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Belgrade Media Report 20 March

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LOCAL PRESS

  • Jeremic, Obradovic announce radicalization of protests (Beta/TV Nasa)
  • Hahn on protests in Balkans: Freedom of expression yes, violence no (Beta)
  • Serbia takes over chairmanship of Adriatic-Ionian Initiative on 1 June (Tanjug/RTS)
  • Chinese Ambassador: China respects Serbia’s territorial integrity (Beta)
  • German Ambassador to Serbia: Germany strongly supports Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Tanjug/Diplomacy and Commerce)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

  • Radovan Karadzic sentenced to life imprisonment (N1)
  • Dodik: Organized obstruction in establishment of state level authorities (Srna)
  • Dodik: Izetbegovic now deliberately obstructs establishment of authorities (Srna)
  • Dodik: No uniform stance on NATO in B&H (Srna)
  • Dodik: Serb team in Sarajevo stronger than ever (Srna)

Croatia

  • Serbs join a boycott of government’s Jasenovac commemoration (Hina)

Republic of North Macedonia

  • Zaev asks EU officials to approve opening accession talks with “his country” (Republika)
  • Zaev promises Stoltenberg that Macedonia will increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP (Republika)
  • Mickoski published extensive list of Zaev’s violations of the rule of law (Republika)

Albania

  • No elections without Rama’s removal – Paloka declares (ADN)
  • Borchardt strongly criticizes opposition decision to stay out of parliament (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

  • UN Court Sentences Ex Bosnian Serb Leader Karadzic to Life in Prison – Reports (Sputnik)
  • SA Council: Prespa agreement is an example for Western Balkans and beyond (European Western Balkans)

LOCAL PRESS

Jeremic, Obradovic announce radicalization of protests (Beta/TV Nasa)

The opposition leaders announced on Tuesday the possibility of rising their protests in Serbia and throughout Serbia “to the next level” through various forms of civil disobedience, but in response to that, President Aleksandar Vucic said that the state would not allow a burst into the TV Pink nor the blockade of streets. The change of tactics was announced on TV Nasa by the leader of the People’s Party Vuk Jeremic, who did not wish to give a more precise definition of what the introduction of civil disobedience into the protests throughout the country would imply.

“This is not the last level, there will be additional levels. I would like for Vucic to wake up tomorrow morning and say that he will take a different stand. I believe that this is not highly likely. Therefore I believe that these protests will cross onto a higher and higher level which will at one moment begin to imply various forms of civil disobedience, such as the blocking of streets, institutions, the interruption of lectures at universities, etc.”, Jeremic said. The leader of the movement Dveri Bosko Obradovic said that the protests of the opposition last weekend in Belgrade, showed that the Serbian President “functions only under pressure” and that the opposition believed that nothing more could be achieved through the institutions. Obradovic underlined that one of the protest walks would be directed towards TV Pink, “the heart of the propaganda of the current authorities”. “We shall rally again around the Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) just as we shall gather around Pink TV and we shall not desist from this. For three months we tried other ways, we have been protesting in a cultured and peaceful manner, but they will not hear us. They ignore our requests, make us look like fools and it’s time to

stop with that”, Obradovic said. Vucic said on Tuesday that the state “will certainly not allow” a burst into TV Pink, as well as that possible blockades of the streets would not go unpunished. “TV Pink is private property, you want to burst into people’s houses. Imagine is one of us should say that next in line was a television which we did not like, why you would lynch us”, said Vucic after talks with the presiding of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik.

Hahn on protests in Balkans: Freedom of expression yes, violence no (Beta)

European Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations and Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn said in Brussels that he fully supported the right to protests and freedom of expression in the Western Balkans, but made it clear that he condemned any form of violence as unacceptable, which is also something the EU is very strict about. “Some may ask us to bring about the rule of law, thinking that we can invade a state like some military force, changing government there,” Hahn said to reporters after a meeting EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and he had with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev. “It’s not our understanding of the rule of law, but rather transparency, democracy and protection of the judiciary,” Hahn said, answering a journalist’s question about how the European Commission treated an allegation that the Union tolerated corrupt authorities in the Balkans for the sake of stability. The EU enlargement commissioner underscored that political change should and must happen, based on democratic processes, free, fair and transparent elections.

Serbia takes over chairmanship of Adriatic-Ionian Initiative on 1 June (Tanjug/RTS)

Speaking at the XVI Conference of Speakers of Parliaments of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative in Montenegro, Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic stressed that Serbia is committed to fostering a comprehensive and broad relationship in the Adriatic-Ionian region in the fields of economy, transport, infrastructure, energy, tourism and culture, adding that Serbia would be taking over the chairmanship of Adriatic-Ionian Initiative on 1 June for the coming 12 months and as such organize the next Conference of Speakers of Parliaments. Gojkovic stressed that the cooperation under the auspices of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative speaks of the awareness that the individual progress of each country depends on the development of the region as a whole and above all its peace and stability. “Serbia has been consistent in its firm belief that all challenges in the region have to be resolved in accordance with international law, existing regional arrangements and through compromise, dialogue and solidarity. All involved should act with full responsibility, as opposed to unilateral moves such as extremism, violence and fundamentalism,” said Gojkovic adding that, in addition to sticking by international law, dialogue and compromise, the affirmation of cooperation at all levels and areas is the best defense against misunderstanding, distrust and violence.  She said that where our common interests, wishes and future are intertwined in joint policies and projects, where regional mechanisms bring concrete results and improve the lives of our citizens by building trust and understanding, there can be no distrust or antagonism. “That is why we believe that in our future efforts we should focus on concrete projects and cooperation between working bodies, parliamentary friendship groups and women’s parliamentary networks to strengthen the legitimacy of political cooperation by strengthening the parliament’s role. By having visible, tangible and concrete results of cooperation and improving the citizens’ daily lives in a direct way we will show them the importance of regional cooperation and in turn strengthen the stability of the region and enable its intensive development,” said Gojkovic. “Interparliamentary cooperation is vital and the parliamentarians themselves, as the representatives of the citizens, have an increasingly important role in promoting regional integration,” said Gojkovic reminding the attending that the region had previously, in addition to developmental challenges, come up against direct obstacles to cooperation, both specifically regional and global. In addition to the Serbian parliament speaker the Conference is also attended by the speakers of the parliaments of Albania, Croatia, North Macedonia, Slovenia, the host – Montenegro, as well as the deputy speakers of the parliaments of Greece, Italy and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Chinese Ambassador: China respects Serbia’s territorial integrity (Beta)

Serbian Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic and China’s newly appointed Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo agreed at a meeting that bilateral relations had reached an exceptionally high level, which frequent political visits by top-ranking officials and China’s considerable investments in Serbia testified to. Ambassador Chen Bo underlined that China respected Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that a solution for Kosovo should be reached in a dialogue. She added that her country also respected and supported Serbia’s EU accession. The Chinese diplomat described Serbia as a reliable and important friend to China, which the leadership in Beijing regarded highly.

German Ambassador to Serbia: Germany strongly supports Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (Tanjug/Diplomacy and Commerce)

German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb stated that Germany supports Belgrade-Pristina dialogue along with the EU mediation in the process. He hopes the format of the dialogue would remain the same and called out Pristina to abolish the taxes. “The agreement has to be based on multiethnic principles, to ensure minority rights and democratic standards. In addition, it has to contribute to the stability of the region,” Shieb pointed out. The Ambassador welcomed the improvement achieved so far, such as the freedom of movement, diplomas’ reciprocal recognition as well as the improvement in the area of telecommunication and judiciary, which has made better living standard of Serbs and Albanians. As he added Belgrade and Pristina have to sit down and negotiate in order to achieve those solutions. Shieb highlighted that German government strongly supports Serbian and Western Balkans integration into EU, expressing that accession process depends on reforms, so certain conditions must be fulfilled. He reminded that normalizing relations with Kosovo is one of the conditions Serbia need to do towards EU accession process.

REGIONAL PRESS

Radovan Karadzic sentenced to life imprisonment (N1)

The UN tribunal sentenced Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to life in prison, Judge Vagn Joensen confirmed on Wednesday, increasing the 40-year first-instance verdict for genocide and other crimes committed during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H).

Judge Joensen of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) said Karadzic was found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and breaching the laws and customs of war. The former President of wartime Republika Srpska (RS), was initially sentenced on March 24, 2016, to 40 years in prison by the now-closed International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He was convicted of various crimes against humanity, including the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Croats, the siege of Sarajevo, the Srebrenica genocide and taking the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) hostages during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

 He was acquitted of genocide charged in other municipalities in B&H. Karadzic’s defence team said following the first-instance verdict that the initial trial was unfair and called for a re-trial, which was rejected. Karadzic also personally addressed the Court, describing the crimes he was convicted of as a “myth.” Both Karadzic and the prosecution appealed the 2016 judgement.  The initial indictment against Karadzic was confirmed on July 25, 1995. He was arrested in Serbia on July 21, 2008, and transferred to the ICTY a few days later. The 499-day long trial commenced on October 26, 2009, and 586 in-court testimonies were heard by the Trial Chamber.

Dodik: Organized obstruction in establishment of state level authorities (Srna)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Chair Milorad Dodik informed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic Tuesday in Belgrade of the talks conducted about the establishment of State level authorities in B&H and of an intentional and organized obstruction whose aim is to occupy the positions belonging to Serbs. Dodik told the press after a meeting with Vucic there was obviously intentional obstruction to occupy positions after elections which, according to the Constitution, belonged to the Serbs. “I told the Serbian President this is not just a matter of technical or some other delay, but one of an organized obstruction whose goal is for them to maintain favorable or suitable personnel in the Council of Ministers, like we’ve seen happening lately, and disable a proper political representation at the B&H State level,” said Dodik. He said the Monday evening meeting in Sarajevo (of the parties SNSD, SDA and HDZ), held at the request of SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, had resulted in the creation of several principles upon which authorities would be based. “At the end, when we were supposed to sign it and move on, Izetbegovic demanded another seven days. Thus, it is an organized act of obstruction which is likely to go on. We don’t intend to tolerate such relations. But, it is important that someone else sees how things are going,” said Dodik. Commenting on Serbia’s new projects in Republika Srpska (RS), which were agreed on Tuesday, Dodik expressed his pleasure saying that Serbia and RS continuously resolved serious problems of common people in RS and added he was grateful to Vucic for showing the will and desire to help RS.  He said he and Vucic had also discussed the relations between B&H and Serbia, and noted that the border issue remained unresolved because the Bosniak side still had its own attitudes. “But, as far as I am concerned, I found the issue suggested in the earlier option acceptable,” emphasized Dodik. Serbia and RS have a cooperation focusing on the stabilization of the whole area and Serbia today is one of the most important countries for the region’s stability; the policy pursued by Serbia definitely reflects that, he said. “Existing outstanding issues are being resolved but commitment to development and what Serbia is doing in that regard can definitely be a good example for anyone else, us in B&H too,” said Dodik. Vucic and Dodik agreed that a number of projects will be implemented in RS this year, for which Serbia will grant 8.4 million Euros. “A total of 8.4 million Euros will be granted irrevocably, what was the case before, too. Once we pay it in, there will be 32 million Euros in grants, which is significant support” said Vucic in a joint press conference with Dodik.

Dodik: Izetbegovic now deliberately obstructs establishment of authorities (Srna)

B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik said that the SDA and its leader Bakir Izetbegovic are now deliberately obstructing the establishment of state level authorities in B&H, and that Bosniak politicians, behaving like this, bring themselves to the position that nearly none of the institutions will function. “They fit in a structure that is inefficient and is a subject to their demands, thus they are persistently seeking some reasons, as they found the MAP (NATO Membership Action Plan) story, which has nothing to do with the formation of the Council of Ministers, to problematize its formation,” Dodik told Srna. According to him, the SDA and Izetbegovic are doing all this hoping they will obtain the consent of their international friends that someone hindering something in B&H. “We do not hinder anything. The Constitution and the Dayton Peace Agreement stipulate that the state level authorities in B&H are composed of representatives previously elected in RS and the Federation of B&H at the legitimate elections,” Dodik said. He cited as an example that he was elected and coming from RS to the B&H Presidency, adding that the RS is his primary political framework. “The Constitution gives this right to me, not Izetbegovic or anyone else. The people of RS gave me this office. The same is the case with the Council of Ministers, where the position of the chair of the Council of Ministers and three ministerial seats belong to RS at the moment,” Dodik said. According to him, the new reasons to postpone the agreement on establishing state level authorities in B&H keep emerging. “They prevent us from exercising our basic function and I believe they are taking risks of creating crises for all levels of authorities – the Presidency, the Parliamentary Assembly, i.e. the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples, that are partially or fully formed,” Dodik, who is also SNSD leader, said. He said that Bosniak politicians, behaving like this, bring themselves to the position that nearly none of the institutions will function.

Dodik: No uniform stance on NATO in B&H (Srna)

Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stated Tuesday there is no decision about NATO in B&H because there is no uniform view – Republika Srpska (RS) has clearly said it does not want to join the North Atlantic Alliance, while the Croats and Bosniaks do. Dodik points out it is absurd that US President Donald Trump persistently speaks against NATO, while US officials, when they come here, put pressure on authorities to join the alliance and British diplomats say – go join the EU, while Britain is leaving it. “Like Serbia, we are still recovering from the NATO bombing. It is a perception of our people that they were the ones who came to kill us all. How can we then suddenly accept that kind of rhetoric? Of course, in some rational sense, that is an enormous alliance and you should not be against them or get away from their sight,” said Dodik. According to him, Serbs do not want a NATO border at the Drina river. “Serbia and B&H have some kind of cooperation with NATO within the Partnership for Peace, but they (Bosniaks and Croats) obviously do not find that enough because Croatia and Turkey are members of NATO and it is understandable that Bosniaks and Croats want to join the bloc” said Dodik. Dodik reiterated that the RS parliament had adopted a resolution stating its view on it and that RS’s stance on NATO remained unchanged.

Dodik: Serb team in Sarajevo stronger than ever (Srna)

Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said Tuesday the Serb team in Sarajevo has never been stronger and that Banja Luka, not Sarajevo politicians, will determine the policy Serbs pursue at the B&H State level. Dodik says the State level authorities have not been formed yet because the Bosniaks were not ready and did not have the majority they considered stable enough. In a way, they are afraid of letting us inside due to the decision-making system and the fact that four of the five delegates in the House of Peoples, the key authority making all decisions, come from my party,” Dodik said. On the other hand, he says, Serbs and Croats formed their own political teams in line with the Constitution and were ready to form authorities before the New Year. Dodik underlined he was hoping that State level authorities would be formed by the end of March and that all indicators were implying just that, but explained that it was impossible to create a coalition at the State level and that “everything is assembled” at the level of B&H bodies. “This has been going on for a while and it is pretty tiring. It has become a little dull, at the end of the day,” said Dodik.  According to him, there will not be any calculations like there were in the past. “There were calculations in the past. Foreigners would arrive, pick one, pick two, and you’d get authorities that are completely subordinated to Sarajevo politicians, like you had in the past four years. But now we are bringing back the authorities, now the authorities, Serbs coming to Sarajevo, are subordinate and come from Banja Luka. Banja Luka is the one determining the policy we will pursue over there, not Sarajevo,” said Dodik.

Serbs join a boycott of government’s Jasenovac commemoration (Hina)

The Serb National Council (SNV) joined the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia in boycotting the official commemoration for the victims of the WWII Ustasha concentration camp of Jasenovac for the fourth year in a row, scheduled for April 14.

“The state did not take the necessary measures to stop or at least reduce the negating of the Holocaust and genocide committed during World War II and revisionism” SNV Vice President Sasa Milosevic said. Milosevic said that by tolerating hate speech, downplaying the suffering of the people and implementing an inadequate education policy, the state had directly helped that such incidents become dominant in Croatia’s society. Given the great difference in opinion, we cannot and should not go to Jasenovac together. Milosevic said adding that the Serb, the Jewish and the Roma minority, as well as the anti-fascists, would hold their own commemoration on 12 April. The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said earlier he would not attend the government commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, while the head of the SABA alliance of anti-fascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, said SABA would decide on Thursday whether to attend a joint commemoration. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic last week invited representatives of SABA, the Jewish community, Serbs and Roma to take part in a joint commemoration. Kraus said the Jewish community would not accept. “Nothing has changed over the past year. Nothing new has happened,” he told the press, citing historical revisionism and the government’s stance on the Ustasha salute “For the homeland, ready. There is a wish to be together as well as arguments against it” Habulin said, adding that a joint commemoration would be useful. “It would be a sort of coming closer to opening the possibility for talks and for resolving the problems concerning historical revisionism and the negativism which has accumulated over 20 years and more in Croatia, which isn’t good,” he said. An argument against a joint commemoration would be the fact that nothing has been done over the past year and SABA members believe the situation is worse than last year, added Habulin.

Zaev asks EU officials to approve opening accession talks with “his country” (Republika)

Zoran Zaev was in Brussels on Tuesday to urge EU officials to be true to their promises and allow Macedonia to open EU accession talks during the Council meeting expected this summer.

Zaev’s EU supporters Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn praised Zaev for pushing through the Prespa treaty and renaming his country, and promised that if the reform implementation is on target too, the country would receive a positive recommendation to open accession talks. With Greece’s approval presumed as given, France and the Netherlands remain as the two most critical countries, which show no appetite for further EU enlargement. It is beautiful to be in Brussels, the European Union will soon be our second home and we are among our friends and partners. We have exceptional events and opportunities and we will check the progress of our country toward European integration, Zaev said during his joint press conference with Mogherini and Hahn. Besides the name issue, main problems that remain are the high levels of crime and corruption in the country, lagging reforms in the intelligence sector which caused the 2015 political crisis, and problems with the public administration which Zaev is busily filling with party loyalists.

Zaev promises Stoltenberg that Macedonia will increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP (Republika)

Zoran Zaev told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Macedonia is prepared to increase its defense spending to 2 percent of GDP in just five years. Macedonia currently spends just 135 million EUR per year on defense, and to reach the required 2 percent of GDP, this would have to increase to 200 million EUR. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska famously put NATO related defense spending at just 1.2 million Euros per year, raising questions about how serious Zaev’s government really is about increasing spending. Zaev also promised Stoltenberg that Macedonia will increase its involvement in NATO military mission around the world. Our goal is to increase our participation. That is a priority for us as a new full NATO member. We will assume our share of responsibility to contribute to a safe and prosperous region, Zaev said.

Mickoski published extensive list of Zaev’s violations of the rule of law (Republika)

In a video address, VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski named a series of violations of the rule of law and other injustices and broken promises on the part of the Zoran Zaev government. According to Mickoski, the voters must resist this at the coming presidential elections. It is an injustice when the Prime Minister acknowledges that he ordered an amnesty to bargain with members of parliament, because he needed a two-thirds majority to rename the country. It is an injustice when the majority of the citizens vote against a proposal, and you change the name of the country never the less. It is an injustice when the parents of the four children killed in Smilkovsko Lake are still grieving and seeking justice, while the killers remain unpunished, despite Zoran Zaev’s promises that he will take the real culprits before the face of justice. It is an injustice when another set of parents are grieving for patriots sentenced to 211 years in prison, Mickoski said, naming some of those sentenced in the 27 April court case such as Jane Cento, the descendent to the Cento family name. In his address, Mickoski also accuses the Zaev led government of crime and corruption, in public procurement, in nepotistic hiring in the public sector, in failing to pay the agriculture subsidies on time, and in reducing retirement incomes. We are louder than ever and we will speak out against each and every injustice. It is time to set things right, Mickoski urged his supporters.

No elections without Rama’s removal – Paloka declares (ADN)

Democratic Party (DP) vice Chairman, Edi Paloka, declared on Tuesday that there will be no elections without Prime Minister’s Edi Rama removal. According to him, with the appointment of former Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Damian Gjiknuri as responsible for electoral issues, Premier Rama is showing his determination to buy votes again as in 2017. “There are no elections in Albania without Rama’s removal and without creating the conditions for free and fair elections. There is no political decision to enter the elections. Elections without conditions should not be developed,” said Paloka. He added that protests will continue and not only those that will be announced. Paloka warned surprises for Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Borchardt strongly criticizes opposition decision to stay out of parliament (ADN)

OSCE Ambassador to Tirana Bernd Borchardt reacted on Tuesday about the political crisis in Albania and the upcoming local elections. In an interview for the mmedia, Borchardt said that OSCE call to all political parties to participates in the local elections which should be normal, while he discouraged electoral boycotts and considered unprecedented the action of the opposition to stay out of parliament.

– Mr. Ambassador, now the deadline has expired and the opposition has not send nominations for CEAZ members. Is this a step towards boycott of elections by the opposition, and have you been in contact with the leaders of the opposition? You made a call to them yesterday. Was there any reaction?

– We have been calling on all parties to participate in the local elections, which should be normal in a democratic system. On the nonregistration, we made a call yesterday encouraging all actors to present their candidates.

– Mr. Ambassador, yesterday the chair of the Socialist Party parliamentary group Taulant Balla said that on electoral reform they would start talks with the new MPs. Is this the proper way of approving the electoral reform?

– Legally, yes. Whether it’s politically wise – and I have said that before – that is a different question. We are encouraging a continuing dialogue on the electoral reform.

– If the opposition will boycott the local elections will the OSCE recognize such elections as proper?

– This depends on how the elections are done, and what our observers are going to find out. I cannot predict that. In general, I can say that we, of course, firstly discourage electoral boycotts. Albania has for a long time been a pillar of stability in the region. Now, we have seen an action in parliament, which is unprecedented. It has been criticized by the whole international community. One of the reasons is because it puts a fuse or it starts burning the fuse below the system of parliamentary democracy. When are we going to have again a parliament which sits for 4 years and that goes through? This time politicians had the idea after two years to burn their mandates. Next time they may find arguments after eight months, ten months, one year. This would also set a very negative example for the whole region. You know that in several countries opposition parties boycott parliaments. This cannot work. This is now the sense of a parliamentary democracy.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

UN Court Sentences Ex Bosnian Serb Leader Karadzic to Life in Prison – Reports (Sputnik, 20 March 2019)

BELGRADE (Sputnik) – The UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) announced on Wednesday its final ruling in the case against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who faces 40 years in prison for committing war crimes during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. The UN appeals court has found that Radovan Karadzic intended the Srebrenica genocide and ruled to increase his sentence to life imprisonment, saying that the 40-year sentence ordered by trial judges was too soft taken into account the seriousness of his crimes and the weight of his responsibility. Karadzic, 73, was found guilty on 10 counts, including genocide, in March 2016 by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which has been replaced by the IRMCT. The former leader immediately filed an appeal, refusing to plead guilty and saying that the ruling was based on “rumours.” The prosecution also appealed the ruling, insisting that Karadzic, who ruled the Republika Srpska between 1992 and 1996, should get a life sentence.

Accusations Against Karadzic

Karadzic was arrested in 2008 in Belgrade after having been on the run for over a decade. He has faced charges since the end of the Bosnian War, which erupted between Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croatians in 1992, when Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed independence following the dissolution of Yugoslavia. While he initially faced 11 charges, one count of genocide in seven Bosnian municipalities was dropped, since prosecutors had failed to provide enough evidence. The second genocide charge — related to the Srebrenica massacre that ended with 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks being killed in July 1995 — remained in place. Meanwhile, Karadzic’s defence believes that he is not guilty and that the ruling should be annulled over incorrectly found facts and procedural violations. “I think that the ruling can be commuted, taking into consideration that his link to the Srebrenica events and the level of his responsibility is one of the main charges. During the court process and especially now, in our appeal, we have argued against this count most actively. Personally, I believe that we have managed to refute any link between former President Karadzic and the events in Srebrenica,” lawyer Goran Petronijevic told Sputnik.

He added that he expected some other counts to be rejected as well. “However, the court practice of The Hague’s tribunal shows that sometimes, when one of the non-major counts is rejected, the sentence is not reduced,” Petronijevic added. The panel of judges of the IRMCT Appeals Chamber, which is handling Karadzic’s case, has been partially changed upon the defendant’s request, causing a slight delay in the appeal hearing. Theodor Meron, former ICTY head and the presiding judge in Karadzic’s appeal, has withdrawn from the appeal. “This man obviously had anti-Serb views, and even the judges of the tribunal said that he was putting pressure on the court, under instructions by the US embassy,” Petronijevic said.

SA Council: Prespa agreement is an example for Western Balkans and beyond (European Western Balkans, 19 March 2019)

BRUSSELS – The 15th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between the Republic of North Macedonia and the European Union (SA Council) took place on 19 March 2019. The SA Council recalled that the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) remains at the core of the relationship between the EU and the Republic of North Macedonia until the country’s accession to the EU. The SA Council took note of the country’s primary objective to open accession negotiations and acknowledged the government’s strong commitment to this purpose. The SA Council welcomed that the European Council has set out the path towards opening accession negotiations in June 2019 based on continued progress and tangible results, maintaining and deepening the current reform momentum. The SA Council took note of the intention of the Commission and government to begin the necessary preparatory work.

On good neighbourly relations, the SA Council strongly welcomed and supported the agreement between Athens and Skopje on the resolution of the name issue and the establishment of a strategic partnership. This is a historic step, which sets an example for the Western Balkans region and beyond. This agreement, together with the Treaty on Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation between Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia, sets a strong example for others in the region and beyond to strengthen good neighbourly relations.

The SA Council underlined the importance of continued implementation of these agreements in good faith and took note of the governments’ commitment to this end. The SA Council reviewed the key developments over the previous period relating to the fulfilment of the political criteria, as well as the state of play concerning the economic criteria and financial cooperation.

Concerning the political criteria, the SA Council welcomed the significant steps taken by the government to advance EU-related reforms, in a transparent and inclusive manner, as well as the positive changes in the general atmosphere in the country. Acknowledging the achievements so far, the SA Council encouraged the Republic of North Macedonia to continue its efforts over the coming months to follow up on legislative measures and to strengthen the implementation of reforms, in particular in the areas set out by the Council in June 2018, such as the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organised crime and reform of the intelligence services and public administration. The SA Council encouraged the government, the opposition parties, civil society and other stakeholders to continue to cooperate with one another. The SA Council urges all parliamentary parties to put their divisions aside and work jointly on delivering on the reform agenda and on the common strategic goal of EU integration, for the benefit of all citizens.

Concerning rule of law, the SA Council acknowledged that legislative changes have been adopted to address the “Urgent Reform Priorities”, the recommendations of the Venice Commission and those of the Senior Experts’ Group on systemic Rule of Law issues, which aimed at having a positive impact on the independence of the judiciary. The SA Council welcomed continued progress made in the investigations conducted by the Special Prosecutors’ Office to establish legal accountability for the wiretaps. It stressed the importance of a sustainable solution for the future status of the Special Prosecutor’s Office, which is in line with the Judicial Reform Strategy. The SA Council recalled the importance of accountability for the attack on Parliament on 27 April 2017. The SA Council commended the progress made in amending the legal framework for prevention of corruption and conflicts of interest. It welcomed the immediate steps taken to implement the new law and that the new State Commission for Prevention of Corruption was appointed effectively in an inclusive and transparent manner. It encouraged the Republic of North Macedonia to further step up proactive investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in corruption and organised crime cases, including at high level. On public administration reform, the SA Council took note of the ongoing implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy and the Public Financial Management Reform Programme. It acknowledged that concrete efforts have been made towards increasing transparency and accountability and improving consultations in policy-making. The SA Council reiterated that any recruitment, appointment or dismissal must respect the principles of a depoliticised and merit-based public administration, of transparency and equitable representation, in line with the spirit and the letter of the relevant legislation for public service positions. Regarding relations between the communities, the SA Council assessed that the situation continues to be calm overall, while recalling that this requires continuous engagement. The government underlined the concept of “one society for all” and the steps taken to build greater trust among communities. The SA Council reiterated that the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) continues to be an essential element for democracy and stability in the country, as part of its constitutional order. The SA Council welcomed the country’s continued active participation and constructive approach in regional cooperation initiatives. It also commended on the Republic of North Macedonia for its continuous efforts and constructive cooperation in addressing the issue of irregular migration and encouraged the country to sustain its engagement in this area. In addition, it positively noted the country’s increased alignment with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy and encouraged the Republic of North Macedonia to further improve its alignment. The SA Council pointed out the importance of the national authorities continued implementation of the European Court of Auditors’ recommendations. In particular, national authorities should increase their efforts to spread best practice in implementing EU pre-accession assistance across the whole of the public administration. It also noted the importance of sound financial management and the need for full compliance with the sectoral approach criteria. The recent passage to the second stage of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement was also welcomed. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who led the delegation of the Republic of North Macedonia. Deputy Prime Ministers Bujar Osmani and Radmila Šekerinska, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Dimitrov, also took part at the SA Council meeting. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, led the EU delegation while Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn represented the European Commission.

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