International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

SPS: Serbia to care about relations with Russia and continue along European path

March 21, 2022

Ivica Dacic, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) candidate for prime minister, said on Monday his country should lead "a balanced" foreign policy which would take care of its relations with Russia, but at the same time continue along its road to the European Union.

Speaking to the pro-regime Happy TV, Dacic, the leader of the SPS, the key coalition partner of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and the outgoing Parliament Speaker, said Belgrade „should not overemphasise its role in every crisis.“

„We have neither provoked the war nor can we stop it,“ he said.

Serbia holds presidential, early general and Belgrade elections on April 3.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/sps-serbia-to-care-about-relations-with-russia-and-continue-along-european-path/

EU’s Borrell: Western Balkans is not our backyard, it is our courtyard

March 21, 2022

After visiting North Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina last week, the European Union High Representative Josep Borrell said it was clear that the leaders of those countries condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “and the three countries have joined our sanctions against Russia.”

“The future of the Western Balkans clearly lies within the EU – they are not our backyard but our courtyard,” Borrell wrote.

He added that “we are united in our efforts to stop the war and help the Ukrainian people. I underlined the EU’s commitment firmly to support the Western Balkans even more and to take forward the region’s future in the European Union.”

However, Borrell recalled that “even before the war in Ukraine, there was a worrying resurgence of tensions in the region, particularly within Bosnia and Herzegovina and between Serbia and Kosovo. We have seen outside interference seeking to destabilise our neighbours and weaken the European Union, notably through Russia’s insidious and well-documented disinformation campaigns.”

“We recognise the frustration in the region at delays in moving forward on the EU path. Our practical support and a clear way forward on EU integration are key to keep the region firmly on this path,” the EU top diplomat wrote.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/eus-borrell-western-balkans-is-not-our-backyard-it-is-our-courtyard/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 11 deaths, 1,383 new cases

March 20, 2022

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Sunday that 11 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 15,687.

It said that 9,093 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 1,383 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,026,652 with 1,955,280 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 823 hospitalized cases, including 42 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-11-deaths-1383-new-cases/

Public health situation in Serbia improves, number of Covid patients decreases

March 20, 2022

Head of the Institute for Public Health 'Dr Milan Jovanović Batut' Verica Jovanovic said that the public health situation in Serbia has improved with the number of hospitalised patients decreasing and the largest number of people suffering from covid being treated at home.

„We are still calling on citizens, especially the elderly and chronic patients, to adhere to all preventive measures, and to get vaccinated,” she said, adding that the fourth vaccine shot should further strengthen the immune response.

„The protection is better if we take the fourth dose now,“ Jovanovic told the state TV RTS.

She pointed out that the method of protection still remains the same and that this includes distance, wearing a mask if distance cannot be provided, and vaccination.

Serbia has abolished the covid pass since last weekend and there are no longer any limitations to the number of people allowed indoors. Averagely, about 2,000 people are infected per day in Serbia.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/public-health-situation-in-serbia-improves-number-of-covid-patients-decreases/

Police official killed in Bosnian town of Prijedor

March 20, 2022

Police in the northwestern town of Prijedor detained a person suspected of killing a police official on Monday morning.

According to police, the shooting took place just before 7 am in the Pecani neighbourhood.

“This morning at 6.53 am, the Prijedor Police Department was informed that in the neighbourhood of Pecani in Prijedor, an unknown person fired from a firearm at another person who died on that occasion,” police said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/police-official-killed-in-bosnian-town-of-prijedor/

Vatican Secretary for Relations with States visits Medjugorje

March 20, 2022

The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Cardinal Paul Richard Gallagher, who was on an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Sunday visited the Marian shrine of Medjugorje and held talks with Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, special apostolic visitator for that parish.

During his visit to Medjugorje, he was accompanied by Mostar Bishop Petar Palic.

Medjugorje, a southern town and one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites, was the last stop of Archbishop Gallagher's four-day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On Friday, the dignitary visited Sarajevo and said on that occasion that Pope Francis was closely following the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, affected by a deep political crisis.

Pope Francis is very interested in the social and economic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and strongly supports the coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, highlighting that diversity is a wealth, the cardinal said in Sarajevo, after meeting the country's officials.

During his stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the dignitary also visited the seats of the Catholic dioceses in Mostar and Banja Luka and held talks with the local bishops on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in which the Roman Catholic population has been dwindling since the outbreak of the 1992-1995 war.

According to the latest estimates, roughly 340,000 Catholics live in the country.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/vatican-secretary-for-relations-with-states-visits-medjugorje/

US ambassador warns that boycott of elections in BiH wouldn't be a wise move

March 20, 2022

Boycotting the elections would not be a wise decision, US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Michael Murphy said following the unsuccessful end of the latest round of talks on the US/EU-mediated political talks on electoral reform. He told the leaders that now is the time to turn to the October elections.

Murphy, who was one of the foreign mediators in the talks alongside EU's Angelina Eichhorst, said that the agreement was disabled by the rejection to make the institutions of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity more functional.

He stressed that the US will persist in holding responsible those who keep the Bosnia's future a hostage.

“It is better not to reach an agreement than to reach a bad agreement,” Murphy was quoted as saying.

However, he stressed, there were “components of an agreement” on table that would deliver the most of what the leaders said they needed.

Unfortunately, he added, the SDA and the HDZ BiH parties could not translate it into a compromise.

Also, the ambassador noted, there was too much focus on the symbolic and less on the substance, which is actually what the citizens need.

As for the upcoming elections, scheduled for October this year, Murphy stressed that they must take place.

“If a party decides to boycott elections, I am telling them – that is not wise. That would be a mistake,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.

HDZ BiH leader Dragan Covic said earlier today, dissatisfied with the outcome of the talks, that there are no conditions to hold elections in BiH.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-ambassador-warns-that-boycott-of-elections-in-bih-wouldnt-be-a-wise-move/

HDZ BiH leader: No conditions to hold elections in Bosnia

March  20, 2022

Dragan Covic, the leader of the HDZ BiH party and participant in the talks on electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said following the latest failed attempt to reach an agreement on this matter under the mediation of the EU and US representatives, that now there are no conditions to hold elections in the country.

He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina lost the most with this.

Covic reiterated his earlier stance on a potential restructuring of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity, noting that “as for those who tried to dissolve the Federation in terms of its organisation I am telling them they did not succeed now and they never will.”

He directly accused the SDA party of hindering the final agreement on Saturday when they almost had an agreement on table by demanding some additional details.

He expressed content over the fact that five out of six parties accepted a model that would solve all the problems, even the one concerning the functionality of the Federation's institutions.

“We were clearly ready to make three to four concessions, and someone would call it a blockade, but I believe it was for a better functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” stressed Covic.

According to him, the overall solution contained four elements: changes to the Election Law, the rulings of the Constitutional Court of BiH, integrity of the election process and functionality of the Federation entity.

SBB BiH leader Fahrudin Radoncic also addressed media after the meeting, saying that this was a bad day for the Federation.

“The consequences of the failed talks will be seen in the period of two to six months, when elections are scheduled to take place, but that doesn't mean someone should fear war or any military escalation, it would rather increase political tensions, which are enormous already now,” he said.

Radoncic also confirmed that the political representatives made progress regarding the removal of blockades in the Federation and the functioning of the Federation's House of Peoples as well as some other matters but without a final agreement.

He stressed that regardless of the failed talks the elections have to be held.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/hdz-bih-leader-no-conditions-to-hold-elections-in-bosnia/

Eichhorst: We exhausted all possibilities, local leaders missed an opportunity

March 19, 2022

The foreign mediators have exhausted all the possibilities to help Bosnian political leaders reach a consensus on electoral reform and this is their missed opportunity, said one of the foreign mediators, Managing Director Europe at European External Action Service Angelina Eichhorst following the end of the latest round of negotiations on Sunday, which yielded no results.

She said that the talks were intensive and included the discussion on the integrity of election process, changes to the Constitution of BiH as well as the election models for the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the members that are elected in the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation entity.

According to Eichhorst, certain steps forward were made regarding the functioning of the Federation's institutions, where leaders harmonised mechanisms that would prevent the blockade of the appointment of the Federation's Government and appointment of judges in Bosnian Constitutional Court.

However, the stumbling block were the competencies in the Federation's House of Peoples, due to the disagreement between the HDZ BiH and the SDA parties.

“This is a loss, a missed opportunity for the local leaders,” she was quoted as saying, noting that an agreement would have brought Bosnia closer to the EU.

Now, Eichhorst added, with all the developments on the European soil and on the geopolitical stage, this was real opportunity to show readiness to reach a consensus.

She assessed it as a significant step forward that the parties discussed for the first time the functionality of the Federation entity's institutions.

All parliamentary parties were invited for the talks, Eichhorst noted, denying the allegations that some did not received the invitations.

Now that the options of the foreign mediation have been exhausted, she said, it is important to resume the debate on this matter within the institutions.

The latest round of talks this week was mediated by Eichhorst and US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Michael Murphy.

The political representatives of the SDA, HDZ BiH, HDZ 1990, the People and Justice, SBB BiH and NES parties left the EU Delegation's premises where the talks were held over the past days.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eichhorst-we-exhausted-all-possibilities-local-leaders-missed-an-opportunity/

Croat representatives disappointed with outcome of election reform talks

March 20, 2022

Bosnian political representatives have engaged in the fourth consecutive day of the EU/US-mediated talks on electoral legislation reform on Sunday, after no concrete results were reached over the past days. The representatives of the ethnic Croats expressed disappointment with the outcome of the Saturday meeting.

The talks are held at the premises of the European Union Delegation in Sarajevo.

Representatives of the HDZ BiH, SDA, SBB BiH, the People and justice and the NES parties were seen arriving at the location in the morning.

Following the Saturday talks, representatives of the Croat political parties expressed discontent with how the talks evolved.

“We were close to the solution but we did not manage to finalise the negotiations. Some would like to brutally change the structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Dragan Covic, the leader of the HDZ BIH, the strongest Croat party.

He said “we were ready to make a huge concession concerning the functioning of the (the Bosniak-Croat entity) Federation, but I'm afraid that some are sending the messages via women associations and in some other ways, to which we will respond in a gentleman way,” without specifying to whom he refered.

The Croat leader also said that those who are destroying BiH by sending certain messages prior to the talks “are not negotiators with HDZ, or for the Croat people of BiH.”

The one who gave a statement for media prior to the talks on Saturday was Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the SDA party, who said he would not succumb to pressures in the negotiations.

Izetbegovic directly referred to Covic, saying that he would have to give up on things in the Federation and accused him of ruining the Bosniak-Croat relations with his support to Milorad Dodik, the nationalist Serb leader.

Another Croat participant in the talks, HDZ 1990 leader Ilija Cvitanovic also addressed media following the Saturday meeting.

“What hurt me and what was both disappointing and catastrophic, what destroys BiH – was the message conveyed by the SDA about the House of Peoples of the FBiH Parliament, that they wish to bring it to the level of the Council of Peoples of the Republika Srpska (Bosnia's Serb-majority region with centralised authority) and to create the Republika Srpska of the Bosniak people out of the Federation. And they expect to have a partner among the Croats for such talks,” he said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/croat-representatives-disappointed-with-outcome-of-election-reform-talks/

Izetbegovic says he won't succumb to pressure in electoral reform talks

March 19, 2022

Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the SDA party and participant of the EU/US-mediated talks on electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said he would not succumb to pressures in the negotiations.

Izetbegovic said he was “threatened” by the international community's representatives and reminded that his father – former and late Chairman of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, had to make some “painful” things and so will he have to make some unpopular steps that will lessen the SDA's result in the upcoming elections.

The SDA leader noted that he would not accept that. He also said that Dragan Covic, the HDZ BiH leader, will have to pay for what he did and give up on many strongholds he now has in the Federation, the Bosniak-Croat shared entity.

He also said it is necessary to improve the relations between the two peoples which, according to him, Covic ruined with his support to Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader.

“We must fix the relations with the Croats in BiH, we used to be one nation, after all,” said Izetbegovic.

He noted that Covic is blaming the left-leaning parties for electing the Croat Presidency member with votes of the Bosniaks, adding that he is not sure this is true.

Izetbegovic said that the SDA and him are now being called out to solve this problem they have nothing to do with.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/izetbegovic-says-he-wont-succumb-to-pressure-in-electoral-reform-talks/

UK's Peach: Some political issues in the region could become security issues

March 19, 2022

The Western Balkans region has not been put under a direct threat of war yet but some political issues in the region could become security issues unless it is avoided, UK Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Sir Stuart Peach said addressing a panel discussion 'Britain and the Western Balkans in the light of the war in Ukraine' in Zagreb on Friday.

He said that the region itself has gone through difficult times, through a war but also through years of progress which cannot be put at risk.

Speaking of the proportions of humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Peach said that this is a crisis that we have not seen since the wars of the 1990s.

According to him, the situation is new and some old problems need to be solved in a new way.

As for the region, he noted that there are many bilateral disputes but that there is a room for normalisation, mentioning the example od the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue which is mediated by the EU and supported by the UK Government.

He also recalled that his appointment came prior to the start of the war in Ukraine. Peach went on saying that the UK has strong embassies and excellent ambassadors and teams as well as the presence in the military and UN missions in the region.

Their most important message is that “we care,” the envoy said, adding that the goal is to give a new hope to young generations and help as an international actor and friend of the region solve the longstanding problems.

After the took over the duty, Peach visited all six countries in the region where he met with the countries’ senior officials but also the representatives of the opposition because, he said, it is necessary to hear all the voices.

Most of the problems in the region are not new, some of them date back to the 1990s and beyond, he stressed, adding that to solve them, a new energy and fresh look are needed.

He stressed that the UK continues supporting democratic values, the rule of law, and human rights in the political evolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The main ambition is to help the countries in the region achieve their goals concerning the Euro-Atlantic integration, he added.

Commenting on the recent statement by Russian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who said that the country's potential membership in NATO would cause Russia's reaction, he said it was a very odd statement.

“It is a threat, not diplomacy, from my experience,” he said.

Peach also warned of the influence that Russia is trying to establish in the region through media ownership and energy.

Asked to rank the problems in the Western Balkans that he earlier talked about, he replied that it would be wrong of him and inappropriate to do so, but he said that however difficult and long-standing those problems were, there is a way to find a room for conversation, because “talking is better than war.”

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/uks-peach-some-political-issues-in-the-region-could-become-security-issues/

US/EU-mediated talks on electoral reform in BiH resume

March  19, 2022

Political talks on changes to the Election Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina resumed on Saturday at the premises of the European Union Delegation in Sarajevo.

Representatives of the largest parliamentary parties including the SDA, HDZ BiH, HDZ 1990, People and Justice, SBB BiH and NES have arrived for the meeting.

The politicians did not address media prior to the gathering.

The second round of talks on Friday did not yield any results.

Negotiations are held with the mediation of US Ambassador to BiH Michael Murphy and Managing Director Europe at the European External Action Service Angelina Eichhorst.

Representatives of the civic parties complained a day ago they were discriminated in the talks, as the US/EU-facilitated talks with them took place in a separate room, away from the representatives of the ethnic-based political parties.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-eu-mediated-talks-on-electoral-reform-in-bih-resume/

EUC extends framework for restrictive measures due to situation in BiH

March 18, 2022

The Council of the European Union has adopted on Friday a decision extending its framework for restrictive measures in view of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina until 31 March 2024.

“The European Union will therefore keep its ability to impose targeted restrictive measures on individuals or entities who undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, constitutional order and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Restrictive measures can also be imposed against those who seriously threaten the security situation in the country, or undermine the Dayton/Paris General Framework Agreement for Peace,” the Council said in a press release.

It said that the Restrictive measures framework provides for a ban on travelling to the EU for natural persons, and an asset freeze for individuals and entities. In addition, EU persons are forbidden from making funds available to those listed. For the time being, no individual or entity is subject to restrictive measures within this framework.

“The Council reiterates its unequivocal commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective as a single, united and sovereign country. The Council deeply regrets the prolonged political crisis in the country, urges a full return to the State institutions, and calls on the country's leaders to refocus on the implementation of the reforms necessary to advance on the EU path, including the constitutional and electoral reform and in the field of rule of law,” the statement said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eu-council-extends-framework-for-restrictive-measures-due-to-situation-in-bih/

Vucic at SNS rally: I expect ‘strong, impossible’ pressure because of Kosovo

March 20, 2022

Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) leader and President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, said that he is expecting “strong, impossible pressure” on the country in the coming period because of Kosovo, and not only that.

The pressures on the country are increasing, said Vucic, adding that “they” will be blackmailing us in all possible ways, without specifying about whom he was talking about.

Unrelated to Kosovo, “we will face much, much greater torment and problems,” Vucic said at the SNS rally in Raska.

Vucic noted it is therefore necessary more than ever to be united, and “let others have their conflicts, while we need to avoid conflicts, regional, world and others.”

It is important to be strong and united and to let those bad things in the world pass us by, Vucic said and added that Serbia needs years of peace.

As he explained, in the “world of madness” we live in today, the rules are no longer valid, illogicalities happen, and “suddenly everything collapses before us.”

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-at-sns-rally-i-expect-strong-impossible-pressure-because-of-kosovo/

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