International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Experts: Support to Serbia’s EU membership falling due to negative media reports

April 29, 2022

The drop in the number of citizens who support Serbia's European Union membershipis not a surprise, considering the fact that the media report on the EU in a negative context, said Katarina Tadic from the European Fund for the Balkans. Milorad Bjeletic, executive director of the Belgrade Open School, emphasised that the fact that less than 40 percent of citizens are in favor of Serbia's entry into the EU is "dramatic", but that it does not say much, because citizens generally do not understand what the process brings along.

For the first time in the last 20 years, the number of citizens who oppose Serbia’s accession to the European Union is higher than those who support it, according to a survey carried out by Ipsos agency.

According to Ipsos, only 35% of citizens would vote for joining the Union in the referendum, while 44% would oppose it. While in Brussels such results are read as insufficient work of officials on the promotion of European values, in Belgrade they estimate that such statistics are a consequence of great EU pressure on Serbia, especially when it comes to the war in Ukraine.

„Serbia has traditionally had about 50 percent support for joining the EU in the last ten years, and that is not a surprise. It is interesting to me to see how citizens understand this issue. Some other research shows that more than 40 percent of citizens in Serbia believe that we will never enter the EU, or we will enter in 20 years,” Tadic told N1, adding that it would be interesting to see the whole research done by Ipsos, because now we have the answers to only one question.

As she said, it is necessary to look at the whole set of questions and see if it is really the response of citizens to joining the EU or it is the result of some other external factors that influence their opinion.

Tadic sees the responsibility for the decline in support for European integration mostly in the authorities and the media.

“The biggest responsibility lies with the media and government representatives. We need to communicate with the citizens. However, there is research that the EU is portrayed in the media in a very negative light. And maybe that is the answer to the question why the trust suddenly falls. Over the past two months, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, we see that the EU is portrayed mainly as an actor that puts a lot of pressure on Serbia, in terms of adjusting foreign policy and imposing sanctions," she said.

Bjeletic recalled that Serbia signed the Association and Stabilization Agreement (SAA) with the EU in 2013.

"Serbia is not starting the process now, we are already an associate member of the EU, we have the SAA signed on September 1, 2013. We have been fighting for that agreement for six years. We have status in the EU, we are an associate member. Everyone is asking why the EU expects us to harmonise our laws with it. Our status should only change from associate to full membership, and that is the negotiation process," Bjeletic told N1.

He said that the citizens "are not aware that our economic development from 2006 to 2022 is precisely a consequence of that SAA.”

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/experts-support-to-serbias-eu-membership-falling-due-to-negative-media-reports/

Senator says Vucic promised decision in 60 days

April 29, 2022

US Senator Chris Murphy said that he was told by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that he would decide on the country’s course in the next two months.

“Call me in sixty days. Check to see if I’ve done what I am telling you I will do,” the senator quoted Vucic as saying at the end of their meeting in Belgrade.

Murphy said in a blog post that he and fellow senators Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis had a long and candid conversation with Vucic “about Serbia’s historic desire to, as they say in the Balkans, sit on two chairs … one in Europe and one in Russia”. “Vucic had deftly managed this balance for years, but now the invasion of Ukraine has forced him to a decision point. No longer will the European Union — of which Serbia wants to become a member — let Vucic sit in both chairs. He is going to have to choose, and over the course of the hour, we pushed Vučić on several short-term steps he could make toward the right choice,” the senator wrote.

Murphy said that Vucic greeted the three senators warmly at the Presidency but interrupted his “ typical, long-winded set of diplomatic remarks about the long friendship between our two nations” saying: “Chris, Chris Chris…we know each other too well. Stop this formality. What do you want to know? I will tell you.” The senator recalled that he had developed a relationship with Vucic, meeting with him over lunch in Washington on a number of occassions.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/senator-says-vucic-promised-decision-in-60-days/

Shots fired at Kosovo Serbs at lake outside Gracanica

May 2, 2022

Shots were fired at a group of young Kosovo Serbs at a lake outside the town of Gracanica, the Serian sgtate TV (RTS) reported on Monday.

A policeman with the group returned fire wounding both of the attackers who fled on their motorcycle. Parents of the young Serb men and women said their children were taken to Pristina for questioning by police patrols, adding that the policeman who returned fire was under investigation.

Marko Petkovic, one of the group, told the RTS that the shots were fired at them at the lake on Sunday afternoon. “They stopped a few meters from us. A policeman friend who was with us, a Gorani by nationality, spoke to them in Albanian asking them to leave because the situation was tense. They moved off to stop by our cars and one of them fired shots at us from a pistol,” he said, adding that they took shelter behind some parked cars. “The policeman in plain clothes shot back and they fled towards the village of Mramor,” he said. The police patrol arrived 40 minutes later.

One of the parents said that the incident would have been worse without the policeman there but voiced surprise that he was under investigation.

The RTS said that incident was not included in the Kosovo police regular daily report. Police spokesman Agron Borovci told local media that the investigation was underway and added that the two young men were wounded and in hospital but did not identify them. He said that a policeman is under investigation for firing at the attackers.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/shots-fired-at-kosovo-serbs-at-lake-outside-gracanica/

US Ambassador says Serbia should think again about Russia

May 2, 2022

US Ambassador Christopher Hill told the Voice of America that Serbia should think again if it believes that Russia will help resolve the Kosovo issue.

The ambassador said that he would be very careful about claims that Serbia benefits from what Russia does.

Hill said that Belgrade and Pristina will decided whether to continue their dialogue. He said that Serbia should decide what to do on its own and added that American diplomats should not be telling the Serbians what to do. According to the ambassador, Serbia should decide what kind of relations it wants with its neighbors. I don’t think that Serbia should look to Russia in relation to Kosovo or vice versa but should look at every situation separately, he said, adding that Russia has moved very far away from Western values.

I know that the European Union is trying hard to put different ideas on the table, topics to discuss, keep up the momentum…. The negotiations are very difficult and I know that the EU is doing the best it can. Serbia and Kosovo should bear that in mind, he said. The ambassador said that the issues are not easy and called for understanding but warned that “We should not be held hostage” by them but look forward.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/us-ambassador-says-serbia-should-think-again-about-russia/

Vucic: I told Murphy I would decide in 60 days but not on sanctions on Russia

April 30, 2022

President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic said that the US Senator Chris Murphy accurately conveyed his words in his blog post about making a decision in 60 days, but he added that this did not refer to introducing of sanctions on Russia.

“Call me in sixty days. Check to see if I’ve done what I am telling you I will do,” the senator quoted Vucic as saying at the end of their meeting in Belgrade.

Answering the questions of the journalists after the military exercise „Shield 2022“ on Saturday, Vucic explained that that part of the conversation „concerned a specific project“, but he did not want to say what kind of project it was.

"I reckon that you would be the happiest if I imposed sanctions on Russia, because all those you supported, you and your owner, want that," Vucic told N1's reporter and said that his questions made no sense.

When it comes to mines produced in Serbia that were seen at the Ukrainian battlefield, Vucic said that the mines were delivered earlier, before the war broke out.

"Do you want to ban us from producing mines and weapons, it is not the production of ballet shoes, it is weapons, I do not understand what you want from us, what you are passing on to us, is it that we are the only country that does not arm anyone, what is the meaning of this issue,” the president told reporters.

Vucic also noted that he, as the president, will make decisions in the interest of Serbia in the next five years.

"I really care about the Americans, I really care about the Russians and Europeans, even if I were left all alone in the world, I would only work for the benefit of my country," said Vucic.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-i-told-murphy-i-would-decide-in-60-days-but-not-on-sanctions-on-russia/

Vucic, Kurti invited to Berlin

May 2, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has invited Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to Berlin for separate meetings on Wednesday.

Scholz will meet with European Union envoy for the Western Balkans Miroslav Lajcak before meeting Vucic and Kurti, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said adding that Lajcak will have an informal meeting with the top officials from Belgrade and Pristina after meeting the German Chancellor.

Germany’s Chancellor Scholz has invited President Vucic and Prime Minister Kurti to Berlin on May 4 for special bilateral meetings, Stano said. He added tha Lajcak will meet the chancellor and have a separate informal meeting with Vucic and Kurti later.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-kurti-invited-to-berlin/

Vulin: Russian center in Serbia justified

April 29, 2022

Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that Russian Humanitarian Center in the southern city of Nis justified its existence.

According to Vulin, the center justified its existence through its “noble activities” even though “the unique center in the Balkans was under attacked many times, even though many people wanted to misues the humanitarian center for political battle against Serbia and Russia”.

A ministry press release on the 10th anniversary of the founding of the center said that Vulin told Russian Civil Protection Minister Alexander Chuprian in a video conference that the center “showed its full meaning during the hardest times for Serbia and the Serbian people during the catastrophic floods of 2014 and during the coronavoris pandemic”. The center has been named by officials in other Western Balkan and European Union countries as a Russian spy center which Moscow allegedly uses to increase its influence in the region.

“Serbia deeply appreciates all aid and support” provided by the Russian ministry in emergency situations, he is quoted as saying.

The press release quoted Chuprian as saying that his ministry will “continue developing and promoting the Serbia-Russia Humanitarian Center”. “The Russian Federation will, as it has to date, always be prepared to provide aid and support to Serbia in emergency situations,” it said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vulin-russian-center-in-serbia-justified/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 4 deaths, 817 new cases

April 28, 2022
The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Thursday that 4 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 15,980.
It said that 10,046 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 817 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,471,803 with 2,005,072 confirmed cases.
The bulletin said that there are 406 hospitalized cases, including 25 patients on ventilators.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-4-deaths-817-new-cases/

BiH Victims’ associations concerned about works at site of wartime killings

April 29, 2022
Victims' associations in Bosnia are worried about a project by local authorities in Bratunac to reconstruct the halls of the Kravica Agricultural Cooperative which were used for the detention and execution of 1,300 Bosniaks as part of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide.
N1 visited the site where the works have already started and a sign that says “Rehabilitation and reconstruction of four halls in MZ Kravica, municipality of Bratunac” was erected. The investor in the project is the company Mark-Milex from Srebrenica and the deadline for the execution of works is 90 days, starting in April.
According to the director of the Srebrenica Memorial Centre, Emir Suljagic, the site should still be considered a crime scene.
“On an order of the mayor of Bratunac, Srdjan Rankic, the rehabilitation of the Agricultural Warehouse in Kravica began, where 1,300 civilians, men and boys from the Srebrenica enclave were killed on July 13, 1995. This is still a crime scene until the Prosecutor's Office of BiH says otherwise,” he wrote on social media.
The head of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves Movement, Munira Subasic, told N1 that the plan of the Bratunac municipality represents “a direct intervention in a crime scene”, adding that her youngest son was among the 1,313 Bosniaks who were killed there.
She pointed out that the remains of those killed in this area were never found in their entirety because the remains were moved from one mass grave to another.
“One mass grave was found on Budak where a bone belonging to my son was found, and another one of his bones was found 25 km away,” she said, arguing that disturbing the crime scene represents a new crime.
“This was not just an ordinary crime. To end so many lives, those of young people, older people, middle-aged people in one day and in one moment. This was a collection centre. They took people from Potocari. My son was taken from Potocari. Then, on July 13, 1995, the shooting took place,” she said.
She said that now, instead of repenting after 27 years and realising what took place, “they are trying to hide their crime.”
However, she pointed out that there is no way to hide those crimes.
“Not all Serbs are guilty of the genocide in Srebrenica, but they must feel shame for what their representatives did. What they are doing now, I think, is being done out of spite,” she said.
“It is not easy for them to pass by those halls either. How could that government allow something to be built and worked on there? Who would be willing to feed their children in those halls?” she asked.
She reminded that authorities rejected a request by victims’ associations to officially declare Kravica a site of an atrocity.
Meanwhile, the BiH Prosecutor’s Office told N1 that several investigations have been conducted at the site, both in the cases investigated International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the BiH Prosecutor's Office, in order to provide the evidence needed for the cases that have been brought to court and that process was completed.
“The Prosecutor's Office of BiH is an institution of criminal prosecution and has no authority regarding property and legal relations related to facilities and locations where war crimes were committed, both in the area of Srebrenica and its surroundings and in other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the Prosecutor's Office said.
The institution noted that it does not have the authority to decide on granting a certain location the status of a memorial site or similar forms of protection.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/victims-associations-concerned-about-planned-works-at-site-of-wartime-killings/

US Sen. Murphy concerned about stability of BiH after meeting with Presidency

April 28, 2022
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy described his observations during a meeting with the three members of Bosnia’s Presidency in Sarajevo last week, noting that he and his colleagues left the meeting “deeply concerned about the short-term stability of this important country.”
BiH Presidency members Sefik Dzaferovic, Zeljko Komsic and Milorad Dodik met with US Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Murphy, Thom Tillis and US Ambassador Michael Murphy last week.
Senator Murphy noted on his blog later that this was his first trip to Sarajevo, which he called “one of the most magical Balkan cities”.
“Nestled in a small valley in the Dinaric Alps, Sarajevo is a spellbinding mix of Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman architecture, representing the two cultures that continue to pull at this international city. Moving through the city, you can see the evidence of its violent and recent past. Bullet holes dot the city’s main thoroughfare, nicknamed “Sniper Alley” because it was lined with Serb sniper posts which fired on city-dwelling Bosniaks as they traversed the besieged city”, the described BiH’s capital.
As soon as the senators arrived, they were on their way to meet with the three members of Bosnia’s Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, Milorad Dodik and Sefik Dzaferovic.
“Our excellent Ambassador, Michael Murphy, hurriedly briefed us in the van ride from the airport, and we strategized with him about how to approach the meeting”, Murphy wrote.
He then explained the power-sharing system in BiH which includes a tripartite Presidency, with each member representing one of the three dominant ethnic groups in the country.
He explained that, “for a while, the three presidents begrudgingly found the compromise necessary to keep the new nation running”, but that lately, mostly due to the “obstinance and separatist rhetoric” of Bosnian Serb Presidency member, Milorad Dodik, “the tripartite executive branch has lurched into crisis, unable to make any decisions”.
“As a result, Dodik, backed by Russia, has begun to make plans to set up his own Serb-only government institutions. This could lead to civil war and disaster for the region — exactly the kind of chaos that Putin would root for and foment”, Murphy warned.
“Our preparation for the meeting mattered little. From the jump, Dodik and the Croat and Bosniak leaders were more interested in arguing with each other than having an actual dialogue with us. We sat with our mouths agape as they lobbed insults and aired grievances, clearly interested only in exacerbating the existing crisis”, he described the meeting.
“We tried our best to explain to them how America has long struggled with the same issues Bosnia wrestles with — both our nations are multicultural with power-sharing between a strong national government and strong state governments. But they were barely listening to us, and we left the meeting deeply concerned about the short-term stability of this important country.”
Then, as the senators were preparing for a press conference, a U.S. embassy press officer mentioned “two sensitive topics” to raise in anticipation of questions from the local press.
“First, she flagged that the audio of the meeting introductions captured one of us saying to Dodik, who is the subject of U.S. sanctions, “Good to see you, President Dodik.” She was concerned about the connotation of suggesting it’s “good” to see someone on a U.S. sanctions list. We smiled and told her it wasn’t something to worry about”, he wrote.
“Second, she told us we might get a question about an allegation Dodik has made recently — that the U.S. and Britain are planning to kidnap him and lock him in a windowless basement. We laughed — and then realized that she was indeed serious”.
According to Murphy, Senator Tillis proposed that they should agree on a one-word answer to that question – “Absurd”.
“While in Serbia, our goal was to make diplomatic progress on goals important to the United States, here it was clear that our mission was going to be mostly one of fact-finding. Senator Shaheen, Senator Tillis, and I spent the rest of our trip discussing the implications of our meeting with the presidents and our other engagements in Sarajevo, and started to plot a strategy for how Congress could address the growing stability crisis in Bosnia”, Murphy wrote.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-sen-murphy-concerned-about-stability-of-bih-after-meeting-with-presidency/

Orthodox Christian organises Ramadan feast for Muslims in Bosnia

April 28, 2022
A few days ago, an Orthodox Christian man in Bosnia who wants his identity to remain unknown organised and paid for an iftar feast for some 100 people in the town of Cazin, local media reported.
Muslims spend their days fasting throughout the month of Ramadan, which this year lasts from April 1 through May 1. They break their fast with a meal, Iftar, in the evening after sunset.
This is also the case for the Muslims in Bosnia, who are one of the three religious majorities in the country. Members of the three majority religious groups, Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians have been living together in the country for centuries and often celebrate their holidays together still to this day.
According to the “Cazin” web portal, an example of this could recently be seen in the northwestern town of Cazin.
Some 100 Muslims broke their fast at a local restaurant. The feast was organised and paid for by an Orthodox Christian young man from the town of Bijeljina who wants to remain anonymous.
The same person has organised such feasts for Muslims before but never wanted the public to know his identity.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/orthodox-christian-organises-ramadan-feast-for-muslims-in-bosnia/

Montenegro gets new government

April 28, 2022
Montenegro's parliament on Thursday elected a new government led by Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic, the first minority government in the country's history.
The new government has four deputy prime ministers and 18 ministries. It consists of Abazovic's United Reform Action party, the Social Democratic Party, the pro-Serbian Socialist People's Party and the parties representing the Croatian and Bosniak minorities.
President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists supported the new government but has no representatives in it.
Abazovic said in his address that the new government would be based on two main pillars – the rule of law and economic development, and would focus on combating corruption and promoting investment, EU integration, sustainable development and environmental protection, and the wellbeing of children and young people.
He said that Russia's military invasion of Ukraine had opened up new prospects for Montenegro. “I believe that Montenegro can apply for fast-track admission to the EU, which is our most important goal,” Abazovic said.
Abazovic, an ethnic Albanian, is the first prime minister of Montenegro coming from an ethnic minority.
Under the coalition agreement, the minority government is to run the country for a year, until an early parliamentary election.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/montenegro-gets-new-government/

Bosnia's Grand Mufti warns against the destruction of the site of genocide

April 28, 2022
On the occasion of the news that the Mayor of Bratunac, Srdjan Rankic, ordered the reconstruction of the Agricultural Cooperative Kravica, the Grand Mufti of the Islamic Community (IZ) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Husein Kavazovic sent a letter to domestic and international officials in which he warned that it was a matter of removing traces of the crime of genocide, ie evidence for its commission.
He sent the letter to the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt, the UN, and the Ambassadors of the United States, Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands to our country.
He also sent a letter to the President of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Zeljka Cvijanovic, the Vice President of the RS, Ramiz Salkic, and the President of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ranko Debevec.
"This means that the location of the shooting of over 1,300 civilians, where traces of human execution are still clearly visible, will be destroyed along with all materials and items directly related to the genocide. This site represents the place of the greatest suffering of Bosniaks in the genocide in Srebrenica in terms of the number of victims," Kavazovic said and added that traces of crimes are still visible "on the walls of the agricultural cooperative – traces of shrapnel and bullets that ended the lives of Podrinje Bosniaks."
He reiterated that the Agricultural Cooperative Kravica is in the public ownership of the Municipality and that the families of the victims have been prevented from accessing this site several times to mark this execution site in an adequate way.
He called on the authorities of the RS entity to prevent the announced "reconstruction" in the Municipality of Bratunac, but also to refrain from such moves in the future because they are damaging interethnic and interreligious relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Source: https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnias-grand-mufti-warns-against-the-destruction-of-the-site-of-genocide/

Dodik refutes US diplomat's claims that RS entity wants to dismantle Bosnia

April 28, 2022
Bosnian Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik refuted the statement by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried Thursday, in which she said that "the United States will not sit idly while the current leadership of the Republika Srpska entity seeks to dismantle State institutions."
“Karen Donfried's statement that the leadership of the Republika Srpska wants to dismantle BiH is false. We respect the Constitution that BiH is composed of two entities and three constituent peoples. Everything that has been done outside the Constitution must be a matter of discussion. There is no plan or document to substantiate these claims,” Dodik said on his personal Twitter account.
Dodik said that he was sorry that there were different interpretations of the meeting, and that those interpretations were full of speculation.
“It’s true that I stated at the meeting and after that that the RS respects the territorial integrity and international sovereignty of BiH and the Constitution of BiH. The RS has the right to obtain all its powers under the Constitution. It’s worrying that someone from such a high level is ready to interpret the meeting in a way that didn’t happen. That is not true and it does not stand. The RS does not have any plan or document that would confirm her ( Donfried’s) claims, which she picked up in political Sarajevo and received from her associates who have been working against the interests of the RS for years,” said Dodik.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dodik-refutes-us-diplomats-claims-that-rs-entity-wants-to-dismantle-bosnia/

Bosnian authorities suspend construction of new mini-hydroelectric power plants

April 28, 2022
Bosnia and Herzegovina's authorities have decided to suspend the issuance of licences for the construction of small hydroelectric power plants following a number of campaigns launched by domestic and international environmental groups.
The decision, taken on Thursday by the government of the country's Bosniak-Croat Federation entity, will not apply to projects already underway or those for which licences have been issued. The government will amend the law to stop the construction of new mini-hydro electric power plants following the adoption of a declaration on the protection of rivers.
In the last few years, citizens have prevented the construction of mini-hydro electric power plants on several small rivers. They were supported by US Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who wrote twice to the prime minister of the Federation, Fadil Novalic, asking him to stop the implementation of energy projects and save the rivers.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnian-authorities-suspend-construction-of-new-mini-hydroelectric-power-plants/

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