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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Montenegro’s Deputy PM: We witness unprovoked shelling of sovereign state

March 2, 2022
'It's shocking to witness a merciless and unprovoked shelling of a European sovereign state for the seventh day in a row," deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazovic said on Wednesday about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
„We stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU and NATO in supporting Ukraine. Montenegro offered unequivocal political support, full harmonisation with EU restrictive measures and humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine,“ Abazovic wrote on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, Montenegro’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Podgorica joined the EU’s sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/montenegros-deputy-pm-we-witness-unprovoked-shelling-of-sovereign-state/

Montenegro’s Djukanovic says Vucic jeopardizing stability of region

March 2, 2022
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic accused his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic of violating the sovereignty of the countries of the region with the Open Balkan project.
Djukanovic told Albania’s MCN TV that regional alternatives are welcome but that Montenegro has reservations about the project launched by Vucic and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and former North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
“The Open Balkan project is being presented as an alternative now. Montenegro views it with reservations. Most of the ideas initiated by the project come from other initiatives starting with the Berlin process, CEFTA… Our reasoning is that we should not increase the number of initiatives but should use their capacities, especially those under the patronage of Berlin and Brussels,” Djukanovic said.
He said another reason for his reservations about the Open Balkan project is the fact that it is being “offered as some kind of alternative to the European Union”.
Djukanovic said that Vucic is trying to present himself as a factor of regional cooperation even though “he is the man who violates the sovereignty of neighboring states and the stability of the region”. “He used Milosevic’s formula to construe claims that the Serbs in the region are in danger, that he is called to protect their rights in neighboring countries, starting with Montenegro,” he said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/montenegros-djukanovic-says-vucic-jeopardizing-stability-of-region/

Vucic announces measures to deal with economic challenges caused by Ukraine war

March 2, 2022
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday announced measures to deal with the increasingly difficult economic challenges caused by the conflict in Ukraine.
“The situation in Europe and the world is increasingly difficult because of the conflict in Ukraine and is getting more difficult by the hour. Accordingly, the Serbian leadership is taking every necessary measure to secure normal living conditions for the citizens of our country,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
According to Vucic, food prices are also rising dramatically. “It’s important to take measures which we will inform you of tonight or tomorrow. The important thing is not to panic and I am convinced that we will maintain stability and peace and a good life for our citizens,” the Serbian President said.
Vucic expressed the belief that “we will manage to overcome all political challenges together … but the economic challenges are increasingly hard and great which is why we are reacting to the highest prices in history for coal and electricity and gas and all raw materials,” he wrote.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-announces-measures-to-deal-with-economic-challenges-caused-by-ukraine-war/

Russian Ambassador: Moscow did not pressure Serbia over sanctions

March 2, 2022
Russia’s Ambassador in Belgrade Alexander Botsan Harchenko said on Wednesday that Moscow did not pressure the Serbian authorities over sanctions against his country, adding that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons.
The ambassador told the pro-government TV Prva that his country is prepared to respond to every attack but will not use nuclear weapons before others. “Claims that Russia is preparing for nuclear war are not true,” he said, recalling that US nuclear weapons are deployed in Europe. He added that the Russian military’s goal do not include targeting civilians. According to the ambassador, “Nazi units are using every opportunity to deploy heavy weapons in civilian facilities, there are videos of them in courtyards, kindergartens,” he said.
Botsan Harchenko said that all support is important to Russia, including from Serbia, but that Moscow did not pressure the Serbian authorities like the West did when they decided to impose sanctions against Russia over the military operation in Ukraine. Botsan Harchenko expects Russia-Serbia bilateral relations to continue as they have, including the agreed prices of fuels “since sanctions won’t be imposed”.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/russian-ambassador-moscow-did-not-pressure-serbia-over-sanctions/

Montenegro joins EU sanctions against Russia, moves to send aid to Ukraine

March 2, 2022
Montenegro joined the European Union's sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Montenegro's Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on Wednesday.
“By completely joining the restrictions, the economic sanctions and sanctions for individuals, Montenegro is continuing its policy of 100-percent agreement with the EU’s foreign policy,” Croatian state agency Hina cited a statement from Montenegro’s foreign ministry.
Montenegro is a tiny country of some 620,000 people which joined Nato in 2017. Along with Slovenia, Croatia, and North Macedonia it is one of four former Yugoslav republics which joined the alliance since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The nation is also a candidate for EU membership and has opened accession negotiations with the bloc in 2012.
The country’s armed forces general staff announced a donation of non-lethal military equipment, primarily bulletproof vests and helmets. Montenegro’s finance ministry also pitched in by sending €50,000 to the government in Kyiv and Red Cross Montenegro launched a special hotline for donations to fund humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
Montenegro’s government said that “due to the increased interest of Montenegrin nationals in Russia wishing to leave the country,” there are plans to organize repatriation flights operated by its flag carrier, Air Montenegro, and added that they are negotiating with Russia about setting up these flights.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/montenegro-joins-eu-sanctions-against-russia-moves-to-send-aid-to-ukraine/

Serbian Parliament speaker calls presidential elections

March 2, 2022
Serbian Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic called presidential elections on Wednesday.
Dacic told reporters in the lobby of Parliament that he was calling the elections for April 3, 90 days prior to the end of the current president’s term in office. Parliamentary and some local elections are scheduled for the same date.
The decision to call the elections takes effect once it is published in the Official Gazette, he said, adding that candidates for president can register for the elections by midnight on March 12, the same deadline as for the parliamentary elections.
Unlike the government which has a so-called technical mandate prior to the elections and is limited in its activities, the president does not have any limits on his powers.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-parliament-speaker-calls-presidential-elections/

EU Ambassadors: We are counting on Serbia at UN General Assembly

March 2, 2022
European Union Ambassadors said in an opinion piece for Belgrade tabloid Kurir that they are counting on Serbia at the UN General Assembly vote on Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.
“Part of the accession to the EU is full alignment with the common foreign and security policy. Today, the UN General Assembly will vote on a resolution on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Every vote is important. Every vote counts and we are counting on Serbia,” EU Delegation chief Emanuele Giaufret and EU member state ambassadors said in the opinion piece for the pro-government tabloid.
“The EU reiterates its unwavering support to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the piece said and added: “War is never the solution as the people of the Balkans painfully discovered at the end or the previous century”.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/eu-ambassadors-we-are-counting-on-serbia-at-un-general-assembly/

Dacic: Taking sides over Ukraine not in Serbia’s interest

March 1, 2022
Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic said on Wednesday that it’s not in Serbia’s interest to take anyone’s side over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to Dacic, Serbia is expected to take a side, including aligning its foreign policy with the European Union, which, he said, is not in Serbia’s interest. He told the state TV (RTS) that “the obligation to align with EU policies should be gradual to the point of accession” which he believes is not in the near future. “Are they guaranteeing our accession to the EU tomorrow? No, but in 10, 15, 20 years. We will align our foreign policy in 15, 20 years,” he said.
Dacic, leader of ruling coalition member the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), said that the EU wants Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia a country which he said “protects Serbia’s state and national interests”. “In that sense, we start from our interests and we have no interest in a policy in line with the interests of east or west, but only in line with our state interests,” he said.
He said that Serbia acknowledges the EU view on respect for the principle of territorial integrity, adding that the fact that Russia violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine is not good.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/dacic-taking-sides-over-ukraine-not-in-serbias-interest/

MEPs: Serbia to harmonise with EU policy, impose sanctions on Russia

March 1, 2022
MEPs Vladímir Bilčík and Tanja Fajon said on Tuesday they expected Serbia to fully align with the EU's common foreign and security policy, including imposing sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime over its aggression against it Ukraine.
Bilčík, EP rapporteur for Serbia, and Fajon, head of the EP delegation for relations with Serbia, said in a joint statement that they „see it as an important and urgent signal that Serbia supports EU principles and values and is committed to working with European partners for peace.“
„The unity of the international community in opposing Putin’s aggression against Ukraine is essential for any attempt to consolidate peace and avoid the spread of war. We expect Serbia to fully comply with the EU’s common foreign and security policy, including sanctions adopted against the regime in Russia,“ the MEPs said.
In the statement after Tuesday's adoption of the EP resolution on Russian aggression against Ukraine, Biličík and Fajon added that the international situation has "dramatically changed since last week" and that "there is no room for giving in to the aggressor."
Besides quoting the two MEPs' joint statements, the European Parliament (EP) website recalled that Serbia's Government adopted on Sunday the conclusions of the National Security Council from February 25 on the crisis in Ukraine.
"The 15-point conclusion says that Russia and Ukraine have always been friendly countries for Serbia and that Serbia has provided full and moral support for respecting the principles of Ukraine's territorial integrity. The conclusion added that regarding the sanctions, Serbia would follow the protection of own vital economic and political interests exclusively ", Bilčík and Fajon said.
It was added that while supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Serbia refused to join the EU sanctions against Russia.
"It has not unequivocally condemned the Russian military aggression" and that it was "the only country in the Western Balkans that has not harmonized with the EU position," the MEPs said.
The EP on Tuesday adopted a resolution condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/meps-serbia-to-harmonise-with-eu-policy-impose-santions-on-russia/

Erdoğan: Turkey will advocate NATO membership for Kosovo

March 1, 2022
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after meeting Kosovo's counterpart Vjosa Osmani on Tuesday that his country would advocate NATO membership for Pristina.
„Turkey, as an important NATO country, does not see anything wrong with Kosovo’s membership in NATO. We do not need anyone’s permission to support the NATO membership process. We have taken steps. As we did in the case of recognition, so we will do for the process of Kosovo’s membership in NATO,“ Erdoğan said.
He told a news conference that Turkey was the second country, after the United States, to recognise Kosovo’s independence, contributed much to the process, and continued to lobby for greater recognition of Kosovo.
„In the same way, our meetings and contacts continue to bring new recognitions from countries that have not done so. In the meeting we had, Vjosa Osmani gave me the names of several countries to secure new recognitions of Kosovo, and we want to have new recognitions,“ Erdoğan said.
Osmani added Kosovo was interested in continuing good relations with Turkey and praised Erdoğan's role in supporting Kosovo and helping it gain new recognition.
"Turkey can do a lot within NATO by supporting Kosovo," she said.
Speaking about the dialogue with Serbia, Osmani said that only mutual recognition guarantees peace and stability in the region but that Serbia was obstructing the dialogue process.
Kosovo's membership in many international organisations, particularly the UN, is almost impossible without Serbia's consent and with a possibility of Russia's veto power in the UN Security Council.
Belgrade maintains that its former province, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is still part of its territory, calling upon UN Resolution 1244 which is neutral regarding Kosovo's final status.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/erdogan-turkey-will-advocate-nato-membership-for-kosovo/

UN Rapporteur for Myanmar: Reports on Serbia’s arms export credible

March 1, 2022
Thomas Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, told the Voice of America (VOA) onTuesday that he was fully convinced the information presented in the report in which Serbia, Russia and China were named as countries that continued to export weapons to Myanmar after the military coup in February 2021 was accurate.
In a document released on February 22, Andrews said that in Myanmar, where a post-election military junta overthrew its democratically elected government, the delivery of rockets and artillery shells used in clashes with civilians continued.
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Centre for Investigative Reporting (CINS) published reports showing that Serbia exported 4.7 million euros worth of rockets to the country after the military coup in Myanmar.
Serbia's Foreign Ministry last week denied the delivery of weapons to Myanmar.
"The report of the Special Rapporteur, which, among other things, talks about Serbia's role in supplying the Myanmar Army with weapons, is largely based on speculation and unnamed sources, and not on internationally verified facts," the Ministry said in a statement.
However, in an interview with VOA, Andrews rejects that.
"My report is accurate. I sent it to all the nations listed and identified in the report. I sent them all the information I had and asked them for answers. So I was sure that everything that was published was true. If something in the document were incorrect, we would have made corrections ", Andrews said, adding he stood behind the facts in the report.
"There was a report published a few days ago, after the request for information of public importance, sent to Serbia's Government. One of my sources was the government and their documents. The following happened – Serbia's Government approved the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Myanmar in February, March, April and June 2021. That's what we knew. We also knew that the actual transfer was done after the coup in February last year, not just the approval but also the transfer of weapons. So we know that there were approvals for the transfer of weapons and that the weapons were transferred at least once - in February 2021. It happened after the coup, and we reported it," Andrews said.
Regarding Serbia's Government information to him that Belgrade stopped doing business with Myanmar, the UN rapporteur it was important that Serbia's authorities indicated in a statement that they no longer exported weapons to Myanmar, and that if every country in the world made such a decision, it would be a very positive development.
"They responded very quickly to my first letter a few weeks ago. They provided me with helpful information. I contacted them for the second time in February, about two weeks ago, before publishing the report. I presented them with additional information. We wanted to clarify the new information… However, this time we received an answer from Serbia's Government that did not contain any information except that my letter was received. No response to the essence of what was in the letter," he added.
The UN Rapporteur said that since the coup, Serbia had approved exporting thousands of rockets and artillery shells to the Myanmar army.
"I specified in the text what their size is in millimetres and so on. I described that these missiles are used to equip fighter planes and helicopters that bomb civilians in Myanmar. Also, since the coup, Serbia has approved several deliveries of rockets and grenades - February 2021, March 2021, April 2021 and June 2021. Credible information indicates that at least one shipment of rockets of 80 millimetres was sent to the Myanmar army in February 2021. That is part of what I sent," Andrews said, reiterating that the only response he got from Belgrade was that his letter arrived.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/un-rapporteur-for-myanmar-reports-on-serbias-arms-export-credible/

KRIK: NBS says no procedure against Serbia’s officials with Swiss bank accounts

March 1, 2022
Serbia's National Bank (NBS) told the investigative KRIK website it would not launch a procedure against officials who had accounts in Switzerland due to the statute of limitation, the website reported on Tuesday.
Within an international survey titled ‘Swiss Secrets,’ KRIK discovered several of Serbia’s former and current officials, businessmen, and judges.
They all failed to report the accounts to NBS, but the Bank told KRIK that the statute of limitation applied five years after they opened the accounts, i.e., committed the offence of not reporting them.
Serbia's nationals cannot have accounts abroad unless permitted by NBS, KRIK recalled
The Bank said that its decision did not prevent the prosecutors from launching their investigation based on sufficient evidence.
KRIK tried to get prosecutors to comment on whether they would start the investigation, but they did not reply.
The 'Swiss Secrets' research is an international journalism project involving 48 newsrooms from over 30 countries, including KRIK, and is based on leaked data from a bank provided to The Süddeutsche Zeitung by a source. The paper further shared the information with colleagues from other media.
KRIK analysed data related to Serbia and revealed secret accounts of former and current officials, criminals, business people and a judge.
Among the Bank's clients were Rodoljub Radulovic, on trial for international cocaine smuggling, Zoran Drobnjak, state company 'Serbia's Roads' CEO, Dragoslav Petrovic, former Deputy Prime Minister of the country's northern Vojvodina province, Milutin Levic, former 'Trajal' state-owned tyre factory and a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), a part of the ruling coalition, Milena Trgovcevic-Prokic, a former judge and others.
Drobnjak said later on Tuesday the money on the Swiss account belonged to his relative and that he only had authorisation for the account.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/krik-nbs-says-no-procedure-against-serbias-officials-with-swiss-bank-accounts/

Euractiv: EP regrets Serbia’s failure to join sanctions against Russia

March 1, 2022
The Euractiv.rs portal said on Tuesday that a draft resolution before the European Parliament expressed deep regret over Serbia’s failure to join the sanctions imposed against Russia by the European Union.
The portal said that it was granted access to the draft resolution which recalled that its failure to align with EU foreign policy damages Serbia’s EU accession process. It added that candidate countries are expected to align with the EU acquis communitaire as well as with the Union’s common foreign and security policy.
The draft resolution condemns the countries and individuals who lent support to Russia aggression on Ukraine and praised the support to Ukraine by Western Balkan EuroAtlantic allies.
Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic said that the Serbian delegation at the UN General Assembly will vote in line with the stand adopted by the Council for National Security and government not to impose sanctions on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.
The draft resolution condemns Russia’s military aggression on Ukraine as well as the involvement of Belarus and calls Moscow to immediately cease its operations and withdraw military and paramilitary forces and equipment from Ukraine.
The Serbian authorities said last week that official Belgrade supports Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty but will not impose sanctions against Russia.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/euractiv-ep-regrets-serbias-failure-to-join-sanctions-against-russia/

Vucic: Serbia won’t vote on Russia sanctions at UN General Assembly

March 1, 2022
President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that Serbia will not vote for sanctions at the special session of the UN General Assembly but will vote in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“For everything about violations of territorial integrity, Serbia joins in and for sanctions, Serbia will not join in or at least for a while longer, for the few more days that I am de facto president. Once you elect someone else, that’s a different story,” Vucic said at a groundbreaking ceremony for a road in Vojvodina. Presidential elections have been called for April 3.
“There were nine votes yesterday. We did not join in for eight but we did for one,” he said commenting the UN General Assembly special session called over Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. “We will have one which we will join in today,” he added.
Vucic said that the pressure on the Serbian authorities was huge. “I had talks with officials of a number of countries late into the night and all day today. So much for the great respect for the independence and rights of countries to decide for themselves,” he said adding that he believes official Belgrade will resist the pressure and avoid the wrath of the powerful. “We will try to save and defend the country without losing face,” he said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-serbia-wont-vote-on-russia-sanctions-at-un-general-assembly/

Croatian daily: Western Balkans stable but hybrid attacks are possible

March 1, 2022
The Russian aggression on Ukraine and the altered global security situation will have a two-fold effect on the situation in the Balkans - at least at the current stage, because the situation is changing quickly, Zagreb daily Vecernji List reported on Tuesday, adding that Serbia will have to choose a side.
Serbia has a crucial role in the region, as the current situation will force it to choose between Russia and the West. There is no longer room for neutrality, the daily said, noting that the other dimension of the regional impact of the Ukraine crisis is a type of hybrid warfare in the Western Balkans, with refugees, disinformation, or cyber space being used as weapons.
In terms of security, the situation is additionally complicated by the fact that three countries in the region are NATO members, which is both a stabilising factor as well as a risk in terms of a potential attack, albeit not a classic one at the moment. There is no information at present that hard security is threatened or that the region has been destabilised, even though there is always a possibility that the conflict might spill over, says the daily.
The focus is entirely on Serbia, with everyone waiting for Belgrade to finally decide who to side with, whether it will join the EU’s political positions, statements and votes in international forums and whether it will join the sanctions against Russia, and if so, to what extent.
For the time being, Serbia has decided not to join the West in the sanctions against Russia.
“There is no longer any room for neutrality. Serbia’s choice is binary… either you are for us or for them,” a person with a good knowledge of geopolitics told the daily.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/croatian-daily-western-balkans-stable-but-hybrid-attacks-are-possible/

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