International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EU on 'Pantsir S1': We expect Serbia to adjust policy; US warns about sanctions

February 25, 2020

To advance in the Euro-integration, Serbia needs to adjust its foreign policy with the European Union's one as stipulated by the negotiating framework, the Voice of America (VOA) reported on Tuesday, quoting Peter Stano, a spokesperson for the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policies Joseph Borrell.

Asked by VOA about the most recent Serbia's purchase of the anti-aircraft defence Patsir S1 system, Stano said that "Serbia defines the integration into the EU as its strategic priority. We expect Serbia to act following the obligations it undertook."

 Earlier, Lieutenant General Frederick Ben Hodges III, a former commander in chief of the US ground forces, told VOA he did not see the point that defence system would have in Serbia.

"I'm wondering what these systems are for? Who Serbia believes it should protect itself from? The West is tirelessly trying to find ways to come closer to Serbia. And it doesn't present any danger to it," Hodges said.

The EU officials, as well as many European Commission's documents on how Serbia, as a candidate country, progresses towards the full membership, have recommended Belgrade to adjust its foreign policy priories more to that of the EU.

Commenting on Serbia's purchase the Russian anti-aircraft Pantsir S1 system, the US State Department told VOA that "we call on all our allies and partners to give up the transactions with Russia which could lead to the sanctions under 'Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act' (CAATSA).

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a572515/EU-on-Pantsir-S1-We-expect-Serbia-to-adjust-policy-US-warns-about-sanctions.html

Media: Russia’s “Pantsir-S1” system arrives in Serbia

February 22, 2020

The first two of a total of six Russian anti-aircraft defence systems Pantsir-S1 Serbia ordered from Moscow arrived on Saturday at the “Pukovnik-pilot Milenko Pavlovic” airport near Belgrade, the Russian outlet “Sputnjik” reported.

On its way from Moscow, the plane that carried the equipment avoided the Ukrainian airspace and flew over the Black Sea and Bulgaria to Serbia. Bulgarian media reported a few days ago that the government had approved the flight.

The same type of cargo plane, An-124 Ruslan, previously delivered helicopters and MIG fighter planes from Russia, as well as the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system for the “Slavic shield 2019” exercise.

Serbia and Russia signed an agreement last year on delivery of one Pantsir set which consists of six systems. 

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a571703/Media-Russia-s-Pantsir-S1-system-arrives-in-Serbia.html

EUFOR monitoring the situation in Bosnia, no security threats so far

February 17, 2020

The European force in charge of preserving peace in Bosnia (EUFOR)is carefully monitoring the situation in the country and recent events have not threatened peace and stability in the region, EUFOR told N1 on Monday, responding to announcements from Bosnia's Serb-majority part that they would block the state-level decision-making process.

The EUFOR will continue to monitor the situation in the country in line with its mandate, which implies supporting the safe and stable environment in Bosnia. So far, the political events in the country have had no security or stability effects,” the EUFOR told N1.

On Wednesday, the authorities of the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) entity announced they would not take part in the decision-making process at the state level. The reason for this was the Court's decision regarding the appeal of several Bosniak MPs in the RS who appealed against the RS Law on Agricultural Land and the RS Law on Inland Navigation, stating that the RS is usurping state competencies and taking the land which belongs to the state.

The Court ruled in favour of the Bosniak MPs' motion, declaring several articles from those laws unconstitutional.

Following the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, the country was subdivided into two semi-autonomous entities – the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska. Each entity has its own competencies and parliaments and each entity makes its own laws which must be in line with the state Constitution.

“Resolution 2496 (2019) of the UN Security Council, adopted on November 5, 2019, extended the executive mandate of EUFOR for the next 12 months. The resolution also affirms that any amendment to the Constitution must be made in accordance with the procedure for amending the Constitution set out in the text of the Constitution,” EUFOR noted.

They concluded that they have the exclusive responsibility to provide support to Bosnia's state authorities in maintaining a safe and stable environment.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a410730/EUFOR-monitoring-the-situation-in-Bosnia-no-security-threats-so-far.html

Hundreds of traffic cameras installed in Serbian capital

February 5, 2020

The police and Belgrade city authorities have installed hundreds of traffic cameras across the Serbian capital to record traffic violations, Vecernje Novosti daily said on Wednesday, adding that fines will be sent automatically to the home addresses of drivers who run red lights or break speed limits.

The daily recalled that the Internal Affairs Ministry (MUP) plans to install about 1,000 security cameras supplied by Huawei in some 800 locations across the Serbian capital to improve traffic safety.

Vecernje Novosti quoted city officials who said that traffic police officers will no longer need to be present to fine drivers breaking the law.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a566706/Hundreds-of-traffic-cameras-installed-in-Serbian-capital.html

Serbian government adopts decree on classified defense system information

February 3, 2020

The Serbian government adopted a decree regulating classified information in the defense system, the FoNet news agency reported on Monday.

The decree, which was adopted at a cabinet meeting on January 30, defines the level of secrecy for data in the defense system and criteria for staff handling the data, the government web site said.  

The data which is classified as secret includes information in military, economic and other documents significant to the defense system which the country’s policies are based on, as well as the national defense plan and plans for the engagement of the military.  

The decree also covers data on the operational and functional capabilities of the Defense Ministry and Army of Serbia along with other bodies and companies working for the defense system and data in documents on the organization of the military and its formations. Classified data includes the development plans and programs for state-owned companies and companies of importance to the country’s defense as well as information on amounts and locations of goods reserves and the capacities for war-time production.  

The decree also defines the secrecy classification levels for data on scientific, technical and technological inventions significant to the country’s defense and defense equipment undergoing testing. It classifies data collected during geological and hydrology surveys.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a566116/Serbian-government-adopts-decree-on-classified-defense-system-information.html

NATO: Bosnia is currently a participant in the Membership Action Plan

January 31, 2020

Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of North Macedonia are current participants in the Membership Action Plan (MAP), NATO said on its website on Friday, adding that “participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision by the Alliance on future membership.”

“Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to continue pursuing democratic and defense reforms to fulfill its NATO and EU aspirations and to become a well-functioning independent democratic state,” the alliance said.

Bosnia’s cooperation with NATO is defined in the Reform Program the country sent to the alliance in December 2019, which includes “the reforms the government intends to undertake and facilitates the provision of support by NATO toward these efforts.”

The country was invited to join the MAP in 2010, as Allied foreign ministers called on Bosnian authorities to resolve its key issue regarding the matter - to register its immovable defense property to the state.

The ministers decided that NATO is ready to accept Bosnia’s Annual National Program in December 2018.

“The registration of immovable defense property to the state remains essential,” the NATO website said.

The countries participating in the MAP submit their annual national programs on their preparations for possible future membership in the alliance, which cover “political, economic, defense, resource, security and legal aspects.”

The MAP provides “focused and candid feedback mechanism on aspirant countries' progress on their programs.”

“This includes both political and technical advice, as well as annual meetings between all NATO members and individual aspirants at the level of the North Atlantic Council to assess progress, on the basis of an annual progress report. A key element is the defense planning approach for aspirants which includes elaboration and review of agreed planning targets,” the website said.

Meetings and workshops with NATO civilian and military experts take place throughout the year, allowing for discussion regarding the “spectrum of issues relevant to membership,” it said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a407371/NATO-Bosnia-is-currently-a-participant-in-the-Membership-Action-Plan.html

US Court sentences Bosnian for illegally shipping firearms to Swedish neo-Nazis

January 31, 2020

A US court sentenced a Bosnian citizen to more than seven years in prison on Monday for illegal arms trafficking which included shipping parts of firearms to a group of neo-Nazis in Sweden.

The U.S. District Court in Seattle found Hany Veletanlic, 36, guilty of “violating the Arms Export Control Act, illegally possessing two unregistered silencers, and possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number” in February last year.

The U.S. District Court in Seattle sentenced the Bosnian citizen, who legally resided in Tulalip, Washington, to 85 days behind bars.

“Veletanlic ultimately admitted shipping packages of firearms overseas – as many as 20 different shipments to two different customer groups in Sweden. He also has admitted shipping firearms parts to people in France, Russia, and Brazil,” a press release by the US Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Washington said.

District Judge James L. Robart said at the sentencing that Veletanlic had run an illegal “lucrative business” and took “quite sophisticated steps” in an attempt to hide his activities, according to the press release.

The investigation began in 2017, after Swedish law enforcement seized parts of a Glock firearm, with its serial number filed off, from a residence in Fagersta, Sweden. Glock Inc, however, still managed to trace the sale of the firearm, which led investigators to Veletanlic.

He was arrested in May 2018.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, while Veletanlic was awaiting sentencing, he “communicated with others outside the prison about transferring firearms to someone he thought was associated with a criminal group” which he believed “was going to harm someone who had been a witness against him.”

“In reality, an undercover officer was posing as a possible gang member after inmates at the FDC alerted law enforcement to the scheme,” the press release said.

Source:   http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a407281/US-Court-sentences-Bosnian-for-illegally-shipping-firearms-to-Swedish-neo-Nazis.html

Vucic calls urgent late night meeting

January 27, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called an urgent meeting of top security officials on Monday night over what the Serbian State TV (RTS) said was an unspecified deterioration of the situation in the region.

“A meeting is underway which President Vucic called urgently because of the deteriorated situation in the region,” the RTS said.

It added the meeting was being attended by Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and the country’s top civilian intelligence and security agency (BIA) Director Bratislav Gasic.

No press release was issued after the meeting.

The RTS said in its early morning news on Tuesday that the meeting was called over the beating of a young man in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica during a mass gathering for the return of the national waterpolo team which won the bronze at the European championships. The RTS quoted other media outlets which alleged that the young man had been beaten after he showed the Serb three finger salute.

The RTS said that the BIA would ask its Montenegrin counterpart for more information.              

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a564396/Vucic-calls-urgent-late-night-meeting.html

Border Police lack staff, equipment to stop new wave of illegal migrants

January 23, 2020

Bosnia and Herzegovina could face another wave of migrants this spring, the State Border Police Chief warned on Wednesday, noting that this agency lacks material-technical instruments to cover all locations where illegal crossovers are possible.

Zoran Galic said the data provided by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM) and Europol indicate that illegal migrations will intensify on the Western Balkan route following the winter season, which puts Bosnia in danger of facing yet another pressure of illegal migrations while this agency is struggling with a serious lack of staff to cover the border.

Bosnia's Border Police have a total of 2,228 employees, 2,028 of which are police officers.

“1,677 police officers are engaged in the border control, of which 1,300 are police officers, 188 senior police officers, 108 sergeants and 81 senior sergeants,” said Galic, stressing that 281 posts are currently vacant.

According to the Border Police, to cover all possible illegal border crossovers spots the agency lacks 100 official vehicles, 132 binoculars, 66 IC devices, 66 thermal imaging devices, 86 scoutguard cameras and 1,250 LED lamps.

“Procurement of new specialized equipment to respond to all modern-era challenges of illegal migrations as well as the border protection is a necessity,” said the Border Police Director.

He recalled that 13,251 persons were prevented from illegally crossing the border from Bosnia's neighboring countries.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405456/Border-Police-lack-staff-equipment-to-stop-new-wave-of-illegal-migrants.html

Former Bosnian member of Al-Nusra Front is now "completely deradicalised"

January 23, 2020

According to experts, Munib Ahmetspahic, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for joining paramilitary organisations in the area of Syria and Iraq, is now “completely deradicalised.”

Ahmetspahic was sentenced in April 2019 after he admitted to joining paramilitary organisations and participating in battles and terrorist activities between 2013 and 2018.

He told the court he was manipulated into doing so.

“How naive it was from us to make such a decision,” he said at the time.

“I would advise the youth to not fall for these things. Whoever wants to fight for justice should do so through legal means,” he added.

The decision Ahmetspahic made in May 2013 cost him a lot. He lost his brother who left for Syria together with him, his leg, the years he spent on the battlefield and in pre-trial detention and the three years he was sentenced to.

According to experts, the process of deradicalisation is complex and that the same method will likely not work for everybody, as the processes of radicalisation and deradicalisation are individual and differ from one person to another.

The State Court has until now handed down rulings against 26 persons in 17 similar trials, yet Ahmetspahic’s case is unique.

Prosecutors had asked neuropsychiatrist Abdulah Kucukalic for an assessment.

"Based on our examination, we got the impression that he had no inclination toward simulating, his statement was authentic. He could have tried to soften what he felt and told us, but he chose not to,” Kucukalic told Bosnia’s Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

Ahmetspahic was previously cleared of charges that he destroyed evidence in the case against Mevlid Jasarevic, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for shooting at the building of the US Embassy in Sarajevo in 2011.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405724/Former-Bosnian-member-of-Al-Nusra-Front-is-now-completely-deradicalised.html

NATO looking forward to continuing the cooperation with Bosnia's authorities

January 24, 2020

NATO is looking forward to providing the support to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its authorities in the implementation of reforms contained in the Defence Programme and Review from 2016, the NATO HQ Sarajevo told N1.

The Sarajevo HQ recalled that the Alliance received the Reform Programme that Bosnia's authorities sent in December 2019, which was accepted as a good basis for further cooperation between the NATO and Bosnia.

“NATO HQ Sarajevo is at disposal to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in providing further support to the reform of defence and security sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO highly appreciates the political dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Allies will be glad to welcome the officials of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the NATO HQ for the talks on cooperation between the NATO and Bosnia and on regional cooperation,” said the Sarajevo HQ.

The State Presidency adopted in June 2019 a conclusion on officially applying for the Membership Action Plan (MAP) and the Alliance positively responded from the Tallinn Summit the following year.

In December 2018, NATO state member foreign ministers gave a green light to Bosnia and invited the country to submit the first Annual National Programme (ANP), a comprehensive document that refers to the planned reforms in various fields, including political, security, legal and defence sectors.

Sending of the document has been on hold for months due to the political disagreements, and political parties eventually agreed the country would send to Brussels a document called the Reform Programme, which the NATO accepted.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405856/NATO-looking-forward-to-continuing-the-cooperation-with-Bosnia-s-authorities.html

Serbian military in first bilateral exercises with Chinese, Belarus forces

January 23, 2020

The Serbian military is planning to organize its first bilateral exercises with the armed forces of Belarus and China, Belgrade daily Politika said on Thursday.

The daily said that the Army of Serbia (VS) will hold a joint exercise named Joint Strike 2020 with Belarus forces in Serbia in September. Soldiers from the two armies have taken part in joint exercises with Russian forces but have never organized war games on their own.  

It added that the first Serbian-Chinese exercise will be organized this year for special forces from the two countries. The Serbian Defense Ministry said in October last year that Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Chinese Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman General Jang Youxi announced the bilateral exercise during their meeting in Beijing.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a563060/Serbian-military-in-first-bilateral-exercises-with-Chinese-Belarus-forces.html

NATO tells U.S. Congressman that Serbia can buy arms from whoever it wants

January 22, 2020

After Eliot Engel, a Democrat and U.S. Representative for New York's 16th congressional district, sharply criticised NATO for its, as he said, soft and easeful attitude toward Serbia for buying Russian weapons, James Mackey, the Alliance's Director of Security Policy and Partnerships, said the country was an independent state and had own choices, N1 reported on Wednesday.

Engel warned a US Admiral James Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, that when he spoke about the successful cooperation with Serbia, he did not represent the US stands.

Serbia's purchase of Russian arms raised questions in Davos, during the Western Balkans panel. Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said he told those asking the question that his country "bought only defensive weaponry... we want to be ready to protect our country." Due to the Chatham House rules, he could not go into the details discussed at the panel.

"Serbia must calculate all the expenses and benefits from every cooperation and every relationship, but it is an independent state and NATO cannot tell it who it should have relations with," Mackey said.

He later told N1 that NATO was satisfied with the individual partnership Serbia signed with the Alliance and that based on those agreements some joint exercises, and joint pans in emergencies.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a562860/NATO-says-Serbia-has-right-to-have-relations-with-Russia-as-well.html

Belgrade police seize 80 kg of marijuana

January 16, 2020

Belgrade police confiscated 80 kilogrammes of marijuana in a house and inside a car in the city’s Zvezdara municipality on Thursday, N1 reported.

The police arrested a Montenegrin national, 53, under suspicion of illegally producing and selling drugs and placed him under 48-hour detention before taking him to the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a561092/Police-seize-80-kg-of-marijuana-in-Belgrade.html

Dodik: Foreigners formed centers to prevent Russian influence across the Balkans

January 15, 2020

Western powers have formed at least three centres for the prevention of Russian influence in the Balkans and there are likely more, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik told Serbia’s public broadcaster during a visit to Belgrade on Wednesday.

“The British Government said that it will provide six million pounds toward organised activities to prevent Russian influence in the Balkans, the US Government provided more than 20 million USD for that through various organisations, which they presented publicly,” said Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency.

He said that an intelligence centre for preventing Russian influence was formed in Sarajevo by foreigners and people from Bosnia’s intelligence agency, who he argued should rather be protecting Bosnia and Herzegovina and its sovereignty.

“Those centres for preventing so-called Russian influence were formed in Sarajevo, Podgorica and Tirana. Those are the three centres in the Balkans. It's likely that another hidden one which can not be revealed yet operates here in Belgrade as well, but we know about it,” Dodik said.

He alleged that there are also various similar organisations in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated region of Republika Srpska (RS), adding that certain ambassadors meet with opposition politicians and NGO representatives but not with government representatives.

He also said that it was unfortunate that Republika Srpska does not have its own intelligence agency, a competency which he argued was “stolen and moved” to the state level through “illegal decisions” by the international administrators in Bosnia and that now the state agency “works against Republika Srpska and Serbia.”

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a404035/Dodik-Foreigners-formed-centres-to-prevent-Russian-influence-across-the-Balkans.html

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