International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

North Macedonia wants Serbia’s Torlak Institute as strategic partner

April 16, 2021

Venko Filipce, North Macedonia’s Health Minister, said on Friday he would visit Serbia next week to discuss a strategic partnership in vaccines procurement with the Torlak Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera.

He told reporters in Skopje he would meet Serbia’s Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar and Torlak’s director to discuss the partnership. Torlak has started producing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

“We will talk about future needs since the pandemic is unpredictable, and we cannot foresee its development. I believe that the strategic partnership with Torlak is the most logical move,” Filipce said.

A significant number of vaccines that arrived in North Macedonia was Serbia’s donation to the neighboring country.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/north-macedonia-wants-serbias-torlak-institute-as-strategic-partner/

Doctor says Serbia was not part of coronavirus vaccine tests

April 16, 2021

Serbian government pandemic response team member Dr Predrag Kon said on Friday that Serbia did not take part in testing coronavirus vaccines.

Asked to comment Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar’s statement that Serbia received vaccines before others because it was included in tests, Kon said that he “knows that there was no testing in Serbia”.

Speaking after the response team meeting, Kon confirmed that regular classes would resume in schools as on Monday, April 19. He said that the response team also decided to charge Serbian nationals and foreigners the same for PCR tests when entering the country in a move designed to help the tourism industry recover. “A decision was taken that the Belgrade Marathon can start preparations but that the marathon depends on developments,” he said. The Belgrade Marathon is scheduled to take place in June.

Kon said that the meeting discussed the possible easing of measures to allow cafes and restaurants to open indoors but that no decision was taken and that the response team did not discuss the coming Orthodox Easter holidays and possible measures. “We will appeal to everyone to avoid contacts,” he said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/doctor-says-serbia-was-not-part-of-coronavirus-vaccine-tests/

Dzaferovic, Izetbegovic: Ahmici massacre must never be forgotten

April 16, 2021

We will never forget what happened in BiH in the period 1992-1995 and in Ahmici on this day 28 years ago. This must not be forgotten, because forgetfulness is dangerous, and it can lead to a recurrence of crimes, said the Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, Friday, marking the 28th anniversary of the massacre of Bosniak civilians in Ahmici near Vitez.

“Today we remember and pay tribute to all 116 brutally killed civilians in Ahmici. We will never forget what happened in BiH in the period 1992-1995 and in Ahmici on this day 28 years ago. We will always remember it, and pass it on to younger generations. This must not be forgotten, because forgetfulness is dangerous, forgetting can lead to the recurrence of crimes,” Dzaferovic said.

The head of the strongest Bosniak party, centre-right Democratic Action Party (SDA) Bakir Izetbegovic also attended the ceremony saying that genocide was committed in this place.

“Twenty-eight years ago, genocide was committed here against the inhabitants of Ahmici. The goal was to completely destroy, to kill to the last soul, every inhabitant of Ahmici, from a three-month-old child, through children of a couple of years of age, to women and civilians,” said Izetbegovic.

He pointed out that “in order for such things not to be repeated, those who devised this, who committed it, must be punished accordingly.”

In a symbolic ceremony, among a small number of representatives of political and religious life in BiH, in Ahmici near Vitez, participants marked the 28th anniversary of the massacre of Bosniak civilians in that village.

In the early morning hours of April 16, 1993, special forces of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), Jokers and Maturice, attacked the village of Ahmici. The call to prayer, the morning prayer of the Muslims, was a sign of attack.

A total of 116 Bosniak civilians were killed, and the youngest victim in Ahmici was a three-month-old baby.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has ruled that the killings in Ahmici were crimes against humanity. One of the HVO commanders, Dario Kordic, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Zoran, Mirjan, and Vlatko Kupreskic were sentenced to six to ten years in prison for participating in the massacres, but were acquitted in 2001.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dzaferovic-izetbegovic-ahmici-massacre-must-never-be-forgotten/

Bilčík: No shortcuts for Western Balkans’ road to EU

April 16, 2021

Vladímir Bilčík, a member of the European Parliament (EP), said the Western Balkans’ future was realistic through reforms and that there were no shortcuts.

„The change of borders and territory swap is a dangerous path to the explosive past,“ Bilčík has written on his Twitter account commenting media speculations about an alleged non-paper about border changes in the Western Balkans attributed to the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/bilcik-no-shortcuts-for-western-balkans-road-to-eu/

The Hague judge demands Serbia be reported to UN for not arresting two Radicals

April 16, 2021

Judge Liu Daqun of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), asked on Friday Carmel Agius, the President of the Hague Court to report Serbia to the UN Security Council for refusing to arrest two officials of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) who the Court charged with contempt.

Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta were accused in October 2012 of influencing witnesses in the Hague trial against their party leader Vojislav Seselj by threatening, blackmailing and bribing them to change statements or not to testify.

Seselj was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to ten years in prison which had already spent in custody.

Daqun, also an acting judge in the Appeals Chamber for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said that by refusing to apprehend the two, Serbia violated its obligation to cooperate with the Hague Court.

The President of the Court had already reported Belgrade to the UN SC for ignoring the order in 2015.

Besides, judge Daqun said that in the last two years, Serbia had been neglecting two new arrest warrants for Jojic and Radeta issued in May 2019 and in December 2020.

Belgrade has been refusing to arrest and extradite the two, saying the local Law on Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal obliged the authorities to do that only in case of war crimes charges and not those accused of contempt.

The Hague Court rejected the explanation, arguing Serbia had to act in the same way regardless of charges, „as it did before.“

Serbia’s authorities said they were ready to put the two on trial at home.

After the closing of ICTY, its legal successor IRMCT ruled in 2017 to hand over Radicals’ trial to Serbia.

However, following an investigation into the safety of the witnesses against the two, judge Dequn in 2019 reversed the decision, ordering their arrest and extradition to The Hague.

He said potential witnesses’ „unequivocally“ stated they would not testify if the trial were before Serbia’s courts because of „serious concern for their families and their safety.“

IRMCT rejected Serbia’s appeal in February 2020 and confirmed the Chinese judge Dequn ruling.

In July 2020, he called on Serbia to say if it would carry out the order, but Belgrade remained adamant in revoking the local court decision saying it was not obliged to arrest those charged with contempt.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/the-hague-judge-demand-serbia-to-reported-to-un-for-not-arresting-two-radicals/

Pavol Szalai: It is dangerous to be journalist in Balkans

April 16, 2021

Although the situation with press freedom in Europe is the best across the world, it is still dangerous to be a journalist in Europe and even more dangerous to be one in the Balkans, head of the EU/Balkans desk at the Reporters without Borders organization Pavol Szalai has warned.

Speaking to N1, Szalai said the problems with press freedom in the Balkans deteriorated during the pandemic with physical violence against journalists being the most serious among all those problems.

Among other cases, he mentioned the one of Bosnian journalist and human rights activist Nidzara Ahmetasevic, who was briefly detained by the police in March this year in what was assessed as “violent arrest”, which sparked condemnations of some activists, officials and international organizations.

Szalai said this journalist, who focuses on migration issues, was already arrested in the past arbitrarily and was a victim of online trolling.

“This is very serious and she has to be protected, not harassed by the police,” he added.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/pavol-szalai-it-is-dangerous-to-be-journalist-in-balkans/

Lavrov: ‘Greater Albania’ and Slovenian PM’s statements harmful provocations

April 16, 2021

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s statement that the break up of Yugoslavia is not over yet and the idea of Greater Albania are unacceptable and very harmful, provocations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a Friday press conference in Russia, after a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovic.

Dismissing the idea of redrawing of new borders in the former Yugoslavia territory, Lavrov said that the “Greater Albania,” as a form of a solution to the Kosovo issue, was unacceptable. He also called Janez Jansa’s statement that the breakup of Yugoslavia was not over, unacceptable and very harmful provocations.

“Talks of Greater Albania are nothing new. We’ve always called on our EU and NATO partners to dismiss such plans and not allow the spread of such rhetoric,” the Russian Foreign Minister said. “It’s a very dangerous game. The UN Resolution 1244 still exists and it has never been repealed. The responsible politicians, especially the heads of governments of European countries, have no right presenting ideas that undermine the very concept set out in Resolution 1244.”

He recalled that the Resolution respects Serbia’s sovereignty and that the status of Kosovo should be found in the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. “As President Putin said, we will support any solution that suits Serbia,” Lavrov said.

Serbia will not impose sanctions against friendly Russia

When asked whether Washington is pressuring Serbia to join the sanctions against Russia, Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said that “there is always pressure” but that Serbia’s position has not changed. Serbia “will never impose sanctions on Russia.”

“Russia is our strategic friend who’s constantly supported us,” Selakovic added before finishing his two-day visit to Russia.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/lavrov-greater-albania-and-slovenian-pms-statements-harmful-provocations/

BiH's Dzaferovic tells Slovenian PM any talk of BiH division must be stopped

April 16, 2021

During a telephone call with Bosnia's Bosniak Presidency member, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said that there is no non-paper that could be linked to the Slovenian Government and which would include the redrawing of borders or a threat to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Presidency said Friday.

Slovenian Prime Minister Jansa said that Slovenia supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as its Euro-Atlantic path, fully respecting the Dayton Peace Agreement.

BiH Presidency member Dzaferovic said that any talk about the ethnic and territorial division of BiH must be stopped immediately and that the only way for BiH is its further internal reintegration and Euro-Atlantic integration.

The two discussed Slovenia's presidency of the European Union in the coming period, as well as the upcoming European Union-Western Balkans Summit, which Slovenia will host.

The main topic of the Summit should be the acceleration of the integration of the Western Balkan countries into the European Union.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bihs-dzaferovic-tells-slovenian-pm-any-talk-of-bih-division-must-be-stopped/

Izetbegovic writes to Sassoli and Tusk regarding the non-paper document

April 16, 2021

The Leader of the Democratic Action Party (SDA) Bakir Izetbegovic wrote to the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and the leader of the European People's Party (EPP) Donald Tusk regarding "non-paper" documents that appeared in public, proposing a change of borders in the Western Balkans.

In his letters, Izetbegovic noted that the citizens of BiH, but also the entire region of the Western Balkans, are upset by a series of events that create the perception that a “peaceful dissolution” is just a mimicry for secessionism in certain circles within the European Union, which has long been advocated by the leader of the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) party in the country’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity, Milorad Dodik, with the support of certain circles outside BiH.

He added that, regardless of who is the author of the “non-paper,” and to whom and when the document was presented, it is clear that part of the right-wing and pro-fascist parties in Europe, which are under the obviously malign influence of forces outside Europe, are promoting topics mentioned in the document which are dangerous not just for Bosnia but the entire EU.

“Secessionist, pro-fascist, and as a rule of thumb Islamophobic movements and parties, which advocate the non-paper policies and theses, strike at the very foundations of the EU. What is happening at the moment is not only a problem for us in BiH or the region but also for the whole of the entire Europe, which is based on the principle of inviolability of state borders,” Izetbegovic pointed out.

“Therefore, I find it necessary that the European Parliament, as well as other EU institutions, once again clearly define the commitment to the principle of inviolability of borders throughout Europe, and provide full support to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its path to full EU membership. The secessionist and retrograde forces will interpret the absence of a decisive reaction as a weakening of the EU support for the territorial integrity of BiH and a form of support for their aspirations,” Izetbegovic wrote.

Covic: We need to implement reforms so we wouldn’t talk about the dissolution

Answering N1’s question to comment on the allegations from the non-papers, the leader of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) – the strongest Bosnian Croat party, Dragan Covic said that the non-paper is only that and that it does exist.

“It’s clear that something was written down somewhere, but is it exactly as it was presented to the public…? You also have the denials, so why speculate about something that no one has seen. We need to make reforms in BiH so as not to talk about the dissolution in BiH, because if we respect the Constitution, then everything is fine by my standards, and if something needs to be changed in the Constitution, then according to constitutional procedures we need to agree on how to change it,” Covic said

He also said that chances for a constitutional change are slim.

The HDZ leader reiterated that there will be much speculation about BiH because there has been speculation over the last 30 years, so it should come as no surprise.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/top-bosnian-officials-stillalarmed-by-the-alleged-non-paper/

Bosnia Presidency member addresses EU’s Michel over alleged non-paper on WB

April 16, 2021

After some Slovenian media outlets reported on the content of a non-paper document that contains the ideas about the change of borders in the Western Balkans, there is a perception that some circles in the European Union work to jeopardize the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosniak member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic wrote to European Council President Charles Michel who, according to media, was a recipient of the document.

“These developments have led to a serious destabilization and disturbance in our country, considering that the secessionist political forces, which have been threatening for some time with the secession of the Republika Srpska entity, are interpreting these allegations as proof of support to their secessionist plans within the European Union,” said Dzaferovic, adding that the EU is one of the witnesses of the Dayton Peace Agreement – the international document that ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which confirmed the continuity of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina in its internationally recognized borders.

The Presidency member said the EU has been for the past 25 years the main stability factor in BiH along with the USA and that thanks to the Union’s positive influence the country has made achievements in its post-war recovery and reform development.

“Given the European experience in the first half of the 20th century, as well as earlier attempts of ethnic division of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the aggression of the 1990s that culminated in the Srebrenica genocide, any subsequent attempt to redraw borders would threaten peace in our country and region,” said Dzaferovic.

“This would certainly undermine the stability of Europe, based on the principle of consistency of borders. Given that these are very dangerous matters, I felt the need to draw your attention to the fact that such initiatives should be disabled at the outset. Bosnia and Herzegovina expect the European Union to pay more attention to the credible prospect of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership,” he added.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-presidency-member-addresses-eus-michel-over-alleged-non-paper-on-wb/

Slovenian President rejects ideas about change of borders in Western Balkans

April 16, 2021

Slovenian President Borut Pahor said he resolutely supports the European Union's enlargement to the Western Balkans which he dubbed “the first-category geopolitical issue,” adding that he rejects any idea about the change of borders in the region.

Addressing a press conference regarding the allegations about a non-paper document on change of borders in the Western Balkans, Pahor said he was not aware of any non-paper during his latest visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I am a friend of this country, its territorial integrity and its Euro-Atlantic perspective. I am one of the rare country leaders who clearly emphasise the importance of reconciliation,” Pahor told Media in Ljubljana.

“I strongly object the ideas about the final fall of Yugoslavia and changing the current borders because I do not believe that would be possible in a peaceful way,” he added.

Pahor’s press conference comes amid heated discussion on alleged unofficial documents that, according to some media outlets in the region among other things mention Bosnia and Herzegovina and potential changes of its borders. The media claimed that one of those non-paper documents, which outlines the plan for the future of the region, was recently sent to Brussels by Slovenian prime minister Janez Jansa, which he denied.

The country’s president said any time he has a chance to speak about his stance on the Western Balkans and the EU’s enlargement to this region, he tells the same.

“First, I strongly support the EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans, Second, the EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans is the first-category geopolitical issue. Third, I advocate the thesis that it would be best, due to the circumstances, if the EU decided to include all Western Balkan countries in a reasonably short period and to adjust its enlargement strategy to that. Fourth, the EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans is becoming more and more the matter of time not only the political will,” said Pahor.

“Fifth, accelerated EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans would also reduce the importance of naïve and dangerous ideas about the change of borders, which due to circumstances cannot happen peacefully. I reject all those ideas about the change of borders. Sixth, accelerated process of including the Western Balkan countries would significantly strengthen the principle of territorial integrity of the countries, solving of their mutual issues and enhanced the stability of the region and Europe as a whole,” he added.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/slovenian-president-rejects-ideas-about-change-of-borders-in-western-balkans/

Serbian PM says Venice Commission approved changes to constitution

April 16, 2021

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Friday that her government received the approval of the Venice Commission for amendments to the constitution.

Speaking at a meeting of the Parliamentary Commission on Constitutions Issues and Legislature, Brnabic said that the process to change parts of the constitution. “This is one of the basic rules of law requirements on the European integration path but we are not doing this just for the sake of integration but because we believe in reforms and that the public and economy can rely on justice being equal for all and achievable in a reasonable time,” she told the meeting.

A government press release said that “the Committee adopted the Bill on changing the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, proposed by the Serbian government”.

Brnabic recalled that the government adopted the initiative to change the parts of the constitution governing the judiciary on December 3, 2020, and submitted it to parliament following 18 months of public debate.

Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic said that the amendments will change only the parts of the constitution on the judiciary and denied claims that the ruling majority wanted to change the preamble which states that Kosovo is part of Serbia. He said the Committee on Constitutional Issues has to adopt the proposed amendments which are then debated by MPs and have to be adopted by a two-thirds majority. He said the proposed amendments can’t be altered.

Dacic also explained that a referendum on the amendments has to be held prior to the early elections which are being planned for early 2022.

The changes to the constitution have been a contentious issue for the past few years with critics claiming that the authorities are planning to change the constitution in a way that would allow official Belgrade to recognize Kosovo.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/serbian-pm-says-venice-commission-approved-changes-to-constitution/

German official warns against re-drawing Western Balkan borders

April 16, 2021

A senior German Foreign Ministry official warned on Friday that the possible drawing of new borders in the Western Balkans is dangerous.

“Drawing new frontiers is a dangerous path,” Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, wrote in a Twitter post a day after the publication of an alleged non-paper attributed to Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa which proposed changes to the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania by annexing the Republika Srpska to Serbia and Kosovo to Albania. Jansa denied authorship of the document which was published by a Slovenian news portal.

“Countries on Western Balkans have a future only as multiethnic and multireligious societies. Regional reconciliation and cooperation are the keys for peace, democracy and prosperity,” Roth tweeted.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/german-official-warns-against-re-drawing-western-balkan-borders/

Radio host assaulted in Serbia; Journalist: More serious than simple attack

April 16, 2021

Radio host Dasko Milinovic was assaulted by two young men in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad on Friday morning, the 021.rs portal reported.

Speaking on his Alarm morning show, Milinovic said that he was assaulted by two young men who first used a tear gas spray and then hit him with an iron bar.

“I was attacked by two pathetic young badly-trained fascists who were waiting for me. One of them sprayed me with tear gas and I would recommend that they buy better tear gas next time. My arm is bleeding but the bar was not good quality,” he said. Milinovic added that he saw the same two young men waiting for him a day earlier and can identify them.

„The attack on Milinovic is planned in the same way as it was on Milan Pantic (killed in on June 11, 2001, outside his residence). That is a much more serious case than a simple attack,“ Veran Matic, a member of the Working Group for Journalists’ Safety and Protection, said later on Friday. Earlier this week, Matic said the names of those who slain Pantic, a Belgrade Vecernje Novosti daily correspondent from the central Jagodina town in 2001, were known, but they were free since the Prosecutors’ Office for Organised Crime said it did not have enough evidence.

Dasko Milinovic and his co-host Mladen Urdarevic gave their Internet radio named Dasko and Mladja and host the Alarm satirical show every weekday. Urdarevic said that the assault was intended to prevent a free-thinking man from saying what he thinks.

The Independent Society of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV) called the authorities to react immediately and identify the attackers, adding that the assault was the direct result of the failure to act by state bodies and the constant campaign directed against people who have different views. The NDNV warned that the authorities have not been solving attacks on journalists.

The Culture and Information Ministry condemned the assault and called the authorities to make it and other attacks on journalists a priority. “The ministry reiterates that all journalists and media staff have to be allowed to do their jobs freely,” it said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/radio-host-assaulted-in-serbia-journalist-more-serious-than-simple-attack/

Serbian government official says he was banned from Kosovo

April 16, 2021

The head of the Serbian government Office for Kosovo Petar Petkovic claims to have been banned from entering Kosovo because of health and security risks.

Petkovic told the Serbian state TV (RTS) that he received a note banning him from Kosovo through the European Union Delegation in Belgrade. “I don’t know what Pristina and (Kosovo Prime Minister Albin) Kurti were thinking when they banned the chief negotiator in the technical dialogue from entering Kosovo,” he said. He added that the ban is in violation of the agreement on official visits and comes prior to the 8th anniversary of the signing of the Brussels Agreement.

He said that the authorities in Belgrade abide by all agreements and added that the international community has been informed of the ban.

“I was supposed to be in Zvecan on Friday to present the keys to 12 apartments whose construction was financed by the Serbian government and in Gracanica to visit Luka Dimitrijevic who was beaten by Albanians two days ago,” he said. According to Petkovic, the visit was supposed to help calm the Kosovo Serbs.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/serbian-government-official-says-he-was-banned-from-kosovo/

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