International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bodrozic-Politicians did everything to prevent Serbia from entering EU

June 24, 2022
In the case of Serbia, Russia's aggression against Ukraine has shifted its focus from issues such as media freedom to global issues and dilemmas, and that suits the authorities, says Zeljko Bodrozic, president of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS).
Asked to comment on the dropping support for Serbia’s EU membership, he said that three-quarters of politicians in Serbia „did everything not to enter the EU,“ and now they say that „they [the EU] don’t want us“.
„It is great that we’re using European funds, that is hundreds of millions of euros – without anything being done, meaning, without fixing things from the inside,“ Bodrozic said, asking how a country where the former police minister and his closest friend could enter the EU while accusing each other of collaborating with criminals.
“When Europe progressed, we went crazy and fought, now that Europe is in trouble, we want to become normal,” said the president of NUNS.
According to him, politicians from the region will not enter the EU because it means checking property and capital, and someone could end up in prison.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/bodrozic-politicians-did-everything-to-prevent-serbia-from-entering-eu/

FIAT workers’ delegation trusts in agreement with Vucic

June 24, 2022
The negotiating delegation of workers from Fiat told N1 that they would first discuss the agreement from the meeting with representatives of the state with the others, and then make a decision on whether to start with blockades, but added that they believe it would be accepted. Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, previously stated that the state will continue to work with Stelantis on fulfilling its obligations toward workers.
The protection of vulnerable groups of workers has been agreed, and there will be jobs in Kragujevac, but they have also agreed on higher severance pay, the workers’ delegation told N1.
They say that the agreement from the meeting is not to talk about it publicly and that the epilogue will be known next week.
„We will continue to work with Stelantis so that we can fulfil part of the obligations towards the workers in the next few days,“ Vucic said after the meeting with the workers.
President Vucic thanked the workers for their correctness, at the press conference after the meeting, adding that they understood the legal restrictions. He said that they met a large part of their demands and that he expected them to "bring the talks to an end with success."
The workers had a meeting in the Presidency with Vucic, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Minister of Finance Sinisa Mali.
They demand, among other things, better severance pay, protection for vulnerable groups of workers and that they do not have to go abroad to work.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/fiat-workers-delegation-trusts-in-agreement-with-vucic/

Belgrade court confirms indictment for war crimes against JNA soldiers

June 24, 2022
The Higher Court in Belgrade confirmed an indictment against a former member of the Croatian National Guard for war crimes against captured members of the former Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) who were taken in September 1991 to a camp set up in Rakitje, near Zagreb, in a Croatian Interior Ministry training center, Srna reported.
The accused, nicknamed “Ranko” and identified with initials B.T., is not available to the Serbian judicial bodies because, following his arrest by an EU country on a warrant issued by Serbia, he was extradited to Croatia.
The indictment was confirmed on June 7 and came into effect after the deadline for appealing the Higher Court’s decision on confirming the indictment because no appeals were filed, Belgrade Higher Court spokeswoman Tatjana Matic told Tanjug, Srna reported.
The court is to set a trial date in the coming period while the accused will be tried in absentia.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/belgrade-court-confirms-indictment-for-war-crimes-against-jna-soldiers/

Vucic, Donfreid discuss bilateral relations, European integration, dialogue

June 24, 2022
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had a phone conversation with American Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried about bilateral relations, European integration and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
US Special Envoy for Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar and US Ambassador to Belgrade Christopher Hill also took part in the talk that mostly focused on bilateral and especially economic relations and possibilities for cooperation in the field of energy, said a press released issued by the Serbian President’s office.
Donfried lent her strong support to the region’s economic linking through the Open Balkan initiative and agreed with Vucic that it is an example of good regional cooperation and aspiring to common goals.
Vucic shared his impressions from the European Union – Western Balkans summit in Brussels, and Donfried said the US strongly advocates the idea of the region becoming a part of the Union.
The American officials welcomed this week’s progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue when a roadmap for the implementation of energy agreements was agreed on, said the press release.
Vucic said Serbia is committed to dialogue as the only way to resolve open issues and reach a sustainable agreement, all in the interest of everyday lives of Serbs and Albanians and peace and stability in the region, said the President’s office.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-donfreid-discuss-bilateral-relations-european-integration-dialogue/

Von Cramon-Summit in Brussels a complete failure

June 24, 2022
Viola von Cramon MEP from the Greens/EFA said that the talks with Western Balkans leaders in Brussels were “a complete failure” and that the meagre outcome could only make Russian President Vladimir Putin happy.
“This summit for the Western Balkans was a complete failure. I have to admit that I’m terribly disappointed,” said Von Cramon in an interview with Euractiv.
She said the European Commission was calling itself a “geopolitical” Commission, but that six Balkan leaders traveled to Brussels and were given nothing.
“Neither has Bosnia got the candidate status, worse still, North Macedonia and Albania didn’t get accession negotiations, and Kosovo didn’t get visa liberalization, an issue that has been dragging on for four years now. This is really a disastrous signal. There is only one person happy from this situation, and this guy sits in the Kremlin,” Von Cramon told Euractiv.
Asked if a chance was missed to give Serbia a clear message at the summit that it should align with EU foreign policy and sanctions against Russia, Von Cramon said she was not surprised by this because no real argument was put before Serbia.
“The real argument should be: If you don’t align with foreign policy, then we will suspend the funds. But I haven’t heard anyone saying this,” she said, adding that she heard from the civil society in Belgrade there is fear that pushing on sanctions very hard would mean having to give up on democratic principles – media freedom, party pluralism and so on.
Commenting on the Open Balkan initiative, Von Cramon said that “it is not based on principles, it’s not based on standards and criteria, and if we go ahead with this, we would actually undermine the merit-based process of the EU accession”.
Von Cramon described the decision to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova as “very cheap”.
“It doesn’t cost anything to give them a candidate status in a geopolitically very tense situation. They can be with this candidate status in the waiting room, as we have seen with Turkey and the Western Balkans, forever. The candidate status is the least the EU leaders could do, without having any financial obligations,” said Von Cramon, adding that it is good to have EU unity and for the Ukrainians – a goal, while they are fighting a “terrible war”.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/von-cramon-summit-in-brussels-a-complete-failure/

Lajcak-No same strategic view on the Western Balkans

June 24, 2022
European Union Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak said that European leaders took a geopolitical decision on Eastern Europe but that they fail to have the same strategic view on the Western Balkans.
Lajcak said in a Twitter post that this has generated deep disappointment in the region and that the European Union must regain leadership in that part of Europe.
We took a geopolitical decision on Eastern Europe, but we fail to have the same strategic view on the Western Balkans. This generates deep disappointment in the region. I’m proud on our ???????? leadership in the East, but we must regain it for our South-Eastern neighbor, said Lajčák
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/lajcak-no-same-strategic-view-on-the-western-balkans/

Survey-60 per cent of Western Balkan citizens support EU membership

June 24, 2022
The results of the Balkan Barometer and SecuriMeter surveys show that 76 per cent of Western Balkan citizens find regional cooperation a great approach, and that support to EU membership has dropped compared to previous years and now stands at 60 per cent.
Sixty percent of Western Balkan businesses consider their economy’s EU membership as a good thing in terms of their business, while 49 per cent of citizens see economic growth as a priority following the coronavirus pandemic.
The results of surveys carried out in Western Balkans were presented in Brussels by Majlinda Bregu, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).
“At times, the results surprise us, sometimes they serve as a wake-up call, while on other occasions they confirm that our efforts are not in vain as citizens and businesses feel the benefits of our work,” said Bregu in Brussels, adding: “Being European is a state of mind and our citizens and businesses not only recognize it but also try hard to run their business as efficiently as possible.”
The war in Ukraine “has awakened the spirits of the past by bringing up security concerns. We cannot overlook the deep apprehension that has settled across our region, which is being increasingly faced with security, energy security and economic implications of the war in Ukraine,” said Bregu.
Survey results show that 74 per cent of respondents agree that disinformation is a security threat to their economies. SecuriMeter shows that false news or news misrepresenting reality remain widespread for 47 per cent of people. In the eyes of the public, journalists and media companies are the most responsible for the spreading of disinformation.
Citizens of the region see the following as the biggest security challenges: organized crime (91%), financial crime (89%), terrorism (88%), disinformation (86%), violent extremism (85%) and natural disasters (85%). One in three citizens again and again see corruption as a major threat to their lives.
Citizens also see the economic situation (47%) and unemployment (39%) as a great concern and biggest challenge in the region.
“People need to know they will have an income, that they will be able to provide for their
children and that they can afford the healthcare if and when needed. The most pressing concern for young people are inadequate employment opportunities,” said Bregu.
Sixty-seven percent of young people between 18 and 24 years of age are considering living and working abroad.
Over 6,000 people from the region and 1,200 companies took part in the eight edition of the Balkan Barometer. Over 6,000 people from across the Western Balkans participated in the second edition of the SecuriMeter survey in the period from March 2021 to April 2022.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/survey-60-per-cent-of-western-balkan-citizens-support-eu-membership/

Szijjarto-No security in EU without the Western Balkans

June 24, 2022
Brussels and every other capital in Western Europe should understand that soon it will be difficult to talk about security in Europe without the Western Balkans’ integration into the European Union, said Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto in connection with the EU-Western Balkans summit.
Decisions made by the European Council caused disappointment in several countries aspiring to join the EU, Szijjarto wrote on his Facebook profile.
He said he had telephone conversations with High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt and with Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/szijjarto-no-security-in-eu-without-the-western-balkans/

Alessandra Moretti new chair of EP Delegation for Serbia

June 24, 2022
Alessandra Moretti MEP has been elected chair of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with Serbia and will co-chair the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC).
She has replaced Tanja Fajon, who entered the government after the Slovene April elections and is now the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister.
Following her election on Thursday, Moretti said in a Twitter post that she was grateful for the trust placed in her which she will repay with commitment to encouraging the integration process that is primarily based on the honoring of European values.
The SAPC meets twice a year, but the European Parliament Delegation’s work covers all aspects of Serbia’s accession to the Union, wrote Moretti on the Delegation website.
“In particular, we focus on functioning of the democratic institutions, on improving the electoral environment and enhancing the inter-party dialogue, on the protection of fundamental rights, on regional cooperation and the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue,” she said.
“We seek to help Serbia prepare for EU membership, while also working together towards an ambitious roadmap for accession,” said Moretti, adding that the delegation observes with interest Serbia's strategic choices and discusses them with partners in the National Parliament.
“I look forward to leading our delegation through Serbia's pre-accession period and developing the parliamentary aspects of the process as well," said Moretti.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/alessandra-moretti-new-chair-of-ep-delegation-for-serbia/

Joksimovic: Serbia to join EU in 5-7 years

June 24, 2022
Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic said on Friday that Serbia could become a member of the European Union in the next 5-7 years.
“I am sure that Serbia’s membership in the EU is certain and just a matter of circumstances, time and our readiness and I am really counting on Serbia becoming a member in the next five to seven years,” she told a ceremony to grant expert support to 30 local administrations as part of the EU Exchange 6 program.
Joksimovic said that Serbia is a leader in the region in terms of the accession process adding that it is politically all right to support the development of the entire region which is in its interest.
According to her, Serbia is actively working on Cluster 5 even though Cluster 3 will not be opened during the French EU presidency.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/joksimovic-serbia-to-join-eu-in-5-7-years/

EU Council calls for faster accession of Western Balkans

June 24, 2022
The European Council called for an acceleration of the accession process for the countries of the Western Balkans, reiterating its commitment to their membership in the Union.
“The European Union expresses its full and unequivocal commitment to the EU membership perspective of the Western Balkans and calls for the acceleration of the accession process,” the Council said in conclusions from its meeting on Thursday.
It called the European Commission, High Representative Josep Borrell to “further advance the gradual integration between the European Union and the region already during the enlargement process itself in a reversible and merit-based manner”.
The conclusions recalled the importance of reforms, in rule of law and those related to the independence and functioning of the judiciary and the fight against corruption and called partners to guarantee the rights and equal treatment of minorities.
“The European Council reaffirms the urgency of making tangible progress in resolving outstanding bilateral and regional disputes, particularly the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue on normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo*,” it said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/eu-council-calls-for-faster-accession-of-western-balkans/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 1 death, 566 new cases

June 23, 2022

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily bulletin on Thursday that one person died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 16,119.

It said that 6,912 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 566 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,859,811 with 2,024,455 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 93 hospitalized cases, including seven patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-1-death-566-new-cases/

Tanja Fajon-We lost credibility with Western Balkan countries

June 23, 2022

Prior to the start of the European Council session Thursday, a summit of the Party of European Socialists and Social Democrats (PES) was held in Brussels, which was attended by the leader of Social Democrats (SD) and Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon who said that the EU had lost credibility in the eyes of Western Balkan countries expecting to receive the EU membership candidate status.

The summit of social democratic leaders, which was attended by a large number of European prime ministers, supported the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia's European perspective and reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Leaders also agreed that positive messages to the Western Balkans alone are not enough.

“We’ve lost credibility with the countries of the Western Balkans, which are waiting for the status of candidates for EU membership. These countries are once again becoming countries of geopolitical struggle,” Fajon noted.

“We will preserve the credibility of the enlargement process only by speeding up the granting of EU candidate status to BiH, opening accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, and enabling visa liberalization for Kosovo. We need a clear political signal of support and commitment to the prospects of enlargement of the Western Balkans, “ said the Slovenian Minister.

According to her, it is necessary to discuss the goals and consequences of EU enlargement both within the PES and beyond. Positive attitudes towards Ukraine and its European perspective should be supported, but it is not enough, said Fajon, who earlier this week made a proposal in Luxembourg to grant BiH candidate status for EU membership under similar conditions as Ukraine, understanding that it should meet all the necessary conditions before the start of accession negotiations.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin agreed that the EU has a duty to the Western Balkans and that, if the conditions are met, it must recognize the status of candidate countries for EU membership. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell pointed out that there is great disappointment among the countries of the Western Balkans and that they want solutions to common problems that go beyond any country.

PES leaders also discussed the energy and food crisis, especially in African countries, and the integration of Sweden and Finland into NATO.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/tanja-fajon-we-lost-credibility-with-western-balkan-countries/

Bosnia govt okays €300m loan deal with EIB for Vc corridor motorway section

June 23, 2022

The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday endorsed an agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) on a €300 million loan for the construction of a 35-kilometre-long motorway section that is part of the pan-European Vc corridor.

The borrowing will be used by the Autoceste Federacije Bosne and Herzegovina company, and the motorway operator will repay the loan over a period of 25 years with a six-year grace period.

The loan will be taken for building the Ovcara-Mostar motorway, including a tunnel through Mount Prenj.

Sarajevo is taking loans like this from the EIB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to finance the upgrade of the road network and the pan-European corridor Vc connecting the port of Ploče on the Adriatic Sea with Budapest.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-govt-okays-e300m-loan-deal-with-eib-for-vc-corridor-motorway-section/

Slovenian Prime Minister-We will insist on Bosnia's EU candidate status

June 23, 2022

"Today, we must find a consensus," Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob said Thursday before the European Council meeting in Brussels. Apart from Austria, Slovenia is most strongly in favour of Bosnia and Herzegovina gaining the EU membership candidate status.

Golob said that Slovenia and Austria will not block the granting of candidate status to Ukraine (as some foreign media reported earlier),” adding that this does not mean that he will not advocate that BiH be granted the status as well. “If necessary, we will insist on it all night.”

“What’s important is that both countries (Slovenia and Austria) are very much in favour of granting BiH candidate status without additional conditions. There are several possibilities to find a consensus,” Golob said in Brussels, adding that it was not important what Slovenia would be satisfied with, but that a clear signal should be given to the people of BiH to maintain hope for EU membership.

“The people of BiH are not to blame for the situation they found themselves in, there was a war there, and they are slowly losing hope of being part of the European family,” the Slovenian Prime Minister said.

The European Council is holding a meeting Thursday in Brussels, at which the leaders of the European Union are discussing conclusions. Bosnia and Herzegovina hopes for the candidate status, and as N1 has learned, Austria and Slovenia insist on that the most.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/slovenian-prime-minister-we-will-insist-on-bosnias-eu-candidate-status/

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