International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Scholz urges visa liberalization for Kosovo

May 4, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Sholz urged progress on visa liberalization for Kosovo in Berlin on Wednesday.

Speaking to the media after a meeting with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Scholz said that his government has set that as one of its goals and is persistently insisting on that in talks with EU partners. He said he would visit Pristina.

According to the German Chancellor, four agreements would be signed this year as part of the Berlin Process, including agreements on a regional market, free flow of people and on diplomas.

Kurti is reported to have told the news conference that he supports the Berlin Process and common regional market but not the Open Balkan initiative. He reiterated his demand for the remaining five European Union states to recognize Kosovo along with visa liberalization.

The German Chancellor invited Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Berlin for separate meetings along with EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/scholz-urges-visa-liberalization-for-kosovo/

German Defense Minister due in Belgrade

May 4, 2022

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht is due to meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Thursday, the FoNet news agency was told by sources in the German embassy on Wednesday.

The sources said that Lambrecht will also meet with her counterpart Nebojsa Stefanovic.

The German Defense Minister is scheduled to visit Pristina as part of her tour of the countries of the Western Balkans. Lambrecht is visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday.

President Vucic is meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Wednesday to discuss the situation in the region and the Ukraine crisis among other things.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/german-defense-minister-due-in-belgrade/

CoE: Serbia improved on anti-money laundering but slipped on new technolgies

May 4, 2022

The Council of Europe’s (CoE) money-laundering watchdog MONEYVAL said in its annual report on Tuesday that Serbia has improved measures on non-financial businesses and professions.

“Serbia has improved its AML/CFT measures in the regulation of designated non-financial businesses and professions, as well as to international co-operation,” the CoE Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) said in its annual report.

The report warned that Serbia’s rating was downgraded “in the field of new technologies, where new international requirements for virtual assets have been introduced”. “Minor deficiencies remain, including the definition of the beneficial owners, record-keeping requirements fulfilled by lawyers and notaries, as well as the application of countermeasures proportionate to the risks identified,” the report said.

The report said that “MONEYVAL noted Serbia’s significant progress in the implementation of the new requirements for virtual assets, but highlighted some remaining loopholes”.

According to MONEYVAL, only one Recommendation (on new technologies) remains “partially complaint”.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coe-serbia-improved-on-anti-money-laundering-but-slipped-on-new-technolgies/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 3 deaths, 463 new cases

May 3, 2022

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily bulletin on Tuesday that 3 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 16,007.

It said that 6,888 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 463 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,504,063 with 2,007,554 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 360 hospitalized cases, including 23 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-3-deaths-463-new-cases/

Milanovic doubles down, announces ‘veto’ for Finland and Sweden over Bosnia

May 3, 2022

Croatia's President, Zoran Milanovic, said on Tuesday that he intended to veto the decision to allow Finland and Sweden to join the Nato alliance.

“In my capacity as the head of state representing Croatia at the Nato summit, I will veto the invitation, if it is extended at that level,” Milanovic told reporters in Vukovar.

Milanovic’s statement was part of yet another meandering rant which have become the main hallmark of his public appearances, which local media cover on an hourly basis. Last week, Milanovic said he was opposed to approving Nato membership for Finland and Sweden, unless the US steps in to change the election law in neighboring Bosnia to the benefit of Bosnian Croats.

Croatia is one of 30 countries members of Nato, and the alliance is expected to hold a summit in Madrid later this month. According to international media, the traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland are likely to formally submit a membership by the time Nato holds a scheduled summit in June.

It is unclear whether Milanovic has any authority to block other countries from joining the bloc, as Croatia’s head of state is largely a ceremonial figure, with very few legislative powers – apart from formally commanding the military and the intelligence service SOA.

On Tuesday, Finland said its parliamentary committee would issue a recommendation on potential Nato membership by May 13, and Germany said it would support the bid. Although Milanovic is adamantly opposed to extending Nato membership to these two Scandinavian countries, it is not entirely clear whether he would be able to do anything about it.

Nato membership for any future members must be ratified by all existing countries, and in Croatia this is done through Parliament, which is controlled by the conservative HDZ party led by Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic. Milanovic earlier threatened that he would “pursue” any MP voting in favor of their membership.

“If the invitation is sent through lower levels, Milanovic said he was not sure he would be able to make the Croatian ambassador accept his position and veto the invitation,” state agency Hina said.

Milanovic added that he was “not afraid of either of Russia or of Ukraine,” and claimed that he was “on the Croatian side,” determined to fight “for the Croatian state and nation.” Milanovic repeated his attacks against the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s government, saying it was pursuing “a treacherous policy” towards Bosnian Croats.

Milanovic recently decided to take up the cause of the main Croat nationalist party in Bosnia, HDZ, which has been claiming for years that ethnic Croats are being “outvoted” in by ethnic Bosniaks in the Bosnian elections. Although leaders of all parties have had endless rounds of talks on changing the election law, no concrete proposals have been set forth ahead of the October general election.

In another rant last week, Milanovic described the potential Nato membership for Finland and Sweden as a “very dangerous adventure.” Since becoming President in February 2020, Milanovic – formerly the country’s Prime Minister and leader of the Social Democrats – has become known for provocative statements and rants usually involving bickering with PM Plenkovic or his ministers.

In late January, as Russian forces began amassing on Ukrainian border, Milanovic dismissed the notion of Ukraine becoming part of the NATO alliance, and in early February accused Western countries of “warmongering” in Ukraine. His statements also earned him inclusion into the infamous Ukrainian Myrotvorets online blacklist which publishes information about people deemed “enemies of Ukraine,” where he has been accused of “disseminating Russian propaganda.”

Also on Tuesday, Milanovic insisted that he was not “taking Russia’s side” and continued to slam PM Plenkovic, describing his cabinet as “a clique” over perceived inaction in changing the election law in Croatia’s neighboring country.

“The Russians are playing their game. They are the aggressor in this war. And we have our own clique, working actively against the interests of Bosnian Croats. I took an oath to protect them, too, and I will die a political death for them, if necessary,” Milanovic told reporters.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/milanovic-doubles-down-announces-veto-for-finland-and-sweden-over-bosnia/

Croatia's opposition divided on linking Finland, Sweden NATO entry to BiH

May 3, 2022

The Croatian parliamentary opposition was divided on Tuesday on whether Sweden and Finland's NATO accession should be made conditional on changes to Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law, which is what President Zoran Milanovic advocates.

Most party MP Zvonimir Troskot said his party supports a single approach to NATO’s security policy.

“If a NATO security issue is dealt with in the north of Europe, we don’t see why it should not be dealt with in the south of Europe as well,” he said.

“This is one way of showing our allies and the EU that we do not agree with Germany’s foreign policy, which undermines the Dayton agreement,” Trskot added.

Sandra Bencic of the Green-Left Bloc said that her group would make a decision on how it would vote on Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession at a meeting of its leadership but noted that linking the two countries’ accession to NATO with the issue of BiH’s election law was not the right way to go.

“One should at least try to amend the Dayton agreement to ensure the equality of all citizens and, if all peoples elect their representatives, to enable the Croat people in BiH to be able to do so as well, but that cannot be done by linking that issue with questions that are really not related to it,” she said.

Bencic said this should be done through diplomatic channels, noting that the problem cannot be resolved without a discussion on the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its EU integration and ways to ensure the equality of all BiH citizens.

Marko Milanovic-Litre of the right-wing Croatian Sovereignists said it was crazy that the president of the republic was overstepping his powers and trying to impose a narrative under which Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO was contrary to efforts to resolve the issue of BiH’s election law.

He said Milanovic’s behaviour was irresponsible and that his and PM Plenkovic’s quarrels were “an ego trip.”

Milanovic-Litre said there was no reason for the Croatian Sovereignists not to support Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession, adding that one should also consider Ukraine’s membership in NATO.

Katarina Peovic of the left-wing Workers’ Front said that the issue was yet another “non-topic” introduced by the president in the public sphere.

The Workers’ Front has always been against NATO, she said.

“We have always been critical of NATO and militarisation of society so inadvertently, we will be on the president’s side. We are not interested in the conflict which he is escalating but are strongly critical of any further NATO enlargement,” Peovic said.

  Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/croatias-opposition-divided-on-linking-finland-sweden-nato-entry-to-bih/

Head of BiH's Jewish Community condemns Lavrov's statements as “anti-Semitic”

May 3, 2022

The recent statement of Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, regarding the Jewish origins of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is “anti-Semitic” and implies a narrative that Jews “are always to blame for everything in the world,” the head of the Jewish Community in BiH, Jakob Finci, told N1.

According to CBS News, Lavrov's comments came after he was asked how Russia can claim to be “denazifying” Ukraine when the country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.

“When they say ‘What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews,’ well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing (…) For a long time now we've been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves,” Lavrov said, according to Reuters.

“Even today, Jews are being blamed for Hitler, because Hitler was allegedly a Jew. Hitler is probably turning in his grave over such statements, especially from a minister who also used to be a minister in the USSR,” Finci told N1.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/head-of-bihs-jewish-community-condemns-lavrovs-statements-as-anti-semitic/

Report: 68 Bosnians own 105 properties worth a total of $ 27 million in Dubai

May 3, 2022

According to a report published by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), 68 Bosnian citizens own 105 properties worth a total of $ 27 million in Dubai.

“In Dubai, weak regulation, poor enforcement, and relatively high levels of secrecy and anonymity create a welcoming environment for global kleptocrats, money launderers, and other illicit entrepreneurs seeking to hide ill-gotten earnings,” the C4ADS website says regarding the report.

According to the report, “offshore real estate in Dubai is large: at least $146 billion in foreign wealth is invested in the Dubai property market.”

As for other countries of the former Yugoslavia, 94 Croatian citizens own 125 properties worth $ 43 million, 237 Serbian citizens own 287 properties worth $ 74 million, 46 Slovenian citizens own 56 properties worth $ 26 million, 45 Macedonians own 55 properties worth $ 14 million and 11 Montenegrins own 16 properties worth seven million dollars.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/report-68-bosnians-own-105-properties-worth-a-total-of-27-million-in-dubai/

BiH Serb officials, JNA veterans mark Dobrovoljacka Street incident anniversary

May 3, 2022

Officials and veterans from Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity laid wreaths and lit candles for the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) soldiers who were killed on May 3, 1992, in a shootout that took place in the former Dobrovoljacka street in Sarajevo during the withdrawal of their forces.

Surviving JNA fighters who were in Dobrovoljacka street that day, as well as relatives of those who were killed, attended the commemoration on the 30th anniversary of the battle and welcomed the recent indictment against 10 people prosecutors accused of war crimes regarding the incident.

Bosniaks and Serbs have conflicting narratives about the clash on May 3, 1992, when Bosnian forces attacked a JNA convoy which was leaving the city per a withdrawal agreement but took Bosnia’s president with them as a hostage.

The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA ) captured the first President of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic, at the Sarajevo International Airport the previous day as he was returning from negotiations in Lisbon and it was agreed the President would be freed in return for the uninterrupted withdrawal of the JNA soldiers from the barracks in Sarajevo.

Allegedly, Bosnian forces stopped the convoy in Dobrovoljacka street, in downtown Sarajevo, to free their president and despite the order to cease fire, issued by General of what was then called the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina Jovan Divjak, the clash occurred which led to the death of former JNA soldiers.

It has also never been established who shot first during the attack and the battle remains a symbol of defence for one side and a symbol of suffering for the other.

Bosnian prosecutors say seven JNA soldiers were killed and 14 captured.

RS Minister of Labour, War Veterans and Disabled People's Protection, Dusko Milunovic, argued that nine soldiers were killed, adding that 26 were wounded, while 206 were captured.

“Most of them were brutally tortured. The attacks on the JNA began on April 20 in the settlement of Hrasno, when two members of the JNA were killed in a cafe. After that, on April 22, in Dobrinja, eight were caught from a transporter and killed in Veliki Park. Their remains were not found, nor was anyone responsible,” Milunovic said.

There is a strong police presence at the site where the commemorative gathering is taking place.

Aleksandar Glavas, a member of the RS National Assembly, said that as a “native of Sarajevo, he feels like a Russian in Kyiv or a Palestinian in Jerusalem because of security”. He also stated that he does not know who asked for large security measures.

Former JNA member Zeljko Pantelic welcomed the recent indictment, saying that this move after 30 years was “a good way to establish some relations in Sarajevo and BiH”.

“I think this is great news for the relatives of those killed in Dobrovoljacka, but it is unfortunate that the indictment did not cover all the murders from April 20 to May 23, when the last murder took place in the Marshal Tito barracks. We, the survivors and our relatives, hope that an indictment will be filed for these cases as well, “Pantelic said.

Milenko Beric was wounded during the incident.

“I was pulled out of the truck, they shot me in the legs. I was taken to the hospital, then to Central Prison. So much for the humanity of those defenders,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, former members of the Green Berets and the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina gathered to mark the battle in the former Dobrovoljacka Street and express support for the 10 suspects prosecutors accuse of war crimes regarding the incident.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bih-serb-officials-jna-veterans-mark-dobrovoljacka-street-incident-anniversary/


Vucic says Serbia will have enough food

May 3, 2022

President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that Serbia will have enough food for its population but that securing fuels will be a problem.

“We will have enough food but a lot has to be done to make that happen,” he told reporters during a visit to Greece. The Serbian President attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a liquid gas terminal. Vucic said the government has to secure sufficient amounts of fertilizer for farmers, adding that he spoke to his Iranian counterpart on a barter arrangement to trade Serbian wheat and corn for Iranian fertilizer.

Vucic said that Serbia, along with the rest of Europe, is facing the hardest winter since 1950, adding that Belgrade is facing negotiations with Russia on natural gas supplies 99 percent of which, he said, will continue to come from that country.

According to Vucic, the liquid gas terminal in Greece will not be fully operational for another 18 months. He said that Serbia has to finish the interconnection with Bulgaria and possibly another with North Macedonia.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-says-serbia-will-have-enough-food/

Vucic discusses European prospects with Michel

May 3, 2022

President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that he discussed Serbia’s European prospects with European Union Council President Charles Michel.

Vucic said in an Instagram post that they met before a groundbreaking ceremony for a liquid gas terminal in the Greek city of Alexandroupoli near the border with Turkey.

The Serbian president is on a one-day visit to Greece which includes talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Vucic told the ceremony that the terminal is important to the entire Balkan region, adding that a lot can be done and that energy is the top issue at present

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-discusses-european-prospects-with-michel/

BiH ranks 67th in 2022 World Press Freedom Index, slips down nine places

May 3, 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked 67th in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, slipping nine places compared to last year.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), this year’s edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which assesses the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories, “highlights the disastrous effects of news and information chaos – the effects of a globalised and unregulated online information space that encourages fake news and propaganda.”

Serbia is the lowest ranking country of all the countries of the former Yugoslavia, although it climbed 14 places compared to the 2021 report and is now 79th in the category of problematic countries.

BiH, Slovenia (54th place), North Macedonia (57th place) and Montenegro (63rd place) are in the same category. Croatia ranked 48th and is in the “satisfactory” category.

“Within democratic societies, divisions are growing as a result of the spread of opinion media following the “Fox News model” and the spread of disinformation circuits that are amplified by the way social media functions. At the international level, democracies are being weakened by the asymmetry between open societies and despotic regimes that control their media and online platforms while waging propaganda wars against democracies,” RSF said, adding that “polarisation on these two levels is fuelling increased tension.”

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bih-ranks-67th-in-2022-world-press-freedom-index-slips-down-nine-places/

Serbia ranked lowest in region on World Press Freedom Index

May 3, 2022

Serbia has progressed on the World Press Freedom Index and is categorized as problematic in 79th place among the 180 countries listed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) but still ranks lowest among the countries of the Western Balkans.

According to the 2022 World Press Freedom Index rankings, Serbia has advanced 14 places but its average grade was lower – 61.51 compared to 67.97 in 2021.

Serbia is ranked lower than the other countries of the region (all of which are in the problematic category) on this year’s index except for Albania which is ranked 103rd – Slovenia is 54th, North Macedonia 57th, Kosovo 61st, Montenegro 63rd, Bosnia-Herzegovina 67th.

The most influential media outlets include the public broadcaster RTS and the independent television network N1, as well as several tabloids, RSF said.

The World Press Freedom Index ranks the 180 countries it monitored in one of five categories – good, satisfactory, problematic, difficult and very serious.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbia-ranked-lowest-in-region-on-world-press-freedom-index/

Croatia logs 47 new coronavirus cases, 8 deaths

May 2, 2022

Croatia has recorded 47 new coronavirus cases and eight COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team reported on Monday.

The number of active cases in the country now stands at 4,676, of whom 441 infected persons are being treated in hospital, including 17 placed on ventilators, while 2,583 persons are self-isolating.

Since 25 February 2020, when the first case was confirmed in Croatia, 1,123,029 people have been registered as having contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus, of whom 15,843 have died and 1,102,510 have recovered, including 811 in the last 24 hours.

A total of 4,790,822 people have tested for COVID-19 to date, including 851 in the last 24 hours.

By Sunday, 5,243,832 vaccine doses had been administered, with 59.49 per cent of the total population, or 70.76 per cent of adults, having been vaccinated. A total of 2,313,259 people had received at least one dose and 2,241,920 of them had been fully vaccinated, which is 68.69 per cent of the adult population.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/croatia-logs-47-new-coronavirus-cases-8-deaths/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 3 deaths, 396 new cases

May 2, 2022

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily bulletin on Monday that 3 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 16,002.

It said that 5,267 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 396 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,497,175 with 2,007,091 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 372 hospitalized cases, including 21 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-3-deaths-396-new-cases/

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