International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

FIAT staff meet PM to resolve dispute with Stelantis

June 3, 2022
FIAT Serbia employees met with outgoing Prime Minister Ana Brnabic for a second time on Friday in an attempt to find a solution to their dispute with the Stelantis company which took over the car maker in Kragujevac.
Stelantis is set to start production of its electric FIAT Panda in Kragujevac but its management decided that 1,541 of the FIAT Chrysler plant’s 2,016 employees are surplus staff, offering them two-year contracts for jobs abroad or redundancy pay. The same was offered to the 90 percent of redundant workers at the FIAT Plastics plant. FIAT employees have staged protests in front of the plant and met with the prime minister to voice their grievances.
Union spokesmen told reporters after Friday’s meeting that the only thing agreed is that employees who choose jobs abroad will have a job waiting for them when they get back on the new Stelantis platform. They said they expect more solutions in writing from the company and warned that a solution is not near.
The union spokesmen said that they were told the government would continue talking to Stelantis and that Prime Minister Brnabic would go to Kragujevac. They said that the whole process was frozen to June 20.
Several hundred FIAT employees staged a protest in front of the plant entrance on Tuesday, preventing managers from entering. The FIAT Chrysler plant produced the 500 L model for several years with the plant operating with breaks of several weeks at a time.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/fiat-staff-meet-pm-to-resolve-dispute-with-stelantis/

Bislimi-Belgrade, Pristina close to energy agreement

June 3, 2022
Kosovo’s chief negotiator Besnik Bislimi told N1 on Friday that Belgrade and Pristina were close to reaching agreement on energy but had failed to agree on a solution for each others’ vehicle license plates.
Bislimi blamed the Serbian negotiation team in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue for the failure to resolve the dispute over license plates. Pristina banned Serbia-registered vehicles from entering Kosovo and a temporary solution was found after weeks of talks to use blank white stickers to cover Serbian state insignia.
Bislimi said that the dialogue is not going ahead at the speed that Pristina hoped for. “It’s going slow mainly because of the strategy evidently chosen by the Belgrade negotiators which creates obstacles. That includes the energy agreement and license plates,” he said, adding that he expects the Serbian side to take the final step for the energy agreement.
He said that the Serbian negotiators refused to chose one of the offered options to resolve the license plate dispute. “There were three options and if both delegations chose different options the top officials would merge the two but the Serbian side refused to choose and opted for obstruction,” Bislimi said.
According to Bislimi, his Belgrade counterparty Petar Petkovic promised to come to Brussels with a proposal for a lasting solution in line with the best European Union standards but made no proposal. He said Pristina is drafting an alternative plan with elements of reciprocity.
Bislimi said that Belgrade was creating a problem artificially over the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM). “The fuss being made by Belgrade and the obstacles to implementation are completely artificial since Serbia has not implemented twice as many agreements as Kosovo. They do not have the credibility to demand anything from Kosovo. Belgrade agreed with the former Kosovo government to treat the issue as part of an overall package,” Bislimi said.
He said that Kosovo is under obligation to implement existing agreements but added that some signed agreements are just temporary.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/bislimi-belgrade-pristina-close-to-energy-agreement/

State Department-Cases of anti-Semitism in Serbia

June 3, 2022
The US State Department 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom warned of anti-Semitism in Serbia, Belgrade-based Beta news agency reported.
The Report, which covers the period from January 1 to December 31 2021, said that anti-Semitic incidents have been reported in Serbia. The State Department quoted a report by the International Republican Institute on anti-Semitism in the Western Balkans which said that monitored news sources rarely manifested anti-Semitism, but that it was present on social media in the form of alleged conspiracy theories. Jewish community leaders said that online anti-Semitic claims spread during the COVID pandemic including on web sites maintained by self-defined alleged patriotic groups. It said that there were no reported prosecutions.
The Report said that the Serbian government continued to return heir-less and unclaimed properties seized in WW 2 to the Jewish community and praised the construction of a memorial center in Staro Sajmiste, the site of the WW2 Lager Semlin concentration camp, noting that the Serbian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and equality of all religious groups.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/state-department-cases-of-anti-semitism-in-serbia/

Zakharova confirms Lavrov’s visit to Belgrade

June 3, 2022
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed on Friday that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would visit Belgrade on June 6-7.
A Foreign Ministry Twitter post quoted Zakharova as saying that Lavrov is scheduled to meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during the working visit.
The Russian Foreign Minister will meet with his Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovic, Parliament Speaker and leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) Ivica Dacic and Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) head Patriarch Porfirije, it added.
The Nova.rs portal reported earlier this week that Lavrov would visit Belgrade next week prior to a visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who is reported to be considering the possibility of canceling his visit to the Serbian capital. Deutsche Welle said on Friday that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ cabinet confirmed that he would visit Serbia on June 10 on the first leg of his tour of the Balkans.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/zakharova-confirms-lavrovs-visit-to-belgrade/

CoE Commissioner Mijatovic ends visit to Kosovo

June 3, 2022
Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic ended her visit to Kosovo following meeting with top government and international organization officials in Pristina and Mitrovica North.
A CoE press release said that the May 30-June 3 mission focused on transitional justice and social cohesion, freedom of the media, and major aspects of women’s rights and gender equality.
“The Commissioner addressed some of the challenges to the effective protection of the human rights of all communities in Kosovo, and the progress made in this field since her predecessor’s mission in 2017,” it said and added that her discussions focused on the search for missing persons, the fight against impunity for wartime crimes, access to effective and adequate reparations for victims of war-related sexual violence, the language rights of non-majority communities, and major obstacles to sustainable returns.
“The Commissioner noted with interest Kosovo’s vibrant and diverse media landscape and raised issues concerning the safety of journalists and obstacles to their work, ethical journalism, and public service media. Finally, as regards women’s rights and gender equality, the high rate of unemployment among women, access to education and the protection of victims of domestic violence were among the issues of interest to the Commissioner,” the press release said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coe-commissioner-mijatovic-ends-visit-to-kosovo/

Kosovo police arrest Serb war crimes suspect

June 3, 2022
The Kosovo police are reported to have arrested Thursday a Serb suspected of war crimes against civilians in the 1998-1999 period.
The suspect was identified and arrested by the war crimes investigation unit, the KoSSev portal reported.
No further details have been released but prosecutor Blerim Isufaj told the Kallxo portal that the suspect was arrested in the village of Djakovac and that he is suspected of committing war crimes against civilians in the region of Pec.
The Serbian Government Office for Kosovo said that the suspect is Caslav Jolic (54), that he never had any problems visiting Kosovo in the past 23 years, and that he was arrested on suspicion of having allegedly harassed a civilian in Kosovo in 1998. Jolic was arrested and taken to Pristina under suspicious excuses and circumstances, said the Office, which is providing Jolic with legal assistance.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kosovo-police-arrest-serb-war-crimes-suspect/

Kurti refuses invitation to Open Balkan summit

June 3, 2022
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is reported to have refused an invitation to attend the Open Balkan initiative summit in North Macedonia next week.
According to Radio Free Europe, Kurti was invited to the summit by North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski but wrote back to say he would not come to Ohrid on June 7-8. Kurti said in his letter that Pristina is committed to the Berlin Process, an initiative by Germany and other European Union member states to promote regional cooperation in the region. The Open Balkan initiative was launched by Serbian President Alekandar Vucic, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and then North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to create a common economic region.
The Kosovo Prime Minister said that the Open Balkan initiative is a harmful regional initiative with no vision. Kosovo does not want to join in because Serbia is not treating it as an equal side and independent country.
Kurti said that Kosovo and North Macedonia should cooperate to prevent Serbia from promoting Russia and Chinese interests in the region. He also warned that Serbia was constantly denying Kosovo’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and blocking equal opportunities for its population. He said that the countries of the region should remain committed to the European Union and trans-Atlantic relations.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kurti-refuses-invitation-to-open-balkan-summit/

Belgrade gets fresh bomb threats

June 3, 2022
New anonymous bomb threats were sent to several locations in Belgrade, including the University administration building and the Belgrade Zoo.
The University Administration building and the Zoo were evacuated and all locations were searched by bomb squads, reported the media.
The portal Telegraf said that it received a threatening email listing the locations at which explosive devices were allegedly planted, including the homes of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, PM Ana Brnabic and Minister of Internal Affairs Aleksandar Vulic, as well as the embassies of Russia, Belarus, China, Cuba and Sudan.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/belgrade-gets-fresh-bomb-threats/

Serbia ranks poorly on Electoral Integrity Index

June 3, 2022
The latest global research on electoral integrity ranks Serbia very low. Of all European countries only Russia and Belarus have lower ratings.
The latest international research report on electoral integrity (Electoral Integrity Project – EIP) provides a global assessment of the quality of national elections around the world from 2012-21, based on nearly 500 elections across 170 countries, the portal The Conversation reported.
The report classifies Serbia as a “closed democracy” and places it at the very bottom of the perceptions of electoral integrity index, with just Russia and Belarus behind it.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbia-ranks-poorly-on-electoral-integrity-index/

Vucic-Complications with Lavrov’s visit, Scholz not coming would be bad news

June 3, 2022
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at the GLOBSEC Forum in Bratislava that the situation regarding Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov’s announced visit to Belgrade is getting complicated.
“It’s getting complicated, it definitely is, I am still not ready to talk about it but yes – it is getting complicated, the question is how he will come…we will see,” Vucic told pro-regime TV Pink.
Asked if it would be “bad news” if German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cancelled his visit to Belgrade, announced by the media for June 10, Vucic said: “That would be a tragedy…imagine if the German Chancellor was planned to pay a visit to a country and then says he does not want to come or that he cannot come… of course that would be bad news.”
Vucic said he hopes this will not happen. „There is always a possibility, but I hope that it won’t happen, but we will see, first we will see if Lavrov will come, then we will see… there are also the reaction of other countries,” he said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-complications-with-lavrovs-visit-scholz-not-coming-would-be-bad-news/

Coronavirus UPDATE: No deaths, 242 new cases

May 2, 2022
The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily bulletin on Thursday there were no deaths from coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, and that the total number of deaths stands at 16,083.
It said that 7.058 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 242 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,727,801 with 2,017,945 confirmed cases.
The bulletin said that there are 124 hospitalized cases, including 10 patients on ventilators.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-no-deaths-242-new-cases/

Croatia pursues friendly, well-intentioned policy towards Bosnia

May 2, 2022
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that Croatia pursued a friendly, good-neighbourly and well-intentioned policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Referring to a draft resolution being circulated in the Bundestag, which calls on Croatia to distance itself from separatists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that is, from the Bosnian Serb and Croat leaders, Milorad Dodik and Dragan Covic, the Croatian PM said that the draft had been prepared by German parliamentarians from left parties.
The proposed document is being drawn up by a group of left parties and Bundestag members of Bosniak background are involved so the draft is not as it is by chance. It is well known who is behind the document and it concerns the German parliament, said Plenkovic.
He went on to say that Croatia’s policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina is “friendly, good-neighbourly and well-intentioned.”
Croatia 1st trade partner, second biggest investor in Bosnia
Plenkovic said that Croatia is the second biggest investor in Bosnia and Herzegovina and  the first partner in terms of the volume of trade in goods and services.
Croatia helps Bosnia and Herzegovina in all the aspects and strongly advocates the equality of the Croats as one of the constituent peoples, said the PM.
“We will continue pursuing that policy. We have been doing it for years and not just over the past year and a half, when the need to tackle the issue of BiH Croats has been brought home to some,” Plenkovic said.
“We deal with that all the time, in an engaged and systematic manner, regarding constitutional changes, the electoral law, economic support,” he added.
In that context, Plenkovic mentioned Croatia’s financial support to the university and hospital in Mostar, the construction of a theatre in that city, numerous scholarships, support to cultural projects, support to religious communities, work on border demarcation, bridge construction, and the construction of energy infrastructure. That has been the essence of the government and (HDZ) party’s policy over the past 30 years, he said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/pm-croatia-pursues-friendly-well-intentioned-policy-towards-bosnia/

OSCE urges Bosnian authorities to adopt Justice Sector Reform Strategy

May 2, 2022
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina has called on the local authorities to “swiftly adopt and then effectively implement” the Draft Justice Sector Reform Strategy 2021-2027, which provides the institutional framework that is an essential component of wider, much-needed justice sector reform in the country.
The OSCE recalled it provided support to the Bosnian Ministry of Justice in the period March-May 2022 in organising five consultative meetings across the country on the Strategy, which was a part of the wider process designed to resolve stagnation around justice sector reform and to advance the adoption of the Strategy, while also enabling more inclusive and informed participation of relevant actors.
“Crucially, the Strategy ensures ownership by local institutions over the delivery of concrete inputs and results in relation to justice sector reform in BiH. The Mission urges authorities to swiftly adopt and then effectively implement the Strategy, which provides the institutional framework that is an essential component of wider, much-needed justice sector reform in BiH,” the OSCE said in a statement.
It also noted that the European Union Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Office of the EU Special Representative have also been following the process closely.
“In its 2021 Country Report on BiH, the European Commission urged BiH to adopt a new Justice Sector Reform Strategy and the related action plan in the coming year, to replace those that expired in 2018, as part of the authorities’ commitment to the citizens of BiH, who deserve an independent, accountable, and efficient justice sector. Judicial reform is further a crucial component of the EU accession process,” the OSCE stressed, adding it would continue supporting the process in partnership with the EU's office in BiH.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/osce-urges-bosnian-authorities-to-adopt-justice-sector-reform-strategy/

First BiH media receives bomb threat: BN television evacuated

May 2, 2022
The report about a planted bomb also reached BN television in the Bosnian city of Bijeljina.
Unofficially, N1 learned that all the employees of BN TV were evacuated after 12 o'clock.
BN is the only media that received a report of an alleged bomb in its facilities, bomb threats were sent to numerous addresses throughout BiH, including the RS University Clinical Centre (UCC RS).
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/first-bih-media-receives-bomb-threat-bn-television-evacuated/

Prosecutor to treat false bomb threat in Banja Luka hospital as terrorism

May 2, 2022
After performing a mine-sweep inspection of the University-Clinical Center of Republika Srpska (UCC RS) and finding no bomb, the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office announced Thursday they would treat this threat as terrorism.
“At 07:05 hours, the competent police station was informed by the head of security of the UCC RS that a message had arrived at the e-mail address of the UCC RS that a bomb had been planted,” the Banja Luka Police Administration announced.
The on-duty prosecutor of the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor's Office was informed about all of the above, and qualified the said event as a criminal offence of “Terrorism”.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/prosecutor-to-treat-false-bomb-threat-in-banja-luka-hospital-as-terrorism/

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