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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Half of Serbians support EU membership, government says

August 23, 2019

The Serbian government press office said on Friday that more than half of the country’s population support accession to the European Union.

A press release said that the latest poll showed that 53 percent of Serbians would vote to join the EU, 25 percent would vote against membership, 10 percent would not vote and 12 percent do not know how they would vote in a possible referendum on EU membership. The poll was conducted in July by the Ministry for European Integration.  

Just over half the polled (51 percent) feel that EU membership would be beneficial for Serbia (43 percent said beneficial and eight percent said very beneficial).  

It showed that 59 percent of the polled believe that problems between Belgrade and Pristina should be resolved regardless of whether the EU demands it. A total of 68 percent of the polled feel that the reforms needed to join the EU should be implemented for the benefit of the population with 20 percent saying that the fight against corruption is the most important reform, 16 percent saying that the reform of the health system tops the list while 13 percent said better protection of human rights.  

Twenty three percent said that the EU is Serbia’s biggest provider of grants, 22 said it was China, 20 percent said Russia and nine percent said Japan.  

Every third Serbian knows of some project financed by the EU with 17 percent saying they were environmental protection programs and 13 percent citing health projects.  

European Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic is quoted as saying that the poll showed stable support for European integration since the results are almost identical to the results of polls conducted in June and December 2018.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a510001/Half-of-Serbians-support-EU-membership-government-says.html

The whole of Serbia’s opposition likely to boycott spring elections

August 23, 2019

None of the opposition organisations that took part in Friday’s meeting said it would run in the next year's general and local elections under the existing conditions, N1 reported.

The meeting’s topics were the current political situation in the country and decision on boycotting the election due in March or April 2020.

Dragan Djilas, the leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP), told reporters after the meeting that some parties had already opted for the boycott, that others would decide in the next 10-20 days, while some said they would wait until the elections were called.

„However, none of the parties is ready to take part in such elections,” Djilas said, adding the opposition leaders were aware that the decision to boycott was difficult and that there would be pressures.

“There will be pressure on people to vote, but we’re aware that no one can make us jump into an empty pool and swim,” Djilas said.

He added that every party would decide for itself about the boycott.

Zoran Zivkovic, former Prime Minister and now the leader of the Nova Stranka (New Party), said his party did not decide yet, adding it should first be clear what could be gained through boycott.

He recalled the elections in Albania boycotted by the opposition but that no one challenged their legitimacy despite a low turnout.

Konstantin Samofalov, a Social-Democrat, insisted that the boycott should be unanimous if it were to have sense.

Many agreed that the boycott was the only way to change the regime.

Srdjan Markovic, one of  #1 in 5 million anti-government protests’ organisers, said “the united opposition was President Aleksandar Vucic’s “Achilles Heel,” and that his regime could not be changed by old methods.

He said the protests’ organisers would call on all opposition organisations on September 1 to boycott the elections.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a510117/Serbia-s-opposition-likly-to-unite-in-boycotting-elections.html

Germany against demarcation, the US doesn’t care and Serbia has a new force

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said for „Voice of America’’ that the US had achieved what they wanted in 2008, regarding Kosovo and Metohija.

August 23, 2019

As he says, because of that, our position is harder in the US than at the other places.

At that time, after Prishtina’s declaration of independence, Serbian Government issued only one statement.

When asked about the ultimate outcome of the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue, Vučić reminded of the proposal about the demarcation, which the international community, Albania and some Serbian politicians didn’t want to support, but, as he said, they were willing to support Albanian interests, not Serbian.

„EU, especially Germany, is against the demarcation, while the US are open and they are not interested in what the deal is. They are not delighted with the idea, because they recognized Kosovo and Metohija, but they want the mutual recognition’’, Vučić pointed out and added that the position of Serbia is harder in the US than at the other places because of different opinions regarding this question.

Vučić also added that he didn’t want to talk about the final outcome, because, as he stated, Serbs would want to leave the negotiations.
He also stated that in the past 6 or 7 years there is a new force in Serbia „to which some are trying to explain that there are few interests in Serbia on Kosovo and Metohija’’.

Source:  https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=08&dd=23&nav_id=107157

Bosnian Presidency Fails to Break NATO, Govt Deadlock

August 20, 2019

Deep disagreement over Bosnia’s future NATO membership is holding up the formation of a new national government.

Bosnia’s tripartite presidency failed on Tuesday to break the deadlock over the country’s integration with NATO, the main stumbling block to formation of a new state-level government almost 10 months after elections.

The presidency – comprising a Bosniak, Serb and Croat – was unable to agree the agenda for Tuesday’s session and so postponed the meeting and a decision on appointing a prime minister, or the chair of the Council of Ministers.

Disagreement over the submission of Bosnia’s Annual National Programme – a precondition for activation of Bosnia’s Membership Action Plan, MAP, for NATO – is thwarting the formation of a national coalition government between the main Bosniak, Serb and Croat parties that emerged victorious from elections in October 2018.

The three parties – the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, and the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ – announced on August 8 that they had agreed 12 principles on a range of issues that had held up formation of the government.

But hopes the country would soon get a government were quickly dashed when disputes emerged over what had been agreed regarding Bosnian accession to NATO, which the Bosnian Serb SNSD fiercely opposes.

“During the pre-session consultations, some topics were removed,” said Zeljko Komsic, the Croat member of the presidency and its current chair. “Among them is the ANP.”

Komsic and his Bosniak colleague Sefik Dzaferovic had conditioned a decision on the formation of the government on a prior decision on the ANP.

“There was no agreement, so it was decided to postpone the session on the mandates (for chair of Council of Ministers),” Komsic told reporters.

“If you ask me what’s going to happen next, I am sorry. For those 15 minutes I wished that a compromise would be reached and we would solve all the misunderstandings in Bosnia.”

Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member of the presidency and SNSD leader, had threatened to vote against the submission of the ANP even if it were included on the agenda.

But Dzaferovic voiced optimism that a deal would soon be reached. He blamed Dodik for “obstruction of Bosnia’s path to NATO,” local media reported.

Source:  https://balkaninsight.com/2019/08/20/bosnian-presidency-fails-to-break-nato-govt-deadlock/

New elections await Kosovo - will the future majority continue the dialogue with Belgrade?

August 22, 2019
Kosovo Assembly lawmakers have adopted a decision to dissolve parliament, thereby starting deadlines for calling new elections. The media speculates that the elections in Kosovo will be held on October 6, and one of the main topics is whether the future new majority will have a renewed dialogue with Belgrade as one of its priorities.
Almost a month after the resignation of Kosovo's Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, to testify before the KLA Special War Crimes Tribunal, the Kosovo Assembly voted in favor of its own dissolution.
Of the 106 MPs present in the House of Commons, 89 voted in favor of the dissolution, one MP opposed and two abstentions. Nearly all MPs were present in the hall except those of the Serb List, who boycotted the work of the assembly.
The US ambassador to Pristina welcomed the vote, assessing it as an important step forward in forming a new government, which he said should aim to restore dialogue with Belgrade. Outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said after the dissolution of the assembly that this was a sign of the maturity of Kosovo's politics and that the dialogue with Serbia would be discussed after the elections.
"Today's vote is a testament to political maturity and our democracy, so I believe that now the citizens of Kosovo will use that maturity and right to take the direction Kosovo goes in the future," Ramush Haradinaj said.
In a brief debate before the vote, LDK Group Chief of Staff Avdullah Hoti listed the failures of the outgoing Government.
"This convocation was an arena of confrontation between the authorities and the opposition in order to preserve the legality and constitutionality of Kosovo, not a debate to advance policies in the interests of the citizens. This government's mandate concludes without visa liberalization, without membership in Interpol, without new confessions and with numerous scandals." , says Avdullah Hoti, head of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo.
The dissolution of the assembly was welcomed by President Hashim Thaci, saying he would call elections soon. The statutory deadline provides for the president to call elections within 30-45 days. A possible date for elections is mentioned October 6.
In the run-up to early elections, meanwhile, an election coalition has been agreed between the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, and the Social Democratic Party, Mayor of Pristina Spend Ahmeti.

Unofficial translation from http://rs.n1info.com/Vesti/a509805/Kosovo-cekaju-novi-izbori-hoce-li-buduca-vecina-nastaviti-dijalog-s-Beogradom.html

Kosovo parliament dissolved

August 22, 2019

The Kosovo parliament was dissolved on Thursday, less than a month after Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj tendered his resignation, the KoSSev news portal reported.

MPs voted 89 to two to dissolve parliament with one abstention. Serb List MPs were not present at the session.  

Pristina-based media have been speculating about the possible date of the general election saying that the vote could be held on September 22 or 29 or October 6. The president now has a 10-day deadline to call elections, while the previous assumption mentioned September 8.

Koha daily said earlier that President Hashim Thaci would call elections for October 6.

He later said he would decide on calling the election "soon."

 After the decision, Haradinaj said he believed the people would use their right to decide who would run the country.

"I'm glad everything happened with such a great maturity," he added.               

Haradinaj also said that "all political forces now have a chance to offer a development concept."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509674/Kosovo-parliament-dissolved.html

Court orders arrest of four former Kosovo Serb police officers

August 22, 2019

A court in Pristina has issued arrest warrants for four Serbs, former Kosovo Police officers charged with smuggling goods from Serbia, the Insajderi portal reported on Thursday.

The court is reported to have issued the arrest warrants on August 2, the KoSSev portal said.

Insajderi said that the four former police officers are suspected of abusing their powers by smuggling goods illegally across the border in both directions.

KoSSev recalled that Kosovo Police special units deployed in northern, mainly Serb-populated, areas and other parts of Kosovo on May 28, arresting 19 police officers (11 Serbs, four Albanians and four Bosniaks) suspected of involvement in organized crime and smuggling. A press release at the time said that the police did not arrest all suspects.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509632/Court-orders-arrest-of-four-former-Kosovo-Serb-police-officers.html

Russian envoy to N1 TV: Serbia may be link between West and Moscow

August 22, 2019

Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, newly appointed Russian ambassador to Belgrade, has told N1 on Thursday that Russia sees Serbia as a link between the West and Moscow, adding the free trade agreement between Serbia and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) was expected to be signed on October 25.

 He added that Serbia’s road to the European Union should not distant the country from EAEU.

Botsan-Kharchenko also said that EU candidates should not face Brussels or Moscow choice.

“It’s a pity that the candidate countries are told to choose between the EU and Russia. That’s an unfair and unjust message,” the ambassador said.

"The Euro-integration now becomes an obstacle in cooperation between some countries and Russia. I believe that won’t be the case with Serbia,” the ambassador said, adding that “in the past, there was successful and fruitful cooperation without any hindrance with the candidate countries which are now the member states.”

Regarding the role of Serbia, Botsan-Kharchenko said that Belgrade could become a link in relations between the EU and Russia.

“Serbia in a way has opted to be that link, developing balanced cooperation,” the ambassador said, adding that the whole Western Balkans cooperated with both the West and Russia and other countries like China “which is increasingly present in the region.”

Speaking about Moscow’s view on the Kosovo issue, Botsan-Kharchenko said that outgoing Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s statement about Moscow advocating the division of Kosovo was “ridiculous.”

The ambassador said that option “has never officially been on the table.”

According to him, Russia wants the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations to resume and in case that Belgrade asks, Moscow will support it “within the international law’s framework.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509809/Moscow-wants-Belgrade-as-link-between-West-and-Russia.html

Serbia joins AIIB, country's Finance Ministry says

August 22, 2019

Serbia officially became the 73rd non-regional member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Thursday, the country’s Finance Ministry said in a statement carried by the Beta news agency.

Minister Sinisa Mali said it was big news for Serbia because “the membership allows the country access to favourable loans for priority projects.”

The AIIB, headquartered in Prague, started operations in 2016, and besides Serbia, non-regional members included Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and other.

At the same AIIB Board Governors’ meeting, Greece also joined the Bank as its 74th member.                

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509746/Serbia-becomes-AIIB-member.html

Jewish Community protest in front of Justice Ministry

August 22, 2019

A faction of the Belgrade Jewish Community (JOB) staged its 23rd protest in front of the Serbian Justice Ministry demanding the registration of a new JOB president who was elected in March.

The newly elected president has to be entered into the registry of religious communities by the Justice Ministry which has failed to do so to date, despite an obligation under the law to do so within a set time frame.

The protesters, headed by Rabbi Isak Asiel, are demanding the registration of Aleksandar Sasa Jinker who was elected to replace Danilo Medic following accusations of embezzlement and agreement to move a Holocaust memorial site to make way for a shopping mall. Medic has disputed the results of the vote, claiming that he is the legitimate representative of the community.

The protesters carried banners saying The Nazis Couldn’t Destroy the Jewish Community, Obey the Law, Register Our Decision and others.

The Rabbi said that the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia had joined the protest as well as Jewish communities from several Serbian cities. Federation President Robert Sabados told the gathering that the protests would continue until the ministry registers the representative elected by the Jewish community.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509688/Jewish-Community-protest-in-front-of-Justice-Ministry.html

Serbia’s opposition meets on Friday "to discuss current political situation"

August 22, 2019

Serbia’s opposition parties will meet on Friday to discuss the present political situation in the country, the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) said on Thursday.

 SzS did not specify, but it seemed likely that the main topic of the meeting to be held in the Stari Grad municipality building, the only one local administration run by the opposition in Belgrade, would be if and when to declare the boycott of the next spring general and local elections.

On Wednesday, The People’s Party, led by former Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, said the top leadership unanimously agreed to boycott the vote.

The failure of the round table discussions held under the Chatham House rule, i.e., behind closed doors, between the regime and opposition seemed to have prompted the decision.

Other significant opposition parties said they would do the same, but they differed about the timing, varying from now to when the elections were called.

Earlier on Thursday, Serbia’s former President and now an opposition leader Boris Tadic, who supported boycott, warned that the decision not to take part in the vote should be made with many factors taken into account. 

One of the minor centre-rightist opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), said that its representatives would not take part in the meeting because “there is no reason to be present at the meeting where the talks will be about the boycott.”

DSS hasn’t yet decided whether to participate in the vote, saying SzS has already opted for the boycott.

The opposition last meeting was on August 5.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509778/Serbia-s-opposition-to-discuss-political-situation-probably-election-boycott-as-well.html

Opposition leader accuses Serbian President of orchestrating media lynch

August 22, 2019

Serbian opposition leader Nebojsa Zelenovic accused President Aleksandar Vucic of “personally defining the target” of what he called a “media lynch” of anyone who dares to criticize the authorities.

The media lynch is now being waged not only against opposition politicians but also against any intellectual, public figure or athlete who dares to criticize the authorities, Zelenovic, who chairs the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) wrote in an opinion piece for Thursday’s issue of Belgrade weekly NIN.  

According to Zelenovic, Vucic “has no policies, he does not respect any values, anyone or anything. His only goal is unlimited personal power and nothing is forbidden to achieve that goal”.  

“He changes his views daily, lies consciously, manipulates, demeans institutions and the private lives of thousands of people,” Zelenovic wrote, adding that Vucic uses the same methods used by the authorities in the 1990s - “criminal groups which serve to impose an iron discipline inside his party (the ruling Serbian Progressive Party or SNS) and intimidate ordinary people”. “Vucic also has complete control over right-wing and sports supporter groups which are his added street force to intimidate the citizens,” the mayor of Sabac wrote. Sabac is one of only three municipalities which are not under the full control of the SNS.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509650/Opposition-leader-accuses-Serbian-President-of-orchestrating-media-lynch.html

Former President: Boycott of elections in Serbia may normalise society

August 22, 2019

Boris Tadic, Serbia’s former President, said on Thursday he favoured the election boycott for now, but added that all aspects of the decision should be taken in account, the FoNet agency reported.

Tadic, who was the head of state for eight years, from 2004 to 2012, and now is the leader of the opposition Social-Democratic Party (SDS), said the mobilization for the boycott demanded “higher level of organization (within the opposition) than during election campaigns.”

“The idea to boycott the vote contributes to the normalization of the social not only political situation,” Tadic told the agency.

"(Serbia’s President Aleksandar) Vucic has created an unbearable situation in the country. By injecting his bad taste, vulgarity, indecency, aggression, all pathological forms his personality is characterized with, he brought abnormality into our everyday life,” Tadic, a psychologist by profession, said.

Tadic said he feared that the opposition served to the part of the international community only to legitimize the intention of formalizing Kosovo’s independence.

 His SDS is not a member of the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) opposition umbrella group but is a part of the wider opposition bloc and Tadic says they talk about the boycott with some parties that are SzS members.

He added that while deciding to boycott the vote, one should have in mind the importance of the foreign factor and recalled that a part of the international community which advocated Kosovo’s independence insisted that Serbia’s opposition took part in the elections.

“They don’t do that because they believe in democracy but because they want Vucic to deliver what they want for Kosovo. Vucic probably promised that together with (former President Tomislav) Nikolic while they were in the opposition to court (the part of the international community) them,” Tadic said, adding he feared that the opposition served to the part of the international community only to legitimise the intention of formalising Kosovo’s independence.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509762/Serbia-s-former-President-says-Vucic-makes-people-s-life-abnoral.html

Serbian opposition politician Jeremic says boycott is form of battle

August 22, 2019

Opposition People’s Party (NS) leader Vuk Jeremic told Belgrade daily Danas that there is no time left to negotiate with the authorities about the elections coming in the spring of 2020, adding that a boycott does not mean running from a fight.

“On the contrary, it is the most honest form of battle for the benefit of the citizens,” he said.  

He said that it makes no sense to talk to the authorities because they have decided not to hold the coming elections under regular conditions “and have accept the responsibility for all the consequences of that decision”. “The drastic abuse of the media and campaign by officials of an unprecedented intensity during the talks at the Faculty of Political Science clearly show (President Aleksandar) Vucic’s intentions. The probability that the situation will change in September is no greater than the probability of the Earth being hit by an asteroid,” Jeremic said. He added that the NS will also boycott the elections in Kosovo to avoid giving legitimacy to the pressure being exerted on the Serbs in the north.  

Jeremic said that Vucic met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “tone down the negative attitude of the US administration towards the fact that we are living in a dictatorship and that the elections in the spring will be held under irregular conditions”. He said that Vucic has offered to sign a comprehensive agreement with Pristina soon which, according to Jeremic, includes mutual recognition.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509622/Serbian-opposition-politician-Jeremic-says-boycott-is-form-of-battle.html

Don’t Drown Belgrade (NDMBGD) Initiative says will boycott Serbia's elections

August 22, 2019

The Don’t Drown Belgrade (NDMBGD) Initiative said on Thursday it would boycott the spring general and local elections in Serbia since, as it said, “there was no progress in meeting requests for a free and fair vote," the Beta news agency reported.

The Initiative said in a statement it would draft a ‘Declaration on an active election boycott’ which it would offer to citizens, academicians, experts, civil society organisations and political parties for approval.

The NDMBGD recalled that all opposition players, many parliamentarian and non-parliamentarian opposition alliances, parties and movements signed last December a joint declaration agreeing there were no conditions for a free and fair vote.

  “The experts from the 1 in 5 million (anti-government) protest organisation, together with the representatives of the civil society put forward recommendations for the improvement of the election rules. After a series of meetings (between the authorities and opposition)… it is clear that there is no political will within the regime to meet the requests which would secure the conditions for fair and free elections,” the NDMBGD said in the statement.

The initiative thus joined the People’s Party in already opting for the boycott. The rest of the opposition is still to decide with some saying it should be right now while others believe they should wait until the elections are called for.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a509841/Don-t-Drown-Belgarde-Initative-says-will-boycott-Serbia-s-elections.html

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