International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbian Parliament amends laws to limit campaigning by officials

December 13, 2019

The Serbian Parliament adopted amendments to a set of laws on Friday whose implementation should help improve election conditions.

MPs adopted amendments to the laws on financing political activities, preventing corruption, on the Anti-Corruption Agency and law on state-owned companies all of which are intended to primarily limit the so-called officials’ campaign.  

Election campaigning by state officials has been one of the things that the opposition wants to do away with, claiming that this would improve election conditions.  

According to the amendments, party officials who hold public office or are CEOs of state-owned companies will not be allowed to use public resources for party purposes and the Anti-Corruption Agency is now obliged to react to cases of campaigning by officials within three days.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552080/Serbian-Parliament-amends-laws-to-limit-campaigning-by-officials.html

EP: Serbian regime fails to meet obligations; opposition wants elections delayed

December 12, 2019

European Parliament officials Tanja Fajon and Vladimir Bilcik wrote in an editorial for Belgrade daily Blic that the Serbian authorities have failed to meet most of the obligations they accepted in the talks on improving election conditions, while the opposition said if elections were not postponed, "we are wasting time."

Fajon, the former EP rapporteur for Serbia now chairs the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee while Bilcik took over as rapporteur. Both are involved in the talks on election conditions between the Serbian authorities and part of the opposition with former MEPs Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein. 

Bosko Obradovic, a leader of the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) opposition told N1 he would only ask the EP delegation later on Thursday was the option of postponing the general elections due in March ‘on the table’ in the talks with Serbia’s authorities. “If it’s not, we only waste time,” Obradovic said. “If the MEPs say there are no conditions for free elections, Aleksandar Vucic will have to negotiate the next day. If they say there are conditions, it means they choose Vucic and scarify democracy in Serbia.”

SzS will have a separate meeting with MEPs since it boycott the talks in Serbia's Parliament.

According to their article, an analysis of the situation following two rounds of the talks showed that some progress had been achieved but that more than 60 percent of the accepted obligations had not been met or had been partly implemented. “Clearly, significant steps have to be taken, especially in regard to freedom of the media and the role of public broadcasters,” they wrote.  They warned that there is little time left to improve election conditions by implementing all obligations before the election campaign starts and suggested a review of the election time frame with full respect for the constitution and laws to allow the implementation of obligations and restore trust in the election framework.  

Under current Serbian law, the elections for parliament have to be called by the president 90 days before the current parliament’s term in office expires and the vote has to be held no less than 45 days and no more than 60 days after the elections are called. This parliament was constituted on June 3, 2016.  

Fajon and Bilcik said that the only way that the opposition which has decided to boycott the elections can present themselves to the electorate is to join in the political and election process. They said that the implementation of the accepted obligations is the most important thing at present to ensure that the voters are sure that real changes and improvements have been achieved.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551676/Serbian-authorities-fail-to-implement-obligations-Fajon-Bilcik-say.html

Serbia's opposition says illusion ends, election boycott only option

December 12, 2019

Vuk Jeremic, the leader of the opposition People's Party and the Chairman of the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) group, said late on Thursday that "tonight, the illusion (about a possibility to take part in the next spring general elections) ended," the Beta news agency reported.

He addressed reporters after SzS leaders met the Euro-parliamentarians who tried to mediate between the ruling and opposition parties in implementing some changes that would enable "a free and fair vote," and persuade the opposition to take part.

SzS boycotted all three rounds of talks in Serbia's Parliament but had separate meetings with European Parliament (EP) officials Tanja Fajon and Vladimir Bilcikand two MEPs.

Fajon, the former EP rapporteur for Serbia now chairs the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee while Bilcik took over as rapporteur. Both are involved in the talks on election conditions between the Serbian authorities and part of the opposition with former MEPs Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein.

The representative of the '1 in 5 million' organisation also met with Euro-parliamentarians on Thursday evening, and told reporters afterwards that the EP people “understood our message and were surprised with information we provided.” The organisation also advocates the boycott of the vote because the regime hasn’t accepted demands on changes of the election rules their expert team has drafted.

 After Thursday's meeting, Jeremic said "there was no dilemma about SzS decision to boycott the elections. We'll continue to fight for the change of elections' rules."

He added that the Euro-parliamentarians understood the message.

"As far as SzS is concerned this was the last meeting in this phase of the struggle for free and fair elections," Jeremic said.

He added that "the Friday's meeting with other political parties which take part in the dialogue will be a formal attempt to end a political crisis."

Jeremic thanked the European partners for trying but added there were no results.

"Only one man decides whether elections will be fair, and that's (Serbia's President) Aleksandar Vucic," he said.

Jeremic reiterated the opposition's demand for the postponement of elections.

Besides Jeremic, all other SzS leaders attended the meeting with Euro-parliamentarians.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551948/Serbia-s-largest-opposition-group-say-no-dilema-about-election-boycott.html

Criminal charges against Vucic in the hands of organized crime prosecutor

December 12, 2019

Serbia’s Public Prosecutor’s Office forwarded to Organised Crime Prosecutor the criminal charges against President Aleksandar Vucic and his brother Andrej linked to a case of cultivating marijuana, filed by Milos Vucevic, Novi Sad Mayor and a deputy leader of Vucic's ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), N1 reported.

The Public Prosecutor's Office told the state Tanjug agency it expected the colleagues to publicise their decision in due time.

Police found a large number of marijuana plants at the Jovanjica farm, registered for cultivating health food. It was visited earlier by state officials, including Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin.

According to the opposition, the owner of the farm called Andrej Vucic when he was arrested.

Vucevic said he, himself a lawyer, said he filed charges as a private citizen and not because the President asked him to.

However, he filed charges on Monday, while Vucic announced them two days earlier, last Saturday.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551888/Charges-against-President-Vucic-and-his-brother-sent-to-Organised-Crime-Prosecutor.html

Bosnia's international administrator could impose ban on genocide denial

December 12, 2019

The international community is increasingly in favour of certain changes being imposed in Bosnia, High Representative Valentin Inzko said on Thursday, adding that his office is working on a law banning genocide denial.

“Some things which are not tolerable anymore are taking place,” he said, adding that the climate in the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), a body made up of foreign ambassadors and heads of international organizations overseeing the peace process in Bosnia, is changing.

Inzko said that more and more countries are in favour of him using the Bonn Powers - a special set of powers which allow High Representatives to impose laws and fire officials, among other things.

“I never had support for using the Bonn powers to this extent before,” Inzko told BHRT, Bosnia’s public broadcaster.

He said that this support indicates how frustrated the international community is with Bosnia, adding that there was still no concrete decision on how the powers would be used.

He hinted at the possibility that something may be done regarding the rule of law in the country and that the international community could influence changes in Bosnia’s judiciary.

“Something in that direction can be expected in the new year. For the international community, we must be united, and we are united on that issue both on implementation and on urgency. Some things need to happen urgently, especially when it comes to the judiciary,” he said.

Inzko pointed out that 75 percent of Bosnia’s citizens are not satisfied with the state of the judiciary and that this is one of the reasons why people keep leaving the country.

The Office of the High Representative is currently working on a law on banning genocide denial which could be imposed if the Parliament does not adopt it, he said.

“I will wait a couple of weeks. In the meantime, my people in the legal department are working on some elements of that law on banning genocide denial. I think that this is a cultural, moral and ethical imperative and if this would be done, Bosnia and Herzegovina would then be as other countries which punish those who deny the Holocaust,” Inzko said, stressing that the Parliament must adopt such a law, especially in the year when the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide is being marked.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551960/Valentin-Inzko-s-office-working-on-a-law-banning-genocide-denial.html

Vucic: Jeremic demeaning Serbia

December 11, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that opposition People’s Party leader Vuk Jeremic was demeaning Serbia by saying that Kosovo Albanian political leader Albin Kurti was everything that Vucic is not.

Speaking on N1 TV’s Pressing talk show, Jeremic said that Kurti, the leader of the Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) movement and most likely next prime minister of Kosovo, was “stable, patriotic, an intellectual, the opposite of Vucic”.

Vucic added that Jeremic wanted to say that Serbia would do much better in the talks with Pristina if he represented Belgrade. Jeremic is a former Serbian Foreign Minister and President of the UN General Assembly. “We say how Serbia did when those geniuses led it, when Kosovo declared independence,” Vucic told the pro-regime TV Pink.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551390/Vucic-Jeremic-demeaning-Serbia.html

Serbia’s opposition to block all entries to state TV for eight hours on Friday

December 12, 2019

The Alliance for Serbia (SzS) said it would block all entries to the public broadcaster RTS from noon to 8 pm on Friday, the Alliance chairman Vuk Jeremic confirmed, while the Association of Serbia’s Journalists (UNS) asked SzS to give the idea up, the FoNet news agency reported.

Jeremic told reporters that SzS, activists and ordinary people would bloc RTS because “RTS has been blocking the truth for eight years.”

He listed some affairs involving top officials, attacks on journalists and alike that RTS did not report on professionally or at all.

Jeremic said it would be “a warning blockade” to tell RTS it should do its job professionally.

Commenting on the announced blockade, RTS said in a statement that it was not an ordinary criticism of their work, but the “activities of a part of the political public in Serbia which crossed the line of proper civil behaviour and political action.

 He also said the blockade would be peaceful, but added the police did not allow the rally since the permission was asked for too late, i.e., not five days ahead, as required by the law.

“If police try to prevent us, let everyone does their job. If they want to arrest us, let them,” Jeremic said.

Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister and an SNS high-ranking official, said that the opposition’s announcement of the RTS blockade was a proof that they had nothing to offer to people since they used “blockades instead of programmes.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551862/Opposition-to-block-Serbia-s-state-TV-building-for-eight-hours-on-Friday.html

SDA to Serbian Def. Minister: Truth about war crimes in Bosnia can not be denied

December 12, 2019

The truth about the crimes committed in Bosnia during the war can not be denied and recent statements by Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin about Sarajevo only show his hatred toward the Bosnian capital, the main Bosniak Party in the country said in Thursday statement.

Vulin commented on a decision by Canton Sarajevo to declare Nobel Prize winner Peter Handke, a vocal supporter of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, persona non grata. Handke has been accused of, among other things, denying that a genocide took place in Srebrenica in 1995.

 “Handke will not lose anything by not getting a chance to see what a Jamahiriya (a term used as an insult in the region to describe an Islamic society) looks like in the Balkans, but Sarajevo will lose out on a lot because it will not meet a courageous and wise man,” Vulin said on Wednesday.

“The statements by Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin on Sarajevo are an expression of his powerlessness,” Bosnia’s Party for Democratic Action (SDA) said its statement the next day, adding that the facts established by international courts - in this case, the war crimes committed in Bosnia during the war - can not be denied.

“Vulin, who was a servant to Slobodan Milosevic and Mira Markovic, obviously regrets that the aggressors did not manage to conquer Sarajevo. Karadzic’s and Mladic’s army has, with support from Serbia, committed systematic terror against Sarajevo’s citizens, killing children and civilians for years,” the party said.

“Vulin’s wish for terror to be committed again against this city is obviously hiding behind his hatred toward Sarajevo, but he must know he will never have the chance for that again. They will never catch Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sarajevo unprepared again,” the SDA statement concluded.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551900/SDA-says-Serbia-s-Def-Min-hates-Sarajevo.html

Belgrade University Senate annuls Fin Min doctorate as plagiarism

December 12, 2019

The Belgrade University Senate unanimously declared Serbia's Finance Minister Sinisa Mali's doctorate as plagiarism and cancelled it, N1 reported.

The Senate confirmed the University Commission for Professional Ethic's decision with all 32 members who were in the meeting voting in favour.

That is the final step regarded the University, and Mali can appeal the decision with the Administrative Court.

The Minister's doctorate saga dragged for years before the students organised in "1 in 5 million" grouping blocked the Rectorate for 12 days and were supported by the Rector Ivanka Popovic and some other professors in their demand to finally solve what they described as plagiarism from the beginning.

Many professors from home and abroad said the same, but the Organisational Sciences Faculty (FON) first voted it was not and then changed its ruling.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551800/Serbia-s-Finance-Minister-s-doctorate-plagiarism-University-Senate-rules.html

Countryman: arms dealer’s activities problem on Serbia’s path to EU

December 12, 2019

Former US diplomat and ranking official of the Arms Control Association Thomas Countryman told N1 that Washington is aware of the activities of Serbian arms dealer Slobodan Tesic over the past 20 years, adding that those activities were one of the main problems in the country’s accession to the European Union.

Countryman said that the sanctions imposed on Tesic and his associates are not a surprise. He said they were not imposed over specific arms deals but as part of the fight against corruption. That means that Tesic and his associates can’t make deals with US business people nor can they use American banks.  

He said he can’t comment on events since he retired in 2016 but confirmed that there were discussions about Tesic and the deals he made before then on several occasions. “In my opinion, the Serbian government could have imposed tighter control over arms exports,” he said and added that the main reason that Serbia could not join the Wassenaar Arrangement in 2016 was because of Tesic’s activities.

The Wassenaar Arrangement is an arms trade control agreement between 44 countries intended to promote transparency in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.

Speaking about Serbia’s accession to the European Union, Countryman said that Kosovo is not the main obstacle, specifying that the main problem is reaching the level of rule of law expected of EU members.

“Serbia can’t benefit from all the privileges and responsibility at EU level while maintaining transparency and rule of law at the level of Russia and China,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551748/Countryman-arms-dealer-s-activities-problem-on-Serbia-s-path-to-EU.html

Handke declared persona non grata in Kosovo

December 12, 2019

The authorities in Pristina decided to declare Nobel laureate Peter Handke persona non grata in Kosovo, following in the wake of a decision by the Sarajevo Canton in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Kosovo’s outgoing Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on his Twitter account that Handke and the Nobel committee showed a lack of respect for victims of genocide and added that he decided to declare the literary prize laureate a persona non grata because of his support to the late FRY President Slobodan Milosevic.

Handke was presented the Nobel Literature Prize at a ceremony in Stockholm earlier this week, amid protests over his backing of the Milosevic regime during the wars of the 1990s.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551688/Handke-declared-persona-non-grata-in-Kosovo.html

EPP youth: Boycott irresponsible act, can damage democracy in Serbia

December 12, 2019

The youth organisation of the European People’s Party (YEPP), the largest youth political organisation in Europe, said on Wednesday it saw Serbia’s opposition call for election boycott as “irresponsible act which can damage democracy in Serbia,” the Beta news agency reported.

YEPP said it was worried about some events during the opposition protests in Serbia and strongly condemned “previous calls for a lynch of the President (Aleksandar Vucic) and other state officials.”

Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has been in power since 2012 and is an EPP associate member since 2016.   

YEPP called on Serbia’s opposition to refrain from inflammatory statements and to take part in the inter-party dialogue under the European Parliament’s auspices.

They also advised people in Serbia to vote in the forthcoming general elections.

The majority of Serbia's opposition says it will boycott general elections next spring due to "the lack of conditions for a free and fair vote."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551612/YEPP-tells-Serbia-s-opposition-to-refrain-from-inflamatory-statements.html

Fajon: Serbia in political crisis, authorities don’t implement recommendations

December 11, 2019

Serbia is in a delicate state ahead of general elections, in a kind of political crisis, Tanja Fajon, the Chair of EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, has said on Wednesday, the FoNet news agency reported.

She adds the democracy and media freedom are seriously violated since the TV channels with national frequency don’t treat all parties equally, what is, as she tells Radio Free Europe (RFE), is inadmissible.    

Addressing the round table discussion on election conditions in Serbia held in Brussels, and attended by Serbia’s opposition leaders, Fajon said fair conditions for the next years’ elections should be created, adding the situation was far from ideal.

“The ruling parties are still not implementing the recommendations necessary for free and fair elections. We see some progress in comparison to the last talks, but I would like that we see the progress in real life, and we still don’t see it,” Fajon said.

Nevertheless, Fajon called on Serbia’s opposition leaders present in Brussels, Dragan Djilas, Nebojsa Zelenovic and Dejan Nikolic, to think again about the decision to boycott the dialogue with the ruling coalition.    

“Boycott can be a tool, but the Parliament is the place for changes and dialogue,” Fajon said.

The majority of Serbia’s opposition parties have been boycotted the Parliament session for over a year due to, as they say,  the behaviour of the ruling coalition deputies and have said they will also boycott the next spring general elections.  

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551604/Fajon-says-Serbia-i-political-crisis.html 

Thaci: No compromise with Serbia without recognition of Kosovo

December 11, 2019

Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci described his Serbia’s counterpart Aleksandar Vucic’s statement about Belgrade being ready for an agreement with Pristina, but without recognising Kosovo as an independent state, as a provocation, the Beta news agency reported on Wednesday.

 Vucic told the Greek Kathimerini daily Serbia had always sought a compromise and did not want to impose a solution that would suit only one side.

“If someone thinks they will come to Belgrade and tell us to recognise Kosovo’s independence… that won’t happen,” Vucic said.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551590/Serbia-s-call-for-comproomise-without-recognition-provocation-Thaci-says.html

US Embassy attaché: Washington warned Belgrade over Tesic several times

December 11, 2019

The US embassy in Belgrade told Insajder, the independent production, that the embassy had several times clearly informed Serbia’s Government about Washington’s concerns which were the topic of the latest Treasury Department press release with the list of companies and individuals who were sanctioned for corruption, including the associates of Slobodan Tesic, who ‘directly or indirectly worked for him or on his behalf,’ N1 reported on Wednesday.

Tesic is world-wide known arms trader who Serbia's opposition links to top country's officials.

Insajder asked the US embassy if it ever delivered a note to Serbia’s Foreign Ministry about Tesic regarding arms trade and the control of export.    

On Tuesday, Serbia's Foreign Ministry denied it received a note from Washington regarding Tesic as the opposition said, and added in a statement sent to N1 TV that  "the Ministry is in permanent contact with the US and other countries' embassies on many issues. Slobodan Tesic was discussed in August concerning several things - talking points about the export control, what is not even a non-paper, let alone a note."

James Hagenburger, US Belgrade embassy media attaché, told Insajder that the embassy “does not comment on the content of private meetings, such as “diplomatic talks, including those with Serbia’s Government, that are confidential, unless it is agreed with the hosts to send a message to the public.”

However, the attaché confirmed that Tesic, who was under the US sanctions from 2017, was a topic in some talks. His associates were added to the list of companies and individuals that were under sanctions.

“Using the adequate channels, we passed on to Serbia’s Government our concerns mentioned in the December 9  Treasury’s statement  on several occasions. The fight against corruption is of the key significance in providing people in Serbia a stable economic future and prosperity. The US supports Serbia’s goal to join the EU,” the attaché wrote to Insider.

He added that Washington’s decision “brings significant and real consequences for those corrupted in Serbia” and other countries “who violate the rule of law, ignore the internationally accepted standards in human rights and endanger the stability of the international political and economic order.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551538/Washington-tells-Belgrade-about-its-concern-relation-Tesic-on-several-occasions.html  

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