Dacic: Main priorities Kosovo and EU accession (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said today that 2018 was marked by the extremely dynamic diplomatic activity of Serbia, both bilaterally and multilaterally. At the New Year’s reception at the Foreign Ministry organized for members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the media, Dacic underlined that our country will continue to build relations and partnerships on the basis of dialogue, mutual consideration and respect for the obligations undertaken with everyone, regardless of whether our attitudes on certain issues with the other side coincide or not. In the year ahead of us, our priority will be to preserve the interests of the Republic of Serbia in relation to Kosovo and Metohija, and we will not give up on our commitment to dialogue and compromise, in order to find a comprehensive, long-lasting and stable solution, Dacic pointed out. He said that we want an agreement with Pristina, but that we will react strongly to each unilateral act that they make that has not been agreed, in order to protect our interests. Serbia’s EU accession remains our key foreign policy priority. Our goal is to secure further support from EU Member States and EU institutions in the negotiation process. We are not satisfied with the opening of only four negotiating chapters during the past year. Serbia was ready to have more chapters opened. This number of chapters opened does not reflect realistic progress in the reform processes in our country, and we are very interested that our internal efforts be valorized through the EU negotiating process too, which, I hope, will be the case in 2019, Dacic concluded.
Kuburovic: Serbia is in no way involved in work of special court for KLA crimes (Beta)
Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic said that Serbia was in no way involved in the work of the Special Court for the crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army but would if needed. She told a joint news conference with Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic that Pristina had undertaken, in its Constitution and law, to cooperate with the EU to process former KLA members who committed crime. “We have been waiting to see sentenced persons for years,” the Minister said. She added that Serbia was ready to deliver the necessary evidence and to protect witnesses residing in Serbia should they chose to testify in these proceedings. On the topic of cooperation with Pristina in the investigation into the murder of SDP Civic Initiative leader Oliver Ivanovic, the minister said Pristina had filed eight requests to Belgrade during the inquiry and that each had been met. Stefanovic said plastic replicas of bullet casings used to kill Ivanovic had been delivered to Serbia, but that they were insufficient to pinpoint the murder weapon.
EC: Not a single step towards EU until Pristina abolishes taxes (Novosti)
Well-informed sources from the European Commission (EC) told Novosti that Pristina will not be able to make a single step towards the EU until it abolishes taxes on import of goods from Serbia proper and B&H and added that “European integration is based on regional cooperation, good neighborly relations and reconciliation. All of these three principles were jeopardized by the decision Kosovo authorities insist on”. EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said that “our stance on taxes is clear.
Kesic: Kosovo is not even among top ten topics for Trump (TV Prva/B92)
The situation in Kosovo and Metohija is not even among the top ten topics of US President Donald Trump and its administration Obrad Kesic has told TV Prva. Kesic, a political analyst and head of the RS representative office in Washington, explained that due to the huge internal crisis in Washington because of the fight with the Democrats in the Congress, the possibility of launching the impeachment of the president, as well as the non-stop hysteria about the influence Russia allegedly has on US politics, Europe is also not even among the first 6-7 topics for the United States. He added that the crisis in the US has been ongoing for a long time, even before Trump was elected, but that it has now become especially evident that the US is no longer very involved in the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, the Balkans, even the issue of Europe. Commenting on a petition launched Serbs in the US, asking Trump to stop the persecution of our people in Kosovo and Metohija and stop supporting the government in Pristina, and which warns about all the dangerous decisions made by Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj and the consequences that may be unforeseeable, Kesic said its timing was bad. “At one point it was a different reality, there was talk that we were close to the deal, delimitation was being mentioned… In the meantime, the situation changed due to the moves of Pristina, which feels that the US distancing itself from this issue,” Kesic said, adding that the only way for some change to happen would be a threat of an escalation of the conflict and endangering the interests of Europe that would force America to reengage. He explained that so far, the Albanians have completely dominated. “Whenever Brussels and Washington look and ask themselves what represents a greater the risk – dissatisfaction of the Albanians or dissatisfaction of the Serbs – they always come to the conclusion that Albanians are a greater risk. We must change that relationship. That can be done with money, but also with a policy correction. Serbia has shown flexibility and patience, but that is in a way harmful because Albanians are moving towards radicalizing the problem, because they hope they will pull America in, and that it will take their side,” said Kesic.
Protesters march for the sixth time in a row (Beta)
A sixth One in Five Million march ended in the Studentski Trg square on Jan. 12, at around 8 p.m., with an invitation to protesters to gather on Jan. 16 for a peaceful rally outside the School of Philosophy to pay respects to the Civil Initiative SDP leader, Oliver Ivanovic, killed in Kosovo a year ago. The march passed without incident while there was no visible police presence. The organizers said that when the first marchers reached Studentski Trg, the end of the body of protesters was in Kralja Milana Street, next to the Presidency building. The protesters blew whistles, sported banners and posters reading: “Yes, there are five million of us,” “We are with the people, not with the current and former thieves,” and “Rise Serbia!” One of the organizers, Branislav Trifunovic, asked the authorities to reveal Oliver Ivanovic’s murderers. “He was one of us, and we owe it to him to pay our respects. Come to a peaceful rally, and bring candles, not whistles. We want to mark the day, lest things like that should happen again,” Trifunovic said. The leader of the non-governmental European Movement in Kosovo and Metohija, Rada Trajkovic, said that Serbia would not see better days as long as Vucic was in power. “We, the people from Kosovo, do not ask for much, just that Serbs are not afraid of Serbia, but since (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic took power, we have been afraid of Serbs,” Trajkovic said. She said that Vucic had recognized the legal system of Kosovo as legal and legitimate, which is why he should extradite to Pristina Milan Radojicic, a suspect in the Ivanovic murder case. “You have established a ‘polygraph’ justice in Belgrade. That is not how it is done Vucic – you should send Milan to Pristina, instead of making Belgrade a safe house for criminals and the mob” Trajkovic said. President Vucic said on Saturday that a letter sent to him by the organizers of protests was “one of five million”, in which he was asked to finally present his plan for Kosovo to the citizens of Serbia, was – “stupid”. “It is so stupid that I have neither words nor time to reply to it”, Vucic said. He added that those who betrayed Kosovo and surrendered it were trying now to lecture him about Kosovo Vucic concluded that he was too busy fighting against crime so as to waste his time on the demands of the opposition.
Obradovic writes to Putin that Vucic abuses his visit (Danas)
The leader the Dveri Movement Bosko Obradovic sent a letter to President of Russia Vladimir Putin in which he wrote that the authorities in Belgrade wanted to abuse his visit on 17 January for their daily political purposes and present it as the “support for the ruling regime, and not for Serbia”. “It is my duty to inform you that the current authorities in Serbia want to abuse your visit,” Obradovic said. In the letter, he explained that the ruling party would organize a rally of support, but this was prepared as a kind of counter-rally to the protests of the opposition that have lasted for already two months in Belgrade. “By doing this, he wants to grossly abuse your visit and positive feelings of the majority of citizens of Serbia towards you and Russia. Many citizens of Serbia who do not support the current authorities would come and welcome you unless this is not manipulation of the ruling regime for their daily political purposes,” Obradovic said.
Del Vechio says he did not go to Banja Luka to attend marking of RS Day, Dodik confirms (TV1)
Croatia’s Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Ivan Del Vechio was recalled from his post after attending the celebration of Republika Srpska (RS) Day in Banja Luka on Wednesday. The decision was made by the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marija Pejcinovic-Buric said the Ambassador “made the wrong call and assessed the situation poorly”. Del Vechio tried to justify his actions, saying that he did not attend the parade, the solemn academy or the event during which RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic decorated institutions and individuals. He added that he only attended a meeting with Chair of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik, which was, as he said, scheduled in “an awkward moment”. Del Vechio did not wish to comment the decision on his recall for members of the press on Friday. Chair of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik commented on Friday the presence of Croatian Ambassador to B&H Ivan Del Vechio and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic at the marking of the RS Day in Banja Luka on Wednesday. He emphasized that he appreciates all guests who come to the RS and he thanked all those who came to celebrate this day with people of this entity. “As far as I know, the Ambassador was not present during the parade, the solemn academy or the President’s awarding ceremony,” confirmed Dodik. Dodik stated that he and Del Vechio agreed earlier that they will meet on that day in Banja Luka and they met at the end of the reception. Dodik said that it is not his problem how someone interprets this. He said that, even though they have unsolved historical issues, he will attend any national holiday the Croat people celebrate. He said that it is important for them to be constructive and to support each other.
Dodik: Because of hysteria that was launched in Federation of B&H, survival of B&H is questionable today just as much as it was in 1992 (RTRS)
B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik believes that because of the hysteria that was launched in the Federation of B&H, survival of B&H is questionable today just as much as it was in 1992. Dodik stressed that hysteria in the Federation of B&H launched on the occasion of marking of the RS Day confirms that B&H is far from an internal agreement and that its survival today is questionable just as much as it was in 1992 when peace was sacrificed. Dodik believes that Bosniaks were not ready to accept that other peoples live in B&H back in 1992 and that 27 years later, they are still not accepting that fact. Dodik stressed that Bosniaks are trying to say, primarily to Serbs, that they do not have the right to celebrate the day when the RS was founded. According to Dodik, it is clear that B&H would not be able to survive without international tutorship, but that tutorship is nearing its end. Dodik said that the attempt to discipline the Croat people is new to him and that the right of Croat people to attend events organized on the occasion of the Day of the RS is being contested. “The day they contested January 9 as the Day of the RS before the Constitutional Court (CC), they tried to contest our right to existence which is guaranteed to us even by the peace agreement on the basis of which today’s B&H was created.” Outgoing B&H Minister of Justice Josip Grubesa (HDZ B&H) denied claims on unconstitutionality of 9 January as the Day of the RS. Grubesa sent a message to those who have a problem with the facts that they need to realize that the RS is reality. Grubesa said in a statement that the B&H CC did not rule that January 9 is unconstitutional as such, but that certain provisions from the Law on Holidays of the RS related to Saint Patron’s Day and religious marking of the Day of the RS are unconstitutional. “One should point out the fact that the RS immediately implemented that decision and adopted a law without the controversial provisions in parliamentary procedure,” Grubesa said in the statement.
Preda: Visits to Russia will not help anyone become an EU member state (Hayat)
European Parliament’s (EP) Rapporteur for B&H Cristian Dan Preda on Friday continued his two-day official visit to B&H. Preda attended the roundtable on the topic ‘Current State of the Process of EU Integration of B&H’. Addressing the media, Preda pointed out several known facts, such as the one that he is a bigger optimist than B&H politicians and representatives of non-governmental organizations in B&H. “That is a paradox of B&H”, Preda underlined. Preda said that one does not become an EU member by going to Russia and to its President Vladimir Putin. Preda called on the political representatives in B&H to come to Strasbourg and Brussels more and to cooperate with European officials. He added that when B&H obtains candidate status, it will be necessary for B&H to have people in legislative and executive authorities who are capable of negotiating with the EU, and not people who are hindering this process. Preda said that in order for B&H to obtain candidate status, B&H politicians have to be ready to carry out a dialogue with Brussels and not hinder negotiations, as well as to adequately use capacities of the NGOs and the academic community in B&H. Preda called on political actors in B&H to have better mutual dialogue, make more frequent visits to Strasbourg and Brussels, as well as have better cooperation with EU officials. He also called for an end to blocking of the process of EU integration of B&H, stressing that it was especially difficult for him to organize meetings with former Zeljka Cvijanovic, but also with Milorad Dodik. “I have to say that by going to Putin no one will become an EU member,” Preda underlined.
Kovacevic: Preda has no competence to interfere in internal affairs of B&H (ATV)
Spokesperson for SNSD Radovan Kovacevic said that EU Rapporteur for B&H Cristian Dan Preda does not have the competence to interfere in internal affairs of sovereign countries. He said that Preda needs to do anything to help B&H on its EU path instead of focusing on individual cases in the country. Kovacevic reminded that the new convocation of B&H Presidency adopted a declaration on the need to accelerate the EU path of B&H. He said that, instead of receiving an answer to this declaration, they received a meddling in internal affairs which is in poor taste.
Komsic presents new condition for supporting appointment of SNSD’s Zoran Tegeltija as B&H CoM Chairman (RTRS)
Despite the fact that all legal deadlines expired, appointment and formation of new convocation of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) is not even in sight. According to RTRS, Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic added another condition to his previous series of conditions for supporting the appointment of SNSD’s Zoran Tegeltija as the B&H CoM Chairman. Namely, Komsic stated that he will not support Tegeltija, nor any other candidate, if the B&H Presidency does not adopt the Annual National Program for NATO. Komsic also said that he does not have anything against the current convocation of the B&H CoM headed by Denis Zvizdic (SDA) to continue working in technical mandate in the next four years.
“There is a chance for appointment. As soon as Annual National Program for NATO is adopted, Chairman of the B&H CoM can be appointed.” Meanwhile, immediately after the celebration of the RS Day, Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic said that future B&H CoM Chairman has to strictly respect the decisions of the B&H CC. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik has responded to blackmails and obstructions coming from Sarajevo. “I see no reason for the Presidency to meet on any other issue until the issue of B&H CoM Chairman is solved. As soon as the other two Presidency members inform me that they are ready to reach that decision, I will convene the Presidency. Until then, there is no need for us to meet,” Dodik underlined. Head of SNSD Caucus in the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) Stasa Kosarac stressed that Komsic is pursuing the same policy as the Bosniak political elite and as part of the international community present in B&H. Kosarac added that he believes that policies of blackmails never contributed to the improvement of relations in B&H. Head of the Serb Caucus in the B&H HoR Nenad Stevandic said that by pursuing a policy of blackmail, Komsic is endangering B&H and delegitimizing himself both as a person and as a politician. “In any case, whoever blackmails us will work against B&H, but given that Zeljko Komsic came there to cause crises and cause animosity among peoples, especially among Croats and Serbs, nothing he does can surprise us,” Stevandic stressed. RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic said that anything is possible in B&H. “I do not want to believe that B&H leadership will allow itself to spend such a long period of time without a Council of Ministers; without a lever without which it is practically impossible to adopt adequate solutions which are beneficial for the B&H citizens,” Cubrilovic underlined. Due to the obstructions in the process of formation of the new convocation of the B&H CoM, members of SNSD Caucus in the B&H HoR announced that they will file a request for canceling the B&H HoR session scheduled for January 17 at which formation of the B&H HoR should be completed.
US diplomat Vershbow: Situation in Balkans needs to be improved, B&H’s accession to NATO and EU would stabilize region (Oslobodjenje)
US diplomat and former seputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow told that the integration of B&H into NATO and the EU would be good for the country, but also for the stability of the region. “I hope we will be able to avoid returning to the Cold War,” said Vershbow and noted that the overall security situation in the Western Balkans is much better than it was in the 1990, but there is still a lot of work to do. He noted that it is disappointing that Russia returned to its negative approach to the Western Balkans, considering that during the conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia, the country was a constructive participant in the Contact Group and process of signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Zvizdic calls on Croatia and Serbia to ratify and sign border agreements with B&H (BHT1)
Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic published an open letter on Sunday calling on Croatia to ratify the border agreement with B&H, as well as on Serbia to sign the border agreement with B&H. Zvizdic assessed that, at this moment, this would be the most efficient message for ending the spiral of tensions in order to launch the healing process of cooperation, trust and reconciliation along with development of the region and each individual country. Zvizdic underscored that the Western Balkans does not need new “hegemonistic policies and divisions” but rather a positive political dialogue, peace, international cooperation and progress. The B&H CoM Chairman reiterated B&H’s commitment to the EU integration, which he referred to as being without an alternative. The BiH CoM Chairman reminded that a number of documents the Western Balkan countries have accepted are obliging the region to work in this direction. Among these documents are the strategy for a credible perspective of enlargement and increased engagement of the EU with the Western Balkans from February 2018, the declaration of leaders of EU members from May 2018 and the joint declaration in the field of regional cooperation and good neighborly relations from July 2018. EU Special Representative (EUSR) and Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark welcomed the initiative of Zvizdic. Wigemark underlined that this initiative will require all three countries to demonstrate real commitment and political will to do so. “It would be a very important step for regional stability and should be an objective for 2019,” reads the statment.
UK parliament discusses situation in B&H, MPs call on EU, US for more active engagement in developments in B&H (N1)
The UK House of Lords discussed on Thursday evening the situation in B&H, as well as the situation in the Western Balkans. MPs underlined roles of Serbia and Croatia in political developments in B&H and called on the EU and the US for a more active engagement in developments in B&H. MP Arminka Helic – Bosniak, originally from B&H – stated that B&H managed to survive in spite of constant efforts to dismantle the country. She added that there was consensus especially in the EU that regional problems should be left to regional leaders, ignoring the fact that many of the leaders say one thing in Washington, London and Brussels and completely other thing when they talk to citizens. Helic stated that Serbia and Croatia make it possible for their representatives in B&H to undermine the sovereignty of the country by encouraging HDZ B&H to create the third entity within the Federation of B&H. Commenting on unconstitutional marking of the RS Day in Banja Luka on 9 January, Helic said that this marks the day when Bosnian Serbs launched a devastating war. She stressed that she is concerned over the fact that silence of the international community was interpreted as green light for further activities of certain leaders who keep the region in the state of constant instability.
Croatia to appoint new ambassador to Bosnia (Hina)
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday he had not talked yet with HDZ B&H President Dragan Covic, who has been criticized for attending a RS Day commemoration, as has Ivan Del Vechio who, because of that, was dismissed as Croatia’s ambassador to B&H. “I leave it up to Mr. Covic and the HDZ B&H to comment on this,” Plenkovic told reporters. He reiterated that Croatia had not been informed that Del Vechio would attend the commemoration in Banja Luka. He said Del Vechio should have consulted Croatia if he had a meeting in Banja Luka that had nothing to do with the commemoration. “He shouldn’t have been there on that day.” Plenkovic recalled that Del Vechio had been Croatia’s Ambassador to B&H five years and had never attended RS Day commemorations. “It’s a little unusual that he ended up in such a situation at the end of his term and career. That’s why he was recalled to Zagreb for consultations and we will start appointing a new ambassador to B&H very soon.” Asked what message Covic had sent by attending the commemoration, Plenkovic said “it’s extremely important that Croatia’s stance on B&H is well-meaning and friendly.” He added that Croatia had been the country “which has supported B&H’s European journey the most, but by ensuring the equality of the Croat people as a constituent people, of course.” Plenkovic said he informed the European Council twice that B&H’s current election law “makes it possible to get around the Dayton/Paris agreement, which is also B&H’s Constitution, bringing Croats, as the least numerous constituent people, into an unequal position because their member of the B&H Presidency is elected by members of the other people in the Federation.” He was referring to Bosniaks in the Croat-Bosniak entity, called the Federation. Aside from government formation in B&H and the continuation of its European path, it is important that the international community, primarily the European Union, help B&H “adopt a just election law under which all three constituent peoples will be equal,” Plenkovic said. “We would certainly prefer it if Dragan Covic, who won 155,000 votes, or 80% of the vote of the Croats in B&H who went to the polls, was a member of the B&H Presidency and if he was seeing to the vital interests of the Croatian people in B&H” he added.
Parliament adopts the Prespa Agreement with 81 votes (Nezavisen vesnik)
With 81 votes in favor, the Macedonian parliament adopted the amendments to four articles of the Constitution and thus accepted the name agreement with Greece. Once the parliament in Athens ratifies the process, the country’s new name will be the Republic of North Macedonia, and there will be other interventions in the Constitution. In return, Macedonia will receive an invitation for membership in NATO this year and will come closer to the European Union. Macedonia solved the problem that hindered the country’s progress for two and a half decades, but the compromise solution with Greece left dissatisfaction with the majority of the citizens, who nevertheless accepted the agreement as an investment in the country’s future. VMRO-DPMNE MP Panco Minov also voted ‘in favor’. All other lawmakers of VMRO-DPMNE and the coalition did not attend the session and respected the party’s position.
Zaev: I’m certain that Greek MPs will recognize their significant role in this historic moment (Nezavisen vesnik)
In the next few days, along with our friend Greece, we shall discard isolation and misunderstandings and confirm the historic deal, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Saturday at press conference, following the Macedonia’s Parliament endorsement of the constitutional amendments, necessary for implementing the Prespa Agreement with the southern neighbor.
“I am certain that the Greek MPs will also recognize their significant role in this historic moment. I strongly believe that our friend Greece will ratify the Prespa Agreement and become the first state to ratify NATO Accession Protocol, thus leading the rest of Alliance’s members to give green light for our country to be the 30th NATO member,” Zaev said. Zaev once again notified that the yesterday’s grand decision of Macedonia’s parliament put an end to all dilemmas. It is a confirmation, he said, that ‘together we are bringing the country to a future we aspire to’; Macedonian state as part of the European family and NATO member; a state of Macedonians with own identity and pride, a country where the identities of all of its citizens – Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Vlachs, Bosniaks and others, have been built in. The PM extended gratitude to all members of the Macedonian Parliament for their significant and responsible decision. “I am aware how difficult it was for you to making this decision, but also of the pride of the vast majority of citizens that this major step has been taken for the benefit, future of our country and people. We are opening new pages to write about new reality, perspective of Republic North Macedonia – member state of the European and Euro-Atlantic family,” Zaev said. The constitutional amendments, endorsed by the parliament as an obligation deriving from the Prespa Agreement with Greece, should be published in the Official Gazette, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told a press conference. At the onset of next week, the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs should notify Greece’s MoFA about the completion of the process for constitutional revision, the PM said. “Afterwards, Greece will enter the process for ratifying the Prespa Agreement and the NATO Accession Protocol for our country. Hence, the Prespa Agreement will enter into force. We will also notify all countries worldwide about the decision of our Parliament, which is also our obligation under the Prespa Agreement,” Zaev said.
He also pointed out that President Gjorge Ivanov’s signature was not necessary for the constitutional amendments to enter into force. At the press conference, Zaev used the name North Macedonia frequently, because ‘I wish to emphasize the significance of yesterday’s parliament decision.’ “Yes, I have used the name North Macedonia for the citizens to realize how important is the decision made yesterday by the parliament. The (Prespa) agreement enters into force when Greece will ratify the document. This is the solution we have accepted, one that opens the perspectives for our country and its citizens,” said Zaev. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev. The Greek Prime Minister congratulated Zoran Zaev on the successful completion of the revision process of the constitution of Macedonia on the basis of the Prespa Agreement.
Mogherini/Hahn: We express our wholehearted congratulations on parliament’s vote (Nezavisen vesnik)
“We express our wholehearted congratulations on the Parliament’s vote on the constitutional changes today. This is a crucial step in implementing the historic Prespa Agreement. Political leaders and citizens alike have shown their determination to seize this unique and historic opportunity in solving one of the oldest disputes in the region, and decisively move forward on the European Union path,” High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn say. The EU, they say, strongly supports this agreement which ‘sets an example of reconciliation for the region and Europe as a whole.’
“As we are awaiting the completion of the next steps leading to the full implementation of the Prespa Agreement, the European Union remains firmly committed to continue to fully support and accompany the country towards its common strategic goal of EU integration,” the joint statement reads. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg extended congratulation to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on the parliament’s final vote on the Prespa Agreement. “NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region,” Stoltenberg tweeted.
Nimetz: This historic agreement opens the door to new relationship (Nezavisen vesnik)
United Nations mediator in the name negotiations Matthew Nimetz welcomed the final steps taken by the Macedonian parliament towards implementing the Prespa Agreement. “I welcome the final steps taken by the parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia towards the implementation of the Prespa Agreement. I wish to congratulate the parliament and the country’s citizens for this accomplishment and for the democratic manner, in which this important process was undertaken. This historic Agreement between two neighbors opens the door to a new relationship between them and to a firmer basis for peace and security in the Balkans. I look forward to completion of the process as outlined in the Agreement. As in the past, the United Nations remains committed to working with the two Parties in finally resolving the difference between them,” read his statement.
US welcomes adoption of constitutional amendments (Nezavisen vesnik)
The US welcomes the decision by Macedonia’s parliament to adopt the constitutional amendments needed to ratify the Prespa Agreement with Greece. Macedonia’s leaders demonstrated vision, courage, and persistence in their pursuit of a solution to the name dispute, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU as the Republic of North Macedonia. The US sees this as a historic opportunity to advance stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region. “Today, Macedonia reached a historic decision. Your parliament voted to adopt the constitutional changes required to implement the Prespa Agreement with Greece. The United States welcomes the decision of your elected officials. When the process is completed with the ratification by Greece, this agreement will finally resolve the name dispute, which for too long has prevented the citizens of Macedonia from realizing their goals to join NATO and the European Union. I commend your leaders in government and in parliament for their vision, their courage, and their persistence in pursuing a solution and putting Macedonia’s long-term strategic interests first. We look forward to welcoming the Republic of North Macedonia as the 30th member of NATO and to continuing our strong partnership with you to advance stability, security, and prosperity here and throughout the region,” said US Ambassador to Skopje Jess Baily.
Haradinaj meets Zaev, calls him the Prime Minister of North Macedonia (Republika)
Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj met with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Sunday, and referred to him as the “Prime Minister of North Macedonia”. I congratulated him on his success with the Prespa treaty which clearly opens the Euro-Atlantic perspective for the citizens of the neighboring country, the former guerrilla commander wrote on his Facebook account.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Name Dispute: Western leaders rejoice, Greece melts down (New Europe, by Alec Mally, 13 January 2019)
Hot potato hits Athens and government coalition dissolves
After a confused post-holiday week marked by conflicting statements and signals from key Greek leaders in the ruling coalition government, political developments in Athens switched back into high gear immediately after the Macedonia/FYROM parliament approved constitutional amendments required by the Prespes Agreement late on January 11, which change the country’s name for all purposes to “North Macedonia.” In reaction, Greece’s Defence Minister Panos Kammenos resigned early January 13 and a vote of confidence in the remaining SYRIZA government is expected to be announced shortly.
Strong Western support for Zaev’s efforts
The baffling week that followed the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holiday was marked by conflicting statements and signals from key Greek political figures as developments in Greece moved into high gear immediately after the Macedonia/FYROM Parliament approved the constitutional amendments required by the Prespes Agreement. These highly controversial amendments required a two-thirds majority for passage, and the amendments were backed by 81 lawmakers in the 120-seat House.As promised, the country’s main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, boycotted the vote, although a number of its now expelled members broke ranks to support the plans of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s government to take the country into NATO and the EU, assuming Greek objections are ultimately lifted and Athens ratifies the deal.
Western leaders immediately voiced strong public backing for Zaev, bombarding the Twittersphere with messages as they have throughout 2018. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn – frequent visitors and now household names in Macedonia/FYROM – were the first to back the move, almost in real time, with Washington’s minimalist statement emerging a day later.
Greek developments – wheels within wheels
The coalition government of SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, in power since January 2015, had been widely expected to fracture over the parliamentary ratification process for the Prespes Agreement. The left-right governing coalition held an almost impossibly thin majority of 153 seats in the 300-member parliament, with seven of those seats allocated to the ANEL party which is expected to disappear in the next Greek elections that must be held sometime before October. Polls indicate it will probably fail to obtain the minimum three percent of the popular vote needed to meet the Greek parliamentary election threshold. ANEL leader Kammenos has long promised to reject the Prespes Agreement but several of his MPs have said publicly they will support it, generating new internal break-up scenarios each day. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continues to declare his belief that the deal will be ratified with the support of a few centre-left and independent lawmakers, filling in for the loss of ANEL support. Tsipras has consistently rejected proposals made earlier this year by Kammenos and others for a Greek referendum on the deal, as was held in Macedonia/FYROM, or for the need for an enhanced majority of 180 MPs for passage. The main opposition New Democracy party, widely favoured to win the next elections whenever they are held this year, has said it will block the deal which it faults over its treatment of the “Macedonian” nationality question. This is something New Democracy notes no Greek prime minister except Tsipras would ever agree to – chiefly to leave a legacy of having “accomplished something” since his economic policies have cost him considerable support in an election year. At this point, unless early elections are called, New Democracy’s only option has been to request a no-confidence vote in parliament, something that was tried and failed last year.
Bloodletting in Athens begins
The first casualty in Athens is Kammenos, who, after meeting with Tsipras January 13, said “The Macedonia name issue… doesn’t allow me not to sacrifice the minister’s chair”. But in an unexpectedly bold move aimed at salvaging his own political career, Kammenos stated he would also withdraw six other ANEL party ministers, many of whom hold deputy minister posts, from their current coalition government slots, but would not order them to vote his way in any no-confidence vote in the government. It is not clear how many will follow his orders and various head counts made by Greek journalists after the announcement indicate the majority of ANEL deputies could stay on, translating essentially into the absorption of a large chunk of ANEL by Tsipras’ SYRIZA government. In a press conference later that same day, Kammenos provocatively stated that he would vote against his former SYRIZA allies if they moved to ratify the Prespes Agreement. He was also highly critical of the non-democratic tactics PM Zaev had used in Skopje for the last several months to get the 81 votes required to pass the constitutional amendments. He explained that he had requested Tsipras to take the Prespes deal to the Greek people in a referendum, a proposal which got nowhere. Tsipras briefly addressed the press just after noon Sunday, announcing he is invoking the established procedure for an immediate vote of confidence in his government in Greece’s parliament in order to continue the government’s term to the fall of 2019, and that he would be asking Greece’s current Chief of Defence, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis to step in as Defence Minister.