International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbia faces problems with combatants returning from Middle East

January 14, 2020

Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told students at the School of National Defense that the return home of Serbian nationals fighting in foreign wars is one of the greatest threats the country faces.

There are 28 Serbian nationals in Syria and Iraq, most of them from Kosovo, the minister said. “Serbia has introduced a law to sanction involvement by our citizens in foreign conflicts which has drastically reduced the number of people going to foreign wars,” he said.  

Stefanovic said that the fight against organized crime and money laundering are important parts of the fight against terrorism. He warned that part of the money earned from drug trafficking and other things is used to finance terrorism across the world. He said that Serbia recognized that challenge and implemented measures recommended by international organizations and has amended laws covering online gambling and the use of crypto currencies.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560513/Serbia-faces-problems-with-combatants-returning-from-Middle-East.html

Kosovo's police detain two Russian nationals for illegal border crossing

January 14, 2020

Two Russians were arrested in northern Kosovo for, as the authorities said, illegally crossing from Serbia into Kosovo, the FoNet news agency reported on Tuesday.

Slobodan Bakic, from the Basic Prosecutor's Office in the Serb part of the divided Mitrovica town, told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the Russians tried to enter Kosovo at the Jarinje crossing, but did not have the visa.

Then, they attempted to cross illegally at an alternative crossing.

"The police discovered, detained and processed them," Bakic said.

He identified the two as Igor Krasikov and Marina Vladimirovna Krasikov. The two were ordered 24-hour detention and their car, rented in Montenegro, was confiscated.

The arrest happened on January 13, when two Albanians were also apprehended and detained at the same crossing.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560409/Two-Russians-detained-in-Kosovo.html

Croatia's police to get a €376,000 facial recognition system

January 13, 2020

Croatia's interior ministry is getting a 2.8 million kuna (€376,000) digital facial recognition system, the Jutarnji List daily said on Monday, enabling local police to dramatically speed up the cross-referencing of image and video data and identifying suspects.

Jutarnji List quoted the ministry saying that the tender had been launched in October, without giving any more details as the project is officially classified as secret. Although the local media had previously speculated that the ministry is getting sophisticated camera systems, the daily learned off the record that the latest tender involves facial recognition software.

This is the first time that Croatian police is buying biometric systems capable of identifying persons by comparing and analysing images of their facial features such as the shape of their lips, eyes, or nose, Jutarnji List said.

The technology would enable police to snap a picture of suspects or potentially groups of people and send them via tablet or mobile phone back to the command centre, where the software could quickly cross-reference the images with pictures of wanted persons already in the database.

The software can also analyse and cross-reference video footage taken from surveillance cameras. Jutarnji List speculates that the system could greatly improve the surveillance of hooligans at sporting events, or identifying suspects after bank robberies.

According to manufacturers of this type of equipment, the software used for this purpose is up to 90 percent accurate.

At the moment, Jutarnji List said, police officers still rely on cross-referencing images and videos manually, and the new softeware is expected to speed up the process signifcantly. The police, as well as the civil and military intelligence agencies SOA and VSOA, legally have access to footage from any surveillance camera installed anywhere in the country.

These include nearly 500 fixed and mobile public surveillance cameras installed around capital Zagreb, although Jutarnji List reports that the law enforcement and security agencies are not yet equipped to monitor these systems in real time.

(€1 = 7.44 kuna)

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a403673/Croatia-s-police-to-get-a-376-000-facial-recognition-system.html

Minister Vulin decorates two ex-Yugoslav Army veterans

January 12, 2020

Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin has decorated two veterans of the former Yugoslav Army from Montenegro, Andrija Mandic and Danilo Lekovic, for their contribution to Serbia’s defence system, the ministry said on Sunday.

Mandic and Lakovic received Military Commemorative Medals during a ceremony at the Great Wartime Hall.

Minister Vulin said that all those who were defending the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 deserve equal attention and respect, regardless of whether they are citizens of Serbia or Montenegro.

Mandic, who is now one of the leaders of the opposition Democratic Front (DF) in Montenegro, said this was a great recognition for the unit he had commandeered and all reserve forces members “who were proud of responding the call of their homeland and of defending their homeland the same way as their glorious ancestors.”

“It’s been twenty years no and the many in Montenegro, the same ones who were calling for desertion back in 1999, who worked for the NATO in 1999, tried to make people ashamed of being the members of the Army of Yugoslavia,” he stressed.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a559917/Minister-Vulin-decorates-two-ex-Yugoslav-Army-veterans.html

Migrant-smuggling in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the rise

January 9, 2020

Over 60,000 illegal migrants have passed through Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of 2018 on their way to western Europe, increasing the number of human smuggling cases, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) reported on Thursday.

Referring to the data of the Bosnian Border Police, BIRN states that there were 80 cases of migrant smuggling in 2019 and 70 in 2018.

Last year criminal complaints were filed against 120 people because of that. Among them were 22 foreigners, nine of them Serbian citizens, states BIRN.

Based on those complaints, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina indicted 46 people, ten fewer than in 2018.

Forty-seven people accused in the last two years were found guilty.

Most of the defendants pleaded guilty so the sentences ranged from suspended sentences to three years in prison.

The longest sentence was pronounced against Pakistani national Usman-Ali Maqsood-Ahmed, the organizer of one smuggling group, who was also fined a little less than €4,000.

In 2018 this group smuggled at least 46 nationals of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and India, which earned them at least 35 thousand euros.

Maqsood-Ahmed became a human smuggler by falsely introducing himself as a migrant and offering those ready to pay him to transfer them across Bosnia to the EU border.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a402803/Migrant-smuggling-in-Bosnia-and-Herzegovina-on-the-rise.html

Special forces to protect Austrian Justice Minister of Bosnian descent

January 8, 2020

Following a wave of hate speech directed at the newly appointed Austrian Justice Minister Alma Zadic online, Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism warned of a possible planned attack and immediately provided three agents from the Cobra special forces for her protection, Kronen Zeitung reported on Wednesday.

How long their assignment will last depends on further threat assessment.

However, the daily notes that the assignment is all the riskier because the Green party officials tend to go to work by bicycle, which complicates things even further.

The debate over who else, apart from Minister Zadic, will be granted Cobra protection is still ongoing.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a402572/Special-forces-to-protect-Austrian-Justice-Minister-of-Bosnian-descent.html

Serbian Defense minister tells troops to think about Serbs everywhere

January 7, 2020

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin told Serbian military personnel in the Ground Safety Zone that they should be thinking about Serbs across the region this Christmas.

The Ground Safety Zone is an area along the border with Kosovo in which Serbia is allowed a limited police and military presence.

“We should be thinking of our compatriots, the Serbs in Kosovo, the Serbs in the Republika Srpska (in Bosnia-Herzegovina), in Croatia, we should be thinking about the Serbs in Montenegro and their struggle for the right to believe in their own God, go to their church, speak their language, write using their script,” a press release quoted the minister as saying during a visit to the Trmka military base in southern Serbia.

“Whatever their attitude towrds Serbs is their attitude towards Serbia. Whatever their attitude towards our Cyrillic (script) and our church is their attitude towards each one of use,” he said, adding that the state of Serbia “is sending a message of peace on this holiday”. “It wants harmony, unity but above all it wants all Serbs, regardless of where they live to be safe, peaceful, protected and not to be the only nation in Europe, the only nation in the world that has to fight for its right to use its own language, write with its own script and pray in its own churches,” he said.

“The Serbs deserve human rights just like any other people and do not deserve to have to fight for what they give to everyone with satisfaction and pride in their country,” Vulin said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a558575/Serbian-Defense-minister-tells-troops-to-think-about-Serbs-everywhere-on-Christmas.html

Army Union sues Serbia’s Def Min, Ministry responds with counter-charges

January 2, 2020

Serbia’s Military Union (VSS) said on Thursday it filed charges against Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin for “illegally and contrary to international laws decided to reject VSS request for union representativity with the employer,” the Army of Serbia, the Beta news agency reported.

 VSS said in a statement signed by its President Ninoslav Svilengacin that “Vulin brought such decision exclusively to prevent the work of the largest and the only union in the Army of Serbia (VS) which fulfils conditions to be representative.”

“We appeal with the President and the Government to see what damage they suffer daily from Minister Aleksandar Vulin’s dilettant, bully and criminal behaviour, and to finally reconsider his destructive role and responsibility for the disastrous situation in our Army. Vulin’s exhibitionism and damaging management undermine the VS combat readiness,” the statement said.

It added that “both VS and public are aware of the fact that Vulin doesn’t work in the interest of the Army and its soldiers. Over 5,000 of them have left the Army during his mandate.”

The statement said Vulin also committed a crime by firing the Union’s head and Secretary-General, adding that “the obstruction of union’s work is a serious crime in the European Union countries.”  

Later on Thursday, the Defence Ministry denied all VSS allegations, adding that “the respective Prosecutor’s Office asked VSS to provide evidence for their earlier claims, what they failed to do, and since they communicate with Military Police and civil prosecutors, the Ministry will have to file charges against VSS representatives and thus enable them to prove their unfounded charges before court.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557391/Army-Union-files-criminal-charges-against-Serbia-s-Defence-Minister.html

Parliament Committee says security situation in Serbia stable

December 27, 2019

The Serbian Parliament’s Security Services Committee said on Friday that the situation in the country is stable despite the constant security challenges, risks and threats.

The committee reviewed reports on the Security Information Agency (BIA – the top civilian intelligence and security agency), the security situation in the country, on the Military Intelligence Agency and Military Security Agency in the April 1 – September 30 period.  

According to the committee, the security services focused on key risks and threats, the activities of foreign intelligence services, abuse of illegal migrations for terrorist activities, separatism, religious, ethnic and ideological extremism and organized crime.  

The committee presented the directors of the two military agencies – Brigadier Generals Zoran Stojkovic and Djura Jovanovic – plaques for contributing to strengthening of the security sector and civilian control.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a556195/Parliament-Committee-says-security-situation-in-Serbia-stable.html

Serbian government appoints new small arms control coordinator

December 25, 2019

The Serbian government appointed Ivan Ristic to the post of National Coordinator for Control of Small Arms, the government said on its web site.

Ristic was reported by the Balkan Investigative Research Network (BIRN) to have headed a delegation of the Internal Affairs Ministry (MUP) on a visit to the Beretta arms factory in Italy along with a delegation of the private GIM company whose representatives included owner Goran Todorovic and the father of the Internal Affairs Minister Branko Stefanovic.  

Ristic was assistant to the Director of Police at the time of the visit earlier this year. Earlier, he held the post of cabinet chief to Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555535/Serbian-government-appoints-new-small-arms-control-coordinator.html

Vulin: Serbia won’t join NATO

December 24, 2019

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Tuesday that Serbia will not join NATO as along as President Aleksandar Vucic and the majority in parliament head the state.

Speaking in parliament, he recalled that Serbia has cooperation with NATO and the Collective SecurityTreaty Organization (CSTO) former by former Soviet republics “who do not want us to give up part of our territory”.

According to the Defense Minister, military neutrality is expensive but added that Serbia would not abandon that commitment because “you’re not a free country if someone else guards your skies”.

Vulin said that the Serbian military would exercise with Chinese forces in 2020. “We have never done that. Why shouldn’t we see how the Chinese do it, they aren’t a member of any alliance,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555287/Vulin-Serbia-won-t-join-NATO.html         

Bosnia sends its 'Reform Programme' to NATO

December 24, 2019

The tripartite Presidency has sent Bosnia's ‘Reform Programme’ to NATO via the alliance’s representatives in the country on Monday, only an hour after the House of Representatives voted for the new members of the new Council of Ministers.

The document was sent as the parliament of the Serb-majority semi-autonomous part of the country, Republika Srpska (RS), began a session where it was being discussed.

As Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik was entering the RS National Assembly building, several activists from the opposition Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) offered him NATO flags, as an expression of protest.

NATO remains unpopular with Serbs in both Serbia and in Bosnia's Serb-majority semi-autonomous entity of Republika Srpska (RS) since the alliance launched airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and against the Serbian military in 1999 during the conflict between Belgrade and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

The 'Reform Programme' is the result of a political deadlock which had crippled the country and prevented it from implementing the October 2018 election results until last month.

After more than a year without a new government formed in the country, the Bosniak and Croat Presidency members of the Presidency finally expressed in November support for a candidate coming from Dodik's party to take over the post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers - effectively the Prime Minister position.

They refused to do since the October 2018 election because Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), did not agree to send the Annual National Programme (ANP) to NATO - which would activate the country’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) and would represent the next step toward Bosnia becoming a member of the alliance.

According to the November agreement between the Presidency members, Dodik’s candidate will be sworn in but the country will also send a ‘Reform Programme’ to NATO.

Bosnian Serb opposition parties strongly criticised Dodik, saying he betrayed Serb interests and pushed the country into NATO. They argued that the Reform Programme is nothing other than the ANP, only different in name.

NATO is expected to decide on whether it will accept the document within the net few months and whether the country has made the most important step in activating its Membership Action Plan (MAP).

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555041/BiH-sends-its-programme-to-NATO-after-forming-new-government.html

Serbia destroys 15,000 firearms

December 23, 2019

The Serbian Internal Affairs Ministry (MUP) said on Monday that 15,000 firearms had been destroyed at a recycling center in a Belgrade suburb as part of a project to destroy weapons supported by the UNDP’s South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC).

“More than 100,000 firearms have been destroyed to date. Another 15,000 were destroyed today, including 14,000 that the MUP collected in criminal, misdemeanor and other proceedings. A part were surplus MUP weapons. All this would not be possible without cooperation with partners, primarily the European Union and UNDP,” assistant Minister Zeljko Veselinovic said.  

Project coordinator, Jelena Bujakovic of SEESAC said the destruction of firearms is important as part of efforts in line with the road map to control weapons in the Western Balkans, the MUP press release said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554971/Serbia-destroys-15-000-firearms.html

Serbian Defense Ministry brings back elite brigades

December 23, 2019

The Serbian Defense Ministry has decided to bring back two elite brigade level units, Minister Aleksandar Vulin told a ceremony in a barracks in Pancevo over the weekend.

Under the decision, the Serbian military will get back the 63rd Parachute Brigade and the 72nd Special Operations Brigade. The 63rd was one of the elite units carried over from the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) while the 72nd was a special forces unit formed in 1992 in what was then the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ). The two units were merged along with two other special forces units into the Special Brigade in 2006. Both were downgraded to battalion level.  

Vulin told the ceremony that the decision was taken to “correct the injustice towards the dead and the people saved by those heroes”. “Only an ungrateful people and army that is not free and under foreign command would decide to loose the names of the 72nd and 63rd brigades, hide them and forget them,” he said.  

Chief of Staff General Milan Mojsilovic said that the decision was taken to raise reaction speed and simplify the chain of command to counter challenge, risks and threats.  

Both brigades will be deployed in their traditional bases – the 63rd in Nis and the 72nd in Pancevo.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554747/Serbian-Defense-Ministry-brings-back-elite-brigades.html

Serbian military arms Airbus helicopters

December 19, 2019

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Thursday that the Serbian military has equipped its Airbus H-145M helicopters with domestically-produced weapons and equipment.

A ministry press release said that Vulin toured the Nikinci test center to see the H-145M operating in combat conditions as part of the final stage of verification and integration of the helicopter into the Serbian military.

It quoted Vulin as saying that Serbia, as a military neutral country, has to rely on itself. “We have to procure things from abroad but we also improve and upgrade it,” he said.

The ministry said that H-145M helicopters armed with domestic weapons will be part of the Serbian military next year.

Colonel Zvonko Maric said that the helicopters will be used for combat and search and rescue operations. He said the helicopters come fully equipped with the Serbian military providing the weapons systems and specified that they will be armed with 12.7 mm machine guns and 80 mm rocket launchers.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553993/Serbian-military-arms-Airbus-helicopters.html

isn eth zurichBSAdsNATOCentral and Eastern European Online LibraryEurActiv | European Union Information Website