International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Intl administrator: Some things in Bosnia are unacceptable and need to be fixed

June 3, 2020

Some things in Bosnia and Herzegovina are unacceptable and need to be fixed, international administrator overseeing the implementation of the peace process in the country, Valentin Inzko, told N1 following the regular meeting of foreign ambassadors who constitute the Peace Implementation Council (PIC).

“Some say Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot survive – we condemned that. You know that (Serb) Presidency member said 'Goodbye BiH, welcome RS exit', that's entirely unacceptable. Attacks on judiciary are unacceptable,” said Inzko, who heads the Office of the High Representative (OHR), installed by the international community to monitor the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), which ended the 1992-95 war and contains the State Constitution.

He said the PIC political directors welcomed the agreement on the distribution of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) loan to tackle the coronavirus crisis, stressing that this should have been done long ago.

The ambassadors also discussed the elections in the southern city of Mostar, which has not seen a vote for the past 12 years due to the political disagreements on change of the city's statute.

“Imagine the largest cities in France, America or anywhere else being without elections for 12 years. That's not acceptable,” Inzko said and unveiled that the EU and US ambassadors are helping the local leaders reach a compromise on this matter.

“It is too soon to say something, but I can't say nothing is happening. In two to three weeks I will be able to say more,” he added.

As for the country's local elections that were initially called for the autumn this year, Inzko warned this process greatly depended on the state budget for this year which has not been adopted to date.

“It is scandalous that funds haven't been secured for that and we are talking about 4-5 million marks,” he stressed. “I hope a regular budget would be adopted by the end of the month at latest and that it would include the funds for elections.”

Commenting on the calls of some local politicians for shutting down of his office, the High Representative said that his departure was not disputable but that the question is what would change for the better if he leaves.

“I personally believe it is better to have less and less of the international presence, but that has to be grounded on results,” said Inzko, noting that the country should first implement the conclusions that the European Union outlined in the Opinion on Bosnia's membership application, which would prove a certain degree of readiness.

Asked why he has not started using the special powers he was assigned with as the High Representative, Inzko replied he was ready to do that anytime but that domestic solutions were always better and last longer.

Speaking of controversial purchases of medical equipment in Bosnia during the coronavirus epidemic, which are investigated by competent bodies, the High Representative said it was crucial to secure the independence of the judiciary with no political influence.

“Political pressures do exist, there are statements of some officials, but the judiciary and prosecution can best prove with their results that they are independent. I think this is a fantastic opportunity for the prosecution to show they are doing a good job and to demonstrate independence and professionalism. Such a chance won't appear again so soon,” he added.

Political Directors of PIC Steering Board meet every six months to provide the High Representative with political guidance and to evaluate the country's progress towards the politically and democratically stable society, stating their opinion in a Communiqué following every meeting.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a438342/Intl-administrator-Some-things-in-Bosnia-are-unacceptable-and-need-to-be-fixed.html

Ex police chief: Agencies unable to deal with crime due to political influence

June 3, 2020

Some politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been involved in criminal activities multiple times, while the agencies that are supposed to deal with those problems are under negative political influence, former police chief in Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity and current lawmaker in the State Parliament Zlatko Miletic told N1.

In an interview for N1's Pressing, Miletic said it would take more than just one interview to name all those among the politicians who were involved in some sort of criminal activity.

“One part of the public officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are supposed to make crucial reform aspects are, unfortunately, part of those activities and it is not in their interest to have those reforms implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Miletic, who was acting as FBiH Police Administration Director in the period 2002-2010.

“We must find the mechanisms to make the rule of law function. That's the essence of all problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.

According to him, Bosnia's law enforcement agencies were modeled after “the best democratic principles in the USA,” but they could do nothing about those involved in crimes because the parliamentary independent boards in charge of appointments in those agencies and monitoring their work consisted of “the loyal and obedient individuals from (political) parties.”

“That's how they made themselves safe and they can behave this way, regardless of their activities,” Miletic explained.

He also commented on alleged criminal procurement procedures during the coronavirus epidemic that are being investigated by competent institutions.

If it weren't for journalists, those activities would never be unveiled, according to Miletic.

“Each prosecutor is obliged to react whenever he learns about a committed crime, no matter who did it. They were late, thinking someone else would do that or that there would be no public pressure. Journalists were the ones who unveiled it,” he stressed, referring to the controversial purchase of medical equipment in Bosnia's both semi-autonomous regions, the Federation and Republika Srpska.

He refused to comment on who might be the person who ordered the purchase.

“I wouldn't like to speak about that, prosecutors should get a chance to prove themselves. I believe they have time to issue an indictment which has to be confirmed by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I hope it will all end in the way that will please the citizens,” he added.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a438376/Ex-police-chief-Agencies-unable-to-deal-with-crime-due-to-political-influence.html

Bosnian police: Influx of migrants in border area puts strain on capacities

June 3, 2020

The pressure of illegal migrants along the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in the northwestern Bosnian canton Una-Sana is rising, the local police authorities said on Tuesday.

The fewer the restrictive measures which were in place during the Covid-19 lockdown, the more migrants are arriving in this cross-border area.

Busloads of migrants, who are trying to reach western and northern Europe, are arriving in this canton, and there is no more room in the accommodation centres organised for migrants, which is why there are more and more people staying outdoors or in makeshift migrant shelters.

In the last seven days, with the restoration of bus services between cities, between 100 and 150 migrants arrive in Bihac by bus every day, police spokesman Ale Siljdedic was quoted by the Fena news agency as saying.

The local authorities also fear that the situation will be further worsened with the resignation of Bosnia's Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic.

"We will again have a crisis in the Bosnia and Herzegovina agencies tasked with managing migrations," the cantonal prime minister Mustafa Ruznic told N1 Television.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a438188/Bosnian-police-Influx-of-migrants-in-border-area-puts-strain-on-capacities.html

Bosnia's top judicial inst.: This is the most brutal attack on the judiciary yet

June 3, 2020

Bosnia’s top judicial institution, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), has on Wednesday called the treats the chief prosecutor received because of her investigation into the controversial procurement of overpriced Chinese ventilators the most brutal attack on the country's judiciary so far.

On the first day of a two-day session of the HJPC, the head of the institution which names and disciplines judicial officials, Milan Tegeltija, asked for the threats Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadic to be discussed. She received them following statements by officials of the main Bosniak party in the country, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA).

Prosecutors named the Prime Minister of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) region from the SDA, Fadil Novalic, a suspect in a controversial procurement of 100 ventilators from China by a company that runs a raspberry farm and that has no history in dealing with medical equipment.

It turned out that the purchased ventilators were overpriced and unfit for treating COVID-19.

The SDA reacted to this immediately, saying that Novalic’s detention represents “a continuous attack on Bosniaks” by the state prosecutor.

Bosnia’s former Security Minister, Fahrudin Radoncic, told media on Monday that he asked for additional police protection for the Chief Prosecutor, Gordana Tadic.

He named the threats as one of the reasons for his resignation a day later.

Tegeltija told N1 earlier that it is the obligation of the HJCP to protect judicial officials and that the judiciary must operate without pressure.

HJCP member Ruzica Jukic said on Wednesday that there is a “political persecution” ongoing against prosecutors due to the ‘Ventilators’ case.

Another member of the institution, Slavo Lakic, asked whether such attacks are supposed to represent a message to the judiciary that it should ask politicians whether to prosecute someone.

The HJPC members requested a special declaration on the pressure on the judiciary to be put together in order to provide support for prosecutors so they can continue working on all future cases without fear.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a438186/Bosnia-s-top-judicial-inst.-This-is-the-most-brutal-attack-on-the-judiciary-yet.html

GRECO: Serbia fails to take seven out of 17 measures; Belgrade denies numbers

June 3, 2020

In its latest report, the Group of States against Corruption, the Council of Europe's (CoE) anti-corruption monitoring body headquartered in Strasbourg, (GRECO), said that till the end of 2019, Serbia partially introduced ten of 17 recommendations, while ignored the remaining seven, the Beta news agency reported on Wednesday.

 The report for 2019 assessed the measures the Group's members implemented to prevent the corruption of the MPs, judges, prosecutors, executive officials and state security agencies members.

According to the report, Serbia was one of three GRECO members alongside with the Czech Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which did not wholly implement a single measure to prevent the corruption of MPs, judges and prosecutors.

Later on Wednesday, Serbia’s Justice Ministry denied the GRECO report saying it gave 13 and not 17 recommendations to Belgrade in 2015 and that number had not changed since then.
However, regardless of the total number, the percentage of those that were implemented was the same – 60 percent were partially introduced, while 40 percent had been completely ignored so far.

That, according to the Ministry, means that Belgrade hasn’t met three, instead of seven, GRECO recommendations.

As evidence that Serbia has progressed in fighting corruption, the Ministry said the country “is not on the Financial Action Task Force, FATF listof countries with strategic deficiencies in fighting the money laundering and financial terrorism.”

The CoE Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said that "the corruption undermines citizens' trust in democracy and democratic institutions."

GRECO's report called on governments and state officials to set an example to others by respecting the anti-corruption measures and the transparency standards.

"The implementation of efficient anti-corruption measures and the promotion of integrity and transparency should be priorities for all authorities at all times. The states recorded progress, but should put more efforts to implement GRECO recommendations in full," Pejcinovic Buric said.

The GRECO President Marin Mrcela sais he was worried about the information on corruption spreading in many countries among people in power in the last several years.

"Not a single person, state or institution is immune to corruption. Politicians of all political affiliations should be an example and are expected to serve, not rule," he said.

GRECO consist of 47 CoE member states and Belarus, Kazakhstan and the US.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606221/GRECO-Serbia-doesn-t-implement-seven-out-of-17-recommendations-ten-partially.html

Serb List: We support Kosovo's new cabinet to get obstacles to dialogue removed

June 3, 2020

The Serb List, Kosovo Serbs' political party, supported by Belgrade said in a statement on Wednesday its MPs voted for Abdulah Hoti's new government "to protect the interests of the Serb people in Kosovo," the Beta news agency reported.

The statement added that Serb ministers in Hoti's cabinet would "try to help eliminate all obstacles to the (Belgrade – Pristina) dialogue on the normalisation of relations and the improvement of the Serb's position" in Kosovo.

"The new government will abolish the (100 percent import) taxes (on good from Serbia) and 'reciprocal' measures. In line with the coalition agreement, the new cabinet is obliged to implement the agreements that Belgrade and Pristina have reached so far and respect the rights of the Serbs in Kosovo," the statement said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606267/Serb-List-We-support-Kosovo-s-new-cabinet-to-get-obstacles-to-dialogue-removed.html

Skopje to reintroduce curfew due to increased number of coronavirus cases

June 3, 2020

North Macedonia’s Commission for Infectious Diseases suggested to the Government to reintroduce a lockout in the next four days after the number of infected with coronavirus raised again, the Beta news agency reported.

In the latest 24 hours, the country recorded 101 new cases of coronavirus infection, what was the second-highest number after April 16 when there were 107 patients positive on the new virus.

Due to the latest increase, in the most affected areas, including the capital Skopje, the curfew should be from Thursday at 9 pm to Monday at 5 am, while in places with less number of infected, it should last from Thursday at 9 pm to 5 am on Friday, and during others days, from 4 pm to 5 am the next day.

Previously, the curfew was introduced in North Macedonia on March 22 and lifted on May 27, when the epidemic was believed to be under control.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606323/Skopje-to-reintroduce-curfew-due-to-increased-number-of-coronavirus-cases.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: No new deaths, 69 newly infected in Serbia

June 3, 2020

In the last 24 hours, there was now new death from COVID-19 and out of 5,110 tested people, 69 results came back positive on coronavirus, N1 reported on Wednesday.

 The death toll stands at 245, with a mortality ratio at 2.13 percent since the outbreak of the epidemic on March 6, according to the country’s Health Ministry covid19.rs website.

Since then, 257,242 people were tested, and 11,523 were confirmed infected with the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, 466 patients have still been hospitalised, 12 of whom on ventilators.

So far, 6,852 patients have recovered.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606231/No-new-deaths-69-newly-infected-in-Serbia.html

Another 18 coronavirus cases reported in Bosnia

June 3, 2020

Another 18 coronavirus cases were confirmed across Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past 24 hours, health authorities in the two semi-autonomous regions reported on Wednesday, and according to the latest data by the Civil Affairs Ministry, the country has seen 2,551 confirmed cases so far.

According to the head of the Sarajevo University Clinical Centre, which tests samples from across Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) region, 10 of the 279 samples tested since Tuesday came back positive. Seven of them are from the northern town of Tesanj, which has become a hotspot for the coronavirus since recently.

In the other region, Republika Srpska (RS), the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases is eight.

A total of 67,952 coronavirus tests have been conducted in Bosnia so far.

The number of those who passed away due to COVID-19 in Bosnia so far remains unchanged - 157.

A total of 1,939 people have recovered from the disease so far in the country.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606237/Another-18-coronavirus-cases-reported-in-Bosnia.html

RFE: Lajčák to restart Belgrade–Pristina talks soon; Vucic: After bans lifted

June 3, 2020

After supported by all European Union member states to facilitate the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on the normalisation of relations which had been on hold since November 2018, as the EU special envoy, Miroslav Lajčák, a Slovakian diplomat, said he planned to resume the negotiations this month, even before the general elections in Serbia due on June 21, Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported.

The RFE's sources said Lajčák intended to contact the officials in Pristina "on the day" a new government was elected to prepare the first round of the resumed dialogue.

Kosovo Parliament is due to vote on a new cabinet on Wednesday. But, earlier in the day,hundreds of people protested outside Kosovo's Parliament against the vote for the new cabinet.

Besides, Kosovo's President Hashim Thaciwho, who together with his Serbia's counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, led the dialogue held under the EU auspices for years before the break a year and a half ago, had said he wouldn't cooperate with Lajčák, accusing him of siding with Belgrade.

To make the restart possible, Lajčák has to wait for June 15 when the EU opens its borders so that the negotiators can come to Brussels.

The EU envoy added the new rounds of the talks would not focus on technical issues as before for the most time, but on "high political process."

It is not clear if the idea of the border change will be on the agenda, since, according to RSE, "the large majority" among the EU member states are against any territory swap between Belgrade and Pristina, especially Germany and France.

Kosovo's politicians also strongly oppose the idea.

Washington, which Kosovo considers as the decisive factor in a final solution, has a more flexible view on the issue, as has Belgrade, which hasn't explicitly excluded the option, though hasn't officially said it is its plan.    

Commenting on Lajčák's announcement, Vucic said on Wednesday that Belgrade was always for talking with everyone, but that it was necessary that Pristina lifted the import taxes on goods from Serbia and removed other limitations to the flow of people and goods.

"When they do that, I'm always ready (to talk)," he said.

Asked about some media reports that an agreement would be reached soon, Vucic said that the great powers had always interfered in the Balkans, "but Serbia will have to be asked about something."

"It's nice that they have already decided, but Serbia's people and leadership will bring a final decision. And that as the leadership of an independent and sovereign state," Vucic told reporters while touring the road construction works in the broader region of Novi Pazar in south-western Serbia. 

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606177/RFE-Lajc%C3%A1k-plans-to-restart-Belgrade-Pristina-talks-in-June.html

Protest in Pristina ahead of vote for new government

June 3, 2020

Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside Kosovo's Parliament on Wednesday, in a protest against the vote for a new government which would replace the one dismissed on March 25 and which wouldn't include the October general elections' winner, the Self-Determination party and its leader, the outgoing premier, Albin Kurti, the Beta news agency reported.

The protesters carried banners saying that the election of Avdulah Hoti, of the Democratic League of Kosovo (DSK) the runner-up in the last elections, for new Prime Minister, was "a manipulation with voting."

"My ballot does not allow to be manipulated with," one banner read.

Many protesters said they favoured a new election instead of the Parliament vote a new cabinet.

The Self-Determination said late on Tuesday it did not organise the protests.

After March 25, President Hashim Thaci had called on Kurti several times to appoint his successor. Still, he reportedly, refused that, saying he was busy with fighting the coronavirus epidemic. Last week, Kurti said that was not true.

After the elections, he formed the coalition government with the LDK. Still, after Kurti dismissed a minister from LDK, its members of the Parliament voted for the government ouster.

Kosovo's Constitution envisages that in case the party that won the elections cannot form a government in the second attempt, a president has the right to offer the post to the runner-up in the vote.  

One of the apparently last moves, Kurti's cabinet introduced a ban on import of goods from Serbia which did not have the 'Republic of Kosovo' declaration on the documents.  

Thaci said on Tuesday he hoped a new government would lift measures which endangered Kosovo's relations with its international partners.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606139/Protest-in-Pristina-ahead-of-vote-for-new-government.html

Kosovo’s Parliament elects new government; EU, US congratulate

June 3, 2020

The Parliament of Kosovo elected the new government on Wednesday with 61 votes in favour and 24 against out of 120 MPs, N1 reported.

The former ruling Self-Determination MPS did not take part in voting.

The new Prime Minister is Avdulah Hoti from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). This party was the key coalition partner of the ousted cabinet led by Albin Kurti whose Self-Determination, the winner of the general elections held in last October.

However, after Kurti dismissed an LDK minister, the party turned against him and voted for the ouster on March 25.

Hoti’s new cabinet was backed by the deputies from the Serb List, the party supported by the official Belgrade.

The European Union’s officials, the US envoy to the Belgrade – Pristina talks and the US embassy in Pristina, congratulated Pristina for forming the new government. The EU said it supported Kosovo’s progress and the resumption of the dialogue with Belgrade.

Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, said she hoped the new Kosovo Government would be responsible and would not lead a populist policy. She suggested to Pristina authorities to focus on the economy to make the life of people in Kosovo, but in the whole region, better, to create more jobs, to increase wages and attract more investors. “That is only possible if we talk and cooperate, and if the situation is stable and peaceful.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a606185/Kosovo-s-Parliament-elects-new-government-with-LDK-s-Hoti-as-PM.html

Bosnia's Council of Ministers unlocks IMF's €330 million loan

June 2, 2020

A Euro 330 million loan which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved for Bosnia and Herzegovina in April this year to help the country address the novel coronavirus crisis was unblocked on Tuesday after the state ministers agreed on how the funds would be distributed.

According to the decision formally adopted at the Tuesday session of Bosnia's Council of Ministers, the amount would be distributed in a way that Bosniak-Croat shared Federation (FBiH) entity gets 61.5% of the amount for its ten cantons and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) entity gets 37.5%, while Brcko District, a separate administrative unit in the north, would get 1% o the whole amount.

The money has been blocked for months due to the political bickering and inability of political leaders to agree on how would the money be distributed among various levels of authority. 

While Croat ministers claimed it was due to the objections of Bosniak ministers and their “unacceptable and unfounded” proposals on how to divide the money, the Bosniak ministers said it was Croats' proposal that was not in line with the Letter of Intent sent to IMF.

The disagreement and failure of the state government to reach an agreement have triggered the EU and the US embassies to call for immediate unblocking of the funds, for the sake of the citizens.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a438036/Bosnia-s-Council-of-Ministers-unlocks-IMF-s-330-million-loan.html

EU urges local authorities to 'duly investigate' misused public procurements

June 2, 2020          

European Union's (EU) office and EU heads of mission in Bosnia urged the local authorities to “duly investigate” and bring before the competent courts the charges for “any suspected misuse of funds in relation to public procurement, including during the response to Covid-19 pandemic.”

The statement comes amid the investigation into controversial procurement of Chinese ventilators involving top officials of Bosniak-Croat Federation (FBiH) entity and local businessman, who were released on Sunday following a nightlong interrogation before the Bosnian State Court. 

“We expect all authorities to conduct effective investigations, fully in line with fair trial guarantees, based on the principles of rule of law as a key EU value and free from any political pressure or influence. The independence of prosecutors and judges remains essential and must be ensured. Threats and pressures against police and prosecutors are unacceptable,” said the EU's representatives in Bosnia, calling on the State Parliament to align the legislation on public procurement with relevant EU acquis “without further delay.”

They recalled this was the country's obligation set in the European Commission's Opinion on Bosnia's EU membership application.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a438014/EU-urges-local-authorities-in-Bosnia-to-duly-investigate-misused-public-procurements.html

Slovenia deploys 1,000 police along Croatia border due to migrants

June 2, 2020

Slovenia has deployed over 1,000 additional police officers along the Croatian border because of the increase in the migrant flow along the Balkan route over the past two weeks, Deputy Police Director Joze Senica told reporters on Tuesday.

Police will step up controls on the parts of the border that are in the Ljubljana, Novo Mesto and Koper jurisdictions, which are generally the most exposed to migrant crossings.

Until Friday, police will use every technical means at their disposal and will continue to be assisted by the army, Senica said.

Speaking of illegal migrants, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said on Monday his government would pursue a stricter policy towards them after a European Court of Human Rights decision that there was no collective right to asylum.

Thereby he brought into question the previous Slovenian government's decision to join the Global Compact for Migration.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a438154/Slovenia-deploys-1-000-police-along-Croatia-border-due-to-migrants.html

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