Vucic: Bombardment was crime (TV Happy/Tanjug/Beta/RTV/RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated Tuesday evening that he cannot accept that the bombardment was a necessary aggression and a choice between two evils, as the CEAS President Jelena Milic put it. “That was an aggression that was completely wrong, it was a crime that regressed the region,” Vucic told TV Happy. He also said that he could not agree with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who told Tanjug on Tuesday that aggression was not aimed against the people. He says he cannot agree with Stoltenberg on that even though he has correct cooperation with him since this is his job, because we need to cooperate in order to guard our people and sanctities in Kosovo and Metohija. Vucic said the chances of an agreement with the Kosovo Albanians are much lower than before. Pristina won’t continue the dialogue with Belgrade during the term in office of the current European administration. “Pristina will never be able to do anything anywhere without an agreement with Belgrade. I am not an optimist but we don’t have to reach an agreement this year or next, it can come in five years,” Vucic said.
Vucic denied the existence of a 17 point plan to change the borders of Kosovo and added that no one wants a solution based on the two Germanys model. “The Albanians don’t even want to hear that, they doubt that Russia will accept it at the UN and that even we have accepted it,” he said.
Vucic says the EU could have reacted to Pristina’s introduction of taxes and that it had a mechanism that would dearly cost Pristina, but that it didn’t do so. He says the EU could have launched the procedure regarding the violation of the SAA. “But, the political decision was not to launch this procedure, counting they would thus bring Pristina and the radical elements in Pristina into an even greater conflict with their people and destroy them their EU perspective,” noted Vucic. They actually told Pristina – we are powerless before you, you may do whatever you wish. That was a wrong signal, said Vucic.
I am surprised with Scott’s statement
Vucic says he is surprised with Tuesday’s statement of US Ambassador Kyle Scott that Pristina should not be blamed, that the blame for the present Belgrade-Pristina relations and lack of dialogue is on both sides. “I am surprised with today’s statement by Scott. They say we are blaming others. Tell me, what is our guilt”,” said Vucic. He says Serbia had not introduced countermeasures to Pristina.
Brnabic: I won’t resign, I don’t accept blackmail (RTS/Tanjug/B92)
“I will not resign, and I don’t accept ultimatums and blackmail. They do not have to wait until 13 April, my answer is that I will not resign,” Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said. She says the ultimatum made by the people gathered around Alliance for Serbia (SzS) – for me to resign, together with the President of the Republic and the parliament speaker, by 13 April – is an ultimatum made by bullies. It’s also made by people who showed they want to achieve democracy through street violence, gallows and chainsaws, said the prime minister. “I was not scared, nor was the government scared of gallows, threats and chainsaws. We respect democracy, Serbia is a society of decent and normal people and we will never accept ultimatums made by bully and fascists,” Brnabic said.
Dacic: Paraguay under big pressure to recognize Kosovo (RTS/Tanjug)
Paraguay maintains that it will not recognize Kosovo’s independence although they are under big pressure to do so, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Tuesday. “Paraguay is a country that has not recognized the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo, but they are under a lot of pressure, and at the last conference they voted for admission of Kosovo in Interpol Therefore, it is necessary that we rest our relations,” Dacic told Tanjug in the end of his visit to this country. “We may say that cases as the one at the last Interpol conference will not happen again,” he said. Dacic said that the visit was rather important since this was the first visit of a Serbian minister of foreign affairs in the history of bilateral relations and he announced that a visit of the president of Paraguay was planned to take place in the next year. During the visit, the agreement on mutual abolition of visas for diplomatic, official and special passports was signed, says Dacic.
Improvement of political, economic relations with Guatemala (Tanjug)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic is on a two-day visit to the Republic of Guatemala, as part of his tour of Latin and Central American countries. In Guatemala City, Dacic met with the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Erica Jovel Polanco. In a friendly conversation, Dacic and Jovel Polanco exchanged views on the foreign policy priorities of the two countries, as well as on current internal political processes. They jointly concluded that political cooperation is at a high level, but that there is great potential in the field of economic cooperation. Dacic and Jovel Polanco agreed on coordination of cooperation in the multilateral field, emphasizing the importance of respecting international law and adherence to the principle of respecting territorial integrity. Dacic also stressed the importance of the upcoming return visit by Jovel Polanco to Serbia for continuing successful cooperation and promoting general political and economic relations to mutual satisfaction in all areas of common interest. They praised the excellent state of political and diplomatic relations, friendship and cooperation that exist and have been going on for 32 years, confirmed by Dacic’s official visit, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dacic will wrap up his official visits to countries of South and Central America by visiting Nicaragua on 28-29 March. Dacic will represent the Republic of Serbia at the Eighth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the Twenty-fourth meeting of the Council of Ministers in Managua.
Djuric expecting Czech Republic to support efforts to compromise on Kosovo (Beta)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said at a meeting with Janina Hrebickova, the Czech foreign minister’s special envoy for the West Balkans that he expected the Czech Republic, as a member of the European Union, to support efforts to reach a
compromise on the Kosovo issue. The Office said in a press release that Djuric had briefed the representative of the Czech foreign ministry on the position of Serbs in Kosovo, and the
status of the Belgrade-Pristina dialog. Djuric reiterated that revoking the illegal and anti-civilizational tariffs on products from central Serbia was a minimum condition for the dialog to resume. Djuric also talked about a series of unilateral moves Pristina has used over the past few months to systematically undermine the dialog, obstructing all efforts to come back to the negotiating table. Djuric said that there was substantial interest on Belgrade’s part in protecting stability in the West Balkans, and that it was very important to use political and diplomatic means to stop anyone threatening to destabilize the region.
Serbian opposition to boycott elections unless conditions change (N1)
The opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) said on Tuesday that the date of possible early elections is not important unless the current conditions are changed. The opposition has demanded fair conditions for elections, including at least six to nine months of unbiased media coverage, or else they will boycott them. “Will the voters be given a choice or will they be elections under Vucic’s rules with voters being blackmailed, scared, intimidated and harassed,” Democratic Party (DS) MP Aleksandra Jerkov said. Interior Minister and SNS presidency member Nebojsa Stefanovic said the first realistic date for early parliamentary elections is in June but he added that they might even be held in March next year. “We’ll see in the next 20 or so days,” he said.
Vucic said he had been given support by the SNS presidency to refuse to talk to opposition leaders and Stefanovic said that the authorities won’t meet a single opposition condition.
Djilas in US: Democracy in Serbia is jeopardized (N1)
Dragan Djilas, one of the founder of the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) group, told the officials in Washington that Serbia had lost a free country status, N1 reported on Wednesday, quoting the group’s statement. It added the topics during the talks included the peaceful anti-government #1 in 5 million protests held for months across Serbia. The statement said Djilas told the US officials that there was no dialogue between the regime and opposition, neither there was a possibility of having fair and free elections. He added that the opposition unanimously decided to boycott any elections under the current conditions. Djilas and the SzS secretary Ljuban Panic had meetings with the US Council of National Defense Director for Europe and Russia John Erratt, Director for European Affairs at National Security Council Brad Berkley, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer and members to the Senate and Congress.
Possible dates for early elections (Novosti)
If the ruling coalition in Serbia decides to call an early general election, possible dates are 23 or 30 June this year, while if it opts to wait for the regular time, it will be held on 3 May 2020, Novosti reports. The final decision on the elections is expected in the next three weeks. President Vucic would have to hold a series of meetings with his coalition partners in the next several days. But, the daily added, he would also have to talk to some of the key world politicians to determine whether to call early elections or wait for the regular election time, bearing in mind the economy, i.e., new investments and the challenges ahead concerning the Kosovo issue.
Dodik: PDP will decide next week whether it will take part in authorities at B&H level (Srna)
SNSD president Milorad Dodik said on Tuesday in Banja Luka that at the beginning of the next week the PDP will announce its final position on possible joint participation in the authorities at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). “It is important for us to come together and place ourselves as a decisive factor in B&H,” Dodik told reporters after a meeting between the SNSD and PDP delegations where they discussed possible participation of the PDP in the authorities at the level of B&H. Dodik said that he had offered PDP leader Branislav Borenovic a ministerial seat in the new Council of Ministers, but that Borenovic excluded such possibility. “The PDP remains opposition in Republika Srpska (RS)” Dodik said and added that consensus is needed when it comes to RS’s military neutrality. He said that it was agreed with the PDP to meet on a regular basis and to take part in amending the B&H Election Law and that the Law should define that seats belong to political parties. Dodik said that they also agreed that the public broadcasting service should be under parliamentary monitoring, and announced that SNSD representatives will not take part in forming commissions in any of the Houses of the B&H parliament until the Council of Ministers is formed. This means, Dodik says, that neither the B&H House of Representatives nor the House of Peoples have been formed. “As of April, the SNSD will change its politics of participation in authorities at the level of B&H in case the B&H Council of Ministers is not formed,” Dodik said and added that delaying the formation of the Council of Ministers is unnecessary. He recalled that the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, will arrive in Sarajevo in two days to meet with the B&H Presidency members. He said that for the time being, it is not possible to sign a statement agreed by all political parties since, he says, there was little time to draft this document. PDP president Branislav Borenovic said that talks with the SNSD are important for democracy in RS and B&H and that thereby they demonstrated political maturity. He said that he had rejected an offer from the SNSD to take a ministerial seat in the Council of Ministers. “I rejected the offer since not everything is in offices and seats, but in politics and some future actions in the interest of all citizens,” Borenovic said. He added that a wide consensus is needed when it comes to the Election Law which would disable any election manipulation and fraud and that it is important to solve the problem of the functioning of public media outlets and to bring more order into the work of political parties. “Both the government and opposition are aware of the fact that decisions of crucial interest for everyone in RS should be harmonized at the level of joint institutions,” Borenovic said.
Dodik: SDS’ response next week (Srna)
SNSD leader Milorad Dodik said that the SDS will give a clear answer about its participation in the B&H Council of Ministers at the beginning of the next week. “The SDS prefers to be the opposition in the RS, but they expressed readiness to work on joint issues of interest for RS at the level of B&H,” Dodik told reporters after a meeting between delegations of the SNSD and the SDS which dealt with the participation of the SDS in the B&H Council of Ministers. Dodik said they also discussed the B&H Election Law, VAT, and the B&H Constitution. “The earlier position of the SNSD, SDS, PDP and all other political parties was confirmed, namely, that constitutional changes are possible only as a response by which the court ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case would be implemented. We revived our position that RS will not give up the direct election of a member of the B&H Presidency,” Dodik said. SDS president Vukota Govedarica told reporters that the SDS bodies will give a final answer next week about the participation of this party in the B&H Council of Ministers. Govedarica said that Dodik offered him a ministerial seat in the B&H Council of Ministers, but that he does not want to deal with personal solutions and that SDS bodies will make a decision about this issue. “The SDS wants partnership relations with the SNSD, no matter whether we will be a part of the authorities or not. The SDS bodies will take a final position on all that very quickly,” Govedarica said. He said it is important that this is not about political tricks but about a Serbian unity, since if it is lacking, then a sphere of single-mindedness is entered, which is not needed by any political organization in RS.
Left-leaning DF ready to negotiate forming government with nationalist parties (N1)
The Democratic Front (DF) – one of the founders of a left-leaning pro-Bosnian political alliance that pledged not to take part in a government together with nationalists – said on Tuesday it was ready under certain conditions to start negotiations with the nationalist parties and then called other left-leaning parties to unite into a “strong political organization.” The DF, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and ‘Nasa Stranka’ (Our Party, NS) had formed the BH Bloc in 2018 and together they decided against participation in a government formed together with nationalists, although nationalist parties won most of the votes in the election last year. The sudden DF U-turn came with a list of conditions the DF set in order to start negotiations with the three main election winners – Bosniak Party for Democratic Action (SDA), the Croat Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ B&H) and the Bosnian Serb Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD). The conditions, however, are old requirements of the left and include the implementation of rulings of the EU human rights court that would essentially clip the wings of the nationalists. Among them is a ruling that ordered Bosnia to change its election law so that every person can run for any position in the state government regardless of ethnic belonging and that everyone should have the right to vote for whoever they like in the country. This is a principle the HDZ vehemently opposes. Citing Bosnia’s Constitution, the Croat nationalist party wants members of ethnic groups to only be able to vote for members of the same group, saying that only those elected officials would have the legitimacy to represent that group in Bosnia’s power-sharing system. The other condition the DF set is implementing earlier decisions of the presidency regarding Bosnia’s path towards NATO membership, which the SNSD fiercely opposes. The DF’s simultaneous call for its left-leaning partners to “unite the left of B&H into a strong political organization” was turned down by both the SDP and the NS. “Today’s adopted conclusions at the session of the DF Presidency are not in line with the conclusions of the three parties to, as BH Bloc, not enter the government with ethnonational parties,” the joint statement said. “Furthermore, we cannot escape the impression that the conclusions are unimplementable, as they contradict the principles for forming a government which are being advocated by the SNSD, HDZ B&H and SDA,” the parties noted, referring to the conditions the DF set for negotiating with the nationalists. The two parties added that people did not vote for them to form a government with nationalist parties and to become “a pawn” in a government where the SNSD and the HDZ are already controlling chambers within the House of Peoples. “We will continue to consistently and constructively act as the opposition to such a government, in the interest of all citizens of B&H, and we will, within our political capacities in all parliaments, support all projects which are in the interest of B&H,” their statement concluded.
Zvizdic with Ambassadors of Islamic Countries (Radio Sarajevo)
Chairman of the B&H Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic held a working meeting with the ambassadors of Islamic countries in B&H and informing them of the ongoing political and economic situation in B&H, as well as the facts regarding the formation of government at all levels in B&H. During the meeting, Zvizdic said that tourism, furniture industry, food, metal, textile as well as dedicated industries have become regional, as well as globally recognizable and competitive sectors. Zvizdic and the ambassadors also discussed the possibilities for enhancing bilateral and multilateral cooperation and agreed that it is necessary to increase economic and cultural cooperation in the relations between B&H and Islamic countries. He urged investors to come to B&H and to setup their businesses in B&H through partnerships and investments. He thanked the ambassadors for the assistance their countries have provided to B&H and said that dialogue, political stability and trust are key preconditions for peace, stability and prosperity. The meeting was attended by ambassadors of the Republic of Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Malaysia, the Republic of Indonesia, the State of Qatar, the State of Kuwait, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the State of Palestine and the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of Azerbaijan.
RS committed to European integration and reforms (Srna)
RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic stressed during an incoming visit from the US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson on Tuesday that RS’s institutions are fully committed to European integration and further socio-economic reforms for the purpose of improving the business environment and living standard. Cvijanovic pointed out that adherence to democratic procedures and implementation of people’s will show in elections, including the formation of a new Council of Ministers, was a prerequisite for legitimate functioning of joint institutions and efficient resolution of very demanding tasks on the European path. The two officials also discussed the current political and economic developments in RS and B&H, and improvement of cooperation between the United States and RS, reports the RS president’s press office. RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic and US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson stated that improvement of business environment, and design and implementation of new reforms is important for overall development as well as for local and foreign investors. They discussed political and economic developments in RS and B&H, with the emphasis on planned economic reforms, reports the Government’s press office. Viskovic pointed out that the government was committed to improving the conditions of doing business, creating conditions for higher wages, attracting investment and generating jobs in the real sector. He stressed the importance of overcoming the deadlock in the enforcement of reforms, realization of infrastructure projects and cooperation with international financial organizations, primarily the International Monetary Fund, through the formation of the new Council of Ministers and Government of the Federation of B&H, for the purpose of undertaking specific activities and measures to improve the business climate and conditions for business activities, as well as the living standard.
Commissioner Hahn to discuss reforms with B&H’s authorities (N1)
European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn will arrive in Sarajevo on Thursday for an official visit, the European Commission confirmed on Wednesday. This will be the first visit of a European commissioner to B&H since the beginning of the year. “Commissioner Hahn will discuss the state of play of the socio-economic reforms that the country committed to undertake to move forward on its EU path,” said the Commission. The EU’s senior official in charge of the neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations is arriving after the country handed over final answers to the EC’s Questionnaire, as a part of the regular procedure of obtaining the status of the EU candidate. “The Commission is currently working on the Opinion on the merits of the country’s application for EU membership to present to the EU Member States, and advancing on the socio-economic agenda is crucial in particular as this brings direct benefits to the people of B&H” the Commission said in the visit announcement. Hahn is set to meet the representatives of civil society organizations working on environmental issues and will then proceed with the meetings with Bosnia Presidency members, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and state ministers in charge of foreign trade and finance. Also, the EU official will hold meetings with representatives of political parties.
The relationship between Croatia and B&H remains strained (N1)
Relations between B&H and Croatia are highly strained over several issues, which could be the reason why the countries have still not names ambassadors to one another. The problems between the two countries that are stemming from the 1990s are far from the only thing that is negatively affecting the relationship between them, according to former B&H ambassador to France and Egypt, Slobodan Soja. “Croatia, as well as B&H, will always have some special interests which they will protect in any way possible but I am afraid that Bosnia will not have someone to lobby for it in Zagreb, while there will certainly be someone to lobby for Croatia in Bosnia, and this is happening for years already” he said. Soja referred to a half a million B&H Croats, often represented in B&H’s government by officials who acted more in Croatia’s interest, rather than B&H’s. The problems will persist, according to Soja, as Croatia is now an EU country and behaves as “someone who is in a position of power.” “So, that position within the EU will often be abused,” he said, but added that regardless of all, Bosnia needs to achieve “some kind of good neighbourly cooperation with Croatia.” Political Science professor at the Faculty in Zagreb, Dejan Jovic, agrees that Croatia often uses its position as an EU member country to politically intervene in B&H. The naming of the ambassadors between the two countries is already taking unusually long due to specific circumstances. Jovic said that many Croats from Bosnia voted in all elections in Croatia, as they possess Croatian citizenship. “Under such circumstances, it is very difficult to speak about normal diplomatic relations, as a number of citizens who are Croats can achieve their rights directly. They don’t use diplomatic-consular representative offices, so it is a specific situation which we cannot influence, and that is why I would say that the lack of an ambassador is not perceived as a very big problem in Croatia,” Jovic said. But is there room for dialogue? B&H authorities have in the past few days openly talked about the case of Trgovska Gora, an issue which B&H and Croatia never communicated about. Croatia has recently adopted a plan which names Trgovska Gora, an area close to B&H’s northern border, as the potential site where it will dump waste from a nuclear power plant.
This information caused concern among residents of Novi Grad, who told N1 in November last year the decision was “scandalous.” The Minister of Spatial Planning, Construction and Ecology in B&H’s Serb-majority region of Republika Srpska (RS), Srebrenka Golic, said in early March that she sent Croatia requests for clarification regarding the issue, but that those were ignored. The issue prompted B&H’s Presidency to send an official note to Croatia asking the country to refrain from using Trgovska Gora. But the most pressing issue between the two countries is an alleged affair revealed by B&H’s Zurnal investigative news organization. Zurnal published what it claimed to be interviews with Bosnians who said Croatia’s secret service, SOA, tried to recruit them to transport firearms to B&H masjids and create social media accounts in which they would praise the Islamic State. B&H’s Security Minister, Dragan Mektic, confirmed the allegations, saying that B&H’s secret service has data proving it. According to the minister, the plan was for the weapons to be found following a tip-off.
European Parliament election in Croatia called for 26 May (Hina)
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Tuesday called the election of 12 Croatian deputies to the European Parliament for 26 May. The decision on calling the election will go into effect after it is published in the National Gazette. Elections for the European Parliament will be held in all member states of the European Union between 23 and 26 May 2019, as decided by the Council of the European Union. Every five years EU citizens choose who represents them in the European Parliament. The EP is elected by direct universal suffrage and elections must be based on proportional representation and use either the list system or the single transferable vote system. In some countries including Croatia, the order on the list may be changed using the transferable (preferential) vote system. Slates may be submitted by all political parties registered in Croatia that can run in the election with their own slates or in coalitions. To participate in the election independent candidates must collect at least 5,000 signatures of voters, and submit them to the State Election Commission within 14 days after the president calls the elections.
Jean-Claude Juncker is the current President of the European Commission but a group of hopefuls are jostling to succeed him after the May poll. Political groupings in the European Parliament have named their spitzenkandidat, which is German for the lead candidate of a party.
Voters across the European Union will go the polls to select the 705 MEPs to serve in the European Parliament for the next five years. The number of MEPs for the next five-year is reduced to 705, down from 751 during the 2014-2019 period. The biggest beneficiaries have been France and Spain, who will both have five extra members in the chamber. Croatia’s number of seats went up from 11 to 12. Croatia held its first EP elections on 13 and 14 April 2013, just before it entered the Union on 1 July that year.
US Congress passes the bill supporting European energy security and diversification (Hina)
The US House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill on European energy security and diversification regulating cooperation between the United States and Central and Eastern European countries in a diversification of energy sources and supply routes. The bill, which is meant “to prioritize the efforts of and enhance coordination among United States agencies to encourage countries in Central and Eastern Europe to diversify their energy sources and supply routes, increase Europe’s energy security, and help the United States reach its global energy security goals, and for other purposes,” specifies 21 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including Croatia. “It is the sense of Congress that the United States has economic and national security interests in assisting Central and Eastern European countries achieve energy security through diversification of their energy sources and supply routes,” reads the bill. One of the aims of the legislation is “to advance United States foreign policy and development goals by assisting Central and Eastern European countries to reduce their dependence on energy resources from countries that use energy dependence for undue political influence, such as the Russian Federation, which has used natural gas to coerce, intimidate, and influence other countries.”
The legislation also defines assistance which Washington is going to provide in the implementation of relevant projects. Thus, there will be diplomatic and political support, early-stage project support and late-stage project support. Projects eligible for US assistance under this bill relate to natural gas infrastructures, such as interconnectors, storage facilities, liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facilities, or reverse flow capacity, electricity transmission infrastructure, electricity storage projects, or smart grid projects. Preferred projects will be those that link the energy systems of two or more Central and Eastern European countries, or have already been identified by the European Commission as being integral for the energy security of Central and Eastern European countries, and are expected to enhance energy market integration.
The bill is expected to be sent to the Senate and has to be signed by US President Donald Trump.
Agreement on the Future by “Odupri Se”: Protest unites opposition? (Vijesti/MINA)
The protest “Odupri Se – 97,000” organizers reported that they received from the Democratic Front (DF) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) proposals for amendments to the Agreement on the Future Draft. As they rate it, it is an excellent way to continue cooperation with a view to resolving a severe political crisis. “Some parties have already basically supported the draft Agreement, with the only common effort to reach a document that will be acceptable to all. We called on the leaders of parliamentary opposition parties to convene a joint meeting on Wednesday (27 March). Tens of thousands of citizens have sent a clear message to the domestic and world public that changes in Montenegro are inevitable and unavoidable,” the protest organizers said in a statement. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) submitted to the organizers of the protests the proposal of the points from the Agreement on the Future Draft, which they consider acceptable to all 39 opposition delegates, as well as representatives of the “Odupri Se- 97,000” movement. Democratic Front (DF) sent a proposal on the joint action of representatives of all parliamentary opposition parties and opposition deputies with the message “Let’s Agree!”.
“We are beginning the next cycle, preferably as far as the public is concerned, to find a common denominator,” Dzemal Perovic told the opposition parties on March 23, from the sixth protest of citizens in Podgorica. “There is another round of consultation with opposition political parties, which began with the DF, with a view to achieving a minimum of agreement on common points. It is no longer white paper because we do not have time to lose. I believe everything will be agreed upon Wednesday,” Perovic told Vijesti. A new round of consultations began after DF asked for “white papers” to go, matching the previously proposed Agreement on the Future, which the protest organizers forwarded to the parliamentary opposition, marking it as a roadmap for a peaceful transition to government. This document requires, among other things, the formation of the Government of Civil Unity, which would prepare fair and free elections, involving parties of the authorities, opposition and independent intellectuals. “After the consultations with the representative of the organizers of the protest ‘Odupri Se’, the Democratic Front sent a Proposal on the Joint Action of Representatives of All Parliamentary Opposition Parties and Opposition Members, ‘Let’s Agree!’, which we firmly believe will contribute to overcoming misunderstandings and enable joint action in realization proclaimed goals,” the DF reported.
Agreement on the Future – DF proposal: “Let’s Agree!”
“Starting from the fact that Montenegro is in a deep socio-political crisis that escalated with the ‘Envelope’. Aware of the great responsibility of Montenegrin citizens who are protesting for the resignation of leaders of the regime. Bearing in mind the justified expectations of citizens and the opposition of the public for the unique action of the parliamentary opposition and various associations that formally organize protests. Bearing in mind the political, ideological and program diversity of all those who support the protest. Opposition parties and opposition deputies in the Assembly of Montenegro with this document: Strongly support the demands of the organizers of the ‘Odupri Se- 97,000’ protest seeking resignations of President Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stankovic, Chief Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic, Anticorruption Agency Director Sreten Radonjic, Director of Public Media Service RTCG Bozidar Sundic and the Public Service Managing Board; They affirm that under these totalitarian conditions they will not go to the next elections;
They advocate for the formation of a Technical Government that would provide conditions for maintaining free and democratic general elections; They express readiness on continental communication and cooperation in an atmosphere of mutual trust, without exclusivity and condemnation, both politically and operationally, of all opposition parliamentary parties and delegates with representatives of the organizers based on the above-stated goals,” says DF.
Agreement on the Future- SDP Proposal: Text Acceptable for Everyone
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) has submitted to the organizers of the protests the proposed item from the Future Agreement document, which they consider acceptable to all 39 opposition delegates as well as representatives of the protest campaign “Odupri Se- 97,000”, said today.
SDP said they did so after a detailed analysis of the “Future Agreement” and consultations within that party. SDP believes that full support for justified protests and citizens’ demands is all acceptable, as a form of over-institutional pressure to achieve full democratization of the Montenegrin society and the release of captive institutions, which is only possible through the necessary personnel changes. In that party, it is considered that the proposal for a technical government is acceptable, whose primary task is to create conditions for fair and democratic elections with a consistent change, based on broad consensus, reformed electoral and other legislation; SDP statement states that a boycott of all subsequent parliamentary, local and presidential elections is acceptable if the necessary conditions for establishing the Technical Government as the only legal-political guarantor for fair and free elections are not fulfilled;
It is also estimated that it is acceptable for all to develop a professional, independent and responsible Public Service (RTCG) through impartial management and legal work of the Council, which is only possible through radical personnel change and return to the status before unlawful judicial decisions on the removal of members of the Council and editorial board.
As they said, in the SDP, they kept on suggestions they believe to be acceptable to all opposing political entities and can thus lead to the necessary agreement on how to resolve a severe political and institutional crisis. “We are convinced that such an agreement will be expected of citizens and the democratic public and that we will be by these principles to have an understanding of our international partners.”
Montenegro and United States: Cooperation with State of Maine (TMN)
Minister of Defense Predrag Boskovic paid an official visit to the State of Maine, where he met with Governor Janet Millsand National Guard Commander Major General Douglas Farnham.
At the meeting with Governor Mills, Minister Boskovic emphasized the importance of Montenegro’s full membership in the Alliance and outlined the role that Montenegro has in ensuring lasting peace and stability in the Western Balkans. He pointed to the importance of comprehensive bilateral relations between Montenegro and the United States, with the view that one of the crowns of these relations is precisely the State Partnership Program – SPP between Montenegro and the State of Maine, which is based on many compatibilities of Montenegro with this US federal state. Boskovic also stressed that the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Montenegro are particularly satisfied with the intensity of defense cooperation that should be strengthened alongside the development of relations in other areas of the state partnership.
Governor Mills praised the overall progress of Montenegro that resulted in NATO membership and expressed satisfaction with the high-quality State Partnership Program. She pointed out that the State of Maine is open to establishing more significant cooperation with Montenegro, especially in areas such as tourism, economy and education. At the meeting with Commander Farnham, Minister Boskovic stressed the high-quality bilateral defense cooperation, emphasizing that the United States represents the main ally and strategic partner to Montenegro in the area of development of defense capabilities. He said that the long-standing partnership between the Armed Forces of Montenegro and the National Guard of Maine within the mentioned State Partnership Program not only actively links these two structures but also gives particularly evident results in terms of improving the existing capacities of the Montenegrin armed forces. The Minister expressed the gratitude for the support of the National Guard of Maine in strengthening the interoperability and readiness of the Armed Forces of Montenegro for participation in international peacekeeping missions, as well as helping to fulfill the conditions for full membership in NATO. Furthermore, Boskovic pointed to the continuous improvement of bilateral defense cooperation, especially in the areas of cyber defense, human resources development, and joint exercises and training. General Farnem pointed out that the National Guard of the State of Maine will continue to strongly support the Armed Forces of Montenegro in fulfilling capability goals, and expressed the expectation that the defense cooperation of the two countries will be continued for mutual benefit. He said he was pleased that the SPP has directly influenced the development of the armed forces of both countries.
TV debate between opposition leader Mickoski and Prime Minister Zaev (Republika)
Regarding the name issue, during the televised debate between opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Mickoski said that when VMRO-DPMNE re-asserts the majority in Macedonia, he will work to reverse the damage caused by the Prespa treaty.
For us, this treaty is absolutely a capitulation. With it, we deny our own national identity. We are absolutely not prepared to accept it in any case, the text of the treaty we have now. This is a crystal-clear position which we have maintained – that the treaty harms our national interest and asks us to deny our centuries old identity, said Mickoski. After repeated insistence from Zaev to say whether VMRO would cancel the treaty once given the opportunity, Mickoski said that the party does not intend to burn down and destroy, but that it would reverse the negative consequences of the treaty. Countries have capitulated at times, but would then unite and turn into real powers. We will win the elections, and then we will show you, Mr. Zaev, how one should work for the benefit of Macedonia. Those that say that it is all over, they are wrong, said Mickoski. Zaev, on the other hand, repeatedly used the name “North Macedonia” and absolutely refused at several direct requests to say whether there are Macedonians living in Greece. A large part of the name issue is the minority rights of Macedonians living in Greece, who have faced decades of assimilation and expulsion by the Greek Government. The official language in Greece is the Greek language and they are our friends. You will not get me to go into a fight with Greece, Zaev responded when asked what language do the Macedonians in Greece speak, and what language is sung during the festival in the village of Ovcarane. This refusal to even mention the minority issue comes after Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, whose family originates from Aegean Macedonia or Northern Greece, at one point also tied himself in knots when asked about his own relatives and the other ethnic Macedonians in the region. According to the reading of the Prespa treaty adopted by the Zaev Government, even mentioning that Greece has ethnic minorities, let alone trying to identify them, is a violation of the treaty. This segment of the interview came just after Zaev passionately insisted that Greece, with the Prespa treaty, has accepted the existance of the Macedonian nation and the Macedonian language, only to refuse to mention the words in the context of Macedonians abroad, especially in Greece. Zaev also revealed that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepted his proposal to name Macedonia the “Republic of Ilinden Macedonia”, but that it was rejected by the Greek opposition. This proposal was used to extract a response from Macedonia that this, mostly positively received proposal, would be acceptable for domestic use, but once this name was withdrawn, Zaev was still stuck with his acceptance of a much more extensive renaming process – one used domestically as well as internationally – but under a far less acceptable name – the “Republic of North Macedonia”.
During the interview, Zaev insisted that he agreed to the domestic use of the new name precisely because Greece accepted the Macedonian national identity. Greek politicians, on the other hand, insist that they only agreed that the adjective Macedonian is used to describe the citizenship of the citizens of the “Republic of North Macedonia”, while the language is called Macedonian but with a lengthy caveat that it is a Slavic language. Zaev tried to get away from the pledge to allow early general elections if his presidential candidate Stevo Pendarovski loses on 5 May. Zaev announced early elections in autumn if Pendarovski loses, and Mickoski later said he will take him up on it. But, during the debate, Zaev denied ever saying that. “I don’t remember saying that, Zaev said about his widely shared statement from ten days ago”. Instead, Zaev asked for guarantees from opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski that there will be no boycott of the second round of the presidential elections, but took a lot of prodding to eventually commit again to holding general elections if Pendarovski loses – which is one move that could drive the turnout above the required 40 percent. Instead, Zaev tried to get Mickoski to resign as head of the VMRO-DPMNE party if his candidate Gordana Siljanovska loses. “I will defeat you at the coming general elections, that is what will happen,” Mickoski responded, before Zaev eventually acknowledged: “I will call for elections if we lose,” provided that the opposition asks for elections.
Opinion polls in North Macedonia show mixed results (Nezavisen vesnik)
Two opinion polls have been carried out in North Macedonia ahead of the presidential elections scheduled to take place on 21 April. An opinion poll carried out by Prospekt-M and TV Telma suggests that if elections were to be held tomorrow, over 25% of people would vote in favor of the governing coalition candidate, Stevo Pendarovski, 22,4% would vote the Macedonian opposition candidate, Gordana Siljanovska and 10,9% would vote in favor of independent candidate, Blerim Reka, who has the backing of Albanian opposition. Over 18,3% of respondents have not yet decided if they will participate in the elections, while 17,9% of them have said that they would vote neither candidate. Although Pendarovski is also supported by Albanian governing parties, only 15% of Albanian respondents have confirmed that they would vote for him. Meanwhile, 41,5% of Albanian respondents have answered that they would vote the Albanian candidate, Blerim Reka. The opinion poll also suggests that these elections will be won by the governing coalition candidate, Stevo Pendarovski. However, a few days ago, another opinion poll was conducted by Makfax think-tank and this opinion poll suggests that the presidential election will be won by the Macedonian opposition candidate, Siljanovska with 40,6% of votes. The same opinion poll shows that the governing coalition candidate, Stevo Pendarovski would obtain 36,9% of votes, while Albanian candidate, Blerim Reka would only obtain 4,7% of votes.
Xhaferi: If we could wait a year for the language law, we will wait for Ivanov to leave (Nezavisen vesnik)
The parliament is likely to re-send the laws by the end of this week to President Gjorge Ivanov, which he returned to Parliament when he decided not to sign them due to the use of the country’s new name. If Ivanov leaves the laws in the drawer even after they are re-voted at the assembly session, then, according to parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi’s announcements, then the Parliament will wait for the new president’s signature, since the incumbent head of state leaves the office of 12 May. “The Assembly will fulfill its obligation to decide again on the laws within 30 days from the day of their return to Parliament. If Ivanov once again refuses to sign them, we will wait for the new president to be elected in and sign the decrees before the laws are published in the “Official Gazette”. If we could wait for a year for the Law on the Use of Languages, we can wait for Ivanov’s term to expire for these laws,” Xhaferi told Nezavisen vesnik newspaper.
He says he expects the laws that Ivanov vetoed to be re-voted with at least 61 votes and without debate, since Ivanov did not enter into remarks on the text and specific members, but rather with a general formulation that in the solemn declaration he promised that it will always protect the interests of the Republic of Macedonia. Asked what would happen if the required turnout of 40 percent in the second round of the presidential elections is not reached, that is, a new president is not elected, Xhaferi said that there were appropriate procedures in such a situation. In other words, in such a case, Xhaferi should put two signatures – both as president of the Assembly and as acting President of the country. In this context, Xhaferi pointed out that Macedonia already has experience in such situations, since, after the assassination attempt of President Kiro Gligorov, Stojan Andov was acting president of the state for some time, as was the case with Ljupco Jordanovski after the plane crash that killed President Boris Trajkovski. Two new plenary sessions are scheduled. On the agenda of the 93rd session, there are 21 new laws currently in force, among which several are marked with a European flag, as well as amendments to the laws on the government and the organization of the state administration bodies, which foresees the abolition of the Secretariat for the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the establishment of a new ministry for the political system. After Members of Parliament pass these regulations, they should be sent to Ivanov’s office, who, in turn, should sign them or return them to Parliament within seven days. If he sends them back, as expected, then Xhaferi said he will probably have to schedule a new parliamentary session in order to re-run these laws in April, given the provided deadline of 30 days. Although this would mean scheduling parliament sessions in the middle of an election campaign, Xhaferi explained that this is not a problem because there were no legal restrictions that the legislature must not work during elections, but that it is a practice that the rostrum should not be used for political marketing.
The laws, which Ivanov has already returned to the MPs, are placed on the agenda of the 94th plenary session, which also begins tomorrow, but two hours later. Among the items on the agenda are the ratification of an agreement between Macedonia and Romania on cooperation in the field of culture and education, changes in the Law on OTA, amendments to the Law on Service in the ARM, the Law on Energy, etc. Ivanov did not sign three reform laws in the area of a judiciary that was adopted by a two-thirds majority and with the participation of the opposition. But they will be published in the “Official Gazette” even without his signature since the Constitution does not provide for the possibility of a presidential veto for laws that were adopted by a two-thirds majority. The same principle would apply to the Public Prosecution Act, which also defines the future status of the SPO, but which cannot be put in parliamentary procedure because there is no agreement between the ruling political parties and the opposition, although it is a regulation that now depends on the beginning of Macedonia’s accession talks with the EU. Xhaferi told Nezavisen vesnik that if there is an agreement between the parties and if the government releases the law on the prosecution in a parliamentary procedure, then it will be put on the agenda of one of the new sessions that begin on Wednesday. If not, the option to discuss this law after the election campaign has not been excluded.
Denmark ratifies North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol (Meta)
Denmark’s parliament ratified Tuesday the NATO Accession Protocol for North Macedonia at a session without a debate and with Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen in attendance. 97 MPs in the 179-seat parliament voted in favor. Nine MPs voted in abstention. Denmark becomes the ninth country that has ratified the protocol all the while also being the first country in Western Europe ratifying the document, which gives the green light to North Macedonia’s bid to become NATO’s full-fledged member. Aleksandar Novotni, the country’s acting ambassador to Denmark, attended the open session.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Blerim Reka – Underdog in North Macedonia’s Presidential Race (BIRN, by Sinisa Jakov Marusic, 26 March 2019)
The only ethnic Albanian candidate for the presidency in North Macedonia elections will not win the election – but may well affect the plans of the main contenders.
Blerim Reka enters the race for the presidential election in North Macedonia due in late May and early June as the distinct underdog. Only two small ethnic Albanian opposition parties, the Alliance for Albanians and the BESA movement, support him. Few think he stands much of a chance against the candidates of the two main political blocs – one centered around the main ruling Social Democrats, SDSM, and their junior partners, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI – and the other led by the right-wing opposition VMRO DPMNE party. As the only ethnic Albanian in the race, Reka does not deny that his main aim will be to mobilize the country’s sizable Albanian community – especially those that are unhappy with the record of the DUI, the strongest party in the Albanian bloc. Albanians make up about a quarter of the country’s population and have always played a pivotal role during past presidential elections. If Reka is unlikely to become the next president of North Macedonia, he could yet frustrate the plans of his more powerful rivals.
Career bound up with events in Kosovo
Though born in Macedonia in 1960, much of Reka’s professional career has been bound up with neighbouring Kosovo. He acquired his university degree in 1982, took a Master’s in legal sciences in 1994 and a Doctorate of International Law in 2002 at the University of Pristina in Kosovo. In 2001, he was part of the team of experts, supervised by the UN, who drafted Kosovo’s constitution. He was also the founder, and until 2001 the head, of the Kosovo Constitutional Forum, an NGO, as well as a member of the board of directors of Kosovo Radio and Television. In his home country, his most notable expert contribution was helping to draft of the internationally sponsored 2001 Ohrid Peace Accord. This ended a short-lived conflict between the state security forces and an army of ethnic Albanian insurgents. The deal resolved the conflict by offering the country’s Albanians significantly more rights. He has for some time been a professor at the South East European University in the ethnically mixed North Macedonian town of Tetovo. In 2006, Reka made his only foray into diplomacy when he became Macedonia’s ambassador to the EU. After his four-year mandate ended, he returned to academic life in Tetovo.
Playing on minority discontent
When Reka announced his entry in the presidential race, he lent an ethnic tone to his candidacy by saying that he had decided to run because the ethnic Albanian community had no other candidate of its own, and risked being mere spectators in the elections. His message contrasted with the non-ethnic line of the main government partner parties, the Social Democrats and the DUI. They for the first time in the country’s history have fielded a joint candidate in Stevo Pendarovski, who they hope will unite all the main ethnic communities behind him. Pendarovski is seen as the favourite in the elections. His main advantage over Gordana Siljanovska, the candidate of the VMRO DPMNE party, is that besides the support he expects from the Social Democrats, he can also expect to attract some votes from the Albanian community via the DUI.
Siljanovska’s more nationalistic VMRO DPMNE party enjoys almost no support among ethnic Albanians. In line with the small opposition parties who support him, Reka advocates another constitutional revision that will explicitly name Albanian as the second official language in the country. The current constitution grants the same rights in practice, but uses vague wording, referring only to “the language spoken by at least 20 per cent of the population”. Reka also promotes the idea of having a vice-president who will come from one of the minority ethnic communities. While these two ideas are unlikely to attract many ethnic Macedonians, Reka hopes that some of them will support his concept of a multi-ethnic society based on the rule of law. Back in 2016, he notes, thousands of ethnic Albanians voted for the Social Democrats led by Zoran Zaev, who went on to topple Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE-led government.
Now he wants a little payback. “With my concept of a multi-ethnic republic, and the rule of law and not of individuals, I think I can also win many votes from Macedonians,” Reka told BIRN recently.
Inter-Albanian battle may complicate Pendarovski’s race
Reka’s supporting parties, the Alliance for Albanians, led by Ziadin Sela, and BESA, led by Billal Kasami, bitterly oppose the DUI, led by Ali Ahmeti, which has long become a permanent factor in government. Formed in 2002 by former leaders of the ethnic Albanian armed insurgents, the DUI has since spent most of its time in government as a junior coalition partner either to VMRO DPMNE or to the Social Democrats. Sela and Kasami aim to overtake the DUI in the Albanian bloc, accusing it of corruption and of faking concern for Albanian rights. Reka’s presidential candidacy is widely seen as more part of this inter-Albanian battle than as a realistic push to actually win the state presidency. If Reka wins a considerable portion of Albanian votes in the first round of the elections on April 21, the two opposition parties will claim they have overtaken the DUI as the country’s largest ethnic Albanian party. This battle could undermine Pendarovski’s chances of beating Siljanovska in the first round. If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of votes in the first round, a second round will take place two weeks later between the two candidates who won most votes in the first round. For the election to succeed, at least 40 per cent of the electorate must cast ballots. This could be a setback for Pendarovski, but it is likely to be only a temporary one. This is because Reka’s voters in the first round are not likely to transfer their support to Siljanovska in the second round. The parties that support Reka were highly critical of the past VMRO DPMNE-led governments under Gruevski – seeing them as nationalistic and, to a degree, as anti-Albanian.