International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Leaders fail to agree new Kosovo government

Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) leader Albin Kurti said on Wednesday that his party and Isa Mustafa’s Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (DSK) failed to reach agreement on a new government.

Kurti said he does not want new elections, adding that he won’t make any further concessions to the DSK. Speaking in a video post on Facebook, he said that Vetevendosje compromised on five issues but that this was not enough for the DSK.

Kurti said that he wanted the post of parliament speaker and his deputy but was willing to agree to give the DSK the post of speaker with his party getting two deputy speaker positions. Vetevendosje insisted on getting control of the Internal Affairs Ministry in return for support for a DSK candidate for president of Kosovo but only if a non-partisan candidate was found who is acceptable to all.

“We want to share responsibility and generously gave the other side half the program and half the government,” he said. The new Kosovo parliament is scheduled to hold its constitutive session on Thursday, September 26.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555593/Leaders-fail-to-agree-new-Kosovo-government.html

Opposition leader Jeremic appears on Serbian state TV

December 25, 2019

People’s Party leader Vuk Jeremic said in a rare appearance on the Serbian state TV (RTS) on Wednesday that the decision to boycott the coming elections is definite with no chance of being changed.

“The authorities will stand in the elections, the regime along with those who play the opposition…. There are no conditions for elections and nothing is going to change,” he said on the OKO talk show on Wednesday afternoon. He said that the goal of the boycott is to create normal living conditions.  

Jeremic asked the anchor why he was invited to appear on the RTS. “I think you invited me to play at being normal and to show things as being normal in Serbia and in my opinion, things are not normal on the public broadcaster and in society,” he said.  

He added that what opposition leaders have to say will not be important once it reports the details of a sexual harassment case against a ruling party mayor, when journalist Milan Jovanovic whose home was burned to the ground because of his reporting and when whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic who revealed dubious deals at the Krusik munitions plant appear on the RTS.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555583/Opposition-leader-Jeremic-appears-on-Serbian-state-TV.html

Belgrade names street after man who killed Pavelic

December 24, 2019

The Belgrade city authorities decided on Tuesday to name a street in the Zemun suburb after the man who killed Croatian World War 2 fascist leader Ante Pavelic.

The city Commission for Monuments and Street Names adopted a proposal by deputy Mayor Goran Vesic to name a street after Blagoje Jovovic who mortally wounded Pavelic in 1957.  

Jovovic was a Royal Yugoslav Army officer when World War 2 broke out who moved to Argentina after the war and organized the attempt on the life of Pavelic who headed the Nazi puppet Independent State of Croatia where tens of thousands of Serbs were killed.  

Jovovic will be given a street in the Zemun suburb which was part of the Independent State of Croatia during World War 2.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555259/Belgrade-names-street-after-man-who-killed-Pavelic.html

Increasing number of Serbians wouldn’t report corruption

December 24, 2019

The percentage of Serbians who would not report corruption has risen significantly compared to 2018, the CRTA observer organization said on Tuesday citing its poll.

It said that people in Serbia are afraid of what could happen if they report corruption and do not trust institutions.  

The poll showed that 97.5 percent of the polled believe that corruption is harmful to society and that slightly more than 69 percent would report corruption. Compared to last year’s poll, 15 percent more people said that officials are corrupt and 12 percent more fear what would happen to them if they reported corruption.  

“The citizens of Serbia view exchanging money or services for votes as the most unacceptable form of corruption. A total of 95 percent of the polled condemned the buying of votes compared to 93.6 percent last year,” CRTA said.  

Serbians are the most tolerant towards corruption in cases when children are being enrolled in kindergarten and when doctors are treated for successful interventions.  

The poll was conducted in November.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555226/Increasing-number-of-Serbians-wouldn-t-report-corruption.html

Opposition official says Serbian FM took money from arms dealers

December 24, 2019

Opposition MP Marinika Tepic on Tuesday accused Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic of taking money from business people and arms dealers to finance efforts to convince other countries to revoke their recognition of Kosovo.

“Did Dacic abuse his official position by getting money to revoke recognition of Kosovo from prominent business people and arms dealers and did he take more than a million Euro in cash from (arms dealer) Slobodan Tesic alone,” Tepic, deputy leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice, told a news conference.  

 “I hope that Dacic will think twice before trying to deny this after his recent attempt to deny that he had been warned by the United States when the US Embassy denied his claim and confirmed what I said,” Tepic said.  

She said that President Aleksandar Vucic had to have known about that and called him to provide answers to her questions.  

Tepic rejected the president’s claims that talking about scandals in the military industry was having a negative effect on those companies and was actually an attempt to destroy them.

The Foreign Minister’s cabinet chief Nikola Nedeljkovic called for an investigation into Tepic’s claims, adding that he would sue her over the claim of collecting money for the campaign to revoke recognition of Kosovo.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555205/Opposition-official-says-Serbian-FM-took-money-from-arms-dealers.html

Opposition leader: What’s happening with charges against Serbia’s President?

December 24, 2019

Zoran Zivkovic, the leader of the Nova stranka (New Party) said on Tuesday he hoped that either Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic would learn or the Prosecutor Office would say what was going on with the charges he filed against Vucic, Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and his father Branko Stefanovic regarding the wrongdoing at the Krusik ammunition factory, the FoNet news agency reported.

Zivkovic recalled that he filed criminal charges against the two on November 5, based on information leaked by Krusik’s whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic who discovered some shady arms trade businesses and linked them to the top country’s leaders.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555127/Serbia-s-opposition-leaders-asked-what-s-going-on-with-charges-against-Vucic-he-filed-two-months-ago.html

Vucic: Elections by end April or early May

December 24, 2019

In a lengthy interview with the Belgrade O2 TV, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said general elections would be held on April 26, or May 3, although he wanted them in March, but accepted Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to postpone them as long as possible according to the Constitution, the FoNet news agency reported late on Monday.

Commenting on recent affairs that rocked the country, Vucic said that in the story of shady arms trade from the Krusik ammunition factory revealed by Aleksandar Obradovic, the only issue was lower prices for private companies, one of which the whistleblower linked to Serbia’s top leaders, but that they were only two-three percent lower and that the state carried only about selling arms.

He denied any role of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic whose father acted as a legal advisor of the private GIM arms trader, saying that the licenses for that business were issued by several institutions.

Vucic said that the affair imposed huge damage to Krusik and that factory would have a hard time to return its reputation.

Referring to another year-long affair about the Finance Minister Sinisa Mali plagiarized doctorate, the President said although „at one point his career and his achievements“ were more important to him than the unity with the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), Vucic said he still respected Mali as an expert, young and responsible man. But added he could not be sure that Mali would do something against his interest for the benefit of the party.

He added he would see that another scandal about the plants of marijuana inside a state-supported health food farm Jovanjica was investigated to the end.

The President said that he was not confident that Serbia would be accepted by the European Union even if Belgrade reached a compromise with Pristina on the normalization of relations, adding his country would stay on the European path.

Regarding the resumption of the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue, Vucic said he had no idea when it would happen.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555053/Private-companies-paid-only-2-3-pct-lower-price-for-arms-Vucic-says.html

Bosnia gets state government, 14 months after general election

December 24, 2019

Fourteen months after the general election, Bosnia finally got its government, Monday, after the State House of Representatives adopted all the ministers except the Human Rights and Refugees Minister, who will be elected at a later date.

With 29 votes in favor, eight against and one abstained vote, the new Council of Ministers, as the government is called, was elected and sworn in.

The new ministers are Vjekoslav Bevanda from the Croat Democratic Party (HDZ BiH) as Finance Minister, Ankica Gudeljevic (HDZ BiH) as Civil Affairs Minister, Josip Grubesa (HDZ BiH) as Justice Minister, Vojin Mitrovic from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) as Communications Minister, Stasa Kosarac (SNSD) as Foreign Trade Minister, Fahrudin Radoncic from the Alliance for the Better Future (SBB) as Security Minister, Bisera Turkovic from the Democratic Action Party (SDA) as Foreign Affairs Minister, and Sifet Podzic from the Democratic Front (DF) as Defense Minister.

Bosnia did not have a new government - officially called the Council of Ministers - formed since the October 2018 election, and the previous ministers have since then been serving their posts in technical mandates.

This is because the Bosniak and Croat members of the tripartite Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic, respectively, refused to vote for the new candidate for Chairman, who was supposed to come from the party of Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik.

At the center of the deadlock was a document Bosnia was supposed to send to the NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Annual National Program (ANP), which would be the next step on Bosnia’s path toward membership in the alliance - it would activate the country’s Membership Action Plan (MAP).

NATO remains unpopular with Serbs in both Serbia and in Bosnia's Serb-majority semi-autonomous entity of Republika Srpska (RS) since the alliance launched airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and against the Serbian military in 1999 during the conflict between Belgrade and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Although it agreed to Bosnia joining NATO about a decade ago, Dodik’s SNSD changed its mind in recent years and refused to let the country make any step toward membership. In line with neighboring Serbia, Republika Srpska adopted a Resolution on Military Neutrality in 2017 which means it opposes membership in any military alliances.

But Komsic and Dzaferovic argued that not sending the document would breach earlier decisions and the law and they insisted that unless it is sent, they will not vote for Tegeltija.

The Bosniak and Croat Presidency members finally expressed support for Tegeltija in late November, following a joint meeting with ambassadors of the United States, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Head of the EU Delegation to Bosnia.

In return, the Serb Presidency member supported a document called the Reform Program outlining the program of reforms in the field of defense and security, which was sent to NATO, instead of the ANP. This new document is said to be acceptable to NATO as if it was the original ANP.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a555034/Months-after-elections-Bosnia-gets-new-state-government.html

SNS claims attack on party offices

December 23, 2019

The Belgrade city branch of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) said on Monday that its offices at the Savski Kej area of New Belgrade had been attacked.

A press release said that the party offices suffered “another vandal attack” followed by provocations of the people in the offices. The press release did not specify if any damage was done to the offices but added that this was not the first attack on SNS offices and activists.

“We are calling the competent state bodies to bring the perpetrators to justice and finally put an end to hooligan behavior,” it added.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554967/SNS-claims-attack-on-party-offices.html                

Six migrants disappear after boat capsizes in Danube

December 23, 2019

Six migrants, including two children, disappeared after the boat in which they tried to get to Croatia, capsized in the Danube at Karavukovo, near Sombor, in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina on Monday.

A group of about 15 migrants tried to reach Croatia by crossing the Danube early on Monday morning, but their boat overturned shortly after they started the crossing, local media said citing eyewitnesses.

Four adults and two children have been reported missing, and local police have mounted a search. No other information was immediately available about the circumstances of the accident.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554803/Six-migrants-disappear-after-boat-capsizes-in-Danube.html

'Mini Schengen is not a replacement for EU and it doesn't mean new Yugoslavia'

December 22, 2019

Mini Schengen is not a “new Yugoslavia” or a replacement for European integration, according to Oliver Brankovic, a correspondent for Macedonian Radio Television, and Dusan Janjic of the Forum for Ethnic Relations. They believe that integration of the region will speed up the Western Balkan countries on their path to the EU and help to solve the bilateral disputes.

They agreed that the regional connectivity does not mean a replacement for European integration but that this can only help the Western Balkan countries to prepare for the EU membership. So-called ‘Mini Schengen will contribute to the solving of bilateral disputes, they underlined, dismissing the allegations that this might lead to a new Yugoslavia.

Brankovic stressed this was not a political alliance or a coalition, but cooperation based primarily on the economy and in the interest of the citizens.

“We’re not creating a football team. It is far from that idea (new Yugoslavia)… Macedonia will get from Serbia the electronic database of workers. Any citizen can apply for a job as soon as he enters the territory of North Macedonia and vice versa. Why wouldn’t a Nis citizen come to Skopje for an hour, an hour and a half to work. It used to take six months to get a work permit, Brankovic told N1.

The leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia agreed during a summit this weekend on cooperation in few sectors, including the single labour market creation and cooperation in case of emergencies.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554665/Mini-Schengen-is-not-a-replacement-for-EU-and-it-doesn-t-mean-new-Yugoslavia.html

Hina: Economic stability, political challenges and affairs mark 2019 in Serbia

December 22, 2019

Another year in Serbia ends with more visible economic and infrastructural rather than political progress, with the country opening two new chapters within the accession talks with the European Union. While the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue remains on hold, several affairs showed that current authorities are more vulnerable than one could conclude from most of the controlled media, Croatian news agency Hina reported on Sunday.

High-ranking officials, from the chief of the state to the Finance Minister and the National Bank Governor, emphasise significant economic indicators. They say that the growth is expected to reach 3.5 percent by the end of the year, that the public debt has been reduced from 53.7 percent (2018) to 52 percent of GDP until October 2019, while the direct foreign investments in the first nine months reached 2.9 billion Euro.

‘Standard&Poor’s’ credit rating agency improved the assessment of Serbia’s credit rating in December, taking it from the BB level to BB+. Serbia also finished the construction and opened more than 200 kilometres of a highway – 126 kilometres on the Corridor 11, which connected Belgrade with western Serbia, and 86.9 kilometres on the Corridor 10, connecting the cities of Belgrade and Nis with the Serbia-Bulgaria border.

Hina further carried that Serbia has been facing political challenges in 2019. Its Euro-integration process did not meet the expectations as only two of 18 chapters within the EU accession talks were opened over the five-year period.

European Commission sent a message to Belgrade in its latest report, which was similar to the previous ones – there was no significant progress in the 23rd and 24th chapters, especially in the one concerning the rule of law, while the complaints about media freedoms and unsatisfactory degree of parliamentarism in the country have become more often.

Kosovo is still considered one of the most dominant political topics in Serbia and the Belgrade-Pristina relations have not improved at all. The dialogue has been put on hold in November 2018 when the Pristina authorities decided to unilaterally introduce 100 percent import tariffs for the goods from Serbia and Bosnia.

At the same time, a few affairs leaked in the public – from suspicious PhD degrees, disputable arms trade and marijuana grow on a farm that received the state subsidies. The affairs showed that, despite the control of most of electronic and print media, the authorities personalised in the chief of the state and leader of the ruling SNS party, Aleksandar Vucic, are still more vulnerable than one might think, carried Hina.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554649/Hina-Economic-stability-political-challenges-and-affairs-mark-2019-in-Serbia.html

Dacic suggests President Vucic a joint participation of SPS and SNS in elections

December 22, 2019

Foreign Minister and Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) leader Ivica Dacic said he suggested to President Aleksandar Vucic joint participation of his own and Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in the upcoming elections.

“I suggest that we run in elections together to avoid problems and to show that there is no reason for anyone to suspect me of running (in elections) with the opposition,” said Dacic, responding to allegations that the SPS is not a loyal partner to the SNS and would like to join with the opposition parties.

Serbia is likely to see its parliamentary elections either at the end of April or the beginning of May 2020.

SPS has been a partner to the ruling SNS since 2012, but the two parties never took part in an election together.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554611/Dacic-suggests-President-Vucic-a-joint-participation-of-SPS-and-SNS-in-elections.html

Bosnia Presidency Chairman: Kosovo is independent state, that's my own stance

December 22, 2019

Despite the fact that Bosnia and Kosovo never recognized each other’s independence, there is no dilemma that Kosovo is an independent state, Bosnia’s Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic told Pristina-based media.

Bosnia is one of the countries that did not recognize institutions in Pristina after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, mainly due to the opposition of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated region Republika Srpska, which can veto this decision in the state-level institutions.

Republika Srpska also passed a resolution, denouncing and refusing to recognize Kosovo independence.

In an interview with the Radio Television Kosovo (RTK), Bosnia’s Presidency Chairman said the agreement in the country has not been reached but that he has the right on his own opinion.

“The odds are we will have to wait (for that to happen), although I have no dilemma that Kosovo is an independent state,” he stressed.

“I won’t be always saying what has been agreed on, because there is three of us in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it doesn’t mean I need to be authorized to say something. In my diplomatic activities, I have to stick to the rules that are in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I repeat, Kosovo is an independent state as far as I’m concerned. That’s a done deal and it is only a matter of time when others in the region will accept that,” said Komsic.

Bosnia’s Presidency consists of three members, who represent three major ethnic groups – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, and two semi-autonomous regions, Republika Srpska and Federation (FBiH). All decision at the state level must be endorsed by both entities and pass the state parliament where, again, the two entities and three ethnic groups are represented.

Kosmic also said that everything concerning Kosovo is a matter of agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. According to him, accession of Bosnia and the rest of the Western Balkans to the NATO would mean a “salvation for the region.”

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554601/Bosnia-Presidency-Chairman-Kosovo-is-independent-state-that-s-my-own-stance.html

Orthodox Church in Montenegro demands an agreement with authoritie

December 21, 2019

A gathering organised in Montenegrin city of Niksic on Saturday strongly objected the Proposal of the Law on Freedom of Religion and urged the authorities in Montenegro to reach an agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church, which would regulate the matters of common interest.

The event was organised by the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, which is the largest eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

The Metropolitanate urged the authorities in Montenegro to reach an agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church, which would equally and under essentially historical conditions, contained in the agreements that the government reached with other religious communities, regulate the matters of common interests.

Montenegrin police said that 6,000 persons attended the event which they assessed as “less than expected.”

Some believers from the neighbouring countries could not make it to Niksic as their buses were returned from the border crossing to Bosnia and Serbia, which police said was done “on the security assessment.” No incidents were reported.

The gathering was initiated after Montenegro's authorities said they planned to adopt a new law on religious freedom, which triggered heated reactions within the Serbian Orthodox Church, some citizens and the opposition. The Serbian Orthodox Church assessed the intention as “the robbery and thievery of shrines and the church property as well as the abolition of the legal status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.”

Speaking at the event, Archbishop Amfilohije called Montenegro's authorities “unreasonable persons of modern time,” “a group of rich men” who “robbed all companies in Montenegro and now want to do the same with shrines.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a554439/Orthodox-Church-in-Montenegro-demands-an-agreement-with-authorities.html

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