International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbia’s Vucic &Govt accept demonstrators’ demands, no new protests scheduled

December 8, 2021
Serbia's Government withdrew on Wednesday the controversial Expropriation Law from the Parliamentary procedure after President Aleksandar Vucic returned it to MPs following environmentalists' mass protests across the country during the last two weekends, and some organisers said if the Parliament passed the changes by Friday, no new protests would be called for the next Saturday.
Law on Referendum abolished a mandatory turnout of 50 percent plus one for the vote to be valid and included verification taxes on signatures for a civil initiative.
The demonstrators said that law and the Expropriation Law, passed by the Parliament but not signed by President Aleksandar Vucic, were tailored to suit Rio Tinto’s project of mining lithium in the west of Serbia.
On Wednesday, The Government said it would analyse whether changes and amendments were needed, and if the Expropriation Law should be changed, it would be done in a broad public debate.
The decision followed Vucic’s initiative.
One of the leaders of Serbia’s environmentalists, Savo Manojlovic, told the nova.rs website that there would not be new protests on Saturday if the Parliament adopted the changes to the Law on Referendum.
„The Government accepted all demands from the protests, and if the Parliament passed them, there wouldn’t be protests on Saturday,“ Savo Manojlovic, the leader of the ‘Go-Change’ Initiative, said.
He announced celebrations instead.
Mass rallies in Serbia were organised against the controversial laws.
Vucic promises changes to expropriation law; Rio Tinto to consider health too
On Wednesday, the Government also suggested the Parliament change the Law on Referendum in articles 7, 20, 43 and 44, i.e. to abolish verification taxes, accept representatives of authorised proposers as members of a body conducting a referendum, and extend to four years the previously set stipulation that a referendum can be called every year.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Ecological Uprising organisation said it would call for roadblocks unless the western town of Loznica’a authorities removed the Rio Tinto Jadar lithium mine project from its plans.
It said it would call the local population to „block roads until the final goal – the expulsion of Rio Tinto from Serbia – is met“.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-returns-controversial-law-to-parliament-govt-withdraws-it-from-procedure-no-new-protests/

Serbia’s KRIK: We won’t be discouraged with regime’s SLAPP lawsuits

December 8, 2021
Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, KRIK, said on Wednesday it was swamped with lawsuits filed against them, mostly by people in power of businessmen close to the regime, but it added would not be intimidated and would continue its work.
A total value of ten procedures currently underway is 90 million dinars (some 765,000 euros), three times more than KRIK’s annual budget. One lawsuit includes a demand for jail time for journalists, KRIK has said.
„That is a big pressure on our staff, and I think they are SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) lawsuits, an attempt to silence and shut down KRIK,“ Stevan Dojcinovic, the editor-in-chief, said.
The list of those suing KRIK’s journalists and editors includes a man charged with drug production, the head of the state security BIA agency, police chiefs, tycoons close to the Government, people on Interpol wanted lists,  President Aleksandar Vucic’s friend, a pro-Government tabloid’s publisher and an international corporation, KRIK added.
„The lawsuits follow each other, and in the previous month, KRIK was sued once a week. Most of the plaintiffs are linked to President Aleksandar Vucic or people close to him. That indicates the goal is not to satisfy justice but to stifle the media. In most cases, they did not send any warning, did not ask for denials, nor did they contact us with a request for corrections. They mostly refused to talk to the journalists before the story was published; they refused to give us a comment and usually just hung up. Every lawsuit represents a great burden for the KRIK 14-member-strong editorial board,“ the statement added.
According to KRIK, court proceedings take a lot of time for editors and journalists to prepare a response to a lawsuit, testify, attend hearings…  For example, lawsuits in current cases against KRIK, with accompanying documents, have a total of more than 500 pages that need to be analysed and answered.
„It’s a serious threat to our work, but they will not intimidate or stop us – we will continue to report on those who sued us,“ he added.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/krik-we-wont-be-discouraged-with-serious-of-regimes-slapp-lawsuits/

Serbian environmental organization wants Rio Tinto plans removed

December 8, 2021
The Ecological Uprising organization said on Wednesday that it would call for road blocks unless the Loznica town authorities remove the Jadar lithium mine project from its plans.
The organization said that it would call the local population to “block roads until the final goal is met – the expulsion of Rio Tinto from Serbia”.
The Rio Tinto company is reported to be planning to open a lithium mine in the Loznica area of western Serbia. The plans prompted protests both locally and nation-wide, including the road blocks over the past two weekends following the adopting of two laws which are said to have been introduced to accommodate Rio Tinto’s plans. Those protests are demanding the withdrawal of the laws on referendums and expropriation. The authorities have said that any decision on the Rio Tinto plans has to be approved by referendum and the land for the mine can then be expropriated under the guise of higher national interests.
“(Serbian President) Aleksandar Vucic is very wrong to think that he will stop us by meeting. Unless the Lozica Municipal Assembly meets by December 15 at the latest to decide to delete the Jadar project from its plans, Ecological Uprising will call the public to continue protests and roads blocks until the final goal is met, the expulsion of Rio Tinto from Serbia,” a statement by the organization said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-environmental-organization-wants-rio-tinto-plans-removed/

Professor says Serbian authorities filling posts to stem resistance

December 8, 2021
A Belgrade university professor who resigned from several bodies following reports of the appointment of the Serbian president’s advisor to the Faculty of Dramatic Arts (FDU) Council told N1 that the authorities were taking over bodies where they see signs of resistance.
Professor and film director Janko Baljak resigned from all the bodies that he was in as a university professor following reports that Suzana Vasiljevic, advisor to President Aleksandar Vucic, had been appointed to the FDU Council. The FDU is part of the Belgrade Arts University which is separate from Belgrade University and has been known for dissenting voices over the years. Vasiljevic is an FDU alumnus and she holds a number of posts in similar bodies.
“I could have predicted this scenario, everything is gaining speed because of the protests and the rising of the democratic public and the authorities are leaving nothing to chance and that little FDU Council has become interesting to them,” Baljak told N1. He said his resignation was a personal act and that he has no intention of enticing his colleagues to do the same. “It is unacceptable for me as an FDU professor for a person who has been clearly engaged politically for 10 years to hold that post. That is not in line with my views as a professor, that Suzana Vasiljevic can decide about anything. I do not feel good about this,” he said.
He said that there were always problems in Arts University bodies because the government never showed an interest in appointing their members, leaving those bodies without the required number of members to take decisions. “We were probably not interesting because there is no money to grab,” he said, adding that the authorities will fill all the posts in places where they see signs of resistance.
According to him, Vasiljevic’s appointment is a serious provocation because her propaganda activities glorifying Vucic are “completely opposite to what I teach”. “Vasiljevic is the person who credits herself with the dirty propaganda we saw in previous regimes and I don’t see her advocating the interests of my students,” Baljak said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/professor-says-serbian-authorities-filling-posts-to-stem-resistance/

Vucic: Serbia benefits from World Economic Forum meetings

December 8, 2021
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told World Economic Forum official Mirek Dusek that Serbia benefits greatly from cooperation with that organization.
A press release quoted Vucic as telling Dusek, who was named as a Forum regional director, that the contacts with many people with influence on the global political and business scene at the annual meetings in Davos and the priceless knowledge and experience that participants bring from different parts of the world are of great benefit to Serbia, especially in the economic field. Dusek is a member of the World Economic Forum Executive Committee and deputy head of the Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs.
The press release quoted Dusek as congratulating Serbia on its economic results and digitalization activities. It added that he expects the annual meeting in Davos to go ahead in January and that Vucic will take part in it again, especially the panel on the Western Balkans. Pro-regime media reported in the past from Davos that Vucic had meetings with a large number of government, banking and economy officials with opponents claiming that most of those meetings were unofficial.
The press release also quoted Vucic as thanking the Forum for helping set up the national Center for the 4th Industrial Revolution as part of a global network intended to secure cooperation between states and companies in developing and implementing technology.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-serbia-benefits-from-world-economic-forum-meetings/

RTS: EU ambassadors confirm opening of Cluster 4 for Serbia

December 8, 2021
The Serbian state TV (RTS) said on Wednesday that European Union ambassadors meeting in Brussels confirmed the opening of all four chapters in Cluster 4 of Serbia’s accession negotiations.
“EU member state ambassadors confirmed all four chapters in Cluster 4 meeting the formal conditions to open that cluster at the coming Inter-governmental Conference with Serbia on December 14,” the RTS said.
According to the report, the cluster will be opened after a meeting of EU European Affairs Ministers.
The RTS said on Tuesday that it had learned from unnamed diplomatic sources in Brussels that Cluster 4 – Green Agenda and Sustainable Connectivity – would be opened later this month. The four chapters in that cluster are:14 Transport Policy, 15 Energy, 21 Trans-European Networks and 27 Environment.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/rts-eu-ambassadors-confirm-opening-of-cluster-4-for-serbia/

Serbian miners demand guarantees from Vucic following Von Cramon statement

December 8, 2021
The acting CEO of the Serbian power company (EPS) Milorad Grcic said that the company’s coal miners are demanding guarantees for their jobs, following claims that Viola von Cramon MEP was calling for their mines to be shut down.
The miners at the EPS mines Kolubara and Kostolac demanded guarantees from President Aleksandar Vucic that he will “save them from enemies in the country and abroad” who want to shut down the mines. They threatened to march to Belgrade unless their demand is met. “I am obliged to pass on their message to President Vucic and the public,” Grcic, a senior official of Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), said in a written statement.
Serbia meets most of its power needs from non-renewable sources, primarily coal.
He said that the miners’ demand comes after “Viola von Cramon Greens MEP and the main lobbyist for the independence of Kosovo, called the European Union to close Kolubara, Kostolac and the Nikola Tesla thermal power plant”
Grcic said that the EPS mining and thermal power sectors are ensuring Serbia’s energy security and proved that in the past few months since Europe was hit by the energy crisis. “There is constant pressure and attacks on the miners and they asked me to have their president guarantee their jobs in writing along with the survival of their families to finally show who it is going against the interests of the EPS and Serbia,” Grcic said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-miners-demand-guarantees-from-vucic-following-von-cramon-statement/

Von Cramon tweet draws heated reactions in Serbia

December 8, 2021
 A Twitter post by Viola von Cramon MEP following her meeting with Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Bishop Grigorije drew heated reactions in Serbia as well as statement from the SPC itself.
The MEP met with Bishop Grigorije who heads the SPC Bishopric of Düsseldorf and all of Germany and posted a photo of herself and the Bishop with the caption: “Let’s use what unites us for the betterment of all”.
Von Cramon said in a Twitter post that she later deleted that “there is no “the Serbian Orthodox Church”, these are very autonomous dioceses, different to the Catholic Church. Speak to the Bishop and you will be surprised.” The tweet was posted in response to a Twitter user who accused the SPC of being pro-Russian.
Her tweet was interpreted as a denial of the existence of the SPC in Germany. The pro-regime media launched attacks on Von Cramon, demonizing her as anti-Serb and President Aleksandar Vucic accusing her of doing everything to destroy Serbia, including claims that it should be found guilty of genocide and answer for everything that happened in Kosovo whose independence she supports. “As for the conclusion that the SPC does not exist, just its bishoprics, you decide how she reached that conclusion. I don’t have to say anything more,” he said.
The SPC issued a statement saying that the Serbian Orthodox Church exists in Germany as part of an indivisible Serbian Patriarchy. It added that SPC rules are valid everywhere including Germany with all church bodies under obligation to follow tham and the top church body empowered to appoint and dismiss bishops.
Bishop Grigorije said in a separate statement he learned of the deleted tweet from the media. “Without entering into speculation about interpretations of her personal views and to prevent potential confusion in public, I want to say that we did not discuss that topic in our meeting and that I am fully in agreement with the SPC statement about the position of this bishopric within our church,” the bishop said in the statement issued late on Tuesday night.
Grigorije, who is known as an outspoken critic of problems in the church and Serbian society, took over as head of the SPC Bishopric in Germany in 2018. The SPC does not enjoy the status of a religious community in Germany and is registered as a civic organization. The Bishop and his associates are investing effort to be granted the status of a religious community. According to unofficial data, there are up to a million Serbs in Germany.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/von-cramon-tweet-draws-heated-reactions-in-serbia/

Coronavirus: Slovenia seeing drop in hospitalisations

December 7, 2021
Slovenia has confirmed 1,950 new coronavirus cases and 17 COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours as the epidemic has continued to subside, the country's Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
The 5,471 tests carried out in the last 24 hours detected 1,950 new infections, nearly a thousand fewer than seven days ago when 2,482 new cases were reported in a single day.
There has also been a drop in the number of hospitalisations. Currently, 1,005 patients are being treated for COVID-19, which is 45 fewer than on Monday, while the number of those placed in intensive care remains high (267) and has not yet started to fall.
The single-day average has dropped from 1,772 cases on Monday to 1,696, and the number of active cases has declined to 27,247. The 14-day incidence has fallen from 1,362 to 1,294 per 100,000 population.
To date, 55 per cent of the total population has been fully vaccinated, including 65 per cent of people aged above 18 and 70 per cent of people aged above 70. A total of 325,416 people have received a booster dose.
With the 17 people who have died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the death toll has climbed to 5,336.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-slovenia-seeing-drop-in-hospitalisations/

Coronavirus: Croatia reports 3,262 new cases and 60 deaths

December 7, 2021
Croatia has registered 3,262 new coronavirus cases and 60 COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team said on Tuesday.
The number of active cases in the country currently stands at 25,107 and among them are 2,436 infected people who are receiving hospital treatment, including 319 who are on ventilators. A total of 20,937 persons are self-isolating.
To date, 3,522,521 people have tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including 10,244 in the last 24 hours.
Since 25 February 2020, when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Croatia, 635,027 people have been registered as having contracted the new virus, of whom 11,329 have died and 598,591 have recovered, including 3,662 in the last 24 hours.
As of Monday, 4,266,743 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, with 54.47 per cent of the total population, or 64.97 per cent of the adult population, having been vaccinated. A total of 2,210,635 persons have received at least one dose and 1,989,027 of them have been fully vaccinated, which is 58.69 per cent of the adult population.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-croatia-reports-3262-new-cases-and-60-deaths/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 40 deaths, 1,884 newly infected in Serbia

December 7, 2021
 Over the last 24 hours, 40 patients died from COVID-19-related complications and out of 15,843 tested, 1,884 were infected with the coronavirus in Serbia, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
To date, COVID-19 has officially claimed 11,995 lives in the country. The mortality rate is 0.95 percent.
Currently, 3,391 people are in hospitals, of whom 180 are on ventilators.
Since the epidemic outbreak in March 2020, 6,911,480people have been tested, and 1,267,112 have been confirmed positive for the coronavirus.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-40-deaths-1884-newly-infected-in-serbia/

ICMP's Bomberger: Cooperation in the region a ‘remarkable success story’

December 7, 2021
More than 40,000 persons had gone missing on the territory of former Yugoslavia during the 1991-99 period and so far more than 70 percent of the remains have been discovered owing to the joint efforts of local authorities and the International Commission on Missing Persons, with strong participation of the families.
There are still over 7,000 persons missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 11,000 in total regionally.
ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger told N1 that ensuring the cooperation between the regional governments in finding over 40 thousand people who went missing during the conflict was important from the beginning.
“In fact it is ICMP's mandate to ensure the cooperation of governments,” she said, explaining the institution's role in the search for the missing persons in the former Yugoslavia.
According to her, this cooperation was a “remarkable success story.”
Asked to comment on the ongoing tensions and rhetoric about another war, and how should people feel about that, Bomberger said there is factual information about what had happened here and that there should be no more discussion about this.
She also talked about the migrant crisis and the issue of missing migrant children.
“States are obligated under the law to conduct investigations into missing persons cases regardless of whether the person is a citizen or non-citizen, regardless of their race, gender, sexual preference… States are obligated to do that under the law,” said the ICMP chief, adding that this is what the ICMP does – reminding the states of their obligations, whether it is in the Western Balkans or elsewhere.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/icmps-bomberger-cooperation-in-the-region-a-remarkable-success-story/

Gabriel Escobar for N1: There won't be a war in Bosnia, this is not 1991

December 7, 2021
People are leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina not because they do not want to live in a multi-ethnic state, they are leaving because they cannot find jobs without corrupt connections, US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar told N1, warning that people are leaving Bosnia ten times the rate of any other country in the Western Balkans. He also denied any possibility of an armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
He said what needs to be done is finding a way to unblock the central institutions and creating a dialogue, so the country can progress in European direction.
“It's all about the functionality at the central institutions”, Escobar said, arguing that leaving the central institutions does not contribute to that.
Answering to the question about possibility of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-majority region, deploying soldiers to the entity boundary line, he said:
“That's not going to happen. I ‘ve said this before and I want to clarify why I said it. There won't be a war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is not 1991. There is no army of Republika Srpska. Second of all, we have a peacekeeping mandate from the UN SC. Third, nobody is interested in that kind of escalation. Not Serbia, not Croatia, not Russia, nobody.”
As for a possibility of US imposing sanctions on individuals from Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said he does not want the people think that imposing the sanctions is the way the US engage with a country.
“There are lot of things we do in this country that are positive. Our development assistance, our political support. And so public at large doesn't need to worry about the sanctions. We're not going to sanction the country, we're not going to sanction any entity. The sanctions are really directed at people who have direct responsibility for the dysfunction and deep, deep corruption that this country suffers from,” he stressed.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/gabriel-escobar-for-n1-there-wont-be-a-war-in-bosnia-this-is-not-1991/

Bosniak leader: Milanovic should think before commenting on situation in Bosnia

December 7, 2021
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is a lot fairer than President Zoran Milanovic, who should think before he comments on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the president of the Democratic Party Action (SDA) Bakir Izetbegovic told N1 referring to Milanovic's statements on “different types of genocide.”
Commenting on Milanovic's assessment that the Srebrenica genocide cannot be compared with the Holocaust, Izetbegovic said that these topics are too painful to be spoken about the way Milanovic does, adding that he is insulting people, particularly the victims.
Bosniak community leader in Croatia slams Milanovic over Srebrenica statement
More people were killed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina than in Jasenovac, which Milanovic also mentioned when he debated the nature of the Srebrenica genocide, said Izetbegovic.
Mass war crimes were committed against the Bosniaks and the Croats, and the Republika Srpska Serb entity in BiH is almost ethnically cleansed, he added.
Last week Milanovic said that there are “different types of genocide,” ranking the Srebrenica genocide on a lower level than that during the Holocaust.
Speaking in Komiza yesterday, Milanovic noted that a genocide occurred in Srebrenica but then a new definition needs to be found for other more grievous crimes.
Plenkovic is fair
Izetbegovic said that Plenkovic is more cautious with his statements about Bosnia and Herzegovina and insists on “normal demands,” like the election of the Croat member to Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, which he added is acceptable for the Bosniaks, who are prepared to seek an appropriate solution.
Milanovic should think about the kind of policy that Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik leads rather than invite him to his office and treat him as the “least problem in BiH.”
Covic is unclear
Izetbegovic also objected to the political alliance of the leader of the HDZ BiH Dragan Covic with Dodik just when he needs an agreement with the Bosniaks on how the Croats will elect their member to the Presidency.
It is unacceptable that Covic joins Dodik's MPs and votes for withdrawing a law banning the denial of war crimes.
“Covic's politics is unclear to me,” said Izetbegovic.
In the end, Dodik will probably become the subject of the international sanctions if he continues to bring Bosnia's survival into question.
Izetbegovic believes that the Serb entity will not be able to achieve by political means what could not be achieved during the war, and that any possible decision on the Republika Srpska entity secession will be quashed by the Bosnian Constitutional Court.
A new conflict is “unfortunately always possible,” Izetbegovic said, but believes that there is no reason for any armed conflict and that “the people in Republika Srpska aren't ready” for war either.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosniak-leader-milanovic-should-think-before-commenting-on-situation-in-bosnia/

Every genocide is the same, says HDZ whip

December 7, 2021
Every act of genocide is the same regardless of the number of victims, HDZ party whip Branko Bacic said on Tuesday.
Bacic's statement was a comment on President Zoran Milanovic's statement of last week that “there are different kinds of genocide” and his describing the genocide in Srebrenica as less severe than the genocides committed during the Holocaust.
“The President's statement is incautious,” Bacic told reporters after a meeting of the ruling coalition.
“The HDZ is clear on the matter, every genocide is the same, the more so if it has been determined by rulings of international courts,” he added.
“One cannot make a distinction between acts of genocide depending on the number of victims,” Bacic said.
Milanovic's statement about the Srebrenica genocide has been condemned by the Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, the head of the Bosniak Ethnic Minority Council in Croatia, Armin Hodzic, as well as the leader of the biggest Bosniak party in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic.
Bacic, however, would not say if the leader of the Bosnian Croat HDZ BiH party, Dragan Covic, was wrong to vote against Bosnia and Herzegovina's law banning the denial of genocide.
“He has made a statement on the matter,” said the HDZ whip.
Covic on Monday commented on the vote on a conclusion by the Serb people's group in the BiH Parliament's House of Representatives on the law banning the denial of genocide, which was imposed by the former High Representative of the international community to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, before his term expired in July this year.
Covic and his HDZ BiH party on 29 November endorsed the proposal by the Serb people's group to abolish the said law.
Commenting on this, the BiH Croat leader said on Monday that it was “an act of gross manipulation and abuse.”
“We tried to make the House of Peoples start functioning as it has not been working due to the imposed law. We wanted to change that in agreement with international institutions but unfortunately, when we made the first step, it was grossly abused and depicted as a denial of genocide,” Covic said.
“The public in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international public have been manipulated by a source of information in an utterly unacceptable way,” Covic said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/every-genocide-is-the-same-says-hdz-whip/

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