International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Presidents of Slovenia and Montenegro push for ‘new momentum’ in EU enlargement

May 6, 2021

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and his visiting Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor on Wednesday met in Podgorica to discuss the further enlargement of the European Union to include western Balkan aspirants, Croatian state agency Hina reported.

Pahor, who visited Montenegro within his tour ahead of the Brdo-Brijuni Summit Meeting scheduled for 17 May in Slovenia, said that the process of the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans reached a standstill.

He went on to say that it was now his duty, together with his colleagues from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania and in cooperation with the EU institutions, to find fresh ideas for a renewed strategy for faster enlargement.

“This is not an easy task,” he admitted in Podgorica.

Djukanovic said that he and Pahor shared similar views on the process of the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/presidents-of-slovenia-and-montenegro-push-for-new-momentum-in-eu-enlargement/

MFRR: Safety of Serbia’s journalists increasingly worrying

May 6, 2021

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) platform said on Thursday its online international Mission in January and February assessing media freedom and journalists' safety in Serbia showed the latter was increasingly worrying.

The report said that public officials and the police in Serbia were included in the attacks on journalists and media workers.

It listed the cases of police brutality during the July 2020 protests and „the arrest of journalist Ana Lalic, for her reporting on inadequate medical equipment in the (Serbia’s northern city) Novi Sad hospital“ as those causing concern.

The Mission added that cases in which politicians and state officials openly threatened journalists, targeting them and defining them as „enemies of the state“ or „traitors“ were particularly worrying.

„This behavior seems to justify and encourage threats, coordinated online harassment, and even physical violence. For example, during a recent smear campaign led by pro-government tabloids against the independent investigative website KRIK, falsely accusing it of cooperating with a criminal organization,“ MFRR said.

It added that „journalists working in small towns and remote areas are even more vulnerable than those in Belgrade and Novi Sad because they are unable to adequately assess the pressure their work suffers and are less encouraged to report cases to the police.“

One of the key findings in the report said: „This aspect of the lack of specific attention of the state should be urgently addressed. The state should pay attention to the position of local journalists who are endangered. Journalists have a very low level of trust in the police and the justice system. It is common for journalists not to report cases of attacks in which they were targeted to the police because there is no confidence that an independent and efficient investigation will be conducted in connection with the attacks. Also, the judiciary often rejects cases of violence or intimidation of journalists, allegedly because there is no evidence of the intention to harm has not been determined.“

„The Media Freedom Platform quickly responded with concern that there are cases in which the state interferes in the media market because it allocates public funds to media that violate the ethical principles of journalism. The interference of the state in media ownership is also worrying,“ the report said.

It also mentioned that N1 recently published a document on a commercial contract between Telekom, a publicly owned company, and Telenor Serbia, a part of the Czech PPR group, revealing that their commercial merger intended to „destroy SBB“ United Group, which owns two television companies, cable channels N1 and Nova S.

The report recalled that after the publication of this document, Telenor filed a lawsuit against N1 and claimed $ 1,140,394, or almost one million Euros, in damages.

„If Serbia wants to move towards full democracy and EU accession, it should formally create a favorable environment for free and independent media and guarantee its implementation. There has been minimal progress on media freedom, which can even be defined as regression in access to information. In addition, for the Media Freedom platform, a quick response is very important to look at cases where public officials actively contribute to the polarization of the media environment, demonizing independent media through direct verbal attacks or the use of pro-government tabloids.

Even though the Serbian government is generally committed to protecting journalists and media freedom by establishing, for example, numerous mechanisms aimed at improving the safety of media workers, there is often no strong political will or action behind it, the MFRR report said.

The mission is headed by Article 19 organization in cooperation with the Independent Union of Serbia’s Journalists (NUNS) joined by the MFRR partners: International Press Institute (IPI), European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT).

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/mfrr-safety-of-serbias-journalists-increasingly-worrying/

Preparatory hearing for 2nd indictment for marijuana growing in Serbia postponed

May 6, 2021

The preparatory hearing in the Jovanjica marijuana plant in northern Serbia second indictment was postponed before the Belgrade Higher Court on Thursday due to the absence of defense lawyers.

The second Jovanjica indictment in the case of the largest cannabis plant in Europe covers some highly-ranked Interior Ministry (MUP) members, as well as members of the state security agency (BIA) and military security agency (VBA), who the indictment accuses of guarding Predrag Koluvija, the owner of the plant and main defendant in the case, and his business.

The VBA member covered by the indictment is at large, believed to be in the US.

After an hour of waiting on Thursday, a judge had to postpone the hearing since only one of Koluvija’s lawyers appeared, while none of the defense attorneys for the three other defendants hadn’t come and did not sent any explanation of the absence.

It is not known how many hearings will be held during the procedure before the main trial can start.

After the hearings are over, the judge will decide whether to join both indictments what the prosecutor asks for, fearing obstructions and protraction.

The European Parliament (EP) mentioned the Jovanjica case in its report on Serbia as among high-profile affairs in the country which the regime did not deal with appropriately.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/preparatory-hearing-for-2nd-indictment-for-marijuana-growing-in-serbia-postponed/

EU’s Lajčák: Kosovo’s agreement with Serbia brings Pristina candidate status

May 6, 2021

The European Union’s Envoy for the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalization of relations said on Thursday that an agreement with Serbia would bring Kosovo an EU candidate country status.

“Without any doubt, success in the dialogue means Kosovo will become a candidate for the EU membership. Pristina recorded a series of concrete results,” Lajčák said.

Speaking to Klan Kosovo, he listed those results as Kosovo’s regional presentation, tax collection, police and judiciary integration with the north (a part populated by a Serb majority), adding there were other examples.

Jehona Lusaku – Sadriu, an expert in the European integration, however, warned that without the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by all 27 bloc member states, Kosovo would hardly get the candidate status.

So far, 22 EU member states have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, while five, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia, have refused to do that.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/eus-lajcak-kosovos-agreement-with-serbia-brings-pristina-candidate-status/

Serbia’s Commissioner instructs SNS to apologize to journalist for Facebook post

May 6, 2021

Brankica Jankovic, Serbia's Commissioner for Protection of Equality, instructed a local Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) branch to apologize in a letter to a website's editor for insulting and humiliating him on its official Facebook page.

Jankovic said the ruling SNS branch in the southern Vranje town insults violated the Law banning discrimination and instructed the branch to avoid such an attitude in the future.

The insults on Sasa Stojkovic, the editor-in-chief of Vranjske Info website posted on local SNS’ Facebook page included: „illiterate, evil, ugly…,“ „you are engaged in pig farming „,“ immobile sloth „,“ pig journalism „,“ write, sit, stink, eat …“

Jankovic said such insults were in contrast to anti-discrimination regulations since they „are offending and humiliating, violating Sasa Stojkovic’s dignity based on personal characteristics, physical appearance and health condition.“

She added that the post created a hostile, humiliating and insulting environment.

If the local Vranje SNS board fails to apologize within 30 days, a warning will be imposed, and if that is ignored, the Commissioner can inform the public about it.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbias-commissioner-instructs-sns-to-apologise-to-journalist-for-facebook-post/

SPAS leader’s political turn: Merger with Serbia’s ruling party isn’t trade

May 6, 2021

The head of the Serbian Patriotic Alliance (SPAS), Aleksandar Sapic denied on Thursday the idea of his organization’s unification with President Aleksandar Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) was a matter of political trade.

A few years ago, Sapic, was publicly proud of his election victory over the list headed by Vucic in the municipal vote in New Belgrade.

“I’m the only politician who headed an election list which won over Vucic’s candidates,” he told the Belgrade independent New Magazine weekly in an interview.

He also complained about pressure on his voters, saying, “who doesn’t know to dribble, breaks legs.”

The first obvious shift in his politics was the decision to participate in the 2020 general elections, despite describing his party as an opposition to the ruling coalition, thus distancing himself from the rest of Vucic’s political opponents who boycotted the ballot claiming unfair conditions.

Thanks to reducing the election threshold from five to three percent, SPAS entered the Parliament ]with just over four percent of the votes.

He has refused to take part in the current European Parliament (EP) mediated inter-party dialogue on election’s conditions aimed to make it possible that the opposition to participate in the 2022 ballot, saying no foreigners should interfere with domestic politics.

Once the best water polo player in the world who scored 2,675  goals in the career, and then long-time head of New Belgrade municipality, Sapic, 42,  said on Thursday that the idea of the merger with SNS had existed for a while and that he and Vucic had talked about it before.

“It’s now on a higher level. I assume that within the next month we’ll know more. I expect we’ll strike a deal and become one organization, Sapic told TV Vesti.

Denying the unification was a matter of political trade, he said it was essential that “in politics, the cooperation with some people and organizations is based on common policies, stands and views about key issues. If we hadn’t had similar and sometimes identical views about important state’s issues, this would not have happened.”

Sapic was reluctant in confirming he would run for the Mayor of Belgrade, adding he had been in local politics for 11 years.

“It will soon be a decade since I have been running the most populated and most advanced municipality in Serbia… There will be a logic behind my candidacy for the mayor next year, but politics is unpredictable,” Sapic said.

Analysts believe Vucic’s idea about taking Sapic’s SPAS under his wing was an attempt to raise SNS chance of winning in Belgrade local elections in 2022, particularly because his party doesn’t have a real candidate for the Mayor since even his voters in the capital dislike the main city’s officials.

On Wednesday, Vucic said SNS was sure to lose the vote in the capital. He predicted that ahead of the last local ballot, too, only to win even in the traditionally democrats-ruled municipality in Belgrade.

In the first reactions to Sapic’s decision, some journalists said he was likely to lose the support of some of his New Belgrade voters after deciding to become a part of  SNS.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/spas-leaders-political-turn-merger-with-serbias-ruling-party-isnt-trade/

Coronavirus: Croatia reports 2,494 new cases, 51 deaths

May 5, 2021

Croatia has registered 2,494 new coronavirus cases and 51 Covid-related deaths in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team reported on Wednesday.

The number of active cases currently stands at 12,135. Among them are 2,123 infected people receiving hospital treatment, of whom 246 are on ventilators.

Since 25 February 2020, when the first case was confirmed in the country, 339,412 people have been registered as having contracted the novel virus, of whom 7,315 have died and 319,962 have recovered, including 1,341 in the last 24 hours. Currently, 28,581 people are in self-isolation.

A total of 1,846,554 people have been tested for coronavirus to date, including 10,446 in the last 24 hours.

As of 4 May, 944,398 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered, with 734,556 people receiving the first dose and 209,842 receiving both doses.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-croatia-reports-2494-new-cases-51-deaths/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 22 deaths, 1,402 new cases

May 5, 2021

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Wednesday that 22 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 6,478.

It said that 12,647 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 1,402 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 3,881,861 with 695,875 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 4,113 hospitalized cases, including 145 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-22-deaths-1402-new-cases/

Bosnia confirms 418 more coronavirus cases, 23 fatalities

May 5, 2021

Bosnia and Herzegovina has confirmed another 418 coronavirus cases and 23 fatalities among COVID patients, the healthcare authorities said on Wednesday.

The new results came from 3,485 lab tests performed on the samples of those who reported infection symptoms.

Bosnia's Federation entity has so far confirmed 131,263 coronavirus cases out of 636,500 those who tested for the virus presence. The total of 114,669 COVID patients has recovered. The region's death toll stands at 4,998.

As for Republika Srpska entity, its healthcare authorities confirmed the total of 62,225 patients out of 259,934 persons tested for the virus infection. The total of 43,128 patients have recovered and 3,438 died.

Brcko District reported the total of 6,393 cases since the epidemic outbreak and 300 fatalities. The total of 4,476 patients has recovered.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-confirms-418-more-coronavirus-cases-23-fatalities/

Coronavirus on May 5: Montenegro

May 5, 2021

The Montenegrin Public Health Institute said that 5 people died of coronavirus-related ailments in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,521 since the pandemic broke out.

It said that 1,287 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 117 who tested positive. There are 2,050 active cases. Another 147 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-may-5-2021/

Coronavirus on May 5: Kosovo

May 5, 2021

The health authorities in Pristina said that 4 people died of coronavirus-related ailments in Kosovo in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,195 since the pandemic broke out.

It said that 1,474 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 153 who tested positive. There are 7,347 active cases. Another 310 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-may-5-2021/

Coronavirus on May 5: North Macedonia

May 5, 2021

The North Macedonia Public Health Institute said that 24 people died of coronavirus-related ailments in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 5,016 since the pandemic broke out.

It said that 2,928 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 323 who tested positive. There are 12,754 active cases. Another 714 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-may-5-2021/

China's donation of 80,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine arrives in BiH's RS entity

May 5, 2021

The largest vaccine donation to Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity so far, 80,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, has arrived in the city of Banja Luka on Thursday.

China’ ambassador In Bosnia, Ji Ping, handed the donation to RS Prime Minister, Radovan Vikovic.

Viskovic said that the RS is also conducting talks with Russia in order to acquire more Sputnik V vaccines.

“We sent all the necessary documentation. At least 200,000, but maybe 300,000 doses will arrive in May, which will help accelerate the vaccination process and protect the health of citizens,” he said.

Viskovic thanked the Chinese ambassador for the vaccines, as well as for a number of PCR tests that accompanied the donation.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/chinas-donation-of-80000-doses-of-sinopharm-vaccine-arrives-in-bihs-rs-entity/

Thirteen anesthesiologists leave Sarajevo University Clinical Center in one day

May 5, 2021

Thirteen anesthesiologists have quit their jobs at the Sarajevo University Clinical Center (KCUS) on Wednesday citing bad working conditions but the Sarajevo Canton (KS) Prime Minister said at a press conference that they all will be employed by another hospital in the city.

The doctors worked mostly with COVID-19 patients at the KCUS which treats patients from other regions in the country.

According to KS Prime Minister, Edin Forto, the anesthesiologists decided to quit due to the working conditions at KCUS, which is under the competencies of the government of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity.

“The KS government demands from the FBiH government to urgently dismiss the KCUS leadership. We decided to do so because we have information that more people are considering leaving (KCUS),” Forto said.

If the problem is the working conditions in the institution, then those responsible for it are the FBiH Health Minister, the FBiH Government, the board of directors and the management of KCUS, he said.

Forto said the Dr. Abdulah Nakas hospital, which is under the competencies of the KS Government, will take over the 13 doctors and that funds for their salaries will be secured.

KS Health Minister, Haris Vranic, pointed out that some 160 doctors have left the KCUS so far and that problems of such nature are an ongoing issue there.

The Health Minister of Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Federation (FBiH) entity, Vjekoslav Mandic, said he will request a report from the management of the institution on the circumstances that led to the anesthesiologists to leave the health institution.

Renowned infectologist Bakir Nakas told N1 that he believes the move of the anesthesiologists is the result of an “autocratic system” in the institution.

This was a difficult move to make for the doctors, he noted, arguing that “they were surely led to a situation in which they could not be certain regarding their working conditions.”

The KCUS issued a statement as well, saying that it is “surprising” that the doctors decided to quit after the institution “began solving the problems” they had pointed out in a letter to the management.

“If their lawyer's claim that the decision to leave KCUS was “made a long time ago, a month ago” is correct, then it could be concluded that the internal letter that the anesthesiologists wrote at the time, and which reached the public, was only media preparation for this move,” the statement said.

It also said that the lawyer argued the doctors began contacting him after an investigation into the conditions at the institution was initiated by prosecutors, primarily in relation to allegations that ventilators that are not suitable for treating COVID-19 patients are being used at KCUS on patients.

According to the KCUS statement, there is the possibility that the 13 doctors could have been inappropriately pressured by prosecutors related to the case.

The fact that the doctors did not announce their move to the public themselves, but that the KS Health Minister did it, also indicates that the entire affair is “obviously a planned political-media action with well-known actors, seen many times before,” the statement said.

“The goal of all this is not to take care of patients and their health, but the political battle between the ruling coalition in Sarajevo Canton and the management and doctors of KCUS, which will obviously continue,” it said.

The KCUS will continue working as normal despite the doctors leaving as it has the capacities to do so, it said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/thirteen-anesthesiologists-leave-sarajevo-university-clinical-center-in-one-day/

Wartime Presidency member: BiH won't fall apart but also won't be functional

May 5, 2021

Bosnia and Herzegovina will not fall apart, but it will also not become a functional state as it is deeply divided within, wartime member of Bosnia’s Presidency and former leader of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) in the country, Stjepan Kljuic, told N1 on Wednesday.

Kljuic commented on the idea of a “peaceful separation” of Bosnia’s two semi-autonomous entities, the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation (FBiH), shared mostly between Bosniaks and Croats.

Although political leadership in the RS, most notably the leader of the ruling party in the entity and current Chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, has been advocating for the RS to secede for years, the topic of a “peaceful separation” has come into focus following the publication of a controversial non-paper which proposes redrawing borders in the Western Balkans.

The international community would not allow the country to fall apart “the way Dodik wants it,” Kljujic said, but added that Bosnia will remain “handicapped in regard to everything in the region,” adding that this is the reason that so many people are leaving the country.

According to Kljuic, Dodik is “impatient” and “wants fame.”

“But fame is relative,” he noted, arguing that former wartime RS President Radovan Karadzic, who was convicted of war crimes and is now serving life in prison “was the most famous of all.”

“Nobody will touch Bosnia, but it is internally divided and robbed. Bosnia has been betrayed from within,” Kljuic said.

“The internal enemies are immoral, they steal and they have no dignity,” he said, arguing that it is “the tragedy of Bosnia and Herzegovina” is that officials are never punished for their crimes.

Kljuic said that the counterintelligence service of the Yugoslav People's Army, KOS, is still active in some ways.

“There are these older generations, but there are also their children. They are interconnected, it’s a clan,” he said.

Source:   https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/wartime-presidency-member-bih-wont-fall-apart-but-also-wont-be-functional/

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