International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Another whistler-blower in Serbia becomes target

October 17, 2019

Kosovo Democratic Party leader Kadri Veseli told Pristina-based KTV that Washington is not in favor of an exchange of territories as a solution to relations with Serbia.

Veseli said that the US president’s envoy Ambassador Richard Grenell told officials in Pristina that Washington would support any agreement reached by Belgrade and Pristina. He said that Washington sees Kosovo as part of its project to stabilize the Balkans, adding that Kosovo has to go through that process.  

“The US does not support any option which is not agreed to by both sides. An exchange of territories can’t happen. We have to preserve Kosovo’s territorial integrity along with its institutions,” he said. According to Veseli, Kosovo has created its own problems by claiming that the US supports an exchange of territories.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535380/Veseli-US-not-in-favor-of-Serbia-Kosovo-trading-territories.html

Hoxha: Special Prosecution ordered police operation in north Kosovo

October 16, 2019

Kosovo Special Prosecutor Syle Hoxha said that Wednesday’s police operation in northern Kosovo was conducted under orders from the prosecution by the Serious Crime Department of the Pristina Basic Court.

He confirmed that two people were arrested and that a search was underway for a third person who he identified by the initial ZB.

The Special Prosecutor said that the two men who had been arrested were suspected of involvement in organized crime, hiding evidence and other activities which he said were linked to the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic who was gunned down in front of his party offices in Mitrovica North almost two years ago.

Pristina media said that the two police officers named in the arrest warrant were involved in the investigation into the murder.

Hoxha confirmed to Pristina-based KTV that senior Kosovo police officer Rade Basara was being interrogated. KTV said that fellow police investigator Zeljko Bojic is at large and identified his son as the second person arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535042/Hoxha-Special-Prosecution-ordered-police-operation-in-north-Kosovo.html

Kosovo police officer arrested over Ivanovic murder

October 16, 2019

The Kosovo police arrested one of their own early on Wednesday morning on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Kosovo Serb political leader Oliver Ivanovic almost two years ago.

Kosovo media reported that another police officer was wanted under the same warrant issued by the Basic Court in Pristina. The Kosovo state TV (RTK) said that the arrested officer was a Serb. Another person was arrested for illegal possession of weapons, a police press release said.  

The KoSSev news portal quoted police spokesman Baki Kelani who said in a written statement that a police operation was underway as part of the Ivanovic murder investigation. “The police operation was conducted under a search warrant issued by the Special Section of the Basic Court, resulting in the arrest of suspect, police officer RB, while another police officer also named in the warrant is at large. Another suspect found in possession of weapons was arrested during the police operation which turned up two firearms and ammunition,” Kelani said in the statement.  

Police sources told the portal that the police conducted a search at two locations in Mitrovica north and that the operation was under the command of Police General Directorate in Pristina, not the local or regional police command.  

Serbian government official Marko Djuric confirmed on Wednesday that the Kosovo police are searching for Zeljko Bojic, Kosovo Police Operations Commander. The head of government Office for Kosovo told TV Pink that “the ROSU unit broke into his apartment, searched it, took away his son Vasilije and arrested police officer Rade Basara who was working on important cases”. Djuric said that the operation is part of attempts to link Kosovo Serbs to crimes and intimidate them.

Serbian Police Director Vladimir Rebic said that he had information beforehand that a police operation would be conducted in the north of Kosovo. He told the RTS that 24 armored vehicles entered Mitrovica north, claiming that the deployment is against regulations and is another case of the Serbs being intimidated. He said the operation shows Pristina’s frustration over the fact that it had to withdraw its application for membership in Interpol. Rebic said that Serbia is prepared to intervene if “an exodus of the Serb people happens” adding that he is convinced that won’t happen.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535016/Kosovo-police-officer-arrested-over-Ivanovic-murder.html

Serbian PM says agreement with EurAsian Union not political

October 16, 2019

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti that the economic cooperation agreement that Serbia is set to sign with the EurAsian Economic Union is not political.

Brnabic is scheduled to travel to Russia in 10 days to sign the agreement.  

“It does not run counter to the interests of the European Union, it is complementary because Serbia is a country determined to become an EU member which means that an economically stronger Serbia is also in the interest of the EU. We can have freed trade agreement with other countries and groups as long as we are not an EU member,” she said.  

Brnabic said that Serbia’s place is in the EU because that is the country’s biggest export market.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535032/Serbian-PM-says-agreement-with-EurAsian-Union-not-political.html

EU without date for accession talks with Tirana and Skopje

October 15, 2019

The European Foreign Ministers failed to agree in Luxembourg on Tuesday when to start the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, despite pledges that the whole of the Western Balkans should become the bloc's members, the Beta news agency reported.

The final verdict is expected at the meeting of the presidents or prime ministers of the EU member states in Brussels on Thursday.

Tytti Tuppurainen, the Foreign Minister of Finland, the EU presiding country, said she was sorry that the deal was not reached.

France and Netherlands asked Tirana and Skopje to meet almost all conditions, while the majority of the ministers was in favour of specifying the date for opening the talks.

Albania and North Macedonia have been waiting for the start of the EU negotiations for years, and Skopje was promised to get the date in the summer of 2019, after ending the 27-year-long name dispute with Athens.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534956/Tirana-and-Skopje-still-without-date-for-opening-talks-with-EU.html

Kosovo PM: We’re withdrawing request to join Interpol; Belgarde claims victory

October 15, 2019

Ramus Haradinaj, Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister said on Tuesday he wrote to the Interpol General Assembly telling it Pristina’s request for the membership to that international police force was withdrawn, the Kosovo online website reported.

Last year, the Assembly voted to reject Kosovo’s application.

Pristina said it was the result of Belgrade diplomatic campaign and retaliated by introducing the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia.

 The taxes that blocked the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations are still in place.

On Tuesday, Haradinaj said that “bearing in mind that general elections in Kosovo were held on October 6, I kindly ask you to postpone our application for the next General Assembly meeting.”

Earlier in the day, Serbia’s embassies across the world have been ordered to prevent Pristina’s attempt to join Interpol, Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti said.

“Our diplomats all over the world have received an explicit directive from their headquarters in Belgrade to invest maximum effort to prevent Pristina’s attempts at the Interpol General Assembly, which is starting in Chile and lasts till October 18, to become a member of that organization,” the daily said.

It added that Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic instructed the diplomats to explain why Serbia felt that Kosovo’s membership in Interpol was unacceptable in the next few days regardless of the occasion and topic of conversation.  

Serbia’s Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Pristina’s withdrawal of the application to join Interpol, was a huge victory for Serbia and the international law. Speaking from Chile, he said it was clear that the vast majority of the countries would not support Kosovo’s membership.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534812/Pristina-withdraws-Inerpol-membership-application.html

N1 news director: Provocations are tests for more severe acts against us

October 15, 2019

Jugoslav Cosic, the N1 Belgrade News Director, told VICE website on Tuesday that N1 people were not scared despite pressures, adding he was convinced that the latest provocations were organised from the same centre as before and that they were just tests for more serious acts against the TV.

Last night, in the third such incidents, two men wearing surgical masks threw hundreds of leaflets into the backyard of the N1 Belgrade building reading 'The Republic of Serbia – Goodbye; N1 - Welcome to Luxembourg.'

Cosic said that the police were notified "and they showed up at N1 immediately. They investigated the case and made notes," adding the relations with New Belgrade police department were good.

"I think that it is important for them (the police) to do their job professionally. That was not the first time the police reacted to our calls," Cosic said.

He added that right now it was unknown who was behind those provocations, but that it was clear that they happened systematically and organized from the same center.

"We make no compromise, and we have a strict editorial policy. The regime obviously cannot accept the critical reporting despite it directly controls the majority of the most powerful media. In real life, all that generates threats and danger for the safety of the independent media and their journalists. The timber always comes from the top. There are no exceptions,"

  "They use the same material against N1 and have the same spin launched in the Parliament saying N1 doesn't work in line with the law and doesn't pay tax. Nothing is true, except that the Parliament became yet another platform for the showdown with N1 and the rest of the independent media," Cosic said.

And added: "I think these are just tests and that more serious acts against N1 are planned."

N1 does everything, Cosic says, protecting the integrity and safety of its employees – from the physical protection, contacts with the police and informing all relevant institutions at home and abroad.

Cosic said N1 was an unbiased and professional TV, and when there were no serious arguments, the attacks were based on lies and stigmatization.  

"The simplest method dating back in the '90s which these authorities haven't changed from the times of the Radicals (ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party), is to brand all independent media as anti-Serb. But I'm telling you that all pro-government media dealing with regime propaganda, are deeply anti-Serb. They work against Serbia's interests because that is not in the country's interest to serve as a tool in the authority’s propaganda, to destroy all kinds of the regime's opponents, to confront the independent media, to destroy any idea of democracy and a normal social dialogue," Cosic said.

He adds the problem with N1 is the fact that it is a critical television which focuses on the interests of people, not political options.

"In that sense, we make no compromise, and we have a strict editorial policy. The regime obviously cannot accept the critical reporting despite it directly controls the majority of the most powerful media. In real life, all that generates threats and danger for the safety of the independent media and their journalists. The timber always comes from the top. There are no exceptions," Cosic said.

He added that despite the pressures, the atmosphere in N1 was great, and there was no fear.

"The N1 journalists and editors firmly believe in the professional principles and stick to them, extremely dedicated to their job. They are the best professional TV crew in Serbia. They are in solidarity not only among themselves but also with colleagues from other media who are under the same pressure. I don't believe that can change," Cosic told VICE.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534870/Cosic-Latest-provocations-are-test-for-more-severe-acts-aginst-N1.html

Arms Watch journalist says Serbia had to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia

October 15, 2019

Arms Watch portal investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva said on Tuesday that Serbia had to stop the arms exports in which a cabinet minister’s father was involved as soon as documents proving his involvement were leaked by a whistleblower.

Krusik munitions plant IT sector employee Aleksandar Obradovic leaked documents to Arms Watch about the involvement of Branko Stefanovic in the purchase of munitions which were exported to Saudi Arabia and ended up in the hands of Islamic extremists in Yemen.  

According to Gaytandzhieva, Serbia had to stop the arms exports once it learned that they ended up in terrorist hands but did not do so because the deputy Prime Minister’s father was involved. “Instead of ending the arms exports to the Saudis, which is its obligation under international law, Serbia arrested the whistleblower because he revealed the crime,” she said adding that she wrote to the Serbian Organized Crime Prosecution asking if an investigation would be launched and providing links to the documents but never got a response.

“The crime is that they armed terrorists with those weapons – more precisely that is a war crime. No one believes that the specification in arms deals will state that the end user is the terrorist organization Islamic State in Yemen nor that Yemen is the final destination because that country is under embargo. I don’t care what they say, I published documents, photographs, video material which proves that Islamic State terrorists are using Serbian weapons exported by the Serbian minister’s father and GIM to Saudi Arabia,” she said.  

She said the whistleblower who leaked documents revealing that Branko Stefanovic, father of Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, was involved in arms deals is a true Serbian hero because he revealed corruption at top government level. “He sent me documents which reveal corruption at the highest level of government in Serbia, expose all arms traders including the father of the Serbian deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs Nebojsa Stefanovic. The weapons exported from Serbia ended up in the hands of Islamist groups in Yemen, groups which committed many war crimes,” Gaytandzieva told Radio Free Europe.  

She said the documents reveal that the state-owned munitions plant sold the private company GIM, which was represented by Branko Stefanovic, munitions at much lower prices than the company offered initially and at prices much lower than what the government-owned Jugoimport-SDPR paid. She alleged that Krusik suffered damages of hundreds of thousands of Dollars allowing the GIM company to earn huge profits.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534758/Arms-Watch-journalist-says-Serbia-had-to-stop-arms-exports-to-Saudi-Arabia.html

Transparency Serbia official says law doesn’t protect Krusik whistleblower

October 15, 2019

A senior Transparency Serbia official said that the whistleblower from the Krusik munitions plant isn’t protected under the law which has a system flaw.

Krusik munitions plant IT sector employee AO leaked documents showing that Branko Stefanovic, father of Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, was involved in the sale of mortar rounds which were exported to Saudi Arabia and ended up in the hands of Islamic extremists in Yemen.  

Transparency Serbia Program Director Nemanja Nenadic said that the man who revealed that a cabinet minister’s father was involved in the arms trade can’t seek protection because there is no legal basis to free him of responsibility for whistleblowing which is in the public interest. “Specifically, in terms of handling secret data, article 20 of the law (on protecting whistleblowers) allows the possibility of the whistleblower contacting prosecutors, state auditors, ministries but no the public or journalists directly,” Nenadic told Danas daily.  

He said the focus should be on proving that the leaked data was never supposed to have been classified as secret and added that the outcome of the proceedings against the Krusik employee depends on whether the information he leaked to journalists was classified as a business secret and whether the information should have been classified at all. “If it was information of interest for Serbia, that would fall under the law on data secrecy and not just the law on protecting business secrets,” he said.  

There would be no grounds to prosecute the whistleblower if the information was classified to hide business operations damaging to a state-owned company.  

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534701/Transparency-Serbia-official-says-law-doesn-t-protect-Krusik-whistleblower.html

Serbian opposition official calls police to identify men who beat protesters

October 15, 2019

Belgrade opposition official Marko Bastac on Tuesday called the police to identify the men who assaulted people protesting against deputy Mayor Goran Vesic during Monday evening’s book promotion.

A large group of people gathered in front of the Progress gallery in the central pedestrian Knez Mihailova street during the promotion of Vesic’s book. Members of Vesic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) stood in front of the gallery entrance arguing with the crowd which included officials and supporters of the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS). Vesic was escorted to his car by security guards.  

Bastac, the head of the central Stari Grad municipality, said the police should identify the people who insulted, assaulted and beat protesters and find out who brought them there. “If the police doesn’t determine those facts, it’s clear that there is no state and that the citizens have to find their own way of protecting themselves from the criminal regime which has launched a physical assault on opponents,” he said.  

He said the crowd gathered in the gallery for the promotion included President Aleksandar Vucic’s wife and father, presidency official Nikola Selakovic, right-wing politician Misa Vacic and others. “The other side were we, the citizens who will no longer keep quiet and tolerate the destruction of the city and mistreatment of people by the eternal deputy (an allusion to Vesic). When he didn’t know how to leave his own promotion, “attempted criminal” Goran Vesic sent his private thugs against the citizens headed by former kick-boxer and acting CEO of the Belgrade Elektrane power plants Rade Basta,” Bastac said.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534677/Serbian-opposition-official-calls-police-to-identify-men-who-beat-protesters.html

Serbian FM orders diplomats to prevent Kosovo from joining Interpol

October 15, 2019

Serbia’s embassies across the world have been ordered to prevent Pristina’s attempt to join Interpol, Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti said on Tuesday.

“Our diplomats all over the world have received an explicit directive from their headquarters in Belgrade to invest maximum effort to prevent Pristina’s attempts at the Interpol General Assembly, which is starting in Chile and lasts till October 18, to get membership in that organization,” the daily said.  

Vecernje Novosti said it had been granted access to an open telegram sent by Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic which said that preventing further recognition of Kosovo, the revoking of existing decisions to recognize it as independent and preventing Pristina’s membership in international organizations are questions of the highest national interest and currently the main foreign policy priority which the entire Serbian leadership is engaged on.  

The daily said that Dacic instructed the diplomats to explain why Serbia feels that Kosovo’s membership in Interpol is unacceptable in the next few days regardless of the occasion and topic of conversation.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534667/Serbian-FM-orders-diplomats-to-prevent-Kosovo-from-joining-Interpol.html

Poll shows half of Serbians satisfied with local authorities

October 15, 2019

Half of the population of Serbia believe that their local authorities are providing the services they need according to a poll conducted by CeSID,

CeSID polled 11,387 adult citizens of Serbia in 50 towns and cities as part of the Swiss PRO program.  

CeSID said that more than half of citizens of Serbia said that the local administration services which issue birth, death, marriage and other documents function well while a fifth of the polled said that the local tax office does best. Just five percent said the construction and urbanism office operate best in their municipalities. They said that the biggest advances in the operating of municipal authorities have been made in terms of time saved and quality of service. A third of the polled said the local authorities mainly do not take care of the needs of the population while 12 percent said they don’t take care of their needs at all. A third said they are not sufficiently informed about what their local authorities do.

Ninety percent of the polled said they have never given bribes or gifts to any municipal official and 10 percent admitted to giving small bribes or gifts such as coffee, sweets or drinks.

A majority of the polled said they trust their local municipality chief of mayor the most, more than they trust local administration staff. Almost 80 percent of the polled said they feel fully or partly safe in their cities and towns. The people who said they don’t feel safe cited bad infrastructure, badly lit streets, unsafe roads and potholes as well as crime, stray dogs and drug addicts.

Just 13 percent said their living standards are good, two thirds said either average or bearable and one fifth said they were barely bearable while three percent said their lives are unbearable.

CeSID recalled that just 22 percent of the population of Serbia polled in 2010 said the local authorities are taking care of them.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534693/Poll-shows-half-of-Serbians-satisfied-with-local-authorities.html  

Serbia’s whistle-blower released from jail, put back under house arrest

October 14, 2019

The Appellant Court annulled on Monday the ruling on the detention of Aleksandar Obradovic, a whistle-blower, who was suspected of ‘revealing business secret’ to journalists about arms deals allegedly linked to Serbia’s Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic’s father, and the High Court ruled he should remain under house arrest, N1 reported.

The Court sent the case back to the Higher Court where N1 was told they would deal with it with urgency, and later in the day rejected the prosecutors' demand for Obradovic to stay in detention and confirmed the first judge's decision to put him under the house arrest.

Dozens of Belgraders gathered outside the jail waiting for Obradovic to be transferred to his home after released from detention and put under house arrest.

Obradovic, an IT expert at the Krusik munitions plant, had been ordered into 30-day detention. He spent 20 days in custody before the news about his arrest broke out on Friday.

The whistle-blower also got a new attorney since it was weird that the first one had not commented on his detention and did not demand the whistle-blower status according to the law the day Obradovic was arrested.

Dozens of people gathered outside the Belgrade Central prison in support of Obradovic late on Sunday and said they would do that every day until Obradovic was released from custody.

Serbia’s Ombudsman Zoran Pasalic told N1 later on Monday his office would demand an answer whether the police honoured the procedure stipulated by the law after Obradovic was arrested, adding his jurisdiction covered that period.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534541/Serbia-s-court-annuls-decison-on-detention-of-man-who-links-Interior-Minister-father-to-arms-deals.html

Anti-N1 leaflets thrown in TV's yard in Belgrade

October 14, 2019

In the yard on the backside of N1 TV building in Belgrade, two unknown men threw some 500 leaflets across the fence reading: Republic of Serbia Goodbye; N1 Welcome to Luxembourg.

Two police patrol cars came to the scene shortly after the incident, conducted an investigation and notified the prosecutor on duty.

On the street side of the fence, there was one surgical mask left after the incident.

On Sunday, sign 'Leave the Republic of Serbia – welcome to Luxembourg' was placed next to the N1 Television building, along with an improvised ramp.

Some month ago a billboard with the same words was posted on the fence of the nearby construction site, and before that, the stickers with that message appeared at several locations in the city, including the building housing the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM).

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534625/New-antiN1-incident-leaflets-thrown-in-TV-s-back-yard.html

Kosovo's PM-designate: Under Constitution, Serb List doesn't have to be in govt.

October 14, 2019

The winner of Kosovo general elections held on October 4, Albin Kurti, the leader of Self-determination (Vetëvendosje in Albanian) said the Serb List, Kosovo Serbs' political party, supported by Belgrade, did not represent the whole of Serb community, adding "the Constitution doesn't say" that the List had to be a part of the Government, the FoNet news agency reported on Monday.

Kurti, who is widely believed to become Kosovo's Prime Minister, also says that the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue could resume after Serbia's elections next spring.

The dialogue has been on hold for almost a year, following Pristina's decision to introduce the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia after, as Kosovo authorities said, Belgrade's campaign prevented it from joining Interpol. On Monday, Kurti told Al Jazeera TV  that "the first and the most important step in forming a new government was a coalition agreement with the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

"I'm aware that if we have 12 ministers, one has to be from the Serb community, but our Constitution doesn't say that person must be from the Serb List, because it doesn't represent the whole of the Serb community."

Kurti rejected the idea on the demarcation with Serbia and added that before the resumption of the dialogue, Kosovo should talk with Brussels about how to continue the negotiations.

Regarding the tariffs, Kurti said he would deal with the issue after assuming the premiership.

Speaking to Bosnian TV, Kurti said that Pristina would talk to Sarajevo directly and that the cooperation between Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina should exist.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534627/Kosovo-s-PM-to-be-says-Serb-List-doesn-t-represent-the-whole-of-Serb-community.html

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