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Belgrade Media Report 06 December 2018

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 6 December 2018

LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic: Our focus education and schools, not arms and army (Tanjug)
• Vucic: I’m convinced there’ll be no war (B92/TV Pink)
• Vucic and Stoltenberg to be constantly in direct communication (N1)
• Dacic: Soon less than 100 countries that recognize Kosovo (Blic/Beta)
• Ljajic: EU has chance to tell Pristina to abolish taxes on 17 December (TV Pink/Beta)
• Drecun: Yellow House case in report and testimonies of Albanians who took part in human organ trafficking (RTS)
• Kuburovic: Belgrade persistently replied to all inquiries by Pristina (RTS/FoNet)
• Schieb on Chapter 31: It means to impose sanctions against Russia (RTV)
• Alexander Chepurin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Serbia: Solution for Kosovo and Resolution 1244 Inseparable (CorD Magazine)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• NATO’s green light for some historic success – others against the activation of the MAP for B&H (BHT)
• Two-day session of PIC SB ends (N1)
• B&H Presidency members meet with Palmer and Cormack in Sarajevo (TV1)
• SIPA arrests former commander of RB&H Army 4th Corps Drekovic (N1)
Croatia
• Plenkovic meets Rama to talk EU membership and cooperation (Hina)
fYROM
• Stoltenberg: NATO expects Macedonia to become member in February 2020 (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Dimitrov encouraged by NATO support (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Fleckenstein and McAllister support the Prespa Agreement and the reconciliation process (Nezavisen vesnik)
Albania
• NATO Ministerial, Bushati stresses Western Balkans importance (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following conversations with President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia, and Mr.Ramush Haradinaj of Kosovo (NATO)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: Our focus education and schools, not arms and army (Tanjug)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said today that the focus of Serbia is education and schools, not arms and the army, and stressed that she has never even called on war, as interpreted by some foreign media, but on peace and stability. Brnabic told reporters during a tour of the Serbian-Korean Information and Access Centre that she is very sorry about the manner in which some of the world’s media interpreted her yesterday’s statement, because it turned out that Serbia was threatening. From my speech in which I called on peace and reason dozens of times, they pulled out a half of my sentence. It turns out that Serbia is threatening with something, I am sorry about that, but it is a deep-rooted perception of us against which we must fight, Brnabic said. She added that she has not read a line in foreign media about Serbs in Kosovo not having the newspapers in their own language for 15 days, and we are talking about Europe in the XXI century. According to Brnabic, nobody writes about whether the Serbs in Kosovo will await Christmas without knowing whether they will have heating or medicines, and that neither Reuters nor AP reported whether Serbs in Kosovo have basic human rights. I call on now for people abroad to be informed about what is the basic civilization norm, regardless of whether you prefer Belgrade or Pristina, Serbs or Albanians, and once again I appeal to peace and understanding, she said. Brnabic stated that she wants to talk about schools and young people who should stay in the region and have a perspective because without them there is no future for all of us. No rifle and army, but education and schools, does anyone really want to make war in 2020 and have we not learned anything from the past, she said. Brnabic added that she sent a message to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in which she thanked him for a direct and unequivocal statement in which he called for peace and reason, adding that his message was not only important for Serbia and Serbs, but for Albanians and Pristina and the entire region. I thank him immensely, it is necessary for the region to return to the path of dialogue, Brnabic said. Asked what is the benefit of both sides clinging with weapons’ and what is a compromise solution for Serbia, Brnabic said that she disagreed that both sides would speak the language of weapons and that Serbia’s only interest is peace and stability, compromise and reason. It scares me when Pristina says that it is not interested in what NATO says, the Brussels agreement or the constitution, but they insist on the army. Why this, when there are their police, KFOR, NATO, Brnabic asked. She pointed out that she hopes that Serbia will never have to use its army, either now or in the future. We have had enough of it, let us fight with innovations, with science. But what if someone wants to carry out ethnic cleansing, what would any Prime Minister in Europe say, Brnabic said.

 

Vucic: I’m convinced there’ll be no war (B92/TV Pink)

 

Speaking about tensions in Kosovo and Metohija after introduction of 100% taxes on goods from Serbia, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says he’s convinced there will be no war. “I do not like to even use that word, it seems to me that people in Pristina today don’t understand the scope of the disaster they can cause, and I plead with them try to understand that,” he told TV Pink, and added: “We are in a situation not to play chess with someone who has the help of ten onlookers, but we need to think about whether one of them will get up and hit both us and them on the head with the board. When you have such an unpredictable opponent, then that is definitely a problem…I hope that we will succeed in preserving peace. Serbia will do its best, I am convinced that we will have peace, that there will be no war, but we will not allow a pogrom of our people to occur, wherever they may live,” Vucic stressed. The mistakes we have made in terms of Kosovo and Metohija and wrong political decisions cost us a lot, said Vucic. He pointed out that there are between five and six percent Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and two percent south of the Ibar River, for which we are guilty ourselves, because of everything that was done in 1999, and especially after 2000. “Because we did not fight for the people of Kosovo, we brought resolutions ourselves and proposed decisions to the International Court of Justice, kept silence to the decisions of the Albanians, we expelled ourselves from the UN, we agreed to set the boundaries between Leposavic and Raska,” Vucic said. As he remarked, these mistakes people must understand, because mistakes and bad political decisions are always paid in a historical sense. “Thus, Germany cannot today ask for Kaliningrad, which was German, as was Strasbourg, synonymous with Goethe, today in France. Mistakes will cost us dearly sooner or later. They cost us already today. I’m not announcing anything bad, I’m just talking realistically and objectively,” Vucic said. He said that for the first time we came into a position to fight for more than we have, but the people said they don’t want it, so now we will labor.

 

Vucic and Stoltenberg to be constantly in direct communication (N1)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg agreed on Thursday the lasting peace and stability were of the highest importance to Serbia and the whole region, N1 reported. In a phone conversation, Vucic thanked Stoltenberg for saying it was not the time to create a Kosovo army, i.e., Pristina’s intention to transform its security forces into the military is not well timed,” a statement from Vucic’s office said. The two agreed to keep in touch “constantly and directly,” and that the Army of Serbia should re-establish its daily contacts with NATO-led KFOR in Kosovo to exchange information and monitor developments. The statement said Vucic told Stoltenberg how dire situation was for the Kosovo Serbs, especially after Pristina introduced the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia. Stoltenberg said he highly appreciated Serbia’s contribution to peace and stability in the region, the statement added.

 

Dacic: Soon less than 100 countries that recognize Kosovo (Blic/Beta)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Thursday the number of countries that had recognized Kosovo’ independence would fall below 100, and then soon under the half of the 193 UN member states, Beta reported. Dacic told Blic that Pristina authorities are in serious trouble since their Interpol membership was supported only by 76 countries, two of which were not the UN member states. “That means they have the support of 74 (UN Member) countries, while Pristina says 116 have recognized them so far. For the first time it becomes clear that was a lie,” he said. “They (Kosovo authorities) have been accusing me of lying about the number of withdrawals, and now they say it’s a big problem. How come if I was lying?,” Dacic asked in the statement to the daily.

 

Ljajic: EU has chance to tell Pristina to abolish taxes on 17 December (TV Pink/Beta)

 

Serbian Trade Minister Rasim Ljajic said on Wednesday the EU had a chance to explicitly call on Pristina to abolish its decision on taxes on 17 December, during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Kosovo’s accession to the bloc. Ljajic told TV Pink there were enough of appeals. Only the EU has mechanisms not just to pressure Pristina but to threaten it with the suspension of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) and other documents. Ljajic warned that if Kosovo problem was not solved, it could become a precedent which others could use as a model. “It is crucial here that the basic human rights are violated, the free flow of goods, right to medical treatment… regardless of all economic effects,” Ljajic said. He added that such a situation created political instability and that it was vital for the Serbs to protest peacefully. Ljajic reiterated that Serbia had mechanisms to retaliate, but the Belgrade would not use them, adding there was one side which had been violating the agreements and the other which was the victim.

 

Drecun: Yellow House case in report and testimonies of Albanians who took part in human organ trafficking (RTS)

 

The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the working group formed by the Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, which collects facts and evidence on KLA crimes, has a united completed data base on all crimes. “One month ago, when we had a meeting with representatives of certain embassies, we distributed the file Yellow House to journalists. It included the things that had been reported by the media over the past days – the report of the forensic team that had conducted the investigation in the yellow house,” said Drecun. He recalls that Mati Raatikainen was in this team. He was the head of the investigative team with the International Court for the former Yugoslavia, and the head of the EULEX investigative team. “He said at the meeting with the families of kidnapped and missing that there is progress and that everything will be certainly done and that they know where the bodies are located,” notes Drecun. The conclusion of that report states that the blood found in the kitchen reacted to luminol. “Luminol is used after all examinations are completed. This substance is used in order to spot blood that the human eye cannot see on eventual places. Therefore, they found blood in the yellow house,” said Drecun, adding this report had initiated the further investigation.

Drecun says there is also the report that is marked as classified material, whose information is not for the public and is the subject of journalist discretion. “This is the report of October 2003, at issue is the content of the visit of the head of the ICTY investigative department Patrick Lopez Terez and his meeting with the director of the UNMIK justice department Emon Smith. They give eight Albanian witnesses and they know the whole story,” said Drecun. He says this shows the degree of covering up and not undertaking of any kind of activities when it could have been done a great deal more to discover the case of the illegal human organ trafficking. “The introductory is based on the interviews with eight witnesses, all of them are Albanians from Kosovo and Montenegro, and all of them served the KLA. Four of them took part in the transport of at least 90 Serbs and others to the prisons in central and northern Albania, three of them delivered prisoners to the hospital, two of them took part in the transport of parts of bodies and organs to the Rinas airport near Tirana. All transports and surgery procedures were performed with the knowledge and participation of middle and senior KLA officers and doctors from Kosovo and abroad,” says Drecun. Human organ trafficking is one of the supporting elements of Dick Marty’s report, so Drecun expects it to be included in the indictment of the specialized prosecution. “We need to insist and do everything for them to be on the indictment as soon as possible. Time is running out, they will pass the decision within several months whether they are issuing indictments or giving up from them. We need to supply them with evidence so that it doesn’t happen again that nobody has undertaken anything,” concluded Drecun.

 

Kuburovic: Belgrade persistently replied to all inquiries by Pristina (RTS/FoNet)

 

Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic denied claims of the Pristina authorities that the Serbian authorities were not cooperating in the investigation into the murder of Kosovo Serb political leader Oliver Ivanovic. She said that Belgrade has persistently replied to Pristina’s inquiries and has been waiting for months to get information and evidence. “The Organized Crime Prosecution sent three requests for mutual legal assistance to Pristina in January and February. The prosecution in Pristina has not replied fully, sending only partial replies, 10 months later,” she said in written comments on a statement from the office of the Kosovo Chief Prosecutor which said that Belgrade is not cooperating in the investigation. Kuburovic said the Serbian prosecution responded to seven of the eight requests it received from Pristina. “One of the requests included several different inquiries which were not precise and we are working on it and will reply to the authorities in Pristina soon,” she said.

 

Schieb on Chapter 31: It means to impose sanctions against Russia (RTV)

 

Addressing a gathering organized by the Centre for Intentional and Security politics in Belgrade, German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb said that without the harmonization with the EU Serbia could not open the foreign policy chapter in the EU negotiations. Schieb said it was “sensitive issue for Serbia… It means to impose sanctions against Russia. That may or may not be true,” adding the candidate countries had to boost their harmonization with the EU declarations and foreign policy moves which included the restrictive measures. He said that in that respect Serbia was moderately ready for Chapter 31. “Until the more advanced adjustment, it is difficult to imagine a unanimous stand in the European Council on opening the Chapter 31,” Schieb said. He added the EU did not ban nor did it assessed poorly any cooperation with the third countries such as China and Russia, as long as it did not violate the obligations to the EU, including those of the candidate countries. He welcomed Serbia’s support to the Ukraine territorial integrity.

 

Alexander Chepurin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Serbia: Solution for Kosovo and Resolution 1244 Inseparable (CorD Magazine, 6 December 2018)

 

Russia will support the decision that Serbia considers acceptable for itself. If Belgrade is satisfied with the delineation with Kosovo’s Albanians, I see no reason for objections from Moscow. The decision should be taken without blackmailing Belgrade, on the basis of and with respect for Resolution 1244, which fixes the territorial allegiance of Kosovo to Serbia – Alexander Chepurin

Preparing for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Serbia, Ambassador Alexander Chepurin says that this will be the third meeting between the two countries’ leaders during a ten-month period, which – as he explains – confirms that they have plenty to discuss, but also testifies to the level of trust that exists between President Putin and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The meeting between the leaders will include the signing of a large number of bilateral agreements, some of which could provide the basis for the launch of cooperation in the field of atomic energy. In this exclusive interview for CorD Magazine, Ambassador Chepurin adds that the issue of Kosovo will be an unavoidable topic of the discussions, noting that Russia’s position on this issue remains unchanged and insists that – any agreement on future relations should be based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Your Excellency, you recently announced the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Serbia. How are preparations for his arrival in January progressing?

Both Russia and Serbia attach great importance to the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Belgrade. It’s no secret that this event is being prepared very thoroughly. First of all, work is being done on its content. A number of agreements are being prepared for signing. Deputy Director General of the State Corporation Rosatom, N.N. Spassky, recently visited Belgrade and discussed with President Vučić a promising area of cooperation – the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, primarily in the field of medicine. During a recent visit to Belgrade of Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov it was agreed that there would be a vigorous promotion of bilateral economic cooperation to ensure a more complete utilisation of existing possibilities. Good prospects are emerging in advanced technologies (with giants such as Rostec, Rosatom, Roscosmos, Yandex, Kaspersky, Mail.ru etc.), the energy sector (Gazpromneft and Power Machines), the gas sector (Gazprom), agriculture, transport infrastructure (Russian Railways) and other areas. We need to explore new frontiers.

President Vučić was President Putin’s guest in Moscow as recently as October. How do you explain such frequent meetings at the highest level?

The intensity of contacts at the highest level of Russia and Serbia testifies to the relations of trust between its leaders, this is the first point. Secondly, it means that they have something to discuss. Russia and Serbia are firmly committed to the development of bilateral relations that satisfy the interests of our countries and peoples. This will be the third meeting of our leaders over the past 10 months, with them having met in Moscow on 9th May and 2nd October this year.

Are the topics of the January 2019 talks in Belgrade already known?

It is not difficult to guess that the range of issues will be very broad. First of all, this is a bilateral theme: political, economic and cultural. The exchange of views on the situation in the Balkans is also important. An obligatory subject is, of course, the settlement of the Kosovo issue, where our approaches are very close. It is important to rely on international law. The solution to the problem is possible on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Russia is in favour of both dialogue and agreements.

Following a recent meeting between President Putin and President Vučić, the Russian “Kommersant” announced that the idea of the Serbian President to demarcate the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo was rejected in Moscow. You have repeatedly said that a treaty is acceptable to Russia if it is acceptable to Serbia, does this include division?

Russia will support the decision that Serbia considers acceptable for itself. If Belgrade is satisfied with delineation with Kosovo’s Albanians, I see no reason for objections from Moscow.

Two things are important here. The decision should be taken without blackmailing Belgrade, on the basis of and with respect for UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which fixes the territorial allegiance of Kosovo to Serbia. Secondly, such a decision, if reached, should be fixed by the adopting of a new UNSC resolution. It should be also implemented. We can see that European Union efforts failed because Pristina completely ignores interim agreements reached within the framework of the Brussels process, including the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. Now Priština raises the question of the armed forces, tariffs. There is no visible progress on the return of Serb refugees. The Serbian Orthodox Church is exposed to new attacks. The special court never started its work in Kosovo. And what about the investigation into the murder of Oliver Ivanović, which is being led by the Kosovars? All of this does not add optimism.

Nevertheless, you stated recently that “Kosovo should return to the legal and state field of Serbia in accordance with international law”. How realistic is such an option, considering that Kosovo’s independence also has the support of part of the international community, including the United States and 23 EU members?

The recognition of Kosovo’s “sovereignty” by individual countries does not change the international legal status of the province. It is necessary to seek a solution within a legal framework. And that framework is Resolution 1244.

Russia and Serbia are celebrating 180 years of diplomatic relations. You have been personally involved in this cooperation for the last six years, as ambassador to Serbia. Are there any challenges in what is commonly referred to as the best possible cooperation between the two countries?

You know, I am used to hearing the opinion, even very often, that Russian-Serbian cooperation has reached a qualitatively new level, which is true. It is characterised by durability and respect for mutual and individual interests. I consider it positive that within the framework of the partnership between Russia and Serbia there is room for development, especially in the economic sphere, which should become a priority task during the years ahead. Moreover, such opportunities have expanded significantly and it’s now time to further expand this potential.

The analyses of experts increasingly refer to Serbia as a country where Russia and the West demonstrate their power on the international scene. What is Russia’s interest in Serbia?

Analysts say the same about many other countries, based on the logic of confrontation. But the world today consists not only of the West and Russia. The world today is experiencing dangerous tensions. It would be nice for everyone to look to the example of relations between Russia and Serbia, which have an extremely positive, mutually beneficial direction.

Speaking about your service in Belgrade, in an interview for the Moscow Institute of International Relations of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs you said that “the Serbs are the main fans” of Russia and that Serbia is the only European country that has not introduced sanctions against Russia. How are you looking at Serbia’s strategic approach to EU membership and enhancing cooperation with NATO within the Partnership for Peace programme?

You will not find a single official statement in which Moscow opposes the European integration of Serbia or is against European integration as such. At the same time, and it is important, Belgrade should not be imposed to ultimatums and asked to break its partnership with Russia. When it comes to the example of EU countries themselves, one can see the negative consequences of such inconsiderate and counterproductive steps. As for NATO, we have long warned about the negative consequences of the bloc’s eastward expansion. However, the Serbian authorities clearly adhere to the principle of military neutrality. Belgrade does not want to join NATO, nor to join anti-Russian sanctions, and the Western countries should respect this position. Furthermore, Serbia is familiar with NATO’s activities not via its pretty pictures, but via its bloody bombardments and inhuman and coward military actions launched against the civilians of Yugoslavia. Serbia, as a sovereign state, cooperates with both the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)– and this should not raise any questions. Russia itself joined the Partnership for Peace programme back in 1994.

At the same time, as you know, we were totally against all actions of force unauthorised by UN Security Council that were undertaken by the Alliance, including the bombing of Yugoslavia. However, back then NATO and the United States felt like the Masters of the World and were itching for blood. Why would the Serbs want to join NATO after all this? Serbs are a proud people with a strong character; this is what they always were and remain so today.

From your perspective as a career diplomat, how would you assess current relations between Russia and the United States, which we are discussing in light of the U.S. President’s latest announcement on withdrawal from the so-called “nuclear agreement”?

Unfortunately, many foreign policy steps of the current American administration are due to the internal political war in America. Thus, the White House announced its intention to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on the eve of the midterm congressional elections of 6th November, in the hope that this would reinforce the position of the Republican Party before the vote. We believe that the dismantling of the INF Treaty is fraught with negative consequences for strategic stability and runs the risk of drawing regions into a new arms race.

The world will become even more dangerous. What use is that to Russia? Russia, as well as Serbia, has gigantic creative tasks ahead.

In spite of good political relations and a free trade agreement, it can often be heard that trade exchange between Russia and Serbia is much lower than with the EU, for example, and that Serbia’s exports to some countries of the former Yugoslavia are higher than exports to Russia. Do you see a way to increase this cooperation?

I will note that it is incorrect to compare Russia and an integrated association consisting of 28 countries. In terms of the total turnover, Russia is consistently (together with Germany and Italy) among the top three key partners of Serbia, with a share of about 7%. At the same time, our trade turnover is quite diversified. The share of non-energy exports from Russia is increasing, and the share of industrial goods and high value-added products in exports from Serbia increasing, too.

In the period from January to September this year, the turnover increased by 20.5% compared to the same period in 2017, reaching a total of $2.3 billion. We can expect to exceed the $3 billion mark by the end of this year. Of course, the development potential of Russian-Serbian business ties is far from being exhausted. We are set to increase the volume and quality of our economic partnership. It’s quite realistic to increase trade volumes to an indicative $5 billion in the next three-four years. I am convinced that this fully meets the interests of Russia and Serbia, contributing to the improvement of the well-being of our peoples and the competitiveness of our economies. Moreover, trade and economic relations between Russia and Serbia are today becoming innovative. Promising initiatives are being discussed in the fields of atomic energy and space technologies, IT, digital technology and medicine. Interaction is intensifying between Russian technology giants “Skolkovo” and “Innopolis” and Serbian IT companies.

A meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade, Economic and Scientific Cooperation was held in November. What are the current effects of the work of this body and what are the key messages of the session in Belgrade?

The Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) is the central platform for Russian-Serbian economic cooperation. Specifically, it is there that the strategic plans of the parties are coordinated, ideas and proposals are expressed and joint projects are substantively discussed. Meetings of the IGC co-chairs and meetings of relevant working groups of the IGC on cooperation in the field of energy, agriculture, transport and tourism are held regularly. Following the meeting of the IGC in Sochi in February this year, a new cooperation working group was formed in the field of innovation, technological development, science and the digital economy. During the last meeting of the IGC co-chairs – Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić – held on 9th November this year in Belgrade, the emphasis was placed on high-tech cooperation. SC “ROSATOM” has very serious plans that include the construction of a multifunctional Nuclear Science and Technology Centre (NSTC) in Serbia, on the basis of which scientific research will be conducted, radiopharmaceutical products will be created, and high-tech processing of agricultural products will be carried out. The agenda also includes the development of industrial cooperation and the localisation of production, primarily in the automotive and civil aviation sectors. I talked about this in detail at the beginning of our conversation.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

NATO’s green light for some historic success – others against the activation of the MAP for B&H (BHT)

 

NATO’s green light for activation of NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) represents historic success. However, it seems that Republika Srpska (RS), i.e. officials from this entity will be against activation of the MAP for B&H. Namely, Chairman of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said that the RS will not approve NATO membership of B&H until Serbia is part of the Alliance. “I will of course respect the Resolution of the RS parliament on military neutrality. Everything that represents membership in NATO or any other military alliance will not get my support,” explained Dodik. RS Prime Minister-designate Radovan Viskovic said that the answer is very clear. He reminded that the RS parliament adopted a resolution about neutrality of the RS. Viskovic stressed that, as long as this resolution exists, the RS institutions will behave accordingly. ˝We stated in this resolution that we will follow the stance of Serbia regarding this question. If the Republic of Serbia decides at one point, out of reasons that are known to them, to change its stance, it is our stance about the engagement of B&H in the NATO to ask the citizens of the RS to confirm or reject this stance at a referendum. This will be the obligation of the RS institutions regarding NATO,” said Viskovic.

Speaker of the PDP Caucus in the RS parliament Perica Bundalo said that they will follow the stance of Serbia and they will act the same. He explained that the same people who signed certain requests in 2007, 2008 and 2009 regarding the MAP are the authorities now as well. Bundalo said they will follow closely how they will act and they expect the statement of the B&H Presidency and the new B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). President of the RS Zeljka Cvijanovic said that the RS will coordinate its activities with the activities of Serbia, because the RS does not want the NATO border between the RS and Serbia. On the other hand, Bosniak member of the Presidency of B&H Sefik Dzaferovic underlined that Wednesday’s decision of NATO represents unblocking of B&H’s road to the Alliance. Dzaferovic went on to say that B&H’s membership in NATO is one of most important foreign policy issues, adding that this issue is part of competences of state authorities. “One entity’s decisions cannot deal with state issues,” explained Dzaferovic. Chairman of B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic said that MAP activation is the biggest step towards NATO integration, adding that it is also motive for continuation of reform processes in B&H. He emphasized that MAP activation would lead to stability, security and new investments in B&H, as well as to economic prosperity of this country. B&H Minister of Defense Marina Pendes said that the green light from Brussels represents recognition for everything that B&H did in the previous period. Pendes pointed out that registration of military property represents great success. Pendes added that by adopting the first Annual National Program, B&H will commit to resume the process of implementation of reforms. HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic on Wednesday welcomed the decision of NATO Foreign Ministers to invite B&H to submit its first Annual National Program and thanked NATO allies who recognized “credibility and our efforts during the past years”. He stressed that this is without a doubt a positive integration step for B&H. SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic stated that NATO road does not have alternative, adding: “This is a great step forward… SBB calls on all the political partners in B&H to strongly take steps towards full membership and use this historic chance for B&H together.” Radoncic also said that in the integration process, B&H is going to have to deal with the security sector and finally put the Intelligence-Security Agency (OSA) of B&H under parliamentary supervision.

 

Two-day session of PIC SB ends (N1)

 

The two-day session of Political Directors of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) Steering Board (SB) ended on Wednesday. The PIC SB Political Directors met in Sarajevo on December 4 and 5 to review the process of implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), which remains the basis for a stable, secure, and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). The PIC SB deplored the fact that an early and divisive election campaign stalled progress of socio-economic reforms, poisoned the political atmosphere and prevented a negotiated solution for the legal gap in the Election Law related to the Federation of B&H House of Peoples (HoP). The PIC SB has noted that the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)-led International Election Observation Mission characterized the elections as “genuinely competitive” and also acknowledged that Mission’s concerns and those of local NGOs about numerous irregularities reported throughout the country during the election process. The PIC SB encouraged the B&H political and institutional leaders at the relevant levels of authority to: engage without further delay in constructive dialogue, in a spirit of compromise to enable the timely formation of functional legislative and executive authorities at all levels; refrain from blocking or obstructing the implementation of election results; focus on delivering urgent and concrete socio-economic and other reforms to improve the quality of life for citizens; etc. PIC’s conclusions, among other things, state that B&H has to make urgent changes in its election system after the formation of the authorities. PIC also expects an agreement on filling the Federation of B&H HoP to be reached so that there is no blockade of the authorities.

High Representative Valentin Inzko told a press conference held after the session of PIC SB that B&H has to take over obligations by itself and that time of imposing solutions has passed.

 

B&H Presidency members meet with Palmer and Cormack in Sarajevo (TV1)

 

B&H Presidency members met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer and US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack in Sarajevo on Wednesday. During the meeting between B&H Presidency members and the US officials, Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik expressed hope that authorities in B&H will be formed quickly. Dodik also recalled that an inaugural session of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) will be held on Thursday and that the leadership of the B&H HoR should be composed of representatives of SNSD, SDA and HDZ B&H. ˝I told Palmer not to expect me to do anything that is not part of my well-known policy. I will not do anything that is against Serbia, either on a bilateral or a multilateral level. Serbia is a place where I do not want to make a bad decision. And in that manner, I said that we will follow the Serbian policy regarding NATO and the solution of the relations to Pristina,” said Dodik after the meeting. Dodik also said he scheduled a session of the B&H Presidency. He said that, in case an agreement regarding the RS flag is reached the session will be held in the Presidency building. If they do not reach an agreement, he will be present at the session via video link and that is how they will deal with this issue. Dodik said that there are surely around 50 items of the agenda. He announced that many ambassadors will be dismissed and a statement about the EU integration will be made. He also said that a great number of bilateral agreements need to be handled. Dodik said that the work of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) on the EU integration will be reviewed. He announced that he is going to meet with the RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic in Banja Luka on Thursday to discuss the dismissal of ambassadors. Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic only stated that he was encouraged by this meeting and that he welcomes the engagement of the USA in B&H. Dzaferovic announced an upcoming visit of Deputy US State Secretary John Sullivan to B&H. Sullivan is expected to pay a visit on December 17. “The US are dedicated to preservation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H. Washington-Brussels relations are important to us, and we are happy to have support. Deputy US Secretary of State is coming to B&H in mid-December, and we are looking forward to that visit,” said Dzaferovic.

 

SIPA arrests former commander of RB&H Army 4th Corps Drekovic (N1)

 

The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) arrested on Wednesday morning wartime General of the “Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina” (RB&H), Ramiz Drekovic, based on war crimes charges saying that he ordered the shelling of Kalinovik in 1995. He allegedly ordered artillery units to shell Kalinovik in 1995, and with that breached the Geneva Convention on Protection of Civilians, the B&H Prosecutor’s Office said. “The suspect is charged with issuing direct, strictly confidential orders to artillery units on a wider area of Konjic municipality to randomly shell the village of Kalinovik, inhabited by Serbs, in spring 1995,” the statement of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H said. Apart from allegedly causing the death of a 15-year-old girl, the shelling severely injured several persons and children, prosecutors said. “We still have not been informed about all the details,” Drekovic’s lawyers, Kadrija Kolic and Mirsad Crnovrsanin, told N1. SDA fiercely condemned the arrest of Drekovic. They underlined that the arrest of Drekovic is unacceptable and represents additional humiliation of those who defended B&H. The statement issued by this party reads that SDA advocates processing of all war crimes and independence of judicial institutions. “However, it is more than obvious that the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H succumbed to political pressures,” reads the statement.

 

Plenkovic meets Rama to talk EU membership and cooperation (Hina)

 

Albania’s European Union membership negotiations could start after the European elections in May and Zagreb will firmly stand by Tirana during that process, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said after meeting with his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama on Tuesday in Zagreb.

“We believe that after the European elections, a consensus will be reached to formally launch membership negotiations, and Croatia will strongly support starting that process with Albania,” Plenkovic said after meeting Rama as part of a Central European Initiative (CEI) summit in Zagreb. He said that for Albania and Macedonia it was crucial to begin with intergovernmental conferences and to open the accession negotiations. He said that conclusions from a June meeting of EU’s foreign ministers – in which they recommended starting accession talks with those two countries pending reforms – showed that 2018 was the year in which the two countries were becoming familiar with the EU’s legal rules and regulations. Rama said that Albania and Croatia traditionally had good relations, and that they had been growing closer ever since Croatia gained independence in the early 1990s. “I thank Croatia for its unreserved support to Albania, but also for the recognition of Kosovo, and our NATO membership… From the beginning of Croatia’s birth, Albania has always been there for its friend, and Croatia has always been there for Albania,” Rama told reporters. He said that the statement on strategic partnership between the two countries signed on Tuesday served to give a new impetus to Albania-Croatia relations. “We also talked about further development of our economic cooperation, and we agreed to organise an economic forum next year,” Rama said. Plenkovic said that the statement of strategic partnership would promote more trade between the two countries, which currently amounts to more than €60 million per year. “We want our cooperation to continue within various trilateral and quadrilateral formats in Southeast Europe, notably in terms of the Adriatic-Ionian corridor, as well as the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline, which is a project that is interesting to both our countries,” said Plenkovic. The Adriatic-Ionian road corridor is a planned international motorway stretching along the entire eastern coast of the Adriatic from Italy to Greece. Partially completed, for Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania, the project is seen as a major infrastructure project. The Ionian Adriatic Pipeline is a planned 500-kilometre natural gas pipeline to be built between the Albanian city of Fier to Croatia’s port city of Split, where it could be connected to Croatia’s gas distribution system, or the yet-to-be built liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on the island of Krk. Asked about the currently strained relations between Serbia and Kosovo, Rama said that Serbia had violated the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) first, and that in spite of Kosovo complaining about it, there was no response from the other side. In November, Pristina imposed tariffs on all imports from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in a move which violates the rules of the regional CEFTA free trade area that all three countries are part of. Rama did admit that Kosovo’s recent move to impose 100 percent tariffs on imports from Serbia was “abnormal,” but added that the current state of affairs was abnormal too. In spite of the EU slamming the decision, Pristina officials insisted that the move was made to protect local producers, but also hinted that it came in retaliation for Serbia’s vehement opposition to Kosovo’s membership in international organizations. Unlike Croatia, neither Serbia nor Bosnia recognize Kosovo’s independence. Plenkovic said that Croatia wanted to maintain good relations with everyone involved – Albania, Kosovo, and Serbia. “We want relations to normalize and stabilize, and that is what EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn spoke about today,” said Plenkovic, referring to Hahn’s visit to the CEI summit earlier on Tuesday. The meeting between Plenkovic and Rama was the last bilateral meeting held as part of the CEI summit in Zagreb, which formally ended its rotating presidency of the regional forum. In 2019, Italy will take over presiding the organization, established nearly 30 years ago to help countries in European integration.

 

Stoltenberg: NATO expects Macedonia to become member in February 2020 (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the Western Balkans meeting together with EU foreign policy chief Federika Mogherini in Brussels, have expressed a strong support for the Prespa Agreement to be finalized and implemented, says a top diplomat of the Alliance.

Support was extended by all NATO members. The Greek minister said that the courage of Skopje and Athens in this process should be commended. NATO expects the Prespa Agreement to be completed by mid-January. It paves the way for the accession process to press ahead in the Alliance for the signing of an accession protocol. NATO expects Macedonia to become a full-fledged member in the spring of 2020. In the meantime, NATO members should ratify the accession protocol, a process which is expected to take 12-14 months. During this time, Macedonia should submit a reform program and implement it during the ratification process.

Asked whether the NATO foreign ministers brought up the Nikola Gruevski’s escape case, the NATO diplomat said that the ministers discussed reform implementation and rule of law. The diplomat added that the implementation of these reforms went well and the ministers expressed confidence in the institutions tasked with investigating high-level corruption. Also, Macedonia was the ‘good news’ at the ministerial debate on the Western Balkans in Brussels, according to another NATO source.

 

Dimitrov encouraged by NATO support (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, after meeting with NATO foreign ministers, said he was very encouraged by the support Macedonia has received, announcing that the country should become a member of the alliance in February 2020. “For us this is unfinished business. We have wanted this NATO membership since 1993, and we were supposed to join in 2008. Finally, we have overcome the name dispute, and this is important for us and the region because it means more stability and more predictability. To us, NATO membership also means that Macedonia should stay within these borders,” Dimitrov told reporters. According to him, no member state representative has expressed a dilemma or remark about what is being done in the country and how the conditions are met, and the message was only that they did not wait as the 30th member.

“Trust in the rule of law in Macedonia is a message I receive from most countries in the last days. The Minister of Lithuania told me that we have been waiting for a long time, that our membership has been worked out and earned, and that we meet the criteria and there is no mistrust in the rule of law in the country,” Dimitrov said in the context of the dilemma as Gruevski’s escape and the new developments around the UBK are being received here in Brussels.

 

Fleckenstein and McAllister support the Prespa Agreement and the reconciliation process (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

MEP David McAllister and the MEP Knut Fleckenstein at Wednesday’s meeting with Zoran Zaev expressed strong support to implementation of Prespa Agreement and opening of EU accession negotiations with Macedonia. “EU lawmakers conveyed strong support from the European Parliament to the Prespa Agreement, which is assessed as an example especially for the Western Balkans, but also for entire Europe. They welcomed Prime Minister’s leadership in the process. They expressed strong support for Macedonia’s EU and NATO prospects. They expressed belief that the constitutional changes will be passed in the Parliament, and that Macedonia will continue EU integration at an even faster pace,” the government Press Service said. Zaev voiced his expectation related to voting in parliament on constitutional amendments in line with Prespa Agreement as well as reforms related to security services, judiciary, public administration, fight against crime and corruption and media. “We expect the constitutional changes to be passed in the second half of January. Through inclusion, through the amendments, the opposition has joined this process. As of today, the public debate begins, after which the government will submit the final solutions to the parliament. Our expectations are that the constitutional amendments will secure broad political support in the parliament, which will enable the implementation of the Prespa Agreement. We are working on implementation of the reforms in key areas, which we expect to be wrapped up by March. The invitation to NATO and the possibility of opening EU accession negotiations are highly motivational for the institutions in the reform process that is necessary requirement for the EU, but also for the quality of life of the citizens of Macedonia,” Zaev said. At the meeting, they also discussed other current political issues in Macedonia and the region. Zaev expressed appreciation to the European Parliament for supporting the respect and rule of law as a European democratic value. McAllister and Knut Fleckenstein have supported the reconciliation process towards Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. The MEPs met Wednesday with parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi, Vice Speakers, whips, and the independent VMRO-DPMNE MP group. Emilija Aleksandrova of the independent VMRO-DPMNE MP group said after the meeting they have received encouragement to continue in the direction they have taken. “This is of enormous importance for us, demonstrating that we are on the right path and that the process of integration, reforms and reconciliation is the proper direction for Macedonia. These are historic times for the country,” said Aleksandrova. MEPs McAllister and Fleckenstein provided full support for the reconciliation body and its three sub-groups. “We are transparent in our work and hope this transparency will encourage more MPs to get involved in the process,” said Aleksandrova. She expects the draft-law on reconciliation over the April 27 events to be filed by the weekend. Asked if the group would support the constitutional revision in the final stage, Aleksandrova said reforms, integration and reconciliation go hand in hand. “I believe all stakeholders will remain consistent in their efforts of contributing to the process’ completion,” underlined Aleksandrova.

 

NATO Ministerial, Bushati stresses Western Balkans importance (ADN)

 

NATO Ministries of Foreign Affairs held a meeting in Brussels this Wednesday, where they discussed a number of important issues for the Security Alliance, including the situation in the Azov Sea, the Western Balkans, the situation in Afghanistan and the Alliance’s approach to the Middle East and North Africa. Foreign Ministers stressed their determination to promote unity and transatlantic solidarity as an essential element of the Alliance, as well as reiterate their commitment to better allocate the burden of security. In this context, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati brought to attention the strategic importance of the Western Balkans for NATO, based on the common, geopolitical values of the region’s importance and the impact of the third actors’ mountains in the Western Balkans. In accordance with the “open door” policy, Minister Bushati welcomed Macedonia’s progress on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration and the full implementation of the Prespa Accord, underlining the importance of building a functional and multiethnic society in it. Focusing on Kosovo, Minister Bushati reaffirmed the support for the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, which should normalize relations between the two countries fully, pave the way for reconciliation and further rapprochement of Kosovo to the Euro-Atlantic family. During the ministerial meeting, Bushati held bilateral meetings with various counterparts, discussing Albania’s candidacies for the OSCE Presidency 2020 and a non-permanent seat in the Security Council 2022-2023.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following conversations with President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia, and Mr.Ramush Haradinaj of Kosovo (NATO, 6 December 2018)

 

Today, I called both President Vučić and Mr Haradinaj to brief them on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on the Western Balkans. I underlined that both Belgrade and Pristina should show calm and restraint, and avoid any provocative statements or actions. With Mr. Haradinaj, I raised the plan to move ahead with the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into an army. I stressed that such a move is ill-timed, goes against the advice of many NATO Allies, and can have negative repercussions on Kosovo’s prospects for Euro-Atlantic integration.  I reiterated that should the mandate of the Kosovo Security Force evolve, NATO will have to examine the level of our engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.‎ I also spoke with President Vučić on the need to de-escalate current tensions. I reminded both that the EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina remains the only way to bring durable peace and stability to the region. NATO remains committed to the security and stability of Kosovo through our UN-mandated KFOR peacekeeping mission.

 

 

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