International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bundestag’s Balkans rapporteur Adis Ahmetovic slams Croatia’s policy towards BiH

June 9, 2022
The Bundestag 's rapporteur on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Adis Ahmetovic, who is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, has said in an interview with the Croatian state news agency Hina that the policy pursued by Croatia towards Bosnia and Herzegovina does not benefit Croatia, the region, or the EU.
Ahmetovic is a politician of Bosnian background who was born in Germany in 1993. He visited Zagreb after the German ruling coalition tabled to its parliamentary committees a draft resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which pushes for stronger engagement of Berlin in Bosnia and Herzegovina “against the backdrop of growing tensions and separatist tendencies”.
His parents arrived from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Germany, and Ahmetovic became the Bundestag’s rapporteur on the Western Balkans in early 2022. He told Hina that it would be important to adopt such a resolution, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed what could happen when ethnic provocations, separatism, and authoritarian policies prevail.
The document proposed to the Bundestag criticises Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders Milorad Dodik and Dragan Covic, while making no mention of the Bosniak leader, Bakir Izetbegovic, which some of the critics of the document point out as wrong.
Ahmetovic said that Dodik and Covic were mentioned as they advocate secessionist policies.
Dodik is threatening to secede (the Serb-populated entity) Republika Srpska, while Covic speaks about the establishment of a third entity in the country, Ahmetovic said, adding that he had never heard a clear opposition from Croatia’s authorities to the third entity.
As for nationalist tendencies, he said that the first page of the document reads that “we are against Bosniak, Serb, and Croat ethnonationalism”.
Ahmetovic said he believes that regardless of their ethnicity, a majority of residents in Bosnia and Herzegovina want a civic organisation of their country and abandoning ethnic principles in the election of the authorities, unlike political elites.
Nowhere in the world, except in Lebanon, does the election law take into account the ethnic principle, said this 28-year-old politician who believes that it is wrong to apply the Lebanon principle in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Croat representative in Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Zeljko Komsic, was elected according to the existing law, Ahmetovic said. Croat politicians do not consider Komsic a legitimate representative of the Croat people, saying he has won the position of the representative thanks to the vote of Bosniaks in the Federation entity.
Ahmetovic noted that Komsic had been received by the pope in an audience, saying he objectively belongs to Bosnian Croats as a constituent people.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bundestags-balkans-rapporteur-adis-ahmetovic-slams-croatias-policy-towards-bih/

Ropes Srebrenica refugees tried to commit suicide with found in Potocari

June 9, 2022
The Director of the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial Center, Emir Suljagic, posted photos showing ropes he said some of the refugees from Srebrenica tried to use to commit suicide out of desperation at the UN base in Potocari in July 1995.
“In July 1995 some of the refugees from Srebrenica in the UN base in Potocari tried to commit suicide from desperation. They were luckily caught in time to prevent it. This morning thanks to a Dutchbat soldier we found this location. The ropes are still there,” he tweeted, alongside the photos.
The former UN base, which was under the supervision of the Dutch battalion in July 1995, now houses the Srebrenica Memorial Centre.
In July 1995, members of the Army and Interior Ministry of Republika Srpska committed genocide against Bosniaks in the former UN-designated ‘Safe Area’ in Srebrenica.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/ropes-srebrenica-refugees-tried-to-commit-suicide-with-found-in-potocari-photo/

Col. Andrew Milburn-Russians are worse than ISIS

June 9, 2022
A former U.S. Special Operations commander from the Tampa area has set up a military training centre in Ukraine, and along with fellow American and British veterans, is passing on skills to soldiers and delivering critical supplies.
Andrew Milburn joined the U.S. Marine Corps from London as a private and retired 31 years later in 2019 as a colonel. His last position was Deputy Commander of Special Operations Central (SOCCENT), which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base.
Milburn lives in Lithia, but has been in Ukraine for the past month and recently formed an organization called the Mozart Group to aid Ukrainian soldiers. The name is meant to counter the Russian paramilitary organization the Wagner Group, which experts link to the Kremlin and whose members have been accused of committing war crimes.
During the exclusive interview with N1's Ika Ferrer Gotic, Milburn spoke about working with the Ukrainian army and the training he and his fellow vets are providing:
“The Ukrainian army is very much skilled in many ways, even more than the Americans or the British, for example operating drones. So, it's crucially important that the West provides the Ukrainians with these game-changing weapons. Why aren't they? Well, I think they are naive,” Milburn said.
Milburn has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Libya and commanded a special operations task force against ISIS in 2016. He began his career as a second lieutenant and later became a colonel and task force commander. As for seeing the aftermath of the Bucha massacre, he added:
“Bodies of the civilians tied up, massacred, shot, women and girls raped by these drunk Russians… they are worse than ISIS.”
The Marine said that he was one of the first people in Bucha, Ukraine, after the Russian retreat, where reports have emerged of a civilian massacre in which nearly 300 people were buried in mass graves. Milburn said that he saw bodies dumped in Bucha, including children.
While noting that civilian casualties are common in war, Milburn said the events in Bucha appeared to be “a very, very deliberate approach to killing civilians.”
“People were dragged from their homes and killed, women gang-raped in cellars and executed.”
Milburn wrote that he is no stranger to the depravity of war but that Russia's actions left him “filled with the deepest contempt and anger.”
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/col-andrew-milburn-russians-are-worse-than-isis/

Komsic-Zakharova's statement on weapons smuggled to BiH from Ukraine is untrue

June 9, 2022
The statement by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, who according to Russian media said western weapons intended for Ukraine have been smuggled into Bosnia and Herzegovina is not true, the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, told N1.
Komsic’s statement comes after the Russian News Agency TASS reported that Zakharova said that western countries are not taking into account that shipments of weapons intended for Ukraine could lead to the expansion of the black market of weapons in Western Europe, and alleged that some weapons from Ukraine have already been smuggled to BiH, Albania and Kosovo.
“This is not true because the West supplies Ukraine with the most modern weapons and tools. It is not true that this entered BiH,” he said, arguing that such a statement represents another attempt by Moscow to draw attention to other regions.
Komsic also spoke about the ‘Open Balkan’ initiative, saying that, while he does support the idea of cooperation, the idea of this particular initiative is “wrong.”
“It is wrong because there are other regional initiatives such as the Berlin Process. This is where these European standards are sought as a kind of preparation for the EU. A large sum of money is behind the Berlin Process, 30 billion euros. The “Open Balkan” is quite undefined. It offers nothing new, even the criteria are lower than for the Berlin Process,” he said.
However, Komsic also said that the issue “raises a million questions” in BiH and that it might be perceived as an attempt to advocate a “Serbian and Albanian world”.
“It seems to me that the Berlin Process is much better than the ‘Open Balkans’,” he said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/kosmic-zakharovas-statement-on-weapons-smuggled-to-bih-from-ukraine-is-untrue/

US Embassy criticises SDA for “attempting to block corruption investigations”

June 9, 2022
The United States Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina strongly criticised the strongest Bosniak ethnic party in the country, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), arguing that it should act in accordance with its declared objectives and not, among other things, attempt to block corruption investigations.
The US Embassy noted the SDA said it shares the same objectives in BiH as the United States, the European Union, and the High Representative of the international community in the country.
These are, according to the tweet by the US Embassy:
1) Building a functional democratic state and stable institutions
2) Securing the rule of law
“If SDA shared these objectives with the United States, the party and its functionaries would not be attempting to block or disrupt corruption investigations; they would not be contributing to the dysfunctionality in the Federation (one of Bosnia’s two entities); and they would not preference divisive rhetoric over meaningful attempts at reconciliation,” the embassy said.
It stressed that the United States “does not favour any political party or ethnic group in BiH.”
“We support the people of this country – Bosniak, Serb, Croat and Others – and we support policies that will deliver a better future for the citizen of BiH,” it said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-embassy-criticises-sda-for-attempting-to-block-corruption-investigations/

Dodik says Bosnia's RS entity wants to file a lawsuit against the High Rep

June 9, 2022
Member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, announced that the country’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity had hired a legal team to file a lawsuit in Germany against the High Representative of the international community in BiH, Christian Schmidt, for "misrepresentation and harmful actions in BiH".
Dodik wrote on his official Twitter account that “the legal team is already starting to gather evidence to submit with the lawsuit.”
Schmidt serves as the international official overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement in BiH. Dodik has repeatedly rejected Schmidt’s authority since the German politician took over the post last year.
On Wednesday, Dodik said Schmidt should be deported from the country and that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) should be closed.
He also said that the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), an international body Schmidt reports to, is an “informal group” without elected members and is trying to impose certain goals in BiH.
“They have presented BiH with issues in the past that cannot be resolved and led to BiH falling into institutional agony. When history is written, it will show that they were a significant disruptive factor on the path to stability in BiH,” he said.
The ambassadors of the member states of the PIC Steering Board appointed Christian Schmidt as High Representative at the end of May last year, after he was nominated for the post by Germany.
He took over the post from the previous High Representative, Austrian Valentin Inzko, on August 2 last year.
Russia has denied support for Schmidt's appointment, saying the UN Security Council has not approved his candidacy, and before the UN Security Council, Russia and China have called for the OHR to be shut down. However, the initiative was not supported.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dodik-says-bosnias-rs-entity-wants-to-file-a-lawsuit-against-the-high-rep/

Banja Luka Clinical Centre reports bomb threats

June 9, 2022
University Clinical Centre in Banja Luka, administrative centre of Bosnia's Republika Srpska entity, received three bomb threats on Thursday, the institution has confirmed in a statement.
Bomb threats have also been sent to several media outlets in the same city.
The clinical centre said they have informed the Ministry of Internal Affairs in accordance with protocols for such situations, while the staff is carrying out the evacuation of patients. Competent authorities are searching the facilities or potentially planted explosive devices.
“We assure the employees of the University Clinical Centre of Republika Srpska, our patients and their families that all necessary activities were taken to provide the safety,” the statement said.
The clinical centre condemned the fact that the healthcare institutions, medical workers and the most vulnerable category of citizens are repeatedly targeted by such actions, which sparks insecurity and fear.
The threats were also sent to the Banja Luka-based daily ‘Nezavisne novine’, which informed the police about the threat and unveiled the content of the threatening e-mail:
“11 explosive devices, of which 4 weigh one kilo each and the remaining 7 half a kilo each, were planted at different rooms of KC-BL (Clinical Centre-Banja Luka) and the timer is ticking away. Death will be everywhere, and it should be everywhere because your state and your regime spread death everywhere around,” said the message, calling for the toppling of Aleksandar Vucic, Vladimir Putin and Milorad Dodik.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/banja-luka-clinical-centre-reports-bomb-threats/

Izetbegovic dismisses possibility of one-on-one talks on election law with Covic

June 9, 2022
Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), has dismissed the possibility of one-on-one talks on electoral reform disputes with leader of the HDZ BiH party Dragan Covic at the upcoming meeting with European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels.
“I can always meet for a coffee with Mr Covic and Mr Michel, but holding further one-on-one talks with Covic – I won't do that ever again,” Izetbegovic said in an interview with the Bosnian public broadcaster BHRT.
Izetbegovic, who is the Bosniak politician and leader of the centre-right SDA party is one of the main actors alongside the Bosnian Croat leader Covic in the talks on electoral reform, which were up to recently mediated by the EU and US.
Speaking to BHRT, he noted that the leaders of 15 parties that have deputies in Bosnia and Herzegovina's state parliament would be visiting Brussels on 12-13 June and meet there with European Council President Michel.
The EU official recently held talks in Sarajevo with Covic and Izetbegovic on disputes regarding the implementation of election results in the country and ways to step its integration with the EU.
The SDA leader now rejects the possibility of such a format for meetings, demanding that other parliamentary parties take part in the talks as well.
Izetbegovic said that in earlier talks on the election reform regarding the model of election of members of the BiH Presidency and members of the House of Peoples of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity, the HDZ BiH party and its leader Covic had unrealistic demands.
“He made increasingly big demands. We won't accept it. He must change the way he treats us, the pro-Bosnian and Bosniak bloc and reduce his demands,” Izetbegovic said.
The SDA has adopted conclusions welcoming the European Council president's involvement in efforts to resolve disputes in BiH, describing as ‘absurd’ claims that decisions by the international community in BiH favour the Bosniak side and the SDA.
“We reject as unfounded and absurd frequent claims by BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic and a number of other actors close to them about the West unconditionally supporting Bosniaks and the SDA,” the party said.
It added that the SDA and representatives of the EU, the USA and the Office of the High Representative in BiH have the same goal, “building a functional, democratic state with stable institutions and ensuring the rule of law.”
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/izetbegovic-dismisses-possibility-of-one-on-one-talks-on-election-law-with-covic/

NBS raises key policy rate

June 9, 2022
The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) Executive Board voted on Thursday to raise the key policy rate by 50bp, to 2.5%.
“As the NBS interest corridor remained unchanged (±100 bp, i.e. ±1 pp relative to the key policy rate), the credit facility rate equals 3.5% and the deposit facility rate 1.5%,” the NBS said in press release.
“In making the decision on further tightening of monetary conditions, the Executive Board took into account the continuation of the Ukraine conflict, which resulted in deepening of the energy crisis globally, a further spike in the prices of primary agricultural commodities and industrial raw materials, and the continued aggravated functioning of international supply chains. Amid the build-up of inflationary pressures globally, the Executive Board assessed it was necessary to further tighten the monetary conditions at home, in order to limit the second-round effects on inflation expectations and preempt a further hike in domestic inflation. The NBS invests considerable effort to this end, including, among other measures, by maintaining relative stability of the dinar exchange rate against the euro,” said the NBS.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/nbs-raises-key-policy-rate/

Serbian pro-regime tabloid receives bomb threat

June 9, 2022
The offices of a pro-regime tabloid were evacuated in central Belgrade on Thursday following a bomb threat received by the police.
The Kurir tabloid said on its web site that the police ordered the immediate evacuation of the building which lies close to the Serbian parliament. Kurir is part of the Adria Media Group.
The tabloid said that it would call the embassies of all European states, the European Union Delegation, UN and OSCE missions to condemn the threat which prevented the tabloid staff from doing their job, inflicting damages on the company.
It said that this is not the first time that the building had to be evacuated, recalling that the Kosovo-online portal, which is in the same building, received a bomb threat on May 29.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-pro-regime-tabloid-receives-bomb-threat/

Serbian government owes millions for flour

June 9, 2022
The head of a millers association said on Thursday that the Serbian government owes mills millions of Dinar for flour leaving them without the money needed to pay for the new wheat harvest.
Zitounija CEO Zdravko Sajatovic said that the government owes mills 240 million Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) for flour delivered while the price was frozen. He added that the government banned exports preventing mills from selling their surplus stock and failed to sell them wheat from the goods reserves at prices lower than on the market. “Mills were forced to buy wheat on the open market at much higher prices and had to sell flour at limited prices often lower than the cost of the wheat,” he said.
The Serbian government imposed a ban on food exports following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and limited the prices of basic foodstuffs in November last year.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-government-owes-millions-for-flour/

Opposition coalition repays campaign funds

June 9, 2022
Nebojsa Zelenovic, a leader of the We Must (Moramo) coalition, said that this coalition paid back into the state budget the funds received for its presidential election campaign.
A press release quoted Zelenovic as saying that the coalition received 46,126,500 Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) and that it paid back more than it spent of the total amount.
This is the first time in the past few decades that a political organization had paid election campaign money back into the state budget, said Zelenovic, adding that the Finance Ministry was surprised because there is no refund procedure in place.
The We Must coalition instructed the Finance Minister to earmark the whole amount to the Health Ministry Fund used to pay for the medical treatment of children abroad.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/opposition-coalition-repays-campaign-funds/

Serbian minister warns of jail time for damage on fast track rail line

June 9, 2022
A Serbian cabinet minister said on Thursday that anyone causing damage to the new fast track railway between Belgrade and Novi Sad would face jail time.
Construction, Traffic and Infrastructure Minister Tomislav Momirovic said that anyone who causes damage to the newly-built rail line or the Soko fast trains could face a jail sentence of 8 years.
A ministry press release quoted him as saying that the police arrested a person who threw stones at the train and warned that others set up obstacles on the rail line. “That poses a huge danger to all traffic, endangering hundreds of lives and rail traffic and officials from the ministry and Serbian railways will work with the police and judiciary to identify those persons and process them under the law,” the minister said.
Under Serbian law inflicting damage on railway infrastructure carries a possible sentence of three months to five years in jail which can be raised to eight years if anyone is injured.
The fast railway between Belgrade and Novi Sad was inaugurated recently by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The authorities in both countries plan to connect their respective capitals with the fast track rail line.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-minister-warns-of-jail-time-for-damage-on-fast-track-rail-line/

Mihajlovic-Germany is Serbia’s most important partner

June 9, 2022
Serbian Mining and Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said Thursday that Germany is Serbia’s most important trade and overall partner.
Germany is a country with which we have the most intensive political and economic relations. Our total trade last year amounted 6.5 billion Euro and over 75,000 people are employed in German companies in Serbia, said Mihajlovic.
Mihajlovic signed Thursday with GIZ an agreement on the implementation of the project Promotion of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Serbia.
She said that the two countries’ joint projects in the field of energy are worth over 1.5 billion Euro and added that the word partnership best describes the relations between the two countries.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/mihajlovic-germany-is-serbias-most-important-partner/

DW-Scholz to focus on blocked issues in Western Balkans

June 9, 2022
Deutsche Welle said on Thursday that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ visit to the Western Balkans is intended to get the issues that have been politically blocked moving forward.
It said that Scholz wants to focus on resolving the bilateral problems which are hampering the expansion of the European Union to the countries of the region.
DW said that the German Chancellor will start his tour of the region in Kosovo before going to Beglrade. “It seems that the process which started long before Scholz’ first official meeting with (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic in Berlin has intensified lately,” it said, referring to the compromises that Belgrade will be forced to agree to if it wants to continue down the path to the EU.
According to DW, Scholz will insist on the compromises which should lead to a normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. It added that Scholz will discuss reactions to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/dw-scholz-to-focus-on-blocked-issues-in-western-balkans/

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