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Belgrade Media Report 16 May 2022

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 16 May 2022

LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic: I won’t give territorial integrity of Serbia at any cost, period (TV Prva/B92)
• Dacic: Number of derecognitions of so-called Kosovo to grow (Tanjug)
• Petkovic: Pristina’s CoE membership bid burden on dialogue (Tanjug)
• Petkovic expects more states to withdraw Kosovo recognition (RTS)
• Lajcak: No agreement on license plates (Tanjug)
• Selakovic: Region needs encouragement (N1)
• G7 ministers urge Serbia to harmonize its foreign policy with the EU (Beta/Politika)
• Djilas: Serbia can’t choose whether to impose sanctions against Russia (Beta)
• State Department: Kosovo, Serbia are sovereign states that determine their own priorities alone (VoA/Beta)
• West fears “second frontline” in Balkans (Politika)
• They took away Kosovo from us, yet they want us to respect Ukrainian borders (Novosti)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• B&H CEC: Deadline for ensuring funds for general elections expires on 19 May (AJB/N1)
• Dodik says he is against postponement of general elections (O Kanal)
• Izetbegovic: We are too far away from agreement regarding Law on Elections (Faktor.ba)
• PDP Main Board endorses candidacy of Trivic for post of RS President (BHT1)
• Kristo: HNS will participate in election because we can fight for rights of Croats only through institutions (Dnevni list)
• Kovacevic: SNSD is not afraid of CEC prohibition, we are ready to win elections; Strika: RS could implement elections on its own (ATV)
• Ljubic: Third entity does not violate principles of DPA (Dnevni list)
• Members of Croat People’s Assembly announces realization of HNS conclusions on territorial reorganization; Reactions (FTV)
• Izetbegovic: Croats already have more power that guaranteed by Constitution, territorial reorganization is not possible (Hayat)
• G7 Foreign Ministers: We will not tolerate secessionist policy of RS, which endangers future of B&H and stability in the region (Dnevni avaz)
• HR Schmidt sends letter to USC authorities, calling for revision of laws related to state and public property (N1)
Croatia
• Croatian President accuses Finland of ignoring Croatia’s interests (HRT1)
• President pushes for veto on NATO expansion (HRT)
• Grlic Radman asks for additional US engagement regarding B&H Election Reform (Hina)
Montenegro
• Abazovic: I’m ready to sign Fundamental agreement with SPC; Open Balkans in line with Berlin process (DW/Nova S)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Nikoloski: Today VMRO will announce its next, tougher steps (Sitel TV)
• Macedonia and Bulgaria call off planned joint meeting of the two governments (Republika)
Albania
• Berlin Ministerial, Xhacka: NATO should open its doors to the Western Balkans and Kosovo! (Radio Tirana)
• Berisha attacks Open Balkans initiative (ADN)
• Mike Pompeo comes to Tirana on the 100th anniversary of Albania-US diplomatic relations (Radio Tirana)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: I won’t give territorial integrity of Serbia at any cost, period (TV Prva/B92)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was hosted on Sunday morning on TV Prva. President Vučić spoke on all current topics. “I would start, if you allow me in a different way, to address the citizens of Serbia. Sometimes in these times, it is wiser to keep quiet regarding certain things”, said Vucic. When asked about sanctions, he said that such things cannot be viewed in isolation. “People, do not act as if nothing is happening around us, and just waiting for us to live better, under the circumstances of an almost declared world war and world conflict,” he said.

“My job is to be realistic, not to lie to people. I don’t want to lie to people in the campaign and promise what can’t be achieved. Whenever you listen to any television, I turn it off because I couldn’t bear the fountain of wishes and the stories how they would endure, I can’t listen to that”, said the President of Serbia. He said that everyone is against it and that he is against imposing sanctions to Russia, but that has nothing to do with running the country, he explained.

 

“The price we pay is huge”

“The price we pay is huge, we essentially have no access to the capital market,” he said.

“Everyone would say that Vucic is announcing the introduction of sanctions. No, we will fight as long as we can to maintain our policy and we are pursuing that policy not because we gain something from not imposing sanctions. This is because I will listen to experts who are pointing out the costs of natural gas, which would be a loss of a billion, while now we are losing billions because of this, not to mention the reduced direct investments and that seven U.S. producers and actors refused to come to make films because we did not impose sanctions on Russia,” said Vucic. He stated that Serbia suffers a lot because it refuses to impose sanctions on Russia and that life in the country would be significantly better if the country decided to do so. However, he said that Serbia will not do this because it has its independent policy. “When they say that they will not violate the integrity of Ukraine, and they are doing exactly that in the case of Serbia, then that is hypocritical,” said Vucic.

 

“When Putin calls on the Kosovo issue, Serbia is the biggest victim”

“When Medvedev and Putin refer to the Kosovo issue, they have no other example than that one. It is not fair to us, but it is to them. They use only what they have. They have extracted a brutal violation of international law and now they are sticking to it”, he said. He explained that Serbia is the biggest victim in all this.

 

“It’s easy to anyone, except to those who have to make decisions”

He says that the constant and growing pressures on Serbia and the talks he is leading are very difficult and that he is worried. “Everything they say, they say three times worse, and I tell them what I tell you three times worse. Well, you can imagine what it looks like,” he said about the pressures that Serbia suffers. “And why would the behavior of Djilas be disputable compared to some others who also never say sanctions, and demand an increase in salaries and pensions. It’s easy to anyone, except to those who have to make decisions,” he said. “Do they want to admit that what Russia has done is much worse than what Serbia has done, and still, they are not bombing Russia, as was the case with Serbia,” said the President of Serbia. Vucic posed the question of why the international community is not bombing Russia now, as it bombed Serbia in 1999, stating that the international community now claims that the current events in Ukraine are “unprecedented on European soil”. “As they say, Ukraine will not give up its integrity at any cost, and then you demand that from Serbia. For Serbia to give up its integrity, it can only happen with a gun to the forehead, and not to me but to our children,” he said. He mentioned that foreign ambassadors cannot and will not lead the policy of Serbia. The essence, as he says, is to deprive Putin of the argument of Kosovo, and the fact that he will break his teeth because of Serbia is not important. “I will ask German government’s special envoy for the Western Balkans, Manuel Saracen why he did not refrain at least a little. Where is your logic. Serbia is a small country, but we are not idiots. Don’t make us idiots,” he said. “You have to understand, they have America’s support for everything. And then the British and Germans supported, the Germans the loudest. For them, Kosovo is a state because they trampled on it and that is why they will continue such a policy. As you can see, I tell them all those arguments straight into their faces. They know all that”, he said.

 

Which four countries withdrew recognition?

When asked why he does not reveal the names of the countries that withdrew the recognition, he answered that it was done in such a way in order to protect Serbia’s position. “Because I do not want to put Serbia in an awkward position. Because there are already two countries that make clans that should work against the policy pursued by Serbia. I have four notes here, but I will not show them. We will continue to work on derecognitions… I will not give the territorial integrity of Serbia at any cost. Period,” he said.

 

Dacic: Number of derecognitions of so-called Kosovo to grow (Tanjug)

 

Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic said on Friday the number of countries to revoke their recognitions of the so-called Kosovo would grow constantly as a result of Belgrade’s fresh campaign aimed at further derecognitions of Pristina’s unilateral declaration of independence. “A continuation of the campaign for derecognitions of ‘Kosovo’ is a logical response to the fact that Pristina does not respect the Washington agreement. That is the response that is hurting them the most. I am certain all Western countries will condemn our derecognition campaign, while no one said a word against Pristina’s request for admission to the Council of Europe,” Dacic told Tanjug. He said Belgrade’s campaign “destroys their concept that it is all over and that Serbia just needs to recognize ‘Kosovo’.” “Nothing is over, and Serbia will not recognize ‘Kosovo’. The situation has changed drastically in recent years – 22 countries have derecognized ‘Kosovo’. Now, the numbers are in our favor – 100 out of 193 UN member states do not recognize ‘Kosovo’,” Dacic said. “Once our derecognition campaign continues, the number will grow constantly because the significance of the principle of territorial integrity is now valued more than ever in the international community. I guess the principle also applies to Serbia and its territorial integrity,” he said.

 

Petkovic: Pristina’s CoE membership bid burden on dialogue (Tanjug)

 

Belgrade’s chief negotiator in the dialogue with Pristina Petar Petkovic, who also heads the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, said Pristina’s Council of Europe (CoE) membership bid had been a burden on Friday’s round of the dialogue. “I took the opportunity to vehemently protest Pristina’s illegal and unilateral decision (to request CoE membership),” Petkovic told reporters after meetings in Brussels. He said he had again had no direct meetings with Pristina’s chief negotiator Besnik Bislimi because Bislimi had refused to discuss the establishment of a Community of Serb Municipalities and the issue of missing persons. Petkovic said the discussions had been difficult, lasting for over eight hours. “But the fact we are here in Brussels today, too, demonstrates that we are responsible and looking after peace and stability in the Western Balkan region,” Petkovic said. Petkovic said the discussions had addressed major issues and the Community of Serb Municipalities, whose formation he noted was nearly 10 years overdue because of Pristina’s refusal to implement agreements. He said energy, vehicle license plates and the issue of missing persons had been discussed as well.

 

Petkovic expects more states to withdraw Kosovo recognition (RTS)

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic told RTS on Saturday that he expects more withdrawals of the recognition of Kosovo. “We managed to secure 18 withdrawals of recognition from those countries that previously recognized so-called Kosovo, that number has now increased to 18 plus four, and it will certainly increase even more,” Petkovic pointed out. Petkovic said that the negotiations that took place between Belgrade and Pristina on Friday did not fail. “Don’t fall into Pristina’s trap, they are the ones who want the dialogue to fail. That’s how they worked all these months, that’s how they worked yesterday. The fact that Bislimi does not want to talk directly with our side shows that they do not want to agree on anything with us,” he said, adding that Kosovo negotiators refused to talk about the establishment of Community of Serb Municipalities. “All the time, they keep talking about missing persons, but when we need to agree on something concrete, they withdraw,” he said, adding that yesterday’s talks were burdened by the fact that so-called Kosovo submitted a request for membership in the Council of Europe. “I took the opportunity and reacted sharply against that unilateral and illegal move by Pristina because that is not the way to talk if the Brussels and Washington agreements are violated because you cannot achieve any goal without taking into account Belgrade if there is no agreement on it,” he said. “The mentors of so-called Kosovo are pushing the narrative of membership in the Council of Europe. But we will fight even though we are a small country and we will never leave our people behind in Kosovo and Metohija,” Petkovic said.

 

Lajcak: No agreement on license plates (Tanjug)

 

The EU special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak announced that Friday’s round of discussions with Belgrade and Pristina delegations in Brussels had produced no deal on vehicle license plates. “Results are mixed. Regrettably, no agreement was reached on license plates, however we made progress on other files including energy. The work will continue,” Lajcak wrote in a post on his official Twitter account.

 

Selakovic: Region needs encouragement (N1)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic told European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi in Brussels on Monday that the Western Balkans need encouragement on the European path. A Foreign Ministry press release quoted Selakovic as telling Varhelyi that accession to the EU is Serbia’s foreign policy priority and strategic determination. It said that they also discussed the situation in Ukraine and the region and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue but did not mention possible sanctions against Russia. “The minister said that Belgrade is fully committed to the dialogue with Pristina but that the commitment of the other side is doubtful, especially bearing in mind Pristina’s application for membership in the Council of Europe which does not contribute to the normalization of relations,” the press release said. Selakovic said that maintaining the stability of the region and intensifying cooperation is one of Serbia’s crucial interests.

 

G7 ministers urge Serbia to harmonize its foreign policy with the EU (Beta/Politika)

 

The G7 praised Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia for fully aligning their foreign policies with the EU, including the introduction of sanctions on Russia and their implementation, and called on Serbia to do the same. The G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union urged Kosovo and Serbia to “engage constructively in the EU-facilitated Dialogue, to fully implement all past agreements with no delay, and to normalize their relations through a comprehensive and legally binding agreement, which will allow for the realization of their respective European perspectives, contribute to regional stability and benefit all people in the region.” They reaffirmed their commitment to the European perspective of the six Western Balkan countries “to ensure the security, stability and prosperity of the region”. “We welcome that the Western Balkans stand united in condemning Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, especially in the UN General Assembly (UNGA). We commend Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia for fully aligning their foreign policies with the EU, including sanctions and their implementation. We urge Serbia to do the same,” the G7 statement said.

 

Djilas: Serbia can’t choose whether to impose sanctions against Russia (Beta)

 

Freedom and Justice Party leader Dragan Djilas said on 14 May that, “In principle, the party does not favor introducing sanctions against Russia,” but that in its current position “Serbia can’t choose”. After a session of his party’s main board in the MTS Dvorana event center, Djilas told reporters that he expected a new vote for Belgrade’s parliament, and that December and March were mentioned as possible dates during a meeting with the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic who is also leader of the Serbian Progressive Party. Djilas underlined that Serbia was part of Europe and a candidate for the EU, which was why he expected Serbia to support the Union’s stance on Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

 

State Department: Kosovo, Serbia are sovereign states that determine their own priorities alone (VoA/Beta)

 

Kosovo and Serbia are two sovereign states entitled to define the priorities of their respective foreign policies alone, an anonymous spokesperson for the US Department of State said for the Voice of America (VoA) on 13 May, responding to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s claim that Pristina had broken the Washington agreement with a move to join the Council of Europe. The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo at the time signed two separate documents included in the Washington agreement at the White House in September 2020, agreeing to build economic ties. The agreement also involved a political segment which placed a one-year moratorium on Pristina seeking membership in international organizations and on Belgrade’s de-recognition campaign against Kosovo. “The moratorium was designed to expand room for talks and compromise between Kosovo and Serbia, which we believe was in the best strategic interest of both. We still believe that the EU-mediated normalization dialogue is key to the European future of both states. We are urging them to urgently take a flexible and serious role in the process,” the State Department spokesperson said when asked by the Voice of America. In September 2021, shortly ahead of the expiration of the moratorium, the State Department encouraged Kosovo and Serbia to keep the moratorium on issues that had complicated progress in technical areas. After Kosovo Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz’s motion to apply for a seat in the Council of European on 12 May, President Vucic said in Belgrade that Pristina had “brutally violated” the Washington agreement.

 

West fears “second frontline” in Balkans (Politika, by Mladen Kremenovic) 

 

In past months, Sarajevo-based politicians have been repeatedly warning of the danger of destabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), and possibly even a new war, as well as allegedly growing influence of Russia. In a recent interview for a Dutch newspaper, B&H Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic warned that because of Russia’s efforts to destabilize B&H, it is necessary that the country joins the EU. However, notes the daily, such grim warnings and fearmongering have been present long before the war in Ukraine started. Bosniak politicians harshly criticized the conclusions of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament on restoration of entity’s competences, and even accused the RS of preparing for a new war. When the war in Ukraine broke out, Bosniak politicians decided to use the opportunity to increase their efforts to spread panic, and they started talking about Russian influence. Western media interpreted the claims about the alleged Russian malign influence as alleged intention of Russia to open a new war frontline in the Balkans. The daily notes that Serbian military and security analysts agree that this is not a likely option at all. However, provocations continue coming not only from B&H, but also from Kosovo. Kosovo officials refuse any dialogue with Belgrade, and Kosovo is moving its armed forces to the northern borders of the province. At the same time, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic claims that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is fighting for B&H as well. Ukrainian media have joined these efforts to spread fear of a possible spillover of Ukraine war to the Balkans. The Kyiv Post newspaper recently published an article about Serbian imperialistic intentions supported by Moscow which are allegedly targeting both Kosovo and B&H. Kosovo Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla recently stated that the Ukraine war could encourage Serbia to launch military action against Kosovo and that Western Balkans could be the next crisis hotspot. German magazine Spiegel also published an article warning that a new conflict is looming in B&H 30 years after the last bloody war which took over 100,000 lives. The article warns about the alleged Moscow-Belgrade-Banja Luka axis, and reminds that SNSD leader Milorad Dodik used the words “long live Russia, long live Serbia, long live Srpska” in a speech held in Bijeljina. Spiegel also warns that separatists from the RS can count on support of Russia and that Dodik has been intensifying his efforts to secede from B&H with the support of Moscow. The German newspaper speculates that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the same tactics as in Donetsk or Lugansk to create a new crisis in B&H. According to Spiegel, Dodik receives instructions from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov or Ambassador Igor Kalabukhov on a regular basis, but Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has the final say in the “Serb camp”. The daily notes that Western media are frequently talking about opening of a “second frontline” in Europe, whereby Vucic will use the presence of Serb people in other countries in the Balkans to initiate a new crisis. On the other hand, Dodik dismisses any possibility of a new war. He recently reminded that he never mentioned the possibility of war and that the RS did not pass any decisions on secession. According to Dodik, he and other RS politicians merely warned that violations of B&H Constitution could lead to dissolution of the country.  He reiterated that the RS advocates full respect for the original Dayton Peace Agreement and B&H Constitution, according to which all competences which are not given to the state automatically belong to the entities, and this includes defense, taxation and judiciary.

 

They took away Kosovo from us, yet they want us to respect Ukrainian borders (Novosti, by D. Milinkovic) 

 

Ministers of G7 member countries (USA, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) held a meeting in Germany over the weekend and issued a press statement after the meeting. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that parts of this press statement, especially related to RS, are ‘brutal’ and he argued that the press statement deals with events in the eastern part of Europe but, in fact, targets the Western Balkans, i.e. Serbia and RS. The daily noted that the G7 countries’ press statement, among other things, argued that Kosovo and Serbia should constructively get engaged in a dialogue with mediation of the EU and fully implement all previous agreements, Serbia must impose sanctions against Russia, B&H’s decision to impose sanctions against Russia is welcome, the secessionist policy of the RS will not be tolerated as it jeopardizes the future of B&H and region and G7 will assist the Western Balkans to reduce its dependence on Russia’s energy sources.  Vucic said that he will defend territorial integrity of Serbia at any cost and announced that he will respect stances of G7 countries which said that they will not allow jeopardizing of territorial integrity of Ukraine. “I will never recognize one-sidedly proclaimed independence of Kosovo. There, I took Euro-Atlantic principles and now I will strictly apply them”, Vucic added. Vucic also said that the G7 press statement ‘opened his eyes’ and once again unveiled “hypocritical and unprincipled policy carried out by the world’s most powerful players”. As for the stance of Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev who said that Russia “does not care G7 refuses to recognize changes of Ukrainian borders” and reminded of the precedent of Kosovo, Vucic said that Russia cares only about its own interests and has no other alternative but to rely on Kosovo case. “Is that fair? Not to us, but I am not sure I would do anything different if I were in their shoes”, Vucic added. Minister of Interior of Serbia Aleksandar Vulin too said that he is glad to see that G7 said “the territorial integrity of all countries is sacred” and he added: “It is impossible that G7 members would advocate inviolability of territorial integrity of Ukraine while recognizing and supporting breaking of Serbia in pieces”. Vulin also said that he is glad they are returning to the principles of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) and that they will correct “the unintentional mistake, because they failed to mention (SDA leader) Bakir Izetbegovic and SDA in the context of accusations for destroying of B&H’s constitutional order, knowing that they were asking for abolition of the RS and prohibited Croats to elect their own representatives”. Political analyst Dragomir Andjelkovic told the daily that it is “cynical” to see that G7 countries, which all participated “in the NATO aggression on Serbia and occupation of a part of our territory”, are now calling Belgrade to impose sanctions against Russia because of what they claim to be a violation of international law. “If they want to encourage Serbia to join their policy, for start they should admit that they carried out the aggression and revoke recognition of false state of Kosovo,” Andjelkovic said and added that, at the same time, those countries are attacking the RS “which is devoted to the DPA and they accuse it of violation of this Agreement while, in fact, it is favorites of those G7 countries and even some of those countries that are violating it”. Vucic stated for TV Prva that B&H also introduced sanctions against Russia while Serbia is the only one that sticks to principles. He said that a press release of G7 Foreign Ministers – that demands from countries in the region to join the policy of sanctions of the EU towards Russia – was tailor-made only for Serbia.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

B&H CEC: Deadline for ensuring funds for general elections expires on 19 May (AJB/N1

 

The Central Election Commission (CEC) of B&H reminded on Sunday that funds to finance the general elections scheduled for 2 October need to be ensured by 19 May. The CEC called on decision makers in B&H to meet their legal obligation and ensure funds within the legal deadline to hold the elections. The CEC stressed that it will act in line with provisions of the Election Law of B&H and strictly comply with all legal regulations and the set deadlines. B&H CEC passed on May 4 the decision to call and hold the general elections in B&H on 2 October and set a 15-day deadline before the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H to ensure some 6.4 million Euros to finance implementation of the elections. AJB reminded that representatives of the international community and the OHR have requested from the B&H CoM and B&H Ministry of Finance several times to ensure funds for the elections. The CEC concluded that the B&H authorities should ensure uninterrupted conducting of democratic processes, despite attempts of blockades. The B&H CEC sent a warning to the B&H CoM on Sunday that the deadline for the ensuring of funds for general elections ends in four days. N1 carries that the B&H CoM has not convened any sessions in the next days during which the B&H Budget or the decision for the financing of elections will be discussed. President of the B&H CEC Suad Arnautovic said that if the B&H CoM cannot meet in person, they can adopt all necessary decisions by Thursday via telephone sessions. Chairperson of the CoM Zoran Tegeltija is visiting USA at the moment and he is supposed to return by 20 May. MP of SDA in the B&H Parliament Alma Colo said that she hopes that the budget can be adopted in the B&H Parliament by May 19, but no sessions were convened. She added that the possibility of the prolongation of elections exists, similarly to how it happened in 2020. The public speculates that B&H Minister of Finances Vjekoslav Bevanda (HDZ B&H) is obstructing the adoption of the decision for financing. Delegate in the B&H Parliament Marina Pendes (HDZ B&H) said that she does not understand where the obstruction comes from and added that the B&H budget needs to be adopted first. She said that Bevanda is not to blame for the failure of authorities to adopt the budget. N1 reminds that more than one month ago foreign ambassadors and High Representative Christian Schmidt sent a letter to the leadership of the B&H CoM. The letter states that if the decision for the financing of elections is not adopted, despite clear indicators that B&H has the necessary funds, the international community will uphold necessary instruments to support the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) and protect conducting of the general elections.

 

Dodik says he is against postponement of general elections (O Kanal

 

SNSD leader and member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said Friday that he is against postponement of the general elections. “The elections should be held on the 2nd (of October). The experiences we had with the postponement of the local elections have shown that there is more harm than good from postponement,” Dodik underlined.

 

Izetbegovic: We are too far away from agreement regarding Law on Elections (Faktor.ba

 

SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic gave an interview for faktor.ba portal in which he said there is no legislative framework for adoption of changes to the Law on Elections because the Central Election Commission of B&H called the elections some ten days ago. “And we are too far away from an agreement,” added Izetbegovic who went on to say that HDZ B&H’s proposal from two weeks ago is unconstitutional, ignores judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and each recommendation of the OSCE, the ODIHR and the Venice Commission. The SDA leader further noted that HDZ B&H leadership had too ambitious plans when it comes to changes to the electoral legislation and a wrong strategy how to achieve the plans, which was based on blockades of the Federation of B&H, cooperation with SNSD and pressure on SDA and the Bosniaks. Asked if the EU officials do come to visit B&H, what would be the topics of conversation, Izetbegovic replied by saying B&H’s progress of the European path will have the priority, in other words blockaded and artificial crisis that bring the progress into question. “We will insist on the status of candidate for B&H, we have a new momentum and a new chance. It is unavoidable to talk about changes to the electoral legislation as well, but it is certain there will be no pressures and attempts to work on that before the elections. We had some preparatory meetings with their advisors from which one can clearly see this approach and priorities”, said Izetbegovic. The SDA leader accused HDZ B&H and SNSD staff of intentional blockades in terms of adoption of a decision pertaining to financing of this year’s general elections. In this context Izetbegovic accuses Finance Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda and CoM Chairman Zoran Tegeltija of making intentional obstructions, stressing that the High Representative (HR) and judicial bodies in B&H have the obligation to punish unconstitutional and illegal actions, whilst the HR also have the obligation to impose certain decisions that would allow functioning of parts of the Dayton agreement dealing with holding the elections.

 

PDP Main Board endorses candidacy of Trivic for post of RS President (BHT1

 

The Main Board of PDP endorsed on Saturday the candidacy of PDP Vice-President Jelena Trivic for the post of RS President in this year’s general elections. The Main Board also defined leaders of the candidate lists for all constituencies in the RS parliament and the B&H parliament, except for the constituency number two. The Main Board also passed a decision to endorse a candidate of SDS for the Serb member of the B&H Presidency.

 

Kristo: HNS will participate in election because we can fight for rights of Croats only through institutions (Dnevni list

 

B&H House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Borjana Kristo (HDZ B&H) stated that the parties of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) must participate in political processes because they can fight for the political rights of Croats in B&H only through institutions. Kristo said that HNS will participate in the 2022 General Election and it will follow the activities of the election calendar, while at the same time HNS will be doing all in its power to make sure that conditions for election are secured. She underlined that despite all anomalies, HNS can prove, by participating in the election and displaying unity of the Croat political parties, that Croats are a constituent people and that B&H is only possible as a state of three constituent peoples and other citizens who live in the state. Kristo said that although the 2022 General Election was called in line with the Election Law, it was called by the illegal body named Central Election Commission at a moment when there are no legal or political conditions to hold a fair, transparent election and implement the election results. She underlined that election results cannot be implemented because portions of the Election Law were annulled by B&H Constitutional Court.

 

Kovacevic: SNSD is not afraid of CEC prohibition, we are ready to win elections; Strika: RS could implement elections on its own (ATV

 

Spokesperson of SNSD and adviser of Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, Radovan Kovacevic stated for ATV that SNSD is not afraid of a prohibition of the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) and that this party is ready for the elections. According to Kovacevic, SNSD is ready to win the elections and they are convinced in this kind of an outcome. He argued that the CEC is exclusively in the function of only SDA and the Bosniak political structure. Leader of the ‘Narodna partija Srpske’ Darko Banjac stated that the Constitution of B&H and the B&H Election Law disable the idea of part of the international community and President of the B&H CEC to “create” representatives of RS in line with their wishes. He argued that the B&H CEC has the right to call the elections but not to interfere in selection of candidates. In his opinion, the point is that they want to remove some names from lists of candidates and according to Banjac, this represents undermining of the constitutional order of B&H and the ruling coalition will never accept this. Vice President of the SP Davor Strika argued that the RS could implement the elections on its own and he announced that the RS will use all of its legal and political options to protect its interests. Strika said that there is a certain communication between the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the B&H CEC and the political Sarajevo and the three reference points generate and create problems in B&H, characterizing them as “the Bosnian triangle” modelled on the Bermuda triangle. Strika explained that political logic, rationality and the wish for this country to move forward went missing in “the Bosnian triangle”. According to guests of the ATV, the current leadership of the B&H CEC should resign or be removed for presentation of political stances and for interfering in the election process and professionals should replace them because the biggest priority of citizens of the RS and the Federation of B&H is to hold transparent and democratic elections.

 

Ljubic: Third entity does not violate principles of DPA (Dnevni list

 

Chairman of the Main Council of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) Bozo Ljubic stated that the third entity in B&H is in spirit of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). When it comes to the letter of HNS President Dragan Covic in which Covic announced that the HNS would initiate all legal procedures and political steps for new institutional and territorial organization of B&H in case there is no agreement of parity in the authorities in the Federation of B&H, Ljubic said that the rights of constituent peoples are more important than rights of the entities, and that the entities are consequence or expression of rights of each of three constituent peoples to certain form and degree of institutional and territorial autonomy. Ljubic further noted that “owing to the mentioned decision of the Constitutional Court, it is legitimate that B&H has two, three or five entities, just as it is legitimate that there is not a single one if legitimate political representatives of the three constituent peoples agree with it”.

 

Members of Croat People’s Assembly announces realization of HNS conclusions on territorial reorganization; Reactions (FTV

 

FTV carries that HDZ B&H is announcing a new proposal in the B&H House of Peoples (HoR) and the goal is territorial reorganization of the state of B&H in line with the conclusions of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS). Delegate in the B&H HoP Barisa Colak (HDZ B&H) announced that realization of HNS’s conclusion related to territorial and institutional reorganization of B&H, which was adopted in February and frequently mentioned in recent days, could finally be launched. HNS representatives are justifying it with the principles of federalism, while the goal remains the same – legitimate representation. “Legal and political steps need to be taken here, and without any doubt, these steps must be in accordance, above all, with European standards and international conventions. Of course, they must be in accordance with the Constitution of B&H as well. Everything else would of course lead to something that could cause even greater tensions in B&H, and of course we are aware that we cannot do it alone, that we need the political will of others in B&H for that,” Colak underlined. Delegate in the B&H HoP Lidija Bradara (HDZ B&H) said “we are too serious for it to be sent to the parliamentary procedure just like that.” “You must know the Constitution and the constitutional structure of B&H and we will not do anything contrary to the Constitution,” Bradara said. Leader of HDZ 1990 Ilija Cvitanovic said that already at the next session of the Federation of B&H (FB&H) Parliament, he will begin the process of bringing the cantons closer together, which could eventually lead to a merger. “We have representatives at the level of the FB&H, so we will initiate all procedures that should be initiated if there is further usurpation of Croat positions, i.e. if someone takes it upon himself to try to form the authorities at the level of the FB&H and B&H without legitimate representatives of the Croat people, through the imposed third in the FB&H HoP, i.e. if someone takes it upon himself to try to take the B&H HoP from Croats by force,” Cvitanovic was quoted as saying. SDA’s Alma Colo stated that territorial organization of B&H is defined by the Constitution, and it cannot be changed. DF’s Enver Bijedic stated that the only legal way to reorganize B&H is through a decision of the Parliament, which is not likely to be passed because such decision would require a two-thirds majority. He underlined that a peaceful division of B&H is not possible.

 

Izetbegovic: Croats already have more power that guaranteed by Constitution, territorial reorganization is not possible (Hayat

 

Commenting on the fact that HDZ B&H disputes the B&H Central Election Commission (CEC) and threatens with blockade of the elections and with territorial reorganization of B&H, i.e. reviving of the so-called ‘Herzeg-Bosnia’, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic stated that HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic does not need – as he assessed it – “this cynical blockade”. In his opinion, Covic should not be doing this and he should also not join SNSD leader Milorad Dodik in terms of meeting some wartime goals. Izetbegovic reminded that people – the entire former leadership of the so-called ‘Herzeg-Bosnia’ – are currently serving prison sentences in The Hague for an attempt to create an ethnically-clean Croat entity in B&H. He underlined: “Does he really think that he can go in reviving of this kind of a project and that this is reachable when it was impossible in 1992? Croats really live good with Bosniaks and at this moment, they hold over 100 posts, ministerial, director’s posts etc. which is way beyond what the Constitution (of B&H) guarantees them. I believe that the people are not ready to go in this direction and I believe that there is no capacity for such thing. I do not think that this is a real policy and that Croats will follow it.” In his opinion, Covic convinced himself that parties gathered around the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) have the right to one-third of all posts at all levels of power which in his opinion, is groundless as the parties win way less votes in the elections. Izetbegovic argued that the HNS has no right to legitimate representation of Croats in B&H and to be represented in the aforementioned way because this would be discrimination towards others and domination over those who represent the majority. He said: “Mr. Covic managed to convince himself and others that he is entitled to do this.” Izetbegovic assessed that Covic and Dodik are actually trying to secure two-thirds in relation towards the Bosniaks – as a majority – in order to outvote them. According to Izetbegovic, things should get better and the situation will ease up following the general elections in B&H in October. Izetbegovic assessed that B&H Minister of Finance and Treasury Vjekoslav Bevanda (HDZ B&H) will not propose the budget for 2022 in terms of securing the money for holding of the elections and in his opinion, it is up to the HR to do this. He added: “His obligation is implementation of the Dayton Agreement and this is one of the most important segments, i.e. elections. He can impose a decision and allocate the necessary funds that will enable to continue the process.” According to Izetbegovic, the HR Schmidt will face many tests and he will need big wisdom for all this. Speaking about statements of Croatian President Zoran Milanovic at expense of B&H and B&H officials and asked if he is surprised that Milanovic actually promotes policy of late Croatian President Miroslav Tudjman, Izetbegovic stated that his insulting statements towards B&H are well-planned and he actually relies on the Russian policy. In this regard, he reminded that Milanovic said he will stop Finland to join the NATO which is according to Izetbegovic, the goal of Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Commenting on claims that B&H should be given a status of the EU candidate as soon as possible, Izetbegovic said that reactions of the IC are slow adding that the IC is currently worried about the situation in Ukraine, the energy crisis that it causes, the global inflation. In his opinion, the IC is also taking into account the Balkans but the reactions are not as they should be. Izetbegovic said that the IC should change its criteria, i.e. the 14 recommendations, adding that there should be a special program for Ukraine, for B&H and for the entire Balkans for speeding up the EU integration. He argued: “If they decide to go in this direction and I believe they will, they should catch up the time lost in the past decade.” Asked when B&H may join the NATO, Izetbegovic said that there should be readiness within B&H and consensus of “important sides” to launch this process or else, this may cause new problems within B&H. He also argued that there is an option that the EU and the NATO and the entire West decide to make some cuts, i.e. enter a semi-war situation when it comes to the Balkans and in this case, B&H could join the NATO right away. Izetbegovic confirmed that he will be a candidate of SDA for the seat of a member of the B&H Presidency if the party proposes him adding that SDA still did not begin with proposing candidates for any level of power.

 

G7 Foreign Ministers: We will not tolerate secessionist policy of RS, which endangers future of B&H and stability in the region (Dnevni avaz

 

Ministers of Foreign Affairs of G7 (Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, UK and USA) issued a joint statement, stating they will not tolerate the secessionist policy of RS, which endangers future of B&H and stability in the region. The statement was issued after the three-day meeting in Germany. “We are concerned about the deepening political crisis in B&H and condemn any attempt to undermine the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. We will not tolerate RS’s secessionist policies, which endanger B&H’s future and the stability in the region. We urge the return to full functionality of governments at all levels, to resume their work fully, putting aside divisive and inflammatory rhetoric and avoiding any act that could destabilize B&H. We call upon all parties in the country to ensure that general elections are held as foreseen in October. We fully support the mandates of the High Representative Christian Schmidt. We fully support the executive mandate of the EUFOR ALTHEA operation to maintain a safe and secure environment in the country.”

 

HR Schmidt sends letter to USC authorities, calling for revision of laws related to state and public property (N1

 

High Representative (HR) in B&H Christian Schmidt has sent a letter, calling on the relevant institutions in the Una-Sana Canton (USC) to initiate a revision process for existing laws and regulations related to different categories of the state and public property. N1 reports that, in his letter, Schmidt reminded that the B&H Constitutional Court (CC) assessed the constitutionality of several RS laws that regulate the issue of state property and established violations in several instances, i.e. individual provisions in the said laws are not in line with the B&H Constitution. According to information obtained by N1, similar letters will be sent to other cantonal prime ministers.

 

Croatian President accuses Finland of ignoring Croatia’s interests (HRT1

 

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic on Friday accused Finland of “ignoring Croatia’s interests for years” and reiterated that he would continue fighting for the rights of Croats in B&H because he considers that an exceptionally good security reason for Croatia. Milanovic’s support for Finland and Sweden’s NATO entries is conditional on a reform of the Election Law in B&H. Milanovic stressed that he would not give up fighting for the rights of Croats in the neighboring country. “I have no choice. I must fight for the basic rights of Croats in B&H peacefully. There is no other option,” he said. Croatian parliament speaker Gordan Jandrokovic said on Friday that it would not be wise to block Finland and Sweden on their NATO path and that that would mean working to the benefit of Russia, and Milanovic told him “it is not a matter of wisdom but a matter of national interest”. Jandrokovic warned that a veto would bring negative consequences. “To block Finland and Sweden means to work in favor of Russia. And I believe this is not a wise proposal. I believe that that decision would, if Croatia ought to really block the entry of those two countries, damage the international position and reputation of the Republic of Croatia, and it would not, in any way, help the Croats in B&H,” Jandrokovic told the reporters. In his response to this, Milanovic said “this is not a matter of wisdom” but a “matter of national interests”. “I am not wise. I am short-tempered, impulsive, untamed. Well, what can you do. But I am fighting for what is mine”, Milanovic emphasized, adding that Jandrokovic should be wise and then “go to Finland, to elections”. After Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto commented Milanovic’s statements on Thursday and said that he is shocked by it, Milanovic responded on Friday. “We remain in shock for several years now due to your ignorance and arrogance. We are shocked because they do not care about us, at all. For years,” Milanovic stressed. Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman says Milanovic caused political damage to Croatia, and he says situation in B&H cannot be connected to the announced moves of Finland and Sweden. Grlic Radman said he does not want for Croatia to be presented as an “incident country” within the NATO alliance, which is why Milanovic must stop with his reckless statements. Milanovic concluded that if he and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic were “on the same page” when it comes to this issue, then he is sure that the “problem would be resolved immediately”, referring to the matter of changes to the B&H Election Law. “I have no choice; I must fight for the basic rights of Croats in B&H, through peaceful means. There is no other way,” the Croatian President underlined.

 

President pushes for veto on NATO expansion (HRT

 

President Zoran Milanovic, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said on Friday that he and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic needed to come together in insisting on changes to the electoral law in B&H as a condition for further NATO expansion. The ruling coalition government, led by Plenkovic, is a strong proponent of assuring that Croats are on equal footing with the other two constituent peoples in B&H but they differ strongly from the president when it comes to using the country’s veto on NATO expansion in order to achieve it. Milanovic said he wasn’t giving up on his ultimatum, saying he had no choice but to fight for the fundamental rights of Croats. “If the HDZ and I were united, we would immediately be taken very seriously and I guarantee the situation would be resolved. The changing of the electoral law in B&H is the guarantee that Croatia seeks. Finland’s desire to join NATO is just like our desire to resolve the issues in B&H. The difference is that we’ve been talking about this issue for years. We are behaving like we’re not even a country. With this issue we have hit a moral rock bottom,” said the President. Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic responded to the remarks, saying they would harm Croatia on the international stage. “Blocking Finland and Sweden will play right into Russia’s hands. I don’t think this is a good move. If Croatia were to actually block the accession of those two countries, it would destroy Croatia’s international position and reputation, and would in no way help Croats in B&H,” said Jandrokovic. The Foreign Ministry repeated on Thursday that Croatia unconditionally supports the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO. In a stark rebuke to a statement made the day before by President Milanovic, the foreign ministry assured that Croatia’s ambassador to NATO would follow the government’s instructions regarding enlargement, not those of the president. “This is the government’s prudent and reasonable position which is in line with our commitments to NATO membership, which is in line with our support for an open door policy, and which is in line with our own national interest. We do not want to a state that causes problems, but rather a state that shares the values and commitments that come with both EU and NATO membership,” said Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman. The permanent representative to NATO receives his instructions from the ministry, which is the usual procedure and will be so in this case also, the ministry said, adding that in the case of the NATO accession of Finland and Sweden, Nobilo will act in line with the ministry’s instructions. “He is in the service of protecting national interests, which are clear in this case. By enlarging NATO, we are strengthening our own security,” the statement said. Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said it was important that the ratification process in all 30 NATO member states goes smoothly. “Croatia is an important member of NATO and the European Union. I called the Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs and asked him what he thought, and he said that the Croatian government and parliament support Finland’s membership in NATO. We would not like some issues that are not related to Europe’s security to be related to our accession to NATO,” said Haavisto.

 

Grlic Radman asks for additional US engagement regarding B&H Election Reform (Hina

 

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman on Sunday asked at a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for additional US engagement on the election reform in B&H, warning that otherwise radicalization was possible in the country. “I told the US Secretary of State that we are very much concerned about the missed chance to amend the B&H election law. I also warned of possible radicalization of the situation after the elections,” Grlic Radman told reporters. He added that he had asked Blinken that the US enhance its presence and help ensure agreement between local Bosniak and Croat leaders on rules for general elections to be held in October. The two officials were attending an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of NATO member-countries which again supported Ukraine in the fight against the Russian aggression. “All the ministers reiterated their solidarity and expressed readiness for stronger engagement, not only by individual countries but by NATO as a whole,” said the Croatian minister. He stressed that NATO was not a party to the conflict but that it supported Ukraine’s “just and defensive war”. At a meeting with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana, Grlic Radman guaranteed full support to Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO. “We discussed also the pace of the procedure and I believe the issue could be resolved before the NATO summit to be held in Madrid in June,” Grlic Radman said. He repeated that he believed the doubts Turkey has expressed regarding the accession of Finland and Sweden would soon be removed through talks.

 

Abazovic: I’m ready to sign Fundamental agreement with SPC; Open Balkans in line with Berlin process (DW/Nova S

 

In an interview for DW, Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic has said that the Open Balkans initiative is in line with the Berlin process, noting that he’s ready to sign the Fundamental Agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church. “The two are compatible. The problem is that the people from the Western Balkans try to add drama over every single issue,” the PM said and pointed out that the initiatives such as the Berlin process, CEFTA and the Open Balkans promote the regional cooperation. He also assesses that the region needs more trust, better communication, joint projects and greater cooperation among government, and less tensions and depolarization.

 

Nikoloski: Today VMRO will announce its next, tougher steps (Sitel TV

 

VMRO-DPMNE Vice President Aleksandar Nikoloski announced that the party will determine its next steps in the political blockade today. The opposition party is currently blocking almost all legislation, as it demands early general elections. Today the Executive Committee of the party will meet and it is possible that we determine new, tougher steps that will force the Government to compromise, Nikoloski said during his Sitel TV interview. The conservative party official said that the blockade already helped prevent a very harmful piece of legislation, with which the DUI party attempts to create a second state lottery that would be under its control. “The country already has a gambling problem, so why would we add to it,” Nikoloski said. When asked what would those “tougher” steps include, Nikoloski replied – everything that is permissible in a democracy. The Prime Minister agrees that Macedonia is in a serious crisis and this supports our call to take steps that would be in the interest of the state. The elections won’t solve anything by themselves, not unless we start working immediately, in the area of finance, and on the problem with Bulgaria, where we will have experts involved, Nikoloski said.

 

Macedonia and Bulgaria call off planned joint meeting of the two governments (Republika

 

Macedonia has called off the planned joint meeting of the government with Bulgaria, that was supposed to take place on 22 May. Prime Minister Kovacevski said that conditions are not met for this. Relations took a turn to the worse, in a very sensitive period ahead of the crucial June European Council. This was mostly driven by the high level visit of Bulgarian officials to Bitola, to open a club named after the controversial and Nazi aligned figure Vanco Mihajlov. Kovacevski said that a deal with Bulgaria can be reached, but only according to the principles of preserving the dignity of both countries.

 

Berlin Ministerial, Xhacka: NATO should open its doors to the Western Balkans and Kosovo! (Radio Tirana

 

At the Berlin Ministerial, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhacka expressed the “PRO” attitude towards the membership of Finland and Sweden, for which she said that Albania is taking measures to start soon the relevant procedures. Xhacka said, among other things, that NATO should pursue an open door policy for other Western Balkan countries, including Kosovo, which shares the same values, as a contribution to the security of Europe as a whole. Regarding the situation in Ukraine, Minister Xhacka said that the union is the key to the collective security of the alliance, while following the support that Albania has given to Ukraine, he indicated that our country will be part of the new combat group in Bulgaria. “We will all do our best to give Russia the message of a united alliance,” she said. Xhacka, participated in the informal two-day meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC), in the format of Foreign Ministers, held in Berlin this weekend. The meeting, which precedes the NATO summit in late June in Madrid (Spain), focused on Ukraine, the consequences of Russian aggression on the alliance ‘s security, the membership of Finland and Sweden, and the NATO strategic concept. A day earlier, Minister Xhacka met with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, where she underlined that Ukraine deserves a perspective towards the European Union.

 

Berisha attacks Open Balkans initiative (ADN

 

Former prime minister Sali Berisha stopped in Shkodra as part of the election campaign for the election of the new leader of the Democratic Party. From Shkodra, Berisha brought to the focus of the discussion the initiative Open Balkans. According to Berisha, this initiative is nothing but the influence of Russia and Serbia in the region. “Europe had a project and this was the Berlin project. It matched our national interest. With Vucic, they invented the Open Balkans, which is nothing but the full influence of Serbia in the region. But the truth is also Russia. In the second century have been the main Russian ambitions, the Adriatic and the Dardanelles. This is the truth. But where are we? We are aligned with Belgrade. Is this our interest? We must agree, for a civilized nation that preserves the passion of its freedom, nothing is more important than the national interest,” said Berisha.

 

Mike Pompeo comes to Tirana on the 100th anniversary of Albania-US diplomatic relations (Radio Tirana

 

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived today in Tirana where he was received by the chairman of the SP parliamentary group Taulant Balla and former Socialist MP Alker Hyseni. Pompeo, former Secretary of State during Donald Trump’s presidency from 2018 to 2021 together with Balla will be present during a conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Albania-US diplomatic relations, which is organized under the auspices of the head of the socialist parliamentary group. Pompeo will receive the title of Hororis Causa from the University of Tirana.

 

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