Brnabic: Making special ties between Serbia, Republika Srpska stronger (Tanjug/RTS)
Speaking at a ceremonial academy at the Borik sports hall in Banja Luka, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic emphasized that Serbia will respect the Dayton Agreement and the decisions taken jointly by the three peoples in Bosnia-Herzegovina (B&H), but will also continue to help RS in concrete projects, especially through education and culture. She added that our present shows us that it is possible to be separated by borders and at the same time remain inseparable and united in a joint effort to make the consequences of the difficult past be healed as efficiently and quickly as possible and to create the conditions for a peaceful and normal coexistence in this part of Europe. According to her, only peace and stability will ensure that in the future all citizens in our region, regardless of their nationality or religion, live more freely, happily and better sheltered from all hardships. It is precisely because of this common interest that Serbia will wisely and patiently respect its international obligations, primarily the Dayton Agreement, without losing the sense of the necessary measure of justice, independence and freedom that you enjoy here, Brnabic said. She pointed out that, unlike for some others, historical agreements are important for Serbia, and international law is not just a dead letter. And it is not difficult for us to remain true to ourselves and our heritage from the past while at the same time respecting others, the Prime Minister underlined, adding that Serbia will respect any decision taken by all three constituent peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina through consensus, but that it will take particular care of RS citizens. Our love and care for RS does not mean hatred and disinterest towards B&H, nor will it ever mean that. On the contrary, the bridges and roads we are building towards RS are bridges and roads towards B&H. And the Serbian government will continue to build new ones and strengthen the existing ones, Brnabic stated. We will especially deal with making our special ties stronger through boosting cooperation in culture and education, Brnabic said and expressed her hope that gone are the times in which the most powerful ministries were those of defence and the police. Brnabic assessed that in the 21st century the most powerful ministries in smart countries are the ministries of education and culture, adding that the relationship between Serbia and RS will continue to be based on the relations of support, help and empowerment.
Brnabic: Frozen conflict in Kosovo not a good solution for Serbia (TV Happy/Tanjug)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said today that the issue of Kosovo must not be left as a frozen conflict as it affects Serbia’s progress, but she also pointed to the oversensitive approach of the international community and the EU towards Pristina. In a broadcast at TV Happy, Brnabic underlined that people must understand that a frozen conflict is a frozen instability. We will not be able to use all of our potential and all the healthy basis we have and go as fast as we can if we have a frozen conflict. She said that the US asked Serbia to stop lobbying for the withdrawal of recognition of Kosovo’s independence, which Belgrade openly refused. As long as they are lobbying for additional recognitions, it is a full fair play that we lobby for countries to withdraw that recognition, Brnabic pointed out. She recalled that everyone condemned the measures of Pristina, including the United States, adding that she is now closely watching how will Pristina fulfill its allegations that they will not abolish the additionally imposed tariffs.
She stated that she would like Pristina to be a little more reasonable, which would be good for the Kosovo Albanians, but also for the whole region, but that, unfortunately, she has to talk with Ramush Haradinaj, who had been charged with the most heinous crimes, and was acquitted only because the witnesses were killed. We need to talk to him because of regional stability and our future. It is more important to us than to anyone else in the region to have regional stability, Brnabic said. She pointed out that Serbia is the only country in the region that has gone through fiscal consolidation measures, has a stable economy, budget, its public debt is declining and has a stable currency and a prospect of economic growth. When asked about the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group in which she participated in Turin in June last year, she said that members of this group are following the situation in the world and in the Western Balkans, and that they praise Serbia for its economic and structural reforms and budget stability. She said that the invitation to participate in that meeting was an honor given to Serbia, and that she personally, after all those discussions, is thinking that we should close all open issues as soon as possible because the world is becoming an increasingly complex place.
Dacic: Apologize to Serbs for genocide, then lecture others (Politika)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has called Croatia to apologize to the Serbs for the WW II genocide and ethnic cleansing before lecturing others. Commenting Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s statement that peaceful reintegration is a legacy of the late President Franjo Tudjman, Dacic told Politika that the question is whether that reintegration includes the return of expelled Serbs. He added that just 180,000 of 560,000 Serbs who lived in Croatia in 1991 are in the country. “Or is it just reintegration of the people they did not kill, expel or convert to Catholicism… And how could the Serbs in Croatia have committed aggression on the territory that they lived on,” Dacic said. According to him, reconciliation is only possible with mutual respect and the advocating of common interests instead of the things we disagree on.
Odalovic: Serbia submitted evidence of KLA crimes (RTS)
The Serbian authorities have submitted evidence of the involvement of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders in crimes, Foreign Ministry General Secretary Veljko Odalovic told RTS on Thursday. “We have collected and submitted a lot of evidence show in the direct links between people in command and crimes,” he said, adding that he expects the first indictments for crimes against Serbs in Kosovo soon. He said there is plenty of evidence of crimes, including the holding of hundreds of Serbs and non-Albanians in illegal KLA prisons. “I expect a lot more investigations, including the trafficking of organs of abducted Serb civilians, Odalovic said.
Asked if Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj will be investigated along with other ranking officials, Odalovic said he thinks they will but that court proceedings against them will depend on the strength of the people in the Specialized Chambers. “It’s important for Kosovo society to remove the people linked to war crimes from the political scene,” Odalovic said.
SMATSA: No confirmation that Pristina will take over air space (Tanjug)
The Serbia and Montenegro air traffic service SMATSA has announced that it doesn’t have the information that Pristina will take over control over the lower air space. “Kosovo is not a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), nor are the authorities in Pristina, as their air traffic control service provider, part of international aviation organizations,” states SMATSA. SMATSA reminds that the air space above Kosovo and Metohija, according to the 1999 Military-Technical Agreement, is under the jurisdiction of the KFOR Commander, i.e. NATO. In 2014, NATO delegated the provision of air traffic control services in the upper layer of the air space above Kosovo and Metohija to Hungarocontrol. “In the lower layer of the air space above Kosovo and Metohija and at the airport in Pristina, air traffic control services are provided to flights taking off and landing from this airport by the service provider formed by the Pristina authorities,” states SMATSA.
RS Day marked in territory of this entity (BN TV)
The Day of Republika Srpska (RS) was marked in Banja Luka on Wednesday with a parade and a solemn academy. More than 500 members of the RS Ministry of Interior (MoI) and more than a thousand members of the civil sector took part in the parade. The parade was attended by the RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic, RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic, RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, ministers in the Governments of the RS and Serbia, representatives of the RS in B&H institutions and Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov. Cvijanovic thanked those who created the RS and those who built it in peace, calling on everyone to unite for the sake of the development of the RS. “We will work together, all institutions, our people, all our citizens, our people who knows how to appreciate freedom which we are living in. We will always celebrate freedom which we are living in because we know that it has no price” Cvijanovic underlined. Cvijanovic said that there is no B&H without the RS. She added that many in B&H are bothered with celebration of January 9, adding that they have problem with the fact those in the RS celebrate their identity, freedom, culture and language as well as with the fact the RS defends its autonomy, stability and strengthens its institutions. Dodik underlined that the 27th birthday of the RS was marked to the pride of all citizens of the RS, adding that the RS deserves to be celebrated because love and will of the people in the RS were invested in its creation. Dodik said that it was important to gather around 9 January – the Day of the RS. “We are gathering around freedom, our identity and around everything that is important for a people to have and that is freedom which it is building in order to create all of its values, its religion, culture, education, sport, economy, local community and its entire RS,” Dodik underlined. Ivantsov, emphasized that Russia will always stand by the RS and he congratulated all RS people the Day of the RS. “This is the holiday of the successfully developed part of B&H,” stated Ivantsov. The religious service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Banja Luka was attended by a large number of citizens, as well as by SDS leader Vukota Govedarica and PDP leader Branislav Borenovic. Cvijanovic handed out awards to individuals, institutions and organizations. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was awarded with the Medal of the RS for exceptional credit in strengthening political relations between the RS and Serbia. “That is a relation that definitely transcends formal, usual frameworks of bilateral cooperation and in which something a lot bigger and more significant than just diplomatic and just administrative exists in every sense. It is about concrete and actual concern of Serbia for the survival and development of the RS,” Brnabic said. Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov received an award for exceptional credit in international cooperation and establishing of peace, personal results and accomplishments to improving of overall relations between Russia and the RS. Cvijanovic also awarded posthumous medal to General Major Slavko Lisica for extraordinary achievements in commanding and managing RS Army units “in armed conflicts with the enemy and liberation of the RS”. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sent a congratulation note to the RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic on the occasion of marking the Day of the RS. He emphasized that RS must continue its further development and progress. He added that Serbia, in the name of “irrefutable cultural and spiritual ties, as a sincere friend and trustworthy partner, will always be a strong support to the RS”. Representatives of Serbs in Macedonia and Kosovo also sent their congratulation notes to Cvijanovic and RS citizens. They underlined that all those that fought for creation of the RS must be honored by protecting and developing RS.
Viskovic: There is no B&H without RS (BN TV)
B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik met with Croatian Ambassador to B&H Ivan Del Vechio at the reception held on the occasion of the RS Day in Banja Luka on Wednesday. Dodik also met with HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic who led the delegation of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) at the solemn academy held on the occasion of the Day of the RS. The reception which was held in the building of the RS Government was attended by senior officials of the RS and Serbia, as well as by guests from the social, political, cultural and economic life. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic, who hosted the reception, and certain RS politicians send messages on the occasion of the Day of the RS. Viskovic said that the RS is serious and that it will remain as such. “I want to use today’s day to send a message to everyone that all those who are contesting the RS are basically working against B&H because there is no B&H without the RS,” Viskovic underlined. RS parliament deputy speaker Sonja Karadzic-Jovicevic said that she wants to thank those “who made us create the RS and preserve it and of course to thank those who since then until today have been going after it hammer and tongs.” “Thanks to them, we are preserving it and we will preserve it because there will be always those who will want to harm it and we will always have the strength to beat that evil,” Karadzic-Jovicevic said. NDP RS MP Dragan Cavic said that development of education and economy are key priorities which will preserve the Serb people in the RS.
RS Day celebration – reactions (Hayat/ATV/TV1)
HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic and his party colleague and outgoing B&H Minister of Finance Vjekoslav Bevanda attended the reception held which was organized in Banja Luka on Wednesday on the occasion of the RS Day. According to Hayat, presence of HDZ B&H leadership at the reception is an undisputed symbol of the alliance between HDZ B&H and the ruling party in the RS – SNSD, i.e. with its leader Milorad Dodik. Hayat recalled that this is not the first time that Covic is attending the ceremony of marking the Day of the RS. Namely, both in 2013 and in 2015, Covic attended the ceremony of marking the Day of the RS. Former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic stated on Wednesday that everything HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic does no longer comes as a surprise because, according to Mesic, Covic has long been in cahoots with SNSD leader Milorad Dodik on how to break B&H apart. Mesic said that Wednesday’s visit of Covic to Banja Luka is a disgrace for all those who were engaged in his election to the post of B&H Presidency member from the rank of the Croat people. Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic stated on Wednesday that all those who took part in unconstitutional act of marking 9 January as the Day of the RS harshly violated the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). Dzaferovic stressed that this also applies to officials of the Republic of Serbia who, with their congratulations and presence in Banja Luka on this day, showed disrespect towards B&H and its institutions and encouraged leaders of policies that endanger security in the region. Dzaferovic stated that institutions of B&H, primarily the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H must react and start applying the law, because refusing to implement decisions of the Constitution Court of B&H is a crime. He said: “It would go in the benefit of everyone to respect B&H, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, to build peace, stability within the Dayton B&H. The entity of the RS can never be more than it is today”. Dzaferovic noted that arrival of Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and leadership of this country to Banja Luka on Wednesday to the celebration of the RS Day encourages leaders that promote policies that jeopardize security in the region. Numerous reactions came from the Federation of B&H officials. They underlined that this celebration violates the decision rendered by the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H, which stated that Day of the RS was a discriminatory holiday for non-Serbs. ‘Our Party’ (NS) and SDP B&H also issued statements of their own in regard to this holiday. They underlined that RS entity is an administrative unit which exists since the DPA was signed. Head of HDZ B&H Caucus in the Federation of B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Mladen Boskovic did not wish to comment the fact that HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic attended the marking the Day of the RS. He did, however, comment the celebration itself. “My personal stance is that B&H needs to become a legislatively organized country and a legislative solution which would accurately and precisely prescribe what belongs to me and my peoples in B&H when it comes to holidays and non-working days, all in connection to my religion, tradition and culture, must be adopted,” said Boskovic. SDA representative in the Federation of B&H HoR Salko Bukvarevic emphasized that CC B&H’s decision in regard to this matter should not be commented but respected and implemented. Bosniak representatives in the RS institutions previously commented 9 January celebration, reminding that they submitted a motion for assessment of the constitutionality of the Law on the Day of the RS on 5 January 2018 and they expect this motion to be discussed as soon as possible. DF’s Dzenan Djonlagic said that Covic’s presence at marking of “unconstitutional so-called RS Day” once again proved that HDZ B&H and Covic chose Russia as their strategic partner and that it is finally clear to all citizens of B&H and international officials that Milorad Dodik is not the only pro-Russian and anti-NATO official in B&H.
Inaugural session of Federation of B&H HoR resumes, MPs fail to elect deputy speakers (FTV)
The inaugural session of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives (HoR) ended on Wednesday, but MPs failed to elect leadership. After that, the Federation of B&H HoR held a special session and discussed the proposal of the budget for 2019 in urgent procedure. Reporter argued that deputy speakers of the Federation of B&H HoR were not elected on Wednesday, simply because the majority that elected SDP B&H’s Elvir Karajbic as Speaker of the Federation of B&H HoR on 27 November, did not exist. B&H Bloc nominated two candidates NS’ Sabina Cudic from the ranks of the ‘Others’ and member of DF-GS coalition Mara Djukic for Deputies of Speaker Federation of B&H HoR, while HDZ B&H nominated Mladen Boskovic from the Croat ranks.
Reactions to Pompeo’s letter to B&H Presidency members (Hayat/Oslobodjenje/Dnevni avaz)
Members of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic welcomed the letter which the US State Secretary Mike Pompeo sent to the B&H Presidency members. In the letter, Pompeo called on the B&H Presidency members to start the implementation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) by adopting the first B&H’s Annual National Program. According to a press release issued by Komsic, this should be understood as an additional boost for B&H to accept the hand and assistance that the US an NATO are offering for deepening of reform activities in all spheres of social life that MAP brings. Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik talked about Pompeo’s letter with ridicule and added that nothing will turn his attention for an important day such as the Day of the RS. “I will read it (letter) tomorrow,” concluded Dodik.
Croatian Ambassador to B&H recalled over controversial event (Hina)
Croatian Ambassador to B&H) Ivan Del Vechio is going to be summoned for consultations to Zagreb after his attendance at the controversial celebration of the RS day in Banja Luka, although that holiday in the Serb entity was declared unconstitutional by B&H’s Constitutional Court. Wednesday’s celebration was also marked by the posthumous awarding of decoration to ex-JNA officer, Slavko Lisica, who was sentenced to 15 years for war crimes in the Croatian city of Sibenik. In 1998, the local county court found Lisica guilty of shelling that Adriatic city in September 1992. In the shelling launched by JNA units under Lisica’s control, a woman was killed and the city’s landmarks, including centuries-old churches and monuments in the city centre, were damaged. War Veterans’ Affairs Minister Tomo Medved and Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic on Thursday strongly criticized Croatian Ambassador to B&H Ivan Del Vechio for attending Wednesday’s celebration of RS Day. Attending such a ceremony “is inappropriate conduct, particularly considering the fact that a war criminal, convicted in Croatia of grave war crimes, was decorated on that occasion,” Medved told the press before a government’s meeting in Zagreb. Minister Krsticevic said that attending such an event was a disgrace. Medved said that it was up to the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry to decide on possible measures against the ambassador. “As far as I know, the foreign ministry did not know that Del Vechio was attending that event, and it is now gathering all the necessary information about the case” Medved said. Medved, however, would not comment on the presence of the local B&H Croat leader, Dragan Covic of the HDZ B&H at the Banja Luka event. “Being a representative of the Croat people in B&H, Covic makes his decisions on his own and I do not want to comment on that,” said Medved.
Is Vucic making a list of desirable Serbs from Montenegro? (Pobjeda)
Leader of True Montenegro (Prava Crna Gora), Marko Milacic and president of the Serbian National Council in Montenegro, Momcilo Vuksanovic, weren’t invited to the Christmas meeting organized on Sunday by the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic and representatives of Serbs from the region. The meeting was attended by the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, Zeljka Cvijanovic, as well as representatives of Serbs from the region. Invitees from Montenegro were Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, leaders of DF, as well as an independent Member of the Parliament, Goran Danilovic, whose party hasn’t got parliamentary status. As Pobjeda finds out, Marko Milacic and Momcilo Vuksanovic didn’t receive the invitation for this meeting. It’s a surprise since they both were part of Vucic’s actions in August and September, followed by the visit of Serbian politicians in Montenegro to Kosovo. A source close to the DF said that it might be that Milacic and Vuksanovic are paying the price for their too close relationship with the Metropolitan of the SOC in Montenegro, Amfilohije Radovic, who is a big critic of Vucic’s Kosovo policy.
Milacic said that he couldn’t have been invited to the meeting since it had been organized only for the representatives of Serbian parties from the region that have got parliamentary status.
Zaev is waiting for Merkel (Republika)
The Macedonian parliament session to rename the country into North Macedonia was called off after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gave his remarks in defense of the proposal. Shortly after, speaker Talat Xhaferi surprisingly adjourned the parliament with the explanation that members should have to get written copies of Zaev’s speech. This unusual reason given by Xhaferi for the postponement of the session for Thursday early afternoon prompted speculation that Zaev is still short of the 81 votes needed to amend the Constitution. After the session, in a TV interview, Zaev confirmed that he still doesn’t have the votes, but that it will all be clear “on the day of the vote” – without specifying when it would be. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in Athens tomorrow, and the outcome of her visit if a far more likely reason that the session in Skopje was postponed today, than the lack of pre-prepared copies of Zaev’s speech. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also faces a tough vote in Parliament to ratify not only the so-called Prespa treaty but Greece’s acceptance of Macedonia’s entry into NATO as well. With this Greece will give up its veto power in NATO, which it has used since 2008, and its future ability to pressure Macedonia would be significantly weakened. The date of Merkel’s visit is far from coincidental. If nothing unexpected happens, Zaev’s government will complete the revision of its Constitution and the Prespa treaty will be put before the Greek parliament. As German sources say, Merkel wants to support the deal in its final stage and this is the purpose of her visit, Kathimerini writes. Tsipras’ government could collapse over the deal, as his nationalist coalition partner ANEL has threatened to leave the government if the deal is even put before parliament, while centrist To Potami is prepared to support Tsipras on the name deal, but will not prop up his government. This has raised the prospect that Greece may delay the vote to ratify the treaty or at least the NATO protocol. Meanwhile back in Macedonia, Zaev defended the deal in parliament and before the public in a televised interview. We will have a state recognized by all, a nation which nobody will deny in the future, a Macedonian language recognized by all… This is what our fathers, grandfather and great grandfathers fought for. We will finally close all bilateral issues with our neighbors, Zaev said. VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski spoke at the protest rally before the parliament, saying that the deal Zaev negotiated with Alexis Tsipras is harmful and will have far reaching consequences against the Macedonian national identity, and will only make Macedonia’s relations with neighboring countries worse, given that the deal creates mechanism to raise countless historic issues and throw them on Macedonia’s path to join the EU. It will remain written that not the citizens, but 80 members of parliament, whose votes were secured with blackmail and threats, are giving up the name. The representatives vote under pressure, and not based on their conviction and free will. I realize some will try to deny this, but you, in the media, the wider public, you are all aware about the backstage games being played with Zaev’s selective reconciliation process. I ask you, are these European values? Of course not. All those kidding themselves that this is the way we will have a European Macedonia are delusional. We are getting further away from Europe with what we are doing, with a ruling majority violating all norms at a daily basis. This government has lost its legitimacy by pursuing a policy which did not receive legitimacy from the citizens. Zoran Zaev and his narrow group of supporters want to secure their positions and privileges by pushing North Macedonia through, but my homeland, the homeland of all the citizens, is the Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of Macedonia we voted for at the independence referendum on 8 September 1991, said Mickoski.
VMRO-DPMNE will protest and will not participate in debate on constitutional changes (Meta)
The leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski called for peaceful protests against, as he says, violently changing the constitutional name of the country. “Today is the final act of a shameful process which the Republic of Macedonia was pushed into by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the ruling majority. From the change to the Constitution in order to change to the constitutional name comes not by democratic means, but through an act of violence on the procedures, blackmail and threats to MPs and their families. VMRO-DPMNE and the Coalition “For a Better Macedonia” will not participate in that process, and at today’s session, we will not, as a political party give legitimacy for the change to the Constitution because such changes do not have legitimacy from the citizens. We are firmly convinced that they are harmful and will leave a permanent stain on Macedonia’s national dignity and will change the identity, primarily the institutional one,” said Mickovski. He said that his country is the Republic of Macedonia, whatever the outcome of the parliamentary debate. According to Mickoski, the constitutional changes are inflicted with severe injustice and great harm. “The only thing left to us is resistance. I want to tell the citizens, as one of the people, I will use my democratic right peacefully and with dignity, to protest and to resist what is happening today and what will happen in the coming days, this is what is left for us. From the bottom of my heart, please do not succumb to provocations and fictional fabrications from police structures. Join us and remain dignified, even though the country is occupied by a dishonorable government,” he said.
Zaev: Either ‘in favor’ or unseen crisis (Nezavisen vesnik)
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev thanked his coalition partners in the government that worked on reaching the agreement with Greece (DUI, LDP, DPA, Besa of Afrim Gashi), and mentioned the independent MPs (excluded from VMRO-DPMNE), the Alliance led by Zijadin Sela, Besa by Bilall Kasami, as well as the MP from the opposition, Pance Minov, who actively participated in the preparation of the amendments. This is interpreted as a gratitude to the parties, whose MPs will vote ‘in favour’, but Zaev noted that he still expects an agreement with the two lawmakers from Kasami’s party. From the Parliamentary rostrum Zaev repeated that the Prespa Agreement preserves the Macedonian language and identity, and ratification of the agreement would mean Macedonia’s NATO membership in less than a year, as well as getting closer to the EU.
“Otherwise, we will face isolation, uncertainty and crisis like never before,” said Zaev in his ten-minute speech. He asked the MPs to make a historic and patriotic decision, pointing out that the conclusion of the agreement required courage and boldness, but we did not have another choice because the dispute would have lasted indefinitely and our country would have suffered the consequences. “Let’s reject the walls of isolation, all of our friends and partners from the world are supporting us,” the head of government concluded.
Taravari: Would have been good if the amendment related to the usage of languages was accepted (Nezavisen vesnik)
The Alliance for Albanians will support the constitutional amendments, said party’s Secretary General Arben Travari. Taravari, who also serves as Gostivar Mayor, is visiting Brussels and already held talks with EP Rapporteur for Macedonia Ivo Vajgl, as well as MEPs Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein. Speaking about the ongoing process for revising Macedonia’s Constitution, an obligation stemming from the Prespa Agreement with Greece, Travari said it would have been good if the AfA amendment related to the usage of languages was accepted.
Our amendment would have put an end to discussions on ethnic issues, enabling the country to focus on economy, welfare and other spheres significant for citizens, Taravari said.
Incorporating the Albanian language in Macedonia’s constitution would actually reinstate the rights ethnic Albanians enjoyed in former Yugoslavia, Travari said. The Albanian and Turkish languages were official in ex-Yugoslavia, he added. Taravari expressed belief that more than a two-thirds of MPs would vote in favor of the constitutional amendments in Macedonia’s parliament. He hopes that there will be no unpleasant surprises in Athens, wishing for Greek parliament to ratify the Prespa Agreement as soon as possible.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Uncertainty Hangs Over Macedonia’s Final ‘Name’ Vote (BIRN, by Sinisa Jakov Marusic, 9 January 2019)
The conflicting demands of opposition MPs mean that the fate of the third and final phase of the adoption of a new name for Macedonia hangs in the balance.
Macedonia’s government is optimistic, but not yet sure, that it can assemble the required two-thirds majority in parliament for the third and final phase of the adoption of the country’s new name – which forms part of the country’s historic agreement with Greece. By passing an amnesty for some of those responsible for last year’s attack on parliament in December – and by meeting some of their other demands – Social Democratic Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has secured the support of at least eight opposition VMRO DPMNE MPs who backed the Greek agreement in earlier phases. However, another group of four ethnic Albanian opposition MPs, whose votes are equally important, have conditioned further support for the name process with scrapping the term “Macedonian citizenship” from the constitution, saying this needs to be done to reflect the multi-ethnic character of the country. If Zaev’s government accepts this change, it risks losing the support of the first group of opposition MPs, who among other things, want firm guarantees about Macedonia’s identity. While the task of appeasing both groups of wavering MPs will be daunting, observers say the ethnic Albanian MPs will likely retract their demands to achieve the greater goal of securing the so-called “name” agreement, as this will make the country’s accession to NATO and EU, which Albanians support, much easier. “I expect positive news from parliament and that the two-thirds majority will not be brought in question,” Macedonian political analyst Nikola Dujovski said. “We are in the final phase [of the agreement] and must not miss this historic chance to finish our obligations, so the country can start moving up from the bottom – where we are right now.” For the “name” agreement to pass, at least 80 of the country’s 120 MPs will have to endorse constitutional changes that envisage a new name for the country, Republic of North Macedonia. This will lead Greece to lift its long–standing blockade on Macedonia’s EU and NATO accession.
Albanian votes hang in balance:
Parliament’s plenary session, which will start on Wednesday afternoon, should conclude with a vote within ten days. But the vote may come earlier than that, as the main opposition VMRO DPMNE party has already said it will not actively participate in the session. This leaves only three amendments to debate, on scrapping the term “Macedonian citizenship”, filed by two small ethnic Albanian opposition parties, the Alliance for Albanians and the Besa [oath] movement.
These parties have only two MPs each. But their votes were vital to the success of the process in the first phase in parliament in October, when a narrow majority of just 80 MPs voted in favour.
On Tuesday, Fadil Zendeli, a Besa MP, insisted that his party was not blocking the name process but was unclear whether Besa would support it if the majority rejects its amendments. “I can’t say in advance. Let’s leave some space to see how the majority and the government react in the debate tomorrow and in the coming days,” Zendeli told reporters. Political science expert Gjorgji Spasov said he suspected that the Albanian demands were a “short-sighted” bluff. “This is just an attempt to increase their political importance [vis-a-vis the main ethnic Albanian parties], by playing the nationalist card,” he said. “If that is all they can come up with, they got it wrong. It is time they gave a chance to the [name] process that they have supported from the start,” Spasov added. Dujovski added that by imposing fresh conditions on the name process, the two parties risked losing international support for Macedonia, which has played a key role in pushing the whole deal forward. “Now is not the time for such demands. Now we must all unite and work for the interests of the country,” Spasov said. On Tuesday, Zendeli met the chief of the NATO mission to Macedonia, Zoran Jankovic, who reminded Zendeli of the importance of the success of the name process. The head of the Alliance for Albanians, Ziadin Sela, meanwhile met Prime Minister Zaev. After the meeting, Zaev said they had agreed on the constitutional preamble, its opening act, and on ways it could strengthen the civic character of the country, but did not give any specific details. But Zaev said he now expected Sela’s party to support the name process. More meetings between Zaev and the Albanian parties are expected in the coming days. Vice Prime Minister Bujar Osmani on Tuesday said that the struggle to secure a “Yes” vote would require “tough but delicate” compromises in order to satisfy all parties. “Until this process is over, there are risks of it being obstructed,” he warned.
Murky compromises dent Zaev’s image:
During December, the Zaev government made several highly controversial concessions to win over some opposition MPs from the VMRO DPMNE party, to ensure their continued support for the name process. On December 18, parliament passed a much-disputed amnesty law that legally absolved some of the participants in the mob attack on the legislature that happened in 2017. The law offered an amnesty to those not personally involved in violence during April 2017 rampage and who did not organise the storming of the legislature, where some 100 people were injured. As a result, three opposition MPs who had participated in drafting the amnesty legislation, and who supported the Greek deal, received an amnesty and are no longer on trial in court. Others were amnestied as well. Of the initial 33 defendants, only 18 remain on trial. Critics have accused Zaev’s government of trading the rule of law for opposition votes in order to reach the political goal of implementing the agreement with Greece.
‘Silent’ amnesty may undermine high-profile cases:
Another move that also drew criticism came on December 27 when a parliamentary commission passed important draft changes to the criminal code. Many observers saw this as presaging a second, hidden or “silent” amnesty, as the changes, if passed at a plenary session, will benefit some of the accused in high-profile corruption cases. What particularly alarmed critics was the change to article 275-v of the code, which would likely reduce the jail sentences of those involved in the case codenamed “Trust”. One of those sentenced to a jail term in this case was the son of the opposition MP Vladanka Avirovic, who is one of the eight opposition MPs who initially voted for the name deal and are expected to do so again. In July, the Skopje Criminal Court jailed the businessman and media owner Sead Kocan, an ally of former PM Nikola Gruevski, for six years for falsifying documents to win a big coal extraction tender in 2011. Avirovic’s son Vasilije was found guilty of the same crime and sentenced to three years. Another change planned for adoption at the same session, but taken out at the last minute, was to article 353. This envisages cases involving people suspected of misuse in office over public procurements becoming obsolete sooner. The MPs who make up the commission said they were not abandoning this proposed change but want more time for debate over it. A prominent lawyer, Aleksandar Tortevski, warned that if the proposed law changes are passed, half the ongoing criminal investigations and cases instigated by the Special Prosecution, tasked with tackling high-level crime, will collapse. “Some 40 to 50 per cent of Special Prosecution cases could be brought into question,” he said. “A large part of the work that the prosecution has done so far will collapse because … the deadlines for raising criminal charges will become obsolete.
“The worst form of crime and misuse in office is when it is done through law changes designed only to benefit a few people,” he added. “In practice, this means that crime controls the legislature, and can legalize any form of conduct,” Tortvski insisted. According to some estimates, the proposed changes would affect at least eight Special Prosecution cases. Some of the suspects and defendants in these are former VMRO DPMNE prime minister Nikola Gruevski, former transport minister Mile Janakieski, former culture minister Elizabeta Kanceska Milevska, former interior minister Gordana Jankuloska and former vice prime minister Vladimir Pesevski. Responding to accusations that he was trading the rule of law for the success of the “name” agreement, Zaev has sounded defiant. On several occasions in the past month, he has said that he was ready to take political responsibility for the greater good of the country.