International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Fmr BiH Presidency member: It's good Bosnia returned to the world's focus

November 24, 2021
Bosnia's Republika Srpska (RS) entity is creating a state of emergency to scare the BiH residents into accepting anything they say, former Bosniak Presidency member Haris Silajdzic told N1 Wednesday, adding that the good thing is Bosnia has returned to the world's focus, meaning secessionist plans will not go as planned.
“Insisting on turning the RS towards another centre of power, causing various issues such as the one about the agricultural land and the persistent passing of laws that are overturned by the Constitutional Court [were made on purpose] and I think that the trigger for this was the Constitutional Court’s decision on forests, after which those who reject Bosnia as a state realized that they cannot achieve their goals legally. Therefore, they are creating a state of emergency to scare the population, which will then accept any solution as such. And so this situation will last until a solution is reached that suits those who want to destroy BiH,” Silajdzic said.
The Constitutional Court overturned the RS Law on Forests stipulating that the entity can freely dispose of the state property – which is the forest. After an appeal to the Constitutional Court, the Court decides against the Law, stating that only state-level institutions can decide on how the forests and forest land can be used.
But according to him, most Bosnians want a European Bosnia, a normal democracy just like in any other European country. He also added that he believes most people want to join NATO, but that the Russian Federation is openly threatening the country in case it does join the alliance.
In his opinion, the problem is that the Dayton Peace Agreement, that ended the 1992-1995 war in the country, has been broken several hundred times without a reaction of Bosnia’s judicial institutions. He also said that the Dayton Accords have also never been completely implemented such as the right to return to pre-war places of residence.
In case of a total failure of the Dayton Agreement, Silajdzic said he believes Bosnia would return either to the constitution of the Republic of BiH or to one of the solutions he supported during his time in office – which is the reorganization of Bosnia into multi-ethnic regions.
“If there’s no return, if we’re no longer abiding by the Dayton Agreement, then we’ll return to the old order of things – 100 percent Bosnia, 100 percent of our culture, coexistence, our original paradigm in which people truly lived together, which always served as the haven for all unwanted peoples across Europe,” the formed Presidency member said.
He then warned that world powers could also strike a deal at the expense of BiH and that the events in the country should be seen as part of a much larger whole – as connected events in Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo, who are under strategic pressure of Russia and the ideology of ‘Greater Serbia’ that is now disguised under the notion of a ‘Serb world.’
However, this pressure has also produced a positive side-effect – which is that Bosnia has once again come into focus of the world, he added.
This is the finals, Silajdzic said and that is the latest round of negotiations regarding the future of Bosnia is the final negotiations on the very end of the war that has been going on all this time.
“These are the days when the fate of BiH will be decided and I hope that all the actors will be serious in this. We are now in an environment of coercion, secession, intimidation and the response of the international community which is not adequate because they too are subject to that pressure. There was a division of the state and other levels of government and in this process, they will focus on the country’s property and its management, including the property of the former Yugoslavia, the Socialist Republic of BiH, public goods such as rivers, goods of general interest such as forests, agricultural land – precisely those that were the subject of the decision of the BiH Constitutional Court,” Silajdzic told N1.
When asked to comment on the lobbying attempts by ‘pro-Bosnian’ politicians or the lack thereof, Silajdzic believes that they are either unaware of the severity of the situation in the country, or that they just do not care.
“We are in a serious situation now, this is the finals. What happens in these talks and among teams will determine BiH's future in the next 30, 40 or more years. Because if there is no mention of the verdicts of the Hague Tribunal, where almost the entire leadership of the Republika Srpska was sentenced to long or life sentences then the Court did its job. However, today no one talks about this in order to discuss the problems in Bosnia out of the historical context because they are bothered by the existence of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Silajdzic told N1.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/fmr-bih-presidency-member-its-good-bosnia-returned-to-the-worlds-focus/

Dodik returns to Sarajevo for another round of talks after meeting Várhelyi

November 24, 2021
Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity respects the Dayton Peace Agreement and has no plan for secession, Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik said Wednesday after the meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, adding that he will set off for Sarajevo immediately to discuss an EU investment package.
“Our talks were related to the political situation. We are expected to return to the work of state bodies. Those behind the imposed Law on Genocide Denial need to address this issue. It will not be possible [to return to state institutions] without abolishing or revoking that decision. I will immediately travel to Sarajevo to talk to European ambassadors, [Croat Democratic Union – HDZ BiH Dragan] Covic and [Democratic Action Party – SDA leader Bakir] Izetbegovic, as well as the Commissioner. We are ready to work on the implementation of a large investment package that includes highway construction,” Dodik said.
“The highway is the most important project, it is requested that the RS takes a loan for the construction of the Scepan Polje – Foca highway and we are primarily interested in using EU funds, but we can also find an alternative.”
The RS President and Prime Minister, Zeljka Cvijanovic and Radovan Viskovic, also took part in the Banja Luka meeting.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dodik-returns-to-sarajevo-for-another-round-of-talks-after-meeting-varhelyi/

Dodik announces move to repeal ex High Rep's law on state property in BiH

November 24, 2021
He was referring to a law imposed by former High Representative Paddy Ashdown, who monitored the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia in the early 2000s.
“On the tenth (of December), we will make a decision to repeal Ashdown's law banning the disposal of property and we will make an obligation to effectively introduce that property as the property of Republika Srpska,” Dodik told reporters in Sarajevo.
He said he proposed a solution that would entail both of Bosnia’s semi-autonomous entities and the Brcko District reaching an agreement which would say that property located in the area of an entity will be the property of that entity.
He argued that the state of BiH does not have the right to property, but that the entities do and that the Constitutional Court of BiH desecrated the Constitution deciding otherwise.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dodik-announces-move-to-repeal-ex-high-reps-law-on-state-property-in-bih/

OSCE's Schmidt calls on Bosnian leaders to cease the use of divisive rhetoric

November 24, 2021
OSCE will continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina with focus on building the trust, reconciliation and reform, OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid said following the meeting with Bosnia's senior officials in Sarajevo on Tuesday. She also urged the leaders to decrease tensions and cease the use of divisive rhetoric.
Among others, she met the members of the tripartite Presidency, whom she said it was urgent to “decrease tensions, cease the use of divisive rhetoric and to restore the full functionality of State-level institutions.”
Schmid said her meetings with Bosnia's officials confirmed that the visit took place at a “particularly complex and challenging period” for the country and that the difference in the outlook on key challenges and their resolutions was visible.
“I urged political leaders to focus on implementing reforms and dealing with the real problems citizens face, for instance unemployment, corruption, and the need for quality, inclusive education. The ongoing crisis is negatively affecting the economy and discouraging investment. The aggregate result of these factors is the continued outflow of citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially young people,” Schmid said in a statement.
She also emphasised the necessity to conduct electoral reform, as the citizens are losing faith in elections.
“Constructive engagement is needed to amend the BiH Election Law in line with international standards. I underlined that the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), together with the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, stand ready to provide expertise and facilitation in support of this critical effort.”
She reaffirmed the support of the OSCE and its mission in Bosnia in “keeping with the mandate provided under the Dayton Peace Accords,” the deal which ended the 1992-95 conflict.
“We will continue to focus on building trust, reconciliation and reform. Ultimately, responsibility rests with the country’s leaders to make the right decisions and to move forward. The many positive success stories at the local level across the country serve as an inspiration in this regard, and as proof that positive change is possible,” she said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/osces-schmidt-calls-on-bosnian-leaders-to-cease-the-use-of-divisive-rhetoric/

Bosnia not among invitees of Biden's Summit for Democracy

November 24, 2021
After the initial information that Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo were not among the invitees of this year's Summit for Democracy, which US President Joe Biden hosts next month, it has been officially confirmed that Bosnia is the only country in the region not attending the event.
The State Department published on Tuesday the final list of the participants, which includes all countries of the Western Balkans – including Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania, with the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This puts Bosnia in the company of China and Russia, who were also not included in the list.
Media reported earlier this month that representatives of 100 countries, which then included Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia, received the invitation letter, but alongside these three countries the final list now also includes Serbia and Kosovo.
Biden will host the virtual summit on December 9 and 10. The official agenda has not been unveiled yet.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-not-among-invitees-of-bidens-summit-for-democracy/

Window at Jewish cemetery building stoned in Belgrade

November 24, 2021
Unknown perpetrators stoned a window at the building of the Jewish cemetery in Belgrade on Wednesday night.
They also threw an axe through the broken glass.
The police have investigated the incident but haven’t made an official statement yet.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/window-at-jewish-cemetery-building-stoned-in-belgrade/

EU official: Serbia ready for opening cluster 4 in negotiations with bloc

November 24, 2021
Acting Director-General for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Maciej Popowski said on Wednesday that Serbia made enough progress in opening Cluster 4 - on the green economy and connectivity.
He added that European Union ministers discussed the „state of the game“ for Serbia on Tuesday, noting that there was still time for member states to agree on the possible opening of the cluster.
„We have three weeks to do the necessary work. We see enough progress to open a cluster, primarily cluster 4, so we hope to do that,“ Popowski said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/eu-official-serbia-ready-for-opening-cluster-4-in-negotiations-with-bloc/

Protesters in Belgrade threaten to block Serbia if two laws are passed

November 24, 2021
The environmentalists and other groups organised a protest outside the Presidency building in Belgrade on Wednesday night against draft Law on Referendum and Initiative, Law on Expropriation, Rio Tinto's lithium mining and the destruction of the city's district of Makis where the Belgrade underground system's construction started.
„If they (the Parliament) pass these two laws, we will call on the citizens for a warning blockade of the motorways in Serbia for an hour; if the President (Aleksandar Vucic) signs those laws, we will block the whole of Serbia, we will demand that Serbia stop,“ Savo Manojlovic from the Go-Change initiative told the gathering.
He added that the protesters „are not politicians, we are not interested in elections. Some may be arrested, but they will never stop us all.“
Manojlovic said Serbia was not a colony and that everyone who supported the Rio Tinto would be considered an associate of the occupiers.
„We are not interested in the interests of any company; we are not interested in American Russian, Chinese, EU interests. Only the interests of Serbia and its citizens matter to us,“ he added.
Commenting on Vucic’s statement that both amendments to the law followed the Constitution, Manojlovic told N1 the law on expropriation was contrary to the Constitution and that the amendment to the Law on Referendum and Initiative „takes sovereignty from citizens and gives them to political parties and wealthy individuals. “
As he said, the protest was organised outside the Presidency because they knew Vucic made the decisions and that the deputies were not independent.
The protesters went for a walk to the Government building, the state RTS TV and ended the rally outside the Parliament.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/protesters-in-belgrade-threaten-to-block-serbia-if-two-laws-are-passed/

Serbia’s Vucic: Talks with Putin about gas; Kremlin: About Kosovo and BiH

November 24, 2021
Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's President, arrived in Sochi late on Wednesday ahead of meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir to discuss as he said "many issues including gas, while Kremlin specified the topics as those about Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Speaking to the pro-regime Pink TV in this Russian city on the Black Sea, Vucic said the two would have a tête-à-tête meeting to avoid any possibility of infection“ with the coronavirus.
It will be their 19th meeting.
Vucic said the talks „about the import of gas should end urgently both in a political and technical sense.“
He added Putin was the only one who would decide on a formula for gas’s price, adding he would fight for the best possible solution for Serbia.
Serbia’s President said the formula for calculating the gas price for Serbia would determine whether the annual consumption of 300 billion cubic meters of gas would cost 300 or 500 dollars for 1,000 cubic meters, i.e. whether Serbia would have to pay „over a billion and two hundred more.“
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbias-vucic-talks-with-putin-about-gas-kremlin-about-kosovo-and-bih/

Daily: Most outspoken critic of Serbia’s Vucic to head joint opposition list

November 24, 2021
Three of Serbia's opposition parties agreed that Marinika Tepic, a deputy leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) and the most outspoken critic of President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), would head their joint list for the 2022 early general vote.
Serbia holds presidential, early general and Belgarde elections on April 3, 2022.
SSP, People’s Party and Democratic Party (DS) also agreed that the second on the list for a new parliament would be Miroslav Aleksic of the People’s Party, the Nova daily learned from its sources.
The distribution of the parliamentary seats was also agreed upon.
Tepic did not want o comment on the news, saying the final agreement should be made by the end of the week.
„Negotiations between our party and our partners are still ongoing, so I do not want to give details. I understand that many are interested in this topic, but I ask you for patience,“ she told the Nova.
The daily’s sources also said the three parties agreed that the candidates for the mayor of Belgrade and the president of Serbia would be agreed by consensus.
Their names are expected at the last moment before the campaign officially starts since the opposition candidates immediately become targets of the authorities, MPs and the media controlled by the regime.
Tepic and Aleksic have already been targeted in a smear campaign for a long time.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/daily-most-outspoken-critic-of-serbias-vucic-to-head-joint-opposition-list/

Min: Serbia’s foreign exchange inflow from tourism € 1.15 billion in nine months

November 24, 2021
The Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Tatjana Matic, said on Wednesday that, according to the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) report, the foreign exchange inflow from tourism in Serbia in the first nine months of 2021 was one billion and 150 million euros.
„Foreign exchange inflow from tourism was up in the first nine months of this year by 52.2 percent in euros – 1.15 billion euros, compared to the period January – September 2020,“ Matic said.
She added that the foreign exchange inflow from tourism in 2019, the most successful tourist year so far, amounted to one billion and 436 million and that the tourism sector’s results in 2021 exceeded all expectations.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/min-serbias-foreign-exchange-inflow-from-tourism-e-115-billion-in-nine-months/

US envoy to Serbia on ‘Open Balkan’: We support economic linkage; Escobar agrees

November 24, 2021
Antony Godfrey, the US ambassador to Serbia, said on Wednesday that his country fully supported the region's economic integration.
Ahead of the ‘Open Balkan – Road to Stabilisation, Cooperation and Prosperity of the Region’ meeting in Serbia’s Parliament, he said the idea of the ‘Open Balkan’ was crucial for European integration, but that they would fulfil its potential when the entire Western Balkans were connected.
Godfrey said that the ‘Open Balkan’ would help increase salaries and progress in European integration reforms.
Also on Wednesday, the US special envoy for the Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, agreed the ‘Open Balkan’ initiative could not succeed if all six countries of the Western Balkans were not included.
The US position is that all six Western Balkans countries should be members of the European Union within a reasonable time, he has added.
„We believe that their voice should be heard in the structures that affect the lives of the people who live in this area. In addition, every country that joins the EU becomes more democratic, stable and prosperous. We support any economic and regional integration that leads in that direction, „Escobar said,
He added the US support for the initiative was conditioned by an equal opportunity for everyone to participate and that it should not be an obstacle to the European integration of the region.
Serbia’s Minister of Mining and Energy Zorana Mihajlovic said that about 100,000 people a year migrate from three countries part of the initiative to other states.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/us-envoy-to-serbia-on-open-balkan-we-support-economic-linkage-escobar-agrees/

N. Macedonia’s and Serbia’s police operate in discovering illegal migrant camps

November 24, 2021
North Macedonia’s police, helped by colleagues from Serbia’s southern town of Vranje, Vranje, discovered improvised camps on the border between the two countries, a TV reported on Wednesday.
Several migrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan were physically and mentally abused, raped, and blackmailed by their compatriots,
The Vranje police passed on the information about the location of the camps and coordinates to their colleagues in North Macedonia after the testimony of one of the victims.
According to Telma TV, the camps were situated on inaccessible terrain. The police had to use helicopters in the operation during which they rescued 35 migrants, including nine children aged 14 to 15 and arrested four suspects, including two 15-year-old minors.
The victims are men, women and children from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The arrested face a minimum of eight years in prison. The camp’s organisers are still at large.
Hundreds of migrants passed through those camps from August to November, and they were forcibly detained; their phones and passports were taken away. The captors sent their photos to their families, asking for money.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/n-masdonias-and-serbias-police-cooperate-in-discovering-illegal-migrant-camp/

EU's Varhelyi urges Bosnian leadership to focus on reforms

November 24, 2021
Bosnia and Herzegovina has no time to lose, European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner said following the meeting with Bosnian state ministers, stressing the necessity to meet the priorities set by European Commission's Opinion on Bosnia's membership application.
Varhelyi arrived in Bosnia on Wednesday for a two-day visit, where he already met the Council of Ministers and Bosnia Presidency members. He is also set to pay a visit to Banja Luka, the country's second largest city and administrative centre of the Serb-majority Republika Srpska entity.
In the meeting with the Council of Ministers Chairman Zoran Tegeltija, finance minister Vjekoslav Bevanda and defence minister Selmo Cikotic, Varhelyi said Bosnia had no time to lose with the reforms to meet the European Commission's 14 priorities or with the economic and investment plan.
He told minister Cikotic that the Commission will continue supporting the efforts to address migration challenges, including asylum, effective border protection and returns.
Prior to this meeting, the commissioner met the members of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, Chairman Zeljko Komsic and members Milorad Dodik and Sefik Dzaferovic.
“We discussed the way forward: overcoming internal difficulties & deescalating tensions, fulfilling 14 key priorities on EU path. I want BiH to succeed & for that the country needs to work & function,” Varhelyi tweeted.
The Presidency Chairman said the EU official conveyed four important messages, one of them his expectation that the state-level institutions will be unblocked.
“Not only when discussing the accepting of the EU loans, but also in terms of the implementation of 14 key priorities from the European Commission's Opinion. As an example commissioner mentioned the new law on public procurement,” said Komsic.
According to him, Varhelyi also said he was expecting the enhancement of the state institutions and not their weakening, and Bosnia's further progress on the EU path.
The commissioner also met with leaders of the parliamentary opposition to discuss electoral reform and the need for BiH to deliver on reforms.
“Appreciate opposition’s support for EU path and count on their work within institutions,” he said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eus-varhelyi-urges-bosnian-leadership-to-focus-on-reforms/

Venice Commission warns of politicization of top judiciary bodies

November 24, 2021
The Venice Commission said on Wednesday that the Serbian authorities need to reduce the risk of politicization for its top judiciary bodies and draft the legal framework needed to implement constitutional amendments.
“The Venice Commission, in its new urgent opinion on the on the revised draft constitutional amendments in Serbia said that most of its previous key recommendations have been met, but insisted on the need to reduce the risks of politicisation of the High Judicial and the High Prosecutorial Councils. Besides, the legislative changes necessary for the full implementation of the constitutional amendments should be urgently prepared,” a press release said adding that the opinion was drawn up at the request of Serbian Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic.
It said that most of the key recommendations made in October have been met and welcomed the fact that the recommendation on the composition of the High Judicial Council was among them.
The Venice Commission warned that the anti-deadlock mechanism for the election of the lay members of the High Judicial Council has not been followed and that the recommendation on the composition of the High Prosecutorial Council has only partly been followed. “Even though the solutions proposed in the revised draft amendments in respect of these two recommendations do not go against any international standards as such, the Commission wishes to insist once again on the need to reduce the risks of politicization of the two Councils,” it said.
Most of the other recommendations have been followed. For those that have not been followed, there is scope to implement them through legislative changes, the press release added.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/venice-commission-warns-of-politicization-of-top-judiciary-bodies/

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