International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Vucic to Russian Ambassador-Pristina continues to persecute Serbs

November 2, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told the Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko that, when it comes to Kosovo, Serbia remains committed to preserving peace and stability, while the government in Pristina continues to persecute the Serb population, especially in the north, which leads to ethnic cleansing of Serbs, said a press release issued by Vucic’s office.

The President reiterated that unilateral recognition of Kosovo’s independence is absolutely unacceptable to Serbia as it is strongly committed to honoring international law and preserving national and state interests.

“The officials agreed that it is of vital importance that the Community of Serb Municipalities is established, which Pristina keeps avoiding. President Vucic thanked the Russian Federation for its consistent support to Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, both in the United Nations and in other international forums,” said the press release.

Vucic and Botsan-Kharchenko agreed that Serbia-Russia bilateral relations were developing successfully, adding they hope that the comprehensive cooperation will continue in future, said the press release.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-to-russian-ambassador-pristina-continues-to-persecute-serbs/

The Guardian-Vucic seeking to buy time, work out how to normalize ties with Kosovo

November 2, 2023

The British daily The Guardian reported that Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, has dissolved parliament and called early parliamentary and municipal elections for 17 December, less than two years after his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won the last ballot.

“We live in times that are difficult for the whole world, in times of global challenges, wars and conflicts when it is necessary that we are all united in preserving vital national and state interests of Republic of Serbia,” The Guardian quoted Vucic as saying on Wednesday.

The Serbian president is widely seen as seeking to buy time to cement his authority as he tries to work out how to best normalize ties with independent, predominantly Albanian Kosovo, which Serbia still sees as its southern province, reported The Guardian.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/the-guardian-vucic-seeking-to-buy-time-work-out-how-to-normalize-ties-with-kosovo/

Schmidt warns UN-Unprecedented attacks against Dayton Agreement

November 2, 2023

High Representative Christian Schmidt submitted his regular report to the United Nations Secretary-General, noting developments relevant to the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the period from 16 April through 15 October 2023.

As the final authority in theatre, the High Representative warned of unprecedented attacks against the Peace Agreement and the constitutional and legal order of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), including against the High Representative and the BiH Constitutional Court as their guardians. He underscored that the responsibility for the attacks rests with the authorities of the Republika Srpska (RS) headed by RS President Milorad Dodik, who is subject to international sanctions for threatening the Peace Agreement.

The High Representative resolutely dismissed the RS misinterpretations of the Dayton Agreement serving secessionist purposes, including claims that negate the continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and misrepresent its nature.

“The State of Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a union of states or a confederation. There is only one state on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that is Bosnia and Herzegovina itself”, Schmidt stressed.

He underscored that tools remain available to the international community to counter threats to the Peace Agreement. These tools must be maintained and strengthened.

The report also notes the steps taken to advance the institutional functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina and progress towards EU integration as positive developments. The High Representative made Security Council Members aware that violent attacks against returnees increased in the reporting period and that corruption remains widespread. Many challenges remain related to the adaptation to European and international standards including in the fields of democracy, rule of law, economy, and social policy.

The High Representative will deliver his next regular report to the UN Security Council in May 2024.

The full text of the High Representative’s report is available at www.ohr.int.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/schmidt-warns-un-unprecedented-attacks-against-dayton-agreement/

Republika Srpska govt to sue US companies for shutting down their websites

November 2, 2023

Republika Srpska (RS) entity Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said Thursday that the RS Government website is online with a new address and the "rs" domain.

“[It’s online but] not with the domain we paid until February 2025. It didn't work thanks to your friends,” Viskovic accused the opposition of colluding with the Americans.

Vukota Govedarica, an opposition MP in the RS parliament, asked the Prime Minister about the problems with the Government websites.

“Did you have a chance to talk to your friends from lobbying houses from the US, because you accuse the US of causing damage and problems, and that they’re our friends,” Govedarica asked.

Viskovic’s answer arrived quickly:

“Our friends, the lobbyist law firm, are preparing a lawsuit against that company, which – without notice and evidence, denied the services we had paid for until February 2025. We will file a lawsuit. Unfortunately, we have to file it in the US, in their courts. The damage was done, and the site was not visible outside the borders of Republika Srpska for 4-5 days. It was visible in the RS because we agreed with M:TEL [telecom] to have visibility in the RS through the area code number. Our people in the Government have been working day and night, we have a website in full capacity for the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Interior… We have to transfer 3,000 websites to the ‘rs’ domain, the net domain is banned. By the end of the week, the sites will be operational. Nothing was destroyed, everything is there”, Viskovic noted.

The problem that arose with the shutting down of the websites of RS institutions was overcome by switching from the domain “net” to “rs”.

As of today, the Government website is in operation at the address www.vladars.rs. All official e-mail addresses were changed, and the same was done with the e-mail addresses of the President of the RS.

The US-owned domains were discontinued for all RS Government websites due to sanctions that the US government imposed on RS President Milorad Dodik and his closest associates over corruption in the country and threats of secession.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/republika-srpska-govt-to-sue-us-companies-for-shutting-down-their-websites/

Herzegovina Neretva Canton’s healthcare workers go on strike

November 2, 2023

The general strike of healthcare workers in Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (HNK) began Thursday morning when many of them gathered in front of the University Clinical Hospital (UCH) Mostar, from where they called on the HNK Government "to sit down and prevent a disaster in healthcare."

“The HNK government humiliates health workers and violates the law. This is for every criminal complaint, for this kind of authorities, for their treatment towards us. It is the union that respects the law, forces the Government to adhere to it, and the Government that doesn’t adhere to it. This is the only government that has sent the Trade Union to court, shame on them. During the coronavirus pandemic, they clapped and said ‘Well done, workers!’. Where are they now? We have nothing to say but that we will fight until the end until the collective agreement is signed,” said the president of the Independent Union of Employees of UCH Mostar, Ivica Anic.

The Speaker of the UCH Mostar Independent Trade Union Assembly, Ana Misic, said that healthcare workers are asking for a 30 percent salary increase.

President of the Health Workers’ Union of HNK Dalibor Vukovic pointed out that more than four thousand workers throughout HNK have gone on a general strike.

“From this moment, many of our patients and citizens were left without mandatory health insurance, without a large part of the health services that belong to them under health insurance. For six full months, with no legal act, no letter, the HNK Government didn’t address the Union nor tried to do what was their legal obligation, which is to stop healthcare workers from going on a general strike,” Vukovic said.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/herzegovina-neretva-cantons-healthcare-workers-go-on-strike/

US Senator encourages EU to sanction Dodik

November 2, 2023

US Senator Jeanne Shaheen told Voice of America that the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is worrying and "the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric of Milorad Dodik, who talks about the secession of Republika Srpska from the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina".

Senator Shaheen, a member of the Foreign Policy Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, visited the Western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, in October, along with Senator Peter Welchom.

When asked by journalist Milena Djurdjic about the effectiveness of American sanctions in training Dodik's rhetoric and what other tools the administration and Congress have, Shaheen answered:

“I think we should continue encouraging the European Union countries to sanction Mr Dodik as well.” They hesitate to do so. I think they have to punish him too, and punish him severely.”

The senator added that the Office of the High Representative should continue to deal with Dodik's attempts to undermine the Dayton Agreement.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/us-senator-encourages-eu-to-sanction-dodik/

Kurti accepted CSM, Vucic asked to sign agreement after elections

November 2, 2023

Major steps toward the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) were taken at the separate meetings that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti recently had with European Union (EU) representatives in Brussels. Nova learned that both parties accepted the draft CSM statute, and that efforts are now being made to define a form that will satisfy both Belgrade and Pristina.

The portal’s sources said that, in addition to Kurti agreeing to establish the CMS, Vucic also accepted the draft and the dynamic of the implementation of the Ohrid agreement, but requested that it be signed only after December 17, which is the election day in Serbia.

Following the separate meetings in Brussels it seemed that the two sides are not even close to any kind of agreement. While the Serbian President claimed that Kosovo’s membership in the UN is unacceptable to Serbia, the information coming from Pristina was that Vucic was the one who refused to sing the agreement proposed by Brussels.

Five days later, when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in the Serbian capital, she said that progress had been made after all. Addressing a media conference, Von der Leyen explained that Belgrade is asked to accept the agreement proposed by the European Union (EU), while Pristina has the obligation to form the CSM.

“This is absolutely crucial for both to engage and to go the path of normalization. In this respect it is important that Serbia should endorse the statute of the Association/Community. Kosovo has to implement this statute and, in addition, it is essential that Serbia begins the implementation of the existing agreements and does not lose time on this,” she said.

According to Nova’s source, European Commission President made this request on the basis of the outcome of the (separate) meetings that Vucic and Kurti had with EU representatives.

“Kurti accepted the formation of the CSM and the statute that has been drafted. The draft statute was accepted by both sides and efforts are now being made to define a form that will “seal” the agreement. The statute provides for a full Kosovo framework, except for in the fields of education, health and the part that refers to transparency in budget financing from Serbia,” explained the source from the diplomatic circles.

The name will probably also be changed, the source added.

“It most likely won’t be called the Community of Serb Municipalities, and there is a chance that some other, Albanian-majority municipalities, be included in that ‘association’. The talk about some executive functions of that body, something like Republika Srpska has in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that doesn’t stand and it definitely won’t happen,” said the source.

Kurti again has unrealistic demands, Vucic delays signing due to elections

According to Nova’s source, despite the progress made, the fact that, at the meeting with Vucic and EU representatives, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti requested a formal signing of the agreement indicates that problems still exist.
On the other hand, the Serbian President stressed that a possible signing could take place only after the December 17 elections in Serbia.

“That’s where Kurti’s request for membership in the EU and NATO came, he asked that the five member states that have not recognized Kosovo do so. Vucic accepted the draft and the dynamic of the Ohrid agreement implementation, but without signing anything, which does not mean that there will be no signature. The course of the negotiations was significantly influenced by the fact that two models of agreement were proposed: One that would include a detailed statement from both parties and would carry the same weight as the signatures, and the other that would include separate agreements between the two parties with the European Union. Vucic accepted everything, including the signing of the agreement, but not with Kurti on the same document. Also, he emphasized that a signature could follow only after the elections in Serbia and suggested, among other things, that the French President visit Belgrade in the next month and a half, which coincides with the election campaign,” said the source.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/nova-rs-kurti-accepted-csm-vucic-asked-to-sign-agreement-after-elections/

BIRODI Executive Director-No normal electoral conditions without free media

November 2, 2023

Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI) Executive Director Zoran Gavrilovic said that there are no normal electoral conditions without free media.

Gavrilovic told Insider TV that the dominant topics on television stations with national coverage are those that suit the political parties in power, while only cable television stations offer diversity.

“If the media do not inform, if they don’t raise questions, analyze, and if there are no questions that are to help the voters decide who they will vote for, in line with their interests, then we have propaganda,” said Gavrilovic.

Comparing the current situation with that prior to the 2022 elections, he said there is practically no difference.

“In the 2012 election campaign we had the Democratic Party and the Serbian Progressive Party, thay had almost equal air time. We had two presidential candidates, who were more or less equally represented, with the same percentage of positive representation. And we had a kind of competition. Today we have one man, with 90 percent of positive representation and a sidelined opposition,” said Gavrilovic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/birodi-executive-director-no-normal-electoral-conditions-without-free-media/

Von der Leyen-Bosnia, a heart-shaped country in the heart of Europe

November 1, 2023

"The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the European Union, as a single, united and sovereign state," announced the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, after a meeting with the Chair of the country’s Council of Ministers, Borjana Kristo.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina, a heart-shaped country, is located in the heart of Europe,” Von der Leyen wrote in her X (formerly Twitter) post.

In an earlier post, she wrote:

 “We want Bosnia and Herzegovina to succeed on its path to EU accession. The goal now should be to make clear progress on the 14 key priorities that you know well. We are here to support you in getting closer to the EU”.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/von-der-leyen-bosnia-a-heart-shaped-country-in-the-heart-of-europe/

Elite Kosovo Police units protest in Pristina

November 1, 2023

Members of two elite Kosovo Police units protested on Wednesday in front of the government headquarters in Pristina to express their dissatisfaction over a decision to cut their hazard pay.

Several dozen police officers from the Special Interventions Unit and Explosives Disposal Unit stood in front of the building calling Prime Minister Albin Kurti to increase their hazard pay and change their pay grades.

They said that they would not give up on the demands and called the Prime Minister to implement them. “Prime Minister, you know the danger and threats we face, not only on duty but in private so don’t play gaes with our dignity, the lives of our families. We proved several times in the past including when we neutralized the terrorist group on September 24 (at the Banjska monastery),” a statement by the protesters said.

The government proposed 150 Euro a month in hazard pay and other dues but the protesters are demanding payments of 50 percent of their monthly salaries.

A spokesman for the protesters told reporters that both units are trained to meet top international standards and are certified to combat terrorism, hostage rescue and high-risk interventions.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/elite-kosovo-police-units-protest-in-pristina/

Vucic supports election ticket bearing his name

November 1, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gave his signature in support of the election ticket that carries his name: Aleksandar Vucic – Serbia Must Not Stop.

“I believe we will collect 40-50,000 signatures, maybe more, on this one night,” he said and thanked the people waiting in line to affix their signatures. Election tickets require 10,000 signatures to be registered for elections. They have a deadline of 20 days prior to the vote to register.

Vucic said that he believes voters will look to the future and recognize achievements because Serbia under the current authorities “has gone a significant way and it’s important to continue even more strongly”.

The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which Vucic headed until recently, has decided to form a coalition with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) headed by convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj. Vucic and a number of SNS officials were in the SRS during the 1990s before breaking away to form the SNS.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-supports-election-ticket-bearing-his-name/

Djilas expects to win seat in parliament

November 1, 2023

Serbian opposition leader Dragan Djilas said on Wednesday that he expects to be elected to parliament on December 17 because he is high on his Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) ticket.

Djilas told Radio TV Vojvodina that the SSP leadership decided to have his deputy party leader Marinika Tepic topping the election ticket because she is currently the most popular politician in the country.

He said that the Serbian Against Violence election ticket, which his party is on, has been completed with quotas allocated for each party on it.

Source;  https://n1info.rs/english/news/djilas-expects-to-win-seat-in-parliament/

Kurti to ICRC official: missing persons a priority

November 1, 2023

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti told a senior International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) official that war-time missing persons are his government’s priority.

A press release after Kurti’s meeting with ICRC Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Ariane Bauer, quoted the Prime Minister as accusing Serbia of failing to provide reliable information about the fate of missing persons. “The lack of cooperation by Serbia is a big obstacle in discovering the fate of missing persons,” it said.

Kurti said that the opening of Serbia’s state archives is important and blamed the forcible disappearances during the Kosovo war on Serbia.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kurti-to-icrc-official-missing-persons-a-priority/

Economy minister says Zijin pillar of Serbian economy

November 1, 2023

Economy Minister Slobodan Cvetkovic said on Wednesday that the Chinese-owned Serbia Zijin Copper company is a pillar of the Serbian economy.

“The investment was a strategic partnership between the Zijin Group and the Republic of Serbia and is not just a sign of trust but also confirmation that Serbia attracts significant investors and can achieve a prosperous future,” a ministry press release quoted Cvetkovic as saying during a visit to the company in the town of Bor.

The minister said that Zijin increased the number of employees at the Bor Mining and Smelting Basin by 25 percent and reported triple the income reported before the Basin was privatized. “Last year the record-high profits were 341 million Dollars with investments of 795 million Dollars,” Cvetkovic said.

He said the government will support the development of the company and mine.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/economy-minister-says-zijin-pillar-of-serbian-economy/

A third of Serbians see US as enemy

November 1, 2023

The Institute for European Affairs said on Wednesday that 39 percent of polled Serbians see the United States as an enemy and almost half think it’s important to have good relations with both Russia and the US.

The poll showed that they get their news and other information about the US from TV, the Internet and social networks, it said and added that most of the polled think that President Aleksandar Vucic is responsible for improved relations with Washington followed by Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. The polled believe a visit by US President Joe Biden would improve relations and that resolving the Kosovo issue and membership in the European Union are the key issues in improving relations.

The Institute said that 28 percent of the polled believe Serbia-US relations will improve while 38 percent don’t think they will.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/a-third-of-serbians-see-us-as-enemy/

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