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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Serbia’s Vucic: We want to avoid in Kosovo what happened in RSK and RS

October 4, 2019

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President, reiterated on Friday his call to the Kosovo Serbs to vote for Serb List in Sunday’s general elections in Kosovo, adding “it is a matter of our survival, unity and future” there, the Beta news agency reported.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Serb List’s representatives in his office, Vucic said that “all main Albanian parties conducted a brutal campaign against the Serb List and were finding their private Serbs.”

“We want to avoid what happened in the Republic of Serb Krajina (RSK, the territory in Croatia the rebel Serbs held during the 1991-1995 war) and Republika Srpska (the Serb-dominated entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina). First, they (foreigners) caused conflict among the local Serbs there and then between them and Belgrade. (In Kosovo) It is the issue of our survival, unity and the future.”

Vucic said that Serb List was portrayed as “a monster list” and that “together with the Albanians in Kosovo, many in Belgrade continuously conducted the campaign against Serb List.”

“They were accusing them, and me as well sometimes, of everything linked to (the assassinated Kosovo Serb opposition leader) Oliver Ivanovic. They spread the most heinous lies, thinking we’ll run away from the issue,” Vucic said.

He added that “many from the Quint countries (the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy), all Albanian structures and some Serbs aim to weaken Serbia’s position” in Kosovo as a whole, “as well as its position in the negotiations with the Albanians about the future of Kosovo.”  

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a531738/Vucic-accuses-some-Quint-countries-of-aiming-to-weaken-Serbia-s-position-in-Kosovo.html

Trump appoints US ambassador to Germany as special envoy for Serbia-Kosovo talks

October 04, 2019

President Donald Trump has appointed US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as his special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, the Beta news agency reported on Friday, quoting a White House press release.

Grenell will remain Washington‘s envoy in Berlin while leading American efforts to help Serbia and Kosovo reach a formal agreement which the media in Washington said could result in Belgrade’s recognition of Kosovo.  

Serbia’s President Vucic said later on Friday that Grenell's appointment was surprising news. “The US President Donald Trump has now appointed a new man and I’ll talk to Grenell today. He’s a serious man who enjoys Trump’s confidence and we’ll see in what direction everything will go.”

The Washington Times recalled that Grenell was the longest-serving US spokesman at the United Nations, working under four ambassadors from 2001 to 2008.

 Kosovo President Hashim Thaci welcomed the appointment in a post on his Twitter account. “I look forward to working with him to secure peace in the Balkans and bring Kosovo into NATO and the European Union family,” Thaci tweeted.  

Serbia’s Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic told the Serbian state TV (RTS) that Grenell’s appointment as special envoy shows that the Trump administration is interested in finding a solution to the Kosovo issue. She added that the format of the talks will not change. “This is a serious man. We will see how things will develop,” she said.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a531556/Trump-appoints-US-ambassador-to-Germany-as-special-envoy-for-Serbia-Kosovo-talks.html

Palmer: Kosovo government has to revoke tariffs

September 19, 2019

US special envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told the Voice of America that the next Kosovo government must be prepared to suspend the tariffs on Serbia goods which he said are an obstacle to continuing the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

Palmer expressed the hope that Serbia could respond with initiatives of its own which could include a possible suspension of the campaign to withdraw recognition of Kosovo allowing the two sides to get back to the negotiating table in a positive atmosphere.

We will say clearly that we expect the next Kosovo government to favor the dialogue, be prepared to revoke the tariffs and form a negotiation team with strong powers, he said adding that the government also has to be committed to reaching an agreement to normalize relations.

According to Palmer, the US will be present in every stage of the process but warned that Kosovo has to take control of its own fate.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527033/Palmer-Kosovo-government-has-to-revoke-tariffs.html

Serbian opposition leader has plan for Kosovo without Vucic

September 19, 2019

Serbian opposition leader Dragan Djilas told reporters on Thursday that his Party of Freedom and Justice has a plan for Kosovo which does not include President Aleksandar Vucic and his partners in Pristina.

Djilas said that Vucic was out of the plan because “he does not know what the word reconciliation means”. “Our plan includes his not being in power, nor his friends and partners in Kosovo (outgoing Prime Minister) Ramush Haradinaj and (President) Hashim Thaci,” he told reporters in front of the Serbian Presidency building. “This is the only way. Seven years of trying with Vucic. Have they achieved anything,” he added.  

Djilas said that no one who committed war crimes or supported criminals can take part in the reconciliation process “because that’s impossible with those people”.  

A final agreement is not possible at this time because the Albanians insist on independent and have the support of part of the international community, he said and added that the focus should be on normalization with an end ot provocations, the revoking of the tariffs on Serbian goods, freedom of movement and solutions to other disputes.  

According to Djilas, more people leave Kosovo than any other part of Europe because both Serbs and Albanians are “hostages of criminals”.  

He said that possible partners for the plan include everyone who want to accept it and added that it has been translated into Albanian.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527117/Serbian-opposition-leader-has-plan-for-Kosovo-without-Vucic.html

Almost two million voters registered in Kosovo

September 19, 2019

More than 1.9 million people have the right to vote at the October 6 parliamentary elections in Kosovo, the Central Election Commission said on Thursday.

A Commission press release said that 1,937,869 voters are registered for the elections which is 111,733 more than at the local elections in 2017.

Voters will cast ballots at 2,547 polling stations which is 42 more than in 2017. The Commission said it had established 895 voter centers which is four less than at earlier elections.

A total of 46,917 names of people who died since the previous elections have been removed from the electoral rolls.  

Party of Kosovo Serbs leader Aleksandar Jablanovic said that his party would try to win seats in parliament but would not enter the government at any cost like the Serb List has done. He recalled that the Serb List was formed in agreement with the Serbian government to provide Kosovo Serbs with a means for political action which did not mean that they should be obedient to Belgrade. “We were tricked because Belgrade wanted to use us as a bargaining chip,” the former Serb List official said.

Serbian government Office for Kosovo chief Marko Djuric called the Kosovo Serbs to support the Serb List which he said is Serbia’s state project which would secure ties with Serbia and the survival of the Serbs in Kosovo.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527201/Almost-two-million-voters-registered-in-Kosovo.html

Half of Serbians see America as the enemy, poll shows

September 19, 2019

Half of the population of Serbia view the United States as an enemy but believe that good relations should be maintained with both Washington and Moscow, Institute for European Affairs said on Thursday citing the results of a poll.

One fourth of Serbians gave very low grades to Serbia-US relations while a third gave them a 3 out of a possible 5 grade and less than five percent said those relations deserve top marks.  

Half of the polled Serbians see the US as an enemy, 22 percent see it as a friend and 28 percent said they have no opinion. Most of the people who see the US as the enemy are aged 60 or more with the number of people sharing that view dropping the higher their education.  

A total of 57 percent believe that Serbia should maintain good relations with both Russia and the US and 40.9 percent what good relations with Russia while 4.3 percent prefer good relations with the US.  

Some 43 percent believe that Serbia’s relations with the US will get better in the future. That view is held mainly by women and people over the age of 45.

A solution to the Kosovo issue is the thing that would help improve relations with the US according to 21.6 percent of the polled while 12.8 percent said they would improve if Kosovo is returned to Serbia, 10.8 percent said an apology from NATO for the 1999 bombings along with war reparations and 8.1 percent feel they would improve if Serbia joins the European Union.

According to the poll, 39.4 percent of Serbians get information about relations with the US from TV, 22.2 percent from Internet portal, 16.4 percent from print media and 9.7 percent from social networks.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527185/Half-of-Serbians-see-America-as-the-enemy-poll-shows.html

Investigative journalism center: Serbian pro-government media get state funds

September 18, 2019

The Serbian Center for Investigative Journalism (CINS) said on Wednesday that pro-government media had deferred billions of Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) in tax payments and received millions in state funding over the past four years.

According to CINS, TV Pink deferred the payment of 1.52 billion Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) of tax debts over the past four years while the tabloids Informer and Srpski Telegraf received 52.5 million Dinars in state funding at tenders for public interests media projects over a period of three years.

It said that the state Tanjug news agency has continued to receive money from the government through commercial contracts even though it was supposed to have been shut down. CINS said that Tanjug had received at least 129 million Dinars from the government since October 2015 as funding for the closure of the agency and in payment for contracts. The agency also got permission from the Belgrade city authorities to put up artwork as collateral to defer the payment of 5.7 million Dinars in taxes.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526827/Investigative-journalism-center-says-Serbian-pro-government-media-getting-state-funding-tax-deferme.html

Belgrade University Students threaten radicalization if demands aren’t met

September 18, 2019

A student activist of the 1 in 5 Million protest initiative said on Wednesday that the protest at the Belgrade University Rectorate would be made more radical if student demands are not met.

Mila Jovanovic told a news conference outside the building that students have been locked in since Friday that they want Rector Ivanka Popovic to recommend the dismissal of Finance Minister Sinisa Mali to Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. She refused to specify how the protest would be made more radical.  

The students locked themselves in the Belgrade University Rectorate, demanding Mali’s dismissal over his doctoral thesis which is reported to have been plagiarized. A University commission investigated the plagiarism claims but reached no definitive conclusion and decided to refer the matter to the University School of Organizational Sciences where the minister completed his doctoral studies.  

Jovanovic told reporters that the students told Rector Popovic about another way to end the blockade of the Rectorate but did not give any details.  

The Rector met with the students inside the Rectorate earlier in the day but made no statement to the media after the two hour talks.

“We repeated our demand for the Rector to go public and recommend the dismissal of Finance Minister Mali,” Jovanovic said, recalling that the Rectorate depends on the Finance Ministry for funding which produces a conflict of interest. She said the Rector offered them compromises which they found offensive.  

Jovanovic said that Belgrade University has to condemn the assault on students by members of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) at the Rectorate before any negotiations with the students.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526799/Belgrade-University-Students-threaten-radicalization-if-demands-aren-t-met.html

Central Election Commission receives 42,000 applications to vote outside Kosovo

September 17, 2019

The Central Election Commission in Pristina said on Tuesday that it had received more than 42,000 applications to vote outside Kosovo which would be reviewed before permission would be granted, the KoSSev news portal reported.

“We entered all the applications which arrived by e-mail, post and fax and they total 42,300. They will be reviewed to see if they are legal. Also, some of those applications might be duplicates if they were sent in several ways,” Commission Executive Secretary Enis Halimi told Koha daily.  

Registered voters living outside Kosovo will be able to cast their ballots up to September 18.  

The Commission recalled that it would only people with Kosovo ID would be allowed to vote at the October 6 parliamentary elections.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526475/Central-Election-Commission-receives-42-000-applications-to-vote-outside-Kosovo.html

Krusik denies selling mortar shells at lower prices to minister’s father

September 17, 2019

The Krusik munitions plant in Valjevo denied claims that it allowed the GIM company to buy mortar shells at privileged prices.

    A statement said that the prices of the shells sold to GIM were not lower than the prices paid by the state-owned Jugoimport SDPR arms and equipment supplier.

“The Krusik Holding Corporation takes care of market conditions when defining prices as well as competitiveness and other things. The prices depend on the product model, quantities and whether the contract is with a known customer or a new market,” Krusik said in a statement handed to the media by the Defense Ministry.

Krusik said that GIM was sold shells with two charges while Jugoimport bought shells with four or six charges. “The range of the shells depends on the charges. The Krusik Holding Corporation supplied GIM with shorter range munitions. The fact that they had less charges means that their price was lower,” it said.

Krusik’s statement comes in response to a report by the Arms Watch site which said that Serbian-made mortar shells were supplied to Islamic extremists in Yemen. The report added that Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic’s father Branko mediated the sale for GIM and secured lower prices. Arms Watch blocked access to its site after coming under attack from Serbia.

The issue of the lower prices was raised by Nova Stranka leader and former Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic who asked President Aleksandar Vucic whether Branko Stefanovic was operating in line with the law when he bought goods at much lower prices than other buyers.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526647/Krusik-denies-selling-mortar-shells-at-lower-prices-to-minister-s-father.html

Vucic tells NATO military chief regular communication needed

September 17, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic urged regular communication between the Serbian military and KFOR during a meeting with NATO Military Committee Chairman Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.

A press release from the president’s cabinet quoted Vucic as saying that a need exists to quickly establish contact if security in jeopardized in the north of Kosovo.

The Serbian President said that the presence of KFOR in Kosovo is a guarantee of security, adding that the international forces bear responsibility to react in crisis situations. He said that Serbia advocates a lasting and sustainable compromise in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

Vucic stressed the importance of agreeing on a new cycle of the Individual Action Plan, adding that the Serbian military is strengthening its interoperability through joint activities with NATO.

The press release quoted Peach as lending support to the dialogue as the way to find solutions to the Kosovo issue. He said KFOR is doing its job based on UN Security Council resolution 1244 and praised the professionalism of the Serbian military in crisis situations in Kosovo. He said timely communication is the best response in those situations.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526637/Vucic-tells-NATO-military-chief-regular-communication-needed-with-KFOR.html

Serbian president says no complete list of missing persons exists

September 17, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told the families of people missing in Kosovo that no definitive list of missing persons has been compiled yet.

“Unfortunately, our state did not investigate everything that happened in 1999 or after the year 2000 and we still have no official list of people killed and missing in Kosovo but we believe we will complete that difficult job,” he said during a visit to the offices of the Association of Families of the Missing and Abducted in kosovo.  

Vucic told the families that the authorities will do everything they can to find their loved ones. “The state will certainly continue doing everything possible and investigating the fate of the people missing and kidnapped in Kosovo,” he said.  

The president welcomed the fact that the remains of seven Kosovo Serbs had been found in the Djakovica area, adding that the fates of another 570 missing Serbs and non-Albanians have to be found as well as those of missing Albanians.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526512/Serbian-president-says-no-complete-list-of-missing-persons-exists.html

Ultra-nationalists want bailiffs abolished in Serbia

September 17, 2019

The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has collected 100,000 signatures on a petition to abolish bailiffs, SRS MP Aleksandar Seselj said on Tuesday.

He said that the party had also submitted a draft law on bailiffs to parliament. Seselj told a news conference in parliament that the institution of public bailiffs had proved to be “unjust and inhumane”, adding that the SRS draft law makes sure that no one looses their home.

Private bailiffs and their operations have been the subject of controversy in Serbia since they were introduced several years ago because of the repossession of homes which have been viewed by the public as unfair. The most recent example was that of a couple in Novi Sad who were evicted from their home which was repossessed and sold after two mortgage payments were late. The bailiffs are not part of the judiciary system and operate as private enterprises.

Seselj said the draft law takes the repossession and debt collection operations back to the courts. According to him, what the bailiffs are doing is immoral because no one has control over them.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526491/Ultra-nationalists-want-bailiffs-abolished-in-Serbia.html

Haradinaj, Pendarovski oppose border changes in Western Balkans

September 16, 2019

Two Western Balkans politicians spoke out against the idea of changing the borders of Kosovo on Monday.

Outgoing Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said that the border with Serbia is “untouchable forever”. Speaking in the municipality of Podujevo which borders Serbia, he said that “this border will never be touched again”.

“The doors are closed here, the border is inviolable forever. What we have achieved will never be touched again, not on the table nor behind our back not before us,” the KoSSev portal reported him as saying.

A similar warning came from North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski who things any changes of the borders in the Balkans is a dangerous idea.

"In the context of regional security, the state leadership’s view is that changes to the borders in the Balkans is a dangerous idea,” Pendarovski told the parliament Defense and Security Committee.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526317/Haradinaj-Pendarovski-oppose-border-changes-in-Western-Balkans.html

Kurz: Austria to support any deal between Belgrade and Pristina

September 16, 2019

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that Vienna will support any solutions agreed by Serbia and Kosovo, including a possible modification of the border, and that he has no reason to speculate that Croatia will block Serbia's EU path which it has supported so far.

"Our position is clear: we support anything the two parties agree, including a possible modification of the border, if that ultimately leads to a comprehensive solution that would bring about greater stability. The goal must be to ensure that all open issues are resolved through dialogue," Kurz told the Serbian news agency Tanjug in Vienna, in an interview published on Monday.

Underscoring the importance of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and their return to the negotiating table, Kurz said that the European integration process depended on this. "A new dynamic is necessary because a negotiated settlement is a precondition for subsequent accession to the EU," he added.

Asked if the EU was strong enough to resolve the Kosovo issue and whether it had any influence on Pristina, given that it has ignored appeals from Brussels to lift tariffs on Serbian goods, the Austrian chancellor said that the EU had different ways of acting, and was doing it all the time. Everything depends on Belgrade and Pristina and they need a sufficient political desire for compromise, he noted.

Kurz welcomed the appointment of Matthew Palmer as US special envoy for the Western Balkans, saying that "only together" could the United States and the European Union arrive at a political agreement in the Balkans. "I am confident the EU will closely cooperate with him," he said.

Kurz said he supported clear accession prospects for all Western Balkans countries, provided that they met the membership criteria by implementing the necessary reforms.

Asked about frequent difficulties between Serbia and EU member Croatia over the protection of the Serb minority in Croatia and the possibility of Zagreb blocking Serbia's EU path, Kurz said he would not speculate about hypothetical issues.

"Croatia has supported Serbia's accession process so far and I have no reason to assume that this will change. As for the protection of the minorities, this of course is an issue of great importance in all members of the European Council and the EU," Kurz said.

He said that Austria, Hungary and other EU members that care about the Western Balkans would support the countries in the region in their efforts to join the EU. He said that the new European Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, would pursue intensive accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro so that they could advance as swiftly as possible towards EU membership.

Reforms are crucial for further progress and the Western Balkan countries must implement them by themselves, the Austrian chancellor said.

He recalled that on entering the EU Serbia would have to leave all bilateral free trade agreements it has with Russia and Eurasian countries. Serbia should not overlook the fact that it conducts 63 percent of its foreign trade with the EU, while its trade with Russia accounts for 10 percent, he added.

Kurz believes that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will continue to vigorously pursue the necessary reforms to take Serbia into the EU as soon as possible.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526319/Kurz-Austria-to-support-any-deal-between-Belgrade-and-Pristina.html

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