International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

RFE-Borrell cabinet to impose sanctions on Pristina

June 13, 2023

Radio Free Europe said on Tuesday that was told by diplomatic sources that European Union High Representative Josep Borrell’s team put together a package of measures directed against Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government for lacking the political will to de-escalate the situation in majority-Serb northern municipalities.

The unnamed sources are reported to have said that the measures include a ban on inviting officials from Pristina to high-level events and on bilateral visits to Kosovo except those intended to help resolve the crisis as wll as a reduced presence at events linked to financial cooperation with the EU.

The measures include an end to significant EU financing starting with a suspension of the proposals submitted by the Kosovo government at the latest meeting of the Western Balkans Investment Fund as well as a suspension of activities by some sub-committees within the framework of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.

European Commission Spokesman Peter Stano confirmed that Borrell’s cabinet has sent EU member states copies of the draft measures which will be implemented unless Kurti takes immediate, adequate steps to de-escalate the situation and lower tensions.

RFE said that diplomatic sources indicated that some EU member states have already imposed measures similar to Borrell’s package of measures.

The EU called Pristina to invest effort to de-escalate the situation in the north after newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayors were escorted to their offices by the police, provoking riots by local Serbs in northern municipalities. The EU warned that it would take measures against politicians refusing to help calm the situation.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/rfe-borrell-cabinet-drafts-sanctions-on-pristina/

Opposition MP says protest will spread to other places

June 13, 2023

Opposition MP Aleksandar Jovanovic Cuta told N1 on Tuesday that the weekly protests in Belgrade would spread to other places.

“The protest will not be on Friday,” he said. The Serbian Against Violence protests started on Fridays but were also held on Saturdays.

“This is not defense, on the contrary we will go on the offensive. We won’t wait any longer, walking endlessly. That’s all great, the scene in front of parliament remains, the Belgrade protest will be in the same format but we will go to other places as well this time,” he said.

Jovanovic said that the protests will move to other places in Serbia. “We won’t march any more, we will go on the offensive, what someone called radicalization. Remember Rio Tinto and I think it’s clear to everyone. Peaceful blockades,” he said. Jovanovic and other environmental activists organized road block protests for weeks, forcing the Serbian government to scrap plans allowing Rio Tinto to open a lithium mine in western Serbia.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/opposition-mp-says-protest-will-spread-to-other-places/

Vucic discusses events in Kosovo with US Senators

June 13, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had a telephone conversation with three US Senators about the situation in the north of Kosovo, a press release from the president’s cabinet said on Tuesday.

It said that “the situation in the north of Kosovo was the only topic of discussion” with Senators Chris Murphy, Jeanne Shaheen and Pete Ricketts.

The president told the Senators “clearly and unequivocally that the arrest of (Kosovo Serb) Milun Milenkovic was a provocation and crime by (Kosovo Prime Minister) Albin Kurti which was intended to cause war in the heart of Europe,” the press release said.

It added that Vucic told the Senators that the Kosovo Serbs are “subjected to the fiercest torture and persecution over the past 15 years”.

The press release quoted the senators as telling Vucic that they are asking Serbia to show restraint and call for peace because that is in the greatest interest of everyone in the Western Balkans.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-discusses-events-in-kosovo-with-us-senators/

High Rep condemns Kordic statement, says war crimes glorification punishable

June 12, 2023

High Representative Christian Schmidt commented on recently released video footage of Dario Kordic, a convicted war criminal, containing hideous messages related to the crimes for which he was sentenced by the ICTY, and showing no signs of remorse.

“The fact that a convicted person has served the sentence for committing a war crime does not mean that the crime has disappeared. This person remains a war criminal. Remorse, regret, and forgiveness is what they should seek. These comments by Kordic could be understood as recognition and glorification of his deeds.

The glorification of war crimes is punishable by law.

I encourage the Prosecutor's Office to open an investigation of this matter, and there has to be a check of possible consequences on ICTY’s verdict in Kordic’s case“, said the High Representative.

He again stressed the need and his support for registering ICTY and MICT judgements in the criminal records of BiH: “BiH citizens sentenced by international tribunals should not be able to obtain clean certificates from domestic criminal records. A society that strives to build a better future without war crimes and genocide must accept the adjudicated facts from its history.”

The High Representative is strictly committed to ensuring this, the statement said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/high-rep-condemns-kordic-statement-says-war-crimes-glorification-punishable/

OHR-Fifth expert consultations on Bosnia's state property

June 13, 2023

The fifth expert consultation session on state property was held today at the Embassy of the United States in Sarajevo. During the meeting, the Working Group discussed possibilities for regulating water resources as part of a comprehensive solution to the state property issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The experts discussed various modalities of ownership and use of waters in Bosnia and Herzegovina and compared them to other countries, as well as the management and protection of waters.

The Working Group, formed by the OHR with support from the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board, aims to produce expert opinions and information to facilitate the BiH Parliamentary Assembly’s work in resolving the state property issue, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) said.

An acceptable and sustainable resolution of the apportionment of property between the State and other levels of government is the first objective of the 5+2 agenda. It has been a longstanding obligation of the BiH authorities.

The fourth session was held at the end of May at the Embassy of Japan, where experts discussed forestry assets, the OHR said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/ohr-fifth-expert-consultations-on-bosnias-state-property/

Bosnian authorities keep ignoring Constitutional Court rulings

June 13, 2023

Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities keep ignoring the Constitutional Court rulings they don't like, for which no one has suffered any consequences, although it carries up to five years in jail, and with this approach BiH cannot count on EU membership, representatives of the Court and the EU Delegation said on Tuesday.

Many decisions, notably those which protect constitutionality and have legal and political consequences, have not been implemented for years, Constitutional Court president Valerija Galic told the press in Sarajevo.

The Court, established under the Dayton peace agreement, has two Croatian, two Serb and two Bosniak judges as well as three foreign judges appointed by the president of the European Court of Human Rights. The terms of the foreign judges should end with the adoption of a new law on the Constitutional Court, but there has been no political consensus on it in BiH yet.

That is the excuse the Serb entity's authorities have been using not to recognise and honour the Court's rulings, notably those on the constitutionality of entity decisions and laws.

The Serb entity's authorities insist that state-owned assets should belong to BiH's two entities, while the Constitutional Court ruled that they belong to the state and that lower levels of government cannot dispose of them until the state parliament adopts a law regulating the matter.

Galic said at least 16 rulings on the constitutionality of decisions or laws were contentious, including five that have not been implemented, while in the remaining cases the Constitutional Court intervened by putting the contentious decisions and laws out of force.

The BiH penal code envisages between six months and five years in prison for failure to comply with Constitutional Court rulings, but no one has been either indicted or sentenced to date.

The Court has established that there are 98 cases in which its rulings have not been complied with, including 24 reported to the Prosecutor's Office, but prosecutors claim they could not establish that a crime was committed, Galić said. “We must have a serious discussion on that.”

The head of the EU Delegation to BiH, Johann Sattler, said that honouring Constitutional Court rulings was required for progress in EU integration and that it was one of the 14 reform priorities defined for BiH by the European Commission.

In every democracy, failure to honour Constitutional Court rulings has deep repercussions as it means lawlessness, he said, adding that it is not just a technical issue, but also one with deep political implications.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bosnian-authorities-keep-ignoring-constitutional-court-rulings/

US Embassy urges institutions to react to war crime convict's comments

June 13, 2023

US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the condemnation of war crime convict Dario Kordic over his controversial statement that every second in the war and prison “was worth it” and that he would “do it all over again.”

The embassy urged the competent institutions to react.

“We strongly condemn the appalling statement made by convicted war criminal Dario Kordic. His readiness to repeat his heinous actions demonstrates that he has no remorse for the crimes he committed. Given the serious nature of his comments, the appropriate institutions must react,” the embassy stressed.

Kordic served as commander-in-chief of the Bosnian Croat army HVO during the 1992-95 Bosnian War and in the late 1990s was who put on trial at the Hague war crimes tribunal (ICTY) for his role in the 1993 Ahmici massacre in central Bosnia, where HVO soldiers killed over a hundred Muslim Bosniak civilians during the Bosniak-Croat conflict which was part of the larger Bosnian War.

In 2001, Kordic was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and was later released in 2014 after serving two thirds of his sentence, having spent some 17 years in detention.

In a leaked video, whose timing is not confirmed but is assumed to have been recorded in August 2022, Kordic retells a story of when he was asked “if it was worth the prison and the war?”.

“I replied, I would do it all over again. I wouldn't change a second of it. Every second was worth it,” he said and his words were welcomed by a strong applause of the group.

The statement sparked numerous reactions, including associations of war crime victims as well as EU Delegation in BiH and the Office of the High Representative.

The Prosecutor's Office opened a case against Kordic, acting upon the complaint filed by BOSS party leader and lawyer Mirnes Ajanovic.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/us-embassy-urges-institutions-to-react-to-war-crime-convicts-comments/

EU Delegation: Statements like Kordic’s keep BiH trapped by legacy of its past

June 12, 2023

Dario Kordic’s disgraceful statement that he does not regret his actions during the 1992-95 war demonstrates a lamentable lack of shame and empathy with all those who were killed by the forces he led during those years, EU Delegation tweeted Monday, following the convicted war criminal’s statements from a leaked video.

“The war crimes against innocent civilians that Kordic was imprisoned for have been exhaustively documented and proven in court. These are established facts. Instead of reflecting on the lives that his actions destroyed and the consequences for the families of his victims, he chose to make outrageous comments that glorify his actions and perpetuate the trauma of all who were affected by the war,” EU Delegation to BiH wrote.


They concluded by saying that “such comments keep Bosnia and Herzegovina trapped by the legacy of its past and should be thoroughly condemned by all those with a commitment to truth, justice and genuine reconciliation.”

N1 published a video of The Hague convict Dario Kordic in which he answers the question “Was it worth the prison and the war?”
On the recording, Kordic says that a friend from the north of Croatia, “our, integral [Croatia],” asked him if it was worth it.

“I said, I would do it all over again, I wouldn't change a second. Every second was worth it,” Kordic said on the video, while the people gathered around him sang the song “It was worth it” by Miroslav Skoro.

It is not known when or where the recording was made.

The International Court for War Crimes in The Hague sentenced Kordic, a wartime commander of the Croat Defence Council (HVO) and vice president of Herzeg-Bosnia, to 25 years in prison for war crimes committed against the Bosniak population in Lasvanska Dolina during the war in central Bosnia in 1993 and 1994. Among the crimes for which Kordic was convicted was the massacre in Ahmici, where the HVO members killed 116 Bosniak civilians on April 16, 1993, including 32 women and 11 children. Kordić was released in 2014, after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/eu-delegation-statements-like-kordics-keep-bih-trapped-by-legacy-of-its-past/

BiH Prosecution opens a case against war criminal Dario Kordic

June 12, 2023

Bosnia Prosecutor's Office opened a case against convicted war criminal Dario Kordic upon receiving a complaint from lawyer Mirnes Ajanovic, which was given to the acting prosecutor.

“On Saturday, the BiH Prosecutor's Office received a submission/report from Ajanovic Mirnes via e-mail. Upon receipt, the report was sent to the further procedure, and through the CMS it was submitted to the acting prosecutor,” the Prosecutor's Office of BiH said Monday.

Earlier, N1 published a video of The Hague convict Dario Kordic in which he answers the question “Was it worth the prison and the war?”
On the recording, Kordic says that a friend from the north of Croatia, “our, integral [Croatia],” asked him if it was worth it.

“I said, I would do it all over again, I wouldn't change a second. Every second was worth it,” Kordic said on the video, while the people gathered around him sang the song “It was worth it” by Miroslav Skoro.

It is not known when or where the recording was made.

The International Court for War Crimes in The Hague sentenced Kordic, a wartime commander of the Croat Defence Council (HVO) and vice president of Herzeg-Bosnia, to 25 years in prison for war crimes committed against the Bosniak population in Lasvanska Dolina during the war in central Bosnia in 1993 and 1994. Among the crimes for which Kordic was convicted was the massacre in Ahmici, where the HVO members killed 116 Bosniak civilians on April 16, 1993, including 32 women and 11 children. Kordić was released in 2014, after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bih-prosecution-opens-a-case-against-war-criminal-dario-kordic/

Lajcak briefs North Atlantic Council on developments in Kosovo

June 13, 2023

European Union Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak briefed the North Atlantic Council on recent developments in northern Kosovo and the EU’s current diplomatic efforts, a NATO press release said on Tuesday.

“The excellent, long-standing cooperation between NATO and the EU in the region continues to make a difference,” it quoted Deputy NATO Secretary General Mircea Geoană as saying.

He said that NATO Headquarters, KFOR, the EU and OSCE have been trying to de-escalate the situation in northern Kosovo and bring both sides to the negotiation table, within the framework of the EU-led Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

“NATO has been committed to stability in the Western Balkans for decades; our KFOR mission on the ground, with well over 4,000 troops is the strongest demonstration of this commitment,” he said.

The press release said that NATO continues to support the EU-facilitated dialogue as the only way to lasting peace and security in Kosovo and stability across the region.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/lajcak-briefs-north-atlantic-council-on-developments-in-kosovo/ 

Serb List leader Rakic assaulted by Kosovo Serb protesters

June 13, 2023

The leader of the Belgrade-backed Serb List Goran Rakic was assaulted by angry protesters in Mitrovica North on Tuesday, the Nova.rs portal said.

Kosovo Serbs gathered earlier in the day to demand the release of two men arrested on suspicion of instigating clashes between local Serbs and KFOR last week. They gathered in front of a building where the Serb List leaders were, chanting insults against them and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Witnesses told Nova.rs that Rakic was approached by a crowd and assaulted for about a minute. “They pulled his lapels and physically assaulted him but I didn’t see that he was hit,” one of the witnesses said. The portal said that it was told by other witnesses that Serb List official Igor Simic managed to get away from the crowd.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serb-list-leader-rakic-assaulted-by-kosovo-serb-protesters/

Stano-Belgrade, Pristina hold opposed views

June 13, 2023

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told the Beta news agency that the recent visit by European Union and US envoys showed that Belgrade and Pristina have opposed views on a number of issues.

Stano said that consultations are underway to determine the next steps.

EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak and US Assistant Deputy State Secretary Gabriel Escobar met with top officials in Belgrade and Pristina last week to discuss ways to move forward in normalizing their relations. The visit came after unrest started when the new ethnic Albanian mayors of majority-Serb municipalities in north Kosovo entered the local administration buildings escorted by Kosovo Police special units.

Stano said that Lajcak informed EU High Representative Josep Borrell about the talks, adding that the EU member states are being informed.

He recalled that the EU called Pristina and Belgrade to be constructive and show readiness to compromise. According to him, Pristina needs to take positive steps to ease tensions in the northern municipalities. He said that the EU is prepared to take decisive measures which will affect relations with Kosovo.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/stano-belgrade-pristina-hold-opposed-views/

Kosovo PM proposes de-escalation plan to Borrell, Quint

June 13, 2023

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that he presented to European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and to ambassadors of Quint countries a five-point plan to de-escalate the situation in northern Kosovo.

Kurti told the media that the de-escalation plan should start with the rule of law.

“Criminal groups must immediately be identified and prosecuted,” he said, explaining the first point.

The second point envisages the immediate withdrawal of “violent groups, their return to Serbia and an end to criminal activities.”

The Kosovo Police and KFOR/EULEX will conduct joint security evaluations every 15 days, reads the Kosovo Government proposal.

Kurti also announced that early elections for mayors in four municipalities in northern Kosovo will be held.

In point five Kurti said Kosovo and Serbia should return to the Brussels-facilitated dialogue immediately in order to normalize relations and that a high-level meeting should take place as soon as possible.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kosovo-pm-proposes-de-escalation-plan-to-borrell-quint/

Kosovo Special Forces arrest Serb in N. Mitrovica, Kosovo Minister confirms

June 13, 2023

After sirens repeatedly went off in the Mitrovica North, Kosovo Internal Affairs Minister Xhelal Svecla confirmed that one person has been arrested, allegedly the leader of the Civil Defense and organizer of attacks on KFOR in Zvecan.

Svecla said the Kosovo Police arrested a Serb from Mitrovica North. “The Kosovo police have arrested M. M., one of the leaders of the ‘Civil Defense’ criminal group,” said Svecla.

The Minister said this person is also “the leader of the criminal groups that terrorized our citizens for years, attacked members of the Kosovo Police and institutions of the Republic of Kosovo,”

Svecla said that Kosovo police officers were attacked during the arrest and that three of them were slightly injured.

“As I have continuously emphasized, the time of criminal gangs in the north of our country is a thing of the past. All individuals or criminal groups who violated the security and constitutional order of the Republic of Kosovo will face justice. The Republic will not step down,” said the Minister.

Immediately after the arrest a large number of people assembled in the city.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kosovo-special-forces-arrest-serb-in-n-mitrovica-kosovo-minister-confirms/

Rally in support of arrested Serbs held in Zvecan

June 13, 2023

A rally in support of Serbs arrested on May 29 was held Tuesday in Zvecan, northern Kosovo, while the media reported that Kosovo Infrastructure Minister Liburn Aliu’s jeep was splashed with red paint in Leposavic when he was visiting the newly appointed mayor, Lulzim Hetemi.

Kosovo Serbs are again protesting outside the municipal administration buildings in three northern Kosovo municipalities.

It has been nineteen days since the Kosovo police special units’ forced entry into municipal buildings in the towns of Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok in the north of Kosovo, and the 17th day of protests.

The local population is demanding the special forces’ withdrawal from the municipal building and, in general, from North Kosovo, where at least five special forces’ bases were built in the past year and half.

The crowd gathered in front of a building where the leaders of the Belgrade-backed Serb List were reported to be, chanting slogans against them and against Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Security guards in pain clothes refused access to the building, saying that there was no one in it.

In the meantime, strong KFOR forces were deployed in the north and are practically guarding the municipal buildings but also looking to prevent violent incidents.

The most serious incident took place on May 29 in Zvecan, when Kosovo Serbs clashed with KFOR and over 80 troops and protesters were wounded.

The Tuesday protest in Zvecan was organized in support to the two Serbs arrested on May 29 during clashes between the citizens and KFOR.

The rally, attended by a large number of people, was organized by the Support Me parents’ association, with a request that the two Serbs who are still in custody be released.

The protesters held banners with messages “There is no law and justice for Serbs in Kosovo,” “Freedom for all imprisoned Serbs” and other.

The protest rally was attended by the arrested Serbs’ lawyers and senior officials of the Belgrade-backed Serb List, including its leader Goran Rakic and former Zvecan Mayor Dragisa Milovic, who met Monday with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Prior to this gathering, Kosovo Minister of Infrastructure Liburn Aliu met with newly elected mayor Lulzim Hetemi in the municipality of Leposavic, where citizens are also protesting.

Unlike five days ago, Aliu managed to get into the municipal building and talk to Hetemi on Tuesday morning.

The media reported that, following the meeting, the assembled citizens splashed red paint on the minister’s jeep.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/rally-in-support-of-arrested-serbs-held-in-zvecan/

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