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Belgrade Media Report 04 March 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 2 March 2019
LOCAL PRESS

• Dacic: Albanians cannot be the only people of Europe with two states (Tanjug/Politika)
• Vulin: Albanian politicians trying to provoke conflict (RTS)
• Drecun: US needs to clarify its position on Kosovo (RTS)
• Lutovac calls for unification of Democrats (Beta)
• Palmer: Belgrade-Pristina talks are not about border changer, but about recognition (Danas)
• Zakharova: Western media’s decisive role in decision to attack Serbia (Tanjug/B92/Sputnik)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Bosniak Presidency member: elected officials must respect the rule of law (Fena)
• The authority will be compiled of the elections winners (Srna)
• Dmicic: Amending of constitution may be regulated military neutrality (Srna)
Croatia
• Croatia ratifies Protocol on North Macedonia’s NATO accession (Hina)
Montenegro
• Montenegro ratified the Protocol for the accession of North Macedonia to NATO (CDM/RTCG)
• The Prevlaka border dispute needs bilateral solution (Pobjeda)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Stevo Pendarovski is officially SDSM’s presidential candidate (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Mickoski: The Zaevism has offered devastated bluffer Pendarovski for presidential candidate (Republika)
• Former Ambassador to Brussels is the latest presidential candidate (Nezavisen vesnik)
Albania
• Meta meets Haradinaj (ADN)
• President expresses gratitude to Albanians in North Macedonia (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Opinion: Serbia-Kosovo land swap will open Pandora’s box (DW)
• Protests in Montenegro, Serbia, Albania urge EU to help defend rights (The Irish Times)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Dacic: Albanians cannot be the only people of Europe with two states (Tanjug/Politika)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that Serbia would not do anything to impede talks between Belgrade and Pristina, but that it will be hard to reach an agreement if Serbia was expected Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence. “If someone expects a solution to the problem to be Serbia accepting an independent Kosovo, instead of creating enough political wisdom in Pristina to go for a compromise, it will be really difficult to reach an

agreement,” Dacic said in a speech at the Delphi Economic Forum IV. He argued that Serbia is trying to make some compromises, but at a time when Kosovo has decided, among other things, to build an army and to impose 100% taxes on Serbian products. “We are ready but the Albanian side thinks that our compromise will be to recognize their unilateral act,” he said, adding that “let’s not be naive to believe that Kosovo and Albania will be two states. Albanians cannot be the only people of Europe with two states. Let us be realistic: they want a Great Albania. They can do that, but not with the Serbs. For us, the issue of territorial sovereignty is of the same importance as for you and the Cypriots”.

 

Vulin: Albanian politicians trying to provoke conflict (RTS)

 

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin says that Ramush Haradinaj’s threats – that the Kosovo army could arrive in the north of the province – are threats to peace for the entire region.

The Army of Serbia is strong and capable of preserving peace in the entire countries, says Vulin. Haradinaj and most of the Albanian politicians are trying to provoke a conflict where the Albanians would be a victim and for the international community to side with them, says Vulin.

 

Drecun: US needs to clarify its position on Kosovo (RTS)

 

The Chairperson of the Serbian parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun has told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that the US position regarding Kosovo is of crucial significance – whether they want a compromise solution or whether pressures will continue for Belgrade to recognize the self-declared state of Kosovo. “At first glance, everything is clear, but in fact confusion is created in the public and pressure is exerted on the authorities in Belgrade while the Albanians are playing a political game Haradinaj-Thaci with the goal of postponing the dialogue,” says Drecun. He says that Ramush Haradinaj has long been threatening with violence, and that the threats are directed at not having the dialogue and for Belgrade to be accused of that. “This is only one in a series of threats that have been lasting for a long time since the creation of the so-called army of Kosovo, attempt at establishing control over Trepca and Gazivode…Pristina’s obsession to establish full control over northern Kosovo, which the Serb people will not accept. Pristina could realize these goals exclusively with violence and finalizing ethnic cleansing, i.e. with expelling the Serb population from the north,” says Drecun.

The Albanians have the resources for that, about which Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic warned, but, KFOR is the one that should prevent that, says Drecun. “You have the warning of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who has recently warned, probably due to having certain information, that the Kosovo security forces cannot be in northern Kosovo without the approval of the KFOR commander. That is why the US should clarify their position at this crucial moment for and regarding Kosovo, and this is of key importance for Pristina’s behavior,” says Drecun. “The taxes need to be abolished and this is the formal condition for the dialogue to resume. Washington’s policy needs to be openly defined to the end. I think this is the key to everything. On the other side, we have a very clear position of China, Russia and other countries. We have the position of Great Britain and Germany that is very clear, but the US stand is the most important one,” says Drecun. “We expect the specialized prosecution to pass a decision on whether the indictments will be issue at all. Of course, the interest of the specialized prosecution is also Hashim Thaci and this entire Drenica criminal group, but also the clan of Ramush Haradinaj who cannot be certain and peaceful by command responsibility that he will not be on the indictment if they are issued,” says Drecun. The US position needs to be first of all clarified to us, since this kind of behavior of the Albanians is the result of the fact that the US position seems to be concealed in some part and we cannot know what are the US diplomats discussing with the Albanians in Pristina,” concluded Drecun.

 

Lutovac calls for unification of Democrats (Beta)

 

The leader of the Democratic Party (DS) Zoran Lutovac said it was time for the party to stop splitting and called on all supporters of democracy to rally around it instead. Lutovac said at a Democrat main board committee that the party was regenerating, and that it would again be a hub for democratic Serbia to rally around and bring back the state from those who had usurped

  1. Lutovac underlined that there was a clear path ahead of the Democrats, to democratize the state and support accession to the EU, and that it would tell Brussels that the party did not want the nondemocratic stabilocracy project. The Democrat leader called for opposition leaders of

similar ideological leanings to overcome their differences. “If we cannot ally with those who promote similar ideologies and platforms, how can we change Serbia for the better,” Lutovac asked. The DS main board discussed an Initiative for Unification and the Creation of a Large Democratic Party. The media reported earlier that the Democrats had negotiated an alliance with two former party leaders, Boris Tadic and Zoran Zivkovic.

 

Palmer: Belgrade-Pristina talks are not about border changer, but about recognition (Danas)

 

“The talks between Belgrade and Pristina are not about the border change, but about recognition. Serbia should recognize Kosovo as an independent, sovereign country, and Kosovo should do the same,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mathew Palmer said at the fourth Delfi Economic Forum, Danas reported. Answering the question about the US position in the Belgrade-Pristina talks, Palmer warned that there is a misunderstanding of the US’ position.

“The US wants to help the actors in what they want to do. The Prespa Agreement was a success because leaders of both sides wanted it to succeed. We want that success to be repeated in Belgrade-Pristina negotiations and for the agreement to be acceptable both to Belgrade and Pristina,” Palmer said, adding that there are no red lines in these negotiations. He was clear about the taxes, saying they should either abolish or suspend them because they only hinder the talks between two sides.

 

Zakharova: Western media’s decisive role in decision to attack Serbia (Tanjug/B92/Sputnik)

 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says Western propaganda was crucial in deciding to bomb FR Yugoslavia in 1999. According to Zakharova, there was a hysterical campaign in the western media that went on for months, focusing on alleged mass oppression of Albanians – while glossing over the terrorist activities of Kosovo fighters, and their crimes, including the kidnapping of people for the purpose of illegal organ trafficking, Sputnik reported. “No thriller can compare to the horrors that were happening in those areas,” she said. Zakharova added that the reason for the bombing was the killing of civilians in Racak, something reported by about every last Western media outlet, and all structures of NATO and the EU – although it turned out that those were not civilians at all, but Kosovo fighters dressed. “The result of this propaganda campaign – armed aggression against a European state and factual alienation of a part of its territory through the use of military force. It was in 1999 that NATO buried international law in Europe,” Zakharova stressed. After these events, any claim by Western countries that propaganda is used somewhere, or that freedom of expression is not respected, can be regarded as blatant hypocrisy, Zakharova concluded.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Bosniak Presidency member: elected officials must respect the rule of law (Fena)

 

The issue of the election of the new Council of Ministers Chairman and the adoption of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H)’s Annual National Program – which would lead to the activation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for NATO are both a question of the rule of law, said the Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, in an interview doe Fena news agency. “The basis for B&H’s NATO integration lies in the documents and laws in force. All those preventing B&H from adopting its first ANP must know that this is a matter of the rule of law,” Dzaferovic said. After the October general election, B&H was supposed to form its Council of Ministers and to elect the Chairman to lead it. The Chairman-designate, who is a Serb coming from the strongest Serb party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Zoran Tegeltija, said that his priorities for the next four years would not be B&H’s NATO accession process. He argued that, as a Serb, coming from Republika Srpska (RS), he would respect the 2017 RS’ Declaration on military neutrality. This is contrary to the Constitution which says that only the Presidency and the Council of Ministers can decide on B&H’s foreign policy, not its lower levels of government. Speaking to Fena, Dzaferoic said that all elected officials must respect the Constitution, the existing laws and adopted policies and that they cannot elect someone who already said he would not respect the rule of law. Recalling all the previously adopted laws and decisions, he noted that no politician or party could simply change their political will and impose it to others. It must be approved and adopted by State institutions. “If not, it is just an individual opinion,” he added. According to him, B&H politicians must find a way to adopt this year’s and all future ANPs and elect the Council of Ministers Chairman at the same time.

 

The authority will be compiled of the elections winners (Srna)

 

Everyone in B&H has a constitutional and statutory obligation to respect the fact that the Serbian people in the RS largely supported the policy of Milorad Dodik and the SNSD, and that it was precisely this political party and its coalition partners that they had the mandate to represent the Serbs and RS in the institutions of B&H in the next four years, said the Head of the SNSD Caucus in the B&H House of Representatives Stasa Kosarac. “Our policy is the policy of military neutrality, thus completely following the political views of the Republic of Serbia in this area. We will never allow establishing of the NATO border on the Drina, as we have confirmed in the National Assembly by adopting the Resolution on the military neutrality of RS. This attitude should be respected and it cannot be the subject of any conditionality,” Kosarac said in a statement to Srna, commenting on the statement of Bosniak member of the Presidency of B&H, Sefik Dzaferovic, that the adoption and delivery of the,” Annual National Program for NATO “is a condition for appointing SNSD candidates for the Chairman of the Council of Ministers.

According to him, no one has ever in Dayton B&H condemned the appointment of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, in any way. “To SDA and, especially to, Sefik Dzaferovic, whose war past was more than questionable, we could set dozens of similar conditions, but we are aware that they are the will of the Bosniak people on the elections that we cannot change. The authority of institutions in B&H is composed of election’s winners in RS and the Federation of B&H and the existence of a majority in the Parliament of B&H confirm the appointment of the Chairman and Ministers to the Council of Ministers should be the only condition for establishing this institution,” Kosarac said. He warned that the months of non-functioning of the B&H institutions is already causing serious damage to both RS and the Federation of B&H, where the certain projects have to wait for decisions from the common level of authority. “The chaos and inactivity in institutions of B&H is harmful for all citizens, and the responsibility lies solely on the SDA, which, by conditionality the election of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, resolves its internal political problems and the problems of the establishment of authority in the Federation of B&H and in certain cantons. That is completely unacceptable and the citizens need to know that,” Kosarac said. He called the ministers in the Council of Ministers in a technical mandate to resign and thus prevent the adoption of illegitimate decisions that are inconsistent with the will of the citizens expressed in the elections. “Any decision of the ministers in a technical mandate, including a large number of party employment, will be reviewed and put out of force in enormous cases,” Kosarac said.

 

Dmicic: Amending of constitution may be regulated military neutrality (Srna)

 

Professor of Constitutional Law Mile Dmicic said that the Constitution should be changed in the sense of disabling the transfer of jurisdiction and within changing is possible to regulate military neutrality. Dmicic pointed out that the RS Constitution should be changed in the direction of adapting it to the basic streams of legal and political reform of the state and society, not only at entity level but also at B&H level in the sense of disabling the transfer of competencies without constitutionally established procedure. He told journalists in Banja Luka that the status of Military neutrality of RS could be regulated by the adoption of a special law about military neutrality of the RS or by organizing a referendum on which citizens would express their will for neutral status, which is completely complementary to Serbia’s stand on military neutrality.

 

Croatia ratifies Protocol on North Macedonia’s NATO accession (Hina)

 

The Croatian parliament on Friday ratified North Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol with 116 lawmakers voting in favor of the country’s accession to the alliance as its 30th member and two being against. In attendance at the session was a state delegation from Skopje and parliament speaker Gordan Jandrokovic congratulated them on this success. Jandrokovic also said that Croatia “will continue supporting Macedonia on its journey towards the European Union”.

The parliament also adopted a law on the election of councils and representatives of ethnic minorities with an aim of enhancing the status of minorities. Thus, elections for those councils and representatives will be held on the first Sunday in May every four years.

 

Montenegro ratified the Protocol for the accession of North Macedonia to NATO (CDM/RTCG)

 

Members of the Parliament of Montenegro ratified on Friday Protocol for the accession of North Macedonia to NATO. All 44 members who voted, voted in favor. Before voting began, members of Democratic Front left the hall where the session took place. The ratification of this protocol was voted by the members of the leading coalition and members of Socialist Democratic Party.

Andrija Mandic, member of DF, criticized members of DPS for welcoming Talat Dzaferi who attended the session. He also said that DF wouldn’t support the ratification of the Protocol.

“I’d say that this is a very important day for Montenegro because a great miracle is happening. If Zivko Nikolic was alive, I’m sure this would be a great scenario for his movie. Democratic Front certainly won’t support this protocol. When it comes to decisions like this one, citizens should be asked to make a decision. NATO doesn’t care about what a citizen of Macedonia thinks. Unfortunately, we have politicians who care about the interest of the USA more than the interest of their own state,” said Mandic. He made remarks regarding the warm welcome members of DPS gave to Dzaferi. “He’s mostly known for carrying automatic weapons and shooting Macedonian police officers. Shame on you,” said Mandic. Even physical conflict almost occurred.  Luidj Skrelja, member of DPS, addressed in Albanian but since there was no interpretation he continued in Montenegrin. Branko Radulovic said that there was only one Macedonia for them and he apologized to the people of Macedonia for the fact that Montenegro will support “Macedonian marionette government”. Member of the Croatian Civil Initiative, Adrijan Vuksanovic, said that voting for the accession of North Macedonia to NATO was an act of friendship. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Srdjan Darmanovic, said that the members of the parliament were about to render a historical decision. He said that accession of North Macedonia to NATO is good news for the entire region. “Supporting Macedonia is very high on the agenda of Montenegro. As NATO member, Montenegro advocates for further NATO enlargement,” said Darmanovic. Member of DPS, Obrad Stanisic, said that NATO membership of North Macedonia would give full contribution to the stability of WB. SDP and Bosnian Party also supported the Protocol. Miodrag Lekic said he wouldn’t support the Protocol. He added that NATO didn’t have any legitimacy and he criticized North Macedonia for failing to hold a referendum regarding this matter. President of the parliament of Montenegro, Ivan Brajovic, congratulated Macedonia and Greece on signing the agreement by means of which many misunderstandings were eliminated. NATO Members signed on 6 February the Protocol for the Accession of North Macedonia to NATO. After the ratification of the Protocol, this country will officially become NATO member.

 

The Prevlaka border dispute needs bilateral solution (Pobjeda)

 

The Prevlaka border dispute between Montenegro and Croatia should belong in the domain of bilateral relations and as such would send a strong message to the European Union (EU), former Croatia’s prime minister, Jadranka Kosor, told in an interview with Pobjeda daily. She also noted that only an agreement could lead to the solution or a model for finding it. As somebody who was conducting extensive Croatian negotiations for the EU membership from 2009 to 2011, Kosor stressed that Europe’s policy towards the new member states hasn’t significantly changed when compared to the previous years. Speaking about the EU perspective, she estimated that the future of the EU will depend on the outcomes of the existing elections for the European Parliament and Brexit as well. During the interview, Kosor also reflected on the position of the Western Balkans in the EU: “It does not depend only on willingness and interest of the EU, but a genuine will of the candidate countries that have been in different phases of meeting the EU accession criteria. The so-called old EU member states won’t put a significant effort in the enlargement as the question is whether we’re about to face a new recession and economic issues.” When asked whether she thinks the Western Balkan countries are capable of dealing with all new EU requirements, Kosor said: “There’s certain willingness but every country has its own story. The politicians are the ones who must work for the good of society and not for themselves and their own publicity.” Out of the total of 32, Montenegro has opened 31 negotiation chapters so far. The EU still claims MNE will have to wait until 2025 to become a full EU member state. “I know it’s hard. I know it from our own experience that the citizens are losing their will and desire, but the politicians are the ones responsible for their countries. They represent them and have to put an extra effort in their work even for the EU, the European Commission, if they truly wish to be part of the EU. There’s no better perspective than the EU integration. This is my opinion and my experience,” Kosor added. As for the open issue between Montenegro and Croatia, that is, the Prevlaka border dispute, she said: “It would be good if the two countries could resolve this issue in the domain of bilateral relations. This would send a strong message to the EU as was the case when I and Mr. Borut Pahor agreed on resolving border dispute through the Arbitration Agreement. That’s why it’s important to intensify talks on open issues,” she noted.

 

Stevo Pendarovski is officially SDSM’s presidential candidate (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

Stevo Pendarovski will be the joint candidate of the government coalition in the forthcoming presidential elections. The leadership of SDSM took a definite position to propose Pendarovski as a presidential candidate. “North Macedonia needs a president who will offer solutions committedly and responsibly and will support fast track that brings the country forward towards a secure future in NATO and EU. A president, who opposes divisions and isolation and promotes North Macedonia as a global and just country, who will be a constructive and principled partner in the reforms, integration and economic processes,” SDSM leader and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Sunday in his opening address of party’s 23rd congress. He pointed out that Stevo Pendarovski is that president, a person with integrity and has professional and political experience. His long-standing career in politics and academia, his undisputed moral profile and his clear vision of the future of our country, are a proof that we have the best candidate to be president and the supreme commander of our armed forces, he added. “Pendarovski is a confirmation of the concept of a society for all in progressive Euro-Atlantic Republic of North Macedonia. The victory of Stevo Pendarovski in the upcoming elections will be another victory on our common path. We remain committed to reject the policy of pessimism that claims nothing can be done. We remain committed to rejecting hate speech. We remain committed to building an inclusive society and a better future for all,” Zaev underlined. “We all Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Roma, Vlachs, Bosniaks have united for a joint candidate for president for the first time in our country and all others stand together for our country to have president for all our citizens,” Zaev said. Zaev said that SDSM confirmed its statehood role and responsibility in the crucial events of the history of our modern state. “Our party and its leaders and members, has never step back from the challenges. Party always took responsibility, made decisions, and implemented rational policies that proved to be historic. This happened in 1991, when together with the citizens of our country we participate in the process of proclaiming the independence of our country. We acted the same also in 2001, when we took the responsibility to stop the inter-ethnic conflict, and by dialogue and by the Ohrid Framework Agreement, we started to build the new value of our social community – ‘One society for All’ concept. This was the case in 2005, when we gave strong impetus to European values and our commitment to EU membership and we were granted EU candidate status. The same happened in 2015, when with Macedonian citizens in the camp of freedom with the colorful revolution we walked through the streets of our cities. When patiently and wisely through political processes we believed in freedom, truth, justice, equality, progress and when we joined social democratic values with civilizational values in order to liberate the captive state. This was the case both in 2017 and 2018, when on April 27 we resisted the violence and when the new government coalition decided to reach a friendship agreement with Bulgaria and resolve the three-decade-long dispute with Greece,” Zaev said.

DUI Central Council unanimously supported the concept of joint consensual candidate and nomination of Stevo Pendarovski for the President of the Republic of North Macedonia.

“This is one of the decisions taken at Sunday’s session of the central council of DUI held at the party headquarters” said MP Artan Grubi. He informed also that Ixhet Mexhiti will be president of the DUI Central Election Headquarters as proposed by leader Ali Ahmeti, and DUI will participate in the upcoming presidential elections and local elections in Debar and Ohrid.

MP Grubi also informed about the congress of the DUI women’s forum scheduled for April 14 in Skopje as well as about preparations for the DUI youth congress, which is to be held in Tetovo.

 

Mickoski: The Zaevism has offered devastated bluffer Pendarovski for presidential candidate (Republika)

 

The personnel crisis in SDSM is so great that after employing all the relatives of officials, they started a new process to nominate people for the second time for the same position, even though they lost the elections once, the leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski said. “And in such a unique system of Zaevism, where there is no other country in the world where the prime minister was pardoned for crime and at the same time freed from prosecution for crime and bribery while in office, and generates other unique devastated bluffers. That’s how decided to nominate Stevo Pendarovski for a presidential candidate. I do not know in SDSM, but we at the faculty we called them quadrants, people who take the same year for the second time because they failed the first time. And I know that there is someone who will say that Zaev succeeded in the second time; he has become prime minister, although the reality is that he did not win the parliamentary elections. I would say God forbid to allow second Zaev this time as president of the state, because Macedonia will be ruined,” said Mickoski.

 

Former Ambassador to Brussels is the latest presidential candidate (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

Former Ambassador to Brussels is the latest presidential candidate University Professor and former Ambassador to Brussels Blerim Reka enters the race for head of state. He will act as a non-party candidate, but the nomination is also the work of the Alliance of Albanians and the Besa Movement. This way, the parties led by Zijadin Sela and Bilal Kasami want to get the primacy among the citizens of Albanian nationality, having in mind that the government DUI and SDSM, which have considerable support among the Albanian voters, decided to go with joint forces to the presidential elections, but their favorite will be from the ranks of the Social Democratic Union. Reka confirmed the news that spread in the political circles. “I cannot respond to all media and friends, so through this statement I announce my candidacy for the presidency of the Republic of North Macedonia, hoping it would be supported. There are two reasons for this decision. First, If only Macedonian candidates run, without any Albanians, this multi-ethnic society would end up looking like a mono-ethnic state in which the Albanians can be only voters, but never candidates. Second, only intellectual criticism, without entering into political confrontation, is not enough to change the situation. They stay virtual on Facebook, while life is real. After all, history is written by statesmen, intellectuals only write about history,” Professor Reka stated. In order to run in the elections scheduled for April 21, i.e. on 5 May, Reka will have to collect at least ten thousand signatures of citizens with a right to vote, or to receive support from at least thirty MPs in parliament. The second option, at the moment, is a mission impossible for the Albanian opposition parties. Therefore, signatures will be collected, which should be an easy task, given the fact that the Alliance of Albanians and the Besa Movement officially stood behind his nomination. “As opposition parties, we believe that the presidential elections are pointless without an ethnic Albanian candidate. As a matter of principle, we will support the nomination of professor Reka. His rich academic and diplomatic experience will enhance the office of the President,” reads the joint statement of the two parties. The Albanian parties expect a large number of NGOs, civic associations and individuals to send a clear message that the DUI’s time has expired, and give their support to Reka. Blerim Reka, 60, graduated law at the Pristina University in 1982. In 1994 he received his Master’s Degree in the field of Civil and Economic Law in Pristina. Eight years later, in the capital of Kosovo, he received his PHD in international law. He was the Ambassador of Macedonia to the EU in Brussels from 2006 to 2010.

 

Meta meets Haradinaj (ADN)

 

Albanian President Ilir Meta met on Saturday with the Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj. “It was a pleasure to meet today in Lezha the Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj. By joining the best positive energies helps stabilization and integration processes in the interest of strengthening the common European perspective,” said Meta.

 

President expresses gratitude to Albanians in North Macedonia (ADN)

 

President Meta, attended on Saturday and congratulated the concluding activity of the Second Summit of the Albanian Diaspora, held in the square “Gjergj Kastrioti” on the occasion of the 575th anniversary of the Lezha Covenant. During his speech, the Head of the State thanked all the Albanians of Northern Macedonia, who according to him, wisely, despite differences or dissatisfaction with certain issues of the Prespa Agreement, managed to open up the European way. “Skanderbeg will remain the most alive Albanian among the living ones. Because it is the most respectable and inspirational figure for the survival and affirmation of our nation, but at the same time has left us as testament not only to the necessity of unification to meet the challenges of the time, but has also defined our European identity as well as the European path of Albanians. On this occasion, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all Albanians of Northern Macedonia, who wisely, despite the differences or dissatisfaction with certain issues of the Prespa Agreement, managed to break the European path, a road that would guarantee all the fulfillment of their rights as European citizens,” said Meta. During this event, the Head of the State was along with Minister of Diaspora, Pandeli Majko, Macedonian and Kosovo Diaspora Ministers, Mayor Fran Frrokaj, local and central authorities as well as many compatriots.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Opinion: Serbia-Kosovo land swap will open Pandora’s box (DW, 2 March 2019)

 

A momentous step shrouded in secrecy is currently underway: Serbia and Kosovo are planning to trade territories. But shifting borders in the Balkans is a mistake, writes guest policy expert Christian Schwarz-Schilling. The West’s ironclad common principle, that the practice of redrawing borders along ethnic lines be avoided at all costs, doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia are said to be drawing up a deal that would see Kosovo cede areas north of Mitrovica, with majority Serb populations, to Serbia. In turn, Serbia would hand over areas in the southern Presevo Valley, with majority Albanian populations, to Kosovo.

For the lobbyists, it’s a job well done. Initially, the proposal was met with opposition from all sides — especially from the local populations — but now the states seem to be on track to soon follow through with their plan. Doing so would bring Serbia closer to EU membership, and would finally grant Kosovo full recognition as a state and a seat at the United Nations.

 

Border change paves the way for upheaval

As a former high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina I, along with my predecessors Paddy Ashdown and Carl Bildt, sent an open letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini last August, warning that such a territory exchange would open Pandora’s box.

It would be playing into the hands of separatist-nationalist forces — not only in the region, but also in Bosnia-Herzegovina and many other countries. It would pave the way for even greater upheaval, which almost always end in war. This isn’t just about the dream of Greater Serbia, which led to war in the early 1990s, but also, as I learned from Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama in January, about a possible unification of Albania and Kosovo — an idea that has never been abandoned. Rama told me that he greatly appreciated the steadfastness of Chancellor Angela Merkel and German policy on border changes. But he fears that attempts to finally liberate Kosovo from the shackles of Serbia will take too long, or will simply never come about. For that reason, he sees a merger of Kosovo and Albania as a real option. It is very surprising that EU politicians in Brussels, who until now have strictly rejected border revision along ethnic divides, no longer see any risk and suddenly consider the principle to be entirely possible. What are the reasons for this attitude shift?

 

Renewed superpower politics in the Balkans

This is obviously where the United States comes in. President Donald Trump wants to withdraw from the Balkan crisis region, and agreed to the negotiations on the exchange of territory between Serbia and Kosovo — a complete turnaround in US policy to date. One has to question Trump’s intentions with this move. There has been speculation that he is pursuing a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the division of influence between the two major players in the Balkans. According to this theory, Kosovo would join NATO and Serbia would remain under Russian influence — and would clearly reject any connection to NATO. Of course, this would destabilize the region, especially Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Serb member of Bosnia’s multiethnic presidency, Milorad Dodik, has been saying for years that he would only accept NATO membership for Bosnia and Herzegovina if Serbia followed the same path. With this move, Trump is making a concession to Russia, meaning the Kremlin’s growing influence in the region would go unchallenged. There’s been further speculation that Trump wants to see both Kosovo and Serbia join the NATO alliance in order to limit Russian influence in the Balkans, according to talk in NATO circles. This could possibly explain the change in the EU’s position. What is clear, however, is that both Serbia and Kosovo would not have been able to undertake this until-now unacceptable territory exchange without US support. But it’s impossible to know which of these theories is accurate, owing to the high unpredictability of the US president’s actions. And both possibilities would have a huge impact on the Balkans.

 

Who will pick up the pieces?

What’s next? If you draw up new borders according to ethnic divisions, what do we do when a place like the Sandzak region, located in Serbia, wants to join up with Bosnia? Or when the Serb-run part of Bosnia called Republika Srpska aims to unite with neighboring Serbia?

What about North Macedonia? It has only just resolved its name dispute with Greece, and now it could potentially face a new problem — do the Albanians living in North Macedonia want to live in an ethnically pure state? The question poses an existential threat to many European countries. Romania, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, would experience vast repercussions, as would Greece. And Spain already has a plethora of problems with the separatist region of Catalonia. At the same time, hardly anyone is considering universal human rights, the fundamental rights of the individual, the rights of minorities, constitutional law on a domestic level and human rights with regards to foreign matters. All I can do is to appeal to the countries that make up the EU Council and the EU Commission to once again take into account Europe’s values and principles. If we don’t, we shouldn’t be shocked when political mistakes are made that result in a renewed flow of refugees. I find myself thinking back to the motto of this year’s Munich Security Conference: “Who will pick up the pieces?” In Europe, major political mistakes generally aren’t cleaned up by the countries that are responsible for the mess; inevitably, it’s the responsibility of the European Union!

Christian Schwarz-Schilling was Germany’s minister for post and communication from 1982 to 1992. During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, he stepped down from the role in protest against the position of the German government on the conflict. Schwarz-Schilling served as the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2006 to 2007.

 

Protests in Montenegro, Serbia, Albania urge EU to help defend rights (The Irish Times, by Daniel McLaughlin, 4 March 2019)

 

‘Balkan spring’ activists say EU backs autocrats who promise stability but erode rule of law

Thousands of people rallied in Serbia and Montenegro at the weekend, as anger around the region over threats to the rule of law and the EU’s alleged acceptance of autocratic leaders fueled talk of a pro-democracy “Balkan spring”. In the two former Yugoslav republics and Albania, protest movements are growing and opposition deputies are boycotting parliament to demand an end to what they call the “state capture” of key institutions by corrupt leaders. Demonstrators marched through Belgrade on Saturday to call for the resignation of Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic and for changes to election rules and state media that they say are heavily biased in his favour. The protests began after an opposition politician was beaten up last November and have spread to some 60 towns and cities under the banner “One of five million” – a reference to Mr Vucic’s vow to defy his critics even if five million people took to the streets.

In neighbouring Montenegro, thousands of people joined the fourth protest in as many weeks against president Milo Djukanovic, who has dominated politics in the Adriatic state for three decades.

 

Bribery claims

The demonstrations started when bribery claims against members of the ruling elite ignited widespread frustration with corruption and cronyism; they are organised by activists and intellectuals who claim to have no party links. Anger over poverty and allegations of graft and electoral fraud have also sparked protests in Albania against the government of prime minister Edi Rama, and several arrests and injuries were reported in clashes between demonstrators and police late last month. The Balkan neighbours are all aiming for membership of the EU, and Mr Rama has warned that “desperate opposition efforts” to unseat him “could be fatal” for Albania’s hopes of starting accession talks in June. Opposition deputies in all three states are boycotting parliaments that they say merely provide a facade of democracy behind which unscrupulous leaders and their allies rule with impunity. Critics of the EU across the Balkans accuse it of supporting these “stabilitocracies” – systems run by autocrats whose abuses of democracy are tolerated because they are seen as guarantors of stability in a complex region. Budislav Minic, one of the protest organisers in Montenegro, said after talks on Friday with the EU envoy to the country, Aivo Orav, that “we are on the streets precisely because institutions do not function.”

“We do not want to destabilise or destroy the state but…we reject the status quo which, under the pretext of stability, refers to captured institutions,” Mr Minic said. Brussels and Washington have urged Albanian opposition deputies to return to parliament, while EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic this week played down talk of a “Balkan spring” of pro-democracy protests and defended the bloc’s approach to the region’s governments. She said the EU gave “praise when praise is needed… and we are also extremely critical”. “The rule of law is absolutely of the utmost importance… and it’s a message that we continue to pass on to all our partners” in the Balkans, Ms Kocijancic added.

 

 

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