International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Wednesday's 110 bomb threats in Sarajevo Canton are treated as terrorism

May 25, 2022

After Wednesday morning's reports of bombs in all primary and most secondary schools throughout the Sarajevo Canton (KS), the authorities presented details about this case, stating that the threat reached 110 facilities with nearly 18,000 students.

Sarajevo Police Commissioner Nusret Selimovic said that counter-diversion inspection in the institutions in the KS area where bomb threats were reported this morning was still ongoing, but also that, so far, nothing has been found. He pointed out that everything indicates that this is a criminal act of terrorism.

“An emergency meeting was held Wednesday morning in the KS Prosecutor's Office, and according to the information available so far, everything indicates that this could be a criminal act of terrorism, which will be treated as such, given the competencies in that situation,” the Commissioner said.

He added that intensive work is being done to shed light on the detection and identification of criminals responsible for this situation.

“This type of crime is quite difficult to shed light on. Unfortunately, some media also contribute to the fact that we have a worse situation than we had before. There are a lot of problems here, and the basic thing is that even today you can buy a sim card at a newsstand, use it and then throw it away,” Commissioner Selimovic emphasized.

Edin Forto, the KS Prime Minister said that the police are doing their job at full capacity with the cooperation of other police agencies.

“In accordance with the law and precautionary measures, the police is currently carrying out all the necessary inspections. Nothing has been found at this time and we expect that they will have some leads by the end of the investigation. Regardless of that, every threat is taken completely seriously and will continue to do so in the future,” Forto said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/wednesdays-110-bomb-threats-in-sarajevo-canton-are-treated-as-terrorism/

Stoltenberg-NATO support to Bosnia will help prevent possible aggression

May 25, 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday when Stoltenberg said NATO strongly supports peace and stability in BiH and across the Western Balkans.

“Our political dialogue and cooperation are more important than ever, because of the war in Ukraine and its malign influence across the region. NATO will do more to stand by our partners … to further deepen our cooperation with BiH. This could include the developing of a new capacity-building package, enhancing our cooperation on small arms and light weapons, counter-terrorism, crisis management and cyber security,” Stoltenberg said.

He added, that the Sarajevo headquarters would be reinforced with additional personnel and financial resources and that they also support expert teams in the fight against disinformation.

“By stepping up both our political and practical support we can help build resilience and prevent any future aggression. Any future assistance would be tailored, demand-driven and fully coordinated with BiH. We talked about NATO's role in Operation Althea. Our cooperation with the EU on this remains essential and we will continue to support this important EU operation,” Stoltenberg said. “I urge all sides to stop the divisive rhetoric and move towards reconciliation.”

A meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC), consisting of permanent representatives of all NATO member states, is also planned, at which the Chairman Dzaferovic, will speak.

BiH Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic thanked NATO for its great support.

“Our pretensions are the NATO alliance and BiH is determined in that. I came here to say that BiH institutions are important, but also that there are policies that slow it down. BiH is a country where NATO has done important things. It stopped the war, established peace, and worked diligently with us to sign the Dayton Accords. I am convinced that NATO will continue to protect the Dayton Peace Agreement. Russia's influence exists in BiH and there are open threats and that is what the Russian ambassador in Sarajevo is doing – threatening that BiH will feel the consequences if it joins NATO. We are going to the EU integration and NATO path and no one will stop us. We also ask for your support for the important role of preserving the Dayton Accords and peace,” Dzaferovic said after the meeting.

Dzaferovic pointed out that the secessionist policies of BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik could not be implemented peacefully, but that he hoped that would not happen and that these policies would end up in ” history’s garbage dump”.

When asked by an N1 journalist who recalled that there is talk in BiH about peaceful dissolution, but also from Croatia about new potential self-government, whether he believes that NATO will be a guarantor of security, Džaferović said:

“Both Dodik and everyone else should know that there is no, especially peaceful, dissolution in BiH, there are no additional ethnic or any other divisions in BiH,” Dzaferovic concluded.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/stoltenberg-nato-support-to-bosnia-will-help-prevent-possible-aggression/

Bosnian prime minister to UK's Western Balkans envoy: Sanctions are unnecessary

May 25, 2022

Imposing sanctions against anyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina is unnecessary, particularly against the legitimately elected representatives of authority, head of the Bosnian government Zoran Tegeltija told UK Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Sir Stuart Peach.

Peach arrived in Sarajevo and met with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday, who informed him about the political and economic developments in the country. Tegeltija stressed that only internal dialogue in good faith and mutual understanding are key to long-term success of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the only way to secure the country's stability and prosperity.

Tegeltija also said that the peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina are absolutely not in jeopardy, and that it is not possible to draw parallels between Ukraine and Bosnia. He stressed that putting Bosnia and Herzegovina in context of situation in Ukraine is unacceptable and inadmissible.

Speaking about the cooperation between BiH and the UK, Tegeltija assessed that the political relations between the two countries are good and friendly, while there is room for the improvement of their economic relations following the Brexit.

He emphasised the Council of Ministers’ commitment to the European path of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and thanked the UK government for the continuous assistance and support.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnian-prime-minister-to-uks-western-balkans-envoy-sanctions-are-unnecessary/

Western Balkan states want to join EU quickly, but Brussels not willing

May 25, 2022

Due to the war in Ukraine, Western Balkan countries seek accelerated EU accession, but Brussels officials say there is no political will among the 27 member states for their accession and that their entering too quickly makes no sense.

At an Adriatic-Ionian region forum held in Tirana last week, ten countries signed a declaration calling on the EU to step up the journey of the Western Balkan countries as their accession would be an investment in a stable, strong and united Europe.

EU enlargement is a policy which has always exported peace and stability to all countries where it happened, Bosnian Deputy Foreign Minister Josip Brkic said, adding that the Russian aggression on Ukraine will show how important it is for the enlargement to include Southeast Europe.

Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for membership more than six years ago and hopes to get candidate status by 30 June. Brkic said candidate status was a political decision.

North Macedonia and Albania, which are candidates, hoped accession negotiations would be opened in March 2020, but Bulgaria blocked them due to a historical and language dispute with North Macedonia.

The EU grouped the two countries together in their membership applications, so now Albania cannot proceed either. Its Deputy Prime Minister Arben Amedaj said at the forum that such obstacles made no sense.

Montenegro has opened all negotiation chapters. Its Foreign Minister Jovana Marovic said those relating to the environment and the rule of law were the most challenging.

Serbia has not imposed sanctions on Russia but did adopt the joint declaration in Tirana, although its first article says that the invasion of Ukraine is an illegal and unjustified aggression.

In order to equate its stands with those of the member states and accession candidates, Serbia stated its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

According to speculation on the fringes of the forum, Western Balkan countries and Ukraine might join the EU together in 2027, but a Commission official working with the candidate states dismissed this option.

Entering too soon makes no sense. The countries would not be prepared to draw money from the funds as they first have to set up the necessary structure, he said on the condition of anonymity.

But the problem is first and foremost political. The fundamental EU treaties would have to be changed for this many countries to enter at once, and some member states are opposed to that, he added.

Last week in Sarajevo, European Council President Charles Michel mentioned the idea of a European geopolitical community. Non-member states would be gradually included in certain sectors together with the member states after meeting the criteria, without waiting for full membership.

The idea of a European political community was mentioned earlier by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Bosnian Deputy Foreign Minister Brkic said that for all Southeast European countries, the only guarantee of stability and political and economic prosperity was full membership, “as pledged 19 years ago in Thessaloniki.”

Western Balkan countries cooperate with EU member states in the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region and the Strategy for the Danube Region, which includes Ukraine and Moldova.

Croatian Foreign Ministry state secretary Andreja Metelko-Zgombic said it was important to make progress when the criteria had been met. “We believe that Albania and North Macedonia deserve to open the negotiations as soon as possible.”

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/hina-western-balkan-states-want-to-join-eu-quickly-but-brussels-not-willing/

Mali: Hungary allowing Serbia to use gas storage capacities

May 25, 2022

Finance Minister Sinisa Mali said in Budapest on Wednesday that Hungary has agreed to allow Serbia to store half a billion cubic meters of natural gas in its facilities.

Speaking after talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó, the Finance Minister said that the storage facility will be filled by the end of June and that Serbia can draw between 3 and 6 million cubic meters of gas a day between October and March next year.

Mali said that Hungary agreed to allow Serbia to buy its gas and gas from other countries. “They were reasonable enough to allow both possibilities and we will decide which one over the next few days,” he said.

Szijjártó said confirmed that Hungary will allow Serbia the use of its storage capacities to secure enough gas for the winter. According to him, energy security is a practical issue not an ideological phrase. “We are guaranteeing transit lines for fuels to each other,” he said and added that the two countries agreed to link their power grids, a project he said would take up to eight years to complete.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/mali-hungary-allowing-serbia-to-use-gas-storage-capacities/

Serbian PM thanks prosecutors for indicting Croatian pilots

May 25, 2022

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic expressed gratitude to prosecutors who indicted four Croatian pilots alleged to have bombed a refugee column in 1995.

“The Serbian government thanks our Prosecutor’s Office for filing the indictment, and the President of the Republic of Serbia for insisting that this crime not be forgotten,” Brnabic is quoted as saying in a statement. She also expressed full support to all state institutions “in the fight for justice, which is sometimes slow, but always remains sure”.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Davos and expressed dissatisfaction with indictment against Croatian pilots for the bombing of a refugee column in 1995.

Brnabic said that “protecting murderers of children and the elderly is not a European value, nor a threat to those seeking justice”. “As Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, it is my duty to remind everyone in Serbia, but also in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union, for who and for what justice Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the state of Serbia are fighting,” she said adding that the indictment was filed “against cowards and monsters who 27 years ago, from the air, on the territory of another state, killed children and the elderly in a procession of refugees”.

The lengthy statement said that the Serb refugees fled after “the biggest ethnic cleansing after the Second World War”. It named some the people killed in the bombing.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-pm-thanks-prosecutors-for-indicting-croatian-pilots/

Average salaries higher in March, statistics office says

May 25, 2022

The Republic Statistics Office (RZS) said on Wednesday that the average gross salary in Serbia in March stood at 102,781 Dinars, higher than a year earlier.

It said that the average net salary (not including taxes) stood at 74,664 Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars). Salaries rose by 13.4 percent nominally and 4.3 percent in real terms in the January-March period of 2022 compared to the same period a year earlier.

Gross salaries were 14.3 percent higher nominally and 4.8 percent higher in real terms in March compared to the same month of 2021 while the average net salary was nominally higher by 14.4 percent and 4.9 percent in real terms.

The median net salary in March 2022 stood at 55,146 Dinars which means that 50 percent of the workforce had earnings up to that level.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/average-salaries-higher-in-march-statistics-office-says/

No missing person remains found at Serbian mine site

May 25, 2022

The Serbian Office for Missing Persons said on Wednesday that no human remains were found at a mine in the southwest of the country.

N1 was told that the Stavalj mine outside the town of Sjenica has been searched by geologists and archaeologists who determined that there have been no changes to the ground in the area for more than 20 years.

Office of Missing Persons chief Veljko Odalovic said that the teams searched the area for 13 days. “Thirteen working days, more than 7,000 cubic meters of material was searched and we can say now that no remains were found… We will start restoring the site to its original form today,” he said and added that every site that the Office got information about, no matter how reliable, were searched. “We do not have the right to ignore any information and have to check,” Odalovic said.

He said the Stavalj mine was the last location which the Kosovo authorities claimed held the remains of missing persons.

A total of 917 sets of remains of persons missing from Kosovo have been found at five sites in Serbia proper so far. The fate of some 1,800 missing persons have been discovered to date, some 1,500 of them identified as Kosovo Albanians while the rest are Kosovo Serbs. Another 1,600 people are still missing from the confilict in Kosovo.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/no-missing-person-remains-found-at-serbian-mine-site/

Serbian ruling party official says new parliament in July

May 25, 2022

A senior Serbian ruling party official said on Wednesday that the first session of the new parliament could be held early in July.

Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) deputy leader Milos Vucevic told the pro-regime TV Pink that the final results of the April 3 parliamentary elections will be released only after the repeat vote in the village of Veliki Trnovac in southern Serbia on May 27. He said the final results could be released early in June, starting the 30 day deadline to constitute the new parliament.

Vucevic said he expects the constitutive session of parliament to be held early in July before internal party and inter-party talks on forming a government. The deadline for a new government is 90 days after the first parliament session.
He said that President Aleksandar Vucic will be sworn in for his second term in office on May 31 in front of the outgoing parliament.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-ruling-party-official-says-new-parliament-in-july/

Vucic, Abazovic discuss regional cooperation in Davos

May 25, 2022

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Montenegrin Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said in separate social media posts that they discussed regional cooperation during their meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

This was their first meeting since Abazovic took over as Prime Minister.

“Excellent opportunity to discuss bilateral issues with Dritan Abazovic at the World Economic Forum and to invite him again to join us at the Open Balkan Initiative meeting in Ohrid,” Vucic wrote on his Instagram account. That meeting is scheduled to be held on June 7-8 in North Macedonia.

In an earlier post Vucic said that he took part in a difficult debate about the future of Western Balkans behind closed doors.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-abazovic-discuss-regional-cooperation-in-davos/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 2 deaths, 329 new cases

May 24, 2022

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily bulletin on Tuesday that 2 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 16,070.

It said that 9,138 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 329 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,665,977 with 2,015,711 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 211 hospitalized cases, including 9 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-2-deaths-329-new-cases/

Tuzla marks 27 years since massacre that killed 71 youths

May 24, 2022

Wednesday marks the 27th anniversary of the Tuzla Gate (Tuzlanska kapija) massacre also known as the Crime against the Tuzla Youth, which occurred on May 25, 1995 when 71 young residents of the northern Bosnian town were killed and more than 100 injured in shelling.

The date used to be marked in former Yugoslavia as the Youth Day, which is why the city downtown was crowded, with hundreds of Tuzla residents gathering to spend a sunny day in the open amidst the war, to get a day of “normal life.”

The joy was interrupted by shelling at 8.55 p.m. and replaced by deaths and sorrow. Those who survived have ever since been coping with consequences – both mental and physical.

27 years later, the families will gather at the memorial in the city downtown as they do every year to pay respects to those killed.

Bosnian state Court sentenced in 2010 a commander of the Army of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity Novak Djukic to 25 years in prison for ordering the shelling which, according to the indictment, killed 71 and injured more than 140 civilians.

The sentence was reduced in February 2014 to 20 years in prison after the Bosnia's Constitutional Court established a wrong application of the law in Djukic's case. Djukic then departed to Serbia for, as his attorney said, medical treatment and has been unavailable to Bosnia's judicial institutions since then.

Tuzla Canton authorities declared May 25 the day of mourning in 2016.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/tuzla-marks-27-years-since-massacre-that-killed-71-youths/

EU Delegation-HDZ BiH shows disregard for democracy, Bonn Powers not excluded

May 24, 2022

Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) ministers blocking decisions on financing the upcoming elections are showing disregard for democracy, EU Delegation to Bosnia said Tuesday evening, following media allegation that Head of the Delegation Johann Sattler prevented the High Representative in the country from imposing the decision on the financing of October general elections.

“HDZ-BiH ministers blocking decisions on the funding of the upcoming elections show a disregard for democracy. There is no question that elections will be funded. If necessary, and as a measure of last resort, through the Bonn Powers. In practical terms, there is little time left. An institutional solution would be the best option, as it would mean local ownership. The EU is working closely with its international partners, including the OHR, to find a solution that would ensure that the upcoming elections are fully funded.,” the Delegation said.

Several BiH media outlets accused Sattler of siding with the HDZ BiH leader Dragan Covic in preventing the general elections from taking place.

The HDZ BiH opposes the holding of elections in BiH before the BiH Election Law is amended in a way so that only the “legitimate Croat” can be elected in the tripartite BiH Presidency. The incumbent Croat Presidency member, Zeljko Komsic, is considered by the HDZ and ethnic Croat parties gathered around them to be illegitimate because he allegedly received more Bosniak than Croat votes and as such he is unsuited to occupy that position.

The BiH Constitution, on the other hand, stipulates that the Presidency consists of a Bosniak, Croat members elected from the Federation entity and a Serb member elected from the Republika Srpska entity, not stipulating who can vote for whom in the elections.

International community’s High Representative Christian Schmidt, in charge of overseeing the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, warned on several occasions that BiH authorities must provide funds for the October general elections and that they should not expect him to use the so-called Bonn Powers with which he can impose or annul laws as well as to sanction local politicians whom he finds to be in violation of the Dayton Agreement.

Despite his earlier opposition to the use of the said Powers, he did however use them earlier this year when he suspended the Republika Srpska entity Law on Immovable Property which would give the entity the power to dispose of state property and resources without the state’s approval. The Law is awaiting a Constitutional Court assessment of whether it violates the BiH Constitution.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eu-delegation-hdz-bih-shows-disrespect-for-democracy-bonn-powers-not-excluded/

Improving investigation, prosecution in election fraud-related criminal charges

May 24, 2022

Sarajevo, 24 May 2022 - Representatives of the OSCE Mission to BiH and the Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo met Tuesday with representatives of the Coordination of Prosecutors and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) to develop future joint activities aiming at improving investigation and prosecution in the election fraud-related criminal charges.  They also discussed functional coordination between the Central Election Commission of BiH (CEC) and relevant Prosecutor’s offices and courts throughout BiH.

The goal of discussed activities is to exchange experiences between the CEC officials on one side and prosecutors, judges and police officers on the other side, with an in-depth review of the prosecution of election fraud cases, from the filing of the criminal complaint, conducting the investigation to the main trial, rendering the verdict and potential appeal processes.

Representatives of the HJPC and the Coordination of Prosecutors welcomed the initiative and expressed strong support and full commitment to the announced activities.

These activities reflect the OSCE Mission’s ongoing efforts, in coordination with ODIHR, to assist BiH institutions in strengthening the integrity of BiH’s election process.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/improving-investigation-prosecution-in-election-fraud-related-criminal-charges/

Bosnian pro-Russian group leader exchanges prison sentence for a fine

May 24, 2022

The Basic Court in Brcko allowed Srdjan Letic, a multiple convicted leader of the pro-Russian humanitarian organization "St. George Lonchari", to exchange a six-month prison sentence for a fine of 18,000 Bosnian marks.

In January 2022, Letic was sentenced to six months in prison for causing grievous bodily harm to Cvijetin Sofrenovic, and the Basic Court approved the replacement of his prison sentence with a fine, the Balkan Research Network of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) confirmed.

Letic, who has been convicted several times before, attended at least two rallies in Belgrade in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine after his sentence was changed.

Letic's lawyer asked the Court to approve the possibility of replacing the prison sentence of up to one year with a fine. The Basic Court in Brcko confirmed to BIRN BiH that on March 28, they approved the replacement of a six-month prison sentence with a fine of 18,000 Bosnian marks.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnian-pro-russian-group-leader-exchanges-prison-sentence-for-a-fine/

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