the implementation of the B&H Election Law. “Whatever Grlic Radman and Milanovic and Plenkovic and the entire Government of the Republic of Croatia, as well as the entire HDZ of Croatia, say and do, let them remember that they will never have a say on any issue in B&H, including the Election Law. In that, they can ask, and even if they get the support of Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Paris, Moscow, Belgrade, Budapest, Beijing, or anyone else in the world, they will not have a say on anything when it comes to B&H,” Komsic was quoted as saying. Komsic stressed that elections in B&H have been, are and will always remain a B&H issue.
Croatian President: Pressure on NATO is crucial for B&H (N1)
President Zoran Milanovic said on Thursday he would like the issue of B&H electoral law to be dealt with by political pressure through NATO, but if that failed, he would support the Croatian National Assembly if it were to initiate the territorial re-organization of B&H. “What they are doing is a serious matter. I would not want it to go in that direction, but if it does, I will support them,” Milanovic told the press in the northern Adriatic city of Pula during a visit to Istria County. He recalled that the HNS had announced this course of action on February 18 and now they only repeated it. “If our politicians, including Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, read what the institutions of the Croatian people in B&H write, rather than deal with futile EU treatises, they might understand something,” Milanovic said. He said he would rather this issue were dealt with in the manner he suggested. “And that is this case of NATO enlargement. This is a moment of truth for Croatia. Either we are a nation or we are not.” Milanovic wants to make Croatia’s support for the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO conditional on changing the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has said several times that he is opposed to the two countries’ NATO membership bids unless the law in B&H, which allows the more numerous Bosniaks to outvote the Croats, is changed. He said that the electoral law issue should be resolved “by pressure, not by blackmail, but by political pressure through NATO.” “Justice should be done. This problem can be solved by a decree by the High Representative. That’s possible,” he added. “I am clear on this. Plenkovic then needs to say, ‘I will do everything for Finland and Sweden to enter NATO. OK, that’s your position, then we know where we stand. Then my room for maneuver is also limited. I cannot block this in NATO on my own. I can tell the ambassador to NATO to block it and Plenkovic can say no. Then the ambassador can abstain from voting, and decisions adopted with abstentions pass,” the President said. Milanovic said that the leader of the Bosniak-majority Democratic Action Party (SDA) Bakir Izetbegovic was under Ankara’s control and that he did as he pleased. He also commented on the forthcoming visit of European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen to Sarajevo and Mostar. “That was arranged by Plenkovic. I guess it will be a funeral party. The woman is coming to lay flowers on the grave. Will she support the Croats and their fundamental rights? Nothing more than that.” “Why is she going to Sarajevo and Mostar – to support the election that was called yesterday by the usurper, the Central Election Commission, or to support the Croatian National Assembly? Not the HDZ,” Milanovic said, adding that the Commission president should have come “two months ago, a year ago”. Speaking of Zeljko Komsic, the Croat member of the B&H Presidency, Milanovic said: “In the case of a just solution, he loses everything. He cannot be a Presidency member anymore. Bakir Izetbegovic can, he is playing a different kind of game. This is a coordinated Bosniak action. They are counting on the Croats’ inferiority in number, because there are not enough Croats.”
Plenkovic and Von der Leyen discusses elections in B&H (HRT1)
On Wednesday the Central Election Commission in Sarajevo decided that the general elections in B&H will be held on 2 October according to the old election law, which means that Bosnian Muslims will elect representatives for the Croat population. The elections will be held according to the existing Election Law, which does not adhere to the rulings of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights as it does not ensure equal voting rights for the Croat people. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic addressed the issue with European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen in Warsaw on Thursday. “I reiterated Croatia’s position that it is not good that elections have been called, while in the meantime no agreement and consensus has been reached between political parties on reforming the election law so that Croats enjoy equal status in B&H. This is a position we have been advocating for years, constantly and firmly, and I think it is clear to our partners that the situation we are in after yesterday’s decision is not good or useful for B&H’s functionality. But we will continue to address the issue and to advocate for the rights of Croats in our talks with them, as we have been doing for years,” the Prime Minister told reporters after his talk with Von der Leyen. President Zoran Milanovic also commented on the crisis in B&H: “It may seem like I’m whining, but I’m not! I will not keep quiet about these things! Yesterday the elections were called in B&H, according to criminal procedure! And now the President of the European Commission will come and laugh in our faces? Would you agree that Covic be the representative of Croats in B&H? I don’t care! And the same goes for (Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad) Dodik. In fact, I see a danger with Dodik, because he is being attacked by Karadzic and Mladic‘s followers! They are the worst of the worst, and they will come to power if Dodik is leaves! Dodik did not persecute Muslims and Croats. For me, at the moment, he is a partner! I have been telling you this for a year now!”
The issue was addressed at a Conference on the Future of Europe event in Mostar yesterday, with participants agreeing that the decision is unconstitutional, and that solutions to return them to a legal framework are available. Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said that the Central Election Commission in Sarajevo cannot assume the prerogative of lawmaker, be the relevant administrative body that adopts and supplements legislation to fill the vacuums created when the Constitutional Court removed those sections as unconstitutional and cannot be the body that will fill seats in the House of Peoples.
Croatian officials react to Milanovic’s proposal to convene National Security Council’s session in relation to CEC’s decision to call general elections in B&H (HRT1)
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic sent a letter to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Wednesday, proposing Plenkovic to convene the National Security Council’s session in relation to the B&H CEC decision to call general elections in B&H. HRT1 reports that the positions of opposition representatives at the Croatian parliament on the possible session are divided. Head of ‘Most’ Caucus Bozo Petrovic said for the media the issue of “survival of Croats in Croatia and B&H is the most important security and political issue. For me, that is the reason for an alarm and for all potential sessions”. Green-Left Bloc representative Bojan Glavasevic said: “We are of view the issue of elections and the situation in B&H is an issue of national interest of the Republic of Croatia, but it is not an issue of national security of the Republic of Croatia. Therefore, we think National Security Council’s session should not be convened to discuss that issue”. HRT1 reports that the opposition also criticized the government, claiming the Croatian government “lobby more strongly for Croats in B&H in the international institutions”. Commenting on this, reporter said the opposition does not have the “legitimacy and legality” to discuss the issue “when they have done nothing, what Milanovic did as the President and the Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister, he attended Komsic’s gatherings”. The reporter concludes by saying that the decision on whether and when the National Security Council’s session will be held is yet to be made.
Covic calls on Milanovic and Plenkovic to try to prevent harsh and organized outvoting of Croat people in B&H while there is still time (HRT1)
The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) issued a statement on Thursday that HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic met with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Croatian President Zoran Milanovic to discuss additional efforts towards the EU and the NATO aimed at ensuring electoral reforms in B&H. Covic called on Milanovic as well as Plenkovic to try to prevent, through international associations, “a harsh and organized outvoting of Croat people in B&H” while there is still time for that. Covic said that the rights of the constituent peoples in B&H cannot be further violated, and that discrimination and inequality need to be eliminated immediately. Covic stated: “If nothing happens in the Election Law issue in these two months, and there is little chance that anything will happen, the Bosniak people who have a majority can also elect the House of Peoples (HoP), the necessary third, which was needed so far to establish executive authority and the President (member of Presidency). That has been practiced several times, and that would mean the end of B&H as such.” “What in the end the concept of our institutional and territorial reorganization will look like, it is a matter of agreement we will make within the HNS. That process starts as of today,” Covic was quoted as saying.
Pendarovski: Mickoski is right when he demands guarantees from Bulgaria before we amend the Constitution (Republika)
President Stevo Pendarovski said that opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski is right when he demands guarantees from Bulgaria before Macedonia amends its Constitution. Mickoski said that his VMRO-DPMNE party will support the requested amendments that would add the Bulgarian nation into the preamble of the Constitution, but only if Bulgaria gives assurances that this is its last request and there will be no more vetoes. Mickoski is correct and in the right when he says that he will not support adding the Bulgarians to the Constitution unless there are guarantees for Macedonia. I have no problem with having the rights of the Bulgarians in Macedonia guaranteed. But in what way do we go about it? They want us to change the Constitution first, but I think this is a type of blackmail. We should be honest and admit that the Macedonian opposition has a good attitude to this issue. The government and the opposition have an identical position when they ask for guarantees, Pendarovski said. He added that Macedonia can’t accept the Bulgarian request and amend the Constitution only to find itself facing new, additional demands.
Xhacka meets her Lithuanian counterpart: Albania is pursuing all the necessary reforms to join the EU (Radio Tirana)
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis is paying a visit to Tirana as part of a Balkan tour and the 30th anniversary of relations between the two countries. He had a meeting with Xhacka, clearly expressing their views about Albania’s European path. “We exchanged views on the importance of this process, not only for our country, but also for the entire Union. I expressed my gratitude to my colleague for the continuous and unwavering support that Lithuania has given and continues to give to Albania and the countries of the Western Balkans. We hope that the EU will decide to hold the First Intergovernmental Conference with our country as soon as possible. However, I assured my colleague Landsbergis that Albania will continue the reform process,” said Xhacka. On the other hand, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister said that Albania is pursuing all the necessary reforms to join the EU. “Certainly, we are following the situation in the region and we are seeing that Albania is contributing and acting in accordance with EU principles. I think it is very important to have further progress and together with North Macedonia to hope that there will be a quick membership of Albania in the EU,” Landsbergis said.