International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

NIN to continue reporting on Krusik, editor says

December 5, 2019

NIN weekly Editor in Chief Milan Culibrk told N1 on Thursday that he expected more attacks on the magazine over its coverage of the Krusik arms deal affair.

Commenting the posters mimicking the cover of NIN with a picture of the man who killed Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and the caption NIN Award to Assassin, Culibrk said that no one would stop the magazine from covering the Krusik affair.  

A whistleblower leaked documents showing that the father of Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Branko, was involved in dubious contracts to re-sell munitions made in Krusik to a Saudi buyer. NIN also came under fierce attack last week over front page photograph of President Aleksandar Vucic in front of sniper rifle at an arms fair. The weekly was fiercely attacked from the ruling coalition and decided to reprint its front page without a photograph.  

“Someone is raising tension and blaming NIN and its editorial staff for something they never did,” Culibrk said, adding that they are prepared to pay the price and continue reporting on the Krusik affair.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549982/NIN-to-continue-reporting-on-Krusik-editor-says.html 

Serbia signs commercial contract with US-Turkey company for new road

December 5, 2019

Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbia’s Minister of Construction, Traffic and Infrastructure, signed the commercial contract with ‘Bechtel-Enka’, the US – Turkish consortium, on Thursday, for building the Morava corridor to join the Corridor 10 and ‘Milos Veliki’ motorway and link a half of million people, the Beta news agency reported.

 Besides the construction of the motorway, the project includes the regulation of the Zapadna Morava River and its affluent and the building of the telecommunication infrastructure.

The ‘Bechtel–Enka UK Limited’ consortium was the sole bidder at the public call for the construction of the Morava Corridor.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic witnessed the signing of the contract and said “this is big, huge news for us, to join the western and eastern parts of central Serbia.”

“I hope when you finish this, another job will wait for you. We have some ideas, but we’ll talk about them some other time,” Vucic said.

He added that the Morava Corridor would be the widest and digital motorway. On behalf of the consortium, the contract was signed by Michael Wilkinson and Mehmet Tara.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549770/Vucic-Morava-Corridor-digital-motorway.html

Journalists say Serbian authorities involved in affairs

December 5, 2019

Speakers at Thursday’s meeting on investigative journalism said that the Serbian authorities really are involved in the number of affairs that have been made public.

Insajder investigative news portal editor Brankica Stankovic said that journalism serves the public interest, adding that journalists can’t do the jobs of judges and prosecutors but can reveal corruption and other abuses of power. She said that Insajder publishes only documented information. Stankovic said Insajder had more influence when it was set up 15 years ago than all the investigative media combined today.

The head of KRIK (Crime and Corruption Investigative Network) Stevan Dojcinovic told the gathering that news stories today can’t force the authorities to do anything but will be remembered as a testimony of the times. He said that many things would remain unknown to the public if they had not been reported by journalists.

BIRN editor Slobodan Georgiev said that his staff are afraid of making a mistake, adding that the main problem now is that the authorities are treating them like political enemies which was not the case up to 2012. According to him, the situation is some countries is worse than in Serbia where the authorities still haven’t gotten to the point that they would send someone to kill a journalist but recalled several burglaries of journalists’ apartments.

The gathering was attended by ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) senior official Vladimir Djukanovic.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a550010/Journalists-say-Serbian-authorities-involved-in-affairs.html

Ambassador Godfrey says US concerned over elections in Serbia

December 5, 2019

US Ambassador Anthony Godfrey told the Juzne Vesti news portal that Washington is concerned over the election environment in Serbia, adding that fair conditions have to be secured for the next government to be considered legitimate.

Speaking in a video interview, the ambassador said that an election boycott is neither fair nor productive because it leaves a large number of voters without the opportunity to express their view. He said that he would like to see politicians given a chance to freely express their views on TV and present their goals to the electorate. He added that it would be inappropriate for a US ambassador or other foreign embassy to mediate in a dialogue on elections because the role of the international community is not to be a political player in Serbia.

Godfrey said the media situation was full of challenges with the media often coming under pressure with cases of self-censorship and threats to journalists.

The ambassador said that Washington’s view is that the best way to achieve its goals is to help Serbia achieve its goal of membership in the European Union.

He added that the US do not object to Serbia’s strong cultural, historic and religious links with Russia which he said are important to Serbia but added that the he believes that the country’s future lies in Europe.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549928/Ambassador-Godfrey-says-US-concerned-over-elections-in-Serbia.html

Istinomer watchdog portal attacked over poll

December 5, 2019

The Istinomer watchdog portal said on Thursday that it is unable to complete its Lie of the Decade poll because of a hacker attack.

The poll was organized to mark the 10th anniversary of the portal which checks the facts in what public figures say.

A press release said that the hacker attack came a day before the poll was due to close and added that some 10,000 votes collected over the previous week were turned into 350,000 votes. The attack changed the poll results in favor of the current authorities compared to the previous governments.

“We did not protect ourselves sufficiently, that is we were not fully aware that certain structures in this society leave nothing to chance,” the press release said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549922/Istinomer-watchdog-portal-attacked-over-poll.html

Serb List threatens to quit institutions over “verbal offense” sentence

December 5, 2019

The Kosovo Serb List said on Thursday that it would walk out of all Kosovo institutions if the conviction of its official Ivan Todosijevic for what it says is a verbal offense is confirmed, the KoSSev portal reported.

Todosijevic, a former cabinet minister, was sentenced to two years in jail for “inciting national, racial, religious hatred, unrest and intolerance”. His lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic told the portal that his client was sentenced for a statement on the 20th anniversary of the NATO air campaign that “the cause of aggression was a so-called humanitarian disaster which Albanian terrorists invented”.

Serb List leader Goran Rakic told a news conference that he would call all Kosovo Serbs to quit their posts in the judiciary, police, prosecution and other institutions.

Rakic said that the sentence does away with the Kosovo Serbs’ right to speech, freedom of thought and right to say the truth.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549910/Serb-List-threatens-to-quit-institutions-over-verbal-offense-sentence.html

Merkel invites Vucic to Berlin

December 5, 2019

The Serbian President’s media service said on Thursday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited President Aleksandar Vucic to visit Berlin in January.

“Chancellor Merkel invited President Vucic to visit Berlin in January which the Serbian President accepted with pleasure,” the press release said.  

It added that Vucic and Merkel spoke by phone about bilateral relations and the situation in the region and added that they expressed satisfaction with the constant progress in the political dialogue and economic cooperation between the two countries.  

Vucic is quoted as thanking Merkel for Germany’s continued support for Seria’s European integration, especially in view of the fact that Germany will chair the European Union in the second half of next year. Vucic also expressed the need for a clear EU expansion plan and time frame for membership since the process is important to the peace and stability of the Western Balkans. He said that Serbia would continue to promote its policy of peace and cooperation.

Speaking about the Kosovo issue, the Serbian President told the German Chancellor that it is important for Germany and Europe to remain firm in the stand that the authorities in Pristina have to revoke the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods in order to continue the dialogue which Serbia is fully committed to, the press release said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549894/Merkel-invites-Vucic-to-Berlin.html

Vucic warns Germany not to 'kidnap' medical staff despite six-year-long deal

December 5, 2019

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic told the Belgrade Happy TV late on Wednesday he advised the German Health Minister not to think about coming to Serbia to take the countries’ nurses to Germany, but overlooked the fact that the two countries had an agreement for the last six years on sending medical staff to Germany and that the migration could not be stopped, N1 reported.

Vucic referred to a new law in force as of March next year, which stipulated that people from countries outside the European Union could get a job in Germany easier than before.

“I get goosebumps when I see our media promoting this German’s decision for a hundred, two hundred Euros - ‘hey, come to Germany on March 1, Germany will take you all’,” Vucic said.
He added and then “(Jens) Spahn, fantastic, capable German Health Minister says – hey, I’m coming to Serbia to take your nurses! No, you won’t come here, no way.”, Vucic told the TV.

However, Ivana Pavlovic, a journalist with the New Economy, said: “it is one of many populist statements by President Vucic."

Zoran Ilic, the leader of the Union of Health and Social Services, said “the problem is that we’re not Germany. If we were Germany and they were Serbia, we could have set some conditions.”

Vucic did not explain how he would prevent Germany from attracting Serbia’s medical staff.

He said the Government would raise their wages, but experts say low salary was not the only reason for their departure to Germany and other Western countries. The conditions they work in are also a critical factor, they say.

According to Triple Win projects, implemented in Serbia by the organization for international cooperation, GIZ, which finds jobs abroad, says the interest for work outside Serbia was growing. This year, so far, 360 people applied, while in 2018 there were 275. In 2020, the Triple Win will have three more advertisements giving people in Serbia three more chances to leave.

On average, some 110 nurses and medical technicians used Triple Win to go abroad. The organization says its rules ban them from sending medical staff out of a country that has a shortage of that workforce and that, generally, it must not cause the lack of expert staff in their home country labor market.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549746/Germany-won-t-kidnap-our-nurses-Vucic-says.html

Mogherini: From Belgrade – Pristina dialogue to UN displaced persons

December 5, 2019

Federica Mogherini, former European Union diplomacy chief, has a new job at the United Nations’ High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, N1 reported on Thursday.

The UN General-Secretary Antonio Guterres chose his eight-member strong team for the internally displaced people with Donald Kaberuka, the head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as the chair of the panel and Mogherini as the vice-chair.
Mogherini facilitated the Belgarde - Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations for years, trying to persuade Serbia's and Kosovo's leaders to find a comprehensive agreement, but a year ago, after Kosovo introduced the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia, the dialogue stopped, It is still unknown when and in what shape it will resume.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549788/Former-Belgrade-Pristina-EU-mediator-moves-to-UN.html

Macron: Opening of chapters doesn’t improve life in Serbia

December 5, 2019

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, reiterated on Thursday his opposition to the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations between the candidate countries and the European Union before the reform of the process itself, describing the current one as too bureaucratic and non-relevant, Serbia’s state RTS TV reported.

Stating Serbia as an example, Macron asked: “Does the opening of the chapters improve life in Serbia? I would say – no. That’s why the whole process should be reconsidered.”

During the NATO Summit in London, he advocated more EU investments in education, culture and economy in the Western Balkans.

“I was in Serbia in July and said there the skyscrapers that are constructed in Belgrade are not the European investments.”

He added that the enlargement policy could be reformed before the EU Summit in Zagreb in May next year.

Macron said the “EU made a collective mistake declaring the EU membership as our only relationship with the Western Balkans.”

According to him, the process should be more political and followed by a strategic partnership which would allow more investments.

Macron said Paris was not the single opponent within the EU regarding a starting date for EU talks with Skopje and Tirana, but added he would take all the blame if that would be easier for the others.

However, Macron said, that “the ultimate goal is to link the Western Balkans to Europe firmly. We know it’s a geopolitical challenge to avoid the intervention of other countries, destabilisation that is a risk for both the region and Europe. Some may see that link as the EU membership, but it should be clear that it means a strategic partnership and more investments.”

“Many say let’s open negotiations now because we know they won’t be over in less than ten years. But that means we are playing with a whole generation if we say we’re opening the negotiations that will never end. Europe has done that with Turkey, and it is going on for 40 years. That’s bad politics,” Macron said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549738/Life-in-Serbia-is-not-better-due-to-opening-of-chapters.html

EU: Kosovo Govt. to be formed soon, dialogue with Belgrade to resume

December 4, 2019

The European Union High Representative to Kosovo Natalia Apostolova told Kosovo online website she expected Pristina to form a government soon and to continue the dialogue on the normalisation of the relations with Belgrade, the FoNet news agency re[ported on Wednesday.

She said Pristina should abolish the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia introduced over a year ago as soon as a new cabinet was formed.

Apostolova said her mission was not informed about any new counter-measures the future government might apply. “I talked to the political leaders, but I don’t know what they are up to.”

“Kosovo went through the election process organised in a matured way, as our observers assessed, the preliminary results were published… and we now want to see Kosovo’s institutions at work,” Apostolova said.

 She added the Serb List, a political organisation supported by Belgrade should be a part of a new government since its representatives were legally elected.

“The Constitution is clear… but they (new leaders) decide who to propose, and we’re very interested to see how that problem will be solved,” Apostolova said.

She recalled that Josep Borrell, the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the dialogue should continue, that lots of time had been lost and that’s why Kosovo’s government should be formed as soon as possible, because “we have to have players to renew the talks.”

Apostolova said Kosovo needed to implement all deals from the Brussels Agreement, and that the same applied to Serbia.

She added the EU appreciated the involvement of any partner, like the US, in finding a successful solution to the Belgrade – Pristina issue.    

After meeting Isa Mustafa, the President of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Manfred Weber, the head of the People’s Parties’ group (EPP) in the European Parliament said in Pristina on Wednesday that Kosovo should be led by the younger generation of politicians.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549472/EU-says-Kosovo-cabinet-to-be-soo-formed-and-dialogue-with-Belgrade-to-resume.html

Palmer: US wants normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations

December 4, 2019

The US State Department envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told N1 in Sarajevo on Wednesday that Washington wants to see a full normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, including mutual recognition.

If they recognize each other they could resolve disputes as neighbors,” Palmer said on the Pressing talk show.  

Palmer said that Belgrade and Pristina need to sit down, reach an agreement and draw their route to a European future together adding that they need to see what compromises are needed.  

They need an agreement which the public on both sides will accept and support as the best way forward. He warned that the agreement has to be implementable, just and long-lasting.  

Palmer said that the Western Balkans continue to be a priority in American foreign policy, adding that Washington wants the region to view the US and European Union as the partners they chose themselves.  

He refused to comment a recent Pentagon report about Russia’s influence in Serbia, saying that the US sees itself as a partner to all the countries of the region. According to Palmer, Washington is a better partner than Russia. He said Serbia’s reliance on the Russian military is not good for progress.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549694/Palmer-US-wants-normalization-of-Belgrade-Pristina-relations.html

Vucic supporters march through southern Serbia town

December 4, 2019

A crowd of about 1,000 people gathered in the southern Serbian town of Vranje in a show of support for President Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday.

The Infovranjske news portal said that the crowd consisted of Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) members, workers from the Simpo and Jumko plants and local public sector staff, adding that they carried banners saying Election Results Against Snipers.  

Vucic’s SNS has organized several similar gatherings in other towns following the publication of a photograph of the president standing in front of the barrel of a sniper rifle at an arms fair on the cover of Belgrade weekly NIN which was fiercely attacked by members of the ruling coalition who claimed that it was an invitation to assassinate the president. NIN reprinted the issue with a blank front page.  

None of the local SNS officials spoke to the media about the gathering.  

The SNS has been known to organize large gatherings by bussing in people from across Serbia. There have been claims that people have been forced to attend those gatherings.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549686/Vucic-supporters-march-through-southern-Serbia-town.html

Borell: Don’t deny European prospects for Western Balkans

December 4, 2019

European Union High Representative Josep Borell said on Wednesday that the Western Balkans has to remain at the top of the European agenda and added that the EU must not deny those countries a European prospect.

He told the European Parliament Foreign Policy Committee that there is a huge level of disappointment in the Balkans about the refusal to continue the expansion process.

The question of expansion has caused a lot of uncertainty but I don’t think anything has changed in the long term, he said, adding that the EU has to be focus on preparing the Western Balkans summit in Zagreb in May 2020 during Croatia’s presidency because, according to him, that will be the key moment to provide answers to all problem questions.

Borell said he wants to visit Serbia and Kosovo soon but added that a visit to Pristina would be meaningless before the new government is formed.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549680/Borell-Don-t-deny-European-prospects-for-Western-Balkans.html

Vucic denies suggestion to form government with Serbian opposition

December 4, 2019

President Aleksandar Vucic denied on Wednesday that the Russian authorities made any suggestion of forming a government with the main Serbian opposition leaders.

He told reporters in Sochi that no one in Moscow, especially not Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggested that he should form a government with Dveri leader Bosko Obradovic and Freedom and Justice Party leader Dragan Djilas as some of the media reported.  

Vucic told reporters that Putin had given him a rifle owned by Serbian King Milan Obrenovic. “I got Milan Obrenovic’s original rifle which Russia bought at auction and which he (Putin) wanted to give me as a gift,” Vucic said adding that he was also given wine from Sochi. Vucic gave Putin a 19th century icon.

Vucic said he would never form a government with “the people who destroyed Serbia”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549656/Vucic-denies-offer-to-form-government-with-Serbian-opposition.html

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