International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbian Opposition Leans Toward Election Boycott

August 15, 2019

Ahead of elections due in Serbia next spring, the biggest opposition Alliance is tilting towards refusing to take part – though some experts warn that boycotts can do harm as well as good.

Parties in the opposition Alliance for Serbia are united in opposing the Progressive-led government – but not united on whether to participate in upcoming elections.

A majority of representatives have hinted that a boycott might be the best solution.

It comes after President Aleksandar Vucic announced that elections for all levels of power in Serbia, except for the presidency, would be held in spring 2020.

“I predict that the Alliance for Serbia will decide in September to boycott the elections, but let’s wait two more weeks,” Nikola Jovanovic, the vice-president of one member party in the Alliance, the People’s Party, said in Friday’s issue of the daily paper Danas.

He added that he did not believe the current dialogue between the ruling Serbian Progressive Party and the opposition, now entering a third round, would have a positive outcome.

In a surprise move, representatives of the ruling party and the opposition met for the first time on July 30 at the Belgrade Faculty of Political Science in the presence of NGOs to discuss the elections.

A second meeting was held on August 9, but this time without the presence of one of the main Alliance parties, the Freedom and Justice Party, led by former Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas.

It has already announced it will not attend the third meeting scheduled for August 19.

Its main objection has been the lack of transparency at the meetings, as they are held under so-called Chatham House rules, meaning that nothing said at them can be sourced.

The ex-mayor’s party is also clear that it will not participate in the coming elections.

“In these electoral conditions, we have to boycott. It is an instrument to delegitimize the illegal holding of elections,” Freedom and Justice Party official Marinika Tepic told N1 television on Thursday.

Another Alliance member party, the Democratic Party, is also leaning toward a boycott – saying that it will only participate in “fair” elections and expressing doubts that the Progressives will change anything by then.

But as the opposition Alliance tends towards a boycott, many public figures and intellectuals argue against this solution, saying parties must participate in elections if they want to bring about change.

The opposition parties have meanwhile continued their weekly “1 of 5 Million” protests against the government each Saturday evening, which have continued for months, despite the numbers attending them dropping.

The protests’ key demands are measures to stop the suspected abuse of the electoral roll and public resources in elections, better control of the election process and campaigns, and criminal sanctions for those who abuse the process.

Bojan Klacar, from the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, CeSid, called a boycott “an extreme political solution”, which could do both good and harm. There is still enough time for all parties to agree on “common rules” for the polls, he told the state news agency Tanjug on August 6.

Source:  https://balkaninsight.com/2019/08/15/serbian-opposition-leans-toward-election-boycott/

Constitutional Court sentences opposition activist over Vucic posters

August 15, 2019

The Serbian Constitutional Court confirmed a local court’s sentence passed on an opposition activist who tore up election campaign posters of then presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic, Belgrade daily Danas reported.

The court confirmed the 10,000 Dinar (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) fine handed down to Branislav Senicic, the founder of the opposition Local Front in the city of Kraljevo two years ago.

Danas said that the Constitutional Court judge who made the ruling told Senicic that he was getting off easy because he could have been sentenced to jail for tearing up and defacing the posters. The court rejected Senicic’s appeal.

Senicic told Danas that he would appeal to the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg because of the sentence is absurd.

Three Local Front municipal councilors were arrested on March 20, 2017 for tearing up and pasting over Vucic’s posters for the presidential elections.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a508132/Constitutional-Court-sentences-opposition-activist-over-Vucic-posters.html

Dacic asks Japanese FM to maintain stand on Kosovo

August 15, 2019

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Thursday asked his Japanese counterpart Toro Kono to keep opposing Kosovo’s membership in international organizations.

Speaking after their meeting in Belgrade, Dacic said he told Kono that Serbia appreciates the fact that Japan abstained in the vote on Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO and Interpol even though it has recognized it. “I asked Kono for Japan to maintain that stand,” he said.  

The Japanese Foreign Minister said that his country views the stability of the Western Balkans as a strategic issue and welcomes Serbia’s contribution to the peace and stability of the region.  

The two ministers said that trade relations between the two countries were good, adding that Serbia is attractive to Japanese investors. According to Dacic, Japan has given Serbia 507 million Euros in financial aid over the past 20 years.  

Speaking after the meeting, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jun Saito said that official Tokyo is demanding that Kosovo revoke the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods.   “We are calling Pristina to revoke the 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia as soon as possible. Japan welcomes the restrained reaction of Serbia and its determination to resolve the Kosovo issue,” Ministry Deputy Press Secretary Saito told a news briefing. “Japan realizes that this is a difficult process but hopes that Serbia will continue playing a constructive role in achieving peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a508048/Dacic-asks-Japanese-FM-to-maintain-stand-on-Kosovo.html

BiH cannot have three futures, minister Pendeš said

August 14, 2019

BiH Defence Minister Marina Pendeš believes that membership in αν important and large organizations, as it is NATO, can only bring a better tomorrow to BiH.

In his statement for local media, Pendeš commented the political dispute on the Annual National Program for NATO membership, which is opposed by Serb member of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik. Days after the signing of the agreement on Principles for the establishment of the state level authorities, it is still not clear what it means for the ANP and state path toward NATO membership. The situation might clear next Tuesday when two BiH Presidency sessions will be held – one about ANP and second on the new Chairman of the Council of Ministers appointment.

But, as minister Pendeš said, Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot have three futures.

“Despite the internal disagreement on development and integration, we should all think together about where and how we see this country in the future. When discussing the future, BiH’s goal should be clear, and that is the path to the EU and NATO. The integration process has repeatedly proved to be key to fostering the reforms that Bosnia and Herzegovina desperately needs. It is up to us whether, through political dialogue and selection, we can use this to foster security, socio-economic development and stability”, the BiH Defence Minister said.

She noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina must make a choice – fulfil commitments or lose international influence. We must not allow, she says, the fulfilment of a technical issue such as the ANP to be treated as a platform for new internal disagreements. The withdrawal from the framework for coordinated strategic action, Pendeš stressed, would hurt Bosnia and Herzegovina’s reputation and freeze relations with an important military-political organization.

“We have assumed all state obligations and we are required to fulfil them. Failure to fulfil our commitments on the NATO path will affect the perception of our political seriousness in European integration, too”, she said.

Welcoming the signing of the Principle for Formation of Government at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Pendeš points out that the above step demonstrates BiH’s commitment to improving relations with NATO.

“Point 3 of the Principle addresses the NATO issue and represents an extremely significant and important step in the realization of relations and unification of positions in the field of international integration”, she said.

Pendeš states that it must be made clear that any progress towards EU and NATO integration does not threaten national interests and state sovereignty, but contributes to the vision of a modern, open and constructed Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“European and Euro-Atlantic integration are compatible processes, which will contribute to the momentum of BiH’s new, sustainable and long-term success. Rejecting the opportunity for strategic steps leads to an isolation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the heart of the European continent”, the BiH Defence Minister concludes./ibna

Source:  https://balkaneu.com/bih-cannot-have-three-futures-minister-pendes-said/ 

Dodik Threatens Drastic Action Over Bosnian Govt Delays


August 14, 2019

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has said the Serb-led entity will put out of a range of important agreements unless a state-level government is formed soon, in line with a recently signed agreement.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has threatened to torpedo a number of major achieved reforms in the country, including the formation of joint armed forces and a state court and police agency, unless a state-level government is formed soon.

On Tuesday, he said the Serb-led entity, Republika Srpska, “will withdraw from the Armed Forces Agreement. It will withdraw its consent to the formation of indirect taxes [the main source of income for state-level institutions]. It will reject the work of the [state] Court and Prosecutor’s Office as well as the work of the State Investigation and Protection Agency [SIPA]”.

Dodik added that the RS would also question all the other competencies that have been transferred from the two entities in Bosnia to state level over the years.

Leaders of the three parties that won most votes in the October 2018 elections, Bakir Izetbegovic, of the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, Dodik, of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, and Dragan Covic, of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, on August 8 agreed on 12 principles that covered a range of key issues that had effectively blocked a new government from being formed.

After the agreement was signed, it seemed that Bosnia was finally about to emerge from the political deadlock it has remained in since the October 2018 elections.

But it soon turned out that the deal was not as clear as some thought. It is still disputed what the three leaders agreed to about NATO – which remains a major stumbling block to the formation of a government.

Future membership of NATO and submission of a plan for this, an ANP, remains an important cause of disagreement. Bosnian Serb leaders are strongly against membership of the Western alliance, while Bosniak and Bosnian Croat politicians support it.

Dodik has said that the issue of NATO is not, and must not be, on the agenda of the three-member state presidency session scheduled for August 20, at which the formation of a state government will be discussed.

“Bosnia will not hand over the ANP to Brussels. It does not say anywhere that it will. The agreement says nothing [about it],” Dodik said.

But the Croat chair of the state presidency, Zeljko Komsic has scheduled two sessions for August 20 – one at Dodik’s request on the nomination of candidates for the new chair of the Council of Ministers [the state government], and a second on sending the ANP to NATO headquarters.

“Everyone will have an opportunity to vote on the agenda, and if there is no ANP [on it], there will be no mandates [for the new Council of Ministers],” Komsic said on Tuesday.

According to BIRN sources in the Bosnian Serb ruling party, the Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, it is “highly unlikely that they will make any progress on August 20”.

Source:  https://balkaninsight.com/2019/08/14/dodik-threatens-drastic-action-over-bosnian-govt-delays/


Kosovo Liberation Army commander released in North Macedonia

August 14, 2019

The authorities in North Macedonia on Wednesday released former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Tomor Morina from jail in Skoplje but have seized his passport.

Radio Free Europe reported that he was seen leaving jail with his family.  

Morina was arrested by North Macedonia border police under an Interpol warrant issued by Serbia for alleged war crimes committed in Kosovo. The Supreme Court in Skoplje ruled to release him and not extradite him to Serbia citing failure to meet all requirements under the law. The ruling said that Morina held dual citizenship of Great Britain and Kosovo.  

The North Macedonia court’s ruling was welcomed by Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli who called it a principled decision.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a507784/Kosovo-Liberation-Army-commander-released-in-North-Macedonia.html

North Macedonia’ won’t extradite former Kosovo soldier to Serbia

August 14, 2019

The Supreme Court of North Macedonia confirmed Tomor Morina, a former soldier of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) would not be extradited to Serbia despite Interpol warrant issued on Belgrade’s request, the Beta news agency reported on Wednesday.

 After going through the documents that Belgrade sent on August 5, and having in mind the international practice so far, Skopje’s Criminal Court said a week ago that the conditions for Morina’s extradition were not met.

“The Supreme Court confirmed on August 14 the ruling of the Criminal Court saying the conditions for the extradition of T.M, the citizen of Great Britain and Kosovo had not been met,” the Court statement said.

Serbia’s Justice and Internal Affairs Ministers, Nela Kuburovic and Nebojsa Stefanovic reacted sharply to the North Macedonia Supreme Court decision not to extradite KLA trooper Tomor Morina to Serbia, saying that politics wins over justice. Kuburovic said the decision was taken counter to the evidence provided by the Serbian authorities, adding that Serbia will not stop its search for the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Stefanovic said the ruling violates the essence of international law and added that no country can be guided by politics in cases of alleged war crimes against civilians.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a507662/Skopje-rejeted-Belgrade-demand-for-extradition-of-Kosovo-ex-soldier.html

Zaev: I have no intention of resigning, no early elections

August 14, 2019

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, in comment on the opposition’s request for resignation and early parliamentary elections after the announcement of the “Racket” case, said he had no intention of thinking about such a thing.

I have no intention of thinking about either resignations or early elections. After major political decisions, after all the reforms we have brought together, after our expectation for full membership in NATO, to start negotiations with the EU, at a time when economic parameters are excellent and continue to be excellent, we should give the state a chance, Zaev said.

According to him, the elections do not have to be regular in December, they can be in October, as early elections demanded by the opposition.

He reiterated that it must be given a chance to raise the economic standard and not destroy it, as he said, through someone’s desire to go to early elections.

DUI leader Ali Ahmeti also said that the partnership between DUI and SDSM is functioning smoothly, and the state does not need early elections.

But on the other hand, the opposition is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Zaev’s government, the formation of a technical government to organize early elections, which may be in May or June. /ibna

Source:  https://balkaneu.com/zaev-i-have-no-intention-of-resigning-no-early-elections/

North Macedonia Govt Announces New Anti-Corruption Team

August 13, 2019

Amid a high-profile extortion scandal that has rocked the country, North Macedonia’s government is forming an anti-corruption team which it says will help the prosecution and courts to root out graft.

North Macedonia’s government said on Tuesday that it has decided to form an “operational” anti-graft team headed by Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski and including other top officials.

The team will “work uncompromisingly and through a coordinated approach in the fight against crime and corruption”, the government said in a statement.

Justice Minister Renata Deskoska and the heads of the Public Safety Bureau, the Financial Police, the Customs Office and the Public Revenue Office are also going to be part of the team.

The team “is fully prepared to put itself at disposal of the Public Prosecution and the courts” so that it can assist them in fulfilling their legal duties, the statement added.

The formation of the new body comes amid the continuing ‘Extortion’ case scandal that has tarnished the credibility of the crime-fighting Special Prosecution, SJO, endangered the reputation of the Social Democratic-led government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, and caused alarm among the country’s Western allies.

The case has been unfolding since July 15, when the regular Prosecution for Organised Crime and Corruption opened an investigation into businessman Bojan Jovanovski, and placed him and his suspected accomplice, Zoran Milevski, alias Zoki Kiceec, under arrest.

It also seized chief Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva’s phones to check if she had connections with the two suspects.

Jovanovski and Milevski are suspected of extorting money from a third person, the businessman Orce Kamcev – who is himself a suspect in another case run by the Special Prosecution – by allegedly offering to help him either avoid a jail sentence, or get a lighter sentence, by using their alleged influence with the Special Prosecution, which investigates allegations of high-level crime.

On Tuesday, the court in Skopje extended Jovanovski and Milevski’s custody remand for another 30 days.

Meanwhile, the Prosecution for Organised Crime on Monday and Tuesday summoned two Special Prosecutors to give statements about the case. It is expected that it will also summon Katica Janeva in the coming days.

The affair took on a more serious dimension for the government on Thursday last week, when an Italian newspaper, La Verita, started publishing recordings on which Janeva’s voice could be heard, and on which what was reported to be the voice of Jovanovski mentioned his acquaintance with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and assured Kamcev that the North Macedonian premier wouldn’t cause them any problems.

Janeva has confirmed that it was her voice on the recordings but has insisted that she was negotiating with Kamcev over another unnamed case, and that her actions were legitimate. Zaev has categorically denied any involvement in the affair.

The country’s European and US allies have expressed concern about the case, demanding that the authorities deal with it swiftly and uncover all who might have been involved.

North Macedonia hopes to finally get its long-postponed date for the start of its EU accession talks this autumn.

Source:  https://balkaninsight.com/2019/08/13/north-macedonia-govt-announces-new-anti-corruption-team/

Pristina asks EU to prevent Belgrade to finance parallel structures in Kosovo

August 14, 2019

Commenting on NATO Quint countries’ joint statement, Parliament Speaker Kadri Veseli said on Wednesday that Kosovo achieved its independence thanks to a strong alliance with the Western states, Pristina media reported.

He said that Kosovo’s citizens should decide in the elections whether Pristina would keep special relations with the international allies or treat them as enemies and survive on its own.

However, he added that Kosovo could not protect its interests without strategic partners.

“That’s why we welcome the efforts made by the US, European Union, Germany, Britain, France and Italy for the resumption of the dialogue (between Belgrade and Pristina on the normalisation of relations)," Veseli said.

“At the same time,” he added: "We call upon the EU to prevent Serbia’s Government to finance the parallel institutions in Kosovo.”

Belgrade financially helps Kosovo Serbs and their institutions in the north of its former province.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a507610/Pristina-demnds-EU-to-prevent-Belgrade-from-financing-Serbs-in-Kosovo.html

Pristina: Churches and mosques belong to Kosovo, Serbia falsifies history

August 14, 2019

Kosovo’s outgoing Deputy Prime Minister accused Serbia on Wednesday of causing many wars and conflicts in the Balkans due to its obsession with falsifying history, the FoNet news agency reported.

In commenting on Belgrade’s letter to Apostolic Nunciature in Belgrade in which Serbia protested over the mass held by the Albanian bishops on the remains of the Serbian Orthodox St. Nicholas Church in the eastern Kosovo town of Novo Brdo, Enver Hoxhaj said  cultural heritage in Kosovo belonged to its people.

 The Catholic bishops held the mass on August 1, the Day of the Albanian Diaspora, saying the church was theirs and suggested the mass on that date become a tradition.

A Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) local Dicese protested over the mass, saying St. Nicholas was a Serbian Orthodox Church that used to be the Cathedral of Novo Brdo and nearby Gracanica bishops.

The Diocese said the mass was abuse and provocation.        

However, Hoxhaj described as “ridiculous and absurd game” what he said was the SPC’s “usurpation” of the Novo Brdo church.

“Churches, mosques and other cultural, historical and religious heritage in Kosovo belong to Kosovo and its people. The politicisation of culture, science and history today is ridiculous and absurd game Serbia is playing. Kosovo is a fact,” he said.    

In its reaction to Hoxhaj’s statement, Serbia’s Ministry of Culture advised Pristina authorities to research, define and affirm the Albanian cultural heritage in Kosovo and wished them all the best in that job. St. Nicholas Church' s remains were scientifically proven as those of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Novo Brdo.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a507630/Pristina-accuses-Belgarde-of-historical-forgery.html

BIRODI: Over 50 pct of SNS voters in Serbia poorly educated

August 14, 2019

The latest survey by the Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI) has shown that almost half of people who take to the polls vote in support of those who respect law and meet promises, a majority of them belonging to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) led by President Aleksandar Vucic, the Beta news agency has reported on Wednesday.

The poll, the first one to research voting criteria, according to BIRODI’s Zeljko Gavrilovic, covered 1,006 people between 18 and over 65 years of age.

The survey, published by the independent Danas daily, also revealed that 55.8 percent of the SNS voters were over 65 years of age, 53.6 of them had an elementary or lower level of education, while 61.2 percent were informed by watching the Pink TV, considered to be a regime’s mouthpiece.

Potential opposition voters also said they honoured the respect of law and keeping promises, but those between 18 and 29 as well as between 40 and 49 years of age said professionalism was one of the main criteria in making the choice.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a507560/Serbia-s-SNS-voters-mostly-watch-pro-government-Pink-TV-survey-shows.html

Boycotting the elections could strengthen Serbian far-right parties

August 14, 2019

If the boycott attempt of opposition coalition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) fails, Serbian Radical Party (SRS) led by convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj (photo) could become the main opposition party in the country.

According to recent polls, SRS will pass the five percent threshold, Blic daily reported today. If part of the opposition boycotts the election and the elections regardless of it are proclaimed legitimate, the result could be a “radicalized” parliament. In other words, highest legislative body in country would be consisted exclusively of right and far right political parties. Pro-European groups would remain out of parliament.

Dejan Bursac, from the Institute for Political Studies, recalled that SRS remains an “opposition to opposition” rather than to the government, as it was frequently the case throughout its history.

For instance, in 1990s Seselj’s group was mainly opposed to pro-democratic parties and supportive to the authoritarian government of Slobodan Milosevic.

In the article for talas.rs, Bursac predicts that SRS as well as other far right groups will continue to support Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) led by President Aleksandar Vucic.

“For them a boycott isn’t an option”, he concluded, explaining that these parties usually “survive” by supporting different ruling coalitions.

Bojan Klacar from the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (Cesid) told Blic that a boycott could “seriously rearrange the political scene”; a center right or even “seriously right” parliament could be one of possible consequences.

Such a scenario could be a problem for the whole society “because all this could happen at the moment when a resolution to the Kosovo issue is expected. With this kind of parliament, the chances for a resolution would decrease, Klacar explained. The ruling coalition would also face problems with approaching the European Union, due to the fact that SRS and similar groups are anti-EU oriented./ibna

Source:  https://balkaneu.com/boycotting-the-elections-could-strengthen-serbian-far-right-parties/

Serbian opposition to decide on boycotting the elections

August 13, 2019

Serbian opposition coalition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) will soon decide on whether it would boycott general elections planned for spring 2020, said one of SzS leaders Vuk Jeremic.

President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party do not intend to provide fair and democratic elections, Jeremic said today.

“A successful boycott will make official the fact that situation in Serbia is not normal any more”, Jeremic said. In his words, a boycott would be the “moment of truth” and “fastest way” for defeating Vucic’s regime. “All those who support the government will vote, the rest will boycott the elections”.

Jeremic said he was convinced that there will be more support from the opposition. He “predicted” that foreign ambassadors in Belgrade and EU officials will demand from the opposition to take part in elections. “I will certainly not succumb and I believe that all in SzS will remain united”.

The boycotting would undermine the government’s legitimacy “and the West would then demand from Vucic to keep the promise – to sign the agreement which would be Serbia’s permanent giving up of Kosovo”.

Jeremic speculated that the boycott will prevent Vucic from signing the agreement and that West willafterwards require democratic elections. “And he would not be able to win at such elections”.

Zoran Lutovac, Democratic Party (DS) leader, said that the fact that the ruling party has accepted a dialogue on free elections with the opposition means that the government has admitted that there were no preconditions for fair voting./ibna

Source:  https://balkaneu.com/serbian-opposition-to-decide-on-boycotting-the-elections/

Kosovo government won’t revoke tariffs on Serbian goods

August 13, 2019

The outgoing Kosovo government said on Tuesday that it has no intention of meeting the demands of the Quint country embassies to revoke the 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and continue the dialogue with Belgrade.

A statement from the prime minister’s cabinet said that the decision to impose the tariffs was justified and added that Pristina was not the one that broke off the dialogue to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo.  

“The Kosovo government, especially Prime Minister (Ramush) Haradinaj had the right to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country and that is why the decision to impose tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina was necessary to protect the interests of Kosovo from the hostile actions and constrant threats from Serbia,” the statement said.  

It added that the Kosovo government repeated its view of “market for recognition” several times.  

“We are prepared to sit down at the table to find a final, legally binding agreement in existing borders which leads to mutual recognition but no conditions should be set on that process,” the statement said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a507490/Kosovo-government-won-t-revoke-tariffs-on-Serbian-goods.html

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