International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Kristo, Plenkovic-Joint session a contribution to development of both countries

June 20, 2023

The joint session of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is being held in Zagreb, began with an address by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to the members of the council and the chair Borjana Kristo, who expressed satisfaction with the organization of the session and continuous partnership between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Plenkovic said that the goal of the session is the continuation of a sincere and constant partnership between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia in all aspects of cooperation.

He emphasized that the session is designed in three segments – to strongly support the European perspective of BiH, the improvement of economic, transport, energy and cross-border cooperation, and the stability and functionality of BiH.

Chairperson Kristo thanked Prime Minister Plenkovic for his efforts to organize today's joint session.

“This joint session is of great importance in confirming our previous good relations and above all friendship between the two countries, but also the willingness to move towards further strengthening and improvement of cooperation on the political, economic, and every other level,” said Kristo.

She added that bilateral relations between Croatia and Bosnia are based on shared historical and cultural ties but are also directed towards the future.

She expressed the belief that Croatia's experience will greatly help in fulfilling the tasks set before BiH by the European Commission.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/kristo-plenkovic-joint-session-a-contribution-to-development-of-both-countries/

Kurti wants to meet Vucic to show „documents on kidnapping of policemen“

June 20, 2023

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he was “ready and interested” in meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels so he can “present all the documents” on “the crime that was committed against the three police officers and their families.”

Kurti said “de-escalation toward peace means justice,” and “normalization (of relations) means immediate and unconditional implementation of the basic agreement.”

“I am ready and interested in going to the next meeting in Brussels to present, in detail, all this information that we have received realizing that the de-escalation that everyone is asking for means immediate and unconditional release of the three police officers and the condemnation of Serbia’s aggression in Kosovo,” Kurti told a joint press conference with Kosovo Minister for Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Donika Gervalla.

Kurti and Gervalla presented to the media the details of the visit Kosovo liaison officer in Belgrade Jetish Jashari paid to the three Kosovo police officers detained in Serbia.

Gervalla said that, based on the information received from Jashari following his talks with the Kosovo police officers detained in Kraljevo, Serbia, they were “kidnapped while having lunch inside the Kosovo territory.”

“Today, Ambassador Jetish Jashari, head of the Liaison Office in Belgrade, visited the kidnapped policemen. The visit took place in the detention center in Kraljevo, where they are being held on charges of illegal possession of weapons,” she said.

Gervalla said each of the three policemen described the event.

She said that, on June 14, at approximately 12.30 pm they were “suddenly surrounded by some 15 or so people who later turned out to be members of the Serbian security forces and armed men who attacked and disarmed them.”

She said that “following the kidnapping they were first sent to Raska, and then, about an hour later, others came and sent them off to Belgrade.”

During their 48-hour detention they were not physically harassed, but they were given very little food, “not more than a slice of bread,” Gervalla added.

They have been separated, they have no access to television or anything else, said the Minister, adding that one of the police officers said he does not have his medication, which is affecting his health.

“They were told that their family members will be allowed to visit them on Friday,” said Gervalla.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kurti-wants-to-meet-vucic-to-show-documents-on-kidnapping-of-policemen/

US, EU envoys to Vucic, Kurti-Consequences if there is no dialogue

June 20, 2023

US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar and European Union (EU) Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak called on the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina to focus on dialogue and contribute to de-escalating the situation in the north of Kosovo, warning that, in the opposite, both parties will face consequences.

During a discussion organized by the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center, Escobar said the crisis in northern Kosovo “has the potential to become a regional conflict,” and called on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti “to unconditionally accept” the European three-point plan for de-escalation.

“There is no other option except through de-escalation and return to dialogue. And I do have to say that the transatlantic community is very united on this. The idea that one of the two leaders is going to place conditions on a plan that has been carefully developed by the European Union in coordination with the United States, I think is reckless,” said Escobar.

The US envoy said that, from the perspective of the US government, the defining characteristic of the Western Balkans is tremendous opportunity.

“I do believe that the next generation of people in the Balkans really do want to capitalize on that opportunity, but we can’t do that while we’re in a permanent state of crisis,” he said, adding he believes “there are people in the region who do survive politically off of permanent crises.”

“I am hoping that the parties and the leaders will recognize that de-escalation and the dialogue is the only way forward for the region to be able to capitalize on the opportunities that are presented,” said Escobar.

He noted that the consequences are very clear.

“We are offering partnership, and we are offering coordination on major foreign policy priorities. If we can’t get basic coordination and basic communication, then we can’t move forward on the things that Ohrid promised, which is for both countries Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said.

He added that the US was “prepared to move very quickly to implement the promise of Ohrid, to bring Kosovo closer to Europe and NATO, to bring more investment to the region, including in Serbia,” but that this is not possible “if we don’t have the cooperation and we don’t have a common vision, and right now I’m afraid we don’t.”

Lajcak said he was “not overly worried” about Vucic’s and Kurti’s rhetoric on the meeting they have been invited to by EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell, adding he believes they will attend.

“To say ‘no’ to the invitation from the European Union would really be a very serious and a very negative act. Therefore, the meeting will take place. What is extremely, extremely important is de-escalation, because you cannot have a normalization process as long as you have hundreds if not thousands of people out in the streets,” said Lajcak.

He explained that the next Vucic-Kurti meeting in Brussels will be a “crisis management” meeting, not one focused on the normalization of relations.

Lajcak said he is expecting both leaders to be committed to finding a solution and added that, if the requests are ignored, measures will follow.

He explained that the first step should be taken by the Kosovo government, which should tell the mayors in northern Kosovo municipalities to carry out their duties from alternate locations, followed by the next step that should be taken by Serbia. If Serbia does not do what it should, negative measures will follow, said Lajcak.

Escobar said people in the north of Kosovo and KFOR and Kosovo Police members need to withdraw from the streets, an agreement should be reached on the date of new elections with the participation of Serbs without any preconditions, and the parties should return to the dialogue.

Asked what will happen if Kurti does not change his position, Lajcak said he does not think escalation or the risk of further violence is in Prime Minister Kurti’s interest.

“I do believe he is a democrat and he believes in rule of law, and I believe in dialogue and in the way forward which was agreed by the parties involved,” said Lajcak.

Asked what will happen if Vucic fails to change his position, Lajcak said he does not want to “speculate about what if” and added that the two leaders never said ‘no’ and that he does not believe they will do so this time.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/us-eu-envoys-to-vucic-kurti-consequences-if-there-is-no-dialogue/

NCEU prevented from attending EU-Serbia SA session

June 20, 2023

The National Convention on European Union in Serbia (NCEU) said parliamentary majority MPs refused to allow it to attend the 15th session of the European Union (EU)-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee in the Serbian Parliament.

The National Convention „expressed its protest against such a harmful decision that shows a lack of political will for the essential inclusion of civil society in the dialogue on the Serbia’s European integration,“ it said in a statement.

With the Stabilization and Association Agreement coming into force in 2013, new joint bodies were established for its implementation at the executive level, while political dialogue at the parliamentary level takes place within the framework of the Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee consisting of members of Serbian Parliament and members of the European Parliament.

The Parliamentary Committee sessions are held twice a year, once in the European Parliament and once in the Serbian Parliament.

During this term in office, the Parliamentary Committee is co-chaired by Alessandra Moretti MEP and Marinika Tepic, Serbian opposition MP, while their deputies are Franc Bogovic MEP and Sandra Bozic, Serbian Parliament deputy speaker.

The EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee sessions are public and are also attended by representatives of the media and civil society, including the National Convention.

National Convention said its representatives were prevented from attending the session on Tuesday because, despite co-chair Marinika Tepic’s decision to invite them, her deputy Sandra Bozic, a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, refused to give her consent.

“The National Convention on European Union in Serbia once again calls on the Parliament to take responsibility for the role it plays in the European integration process, and to view civil society organizations and the National Convention as partners on that path,” said the NCEU.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/nceu-prevented-from-attending-eu-serbia-sa-session/

POLITICO-US Democrats, Republicans united in criticism against Kurti

June 20, 2023

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti has achieved the impossible in American politics: consensus among Democrats and Republicans, reported POLITICO.

“Unfortunately for Kurti (and his country), the point of agreement is that Kosovo’s leader is a stubborn, and at times, reckless politician who has undermined the joint U.S.-European effort to achieve a lasting solution for peace between Kosovo and Serbia,” POLITICO reported.

This news organization said that Washington has laid the blame for the recent outbreak of violence between Kosovo authorities and the Serb-majority communities in northern Kosovo squarely at Kurti’s feet and has tried — so far without success — to rein him in with public criticism.

“We have some very fundamental issues with him on whether we can count on him as a partner,” Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Serbia, told Voice of America earlier this month.

Kurti’s actions were also criticized by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and by former envoy for the region Richard Grenell, but the public rebuke by the Biden administration was extraordinary on several levels, reported POLITICO.

It noted that Kosovo has been a “pet project” of Democratic leaders ever since former President Bill Clinton led the successful 1999 NATO campaign against Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who oversaw the eviction of millions from homes in the ethnic cleansing of Albanians from Kosovo.

However, said POLITICO, even the European Union (EU) has lost patience with Kurti.

On the other hand, Ambassador Hill, a diplomatic legend in the Balkans and one of the architects of the Dayton Accords, says that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his government “are good partners in this process,” POLITICO reported.

The Kosovo Prime Minister is insisting that Vucic’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty and come to terms with the realities of Serbia’s wartime past are to blame for the crisis.

“What we see from the democratic West is a certain appeasement attitude (toward Vucic) This is how we got here. And I think it’s important for both the EU and U.S. to tell Mr. Vucic to back off,” Kurti told POLITICO in a recent interview.

Few would argue that Vucic, a strongman leader with a long history of antagonizing the West by “flirting” with both Russia and China, is an “angel,” said POLITICO. Some Western critics have called out Washington for appearing to side with Vucic, just as mass protests in Serbia against his increasingly authoritarian rule are gathering steam, it added.

Nonetheless, Serbia remains the region’s juggernaut and both the U.S. and EU want to ensure that it doesn’t drift further into Russia’s sphere of influence, reported POLITICO.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/politico-us-democrats-republicans-united-in-criticism-against-kurti/


Serbian scientist wins UNESCO International Prize

June 20, 2023

Dr Jelena Vladic has received the prestigious UNESCO-AI Fozan International Prize for the Promotion of Young Scientists in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“Dr Vladic has developed innovative ecological extraction processes to obtain products from aromatic and medicinal plants and add value to food and agricultural waste. Moreover, she has used microalgae from wastewater treatment to extract bioactive compounds. Jelena Vladic’s breakthrough research has discovered that a green solvent called subcritical water can effectively purify microalgae biomass derived from wastewater treatment,” said UNESCO.

Dr Vladic is a former faculty member of the Technology University of Novi Sad, Serbia, and currently affiliated to the NOVA School of Science and Technology of NOVA University in Lisbon, Portugal, said UNESCO.

The AI Fozan Prize is awarded every two years to five laureates from the five geographic regions of UNESCO – Africa, Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America and Latin America and the Caribbean.

In addition to Jelena Vladic, this year’s winners also include young scientists from Argentina, Cameroon, China and Egypt.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-scientist-wins-unesco-international-prize/

Average salary in Serbia higher nominally, lower in real terms

June 20, 2023

The Republic Statistics Office said on Tuesday that the average gross salary in Serbia in the first quarter of the year stood at 83,208 Dinars or 15.5 higher nominally than a year earlier and 0.4 percent lower in real terms.

Compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, the average salary was nominally higher by 4.9 percent and 1.5 percent higher in real terms.

The average gross salary rose in March 2023 to 729 Euro a month to reach a y.o.y. growth of 14.5 percent nominally and a drop of 1.5 percent in real terms.

The average gross salary in the first quarter of 2023 stood at 86,860 Dinars (1 Euro – 117 Dinars) in the public sector and 81,800 Dinars in the private sector.

The average consumer basket in the first quarter of the year required 1.16 average salaries compared to 1.17 in the last quarter of 2022.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/average-salary-in-serbia-higher-nominally-lower-in-real-terms/

Vucic calls for release of Kosovo Serbs before crisis meeting

June 20, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that he would not go to Brussels for a crisis meeting called by European Union High Representative Josep Borrell until the Serbs arrested in north Kosovo are released.

Borrell invited Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to the meeting to resolve the current crisis in the north of Kosovo following clashes between protesting Serbs, the Kosovo Police and KFOR. Kurti said he would not go to Brussels before finding out about the three Kosovo Police troopers arrested inside Serbia proper.

Visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban asked Vucic to release the three Kosovo Police officers. Speaking after their meeting, Vucic claimed that threats were made against Serbia if the Albanian police officers are not released.

“I won’t talk to Kurti until every Serb is released and the fake mayors (of majority Serb municipalities) withdraw,” B92 reported Vucic as saying.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-calls-for-release-of-kosovo-serbs-before-crisis-meeting/

Serbian opposition MPs verbally assaulted in Kosovo

June 20, 2023

Two Serbian opposition MPs were verbally assaulted by Serbs in the Kosovo town of Zvecan on Tuesday, the KoSSev news portal reported.

Miroslav Aleksic and Aleksandar Jovanovic Cuta were in Zvecan to show support for the Kosovo Serbs. The MPs gave statements to reporters before shouts of Why Are You Here and expressions of dissatisfaction with their presence came from a small number of people. A video of the incident showed the MPs talking to local Serbs.

The two MPs were accompanied by the head of the Kosovo branch of the People’s Party (NS) and Ecological Uprising official Danijela Nestorovic.

A stun bomb exploded Tuesday outside a café in Kosovska Mitrovica, northern Kosovo, in which Serbian opposition MPs Aleksandar “Cuta” Jovanovic, Danijela Nestorovic and Miroslav Aleksic were sitting.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-opposition-mps-verbally-assaulted-in-kosovo/

Regime supporter arrested for multiple threats to critical talk show host

June 20, 2023

A fierce supporter of the Serbian regime has been arrested for threatening a popular talk show host who is highly critical of the authorities.

A prosecution press release said that Simo Spasic had been arrested for making multiple threats against Ivan Ivanovic. The press release said that Spasic was ordered held for 48 hours on Monday because he repeatedly threatened Ivanovic. Spasic, a Kosovo Serb who heads the Association of Families of People Abducted, Killed and Missing in Kosovo, is a supporter of President Aleksandar Vucic and a fierce opponent of the opposition and independent media who has disrupted opposition gatherings on a number of occasions. He has served time in prison for raping his ex-wife.

Spasic was released pending trial for the threats and insults against Ivanovic but made fresh threats and prosecutors ordered him arrested to prevent him from carrying out the threats.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/regime-supporter-arrested-for-multiple-threats-to-critical-talk-show-host/

World Refugee Day-Over 2 mil Bosnians forced to leave homes during war

June 20, 2023

The movement of the population from their homes and countries to countries where they feel safer and more economically stable reached the figure of 108.4 million at the end of 2022. The global migrant crisis, which unfortunately sets new records every year, and which has not bypassed Bosnia, has largely contributed to this, BiH Human Rights and Refugees Ministry said on the occasion of World Refugee Day.

“Therefore, it is very important that today, on World Refugee Day, we point out the position of these people both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the world, but also to encourage understanding, empathy, and support for people who are forced to leave their homes due to armed conflicts, persecution for any reason, or natural disasters,” the Ministry said.

There are currently 44 persons with recognized refugee status and 99 persons with subsidiary protection status in BiH, to whom this country provides access to the right to housing, health insurance, social security, work, and education, as well as access to easier integration into Bosnian society, and implement language learning programs in official use in Bosnia and Herzegovina for these people as well as other activities aimed at their integration.

From 2015 until today, 50 persons with refugee status have acquired BiH citizenship, and 13 are in the process of acquiring it.

“It is impossible to talk about refugees in BiH and not mention that 2.2 million people were forced to leave their homes during the war in the country. Of these, 1.2 million requested refugee status in 100 countries of the world, while a million of them were internally displaced. Out of 1.2 million of our citizens who requested refugee status in BiH, some 450,000 have returned so far. Nearly 16,000 people from BiH are still refugees around the world,” the Ministry said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/world-refugee-day-over-2-mil-people-forced-to-leave-bih-during-war/

Mothers of Srebrenica ask OHR to enter ICTY verdicts into BiH criminal records

June 20, 2023

The Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide and the Association "Mothers of the Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves" sought for many years for verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), as well as their successor, the Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts to be included in the criminal records of BiH. Pročitaj više

“Unfortunately, not a single minister, nor the Council of Ministers as a whole, have ever shown interest in actually doing so. At our initiative, ICTY President Teodor Meron submitted the Court’s verdicts in 2016, which was final by then, but the BiH Justice Ministry did not do anything to make those verdicts, together with other decisions, become part of the criminal evidence. Bearing in mind that for almost 10 years the Council of Ministers, i.e. the Ministry of Justice, has not initiated any procedure with the aim of entering the judgment of the ICTY into the criminal record, and that no one from the Council of Ministers has responded to our letters either, it is obvious that there is no interest in convening the session to resolve the issue of evidence of the ICTY verdicts”, the letter reads.

They added that with the daily glorification of convicted war crimes and the public recognition of war crimes in order to repeat them all, they call on the High Representative Christian Schmidt to enter the said verdicts into the criminal records of BiH based on the OHR’s Bonn powers.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/mothers-of-srebrenica-ask-ohr-to-enter-icty-verdicts-into-bih-criminal-records/?comments

SNS MP says Vucic should not apologize for insults

June 20, 2023

Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) MP Vladimir Djukanovic told the Beta news agency that his former party leader President Aleksandar Vucic should not apologize to opposition politicians for the insults voiced against them.

Djukanovic wrote an op-ed piece for pro-government daily Politika earlier, apologizing to the actors targeted by his fellow SNS MPs for supporting the Serbia Against Violence protests. He said that he apologized to the actors but added that he thinks opposition politicians are the worst.

According to him, Vucic should not apologize for calling opposition politicians hyenas, vultures, scum and other insults. He said that was directed against the opposition politicians who abused the protests. “I think the same about them. Vucic should not apologize to opposition politicians because they abused the civic protests against violence. He said that anyone who uses dead children for their political goals is the most disgusting person on earth. The SNS MP said that Vucic only responded to alleged insults and threats against him.

Djukanovic said that a very small number of protesters support the opposition. “Most of the people at the protests are right and have the right to request certain things. I respect them and I would like to talk to them. As for the politicians, what they did disgusts me, they’re repulsive,” the senior SNS official said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/sns-mp-says-vucic-should-not-apologize-for-insults/

Barrier deployed to collect oil spill on Danube

June 20, 2023

The Vojvodina Provincial Environment Protection Secretariat said that a floating barrier was deployed to collect the oil spilled from a Bulgarian flag tanker on the Danube.

The estimaed 25-30,000 liters of oil spilled from the tanker at Celarevo on Sunday night. The Vojvodina Vode water management authority said the barrier was deployed between Batajnica and Novi Banovci.

Voda Vojvodine manager Jovan Vignjevic said that efforts were being invested to keep the oil spill under control and prevent its spread. He said no wider environmental damage was expected.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/barrier-deployed-to-collect-oil-spill-on-danube/ 

BiH and Croatian governments to hold joint session Tuesday

June 20, 2023

The joint session of Bosnia’s Council of Ministers and the Government of Croatia will be held Tuesday in Zagreb.

After the session, the signing of the agreement and the statement to the media by the Council of Ministers’ Chair, Borjana Kristo, and the Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, are scheduled.

The agenda of the joint session will include a number of conclusions of common interest to Bosnia and Croatia, which will further improve bilateral relations, the BiH government's PR office said.

Chair Kristo and Prime Minister Plenkovic will hold a meeting on the eve of the joint session.

At its session on June 14, the BiH government considered and agreed on the proposal of materials for consideration at the joint session.

The proposal contains agenda items from eight areas, namely: Cooperation and assistance to BiH in the process of accession to the European Union and cross-border and development cooperation; Defense, finance, agriculture, spatial planning; Foreign policy; Infrastructure projects; Border management, migration and civil protection; Environment protection; Science, education, culture and sport, and work, social security, health and youth.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bih-and-croatian-governments-to-hold-joint-session-tuesday/

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