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Belgrade Media Report 15 October

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• Brnabic: Forget about Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja (B92/Tanjug)
• UNSCR 1244 remains binding international legal framework for resolving the Kosovo issue (Politika/Sputnik)
• Dacic: Right-wing forces on the rise in Croatia (Beta)
• Vulin: We support idea of delineation with the Albanians (Tanjug)
• Lutovac: Kosovo agreement not about status (N1)
• Russia urges OSCE to respond to crimes against Kosovo Serbs (Tanjug/TASS)
• CIA hid documents about massacre of 1,000 Serbs (Novosti)


Bosnia & Herzegovina
• B&H CEC updates preliminary results of elections (Hayat)
• Russian Foreign Ministry congratulates B&H CEC on properly organized elections (Dnevni list)
• Lavrov congratulates newly-elected RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic (RTRS)
• Covic: Change of Law on Elections is absolute condition for formation of authorities (Vecernji list)
• Komsic comments cooperation with neighboring countries and peaceful protest walk in Mostar (TV1)
• Wigemark content with fact three newly elected members of B&H Presidency express will to jointly pay visit to Brussels (TV1)
• Dodik says he will oppose a lawsuit against Croatia (Srna/Vecernji list)
• Croatia’s leaders support Bosnian Croats’ demands for equality (Hina)
• Thousands attend Vukovar protest (Hina)
• Plenkovic: Institutions should deal with war crimes (N1)
• Chancellor Merkel to help solve Slovenia-Croatia border dispute (Hina)
• Mogherini: Prespa Agreement is a unique opportunity, may happen never again (MIA)
• Tsipras: Prespa Agreement – unique, irreplaceable opportunity for two nations (MIA)
• Pence’s letter to Zaev: Referendum confirms immense commitment to Macedonia’s European future (MIA)


• Zoran Zaev and the burden of the Balkan past (To Vima)

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Brnabic: Forget about Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja (B92/Tanjug)


Representatives of the provisional authorities in Pristina have been told stop talking about Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja and keep away from Serbia proper. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic also pointed out on Friday that we should talk about whether we can come to a compromise that would ensure a long-term normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. This was her response to Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s assertion that he received the support of French President Emmanuel Macron for Belgrade and Pristina to as soon as possible they reached a binding agreement with a real possibility of border correction, which involves the merger of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac to the territory of Kosovo. Brnabic said that this was unable to particularly comment on that statement – especially since Thaci’s statements, as well those from other representatives of the Pristina authorities, are different each day and mutually opposed.  She added that this shows she was telling the truth what she had said that as far the Pristina authorities we do not on the other side of the table someone we can talk to, someone who we can expect to do what they say. “I plead with them to stop talking about Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja because that has nothing to do with real life, and please let us not go further in the territory of central Serbia,” Brnabic said. She said that Serbia is and will be flexible, patient and tolerant, but that everything has its end. “Please stay away from Serbia proper and let us talk about whether we can have a compromise that can ensure the long-term harmonization of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Brnabic underlined that Serbia’s supreme values ​​are freedom and peace, and that we will try to keep peace whatever happens, but that the territory of central Serbia should not be further discussed. The government session in Prokuplje is a signal of how many investments will be made here and in the entire Toplica District, Brnabic said, adding that construction of the first stage of a Nis-Pristina-Tirana highway would begin late next year. The Highway of Peace, which will connect Nis and Durres, is an absolute priority among three strategic projects for Prokuplje, she said after the government session.


UNSCR 1244 remains binding international legal framework for resolving the Kosovo issue (Politika/Sputnik)


Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko discussed with UNMIK Head Zahir Tanin the resolution of the situation in Kosovo. “They confirmed mutual understanding of the international-legal grounds for resolving the situation in Kosovo, with support of UNSCR 1244. They underlined the significance of unconditional fulfillment of the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, primarily in the part on the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) in Kosovo that has the necessary jurisdiction. They noted the importance of resuming the dialogue of the two sides,” reads the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Tanin also met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin. “The Russian side confirmed again the importance of strict respect of decrees of UNSCR 1244, which completely remains in force and remains the binding international legal framework for resolving the Kosovo issue, while they also underlined the important role of UNMIK,” reads the statement.


Dacic: Right-wing forces on the rise in Croatia (Beta)


Strong pressure and an expansion of right-wing forces in Croatia are affecting relations between Serbia and Croatia, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Sunday, commenting a protest that took place a day before in the Croatian town of Vukovar over unprocessed war crimes.

Dacic made the statement ahead of a gathering of the main board of his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and in response to demands heard at the protest for Croatia to condition Serbia’s EU membership with the processing of those responsible for war crimes. “I don’t know who they are complaining about,” Dacic said. “Serbia has sanctioned and will sanction anyone who committed a war crime. But they should focus on their own war crimes,” he told reporters in Belgrade.


Vulin: We support idea of delineation with the Albanians (Tanjug)


The Movement of Socialists (PS) strongly supports the idea of delineation, and continues the battle for a Serbia of social justice, PS leader Aleksandar Vulin told a session of the Main Board.  The Movement is not changing sides and values for which it is fighting, said Vulin, adding that it will continue to resolutely and persistently fight with Aleksandar Vucic and the Serbian Progressive Party for Serbia that will not repeat the plundering privatization. “We will continue the fight for a militarily neutral Serbia and a Serbia of social justice. As a nationally responsible left-wing party we strongly support the idea of delineation and stopping of the spreading of Greater Albania and we continue the fight for resolving the national issue of the Serbs,” said the PS leader.


Lutovac: Kosovo agreement not about status (N1)


The expected agreement on Kosovo is about everyday things like the free flow of people, goods and capital and the status issue something else, the leader of the Democratic Party (DS) Zoran Lutovac told N1 on Monday. The status issue can be resolved only once the right conditions are in place, he said. “This is a democracy issue, once we achieve certain standards,” he said. Lutovac warned that anything that just one man does without consulting even his associates is a problem. “His agreement will last only for as long as he is in power,” the DS leader said about the possible agreement that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is expected to reach to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina. “Anyone who comes to power after him could cast doubts over that agreement which is why parliament must not be skipped,” he said.

“An agreement on Kosovo outside of any procedure, outside parliament, is not an agreement but a private arrangement of the man who has taken over all the levers of power in Serbia,” the DS leader said.


Russia urges OSCE to respond to crimes against Kosovo Serbs (Tanjug/TASS)


The Russian envoy to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich has urged it to respond to threats and crimes against Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. “We condemn the passive approach of the international missions in the region – the NATO Mission in Kosovo and the EULEX Mission in Kosovo. They have distanced themselves from ensuring security of the non-Albanian population of Kosovo,” TASS quoted Lukashevich as saying.


CIA hid documents about massacre of 1,000 Serbs (Novosti, by Dragan Vujicic)


Former Serbian Ambassador to UNESCO Darko Tanaskovic told Novosti that he acted as a special representative of President Dobrica Cosic, and in 1993 he presented a report of the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ) about killing of more than 1,000 Serbs of Podrinje region to the US officials, where he was told by a couple of high-ranking US intelligence officers working for the CIA that it was one of the best reports on the victims in the conflict between the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Tanaskovic went on to say that he was immediately told that the report is not going to change the situation, as “cards for this game have already been dealt, and the Serb ones are empty”. Also, he was told that the report will not be published. Novosti states the document disappeared after that, because the US administration did not want to endanger their political project in the region. Twenty-three years later, the daily managed to locate the report in the UN building in New York. The author of the report was one Milivoje Bata Ivanisevic and he collected information from the persecuted Serbs. He told the daily that he went to Bratunac in 1992 and realized all the events needed to be documented. “In May 1993 I drafted a document containing names and last names of more than 1,000 killed Serbs. All the destroyed Serb villages were written down, 120 of them,” he said. Foreign minister of the SRJ at the time Vladislav Jovanovic told the daily that all the Serb efforts to report the truth about the events in the Western Balkans were sabotaged in that period. He also said that the report needs to be published today, so the truth about killing of Serbs in Podrinje can be revealed. Inset ‘Commenting the report, US peace activist Jared Israel told the daily that many similar documents were filed as ‘confidential’ by the US authorities in the 1990s. “Documents on killing of Serbs from 1993 were simply hidden away for two years and then archived among irrelevant testimonies so that not even the mighty search engine LexisNexis cannot register them.”




B&H CEC updates preliminary results of elections (Hayat)


The Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Central Election Commission (CEC) has published the updated preliminary results of the general elections in B&H, according to which SNSD’s Milorad Dodik, SDA’s Sefik Dzaferovic and DF’s Zeljko Komsic are most likely to be the new members of the B&H Presidency.

According to the results based on votes from 99.82 percent of polling stations, SDA leads in the race for seats in the B&H parliament with 25.65 percent of votes, followed by SDP B&H with 14.43 percent of votes and the coalition led by HDZ B&H with 13.91 percent of votes from citizens of the Federation of B&H. The next on the list is DF-GS, followed by SBB B&H, Our Party (NS), Independent Bloc (NB), PDA and A-SDA. At the same time, SNSD leads in the race for seats in the B&H Parliament with 39.19 percent of votes, followed by SDS with 24.97 percent of votes from citizens of Republika Srpska (RS). The next on the list is PDP, followed by DNS, SP RS and SDA.

According to the results for the Federation of B&H Parliament, SDA leads with 25.41 percent of votes, followed by SDP B&H with 14.75 percent of votes and the coalition led by HDZ B&H with 13.51 percent of votes. The next on the list is DF-GS, SBB B&H, NS, PDA and NB.

According to the results for the RS parliament, SNSD leads with 32.1 percent of votes, followed by SDS with 18.51 percent of votes and DNS with 14.75 percent of votes. The next on the list is PDP, followed by SP RS, NDP, Together for B&H and United RS.


Russian Foreign Ministry congratulates B&H CEC on properly organized elections (Dnevni list)


Spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Marija Zaharova stated on Friday that Russia welcomes the activities of the B&H Central Election Commission in organizing democratic elections in accordance with the highest standards. “We hope that new representatives of legislative and executive authority will soon be formed at all levels… in the interest of positive process of stabilization, and social and economic stability in the region,” she said. According to a press statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russia intends to help full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, pointing out the need to close the Office of the High Representative in B&H. Zaharova concluded that Russia intends to maintain friendly and successful relationship with B&H, and help improve peace and security in the Western Balkans.


Lavrov congratulates newly-elected RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic (RTRS)


Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov congratulated newly elected President of Republika Srpska (RS) Zeljka Cvijanovic and wished her success at this post.

“I can emphasize with pleasure that relations between the RS and Russia will continue,” Lavrov was quoted as saying. He stressed that he expects continuation of a friendly dialogue on the current issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), as well as further promotion of joint economic, cultural and humanitarian projects. Cvijanovic also received congratulations from Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov.


Covic: Change of Law on Elections is absolute condition for formation of authorities (Vecernji list)


Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic, asked to comment on his meeting with top Croatian officials (from Saturday, including Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and PM Andrej Plenkovic) replied it seems to him that Croatia’a policy towards B&H and the B&H Croats has changed in the last year and a half and that problems of Croats in B&H are becoming strategic issue for the Croatian authorities. Asked to comment on the daily’s remark that the Bosniak policy slapped the Croats on the face, Covic replied it was not done by the Bosniaks, instead it was done by a part of radical political parties in Sarajevo that see B&H as unitary and mono-ethnic (country) “which, I repeat, will never be like that”. “I genuinely advocate partnership and friendly relation with our Bosniaks friends. I will never grow tired of the story because B&H can only function normally in that way” said Covic adding that he will meet with his “friends” with whom “we can change the Law on Elections”. Covic went on to say that had ‘we’ elected legitimate representatives at all levels, including the Presidency of B&H, the authorities would have been formed quickly.

“It is very clear that the authorities cannot be formed without HDZ and HNS B&H (Croat People’s Assembly). It is a clear response from the Croat people”, said the HDZ B&H President.

Asked to elaborate on his claims about the Law on Elections, whether the issue (change) of the Law on Elections is a condition for formation of authorities, Covic said: “An absolute condition for formation of authorities”. Asked whether the Croats will be able to control the (Federation of B&H) House of Peoples (HoP), which is crucial for formation of the Federation of B&H and the state authorities, Covic replied by saying that, even in the worst case scenario and despite the fact there are no parts in the Law on   Elections that were erased by the Constitutional Court of B&H, ‘we’ will have at least 12 seats in the Federation of B&H HoP, which is necessary to control the chamber, and at least four out of five delegates in the B&H HoP. “We must not have any crisis, but the condition is to get partners in order to build entirely new B&H and new relations”, said Covic. Asked if any of the Bosniak parties is a preferred partner, Covic said they all are treated the same, arguing that anyone who is prepared to build a European B&H and to have Croats protected through the legitimate representation “is our partner”, and that the same applies for Milorad Dodik.


Komsic comments cooperation with neighboring countries and peaceful protest walk in Mostar (TV1)


Newly-elected Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic stated on Saturday that he will do everything in his power to maintain good cooperation with all neighboring countries, but he believes that B&H must be respected, its borders and its citizens. Komsic commented Friday’s peaceful protest walk, organized in Mostar to protest his election win, and he said that people have a democratic right to organize such protests. He added that everyone must realize that he is now, formally and legally, the President of all Croats in B&H, which also includes HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic. Asked to explain his announcement of lawsuit against Croatia, over the construction of Peljesac Bridge, Komsic said: “That is B&H’s right and official Zagreb might not like that. But that is our right in accordance to all standards of the international public order. I do not see what is disputable in that. I simply said that it was an option, that we have a right to such a thing, I never said that it will actually happen. In fact, I would like for official Zagreb to turn to negotiations with official Sarajevo, so that we would not have to go to such lengths”.


Wigemark content with fact three newly elected members of B&H Presidency express will to jointly pay visit to Brussels (TV1)


Head of the EU Delegation to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark expressed content with the fact three newly elected members of B&H Presidency expressed will to jointly pay visit to Brussels once new authorities in B&H are formed. Wigemark added that it is important all three members of the Presidency agree it is necessary to jointly pay visit to Brussels and to jointly represent B&H. He went on to say that this is something the EU needs to hear too, because many have been talking about divisions. Wigemark underlined that he would like to see political leaders and representatives of political parties in B&H come together and discuss this topic even if only in general. “But after these talks they would have to talk a bit more about how to ensure stable coalitions capable of passing difficult decisions necessary for B&H’s EU accession process and in that context to discuss meaning of the European identity,” said Wigemark.


Dodik says he will oppose a lawsuit against Croatia (Srna/Vecernji list)


The newly elected Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, said he will oppose a lawsuit the newly elected Croat Presidency member announced against neighboring Croatia regarding a bridge the country is building across Bosnia’s waters, Vecernji List reported on Saturday. Predominantly Bosniak political parties are opposing the construction of the Peljesac Bridge because they believe it might prevent large vessels from entering Bosnia’s Bay of Neum, threatening Bosnia’s access to open sea. But Zeljko Komsic, who was on Sunday elected the new Croat member of Bosnia’s Presidency, announced he would back a lawsuit against Croatia regarding the project. In order for the Presidency to make such a decision, a consensus between all three of its members must be made. Dodik, who had months ago announced a coalition with Komsic’s fierce political opponent Dragan Covic, who backs the construction of the bridge, said that he will oppose the lawsuit because Croatia has a sovereign right to build it. Bosnian Croats have been protesting the election of Komsic, saying he is not their legitimate representative. Bosnia is composed of two territorial and political semi-autonomous entities, the Bosnian Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation (Federation of B&H), shared by Croats and Bosniaks. While the Serb Presidency member is elected from the RS, the Bosniak and Croat members are elected in the Federation.

However, since there are many more Bosniaks than Croats in the Federation, Croat nationalist parties have been complaining that Bosniaks are able to elect the Bosnian Croat Presidency member. They said that this has already happened twice before, and that it happened again in the General Election on Sunday, when Komsic, who is the leader of the left-leaning Democratic Front (DF) and who they say is not a legitimate representative of Bosnian Croats, was elected.

Dodik also criticized the election of Komsic, saying that he will not allow the will of any ethnic group in Bosnia to be undermined, as it goes against the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war in the country. “Bosnia will or will not be a country of three constituent peoples. We are committed to peace, but there will surely be no kind of domination,” Dodik said.

He said he thinks the international community has, for the first time, truly become concerned over the ‘Komsic case’ and that it is now asking for Bosnia to change its Constitution and Election Law regarding it. HDZ leader Covic was outvoted in the election, he said, but added that this does not mean that the Croat position has disappeared from the political scene.

“To the contrary, if it comes to attempt for some things to be imposed, we will have an escalation. In case the international community manages to calm down Croats, it will be much more difficult to tend to the ‘Croat issue’ in a few years,” he said, adding that neighboring Croatia has made a mistake in not setting clear conditions for the interests of Croat people in Bosnia. Dodik, who has in the past been advocating the secession of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated part, Republika Srpska (RS), from Bosnia, said that a concept of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a unitary state must be abandoned. “It is unacceptable for the international community to always watch the back of the Bosniak side and support their demands. That is damaging to the Serbs and Croats. Those times are over but Bosniaks are maintaining the same attitude,” he said.


Croatia’s leaders support Bosnian Croats’ demands for equality (Hina)


The Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina(B&H), Dragan Covic, met in Zagreb on Saturday with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, and Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric, who expressed their full support for the legitimate demands of B&H’s Croat community for equality, the government said in a statement. They discussed relations between the two countries, the political situation in B&H following the October 7 general election, and the country’s EU membership prospects, of which Croatia is one of the staunchest supporters, the government said. The Croatian officials congratulated the coalition gathered around the Croatian National Assembly and led by Dragan Covic of the HDZ B&H party, on their good election result. What cast a shadow on the election process is the fact that once again unconstitutional provisions of the election law were knowingly used against the sovereign right of the Croats to a free and legitimate political choice, the government said. All the participants in the talks were unanimous that amendment of the election law, in line with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court ruling on legitimate representation, is of crucial importance for democratic stability in the coming period. It must ensure an autonomous choice and equal and legitimate representation also for the Croats as a constituent people, the government said.

Croatia will continue to provide strong support for the legitimate demands of the Croats in B&H for equality in the context of amendment of the election law, as well as for their right to full political participation and decision-making at all levels of government as defined by B&H’s constitution and its founding principles, which is in the interest of B&H as a whole, the government said. Zeljko Komsic was elected the Croat member of B&H’s collective state presidency in the October 7 elections, beating his rival and incumbent Presidency member Dragan Covic. Croat political parties and numerous associations have warned that Komsic was imposed for a third time on local Croats contrary to their will and owing to the support of the Bosniak electorate, who are the most numerous ethnic group in the Federation of B&H, the country’s Bosniak-Croat entity.


Thousands attend Vukovar protest (Hina)


The Vukovar-Srijem County Police Department said that the protest rally against inefficiency in war crimes prosecution, held in Vukovar on Saturday, drew around 9,000 people and was peaceful, with no reports of disturbance of public order. The protest rally was initiated by Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava slightly over a month ago because of discontent with the work of state institutions in prosecuting war crimes. The town authorities said the rally was attended by some 20,000 people from around the country. In his address at a protest rally in Vukovar on Saturday, Mayor Ivan Penava criticized the executive, legislative and prosecutorial authorities for inaction in the prosecution of war crimes committed during the aggression on Croatia in 1991 and the ensuing occupation of parts of the country, calling on state institutions to wake up and finally start working to the benefit of the victims and not war criminals. “If you don’t know how to do it, we will help you. Change the laws that refer to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, set up a special court, a special prosecutorial department and a special investigative team… whose staff will be selected on the basis of their performance and which will not include people who fought against this country and did not want it,” said Penava. He also called for setting up a truth commission, a mechanism which, he said, European law was familiar with, consisting of independent people who had dedicated their lives to the truth about the Homeland War. The mayor also called on state authorities to set conditions for Serbia’s accession to the EU. “… Set up a truth commission. Don’t let crimes committed on Croatian soil be prosecuted outside Croatia. Make Serbia’s accession to the EU conditional on these reasonable demands” said Penava. The past 27 years has been a torture for Vukovar and all its residents, regardless of their ethnic background, Penava said. “A state that tolerates such a thing is not a state we want and we will fight it… The road will be long and difficult but not as nearly as long as the past 27 years, and not as nearly as difficult as the testimonies we have heard. That road is just, based on our values,” he said, calling on all those attending the rally as well as those who did not come to Vukovar to join them “in the fight for a fairer Croatia.” Penava said that over the past month he had witnessed “panic and shameless attempts by state institutions to shift responsibility onto one another” and learned of different tools that were used in the judicial system to help criminals evade justice, such as shelving court cases, delaying them through frequent changes of judges, repeating witnesses questioning, and tipping-off indictees so they can flee the country.

“The responsibility of intelligence services in that context is of huge importance. All the time in the world won’t be enough for our state institutions to do their job if they continue doing it as they are doing it now. Is it true and how is it possible that the Ovčara case was opened only last year? Who is responsible for that?” he asked. Penava added that the chief state prosecutor, who has been in office for about six months, could not be responsible for the situation in the past 27 years. “But if he chooses his predecessor as his deputy, his responsibility increases. If he chooses the man who was the chief state prosecutor from 2002 to 2014 as his second deputy, then we have the right to ask based on which achievements he was appointed,” said Penava. Penava’s speech was accompanied by shouts of approval as well as of disapproval when he spoke about dissatisfaction with the work of state institutions and mentioned Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Minister of the Interior Davor Bozinovic. Protests were especially loud at the mention of the name of Vladimir Seks, from whose book Penava read an excerpt. The mayor said a new protest rally in Vukovar would be held on October 12, 2019. Poignant testimonies of victims of the Serb aggression were shown at a rally that drew thousands of people from around Croatia to the eastern city of Vukovar, to protest against the inefficiency of state institutions in the prosecution of war crimes committed during the aggression on Croatia and the occupation of parts of its territory. Participants in the two-hour protest watched on a video wall testimonies of a number of Homeland War victims from the 2003 documentary “Testimonies”. The testimonies included one by a Croatian soldier who was captured and witnessed torture and killings in Serb-run prison camps set up in Vukovar. Another war veteran spoke about crimes committed on the premises of the Borovo Commerce company, in Trpinja, the village of Vera, in Dalj and in the prison camp Stajicevo in Serbia. The testimonies included one by a woman who was raped by a man whom she knew from before the war and one by a 91-year-old man who spoke about crimes at Borovo Commerce and a farm in Dalj, where many detainees were killed by knife and thrown into a ditch, while the witness survived. He spoke about the man who tried to kill him and other people who were at the crime scene and whom he knew. One witness spoke about the murder of his two brothers and about a woman, whom he named, and who castrated three Croatian soldiers.

A video was shown with the testimony of a Vukovar defender who was captured while at the Vukovar Hospital and taken to a prison camp in one of the local companies, where he witnessed the torture and killing of prisoners. The rally was addressed by the president of the Vukovar mayor’s council for war veterans, Tomislav Josic, the leader of the Croatian Association of Inmates of Serb-Run Concentration Camps, Danijel Rehak, and Mayor Ivan Penava.

Josic said that over the past month there had been much speculation as to who was behind the rally and why it was being organized now, to which he said that the protest was organized “because we did not have a mayor in the past 27 years”, a statement that was met with a round of applause, with protesters chanting Penava’s name. Josic said that after the occupation of Vukovar, more than 2,000 people were killed and that no one had answered for those crimes.

Rehak said that about 30,000 people, both defenders and civilians, had passed through Serb-run prison camps and that those camps operated in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. He noted that that number referred to registered detainees. He called for dealing with the issue of war reparations and noted that during the aggression on Vukovar and its occupation, around 5,000 people, including around 1,000 defenders, were killed. Rehak warned that in the period from 2002 to 2011 his association had filed dozens of criminal reports against people suspected of war crimes but never received any response from the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH). Frequently interrupted by shouts “Traitors” and “Treason”, speakers at the rally criticized Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, as well as DORH and courts, which they described as particularly inefficient.


Plenkovic: Institutions should deal with war crimes (N1)


Commenting on Saturday’s protest rally by war veterans in Vukovar, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Sunday that war crimes investigations and prosecutions were the tasks of law enforcement and the judiciary and that these institutions should deal with what has not been investigated or prosecuted yet. Plenkovic made the statement while responding to questions from the press on the central Adriatic island of Dugi Otok where he was attending a Croatian military exercise. “Many trials have been completed to date and some are still ongoing. However, there are certainly still war crimes that have not been fully investigated or prosecuted and I believe this task should be addressed by those institutions,” the Prime Minister said. Responding to a remark that the public was perceiving war crimes prosecutions as very slowly, Plenkovic said that the justice minister and the State Prosecutor’s Office (DORH) had said several times that actually a large number of war crimes cases had been prosecuted. “I think there is a discrepancy between the reality and the perception of this matter because war crimes committed in Croatia, and in particular those that were committed in Vukovar, have also been prosecuted by the Hague tribunal and the specialised war crimes tribunal in Serbia. However, this work should continue,” Plenkovic said. Asked if Saturday’s protest rally in Vukovar was also an anti-government protest because some of the protesters carried his picture, Plenkovic said that “There were some people there who obviously wanted to send such a message. What is important to me is that we hear victims’ testimonies, that we take care of the people who lost everything at the start of the Homeland War and that we take note of their messages, especially institutions responsible for prosecuting war crimes.” Asked if there would be any sanctions for members of his HDZ party who took part in the protest, Plenkovic said he couldn’t see why. He was also asked if, because of the Vukovar protest, there would be any changes in relations with Serbia, to which he replied that “war crimes prosecution is a continued part of our dialogue and part of the criteria Serbia needs to meet under Chapter 23” in its EU accession negotiations. Asked if any progress could be expected with regard to war crimes investigations to avoid similar protests happening again, Plenkovic said that during the term of his government, the Police Directorate had set up a war crimes investigation task force which had effectively prepared several cases for trial.


Chancellor Merkel to help solve Slovenia-Croatia border dispute (Hina)


After talks with Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec in Berlin on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was willing to contribute to the resolution of the Slovenian-Croatian dispute over the border and the border arbitration decision. Speaking at a joint press conference, Merkel said Slovenia was doing a good job protecting the external Schengen border with Croatia from migration, and added that she and Sarec talked about the arbitration award which Slovenia considers to be the final solution to the border dispute with Croatia. It is time that matter is resolved too, she said, adding that Germany was willing to make a “small contribution” to help both countries find a solution. Asked by Slovenian reporters if the border arbitration award issue was a question of Croatia not honoring European law, as maintained by Slovenia, Merkel said this was not a matter she would like to discuss in public as it would not contribute to a solution, Slovenian media reported. Slovenian President Borut Pahor said on Friday the issue of the border arbitration with Croatia was clear for Slovenia but that his country could not implement the arbitration award unilaterally. “For Slovenia, it is clear where the border is, but we can’t demarcate it unilaterally,” Pahor said at a meeting of the Atlantic Council NGO in Maribor. “Unilateral implementation would mean the use of force, which we want to avoid in every way. In that sense, patience will be necessary which, in my opinion, can’t be unlimited” Pahor said. Commenting on Slovenia-Croatia relations, he said the disagreement on the border and the arbitration was the main problem and that it was unlikely that either country would change their current positions in the short term. Slovenia insists on the implementation of the arbitration award, while Croatia rejects it, insisting Slovenia compromised the arbitration procedure and proposing bilateral talks.


Mogherini: Prespa Agreement is a unique opportunity, may happen never again (MIA)


The Prespa Agreement is a unique opportunity for reconciliation and resolving of a two decade-long dispute between Skopje and Athens, and it may never happen again, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini says in an interview with MIA. It will be clear tomorrow if there is a two-third majority in the Macedonia’s Parliament, necessary for implementing the Prespa Agreement.


What’s your message at this moment?

-I’ve had the privilege to attend the ceremony of signing the agreement between Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev this June by the Prespa Lake. Both sides demonstrated political courage, leadership, responsibility and worked hard to bridge the differences, old problems and reach this historic agreement, welcomed by whole Europe. Now national procedures for implementing the agreement are in progress in both countries, which should be respected. I understand the sensitivity and complexity of the historic background of the dispute, as well as the expressed concerns. The dispute hasn’t lasted for so long without a reason, but as we saw in the past, as the time goes on it is harder to find solutions. The negotiating process must have been painful and a compromise is the result. But it is a compromise that meets the key interests of both parties. Our position is clear: EU fully supports the reached agreement. This is a unique opportunity for reconciliation in the Western Balkans, which may never happen again. I hope all parties will size the moment and ensure a future within the EU for the country, a future the entire nation has been hoping for years to become reality.


Does it mean that a positive outcome will speed up the enlargement process?

– Reconciliation, regional cooperation and good-neighborly relations play a vital role in our engagement in Western Balkans, being the key principles of the (EU) enlargement process. So a resolution of such complex dispute is of profound importance for the region and its progress on the road to EU. So if the moment is rationally seized to advance in implementing the necessary reforms, than we are looking forward to substantial progress. The (EU) member states have opened the road for commencing the (accession) talks next June, setting clear conditions. This is part of our enhanced engagement in the region, which in the interest of all, the (EU) members and the region.


If approved, will the Agreement bring more stability to the region?

– This historic agreement may contribute to the transformation of the entire Western Balkan region. Nourishing good-neighborly relations helps us to work together in dealing with the great number of challenges and circumstances we have been sharing, including in spheres such as migration. The refugee crisis has shown that wars breaking out far away from Brussels or Skopje may sooner or later have impact in Europe. The Western Balkans is in the core of Europe, we depend on each other. I believe that together we can achieve a lot for the prosperity, security and stability of our nations.


Tsipras: Prespa Agreement – unique, irreplaceable opportunity for two nations (MIA)


There are no alternatives for the neighboring country aside from the Prespa Agreement, which is a unique and irreplaceable opportunity for the two nations and for stability in the Balkans, Greek Prime Minister Alexsis Tsipras told the SYRIZA Central Committee. ‘If our neighbors reject it, they have to know and I will say honestly that there are no alternatives for entering the European Union or other international organizations or defense alliances in which Greece participates. Because if they do not change their constitutional name, I want to be clear, Greece is not going to allow it. It will not accept the entry of the neighboring country into NATO, the EU or any other international organization, or any form of defense co-operation with the constitutional name – Republic of Macedonia’, Tsipras said. Tsipras’s statements at the meeting of SYRIZA Central Committee basically reject the proposals of the Defense Minister and leader of the government’s junior coalition party, Panos Kammenos, who at meetings with US officials proposed a new alliance in the Balkans, based on bilateral agreements on defense and security, as an alternative to the name deal, MIA correspondent reports from Athens.


Pence’s letter to Zaev: Referendum confirms immense commitment to Macedonia’s European future (MIA)


US Vice President Mike Pence sent a letter to Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, expressing his support in this significant moment for the country, the government said in a press release. In the letter Pence says he was honored to meet Zaev on 20 September at the White House and highly appreciated the possibility to share opinions on the implementation of the historic Prespa Agreement with Greece. Pence also commended the demonstration of leadership in reaching the deal, pointing out that 90 percent of those who voted in the referendum gave their approval to the Prespa Agreement, thus confirming the immense commitment to Macedonia’s European future. ‘The US shares your commitment to greater security and stability of the region. Rest assured in my continual support in this significant moment for your country,’ Pence says, voicing expectation for further advancing of the friendly relations between the two countries.




Zoran Zaev and the burden of the Balkan past (To Vima, 14 October 2018)


In an exclusive interview with Ta Nea, FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev expresses the conviction that political problems are solved by implementing a new policy, and not by changing borders.

In an exclusive interview with Ta Nea, FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev expresses the conviction that political problems are solved by implementing a new policy, and not by changing borders.
Speaking on the eve of a crucial parliamentary vote on the constitutional amendments required to meet the terms of the Prespa Agreement, Zaev says he expects MPs to respect the will of citizens who voted in the 30 September referendum on the accord, with over 90 percent in favour, who he said voted for their country’s membership in the EU and Nato.
If parliament does not approve, Zaev says he will call a general election.
Zaev underlines that the time has come for a different Balkans, which will have left behind biases and its reputation as a powder keg, to become a source of stability.
Zaev praises Alexis Tsipras for his courage during negotiations, and in a message to New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, he says that Balkan leaders should recognise challenges and rise to the occasion.

How likely is it to find the 11 votes you need in order to pass the constitutional review by the Parliament?
In accordance with the strategic priorities – membership in NATO and The EU, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia undertook the obligation to prepare a proposal of draft amendments to constitutional changes, which has been the following stage as established in the Prespa Agreement between our country and the Republic of Greece.
Considering the historical importance and the urgency that the moment calls for, the Government I lead took an initiative and made a decision to submit the proposal of draft amendments to constitutional changes to the Parliament, and with that, asked from the Parliament to begin with this procedure.
Now, all Members of Parliament, regardless of political affiliation, have a historical duty in service of the citizens, to secure the road for our country towards stability, security and economic prosperity. That is the road towards EU and NATO that passes through the Prespa Agreement.
It is expected from our Members of Parliament to make a decision in that line, as a demonstration of respect of the will of the majority of citizens who voted on the referendum, but also for respect of the will of about 80% of the citizens who continuously approve and call for the membership of our country in NATO and The EU.
The people made a very important choice. The majority of citizens who voted on the referendum supported one question, one vision and one goal for the future of our country, which is only a step away to accomplish.
The fulfillment of this vision is now in the hands of every Member of Parliament, separately and depends on them. They need to make a decision demonstrating that they want to make our country a safe and good place to live for every citizen.

If they are not found, are you obviously going to hold elections? 
If the Members of Parliament from VMRO-DPMNE continue to refuse to take responsibility and remain on the positions that threaten the future of our country, the parliamentary majority will vote for early elections.

Do you fear instability if you do not avoid the most ‘problematic scenario’? 
In the past period, the politics of the government I lead, strengthened and deepened the friendship with all our neighbors. The Government succeeded to close all open bilateral issues by respecting the principles of open dialogue, mutual understanding and readiness for finding solutions.
Today, our country has no open issues with any of our neighbors. We respect all our neighbors and we are building our friendship by investing in development of the cooperation and the trade.
At the same time, we support and encourage the efforts of all our neighbors to solve open issues and overcome the misunderstandings in the interest of their bilateral relations, but also in the interest of the stability, cooperation and prosperity of the whole region. We believe that problems are solved with implementing new politics instead of marking new borders. I believe that solving the dispute between our countries and our people is a historical moment and source of stability for the Balkans and for Europe.

The scenario of border changes, as a follow-up to developments in fYROM, how do you evaluate it? 
If your question relates to the issue of the Belgrade-Pristina relations, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia believes that the Balkan doesn’t need new conflicts.
Only united together, the countries of our region can develop faster, easier, and accomplish the shared EU aspirations through mutual cooperation for creating better living conditions for the citizens.
The Republic of Macedonia supports a positive solution for Kosovo. A solution that will improve the well-being of Serbs, Albanians and all other citizens living in Kosovo. A solution that will guarantee the peace, security and prosperity of Serbia, Kosovo and the whole region. It is crucial for all leaders here in this region to be united around our common goals, and those are lasting peace, regional cooperation, economic development and EU membership.

Why do you think you did not get the best possible participation in the referendum? 
More than 660.000 citizens voted on the referendum. From those who voted, more than 90% chose “FOR” The Republic of Macedonia to accept the Agreement with Greece and to become a member of NATO and The EU.
In order to reach the census threshold, there were supposed to be a turnout of 903.169 citizens, out of which 451.585 should have voted “FOR”. On the referendum held on the 30th of September 609.813 citizens voted “FOR”. Isn’t that an expression of the will of the citizens?!
At elections or a referendum, the people who go out and vote are those that make the decision.
Since the referendum was consultative, and not mandatory, it is now up to the Members of Parliament, chosen by the people, to make a decision respecting and following the interests of the citizens, the country and their personal duty.

If it ever happened again, would you avoid something? Perhaps the great support from the West, which some people think that it served as a boomerang? 
At a time when we are setting the future course of our country, all our friends from the international community have acknowledged this is a historical moment and have approved the politics of our government on the road to EU and NATO. The success is easier to reach when you have supportive friends.
Our friends have told us to bravely remain on the road we are paving for reaching prosperity and well-being for all our citizens and for all people in the region.
Their aspiration to see our country as equal partner in the great alliances is sincere and strong.
Our friends from the international community assist the process to confirm that they acknowledge our identity and statehood – that is a demonstration of respect for all the citizens of our country.

How crucial was the role of Russia in this story? Do you think there was an involvement, what kind and to what extent? 
We nurture traditionally friendly relations with the Russian Federation and we will continue to develop our relations and cooperation.
The economic and cultural cooperation, as well as cooperation in the area of agriculture, is on a very high level and we expect it to intensify.
I am convinced there is awareness, and there has to be awareness, that world peace is a global interest, and for that we need stable and secure countries that develop according to the path they have chosen.
Over 80% of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia are for membership of our country in The EU and NATO. Those are our strategic goals, our right and responsibility, for which there is no alternative. We are careful and we follow the situation.

The overwhelming majority of the Greek people – as depicted in the Gallups – opposes the agreement. What is your message to the dissenters? 
We are fully aware that there are political circles in your country that find this to be a very sensitive issue.
Our message is one and the same for the ruling and oppositional political factors in Greece, and in fact, to all the citizens: Let us maintain the good spirit and strong political will from Prespa and allow that spirit to guide us and establish our relations in the future. Together, we have a unique chance to send a strong signal for stability in the region and Europe, together we have an opportunity to mark a success in history as a serious investment for the future.
It is our duty to continue to secure the conditions on both sides for a political ambient that will allow for complete fulfillment of the contract. We are setting the risks to minimum, since much is at stake to leave things to chance. We believe there is no better agreement for both sides, than this one.

The crucial question for those who put the negotiation in the balance is: Greece, apart from the name, ‘grants’ language and ethnicity. What does fYROM ‘grant’? 
The obligations and duties for both countries stem from the provisions and the spirit of the Agreement between both sides.
I do not want to discuss about concessions, and who gave someone something or took something away. I want to discuss about the solutions in the Agreement that have unlocked an issue that was seriously entangled and blocked. The key is in the solutions that open up perspectives for the future, and not in the concessions.
The solution for the name of our country and for recognizing the specificity of our identity, which as Macedonian comes from our unique traits, which are different from the Hellenic, should be found in the solutions that envisage changes in our Constitution, with guarantee for inviolability of the borders. According to your wording, those are the concessions that our country is making.
Both sides in the Agreement for solving the dispute have a serious homework assignment that needs to be worked on. Both governments in the Agreement have clearly and precisely predicted all the steps that need to be made, or the processes that need to be initiated in order to secure the institutional support for their realization.
One of those processes is creating conditions for secure parliamentary and political majority for implementing the constitutional changes.

In practice, can there be a smooth coexistence when so many large sections of the population on both sides of the border disagree?
The majority of the citizens in both countries want a solution, want peace, stability and progress. I see my country, including the other Balkan countries in the same way that my citizens see it: Modern, economically stable and socially responsible state according to the EU standards and the standards of the members states of the Union.
It is time to give the world a different Balkans, A Balkans of countries that have left their prejudices and historical concessions behind, and have shifted focus towards the well-being of their citizens, towards building good-neighborly relations.
It is time to rebrand the Balkan region from the stereotype “Bure Baruta” (Powder Keg) to “Source of Stability”. A region that produces peace, cooperation, connectivity, dynamic fluctuation of people and ideas.
We are actively working on creating conditions for a positive outcome from the Prespa Agreement and the implementation of the second part of the Agreement that we talk so little of, entitled ‘Intensifying and enriching the cooperation between both sides’.
We recognize good will on the other side too.
The atmosphere of goodwill, political maturity and readiness for overcoming this issue, we can come to a solution very soon.
Let us not miss the moment. Let us not seek answers that are good for one side only. Let us keep on searching for the true answer, mutually acceptable for both sides.

How close were we in adopting the name «Republic of Ilinden» and where did it finally stumble?
In the negotiations, we reached a point when we considered that the name Ilinden Macedonia provides a good basis for a final solution. Then we agreed that we will ask for a wider political consensus in both countries. The Greek political circles didn’t provide sufficient support for the suggestion, after which we moved to another solution entailing a geographical point of reference that will specify our name. In all complex processes there are successful and unsuccessful steps, but most importantly, we overcame that situation and found a solution that is acceptable for both sides.

What other names were seriously considered during the negotiation?
Other names that were discussed during the negotiations are the ones that came as suggestions from mediator Nimetz, that were generally with geographical or time adjective. We accepted a geographical point of reference, confirming the undisputable geographical and territorial facts.

Was there any time you feared that the deal would not be achieved? And why?
I assure you that the whole process, from the moment it was taken over by ministers Kotzias and Dimitrov and their teams, and since me and Prime Minister Tsipras and our teams got involved, we were driven by the motivation and focus for finding a solution.
We knew there must be a solution, otherwise there wouldn’t be such political and personal will from everyone that has participated in the process.
Of course, the highly respected and experienced mediator Matthew Nimetz was here, but he was wise and knew when to actively participate and when it was more important to let us walk alone through the labyrinth towards the solution.
Such a complex and sensitive problem requires delicate, careful and responsible behavior in every moment. That is how we have been behaving in this whole process.
This was not an issue to be solved by ‘bulldozer’ diplomacy, as some have thought to be the case.

How would you characterize the negotiating stance of Athens throughout the last critical period?
I characterize it as a strong political will to change the image of the Balkans, to provide the region a new Balkans, a Balkans of the 21st century, in which the past and the shadows of history will not interfere as unsolvable problems in the common European future.
We wanted to relieve the burden from the heritage we have as a “Bure Baruta” Balkan region.
We were motivated by the wish to provide the world with a solution that is an outcome of a European approach in searching for answers.
I accepted to fully invest myself, as a person and as a politician, to provide a solution for my country and my fellow citizens for the blockade that we have been facing for more than 3 decades.
The Greek government had a genuine interest to solve the issue. At the same time, they advocated your national interests strongly, as we did ours. Negotiations were not easy. But we realize that if we have courage to make a compromise then it would benefit both countries, stability in region and consolidate Euro-Atlantic structures. I want to personally thank Prime Minister Tsipras for having that courage and for sharing the vision of a peaceful and prosperous Balkans as integral part of EU.

In the end, was your meeting with the representative of the New Democracy, Maria Spyraki, accidental or not? And how many meetings were there? One or two? 
I had a brief coffee conversation with Ms. Maria Spyraki, at the hotel where I was staying, close to the European Parliament, as I did with many MEPs or politicians from different countries during that visit to Brussels.

What is your message to the President of New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis? 
It is always a good moment to call for and demonstrate that the Balkan politicians also know how to rise above the challenges and work in the interest of their citizens, who in turn expect from us to build good-neighbourly relations.
To all political leaders, I would like to point out the value of the new politics and the new societal image of our country: from a crisis-potential country, we have developed into a country that cooperates and decides to solve the most complex issues.
I hope everyone can recognize that we are actively creating conditions for a positive outcome of the whole process that has opened between our countries and promises a better future.
I would suggest and encourage him to take part in the new trends that provide a reason to the world to consider the Balkans as a region of emancipated and friendly neighbours. We have a unique chance to jointly mark a success in history, as a serious investment for the future.


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