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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Opposition leader files criminal charges against Serbia's President, minister

November 5, 2019

Zoran Zikovic, the leader of Serbia's opposition New Party told reporters on Tuesday he had filed criminal charges against President Aleksandar Vucic, Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and his father Branko, as well as against the former director of the Krusik ammunition factory Mladen Petkovic, after a whistle-blower linked them to suspicious arms trade, the Beta news agency reported.

Speaking outside the Prosecutors' Office for Organised Crime, Zivkovic said he accused the four of being a part of a criminal group and abuse of office in the arms trade.

Zivkovic added he accused Vucic of organising the criminal group in 2017, "to sell Krusik - made arms to the GIM company owned by Branko Stefanovic at 30 percent lower price."

"Until now, the whistle-blowers pointed at the crimes involving arms trade, but it's time for criminal charges," Zivkovic said.

He also charged Vucic of "protecting Nebojsa and Branko Stefanovic" and "banned criminal proceedings against them, telling the untruth" about their role in the arms deals after Aleksandar Obradovic, the Krusik's whistle-blower spoke out.

Zivkovic announced he would also file criminal charges against Vucic for "covering up" the murderers of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, gunned down in northern Mitrovica in January 2018, adding Serbia's President had publicly said he knew who they were but failed to inform the prosecutors about it.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541208/Opposition-leader-accuses-Serbia-s-President-of-organising-criminal-group.html

US: Belgrade – Pristina agreement must be acceptable to us too

November 5, 2019

The US sees room for the resumption of Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations if Pristina abolishes the import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Belgrade stops its “campaign to delegitimise Kosovo,” Matthew Palmer, the State Department’s Special Envoy to the Western Balkans, says, the KoSSev website reports.

He told the RTV, state TV from Serbia’s northern Vojvodina province, that the aim of the dialogue, on hold for a year, was a mutual recognition while it should include a wide range of issues, like security, protection of cultural heritage, minority rights, economic cooperation.

Palmer reiterated that the Washington – Pristina relations were firm, but said Kosovo needed the European perspective since “it would not become the 51st US state.”

He also said that the US considered mutual recognition as an ideal solution, though it understood Serbia’s refusal to recognise the independence of its former province.

Since mutual recognition was a problematic issue, he added, “there are some things which could be easier for both sides to agree on at this moment and that will improve the current situation. But, that’s not up to me to decide. They must do that on their own.”

Still, Palmer warned that the US would not approve any deal in advance. “We want to see what the two sides would come up with, to inform us about that, and if we have some issues, we will approach both sides to fix them.”

“If both sides want our support in implementation (what they agree on), our political support, then we would like to get a deal which is OK,” he added.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541151/Mutual-recognition-of-Belgarde-and-Pristina-is-ideal-solution-for-US-Palmer-says.html

Vucic says he will be replaced as Serbian ruling party leader

November 4, 2019

President Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that he would be replaced soon as leader of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), adding that the people who take over from him would continue to win at elections.

“Let me tell you, I know what N1 wants to hear – when will I be ousted within the SNS, as SNS leader. Soon, but don’t worry. Even the people who take over from me will have no problem beating the people who robbed Serbia,” Vucic told a news conference after a session of the SNS Presidency.  

He said the party would field more new young people at the coming parliamentary, provincial and local elections and added that its goal is to win an absolute majority of 126 seat in parliament or 46 percent of the vote. The Serbian parliament has a total of 250 MPs.  

Vucic said that the list of candidates for the parliamentary elections will include 20 percent of young and unsullied people adding that he wants similar people as candidates at provincial and local elections. He said that the dirty campaign being waged against SNS officials is making its mark which is why “new blood” is needed to set a new pace in a good direction.  

“Our goals are clear. We will stand in regular parliamentary, provincial and local elections , most probably late in March, with the aim of trying to convince the people that we have worked hard and responsibly and that we have taken the right decisions,” he said, adding that everything that the progress he claims was made was achieved thanks to the will of the people who understood the difficult reforms.

Vucic refused to speak about coalition partners and said that the SNS Presidency wants the party assembly held after the elections.

http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541045/Vucic-says-he-will-stand-down-as-Serbian-ruling-party-leader.html

Dutch FM to Belgrade: Rule of law and freedom of media must improve

November 4, 2019

The Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Stef Blok told reporters after meeting his Serbia’s counterpart Ivica Dacic that it was clear the country belonged to Europe, but that he believed the states had to honour all the rules to be ready to become the European Union’s member, the FoNet news agency reported on Monday.

He added that Belgrade did a lot of reforms, but that the progress was needed in the rule of law and media freedom as well as in the protection of media and punishment for the attacks on journalists who, he said, should feel safe while doing their job.

Referring to the media freedom, Blok said that “we as the Union could make it a pre-condition for joining the EU.”

He added that the two discussed the EU accession, security in the region and reforms, adding Serbia had impressive financial results.

Dacic said that for the sake of improving bilateral relations it would be good for the Dutch Prime Minister to accept the invitation fro visiting Belgrade.

He thanked The Netherlands for support of the EU integrations and added Serbia started the reforms to strengthen the society’s capacity.

Dacic said the speed of the integration depended on Pristina. “Serbia wants a compromise in which there won’t be winners, but that the winners would be all our nations who live here,” he said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540907/The-Hague-urges-Belgrade-to-improve-ruleo-of-law-and-media-freedom.html

Kosovo Serb says Serb List election victory not credible

November 4, 2019

Kosovo Serb politician Aleksandar Jablanovic said on Monday that the credibility of the percentage of votes won by the Belgrade-backed Serb List was doubtful.

Jablanovic, leader of the Party of Kosovo Serbs, told a local TV station in Gracanica, he is opposed to the Serb List because it is not a credible representative of the Kosovo Serbs and added that the 97 percent of the vote are vote it claims to have won were “stolen”. He said that his party has proof of election fraud which will be submitted to the Central Election Commission.

Jablanovic warned that the Serb community in Kosovo has been pushed aside and can’t trust Belgrade or Pristina. He added that it should be directly involved in the Brussels dialogue because it is about their future. “The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will define some of Serbia’s interests in Kosovo but it will determine the future of the Serbs in Kosovo,” he said and added that not everything that Belgrade is negotiating is in the best interests of the Kosovo Serbs. “The negotiations are meant to buy time and get points to ease Serbia’s path to the European Union,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541071/Kosovo-Serb-says-Serb-List-election-victory-not-credible.html

Student protest over beatings in Novi Sad

November 4, 2019

Students in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad organized a protest on Monday, demanding that the police find the men who beat up two students during a June protest by environmental activists.

The protest under the slogan Stop state Repression was held in front to the University Law School. Students Mihajlo Nikolic and Marko Djelevic, both activists of the Roof Overhead initiative, were beaten up on the university campus on June 8. A third student, Dejan Bagaric, was beaten up the next day following a 1 in 5 Million protest.  

Activist Miran Pogacar told N1 that the silence of institutions is a sign that these were cases of state repression. “We have violence perpetrated not only by the state but also by thugs who beat up three people on the university campus. That is one form of violence which is tolerated. The perpetrators have not been found,” he said, adding that his fellow activists asked the police about the investigation and found that it was not being conducted.  

Two young men appeared at the protest claiming to be students and shouting abuse at the protesters. They told N1 that the students had been beaten for carvings on trees not over the protest.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540985/Student-protest-over-beatings-in-Novi-Sad.html

Vucic: Palmer tells me what he doesn't like in Serbia's politics

November 4, 2019

The US Department special envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told reporters after meeting Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic that the European Union's failure to set a date for the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, was a historic mistake, adding his country supported the EU's integration of the whole region, N1 reported.

 He added "America wants the whole Western Balkans to have a European perspective, and we will do whatever we can to persuade the EU to change its stand before their meeting in Zagreb," Palmer said.

Asked about the next Kosovo government, Palmer said: "that it's clear Serb List won great support of Kosovo's Serbs and the right to be represented in Pristina's Government."

Vucic said his meeting with Palmer was open and frank, and that he was satisfied with their talk.

"I'm satisfied because we went through all disputed issues, all the differences between us, while determined to finding future solutions which will be good for bilateral relations between Serbia and US, but also a constructive approach and an attempt to return to the dialogue with Pristina as soon as possible," Vucic told reporters.

He also said he was "grateful to Palmer for being ready to listen to what we think. I talked to him about all disputed issues, but don't like to retell in public. Palmer told me what he doesn't like in Serbia's politics. I think that we made some issues more explicit."

Vucic said that it was well known that Belgrade and Washington had a different position regarding Kosovo and added he believed the conditions for the resumption of the dialogue on the normalisation of relations with Pristina would be created in two or three months. Serbia's President reiterated the invitation to his US counterpart Donald Trump to visit Serbia.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540925/Washington-tells-Belgrade-it-support-Western-Balkans-road-to-EU.html

Kosovo PM: Serbia to stop madness before it’s too late

November 4, 2019

Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj warned that Serbia’s permanent arming with the Russian and Chinese military equipment was a direct threat to Kosovo, the Kosovo online website reported on Monday.

“This permanent arming (armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft defence system, drones…) is a direct threat to Kosovo, a fragile peace in the region and Euro-Atlantic perspective. Serbia must stop this madness before it’s too late,” Haradinaj wrote on his Facebook profile.  

Earlier, some European Union officials said they were concerned about Belgrade's deepening links with Moscow and China and its reluctance to harmonise its foreign policy with that of the bloc.

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic, however, advised the region to cooperate with third countries after the EU practically stopped the enlargement by despite promise failing to give the green light to Tirana and Skopje for opening the accession talks with the Union.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540897/Pristina-warns-about-Serbia-s-arming-from-Russia-and-China.html

PM in China offers Huawei part of data center in central Serbia

November 4, 2019

Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, offered on Monday to Chinese Huawei company to take a part of the data center in Serbia central city of Kragujevac in a meeting with the company’s vice-president in Beijing, the FoNet news agency reported.

The two agreed on cooperation in 5G technology.

At the beginning of her visit to China, Brnabic also met the representatives of HBIS Group Co., Ltd steelmaker, the owner of Serbia’s Smederevo steel plant, and the Bank of China, which has a branch in Serbia, state RTS TV reported.

Brnabic heads delegation that includes ministers Rasim Ljajic and Nenad Popovic, and the President of the National Council for Cooperation with Russia and China, Tomislav Nikolic, former Serbia’s head of state.

She also met Chinese President Xi Jinping.    

Brnabic thanked Jinping for the Chinese principal support of Serbia’s territorial integrity regarding Kosovo and reiterated Belgrade’s support of Beijing politics. The two discussed bilateral economic and political relations and the cooperation within the “Belt and the Road” projects.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540813/Serbia-and-China-on-new-cooperation.html

Dutch Foreign Minister worries about Serbia’s Journalists’ safety

November 4, 2019

Stef Blok, the Dutch Foreign Minister, said late on Sunday The Netherlands was seriously concerned about the safety of Serbia’s journalists and that his country was carefully watching the situation in the area, the Beta news agency reported.

He said The Netherlands highly appreciated the freedom of expression and that the country had a dialogue, flourishing democracy, and the journalists had the main role in those processes.

“In the cases of pressure or attacks on journalists, the media and civil society should be active and put pressure (on the authorities) to solve the case. But that is not enough. It is a must to bring all perpetrators to justice and stop the atmosphere of impunity,” Blok told the Belgrade Danas daily ahead of his visit to Serbia.

He welcomed the work on the Media strategy in Serbia, “though after a long process which was not free from problems,” and added he hoped it would be adopted and implemented soon since that was the most important.

Commenting on the rule of law area, Blok said The Netherlands recognised the reforms Serbia conducted for years, but that it was also concerned about the lack of progress in the fight against corruption or the strengthening of the independence of the judiciary.

Asked about the idea on territory swap between Serbia and Kosovo or the division between the Serbs and Albanians along the ethnic border, Blok said one should be very careful with such ideas especially bearing in mind the conflict in the recent past.

“That’s why The Netherlands believes that any solution regarding the territories must be in line with international law, meaning that the opinion of the people who would be directly affected must be taken into account,” Bloc said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540785/Dutch-FM-says-his-contry-worries-about-safety-of-Serbia-s-journalists.html

"Metla 2020" movement established

November 3, 2019

The “Metla 2020” (Broom 2020) movement formally began its work in the Sava Centre, on Sunday.

The movement's backbone are the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), The Group for Serbia's prosperity, the Team for Life Association, as well as the Natives from Kraljevo.

The group was formed out of discontent with the present political situation in the country, but they are yet to decide whether they would take part in the upcoming election.

They say want to change the way Serbian citizens elect their representatives, and they have chosen the name of Broom because "There's a lot of cleaning to do.”

The movement was joined by the head of the Serbian Military Union, Novica Antic, who will serve as an independent member.

"Our desire and the intention is to return the abducted state of Serbia back to the people and simply to clean Serbia of all the bad things that have happened to us in recent years," said Novica Antic.

"Let's break the hold of political parties, then you will also break the cycle of political employments, party employments, influence on the media, public affairs, tenders, the fraudulent economy that rules Serbia. Until we do that, we won't be able to implement the not even the best economic and welfare programme. That is the first and basic goal that we must achieve if we are to heal - to finally set the country straight," said DSS leader Milos Jovanovic.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540659/Metla-2020-movement-established.html

Godfrey: I do not plan on holding lessons, the US stance on Kosovo unchanged

November 3, 2019

The Newly-appointed US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey said he does not plan on giving lessons to Serbian leaders but hopes for an open dialogue, and added that the US' stance on Kosovo has not changed.

"I do not plan to give any lessons to Serbian leaders, nor will I have that approach. I hope for an open dialogue, and when I need to tell them difficult things, I will tell them directly, in private conversations, as much as possible, because that way the diplomatic work is most effective," Godfrey told Politico.

Speaking about the views of US envoys for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, as well as about Richard Grenel's Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he said that they both seek a resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, they encourage it and they are helping Pristina and Belgrade come to a solution that will benefit both sides.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540593/Godfrey-I-do-not-plan-on-holding-lessons-the-US-stance-on-Kosovo-unchanged.html

US special envoy for Western Balkans to continue regional talks

November 2, 2019

US Secretary of State Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer is scheduled to continue his visit to the region next week with a visit to Belgrade, where he will meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and other officials.

According to the US Embassy in Belgrade, Palmer is expecting a meeting with Vucic and other officials, as well as ambassadors from neighbouring countries and representatives of various political parties to discuss the importance of returning to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, as well as other issues of regional importance.

In talks with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, on Friday, Palmer focused his attention on the issue of reaching a comprehensive agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, Thaci's cabinet said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540467/US-special-envoy-for-Western-Balkans-to-continue-regional-talks.html

Palmer: Vucic and Serbia know they cannot join EU before agreement with Kosovo

November 1, 2019

The US envoy to the Western Balkans, the State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Mathew Palmer said in Pristina on Friday Serbia would suffer both politically and economically if no agreement with Kosovo was reached, N1 reported.

Addressing the students and NGOs representatives, Palmer said the US would not impose any agreement without the consent from both sides and the approval of both parliaments, adding Serbia would not join the EU without the normalisation of relations with Kosovo.

He said that as soon as a deal was reached, the things would move forward.

“President Vucic and the majority in Serbia know they cannot join the EU until they resolve the long-term dispute with Kosovo. As long as the leading officials refuse to treat Kosovo as a neighbour instead of its property, there will be hold-ups which will inflict damage to Serbia both politically and economically,” Palmer said.

He added that “Serbia should focus on overall strategic interests. It was aggressive in delegitimising Kosovo. The campaign for the withdrawal of the recognition of Kosovo and the blockage of its membership to international institutions should stop. The intimidation of Serbia’s political representatives on the border should stop. These measure of confrontation should stop on both sides. They only burden the atmosphere for an agreement which Serbia needs to achieve full potential and open its European road.”

Earlier, he told Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci that Pristina could open the door peace with an agreement with Serbia.

In the meeting in Kosovo's capital, the two discussed the dialogue on the normalisation of relation between Belgrade and Pristina and the need to form Kosovo's institutions quickly, Thaci's office said in a statement.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540271/Serbia-knows-it-has-to-settle-relations-with-Kosovo-before-joining-EU.html

Dodik: Nobody can make Republika Srpska change its mind on NATO membership

November 1, 2019

Nobody can make Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia’s Serb-majority region, change its decision on its military neutrality and agree to Bosnia’s NATO membership, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said on Friday.

The statement is the latest in the back-and-forth between the leader of the main Bosniak party in the country, Bakir Izetbegovic, and his Serb counterpart Dodik over Bosnia’s NATO membership path and the deadlock over forming the government.

Bosnia’s new government - officially called the Council of Ministers - has still not been formed, more than a year since the election. The reason is a disagreement over whether Bosnia should send the Annual National Programme (ANP) to NATO, which would be the next step toward the country’s membership in the alliance.

Although Dodik’s Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) agreed to the country taking over obligations toward NATO years ago, including sending the ANP, the party has since changed its mind.

In line with neighbouring Serbia, the semi-autonomous entity of Republika Srpska adopted a Declaration on Military Neutrality in 2017. It means the entity does not want to be a member of any military alliances, including NATO.

But for the Council of Ministers to be named, all three members of Bosnia’s Presidency must approve the naming of the ministers, and the next Chairman is supposed to come from Dodik’s party.

The Bosniak and Croat Presidency members refuse to greenlight the SNSD’s candidate until the ANP is sent to NATO in Brussels.

Dodik has accused Izetbegovic’s Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of using the ANP as a condition for forming the government and implementing the will of the voters.

But Izetbegovic sees it differently.

“Previously adopted laws and decisions must be respected,” he said earlier on Friday, arguing that ignoring the 2009 decision which obligates the country to send to document is illegal.

The Bosniak leader said that what his party wants is not a condition but only a request for the rule of law to be respected.

The document must be sent, but if Serbs do not want to join NATO, then the country will not join the alliance, he stressed.

Dodik, however, feels that Izetbegovic wants to bring him down and “change the situation in the RS” to send the ANP.

“Then in six months NATO membership can come, that is why we don’t want to make the first step,” he said.

“Nobody can make the RS breach a decision by the Republika Srpska National Assembly. That is more important to us than Bosnia and Herzegovina. I represent Republika Srpska, not Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Dodik said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540249/Bosnian-Serb-leader-says-RS-won-t-change-its-mind-on-NATO.html

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