International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Borrell-Proposal is on the table, I hope Vucic, Kurti will accept it

February 20, 2023

European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell confirmed that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti have been invited to Brussels on February 27, and added that Serbia is not sufficiently aligning with EU’s foreign policy.

Borrell met with both Vucic and Kurti during the Munich Security Conference.

“I will meet with the two of them in Brussels on February 27. Yes, I invited them to come and have all-day talks because we have a proposal on the table and I hope they will be able to accept that proposal as a way to normalize their relations,“ Borrell told Deutsche Welle.

This was preceded by months of diplomatic offensive on Belgrade and Pristina to accept the so-called Franco-German document as a basis for negotiations.

Asked how important the introduction of sanctions against Russia is for Serbia’s bid to join the EU, Borrell said the EU requires alignment from all members of the international community, especially from EU membership candidates who are asked to align with EU’s foreign policy.

Certainly Serbia isn’t aligning with our foreign policy as much as we would like it to, that is part of the talks and engagement toward Serbia, Borrell added.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/borrell-proposal-is-on-the-table-i-hope-vucic-kurti-will-accept-it/

Dveri calls on patriots to unite on Kosovo, Russia issues

February 20, 2023

The Serbian Dveri movement Main Board said it supports cooperation with the other patriotic opposition political parties and associations and “called on all patriots to unite against the recognition of the fake state of Kosovo and the introduction of sanctions against Russia.”

“These two pressures on our country by the West, growing by the day, are the biggest foreign policy challenges this year, and they call for the creation of a broad cross-party national front that would stand up to this,” said the Dveri movement.

The organization identified the NADA coalition, comprising the New Democratic Party of Serbia and The Movement for the Restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia, the Movement for the Defense of Kosovo and Metohija, the Serb Youth for Kosovo and Metohija and other patriotic organizations as potential partners in a new patriotic block. (Kosovo and Metohija is the official name for what the Serbian authorities consider to be the country’s southern province).

This bloc would be “able to prevent the damage that these new Western ultimatums would cause to Serbian national and state interests,” said the Dveri movement.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/dveri-calls-on-patriots-to-unite-on-kosovo-russia-issues/

Lajcak on CSM-Assumed obligations must be fulfilled

February 20, 2023

European Union’s (EU) Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak said that the Kosovo Parliament had ratified the Brussels Agreement thereby making it Kosovo’s international obligation.

Asked why the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) in Kosovo has still not been established, Lajcak told the daily Politika the EU understands that this is a very sensitive issue for the Kosovo Government but that obligations must be fulfilled.

He said the position of the EU, US and other international partners is that any further delay is unacceptable.

The EU is currently working on two tracks to ensure that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue moves forward, he explained.

Lajcak said the priority is for both sides to agree on the EU proposal for the normalization of relations. At the same time, we continue to work on ensuring a full and immediate implementation of all the elements agreed on so far in the dialogue – which remain valid and are binding for both parties, said Lajcak.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/lajcak-on-csm-assumed-obligations-must-be-fulfilled/

Becirovic wants BiH and Serbia to finally sign an agreement on the state border

February 19, 2023

The Bosniak member of BiH’s tripartite Presidency, Denis Becirovic, wants the institution to adopt a decision necessary for the country to sign an agreement on the regulation of the interstate border with Serbia.

“In accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Becirovic, a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, proposed on January 20, 2023, that the report of the State Commission for the Border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regarding the state demarcation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, be included and considered at the upcoming regular session of the Presidency”, his office said.

He argued that the signing of the Agreement on the state border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Serbia would enable the demarcation of the state border between the two countries and confirm that good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation are key elements of the stabilization and association process.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/becirovic-wants-bih-and-serbia-to-finally-sign-an-agreement-on-the-state-border/

Russian Patriarch thanks SPC for supporting canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church

February 19, 2023

Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill congratulated Serbian Patriarch Porfirije on the second anniversary of his enthronement, thanking him for his “courageous and open support” for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

„Thank you for your brave and open support of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, for your fatherly concern for refugees and all the victims,“ said Patriarch Kirill, as reported by „Sputnik“.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church belongs is part of the Moscow Patriarchate, while the separate Orthodox Church of Ukraine was granted autocephaly in 2019.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/russian-patriarch-thanks-spc-for-supporting-canonical-ukrainian-orthodox-church/

Le Figaro writes about Russian influence in Serbia

February 19, 2023

Serbia is one of the last allies of Russia on the European continent because it avoids introducing sanctions against that country, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported, noting that Russian influence in Serbia extends to all sectors of society with the approval of the Serbian authorities.

„That influence is so great that it started to bother the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, who was caught in his own trap“, the article said, adding that „Serbia certainly supported the resolution of the UN General Assembly on March 2, which condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but remains one from the last allies of Moscow on the European continent”.

The article says that the status of Kosovo is one of the main issues which Moscow uses to influence Belgrade as Russia uses its veto power in the UN Security Council to prevent Kosovo from becoming a member.

It points out that Serbia primarily depends on Russia in the energy sector. Directly or through its subsidiaries, Gazprom is the majority shareholder of the former local oil giant Naftna industrija Srbije (NIS) and is also the main owner of two gas pipelines that bring Russian gas to Serbian homes and industry.

Through its network of companies, the company has been a sponsor of sports clubs for years, such as the Crvena Zvezda Football Club and the Partizan Basketball Club, and it also finances a number of festivals, institutions and cultural events.

Le Figaro reported that graffiti with the Wagner emblem appeared in Belgrade, authored by the extreme right-wing movement Narodna Patrola, which organized demonstrations in support of Russia shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine, and that this prompted Vucic to react.

This time Vučić had to react. „Why do you, members of the Wagner group, invite Serbs to fight in Ukraine, when you know that it is illegal,“ he said.

The paper also quoted historian Milivoj Beslin, who said that „for Russia, the Balkans have always been a reserve front, so they are working to keep it in a state of permanent instability.“

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/le-figaro-writes-about-russian-influence-in-serbia/

New offensive right-wing grafitti appears at Belgrade park

February 19, 2023

New offensive graffiti appeared on the wall in the “Mitic's hole" park in Belgrade, where activists painted over the graffiti "When the army returns to Kosovo" a day prior.

„When the army returns to Kosovo“ was on the wall overlooking the children’s playground in the park for four months and previously before activists from the Krokodil association and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights painted it over. Because of this, they received fines from the communal authorities and were threatened that they will be reported for „damaging the facade“.

Meanwhile, unknown persons vandalised the wall in the night between Saturday and Sunday with the words “Kosovo is Serbia, Z”, “Death to domestic traitors” and other right-wing slogans.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/new-offensive-right-wing-grafitti-appears-at-belgrade-park/

Vucic expects Prokop railway station construction to be completed in October

February 19, 2023

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said that he expects the "magnificent" Prokop railway station to be opened on October 20, Belgrade's Liberation Day.

In a video on his Instagram, Vucic spoke of „tens of thousands of square meters of new space, fantastically equipped for modern Belgrade, for modern Serbia“.

Vucic earlier visited the construction site at Prokop with Finance Minister Sinisa Mali, after which he wrote that he was happy that „the work on Prokop, at the main railway station in Belgrade, is progressing“.

The construction project in Prokop is based on a joint construction contract concluded between Serbia and PSP Farman.

According to the contract, PSP Farman will build the station building at its own expense and hand it over to the public railway company upon completion, and in return, it got approval to build its own business complex at the site.

The new station building on Prokop covers five and a half thousand square meters, and the building will also include commercial facilities.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-expects-prokop-railway-station-construction-to-be-completed-in-october/

German satirical show criticises High Rep Christian Schmidt for his work in BiH

February 18, 2023

The German public-service television broadcaster ZDF dedicated its satirical show on Friday evening almost entirely to the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, presenting him as a superhero who supports Serbian and Croatian nationalists in the country.

During the show, presenter Jan Boehmermann took out a large bowl with kinder egg containers, similar to the one used to determine the distribution of mandates from Canton Sarajevo and Canton 10 to the House of Peoples of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity after the elections.

“What is ZDF Magazin Royale about today? We'll let the lottery decide that” Boehmermann said before he pulled out one of the containers and read the name “Christian Schmidt” from the piece of paper inside.

Boehmermann began with a review of Schmidt's work in Germany, reminding that the German politician used to serve as Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defense and Minister of Agriculture. He then showed a video clip in which Schmidt introduces himself as a person who stands for values such as “discipline, diligence, and ideas”.

This was followed by a video in which Schmidt can be seen losing control and shouting at N1 journalist Adisa Imamovic.

Boehmermann noted that Schmidt while serving as Agriculture Minister, supported the use of glyphosate, a herbicide component that may be carcinogenic in the European Union without consulting the German government.

Boehmermann then played a video of a report about Schmidt attending a controversial gathering in honour of WWII soldiers.

“This man from CSU obviously has no problem with maintaining this tradition, on the contrary. Schmidt even wants to rehabilitate a Nazi aviation hero,” the report said.

The person it was referring to was Werner Molders, a German Luftwaffe pilot from World War II.

Schmidt defended him, stating that Molders “had no brown spots on his vest”.

“He didn't have brown spots, he just had a brown uniform,” says Boherman and showed a photo of Molders shaking hands with Adolf Hitler.

The presenter then alleged that Schmidt's wife likes to “tell people about how her Christian was sent by God to save a country, Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

“The fans of Greater Croatia and Greater Serbia would rather like to see a small Bosnia and God's representative in Sarajevo, the High Representative Christian Schmidt, must now ensure peace,” said Boehmermann, as he took out an action figure in the image of Schmidt.

This was followed by a satirical commercial for the action figure which has special powers – the “Bonn Powers” (a set of powers that allow the High Representative to, among other things, fire officials and impose laws in BiH).

Boehmermann then spoke about the commemoration of January 9 in BiH, stating that “the Serbian president sent his son” to attend the celebration of the unconstitutional holiday.

“But there is no reason to worry, the political situation is difficult, Christian Schmidt is on the move,” said Boehmermann.

He then explained how Schmidt reacted to this – with an “angry letter” to embassies in BiH where he complains about the media identifying the son of Serbia’s President at the event.

“Christian Schmidt, the High Representative, has his priorities: first to protect the son of the Serbian president from media freedom, and then peace in BiH,” Bohermann concluded.

He also criticised Schmidt’s relatuonship with the leader of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), Dragan Covic, noting that the latter used Bosniak prison camp inmates for forced labour in the company where he was the director during the war.

Boehmermann then mentioned that Markus Thomas Theodor Soder, the leader of the CSU in Bavaria, decorated the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, and how Schmidt was later decorated with the Order of Ante Starcevic in Croatia.

“CSU decorates Croatia, Croatia decorated the CSU”, he concluded.

The next topic Boehmermann touched upon was the mass protests that took place in front of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Sarajevo last year and the amendments Schmidt imposed to the country’s Election Law.

Boehmermann said that Schmidt wanted “to amend a rather bad election law”.

“And he succeeded, he made it even worse,” the presenter said, playing a video of Schmidt yelling at N1’s Adisa Imamovic when she asked him about it.

“Christian Schmidt simply changed the electoral system on the day of the election,” Boehmermann said.

“Thanks to Christian Schmidt, the vote of a Croat is now four times as valuable as the vote of a Bosniak, and the vote of one Serb is worth the votes of 10 Bosniaks,” he added.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/german-satirical-show-criticises-high-rep-christian-schmidt-for-his-work-in-bih/

Disagreement among BiH Presidency members on forming state gas regulator

February 18, 2023

The Bosniak member of BiH’s tripartite Presidency, Denis Becirovic, wants to establish a state-level gas regulator but his Bosnian Serb colleague in the institution, Zeljka Cvijanovic, announced she will not support the initiative.

Becirovic submitted his proposal for the drafting and adoption of a law on gas which should be on the agenda of the upcoming session of the Presidency. According to his office, the central idea of the proposal is the abolition of “unconstitutional” entity regulators and the establishment of a state regulator for the field of natural gas with adequate powers and instruments for their implementation.

Becirovic argued the proposal is based on the provisions of the BiH Constitution and obligations towards the EU and the Energy Community with the aim of establishing clear rules in the natural gas sector and market development and competition in accordance with the current EU energy packages. It was submitted with the aim of solving the issue of diversification of sources and better supply of natural gas, with better prices and other more favourable conditions for all citizens and would represent an important step in the resolution of open proceedings against Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Energy Community.

Cvijanovic opposes the idea, arguing that the issue of energy is under the competencies of BiH’s two semi-autonomous entities.

“The Ministry of Energy, i.e. the Government of Republika Srpska, as well as the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, decide on these issues,” Cvijanovic told the Srna news agency.

The President of the RS entity and leader of the party Cvijanovic is a member of, Milorad Dodik, stressed that “no regulator for gas will be formed at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina” and that he will not allow the transfer of competencies from the entity level to the state level.

He argued that Becirovic “knows that the issue of the gas regulator is not within the jurisdiction of the BiH Presidency, but he is trying to re-impose it as a topic”.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/disagreement-among-bih-presidency-members-on-forming-state-gas-regulator/

Head of Intelligence Agency at MSC-Global security challenges reflected in BiH

February 18, 2023

The head of Bosnia’s Intelligence-Security Agency, Osman Mehmedagic, who is participating in this year's Munich Security Conference at the invitation of conference director Christoph Heusgen, spoke about the challenged BiH is facing currently, the Anadolu Agency reported.

Mehmedagic stressed that the Munich Security Conference is a unique opportunity to present the security challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina to partners from around the world.

“Security challenges in the region, Europe and the world are increasing. Geopolitical events are very much reflected in our country, especially in cyberspace,” he said, emphasising the importance of exchange of information and experiences between security agencies.”

“In this context, the Intelligence and Security Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is recognized as a reliable domestic and international partner when it comes to responses to various threats that come from outside or inside,” said Mehmedagic.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/head-of-intelligence-agency-at-msc-global-security-challenges-reflected-in-bih/

Vucic to Borrell-I’m open for talks with Kurti, but not optimistic

February 18, 2023

According to Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, the country must be prepared for the fact that the consequences of the war in Ukraine will be paid for a long time to come and make “rational decisions”, taking into account all factors.

„We have to make rational decisions. How many gas reserves do we have, how can we save them for next winter, how can we lease additional reserves and much more,“ said Vucic in a statement to Pink television from Munich.

He said citizens must „get used“ to the fact that things will change and that Serbia must adapt to those changes in order to survive.

Vucic said that he also spoke with EU High Representative Josep Borrell about „preparations for potential talks“ with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Borrell scheduled a high-level dialogue between Vucic and Kurti for February 27.

„I said I’m always ready for talks, but you know what needs to be talked about, it’s the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. Serbia has never shied away from dialogue,” he said.

Vucic told Borrell that he is not very optimistic when it comes to talks with Kurti.

„I’m not normally an optimist by nature, I’m certainly not one knowing Kurti and Pristina,“ said Vucic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-to-borrell-im-open-for-talks-with-kurti-but-not-optimistic/

President of Bosnia’s RS entity Assembly announces visit to Russia

February 18, 2023

The President of the National Assembly of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Nenad Stevandic announced he will be visiting Russia at the invitation of the Chairwoman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko.

The visit will take place from February 21 to 23, and Stevandic will be leading a delegation of three MPs from the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and the People’s Party of Srpska (NPS).

“This is our regular activity, based on previously signed agreements. The visit has nothing to do with Ukraine and the conflict, nor with the relationship between NATO and Russia,” Stevandic said.

He said that BiH is paying a much lower price for gas than Europe and that this is a result of the good relations between Serbs and Russia.

“It is untrue that we from the RS pursue a pro-Russian policy. We pursue a pro-Serb policy. Neither pro-Russian, nor anti-Russian, nor British, nor European, as was agreed upon in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We do not want to participate in the anti-Russian campaign, in burning Russian books, we stick to our neutrality that was adopted in the RS National Assembly in 2017. Turkey also adheres to a neutral policy, and is a member of the NATO pact,” Stevandic said.

Asked to comment on a statement of EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, who thanked BiH for its willingness to introduce sanctions against Russia, Stevandic said that BiH is a country with certain specifics.

“A Serb never raised his hand to vote for sanctions, those are our specifics…” Stevandic said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/president-of-bosnias-rs-entity-assembly-announces-visit-to-russia/

US State Secretary-Productive conversation with Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic

February 18, 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter that he had a "productive conversation" with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic at the Munich Security Conference.

“We discussed the importance of normalized relations with Kosovo and I conveyed our appreciation for Serbia’s continued support for Ukraine. We share Serbia’s desire for a future with the EU”, Blinken wrote on Twitter.

On the first day of the Munich Security Conference, Vucic wrote on Instagram after meeting with Blinken that, in addition to discussing the relations between Belgrade and Pristina, they „confirmed the improving relations“ between Serbia and the US.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/us-state-secretary-productive-conversation-with-serbias-aleksandar-vucic/

Vucic at MSC 2023-Serbia criticised for not introducing sanctions on Russia

February 17, 2023

On the second day of the Munich Security Conference, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, met with the EU's High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrell, with whom e had an "open conversation" regarding initiating the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Vucic wrote on Instagram.

„Serbia was strongly criticized for not imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation,“ Vucic wrote and added that the talks will resume soon.

According to the photographs Vucic posted, the meeting was also attended by the EU representative for dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Miroslav Lajcak,

On Friday, the first day of the Munich Security Conference, Vucic spoke with several officials. The European External Action Service announced that Vucic and the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, confirmed that they will come to Brussels on Monday, February 27, to continue the dialogue under the auspices of the EU.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-at-msc-2023-serbia-criticised-for-not-introducing-sanctions-on-russia/

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