Vucic at UN Security Council session (RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at a session of the United Nations Security Council in New York that he is worried and scared for the future not only of the Serbian people and Serbia, but of the entire region. Vucic warned about Pristina’s efforts to impose legal and political violence, economic pressure and unilateral moves, such as imposing taxes and forming the so-called Kosovo army, creating a new situation on the ground and extorting recognition from Serbia. At the session, held at the request of Serbia and the Russian Federation on the occasion of Pristina’s decision to form a so-called Kosovo army, he stressed that Pristina did not fulfill its obligations under the agreement that it signed in Brussels, and that it violated the CEFTA agreement and the SAA. I must say that I am very concerned, and even a little scared for the future, not only of my people and our country of Serbia, but of the entire region. I want to say that Serbia has made enormous efforts to establish peace and stability in the entire Western Balkans. We did everything to refrain from responding to the various provocations that came from Pristina, Vucic said. Serbia, as he said, did almost everything to implement what has been agreed so far. As you know, we signed the first deal of Belgrade and Pristina, and Serbia has fulfilled all its obligations. We made a lot of concessions and it was very difficult for our public to accept it, but we did it. He stressed that, on the other hand, the only obligation Pristina had to fulfill relates to the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. Vucic spoke about Pristina’s introduction of 100% taxes on Serbian products after Kosovo was not admitted in Interpol and UNESCO. Can you imagine someone in the 21st century who forbids and hinders the free flow of people and goods, only because it does not like the political decisions of the other side, asked Vucic. Vucic urged that somebody needs to prevent such measures by Pristina. The President pointed out that Kosovo and Metohija is officially territory with the lowest returnee rate in the world, standing at only 1.5%. Vucic recalled that UNSC Resolution 1244 establishes a legal framework for continuing the international presence in Kosovo, as well as a mandate for a safe environment for everyone in that regard. According to Vucic, Serbia has always done everything to maintain stability and peace throughout the region. Vucic also said that Pristina chose a new negotiating team with people from the KLA who are under investigation for crimes against Serb civilians. He said that Serbia is ready to continue the dialogue process and that our country wants to call on the UN to take a bigger role in the future. We have nothing against the dialogue being under the auspices of the EU, but we want the UN to be more involved in the process. Pristina must withdraw those terrible tariffs and must make other moves and we will find ways to ensure the security of our people, concluded Vucic.
Vucic with Guterres on Pristina’s unilateral moves (RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met in New York with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with whom he discussed Pristina’s unilateral moves and the situation in the region, the President’s press service announced. Vucic thanked Guterres for voicing concern with his statement over Pristina’s decision to form armed forces and stressed that Pristina threated regional stability with its moves. He said Belgrade was ready to resume the dialogue with Pristina on normalization of relations after Kosovo withdraws its irrational moves. Vucic said Serbia attaches special importance to UNMIK since, as he put it, the political and security situation there is still unstable. “UNMIK presence and its work in Kosovo and Metohija are of key importance to Serbia since the UN framework, based on this Resolution, is the guarantor of neutrality of the international presence in the province,” Vucic said and requested greater UN participation in resolving the Kosovo issue.
Dacic: Important to hear condemnation of Pristina’s moves from large number of countries (RTS)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has told RTS that, at the UN SC session, President Vucic presented with arguments everything that represents the violation of Resolution 1244. He says that the UN, and even UNMIK, mostly has a factographic relationship towards what is occurring and very rarely presents some stands, while UNMIK should request, Dacic opines, the holding of this session because the text of the Resolution is being flagrantly violated. Speaking about the speech of the Russian Ambassador at the session, Dacic says that Russia had signed its request for holding the session. “They repeated that we are requesting the respect of the Resolution and to pass a decision on demilitarization, disbanding of any kind of armed formation outside of KFOR and Kosovo and Metohija,” says Dacic. On the other side, Thaci has a political story, at issue are lies, says Dacic. According to him, Vucic presented the genesis of the problems we are facing, readiness of dialogue and a constructive approach, while on the other side clear opposition to Pristina’s unilateral moves that it has been used to making over the past 20 years. Commenting at Thaci’s claims that the Albanians have always been victims, Dacic says that all those sitting in the Pristina government are wearing uniforms and they received these positions on crimes committed against the Serbs and other minority communities. He says that the story about 20,000 rape victims is not true. When they were sent an invitation to register rape victims, only 800 registered, while only 100 of them were approved the right to damages. Dacic says that Pristina’s logic is that they bring everything into a position of a final act and think there is no need to re-examine anything. They refused talks about that with the EU. He recalled there was an unpleasant meeting in Brussels on Monday since there was an open conflict and a press conference of Haradinaj, Mogherini and Hahn was cancelled. From the aspect of international law, it would be justified to cancel the decision on the formation of the Kosovo army and not to allow it while KFOR is in Kosovo, says Dacic. “Since this will not be possible, it is important to hear the condemnation of Pristina’s move from a large number of countries, to stop further escalation and not to allow occurrence of any physical attack,” says Dacic. “This is not only a threat for the safety of the Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohija, this is a threat to regional peace and stability. We will not continue dialogue without abolishment of senseless decisions,” concluded Dacic.
First round of consultations on formation of new convocation of B&H CoM held (TV1)
The first round of consultations between Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency members, Milorad Dodik, Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic, and representatives of parliamentary parties on the formation of a new convocation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) was held in the building of the B&H Presidency in Sarajevo on Monday. Leaders of left-wing parties stressed that priority is to form the Federation of B&H House of Peoples (HoP) which is something SDA representatives agreed with. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic said that coalition SDA-HDZ B&H-SNSD is evident, noting that they need a fourth partner. “In my opinion, those are still the left-wing parties, i.e. the BH Bloc. I conveyed that message again today (Monday) via Zeljko Komsic for them to join,” Izetbegovic underlined. SDS leader Vukota Govedarica expressed satisfaction with the fact that talks related to the formation of the B&H authorities have been initiated. Govedarica expressed hope that the new convocation of the B&H CoM will be formed soon. “If there is room, we are ready to talk both with SNSD and DNS, PDP, SP RS. Therefore, we are open for cooperation which will primarily be focused on everything that needs to be welcomed when it comes to decisions which are well-intentioned towards the RS,” Govedarica underlined. Representatives of the BH Bloc, composed of SDP B&H, DF and Our Party (NS), deemed Monday’s meeting as a protocol one. NS Vice President Sabina Cudic believes that there are two evident blocs; SNSD-HDZ B&H-SDA bloc and that SDP B&H, NS and DF are a completely different bloc. SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic stressed that SBB B&H is not that interested in being part of the authorities. Representatives of HDZ B&H did not attend Monday’s talks in the B&H Presidency’s building. Representatives of all parties supported SNSD’s proposal, according to which the B&H CoM Chairman should now come from the ranks of Serbs and this post should be assumed by Zoran Tegeltija. They also announced that parliamentary majority in the B&H HoR is most likely to be formed by parties that also formed the B&H HoR Collegium – SDA, SNSD and HDZ B&H.
Covic: New composition of B&H CoM will be known by end of January (Hayat)
The Presidency of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) held a session in Mostar on Monday. The HNS Presidency discussed the current political situation in B&H and post-election negotiations on formation of authorities. Leader of HDZ B&H and President of the HNS Dragan Covic stated that a new composition of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) will be known by the end of January. Covic added that formation of authorities in the Cantons is ongoing in line with previously-planned dynamics, while in his opinion, formation of the Federation of B&H Government will wait for a while. During the session, the HNS dedicated huge attention to a last week’ session of the Croatian parliament that discussed the status of Croats in B&H. Commenting on this issue, Covic stated that the Croatian government and Croatian authorities in general feel the significance and strategic importance of B&H. Covic added: “Even if there were no Croats in B&H at all, thousand-kilometer-long border with B&H is of huge importance for the Republic of Croatia”. Members of HNS Presidency welcomed the adoption of the Declaration on the Position of Croats in B&H in the Croatian parliament. Covic said: “I claim that 90 percent of them did not know that someone can elect a member of the Presidency on behalf of Croats, formally, general talk is another thing, and through this discussion, they were informed about this. In that regard, an excellent thing was done.”
Viskovic proposed a new cabinet (Srna/RTRS)
At a session of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament held in Banja Luka, the RS Prime Minister-Designate, Radovan Viskovic, proposed a new Cabinet which will be composed of ministers from six political parties. At the second special session of the RS parliament, Viskovic proposed Zora Vidovic (SNSD) as the minister of finance, Srebrenka Golic (SNSD) as the minister of spatial planning, construction and ecology, Anton Kasipovic (SNSD) as the minister of justice, and Dragan Lukac (SNSD) as the minister of internal affairs. He proposed Alen Seranic (SNSD) as the minister of health and social welfare, Srdjan Rajcevic (SNSD) as the minister for scientific-technological development, higher education and information society, Zlatan Klokic (SNSD) as the minister of European integration and international cooperation, and Boris Pasalic (SNSD) as the minister of agriculture, forestry and water management. Viskovic proposed Petar Djokic (SP) as the minister of energy and mining, Lejla Resic (DNS) as the minister of public administration and local self-government, and Nedjo Trninic (DNS) as the minister of transportation and communications. Viskovic proposed Dusko Milunovic (SP) as the minister of labor and veterans’ affairs, Sonja Davidovic (SP) as the minister of the family, youth and sports, Vjekoslav Petricevic (NDP) as the minister of the economy and entrepreneurship. He proposed Natalija Trivic (the United Srpska) as the minister of education and culture, and Dragica Kovac (DEMOS) as the minister of trade and tourism. “Today, when circumstances in the world are much different, when our proven friends – Russia and China – are making progress in all segments, we are in a more favorable situation. We will keep defending every single competence of the RS and we will be committed to returning the competences that were transferred to the level of B&H by legal violence of the High Representatives,” Viskovic said. He also said that the RS wants to have as good as possible relations with the US, adding that institutions of the RS fully support the policy of US President Donald Trump on non-interference in internal issues of other countries.
US Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan meets B&H Presidency members (RTRS)
US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan held a meeting with Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic and Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic in Sarajevo on Monday. During the meeting, Dodik stressed that the RS is not ready for the NATO integration process but it is committed to B&H’s further path towards the EU. He made it clear that there is consensus in B&H about the EU path, but there is no consensus about NATO. “I had the opportunity to say that there is no consensus about NATO. The RS is not ready to move forward with regard to this issue, having in mind the RS parliament resolution on military neutrality,” Dodik told reporters. During the meeting, Dodik and Dzaferovic also presented different views on the past war in B&H. While Dodik warned of non-prosecution of crimes against Serbs, Dzaferovic was talking about genocide against Bosniaks. Dodik also disagreed when Komsic mentioned Russia’s “intensified influence” and warned that establishment of the “so-called” Kosovo Army violates the Annex 1 of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) on regional stability. B&H Presidency members said that by adopting the joint statement on integration into the EU, they confirmed commitment to fulfilling conditions for obtaining a candidate status, as well as commitment to continue implementing reforms. During the meeting, Sullivan stressed that the United States supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of B&H, adding that he expects authorities at all levels in B&H to be formed soon. Sullivan told B&H Presidency members that the US government is frustrated over tendencies of some of the public officials in B&H to use inflammatory rhetoric that leads to divisions. He emphasized that the US enthusiastically supports the decision of B&H authorities to move forward on the NATO accession path.
Sullivan also met with Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic and his Deputies Vjekoslav Bevanda and Dragan Mektic. Representatives of the B&H CoM informed Sullivan about the political situation in B&H. Sullivan stressed that it is extremely important for B&H to submit the Annual National Program necessary for the activation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP), adding that the United States will continue to support reforms in B&H.
Border dispute obstructing Croatia-Slovenia relations (Hina)
Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec said on Monday that the question if and when Croatia would enter the Schengen area should be directed at the European evaluation commission for meeting the Schengen criteria and not at Slovenia, adding that with regards to the border dispute with Croatia, his government maintained the same position of the previous Slovenian government led by Miro Cerar, who is also the foreign ministry in the incumbent cabinet, and that the border dispute was preventing an improvement in Croatia-Slovenia relations.
Sarec said the Slovenian police were doing a good job of monitoring the external Schengen border towards Croatia, but that his government advocated a stronger Frontex role at the EU external border, namely Croatia’s border towards B&H and Serbia, where there is a large number of potential illegal migrants who want to enter the Schengen area through Slovenia. According to him, the number of illegal migrants caught in Slovenia this year had quadrupled. Asked to comment on bilateral relations with Croatia, Sarec said that the problem regarding the implementation of the arbitration decision, according to which Slovenia would gain most of Savudrija Bay and a corridor to open seas, obstructed the improvement of relations with Croatia. Slovenia sent a proposal to Croatia to set up a demarcation commission which would implement the arbitration decision, but Croatia has not responded, Sarec said.
Marovic hasn’t been brought to justice yet; authorities of Serbia should answer why (Kat/Vijesti)
Minister of Justice, Zoran Pazin, claims that it’s not part of the political agreement that Svetozar Marovic hasn’t been extradited to Montenegro. The answers should be looked for in Serbia.
“Our institutions did everything within their possibilities to bring Marovic to justice. You don’t expect our competent authorities to arrest Marovic at the territory of Serbia. For some reason, authorities of Serbia haven’t arrested him and they fail to execute the international Interpol wanted list. We are looking for the answers. Why Serbia fails to perform its duties?” said Pazin.
Rasko Konjevic and Ranko Krivokapic said that all this was part of political agreement. Pazin categorically denied such claims.
Montenegro working more intensively to meet EU Agenda in 2019 (TMN)
Prime Minister Markovic stressed that the ambition of Montenegro is to open soon the remaining negotiating chapter, Chapter 8 – Competition, and that the country worked diligently and provided the internal readiness to close several chapters. Prime Minister Markovic and Commissar Hahn agreed that progress has been made in the area of the rule of law. PM Marković paid particular attention to the fight against corruption and organised crime, where, in his words, the country achieved a lot, and that even better results are expected to be made soon, especially in the areas of combating human trafficking and money laundering. The meeting also discussed progress in the field of media. The emphasis was placed on the protection of journalists and media assets. It was noted that a set of media laws that should improve the media scene are being drafted. Markovic informed Commissioner Hahn about the political situation in Montenegro. The two officials also exchanged opinions on developments in the region.
The Prime Minister said that Montenegro has been continuously promoting dialogue and stability and that it will continue to encourage the region’s progress and its aspiration towards the European Union. Commissioner Hahn praised the role of Montenegro in the region. Next year, Markovic underscored, the government will give priority to the achievement of dynamic development and complete financial stability in the country. He also pointed out the good economic results the government has achieved, which is reflected primarily in economic growth, deficit reduction, and an increase in the number of employees. During the summer, on the occasion of Joint Vienna Institute Lecture 2018, Johannes Hahn that the door of the European Union was undoubtedly open to the countries of the Western Balkans and pointed out that candidates must first of all be aware that without the rule of law there is no progress on the European path. He also stressed that freedom of the media and expression is a fundamental right in the EU, and he expressed particular concern about the political control of the media and the non-governmental sector in Montenegro. On the occasion of Montenegro’s opening of Chapter 27, Hahn said that Montenegro is making a significant step forward on its “European path”. He also welcomed the progress in the rule of law and said that the focus, in the coming period, should be placed on the activities under negotiating Chapters 23 and 24. Commissioner Hahn reiterated that the European Commission would continue to support the integration of Montenegro into the EU in terms.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Kosovo’s Tough-Guy Tactics Won’t Get it Far (BIRN, by Marcus Tanner, 17 December 2018)
Kosovo’s government is in fighting mood, taxing Serbian goods and vowing to form its own ‘army’ – but it is going for the wrong targets.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” says an old English proverb. It clearly hasn’t reached Kosovo. Within hours of Serbia blocking Kosovo’s attempt to join Interpol, Kosovo had slapped a 100-per-cent tax on Serbian goods, up from 10 per cent previously. Touché! Only it isn’t touché. Kosovo’s sword is blunt and rusty, its gun unloaded. Kosovo cannot “weaponise” its imports from Serbia. Serbia earns less than 500 million euros a year from selling goods to Kosovo, out of a total export value of just over 13 billion euros a year. About one in every 26 euros Serbia earns in exports comes from Kosovo, in other words. Italy and Germany together take over a quarter of Serbian exports, followed by Bosnia, Russia, Romania, Montenegro and Slovenia. Kosovo comes in at a lowly tenth place. The loss of the Kosovo market is significant for Serbia, but not significant enough to make it abandon one of its key policies – non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence. The fact that Serbia remains the biggest exporter to Kosovo merely underlines how tiny the Kosovo economy remains. [Its total exports per year are worth about 300 million euros.] Meanwhile, Serbia’s refusal to recognise Kosovo is an ace it is determined to hold on to. It might play it in exchange for the golden prize of EU membership. It is not going to throw it away at this stage, just to help a few Serbian manufacturers. In the meantime, Serbia gets to pose as the injured party. The EU is chastising Kosovo, not Serbia, for breaking the terms of its membership of the regional free-trade area, CEFTA. The customs tax is not the Kosovo government’s only badly thought-out move. Its other big plan, to upgrade the current security force, the KSF, into a regular army is far crazier. It has angered Serbia, the Serbs in Kosovo and NATO as well. The alliance has condemned this move unequivocally. A country as friendless as Kosovo needs to be sure that the price of alienating the EU and NATO at the same time is worth paying. Is having an army worth it? It is debatable whether a state the size of Kosovo either needs or can afford an army. Many smaller states in Europe have virtually abandoned their armed forces, except for decorative purposes.
Luxembourg, which is far smaller than Kosovo but much, much richer, could easily afford a decent-sized army if it wanted one. It could hire one, like the small Italian states did in the Renaissance. Instead, it maintains a symbolic force of about 340 at the last count – just about enough to mount a ceremonial guard outside the ducal palace. The idea that a small, underfunded Kosovo “army” would be of any real use in repelling an invasion is fanciful. Such an invasion could only come from Serbia, as all the other neighbours are friendly, but won’t happen from there, either. With NATO physically present in Kosovo, Serbia would be mad to risk a physical confrontation with it, or a second protracted guerrilla war in hostile terrain. What the Kosovo army’s nominal existence will do, however, is create fresh opportunities for friction with Serbia, which Belgrade might well exploit, and annoy NATO – which clearly will not fund or equip it.
A Kosovo deputy Minister for the Kosovo Security Force, Agim Ceku, spoke casually to BIRN of possible “donations” of arms and equipment. He should clarify who those donors might be. Even friendly Turkey is likely to think twice about donating arms to Kosovo against the express advice of NATO – to which it belongs. Of course, Kosovo is anxious to take some kind of revenge against Serbia for its unscrupulous use of the CEFTA agreement to dump goods in Kosovo and for its blocking tactics in general. But a more effective form of revenge would be for Kosovo consumers to buy elsewhere, from their own producers, or from other CEFTA countries.
Slapping a huge tax on Serbian goods just makes Kosovo look like a rule-breaker that can’t be trusted to behave responsibly. It gets Serbia off the hook completely, which is why Belgrade has not taken reciprocal action – that and the fact that Serbia buys almost nothing from Kosovo anyway. The basic mistake of the government in Kosovo – not that the opposition parties are any different – is an obsession with obtaining the trappings of statehood rather than the substance.
Like a king who worries about not having a crown – when the real problem is not having a kingdom – it runs after second-rank goals. It sets great store on getting “recognized” by tiny states in the Pacific or Central America whose favours are – surprise! – for sale, and can easily be purchased by Serbia, or Russia. Trying to outbid Serbia or Russia for their attention is a pure luxury and one that Kosovo cannot afford. What would really get back at Serbia would be the creation of a better functioning economy and education system – so that the young did not automatically flee the country – and so that some foreign companies outsourced production there. Today, the big companies of Europe are busy shifting operations from the labour-costly West to the East, to countries like Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.
When Jaguar Land Rover announced it was moving its entire production from the UK to Slovakia this year, it barely made headlines; so many other companies have taken the same route. When did anyone hear of any major company moving part of its operations to Kosovo? If not manufacturing, start-ups, IT, or tourism, what sector there is showing real signs of growth?
The answer is: nothing much. What’s even more worrying is that the political parties in Kosovo don’t seem bothered. It was typical of Kosovo’s politics that the opposition Vetevendosje party seemed less interested in the [non-existent] economy last year than the [possible] loss of some meadows to Montenegro as part of a border settlement. Kosovo needs to get real, and stop making gestures that impress nobody and just irritate its partners. If it wants to tax Serbian goods, it should leave the CEFTA. If it is bent on forming an “army” – in opposition to NATO plus Serbia – it had better make sure it can source and equip it. In the meantime, it might ask itself why Serbia – with a population four times the size of Kosovo’s – earns 45 times more from its exports than Kosovo does. That might be a more useful subject to concentrate on than on forming an army.
Marcus Tanner is an editor of Balkan Insight and the author of “Albania’s Mountain Queen, Edith Durham and the Balkans” [Tauris].
The opinions expressed in the Comment section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.