International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

TI BiH-Bosnia is at a “historic low” regarding corruption

January 31, 2023
While many countries in Eastern Europe are moving forward on tackling corruption, Bosnia and Herzegovina declined eight points in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) since 2012.
Bosnia and Herzegovina once again fell behind in this year's CPI and ranks by far the lowest in the region and the third worst in Europe overall when it comes to the state of corruption in the country.
The only two countries with a worse result are Russia and Ukraine.
With a score of 34 on a scale of 0 to 100, BiH is among the countries where the state of corruption is worsening the most. BiH records the worst trend of all regional countries. This is best illustrated by the example of Kosovo, which from 2012 to 2022 advanced from a score of 34 to 41 index points, while in the same ten years, BiH fell from 45 to 34 points.
In the key findings for the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, it is stated that the countries of the Western Balkans are lagging behind in tackling organized crime due to the deterioration of the rule of law and the state of the judiciary.
According to Transparency International, BiH is at a historical low, and ethnic divisions are hindering the democratic institutions needed to fight corruption, which was especially evident in the state Prosecutor's Office.
“Numerous corruption scandals, resignations and the very method of selecting the chief prosecutor have seriously called into question the integrity of the Prosecutor's Office”, TI BiH said.
The organisation pointed out that a number of important organized crime and corruption cases, including those involving top officials, have not been processed by the judiciary for years.
It also noted that the General Elections in 2022 were accompanied by a series of scandals involving the theft of votes and misuse of public resources and that the problem was not solved even by the imposition of amendments to the Election Law by the High Representative of the international community in the country, “whose actions only further deepened the political crisis”.
Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/ti-bih-bosnia-is-at-a-historic-low-regarding-corruption/

‘If I want to stay here and not be criticized, I better look for another job’

January 30, 2023
After the hearing before the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs last week regarding his decision to amend Bosnia's electoral legislation on election night, international peace envoy in the country, High Representative Christian Schmidt, spoke about the same matter before the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday.
Contrary to the European Parliament's session, largest part of the session this Monday was open for public. According to the schedule published on the Parliament's website, there was a private part of the meeting from 3:45 to 4 p.m.
Asked how the reforms he passed moved the country away from ethno-nationalism and why his decision affected only the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity (FBiH), not the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS), Schmidt replied that this decision referred mainly to the Federation's functionality.
“You cnnot expect the High Representative to solve all the problems of the last 27 years,” he stressed, reminding that this part of the country did not manage to elect new government or the presidency after the past elections so he wanted to make it functional again.
“In shortest time ever we have functioning parliaments and we are on the way to get presidency and government,” he said, noting that this does not solve the issue of parliamentary structure being less ethnic but that he did one thing and reduced the influence of the Vital National Interest, a mechanism giving the right to ethnic groups to impose veto on decisions.
Asked to comment on the criticism that followed after the leaked document from July last year which contained the initial electoral reform proposal, Schdmit replied:
“If I want to stay here and not be criticized, I better look for another job.”
Speaking of the government formation process in the Federation entity, Schmidt said he did unblock it but that it is not on him to form the government.
“We have a situation where the Eight (coalition) holds majority in the House of Representatives, and in the House of Peoples, in the Bosniak Caucus the SDA (opposition party) managed to get majority with some coalition partners,” explained Schmidt, adding that they will now have to negotiate.
Asked if he might use his powers to remove from office those officials in Republika Srpska entity who are under the UK and US sanctions for anticonstitutional acts that threaten the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Schmidt replied that sometimes he wished to be as Paddy Ashdown, British diplomat, and one of the former High Representatives in BiH.
According to Schdmit, Ashdown worked in a different environtment that included very strong presence of international police.
“I would not exclude it but I have not done it yet,” Schmidt noted, stressing the importance of considering the financial sanctions instead.
Republika Srpska is not the richest part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and it needs financial support, he stressed, adding that its President Milorad Dodik's recent decision to award Russia's Vladimir Putin created a different environment.
He recalled that the European Union and Germany already blocked financial assistance for the entity and that now there are talks underway to do the same with the International Monetary Fund.
Commenting on the recently held celebration of the unconstitutional January 9 Republika Srpska Day, he reiterated that next year's January 9 will not happen the same way and will not take place as it has taken.
Asked about the Russian influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he mentioned Dodik and his SNSD party having many relations with Russia.
He expressed concern over the Wagner group recruiting centres seen in Serbia, stressing that the international community will need to react if such thing happens in Bosnia too.
He also stressed the need of a joint international position on this.
As for the allegations that he favoured the Bosnian Croat HDZ party when he imposed the Election Law amendments, Schdmit strongly denied that he made advantage or gave preference to anyone as the figures after the elections remained same as they were before.
“I recommend not to go for revolutionary decisions in this country, because you don't know exactly where it leads to”.
Asked to comment on the criticism regarding the award he was given by Croatia, which was also previously given to some convicted war criminals, Schmidt replied that he was not allowed to take it as a member of the government and that he received it in 2012 when he was “out of government.”
As for alleged influence of Croatia on his decision to amend Bosnia's Electoral Law, he dismissed it and stressed that he “made my decisions on my own.”
Speaking about the interference of the neighbouring Serbia and Croatia in internal matters of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said it is important that neither of these two countries question territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, he mentioned Croatian President Zoran Milanovic as a poitician who interferes with Bosnia's internal matters. As an example he recalled of Milanovic's idea of conditioning Sweden's and Finland's acceptance in NATO with changes to Bosnia's Electoral Law.
Schmidt said he was happy that the Parliament of Croatia did not follow this idea.
In the end of the hearing, Schmidt strongly dismissed making “a deal” with Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik about the state property.
“It is a complete nonsense,” he underlined.
Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/if-i-want-to-stay-here-and-not-be-criticized-i-better-look-for-another-job/

BiH Prosecution announces multiple indictments over Sky messaging app

January 30, 2023
Over a hundred suspects from 14 different agencies - police officers, lawyers, and even a judge and prosecutor - are included in the investigations concerning the Sky and Anom messaging applications, N1 learned from the BiH Prosecutor's Office on Monday.
“So far, there are over 100 suspects who have been detained in the past 16 months, of which 14 are from various police and law enforcement agencies, one or two lawyers, one Supreme Administrative Court judge in Bijeljina, and a former adviser in the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the BiH Prosecutor's Office said.
The Prosecutor's Office recalled that the Disciplinary Prosecutor’s Office suspended the prosecutor Diana Kajmakovic precisely because of these cases.
“Two indictments have been filed (Dalibor Railic et al., Ratkovic Sasa et al.), and indictments are expected to be filed in several cases in the coming months,” the BiH Prosecutor's Office concluded.
The latest information from the local media says that the head of the contact point for EUROPOL for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spomenka Markulj, has been dismissed and that her dismissal was related to the “Sky” cases.
The BiH Border Police neither deny nor confirm the Avaz daily report that the head of Bosnia's contact point with EUROPOL was dismissed due to her involvement in the “Sky” affair.
Bosnia's Chief Prosecutor Milanko Kajganic has repeatedly warned that the institutions for the fight against organized crime are contaminated.
Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bih-prosecution-announces-multiple-indictments-over-sky-messaging-app/

SNS-No rally of support for Vucic planned

February 1, 2023
Head of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Information Office Vladanka Malovic refuted claims that this party is organizing a rally of support for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic outside the Serbian Parliament building on February 2, reported the daily Danas on its portal.
A Parliament session at which President Vucic is to inform the MPs on the dialogue with Pristina is scheduled for February 2.
The daily reported that SNS members from Serbia interior are prepared to travel to Belgrade if their party organizes a rally, but that they have not received any information or confirmation of such plans.
“For days now tycoon media and tycoon errand boys have been saying lies that the SNS is organizing some kind of rally or, as they specify in their lies, a rally of support for President Vucic outside the Serbian Parliament, in connection with the session on Kosovo,” Malovic said in a written statement for Danas.
Neither is the SNS organizing a rally nor are its supporters coming to Belgrade, not 500 of them, or 1,000 or 100,000 or 300,000, she said.
“When the progressives organize a rally we will inform the Serbian citizens in a timely manner, and there will be far more of us that that, we promise you. And we all know – what the progressives promise, they always deliver,” said Malovic.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/sns-no-rally-of-support-for-vucic-planned/

Kurti accuses Serbia of wanting ethnic division in Kosovo

February 1, 2023
Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused official Belgrade of wanting ethnic division in Kosovo, Radio Free Europe reported on Wednesday.
Kurti said that Serbia should “try that in its own back yard” and reiterated his view that “Kosovo’s multi-ethnic constitution does not allow the forming of a mono-ethnic community”.
“National minorities account for 20 percent of the population in Serbia while national minorities in Kosovo account for some 7 percent. A Community of Municipalities with Serb majorities in Kosovo while (the southern Serbia municipalities with large ethnic Albanian populations) Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac get just a National Council is unfair, harmful and unacceptable,” he said. Under Serbian law national minorities have the right to form National Councils to administer some of their rights.
Kurti said he is open to talks with Serbia to normalize relations under the European Union proposal but has to abide by the Kosovo constitution and laws.
The forming of the Community of Serb Municipalities was part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. The principles of the Community were defined in 2015 but the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled them in violation of article 23 of the Constitution, adding that they could be amended in a statute or legal act.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kurti-accuses-serbia-of-wanting-ethnic-division-in-kosovo/

Serbian officials tell Schmidt Belgrade respects BH sovereignty

February 1, 2023
Christian Schmidt, the international community’s High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, was told by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Parliament Speaker Vladimir Orlic that Belgrade respects its neighbors territorial integrity and sovereignty, press releases said.
A government press release said that Schmidt told Brnabic that he “sees a true partner in Belgrade” and added that the stability of the region and its economic recovery are important. Brnabic is quoted as saying that “security, stability and economic development are in the interest of the entire region”.
A parliament press release quoted him as praising Serbia’s economic achievements as an impressive example to others and “highlighted the importance of economic cooperation and connectivity as an important step forward in the European integration of the entire region”. The press release quoted Orlic as saying that Serbia respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states without exception and expects the same.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-officials-tell-schmidt-belgrade-respects-b-h-sovereignty/

Vucic, Radev launch work on gas inter-connector

February 1, 2023
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic attended the start of construction of the Bulgarian side of gas inter-connector linking the two countries with his Bulgarian counterpart Rumen Radev on Wednesday.
“An important day for Serbia, Bulgaria and the entire region. We continue linking the two countries, two people and our economies,” Vucic said in an Instagram post.
“Today we make another big step in providing: energy diversification, energy security and a cleaner environment… Serbia will have a greater choice as it will be less dependent on its current sources by having an additional source. Transitions and modernization need investments. This is another EU investment providing for both in Serbia,” said EU Ambassador to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret who attended the launch event.
According to Vucic, the gas inter-connector will bring greater energy security and opportunities for new investments. “We also discussed other planned projects,” he added.
The inter-connector will start operating in mid-2023 linking both countries to the Southern Stream. The link is 170 kilometers long linking Novi Iskar outside the Bulgarian capital Sofia with the southern Serbian city of Nis. It has a capacity of 1.8 billion cubic meters a year and was built with an investment estimated by the European Investment Bank at 85.5 billion Euro including an EIB loan of 25 million, European Union IPA Fund grant of 49.6 million and the rest covered by the Serbian budget and the national gas supplier Srbijagas. The contract to build the inter-connector was signed in 2010 with construction beginning in February 2022.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-radev-launch-work-on-gas-inter-connector/

Speaker says MPs will debate report, not proposal for Kosovo

February 1, 2023
Parliament Speaker Vladimir Orlic said on Wednesday that MPs will debate a Serbian government report on the negotiations with Pristina which does not include the Franco-German plan to resolve the Kosovo crisis.
Orlic told pro-government daily Politika the report is the only item on the agenda with President Aleksandar Vucic scheduled to speak about the negotiations. The Speaker said Vucic would answer every question from MPs, adding that the president’s address will be an open debate.
According to Orlic, MPs will vote on the government report at the end of the debate. He said the report simply lists event with focus on the request to form the Community of Serb Municipalities.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/speaker-says-mps-will-debate-report-not-proposal-for-kosovo/

Vucic-Parties not interested in Kosovo proposal

January 31, 2023
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that most parliamentary parties showed no interest in his invitation to consult on the Franco-German proposal to resolve the Kosovo issue.
“I offered consultations to parliamentary parties, to disclose the facts and try to jointly try to solve the problem. They, or at least most of them, said “we’re not interested, we want parliament, we want to show ourselves, we want a political victory, we are not all that interest in Kosovo and Metohija”,” Vucic said in an Instagram video post.
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A post shared by Aleksandar Vučić (@buducnostsrbijeav)
He said he had no problem with all that, adding that he is obliged to show respect for parliament. “I will be there to answer everyone’s questions knowing that you won’t be there for the answers but for self-promotion… Not a problem, I will fight and we will all win as Serbia because you can’t overpower Serbia,” he said.
Parliament is scheduled to meet on Thursday to debate the proposal to resolve the Kosovo issue which Vucic said he would present following a meeting with European Union and US envoys.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-parties-not-interested-in-kosovo-proposal/

Vucic informs Dodik of Western initiatives for Kosovo

January 31, 2023
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that he informed Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik of all Western initiatives for Kosovo at their meeting in Belgrade.
“Good meeting with RS President Milorad Dodik. We discussed key issues for Serbia and Srpska and I informed President Dodik of all Western initiatives for Kosovo and the overall situation in the southern province,” Vucic said in an Instagram post.
He added that he would visit several places in the RS over the next month. “Especially the poorer municipalities which Serbia will prepared significant financial aid for as well as support for infrastructure projects”.
Source: https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-informs-dodik-of-western-initiatives-for-kosovo/

Ambassador says US opposed to RS-like entity in Kosovo

January 31, 2023
US Ambassador in Pristina Jeff Hovenier said on Tuesday that Washington opposes the forming of an entity similar to the Republika Srpska in Kosovo.
“We strictly oppose the creation of any entity resembling Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” a statement quoted the ambassador as saying after a meeting at the US embassy focused on the Community of Serb Municipalities.
He said that Pristina is expected to follow through on its obligations and called the Kosovo government to present its vision for the Community of Serb Municipalities, saying that is “critical, important, and urgent”.
The ambassador told reporters that the meeting with Kosovo government and civil society officials, political leaders and members of the diplomatic corps was organized to hear different views on the issue and seek common ground with the goal of facilitating and advancing the Government of Kosovo’s obligations to implement an Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities (ASM) in Kosovo.
“We heard firsthand the views of participants on the implementation of an ASM and how this can be accomplished in a manner that ensures Kosovo’s future as a sovereign, independent, multiethnic, and democratic country. These perspectives are important to advancing Kosovo’s progress on its path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Hovenier said.
The ambassador said the discussion focused on how the Community can function in practice under Kosovo’s legal framework and how it can contribute to economic development and “effective delivery of government services for the Kosovan Serb and other minority communities”. He said that the meeting raised a number of topics including the responsibilities and limitations of the Community and how it could help meet needs such as education, health care and local economic development.
“Today’s discussion reflects the importance the United States and our partners place on Kosovo implementing an Association of Serb-majority Municipalities that complies with Kosovo’s Constitution and the 2015 Constitutional Court decision,” he said adding that the US does not support any arrangement that violates Kosovo’s Constitution, or threatens Kosovo’s sovereignty, independence, multiethnic character, or democratic institutions.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/ambassador-says-us-opposed-to-rs-like-entity-in-kosovo/

Defense Ministry says recruiting special forces a priority

January 31, 2023
The Serbian Defense Minister’s Collegium said that the recruiting of 5,000 special forces personnel was a priority in 2023, a press release said on Tuesday.
President Aleksandar Vucic recently announced the recruitment of that number of special forces personnel to bolster the Serbian military.
According to the press release, “main tasks in 2023 would be the implementation of the 5,000 Special Forces project, taking all necessary measures to preserve the peace and security of the citizens of the Republic of Serbia, working intensively on the adoption of strategic and normative documents, and accelerated implementation of infrastructure projects required by the Serbian Armed Forces”.
It said that Defense Minister Milos Vucevic was told that “all tasks had been successfully completed in the past period and that the procurement of equipment, investment in weapons and military equipment and intensified training would continue with a view to further increasing the combat readiness of the Serbian Armed Forces, and improving the standard of living of all members of the Ministry of Defence and of the Serbian Armed Forces”.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/defense-ministry-says-recruiting-special-forces-a-priority/

Serb community unanimous at meeting on CSM in US Embassy in Pristina

January 31, 2023
“The joint message that could be heard in the Serb community is that the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) must be formed if they want the Serb institutions to integrate into the Kosovo system, it was stressed just how important they are for the life of the Serbs and that their shutdown could lead to massive emigration. That was more or less everyone’s message,” Milica Andric Rakic of the New Social Initiative told N1 following the meeting on the CSM at the US Embassy in Pristina.
Andric Rakic said some meeting participants talked about certain concrete problems, such as the import of books or medicines, as well as that there was consensus among Serb community representatives on the necessity to form the CSM.
“The majority believes that this is Kosovo’s international obligation, which means that the Constitution has to be aligned with the CSM,” said Andric Rakic, adding that the Serbia will also have to amend its Constitution.
“If Serbia has to amend its Constitution, then Kosovo will have to do the same,” she said, adding that this is the opinion of the Serb community representatives.
As for the Albanians, there were diverse opinions, Andric Rakic told N1.
“I would say that the main question of the Kosovo Government representatives was: ‘Why isn’t (former UN Special Envoy Martti) Ahtisaari’s plan sufficient, and what more will you gain by forming the Community,’ along with comments that they feel that this is Serbia’s request and a way to control the Serb community in Kosovo,” she said.
She noted that civil society representatives and those of some other independent institutions had more constructive opinions.
“There were those who started their speech with: ‘The decision of the Constitutional Court means that the CSM is an international obligation that must be implemented,” said Rakic Andric.
A protest against the international community’s request for the formation of the CSM was held outside the Kosovo Government building during the meeting at the US Embassy.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serb-community-unanimous-at-meeting-on-csm-in-us-embassy-in-pristina/

RZS-GDP increases by 0.4 percent in Q4 of 2022

January 31, 2023
In the 4th quarter of 2022, real GDP increased by 0.4 percent in comparison to the corresponding period of the previous year, said the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (RZS).
RZS said the calculation of quarterly GDP for the 4th quarter 2022, which is more detailed and compiled at lower levels of aggregation, will be published in statistical release Quarterly GDP in the Republic of Serbia on February 28, 2023.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/rzs-gdp-increases-by-0-4-percent-in-q4-of-2022/

Protest in Pristina against request for the formation of CSM

January 31, 2023
Several dozen people assembled Tuesday outside the Kosovo Government building in Pristina, protesting against the request of the international community for the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM).
The participants of the protest that began at the same time as the meeting at the US Embassy with the CSM on the agenda asked the international community to “reconsider” its position on the formation of the CSM, reported Beta.
“No one in Kosovo is forgetting Europe’s help during the struggle for freedom and for building independent Kosovo. Europe should know that the Albanians are hugely against the CSM because they are convinced that this new fragmentation will lead the country to the same situation as it did Bosnia, through Republika Srpska,” said one of the protesters.
The participants of the Tuesday gathering announced mass protests against the formation of the CSM.
“Protests everywhere will be massive, peaceful and in support of (Kosovo Prime Minister) Albin Kurti’s Government, which is working with all its might to preserve Kosovo’s integrity and sovereignty. The Albanians will fight to stop the CSM and the European institutions should reconsider their position,” said the protesters.
There were no incidents at the protest.
Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/protest-in-pristina-against-request-for-the-formation-of-csm/

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