International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Hill on Vucic-Kurti meeting-I do not expect fast results

February 27, 2023

Prior to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s Monday meeting in Brussels, US Ambassador to Serbia Christopher Hill said he is not expecting fast results.

Hill said the US believes that the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) in Kosovo is very important and added that his country is involved in the process and that US Special Envoy Gabriel Escobar will also be in Brussels on Monday.

Hill said the meeting in Brussels, at which Vucic and Kurti are expected to respond to the European proposal for the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, is an important one, and that it testifies to Europe’s commitment to finding a solution that would benefit everyone.

The Ambassador, however, said he is not expecting fast results.

The Brussels process certainly does not satisfy people who expect to be immediately satisfied with the outcome, said Hill, adding he believes that progress needs to be made because there has been none for too many years.

He stressed that, in spite of the fact that the meeting will be held in Brussels, the US continues to actively participate in the dialogue. Hill added that the US and the European Union (EU) are closely cooperating on this issue.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/hill-on-vucic-kurti-meeting-i-do-not-expect-fast-results/

CRTA-Only 25 percent of citizens believe democracy in Serbia is functioning

February 27, 2023

A majority of citizens rate the functioning of democracy in Serbia as poor, with only 25 percent describing it as positive, says a report of the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA) observation mission.

According to the survey entitled “Views of the citizens of Serbia on participation in democratic processes in 2022,” 21 percent of respondents said the Serbian Parliament is doing good work.

It also said that 52 percent of respondents believe that, despite all the difficulties, democracy is the best political system for Serbia, while only 31 percent of respondents think that changes in the country are possible.

The survey results show that 53 percent of respondents see politics as an arena in which all citizens should participate, however, only 15 percent believe they are capable of engaging in politics.

According to the research, 20 percent of citizens have participated in an activity aimed at resolving problems in the local community.

The report also said that 43 percent of respondents believe that civil society organizations, that is, non-governmental organizations, protect the public interest and fight for changes in society.

The phone survey was conducted on a sample of 1,026 respondents.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/crta-only-25-percent-of-citizens-believe-democracy-in-serbia-is-functioning/

Vucic on departure to Brussels-There will be no capitulation

February 27, 2023

Prior to his departure to Brussels Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Monday that there will be no capitulation or return to the nineties, and that Serbia will go forward no matter how difficult that may be.

“In 15 minutes we leave for Brussels, we have completed the final preparations. I want to thank the part of Serbia that trusts its state leadership and believes that we will do what is best for our county,” Vucic wrote on Instagram.

He added that there will be no capitulation and no return to the nineties, and that Serbia will go forward no matter how difficult that may be.

“And those who are preparing in advance to attack us by saying we will sign something and that, by doing that, we will be traitors, and they already know that we are guilty and that we are returning to the nineties, I can only tell them that they needn’t worry,” said Vucic.

Vucic will meet Monday in Brussels with European Union (EU) Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, following which he will also meet with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. The topic of the meetings is the European, that is, the Franco-German plan for Kosovo.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-on-departure-to-brussels-there-will-be-no-capitulation/

Kurti to Zelenskyy-Serbia wants our homes, like Russia wants yours

February 27, 2023

“There is nothing Russia and Serbia would want more than to spread the conflict in Ukraine to the Western Balkans. Your purpose is our purpose, your struggle is our struggle,” Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti wrote in a letter to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the occasion of the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, Kossev reported.

Kurti told Zelenskyy that countries are often congratulated on anniversaries of independence and liberation, but seldom on “an anniversary of continuous resistance.”

“We are two peoples that have lost many of our best citizens due to our neighboring countries’ imperialist plans to seize land. Even though we are geographically distant, and have very different population sizes, our histories in the past century have remarkable similarities. It is in this historic circumstance that our paths cross,” Kurti wrote.

The Kosovo Prime Minister said that the Albanians’ resistance began 23 years ago, and that NATO helped them “end Serbia’s genocide cycle.”

“Nineteen world democracies assembled to stop Serbia’s genocide against our people. You are now on the front lines of a new war that must end Russia’s genocide against your people and its imperialist attempts to take over your territory. And again you are supported by the democracies, members of NATO, as they had supported us,” added Kurti.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kurti-to-zelenskyy-serbia-wants-our-homes-like-russia-wants-yours/

Adjali (UNHCR)-Serbia has unequivocal support for Ukrainian refugees

February 27, 2023

The new representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Serbia, Soufiane Adjali, said that, according to official data, 148,500 refugees from Ukraine have so far entered Serbia of whom approximately 145,513 continued on to other countries.

Serbia has shown unequivocal support for Ukrainian refugees, and UNHCR especially welcomed the decision of the Serbian Government to provide them with temporary protection. We heard that the refugees feel very welcome in the new environment, Adjali told the daily Politika.

He said Serbia has been showing, for decades, great compassion and support for people forced to leave their homes.

The destruction and the war in Ukraine resulted in a third of its citizens leaving their homes, said Adjali, explaining that about eight million refugees found refuge in the surrounding countries, while another 5.3 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/adjali-unhcr-serbia-has-unequivocal-support-for-ukrainian-refugees/

PM expects difficult talks in Brussels-It won’t be easy, red lines are clear

February 26, 2023

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on the occasion of the talks with Pristina in Brussels on Monday, that it will certainly not be an easy day but that Serbia's red lines are clear, namely the non-recognition of Kosovo and the non-approval of its entry into the UN.

“I believe that (Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic) will be able to preserve the national interests of the state of Serbia,” said Brnabic.

PM pointed out that after this round of talks in Brussels she expects the formation of the Community of the Serb Municipalities after 10 years.

She also said that if Vucic wanted to recognise Kosovo and capitulation, he should have just done nothing, because his predecessors #sold, capitulated, betrayed and gave what no one asked for.”

When asked about the letter from France, Germany and Italy addressed to the President, the Prime Minister said that the letter was addressed to the Presidency and that it would not be alright for her to comment on it.

Brnabic said that this year even US President Joe Biden said in his National Day congratulation that dialogue leads to mutual recognition.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/pm-expects-difficult-talks-in-brussels-it-wont-be-easy-red-lines-are-clear/

EU and USA-Vucic and Kurti should accept EU plan in principle

February 26, 2023

European Union and the United Stated expect the leaders of Belgrade and Pristina to accept on Monday the European proposal as a principle, a starting point for a complete, legally binding settlement of relations between the two parties and to start working out how to implement it within a few months, with the inevitable formation of the Community of the Serb Municipalities.

Brussels officials informed about the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue told reporters behind closed doors that President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti have made it known that they will present their „red lines“ and conditions regarding the European proposal, known as as the Franco-German plan.

European mediators, however, underlined that the EU and the US are firmly convinced that the “European, German-French proposal” has this in mind and offers solutions, while Washington stated that the final agreement would mean important concessions and “painful compromises for both sides.”

Therefore, the content of the EU proposal, which was determined in the annex and has not been published, will not be discussed immediately, but rather the ways and steps to implement it as soon as possible.

Officials in Brussels further explained their position that the acceptance and implementation of this agreement with Belgrade means factual recognition of Kosovo’s independence, but not officially, since this is not required in the “starting points and principles” for the agreement.

Belgrade’s red lines

As announced Vucic will explain Belgrade’s “red lines” on Monday, and this primarily refers to the fact that Serbia will never recognise Kosovo or agree to its entry into the UN.

Belgrade demands that the formation of the Community of the Serb Communities starts immediately, at the same time, as stipulated by the Brussels agreements of 2013 and 2015, which Kurti has now for the first time accepted in principle as a topic of negotiations, but demands that the important remarks made on the agreement by the Constitutional Court of Kosovo are taken into account, which was also mentioned by the Americans.

Kurti also persistently repeats that the goal for Pristina can only be “mutual recognition and reciprocity with Belgrade.”

Brussels officials therefore say that they do not expect the Monday meeting to end quickly, because that would mean that there would be no results but that “it lasts as long as possible,” because “that could also mean that there will be success.”

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/eu-and-usa-vucic-and-kurti-should-accept-eu-plan-in-principle/

Vucic says Serbia has no time to waste and must build a secure future

February 26, 2023

President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia has no time to waste, and that it must build a secure future for new generations.

Vucic published an Instagram post, where he summarised the activities of the previous week and announced the implementation of numerous projects.

He wrote that Serbia is waiting for the signing of new contracts and bringing in more investors, because as he pointed out, the country “has no time to waste, regardless of the complex global situation.”

He assessed that the arms fair in Abu Dhabi showed that Serbia is a „serious player“, and reminded that the „Continental“ factory, one of the giants in the auto industry, opened in the northern city of Novi Sad.

He said that this factory represents a paradigm of the vision of success and progress of Serbia

“And that vision is to become undisputed regional leaders in the economy, infrastructure, healthcare, education, culture, new technologies, because we have the strength and intellect for that,” said Vucic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-says-serbia-has-no-time-to-waste-and-must-build-a-secure-future/

New Croat political party established in Bosnia

February 25, 2023

A new Croat political party was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Prozor-Rama municipality on Saturday by mayor Jozo Ivancevic, who announced a stronger alternative to the HDZ BiH party, currently the strongest Bosnian Croat party.

The Rama People's Party (RNS) was established due to dissatisfaction with the activity of other Croatian political parties, notably those making up the HDZ BiH-led Croatian People's Assembly (HNS), Ivancevic said at the founding assembly.

He and his associates left the HDZ 1990 party last year, accusing its leaders of allowing the HDZ BiH to dominate the HNS. Ivancevic said their policy put personal interest before the interest “of the whole people they allegedly represent.”

Exploiting arguments such as those that the Croatian people in BiH is jeopardised and that a third entity needs to be established only serves to mobilise voters before elections, after which nothing is done to solve problems, only to divide positions in government, he added.

Croats in Prozor-Rama are dissatisfied with the HNS parties’ treatment of the municipality, including its exclusion from strategic infrastructure, physical, health and education plans, Ivancevic said.

He announced cooperation with everyone with similar political platforms in order to strengthen the opposition to the policy waged by the HDZ BiH.

The RNS will first and foremost work on the development of Rama and the status of its Croats, but stands ready to take part in higher levels of government so that Croats in BiH finally have an opposition that will credibly advocate their interests, he added.

According to the 2013 census, Prozor-Rama had a little over 14,000 inhabitants, of whom 10,000 were Croats.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/new-croat-political-party-established-in-bosnia/

Banja Luka journalists express support to colleague interrogated by police

February 25, 2023

More than a hundred media workers gathered in Banja Luka, Bosnia's second-largest city and administrative centre of Republika Srpska entity, to express support to his colleague Nikola Moraca, whom the authorities named a suspect, after he refused to reveal his source of information.

After gathering on the central Krajina square, the crowd headed to the Banja Luka Police Administration's building to show solidarity with their colleague.

“We will ask that the prosecution and the police stop with institutional assaults on journalists in Banja Luka,” said Sinisa Vukelic, the editor of the Capital.ba web portal.

According to Banja Luka media, Moraca became a suspect after he refused to reveal the source of his information regarding the text he published about the rape of an 18-year-old girl that happened recently in Banja Luka. He was interrogated in the process.

Speaking to N1, he said that he never wanted to reveal the identity of the victim.

“We unveiled the initials of the suspect while carrying the statements of the Banja Luka Prosecutor's Office. There are certain details in my article and their point is meant for the public,” he said.

He also said he will never give up and that this is all a result of his articles on the rape of a girl in Banja Luka.

BH Journalists Association urgently demanded from the Banja Luka Police Administration and the Prosecutor's Office to cancel the “legal and institutional violence” against Moraca.

“The Board of Directors of the BH Journalists Association is horrified by the brutal treatment of the Banja Luka Police Department and the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor's Office towards the journalist Moraca, using the institutional force which is contrary to the Constitution and criminal legislation of the Republika Srpska, which protect the values of freedom of expression and the right of journalists to protect information sources,” the association said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/banja-luka-journalists-express-support-to-colleague-interrogated-by-police/

Denis becirovic and Russian ambassador in spat over Ukraine anniversary!

February 25, 2023

After Russian Ambassador Igor Kalabukhov told him he would be “ashamed of his statements on Ukraine once he gets wiser,” Bosnia Presidency member Denis Becirovic replied he is “proud to be among those who condemn Russian aggression” and that he and the Russian diplomat “belong to two different worlds.”

“I would be very concerned if the Russian ambassador told me on the occasion of the anniversary of the brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine that I would be proud of my statement on Ukraine. Also, I would be concerned if the Russian ambassador left me out from the list of those that need to be labelled or condemned,” said Becirovic, the Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency.

“I proudly say that I am with all those who condemn the Russian aggression and that I am not among the small group of dictators and autocrats who support and honour Russian President Vladimir) Putin's regime,” he added.

Becirovic also said he and the Russian ambassador “belong to two different worlds” and that majority of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including him, stand with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

The response comes a day after the Russian ambassador in Sarajevo condemned Becirovic's statement in which he showed the solidarity with the people of Ukraine and condemned the Russian aggression “as the member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

In a strong reaction, Kalabukhov assessed Becirovic as a “young politician” and that he was convinced the Presidency member would be ashamed of his words “once he become wiser.”

According to the Constitution of BiH, Becirovic has no right to speak on behalf of all citizens in BiH, not even all the Bosniaks, said the ambassador. He also made a remark about Becirovic's election in the last elections saying – with no evidence to support his words, that Becirovic won thanks to those who voted “against other candidate” and “not thanks to the votes of support.”

Kalabukhov added that he sees the Bosniak Presidency member's stance as his personal opinion.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bosnia-presidency-member-and-russian-ambassador-in-spat-over-ukraine-anniversary/



Bosnia Presidency member and Russian ambassador in spat over Ukraine anniversary



Chollet-Time to discuss Association of Serb-majority Municipalities

February 25, 2023

Following a phone conversation with Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti, US State Department Counselor, Derek Chollet said that the US supports a meeting that affirms the commitment of both Kosovo and Serbia to the European Union's proposal and that it is time to discuss the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities.

„The US supports a constructive meeting that affirms both parties’ commitment to the EU proposal,” Chollet wrote on Twitter.

„I shared that now is the time to discuss the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities. Both Kosovo and Serbia should implement the agreements they have already signed on to through the Dialogue process, including making progress towards establishing the ASM,” he tweeted.

It was announced last night from Prime Minister Kurti’s office that Kurti confirmed his position on the EU’s proposal to a high-ranking American official in a telephone conversation, as a good basis for further talks towards the normalisation of relations.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is scheduled to take place on Monday in Brussels.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/chollet-time-to-discuss-association-of-serb-majority-municipalities/

Lawyers gather in support of prosecutors moved from anti-corruption department

February 25, 2023

A group of lawyers held a protest on Saturday in front of the Serbian Government's building, in support of prosecutors Jasmina Paunovic and Bojana Savovic, who were transferred from an anti-corruption department to the general crime department. Right before the protest ended, the crowd blocked the traffic in the Nemanjina Street for a moment.

The lawyers told N1 that they are disappointed with the move of the prosecution and that in this way they are sending a message that anyone among the lawyers, prosecutors, judges and the police who wants to do their job honorably is unable to do that.

They announced a new protest for Thursday, inviting judges and prosecutors to join them. Some politicians from the opposition, as well as representatives of NGOs, were also present at the protest.

The protest comes after Deputy Public Prosecutor Bojana Savovic, who was transferred from the Anti-Corruption Department of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office to the Department for General Crime, told N1 that she was not the only one who had experienced this, but that she and prosecutor Jasmina Paunovic were the sixth and seventh person who has been removed from that department since Nenad Stefanovic came to the helm of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office.

She pointed out that this is sending a demotivating message and asked which prosecutor would devote himself to a case if they knew that it could be taken away from them overnight and that they would not be able to finish it.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/lawyers-gather-in-support-of-prosecutors-moved-from-anti-corruption-department/

Meta-Serbian Progressive Party spends $150,000 for Facebook, Instagram ads

February 25, 2023

Meta company shut down the botnet of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) on social networks, stating in its report for the last quarter of 2022 that 5,374 accounts and 12 groups on Facebook as well as 100 Instagram accounts, were shut down. The company also said in the report that the SNS spent at least $150,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads.

A network in Serbia linked to employees of the Serbian Progressive Party, known as the party’s „internet team“, also used fake accounts and coordinated posts. They targeted domestic audiences on many internet services, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, as well as local media, to „create a perception of widespread and authentic support for Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and the Serbian Progressive Party,“ according to the company’s statement.

The bot network was made up of SNS members from the so-called „internet team“, as well as civil servants throughout Serbia.

According to Meta, SNS spent at least 150,000 dollars on ads on Instagram and Facebook, which were paid in dollars and euros.

Meta added that the SNS network operated differently from traditional „troll farms“, which were previously discovered in Albania, Nicaragua and Russia, and which were managed from a single center, that is, an office or a group of offices.

Unlike that system, the SNS operation was based on individuals who were botting all over Serbia.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/meta-serbian-progressive-party-spends-150000-for-facebook-instagram-ads/

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