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Belgrade Media Report 31 December

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: They will try to bring us to a fait accompli (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Stefanovic: Announcement of abolishment of borders threatens stability of region (Tanjug)
Dacic: Great powers already discussing Kosovo (Politika)
Djuric: Decision to remove borders with Albania unveils Pristina’s support for Greater Albania (Beta)
Ljajic: Pristina’s new measures to bring trade to complete halt (Tanjug)
Chepurin: We will continue to offer support to Serbia (Politika/B92)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
B&H parliament’s Commission for Preparation of Appointment of B&H CoM fails to elect commission leadership (N1)
Cvijanovic: Intention is to keep current composition of B&H CoM in power (ATV/RTRS)
Oric claims that Serbian President Vucic wants to kill him (TV1)
Montenegro
Engagement in NATO missions mandatory for Montenegrin soldiers (CDM)
fYROM
Ivanov: Pandora’s Box is open and now everyone has the right to deny what’s ours (Meta)
Baily: I am deeply upset about false rumors that the US is influencing the Macedonian judiciary (Meta)
Albania
Lleshi signs agreement with Kosovo (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Thousands flood the streets of Belgrade in fourth straight weekend of anti-government protests (euronews)

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic: They will try to bring us to a fait accompli (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that Pristina’s plan was to erase its border with Albania by March, when it would withdraw a decision on 100 percent taxes on Serbian products in order to request a dialogue from a changed position. Vucic said at a press conference in the Presidency that Pristina would eliminate the borders with Albania in several stages, and then try to present the international community with an accomplished fact. “They will do this by the end of March and when they erase the border, they will also lift the taxes and say, now we are ready to negotiate, but from a different position – the position of a united Albania and Kosovo,” Vucic said. He said that the international community had been warned about this scenario before, but that it did not react. “Whenever we approach someone with this and ask for a reaction, the answer is: This is surprising, we did not see that coming, but we will try and react in line with our capabilities, after which you almost always get a big nothing,” Vucic said. He said that he would like to know how the international community would react to him releasing a statement saying that the border with Republika Srpska was being erased. He added that a strong

Serbia obviously bothered someone. “Serbia can never be as small as they fear it might

become an upright and proud country,” Vucic said.

Stefanovic: Announcement of abolishment of borders threatens stability of region (Tanjug)

The announcement of borders between Kosovo and Metohija and Albania threatens regional stability and rights of Serbs in our southern province, said the Head of the Bureau for Coordination of Security Services and Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic following the session of the Bureau. Stefanovic says that Haradinaj’s statement are in violation with UNSCR 1244. It is of special concern that there is no adequate reaction of the international community, Stefanovic said. “The Republic of Serbia is seriously and responsibly requesting from Europe and the world to react and prevent further threatening of stability in the entire region of South-East Europe,” said Stefanovic. If we were to behave in the same way, it would mean that we should do the same with the Republika Srpska. “Can you imagine that everybody would be silent then. Thus, we are only warning about the behavior that is violating UNSCR 1244, international law and that doesn’t have impact in any way for regional stability to increase, but on the contrary, to be violated,” said Stefanovic.

Dacic: Great powers already discussing Kosovo (Politika)

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that the US is ready to organize a signing ceremony between Belgrade and Pristina and to invite other countries to the ceremony. He added that the US National Security Adviser John Boltonhad talked about it with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “It’s important for the US that Russia agrees and takes part in it. The great powers must be the guarantee of this agreement because the UN Security Council must adopt it,” Dacic told Politika. When asked how important the Kosovo issue was to Donald Trump, Dacic said Trump believes Pristina and Belgrade can reach an agreement on the issue. “If we do reach an agreement, it would be a great thing for the entire region and for the countries that were the guarantee of this process, including the US where the agreement would be signed. It would be a great boost for the Trump policy and the US,” he noted. However, Dacic added that the official Belgrade has no indication that the dialogue format would change, meaning that the US would get involved. He noted that the negotiation process is locked in a defensive position, and in order to continue the dialogue, Pristina should lift the tariffs it introduced on products from Serbia. According to him, the dialogue remains in deadlock because of the elections in the EU, the creation of different bodies, and until the special representative is elected by the end of the year.

Djuric: Decision to remove borders with Albania unveils Pristina’s support for Greater Albania (Beta)

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said that reports by Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and Albanian representatives about an agreement to remove

border crossings between Albania and Kosovo revealed support for a Greater Albania by the

authorities in Pristina. “Every populist act of barbarity like this creates a fruitful soil for new conflicts, making a solution an even more distant prospect for the region,” Djuric said in a press release, appealing to the international community to stop Pristina’s chauvinist euphoria, that had raised tensions again. Djuric also said that a decision to remove border crossings and checkpoints, which Haradinaj announced, was slated to take place next March, and called it a blatant violation of Pristina’s international obligations, with unforeseeable consequences.

“If Pristina and Tirana might want to hide the fact that the border between Serbia and Albania is 111 kilometers long, or pretend not to know that UNSCR 1244 not only does not foresee removing border crossings along the border with Albania but specifically prescribes the presence

of the Serbian authorities there, then the international community should remind them of that,” Djuric said.

Ljajic: Pristina’s new measures to bring trade to complete halt (Tanjug)

Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic on Friday said Pristina’s decision to extend its 100 percent taxes to Serbian products marketed under international brands would bring trade between central Serbia and Kosovo to a complete halt.

In the first month since the introduction of Pristina’s taxes on Serbian goods, the volume of goods marketed in Kosovo was worth 34.6 million Euros less than in the same period last year, Ljajic told Tanjug. According to current trends, the figure will remain between 34.6 million and 40 million Euros per month, he said. Without the taxes, Serbia would sell goods worth over 500 million Euros, he said.

Chepurin: We will continue to offer support to Serbia (Politika/B92)

The development of Russian-Serbian ties in the new year will certainly be determined by visit to Serbia by the Russian President, planned for January. Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Chepurin wrote in an op-ed published in Politika. According to Chepurin, Vladimir Putin’s visit promises to be dynamic and effective. “Comparing positions on a wide range of issues is expected, the signing of numerous bilateral documents, and encouragement of further cooperation. Most of Serbians have particular respect for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Over time, these good feelings are only growing stronger, which is the promise of the visit and of further development of brotherly relations,” said the diplomat. He said that Russia has been providing and will continue to provide Serbia with decisive support in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity within the Kosovo issue. Chepurin added that he was glad that in 2018, economic cooperation between Serbia and Russia gained new momentum, and believed that the principled priority was to go beyond the existing limits of economic cooperation. “The emphasis will be on interaction in innovation areas, such as application of the ‘peaceful atom’, development of information technologies, cooperation in the reconstruction of Serbia’s railways, modernization of the underground gas storage Banatski Dvor, construction of the Bulgaria-Serbia-Hungary gas pipeline. There is a real possibility to strengthen cooperation in agriculture and industry by organizing joint production. We need to invest in all of our talent and all of our passion,” said the Russian Ambassador. He recalled that Russia and Serbia celebrated the 180th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations in 2018, and will in 2019 celebrate the 85th anniversary since the liberation in WW2 of Belgrade from the fascist occupiers. “We have a rich creative agenda. Russia and Serbia are not friends ‘against someone’. We will continue to improve our strategic partnership, gaining new directions for the sake of the prosperity of the people of Russia and Serbia. Will we succeed in doing all this? We have no other option,” Chepurin said.

Explanation of the US Embassy

Politika’s editorial decided to offer the US and Russian Ambassadors to evaluate 2018 and present their predictions for 2019 in an op-ed. Both embassies’ press services confirmed interest, but on the day when US Ambassador Kyle Scott’s text was due to arrive, and having previously sent his photographs to be used for the article, the US Embassy sent a short message: “We are currently unable to respond to media requests, due to the fiscal blockade of the US government.

REGIONAL PRESS

B&H parliament’s Commission for Preparation of Appointment of B&H CoM fails to elect commission leadership (N1)

A session of the Commission for Preparation of Appointment of the Council of Ministers (CoM) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) was held on Friday. However, members of the Commission failed to appoint leadership of this body. Namely, six members of the Commission voted in favor of the proposal to appoint Stasa Kosarac (SNSD) as Chair of the Commission and to appoint Halid Genjac (SDA) and Predrag Kozul (HDZ B&H) as his Deputies, while six voted against it. Following the session, representatives of ‘BH Bloc’ said that this session proved that SDA, SNSD and HDZ B&H as winners of recently held elections do not have necessary majority in the Parliament of B&H. Member of the Commission Dzenan Djonlagic underlined that he was surprised with the fact representative of SBB B&H voted in favor of the abovementioned proposal. On the other hand, SDA’s Halid Genjac said that support of SBB B&H does not mean this party will be a new coalition partner of SDA but it is evidence that SBB B&H decided not to block processes. Genjac underlined that since ‘BH Bloc’ and PDP failed to vote in favor of this proposal, they should have presented their proposal. He went on saying that neither the B&H CoM Chairman-designate nor the B&H CoM can be appointed without a stance of this commission. Also, commenting the fact that the proposal to appoint him as a Deputy Chair of the Commission was not supported, Kozul said that it requires a lot of good will not to interpret this as negative message towards Croats as a constituent people in B&H, since he is the only representative of this people in the Commission. SNSD’s Stasa Kosarac underlined that some political representatives from the Federation of B&H have focused to slow down formation of the new convocation of the B&H CoM. Kosarac reminded that all deadlines to appoint the B&H CoM Chairman-designate have expired. “However, if they want to paralyze B&H institutions, we will not be against it” stressed Kosarac. Leader of PDP and member of the Commission Branislav Borenovic said that he did not support the proposal to appoint leadership of this body, because there have not been any consultations regarding this issue. He added that PDP would never support appointment of SNSD’s Zoran Tegeltija as a Chairman of B&H CoM because Tegeltija destroyed the RS in economic sense. Reporter reminded that Croat member of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic and Bosniak member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic have clearly said that they will not support a candidate for the B&H CoM Chairman-designate who does not support NATO integration of B&H.

Cvijanovic: Intention is to keep current composition of B&H CoM in power (ATV/RTRS)

RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic (SNSD) characterized on Friday a statement of leader of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic as shocking. Namely, Izetbegovic said that he has to consult his allies in order to decide on formation of authorities at the level of B&H. Cvijanovic stated that, although representatives of political parties in the Federation of B&H are used to ask foreign Embassies for opinion on everything, the intention to keep the current composition in the Council of Ministers (CoM) in power is actually behind all this. She said that “they have their own Chairman (of the B&H CoM Denis Zvizdic), although it is ridiculous that he is also a member of B&H parliament”. According to RTRS, Izetbegovic admitted at this press conference that SDA’s blockades in B&H depend, among other things, on inputs of its allies in the West. Cvijanovic commented this statement and said that while those in Sarajevo insist they fight for the state of B&H, it seems that this very state is not sovereign and does not have potential to reach any internal agreement. She added that it is in interest of politicians in Sarajevo to bloc formation of the new convocation of B&H CoM, because current Serb ministers in the B&H CoM support policies of politicians in Sarajevo.

Oric claims that Serbian President Vucic wants to kill him (TV1)

Wartime “Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina Army” Commander in Srebrenica Naser Oric accused Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of wanting to kill him, and he confirmed that he reported to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Police Administration (FUP) that he has reliable information about this. Oric expressed certainty that Serbian authorities are following him, adding that his friends from foreign intelligence services, i.e. from Albania and Macedonia, confirmed this. Oric is also certain that cars and drones are after him. “I noticed a vehicle of Belgrade registration plates. I found that strange, because my location was not near any road communication. I like to go out for a walk in the evening, and that is when I noticed drones. I started having suspicion as to where the drones came from, because I was in a forest”, Oric stated. Reacting to Oric’s accusations, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated that such claims are bizarre and delusional. “I did not know that we have drones. We are yet to purchase that. I must disappoint him, but we do not belong to the same sort of people. Unlike him, I am not a murderer”, Vucic added. Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin harshly criticized Oric for presenting such accusations against Vucic. Vulin referred to Oric as “unfortunately, a war criminal that has not been convicted”, adding: “He is without a doubt a liar and a criminal.”

Engagement in NATO missions mandatory for Montenegrin soldiers (CDM)

The government of Montenegro adopted the Proposal Amendments to the Law on the Use of the Units of the Armed Forces of Montenegro in the international forces and the participation of the members of the civil protection, police and state administration authorities in the peacekeeping missions and other activities abroad. The proposed amendments stipulate that the involvement of the members of Armed Forces of Montenegro in the missions, responses to crisis and missions within the humanitarian operations be mandatory. Up until now, the principle of volunteerism has been applied in the participation in missions. The first step for a specific Armed Forces member to be sent to an international mission is an application in relations to the announcement of the Ministry of Defense, as explained by the representatives of the Ministry. If a person does not apply for the announcement, they cannot be assigned to a task, regardless of the need to send the unit to the task. “The reason why the Army cannot send a certain unit to the NATO mission can be that the unit lacks a couple of members, which can bring its occupancy into question and, consequently, the ability to fulfil the deferred task”. This is the reason why the procedure for the amendment to the existing law has been initiated. “The amendments will create the possibility that a whole unit can be sent into a mission, provided that all the members had previously been trained for the joint fulfilment of the task,” said the representatives of the Ministry. The Proposal Law on the Amendments to this law also defines that a member of the Armed Forces, operation protection unit, or any member of the unit in charge, will have right to seek compensation of the damage caused in case they get injured or wounded during the participation in the mission or training session. If Montenegro sends two officers in Iraq in the second half of 2019, that will be the fourth participation of Montenegro into the NATO peacekeeping missions, aside from those where the country participates under the auspices of the EU. Montenegro sent its first troupes to the international peacekeeping mission ISAF in Afghanistan in 2010.

Ivanov: Pandora’s Box is open and now everyone has the right to deny what’s ours (Meta)

The Macedonian knot cannot be cut, it needs to be carefully undone. I worked on undoing that knot. I was aware that there were red lines which couldn’t be crossed. Someone who thought that he could cut the knot and solve the Macedonian question at any cost came to power. Pandora’s box is open and now everyone has the right to deny what is ours, stated the President of the Republic, Gjorge Ivanov, in his address in parliament. In regard to the Prespa Agreement, he said that it puts an end to the Republic of Macedonia as we know it and that it was put together without a national consensus and without his knowledge or consent. “This government asked the people themselves to agree to this change so that the legal abolition of the Macedonian people can be interpreted as their own will. In the referendum, the people were faced with a false alternative. The choice is between prosperity or identity. The referendum was unsuccessful, the people voted against hasty and harmful resolutions,” he said. With the free interpretation of the Treaty with Bulgaria, he says, Macedonia has been thrown into a labyrinth, which is difficult to get out of and now Bulgaria has announced an annex to the Treaty. Ivanov said that even though some deny the so-called Tirana platform, acts speak loudly and he believes that the Law on Languages will cause a complete blockade of the institutions because each of its members violates the Constitution. He stressed that he has long insisted for a population census, but that it is pointless without an option of ethnicity and says that without such a census there is no Ohrid Framework Agreement. Ivanov said that on April 27, last year, political violence had led to physical violence and asked what was the difference between his pardons and the current amnesty. On April 27, Ivanov said there was no scenario for a military state of emergency, unless someone abused his name for their own purposes. “I am constantly informed of orders given for the surveillance, filming and wiretapping of myself my cabinet and members of my family. Systems, names, governments, directors are changing, but it seems that UDBA is still UDBA,” the president concluded. He says he sees no other perspective than EU and NATO membership, which he believes will unite the whole of society, but says it will not happen just with the implementation of the agreement with Greece.

Baily: I am deeply upset about false rumors that the US is influencing the Macedonian judiciary (Meta)

The Criminal Court has published the letter sent by the US Ambassador Jess Baily to the President of the Court, IvanDzolev regarding the “constant, false rumors with indications that the US Embassy has a goal to influence the judges.” He said that any suggestion that the US wants to manage with some trial is false. “I am deeply upset from these constant false rumors, taken into account your dedication to an independent judiciary. In order to help to reveal such false information, please share the content in this letter to your colleagues- the judges, in order for them to see that our position is, and it will remain the same, which means they will be independent in the enforcing of the law and that nothing but the facts and the law mustn’t influence their decisions,” said Baily’s letter. He stressed that the US support and strive for independence of the Macedonian judiciary and that is their message, privately and publicly.

“We believe that the judges should make decisions on basis of current laws and approved evidence, and not on basis of any kind of political evaluations and interventions by any given political or government person. It is our consistent message, both privately and publicly,” said Baily. The Ambassador also said that he remains dedicated to the cooperation with Dzolev and other judges in Macedonia in order for the country to enjoy the gains of a completely independent judiciary, and the rights and the freedoms that depend from the true rule of law.

Lleshi signs agreement with Kosovo (ADN)

Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshi, together with his Kosovo counterpart, Ekrem Mustafa, have signed on Saturday the “Agreement for the establishment of common border crossing points between the Republic of Albania and the Republic of Kosovo”. From the Morine border crossing point, Minister Lleshi also revealed the message of Prime Minister Edi Rama, who was not present. “For me it is a special pleasure that on the eve of the New Year, I am here to sign this important agreement. Firstly, I bring to you the greeting of Prime Minister Rama, who did not want to come and told me: We have 50% success this time. I will come only when we remove the entire border.  “We’ve come together to sign this deal. The agreement has a special importance because we are reducing by 50% the waiting time, completely eliminating controls with our common border,” said Lleshi.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Thousands flood the streets of Belgrade in fourth straight weekend of anti-government protests (euronews, by Jorgen Samso & Michael-Ross Fiorentino, 30 December 2018)

Thousands of people took to the streets of the Serbian capital Saturday night in protest against the sitting government and its de facto leader President Aleksandar Vucic. The protestors chanted “Vucic thief” as they marched peacefully through Belgrade’s city centre in the fourth such protest in as many weeks, according to Reuters. The opposition movement – Protest Against Dictatorship – are calling for electoral reform and freedom in the media and against what they see as an increasingly autocratic rule by the sitting president. “I support these people, my people, my country, against the dictatorship and the violence conducted by the government,” says protestor Dalibor Kocic. “Everything is wrong,” added another protestor Natasha Vranic, “We don’t have freedom in the media. We don’t have freedom for journalists.” Backers of the Alliance for Serbia, an opposition grouping of 30 parties and organisations, say Vucic is an autocrat and his party is corrupt, something its leaders vehemently deny. Protesters leading the march carried a banner reading “#1OF5MILLION” in reference to an earlier statement by Vucic that he would not bow to demands even if five million protesters took to the streets. The protests were ignited when a leader of the opposition Serbian Left party, Borko Stefanovic, was assaulted at an opposition meeting in the city of Krusevac in late November. It then developed into a broader call for an end to political violence and for free and fair elections. A week ago, there were an estimated 35,000-40,000 people on the streets – this time the number has risen to 50,000 according to local media. Serbia has a population of seven million. President Vucic has denied all accusations of involvement in the attack on the politician that started the protest. Vucic has also said he is ready to call another vote. The next Serbian parliamentary election is scheduled for April 2020. According to a poll by the Belgrade-based CESID election watchdog in October, Vucic’s party holds 53.3% of the electorate while other parties are trailing far behind. The SNS-led ruling coalition has a comfortable majority of 160 deputies in the 250-seat parliament.

Serbians will now see if the opposition movement can keep building momentum to influence the sitting government – and President Vucic – to change. Following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, Vucic joined the far-right Serbian Radical Party (SRS), whose core ideology is based on Serbian nationalism.

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