Dacic: Clear message that US support to Pristina is not unconditional (RTS)
The reaction of the US, that threatened Pristina with taxes if it doesn’t abolish sanctions to Serbian goods and refused to issue a visa to Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, shows that support to Kosovo will not be unconditional, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS). “This is not the first time, it happened several times in his carrier. Yet, this confirms what we had been saying earlier – there will be no success in telling Pristina to abolish the unreasonable decision on taxes until the US doesn’t fiercely come out in the public and exerts pressure. That is why things that are happening are important. The information that we have is one hundred percent true – they threatened Pristina – either you will abolish taxes or there will be some kind of sanctions,” said Dacic. Everything coming from the US hurts Pristina, while this kind of reaction shows that the new US administration is determined to give a chance to attempts to find a lasting solution. “It is impossible without an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, and this would be a compromise. The US supports and will not allow for an agreement not to be reached because Pristina is obstructing,” says Dacic, adding that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci was also told during the visit to the US that taxes must be abolished. Dacic says this kind of reaction is positive for Serbia since it clearly states that the US support to Pristina will not be unconditional. “This is an indicator that we have correctly proceeded with the decision for Serbia not to introduce counter-measures and that Serbia will not obstruct the dialogue,” says Dacic, adding that the US had reacted more harshly than the EU. “The EU had more mechanisms, because at issue is the violation of the Stabilization and Accession Agreement, there are certain measures for that. They still haven’t been implemented and they are not being threatened,” says Dacic. Underlining that Serbia is ready to continue the dialogue once sanctions are abolished, Dacic also commented the three conditions set by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini to the Pristina negotiating team. One of them is for the dialogue to be completed in the first half of this year, for which Dacic says that we are from – because the dialogue is practically blocked. Speaking about the upcoming visit of Vladimir Putin to Serbia, Dacis says that, according to the world media, this is one of the most important events in the world. “Primarily because it is constantly being calculated what is Russia’s stand towards Serbia, i.e. towards the resolution of the Kosovo issue,” says Dacic, adding that Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton had asked him that is Russia’s opinion on Kosovo. Dacic explains that Serbia has been examining this issue all these years together with Russia and regularly informs President Putin about everything happening in the dialogue. Asked whether Moscow and Washington can agree on Kosovo, Dacic says they cannot – if Belgrade and Pristina do not agree on that. “Both request that we agree with Pristina…but, Pristina shows that it doesn’t’ want agreement. The so-called US Ambassador Vlora Chitaku was clearly told – if you obstruct the dialogue, if the Kosovo side is the one that doesn’t want a solution, then it will face these measures from Washington. He thinks that at this moment the circumstances for resuming the dialogue in Brussels are much more favorable, and that Moscow is monitoring these negotiations carefully.
Schieb: No deadlines for agreement, but Kosovo must be solved before EU membership (Novosti/Beta/B92)
German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb says there are no deadlines for Belgrade and Pristina to reach an agreement on normalization of relations. “We hope that the dialogue on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina will be restored as soon as possible and that progress will be made,” Schieb told Novosti, commenting on unofficial information that Federica Mogherini has asked for the dialogue to end by early June. Asked if Berlin would exert more pressure on Pristina to revoke the taxes on Serbian goods it has increased by 100 percent, Schieb said they were in contact and that his country has repeatedly presented a clear stance, including the foreign minister, who opposed this measure and called for Pristina authorities to withdraw the decision. Schieb also said that Berlin’s position is that Belgrade and Pristina are in a dialogue mediated by the EU, and that the format should remain such. Stating that it is true that the issue of Kosovo must be resolved before Serbia joins the EU and that this is one of the most important conditions to be met for membership, Schieb pointed out that Belgrade and Pristina should come to an agreement on normalization and that it was up to them what that agreement will look like. “We are not asking that you do not to cooperate with Russia in order to become a member of the EU,” he said, when asked if Germany was in any way bothered by the close relationship between Serbia and Russia, and whether Serbia would be under increasing pressure to loosen those ties. Schieb said that both Germany and the EU are cooperating with Russia.
“Obviously, Russia is not an ‘easy’ partner at the moment, but of course dialogue and cooperation are important,” added the German Ambassador.
Dodik announces meeting with Putin during Russian President’s upcoming visit to Serbia (Glas Srpske)
President of Russia Vladimir Putin will arrive in an official visit to Serbia on Thursday, 17 January. Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Milorad Dodik told daily that Putin’s visit is a clear indication of good relations between Serbs and Russians, as well as of commitment to peace and stability. Daily reminded that during his fourth visit to Serbia, Putin is supposed to meet with country’s leadership and exchange stances on current political situation both in Serbia and the entire world, the situation in Kosovo and Serb-Russian relations.
Dodik confirmed to daily that he will once again be in Belgrade during Putin’s visit. He reminded that Republika Srpska (RS) has good cooperation and close ties with Russia, adding that Putin’s visit is important, as he is one of the most important and most powerful leaders of the world, as well as the leader of the country which has friendly relations with the RS, Serbia and Serb people, and “is fighting for preservation of the principle of peaceful relations among peoples”. “His visit is a clear symbol and a message of peace, friendship and support to Serbia and the Serb people in general,” said Dodik, adding that he will surely meet with Putin – even though the format of the meeting has not been entirely defined yet. Furthermore, Dodik said that the RS is grateful to Russia for this country’s contribution to preservation of peace and stability, adding that it is important for the RS to maintain good relations with the EU, the United States and Russia. President of the RS Cvijanovic recently told daily that the RS has good relations with Russia and will continue cherishing the partnership with this country.
Cvijanovic: Komsic’s condition for support to Tegeltija as B&H CoM Chairman indicates shallow policy and that B&H is country doomed to failure (TV1)
Addressing media in Banja Luka on Monday, RS President and SNSD Vice-President Zeljka Cvijanovic commented on a recent statement of Croat member of B&H Presidency and DF leader Zeljko Komsic, who announced that he will not provide his support to appointment of SNSD official Zoran Tegeltija as the future Chairman of B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) if the Annual National Program for NATO is not adopted. In this regard, Cvijanovic stated that setting such a condition for formation of the CoM is an indicator of “a shallow policy”. Cvijanovic assessed that this also indicates that B&H is a country that stands in place and that it is obviously doomed to failure. In Cvijanovic’s opinion, it makes no sense to set a condition for formation of an institution when it is obvious who the election winners are and who can establish the parliamentary majority at B&H level. The RS President expressed expectation that the election results will be implemented. The RS President specified that, according to the election results, SNSD should obtain the CoM Chairman position. Reflecting on the specific issue of NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) activation and submission of the Annual National Program, she noted that the RS’ political representatives are obliged to abide by the RS National Assembly (RSNA)’s Resolution on Military Neutrality. Commenting on Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic’s statement according to which he and Komsic do not set conditions for anything, Cvijanovic stressed that they do not respect laws and procedures and therefore they blocked implementation of the election results and the appointment of Tegeltija as the B&H CoM Chairman-Designate within a legally-set deadline. She added that Dzaferovic and Komsic have deliberately blocked all the processes with an aim to keep “their B&H CoM Chairman (Denis Zvizdic) and ministers from the RS whose parties lost the general elections.” Cvijanovic reminded that at their meetings with the EU representatives, Dzaferovic and Komsic persistently raise the issue of activation of the MAP as pre-condition for the progress on the EU path, noting that certain high-ranking EU officials told them that this is not their concern and insisting on this issue is unnecessary.
Komsic’s statement related to possibility of having B&H CoM in technical mandate in next four years (EuroBlic)
Following the statement of B&H Presidency member Zeljko Komsic that he would not mind if B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) with Denis Zvizdic stayed in technical mandate for the next four years unless the Annual National Program for NATO is adopted, political analyst Radomir Neskovic told the daily that it is necessary to implement the election will of citizens. “However, constitutional-legal competencies allow B&H Presidency members to delay election of B&H CoM Chair, thus causing crisis of the authorities in which the old convocation of B&H CoM stays in technical mandate. However, I do not think this will last for four years, but only for several months. In any case, Komsic’s statement indicates that the crisis related to B&H CoM will last a while,” Neskovic said.
Dzaferovic, Cormack discuss NATO path of B&H (BN TV)
Member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic met outgoing US Ambassador to B&H Maureen Cormack in Sarajevo on Monday. The officials discussed continuation of the NATO path of B&H and put emphasis to undisputable support of Washington. During the meeting, the officials mentioned B&H’s commitment to the integration in the NATO which was confirmed with consensus through adoption of the law on defense of B&H, a decision of the B&H Presidency and B&H’s foreign policy strategy and which should be made operational through adoption of the Annual National Program (ANP). “After NATO invited B&H to submit first Annual National Plan, it was completely normal and logical for B&H to do that. Connection between appointment of Chairman of B&H CoM and our NATO road and activation of the first Annual National Plan can see only in light of respect for the laws, decisions of determined policies. This is not conditioning,” said Dzaferovic and pointed out that he demands respect to the foreign policy strategy previously determined by the Presidency of B&H.
Five cantons deliver candidate lists for Federation of B&H HoP (BHT1)
Five cantonal assemblies delivered their lists of candidates for the election of delegates in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina House of People (HoP). Even though the Central Election Commission (CEC) of B&H made the decision on the formation of the Federation of B&H HoP, several parties stated that they will wait for the decisions on the motions filed with the B&H Constitutional Court. The lists from Tuzla (TC), Sarajevo (SC), Zenica-Doboj (ZDC), Una-Sana (USC) and West Herzegovina (WHC) cantons were verified and returned by the B&H CEC. The cantonal assemblies have to conduct the elections and deliver the results to the B&H CEC. This procedure was finished by the TC and USC. The deadline for the formation of the Federation of B&H HoP expired at the end of December. B&H CEC said that there will be no sanctions for those who failed to send the lists on time. One of the cantons that did not send their lists is the Central Bosnia Canton (CBC). President of the SDA Cantonal Board of CBC Asim Mekic said this will be done by SDA in the upcoming days, but he cannot speak for the other parties in CBC. The other five cantons that need to deliver the lists and elect delegates into the Federation of B&H HoP are the Bosna-Podrinje (BPC), Posavina (PC), Herzegovina-Neretva (HNC) Canton, Canton 10 and CBC.
Haltzel: Verbal war between Belgrade and Podgorica is something we should feel sorry about (Pobjeda)
Led by President Milo Djukanovic, Montenegro has definitely taken its place in the Western Euro-Atlantic institutions and it started enjoying the benefits of the process. On the other side, president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, continues to “wobble”, counting that he will manage somehow to “close the circle” by joining the EU, while keeping their special relationship with Moscow. This assumption will certainly turn out to be illusive. I am afraid that, by the time Belgrade has figured out the uselessness of this balancing, its maneuvering will cause even more tensions in the region, says in the interview for Pobjeda, assistant at the Institute for Foreign Policy John Hopkins, Michael Haltzel. He points out that those verbal duels between Belgrade and Podgorica is something we should feel sorry about. “Neither side is innocent, not either of them gets anything. If Serbia and Montenegro were EU members, that animosity would disappear,” says Haltzel. He says that efforts of Moscow aimed at destabilizing states that lie between Russia and the EU serve as an oxygen for the policy of Vladimir Putin. “Foreign adventure based on Putin’s old-fashioned understanding of international relations serves him as tactics aimed at shifting the focus of awareness of Russian citizens from his failed economic model. With that in mind, I think that new coup managed by Kremlin, similar to that one in Montenegro in 2016, is less probable. I am more concerned about the possibility of extended Russian aggression against Ukraine or even some soft coup against Belarus. Podgorica must definitely resist Russian interference through careful counter-intelligence services. What’s even more important is that Montenegro continues to strengthen its democracy, which is the foundation for the EU membership,” says Haltzel. He adds that amateur, impulsive and authoritarian policy foreign policy of Donald Trump provokes a lack of trust. “However, in international relations there’s so much more than we actually see, and that’s the case with the WB. I welcome the recently published American attempt at mediation in the tariffs dispute between Belgrade and Pristina. I hope that the USA will join Germany and other European allies in facing potentially explosive exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia,” concludes Haltzel.
“Republic of North Macedonia” amendments published in the Official Gazette (Nezavisen vesnik)
The Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia in its Jan. 12 issue published the resolution to adopt the amendments 33, 34, 35, and 36 to the Constitution. Parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi signed the resolution. Macedonia’s Parliament passed on Jan. 11 constitutional changes in line with the Agreement with Greece signed to resolve the name dispute. Having done this, Macedonia fulfilled its part of the agreement. Next, Greece is expected to ratify the Agreement in its parliament, which would open the door for Macedonia towards NATO and EU integration.
Kocijancic: EU supports and follows national procedures for Prespa Agreement implementation (Nezavisen vesnik)
The EU supports the Prespa Agreement and it follows the national procedures that still need to be done to implement the agreement, said European Commission spokesperson Maja Kocijancic. EU spokesperson Kocijancic reiterated that the EU ‘supports the historic agreement and the political courage and leadership in resolving one of the region’s oldest conflicts.’
“It is a unique opportunity to overcome the difficulties of the past and strengthen reconciliation in the region and in Europe as a whole. We are now following national procedures that still need to be done to implement the agreement,” Kocijancic said when asked to comment on the ratification of the name deal in Greece after Macedonian MPs adopted the constitutional changes.
Moscow: Constitutional changes against the will of the people; UN Security Council should discuss the name (Meta)
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department for Informing and Press Relations has called the passing of the new amendments of the Macedonian Constitution in order to change the country’s name as “an artificial change of the country’s name in order for an enforced entering of Skopje into NATO” and stated that the problem with the country’s renaming should be discussed by the UN Security Council in accordance with Article 3 of Council’s Resolution 845. “It’s about the continuation of the process of the artificial changing of the country’s name under foreign pressure in order for Skopje to join NATO by force. This is a violation of Macedonian laws. The opinion of the President of the state and the majority of the population that reject the Prespa Agreement are being ignored. The constant protests in Skopje and other Macedonian cities show a deep polarization in the society. It is obvious that this manner of solving issues of national significance for the country’s future is not a reflection of the will of its population and cannot serve as a tool for a long-term solution for the name dispute” said the press release.
The Russian MFA state that the development of the occurrences in Greece i.e. the resignation of Panos Kammenos, the now former Minister of Defense and President of the Independent Greeks, SYRIZA’s coalition partner is talking about the “explosiveness of the situation.” Additionally, it accused that Greece was subjected to the same formula as Macedonia – a pressure in order for the Prespa Agreement to pass through the rejection of the will of the Greek nation. “The opinion of the Russian Federation regarding the name dispute of the Macedonian state remains unchanged: a sustainable solution has to be found far from outside pressures, imposed solutions and conditions from forces outside, and a solution that will be based upon a wider public support, both in Macedonia and Greece, and within the rule of law. We think that this issue has to be discussed by the UN Security Council in accordance with Article 3 of Security Council’s Resolution 845.”
Law making Albanian language official across Macedonia published without the President’s signature (Republika)
The law on the use of languages, which expands the official use of the Albanian language across the whole of Macedonia, was published in the Official Gazette, despite not being signed by President Gjorge Ivanov. Speaker Talat Xhaferi said that he has signed the law in a social media post, in which he used the Albanian flag to celebrate his decision. President Ivanov said that the law is clearly unconstitutional, as the Constitution determines that minority languages are used officially only where that minority is over 20 percent of the population, not across the entire country and VMRO-DPMNE condemned Xhaferi’s decision saying it is a criminal act to publish a law not signed by the President. Xhaferi’s move comes on the same day when the constitutional amendments that rename Macedonia into North Macedonia were published in the Gazette, also without the President’s signature. The law introduces an obligation to use the Albanian language in all public institutions, with fines provided for the institution and its employees who don’t use it. This article was strongly criticized as the law was being negotiated by the ruling SDSM – DUI coalition, given that most public employees don’t speak Albanian.
It also provides that the currency, military uniforms, stamps and many official documents will be bilingual. All public institutions web sites will have to have an Albanian version. A huge new translation body will have to be put in place to implement the law which goes far beyond what was agreed at the 2001 Ohrid peace treaty. We warn the director of the Official Gazette Martin Kostovski that publishing a law in the Gazette without the signature of the President is a criminal act for which there are is statute of limitations. All involved in this brutal violation of the laws will be held responsible. SDSM is again raping the democracy and the rule of law in Macedonia. The SDSM led Government is forcefully turning the Repubilc of Macedonia into a bilingual state, VMRO-DPMNE said in its press release. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is off skiing in Germany and the government has been largely silent on the issue, except for victorious comments from its ethnic Albanian members.
Hahn advises Macedonia not to hold early general elections (Republika/MIA)
European Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Macedonia not to hold early general elections. In an interview with MIA, Hahn says that his “modest advice” is to avoid the vote. The country should use the very positive moment created with the Prespa treaty because our goal is that it can receive a decision to open accession talks during the summer and to open the first chapters by the end of the year. This can only be done if everybody is really focused on achieving the necessary progress, Hahn said. VMRO-DPMNE calls for early general elections in spring, when the presidential elections should be held. This would prompt a resignation from Prime Minister Zaev and appointment of opposition officials to key departments so they can ensure that the elections are free and fair. Asked about the series of amnesties given and being given to members of Parliament who voted in favor of renaming the country against the politically driven charges they faced, Hahn said that the rule of law will have to be upheld in the course of the EU accession talks, but that these amnesties should be welcomed.
VMRO may boycott the presidential elections if general elections are not called (Republika)
VMRO-DPMNE announced it may boycott the presidential elections in spring if early general elections are not held at the same time. Igor Janusev, the Secretary General of the opposition party, said that there are strong reasons why VMRO calls for early general elections along with the presidential vote expected in April. These include the constitutional amendments which were adopted in a violent and unacceptable procedure, the economic failures of the Government and the lack of reforms, Janusev said. The census required to elect a President in the second round of voting is 40 percent, and without VMRO’s participation it is possible this census will not be reached, especially given that presidential elections are usually marred by low turnout. Despite the all-out pressure to get out the vote in the September 2018 referendum, and divisions in VMRO-DPMNE over whether to boycott it, it failed with a turnout of just 36 percent.
It’s only logical to hold early general elections, especially after the shameful name change. The citizens spoke their minds and the quiet majority said they oppose the name change at the referendum. Now they need to be given a chance to reject this Government. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is aware of this and that is why he is running away from elections, said Aleksandar Nikoloski, Vice President of VMRO-DPMNE. Under the rules agreed by the parties, which were in place for the 2016 early general elections, Prime Minister Zaev will have to resign 100 days before the vote, and key departments must be given to the opposition. This means that Zaev will have to resign in a very short order, if the deadline to hold early general elections with the presidential elections is to be reached.
‘Foreign Minister’ issue, Rama submits his name for decree (ADN)
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama submitted on Monday to Albanian President Ilir Meta two requests for decree. The first is about the discharge of former minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati, after the President didn’t decree Bushati’s discharge within the constitutional term. The second is Rama’s proposal for the new Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Rama has proposed himself for this post. Early on Monday Rama declared that President of the Republic had made a violation by non-decreeing the discharge of Bushati and for this reason he will submit the case to the Constitutional Court.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Macedonia Hopeful Greece Will Ratify Deal Despite Turmoil (BIRN, by Sinisa Jakov Marusic, 14 January 2018)
Macedonia remains optimistic that recent political turbulence in Greece sparked by a minister’s resignation will not hold up approval of the historic ‘name’ agreement in parliament in Athens.
Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said it has received “assurance” from Greece that the government of Alexis Tsipras, which faces a confidence vote this week, will push through ratification of the historic “name” agreement in parliament. After the nationalist Independent Greeks party left the Greek coalition government this weekend in protest over the deal, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov had a conversation with acting Greek Foreign Minister George Katrougkalos, Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry said. “Dimitrov got assurances that the Greek government remains strongly committed to finishing the work regarding the Prespa [name] agreement,” it said. On Sunday, Tsipras also said his government would not give up on ratifying the agreement reached this summer, just as the neighbouring government of Maceodnia did not give up and succeeded in pushing through key votes last Friday.
Tsipras said he would call a confidence vote in his government this week, presumably on Wednesday, after Defence Minister Panos Kammenos announced on Sunday that he was quitting the government due to his objections to the name deal. However, the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini on Sunday wrote that the turmoil is unlikely to bring down the government led by Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza party and stop ratification of the deal. The newspaper wrote that, under a prearranged deal between Tsipras and Kammenos, the government would survive and have enough votes to pass the deal in parliament while at the same time Kammenos, who has been a bitter opponent to the agreement, can focus on improving his position ahead of parliamentary elections set for spring. The newspaper noted that Syriza itself has 145 deputies in the 300-seat parliament, and can count on the positive votes of a number of other deputies. “They add up to the 151 needed for a simple majority in the 300-member parliament,” the newspaper said. According to the newspaper, a similar majority will support the name deal as well.
Macedonia’s parliament last Friday passed the final phase of votes on the adoption of a new name, Republic of North Macedonia – after which Prime Minister Zoran Zaev called on the Greek side to ratify the deal and finish the process. If things go as planned, Greece should do this by the end of this month or in early February, after which it should also be the first country to approve Macedonia’s accession to NATO under its new name. Greecd has long contested Macedonia’s name, considering the word Macedonia part of Hellenic heritage. However, the Tsipras government, much to the anger of Greek nationalists, has accepted a compromise name with a geographical qualifier. The EU and US have urged the two sides to reach an agreement and so conclude one of the more arcane and intractable disputes in the Balkans.