International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

PMs Rutte, Bettel concerned about tensions in Kosovo, Vucic promises peace

July 3, 2023

The growing tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have us concerned, as well as the violence against the civilians, journalists and European Union (EU) and NATO missions in Kosovo, said Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, stressing that both sides need to take steps towards de-escalation and then also towards normalization within the EU-facilitated dialogue.

Stable relations are of vital importance for both countries and their European integration, as is rule of law, protection of minorities, freedom of media and the fight against disinformation, Rutte told a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel in Belgrade.

Rutte: All agreements between Belgrade and Pristina imply formation of CSM

It is not for us to judge who is doing more, we should stick to the roadmap and its full implementation and, for us, this was a very useful talk, said Rutte.

We will continue the talks, we are trying to be of help, not to judge, he stressed, and reiterated that the implementation of the roadmap will best lead to de-escalation.

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands said that all agreements between Belgrade and Pristina imply the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM), emphasizing that this will be one of the topics discussed Tuesday in Pristina.

This issue is part of a wider package of proposals and requires the work of both parties, but we are trying to be as neutral as possible and avoid blaming anyone because that would be of no help, said Rutte, adding that he was optimistic that the current situation can be resolved and that he will have more to say after his visit to Kosovo.

He said the Benelux countries attach great value to cooperating and engaging with the countries of the Western Balkans, including Serbia, and want to strengthen ties both at the EU level and at the bilateral and trilateral level.

This is of particular importance for the region at a time when the war is raging in Ukraine and it is more important than ever that we act jointly, said the Dutch Prime Minister.

He stressed that the EU is by far the largest investor in Serbia and its most important trade partner, while the Benelux countries are in the first five.

Rutte said issues of migration and visa policy were also discussed, adding that there have been positive developments, which should continue so the Western Balkans would not be susceptible to illegal migration.

We continue to support Ukraine so it would win this war, and we need all the support, including that from Serbia, such as imposing sanctions on Russia, stressed Rutte.

Bettel: Words are good, but deeds are even better

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg said it is important that tensions between Belgrade and Pristina ease, adding that he and Rutte are traveling to Pristina on Tuesday.

There is a roadmap drafted by EU special representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak, said Bettel, stressing that it is important to achieve success, and that words are good but deeds even better.

Vucic: Serbia implemented two de-escalation measures, third must be simultaneous

Vucic said he and the two prime ministers have different views on Kosovo, but that Serbia knows what its job is.

I promised that Serbia will do its best to preserve peace and stability, said Vucic.

I am somewhat scared because never in my political career have I seen that level of irresponsibility on the part of some in the region, he added.

The Serbian President said that Serbia has implemented two out of three measures to de-escalate conflicts in the north of Kosovo, while Pristina and Belgrade must implement the last one simultaneously.

“The Community of Serb Municipalities does not include only four municipalities, but also another six south of the Ibar River. The Brussels Agreement was not implemented in its most important part, namely the formation of the CSM, signed 10 years ago, and the formation of the CSM was a prerequisite for Serbia to fulfill everything else. There is no hope that we will soon see the formation of the CSM,” said Vucic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/pms-rutte-bettel-concerned-about-tensions-in-kosovo-vucic-promises-peace/

Stano-Lajcak to visit Belgrade, Pristina in coming days

July 3, 2023

European Union (EU) special representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak will visit Belgrade and Pristina in the coming days, EU spokesperson Peter Stano told the Tanjug news agency on Monday.

Stano said the visit was part of Lajcak’s regular activities.

During his visit Lajcak is expected to discuss with officials de-escalation of tensions in northern Kosovo and continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

The information was confirmed for the Pristina media by EU spokesperson Zoi Muletier, who said that the visit was requested by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell following the European Council meeting last week.

Lajcak is going to Pristina and Belgrade as part of his regular activities on advancing the dialogue, Muletier said, adding that he will discuss the way forward.

Local media in Kosovo reported that Lajcak will meet in Pristina with Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Kurti confirmed that he spoke with Borrell and Lajcak on Sunday and that he told them he is in favor of de-escalation and normalization of the situation in the north of Kosovo, but on condition that “rule of law is established, and criminals face justice or leave for Serbia.”

“I am in daily contact with the EU. I spoke with Borrell and mediator Lajcak yesterday, I am interested in de-escalation and in normalization,” said Kurti.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/stano-lajcak-to-visit-belgrade-pristina-in-coming-days/

Committee chair-Trying to explain why we haven’t imposed sanctions on Russia

July 3, 2023

Serbian Parliament European Integration Committee chairperson Elvira Kovacs said the European side shows no understanding for the fact that, unlike the European Union (EU) member states, Serbia is still dependent on Russian gas, even though it is working on energy diversification.

“We are trying to explain, through parliamentary diplomacy, why Serbia has not yet imposed sanctions on Russia,” a Serbian Parliament press release quoted Kovacs as saying.

Kovacs told a meeting with French MPs Liliana Tanguy and Pierre-Henri Dumont, who are paying an official visit to Serbia, that the European Commission has suggested opening Cluster 3 for the second time, but the message coming from some EU member states is that this will not happen until Serbia has aligned its foreign policy with that of the EU.

“We are aware of the current geopolitical situation in Europe, the impact of the war in Ukraine, and we are trying to bring EU’s focus back to the Western Balkans,” said Kovacs.

Assessing that the European integration process is a two-way street and that its dynamics depend on Serbia as well as on the EU, she stressed that the EU often has no understanding for Serbia’s position and that “the support of influential EU states, such as France, is very important.”

Kovacs said there is growing Euroscepticism among the people as a consequence of the lengthy European integration process and the feeling that new conditions keep being set before Serbia, while the reform processes are undervalued.

From the very beginning, Serbia has been supporting the idea of the creation of a European political community, which, however, should not be a “consolation prize” and a substitute for full EU membership, said a press release issued by the Parliament, said Kovacs.

The Committee chairperson added that it would also be significant to intensify cooperation with the colleagues from the French Parliament’s Committee for European Affairs, having in mind France’s continuous interest in the European integration of Serbia and the entire Western Balkans.

French parliamentarians Liliana Tanguy and Pierre-Henri Dumont were interested to learn how the Serbian Parliament’s European Integration Committee views the dynamics of Serbia’s EU accession talks and the idea of a European political community.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/committee-chair-trying-to-explain-why-we-haven-t-imposed-sanctions-on-russia/

FM Dacic-Ties between Serbia and Egypt date back to 13th century

July 3, 2023

We are proud of the fact that this year we mark 115 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations with Egypt, said Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic, noting that ties between the two countries date back to the period of Saint Sava, the first head of the Serbian Church, who had visited Alexandria and Sinai as far back in the past as the 13th century.

Dacic said Yugoslav President Josip “Tito” Broz and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had given special impetus to the relations between Serbia and Egypt.

“As founders of the Non-Aligned Movement they created a new world on whose foundations we have for generations been fostering and promoting the relations of friendship,” said Dacic at the opening of the “Serbia and Egypt – Through Historical Ties to a Stable Future and Partnership,” meeting organized by the Institute of International Politics and Economics.

Since May this year, Cairo and Belgrade are connected again by a direct flight, which is of importance for cooperation and development of relations between the two countries, said Dacic, adding he hopes that negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement will soon be successfully completed, “which will give a strong impetus to the diversification and intensification of economic cooperation and pave the way for stronger economic connectivity.”

The Minister reiterated that Serbia is grateful to Egypt for its understanding of Serbia’s positions and interests and for its constructive approach regarding the issue of Kosovo.

He said he believes that Egypt will continue to honor international law and UN principles and respect the interests of Serbia as a sincere and proven friend.

Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said Cairo and Belgrade have a strong strategic partnership and that it is important to look ahead and secure cooperation in the future.

Egyptian Ambassador to Serbia Bassel Salah Mostafa Ahmed said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s visit to Serbia last year was of particular importance in confirming the good relations between the two countries, since Egyptian heads of state have not visited Belgrade for 35 years.

Director of the Institute of International Politics and Economics Branislav Djordjevic said historical ties define the sustainable future and partnership between Serbia and Egypt.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/fm-dacic-ties-between-serbia-and-egypt-date-back-to-13th-century/

Serbian PM accuses opposition of abuse in parliament

July 3, 2023

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic accused the opposition of abusing the parliament session on the situation in the country following two mass shootings in May, making it a waste of time.

The session was called after the mass shootings in a Belgrade elementary school and two villages outside Mladenovic in the space of two days early in May this year. The opposition has called for the dismissal of Internal Affairs Minister Bratislav Gasic.

Brnabic told the pro-regime Happy TV that opposition MPs kept repeating things which she immediately explained. “The citizens should know that this is a waste of time for the entire country…. They (the opposition) are using the session for their political promotion and talking about everything not on the agenda,” she said.

The prime minister said that the opposition is conducting “violence over the citizens by blocking roads”.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-pm-accuses-opposition-of-abuse-in-parliament/

Lajcak-Situation in north Kosovo fragile

July 3, 2023

European Union Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak said that the situation in the north of Kosovo remains “fragile” despite efforts to de-escalate tensions.

“I spent the last couple of days in Brussels, where my team and I have been working closely with our international partners to coordinate our next steps in addressing the ongoing crisis in the north of Kosovo. Regrettably, despite the existence of clear steps to successfully deescalate tensions, the situation remains fragile,” Lajcak wrote in his weekly recap post on Facebook.

He expressed satisfaction with the interest of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee during a discussion of the situation in Kosovo and efforts to lower tensions. Lajcak said he was invited to the Committee meeting with the Director-General of DG-NEAR Gert Jan Koopman.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/lajcak-situation-in-north-kosovo-fragile/

Statistics office says wheat harvest 20 percent higher

July 3, 2023

The Republic Statistics Office (RZS) said on Monday that this year’s wheat harvest will be 20.8 percent higher than in 2022.

It said that farmers will produce a total of some 3.7 million tons of wheat.

The RZS said that the corn harvest will be 1.5 lower than a year later, sunflower 4.3 percent and soy 10.3 percent lower.

According to the RZS, the wheat harvest will be 36.2 percent higher than the 10 year average, soy poduction 4.6 percent higher, sunflower 14.8 percent higher while the corn harvest will be 5.2 percent lower and sugar beet harvest 12.8 percent lower than in the 2013-2022 period.

It said that raspberry production will be 15 percent lower than a year earlier, sour cherry produciton by 11.9 percent.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/statistics-office-says-wheat-harvest-20-percent-higher/ 

Senior ruling party MP says threshold could be raised

July 3, 2023

The senior ruling coalition MP in the Serbian Parliament said that an increasing number of demands were being made to raise the election threshold.

Milenko Jovanov MP, head of the ruling coalition (led by the Serbian Progressive Party – SNS) MP group, told the pro-government tabloid Alo that consultations should be held prior to elections to consider “the increasingly frequent demand by citizens to raise the election threshold and introduce a graded threshold for coalitions”.

“The elections are coming. We have local elections next year and regular provincial elections in Vojvodina. We’ll see if republic-level elections are coming,” Jovanov said.

The threshold to win seats in parliament is 3 percent of the total vote for parties with a different threshold and reserved seats for national minorities.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/senior-ruling-party-mp-says-threshold-could-be-raised/

Kosovo PM says 45 attackers identified

July 3, 2023

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Monday that the authorities in Pristina identified 45 people who took part in the violence in northern Kosovo, Radio TV Kosovo reported on its portal.

“A total of 45 people who took part in the attacks and violence against KFOR troops, the Kosovo Police and journalists have been identified to date,” he is quoted as telling reporters.

He added that the attackers used a number of various weapons including flash-bangs and handguns and automatic weapons.

The Serb List called the Serbian government to declare “para-police, special and intelligence structures of the Kurti regime” terrorist organizations that pose a danger to peace in the entire Western Balkans.

The Kosovo police arrested several people for assaulting journalists and involvement in the violence in the town of Zvecan on May 29 when local Serbs clashed with KFOR troops.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kosovo-pm-says-45-attackers-identified/

Ponos-Protests helping people overcome fear of regime

July 3, 2023

The leader of the opposition Srce (Heart) movement Zdravko Ponos said on Monday that the Serbia Against Violence protests are helping people overcome their fear of the regime.

“It’s good that the protests are spreading across Serbia regardless of numbers because fear of the regime is being broken up in the interior of the country,” he told Nova daily newspaper. “Serbia is moving. This can no longer be stopped,” he added.

Ponos, a retired general officer and former Chief of Staff of the Serbian military, asked why President Aleksandar Vucic makes public appearances after every protest if they are minor events. “Does he have a problem with the protests or obsessive compulsive disorder. I don’t think it’s that second thing because experts would fix it and there’s no cure for the first,” he said.

Ponos said that cooperation among the opposition parties is better than it was but worse than it should be considering the state of society. “It’s good that those relations are developing in a positive direction and that the conflicts over minor differences have been put aside. The protests are beneficial,” he said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/ponos-protests-helping-people-overcome-fear-of-regime/

Pro-regime TV owner denies responsibility in targeting Kosovo Serb politician

July 3, 2023

The owner of one of the most pro-regime TV stations said that a video alleged to have targeted Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic prior to his murder was one of thousands of political videos.

TV Pink owner Zeljko Mitrovic said that the Ivanovic video was “one of thousands of political counter-spots” aired on his station.

The opposition has claimed that the video, which claimed Ivanovic had Pristina’s support and had betrayed the Kosovo Serbs, was aired to paint a target on Ivanovic’s back. TV Pink is viewed as one of the fiercest defenders of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his regime. The opposition and Serbian Against Violence protesters have been demanding the revoking of its national frequency license for encouraging violence. TV Pink’s license was renewed by the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) despite violations of the law on electronic media.

Mitrovic also spoke of the protest in front of TV Pink headquarters on Saturday, saying that the crowd shouted Killers, Killers. “Did they mean the traffic accident that my son had, that is not fair because this was a political gathering and there have been thousands of similar accidents but only one is being talked about for years or did they mean Oliver Ivanovic and the video which was one of thousands. I get Twitter messages that a bullet is the solution for me every day,” he said on the TV Pink Hit Tweet talk show.

Mitrovic’s son was involved in a traffic accident in which a 17 year old girl was killed. The younger Mitrovic got a sentence of 12 months in house arrest.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/pro-regime-tv-owner-denies-responsibility-in-targeting-kosovo-serb-politician/

EU measures against Kosovo come into force, spokesperson says

July 2, 2023

European Union adopted measures against Kosovo for not taking action to de-escalate the situation in the north of Kosovo, informing the Kosovo institutions and government about these steps on June 28, the EU said.

An unnamed EU spokesperson confirmed to the Pristina-based media that the work in the working bodies within the Stabilisation and Association Agreement has been temporarily suspended. According to the same source, Kosovo will also not be invited to high-level meetings, while bilateral visits will be suspended.

It was confirmed that the programming of funds for Kosovo under the IPA 2024 has been suspended, while the proposals presented by Kosovo under the Investment Framework for the Western Balkans were not submitted for consideration to the Investment Fund Committee at the meeting held on June 29 and 30.

The entry into force of these measures was also confirmed by the Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, when he indicated that Kosovo was not included in the allocation of the 2.1 billion euro fund approved by the Western Balkan Investments Operational Committee.

According to the EU spokesperson, the measures introduced for Kosovo are temporary and reversible depending on the events on the ground and the decision on de-escalation that can be made by the Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti.

It has also been announced that the European Union is closely monitoring whether Serbia will meet the official demands of Brussels and that the Brussels institutions are ready to take measures if the demands are not met.

The European Union expects Kosovo to act on de-escalation and to suspend police operations near municipal buildings in the north of Kosovo, for mayors to temporarily perform their duties from different facilities and for early elections to be called as soon as possible in four municipalities and organised in a completely comprehensive manner , with the „full and unconditional participation of Kosovo Serbs,“ said the EU spokesperson.

He also stated that the rapid implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, including the establishment of the Community of Municipalities with a Serb majority, is essential.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/eu-measures-against-kosovo-come-into-force-spokesperson-says/

HDZ BiH leader calls messages from Republika Srpska “unacceptable”

July 2, 2023

Dragan Covic, the leader of the strongest Bosnian Croat political party HDZ BiH, assessed as “unacceptable and inappropriate” the messages coming from Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-majority part.

In a tweet on Sunday, Covic called for a return to implementation of conclusions from the recent meeting of coalition partners at the state level, towards the fulfillment of 14 key priorities on the country's road to European Union.

He also said it was necessary to find a constitutional balance in the work of the international institutions and domestic holders of executive and legislative authority in BiH.

The statement comes a day after international peace envoy Christian Schmidt banned two laws in Republika Srpska, due to the violation of BiH's constitutional order, which sparked strong reactions in that part of the country.

Addressing media on Sunday, Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik said he rejects Schmidt as high representative, announcing a possibility of a referendum in Republika Srpska by the end of the year.

Both Covic's HDZ BiH and Dodik's SNSD party are part of the ruling coalition in the state institutions, alongside several other partners.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/hdz-bih-leader-calls-messages-from-republika-srpska-unacceptable/

Milorad Dodik defies Schmidt's decisions, says RS entity could call referendum

July 2, 2023

Republika Srpska rejects Christian Schmidt as a high representative, the Serb-majority entity president Milorad Dodik said Sunday in response to Schmidt's decision from a day ago, when he annulled two laws in Republika Srpska due to violation of constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dodik reiterated his stand on Schmidt, adding that this is not because of a “whim” but because the envoy was not confirmed at the UN Security Council for his role.

“Schmidt has no legitimacy to be a high representative and Schmidt is a part of a hoax for the Serb people as a whole, which should lead the Serb people to losing their identity and their state,” said Dodik.

He also noted this was a “synchronised attack on institutions in Republika Srpska and Serbia as well as him as Republika Srpska president.”

“They are led by that if one is taken down the other will be taken down too,” said Dodik not specifying who are “they” but noting that the official Sarajevo and a part of the international community are trying to “enslave” Republika Srpska.

As for the decision that Schmidt passed on Saturday, Dodik said that Republika Srpska will keep moving on its path and to, as he pointed out, act constitutionally.

“I will sign the laws the moment they arrive in my office,” he underlined, referring to the laws that Schmidt blocked.

Schmidt annuls two recently adopted Republika Srpska laws

According to him, there is also an attempt to put him in jail.

“I think Republika Srpska will shortly adopt a law on banning the work of SIPA (state police), the (State) Court and the (State) Prosecutor's Office on the territory of RS, and in terms of that we will explain very easily what we do, that court and prosecutor's office have no legal ground,” Dodik said.

Also, he stressed, in case of pressures, Republika Srpska could call a referendum by end of the year, where it would decide on its status.

“Republika Srpska will not put up with a protectorate and embassies of Amerika or Great Britain or unelected citizen Schmidt and political Sarajevo,” he said.

At the same time, he stressed, he will preserve the peace.

Schmidt’s decision sparks conflicting reactions in Bosnia’s two entities

The RS president also spoke about the role of NATO and the EU military deployment (EUFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“That they will be deployed to the boundary lines and preserve Bosnia from conflicts. That's their role and we don't see it that way. We don't want conflicts,” Dodik said.

During his speech, he touched upon the uniting of Republika Srpska and Serbia again, but also spoke about “sacrificing of RS for Kosovo.”

“Serbia wants what was agreed to be implemented and that international law is respected, and that means the right to the territorial integrity of Serbia. We in RS are facing the same challenges coming from those who wish bad to Serbia,” said Dodik, adding that this is the time of the attempts to reduce Republika Srpska, to seize its property and change the decision-making process, but also when he would be eliminated from politics or apprehended.

“Dodik is ready to be jailed for people and people's interests and I will fight,” Dodik stressed.

Serbia’s Vucic says he is concerned about Republika Srpska

He also noted that he believes in the “unity of RS and Serbia.”

“The time has come for RS and Serbia to establish a single politics of defending the Serb national interests in Kosovo, where we in RS will do everything we can to secure the territorial integrity of Serbia on that front of the joint battle and we are ready to sacrifice our territorial integrity to get to the strengthening of Serbia's territorial integrity, and to stay within BiH as long as we are guaranteed the Dayton rights. And once this is not the case anymore, we will have to conduct the politics of uniting. I am convinced that RS will be independent country, that has never depended on foreigners but on us alone,” he said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/milorad-dodik-defies-schmidts-decisions-says-rs-entity-could-call-referendum/

Fresh protests across Serbia, Belgrade demonstrators gather in front of TV Pink

July 1, 2023

The ninth 'Serbia against violence' protest was held in Belgrade on Saturday evening. The gathering started a little before 6:30 p.m., and after the speech in front of the Assembly of Serbia, the crowd headed towards the building of the pro-regime TV Pink, where the citizens shouted “slavery,” “Vucic go.”

TV Pink is a pro-regime media outlet that announced it would air a reality show next season as well, despite one of the demands of the demonstrators being the cancellation of reality shows.

A day earlier, TV Pink put a huge flag of Serbia in front of the building. Last night, the flag served to the protest organisers as a projector to show the text ‘Who killed Oliver Ivanovic’ and his image as well as the image of Andrea Bojanic, who was hit by the car of Zeljko Mitrovic, the owner of TV Pink.

Mitrovic’s son was sentenced to only 11 months of house arrest with electronic monitoring, as well as a one-year ban on driving category B vehicles. He was not found guilty for leaving the site of the accident, because the statute of limitations had expired in the aforementioned case.

As for the murdered leader of the Citizens’ Initiative ‘Freedom, Democracy, Justice’ Oliver Ivanovic, right before his murder, at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, TV Pink played a video in which he was labelled a traitor. His killer, even after five and a half years, has not been found.

Citizens peacefully protested in front of TV Pink building. There were minor verbal altercations with members of Pink TV’s security guard, who were present in large numbers. The demonstrators mostly chanted, a few rolls of toilet paper were thrown, and they dispersed a little after 9 p.m.

On Saturday, protests were also held in Kraljevo, Zrenjanin, Kragujevac, Leskovac, Sabac, Jagodina and other cities. In Nis, the protest was postponed due to rain.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/fresh-protests-across-serbia-belgrade-demonstrators-gather-in-front-of-tv-pink/

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