International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EC non-paper: Serbia to hold referendum on constitutional changes by end of 2021

June 4, 2021

The deadline for the changes to Serbia's Constitution is by the end of the year, according to a European Commission (EC) non-paper about chapters 23 and 24 in the Belgrade accession negotiations with Brussels, Nova.rs website has had access to on Friday.

The document the website saw said the Action Plan envisaged the constitutional changes for chapter 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights), adding Serbia had so far made two out of 12 steps necessary in adopting amendments.

The non-paper also said that it left Belgrade less than six months to make the changes and organise a referendum by the end of 2021.

The document offered recommendations for strengthening the independence of the judiciary and the autonomy of the prosecutors.

It recalled that the parliamentary procedure for the Constitutional changes started on May 6.

The non-paper also tackled media freedom in Serbia, suggesting creating an atmosphere free of insults, attacks, violation of journalists’ and bloggers’ privacy.

The EC document recalled that the Action Plan for Media Strategy was adopted last December and that two working groups were formed – one to monitor and implement the Strategy and the other to observe the journalists’ safety.

„Most of the media associations left the group for monitoring their safety in March 2021, because of hate speech and campaigns against journalists and NGOs, including speeches by the ruling party’s deputies, despite the adoption of an ethic code in December 2020,“ the document seen by Nova.rs website said.

The non-paper also suggested Serbia should fully implement the Law on Media and strengthen the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) independence.

Also, Belgrade was called to secure transparent financing of media contents and increase the transparency of media and advertising ownership.

The non-paper also said that Serbia did not have an anti-corruption strategy since 2018 when the previous one expired. It added that the Government postponed the changes to the Law on Financing Political Activities, which should be in line with the ODHIR and OSCE recommendations and increase the independence and administrative capacities of the respective supervisory bodies.

The EC document also pointed out that some of the officials’ property was not public and that the penalties for violating the respective law were not envisaged.

The non-paper warned that the Government had postponed the changes to the Law of Access to Information of Public Interest after two deadlines – the last quarter of 2016 and then the last quarter of 2020 – had expired.

Other postponed changes, for which two deadlines also expired, include those related to privatisation, public procurement, public spending and foreign donations to political parties.

Nova.rs said the document was an EC six-month report on Serbia which could be the foundation for the EU member states to decide on the next steps in negotiations with Serbia.

The inter-governmental conference due this month will decide whether Serbia will open any new chapter in the accession negotiations with the EU, Nova.rs said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/ec-non-paper-serbia-to-hold-referendum-on-constitutional-changes-by-end-of-2021/

Croatia reports 80 new coronavirus cases and 14 deaths

June 3, 2021

Over the past 24 hours, Croatia has registered 280 new cases of coronavirus infection and there have been 14 related deaths, the national COVID-19 crisis management team said on Thursday.

The number of active cases today stands at 1,945. There are 653 patients in hospitals, 66 of whom are on ventilators.

Since 25 February 2020, when the first case of the infection was registered in Croatia, a total of 357,109 people have been registered as having contracted the novel coronavirus, 8,056 of them have died, and 347,108 have recovered, including 312 in the last 24 hours.

There are currently 9,603 people in self-isolation.

To date, 2,032,200 people have been tested, including 6,049 over the past 24 hours.

As of 2 June, 1,847,314 vaccine doses have been used, with 1,312,272 people receiving at least one dose, including 535,042 people who have received both doses.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/croatia-reports-80-new-coronavirus-cases-and-14-deaths/

Bosnia reports 80 new coronavirus cases and 29 fatalities

June 3, 2021

Bosnian health officials reported 80 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, along with 29 virus-related fatalities.

The country's Federation (FBiH) entity reported 106 new cases after testing 1,584 samples for the new coronavirus. The entity's Public Health Institute said they recorded 20 deaths caused by the virus.

The Republika Srpska (RS) region said they registered 27 new cases of the disease after testing 521 suspected samples. This entity also reported having nine fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Brcko District health officials said they recorded two new coronavirus cases.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-reports-80-new-coronavirus-cases-and-29-fatalities/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 9 deaths, 218 new cases

June 3, 2021

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Wednesday that 9 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 6,890.

It said that 10,101 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 218 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 4,185,210 with 713,207 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 568 hospitalized patients, including 36 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-9-deaths-218-new-cases/

Coronavirus on 3 June: Montenegro

June 3, 2021

The Montenegro Public Health Institue said that there were no coronavirus-related death in the past 24 hours.

It said that 1,315 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 34 who tested positive. There are 701 active cases. Another 78 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-3-2021/

Coronavirus on 3 June: Kosovo

June 3, 2021

The Kosovo Public Health Institute said that there were no coronavirus-related death in the past 24 hours.

It said that 2,676 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 12 who tested positive. Another 182 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-3-2021/

Coronavirus on 3 June: North Macedonia

June 3, 2021

The North Macedonia Health Ministry said that 6 people died of coronavirus-related ailments in the past 24 hours.

It said that 2,456 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, including 19 who tested positive. Another 26 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-3-2021/

Explosions in Serbia’s arms factory, no casualties

June 4, 2021

Early on Friday, a series of explosions rocked the arms ‘Sloboda’ (Freedom) factory in Serbia’s central Cacak town, causing material damage but no casualties.

All workers and people living nearby were evacuated, and Mayor Milan Todorovic said no one was injured.

State RTS TV reported that the explosion started in the ammunition warehouse, and Todorovic said it luckily did not happen in the production part of the factory.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/explosions-in-serbias-arms-factory-no-casualties/

Bosnia's FBiH entity further relaxes pandemic measures

June 3, 2021

The Government of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity adopted the information on the Covid-19 epidemiological situation in this entity, during a Thursday session in Sarajevo, further relaxing measures against the pandemic.

Thus the Government decided to increase the number of people who can gather indoors to 50 and outdoors to 100 people.

The FBiH Government allowed the organization of larger gatherings with one of the following conditions: possession of a negative antigen or PCR test, not older than 48 hours, or a certificate that a person recovered from Covid.19, not older than six months, or a certificate of completed vaccination.

They also allowed the organization of congresses, conferences and other educational gatherings, which could be attended by up to 100 people, and if the gathering has more than 100 people, it is necessary that participants meet one of the three conditions stated above.

The novelty is that it is allowed to hold professional outdoor sports competitions in the presence of spectators, with conditions of using up to 30 percent of the stadium capacity, and not more than 500 people per grandstand. People in the stands must wear masks.

The information on the epidemiological situation states that the seven-day incidence in the FBiH is 14.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and that in the last seven days the highest infection incidence was recorded in Bosnia-Podrinje, Herzegovina-Neretva and Canton 10. All the weekly indicators had a downward trend in the 21st week, the FBiH Government said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnias-fbih-entity-further-relaxes-pandemic-measures/

Julian Borger: Relocation from Scheveningen will be a “shock” for Karadzic

June 3, 2021

Julian Borger, the British journalists and Guardian's world affairs editor, spoke to N1 days before the final verdict in the trial of Ratko Mladic at the UN's war crimes tribunal and also commented on the relocation of convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic from the cell in Scheveningen to the prison on the UK Isle of Wight, where he will serve the rest of his life sentence.

According to Borger, the relocation will be shocking for Karadzic because he will experience the “antiquated nature of the British prison system” in the prison on the Isle of Wight after enjoying the comfort and amenities of the Scheveningen cell.

“The Isle of Wight is not going to be comfortable,” he said.

Citing the available reports, Borger said the Isle of Wight was probably chosen because the Muslim population of the prison is lower there.

He also spoke about the upcoming final verdict in the Ratko Mladic case, taking place next week, and possible outcomes.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/julian-borger-relocation-from-scheveningen-will-be-a-shock-for-karadzic/

OSCE's Kavalec: Authorities must act to protect journalists

June 3, 2021

Threats and intimidation against journalists are unacceptable, said Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina Kathleen Kavalec after she met with FACE TV founder and owner Senad Hadzifejzovic who recently reported threats.

“Authorities must act to protect journalists and prosecute those responsible for specific threats,” said the ambassador and reiterated the OSCE's support for free media.

Sarajevo police apprehended last weekend Abdulah Hajdarevic, who was identified as the person who threatened Hadzifejzovic last Friday during the central news that he hosts.

The man was released on Monday as the proposal for one-month detention was rejected before the Sarajevo Municipal Court.

“I am a journalist. I shouldn't be commenting on the court decisions. Even when they concern me. But I am deeply, deeply, deeply disappointed with the court decision. Not because of me but because of all journalists. This is a decision against journalists,” Hadzifejzovic said in a comment on the day when the suspect was released.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/osces-kavalec-authorities-must-act-to-protect-journalists/

SDA, HDZ BiH leaders resume talks on electoral reform

June 3, 2021

Leaders of the SDA and HDZ BiH parties, Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic, met on Thursday to discuss the electoral reform and confirmed they are ready to carry out “limited changes to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Addressing the reporters after the meeting, Izetbegovic said a new round of talks will follow and confirmed that other parliamentary parties will join the discussion.

“The next meeting should include the representatives of parliamentary parties. In the meantime, Covic and I will meet our friends from the international community. We will try to define a minimum of what we agree on. Specifically, about what concerns the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights,” said Izetbegovic, adding that he is rather optimistic as they managed to slightly harmonise the stances.

According to Covic, Election Law reform is one of the three burning issues. Other include the formation of government in the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation (FBiH) entity, one of two Bosnia's semi-autonomous regions, and meeting the conditions towards the European Union membership.

Referring to the political agreement on the electoral rules in Mostar, reached between the SDA and HDZ BiH leadership last year, which enabled the local elections in this southern city, Covic said that this is the point when those who witnessed the Mostar agreement should join the discussion.

There are two crucial matters to be discussed with the witnesses of this agreement, which was mediated by the international community representatives.

“They concern the election for the House of Peoples and the Presidency of BiH. We want to implement all rulings. If we manage to harmonise the stances, then we can talk about the limited changes to the Constitution of BiH. That's the conclusion of the talks today,” said Covic.

According to him, the talks should resume within the next 7 or 10 days, and “without new Election Law it will be hard to organise elections.”

Electoral legislation has been a burning issue for years, ever since the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in 2009 that BiH must allow the minorities the right to run for certain posts, and later in 2016 when Bosnia's Constitutional Court ruled in favour of a Croat politician who complained about the law provision dictating that cantons delegate at least one representative from each of the country’s three main ethnic groups to the upper chamber of the Federation (FBiH), the semi-autonomous entity in the country shared mostly between Bosniaks and Croats.

What the Croat politicians demand is ensuring that their representatives in authority cannot be elected by the people of different ethnic groups, while the Bosniak politicians say the reform should also include the changes to the Constitution.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/sda-hdz-bih-leaders-resume-talks-on-electoral-reform/

Russian Embassy slams PIC communiqué as ‘unbalanced and tendentious’

June 3, 2021

The communiqué of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PIC SB) passed on Wednesday after the two-day session of this international body that oversees the peace process implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was “unbalanced and tendentious,” said the Russian Federation Embassy, one of the PIC members that did not agree with this joint statement.

“Many points of the document exceed the mandate of the Steering Board. Moreover, some of the statements confront not only the spirit but also the letter of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH,” the embassy said a day after the session.

The embassy assessed the appointment of the new High Representative, the international envoy who monitors the implementation of the peace agreement that ended the war of the 1990s, as “incomplete,” and added that the new High Representative will be “illegitimate without the approval of the UN Security Council.”

Russia already expressed objection over the appointment of Christian Schmidt as the new head of the Office of the High Representative in BiH, despite the fact that the PIC officially confirmed the appointment.

The embassy argued that this appointment could be carried out solely by the UN Security Council and that no candidate will have the necessary legitimacy without the approval of the UN SC.

“We reaffirm Russia's commitment to the fundamental Dayton (Peace Agreement) principles of equality of the three constituent peoples and two entities with broad constitutional competencies. We start from the fact that there is no alternative to their independent dialogue based on mutual respect on all current issues,” the embassy said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/russian-embassy-slams-pic-communique-as-unbalanced-and-tendentious/

HDZ BiH leader, EU ambassador discuss electoral reform in Bosnia

June 3, 2021

Dragan Covic, the leader of the Croat Democratic Party (HDZ BiH), and Johann Sattler, the head of the European Union Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina met on Thursday to discuss the situation in the country with a focus on electoral reform and the country's EU path.

According to an HDZ BiH statement, Covic emphasised that 2021 is a crucial opportunity to achieve long-term stability and to solve the problems that were neglected for a long time.

He said the changes to the Election Law can no longer be postponed and welcomed the strong engagement of the European and international partners towards this goal.

“Legitimate representation of constituent peoples and absolute respecting of their rights are a fundamental component for the functioning and development of BiH and are, therefore, unquestionable,” the statement quoted Covic as saying.

As for the political agreement on electoral regulations in the southern city of Mostar, signed a year ago, the Croat leader said the signed deals must be fully implemented, which will prove “democratic maturity and commitment to European principles and joint action.”

“This is a crucial moment to prove our commitment to the European path and non-discrimination in our society,” he added.

The EU ambassador briefly commented on the meeting, noting that he and Covic discussed the key priorities from the European Commission's Opinion on BiH's membership application, electoral reform, economic recovery, and vaccine delivery.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/hdz-bih-leader-eu-ambassador-discuss-electoral-reform-in-bosnia/

Schwarz-Schilling: Schmidt will be a good High Representative in Bosnia

June 3, 2021

Christian Schmidt's appointment for High Representative in BiH "was a great decision," former High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling told Politicki.ba portal.

In the said interview, Schwarz-Schilling pointed out that this would not have happened without the “strong support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet.”

“I'm not saying that the current High Representative, Valentin Inzko, has not tried everything to resolve a large number of open issues in BiH, but I hope that Schmidt will have more support from the international community and thus greater success.”

Schwarz-Schilling is convinced that Schmidt will be “a very good High Representative, who knows quite well that BiH's path to democracy and the rule of law is still long.”

“Bosnia and Herzegovina needs the professional help of the international community for this. The egoism of the parties, and especially the leadership of the three national ethnic groups, which think only of their own well-being, are the biggest obstacle on the road to Europe,” the former High Representative said.

According to him, Russia's opposition to Schmidt's appointment was predictable and not surprising.

“Besides, their reaction proves that rumours of the Russo-German cooperation for the Bosnian detriment were a mere fabrication,” Schwarz-Schilling added.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/schwarz-schilling-schmidt-will-be-a-good-high-representative-in-bosnia/

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