Brnabic: By introducing taxes, Pristina violates CEFTA agreement (RTS)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said during the talks with Director-General for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission Christian Danielsson that there is enough strength and readiness to complete the reforms launched so that the state could have an independent judiciary, strong institutions, a defined media scene and so that it could effectively fight corruption and organized crime, which are all important challenges, but also the backbone of the EU values. Speaking about the European integration, Danielsson said that Serbia has made great progress on the road to the European Union and that the role of the European Commission is to give support to Serbia in order to make reforms more efficient, first of all in harmonizing and implementing regulations and standards in Chapters 23 and 24, concerning the rule of law and the judiciary. The European Commission official praised the economic reforms made, but also the contribution that Serbia gives to regional stability through its regional cooperation initiatives, especially through various infrastructure projects.
Brnabic stated that it is necessary for Pristina to implement the agreements that have been already reached and to withdraw illegal decisions, such as the introduction of taxes. That is a prerequisite for the continuation of talks and for reaching a lasting solution based on compromise, Brnabic underlined. She reiterated that by introducing tariffs, Pristina violates the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and thus jeopardizes the economic stability not only of Serbia, but the whole region.
Dacic: Greater-Albanian policy threatens region (Tanjug)
Chanting the name of the terrorist Kosovo liberation army (KLA) and statements from Pristina on an all-Albanian victory on the occasion of elections in the Montenegrin municipality of Tuza is best confirmation of a Greater-Albanian policy, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic assessed for Tanjug. He says that it is perhaps clear to everybody that not only is Serbia’s territorial integrity threatened, but also Montenegro’s, North Macedonia’s and Greece’s. “Any further closing of eyes before the creation of a Greater Albania may lead to threatening of peace and stability in the region,” warned Dacic. He underlines that “caring” representatives of the international community do not miss an opportunity to scare the world with Greater Serbia , while they are creating Greater Albania behind the back. “And then they object when Serbia is speaking about double standards,” said Dacic.
Dacic: Of utmost importance that KFOR’s mandate is implemented to the full extent (Tanjug)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic received the Deputy Commander of the NATO Joint Force Command in Naples, Lieutenant General Christian Juneau. The interlocutors underlined that Serbia and NATO have a common interest of preserving peace and stability in the region, as well as the determination to further enhance partnership cooperation in all spheres of common interest. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the dynamics of political dialogue at the highest level, as well as practical military and civil cooperation in a number of areas within the Partnership for Peace program, with more than a hundred partner activities being implemented on an annual basis. During the talks, the active participation of Serbia in numerous international missions and operations under the auspices of the EU and the UN was evaluated positively, as well as the readiness for coordination and cooperation with the Alliance in the field of fight against terrorism, emergency response and facing current regional and global security challenges and threats. Juneau confirmed that NATO fully respects Serbia’s determination to be military neutral, which, he said, is not an obstacle to the further enhancement of partnership cooperation with the Alliance. Speaking about the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, which is the most important political and security challenge for our country, Dacic said that it is of the utmost importance that the mandate of the KFOR Mission be implemented to the full extent. Juneau praised the Serbian government for a balanced and moderate approach, as well as for investing extraordinary efforts in order to reach a compromise solution for the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. He said that NATO is currently re-evaluating its engagement in relation to the Kosovo Security Forces and underlined that the role of KFOR in ensuring a safe environment and free movement for all in the province will not change.
Cadez: CEFTA obsolete, transition to new phase needed (Tanjug)
CEFTA has proved to be obsolete and there should be a transition to a new phase, a panel on the Western Balkans as a regional economic area – held at the Kopaonik Business Forum – was told Monday. We should ask ourselves whether we want a single economic area or not, said Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia President Marko Cadez. “Making additional economic plans makes no sense if you do not have an architecture that is supposed to implement them. CEFTA is obsolete and we need to transition to another phase if we want to create a single economic policy,” Cadez said. A new, comprehensive agreement should be made to solve all issues concerning everything that makes up a single market, he said. “We will now either move to a new phase or get stuck more and more with ad hoc barriers and taxes that we will impose on each other,” he said.
Opposition MPs continue boycott of Serbian parliament (N1)
Opposition MPs whose parties have signed the so-called Agreement With the People continued their boycott of parliament on Tuesday, telling reporters that they would not take part in the regular spring session as long as speaker Maja Gojkovic is in that post. The MPs said they are demanding Gojkovic’s dismissal, believing that a parliamentary debate is not possible as long as she is speaker. They said that none of them attended a parliament board meeting called earlier in the day by Gojkovic. They said that the speaker told MPs at that meeting that the ruling majority is prepared to allow a debate and explanations of amendments. The opposition MPs stood outside the parliament building where Army of Serbia Guards Brigade troops were posted in parade uniform and unveiled a banner reading 1 in 5 Million. They said they would organize what they called a parallel parliament in the lobby to criticize the laws being debated but would not enter the parliament hall.
Ponos: Our party has nothing to do with Democrats (Danas/Beta)
The People’s Party (NS) hasn’t taken part in negotiations to unite the Democrats, as it is not a
spin-off of the Democratic Party, a People’s Party vice-president, Zdravko Ponos, said. “We have nothing to do with it. The party was not created as a result of the Democratic Party split, so that the matter could be relevant for us in any way,” explained Ponos, a former Serbian army chief-of-staff.
Dodik: EU not setting any conditions for formation of authorities in B&H (Srna)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Chair Milorad Dodik stated Monday in Brussels the European Union is not setting any conditions for the formation of authorities in B&H whatsoever, not the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) either. “The EU wants B&H to have its dynamics and succeed on the path, but in order to do that, it is not enough to only have an election day, you have to have a legitimate structure of authorities on the basis of the election,” Dodik told a press conference after a meeting with EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. He noted that during a previous B&H Presidency visit to Brussels, two issues were specifically emphasized – answers to the EC Questionnaire, a work that was finished, and the issue of the highest of priorities – formation of authorities on the basis of election results. “I have notified the EU officials that both houses of the B&H Parliamentary Assembly have been formed and that the Federation’s House of Peoples is being formed, that what is left to do is to form the Council of Ministers, Federation of B&H Government and governments in certain cantons, and that this week we expect to hold talks about further activities in that regard,” said the Serb member of the B&H Presidency. He informed EU diplomats that the Bosniak side believed consent should be given for the NATO MAP before the Council of Ministers formation, but that there was no agreement in the country about it. Dodik reiterated the EU did not set any kind of requirements for the formation of State-level authorities. When asked whether he had better friends in Moscow or in Brussels, Dodik replied that his true friends were both in Moscow and in Brussels. “I represent a people and a country which has to have good relations with everyone, both in the region and beyond and establishing communication and contacts is a mutual interest,” stated Dodik. According to him, interest in the EU is expressed in the commitment to joining the Union and that the entity and the party he comes from, meaning Republika Srpska (RS) and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) are taking part in the process. “We have friendly relations with Russia on various issues and we are resuming our dialogue without obstructions, regardless of all kinds of speculation in that regard,” said Dodik. Noting that RS and he himself are committed to building the B&H’s Dayton capacities, Dodik recalled that the Dayton Peace Agreement was seriously undermined by interventions of high representatives. “Certain issues were raised sidestepping the Constitution and Dayton Agreement and imposed to the level of central institutions and that is a problem for this B&H,” noted Dodik. Commenting on the issue of a possible independence of RS, Dodik said: “I do not want to either end or raise a single issue. At this point, no one in RS is working on the issues of, as they say secession or anything like that, but RS should not be silent about it. The public has some expectations in that regard, as do we, the politicians who react because we are part of that public,” said Dodik. B&H should go back to its Dayton Agreement-based, genuine principles and become a member of the EU, he said. “It is something we can accept and work on.”
EP Rapporteur: Bosnia answering additional EC questions is “just the first step” (N1)
B&H has finally provided answers to the additional questions the European Commission had for the country before it debates whether it deserves the status of an EU candidate but because they came late and incomplete, this cannot be described as a historic moment, European Parliament Rapporteur for B&H, Cristian Dan Preda, said on Monday. “It is good that the process is completed, but I can’t help noticing this big delay of five months,” said Dan Preda. “Apart from that, there is this information that some of the additional questions were not answered,” he said, adding that this was “not a historic moment, but just the finalization of the first step. And there will be many more until B&H becomes an EU member,” he said. “B&H needs to form its government without delay following the October 2018 General Election and continue implementing the required reforms,” he stressed.
Center for Russian studies opens in Pale (Srna)
The Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov opened in Pale the Center for Russian Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Istocno Sarajevo University, stressing that this is an important step towards improving the studying of the Russian language in the RS B&H educational system. “It is my honor and great pleasure to open the Center as this is an important step towards improving the Russian language and its status in the educational system of RS and B&H. We, as native Russian speakers, are trying to support this process as much as possible” Ivantsov told reporters after the opening ceremony. He thanked all who supported the project – the City of Istocno Sarajevo, the Istocno Sarajevo University, the RS Ministry of Higher Education and Information Society, the Faculty of Philosophy, Pale Municipality and the Russian Humanitarian Mission in the Balkans. According to him, the issue of the Russian language in RS and B&H is a factor and proof of improved mutual relations.
Serwer: It’s not time for Djukanovic to resign (Pobjeda)
I don’t think it’s time that the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, resigns, since there’s no opposition in the state that is pro-NATO or pro-European, and which is ready to take over the government, says Professor of the “John Hopkins” University in Washington, Daniel Serwer, commenting on the requests of the organizers of the protest. However, Serwer explains that the possibility of change of power is of vital democratic importance and that it’s a main characteristic of a serious democracy. “There’s no space now for Djukanovic’s withdrawal because opposition forces in Montenegro bring into question not only the Alliance and EU membership but also Montenegrin independence. However, I would like to see the government changes, sooner or later. I said this to the President directly,” said Serwer. He points out that every change in the government has to offer an alternative. “That’s my point: without serious opposition, which isn’t related to Moscow, it will be impossible for Djukanovic and his party to withdraw. However, that day should come. No one should stay a leader forever” explains Serwer. Serwer explains that the process of forming serious opposition that won’t be under the influence of Kremlin is a long process. “Such process requires years. But the right time for it start is now. It’s important to notice that those who oppose to independence and NATO membership can’t make a serious opposition,” says Serwer.
Montenegro sends soldiers to NATO mission in Iraq (CDM)
Defense and Security Council has laid down the proposal for the decision on referral of the members of the Armed Forces of Montenegro to NATO mission in Iraq. “The proposal decision envisages recruitment of two members of the Armed Forces of Montenegro who would perform staff activities in the Mission. This way, Montenegro would give its contribution to the establishment of stability and security of the Republic of Iraq. The Council decided that the decisions on the recruitment of soldiers in international forces be prepared, harmonized and implemented carefully,” this was reported after the Council meeting chaired by the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic. The Council also took into consideration the integration of national system of the airspace protection into NATO integrated system, as well as the information about the National authority that will decide about the use of force in the airspace of Montenegro. “Report on the participation of the members of the Armed Forces of Montenegro in the international training in 2018 was presented at the meeting today. Members of the Council have been informed about the participation of the units of the Army in international training, with special emphasis on the most important NATO training in 2018, TRIDENT JUNCTURE”, reads the report. Minister of Defense, Predrag Boskovic, informed the members of the Council about the great response to the voluntary military service. “The conclusion is that we must reinforce capacities in order to create possibilities for young people with motives to prove themselves, conspicuous patriotism and loyalty, to acquire basic military skills. Such kind of training will have far-reaching importance in the affirmation of the Armed Forces of Montenegro and the overall defense system,” said Minister Boskovic.
Reeker: Western Balkans and North Macedonia belong in EU and NATO (Republika)
US diplomat Philip Reeker insisted that American policy is to have the Balkans brought into the European Union and NATO, in order to build a Europe that would be whole, free and at peace. Reeker, who was US Ambassador to Macedonia and is expected to be named Assistant Secretary of State, met with Zoran Zaev, Hristijan Mickoski, Ali Ahmeti and other political leaders during his visit organized by the German Marshall Fund of the US. Reeker warned that “other countries” want to increase their influence in “the Western Balkans, including in North Macedonia”, and that the US will work to show that allegiance with the West is the best approach for prosperity and security. Reeker referred to NATO as the most successful defensive alliance in the world and said that he is happy that soon “North Macedonia” will be its member. “The success of the Prespa agreement is due to the courage and compromise that leaders from both countries managed to find,” Reeker said. According to him, prime ministers, Zaev and Tsipras along with the respective foreign ministers must feel proud about this historical agreement. He also said that other leaders in the Balkans must learn from this experience and that historical conflicts can be overcome. Reeker underlined that the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia through EU’s assistance is a great opportunity to solve a problem which has long plagued the Balkan region. Zaev told Reeker that support for NATO membership in Macedonia has never been higher, despite the failed referendum to rename the country and approve its EU and NATO membership, where only 36 percent of the voters came out and voted “yes”. During their joint press conference, Zaev said that he expects Macedonia to accomplish the tasks laid before it by the European Council, including making the controversial Special Prosecutor’s Office a permanent body. Zaev is also placing the intelligence services under his direct control, in a move he claims is also in line with European standards. Regarding the rampant nepotism in public sector hiring, Zaev said that he will accept the creation of a committee which will include representatives from the opposition and the ruling coalition, to examine the hiring of public sector employees who are close relatives of government officials.
Mickoski discussed the persecution of opposition officials with Reeker (Republika)
During his meeting with US diplomat Philip Reeker, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski raised the issue of the systematic persecution of opposition officials and critical voices in Macedonia. “The Government is carrying out staged court cases, coordinated arrests and pre-written verdicts. The Government is seriously undermining the rule of law and is setting the country back with regard to the most basic democratic priorities. The Republic of Macedonia also faces degrading economic performances, deteriorating living standards and increased poverty,” Mickoski told Reeker during their meeting. In the press release, VMRO-DPMNE adds that the party remains committed to having Macedonia join EU and NATO as a move toward improving stability in the region.
Members of the European Parliament recommend opening of accession talks with Macedonia and Albania (Republika)
The European Parliament delegation which visited Macedonia and Albania these past few days, has recommended that both countries are allowed to open EU accession talks. According to the group of members of European Parliament, led by Tunne Kelam, both countries have completed the reforms necessary to open accession talks. Macedonia has received the recommendation to open the talks for most of the years since 2009, but it was always blocked at the level of the EU Council by Greece, because of the name issue. Under the Prespa treaty, which imposes the name North Macedonia onto Macedonia, Greece undertook to raise its veto and Macedonia expects to receive a positive recommendation to open the talks this summer. Still, the group raised serious issues with both countries, such as the failures to uphold the rule of law, to reform the public administration and also the lack of national unity – given the tense relations between the leftist Governments and the conservative opposition parties, including in Macedonia where the opposition is facing all out persecution.
Ethnic issues and foreign policy on the focus of the presidential campaign (Nezavisen vesnik)
The candidates who will run for the April 21 presidential elections have now been confirmed. They’re Stevo Pendarovski, proposed by ruling party SDSM; Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova proposed by the largest opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE and the independent candidate, Blerim Reka, who has the backing of the Albanian opposition. The three candidates have launched their first messages focusing on ethnic issues and foreign policy. Presidential candidate Pendarovski says that the president’s responsibility is a big one, while pledging that if elected, he will represent all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity. “For me, we need to show that living in a multi-ethnic state is possible and that we can all be united. Our big goal is to be integrated in Euro-Atlantic structures, we need to improve our legislation and our political representatives should go beyond ethnic divisions,” Pendarovski said. VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate, Gordana Siljanovska said that she will focus her campaign on the issue of the name. Once again, she declared that it’s unacceptable that the country has changed its name. “We have no right to tell another country how to name itself, because the right of self-determination is an international right which must be respected by everyone,” she said Candidate Blerim Reka has also explained his reasons to run for president. “First of all, without an Albanian candidate, this multi-ethnic society is risking to slip into a multi-ethnic state and secondly, political intervention is needed in order to change the situation,” Reka said.
Rama: Ready to dialogue, but not for governance (ADN)
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama had a clear and short answer for the opposition this Tuesday: “We are ready to dialogue, but not for the Technical Government or new ruling majority”. He made it clear that government was voted by the Albanians and it will govern until the end. “We cannot give the power under the table. We are voted by the citizens of Albania and we will never accept a technical government,” said Rama. He said that local elections are expected to be held on June 30. Rama entered the parliament building, as police officer controlled the entrance in order to prevent incidents with the opposition’s protester who started to gather since 09:00 a.m. this Tuesday morning. Hundreds of citizens, opposition’s supporters were organized this Tuesday morning to travel to Tirana, to be part of the protest called by the opposition against government. Following the call of DP Leader, Lulzim Basha, protesters traveled from different cities of Albania with buses, vans or private vehicles, to protest against the ruling majority. The opposition leader invited citizens to join the rally on Tuesday in front of parliament, as well as the March 16 protest. Even though the protest started without tensions or incidents, a couple of tires in front of the parliament building were set on fire. Amidst the clouds of smoke, the protesters have put into flames the caricatures of PM, Edi Rama and have thrown wood pieces towards police officers. After finishing his speech at the protest, Lulzim Basha, invited to protesters to march towards the Central Election Commission (CEC). Meanwhile, police had not undertaken measures for this unexpected movement of Basha, because it was planned for the protesters to stay in front of the parliament’s premises. Basha and opposition’s candidates entered into CEC premises to refuse the acceptance of the mandates. Accompanied by Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) chairwoman Monika Kryemadhi, Head of Republican Party (RP) Fatmir Mediu and Secretary General of DP, Gazmend Bardhi, he entered into CEC to confirm the rejection of the mandate by dozens of candidates.
Slovenia confirms support for Albania’s EU path (ADN)
Albanian President Ilir Meta received his Slovenian counterpart, Borut Pahor, who is in the official visit to Albania at the invitation of the head of state. After the welcoming ceremony, the two presidents held a tete-a-tete meeting followed by an extended meeting of the two delegations. The two sides shared the same view that the time has come for new impetus and the intensification of bilateral relations in general and in specific areas of mutual interest.
Meta praised the very good and friendly relations between the two countries, while emphasizing that Slovenia is an important regional and European partner of Albania. In particular, he expressed gratitude for the continued and clear support that Slovenia has given Albania in the framework of its European integration process and for the opening of EU membership negotiations. Focusing on economic and trade cooperation, the two presidents shared the view that the level of these exchanges is still far from the potentials the two countries have, so a new impetus and a better use of the common legal framework are needed. Meta also expressed gratitude for Slovenia’s commitment and support for development and social projects in several cities of the country. Furthermore, both sides praised the presence of the Albanian community in Slovenia, stressing that it is an added value to the friendly relations between the two countries.
Particular attention was placed on regional cooperation and the need to strengthen the cooperation and Euro-Atlantic spirit in all the countries of the region. Speaking at the joint press conference, the Albanian President also noted that the continuation of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is of great importance in order to guarantee the European future of the two countries, but also to strengthen the European perspective of the region. Focusing on the upcoming preparations of the Brdo-Brioni Summit to be organized by President Meta in Tirana on May 8-9, the two heads of state expressed confidence that the Summit will give a new boost to the dialogue and understanding between the countries of the region, as well as advancing their European agenda. For his part, Slovenian President Pahor confirmed that his country is an advocate of Albania’s bid for EU accession negotiations, underlining that EU enlargement in the Western Balkans is a geopolitical issue. “We share the common ambition for Albania to become an EU member. Slovenia supports it all the time and as a friendly country, we appreciate that radical measures are needed from time to time to meet the strict criteria. From a strategic point of view, Slovenia is an advocate of successful Tirana-EU negotiations,” Pahor said. Meanwhile, President Meta has commented on the current political developments, saying the country is facing a “political and institutional crisis that could and should have been avoided,” which according to him should be resolved through dialogue between the opposition and the majority. “We are in the conditions of a constitutional and institutional political crisis that could and should have been avoided. I have constantly and systematically appealed for dialogue between the parties not only to avoid this situation but above all to precede the important decision announced last June for the possibility of opening negotiations. Following my previous calls for the parties to take steps backwards and reflect responsibly to restore political, democratic and institutional normality in the country. When there is willingness and a national interest, it must lead us to wise solutions,” he emphasized. In response to Meta’s appeal, the Democratic Party leader, Lulzim Basha said that there will not be reflection or steps back, at least by the opposition. After a meeting with Slovenian President, Borut Pahor, Basha underlined that opposition will not make backwards steps, but will insist on Rama’s removal. “We are facing a government that is connected with crime. We will go on until the removal of this corrupted government, starting tomorrow another battle with the citizens,” said Basha.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Serbian President Hints At Possible Progress Toward Recognizing Kosovo (RFE/RL, 5 March 2019)
Serbia’s leader has suggested that Belgrade might be willing to recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state, but said that would require something in return as part of a larger deal. President Aleksandar Vucic made the comments in an interview published on March 4 with the Italian news agency ANSA. “We must first find the compromise, we cannot recognize Kosovo without getting anything on the other side,” he was quoted as saying. “I am sure that with the help of our European friends and with the support of Russia, America, China and other countries, we can reach a solution,” he said. Kosovo was a province of Serbia in 1999 when NATO launched air strikes to stop the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces during a two-year war. To this date, landlocked Kosovo is still guarded by NATO troops. Tensions remain high between the Balkan neighbors, two decades after their war ended. Western states, including the United States, have urged the two sides to move to normalize relations. Belgrade and Pristina have been under strong international pressure to reach an agreement if they want to progress on the path to European Union membership. In recent months, Vucic and his Kosovar counterpart, Hashim Thaci, have appeared to inch closer to some agreement. That effort stalled, however, in November when Pristina imposed a 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods in response to what it called Belgrade’s attempts to undermine Kosovo’s standing among some international organizations. Last month, Thaci said in an interview that there was “good momentum” toward reaching a deal.
Based on reporting by AFP and ANSA
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale Travel to the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Serbia, and Kosovo (US Department of State, 4 March 2019)
On March 4, Under Secretary Hale will arrive in London where he will engage U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director General for Consular and Security Philip Barton, Director General for Political Affairs Richard Moore, and Deputy National Security Advisor Christian Turner on issues of mutual concern including Syria, the D.P.R.K., Iran, Venezuela, and Russia on the anniversary of Moscow’s reckless use of military grade nerve agent in Salisbury.
In Kyiv March 5-7, the Under Secretary will meet with senior Ukrainian officials and political leaders to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and condemn Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine, including the November 25 Kerch attack. He will also discuss upcoming elections, anticorruption, and human rights issues with government officials and civil society leaders and will lay flowers at the Memorial to the Heavenly Hundred to honor those who gave their lives for freedom during the Revolution of Dignity.
On March 8 in Belgrade, Under Secretary Hale will meet with senior Serbian officials to discuss bilateral relations and advocate for a return to the Dialogue to normalize relations with Kosovo. He will also lead a discussion with civil society leaders to discuss issues of regional and global concern including Russian and Chinese influence in the Western Balkans.
Finally, on March 9 in Pristina, the Under Secretary will meet with senior Kosovo officials to underscore the historic opportunity to reach a comprehensive normalization deal with Serbia and seek measures to reach a resolution.