International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Coronavirus UPDATE: 2 deaths, 361 new cases

May 18, 2022
The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily bulletin on Wednesday that 2 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 16,055.
It said that 8,500 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 361 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,624,550 with 2,013,983 confirmed cases.
The bulletin said that there are 245 hospitalized cases, including 11 patients on ventilators.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-2-deaths-361-new-cases/

Croat MP Miletic says he rejected offer to run for Presidency

May 18, 2022
Zlatko Miletic, former police chief in Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity and current lawmaker in the State Parliament told N1 that he rejected the offer to run for the post of the Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency in the upcoming elections.
Miletic said that he supports all candidates as their democratic right to be nominated, but that he thinks the nomination of Zeljko Komsic, current Croat member of the Presidency, will cause “four more years of problems.”
As for his own nomination, the member of the Croat Caucus in Bosnia's House of Peoples said he “explicitly rejected it, because I don't want to cause any problems to Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Although he did not elaborate, Miletic presumably referred to the issue of election of the Croat Presidency member that the strongest ethnic Croat party HDZ BiH wants to change through electoral reform to, as they say, ensure that the Croats elect their own representatives in the state institutions, while Komsic, the leader of the left-leaning Democratic Front, they claim, is elected mostly owing to the votes of the Bosniaks. According to current law, the citizens of the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation entity, regardless of their ethnicity, can cast their ballot for either Bosniak or Croat candidate to the Presidency.
Commenting on the issue of financing of the upcoming elections, which the state ministers failed to solve on Tuesday at the Council of Ministers session, Miletic said this problem is likely go on for another month.
According to him, the HDZ BiH is expecting the visit of European Council President Charles Michel and hoping for his pressure.
“I have serious information about upcoming blockades and that there will be no implementation of election results,” he stressed, not providing any details.
Speaking about alleged plans for secession of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-majority entity, Miletic said that Milorad Dodik, the Serb Presidency member, agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare the entity's independence.
According to him, the situation is “frozen” but Dodik did not give up on it.
“Luckily for us, Russia was not done with Ukraine so quickly,” he noted.
Asked until what moment the situation will remain calm, the former police chief replied it will be until the moment when Russia decides to show everyone they are not a regional but the world power.
“If they manage to control the Balkan area, they will prove they are the world power,” he stressed.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/croat-mp-miletic-says-he-rejected-offer-to-run-for-presidency/

HDZ leader calls for budget adoption to finance general election in Bosnia

May 18, 2022
Leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Covic, on Wednesday called for the adoption of a state budget to finance the general election scheduled for 2 October. He also accused leading Bosniak and Bosnian Serb parties of uniting around an "illegal proposal" whose adoption was blocked by the Croat ministers on Tuesday.
Covic accused leading Bosniak and Bosnian Serb parties of uniting around an illegal proposal whose adoption was prevented by the Croat ministers at a meeting of the Council of Ministers.
HDZ BiH came under strong criticism from the Bosniak parties and Western embassies accusing it of obstructing the conduct of the election after the Croat ministers refused on Tuesday to discuss a proposal that the Council of Ministers adopts a special decision on the allocation of funds for the conduct of the general election.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has not adopted a budget for this year, nor for last year, which is to provide for the funding of elections.
Covic said that Finance Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda (HDZ BIH) had been trying for seven months to include this item on the agenda, but to no effect. “Someone is deliberately trying to create a crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina by not adopting the budget,” he said.
Covic called on international officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina to stop supporting proposals that are not in conformity with the country's constitution and laws.
The Central Electoral Commission has called the general election for 2 October, and the deadline to secure funding for this purpose expires on Thursday.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/hdz-leader-calls-for-budget-adoption-to-finance-general-election-in-bosnia/

EU ‘disappointed’ with failure of ministers to ensure financing of elections

May 18, 2022
European Union Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina condemned the failure of the Bosnian state government to adopt a decision ensuring the financing of the elections that have been announced for October this year, emphasising that the elections “need to take place regularly on October 2.”
Bosnian Council of Ministers convened on Tuesday and although all Bosniak and Serb ministers voted in favour of the item allocating fund for the October elections, it was not included on the session agenda due to objection of the Croat ministers.
Croat ministers reject motion to finance Bosnia's general elections
The EU's office called the failure to ensure the financing of elections “deeply disappointing” and called for a swift decision to ensure the Central Election Commission can start the preparations for the elections.
“The Ministry of Finance needs to work constructively with the Central Electoral Commission to secure election financing. Elections need to take place regularly on 2 October, in line with the law and the Constitution. We expect all political parties to ensure they are smoothly organised,” the EU Delegation told N1.
The US Embassy condemned the Croat ministers for rejecting the agenda item, calling their decision “irresponsible and unjustified.”
Bosnia's top electoral body called the general elections for October 2.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eu-disappointed-with-failure-of-ministers-to-ensure-financing-of-elections/

NATO's Colomina tells N1 the Alliance is ready for any instability

May 18, 2022
Javier Colomina, the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General, is on an official visit to BiH, and in an exclusive interview with N1 he spoke about security threats to BiH and Georgia, threats from the Russian Ambassador, and Bosnian Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik's announcements about the formation of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity army and other topics.
Speaking about the security situation in the country, he said the Alliance took some steps regarding cooperation.
“The Russian war in Ukraine has changed the security environment. The risk of interference is greater than it was. So we decided to increase the level of cooperation to make BiH more resilient because we decided to do the same with our other partners. I was also in Georgia, and I talked to the authorities there. I don’t think that BiH is exposed to threats in Europe. There is a certain level of security instability, but NATO is ready,” he said.
During his visit he had the chance to meet with Sefik Dzaferovic, the Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency, but not Dodik. When asked if he has any problem with meeting Dodik, he firmly rejected such a notion by saying there is absolutely no problem, and that they would meet during his next visit.
Asked if Bosnia should be worried after the Russian Ambassador threatened that his country would take certain steps if BiH becomes a NATO member, Colomina dais he believes there is an increased risk of Russia’s interference in countries, like Georgia and Bosnia.
“I’ve heard those statements and I’m monitoring the situation with concern, but those are also only statements from diplomats,” Colomina concluded.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/natos-colomina-tells-n1-the-alliance-is-ready-for-any-instability/

OHR warns that general elections in Bosnia must be held

May 18, 2022
The Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced after yesterday's decision of the BiH Council of Ministers not to provide funding for October general elections, that citizens’ rights to free elections must not be questioned.
“The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be enabled to enjoy their democratic right to free, fair and democratic elections. After the Central Election Commission has called general elections, the Council of Ministers and all its members must meet their obligations without delay and provide the funds necessary to hold the elections. Authorities and elected officials must be accountable to the citizens,” the OHR told N1.
State-level ministers from the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) voted against listing this item on the Council of Ministers’ agenda Tuesday, and the announced telephone session of the BiH Presidency, at which a decision on the order to the Council of Ministers to allocate funds for the elections should have been made, has not been held yet.
The US Embassy to BiH also condemned HDZ BiH's decision to reject discussing the funding of general elections, calling the decision irresponsible and unjustified.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/ohr-warns-that-general-elections-in-bosnia-must-be-held/

Serbian prosecutors charge Croatian officers with war crimes

May 18, 2022
The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution filed its first ever indictment for war crimes committed during the Croatian army’s operation Storm in August 1995.
The Srna news agency said that four high-ranking Croatian officers for ordering a missile attack on a convoy of Serb refugees on the Petrovacka cesta road outside Bosanski Petrovac and in Svodna, near Novi Grad. It named the Croatian Air Force officers as Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Zeljko Jelenic and Danijel Borovic. According to the indictment, missiles fired by combat aircraft killed 13 civilians, including six children, and wounded 24.
Operation Storm was planned by the Croatian top political leader and military chiefs to take control of areas then under the control of Croatian Serb forces.
The prosecution wants the four officers tried in absentia if they are not made available to the Serbian judiciary.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-prosecutors-charge-croatian-officers-with-war-crimes/

Serbian central bank lowers GDP projection over Ukraine war

May 18, 2022
The head of the Serbian central bank said on Wednesday that the GDP growth projection was lowered by one percent because of the effects of the war in Ukraine.
National Bank of Serbia (NBS) Governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic told a presentation of the NBS monthly inflation report that the projected GDP growth has been lowered from the initial 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent.
“In view of the negative effects produced so far by the Ukraine conflict, primarily its impact on global prices of energy and other raw materials, and the resulting global outlook revisions by leading international institutions, the NBS has revised Serbia’s GDP projection. Under our new projection, GDP growth this year will range from 3.5 to 4.5%, down by 0.5 pp from what we expected in February. The key factors behind the downward revision of real GDP growth include international developments – the negative effects of the conflict and estimates of lower economic growth in the euro area and countries of the region,” Tabakovic said.
The effects of the Ukraine conflict have so far not produced any major effects on economic activity in Serbia, the governor said.
“According to our new central projection, we expect y‐o‐y inflation to strike a downward trajectory in the second half of the year, though from a higher level than anticipated in February. It will most likely return within the target tolerance band in the second half of 2023, and then continue to slow down until the end of the projection horizon,” she said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-central-bank-lowers-gdp-projection-over-ukraine-war/

Vucic to Church elders-Serbia facing worst period since 1944

May 18, 2022
President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday that Serbia is facing what could be the worst period since 1944.
Speaking after a meeting with Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) head, Patriarch Porfirije, Vucic said that Serbia is in a situation which is much worse than it seems, adding that “huge, storm clouds are looming” over the country. “Looking from outside, you wouldn’t notice any kind of problem and there is none at this moment. Are serious, storm could looming over our country – yes. I won’t hide that from the people, nor can I from you,” Vucic said after the meeting with the Patriarch and the SPC Archbishops in the Presidency building.
He said Serbia is in a specific situation because of Kosovo with increasing difficulty in preserving its interests and increasing pressure. “From the day that (Russian President) Vladimir Putin revealed what he based his incursion into Ukraine on formally, legally and politically, all the Western powers have been hastening to resolve the Kosovo knot and knock the arguments out of the Russian president’s hands. I hear that in every place wherever I go in Europe and the world,” he said.
“I never saw anything like this and couldn’t dream that I would. I witnessed huge pressure over the Brussels agreement. We are facing unprecedented hysteria… Diplomacy no longer exists in anything … We have to try to save our country and people. Without our church the people outside our borders would not survive. Help us so that everyone understands Serbia’s position, try to be united in these times,” he said.
Vucic told the Patriarch the his views need to be heard. He said the SPC will be informed of every decision taken by the state.
Patriarch Porfirije said that he prays peace will come to all the people of the world and thanked the Serbian president for his “responsible behavior including a principled stand” and for everything he is doing to ease the crisis which, he said, could deteriorate.
The Patriarch said that the SPC “absolutely respects the laws of the states that it is in” but warned of media manipulation and numerous attempts to abuse the church.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-to-church-elders-serbia-facing-worst-period-since-1944/

Serbia, North Macedonia PMs welcome church reconciliation

May 18, 2022
The Prime Ministers of Serbia and North Macedonia on Wednesday welcomed the reconciliation of the Orthodox churches in their respective countries.
“The meeting assessed as positive the movement in relations between the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric (MPC-OA) and Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) with the aim of overcoming mutual problems,” a press release by the North Macedonia government quoted Prime Ministers Ana Brnabic and Dimitar Kovacevski as saying.
It said that they confirmed the traditionally good relations between the two countries with Kovacevski saying that they should focus on economic ties.
The two prime ministers said that communication and partnership within the Open Balkan initiative will stimulate regional cooperation, good neighbor relations and European values. They said the the other countries of the region are welcome to take part in the coming summit in Ohrid.
The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) said that Patriarch Porfirije and the head of the newly recognized Ohrid Archbishopric in North Macedonia Archbishop Stefan will serve a reconciliation liturgy in the Temple of St Sava in Belgrade on Thursday.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbia-north-macedonia-pms-welcome-church-reconciliation/

FinMin says Serbia far from recession

May 18, 2022
Finance Minister Sinisa Mali said on Wednesday that Serbia is far from a recession despite current challenges.
“Every macro-economic indicator is completely stable. Our public debt is at 52.1 percent of the GDP far below the European Union standard of 60 percent, unemployment is between 10 and 11 percent at pre-crisis levels, this year’s deficit will be 3 percent because VAT income is much better than expected. Growth in the first quarter of the year was 4.3 percent and growth of 3.7 percent is expected in the second quarter,” the Finance Minister told a conference on the Serbian economy at the Chamber of Commerce (PKS).
The conference was organized by the PKS, Embassy of Germany, German-Serbian initiative for sustainable growth and employment and GIZ.
He said that the world faces a possible recession because of the coronavirus pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine with high inflation and higher unemployment. According to Mali, the government introduced a number of measures such as fuel price control, a freeze on power prices, the lowest gas prices in Europe and limits on food prices along with aid to pensioners, education and health care staff and young people aged 16 to 29.
The minister said that the Serbian authorities are fully committed to continue reforms. “The reform of the Tax Authority is going as planned, we have the money for all the investments we launched,” he said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/finmin-says-serbia-far-from-recession/

More bomb threats, schools, hospitals evacuated in Belgrade and Nis

May 18, 2022
Schools in the Serbian capital and the southern city of Nis received fresh bomb threats on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of students and staff.
Media reports said that three hospitals and at least four vocational high schools in Belgrade and one in Nis received bomb threats. The reports said that the bomb threats were made to the Military Medical Academy, the KBC Dragisa Misovic and the City Hospitals.
Belgrade daily Blic said that a medical, two electronics and computer science and a telecommunications school in Belgrade were evacuated forcing the schools to cancel classes.
The Serbian state TV (RTS) said that a high school in Nis received a bomb threat by phone at 9.30 am, adding that a bomb squad searched the school for two hours and found nothing.
The latest bomb threats follow a mass incident on Monday when more than 170 schools across Belgrade received bomb threats. Police bomb squads were still searching some schools on Wednesday morning, forcing them to organize online classes.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/more-bomb-threats-schools-evacuated-in-belgrade-and-nis/

Vucic to new Ukrainian ambassador-Serbia respects territorial integrity

May 18, 2022
President Aleksandar Vucic told Ukraine’s new Ambassador Volodimir Tolkach that Serbia respects his country’s territorial integrity and appreciates official Kyiv’s respect for Serbia’s territorial integrity.
A press release quoted Vucic as expressing true regret over the situation in Ukraine and adding that Serbia is being subjected to the unprincipled stand of some countries in tems of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo. Vucic received the new ambassadors credentials at a ceremony in Belgrade.
Vucic said that Serbia secured the best possible conditions for refugees from Ukraine including residence and work permits in line with the rules of the European Union and added that he and Ambassador Tolkach will visit those refugees soon. According to the press release, the president said that Serbia will take part in the restoration of the cities destroyed in Ukraine.
It quoted Vucic as saying that Serbia advocates the peaceful resolution of disputes and supports every effort to negotiate.
The press release said that Ambassador Tolkach expressed gratitude for the humanitarian aid Serbia provided for Ukrainian civilians and for financial aid.
It made no mention of sanctions against Russia.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-to-new-ukrainian-ambassador-serbia-respects-territorial-integrity/

Coronavirus UPDATE-3 deaths, 382 new cases

May 17, 2022
The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily bulletin on Tuesday that 3 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 16,053.
It said that 9,654 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 382 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,616,050 with 2,013,622 confirmed cases.
The bulletin said that there are 260 hospitalized cases, including 13 patients on ventilators.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-3-deaths-382-new-cases/

US Embassy condemns HDZ BIH for rejecting financing of general elections item

May 17, 2022
The US Embassy to BiH condemned the decision of BiH ministers from the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) to add the item of financing the general elections in the country to the government session agenda by saying it was irresponsible and unjustified, and contrary to their professed commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration.
“HDZ BiH's decision to block election financing during today's Council of Ministers session was irresponsible and unjustified.
BiH institutions have had more than enough time to fulfill their constitutional responsibility and provide funding for this most basic of democratic and functions – free and fair elections. The behavior of HDZ-BIH on this and other issues in recent weeks, including its opposition to key EU-required reforms, is inconsistent with the party's professed commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration.
Governance, not obstruction and corruption, is the only path forward for BiH, its constituent peoples, and its citizens,” the Embassy said in their Twitter post.
During the session, the Democratic Action Party (SDA), Democratic Front (DF) and Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) were in favour of the decision, while the ministers from the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) were against it.
Croat ministers reject motion to finance Bosnia's general elections
The HDZ BiH opposes the holding of elections in BiH before the BiH Election Law is amended in a way so that only the “legitimate Croat” can be elected in the tripartite BiH Presidency. The incumbent Croat Presidency member, Zeljko Komsic, is considered by the HDZ and ethnic Croat parties gathered around them to be illegitimate because he allegedly received more Bosniak than Croat votes and as such he is unsuited to occupy that position.
The BiH Constitution, on the other hand, stipulates that the Presidency consists of a Bosniak, Croat members elected from the Federation entity and a Serb member elected from the Republika Srpska entity, not stipulating who can vote for whom in the elections.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-embassy-condemns-hdz-bih-for-rejecting-financing-of-general-elections-item/

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