Brnabic: Serbia appreciates Spain’s principled position on Kosovo (Beta)
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic spoke with Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain Josep Borrell on the development of bilateral cooperation and the intensification of economic relations between the two countries. Brnabic expressed her gratitude to Spain for the strong support it provides for Serbia on the European path, and stressed that our country greatly appreciates Spain’s principled position on Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence, as well as the consistent commitment to respect international law. Borrell has once again confirmed that Spain will not change its policy towards Serbia when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija. The officials concluded that the bilateral relations of the two countries are very good, as well as that there is plenty of room for improvement of economic cooperation and creation of conditions for greater trade exchange and new investments in Serbia.
Brnabic assessed that the introduction of direct flights from Belgrade to Madrid and Barcelona will be a good impetus for the faster development of the economic relations of the two countries.
Vucic to Moore: Abolishment of taxes first, then dialogue (Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic voiced hope that the international community would keep reiterating its rational calls to Pristina to give up on the taxes it had introduced against Serbia and the Serbs. Vucic was speaking with Richard Moore, Director General for political affairs at the UK Foreign Office, whom he told Serbia would be prepared to continue the dialogue with Pristina as soon as the anti-civilizational taxes were abolished. Moore told Vucic he had demanded that Pristina revoke the taxes to enable both sides to continue the dialogue as soon as possible, the presidential press office said in a statement. Vucic informed Moore of Pristina’s failure to meet its sole obligation from the Brussels Agreement – the establishment of a Community of Serb Municipalities. The introduction of the taxes on goods from central Serbia and the recent adoption of a platform in the Kosovo assembly are the best proof Pristina is not thinking about dialogue but about solutions that could destabilize the entire region, Vucic said.
Djuric: Pristina’s platform is a premeditated murder of the dialogue (TV/Pink/Tanjug)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told TV Pink that Pristina’s platform represents the last nail in the coffin of the dialogue with Belgrade, that is, as he said, this is a premeditated murder of the dialogue. He that Serbia and its people had been under intense pressure because of the disagreement with the document, and with the 100 percent taxes. Djuric says the threats include the takeover of the industrial Trepca complex, the largest employer in Kosovo, and an atmosphere suggests it is just a question of time when the Albanians will try to do something physically. As the only reason why the Albanians are still reluctant, according to Djuric, is their awareness of a different situation, maturity and readiness in Serbia, unlike the one that existed in March 2004, to protect its state and national interest in Kosovo.
KFOR denies knowledge of Pristina’s plans (Tanjug/B92)
KFOR is not aware of Pristina’s alleged intention to raid northern Kosovo and takes over the Trepca, claims KFOR spokesperson Vincenzo Grasso. Commenting on media reports that KFOR knows about Pristina’s plan, the spokesperson this military mission calls on everyone to refrain from provoking unnecessary tensions by placing unverified information that causes unwarranted concern among the population. When asked by Tanjug how KFOR would act in the event of armed forces raiding the north of Kosovo, Grasso briefly stated that KFOR maintains stable and good relations with all security forces in Kosovo, as well as with the Serbian Army, in order to prevent any unexpected action or event. “KFOR is fully committed to carrying out its mandate in accordance with (UN) Security Council Resolution 1244 to guarantee safety and security for all people in Kosovo. KFOR is working on prevention and is prepared to intervene in case of any threat to security,” Grasso added. He pointed out that the security situation in Kosovo is under control and that there are no indications of possible incidents. “Concerns are caused only by the current rhetoric, because it creates an environment in which an isolated incident can escalate. KFOR urges all public speakers and media to be careful, so that their words do not cause far-reaching consequences,” Grasso said.
McAllister: Most important for Belgrade and Pristina to return to negotiating table (RTV)
The EU will continue to mediate in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, European Parliament Rapporteur David McAllister told Radio and Television of Vojvodina (RTV) on Wednesday. He said that the EU believes the most important thing is for Belgrade and Pristina return to the negotiating table in Brussels. “Of course, it makes sense for other powers on the UN Security Council – Russia and the United States – to join in the political debate so that it can move forward. That was always EU policy. We always debate with powers outside the EU. What we want in the end is to see a sustainable solution which is acceptable to both sides,” he said.
Russia adopts document on NATO’s 1999 attack against Serbia (Tanjug/B92/Sputnik)
Russia has adopted a document on the 20th anniversary of the start of the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Tanjug is reporting on Wednesday, citing Sputnik, that the text states that “the initiators of this crime must be held responsible.”
According to the document adopted by the Federation Council (Upper House) of the Russian Parliament, NATO’s military operation reflected negatively on further development of mutual relations and confidence of European states, while the impunity of those responsible has led to new tragedies: in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Unfortunately, the lessons have not been learned, and NATO continued to use military force against other sovereign states – Iraq, Libya and Syria, today threatening Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua with the same. Russian senators recall that NATO used ammunition filled with depleted uranium in the bombing of Yugoslavia, which caused numerous casualties among civilians. In addition, the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, which followed in 2008 by a series of western countries, represented only a continuation of what NATO had begun – support of separatism and conflict in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The Federation Council also claims that the de facto secession of Kosovo and Metohija is a precedent in international relations, which has made it extremely complicated to resolve existing conflicts in cases involving unrecognized states, especially given the fact that the West is acting in a completely opposite manner when it comes to Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. It is also added that the NATO military operation was an act of aggression against a sovereign state and that therefore the initiators of this crime should be held accountable. In this regard, the Council called on parliaments of countries all over the world, as well as international organizations such as the UN, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the OSCE and the European Parliament to condemn NATO’s aggression and take all steps to remedy the consequences.
Dodik: Principles for forming authorities to be signed soon, without consent to NATO integration (Srna)
Leader of the SNSD, Milorad Dodik, voiced confidence that the principles for forming the authority at the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) level will be signed soon, which will, among other things, confirm the commitment to the constitutional order of B&H and the Dayton Peace Agreement. “It is neither a coalition, nor a platform, but the principles reflecting our support for the constitutional order of B&H, the Dayton Peace Agreement, the international capacity and territorial integrity of B&H. There is nothing disputable here as it is about the implementation of the top documents which B&H is based on, such as the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution,” Dodik told Srna. He added that the SNSD, HDZ and SDA will confirm their commitment through this document to the above mentioned principles that are not disputable.
“There is nothing disputable about the fight against crime and corruption, as well as various forms of terrorist and other activities. It is in line with the agreement and the commitment to continue the implementation of economic and social reforms,” Dodik said. He stressed that no consensus is made on NATO integration issue. “No party has a problem with European integration, but the NATO integration is disputable. Given that there are laws and strategies already adopted, as well as the Resolution on Military Neutrality adopted by the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, I believe the solution is to keep paying attention to it, and to take into consideration the opinion of all parties in B&H when making decisions on it,” the SNSD leader said. He voiced opinion that the agreement on the principles for forming the authorities in B&H will soon be reached, because NATO integration is the only thing that is not agreed. “I believe that we will soon hold a meeting to sign the principles for forming the authorities in B&H, which would create conditions for the Presidency to nominate a candidate for the position of the Council of Ministers chair and to distribute the ministries. I believe it will not be so difficult, because it needs to be known which ministries in the Council of Ministers belong to which party and to finally start with its formation,” Dodik told Srna.
Dodik: Belgrade-Sarajevo motorway major contribution to RS growth (Srna)
B&H Presidency Chair Milorad Dodik says the construction of the Belgrade-Sarajevo motorway, which will stretch through the RS too, is a major contribution to the economic development of Bijeljina, as well as Semberija and RS as a whole. Dodik says the construction of the motorway between Sremska Raca and Kuzmin through Serbia, which is planned to start in June, is good news for RS and primarily the Bijeljina area. “We didn’t want the route to end at the Sava or Drina. We wanted it to enter RS and stretch further towards Brcko from where a leg would go to Tuzla and Sarajevo. As for RS, we would continue to build to Doboj where we have already finished the motorway from Banja Luka. That’s how we would connect Banja Luka, Bijeljina and Belgrade,” said Dodik. He recalled that four or five years ago, he and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic put the project on the agenda and they worked on it together.
“Construction of the route towards Serbia will begin in June and we are negotiating with a Turkish company building that section to keep building in Srpska. It is my belief that together with a Turkish, Chinese or any other company we will find enough elements for cooperation so that Srpska can keep building, almost continuously, the motorway to Banja Luka,” said Dodik.
He explained that Srpska had to harmonize its planning documents and must not delay the job too long. “I insist on a quicker pace. I don’t want us to waste a single moment of the opportunity to build it,” said Dodik. A commercial agreement for the development of plans, designs and construction of the Sremska Raca-Kuzmin motorway was signed between the government of Serbia, public enterprise Roads of Serbia and the Turkish Construction Company Tash Yapi on 19 December in Belgrade. It was announced on an earlier occasion that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would break the ground for the new road together with B&H Presidency Chair Milorad Dodik and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kojic: Karadzic expects to be acquitted (Srna)
The first RS president, Radovan Karadzic, expects to be acquitted on 20 March at The Hague if the appeals trial chamber considers only facts and evidence, the director of the RS Center for the Investigation of War, War Crimes and the Search for Missing Persons, Milorad Kojic, told Srna. Kojic said that Karadzic is convinced that evidence submitted in the appeal more than obviously prove that he should be acquitted by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. Kojic also expressed the hope that the appeals trial chamber, in this case, will be guided by facts and evidence, which is in the interest of the rule of law and reconciliation of the peoples in these parts. “In the appeals trial, Karadzic clearly and undoubtedly proved that the political leadership is in no way responsible for the events he is charged with. After these facts and evidence are accepted, the first RS president should return to RS,” Kojic said. On the other hand, Kojic expressed the fear in connection with Karadzic’s case having in mind previous practice of the ICTY and judgments rendered to Serbian military and political officials.
“The court obviously rejected either all or most of the appeals and evidence submitted by the defense. There is fear since previous judgments are not based on legal facts but on politics,” Kojic said. He said that by using the term ‘joint criminal enterprise’ the ICTY attempted to put blame on the whole military and political leadership of Srpska for all the events from the 1990s.
The second-instance verdict to Radovan Karadzic is set to be rendered on March 20 at 14:00.
The verdict will be pronounced after appeals by both the defense lawyers and prosecutors are considered. The ICTY sentenced Karadzic to 40 years in prison in 2016. The Karadzic trial began in October 2009. The first instance ruling was handed down on 24 March 2016, and it was appealed by both the defense lawyers and prosecutors. Karadzic was arrested on 21 July 2008, in Serbia, and was transferred to the ICTY at The Hague on 30 July.
Plenkovic comments on status of national minorities (Hina)
Commenting on the Independent Democratic Serb Party’s (SDSS) view of the situation in the ruling coalition, which that party made public recently, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that it had been his ambition since 2016 to try and reduce polarization in Croatia and that he wanted each member of national minorities in Croatia to feel well. Plenkovic said that all outstanding issues would be discussed at a meeting to be held with SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac. He added that his plan since 2016 had been to reduce polarization in the Croatian society. “Polarization at the time was excessive for a society such as ours. I am working on reducing polarization in my own way, gradually, but I don’t have the impression that there is always understanding for what we do,” said Plenkovic. He said that at the time when he formed his government, he wanted all minority representatives in the parliament to be a part of the parliamentary majority. “That was my ambition because I think that it’s good and healthy for our society. My hand is extended to all of them, I want them to live as befits the state of civilization in 2019,” he said. He said that both this and last year the government had significantly increased funding to address minority groups’ economic issues, housing construction and infrastructure issues. “I want every Roma, Italian, Serb, Bosniak, Albanian, Czech, Hungarian and Slovak to feel well in Croatia. I want a society whose majority, because it is a majority, has the breadth, freedom and commitment to respect everyone living with us,” he said, adding that not everyone on the political scene supported such a policy. SDSS leader Pupovac has said on several occasions that his party is considering leaving the ruling coalition and last week he said that this had to do with hate speech that was being encouraged by the ruling structures. At a party meeting held on Monday the SDSS decided that it would not leave the ruling coalition, authorizing Pupovac and the party’s parliamentary group to discuss the situation with the coalition partners.
Djukanovic: Protests are entirely political, I won’t resign; Danger for Montenegro regarding the delimitation of Kosovo and Serbia – I’m not stimulating paranoia (CDM)
President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic said that current protests “aren’t civil but entirely political”. He has one message for the organizers of protests who requested his resignation several times – he definitely won’t comply with such requests. “Requests of those protests are political. We haven’t heard of any social request that would be a characteristic of civil protests. What should attribute a civil character to the protests is the fact that, formally, their leaders aren’t leaders of political parties but rather people who, until yesterday, were members of different parties- some of them were members of Liberal alliance and others were members of some national parties. However, they weren’t creators of party policies, they were only participants of those policies and today, they are supposed to be a guarantee of a civil character of protests,” said Mr. Djukanovic. He added that the political idea was actually articulated by opposing parties and para-political structures in Montenegro. “The para-political structures I’m talking about are those structures that have been organizing and promoting protests in Montenegro for years, and whose main idea has always been violent change of government. Vijesti is definitely one of those structures, as well as specific number of opposing media that are constantly trying to hide under the cloak of independent media. Their policy is the policy of creating assemblies and instrumentalizing opposition and civil activists that are supposed to do the job that represents some kind of a common objective – change of power in Montenegro,” said Mr. Djukanovic and added that “this is a request for deforming the state, for destruction of institutions”. He emphasized that not a single Montenegrin flag could be seen during those protests. “All this is actually a conglomerate of very different, usually political interests. I know there are people who aren’t happy with their life, with their professional or political status and, believe me I deeply respect that. But, everybody must be careful – such an idea that we’re guided by can be misused and we must not let that happen. Protest of that kind could easily become part of that protest whose ultimate goal is destruction of Montenegro and its European perspective,” said the President. Asked if he will resign on 16 March, as requested by the participants of the protest, Mr. Djukanovic said to the journalist: “I can’t believe you are serious, of course I won’t” replied Mr. Djukanovic. He “is glad that some demonstrators refused to go on with protests in case their requests aren’t met, since they are afraid of chaos or something alike”. That tells him that those people out there are quite sensible. “Sensible people who are able to identify their own responsibility. I’ll say it again- it is legitimate to take part in a civil protest and present one’s own demands and request to satisfy the demands through the communication with the government. But once you are in it, you have to be aware that you are assuming responsibility for something that such protests could turn out into. Therefore, I’m happy to hear that they think so. There will sure be protests, but let them be,” said Mr. Djukanovic. Protests were formally sparked by the “Envelope affair” opened by Dusko Knezevic. Opposing parties invite Knezevic to “stick to Instagram, because citizens aren’t interested in his stories about transitional government”. Journalists asked Djukanovic if Knezevic is heavier burden for the government of opposition. He answered that Knezevic is, and has always been, the heaviest burden for himself. “He’s not the problem of the government. He’s not the problem of the opposition either. I think it’s not true that Dusko Knezevic managed to corrupt Montenegrin society. Knezevic is obviously a man who had done some suspicious things and who is well aware that he is under investigation now and that the indictment is probably close. He asked to avoid procedure at several addresses. After he got logical answer, that there’s no such political authority that is able to order judge or prosecutor to do anything, he decided to flee from Montenegro and to transfer his case form judicial to political terrain,” said Djukanovic. In his opinion, the picture of Montenegro as being a country of corrupt society that is trying to be created today, is the constituent part of the same media machinery that is trying to use Dusko Knezevic, and other Knezevic people, to achieve its own goals. “Some high-quality newspapers used to be sold here. They used to cost even €20.000 or €30.000. Today, something is compensated through portals, but not enough. The need of those who had that financial power is to, firstly, maintain that power and, secondly, to transform it into political and social power once they realize that they can’t actually maintain it without political engagement. That’s the need to be political center of power, under the cloak of independent media,” said Djukanovic. Furthermore, he believes that they used different techniques to reinforce their power or to overcome this time of crisis. “Those arrangements were partly at the expense of the country. Do I need to remind you, that their own partner, German Vac, abandoned them with a very accurate indictment that they had left that partnership due to dual bookkeeping and tax evasion. The second model reflected in various benefits that the government granted them thanks to, I believe, honorable intentions to create conditions for media pluralism in a small and insufficiently powerful economy. Even with those media deformities we are witnesses of, the only thing that is even worse is some kind of media monopoly,” said Mr. Djukanovic. According to him, even the third circumstance has been misused – the sensitivity of European institutions in relation to the need for media independence and media pluralism. Dusko Knezevic is announcing new compromising video recordings which he is going to publish soon. Asked if he is personally afraid of some video recording or if his party has any worries about that, Mr. Djukanovic said – NO. “I really haven’t got any reason to be afraid. I was warned that this man would start a war, inclusive of this entire repertoire, but despite that I have never thought that it should be prevented. On the contrary, we learn to go through such experiences. It’s not pleasant, it really isn’t. I wouldn’t be honest if I told you that I’m OK with that. We all know that, thanks to modern technologies, it’s possible to make a video recording, edit it anyway,” pointed out Djukanovic. Djukanovic agrees with the statement of the Chief State Prosecutor, Milivoje Katnic, who said that opposition protests “are connected with the fact that first-instance verdicts against the accused in the terrorism attempt are soon to be announced. “I think that the Chief State Prosecutor is totally right. Among the participants of the protests you can find a whole conglomerate of political interests. One of the most important interests is the interest of DF. They want to escape form the responsibility for what happened in Montenegro in 2016. Today, when everything is almost over and when verdicts are soon to be announced, the fear in the part of the opposition is obvious. They hope for the revolution, I think. They hope for some earthquake or some other disaster that will destroy the entire institutional system of Montenegro s that we can finally come out of the problems,” said Djukanovic. “A regular court procedure nears completion. And it will finish the way it has to be finished. I really don’t want to make any assumptions. I am not happy with any criminal responsibility. I would actually be the happiest if courts didn’t do anything and if we ll acted responsibly. But if somebody dares to infringe national interests and interests of the citizens of Montenegro, while endangering their stability and safety, well, then, there must not be any compromise,” said Djukanovic. Journalists asked the president if there’s any danger for Montenegro when it comes to the delimitation of Kosovo and Serbia. He said that “there’s no such an autonomous system that could say “you know, you won’t be affected by anything that happens in our surroundings”. “However, I’m not stimulating paranoia. Are we the Montenegro that managed to preserve peace in the 90s? We are. Therefore, is it possible that some unfavorable scenarios are constructed here? It depends on us and our responsibility, as well as on our ability to maintain our stability, our multi-ethnic harmony and our European perspective. If we have a consistent state policy, a clear vision and enough courage to endure problems, then I’m an optimist,” said Djukanovic. Montenegrin president spoke about the elections recently held in Tuzi and about the celebration of the members of Albanian forum that featured the flags of the Kosovo Liberation Army. “Obviously, they are fashionable, not only in Montenegro, but wider. We see it’s a characteristic of mature, European democracies. Therefore, the historical moment has come- the moment when Tuzi has got the status of an independent municipality and when national parties got the chance to manage newly formed municipality. That’s all legitimate. Why haven’t they made a step forward to present their advantages and superiority of their political offer, I ‘m not sure. It is what it is,” said Djukanovic. He congratulated the coalition of Albanian parties on taking over the responsibility for the administration of Tuzi. He hopes that it will favor the Montenegrin multi-ethnic stability.
“Could something non-affirmative and not very appropriate be registered in that type of celebration? Yes, I think. Should we give enormous importance to that fact now and convey the message of endangered Montenegrin state? No. That would create space for those who are anti-Albanian- oriented and who would rather be categorized in national pens” said the president.
As far as the leading coalition is concerned, it has sent a clear message – it’s not appropriate, there’s no need for that because this is the country where Albanians have always been safe and had always had complete national affirmation. Djukanovic thinks that various factors had an impact on the victory of the Albanian forum. “The feeling of a historical moment and a very significant mobilization of Albanians from the region, I’d say. I had the opportunity to meet them. Of course, I get on well with people who manage Albania and Kosovo. My message for Montenegro in other countries- if you have any problems, say it. We will protect your dignity, equality, your rights based on European standards. But your obligation is to be loyal to the countries you chose as your home. I can’t teach you to be destructive, I can’t tell you who you should choose to be in power,” said Djukanovic. “We moved to opposition and there are no problems. I really don’t think that Montenegro’s salvation lies in DPS controlling every part of the government. DPS has enough power, more than enough,” said the President. Djukanovic said loud and clear that he “is not afraid of history just because he knows that everything he did was out of best intentions and with the desire to create well-being in Montenegro. “I believe my son shares the same opinion. I selfishly want the best for Montenegro, today and always. If you have that kind of an approach in performing public tasks, then you can call it ability. And that’s objective – some is more able than other. The history will tell how able I have been,” concluded Djukanovic.
Reinke: False news from Russia is a threat for Montenegro (Dnevne novine)
Moscow has been spreading destabilizing information across the region and thus indicated the intent to change the government in Montenegro, and to derail its NATO accession, said the US Ambassador, Judy Rising Reinke. She said this during the press conference: Truth in the era of disinformation; How vulnerable we are and how we fight, organized by the Atlantic Alliance of Montenegro. President of the Atlantic Alliance, Savo Kentera, said that false information represented a danger for the freedom of thinking and democratic government, while adding that investment in education “is crucial for such threat”. Reinke said that foreign actors “are still trying to use social media and technologies, in order to open the fronts in their efforts to undermine democracy and key institutions”. According to her, NATO membership of Montenegro comes in a crucial moment, because Europe is the center of geopolitical competition. She added that Montenegro “must strengthen rule of law, root out organized crime and improve freedom of the media for the sake of journalists who are the guardians of democracy”. Rising Reinke said that Russia “is still using corrupt, concealed techniques in order to destabilize Western Balkans, especially now when Montenegro is in the EU accession process”. “We have to join forces and work on mapping our powers, in order to overcome threats. We’re going to achieve that by strengthening institutions in the fight against corruption, applying the rule of law. Reforms are the best mechanism in the fight against bad influence and that fight has to be successful,” said Reinke. Kentera said that the openness of democratic societies “is, at the same time, their weakest point in the contemporary hybrid war, since Russia us using it very directly”.
After Kosovo, Rama wants to see borders between Albania and Macedonia erased as well (Republika)
During his meeting with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed hope that Macedonia and Albania can remove borders along the lines of Albania’s agreement with Kosovo. Rama spoke about free movement of people based on the Schengen zone, but acknowledged that his agreement with Kosovo was met with criticism after it was seen as a possible step toward “Greater Albania”. “We should expand the Schengen model in the region. Our borders should be as transparent as those in the European Union. Nobody is stopping us from doing it even before we join the EU. We were misunderstood when we talked about a Schengen project with Kosovo, for us it was only the beginning before it is expanded to other countries as well,” Rama said. Rama was heavily involved in the Macedonian political crisis, pushing ethnic Albanian parties from Macedonia to prepare a joint platform of demands which are transforming Macedonia, and which are now being implemented by Zaev. Rama commended his guest for this, especially for the way in which he introduced the Albanian language as a second official language in Macedonia. Rama assessed the Prespa Agreement as a historical achievement, which resolved the longstanding dispute, but also opened the path to NATO and unleashed positive energy towards a common path in EU integration. He thanked Prime Minister Zaev for the courage to open the path of harmony to interethnic relations in our country. He said that the Republic of Albania sees a strategic partner in the Republic of North Macedonia in the field of stability of the region. He also spoke about the importance of close and facilitated cooperation of the countries from all over the region. At the press conference, Zaev thanked Rama, the government and the citizens of Albania for the warm welcome, the quick support of the Republic of North Macedonia’s NATO accession, and expressed hope for the European prospects of both countries and strengthening bilateral cooperation with a stable and prosperous European region. Zaev pointed to the importance of the dialogue in the efforts of the countries’ progress and the European integration plan. “In our country, we managed to lay the foundations of a society for all, and we are working, through attempts for maximum consensus and with the opposition to all the reform laws necessary for the European integration,” said Zaev, pointing out that the Framework Agreement is fulfilled and that they are working in the spirit of the agreement through building a society for all. Zaev said that after Wednesday’s meeting with Rama, and at the level of government delegations, the joint position has been strengthened that there is room for increasing cooperation between the two countries, as well as in the process of establishing an economic zone, agreed within the framework of the Berlin Process. Zaev and Rama both expressed hope that the EU will allow Macedonia and Albania to open accession talks this summer.
Macedonian PM criticizes opposition for burning MP mandates (ADN)
The Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev criticized on Wednesday the Albanian opposition for ‘burning’ MP mandates. Premier Zaev made this statement during the meeting with speaker of the parliament, Gramoz Ruci, who received the North Macedonia Premier, along with the delegation that accompanied him during his official visit to Tirana. Zaev noted that the opposition, like the government, has its own responsibility for developing the country and that this action goes against these responsibilities. “This is an action that is not supported by any political force aspirating for democracy. Politicians must characterize the sense of responsibility for the destiny and progress of their country,” said Zaev. Meanwhile Speaker Ruci considered the North Macedonia as a close friend of Albania and praised the positive and constructive role of Albanians and political forces in the neighboring country. “You are welcome in Albania not only from the government, Prime Minister and Parliament, but also from the entire Albanian people. North Macedonia is a neighboring country and a special friend of Albania, but also a worthy partner on our common path towards the European family. When you have a loyal partner, the journey becomes easier and obstacles are overcome with less difficulty,” said Ruci.
Rama appreciates designation of Albanian as 2nd language in North Macedonia (ADN)
Prime Minister Edi Rama stated on Wednesday that the designation of Albanian as the second official language in Macedonia is great step in the Albanian-Macedonians relations. This declaration was made in the joint press conference between Rama and Republic of North Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, following the official visit of Zaev in Tirana.
Furthermore, PM Rama stated that it is the appropriate time for the Albania and North Macedonia’s governments to be gathered for a second time. “It is a great pleasure for having you here today after the historical achievement of ‘Prespa Agreement’, which paved the way for NATO’s membership of North Macedonia. I’m glad that Albania was one of the first countries to approve the protocol of NATO membership for North Macedonia. For us, it is a strategic and ally country,” said Rama.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
The U.S. Department of State Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
The Republic of Serbia held extraordinary parliamentary elections in 2016 and presidential elections in 2017. International observers stated that the elections were mostly free, but that campaigning during both periods benefited progovernment candidates. In 2017 Aleksandar Vucic, president of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), was elected president, winning approximately 55 percent of the vote in the first round. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included government corruption, including by some high-level officials; violence against journalists; and crimes including violence targeting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) individuals.
The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses (and punish them, if convicted), both in the police force and elsewhere in the government, following public exposure of abuses. Nevertheless, many observers believed numerous cases of corruption, social and domestic violence, and other abuses went unreported and unpunished.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) held general elections in October 2018. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) noted that elections were held in a competitive environment but were characterized by continuing segmentation along ethnic lines. While candidates were able to campaign freely, ODIHR noted that “instances of pressure and undue influence on voters were not effectively addressed,” citing long-standing deficiencies in the legal framework. OSCE/ODIHR further noted that elections were administered efficiently, but widespread credible allegations of electoral contestants manipulating the composition of polling station commissions reduced voter confidence in the integrity of the process.
While civilian authorities maintained effective control and coordination over law enforcement agencies and security forces, a lack of clear division of jurisdiction and responsibilities between the country’s 16 law enforcement agencies resulted in occasional confusion and overlapping responsibilities.
Human rights issues included harsh prison conditions; restrictions of freedom of assembly and expression, and the press; widespread government corruption; crimes involving violence against minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
Units in both entities and the Brcko District investigated allegations of police abuse, meted out administrative penalties, and referred cases of criminal misconduct to prosecutors. These units generally operated effectively, and there were no reports of impunity during the first nine months of the year.
The Republic of Croatia latest presidential elections were held in 2015, and the president was elected by a majority of voters. Domestic and international observers stated that the latest parliamentary elections held in September 2016 and the latest presidential elections held in 2015 were free and fair. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included corruption; violence and threats of violence towards journalists; violence targeting asylum seekers and migrants, and threats towards members of ethnic minority groups. Authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted such cases.
The government took significant steps to prosecute and punish individuals who committed abuses of human rights.
The observation mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR) stated that the 2016 parliamentary elections in Montenegro were conducted in a competitive environment and fundamental freedoms were generally respected. The opposition coalition did not accept the election results and began a continuing boycott of parliament, although all but two parties have since returned. On April 15, Milo Djukanovic, president of the Democratic Party of Socialists, was elected president of the country, winning approximately 54 percent of the vote in the first round. This is his second term as president, having additionally served six terms as prime minister. The OSCE/ODIHR, the European Parliament delegation, and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly noted the April 15 election proceeded in an orderly manner but had a few minor irregularities that did not affect the outcome. Despite opposition protests, elections were generally considered free and fair.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included corruption; trafficking in persons; attacks on journalists; and crimes involving violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
Impunity remained a problem, since the government did not punish officials who committed human rights abuses.
Republic of North Macedonia
Parliamentary elections in The Republic of North Macedonia were last held in 2016 and presidential elections in 2014. In its final report on the parliamentary elections, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) observed that the elections were transparent, well administered, and orderly but took place “in an environment characterized by a lack of public trust in institutions and the political establishment” and failed to meet some important OSCE commitments for a democratic electoral process. The OSCE/ODIHR’s final report on the 2014 presidential elections noted the elections respected citizens’ fundamental freedoms, but that there was inadequate separation between party and state activities.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included high-level corruption. The government also took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses.
Kosovo held parliamentary elections in June 2017 that international observers considered free and fair. The Assembly elected Hashim Thaci as president in 2016.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces.
Human rights issues included refoulement; endemic government corruption; crimes involving violence or threats of violence against journalists; and attacks against members of ethnic minorities or other marginalized communities, including by security forces.
The government sometimes took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Many in the government, the opposition, civil society, and the media believed that senior officials engaged in corruption with impunity.
The Republic of Albania in June 2017 held parliamentary elections. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported the elections respected fundamental freedoms but were marred by allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included pervasive corruption in all branches of government.
Impunity remained a problem. Prosecution, and especially conviction, of officials who committed abuses was sporadic and inconsistent. Officials, politicians, judges, and persons with powerful business interests often were able to avoid prosecution. In response, authorities have undertaken an internationally monitored vetting of judges and prosecutors and have dismissed a significant number of officials for unexplained wealth or ties to organized crime. Authorities also undertook technical measures, such as allowing electronic payment of traffic fines and use of body cameras, to improve police accountability and punished some lower-level officials for abuses.