International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bolton to BIRN: Seems we lost opportunity in Belgrade – Pristina dialogue

July 15, 2020

In an interview with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, John Bolton, the US President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser, said it seemed that Belgrade and Pristina had withdrawn from positions with some greater prospect they could bridge their differences.

Commenting on reports about the territory swap between Belgrade and Pristina, Bolton, the author of an explosive book ‘The Room Where it Happened’ about his time at the White House which caused bitter reactions in Washington, said that “It was the administration’s policy – that if the parties themselves felt that as part of an overall solution that adjustments to territory made sense, that the United States would support that.”

He added that “at the time in question, Europeans were looking at that as well, and many took exactly the same view. I understand from others in the Balkans, the concern that if some borders are changed all borders are at risk. I understand what they’re saying, but I think that fear is exaggerated.”

“If Kosovo and Serbia were to agree to land swaps as part of an overall solution, really are outsiders, whether from the United States or elsewhere, in Europe, going to tell them that the solution isn’t satisfactory? I don’t think so,” Bolton said.

“At the time in question, Europeans were looking at that as well, and many took exactly the same view. I understand from others in the Balkans the concern that if some borders are changed all borders are at risk. I understand what they’re saying but I think that fear is exaggerated”

“Within Kosovo, within Serbia, a land swap would be controversial on both sides, although obviously for different reasons. But if the leaders thought this was a way to reach an agreement and could persuade their respective parliaments, I just can’t see outsiders saying we’re not going to let you do that”, told Bolton and added “there were serious enough Europeans that convinced the experts both at the State Department and the NSC [the U.S. National Security Council] that it was worth allowing the process to play out”.

According to him, “We were far from certain that, with all of the other obstacles, that the total agreement could be reached, and as we can see today it didn’t happen, but the progress of the negotiations was not negatively affected by the land swap idea. It gave space for Serbia and Kosovo to explore further. And, you know, failure is always a possibility, and failure is what we have here. Continued failure.”

Bolton thinks that the Balkans are not so unimportant for the Trump administration: “I think quite the opposite. I think we have focused on efforts by Russia to cause disruptions in the Balkans. Not necessarily to return to the days of the Cold War but certainly to extend and enhance Russian influence in the region which I think would have been harmful to US interests, but to the interest of the Balkan countries themselves.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619996/Bolton-to-BIRN-Seems-we-lost-opportunity-in-Belgrade-Pristina-dialogue.html

Missing and internally displaced first dialogue topic in Brussels, Vucic says

July 15, 2020

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Belgrade on Wednesday that the first issues in the negotiations with Pristina on the normalization of relations in Brussels on Thursday would include the problem with missing and internally displaced people from Kosovo during the 1998-1999 war there and its aftermath, the FoNet news agency reported.

"We are ready; I see the Albanians are as well, according to their media. We'll fight," he said at the construction site of 'Dedinje 2' cardiovascular hospital.

Regarding his talks on forming a new government, Vucic said he had "correct dialogue with the Albanians (on Tuesday), as well as with Muamer Zukorilic's list and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians on Wednesday.

He added he listened to their wishes and suggestion and would meet them in the next ten days and inform them who he would be his choice for the next prime minister.

Asked about the rise in the number of people infected with the coronavirus, Vucic blamed the anti-government rallies in Belgrade and the northern city of Novi Sad, adding those "unnecessary protests now show effects."

He denied his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) held any big gathering during the election campaign, saying "some other parties did." 

He also said that neither a soccer derby with the 20,000-strong audience nor the SNS victory celebration and June 21 general elections and other events caused a serious increase in the epidemic cases.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619956/Missing-and-internally-displaced-first-dialogue-topic-in-Brussels-Vucic-says.html

Vucic starts talks about Serbia's new government, Albanians ask for four posts

July 15, 2020

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's President, start on Tuesday first consultations about forming a new government with the representatives of the "Albanian Democratic Alternative – United Valley" and the leader of its election list Shaip Kamberi, the FoNet news agency reported.

Earlier, the Bosniak minority Party of Democratic Action (SDA) from the southwestern Sandzak region refused to take part in talks with Vucic saying the June 21 elections were irregular.

The coalition of Albanian parties demanded a post of minister of local administration, a state secretary in the Education. MInistry, an assistant minister of economy, and the head of Government's Coordinating Body for three municipalities with an ethnic Albanian majority.

 After the talks, Kamberi said they passed their demands to Vucic in writing and following his answer, they would decide to whether or not take part in a government.

He added they had been sending those demands to Serbia's governments for years.

"Particularly regarding the integration of the Albanians in the institutions, the problems in education, not recognition of diplomas from Kosovo, economically underdeveloped municipalities. We ask the state to do something about that," Kamberi said.

Vucic said he carefully listened to all objections and added he was ready to help in different ways to the developments of Serbia's south.

The President promised his answers to the Albanians in the next two weeks.

He continues the consultationson Wednesday.                                          

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619610/Vucic-starts-talks-about-Serbia-s-new-government-Albanians-ask-for-four-posts.html

Four more coronavirus-related deaths in North Macedonia

July 14, 2020

North Macedonia’s Health Ministry reported four more coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total to 389 since the pandemic broke out.

The ministry said that 1,259 people had been tested for the coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, including 135 who tested positive. A total of 79,392 people have been tested since the pandemic began and 8,332 cases of infection with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus were diagnosed. 

It said that there are 3,475 active cases, including 58 on ventilators and added that 4,468 patients recovered from COVID-19.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619744/Four-more-coronavirus-related-deaths-in-North-Macedonia.html

Montenegro ramps up testing for Covid-19

July 14, 2020

The Montenegrin Institute of Public Health (IJZCG) said on Monday evening that some 400 tests had returned positive to coronavirus out of 2,000 which it had sent to a laboratory in Germany.

Montenegro decided to ramp up testing and some of the tests are being sent to foreign countries to be processed.

The IJZCG director Boban Mugosa said that the data from Germany caused concern as that meant that more than 20% of samples sent to Germany were positive.

In Montenegro, so far 25,000 citizens have been tested which means 396.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, and local laboratories have increased the volume of tests performed by them.

According to the figures presented by Mugosa, since the outbreak of the epidemic, 963 people have been diagnosed with this infection.

The current rate of the infections is 139 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

To date, 25 infected people have died from the coronavirus-related complications.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619634/Montenegro-ramps-up-testing-for-Covid-19.html

Croatia confirms 52 new coronavirus cases, one death

July 14, 2020

Over the past 24 hours 52 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Croatia, bringing the number of active cases up to 1,183, and one person has died, the national Covid-19 response team said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Health Minister Vili Beros said Croatia had registered 3,827 cases since the novel coronavirus appeared 141 days ago.

The latest fatality was a man in Zagreb, born in 1951, who had many underlying conditions but was not on a ventilator. Since the start of the epidemic, 120 persons have died.

Five patients are on ventilators, one more than on Monday, and 129 patients are hospitalised.

Over the past 24 hours 11 patients have been discharged from hospital and 33 have recovered at home. There are 81 active cases among medical staff, seven more than on Monday, and 508 are self-isolating.

To date 95,920 persons have been tested, including 1,745 over the past 24 hours, and 4.03% of the samples have been positive. Men account for 48.41%.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619774/Croatia-confirms-52-new-coronavirus-cases-one-death.html

Bosnia's coronavirus tally surpasses 7,000

July 14, 2020

Bosnia has reported another 189 infections with the novel coronavirus -- 139 in the Federation (FBiH) and 50 in Republika Srpska (RS), which brings the country's total to more than 7,000 cases, the healthcare authorities in both semi-autonomous regions confirmed on Tuesday.

With five new Covid-19 deaths confirmed in the last 24 hours, the country's death toll now stands at 231.

Of 3,851 patients that were reported in the FBiH since the epidemic outbreak, 1,528 have recovered. In RS, which makes a little less than half of the country, 1,693 of 3,254 Covid-19 patients have recovered to date.

Brcko District, a separate administrative unit in the north of the country, has so far confirmed 69 infections. To this date 23 patients have recovered and five died as a consequence of the coronavirus infection.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a447912/Bosnia-s-coronavirus-tally-surpasses-7-000.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: 13 deaths, 344 new cases

July 14, 2020

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin that 13 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 418.

It said that 8,659 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 344 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 507,002 with 18,983 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 4,574 active cases, including 170 patients on ventilators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619660/Coronavirus-UPDATE-13-deaths-344-new-cases.html

Crowd much smaller on 8th protest night

July 14, 2020

Some 300 people gathered in front of the Serbian parliament for the 8th protest against the authorities on Tuesday.

N1 reporters said there were no incidents, adding that no one in the crowd chanted or whistled. The crowd split into three groups – one gathered around Dosta Je Bilo leader Sasa Radulovic who voiced proposals for fair elections; a second at the steps to parliament focusing on nationalist issues and a third sitting quietly in the middle of the street which was closed to traffic.  

The police presence was much smaller than on previous protest nights, with about just 50 uniformed police with several officers in plain clothes.  

A protest was also staged in the southern city of Nis, also much smaller than on previous nights with only traffic police present. The crowd of a few dozen people marched through central city streets, lighting candles in front of the city court house.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619795/Crowd-much-smaller-on-8th-protest-night.html

Serbian Military Union official says protest coming against Defense Minister

July 14, 2020

An official from the Serbian Military Union (VSS) told N1 that the union is preparing a public protest to express its dissatisfaction with Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin.

Antic said that the minister has harshly violated basic working rights. “There is a will to protest. The only obstacle is the fact that our people are engaged on several jobs: security at migrant camps, in COVID hospitals, the Ground Safety Zone (along the border of Kosovo) and on security detail for several buildings in Belgrade and other places as of a few days ago. That was someone’s goal to have as few of our people as possible at the protests,” he said.  

Antic said that Vulin never met with VSS officials since he became minister in 2017.  

Asked if he thinks Vulin will remain Defense Minister in the new government, he said that he doesn’t see who would benefit from “Vulin holding any public office” adding that he has “violated the law a number of times”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619790/Serbian-Military-Union-official-says-protest-coming-against-Defense-Minister.html

Bosniak minority party rejects talks about new Serbia's government

July 14, 2020

The Party of Democratic Action (SDA) from Serbia's southwestern Sandzak region, mostly populated by Bosniaks, has said it won't accept President Aleksandar Vucic's invitation for talks about the formation of a new government, the Beta news agency has reported.

Vucic said he would start negotiations on forming the new government with minority parties on Tuesday, and in the coming days with the other two national political organisations who won mandates in a new parliament

SDA said the reason for rejecting the negotiations was because it saw the June 21 elections as unfree, undemocratic and irregular and called for them to be held again.

The party's statement added it had a meeting with Vucic on May 4, asking for the postponement of the elections for September 6 at earliest.

It also said the state of emergency was lifted although there was no official proof that the danger for people's health and lives was over.

"Belgrade regime and their obedient local authorities in Sandzak were hiding information about the danger, deceiving people that everything was all right with an aim to hold the rigged elections at any cost," the SDA, a Bosniak minority party's statement said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619530/Bosniak-minority-party-rejects-talks-about-new-Serbia-s-government.html

'No to BiH in NATO' billboards show up in Istocno Sarajevo

July 13, 2020

Billboards saying ‘No to BiH in NATO’ have emerged in Istocno Sarajevo (East Sarajevo), the city in Bosnia’s Serb-majority region consisting of suburban parts of pre-war Sarajevo.

NATO remains unpopular with Serbs in both Serbia and in Bosnia's Serb-majority semi-autonomous entity of Republika Srpska (RS) since the alliance launched airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and against the Serbian military in 1999 during

“We don’t agree to the path toward NATO and membership in NATO. That is the consensus of all political parties in Republika Srpska, those in power and the opposition,” Serb member of the tripartite Presidency and leader of the ruling party in the Republika Srpska semi-autonomous entity, Milorad Dodik, said recently.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a447605/No-to-BiH-in-NATO-billboards-set-up-in-Istocno-Sarajevo.html

Consultations on new government start on Tuesday, Vucic says

 July 13, 2020

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President and the leader of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) said on Monday he would begin talks about forming a new government as of Tuesday, the FoNet news agency reported.

Vucic headed SNS’ list in the June 21 general elections and scored a sweeping victory, securing an absolute majority in the Parliament and could form a new cabinet without any of two other parties that crossed the reduced threshold of three percent, and several minority political organisations which had mandates based on a natural threshold.

However, Vucic said he would try to include as many other parties as possible into the government.

On Tuesday, he will talk to the representatives of the Party of Democratic Action from Sandzak and the Albanian Democratic Alternative.

The next day, Vucic will meet Muamer Zukorlic, the head of the Party for Justice and Reconciliation and Istvan Pastor, the leader of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians.

Next Friday, Vucic will talk with Aleksandar Sapic, the leader of the Serbian Patriotic Alliance, while on July 20, he will meet Ivica Dacic, the head of Vucic long-time coalition partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS).

The last meeting is scheduled for July 21, a month after the elections were held, with his SNS leadership.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619177/Consultations-about-new-government-start-on-Tuesday-Vucic-says.html

Serbian DefMin: Military contracts delivery of more armor, guns

July 13, 2020

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Monday that the military has contracted the purchase of domestically produced Lazar 3 armored cars and Nora B52 self-propelled howitzers.

A ministry press release said that Vulin toured a military industry plant in Velika Plana. It quoted him as saying that the Serbian military will primarily buy arms and equipment from the local industry.  

“The Army of Serbia (VS) secured sufficient quantities of the Nora and, to make our all our citizens happy, the Ministry acting in line with orders from supreme commander Aleksandar Vucic secured enough money for a second shipment of Nora,” he said and added that the military would buy more of the self-propelled gun and armored vehicles “making it stronger than ever”.  

Vulin said that he would present new weapons systems to the public soon and added that they will make the VS stronger and help Serbia be a free and independent country which takes decisions on its own. “No senseless protests will upset us, we won’t be stopped by hooligans setting fire to parliament nor by anyone who thinks they should be deciding about Serbia,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619418/Serbian-DefMin-Military-contracts-delivery-of-more-armor-guns.html

Kosovo's Thaci arrives in The Hague, welcomed by KLA supporters

July 13, 2020

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci arrived in The Hague for a hearing before the Specialised Chambers after Prosecutors announced a war crime indictment against him last month, receiving a warm welcome by the supporters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which he was a commander of in 1998-1999 war, the FoNet news agency reported on Monday.

Thaci told reporters he came to The Hague "because of what he dreamed about and fought for."

On June 24, the Special Prosecutors Office for Kosovo based in The Hague wrote the 10-point charges against President Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli, former Parliament speaker, and sent it to the Specialised Chambers of Kosovo for confirmation.

His supporters carried banners with messages about crimes, which according to them, Belgrade forces committed during the 1998-1999 war in the then Serbia's province.

"I fought for an independent, free Kosovo, based on equal rights, multiethnic society and the rule of law. I'm ready to face a new challenge and win for my son, family, people and my state. No one can change history. This is a price of freedom. I believe in peace, truth and justice," Thaci said.

He added he also believed "in dialogue and good neighbourly relations. Kosovo is a success story, and I'm proud of it." 

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a619294/Kosovo-s-Thaci-arrives-in-The-Hague-welcomed-by-KLA-supporters.html

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