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Belgrade Media Report 19 March

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LOCAL PRESS

  • Dacic: Socialists will never betray Serbs in Kosovo and Metohijs (Tanjug/RTV)
  • Ljajic: CEFTA is clinically dead (Politika)
  • Stoltenberg: I understand bombing is difficult topic for Serbs (TV Prva/B92)
  • Findings of Commission probing consequences of NATO attacks (Beta/B92)
  • Jeremic: Protests boil down to Vucic’s resignation and free, fair elections (RTV)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

  • Dodik: Belgrade needs strength for negotiation process with Pristina (Srna)
  • Principles of authority formation agreed (Srna)
  • Ten principles of forming authority at B&H level (Srna)
  • Council of Ministers and Security agencies to give answers immediately (Srna)
  • Ministry of Security gets three days to provide information on Croatian Intelligence agencies (Srna)
  • Dodik: ICTY not just court, not in service of reconciliation (Srna)
  • September 9 – Remembrance Day of NATO bombing victims (Srna)

Montenegro

  • Protests political, ready to talk (RTCG)
  • Djukanovic: Perspective of the Western Balkans can only be European (CDM)

Republic of North Macedonia

  • Serbia sees Macedonia as the base used to organize protests against its government (Republika)
  • “Srbija Danas” sees Greater Albania in Zaev-Rama meeting (Meta)
  • Russia will begin referring to Macedonia as “North Macedonia” (Republika)
  • France and the Netherlands still reluctant to back the start of EU negotiations with Macedonia (Republika/MIA)

Albania

  • German Embassy respects opposition’s decision of ‘burning’ mandates (ADN)
  • President Meta appeals for dialogue not to deepen crisis (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

  • Western Balkans show improved labour market performance (Emerging Europe)

LOCAL PRESS

Dacic: Socialists will never betray Serbs in Kosovo and Metohijs (Tanjug/RTV)

On the occasion of 15 years since the pogrom of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) Ivica Dacic has received SPS representatives of municipal and district boards from Kosovo and Metohija. Dacic pointed out that the Socialists will never betray the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the need for the SPS to work in continuity on supporting and aiding the provincial organization towards achieving the necessary conditions for life and survival of the Serbs in the southern Serbian province. He especially underlined the need for the contribution of the SPS personnel in performing important state functions to be more expressing towards spreading the truth on the position of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. Support was given at the meeting to the commitment of the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on protecting the Serbs and the maximalist efforts he is investing in diplomatic activities on spreading the truth in the world on the real position of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. The Kosovo Serbs assess as immeasurable contribution the withdrawal of recognitions of independence of so-called state of Kosovo by 13 countries, continued activities towards rejecting the request for membership in UNESCO and Interpol, as well as special commitment of Ivica Dacic at the UN Security Council sessions on Kosovo.

The President of the SPS provincial board Zvonimir Stevic especially marked the problems faces by the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija in all areas, both in the north and south of the Ibar River – in Gracanica, Pomoravlje, Kosovska Kamenica, Gnjilane, Novo Brdo, Vitina, Sirinicka zupa, Strpce, Orahovac, as well as in Gorazdevac, Klina and Istok. In talks of representatives of Kosovo Socialists from all areas, they acquainted the SPS leader Ivica Dacic with the unsustainability of the state-of-affairs in areas where they live, and they especially pointed to the pressure of the Albanian authorities and constant incidents and attacks on the Serbs that have been registered over hundred only in the first half of last year. Even though they are facing almost impossible living conditions in the province, the representatives of the Socialists from Kosovo and Metohija voiced firm resoluteness for staying in their homes. They agreed to continue the regular coordination towards creating conditions for improving the life of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. The meeting was attended by high SPS officials Vladan Zagradjanin, Slobodan Milosevic, Veljko Odalovic, Snezana Paunovic, Dejan Radenkovic and Ugljesa Markovic.

Ljajic: CEFTA is clinically dead (Politika)

Serbian Trade Minister Rasim Ljajic told Politika that, objectively, the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) is on infusion and requires recovery in order to maintain life. He stresses that the agreement founded in 2006 became debatable after Kosovo introduced the 100 percent import duties on goods from Serbia. Ljajic added Serbia was losing a million Euros per day. “If CEFTA couldn’t prevent this, the very existence of the agreement on free trade is under question,” Ljajic said. He says we could form some kind of CEFTA plus, but it is difficult to implement any agreement without the EU support.  According to him, the EU must be more included. It needs to put all issues on the table, remove the trade barriers, adjust the certificates and liberalize trade,” Ljajic said. He added that at the moment, goods were kept up to 30 hours at the crossings which, according to him, was a loss of 30 million hours. “We managed to solve all open issues with North Macedonia, with Bosnia out of 13, nine are resolved. Goodwill and coordination are necessary,” Ljajic said.

Stoltenberg: I understand bombing is difficult topic for Serbs (TV Prva/B92)

NATO will not withdraw from Camp Bondsteel and will protect all citizens of Kosovo and Metohija, says Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “We are there to protect all people including the Serb community,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with TV Prva, and stressed that NATO has no plans to reduce the presence of its troops in Kosovo. Asked about his view of NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia two decades later, Stoltenberg said that NATO’s task was to end the war and a humanitarian catastrophe, but also prevent the loss of civilian life. “Every loss of civilian life is a great tragedy,” the official said, adding that he understands that bombing is still a painful and difficult issue. He said that he did not expect Serbia to forget the past, but that there should also be looking at the future and possibilities of cooperation. “Europe is full of countries that have a complicated past, but they have found ways to progress together and go to the future,” the NATO official said, referring to Sweden and Norway, France and Germany. As he said, NATO respects Serbia’s position that it does not want to be a member of the alliance and remain neutral, but it also respects Serbia’s desire to be a NATO partner in the fight against terrorism, floods and the like.

Findings of Commission probing consequences of NATO attacks (Beta/B92)

“Children born between 1999 and 2015 have been exposed to a toxic factor that caused them to be susceptible to malignant diseases,” an investigation by a commission set up to look into the consequences of NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia, presented on Tuesday, showed this. The Commission’s president Darko Laketic told reporters at the Serbian parliament that this study focused only children, because they are less exposed to other risk factors such as smoking.

The research was conducted in cooperation with the Institute of Public Health named after Dr. Milan Jovanovic Batut, and showed that the most common tumors in children aged up to four years are neuroectodermals, while those five to nine years of age most often suffer from blood tumors.  Leading tumors in children aged 10-14 and 15-18 are brain and solid tumors, respectively.

“This research unambiguously shows that several generations in a certain sensitive period have been exposed to some factor that made them more susceptible to falling ill with certain malignant diseases, compared to other generations of the same age,” Laketic said.  Laketic added that Serbia has the funds to investigate the consequences of the NATO bombing, as well as the experts, but that he was not certain the country has sufficiently sophisticated equipment – and will have to either purchase it or rely on foreign partners who have that equipment. “I have Italians in mind, who handed over the entire documentation of their commission and offered help with biochemical or toxicological analyses,” Laketic said. He assessed that the bombing, that started on 24 March 1999, and lasted the following 78 days, had left unprecedented consequences on Serbia, which he said was a country-victim. It is also a country that must, not only for its own, but also for civilizational reasons, preserve the truth as a warning and a lesson to itself and to others. “I’m not sure there is a common national awareness of the suffering of Serbia in the NATO aggression of 1999, but such a tragedy in all of Serbian history cannot and must not be forgotten, or be downplayed or adapted to the needs and interests of large or small powers,” he said.

Jeremic: Protests boil down to Vucic’s resignation and free, fair elections (RTV)

Popular Party leader Vuk Jeremic said on Monday that all the demands by the opposition and people protesting across Serbia boiled down to President Aleksandar Vucic’s resignation and an agreement on free and fair elections.  Jeremic said the protest could become more radical in terms of civil disobedience before the 13 April deadline for the demands to be met. “The least painful way out of the current crisis is to call fair elections with free media six to nine months before they are held. If the authorities refuse that demand, my opinion is that we should start various forms of civil disobedience from breaking off classes at universities to blocking traffic and institutions,” he told Radio and Television of Vojvodina (RTV). He said things were speeding up, adding that events over the weekend had changed the situation with more protests to come. Jeremic said the months of protests, the events at in RTS and protest in front of the presidency building had shaken Vucic who he said was “showing signs of psychic destabilization” which is clearly reflected in the arrests of children over the protests and his latest meetings with foreign officials.  “Dragan Djilas and I spoke to representatives of the European Council on Foreign Relations after their meeting with Vucic. They told us that Vucic said that the opposition controls the RTS because its management was appointed while we were in power. That can only mean that he is ready to voice notorious lies at any moment or that this is a case of psychological delirium – in other words he is either a liar or crazy and I think it’s both,” Jeremic said. The former Serbian foreign minister said that the West does not want to see Vucic stepping down before he fulfills his promise to reach an agreement with Kosovo which would then become a UN member while Serbia would “permanently renounce part of the Kosovo through demarcation”.

REGIONAL PRESS

Dodik: Belgrade needs strength for negotiation process with Pristina (Srna)

Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik believes the latest events in Belgrade are not good for Serbia and that the time picked to send such a message from the country which needs strength for negotiation processes with Pristina is wrong. Dodik asserted it would be logical if all national and political forces in Serbia assembled round the negotiator, and that everything they need to resolve in politics should be done in accordance with elections. “Every kind of street events or instability makes me believe they was created or imposed on Serbia to reduce its power and strength. That’s how I see it. The legitimately elected institutions and legally elected president of Serbia should be respected and in relation to that all things resolved on the day of elections. As far as I can see, that is the topic of the conversation there – to get to an election,” Dodik told the press in Banja Luka.

Principles of authority formation agreed (Srna)

Leaders of the SNSD, HDZ B&H and SDA, Milorad Dodik, Dragan Covic and Bakir Izetbegovic, agreed on the text of the statement on the principles of forming the authorities at the level of B&H in Sarajevo on Monday evening. The text contains 11 items, from the passing of law to European integration. There was no discussion on the distribution of ministries in this evening’s meeting. The meeting was held in the B&H Presidency building in Sarajevo. SNSD Leader, Milorad Dodik, has stated that it is agreed that the constituent peoples will get three ministries each in a new Council of Ministers, and that the Council of Ministers will not be formed until the end of March. “Having the Council of Ministers formed by the end of March and before the arrival of Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, would be good, but it is impossible as the procedures do not allow it,” Dodik told reporters after a meeting. Dodik said that the Presidency session will be convened when a full agreement on the establishment of authorities at the B&H level is reached.

“We thought that we would finish something, but they are delaying things again,” Dodik said.

He confirmed that the statement on principles of forming a government, which reads that the Constitution and laws, as well as the positions of all relevant levels of government in B&H are respected, was agreed at the meeting. “Article 3 of the statements reads that the integration processes will continue in accordance with the Constitution and laws, but also with the positions of other levels of government in B&H,” Dodik said. Commenting on the NATO Membership Action Plan, he stressed that nothing was respected until 2013, which has now suddenly become a life issue. “We respect the position of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, which reads that path to NATO is not in the interest of RS and we will act accordingly. If somebody expects us to change such position in order to enter the Council of Ministers, then I thank them not for the Council of Ministers,” Dodik said. The SNSD leader reiterated that the procedures related to the formation of the Council of Ministers after the elections are clear. According to him, it was agreed that the constituent peoples would get three ministries each in a new Council of Ministers.

 B&H HDZ Leader Dragan Covic says that harmonized statement on the principles of forming authority at the B&H level lists what should, in principle, be done in accordance with the Constitution and laws. “We have a harmonized statement on those principles based on which the authority at the B&H level should work. Now we should try to look for a second step,” Covic told reporters after the meeting. According to him, the statement, which contains 11 items, reads everything that should be done in accordance with the Constitution and laws. “The statement contains nothing particular, apart from the list of what should, in principle, be done in accordance with the Constitution and laws. It precisely lists everything, from the election law, integration processes, other laws and I believe that nothing is omitted. I believe that we will not even sign it,” Covic said. He said that the distribution of ministries in the Council of Ministers was not discussed in the meeting because Izetbegovic requested that these talks be attended by the SDA delegation.

Ten principles of forming authority at B&H level (Srna)

Leaders of the SNSD, HDZ and SDA, Milorad Dodik, Dragan Covic and Bakir Izetbegovic, agreed on ten principles of forming authority at the B&H level, the first of which is to respect and implement the General Framework Agreement for peace and its 11 annexes, including the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Srna learns from its source in Sarajevo. Srna’s source emphasizes that the second principle refers to respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of B&H as an element of its international subjectivity, which is the best guarantor of sustainability of peace and stability, while respecting the Dayton constitutional structure. The third principle relates to the continuation of integration processes in accordance with the Constitution and laws, aligning the positions and interests of all levels of government in B&H. The leaders agreed that it is necessary to implement all the rulings issued by local and European courts related to the B&H Election Law in order to ensure the constitutional and institutional equality of constituent peoples and citizens, as well as their legitimate representation throughout B&H, in accordance with the Constitution of B&H.

 “The representation of constituent peoples and others is to be ensured in the institutions at all levels of government in accordance with the constitutions, while the selection and appointment are to be made according to the criterion of candidate’s proven competence. To adopt laws and implement measures necessary to prevent and eliminate discrimination based on ethnic, religious, ideological or other affiliation and to ensure equality in exercising the rights to employment, education, social and health care,” is the fifth principle agreed by the leaders of the SNSD, HDZ and SDA. The sixth principle provides for intensive work on harmonization of local legislation with EU regulations through the coordination mechanism of the European integration process in B&H, in order to meet the required conditions for B&H’s accession to the EU, with socio-economic reforms focusing on resolving life issues in B&H. In the process of B&H’s progress towards EU membership, it is necessary to gradually create the conditions for the institutions of B&H to assume full sovereignty and end the mandate of the OHR in B&H.

 Srna’s source states that the seventh principle provides for improvement of economic development by accelerating the construction of transport, energy and digital infrastructures, which is of strategic interest to B&H and the region. The eighth principle reads that measures need to be intensively implemented to ensure the sustainable return of expelled and displaced persons, and the ninth principle provides for the independence and competence of the rule of law institutions to continue efficient combat against all forms of extremism, organized crime and corruption. “Continue with building good neighborly relations with Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, while resolving open issues on the principles of reciprocity, mutual respect and respect for international law,” reads the tenth principle of forming authority at the level of B&H, agreed by the leaders of the SNSD, HDZ and the SDA. Harmonized statement on the principles of forming authority at the level of B&H reads that the three leaders are aware of the responsibility towards the peoples and citizens of B&H, noting that the current progress is insufficient from the point of view of the population’s needs, but it represents a good basis for further political, economic and social reforms and the development of B&H, as the best response to negative demographic trends and the young people’s departure, as well as the needs for building a stable, economically prosperous and socially just society of equal opportunities.

 “We are ready to form and ensure the stable functioning of the authorities in B&H, which will continue to implement the necessary legislative, socio-economic and social reforms that will focus on solving the daily life issues of citizens, and offer responsible management, rule of law, security and prosperity,” reads the statement agreed by Dodik, Covic and Izetbegovic.

Council of Ministers and Security agencies to give answers immediately (Srna)

HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic stated today in Mostar that the HDZ B&H had asked the Council of Ministers in caretaking capacity and security agencies to immediately give statement and answers on the Salafi Affair, adding that the activities of illicit intelligence services is present everywhere in B&H. Covic said that the Salafi Affair, in which the Croatian intelligence service, Croatian diplomats, journalists, including some HDZ B&H officials were allegedly involved in recruiting Salafi members in order to portray B&H as a dangerous terrorist base, is purposely placed prior to the conference on amendments to the Constitution organized in Neum to obscure everything uttered there. Due to the affair, reported by a Sarajevo portal and confirmed by Dragan Mektic, Security Minister in the Council of Ministers in caretaking capacity, Covic stressed that it was about coordinated misinformation in order to achieve a certain goal in the public. “Mijo Kresic is a deputy security minister and we find it interesting that they failed to communicate, while the world was informed. The names of a respected journalist and a diplomat are mentioned there. This issue is to be resolved by the Council of Ministers and security agencies as soon as possible,” Covic told reporters. He stressed that speculating about this information is unacceptable, pointing out that it is sensitive and dangerous topic related to radical groups and terrorism. I cannot highlight who is the ultimate target of these games by illicit intelligence sector in B&H, but this is not good. You cannot accuse somebody publicly without having a single fact,” said the HDZ B&H leader. He warns that all this is undermining security. “When through the state institutions contribution is made to say something for what you do not have any grounds, then we should start worrying about ourselves and our safety,” Covic said. Answering the question why Croats in B&H do not organize illicit intelligence service in response to the Bosniak one, Covic said the Croats are not allowed to do it, neither can they. “We have to behave in accordance with the Constitution. It would be a paradox to respond to illicit activities with illicit activities. It is anarchy. We, as the fewest constituent people, abide by the system, the constitution and legislation. This Constitution, until the other one is passed. We must end illicit activities in B&H. They are present everywhere in B&H,” Covic said. Dragan Mektic, Minister of Security in the Council of Ministers in caretaking capacity, was heard last week in the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H over allegations that Croatian intelligence officers and diplomats were recruiting members of the Salafi movement for weapons smuggling in B&H. Mektic confirmed his allegations at the hearing. The B&H Prosecutor’s Office formed the case in order to urgently establish all the circumstances and allegations made in the media related to the alleged recruitment of members of the Salafi movement for weapons smuggling in B&H, in order to portray B&H as a terrorist base.

Ministry of Security gets three days to provide information on Croatian Intelligence agencies (Srna)

The B&H Presidency sought from the Ministry of Security in the Council of Ministers in caretaking capacity to provide this institution with comprehensive information about the allegations made publicly concerning the activities of the Croatian Intelligence Agency and Croatian consul general within three days. This conclusion was made at the extraordinary session of the Presidency, this institution announced. The Prosecutor’s Office of B&H formed the case on March 14 to urgently establish all the circumstances and allegations made in the media concerning the alleged recruitment of members of the Salafi movement for weapons smuggling in B&H, while the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H heard Dragan Mektic, caretaker Security Minister in Council of Ministers, the day after.

Dodik: ICTY not just court, not in service of reconciliation (Srna)

The Chairman the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik said on the eve of a verdict that will be handed down to the first RS president, Radovan Karadzic, that it is the opinion of the RS public that the ICTY is not a just court and that it is not in the service of reconciliation. “Affairs in the ICTY we have witnessed of late in connection with the disappearance of evidence and many other things communicated to the public by people who work in the court and judges who worked there certainly do not contribute to trust in decisions the court made earlier and the ones it will make in the future,” Dodik told reporters. RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic said that, based on earlier experience, she is not optimistic at all when it comes to final rulings of the international court at The Hague and those pronounced at the level of B&H since she has not seen a single one yet that served reconciliation or justice. “Unfortunately, international courts, and very often the court at the level of B&H, worked in keeping with a pattern. We mostly had political decisions, namely, a political framework was made which was then filled with final court rulings,” Cvijanovic said. She said that the result is a huge mistrust in the judiciary and the situation where there is no reconciliation or cohesion in B&H, which should have been the priority goal of the establishment of such courts. Cvijanovic said that the 2003 Criminal Code was applied in B&H for many years for crimes committed during the war and that it pertained mostly to Serbian perpetrators, and when it comes to perpetrators from among other peoples, the SFRY Criminal Code was applied which was in force at the time of the commission of these crimes. She said that RS many times pointed out that B&H is the only place where laws are applied retroactively, and that it took many years to reach the court in Strasbourg and for someone to say that this is not right, but that despite this, institutions at the level of B&H refused to implement solutions in keeping with the court decision. The second-instance verdict to Radovan Karadzic is set to be pronounced on March 20 at 14:00. The second-instance verdict will be pronounced after appeals against the first- instance verdict, by which Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison, filed by both the defense and the prosecution, are reviewed. The trial of Radovan Karadzic began in October 2009. The first-instance verdict was pronounced on March 24, 2016, and it was appealed by both the defense and the prosecution. Karadzic was arrested in Serbia on July 21, 2008, and was transferred to the ICTY on July 30.

September 9 – Remembrance Day of NATO bombing victims (Srna)

September 9 will be marked as a Remembrance Day of the victims of NATO bombing of Republika Srpska (RS), RS Government’s Committee for fostering traditions of liberation wars unanimously decided. The proposal for this event to gain republican significance was given by a deputy in the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), Stasa Kosarac, thus this event will be listed the 27th in the calendar marking the most important dates of the history of the Serb people from this area, the Ministry of Labor, War Veterans and Disabled Persons Protection of RS announced. A report on implemented markings of important historical events in the past year, as well as a proposal for the marking program for this year, were adopted at today’s session of the Committee in Banja Luka. The proposed decision on the appointment of members of the Organizing Committee for memorial service and paying tribute to the victims of the genocide committed by the Independent State of Croatia in Donja Gradina on May 5 was adopted. On November 23 last year, SNSD deputy in the House of Representatives of the B&H Parliament, Stasa Kosarac, sent proposal to RS government’s Committee for fostering traditions of liberation wars to mark September 9 as a Remembrance Day of the victims of NATO bombing of RS, in accordance with the initiative previously launched by the RS News Agency – Srna. In the letter to the Committee, Kosarac recalls that Srna launched an initiative and published a series of articles that immortalized the testimony of NATO aggression in RS and the victims of bombing with ammunition containing depleted uranium. He points out that a brother and a sister, Radmila and Radenko Galinac, were among the first victims of the NATO bombing of RS, who were killed on September 9, 1995, on a demolished bridge near Semizovac, when NATO pilot savagely killed them after the bridge collapsed. At Srna’s proposal, an initiative to mark the Remembrance Day of the victims of NATO bombing was launched on August 26 last year in Andricgrad.

Protests political, ready to talk (RTCG)

The authorities are ready to talk with those who formally lead protests and discuss all issues that represent their interest, said the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic. The President said that the protests in Montenegro are tried to be presented as civil ones, although, as he states, it is clear that political structures stand behind them. According to Djukanovic, protests in Montenegro, Serbia and Albania are an obvious indicator of the progress of the Western Balkans. “Today, protests are seen as a legitimate way of expression of political interests. We repeat that it would be normal to replace the protests led by opposition with parliamentary dialogue” said Djukanovic. He stressed that protests are tried to be presented as civil ones, although it is clear that political structures are behind them. “We are ready to talk with those who formally lead protests and discuss all issues that represent their interest. There is no question about this issue nor potentially conflicting situations in relation to authorities and participants of the protests” Djukanovic said. The president says he recognizes a common thread in all protests that are happening in the region. That is, says Djukanovic, the idea of changing power without the electoral process.

Djukanovic: Perspective of the Western Balkans can only be European (CDM)

“Unfortunately, today nobody knows what the future of the EU will be like. Regardless of that fact, I’m convinced that the future of WB can be European and European only. Being involved in politics for so long, I sometimes wonder how the next generations will look at what we are doing today. Are they going to appreciate what we had achieved? What will they think of the thing we could have achieved” said the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, during the lecture in the German Association of Foreign Policy (DGAP) on the subject “Political perspectives of the Balkans and Montenegro and their relations with the Europe in 2019”. The lecture is being held in Berlin. He said that we all knew that different paths lead to different future. “We also know how to take into consideration different perspectives. But if anything has been constant in the last two and a half decades in Montenegro, it’s our intention to be modern, open, safe and prosperous country, which is part of Europe with same qualities. The future of all of us is certain only if we have a common perspective. I think this is the real outlook on the future”, said the President.

 According to him, integration had never been a one-way street. “It’s not just the relation between Montenegro and Balkans and the EU, it’s also about the relation between the EU and our country and the region. That’s why I see the Berlin process as high-quality upgrading of the European policy aimed at WB,” said the President. He added that some more committed relations of the EU was of crucial importance for tackling the remaining open questions in the region. “The example of the Prespes agreement is very stimulating. The agreement reached between Skopje and Athens is a real indicator that even the most difficult problems can be overcome if there’s a political will of leaders and benefits that for both sides. It’s essential that North Macedonia is on its way towards NATO, with the real possibility of opening negotiations for the EU accession. I believe it can be inspiring for the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. If that problem settled, the entire region, and Serbia, would be more relaxed. It would inspire Serbia to dedicate more to the European perspective. The most difficult question of all is the question of the functionality of B&H,” said the President. Djukanovic said that it “is very difficult to talk about any perspective without understanding the more recent past and the present”. He pointed out that Montenegro “was one of the six republics where there hadn’t been wars and tragedies during the breakup of Yugoslavia”. “We were an oasis of security and a shelter for a great number of refugees and displaced persons. It was a time of sanctions against the last, two-member Yugoslavia whose part was Montenegro. It was time of warfare, shortage of all kinds, inflation… In order to defend its economic system, several years later, Montenegro formalized German mark (DM) as its only currency. Thanks to that, in 2002 already, the EUR becomes our currency. Those were radical changes, not only financial and economic but also, mental and social changes. And they have definitely defined the direction of the development of Montenegro,” pointed out President Djukanovic. Almost 13 years ago, under the auspices of the EU, Montenegro regained its independence. “At the end of 2008, Montenegro applied for the EU membership, and in 2012 it entered into accession negotiations. We opened 32 out of 33 negotiating chapters, we became leaders in the integration process. In June of 2017, Montenegro became NATO Member. We had enormous support of our international partners, and Germany had one of the most important roles,” said Djukanovic. Struggling with the retrograde politics in Montenegro, that opposed to independence and integration, was very hard and very risky. “However, we succeeded because from the very first day we had a clear vision. We wanted to bring Montenegro back to its European home, we wanted it to be part of the European system of values. A factor of the contemporary European civilization. We also had a firm determination and capacities to overcome all the obstacles. However, let me just acknowledge a fact: a strategic political battle in the WB is still being fought on that front. Now, will we follow the idea of integration, or will some of us, miss another, maybe even the last chance, under the pressure of domestic retrograde politics, supported by political centers which oppose Europe? We, in Montenegro, believe that we had made smart decisions and achieved partial objectives. We are still trying to provide more dynamic development and European-quality lifestyle for our citizens”, said the President.  The President pointed out that one of the key economic values of Montenegro is the openness of the economy. “Montenegro is an open country and it is a part of global trends. That openness isn’t related to the economy only. We have done a lot to unite some differences that existed, we don’t have unsettled questions with our neighbors. We have two bilateral agreements signed. They refer to border regulations, the only two agreements of that kind at the territory of former Yugoslavia,” concluded the President of Montenegro.

Serbia sees Macedonia as the base used to organize protests against its government (Republika)

A series of links between Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and businesspeople close to the Serbian opposition, as well as a recent meeting in Skopje, are at the forefront of Serbian official allegations that Zaev’s government is involved in the unruly protests in Belgrade over the past several days. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic drew a direct parallel between how Zaev was anointed Prime Minister of Macedonia – given illegal wiretaps, international backing to appoint a partisan special prosecutor and staged a “colored revolution”, apparently in order to sacrifice long-standing Macedonian positions on the name issue with Greece and redefine inter-ethnic relations with the Albanian minority. There is a group of criminals from Belgrade who want to work in Skopje. These are bandits which we threw out from here, Sasa Mirkovic, Zoran Basanovic, all mere thieves, one of them was caught stealing panties in a shopping mall in America and now he is a very important adviser to Zaev. Don’t worry, we will protect all the people in Serbia, Vucic said in his address following the violent protests over the weekend in the Serbian RTS public radio-television, and in front of his office in Belgrade. Zaev surrounded himself with several businessmen tied to the opposition parties in Serbia during his Colored revolution. One of them, Zoran Basanovic, is a Serbian folk music producer who was active in Vucic’s SNS party, before being thrown out of it for alleged corruption. In 2012 he and his wife were detained in a mall in Miami after trying to get away with clothes and linens worth 5.000 USD. After Zaev took over the Government of Macedonia, he appointed Basanovic his adviser, and he recently organized a meeting between Zaev and Serbian opposition leader Dragan Gilas who took part in the storming of the RTS building. Eric Burns, American media consultant from the far-left wing Media Matters from America organization, who has been working with Zaev over the past several years, was also present at the meeting, said Serbian journalist Dragan Vucicevic. My friend Ramush Haradinaj (the Prime Minister of Kosovo) is prepared to partially finance the downfall of Vucic if you pledge to recognize the independence of Kosovo as soon as you take over, Vucicevic claims that Zaev told the Serbian opposition leader during the meeting.

Vucic himself raised this comment, half-jokingly saying that “I did not take Haradinaj’s threat to depose me seriously, I thought he was joking, but now I see he was serious and has serious supporters in the plan”, lumping Zaev with the Kosovan Prime Minister and accusing them of a plot against the Serbian Government. The style of the protests in Serbia, with youth posing in dramatic fashion against the backdrop of riot police officers, while protest organizers seeming desire a confrontation, drew immediate parallels to the protests Zaev staged against the conservative VMRO-DPMNE led Government of Macedonia. At one point, a nationalist politician allied with Zaev similarly tried to storm the Macedonian Radio Television building – now renamed into the nondescript “National Radio Television” as part of Zaev’s deal to remove all mention of the Macedonian national institutions. Following the imposed “solution” to the Macedonian name issue, through the Prespa treaty which renames and redefines the country, its national identity and history, Zaev has frequently said that this solution should be used to resolve other disputes in the region. The main such issue is the status of Kosovo, which claims independence but Serbia refuses to acknowledge its secession. Following the meeting in Skopje, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that Macedonia is now the base of operations to fund and organize opposition protests in Serbia, much like Budapest was used to prepare the protests against Milosevic in the 1990-ies.

“Srbija Danas” sees Greater Albania in Zaev-Rama meeting (Meta)

The Serbian news portal Srbija Danas sunk to a new low, as some Serbia websites pretend to call themselves the media in order to post comments in the form of news. Namely, broadcasting the integral news from the Serbian state news agency Tanjug on Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s visit to Tirana for talks with his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama, SrbijaDanas from the above and in the form of a headline, wrote “Rama is making greater Albania bigger: he’s preparing a Kosovo Schengen” for all neighboring countries. The news, taken from Tanjug begins with the fact that at the meeting, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama pledged to apply the “Schengen model” with North Macedonia and other countries in the Western Balkans, and not only with Kosovo”. However, among Rama’s quote that “the Schengen model should be implemented throughout the region, with Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, and Montenegro, with the conviction that all countries in the region will enter this process. Our borders must become transitory like the borders in the European Union”, to the claim that Rama” is making Greater Albania bigger” has no connection. That is, the term “Greater Albania” was not mentioned at all in the text, and there is no explanation as to where a commitment to simply crossing borders, which will still exist, will mean the creation of a Greater Albania. So, even in Rama’s entire statement, there is neither an allusion to any new enlarged state, nor did Srbija Danas imply such a matter, which would at least somewhat support the commentary’s claim from the headline. In other words, with a comment in the form of a headline and a completely different story, the Serbian news site made a hybrid of comment and news, one as the headline, the latter as the article.

Russia will begin referring to Macedonia as “North Macedonia” (Republika)

Russia informed the Macedonian Foreign Ministry that, in the future, it will use the name “Republic of North Macedonia. In the Russian note it is stated that it has received the information from the Macedonian Foreign Ministry that under the Prespa treaty and in line with the constitutional amendments, the country has changed its name. The Russian Foreign Ministry replies that it will refer to Macedonia as the “Republic of North Macedonia”. Russia was highly critical of the process to rename Macedonia and its apparent main outcome – to bring the country into NATO. President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Ivanov condemned both the content of the Prespa treaty and the way in which it was rammed through the Macedonian parliament.

France and the Netherlands still reluctant to back the start of EU negotiations with Macedonia (Republika/MIA)

Regardless of overwhelming support amongst EU countries for the start of negotiations with our country, several Western European countries – most notably France and the Netherlands – are still reluctant to back this process, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Pcter Szijjarto has said after a working breakfast with Nikola Dimitrov and Bujar Osmani. Speaking to MIA on Monday, he said that Paris and The Hague were still reluctant to support the launch of negotiations, saying the Western European ‘friends’ were not as sensitive because they were detached from the region. Eastern European countries, as well as Italy and Ireland, have extended staunch support, it was reported. Hungary, Szijjarto said, believes that a decision must be reached in June over EU negotiations with Macedonia and the country has already sent its own seasoned diplomat to work for the country’s foreign affairs ministry. After arriving in February, he is there to offer his assistance regarding the integration process and whatever North Macedonia needs in order to accelerate the process. We are always here to help, the Hungarian Minister told MIA. He said he regretted the fact that the European Commission this year would release its progress reports later than usual. They are expected to be released in late May after the European Parliament elections. But, the Netherlands remains more reserved. The country’s Foreign Minister Stef Blok, after attending the working breakfast, said that the Netherlands was focused on Macedonia delivering reform-oriented results. It’s important that North Macedonia continues to show progress. The Netherlands is strict and just when it comes to changes of (accession) conditions. We think it is of utmost importance for North Macedonia to show tangible results, especially considering the fight against corruption and organized crime. We give the country credit for solving the name dispute, but it doesn’t make the efforts to improve other areas any less important, Blok told MIA. In addition to reform adoption, the member countries want to see reforms being implemented, Didier Reynders has said. It will matter to us to see the European Commission report and check first-hand that progress is being made. The name dispute was one of the preconditions and it was exceptionally fulfilled. Now, we want to see reform implementation. We realize that the implementation process is always the most complicated part, the Belgian Foreign Minister told MIA. Belgium, he noted, considers it very important that every country is valued according to its own merits and that there are no ‘packages’ of countries being admitted. Still, Belgium is not as skeptical as France and the Netherlands as it advocates for the doors, both in NATO and the EU, to remain open. Hopefully, in the coming months, we will be able to open an accession process, which is a long one. Even is negotiations are opened, the procedure is very long, chapter by chapter many EU demands have to be met. Nevertheless, we are glad we’ve seen this determination to solve the name issue, which resulted in NATO doors being opened. Now, we are prepared to open them in the EU if the criteria are met, stated Reynders.

German Embassy respects opposition’s decision of ‘burning’ mandates (ADN)

The German Embassy headquartered in Tirana, through a statement this Monday, reacted on the current political situation in Albania. Ambassador Susanne Schutz said that the current political reforms should continue while declared that she respects the opposition’s decision to burn mandates. She added that, above all, the place where political debate should be conducted, is the parliament. “Albania is ahead of the important decision-making of the European Union regarding the launching of membership talks. So now we should not waste time while reforms started to advance and to achieve other concrete results in the five key priorities. We respect the decision of each MP and their followers on lists for the surrender, acceptance or rejection of the mandates. The Federal government will continue to cooperate in the future with the current government democratically legitimized as well as the mandate holders in the Parliament” said the German Ambassador. She added that the implementation of OSCE / ODIHR recommendations remains an important component in building a solid electoral system in Albania, which can enjoy citizens’ trust.

President Meta appeals for dialogue not to deepen crisis (ADN)

President of the Republic, Ilir Meta spoke about the current political situation in Albania. During an interview with the media, the Head of the State declared that parties should dialogue to solve the political situation and not deepen the crisis.

Mr. President, are you willing to initiate a dialogue between the parties and how do you assess the violence against protesters?

Meta: The subject of the activity, I had the pleasure to attend with Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, had to do with the culture of love, opposite to the culture of rejection. I believe that is useful also for the critical question you are posing.

President Meta will you take the initiative for an inclusive round table?

Meta: I want to assure you and all Albanians that the President has taken all possible steps, well in time, to avoid this serious political, constitutional, institutional crisis, which is now framing also as a crisis of representation.  It’s regrettable that parties have precipitated and are still rushing to deepen this crisis. Still it is my obligation to once again appeal for reflection by all, because we have to safeguard the interests of the country and of the citizens who request normality. At the same time, we have to continue to enhance Albania’s contribution as a factor of stability in a region that is still facing important challenges. This internal context does not help.

Do you have a comment on the stance of the international representatives?

Meta: I think that the Albanian political class must take its own responsibilities and cannot hide behind any international representative, as has happened insofar. All issues must be resolved through dialogue, in transparent and principled fashion, far from trading or even misuse of individual international representatives.

Mr. President, has the report of SIS (SHISH), talking about the risk of Russian influence in Albania, come to your office?

Meta: We are well aware of an, unfortunately, often toxic Russian influence in our region, but I do not believe that this is the case in Albania. We would like that Russia respect the choice of all the peoples of this region to integrate in the European Union and in NATO, although it remains its right to react otherwise. Nevertheless, we must not degrade Russian threat in simile to the “Anglo-American peril” during our dark past, to conceal the real roots of this constitutional, political, moral representative crisis, which has been created by us and requires reflection from all. Thank you!

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Western Balkans show improved labour market performance (Emerging Europe, 19 March 2019)

Labour market performance in the Western Balkans continued to improve, albeit at a slower pace than the previous year and despite stronger economic growth in the region. According to the Western Balkans Labour Market Trends 2019 report, prepared by the World Bank and the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw), about 68,000 new jobs were generated between the second quarter of 2017 and the second quarter of 2018, compared to 231,000 a year earlier. In contrast, GDP growth in the region increased from 2.5 per cent in 2017 to 3.9 percent in 2018. Albania and Montenegro reported the strongest job growth in the region, with 3.3 per cent each, followed by North Macedonia with a 2.1 per cent increase. The majority of new jobs were created in industry and services. Women continued to be underrepresented in Western Balkan labour markets, but more than half of the employment increase benefited them. On average, regional labour markets recorded improvements in activity rates (up 0.5 percentage points to 62.8 per cent) and employment rates (up one percentage point to 52.9 per cent), but they remained far below European standards. Unemployment reached historic lows in most Western Balkan countries. The region also experienced a substantial decrease in long-term unemployment, from a peak of 1.5 million people in 2011 to 776,000 people in the second quarter of 2018. Still, unemployment remained a significant challenge in the Western Balkans, where levels were two to three times higher than in EU peer countries. Wages and labour costs remain significantly lower in the Western Balkans compared to the EU, and there has been no clear convergence in recent years. “In addition to the positive though fading momentum in employment developments, the recent trends in productivity and wage growth are worrying and need to be tackled by policy makers to assist both convergence and employment,” said Robert Stehrer, scientific director of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. The report finds that the taxation of labour income in the Western Balkans is comparatively high for low wage earners and workers with dependents, given the region’s low progressivity and infrequent use of family allowance in income tax regimes. Low-wage earners are at a particular disadvantage in the formal labour market in terms of their net take home pay and the relative high cost of hiring them compared with medium- or high-wage earners.

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