International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Another Bosniak returnee severely beaten in Visegrad

February 1, 2024

Bahrudin Guso, a Bosniak returnee to the Drinsko settlement in Visegrad, was attacked on Tuesday evening. As confirmed for N1 from the Foca Police Department, one person suspected of the attack was arrested.

“Police officers arrested the individual M.S. conducted the criminal processing and handed them over to the jurisdiction of the prosecution,” said Svjetlana Govedarica, the Public Prosecutor's Office of Foca spokesperson told N1.

The incident happened late in the evening in the settlement of Bikavac, after which the injured person was first transferred to the Emergency Medical Center of the Cantonal Hospital in Gorazde, and then to the Clinical University Hospital in Sarajevo, where he is currently being treated. According to the police, Guso suffered serious injuries.

The Minister of Displaced Persons and Refugees of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity, Nerin Dizdar, also spoke about this attack.

“I talked to Bahrudin and offered all kinds of help in protecting his rights. According to available information, serious bodily injuries were caused. It is encouraging that the perpetrator has been identified, and on this occasion, I call for a quick and efficient reaction from the competent institutions. I would also like to thank the representative of the returnees, Muamer Sofovic, who informed me and acted promptly,” wrote Dizdar.
Last year, returnees to Visegrad were also the target of several attacks. Thus Fadil and Ajsa Memisevic were severely beaten and robbed in their own home on the first day of Ramadan.

Source:   https://n1info.ba/english/news/another-bosniak-returnee-severely-beaten-in-visegrad/ 

Trial against fmr Sarajevo Mayor Abdulah Skaka, begins

January 31, 2024

The trial of the former Mayor of Sarajevo, Abdulah Skaka, against whom the Prosecutor's Office of the Sarajevo Canton filed an indictment for abuse of office and other related crimes, began Wednesday in the Municipal Court in Sarajevo.

Skaka is accused of abuse of office or authority, negligent work in the service, falsification of official documents, giving gifts and other forms of benefits, and violations of the equality of man and citizen.

Skaka is also accused of illegally employing four advisers in 2017 who were initially employed in the Municipality of Trnovo, only to appoint them as his advisers 24 hours later. He was also accused of illegally spending money from the budget of the City of Sarajevo.

The former Mayor also faces charges of promising various benefits, including money, to the councillors, ahead of the election of the City Council Chair and Mayor, to vote according to his instructions, so that Bogic Bogicevic could not be elected Mayor so that the accused Skaka could run and be elected for a second term in that position.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/trial-against-fmr-sarajevo-mayor-abdulah-skaka-begins/

Vucic accuses foreigners, NGOs, media of waging hybrid war

February 5, 2024

President Aleksandar Vucic accused “foreign services, NGOs and the media” of waging a hybrid war against Serbia.

Speaking live on the pro-regime TV Happy, Vucic said that he had reports from two unspecified foreign services criticizing the Serbian authorities. “I have come into possession of what two foreign services drew up for their foreign ministries saying that Serbia is a problem because it won’t recognize Kosovo, is tolerant towards (Republika Srpska President Milorad) Dodik and that it is a platform for Russian media,” he said adding that those reports recommend destroying trust in Vucic and the Serbian authorities.

He drew a diagram on a blackboard to illustrate his point, claiming that the media are used against him in a war financed from abroad by the great powers, countries in the region, political circles and NGOs.

“You need air superiority, that is money. You need infantry, that is the situation on the ground. You need artillery, those are the media,” he said writing on the blackboard. He said he means “Rockefellers and other foundations which finance various green agendas”.

He said the Albanians are being armed, Serbs disarmed while the media keep lying every day that Serbia is about to attack someone and that election fraud was committed along with daily attacks on him because he is defending the country.

The hybrid war, he said, means that some media in Kosovo are being paid by the West to criminalize the Serbs, alluding to the KoSSev news portal based in Mitrovica North whose editor Tatjana Lazarevic asked if he discussed banning the Dinar in Kosovo in Brussels.

Vucic said United Media outlets, including N1, have contradictory views. He said the London Guardian “a criminal newspaper” was waging a campaign against him and the German Bild tabloid which published a picture of him with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung which said he was fascinated with what Azerbaijan did in Nagorno Karabakh causing him to reinforce the Serbian military.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-accuses-foreigners-ngos-media-of-waging-hybrid-war/

IPI denounces Appeals Court ruling

February 5, 2024

The IPI global network said on Monday that it denounces the shocking acquittal of four former Serbian state security officers who had already been twice convicted of the murder of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija.

“We are outraged and heartbroken by this acquittal. This decision is an affront to Slavko Ćuruvija’s family, an abysmal failure of the rule of law, and a massive step backward for media freedom and the fight against impunity for the murder of journalists in Serbia”, IPI Executive Director Frane Maroević said.

“This case was a litmus test for Serbia’s commitment to democracy and fundamental rights as it pursues EU accession, and it has failed.”

“This ruling is a painful reminder of the uphill battle that we continue to face in Europe and around the world to end impunity and bring the killers of journalists to justice. It also comes as media freedom in Serbia is already in a sustained crisis. This decision deepens that crisis and puts journalists at greater risk, underscoring the need for urgent measures to ensure journalist safety.”

“Our hearts are with Slavko’s family and all others in Serbia who have fought for justice for decades – a fight that we cannot and will not give up. The IPI global network of journalists, editors, and media executives stands alongside them in continuing to demand accountability for this crime and respect and protection for the work of journalists and media in Serbia,“ IPI said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/ipi-denounces-appeals-court-ruling/


Serbia calls UN SC to meet over Kosovo

February 5, 2024

Serbia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Nemanja Stevanovic filed a request for an urgent Security Council meeting to discuss the situation in Kosovo following Pristina’s decision to ban the Dinar.

Stevanovic submitted the request at the Mission of Guyana which holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.

Kosovo Online said it had access to the accompanying letter which said that “situation is in sharp contrast to the UN Charter and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and requires a special session of the Security Council”.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbia-calls-un-sc-to-meet-over-kosovo/

Protest at Appeals Court over Curuvija ruling

February 5, 2024

A crowd of hundreds gathered in front of the Appeals Court in Belgrade to express dissatisfaction with the court’s ruling to acquit four men indicted, tried and found guilty of the 1999 assassination of newspaper published Slavko Curuvija.

The protest organized by the Slavko Curuvija foundation and several journalist and media organizations was titled For Slavko, For Us Who Had the Breath Knocked Out of Us.

Curuvija, publisher of a daily newspaper and magazines, was critical of the Milosevic regime. He was gunned down in front of his apartment building in central Belgrade during the NATO air campaign, days after a pro-regime newspaper published comments claiming he welcomed the bombings. The four State Security Service members indicted for the killing were tried and re-tried and found guilty of ordering and carrying out the assassination. The Belgrade Appeals Court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove its case against them and freed them of the charges. The ruling was published 10 months after the court made its judgement.

Protesters held a black on white banner saying: You Killed Justice, The Truth Lives. The crowd also observed 25 minutes of silence, a minute for every year that the Curuvija family waited for justice.

The Curuvija Foundation’s Ivana Stevanovic said that everyone was surprised by the fact that the Appeals Court kept its ruling secret for 10 months. “Instead of words, we have brought a white flag for the Serbian Judiciary and the state of Serbia which has surrendered in the fact of force,” she said.

The Slavko Curuvija Foundation’s portal featured a black screen with Curuvija’s name, his years of birth and death and 2024.

Belgrade Appeals Court President Judge Dusko Milenkovic said that he understands the need of the Curuvija family and friends to protest the ruling but added that the court passes judgment based solely on the evidence in the case files.

The Supreme Public Prosecution called the Appeals Court to hand over the case files so that it can file a request for the protection of legality against the ruling.

Regime supporter Simo Spasic, a man who has caused disruptions at protests against the authorities for years, tried to disrupt the protest with his own banner that claimed the Democratic Party freed Kosovo Albanian criminals and engaged in a verbal and shoving match with protesters.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/protest-at-appeals-court-over-curuvija-ruling/

US Ambassador calls Pristina to delay new currency regulation

February 5, 2024

The US Ambassador in Pristina is reported to have repeated his call to the Kosovo government to postpone its decision to ban the Serbian Dinar.

Speaking after a meeting of Quint Ambassadors and the EU Delegation chief with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Ambassador Jeff Hovenier said that he called for a delay in the implementation of the Central Bank of Kosovo decree making the Euro the only legal currency because that affects relations between Serbs and Albanians.

According to Hovenier, Washington hopes the Kosovo government will be its partner or else face the possibility of the quality of the partnership being affected.
The ambassador said the people should have a period of time to be informed about the new currency regulations.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/us-ambassador-calls-pristina-to-delay-new-currency-regulation/

German DefMin in Pristina- Progress in Kosovo-Serbia relations needed

February 5, 2024

Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in Pristina that Kosovo needs political stability and progress in relations with Serbia.

Pistorius told a joint media conference with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani that the visa-free regime for Kosovo citizens that came into effect on January 1 this year is a good and important step, but that political, legal and economic stability are also necessary.

Noticeable progress in Kosovo-Serbia relations is needed, it is important for the region and for entire Europe, said the German Defense Minister.

He said that, after the US, Germany is one of the biggest supporters of Kosovo, that they have successful cooperation in many areas and that KFOR remains a guarantor of peace and security in Kosovo.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said that Germany is Kosovo’s loyal partner, its traditional and historical ally.

Germany stood by us not only in difficult times, but also in the process of forming our state, and it continues to be our ally as we continue to strengthen our democracy and our international position, said Osmani, adding that Kosovo will always be grateful for that.

She said she discussed with the German Minister issues of common interest, with special focus on ways of additionally advancing cooperation in the field of security and defense.

“Kosovo remains committed to continuing to build its military, together with its allies, to NATO’s high standards into a modern force that is ready to defend our country and continue contributing to various peacekeeping missions around the world,” said Osmani.

She added that it was time for Kosovo to join its partners as a NATO member, starting with the Partnership for Peace and that this step would have a positive effect on the security, peace and stability of the entire Western Balkans region.

Following his meeting with Osmani, Pistorius also met with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

The German Defense Ministry confirmed that Pistorius is traveling on Monday to visit Belgrade, Sarajevo and Pristina in order to let the Western Balkans know that, despite other foreign policy problems, Germany has not neglected the region, reported Deutsche Welle.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/german-defmin-in-pristina-progress-in-kosovo-serbia-relations-needed/

Stano- CBK Regulation, operations against Serbia-run entities in Kosovo raised EU concern

February 5, 2024

“We have seen at least two examples of actions which of course raised concern of the European Union (EU). One was the Regulation of the Central Bank of Kosovo (CBK), and the other one was the police operation against some Serbia-run entities in the north of Kosovo,” said EU spokesperson Peter Stano.

“These steps are concerning because they are not contributing to the de-escalation of the situation, they are usually not coordinated, they are unilateral, or taken without the necessary level of prior consultation, in order to preempt or prevent the negative impact they might have on the people on the ground,” said Stano.

He said the EU reacted to both of them and issued a number of statements regarding the issue.

“Of course it is concerning to see that the sequencing of unilateral steps might lead to something that we don’t want to see, and that is deterioration of the situation on the ground. Because one thing is for sure, it is not contributing to calming the situation down, to making people feel that their lives are going to get better, quite to the contrary,” he said.

The spokesperson noted that this is why it is important “to go back to the EU-facilitated dialogue and engage very seriously there.”

“The work on it continues every day. EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak is working with partners both in the region and in the EU, and of course the wider international community, to allow it for both sides to start behaving constructively and come back to the negotiating table,” Stano said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/stano-cbk-regulation-operations-against-serbia-run-entities-in-kosovo-raised-eu-concern/

Displaced Kosovo Serbs announce three-hour road blockades

February 5, 2024

Displaced Kosovo Serbs said that, from 12pm to 3pm Monday they will block “the passage of all vehicles driven by Albanians via Merdare to Kursumlija, Nis, Belgrade and further in the direction of Subotica, that is, throughout Serbia, until further notice.”

Merdare is an administrative border crossing between Serbia proper and Kosovo.

They said the protest is organized over Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s policy of “terror and oppression,” against the Serbs in Kosovo.

The Association of Displaced Serbs said the roads will be blocked every Monday from noon to 3pm, reported the Serbian state TV (RTS).

They are demanding that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Foreign Minsiter Ivica Dacic immediately write to all relevant international institutions asking them to put a stop to the terror against and arrests of innocent Serbia.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/displaced-kosovo-serbs-announce-three-hour-road-blockades/

Nikitin- Serbia expelling Russian citizen for taking part in antiwar protests

February 5, 2024

Russian citizen Elena Koposova, who has been living in Serbia with her family for four years and applied for permanent residence in August 2023, received a decision from the Serbian police informing her that not only has her request been refused, but that she is also ordered to leave the country within 30 days, said Russian antiwar activist Peter Nikitin.

In a statement forwarded to the media, Nikitin said the reason for this is the assessment of the Security Intelligence Agency (BIA) that Elena, who is a literary translator, is an “unacceptable security risk.”

Under the Serbian Law on Foreigners, an unacceptable security-related risk exists if available data and knowledge indicate that a foreigner advocates, encourages, aids, prepares or undertakes activities threatening the constitutional order and security of the Serbia, assets protected by international law and national, regional and global security issues of importance for Serbia and its legal system, said Nikitin, citing Article 9 of the said Law.

According to Nikitin, Koposova and 25 other Russians living in Serbia publicly signed on March 5, 2022 an open address by members of the Russian diaspora regarding the war in Ukraine, calling for a rally against the war and dictatorship, which was held in Belgrade on March 6. Apart from that, she has never been involved in activism or politics, said Nikitin.

This is perhaps the most shocking of all cases of persecution of antiwar Russians in Serbia, which can have tragic consequences for an ordinary family, just because a person dared to publicly declare against the bombing of peaceful cities and killing of people, said Nikitin, adding that Koposova will appeal against the decision.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/nikitin-serbia-expelling-russian-citizen-for-taking-part-in-antiwar-protests/

Nova.rs- Company that hosted SNS call center gets RSD 200 mln in contracts

February 5, 2024

The company Prointer, which hosted the ruling Serbian Progressive Party’s (SNS) call center, got over 200 million dinars worth of business deals since December 17 alone, reported Nova.rs.

This is a continuation of the years-long close cooperation between the state and this company, thanks to which Prointer is amassing its wealth and getting contracts from public companies, ministries or city secretariats, it added.

Since the December 17 Serbian elections, companies Prointer-web and Prointer Sistem, owned by Ivana Rajic, received over 200 million dinars, that is, 1.7 million euros (not inclusive of VAT) in contracts from state institutions and bodies, Nova.rs reported.

The contracts were signed with the Ministry of Construction and Infrastructure, Transnafta AD Pancevo, the Serbian Customs Administration and the National Employment Service.

Prointer has at least twice come to the center of public attention. The first time was before the December 17 elections, when the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia published a story on the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) call center located at this company’s premises.

Prior to this, the company was linked to former SNS official and president of the Football Association of Serbia Slavisa Kokeza, reported Nova.rs.

Kokeza was accused by the pro-government tabloids of being involved in the wiretapping of the Serbian President, and of making 640 million euros.

Since then all trace of Kokeza is lost and, according to unofficial information, he is not in the country.

On the other hand, Prointer has denied any connection with Kokeza, which its owner Ivana Rajic has repeatedly said.

However, it is interesting to note that Prointer’s revenues have increased since the SNS has come to power, the portal reported.

In just one year, from January 2022 to January 2023, Prointer-web and Prointer Sistem received over 13.5 million dinars worth of contracts from the state, it said, adding that Prointer has been building cooperation with state companies and structures for years, but that its wallet started getting much “thicker” from May 2023.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/nova-rs-company-that-hosted-sns-call-center-receives-rsd-200-mln-in-contracts/

Opposition politician claims authorities in Serbia planning ‘in secret’ to sell 20 pct of shares of Telekom Srbija company

February 4, 2024

Deputy leader of the opposition Freedom and Justice Party (SSP) Marinika Tepic said that “the regime is preparing in secret with Cerberus (investment) fund” to sell 20 percent of the shares of the state-owned Telekom Srbija telecommunication company.

According to Tepic, the sale is being prepared “through a fictitious process” with “pre-arranged buyers” and “without a tender and independent evaluation.”

Telekom infrastructure companies trade antenna arrays

At the end of 2023, Telekom Srbija sold the antenna arrays and accompanying infrastructure, which were included in the assets of a separate company – Sky Tower Infrastructure.

Unofficially, the purchase price is 420 million euros and another 80 million euros if this company, now owned by Aktis (more precisely, Aktis’ company in Serbia – Actis Luna Telecom Tower Belgrade) achieves certain financial results.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/opposition-politician-claims-authorities-in-serbia-planning-in-secret-to-sell-20-pct-of-shares-of-telekom-srbija-company/

EU concerned over sudden closure of Serbia-run institutions in Kosovo

February  4, 2024

The status of Serbia-run institutions in Kosovo is foreseen to be resolved in the EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, in connection with the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities, the European Union said on Sunday following a series of actions carried out by the Kosovo Ministry of Interior and the Ministry for Administration and Local Governance on shutting down temporary bodies and at the premises of the NGO 'Center for Peace and Tolerance'.

“The European Union noted with great concern this week’s Special Police operations at the offices of Serbia-run institutions in Dragash/Dragaš, Pejë/Pec, Istog/Istok and Klinë/Klina municipalities and the premises of the non-government organisation Center For Peace and Tolerance in Pristina. The sudden closure of these offices will have negative effects on the daily lives and living conditions of Kosovo-Serb Communities, as it will restrict their access to basic social services given the apparent absence of alternatives at this moment,” the EU said in a statement.

The status of these structures is foreseen to be resolved in the EU-facilitated Dialogue, in connection with the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities, it emphasised.

Therefore, the EU urged Kosovo to “avoid unilateral actions that could raise tensions, and to address these issues through the EU-facilitated Dialogue.”

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/eu-concerned-over-sudden-closure-of-serbia-run-institutions-in-kosovo/

US ambassador calls out Pristina authorities for ‘unnecessarily raising ethnic tensions’

February  4, 2024

US Ambassador in Pristina, Jeff Hovenier, expressed concern and displeasure over the series of moves made by the Kosovo government in the last few days, which, according to him, have a direct and negative effect on Serbian and other minority communities in Kosovo.

Hovenier said in a statement that the US Government is deeply concerned about recent actions „unnecessarily raising ethnic tensions and as a consequence limit the options of the United States to serve as an effective advocate for Kosovo in the international arena.”

Among these operations carried out by the Kosovo Police at the offices of Serbia-administrated institutions in Dragash, Peje/Pec, Istog/IStok, and in Kline/Klina, as well as the actions at the premises of the NGO „Center for Peace and Tolerance“ in Pristina.

„We are also concerned Kosovo Police actions today to seize Serbian Dinar and the vehicle transporting it to distribute social benefit payments from Serbia,” the ambassador said in a statement.

Hovenier did not specify where exactly the money was seized, or which specific case it was.

On the other hand, the official Belgrade came out in the early afternoon with the allegations that the workers of the Post of Serbia in Gorazdevac were detained on Sunday “in order to prevent the payment of pensions to the locals,” while the media unofficially reported that the money that the workers were transporting was also confiscated. .

Hovenier expects the Kosovo authorities to ensure that the individuals to whom these social assistance payments are intended receive them without delay.

The US ambassador stressed it was the responsibility of the Government of Kosovo to promote the vision set forth at its founding and enshrined in its Declaration of Independence and Constitution:

“One of a fully multi-ethnic democracy that is responsive to the concerns of all of its citizens.”

On the other hand, he said that issues related to the Serbia-supported structures in Kosovo should be dealt with through the EU-facilitated dialogue.

The ambassador once again repeated the request – that Pristina postpone the enforcement of the amended Regulation of the Central Bank of Kosovo on cash operations until „satisfactory procedures in line with European standards are in place and until the population has been sufficiently informed about how the transition of their benefits will proceed.”

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/us-ambassador-calls-out-pristina-authorities-for-unnecessarily-raising-ethnic-tensions/

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