International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

CEO says Telekom Serbia filed charges against Leposavic mayor

February 14, 2024

Telekom Serbia CEO Vladimir Lucic said on Wednesday that criminal charges have been filed against the mayor of the northern Kosovo town of Leposavic for destruction of private property which left some 5,000 people without mobile phone services.

Lucic told the Serbian state TV (RTS) that Leposavic Mayor ethnic Albanian Lulzim Hetemi (one of the officials who came to office in elections boycotted by the Serbs) prevented aintenance workers from repairing a base station on the roof of the town hall after the signal to Telekom’s equipment was interrupted. Most Serbs in the north of Kosovo use Telekom’s MTS mobile phone services.

Lucic said the MTS equipment malfunctioned because the Vala mobile services provider was installing its equipment on the town hall roof. “Our signal was intentionally interrupted by the Vala mobile operator who the current municipal administrators are issuing as many permits as possible to in order to cover the north. It set up its equipment on the municipality building and interrupted our signal,” he said and accised Hetemi of taking over MTS equipment only because it is a Serbian company.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/ceo-says-telekom-serbia-filed-charges-against-leposavic-mayor/

NUNS chief says report shows Serbian journalism sick

February 14, 2024

Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS) chief Zeljko Bodrozic told N1 that the latest Press Council report shows that journalism in Serbia is sick.

The Press Council released its report for the second half of 2023 which said that there were more than 5,500 violations of the national Code of Journalism, mainly by the tabloid press.

“This monitoring tells us that the media scene is very bad, very toxic,” he said adding that the toxic effect over the past 10 years came from “the worst tabloids, not only in print but also electronic which have flooded Serbia”. According to Bodrozic, more than 90 percent of the media in Serbia are under the control of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). He said all those media violate the code of journalism daily.

“The problem is that they are hate generators,” he said and warned that politicians, primarily from the ruling coalition, use those media are used to target political opponents.

The NUNS chief said that Serbia has good laws which are not implemented or are bypassed by the very people who should lead the way in implementing them.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/nuns-chief-says-report-shows-serbian-journalism-sick/

US official to Pristina- If you don’t treat us as a partner, it goes both ways

February 13, 2024

US Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien said the US is very concerned by the Kosovo government’s decision to ban the use of the Serbian dinar.

In an interview with the Voice of America in Albanian, he said this Kosovo government’s attitude has thrown into question its partnership with the United States.

I don’t make vague threats in public and I would say that if we are not treated as a partner, we will not treat the government of Kosovo as a partner either, O’Brien told the Voice of America, KoSSev reported.

His message to Pristina is that Kosovo should withdraw the decision on the dinar.

He added that, although the United States advised the Kosovo government against such action, it decided to implement it without considering the advice of key partners.

The US official explained that modern European countries resolve such issues through preliminary dialogue, and inform their citizens in a timely manner.

O’Brien said that he had frequent contact with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti before the Central Bank of Kosovo’s issuance of the decision, and only a brief talk after it.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/us-official-to-pristina-if-you-don-t-treat-us-as-a-partner-it-goes-both-ways/

Kosovo won't withdraw decision on Serbian dinar, PM offers time for adjustment

February 13, 2024

The Kosovo government will not interfere in the decision of the Central Bank of Kosovo (CBK) to abolish the Serbian dinar in payment transactions, that decision will not be annulled, and time will be given to adjust to it, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Tuesday.

Kurti thus indirectly accepted suggestions by the international community to give ethnic Serbs time to adjust to the CBK's decision.

Under the decision, which went into force on 1 February, payments in Kosovo are allowed only in euros. This has increased the concerns of the local Serb community because they receive Serbian wages and pensions in dinars, which they use for buying and selling.

The international community earlier requested that Kosovo delay enforcing the decision due to concerns that it could have a negative effect on Kosovo Serbs.

I cannot annul that decision, but there will be no punitive measures, we do not want to punish anyone, Kurti told Bloomberg, announcing that Serbs in Kosovo would be given time to adjust to the decision.

We are working on more comprehensive information to be made public in the coming days, Kurti said.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council held an extraordinary session at Serbia's request to discuss the CBK decision, with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic warning that it could cause irreparable damage.

He said that Serbia pays from its budget 60,946 wages and pensions in Kosovo, as well as 2,430 scholarships and that it finances soup kitchens for about 2,000 socially disadvantaged citizens, adding that it was evident that the ban on dinar transactions and the abolition of the Serbian dinar as a means of payment deprived a large number of people of means of subsistence.

The Serbian president called on the international community to take urgent and resolute steps to stop the expulsion of Kosovo Serbs and create conditions for the continuation of a normal dialogue between Belgrade and Priština.

A shipment of dinars which Belgrade sent to Kosovo via a licenced UK company was in the meantime sent back from a border crossing, triggering protests in Kosovo's north and messages that the livelihoods of tens of thousands of ethnic Serbs was at risk.

A special US envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, told Tanjug news agency today that Washington had been completely clear that there could be no unilateral moves in Kosovo and that they could have consequences.

In a comment on the CBK's decision, Escobar said that communication on issues like that should happen within time frames that do not affect the local population.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/kosovo-wont-withdraw-decision-on-serbian-dinar-pm-offers-time-for-adjustment/

Dodik expresses support to Republika Srpska Official Gazette acting director as his trial before State Court commences

February 13, 2024

Trial of Milos Lukic, the acting director of the Official Gazette of Republika Srpska, over the non-compliance with decisions of High Representative Christian Schmidt, commenced on Tuesday before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lukic was initially in a trial along with Milorad Dodik, the President of the Serb-majority entity, but two cases were separated due to Lukic's health condition.

In support of Lukic, Dodik posted a message on his X account.

“Milos Lukic is a good man, a great patriot, an excellent manager who performs responsibly all his duties and Republika Srpska is grateful for that dedication,” Dodik wrote, noting that separating his case from Lukic's is intended to “speed up everything and make a judgment as soon as possible in order to ban my political action, and to show on Lukic how ordinary people will be treated,” said Dodik.

Speaking to journalists in Banja Luka, the entity's administrative centre, Dodik said he did not go to Sarajevo because “our police structure assessed there are certain risks for my movements in the Federation (Bosnia's other entity where Sarajevo is located), but I'm with Lukic in my thoughts.”

Dodik's trial started on February 5, after a few delays, with Republika Srpska President expressing discontentment over the replacement of judge in his case.

He called the trial a “political process” led by “someone else” and not by the Court of BiH.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/dodik-expresses-support-to-republika-srpska-official-gazette-acting-director-as-his-trial-before-state-court-commences/

Pajtic- Vucic, Brnabic violating Serbia’s sovereignty

February 13, 2024

“The only ones violating Serbia’s sovereignty are (Serbian Prime Minisiter) Ana Brnabic and (Serbian President) Aleksandar Vucic,” Novi Sad Law School professor Bojan Pajtic told N1 commenting on the government’s attacks on the opposition over the adopted European Parliament resolution on Serbian elections.

Among other things, the EP resolution calls for an international investigation into the elections held on December 17 last year.

“The government doesn’t read the Serbian Constitution and doesn’t know that neither Vucic nor Brnabic are the bearers of sovereignty, but the citizens of Serbia and, under the Constitution, they exercise their sovereignty through the freely elected bearers of power and no group of individuals can usurp the citizens’ sovereignty or exercise power against the will of the citizens,” Pajtic told the N1 show Studio Live.

Regarding the government’s comments that the opposition representatives who demanded an international investigation into the elections are traitors, Pajtic said that, following this logic, it could then be said that Vucic and Brnabic violate Serbia’s sovereignty several times per year, that is, every time they receive European Union (EU) representatives who oversee Serbia’s progress on the European integration path.

“Neither they do that, nor would an international mission do that. The EU is an association that we want to join. You cannot steal in elections, abolish media freedom, freedom of expression, hold unfair elections and at the same time be an OSCE member and a candidate for EU membership. It cannot be both, it’s either one or the other,” said Pajtic.

He added that the government has been caught stealing, which is why it is accusing the opposition, and them saying that others are “traitors” is the logic of bullies.

“It’s the logic – beat whoever you want, but in your own house, Vucic is also applying this to the state so he thinks he can beat whoever he wants, usurp power by means of election fraud, by buying votes. This cannot be done in Serbia in the 21st century. We are not an isolated island, but if we don’t want to become one like back in the 90s, we have to stand up to the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) policy,” said Pajtic.

He explained that an observation mission coming to Serbia would mean “it is doing what the EU representatives that Vucic and Brnabic have been receiving have been doing – checking to see if rules are honored.”

“You are a candidate for EU membership, if you don’t want that, quit the negotiation process,” he said.

Asked if the mission will come and investigate the elections, Pajtic said that will depend on just how determined the European Commission is.

He said he hopes the European Commission will firmly insist on this investigation, adding: “If they don’t, I’m afraid they have given up on us.”

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/law-professor-vucic-brnabic-violating-serbia-s-sovereignty/

Road blockade halts production in Zijin’s Novo Cerovo mine

February 13, 2024

The Serbia Zijin Copper Company said it was forced to temporarily halt production in its Novo Cerovo mine because of the blockade of the road leading to the mine.

The company said that the blockade of the road by the residents of the village of Krivelj has prevented the delivery of essential raw materials, diesel, and explosives, leading to the depletion of stocks.

“Serbia Zijin Copper respects Serbian laws, adheres to all the existing agreements and actively seeks dialogue with the organizers of the blockade, local authorities and Serbian Government in order to peacefully resolve the road blockade issue,” said the company.

Krivelj locals, whose concerns revolve around pollution, have been blocking the road since the end of January.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/road-blockade-halts-production-in-zijins-novo-cerovo-mine/

Lalic- Only in Serbia do statesmen give interviews to tabloids

February 13, 2024

The problem of media tabloidization stems from the tabloid government that adores tabloids and believes they are the best media, said editor in chief of the weekly Nedeljnik Veljko Lalic, stressing that only in Serbia do statesmen give interviews to tabloids.

In a series of talks on the media scene, Lalic explained that the government is making tabloids “into mainstream media, and pushing the serious media to the sidelines.”

In his opinion, this is a planned action that is part of the general aesthetic imposed on society.

Addressing the issue of freedom of speech in the media, Lalic said the government finds ways to prove that this freedom has not been abolished, because nowadays anyone can say whatever they want on social media.

“We think that insults on social media networks are proof that we have freedom of speech, but insults are a matter of indecency,” he explained.

Lalic said the decision of the Serbian state TV (RTS) to broadcast only Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s speech at the UN Security Council session and not that of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti shows that freedom of speech has obviously been abolished.

“According to what we’ve heard, Kosovo television stations broadcast both,” he added.

Commenting on the government’s specific relationship with the media, he said Vucic knows more journalists than anyone else.

“He comes from a family of journalists, people tend to forget that he too started his career as a journalist, an extremely unsuccessful journalist, but he has been in the media for very long, and this is a very specific thing that, if you analyze it, is not insignificant,” said Lalic.

In his opinion, media problems also originate from the fact that, when Vucic was in the Serbian Radical Party, that party was not particularly promising and its work was followed by average journalists who are now in leading positions on the media scene, thanks to personal acquaintance.

“It is not a very good thing to employ friends, but one should rather employ those who can do the job. So this here is a very specific situation with a lot of specific elements,” said Lalic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/lalic-only-in-serbia-do-statesmen-give-interviews-to-tabloids/

Press Council reports more than 5,000 code violations

February 13, 2024

The Serbian Press Council said in a report released on Tuesday that more than 5,000 violations of the code of journalism had been recorded in the second half of 2023.

The report said that there were 5,551 violations in the period between July 1 and December 31 last year.

It said that most media failed to report on anything negative about the authorities and that anonymous social media profiles were used to attack the opposition.

According to the Press Council, the tabloid press led the way in violating the Code of Journalism. The code was violated mainly in reporting on political issues, especially during last year’s election campaign but also in reporting on crimes and entertainment primarily on reality shows.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/press-council-reports-more-than-5000-code-violations/

Szijjarto- Kosovo shouldn’t be condition for Serbia’s EU membership

February 13, 2024

Hungarian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjártó told Croatia’s Hina news agency that Serbia's EU membership should not be conditional on the Kosovo issue.

Szijjártó said Serbia „can join the European Union easily tomorrow“ and that since it is „the biggest and strongest country of the Western Balkans“, stability in the region cannot be achieved without it „on board.“ „Alienating Serbia is the worst possible tactic,“ he noted.

„I do believe the approach of the bureaucracy in Brussels should change towards Serbia and that instead of this lecturing mode, they should come to an eye-to-eye mode“. Szijjártó is against tying Serbia’s EU membership to the normalisation of its relations with Kosovo, saying that it is not „fair“ because it does not depend only on Belgrade.

Szijjártó explained Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s frequent anti-Western and anti-European rhetoric as due to „a feeling of disappointment“ with the lack of progress towards EU membership despite the benchmarks that have been met.

He said the EU was „an unfinished project“ as long as the Western Balkan countries „are not allowed to be integrated“. „We do believe that now the European Union needs the Western Balkans more than the Western Balkan countries might need the membership,“ he added.

The EU „is suffering from a declining competitiveness, from war, from fatigue, from losing its way in global politics,“ Szijjártó said, adding that enlargement would give it „freshness“ and „impetus“.

During its EU presidency in the second half of the year, Hungary will put „a lot of emphasis on the acceleration of the enlargement,“ he said.

Hungary is „absolutely interested“ in the Western Balkans „to be stable,“ Szijjártó said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/szijjarto-kosovo-shouldn-t-be-condition-for-serbia-s-eu-membership/

Serbia, UAE sign memorandum on AI

February 13, 2024

Serbia and the United Arab Emirates signed a Memorandum of Understanding on developing and applying AI, the Serbian government said in a press release on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told reporters after the signing that the memorandum means the two countries will cooperate more closely on AI. Brnabic is attending the World Governments Summit 2024 in Dubai.

“She explained that the UAE has developed its own language model that serves to teach a computer something, to send it data, which it then processes and gives answers to various questions. The Prime Minister said that it is practically a model like the American GPT, and that Serbia signed this document so that scientific institutes, startups and others can use that model,” the press release said.

According to Brnabic, Serbia is one of the 29 countries in the global partnership for the development of artificial intelligence.

The press release said that the memorandum was signed by Minister of Information and Telecommunications Mihailo Jovanovic, Director of the Serbian Institute for Research and Development of Artificial Intelligence Dubravko Culibrk and Secretary General of the UAE Advanced Technology Research Council Faisal Al Bannai.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbia-uae-sign-memorandum-on-ai/

Escobar- Dialogue to resolve all issues

February 13, 2023

US State Department official Gabriel Escobar said that Belgrade and Pristina should resolve all issues through the European Union-facilitated dialogue.

He told the pro-regime Tanjug agency that Washington was very clear that issues like the Kosovo Central Bank decision to effectively ban the Dinar should be resolved through the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.

According to Escobar, the new currency regulation which effectively bans the Dinar by making the Euro the only legal currency in Kosovo, should be communicated with enough time and notice to the affected populations. “We stand ready to help both countries resolve the issue but they both have to come back to the dialogue and abide by existing agreements,” he said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/escobar-dialogue-to-resolve-all-issues/

Priebe- Objective report into Serbian elections needed

February 13, 2024

Former European Commission Director for the Western Balkans Reinhard Priebe told N1 on Tuesday that an objective report on the mid-December elections is needed to see what was good and what wasn’t.

He said that the Serbian authorities should not view the criticism about the elections as inappropriate interference in the country’s internal affairs, adding that part of the European Community’s job is to check the progress made by candidate countries. He recalled that this is not the first time that the Commission has criticized elections in a country aspiring to become a European Union member.

From my point of view, the the most important thing is to assess the situation, he said adding that the efforts by the Serbian authorities should be based on the ODIHR report. He said official Belgrade should introduce measure to deal with what did not work at the elections and prevent a repeat of the irregularities.

He warned against inflammatory statements. We need an objective assessment … and I think that is the intention of the European Parliament, he added. Priebe said the European Parliament resolution is cause for concern because it criticizes in detail and openly the Serbian elections.

According to Priebe, the EU will not allow a violation of its principles and will insist on respect of those values, including rule of law. It w

He said that the message is that something was wrong with the elections and added that the effect on public opinion is serious and should be considered by Serbian politicians.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/priebe-objective-report-into-serbian-elections-needed/

Serb List calls for calm after flyers call for violence

February 13, 2024

Flyers that appeared in the majority-Serb populated half of the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica called for resistance to the Kosovo police, prompting the Belgrade-backed Serb List to warn against provocation.

The flyers are titled Ways to Resist the Kurti Police and were signed by National Defense. They listed ways to resist the Kosovo authorities including physical and verbal assaults on the Kosovo police and civil servants as well as a recipe for Molotov cocktails.

The Serb List warned the population of Mitrovica North not to fall for this kind of provocation. “We are asking our citizens to remain calm because activities like this, no matter by who, are directed against peace and are being done with the ill intention of causing further destabilization in order to blame the Serbs for possible new incidents,” a press release said.

It added that there is an obvious intent to portray the Serbs as violent and get rid of the pressure that someone is under because of the harassment of the Serbs. “The Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija will continue fighting to protect its rights and interests using peaceful methods,” the Serb List said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serb-list-calls-for-calm-after-flyers-call-for-violence/

Neophytos Loizides- Secession would create ‘catastrophic consequences’ for people in Republika Srpska

February 12, 2024

Breaking the country apart would create “catastrophic consequences,” university professor Neophytos Loizides, expert in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and comparative politics told N1, commenting on a possibility of secession of Bosnia's Republika Srpska entity. It would be bad for people but the international community would not accept it either, according to Loizides.

“The big countries around the world – UK, Spain, Romania, Greece – would not accept that happening, because of the precedent it creates for their own minorities,” he stressed, speaking to N1's Nikola Vucic.

Also, the expert said, that would not be good for the people and he compared it with the case of Cyprus, noting that Cypriots have been very unhappy with the division of Cyprus and voted in the 2004 referendum for uniting and creating one country.

“There are many reasons, but the most important one in the case of Bosnia is that we already have a peace agreement – the Dayton Peace Agreement, an agreement that the countries had come to sign so it is very difficult for anyone in the international community, maybe with exception of Russia, to come with recognition of what would be an independent Republika Srpska,” he said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/n1-interview-with-neophytos-loizides-secession-would-create-catastrophic-consequences-for-people-in-republika-srpska/

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