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Belgrade Media Report 15 December

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic visiting Cuba (Beta/B92/Tanjug)
Dacic: Serbia not to react to US decision regarding Jerusalem issue (RTV)
Djuric congratulates Serb List (Politika)
Serbian parliament adopts 2018 budget law (RTS/Beta/Tanjug)
Participation in EU peacekeeping missions important for Serbia (FoNet)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
NATO HQ in Sarajevo reacts to Dodik’s statements (Glas Srpske)
Dodik’s statement on suspension of activities on MAP activation causes fierce reactions (BHT1)
Dodik: Covic follows Croatian stance, while SNSD follows Serbian stance on NATO (FTV)
B&H HoR adopts proposal of Changes and Amendments to Law on Excise Duties of B&H (Klix)
Increase of excise duties will cause chain reaction, cause grave consequences for citizens (Fena)
Hahn, Wigemark, Cormack welcome adoption of set of laws on excise duties (Dnevni avaz)
Wigemark: If I am persona non grata because of excise duties, Commissioner Hahn must be too (Nezavisne)
B&H HoR adopts Bosic’s Declaration on Sarajevo- Belgrade motorway route (RTRS)
Mogherini to meet Western Balkans officials on Monday (Fena)
Croatia
Croatia’s MEP Jakovcic wants EU to ban fascist symbols (Vecernji list)
fYROM
Besa will no longer participate in the debate for the Law on Languages as it was a “political theatre” (Meta)
Government reshuffle imminent (MIA)
Zaev-Iotova: 2017 – significant for Macedonia-Bulgaria relations (MIA)
Dimitrov: EU membership remains top priority of Macedonia’s foreign policy (MIA)
Nimetz’s Brussels meeting – first attempt in three years to break the deadlock (MIA)
Albania
Rama blames opposition for floods situation, tensions in parliament (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Youth Olympics Kindle Hopes of Unity for Sarajevo (BIRN)

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic visiting Cuba (Beta/B92/Tanjug)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met in Havana with the speaker of the National Assembly of Cuba, Esteban Lazo Hernandez, and discussed the two countries’ cooperation in economy, but also mutual support on the international plane, reads a statement issued by the Serbian President’s office. Vucic thanked Cuba for its position on Kosovo and Metohija and for advocating the respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of member countries of the United Nations, and added that Serbia would continue to support Cuba in the U.N. and in other international organizations. Vucic noted his trip to Cuba was his first presidential visit to Latin America and that it reaffirmed Serbia’s commitment to further strengthen the tradition of friendly bilateral ties and a readiness to maintain the positive dynamics of political dialogue, an official statement said.

Dacic: Serbia not to react to US decision regarding Jerusalem issue (RTV)

Commenting on the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in Belgrade that this was a very sensitive issue, that the conflict of Israelis and Palestinians had been going on for a very long time and that a mutual solution should be found through dialogue. “This decision will not have a reaction from our side,” Dacic told journalists. “That is a topic that many international organizations are dealing with. Serbia is keeping its principled stand,” Dacic told a the news conference at the Foreign Ministry.

Djuric congratulates Serb List (Politika)

I congratulate the Serb List and all deputies and mayors, who contributed to its convincing victory in Serb majority regions at the recently held local elections in Kosovo and Metohija, on the beginning of the mandate and constitution of municipal authorities. The Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija deserve for the difficulties of their living in the southern province to be to a great extent amortized with perfect functioning of Serb local self-government, in accordance with UNSCR 1244 and Brussels agreement. Today it is exactly the 1700th day since Pristina assumed obligations regarding the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities and I remind once again the representatives of provisional self-government institutions in Kosovo and Metohija and the international community of the fact that the most important segment of the Brussels agreement has not been implemented to this date.

Serbian parliament adopts 2018 budget law (RTS/Beta/Tanjug)

The Serbian parliament adopted on Thursday the Law on the budget for 2018, with the revenues planned in the amount of RSD 1,178 billion and expenditures of RSD 1,207 billion. One hundred and fifty MPs voted for the budget, twelve were against, none were abstained, and two MPs did not vote. The planned fiscal deficit at the level of the Republic for the next year is 0.6 percent of GDP, or RSD 28.4 billion, which is RSD 40.7 billion less than the deficit planned for the 2017 budget. In 2018, an increase in wages by 10 percent in the public sector is envisaged and 5 percent in the administration, as well as an increase in pensions by 5 percent. In addition to the space for higher salaries and pensions, more money for investments is also earmarked. The next year’s budget is planned based on projections that economic growth in the next year will be 3.5 percent of GDP, with a GDP deflator of 2.8 percent and a consumer price index of 2.7 percent.

Participation in EU peacekeeping missions important for Serbia (FoNet)

Capability of Serbia to take part in the EU peacekeeping missions is a very important part of the negotiating chapter 31 on the common foreign and security policy and here the Czech Republic provided all the support and passed its experience, Ambassador of this country in Belgrade Ivana Hlavsova said on Thursday, the agency FoNet reported. At the opening of the conference “Participation of Serbia in the EU Peacekeeping Missions”, which is the closing part of a project that lasted for one year and a half, she stressed that the financial assistance of the Czech Development Agency was one more example of good cooperation between Serbia and the Czech Republic and it fitted into excellent relations between the two countries. She said she was glad that the project, which was implemented in Serbia by the Center for International Security

Affairs (ISAAC) in Belgrade in cooperation with the Prague Institute for Security Studies, achieved the set goals. Chairman of ISAAC Mijan Pajovic said that the Czech partners passed their knowledge and experiences in this area to representatives of the Serbian state institutions and to individuals in the last one year and a half.

REGIONAL PRESS

NATO HQ in Sarajevo reacts to Dodik’s statements (Glas Srpske)

Commenting on Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik’s statement about suspension of activities on activation of Membership Action Plan (MAP), the NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo stated that B&H should decide about the country’s future. “It is up to B&H to decide about its future, as is the case with any other country. NATO is not forcing anyone to join the Alliance. That is a sovereign decision of sovereign countries”, reads the statement issued by NATO. NATO explained that upon request of authorities in B&H, they are supporting the reform of defense, as well as providing expert advice and assistance to efforts in the context of defense reform and Partnership for Peace. “We are aware of different stances in B&H with regards to those issues. NATO will continue working with institutions of B&H by providing support to country’s long-term foreign-policy goal of full Euro-Atlantic integration”, reads the statement issued by NATO HQ Sarajevo.

Dodik’s statement on suspension of activities on MAP activation causes fierce reactions (BHT1)

RS President Milorad Dodik (SNSD) stated in Banja Luka on Thursday that the RS will halt the implementation of the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). Dodik stressed that all RS representatives in B&H institutions will have to support this decision, given that the RS Assembly recently adopted a declaration on military neutrality. Reacting to Dodik’s statement, state MP Damir Becirovic(DF) said that Dodik has nothing to do with NATO and MAP, and reminded that former B&H Presidency member NebojsaRadmanovic (SNSD) signed the decision on joining the NATO accession program.

Another state MP Sadik Ahmetovic (Independent Bloc) said that Dodik’s statement is a pre-election story for his voters, and added that Dodik will be one those who will strongly advocate B&H’s accession to NATO. MP Dusanka Majkic (SNSD) reminded that the RS Assembly adopted the declaration on neutrality of the RS, which means reduction in many procedures in NATO integration process. B&H Presidency Chair Dragan Covic (HDZ B&H) said that both HDZ B&H and SNSD have clear stances, and added that they will try to follow each other.

Dodik: Covic follows Croatian stance, while SNSD follows Serbian stance on NATO (FTV)

Delegations of HDZ B&H and SNSD led by their party leaders, Dragan Covic and Milorad Dodik respectively, met on Thursday. On this occasion, Covic and Dodik agreed that the European path of B&H is a common value that both HDZ B&H and SNSD advocate.

Covic and Dodik reached an agreement according to which HDZ B&H and SNSD will harmonize their stances at all levels, while assessing that the parliamentary majority in B&H does not exist. The two officials agreed that foreign judges should be eliminated from work of B&H Constitutional Court (CC). The only issue Covic and Dodik do not agree on is the NATO path of B&H i.e. Covic considers that B&H should follow Croatia on that path while Dodik is against NATO accession. Dodik told Covic that SNSD supports HDZ B&H’s proposal of amendments to the Election Law of B&H. Still, Dodik claims that the ruling in the case ‘Sejdic-Finci vs. B&H’ remains “a dead letter”. In addition, Dodik accused foreigners of being the main culprits for B&H’s lack of functioning. The SNSD leader said that – what he calls – “ambassadorcracy” exists in B&H, noting that ambassadors are trying to pass decisions for B&H and then blame the authorities for failure to function.

B&H Presidency member and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic said that he does not see anything that Covic and Dodik could agree on for the benefit of B&H. “I see no reason for Covic to come closer to Dodik in this way. That is a thing that is getting on Bosniaks’ nerves more and more,” he stressed. He hopes that such relations will stop after the next elections.

B&H HoR adopts proposal of Changes and Amendments to Law on Excise Duties of B&H (Klix)

B&H House of Representatives (HoR) adopted proposal of Changes and Amendments to the Law on Excise Duties of B&H in a marathon session, which ended early this morning, after 4 a.m. 22 representatives voted for this law (SDA, SBB B&H, HDZ B&H, HDZ 1990), while 20 voted against (Alliance for Changes, SDP, DF, A-SDA, BPS and Independent Bloc). B&H HoR also adopted a conclusion according to which the funds collected owing to this law will be used for balanced construction of roads from north to south and from west to east of the country. It was also mentioned in these conclusions that the Council of Ministers and the Parliament of B&H have special responsibility for implementation of this law.

Increase of excise duties will cause chain reaction, cause grave consequences for citizens (Fena)

Only MPs in the B&H House of Representatives willing to comment adoption of the Amendments to the Law on Excise Duties, were the ones who voted against the Law. Momcilo Novakovic (PDP-NDP), Sasa Magazinovic (SDP), Aleksandra Pandurevic (SDS) and Sadik Ahmetovic (Independent block) stated that “increase of road tax will allegedly cause increase in fuel price and then, as chain reaction, of other groceries”. Head of PDP Caucus in the RS Assembly Miroslav Brckalo warned on Friday that increase of excise duties, which was adopted in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR), will cause grave consequences for citizens. Brckalo noted that citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) are unaware that bigger excise duties will cause chain reaction in terms of increase of prices. It is worse, he added, that representatives who voted for the law are trying to convince the citizens it is good for them.

Hahn, Wigemark, Cormack welcome adoption of set of laws on excise duties (Dnevni avaz)

European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, whilst commenting on adoption of set of laws on excise duties in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), welcomed “good news” from B&H. Commissioner Hahn called adoption of the laws as critical step to secure infrastructure investment and international aid. “I applaud those who voted in favor. They have shown courage and commitment to move their country forward on the EU path, in interest of their citizens,” said Hahn.

Head of EU Delegation to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark expressed satisfaction with the decision of B&H House of Representatives to adopt the set of laws on excise duties and road tax. Ambassador Wigemark stressed that this decision is very important because of financing of investments in infrastructure, most notably of rods and motorways, but also because of creation of positive economic environment. He noted that this set of laws is path towards more private, public and direct foreign investments. “Addressing of certain MPs during the discussion, was at very low point, especially because of the words directed towards Borjana Kristo as a woman. Everyone have to demonstrate respect towards one another and I do not even want to comment the reactions towards me. When you lack arguments you reach for such comments. We do not do that in the EU”, said Wigemark.

US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack assessed as positive adoption of the Law on Excise Duties by the B&H House of Representatives (HoR), saying the law will release a considerable support to infrastructural progress of B&H, in other words release funds from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund and other institutions. Ambassador Cormack stressed B&H will be better connected with Europe because currently the country has limited kilometers of motorways. She concluded that adoption of the law was a difficult but positive step forward.

Wigemark: If I am persona non grata because of excise duties, Commissioner Hahn must be too (Nezavisne)

Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark paid a visit to Bijeljina on Thursday, where he promoted the EU campaign for including young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) in reform processes. Asked by the press to comment the fact that some politicians in Sarajevo described him as persona non grata because he openly supports adoption of the set of laws on excise duties, Wigemark stated he refuses to reduce the issue to a personal level. “In that case, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn is also persona non grata because he explained our stances and opinions clearly in Sarajevo,” stated Wigemark briefly. Wigemark stated that European policies regarding excise duties are also supported by local authorities in B&H. “To put it simply, it is about policies represented by the EU, together with international financial institutions and which are at the end of the day supported by local authorities too, the Council of Ministers that also implemented these activities,” said Wigemark.

B&H HoR adopts Bosic’s Declaration on Sarajevo- Belgrade motorway route (RTRS)

The B&H House of Representatives (HoR) adopted on Thursday the Declaration on Sarajevo-Belgrade motorway, proposed by Deputy Chairman of B&H HoR Mladen Bosic. It has been established that the route through B&H will go through Tuzla, Brcko and Bijeljina. This has caused numerous reactions from the RS. According to RTRS, Bosic did not get support on this route from his political party, SDS. “The only criteria that can be applied here is that it meets the needs of the largest number of citizens of both entities and B&H as well,” said Bosic.

Head of the SDS Caucus in the B&H HoR Aleksandra Pandurevic did not vote for this Declaration and Bosic did not get the support of SDS Leader Vukota Govedarica in this matter. “I did not vote at all, and that is not the first time, because I represent the interests of my electoral unit and my electoral unit is from Zvornik and further.

Head of the SNSD Caucus in the B&H HoR Stasa Kosarac stated that Bosic has, with this Declaration, continued to denigrate the institution of the RS. “So far, B&H HoR has never adopted any kind of declaration on infrastructural projects”, said Kosarac.

B&H Minister of Transport and Communications Ismir Jusko did not want to comment on the Declaration, but has stated that it cannot oblige anyone in the process of decision making.

RS President Milorad Dodik stated that this Declaration is contrary to the interests of the RS and the decisions made by the RS government. He added that this is an attempt of Bosniak officials in B&H to connect Sarajevo with Brcko. “I do not see the need for this and reject any kind of agreement that the RS would give. We continue to support the route Visegrad-Rogatica-Sokolac-Pale-Istocno Sarajevo-Sarajevo to Sarajevo and this position will not change and we will not give our consent to anything else,” said Dodik. This adopted Declaration will probably have no effect on the final decision on this route and the final decision will be made by the RS institutions, under whose jurisdiction it falls.

Mogherini to meet Western Balkans officials on Monday (Fena)

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini will organize an informal working dinner for officials of the Western Balkans. The dinner is scheduled for 18 December and it will gather Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Chair of Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic as well as Prime Ministers of Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia. Before the dinner, Mogherini will hold bilateral meetings with each of the participants.

Croatia’s MEP Jakovcic wants EU to ban fascist symbols (Vecernji list)

After a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the agenda item “Banning of Nazi and Fascist Symbols and Slogans Across the EU”, Croatia’s MEP Ivan Jakovcic (IDS), who initiated the debate, expects that the ban will soon be regulated by law at the European level. However, two other MEPs from Croatia, Dubravka Suica (HDZ) and Ruza Tomasic (Croatian Conservative Party), complained why the communist symbols were not placed at the same level as fascism and Nazism, reports Vecernji list. “I want to abolish all the slogans and symbols of fascism and Nazism, but I would add communism as well,” said Suica. “This will not pass if communism is not included. I support the initiative to ban the symbols of all totalitarian regimes, but it is hypocritical to demand that two regimes should be banned, and not communism,” said Tomasic. However, despite their appeals for the communist symbols to be grouped together with fascism and Nazism, the representatives of the Council of the EU and the European Commission, as well as most other MEPs who participated in the debate, condemned just fascism and Nazism.

Ivan Jakovcic, who promoted this topic in the European Parliament, hoping to continue the failed IDS’ initiative from the Croatian Parliament to ban the use of the Ustasha slogan “For Homeland, Ready,” spoke in his speech last night about the Ustashas and the Chetniks. “Unfortunately, there are still countries and governments in the EU who do not impose serious sanctions and strong reactions to the symbols and slogans of fascism, Nazism, the Ustashas and the Chetniks,” said Jakovcic.

Besa will no longer participate in the debate for the Law on Languages as it was a “political theatre” (Meta)

Besa’s MPs will not participate in the amendment debate on the Law on the Use of Languages, because what is happening in Parliament. They have called, what is happening, a “political theatre”. “We will not participate in the work of the Commission, because we believe that this theatre will continue and we do not intend to participate in that theater” said MP Fadil Zendeli yesterday before the start of the session of the Committee on European Affairs.

The Opposition Besa wants to vote on their two amendments. The first party seeks to change the name of the law and to call a law on the use of the Albanian language, and the second one is for the full use of Albanian language in state institutions.

Government reshuffle imminent (MIA)

The departure of Samka Ibraimovski from the post Minister charged with implementation of strategy for improvement of state of Roma in Macedonia is yet another announcement over a government reshuffle. MIA learns there will be changes in the government composition besides filling the vacant posts of health minister and deputy-education minister. The Alliance of Albanians will probably end its participation in the coalition, with SDSM assuming the health sector. The new government members are set to be elected next week. Ibraimovski returns to the parliament, replacing SDSM’s Vasko Kovacevski who has resigned from the MP post.

“I expect a more stable government, which will continue the reform process. I have faith in the PM and the government,” Ibraimovski told MIA. Ibraimovski said he has left the ministerial post for an MP seat because Roma did not have a representative in parliament. “A Roma lawyer with large experience will be my replacement and I believe he will continue to implement the program,” he added. The parliament will verify the resignations of MPs Vasko Kovacevski and Stevo Pendarovski today. Kovacevski is set to assume the director general post at Mining and Energy Combine Bitola (REK Bitola), while Pendarovski has been elected National NATO Coordinator. Outgoing minister without portfolio Samka Ibraimovski and Dalibor Bogdanovski will replace them as MPs.

Zaev-Iotova: 2017 – significant for Macedonia-Bulgaria relations (MIA)

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Bulgarian Vice-President Iliana Lotova qualified the 2017 as a rather significant year for the relations between the two countries. Next year this friendship should be crowned with Macedonia joining Bulgaria within NATO, as well as by opening of Macedonia’s EU accession talks, Zaev and Lotova said. The meeting, Zaev said is a result of the advancement of the bilateral relations, which have gained momentum after signing of the friendship treaty. Referring to the government activities, Zaev notified the initiatives related to realization of the Euro-Atlantic aspirations and in this respect extended gratitude for Bulgaria’s support of Macedonia’s bid to join the European Union and NATO. The next year will be rather significant for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic agenda, Zaev said, adding that the EU members have already recognized the government’s new approach to meeting the necessary criteria, namely the implementation of reforms at home and advancing the relations with neighbors. In this respect he also notified the importance of establishing new relations and political climate between the SEE, especially the Western Balkan countries, the government said in a press release. Such approach to the cooperation with neighbors, especially with Bulgaria, has been already yielding results, considering the interest of business communities of both countries in further advancing of the ties, the interlocutors concluded.

Dimitrov: EU membership remains top priority of Macedonia’s foreign policy (MIA)

Macedonia’s accession to the European Union remains a top priority of the country’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrovsaid late Thursday at the Christmas and New Year reception for the representatives of the diplomatic corps to Macedonia. “We sincerely hope that our political will and reform-orientation, along with the support of our friends and partners, will bring us next spring an unconditional recommendation for a launch of the EU accession talks, which is first and foremost in the interest of our citizens, but also of the countries in the region and beyond,” Dimitrov said. Macedonia is committed to the Euro-Atlantic integration, but also wishes to contribute more on the multilateral scene, Dimitrov said, notifying that the country has recently ratified the Paris Climate Agreement and intends to soon ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). Russian Ambassador to Macedonia Oleg Shcherbak extended gratitude to Dimitrov for the reception and commended the productive cooperation of the diplomatic corps with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all other state institutions.

Nimetz’s Brussels meeting – first attempt in three years to break the deadlock (MIA)

No concrete proposal to solve the name dispute has emerged from the first meeting with UN name mediator Matthew Nimetz. The meeting served as an attempt, after a three-year stalemate, to establish contact as part of the negotiations, to create a climate for opening of the process, according to diplomatic sources. This week’s meeting in the longstanding dispute, spanning three decades, cannot paint a detailed picture of Greece’s readiness for compromise, even though the two sides have been demonstrating optimism hinting at a possible solution, the diplomats says. At the moment, speculation over a concrete name proposal helps no one, because now it is imperative to heighten the readiness to resolve the matter. In the process, it is important for Macedonia to get to a point where no one will be able to dispute the fact that we are Macedonians, because identity is what matters the most, alongside the perspective opened in the process of integrating into the EU and NATO. A change of the name of the Skopje Airport shouldn’t be an issue, being a likely first step or gesture of good will on Macedonia’s part, which might demonstrate its willingness for a solution to be found. The entire process requires attention to be paid on the political context in the two countries and on public mood with respect to the issue. The Macedonian side stands ready to change its approach to the issue – to abandon the practice of attacks and confrontation and to start making steps of rapprochement with Greece. “With this country we should be allies, instead of foes,” the diplomats urge. This process of vital importance for the country, however, has been hampered by developments involving the opposition, say diplomats pinpointing the public narrative that has been used thus far that contributed to Athens heightening its defensive approach. To establish an internal consensus is no easy task given the fact that most of the opposition decision-makers are faced with court proceedings in connection to the events of April 27 in parliament. Also, the Greek government lacks a unified position regarding the name dispute in view of the positions of the Defense Minister Panos Kammenos involving the name issue. However, it is almost certain that Macedonia will be included in the EU Enlargement Strategy of the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, slated for release in February 2018. Also, the EC could unveil a recommendation for start of accession talks sometime in the beginning of April, before releasing its regular progress report. No matter the circumstances, both internal and external, there is still a chance – the first one after the 2008 Summit in Bucharest, say the diplomats adding: If we miss the train in 2018, no one can know what kind of circumstances in Europe we can run into after European Parliament elections. Unlike 2008, when the pressure from the international community for Macedonia to join NATO was intense, now the pressure is less evident although it is in everyone’s interest to see Macedonia as part of NATO, instead of being a deserted island in the Balkans. There is a fair chance that the NATO General Secretariat by April could issue a report about the bilateral issue with Greece and the country’s reform process.

We are left with only six months to pursue this road. About EU and NATO accession, a name settlement isn’t the only precondition as the whole reform process of the country will be subject to evaluation, the diplomats conclude.

Rama blames opposition for floods situation, tensions in parliament (ADN)

Prime Minister Edi Rama blames the frenetic wave of illicit constructions during the right wing governance for the current situation generated by the floods. In his address to the opposition during Thursday’s parliamentary session the Premier declared that those who allowed the illicit construction in the river banks are the same that now try to blame the government for this difficult situation. “You were the ones that allowed numerous illicit constructions near the river banks. It was you that stole the aid that were meant to be used during floods situation from the state’s magazines. Former-Prime Minister Sali Berisha used to call the illicit constructions as the world’s 8th miracle. Meantime you come here today and pretend to hold the government accountable for this situation claiming that I promised that the country would not experience floods anymore. This claim does not correspond to the truth. I promised that floods in Albania would no longer be generated by the man. The series of investments made by the government prevented a catastrophic situation during the massive rainfalls of last weeks,” declared Rama. Later, the Democrat MP, Flamur Noka has been expulsed by Speaker Gramoz Ruci from the parliamentary session. An attempt by Noka to involve in a physical clash with Premier Rama was the origin of this drastic decision by Speaker Ruci. His harsh reaction finalized a series of intense comebacks between the chief of executive and former-Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

The immediate intervention of security personnel prevented Noka from hitting PM Rama while the latest was speaking from the podium. Speaker Ruci reacted vigorously by expelling Noka and interrupting the session for several minutes.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Youth Olympics Kindle Hopes of Unity for Sarajevo (BIRN, by Mladen Lakic, 14 December 2017)

The Bosnian capital Sarajevo became divided from the mostly Serb-populated East Sarajevo because of the war, but they are now preparing to hold the 2019 European Youth Olympics Festival together.

“Even today, my parents talk about the ’84 Olympics with a sparkle in their eyes,” says 23-year-old East Sarajevo football player Marinko Papaz. Marinko’s family are reminiscing because after more than 20 years of political and ethnic divisions that turned Sarajevo into two cities, the city is coming back together to co-host the European Youth Olympics Festival, EYOF, in winter 2019.  The event has been bringing back memories of when Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984, before war divided it. “They say everything was perfect back then and I want to tell the same story about the Youth Olympics to my kids one day,” Marinko says.

“I want to be a volunteer and I am sure that we, the young people from East Sarajevo and Sarajevo are able to make this right and to show that our two towns are more than a wartime story.” With the collaboration promising to be one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biggest ever sports events, politicians from both sides of town are talking up a refreshingly new sense of unity. “EYOF brings chances for better times between Sarajevo and East Sarajevo. Many volunteers from our two cities will have a chance to be a part of something significant. I remember how enthusiastic everyone was about the ’84 Olympics,” said Sarajevo’s deputy mayor, Milan Trivic. Miroslav Lucic, president the East Sarajevo Assembly, said the youth Olympics are not just a great chance to capitalise on the potential for tourism and sport. “This is a chance to show that we can work together on important things, not just for the people of these two towns but for the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well,” he said. “We did have other projects with Sarajevo but this one brings a lot of attention. We plan to have the closing ceremony in East Sarajevo and we will do our best to show what we can do.” One of those projects, a newly-rebuilt cable car joining Sarajevo and the East as it climbs Mount Trebevic, carries symbolic weight, its predecessor being the ticket to a mountain top picnic for many Sarajevans for more than 30 years before the start of the war in 1992. “We hope that Trebevic’s cable railway will be functional from next year, that is also something that brings us together,” Lucic said. The new spirit of cooperation has been welcomed. But ever since East Sarajevo was established during the 1992-1995 war, many think that politicians have actively pushed the people of both cities apart by playing on nationalist tensions. “If you ask politicians we are completely divided, we can’t live together. But [they will also tell you] we are happy, we don’t have problems with low salaries or corruption,” 28-year-old East Sarajevo salesman Slobodan Todorovic said with a smile. Marija Tesanovic, 27 and also from the east, agrees.“I have a feeling that all the nationalist topics are just used to take the focus away from our everyday problems. It is like those politicians are trying to convince us that we cannot live together,” she said. The political divisions caused by the war meant that East Sarajevo became home to the majority of the city’s Bosnian Serbs in 1995. The city lines were drawn along its streets, in some cases leaving one side of the road in Sarajevo and the other side in the East.  Even though it was formalised in 2006 as the capital of Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, only the occasional sign saying “Welcome to Republika Srpska” gives you the hint that you are in a different city when you enter East Sarajevo. But even though politics and unresolved issues from the past makes this invisible administrative line an actual border in people’s lives, a shared sense of space is growing. “I see Sarajevo as my own town even if I do live in East Sarajevo. After all, it is so close and if we don’t have something here, I will find it in Sarajevo,” says Marija Tesanovic. “I know that we have some crazy situations when your flat is in one city and your parking space is in another, but this is Bosnia, here everything is possible,” she says.

After going to college in Sarajevo but high school in the east, Marija thinks the people of both cities are moving on, despite their political loyalties. “I remember that when I was a kid, older guys used to have fights on ‘the entity’ border, as our parents called the part where East Sarajevo meets Sarajevo. But nowadays, I don’t see that and it is better this way,” she says.

Similarly, Slobodan Todorovic sees no borders when it comes to his business, but acknowledges some differences. “We are different towns on paper, but if I can be in the centre of Sarajevo in 15 minutes or so than it is hard to see that as some different town,” he explains. “I am not saying that everything is fine. For example, even though people from East Sarajevo work in Sarajevo or people from Sarajevo buy apartments here because they are cheaper, there is still some distance when it comes to marriage between Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks. But this is the same all over the country,” he says. But the two different systems of regulation makes life hard for some. Although Marko, a local taxi driver, sees people from both Sarajevos getting along well together, he is frustrated with rules requiring him to remove the taxi sign on his car as he passes from side to the other. “If I ignore this, I can end up paying a 500 BAM [250 euro] fine, which is like a salary, but strangers don’t believe that we have to take the sign off our cars. We lose customers in that way and only God knows what would happen if someone got in a crash without the sign. Who will pay the damage then?” he asks. Even in Pale, a place many consider to be staunchly loyal to the Srpska Republic on the outskirts of East Sarajevo, the mood is changing. Vedrana, a local coffee shop worker, says with many people finding work in Sarajevo things are returning to normal. “It was normal before to hear some bad comments about Sarajevo but today it’s not like that,” she says. “You can find people from here that don’t go to Sarajevo often, or at all, but they are a minority. You will find those kinds of people all over the country but they don’t represent all of us.” “Yes, this country is divided, in Pale you will find that mostly Serbs live here, in Sarajevo it is Bosniaks, but the war ended a long time ago and people are crossing those invisible lines or borders. I think that is a normal process,” Vedrana said. And it seems that events like the upcoming youth Olympics will soften those borders even further. Amina from Sarajevo said she and her husband are proud the EYOF is being hosted by both cities together. “After all that is the important thing, to host that kind of competition. But it is also a great chance to show the world that we can move on,” she said. “We have spent so many years on hate and it is finally time to stop. Our kids deserve a better future here and the only way for that to happen is to stop seeing differences all the time and focus more on similarities,” her husband Ibrahim agreed.

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