International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Belgrade and Paris on strengthening military cooperation

June 10, 2021

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and François Lecointre, the French army chief-of-staff discussed the cooperation in the defence area in Belgrade on Thursday.

The meeting’s topics included military-economic and technical cooperation, improvement of joint training and those in operations under the European Union auspices.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/belgrade-and-paris-on-strenghtening-military-cooperation/

Balkan Chiefs of Staff end 14th Conference

June 9, 2021

The 14th Conference of the Chiefs of Staff of the Balkan countries on military cooperation (Forum B-9) ended Wednesday with informal mutual contacts, Bosnia's Defence Ministry said.

A three-day gathering aimed at improving the Balkan military cooperation and responding to security challenges in the region resulted in a joint statement, signed on Tuesday (June 8th) by the Chiefs of Staff of nine B-9 Forum member states. The statement concluded that the current cooperation was very successful and meaningful, and pointed out that in the coming period the forum will strive to further improve cooperation.

“This Forum presented an extremely important initiative for strengthening multinational military cooperation in the region, which confirms the desire to strengthen cooperation between the armed forces of the Balkan countries, whose purpose is to promote regional stability and security, as well as strengthening the already established and seeking new cooperation mechanisms. Ultimately, this will result in a better security environment for all our countries,” said the main host of the conference, Chief of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces of BiH, Colonel General Senad Masovic.

The main topic of the conference was – “Integration: Cooperation and Partnership – Factors of regional and global stability and security – perspectives, challenges and the response to COVID-19”.

The members of the B-9 Forum are Albania, BiH, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Greece, Romania, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.

In addition to representatives of member states, high-level representatives of the NATO Military Committee, the EU Military Committee, the Joint Forces Command in Naples, the US Armed Forces Command in Europe, as well as representatives of observer countries, ie the highest representatives of the Croatian and Slovenian Armed Forces also took part in the Conference.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/balkan-chiefs-of-staff-end-14th-conference/

Another explosion at Serbian defense industry plant

June 7, 2021

Another explosion rocked the Sloboda munitions plant in western Serbia, following a bigger incident a few days earlier, the Serbian state TV (RTS) reported on Monday.

It said that the explosion was heard from the plant in the city of Cacak at around 9 pm on Sunday, adding that smoke was reported to be billowing out of one of the plant buildings. Local media quoted local residents who confirmed that they heard the blast and saw smoke but could not say whether a fire broke out.

The police blocked off the plant within minutes and was not allowing plant employees onto the grounds early on Monday morning.

A series of explosions followed by a fire shook the Sloboda plant and surrounding area on the night of Thursday-Friday. Firefighters and Serbian military helicopters managed to put the fire out on Friday.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/another-explosion-at-serbian-defense-industry-plant/

Serbian, Russian military rebuilding mountain road

June 4, 2021

Serbian and Russian military engineering units are working side by side to rebuild a road on Mt Golija as part of a humanitarian project, the Serbian Defense Ministry said on Friday.

The Humanitarian Assistance project is part of bilateral military cooperation between the two countries, the press release said adding that the 13 kilometer road is being rebuilt as part of efforts to deal with the fallout of the extreme weather which hit the in southwestern Serbian Ivanjica municipality last year.

The road is being rebuilt by 24 Serbian military personnel and 15 of their Russian counterparts using heavy machinery.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-russian-military-rebuilding-mountain-road/

KFOR remains in Kosovo as long as needed, NATO official says

June 4, 2021

NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy Baiba Braje said on Friday the KFOR mission would remain in Kosovo and act in line with the provisions of the UN Security Council 1244 to guarantee a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo.

In a video address to the conference ‘Serbia and NATO – Partnership for the Future,’ she added that would be the case for as long as needed,’ recalling NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement during his recent meeting with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic.

The conference was organised by the Strategic Policy Council in cooperation with the Bulgarian Embassy as a contact country for Serbia-NATO relations.

Braje said that NATO fully supported the dialogue and normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina under the EU auspices, adding Vucic reaffirmed his commitment to the dialogue.

She added that NATO had always been committed to peace and stability in the Western Balkans and said that no vision of peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region could exist without peace and security in the Western Balkans.

Braje said that most countries in the region were NATO members, but some countries, like Serbia, had made a different decision, and the Alliance respected it, adding the country was a respected and vital partner of the Alliance.

„Serbia and NATO have a developed relationship full of respect, and we are cooperating very well. Serbia is a respected and important partner of the Alliance; it is important for NATO, and NATO is important for Serbia,“ Braje added in a video message.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/for-remains-in-kosovo-as-long-asneeded-nato-official-says/

Serbia’s Def Min: Croatia buys arms looking at relations with us

June 1, 2021

Nebojsa Stefanovic, Serbia's Defence Minister, said on Wednesday his country "is not particularly interested" in the fact that Croatia, as he said, "when it gets howitzers or helicopters, looks at it through the prism of its relations with Serbia."

„We are here to protect our country, guarantee our freedom and independence. And as far as others are concerned, I would advise them to take care of their people, their country, and economy,“ Stefanovic said while touring the construction site of a new COVID hospital in the northern city of Novi Sad.

Asked about a possibility of compulsory military service reintroduction in Croatia, a NATO member state, and arms procurement in Serbia, he said Belgrade was not buying weapons „to endanger anyone.“

„We are a militarily neutral country which only wishes to have a powerful army to guarantee its freedom and independence,“ Stefanovic said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbias-def-min-croatia-buys-arms-looking-at-relations-with-us/

US SFAB unit in military exercise in Balkans to curb Russian, Chinese influence

May 31, 2021

he US military Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFAB), also known as 'brown berets,' formed to cooperate with armies around the world in Washington's attempt to curb Moscow and Beijing influence in the regions critical for the US, took part in the "Defender Europe 21" military exercise in the Balkans.

According to the Balkanska bezbednosna mreza (the Balkan Security Network) website, the unit is made of instructors’ teams with the task to support the allies. The company was not much reported on but was part of the „Immediate Response 21“ exercise held at the training grounds at Manjaca in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Babaj Boks in Kosovo and Krivolak and Biza in Albania.

Three SFAB teams were sent to North Macedonia and Albania, while one to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo each. Their job is to support the allies’ combat units, police, customs, and other services’ security structures.

„SFAB teams are important for the Balkans to increase a potential significance of the advisory role. In the new global environment, they can be seen as a part of the US policy of limiting the Russian and Chinese influence,“ the website wrote.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/us-military-sfab-unit-exercises-in-balkans-to-curb-russian-chinese-influence/

Serbian military chief says KFOR only legitimate force in Kosovo

May 28, 2021

Serbia’s top General Milan Mojsilovic told KFOR commander Major General Franco Federici on Friday that the international forces are the only legitimate armed formation in Kosovo.

An Army of Serbia press release quoted Mojsilovic as saying that the Military Technical Agreement which ended the Kosovo war and the agreements signed with KFOR recognize only Serbian security forces and KFOR which, he said, holds the greatest responsibility for the safety of the population and protection of Serbian national, cultural and religious heritage.

It said that they discussed the current situation in Kosovo and activities to keep the peace.

A KFOR press release said that Federici informed Mojsilovic about the activities of the forces under his command.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-military-chief-says-kfor-only-legitimate-force-in-kosovo/

Osmani, Kurti say Kosovo Security Forces turning into modern military

May 28, 2021

Kosovo’s two top officials said that the Kosovo Security Forces are turning into a modern military which will be synonymous with the territorial integrity of Kosovo.

Speaking after an exercise, President Vojsa Osmani expressed happines to see the Security Forces turn into a modern military and reliable partner to Kosovo’s allies while Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that his government would increase the budget to allow the Security Forces to achieve full operational capacity.

The Kosovo Security Forces deployed 330 troopers to take part in the Defender Europe 21 military exercises which have been underway since May 17 the Djakovica municipality.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/osmani-kurti-say-kosovo-security-forces-turning-into-modern-military/

Croatia opts to buy 12 Rafale F3-R fighter jets in a €999m deal

May 28, 2021

Croatia decided to buy 12 used French fighter jets Dassault Rafale F3-R in a deal totalling €999 million, Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, announced on Friday.

“The government assessed that the French offer was the best,” he said at a cabinet meeting, adding that ten single-seat and two twin-seat jets would be procured for Croatian Air Force. Plenkovic said that the Dassault Rafale F3-R is a “latest generation aircraft” and that it is “considered among the best in the world.”

“The French offer turned out to be the best because Croatia is getting the best-assessed and best-equipped aircraft for the least money,” he said, adding that the French bid was “the most favorable” as the payment in installments “would not slow down Croatia’s accession to the euro zone,” state agency Hina reported.

Croatia, which had joined the EU in 2013 but is not a member of its passport-free travel Schengen area nor the euro zone, hopes to replace its currency kuna with the euro in the next few years. One of the criteria a EU country needs to meet in order to adopt the euro is a maximum debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent. Croatia’s ratio had jumped to 89.1 percent in 2020.

The announcement ends Croatia’s years-long search to replace the outdated MiG-21 jets currently used by the country’s air force. This was Croatia’s second tender to modernize its air force, after the original one was awarded in March 2018 to Israel which had offered 12 modified American-made F-16 fighter jets for 3.1 billion kuna (€412 million). The deal eventually fell through by early 2019 after the US had refused to okay the deal due to upgraded avionics installed in the aircraft.

Apart from France which offered a fleet of Rafale jets, other bids in the new tender were submitted by the United States – which offered Block 70 F-16s; Sweden, which offered JAS 39 Gripen C/D, and Israel, which again offered their used F-16 Barak jets.

Apart from France, Rafale jets are currently used by air forces of India, Egypt, and Qatar.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/croatia-opts-to-buy-12-rafale-f3-r-fighter-jets-in-a-e999m-deal/

Stefanovic: Serbian military has to respond to all challenges

May 28, 2021

Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Friday that the Serbian military has to be ready to respond to all future challenges.

The military has to be prepared to make sure that Serbia is free, independent, sovereign and militarily neutral, Stefanovic told a round table on the development of the capabilities of the Serbian military at the Defense University.

A ministry press release quoted him as saying that things are changing at great speed in all fields and that means that the military has to views its role differently. “Serbia is a small country which is not wealthy and cannot always keep in step with big and developed countries in terms of technology and finances,” he said.

Stefanovic has been under pressure from within his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) following allegations that he was involved in wire-tapping SNS leader, President Aleksandar Vucic.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/stefanovic-serbian-military-has-to-respond-to-all-challenges/

Head of BiH Intelligence Agency acquitted of charges of abuse of office

May 27, 2021

The Head of Bosnia’s Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA), Osman Mehmedagic, and officer Muhamed Pekic, have been acquitted of charges of abuse of office or authority, on Thursday.

The Panel of the Appellate Division of the Court of BiH rendered the second-instance verdict rejecting the appeal of the State Prosecutor's Office as unfounded. The first-instance verdict of February 19, according to which Osman Mehmedagic and Muhamed Pekic were released, was thus confirmed.

The Prosecution accused Mehmedagic and Pekic of abusing their position and authority, as well as the resources and capacities of the OSA for private and personal interests, in August last year.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/head-of-bih-intelligence-agency-acquitted-of-charges-of-abuse-of-office/

„Spy, soldier, gigolo“ form Serbia sentenced to life in Spain for three murders


April 29, 2021

Norbert Feher, a Serbia citizen, was sentenced to life imprisonment in Spain for three murders committed there in 2017, a Spanish court said on Thursday.

Known as ‘Igor Rus’, Feher has recently been sentenced in Italy in absentia to life with a lengthy criminal record.

Last year, a Spanish court convicted him of an attack on four correctional officers with a broken tile during transfer to another prison.

In 2020, Feher was sentenced to 21 years for two attempted murders in 2017.

During the sentencing in Spain, he was in a locked cage since considered dangerous.

Spanish media described Fener as a former military.

According to the El País daily, he possessed over 30 different identities and presented himself as a former member of a Serbian paramilitary unit or former Russian spy in exile or ex-gigolo.

Feher will have the right to parole after 30 years and, besides imprisonment, he will have to pay over three million euros in compensation to the victims’ families.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/spy-soldier-gigolo-form-serbia-sentenced-to-life-in-spain-for-three-murders/


Chief of General Staff: Mandatory military service a long-term solution

April 25, 2021

Chief of the General Staff of the Army of Serbia Milan Mojsilovic said that serving mandatory military service in the conditions of military neutrality is a long-term solution that would satisfy the needs of a peacetime and wartime army, adding that this is his personal opinion and the stance of the General Staff.

“Of course, the decision on reinstating the mandatory military service is not solely a military matter but it requires a broader consensus,” Mojsilovic told Politika daily.

Regardless of the decision, the professional soldiers will still be the main support to the command and units in performing the mission and tasks of the Army of Serbia, he added.

Mojsilovic also announced that the Army members will hold a joint military exercise with the Armed Forces of the USA in September, as well as a trilateral exercise ‘Slovene brotherhood’ with the armed forces of Russia and Belarus, and a bilateral exercise ‘Aviator brotherhood of Russia and Serbia – BARS’.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/chief-of-general-staff-mandatory-military-service-a-long-term-solution/

Police brutality in Mostar sparks reactions, two officers removed from duty

April 12, 2021

The Ministry of Interior in Bosnia and Herzegovina's southern Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (HNC) “strongly condemned” the brutal behavior of police officers from the video showing two policemen beating a man, which became viral and sparked strong reactions. The Mayor of Mostar, where the incident reportedly took place, asked that the police officers are immediately suspended.

“This is a classic example of exceeding of authority and the police code, for which we deeply apologize to the citizens, especially to the young man who was treated like this. The two police officers were immediately removed from duty,” the ministry said, adding that they launched an internal investigation to establish potential elements of criminal responsibility.

“Such behavior and such persons cannot and must not have a place among police officers,” said the ministry.

The video with disturbing content appeared on online media outlets and social networks this weekend. Reportedly, the incident took place Saturday night in the southern town of Mostar and the man, whose identity has not been unveiled, asked for medical assistance at the Mostar University Clinical Hospital.

Mostar Mayor Mario Kordic joined the Interior Ministry and condemned the behavior of police officers, demanding a swift investigation into what happened and immediate suspension of police officers.

Kordic said that the officers “damaged the police reputation” with such inappropriate behavior.

A series of reactions from citizens followed, demanding the most severe sanctions for the police officers who demonstrated what they called the brutality.

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights strongly condemned the behavior of police officers in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s southern region, who reportedly severely beaten a man the last weekend because he violated the epidemic restrictions. The organization said this is yet another example that proves further reform and professionalization of police structures is a necessity.

“We are shocked with the frightening violence by police officers who behaved in a completely unacceptable manner and inappropriate to police standards, and we expect the HNC Interior Ministry and competent police bodies to take all measures foreseen by law and remove from duty the perpetrators of this horrible act, which damages already a low degree of trust of citizens to the police and judicial bodies,” the Helsinki Committee said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/police-brutality-in-mostar-sparks-reactions-two-officers-removed-from-duty/


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