International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Vucic: Albania reacted appropriately to burning of Serbian flag

December 21, 2021
President Aleksandar Vucic told the Serbian state TV on Tuesday that the Albanian authorities reacted appropriately to the burning of the Serbian flag at a protest in Tirana.
A crowd of several hundred supporters of former Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha gathered in Tirana on Monday night to protest against the Open Balkan initiative and Vucic, tearing down and burning a flag of Serbia.
“I known that most people are interested in hearing what I have to say about the flag burning but, viewed rationally, we have to look to the future and understand when they get angry because we burn their flag like before (Albanian Prime Minister) Edi Rama came to Serbia. I won’t enter into their inner party reasons but of course the desecration of symbols is impermissible and I think that Albania reacted promptly, seriously and responsibily and it’s our job to do the same,” Vucic said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-albania-reacted-appropriately-to-burning-of-serbian-flag/

Serbian PM says protest in Tirana had support from Belgrade

December 21, 2021
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that the protests in Tirana prior to a summit of the Open Balkan initiative had support from Belgrade.
A crowd of several hundred people protested against the Open Balkan initiative and the presence of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in the capital of Albania. The crowd tore down and burned a Serbian flag flying in a central square, prompting Prime Minister Edi Rama to move the working dinner to the city of Elbasan. The Serbian authorities customarily blame opponents, both explicitly and implicitly, for any opposition to their plans.
“The protests certainly had support from Belgrade,” Brnabic said in a live talk show on the pro-regime Happy TV without specifically naming anyone. “There are people dragging up forces from the past and there are people pulling into the future … because some people simply can’t imagine a future different to the past of the region,” she said
According to her, the Open Balkan initiative is opposed by people “stuck in some stereotypes that they can’t get out of” and added that there are people who fear that the initiative will reveal all their weaknesses.
Brnabic echoed Vucic’s view that the initiative does not run counter to European Union principles. She said that Vucic is a visionary who saw a different future for young people and added that regional cooperation will bring faster economic growth and development.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-pm-says-protest-in-tirana-had-support-from-belgrade/

Belgrade City Assembly adopts 2022 budget

December 21, 2021
The Belgrade City Assembly adopted the Serbian capital’s 2022 budget of more than 160 billion Dinars on Tuesday.
The budget stands at 160.3 billion Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) and is divided into 146.3 billion for the city budget and the rest for the budgets of the municipalities. More than a third of the money – 54.6 billion Dinars or 37.3 percent – is earmarked for traffic infrastructure and traffic in the city. Another 19.6 billion Dinars are intended for pre-schools and schools and 17.9 billion for local administration services with just over 15 billion for communal services.
Mayor Zoran Radojicic told the City Assembly session that a lot of effort was invested in planning the budget which will allow the city to develop, adding that 160 billion Dinars is “huge money”.
The budget was criticized by opposition Assembly members who boycotted the session. Former Mayor now leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) Dragan Djilas said the authorities are spending money on nonsense while People’s Party official Marina Lipovac Tanaskovic said that the budget does not include money for capital investments or infrastructure projects.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/belgrade-city-assembly-adopts-2022-budget/

Kosovo police arrest former local officials in majority-Serb town

December 21, 2021
The Kosovo police arrested a former mayor of the majority-Serb town of Strpce and nine others on suspicion of corruption.
According to a statement from the Prosecutor’s office in Urosevac, 10 former municipal officials and business people were arrested on suspicion of giving and taking bribes and abusing their positions in construction deals on Mt Brezovica. The Serbian state TV (RTS) said that the police operation began at 6 am. Albanian language media said that the police searched 10 properties and homes.
The Kosovo police operation drew fierce criticism from the head of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo Petar Petkovic who said that the raid by the Kosovo special police units was intended to intimidate the local Serbs and was part “of the new terror” launched by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.
“Kurti is sending the ROSU special unit under full combat gear into Serb communities with the sole goal of criminalizing the Serbs who are the only defense of our national interests in the province. How is it that Kurti does not see corruption and crime in his own ranks when all international players know that the flow of dirty money goes through Albanian communities,” Petkovic said in a written statement.
According to Petkovic, Strpce is obviously being targeted because it is a Serb stronghold andd the southernmost point of a Serb presence in Kosovo. He said that the date of the operation was not chosen by chance because Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is due to sign six important agreements under the Open Balkan initiative in Albania on Tuesday.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kosovo-police-arrest-former-local-officials-in-majority-serb-town/

Coronavirus: Slovenia’s caseloads continue to fall

December 20, 2021
In the last 24 hours, of 1,514 coronavirus tests conducted in Slovenia, 37.8 percent, that is 585, have turned out to be positive, the country's authorities reported on Monday.
The number of new infections thus was by 92 cases fewer than the week before. Currently, 696 Covid patients are receiving hospital treatment, and of them 215 are in intensive care wards. Although coronavirus numbers, including the hospital admissions, continued to decline, Health Minister Janez Poklukar said today that the government was planning the relaxation of the anti-epidemic rules during the coming festive season.
The government will have to weigh and balance anti-epidemic measures having in mind the situation in Slovenia and also the measures taken by other EU member-states, said the minister. The country has stepped up immunization, and 62 vaccination points are open throughout Slovenia until Thursday and some of them work round the clock.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-slovenias-caseloads-continue-to-fall/

Croatia logs 367 new coronavirus cases, 62 deaths

December 20, 2021
In the last 24 hours, of 2,208 tests conducted for coronavirus in Croatia, 16.7% (367) have returned positive, and another 62 COVID patients have died, raising the COVID-related death toll to 12,043, Croatia's COVID crisis management team reported on Monday.
There are currently 19,570 active cases of infection in the country, and of them, 2,178 are hospitalised patients, including 268 placed on ventilators.
Since the first registered case of infection with the novel virus in Croatia on 25 February 2020, 675,730 people have been diagnosed with this infectious disease, and of them, 644,117 have recovered to date, including 3,341 in the last 24 hours.
So far, 2,242,791 residents have got vaccinated and the rate of fully vaccinated adults stands at 61.59%.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/croatia-logs-367-new-coronavirus-cases-62-deaths/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 31 deaths, 1,029 new cases

December 20, 2021
The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Monday that 31 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,029.
It said that 12,656 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 1,029 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The total number of people tested to date stands at 7,077,197 with 1,283,490 confirmed cases.
The bulletin said that there are 2,370 hospitalized cases, including 121 patients on ventilators.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-31-deaths-1029-new-cases/

Crowd burns Serbian flag in Albanian capital

December 20, 2021
A crowd burned the Serbian flag in downtown Tirana on Monday to protest the visit to the Albanian capital by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
Vucic is in Tirana for a summit with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev as part of their Open Balkan initiative.
The crowd of several hundred people gathered after Rama’s predecessor Sali Berisha called for the protest against the initiative and Vucic.
Rama moved the summit to the city of Elbasan where the three political leaders met for a working dinner on Monday night. The summit is scheduled to take place on Tuesday when Vucic, Rama and Zaev are planned to sign six agreements, including an agreement on conditions for free access to the labor market in the Western Balkans.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/crowd-burns-serbian-flag-in-albanian-capital/

N1 documentary on Kosovo Serb Asphalt Kings

December 20, 2021
The documentary by N1's Mladen Savatovic shows how Kosovo Serb businessmen have been winning lucrative government construction jobs long before they were named by the US Treasury as people involved in crime and corruption.
The lives of residents of two villages outside the central Serbian town of Paracin turned into a nightmare in 2019 when the construction of the Morava corridor began. A businessman from Kosovo opened a quarry right next to the village of Lesje and Plana making blasting, dust and heavy trucks their new reality. Something similar happened to the village of Ba with the opening of a quarry owned by men targeted as perpetrators of corruption by the US Treasury, especially during the construction of the Milos Veliki highway section between Ljig and Lajkovac. Six years later and they still have no peace.
Who are the controversial contractors from Kosovo and how were they lucky enough to get the most profitable construction jobs from the authorities?
How did the question – Do you know who you’re fighting? – force people to sell their family properties which stood in the way of big state and private ambitions?
What happened to the people who said no?
The Asphalt Kings – a documentary by Mladen Savatovic.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/n1-documentary-on-kosovo-serb-asphalt-kings/

Dodik's advisor says Hungary not only country opposing sanctions on Serb leader

December 20, 2021
Hungary is not the only country that would impose veto on possible sanctions on Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, said his advisor Radovan Kovacevic.
The statement comes a day after the media in Bosnia's Serb-majority region carried Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto saying that the European Union can impose sanctions only unanimously with all member states but that Hungary would not support it.
Kovacevic said that Hungary gave an indirect confirmation that it would not allow something like that.
“What I'm trying to say that Hungary is not alone in that. However, I think that a lot more important are the messages that Foreign Affairs Minister of Hungary Peter Szijjarto conveyed, and that's that imposing sanctions on someone without hearing those people out is a very bad approach,” he added.
Kovacevic did not specifed what other countries he referred to.
According to him, Dodik and the entity leadership are “willint to explain Repubika Srpska's arguments,” which are, according to him, based on the compliance with the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its territorial integrity.
What's most important, Kovacevic stressed, Republika Srpska is taking no single step that would jeopardise the peace and stability.
Republika Srpska's entity parliament recently adopted conclusions, making steps towards withdrawal from Bosnia's central institutions and forming its own, as a response to now former international peace envoy, High Representative Valentin Inzko, who imposed law changes banning the genocide denial and glorification of war criminals earlier this year, which Dodik and Republika Srpska leadership strongly opposed.
The decision raised concern among some foreign countries, including UK and Germany, whose officials spoke openly about the necessity of the EU introducing sanctions on Dodik.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dodiks-advisor-says-hungary-not-only-country-opposing-sanctions-on-serb-leader/

Ambassador Nelson awarded European Movement's Medal of Honour

December 20, 2021
European Movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina awarded US Ambassador Eric Nelson with the Medal of Honour on Tuesday for his role in strengthening the friendship and cooperation among the peoples, and preserving the peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Predrag Prastalo, the European Movement Chairman, said he was honoured to have a chance to deliver this prize to an ambassador of the US for the first time.
He marked this as one of the most important events in 15 years of the Movement's history.
“I hope we will continue the cooperation with Nelson's successor as well, because in a polarised world one needs as many friends, partners as possible, and it will be a lot better for us in BiH too,” said Prastalo.
Nelson thanked for the prize and stressed the importance of the Movement's work.
“The US shares the goal of the European Movement in BiH of seeing Bosnia and Herzegovina strengthen its ties with Europe and enact reforms that will pave the way for it to join the European Union,” he said.
“I would also like to salute the many citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina doing the difficult and important work of reconciliation and working jointly on economic, social and political development here,” he added.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/ambassador-nelson-awarded-european-movements-medal-of-honour/

US embassy donates equipment to Serbian police

December 20, 2021
The American Embassy in Belgrade donated 280,000 Dollars worth of equipment to combat drug trafficking to the Serbian police on Monday.
The Internal Affairs Ministry (MUP) said that the latest generation equipment would help the police in their efforts to combat drug trafficking and the processing of suspected drug traffickers.
Ambassador Anthony Godfrey is quoted as praising the efforts of the Criminal Police Department.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/us-embassy-donates-equipment-to-serbian-police/

Vucic, Rama, Zaev: Western Balkans disappointed with EU

December 20, 2021
The political leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia warned that their populations are disappointed by the repeated obstruction of their wish to join the European Union.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in an op-ed piece for the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung that the citizens of the Western Balkans have seen their desire to be accepted by the EU stopped by failure to meet promises and a fear of the future. “That led to disappointment, instability, emigration and a lack of great investments. As political leaders of these countries we can either complain or do something about it. We have decided on the latter,” they said.
They said that their vision is to implement the four European liberties at home and overcome social, economic and trade barriers slowing down the economic growth of the region, recalling their Open Balkan initiative which proved effective in dealing with the situation in the pandemic. They called all other Western Balkan countries to join the initiative.
“As responsible politicians we can’t allow the region to return to the nightmares of the past at a time when the EU is incapable of doing more on its expansion…The Open Balkan initiative is not a consolation prize to replace EU membership but a big step towards membership,” they said, adding that the entire EU should support the initiative.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-rama-zaev-western-balkans-disappointed-with-eu/

Serbian government denies giving minister apartment

December 20, 2021
The Serbian government on Monday denied media reports that a cabinet minister had been given the use of a government-owned apartment.
The media reported that Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs Minister Darija Kisic Tepavcevic had been given the use of a government apartment. The government owns a number of apartments and houses which it allocates to whoever it sees fit.
“Kisic Tepavcevic never got the use of an apartment from the Serbian Government Housing Commission,” a press release said. It added that the minister did not get a lease for an apartment.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-government-denies-giving-minister-apartment/

US set to name Resident Legal Advisor for Western Balkans

December 20, 2021
The US Justice Department is set to appoint a Resident Legal Advisor for the Western Balkans to help enhance the judiciary and law enforcement capacities of the countries of the region.
The Advisor will be assigned to the US Embassy in Croatia and will represent the Justice Department and its Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT).
“The mission of the Criminal Division’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) is to develop and administer technical and developmental assistance designed to enhance the capabilities of foreign justice sector institutions and their law enforcement personnel. This assistance is administered to enable those institutions and their personnel to combat terrorism, transnational organized crime, corruption, financial crimes, and other types of crimes more effectively in a manner consistent with the rule of law. The assistance is also administered to enable those institutions and their personnel to more effectively cooperate regionally and with the United States in combating such crime,” the Justice Department web site said.
It said that the Resident Legal Advisor will provide technical assistance (funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs) to raise capacity to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate cases involving corruption and organized crime throughout the Western Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
“Assistance will focus on, but is not limited to, procurement fraud, corruption, money laundering, organized crime, FinTech, gender-based violence, and trafficking. This will involve technical assistance, mentoring, and advice on the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of cases. It will also involve analysis of, and advice on, current or pending legislation,” it added.
OPDAT helped establish specialized police and prosecutor anti-corruption units in Serbia, provided direct case-based mentoring to local prosecutors on high-profile corruption cases in Kosovo; and leads the Bosnia-Herzegovina anti-corruption inter-agency working group tasked with corruption issues.
Souce:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/us-set-to-name-resident-legal-advisor-for-western-balkans/

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