International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Kurti-I was ready to sign, but the other party refused

February 27, 2023

I was ready to sign (the agreement) but the other party refused, said Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti following a new round of Belgrade-Pristina talks within the European Union (EU) – mediated dialogue held Monday in Brussels.

Kurti said after the meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that an agreement has been reached on the content of the European proposal for the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

“That was confirmation that the European proposal is acceptable and unchangeable. Progress will be related to the implementation plan. We are on the right track and going in the direction of normalizing relations. It is an agreement of symmetry, good neighborliness and cooperation in the future,” said Kurti.

“I did not sign because the other party was not ready to sign it. I think it’s a pity that it was not signed tonight, because we reached an agreement,” said Kurti.

Asked if he agrees with the implementation of the agreement on the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM), Kurti said he had already commented on this issue.

“That is Article 10, the last sentence of the practically last article and I have already answered that,” he said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kurti-i-was-ready-to-sign-but-the-other-party-refused/

Borrell-Vucic, Kurti agreed no further discussions needed on EU proposal

February 27, 2023

Following talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Vucic and Kurti have agreed that that no further discussions are needed on the EU proposal.

Since both leaders have agreed that no new discussions are needed, the text of the agreement will be published, he added.

Borrell said the agreement “is above all for the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia.”

“It sets out that people can move freely between Kosovo and Serbia using their own passports, which will be recognized, it entails that people can study and work without wondering whether their diplomas and where they obtained them may be an issue. The agreement can bring new economic opportunities, through increased financial assistance, through business cooperation and new investments in Kosovo and Serbia. It provides for better employment opportunities for everyone in Kosovo and Serbia, without unnecessary bureaucracy and it also means more trade because certificates needed for import and export will not be an issue any longer. For the Serbs in Kosovo it means more security, certainty and predictability when it comes to their protection and rights in Kosovo, including for the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbs’ cultural and religious heritage sites. I hope the agreement can also be the basis to build the much needed trust and overcome the legacy of the past. The parties have expressed their readiness to proceed with the implementation of the agreement,” said Borrell.

“Further negotiations are needed to determine specific implementation modalities of the provisions. High Representative Borrell will convene another meeting between the two leaders in the course of March with the aim to finalize the discussions on the Implementation Annex, which will guide the implementation phase of the Agreement,” said the EU statement.

The EU reminded the parties of their obligation to implement all past dialogue agreements that remain valid and binding, said Borrell.

“Until the middle of March, European Union special representative Miroslav Lajcak will have to go again to Kosovo and Serbia, to visit them, to follow up on their discussions and to prepare for the next high-level meeting. We expect the parties to engage constructively in this process. It is very positive that both parties have agreed to refrain from any uncoordinated actions that could lead to renewed tensions on the ground and derail these negotiations,” said Borrell.

The agreement is also important for the security, stability and prosperity of the entire region, and it shows to all of us that progress is possible, stressed Borrell.

“Progress was made today and I commend the parties on their engagement. At the same time, more work is needed to ensure that what was accepted today by the parties will be implemented,” said the EU foreign policy chief.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/borrell-vucic-kurti-agreed-no-further-discussions-needed-on-eu-proposal/

Vucic-We will continue the talks, EU expects something by March 24

February 27, 2023

Following talks in Brussels with European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, EU Special Envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that the discussion on Monday was not about the European proposal for resolving the Kosovo issue but about the implementation of the previously reached agreements, primarily the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) in Kosovo.

“We had a difficult meeting as usual, I believe there will be many more meetings in the coming period because, if I understood well, we are to meet in the territory of North Macedonia on the 18th (of March), that is when Borrell will be visiting the region, before that we should discuss with Mr. Lajcak issues regarding the implementation,” said Vucic.

Vucic said the formation of the CSM is a priority in the implementation of all previously reached agreements, adding that this will be emphasized in the European Union statement.

“I insisted on the CSM, as did the European representatives. I think Mr. Kurti was not prepared to accept this now, as for whether he will be in future, we will see,” said Vucic, voicing his fear that the two sides could remain “stuck in something that was signed a long time ago.”

He said that of all the big public talk in Belgrade and Pristina, nothing special came to pass on Monday.

“Mr. Kurti came for the signing of something, that something was not discussed. I am waiting to see the implementation plan that primarily concerns all the previously signed agreements. What has to be at the beginning of that roadmap is something that someone does not want to fulfill, that is the essence, that is the Community of Serb Municipalities,” said Vucic.

The Serbian President also said that the European mediators want to have a report on whether Belgrade and Pristina have achieved anything by March 23 and 24, when a European Council meeting is due, and that the European integration progress of both will depend on this.

“I will cancel some of my trips and foreign policy meetings so I could speak with Lajcak, to prepare for the 18th (of March), so Serbia isn’t denounced on the 23rd and 24th (of March),” said Vucic.

Asked by N1 about the powers of the CSM, Vucic said he would supply N1 on Tuesday with all four documents on the CSM that have been signed and accepted.

“There are 22 principles that are of crucial importance for us, of crucial importance for the Serbian people. If someone incredibly wise were to come up with the idea of suspending payment transactions with Pristina, how would we pay salaries to professors, doctors,” asked Vucic, noting that the signed documents cover the areas of health, education, spatial planning and „many other important things“ for the Serbian people.

He said he was prepared to discuss with Kurti personal documents, regional representation and all other issues of vital importance, but that the Community of Serb Municipalities comes first.

Asked by Albanian reporters if Serbia is prepared to recognize Kosovo’s independence, Vucic said Serbia is a member of the UN and that it always supports international order, the UN Charter but also its own Constitution.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-we-will-continue-the-talks-eu-expects-something-by-march-24/

Montenegro’s Constitutional Court unblocked, judges elected

February 27, 2023

The Montenegrin Parliament elected Monday three Constitutional Court judges formally unblocking this institution.

Three of the candidates were backed by 77 MPs in the 81-seat parliament, while the fourth candidate did not get the votes of the required two-thirds majority, and the Parliament will hold a second-round vote on the fourth candidate in a month’s time at the earliest.

The parliamentary majority and the opposition previously agreed on the election of the three candidates, Dragana Djuranovic, Snezana Armenko and Momirka Tesic, but the minority parties failed to agree on a joint candidate.

Montenegro’s Constitutional Court has been without a quorum since September last year because it only had three of its seven judges.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/montenegro-s-constitutional-court-unblocked-judges-elected/

Albanians seek community of Albanian municipalities in N. Macedonia

February 27, 2023

The Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, said that the proposal for the formation of a community of Albanian municipalities in this state is unacceptable, frivolous, non-European and non-American.

Kovacevski said this when he was asked to comment on the idea that was initiated by the Albanian’s party Alternative, Sputnik reported.

“We also reacted to this as a political party yesterday, we said it was a frivolous idea. Relations in our country are defined by the Ohrid framework agreement, which was signed by the representatives of all political parties – both Macedonians’ and Albanians’, and which is guaranteed by the US and the European Union,” said Kovacevski.

He explained that, on the basis of this agreement, North Macedonia is a paragon of coexistence, an example of how the rights of all ethnic communities are exercised.

“On the basis of this agreement institutions were built in our country to protect and improve the rights of smaller communities to the highest level compared to all other countries in Europe,” said Kovacevski.

He said the Brussels Agreement, signed by Belgrade and Pristina, envisages the Albanian side’s obligation to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities, adding that this document, signed by the two sides, resolves problems from the past.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/albanians-seek-community-of-albanian-municipalities-in-n-macedonia/

Security Committee-No SAF members are in Wagner

February 27, 2023

The Serbian Parliament Security Services Control Committee dismissed media reports on the presence of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner in Serbia.

The Committee said that no member of the Serbian Armed Forces, active or retired, participates in this group’s activities.

At its session held Monday Committee members said such “completely untrue” media information is “part of the activities aimed at discrediting Serbia and its state leadership which is why it was necessary to rebut such information,” said a press release issued by the Parliament.

 Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/security-committee-no-saf-members-are-in-wagner/

Kurti-Belgrade-Pristina agreement possible by yearend

February 27, 2023

Prior to a new round of talks in Brussels, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that Kosovo and Serbia could reach an agreement on normalizing relations by the end of the year, which would be centered on mutual recognition.

Kosovo and Serbia aim to conclude a landmark agreement on normalizing relations “this year”, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview but made clear it would not be smooth sailing, despite increased Western engagement.

“We need normalization of relations, and this can be achieved with mutual recognition as the centerpiece,” Kurti said, zeroing in on a key problem: Belgrade has been adamant it would not formally recognize Kosovo’s independence of its former province, although it may agree to a ‘de facto’ recognition.

Kurti’s comments came ahead of a high-level meeting in Brussels on Monday (27 February), where leaders of Serbia and Kosovo are expected to endorse a deal to normalize strained relations, reported the Euractiv portal.

It said that the updated EU proposal, received by both parties before the start of a European Union (EU)-Western Balkan summit in Tirana last December but not yet made public, is said to include mutual recognition of official documents, increased financial aid and other measures to improve people’s lives in both countries.

Asked about the prospect of concluding a deal by the end of this year, according to the timeline that EURACTIV understands is spelt out in the EU proposal, Kurti said, “certainly the goal is to get this agreement this year”.

“What has been left to negotiate – and it won’t be easy at all – is a mechanism for implementation, international guarantees and time sequencing of what, how and when,” Kurti said.

Aside from the mutual recognition, the most contentious issue is a planned association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo, which Pristina fears could create a breakaway region and Kurt has been reluctant to accept, although Serbia and West point out it had been agreed a decade ago.

Leaders of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority argue such a body would give Belgrade an outsized influence in their country while Belgrade says it is needed to protect the rights of ethnic Serbs, said the portal.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic “is still after territorial ethno-nationalism,” Kurti said when asked about his counterpart’s rhetoric.

“Basically, he would use the Association of Serb Municipalities as a new name for Republika Srpska,” he said, referring to the highly autonomous Serb entity created in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the 1991-95 war.

“On the other hand, I hope that once we open the talks, relying on the EU proposal, we are going to increase the trust, because agreements are not implementable if there is no trust, so we need a certain level of bona fide,” said Kurti.

He assessed that “signing the agreements and implementing the agreements in the Balkans have been two different planets, and we need to bring them into the same continent,” adding that “two-thirds of the agreements signed in Brussels throughout previous decades have not been implemented by Serbia”.

The Kosovo Prime Minister said previous proposals were too complex and detailed and therefore difficult to “sell to the public,” whereas the latest one has only one major stumbling block.

“One out of 33 agreements did not pass the test of our constitution because it is referred to as a mono-ethnic association,” Kurti said, responding to increasing pressure from the EU and the US to create the association of Serb municipalities.

“We should be very careful not to do agreements, which failed the test of human rights of the constitution of democratic and republican order, but at the same time, we should bear in mind that all over the Balkans you have national minorities – their rights cannot be identic,” Kurti said.

He noted that the EU proposal must not cherrypick from the 33 unimplemented agreements, adding that mutual recognition must underpin the entire process.

“On the other hand, at the center, there must be mutual recognition – it is not possible to serve coffee without a cup – whatever you do in terms of rights and mechanisms the state is a platform which ensures those rights and those mechanisms,” Kurti told Euractiv.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kurti-belgrade-pristina-agreement-possible-by-yearend/

Hill on Vucic-Kurti meeting-I do not expect fast results

February 27, 2023

Prior to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s Monday meeting in Brussels, US Ambassador to Serbia Christopher Hill said he is not expecting fast results.

Hill said the US believes that the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) in Kosovo is very important and added that his country is involved in the process and that US Special Envoy Gabriel Escobar will also be in Brussels on Monday.

Hill said the meeting in Brussels, at which Vucic and Kurti are expected to respond to the European proposal for the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, is an important one, and that it testifies to Europe’s commitment to finding a solution that would benefit everyone.

The Ambassador, however, said he is not expecting fast results.

The Brussels process certainly does not satisfy people who expect to be immediately satisfied with the outcome, said Hill, adding he believes that progress needs to be made because there has been none for too many years.

He stressed that, in spite of the fact that the meeting will be held in Brussels, the US continues to actively participate in the dialogue. Hill added that the US and the European Union (EU) are closely cooperating on this issue.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/hill-on-vucic-kurti-meeting-i-do-not-expect-fast-results/

CRTA-Only 25 percent of citizens believe democracy in Serbia is functioning

February 27, 2023

A majority of citizens rate the functioning of democracy in Serbia as poor, with only 25 percent describing it as positive, says a report of the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA) observation mission.

According to the survey entitled “Views of the citizens of Serbia on participation in democratic processes in 2022,” 21 percent of respondents said the Serbian Parliament is doing good work.

It also said that 52 percent of respondents believe that, despite all the difficulties, democracy is the best political system for Serbia, while only 31 percent of respondents think that changes in the country are possible.

The survey results show that 53 percent of respondents see politics as an arena in which all citizens should participate, however, only 15 percent believe they are capable of engaging in politics.

According to the research, 20 percent of citizens have participated in an activity aimed at resolving problems in the local community.

The report also said that 43 percent of respondents believe that civil society organizations, that is, non-governmental organizations, protect the public interest and fight for changes in society.

The phone survey was conducted on a sample of 1,026 respondents.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/crta-only-25-percent-of-citizens-believe-democracy-in-serbia-is-functioning/

Vucic on departure to Brussels-There will be no capitulation

February 27, 2023

Prior to his departure to Brussels Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Monday that there will be no capitulation or return to the nineties, and that Serbia will go forward no matter how difficult that may be.

“In 15 minutes we leave for Brussels, we have completed the final preparations. I want to thank the part of Serbia that trusts its state leadership and believes that we will do what is best for our county,” Vucic wrote on Instagram.

He added that there will be no capitulation and no return to the nineties, and that Serbia will go forward no matter how difficult that may be.

“And those who are preparing in advance to attack us by saying we will sign something and that, by doing that, we will be traitors, and they already know that we are guilty and that we are returning to the nineties, I can only tell them that they needn’t worry,” said Vucic.

Vucic will meet Monday in Brussels with European Union (EU) Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, following which he will also meet with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. The topic of the meetings is the European, that is, the Franco-German plan for Kosovo.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-on-departure-to-brussels-there-will-be-no-capitulation/

Kurti to Zelenskyy-Serbia wants our homes, like Russia wants yours

February 27, 2023

“There is nothing Russia and Serbia would want more than to spread the conflict in Ukraine to the Western Balkans. Your purpose is our purpose, your struggle is our struggle,” Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti wrote in a letter to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the occasion of the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, Kossev reported.

Kurti told Zelenskyy that countries are often congratulated on anniversaries of independence and liberation, but seldom on “an anniversary of continuous resistance.”

“We are two peoples that have lost many of our best citizens due to our neighboring countries’ imperialist plans to seize land. Even though we are geographically distant, and have very different population sizes, our histories in the past century have remarkable similarities. It is in this historic circumstance that our paths cross,” Kurti wrote.

The Kosovo Prime Minister said that the Albanians’ resistance began 23 years ago, and that NATO helped them “end Serbia’s genocide cycle.”

“Nineteen world democracies assembled to stop Serbia’s genocide against our people. You are now on the front lines of a new war that must end Russia’s genocide against your people and its imperialist attempts to take over your territory. And again you are supported by the democracies, members of NATO, as they had supported us,” added Kurti.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kurti-to-zelenskyy-serbia-wants-our-homes-like-russia-wants-yours/

Adjali (UNHCR)-Serbia has unequivocal support for Ukrainian refugees

February 27, 2023

The new representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Serbia, Soufiane Adjali, said that, according to official data, 148,500 refugees from Ukraine have so far entered Serbia of whom approximately 145,513 continued on to other countries.

Serbia has shown unequivocal support for Ukrainian refugees, and UNHCR especially welcomed the decision of the Serbian Government to provide them with temporary protection. We heard that the refugees feel very welcome in the new environment, Adjali told the daily Politika.

He said Serbia has been showing, for decades, great compassion and support for people forced to leave their homes.

The destruction and the war in Ukraine resulted in a third of its citizens leaving their homes, said Adjali, explaining that about eight million refugees found refuge in the surrounding countries, while another 5.3 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/adjali-unhcr-serbia-has-unequivocal-support-for-ukrainian-refugees/

PM expects difficult talks in Brussels-It won’t be easy, red lines are clear

February 26, 2023

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on the occasion of the talks with Pristina in Brussels on Monday, that it will certainly not be an easy day but that Serbia's red lines are clear, namely the non-recognition of Kosovo and the non-approval of its entry into the UN.

“I believe that (Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic) will be able to preserve the national interests of the state of Serbia,” said Brnabic.

PM pointed out that after this round of talks in Brussels she expects the formation of the Community of the Serb Municipalities after 10 years.

She also said that if Vucic wanted to recognise Kosovo and capitulation, he should have just done nothing, because his predecessors #sold, capitulated, betrayed and gave what no one asked for.”

When asked about the letter from France, Germany and Italy addressed to the President, the Prime Minister said that the letter was addressed to the Presidency and that it would not be alright for her to comment on it.

Brnabic said that this year even US President Joe Biden said in his National Day congratulation that dialogue leads to mutual recognition.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/pm-expects-difficult-talks-in-brussels-it-wont-be-easy-red-lines-are-clear/

EU and USA-Vucic and Kurti should accept EU plan in principle

February 26, 2023

European Union and the United Stated expect the leaders of Belgrade and Pristina to accept on Monday the European proposal as a principle, a starting point for a complete, legally binding settlement of relations between the two parties and to start working out how to implement it within a few months, with the inevitable formation of the Community of the Serb Municipalities.

Brussels officials informed about the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue told reporters behind closed doors that President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti have made it known that they will present their „red lines“ and conditions regarding the European proposal, known as as the Franco-German plan.

European mediators, however, underlined that the EU and the US are firmly convinced that the “European, German-French proposal” has this in mind and offers solutions, while Washington stated that the final agreement would mean important concessions and “painful compromises for both sides.”

Therefore, the content of the EU proposal, which was determined in the annex and has not been published, will not be discussed immediately, but rather the ways and steps to implement it as soon as possible.

Officials in Brussels further explained their position that the acceptance and implementation of this agreement with Belgrade means factual recognition of Kosovo’s independence, but not officially, since this is not required in the “starting points and principles” for the agreement.

Belgrade’s red lines

As announced Vucic will explain Belgrade’s “red lines” on Monday, and this primarily refers to the fact that Serbia will never recognise Kosovo or agree to its entry into the UN.

Belgrade demands that the formation of the Community of the Serb Communities starts immediately, at the same time, as stipulated by the Brussels agreements of 2013 and 2015, which Kurti has now for the first time accepted in principle as a topic of negotiations, but demands that the important remarks made on the agreement by the Constitutional Court of Kosovo are taken into account, which was also mentioned by the Americans.

Kurti also persistently repeats that the goal for Pristina can only be “mutual recognition and reciprocity with Belgrade.”

Brussels officials therefore say that they do not expect the Monday meeting to end quickly, because that would mean that there would be no results but that “it lasts as long as possible,” because “that could also mean that there will be success.”

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/eu-and-usa-vucic-and-kurti-should-accept-eu-plan-in-principle/

Vucic says Serbia has no time to waste and must build a secure future

February 26, 2023

President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia has no time to waste, and that it must build a secure future for new generations.

Vucic published an Instagram post, where he summarised the activities of the previous week and announced the implementation of numerous projects.

He wrote that Serbia is waiting for the signing of new contracts and bringing in more investors, because as he pointed out, the country “has no time to waste, regardless of the complex global situation.”

He assessed that the arms fair in Abu Dhabi showed that Serbia is a „serious player“, and reminded that the „Continental“ factory, one of the giants in the auto industry, opened in the northern city of Novi Sad.

He said that this factory represents a paradigm of the vision of success and progress of Serbia

“And that vision is to become undisputed regional leaders in the economy, infrastructure, healthcare, education, culture, new technologies, because we have the strength and intellect for that,” said Vucic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-says-serbia-has-no-time-to-waste-and-must-build-a-secure-future/

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