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Belgrade Media Report 17 January 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Thursday 17 January 2019

• Vladimir Putin visiting Serbia (B92/Tanjug/RTS)
• Brnabic: EU has no fear of Putin visit (Tanjug)
• Serbia, Russia build common vision of innovation growth (Tanjug)
• Dacic: Putin is not bringing solution for Kosovo (N1/Beta/B92)
• Dacic: KFOR’s unwavering presence is very important (Beta/RTS/Politika)
• Vulin: KFOR only legitimate armed formation in Kosovo (Beta)
• Hogard: EU is dead, don’t give up Kosovo (B92/Beta)

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Second session of new B&H HoR convocation postponed (FTV)
• Dodik: Conditioning of formation of authorities at B&H level with issue of membership in NATO is not good (RTRS)
• SBB B&H, NiP express support to Komsic and Dzaferovic, say that NATO road of B&H must remain priority of state institutions (Dnevni avaz)
• Zvizdic: In accordance with valid decisions, there should be no obstacle on road to MAP activation (TV1)
• Lavrov: Russia cannot agree with B&H’s accession to NATO (N1)
• Dodik among officials who will meet with Putin (RTRS)

• Croatian and Turkish Presidents meet; Erdogan: DPA must be revised because it became clear that so far DPA failed to bring solution for future B&H (N1)
• Did Prime Minister try to assault opposition MP? (Hina)

• Tsipras survives no confidence motion by one vote, has to push Macedonia deal through parliament next (Republika)
• Kammenos demands a referendum on the name deal (Republika)
• Mickoski offers choice between a “humiliated North Macedonia” and a “prosperous Republic of Macedonia” (Republika)
• Not even a consensual candidate could win the first round (Nezavisen vesnik)

• Parliamentary session, ministers and deputy prime minister voted (ADN)
• Albanian language official in Macedonia, Meta message to Xhaferi (ADN)

• Putin welcomes opportunity to visit Serbia (TASS)
• Russian, Serbian presidents to discuss situation in Kosovo — Kremlin aide (TASS)
• Putin warns West on Balkans as Serbia provides lavish welcome (BBC)

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Vladimir Putin visiting Serbia (B92/Tanjug/RTS)


Russian President Vladimir Putin has started his all-day official visit to Serbia, where he is hosted by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. The two presidents then took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cemetery of the Liberators of Belgrade and at the Red Army Soldier Memorial, erected in honor of Soviet soldiers who gave their lives for Belgrade’s freedom.

The memorial cemetery, established in 1954, is the final resting place of 1,395 Yugoslav partisans and 818 Red Army soldiers killed in combat during the October 1944 liberation of Belgrade. Putin was then given the official red carpet welcome in front of the Palace of Serbia in New Belgrade. On the way to the meeting, the two officials visited the exhibition “Serbian-Russian Ties in Documents of Serbian Archives 1804-1918”. “I wish to thank you sincerely for investing a lot of energy, effort, work, time, respect, and love in the progress and development of Serbian-Russian relations. Thank you also for supporting Serbia’s independence, for respecting her integrity. I think that Russia could always count on having an ally in Serbia,” Vucic said. Putin responded by thanking citizens of Belgrade and Serbia for their warm welcome. “I am very happy to have the opportunity to visit the friendly and brotherly Serbia, and to discuss everything we have done, and the things we need to do,” the Russian President said. Thanking Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Serbian people for a warm welcome in Belgrade, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he was glad to be able to visit the friendly and brotherly Serbia and speak with his Serbian counterpart about what had been done – as well as about what more could be done – in bilateral ties. “You have done much in recent years for development of Russian-Serbian relations and, today, I will have a nice opportunity and the pleasure to award to you a state honour, the Order of Alexander Nevsky, for your contribution and for everything you have done,” Putin said to Vucic. The two presidents will first hold a tete-a-tete meeting, followed by a plenary session between the delegations of the two countries. Vucic and Putin will later attend a ceremony to exchange numerous bilateral agreements that will be signed in Belgrade today. The Russian president will then present his Serbian counterpart with the Order of Alexander Nevsky, after which they will address the press. According to announcements, Vucic and Putin will in the afternoon visit the Serbian Orthodox Temple of St. Sava.


Brnabic: EU has no fear of Putin visit (Tanjug)


The EU has no fear of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s visit to Belgrade and, for Serbia, it is important to have good relations with all countries, Serbian PM Ana Brnabic said Wednesday.

She said she had met with EU officials including EP rapporteur David McAllister during a visit to Strasbourg on Tuesday and that Putin’s visit had been one of the topics of discussions.

“I think the EU has no fear of this visit. They know we have traditionally close ties with Russia and also that the ties are not only traditionally close in terms of culture, but that they are economic ties as well,” Brnabic told reporters. “One of the results of this visit will be safer gas supplies for us. I am also hoping for an investment decision to expand the Banatski Dvor gas storage facility, which is significant for that safety,” she added. Serbia also has a FTA with Russia, which is significant for bringing in investors, including from the EU, she said.


Serbia, Russia build common vision of innovation growth (Tanjug)


Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said today that Serbia sees the 4th industrial revolution as a chance for a faster and more sustainable development, and reiterated that great attention is paid to creativity. At the First Digital Dialogue of Serbia and Russia, organised as part of the visit of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to Serbia, Brnabic pointed out that our country is investing in education, incentive business environment and e-government in order to be successful in the digital era. That is the key to a more efficient and transparent administration, and more efficient fight against corruption, she said. At the meeting it was estimated that Serbia and Russia build a common vision of innovation growth and that digitisation will play a key role in developing the relations of the two countries in the future. Russian President’s Special Adviser Dmitry Peskov said he is happy for two reasons – because of the warmth with which Serbia has received the Russian delegation and the speed with which two countries cooperate. These are the two keys that are needed – trust and the ability to work fast. We are entering a new technological age that will last for a long time. It is important for us to create new powerful traditions that we have already created before, Peskov said. Now, at the time when new traditions are being formed, the decisions that are being made today will affect our lives for decades and hundreds of years, he said and estimated that it is good to create new traditions with an old friend. Minister without Portfolio in charge of Innovation and Technological Development Nenad Popovic said that the digital dialogue between Serbia and Russia will be held at least twice a year because it encourages the creation of new values through innovation and digitisation. The economic relations of the two countries are developing well, but this is the future, Popovic said, who announced that a digital and innovation centre “Boiling Point”, modeled on centres already in existence Russia, will be opened most likely in April.


Dacic: Putin is not bringing solution for Kosovo (N1/Beta/B92)


Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not bringing a solution for Kosovo. “He is not bringing a solution, he is asking us what the solution is. We have been regularly exchanging information with (the Russians) in the last five or six years, ever since the time I was the prime minister,” the Serbian Foreign Minister told N1 at the Palace of Serbia, where Putin was officially welcomed. He also said that the visit represents the continuity of good relations between Belgrade and Moscow. Dacic said that political relations between the two countries are excellent, but that the benefits from the free trade agreement are not being used sufficiently, and there is room for improvement in the field.


Dacic: KFOR’s unwavering presence is very important (Beta/RTS/Politika)


Serbian Foreign Ivica Dacic received on Wednesday Chief of Staff of the Allied Joint Force Command of NATO in Naples, Lieutenant-General Luciano Portolano. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the intense political dialogue between Serbia and NATO at the highest level, as well as the successful practical military and civil cooperation in a number of areas, which is being implemented within the Partnership for Peace program, with full respect for the neutrality policy of Serbia by NATO. Both sides positively evaluated cooperation in the field of the Serbian Army and the KFOR Mission in order to fully implement UNSCR 1244 and the Military-Technical Agreement. Dacic stressed that KFOR’s unwavering presence is very important for guaranteeing the security and preservation of the cultural and religious heritage of Serbs in the province.


Vulin: KFOR only legitimate armed formation in Kosovo (Beta)


Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin on Wednesday called KFOR to remain in Kosovo in full capacity. A Defense Ministry press release quoted him as telling KFOR commander Major General Lorenzo D’Addario that he expects the international military force to maintain a good level of cooperation with the Serbian Army. “KFOR is the only legitimate armed formation in Kosovo and the Serb population sees it as a guarantee of their safety and security,” Vulin is quoted as saying. He added that Serbia finds the forming of a Kosovo army unacceptable.

Vulin said the decision to reduce KFOR should depend on constant assessments of the situation at political and military level with security indicators and should not depend on set dates.

General D’Addario is quoted as saying that he respects the position of the Serbian government and “restraint shown during incidents in Kosovo”.


Hogard: EU is dead, don’t give up Kosovo (B92/Beta)


Retired French Colonel Jacques Hogard, who in 1999 protected Serbs in Kosovo after the withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army, met in Belgrade with the leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) Milos Jovanovic. According to a press release, Hogard and Jovanovic, who heads the opposition DSS party, discussed the situation in Kosovo, as well as the political situation in France and in the European Union. It is added that Hogard and Jovanovic agreed that the situation in Kosovo is complicated, but that Serbia should in no case and under any circumstances hand over Kosovo and renounce its territorial integrity.They also assessed that the European Union is politically a dead project and that the time has come for nations in the EU to be awoken, while they believe that this will be confirmed in the spring in the European Parliament elections. Hogard was the commander of French special forces who in 1999 acted to save the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Devic in Kosovo and Metohija and the nuns there, when Albanian extremists attempted to attack this holy place. For this, he was awarded the Order of St. Sava, an accolade given by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Hogard also published a book entitled, “Europe Died in Pristina”, where he condemns the western policy during the war in Kosovo and Metohija.



Second session of new B&H HoR convocation postponed (FTV)


At its session held on Wednesday, the extended Collegium of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) decided that session of B&H HoR scheduled for Thursday will be postponed. It was explained that this session was postponed because not all parties submitted their proposal concerning formation of working bodies of this institution. Reporter noted that the agenda of the abovementioned B&H HoR’s session includes the discussion and appointment of these bodies. Also, representatives of the Collegium underlined that the session was postponed because pre-requisites to hold it have not been met. They added that SNSD’s request to postpone the B&H HoR’s session until the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman-designate is appointed was not discussed. Reporter noted that several smaller parties from the Federation of B&H, as well as SNSD and Serb Caucus failed to submit their proposals. Head of SNSD Caucus in B&H HoR Stasa Kosarac said that this party wants to participate in work of the B&H HoR, but only after structure that will make authorities at B&H level is defined and after the B&H CoM Chairman-designate and the commission for appointment of the B&H CoM are appointed. Head of Serb Caucus in the B&H HoR Nenad Stevandic underlined that the cause of this situation are attempts to prevent formation of new authorities at B&H level, as well as attempts to resume a conflict between the outgoing convocation of the B&H CoM with RS. SDA’s Adil Osmanovic stressed that this party was prepared for the first session of the B&H HoR in 2019, adding that all political parties had enough time to prepare for it. Osmanovic went on saying that the work of the B&H HoR should not be linked with the appointment of the B&H CoM Chairman-designate. He underlined that SDA expected that the process of formation of the B&H HoR will be resumed at Thursday’s session of this institution. Dzenan Djonlagic (DF) also said that formation of the B&H HoR’s commission should not be linked with the issue of appointment of the Chairman-designate and establishing of ruling majority in the B&H HoR.


Dodik: Conditioning of formation of authorities at B&H level with issue of membership in NATO is not good (RTRS)


B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik has warned that conditioning of formation of the authorities at the B&H level with the issue of membership in NATO is not good. Dodik deemed as unacceptable the fact that membership in NATO is also being set as a condition for membership in the EU. Dodik stressed that the European path is undisputable, while NATO path is disputable which is why, according to him, the European path should not be conditioned or jeopardized with the NATO path. Therefore, according to Dodik, activation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) cannot be a condition for formation of the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H. Dodik recalled that there is no consensus in B&H when it comes to membership in NATO and that Republika Srpska (RS) spoke its mind with the Resolution on Military Neutrality which is binding for all political representatives of the RS. “I respect the RSNA’s Resolution on Military Neutrality. But, at the same time, I am not preventing any activities related to the European path” Dodik said, adding that connecting NATO path with the European path goes to the detriment of the European path and that “those who are doing that have to bear responsibility.” Dodik believes that B&H should be outside any kind of processes of regional and world character that can additionally divide it. Dodik stressed that membership in NATO is one of those issues from that B&H cannot gain anything concrete from. “If we joined NATO right now, there would be no special change in the way of living here. Nobody is going to bring ‘milk and honey’ that you can enjoy just like that. These processes are serious. Is anyone in B&H ready to talk about NATO organizing production here for its own needs, for B&H to join NATO and produce EUR 300 million-worth goods for the needs of NATO on an annual basis, for example? Has anyone offered anything like that? What would we get? Some kind of an abstract story about things getting better in 100 years from now. Who can guarantee that NATO will exist at all? Let’s see, maybe we should talk about everything,” Dodik said. Dodik added that the RS does not want to make Russia its enemy. Dodik presented an opinion that NATO membership would mean losing any possibility to cooperate with Russia.


SBB B&H, NiP express support to Komsic and Dzaferovic, say that NATO road of B&H must remain priority of state institutions (Dnevni avaz)


SBB B&H issued a press statement on Wednesday expressing full support to the stances of members of the Presidency of B&H Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic with regards to unblocking of the NATO road of B&H as a key precondition for formation of the Council of Ministers of B&H. “There is a special responsibility towards future and current generations to remind them that NATO had a key role in stopping genocide against Bosniaks, which is why accession of our country to this Alliance must be seen as a state and national interest,” stated SBB B&H and pointed out that SBB B&H has been treating the Euro-Atlantic integration as a priority in its programs and activities. “Current geostrategic situation in the world and our region binds all the members of the Presidency of B&H to recognize NATO integration as a permanent strategic interest of B&H and all its citizens… It is in the interest of B&H to form the new Council of Ministers as soon as possible, which is an obligation of those political parties that won the biggest number of mandates,” stated the party and pointed out that the ruling majority must make sure that the new Minister of Defense of B&H is a person who is going to make an additional effort to ensure NATO integration of the country.


Zvizdic: In accordance with valid decisions, there should be no obstacle on road to MAP activation (TV1)


Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic said that, in accordance with valid decisions, there should be no obstacle on the road to activation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for B&H. He emphasized that MAP activation is not an arbitrary will of any individual or political party. “One of the two key foreign policy goals of B&H is the EU integration, and the other one is accession to NATO. That is why annual national program was included on the agenda of the B&H CoM session. Yesterday we postponed making a decision for one of the next sessions. When, in which form and by which institution it will be adopted, it will be seen in the upcoming period,” concluded Zvizdic.


Lavrov: Russia cannot agree with B&H’s accession to NATO (N1)


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that NATO integration of B&H is unacceptable for Russia. Commenting reports in the United States according to which Serbs in B&H are playing a destructive role, Lavrov said that a certain US think tank center published that one should give up on the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) because Serbs will hinder the process of NATO accession. “Therefore, well-being of B&H and its three constituent peoples was again not set as a goal, but accession to NATO” Lavrov underlined. “In a situation in which everyone demonstrates the intention to build a common economic and humanitarian space, to provide equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic region, it means the substitution of international law with the ‘NATO-centric’ instead of universal rules”, Lavrov said.


Dodik among officials who will meet with Putin (RTRS)


President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to Belgrade on Thursday. Putin will meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, but also with B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik. Dodik stated that he is going to the meeting with Putin as a representative of Republika Srpska (RS). However, he offered his colleagues in the B&H Presidency to discuss certain issues with Putin on behalf of them. “I thought, if there is an opportunity to meet with such important people, that it is important to use such an opportunity. I know what I will discuss on behalf of the RS. I will discuss further implementation of construction of Bijeljina-Banja Luka gas pipeline,” Dodik said. Dodik announced that he and the Russian President will also discuss additional energy strengthening of the RS and the possibility of building certain gas power plants. However, Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic stressed that Thursday’s meeting in Belgrade has to do with relations between Serbia and Russia. “B&H has nothing to do with that and it should not be a topic” Dzaferovic said. Meanwhile, in the midst of the discussion on NATO, but also preparations for Putin’s arrival in Serbia, DF representative in the B&H Parliament Dzenan Djonlagic issued a statement. Djonlagic accused HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic of being ready, together with Dodik, to deliver B&H’s sovereignty to Russia.


Croatian and Turkish Presidents meet; Erdogan: DPA must be revised because it became clear that so far DPA failed to bring solution for future B&H (N1)


Addressing a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday following his meeting with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) must be revised because, according to him, it became clear that so far, the DPA failed to bring a solution for the future of B&H. “We want B&H to be a strong and joint country with Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs who in common solidarity will progress and live in peace. B&H that will protect the rights of all peoples has to be established,” Erdogan stressed. Grabar-Kitarovic told the press conference that stability of B&H is of strategic importance whereby it is necessary to encourage dialogue, compromise and cooperation between the three constituent peoples in B&H. “We will continue to provide our support to B&H, but also to advocate not only formal equality of its peoples. I have to stress that at the same time it is necessary to ensure the democratic right of each of the three peoples of B&H to elect their legitimate representatives,” Grabar-Kitarovic underlined. Erdogan and Grabar-Kitarovic agreed on continuation of trilateral cooperation between Turkey, Croatia and B&H, but concluded that it will be possible to discuss this cooperation after formation of the authorities in B&H. Erdogan considers that the United Nations should be included into the process of revision of the DPA. “With such an agreement, B&H cannot make progress. I believe that NATO and European institutions must act more actively in the region”, the Turkish President underlined. The Turkish President noted that peoples in B&H should look at each other through the eyes of peace and said that Turkey is helping them in this regard. Grabar-Kitarovic told media that no country is more interested in sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H than Croatia. “I think that it is impossible to have a stable B&H without cooperation of Croats and Bosniaks. All sides must show flexibility and the desire for communication and dialogue”, Grabar-Kitarovic stressed. She reiterated Croatia’s stance that decisions of the B&H Constitutional Court must be implemented, but the manner for that is up to political representatives at the Federation of B&H and B&H levels to decide.


Did Prime Minister try to assault opposition MP? (Hina)


During a parliamentary debate on a report submitted by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic about his attendance at European Council meetings in 2018, Nikola Grmoja of the opposition MOST party said that Plenkovic and Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric were working in the interests of Serbia, which caused an uproar in the parliament chamber, prompting speaker Gordan Jandrokovic to order a 10-minute break in a bid to defuse the situation. Grmoja said that although Serbia had failed to meet benchmarks from Chapter 23 in its accession talks with the European Union, it had nevertheless opened new chapters. He accused Pejcinovic Buric and Plenkovic of doing nothing to prevent such developments. He then reiterated several times that the Croatian prime minister and foreign minister were working in Serbia’s interests. In his response, Plenkovic said: “Don’t say that. Your look pathetic when you say that the foreign minister is working in the interests of Serbia. You can be creative, but don’t be pathetic.” The PM said that he would not allow the situation to turn into a spiral of recriminations that could end up in incidents. After Plenkovic’s response, Grmoja kept on saying that the prime minister was nervous, which caused clamors among lawmakers. At that point, the parliament speaker said that a 10-minute break would ensue, urging MPs to stop trading insults. “You are making serious accusations against the prime minister, claiming that he works in the interests of another state. That is slander,” Jandrokovic said addressing Grmoja. During the break Grmoja told the commercial broadcaster N1 that Plenkovic had attempted to lunge at him, but was prevented by other MPs. After the break, several MPs again proposed a new break, while Grmoja kept claiming that Plenkovic had tried to lunge at him during the previous break. “I do not know if he would have hit me but he wanted to come at me in his nervous state,” Grmoja said. Lawmakers Milorad Pupovac and Anka Mrak Taritas called for an end to emotionally-charged debates in parliament. The government press office on Wednesday dismissed Grmoja’s claims about Plenkovic and FM Pejcinovic Buric working in the interests of Serbia as unacceptable allegations. The government also denied the MOST MP’s claim that Plenkovic wanted to lunge at him but was stopped by other MPs during a break in the parliament session. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic commented on his conflict with Nikola Grmoja. Plenkovic said that Grmoja’s tirade against Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric and him, virtually accusing them of high treason, constituted hate speech and slander. “If a person tells you in parliament that you have systematically been working in the interests of another country, in this specific case Serbia, then that is unacceptable. This crossed the line of what is normal in the Croatian parliament,” the prime minister said. He said he was going to ask Grmoja to explain who he meant was a traitor, but the MOST MP had left the chamber. “We have witnessed a lot of insults, defamatory and slanderous statements, especially by several MOST MPs. But when a member of the Croatian parliament accuses the government of working in the interests of another country, of high treason, then we can say that the line of what can be called a political view or opinion has been crossed. That’s too much and that’s why I told him that his comments were pathetic,” the Prime Minister said.


Tsipras survives no confidence motion by one vote, has to push Macedonia deal through parliament next (Republika)


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras survived the vote of no confidence with the narrowest possible margin of 151 votes in favor. The opposition had 148 votes against him. This means that the government now has to maintain this narrow majority in the 300 seats parliament to push through the Macedonia name deal, and then another vote to get the Greek parliament to approve Macedonia’s entry into NATO. The vote was called after the nationalist ANEL party left its coalition with Tsipras’ socialist Syriza party, over the Macedonia agreement which Tsipars negotiated with Zoran Zaev. Kammenos called the ANEL members of parliament to vote against Tsipras, but some of them defected and voted in favor. Kammenos also called on the government to call a referendum on the Macedonia deal. Tsipras may lose the votes from the centrist To Potami party which said will support the name deal, replacing the votes he is losing from ANEL, but is now having second thoughts after one of its representatives was aggressively courted by Tsipras and eventually voted in favor of the government in the no confidence motion – a move the rest of To Potami did not support. In recognition of the level of anger the deeply divisive issue has caused in Greece, Tsipras said that members of parliament who support him have received death treats over what majorities in both Greece and Macedonia believe is a deal damaging to national interests.


Kammenos demands a referendum on the name deal (Republika)


Outgoing Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to immediately call for a referendum on the Macedonian name agreement which Tsipras signed with Zoran Zaev. The call comes as the Greek parliament is expected to conclude the second day of discussions on the no-confidence motion in Tsipras with a midnight vote. Tsipras is confident he will survive the vote, despite Kammenos’ ANEL party leaving the coalition. Several ANEL members of parliament defected to the socialist’s side, and after the vote, the parliament will soon have to vote on the ratification of the Prespa treaty, under which Macedonia will be renamed into North Macedonia, and Greece will lift its veto for Macedonia’s EU and NATO membership. Tsipras hopes he will have the votes for this motion as well, and former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis accused him of buying these votes. Unlike Greeks, Macedonians had a chance to vote in a referendum on the name deal. Despite no organized “No” or “Boycott” campaigns and a deluge of high-level visitors such as Merkel, Mattis and Mogherini urging the voters to go out and support the name deal, EU and NATO membership, the referendum failed as only 36 percent of the voters showed up. Still, the Zaev government pushed it through using criminal charges against opposition members of parliament who eventually voted in favor.


Mickoski offers choice between a “humiliated North Macedonia” and a “prosperous Republic of Macedonia” (Republika)


VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski presented the offer before the voters at the coming presidential, and possible early general elections, as one between a “humiliated North Macedonia” or a “prosperous Republic of Macedonia”. Under Zoran Zaev’s leadership Macedonia is divided, vulnerable and weak. We need early general elections, at which you, the people, will decide whether you want a humiliated North Macedonia or a prosperous and successful Republic of Macedonia. These would the elections where we cast away the darkness. This is the battle of our generation, said Mickoski through a social media message. VMRO-DPMNE wants the twin elections to be held in April. Under the so-called Przino rules, if early general elections are called, Zaev and key ministers would have to resign as soon this or next week, and the departments will have to be put under opposition candidates who will ensure that the elections are fair and the government institutions are not abused.


Not even a consensual candidate could win the first round (Nezavisen vesnik)


The optimistic announcements by SDSM representatives that their presidential candidate, which will be selected along with DUI, could win the first round of elections are highly unlikely. In a state of disappointment and apathy among the Macedonian citizens, it is questionable whether there would even be a turnout that is needed in the second round to elect Gjorge Ivanov’s successor. For this reason, the political elite in the country may need to consider whether to increase the president’s credentials or, which is more likely, to lower the minimum required votes for the election of the “head of state”. As for the third option, whether it is better for him to be elected in the parliament, which was opened recently by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev as one of the dilemmas.


Zaev and Ahmeti to meet after vacation

Ninety-four days to the day when more than 1.8 million registered voters have to come out and vote, none of the major political parties have announced their candidates. A consensual candidate is likely to be selected in the ruling coalition, who, as they say, will be the best choice to represent the citizens and the cohesiveness of society. The leaders of SDSM and DUI, Zoran Zaev and Ali Ahmeti are expected to have intensive meetings after their winter vacations are over and see who will be the person that is going to unite the two parties. According to information coming from the Social Democratic circles, several prominent politicians from their ranks would not oppose if they were to run for president. On the contrary, they openly send signals or, at the very least, are not decisive against the idea of moving to the presidential villa in Vodno. As their first favorite stands out the National Coordinator for NATO, Stevo Pendarovski, who was a candidate of SDSM and in the previous presidential elections in April 2014. In conditions of total chaos on Bihac Street and the complete domination of VMRO-DPMNE, he managed to win 398,077 votes, which, however, was not enough to win, as over 530,000 voted for Gjorge Ivanov. Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski is considered to be a close associate of Zaev and, according to him, he leaves it up to the prime minister to decide whether he should run for president of the country, and he, as before, will give his very best and will work professionally in any post he is assigned. Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said on Tuesday that it is not the right time to discuss whether he has presidential aspirations but does not close the door for such an option. Imer Selmani, who won a number of Macedonian votes in the 2009 presidential election, has still not made a decision to try out his luck again this year, even though many offered him the opportunity. He believes that personal interests should not prevail, but the interests of the country, whereby future candidates should have the support of parties, citizens and associations. However, he also hinted that he was considering this option. Beside this four, Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska and Professor Denko Maleski are mentioned as possible candidates as well.


VMRO-DPMNE will not boycott

“It’s practically impossible, even if they have the most ideal candidate, to win in the first round because the candidate will need support from at least half of the registered voters in the voter list, that is, the same as for the referendum – about 903,000 votes. Their consensual candidate would probably have an advantage during the second round, but if VMRO-DPMNE decides to boycott, the question arises as to whether the turnout of 40% of the registered citizens will be provided – that is, about 720,000 votes. With this law, the president of the state is elected with more votes than the government, and has much lower authority,” said political analyst Petar Arsovski.

He proposes that the method of electing a president should be either simplified, that is, abolish turnout in the second round, or for the new head of state to be elected in parliament. “I prefer the first way so there will be a balance of power. Either this or increase his authority, if nothing changes and the election of president of the state continues as before,” Arsovski concludes. Prime Minister Zaev said that if the presidential election is unsuccessful, or if VMRO-DPMNE decides to boycott, the parliament speaker (in this case Talat Xhaferi) will lead the country, and then a new law will be passed, according to which the president of the state will be elected by MPs, which de facto will mean that the ruling majority could give the presidential post to some of their people without any problems. VMRO-DPMNE yesterday denied that the party would boycott the presidential election, although they insisted on having snap general elections along with the presidential, because they think that they are capable of winning any kind of confrontation with the government in front of the citizens. “The future presidential candidate should primarily love his homeland Republic of Macedonia. He needs to be honest, to be respected by the society, to be a family man, to be a man of his word, to be able to fulfill his promises. Not to be a manipulator, and not lie,” said VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski. The public ad for presidential candidates in the opposition party will be open until 31 January, after which the candidates will have two weeks to explain their programs to the municipal committees. The opposition’s favorite candidate will be known at the party’s convention scheduled for 16 February. So far, the names of Vlatko Gjorcev, Antonio Milososki, Trajko Slaveski, Gordana Siljanovska, Zoran Stavreski, Ganka Cvetanova were mentioned as possible candidates. Parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi announced that the elections will be scheduled on February 8, and the two rounds of voting are scheduled for 21 April and 5 May. President Ivanov’s term ends on 12 May.


Parliamentary session, ministers and deputy prime minister voted (ADN)


The majority voted on Wednesday during the extraordinary plenary session, the decrees of the President of the Republic, Ilir Meta, for dismissals and appointments of new Ministers.

There are 7 Ministers and Deputy Prime Minister Erion Brace, who have received the vote of confidence. New Ministers listed as below:

Elva Margariti, Minister of Culture;

Anila Denaj, Minister of Finance and Economy;

Belinda Balluku, Minister of Infrastructure and Energy;

Besa Shahini, Minister of Education for Sport and Youth;

Eduard Shalsi, Minister of State for the Protection of Entrepreneurship;

Bledi Cuci, Minister of Agriculture;

Erion Brace, Deputy Prime Minister;

Elisa Spiropali, Minister for Relations with the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the post of the Foreign Minister is empty until President Ilir Meta takes the decision for the decree of Ditmir Bushati’s dismissal.


Albanian language official in Macedonia, Meta message to Xhaferi (ADN)


Albanian President Ilir Meta sent this Wednesday a congratulation message to the speaker of the parliament of Macedonia Talat Xhaferi. The Head of the State said that the Albanian language has occupied the deserved place, and considers this achievement as historical and meaningful for Albanians and for all other nationalities living in the territory of the neighboring country. “I congratulate you for the successful conclusion of the adoption process of the Law on the Use of Languages. The Albanian language officially takes its deserved place in Macedonia. This is a historic and meaningful event for Albanians. A great and important achievement that contributes to the guarantee of equal rights for citizens of all nationalities in Macedonia. It is very important step in the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement. I extremely appreciate Mr. Xhaferi’s role in this regard. You made proud not only the Albanians of Macedonia, but all the Albanians, wherever they live. Congratulations on further success in the best implementation of the law,” said Meta.



Putin welcomes opportunity to visit Serbia (TASS, 17 January 2018)


BELGRADE, Russian President Vladimir Putin is satisfied with the growing trade with Serbia, as he himself said during talks with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Thursday. “Trade is indeed growing, it has nearly reached $2 bln,” he said. According to Putin, “it is particularly pleasing that our ties are getting more and more diverse.” In this regard, he mentioned machine building, the energy sector, infrastructure projects and other promising areas of cooperation. “I welcome the opportunity to visit Serbia, a friendly and fraternal country, discuss what we have done recently and outline cooperation plans for the near future,” the Russian leader noted.


Russian, Serbian presidents to discuss situation in Kosovo — Kremlin aide (TASS, 16 January 2019)


At the talks in Belgrade on Thursday, the Russian and Serbian presidents are due to discuss the situation around Kosovo, which has deteriorated of late, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters. “The Kosovo issue will be discussed. The situation around Kosovo has deteriorated over a series of provocations by the Kosovo Albanians. This is the introduction of 100% custom duties on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the laws passed by the so-called Kosovo parliament in December on the transformation of Kosovo’s security forces into a full-fledged Kosovo army, what is a rude violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244,” Ushakov said. According to Ushakov, at the talks Russia is planning to outline its stance on this issue. “It is clear and consistent and based on international and legal frameworks, including the ones outlined in this Resolution 1244. We will certainly back a satisfactory mutually acceptable decision, which will be reached by Belgrade and Pristina, but we believe that any solution should be in line with international law and approved by the UN Security Council and should be indeed fulfilled,” Ushakov said. The presidents will discuss extension of the TurkStream gas pipeline to Serbia, he added. “This issue will be discussed. Nothing will be signed in this regard so far,” Ushakov said.


Talks with leader of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Putin is due to hold talks with leader of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik during his official visit to Belgrade on Thursday, Ushakov told reporters. “During the visit the Russian president will also meet with Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Dodik, who has been invited for the reception [after the Russian-Serbian talks] and this conversation will be held after this reception,” Ushakov said. Ushakov said on Wednesday he was confident that Serbia will ensure the security of the Russian delegation during the visit to Belgrade on January 17. The Kremlin aide said he knew from media reports about the detention of an extremist in Belgrade who had allegedly plotted an attempt on the life of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. “The Serbian side assures us that it is taking all the measures for ensuring the security of the visit and the corresponding Serbian services are in close contact with our relevant agencies. I am confident that the security of our delegation will be ensured and there will be no disruptions,” Ushakov said. The Kremlin aide said he knew about the detention “only from media reports and I have no other information but there is also much unclear about it.”

The Serbian newspaper Blic reported earlier on Wednesday, citing a source in special services, that representative of the radical Islamist organization, 21-year-old Armin Alibashich was detained in the town of Novi Pazar (290 km south of Belgrade) in the country’s south on January 13 on suspicion of plotting a terror attack. Some Serbian tabloids later linked the detention with the upcoming visit by Russian leader Vladimir Putin to Belgrade. The official Serbian authorities later did not confirm this information. A TASS source familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the extremist’s detention was not linked with the upcoming visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Serbia on January 17.


Putin warns West on Balkans as Serbia provides lavish welcome (BBC, by Guy Delauney, BBC Balkans correspondent, 17 January 2019)


Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Serbia at the head of powerful delegation, aiming to cement co-operation with a country seeking to join the EU.

Ahead of his Belgrade visit, Mr Putin accused some Western countries of “destabilising” the Balkans. Security was tight in the capital, where 7,000 police were deployed. Residents were urged not to go on their balconies to watch Mr Putin being driven through Belgrade. The measures followed big opposition protests against President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling SNS party over recent weeks, with demonstrators accusing him of clamping down on media freedom and attacking the opposition. Despite the high security, tens of thousands of people are reportedly planning to greet the Russian leader’s visit to the Church of St Sava, the biggest Orthodox church in Serbia. Although Serbia is a candidate to join the European Union it remains a close ally of Moscow.


What are Putin and Serbia up to?

It is a question that just will not go away: if Serbia is so determined to join the European Union, then why does it keep making such a show of its friendship with Russia? Playing up ties with Moscow appeals to the conservative-nationalist core support of President Vucic and his Progressive Party. It emphasises the Slavic, Orthodox Christian character of the country even as Serbia’s direction of travel is westward.


What has Putin said?

Mr Putin accused the “US and some other Western countries” of trying to secure dominance in the Balkans, by absorbing Montenegro into Nato and seeking to bring Macedonia into the Western military alliance too. The Russian president gave two interviews ahead of his visit, highlighting centuries of ties, and reports say 21 deals are set to be signed, including on energy and defence. President Vucic is keen on getting Russian gas, which he wants to acquire through Russia’s TurkStream pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. He also promised to continue developing military and technical co-operation with Serbia and criticised the EU’s handling of Kosovo.


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