International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbia’s Vucic discharged from Military Academy Hospital in Belgrade

November 18, 2019

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic was reported in a stable condition and was discharged from the Military Academy Hospital (VMA) for home treatment after being in the hospital for three days due to cardio-vascular problems, state RTS TV reported on Monday, the Beta news agency reported.

Vucic said earlier he would be back at work on Monday.

He was admitted to VMA on Friday afternoon with cardio-vascular problems, and his media advisor Suzana Vasiljevic told the pro-regime Pink TV the President spent two days attached to devices and felt better on Sunday.

“He felt so bad that he asked to be taken to the hospital,” Vasiljevic said, adding she hoped Vucic would now “start listening to the doctors and take his therapy.”

Zlatibor Loncar, Serbia’s Health Minister, said later Vucic had some minor heart problems, but that on Friday, his health seriously deteriorated and he decided to seek medical help.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544781/President-Vucic-disgarged-form-hosital-after-three-days.html

France proposes seven-step EU accession process

November 17, 2019

Western Balkan countries should become EU members, but that should happen through a new step-by-step process, France has proposed.

Last month France vetoed the opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, claiming that the EU should first reform the enlargement policy. Now the country has put forward more specific ideas on what that should look like based on the gradual association of candidate countries before they become full members.

France has circulated to EU diplomats an informal, six-page paper which should serve as the basis for debate in EU institutions.

The first debate could be held on Tuesday at a meeting of the General Affairs Council, and the new European Commission could flesh out more detailed proposals in January 2020.

According to the new French model, cited by the EUobserver website, the new accession process would contain seven steps.

During EU accession negotiations, candidates must adopt the entire European law, which is divided into 35 chapters. When the negotiations are completed, an accession treaty is signed and a candidate becomes a full member after the treaty is ratified by all member states.

After the seven-step process, each candidate state would gain access to selected EU policies and programmes.

The seven steps are: rule of law and fundamental rights; education and research; employment and social affairs; financial affairs; the single market, agriculture, and fish; foreign affairs; and "others".

When candidates fulfil step one, they would gain access to Eurojust and Europol, for instance, while step five "would make candidate countries eligible for structural funds."

The French paper "reaffirmed" the EU's "unequivocal support for the European perspective of Western Balkan countries". It did not mention Turkey, which is also an EU candidate, but the talks were suspended three years ago.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544611/France-proposes-seven-step-EU-accession-process.html

Health Minister: The President's life was in danger

November 17, 2019

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic suffers from minor chronic heart problems, but his life was seriously endangered on Friday when he went to the Military Medical Academy, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said on Sunday.

As soon as the President was admitted, the medical team undertook all necessary measures to help him and he responded to the therapy well, Loncar said.

Doctors advised Vucic to reduce his activities in the coming period so he can fully recover.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544557/Health-Minister-The-President-s-life-was-in-danger.html

North Macedonia's PM announces his country could join NATO in January

November 17, 2019

North Macedonia's Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, has announced that both Spain and France will soon ratify the accession protocol for his country to become a full NATO member in January.

Zaev said at a party panel in Veles that Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told him on Friday that a new government would be formed in his country soon after the November 10 election.

"Spain will form a government very soon and ratify the NATO protocol which we are expecting. At the end of November, France will ratify it in Parliament because the Senate has already done so. All NATO countries will ratify the protocol," Zaev said.

Spain and France are the last of the 29 member states yet to ratify North Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544609/North-Macedonia-s-PM-announces-his-country-could-join-NATO-in-January.html

Serbian President admitted to hospital

November 16, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been admitted to hospital with cardiovascular problems, a press release from the President’s General Secretariat said.

Vucic was admitted to the Military Medical Academy (VMA) in Belgrade on Friday afternoon, the press release said without providing any other details of the president’s ailment.  

N1 was told in the Presidency that Vucic is stable. The presidency sources could not say when he would be discharged, adding that it depends on assessments by his doctors.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544321/Serbian-President-admitted-to-hospital.html

Pristina to EU: Don’t condition visa-free regime with dialogue with Belgrade

November 15, 2019

Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry described on Friday "the attempts by some new Brussels officials to link the visa liberalisation to the end of the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations as wrong,” the FoNet news agency reported, citing local Kosovo media.

The Ministry said that the “imposed non-constructive approach burdens the agenda… and creates a basis for misunderstanding and wrong interpretations.”

"Such an idea violates the freedom of movements and presents the mixture of two processes which should not be linked,” the Ministry statement said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544261/Pristina-tells-Brussels-Don-t-mix-visa-regime-with-dialogue-with-Belgrade.html

French non-paper: Reversibility needed in new enlargement strategy

November 15, 2019

France sent a so-called non-paper, an informal document to the European Union member states demanding a “renewed approach” in the enlargement process of the Western Balkans countries, Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported on Friday.

The leading French demand is to include the reversibility principle to secure credibility and incentive nature of the process.

Paris considers that principle needed in resolving the situations in which a candidate country partially or not at all fulfils some criteria or if it stops implementing the obligations.

According to the document, sent after Paris last month refused to give the green light to the EU to set a starting date for North Macedonia and Albania accession talks, the European Commission (EC) should publish a new methodology of the negotiations with the candidate countries by January 2020.

The non-paper which RFE had seen also said that “once the negotiations start, the process would not be based on the opening of new chapters, but on several successive phases which would form coherent blocs of policies and a scheme established by the EU, taking care of the specifics of each candidate.

”The document insists on the rule of law and fundamental rights as integral demands from the start of negotiations and as a part of all areas in the process.

It also says that “the final aim would be full accession,” and that the whole process should be “more gradual and more incentive.”

Paris also envisages additional financial aid in the pre-accession process of the Western Balkans countries. That means more pre-accession instruments, but also the access to structural funds now reserved for the member countries only.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544245/France-wants-reversibility-principle-in-EU-enlargement-process.html

EP's Fajon: Clock is ticking for ruling coalition and opposition

November 15, 2019

After the second inter-parliamentary meeting in Serbia's Assembly mediated by the European Parliament (EP) the mediators appealed for full implementation of the undertaken obligations and suggested the improvement of the conditions for general elections in line with OEBS/ODIHR recommendations, N1 reported on Friday.

The EP delegation's and Serbia's Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic's joint statement said the participants saw progress in the training of the electoral roll clerks and new Internet website with information about the roll.

During the meeting, it was warned about the general media environment and said the issue should be urgently addressed.

"But, the clock is ticking, and we call on the ruling coalition to stop losing time in discussions and start implementing the agreed. For that to be successful, we call upon the opposition to return to the Parliament and include into the dialogue so that the ruling coalition is held responsible for implementing the obligations," Tanja Fajon, a MEP and the Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, said after the meeting.

Gojkovic thanked the EP delegation for mediation and said the Parliament was an important place for talks to improve conditions for general elections due next spring.

Slovakian MEP Vladimir Bilcik, the EP rapporteur for Serbia, said limited progress had been made.

"Both the ruling coalition and opposition had to take a step forward, to move away from their starting positions. We've heard about the frustrations regarding the lack of confidence, and it would be necessary to do something significant to rebuild the trust in the whole political spectre and to show to the people that real efforts are being made to improve election conditions," Bilcik said.

The main opposition bloc the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) boycotted the talks and had a separate meeting with the EP delegation.

It also met Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544211/EP-delegation-warns-Serbia-that-clock-is-ticking-for-agreement.html

Serbia's fmr president: Some European leaders allow regime to destroy democracy

November 15, 2019

Boris Tadic, Serbia's former president, warned on Friday that because the European Union hadn't defined its consolidation strategy and the enlargement, Russia, China and Turkey increased their influence in the Balkans, the Beta news agency reported.

In an interview with the Spanish El País daily, Tadic, now one of the opposition leaders, also cautioned that Serbia had become a country with a single issue – Kosovo.

"The situation with democracy in Serbia is catastrophic. Some European leaders allowed the current authorities to destroy all democratic institutions in Serbia, and that is a problem for the whole region," Tadic said.

He added he could not understand such EU attitude toward Serbia.

"The recognition of Kosovo's independence opens doors to other European regions for unilateral secession," the former president said.

He added that his international interlocutors often did not understand the issue of Kosovo "and ignored the domino effect potential and continued with a rigid agenda of independent Kosovo."

"But," Tadic said, "when they faced the cases of Crimea, South Ossetia and Abkhazia they were shocked."

He also talked about the internal political scene and the collapse of democracy in Serbia "under the absolute power of (President) Aleksandar Vucic," and about the anti-government protests and the boycott of the next spring elections.

"Democracy in Serbia has been collapsing for seven years now. And the only way is to address the remaining democratic forces which realise that Serbia is under the rule of an absolutist, demagogue and populist," Tadic said.

He added that "every day, for 24 hours, we are exposed to false news, and in such circumstances, people cannot have the freedom of choice."

Tadic acknowledged that due to the boycott, the regime would have even more MPs, but that "giving the legitimacy to such process is even worse."  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544181/Former-president-says-some-European-leaders-tolerate-Serbia-undemocratic-regime.html

Vucic denies conflict with minister

November 15, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic denied media reports that the Krusik arms deal scandal is actually his conflict with Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic.

Vucic told reporters during a tour of the Belgrade Waterfront site on Friday that he asked the minister about his father’s involvement with the GIM company and was told that it was nothing. The president added that he was mistaken when he said that the elder Stefanovic was employed by that arms trading company.

Speaking last week on the state TV (RTS), Vucic said that Branko Stefanovic was just an employee at GIM.

The minister’s father Branko Stefanovic was named as one of the people representing GIM in deals with the Krusik munitions plant whose management sold GIM its products at privileged prices allegedly inflicting losses on the plant.

Asked about a document which shows that Branko Stefanovic was part of a GIM delegation which went to Krusik in 2017, the president said that proves nothing, adding that he does not see any crime committed and that everyone is only talking about a conflict of interest.

“I am asking the Anti-Corruption Agency to determine whether there was any conflict of interest,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544137/Vucic-denies-conflict-with-minister.html

SzS says no conditions in place for fair elections in Serbia

November 15, 2019

Officials of the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) on Friday told the European Parliament delegation that is in Belgrade to mediate in talks on election conditions that there are no conditions for fair and democratic elections.

“The SzS delegation conveyed the clear and known views that there are no conditions for fair and democratic elections in Serbia because the institutions have been destroyed and there is no rule of law or freedom of the media,” a press release said.  

The SzS officials met with the European Parliament mediators at a working breakfast prior to the meeting between officials of the ruling coalition and part of the parliamentary opposition.  

The press release said that SzS officials met with the EP delegation twice on Thursday and Friday and added that their demand to change the format of the talks was accepted.

It added that the SzS said in both meetings that the conditions for fair elections can’t be secured by the spring of 2020 because they have to be in place for at least nine months prior to the vote which is why the SzS won’t take part in the coming elections.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544109/SzS-says-no-conditions-exist-for-fair-elections-in-Serbia.html

Opposition leader says attack on N1’s Cosic comes from Serbian Presidency

November 15, 2019

The leader of the opposition Zajedno for Serbia party Nebojsa Zelenovic condemned the media attacks on N1 TV News Director Jugoslav Cosic, saying that those attacks have been organized and orchestrated from the Serbian Presidency.

“Anyone who dares cast any doubts or take a critical look at the authorities becomes the target of the most brutal media demonization using a tried and tested mechanism. That mechanism has been brought to perfection – (Aleksandar) Vucic personally defines the target, engages paid journalists and analysts and then an avalanche of the most horrifying lies is launched on TV stations with national frequencies and the entire tabloid press,” Zelenovic said in a written statement which added that no one is spared if they say something that Vucic doesn’t like.  

He said that Cosic was targeted for daring to ask questions about the arms trade scandal. “Everyone knows that, just as they know that the goal is to shut up Cosic. They don’t understand that less and less people are afraid of them, especially not Jugoslav Cosic,” he added.  

Zelenovic said that the Krusik affair seriously upset the authorities who are in a panic because they can’t stop the avalanche.  

Earlier this week, Cosic interviewed Krusik whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic who is in house arrest after being thrown in jail for leaking documents showing that the father of the Serbian Internal Affairs Minister was involved in the export of munitions bought from Krusik at privileged prices which allegedly inflicted damages on the plant.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544091/Opposition-leader-says-attack-on-N1-s-Cosic-comes-from-Presidency.html

Grenell says mini-Schengen must include Kosovo

November 15, 2019

The US President’s envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina talks Ambassador Richard Grenell welcome the Balkan Schengen initiative but warned that it could succeed only if everyone, including Kosovo, is included in it, Pristina media reported on Friday.

The media quoted a press release from the US Embassy in Berlin which welcomed the initiative for a Western Balkan mini-Schengen as the way to start the free flow of people and goods. “We believe that for this initiative to succeed it has to include everyone in the region, including the government of Kosovo. The Trump administration is focused on helping the entire region to create economic opportunities and jobs for the young,” the press release is quoted as saying.  

The Kosovo authorities refused to take part in the recent meeting between top officials from Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia which agreed to launch the mini-Schengen initiative. Politicians in Pristina said that the initiative was an attempt to create a new Yugoslavia.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544053/Grenell-says-mini-Schengen-must-include-Kosovo.html

Skopje: Mitsotakis will help North Macedonia to get date for EU negotiations

November 14, 2019

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in Thessaloniki on Thursday that his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis confirmed he would be more actively involved to help Skopje get a date for the start of the accession negotiations with the European Union, the Beta news agency reported.

After meeting Mitsotakis, Zaev said he was “happy and satisfied.”

He said he believed Greece could be of great help to his country in an attempt to change the EU attitude and get a date for opening the talks.

The European Council failed to agree on when to start negotiations with both Albania and North Macedonia, mainly because of the French President Emmanuel Macron’s opposition.

But Zaev said that France and Greece had traditionally good relationship and that Athens was pretty influential in Brussels.

That, he hoped, could help his country to get the date after 15 years of obstructions from Athens.

The chances for that appeared after Zaev and the then Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras put an end to the 28-year long dispute over the name of Zaev’s country.

After the two agreed in June 2018  that the new name would be North Macedonia, the EU described it as a historic agreement and promised Skopje it would get the date for starting the negotiations soon.

However, that proved to be an unmet promise which many EU officials criticised.

Following the decision, Zaev called early elections for April 12 but they could be postponed due to the procedure for North Macedonia's NATO membership this December or in January next year.

Mitsotakis’ cabinet said the two discussed the European Council’s decision and reaffirmed the Greek support to the policy of the EU enlargement.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a543975/Skopje-hopes-Athens-will-help-with-date-for-EU-negotiations.html

Albanian politician in Serbia: We’re afraid state is behind nationalist threats

November 14, 2019

Shaip Kamberi, the head of the Bujanovac municipality, a multiethnic community with Albanian minority, told N1 TV on Thursday people there were not afraid of an ultra-nationalist, but worried that behind him was the state.

Misa Vacic, a minor political figure in Serbia, the head of the Serbian Right ultra-nationalist and homophobic party, has been on the spotlight recently for his threats to local Serbs in Bujanovac, and in opposition-held municipalities.

Kamberi said it was significant that Vacic threatened people in municipalities where the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) was not in power and that his words brought anxiety among the population.

“It is not about a politically minor figure, what Vacic is, the fear is based on a question what if the authorities or a part of them are hiding behind him and trying to endanger peace in Bujanovac and create artificial incidents between the Albanians and Serbs,” Kamberi told N1.

According to him, "these statements are fascist and should be sharply condemned,” adding that there were no inter-ethnic incidents in Bujanovac.

But, he added, Vacic’s statements targeted "the Serbs who are not SNS supporters and the intention is to condemn some political options so that people don’t vote for them."

"We hope the judiciary will react appropriately,” Kamberi said.

Some of Serbia’s opposition leaders and analysts also assumed Vacic had the authorities’ green light for such threats. 

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a543953/Albanian-politician-in-Serbia-says-he-is-afraid-that-state-supports-nationalists.html

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