International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Vucic: Huge changes coming in Serbian ruling party

October 28, 2019

President Aleksandar Vucic told an anniversary gathering of his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) that the November inner party elections will bring huge changes before the coming elections in March or April 2020.

Vucic predicted an “even more convincing” SNS election victory which would show “that Serbia has faith in its own future”. “The list of candidates should include as many young and uncompromised people as possible, no one with luxury cars,” he said. “The important thing is not to relax and to show everywhere that the interest of the people stands above everything,” Vucic told party faithful in front of the Vojvodina Center in Novi Sad on the party’s 11th anniversary.  

The president said that SNS activists should talk to people everywhere and should remove the people fighting only for themselves from the party and added that the most important thing is to help keep young people in the country.  

Vucic had a slip of the tongue at one moment, referring to his former party (the Serbian Radical Party – SRS) instead of the SNS. “The most important thing for me is for people to understand that neither I not you in the Serbian Radical…,” he said, stopped, laughed and added – “You can’t escape the past”.  

He went on to say that the SNS had done a lot to show that it could change Serbia since it came to power in 2012. “We took some hard decisions and you should never choose the people offering you easy solutions… The people offering easy solutions are tricksters who will use you to get richer,” he said.  

Vucic said that the party has to throw out everyone who fought only for their own personal interests. We created a party that wants more and better and which learns from every defeat and fights to win again, he said. According to the president, people do not get into politics for themselves and their families but for the people, telling his party members that they have no right to complain before they look to the people, the poor and what can be done for them.  

The SNS leader criticized the most hard working party members for not devoting enough attention to ordinary people and added that he insisted on ordinary people, not officials, sitting in the front rows of the gathering in Novi Sad. “You are the people of Serbia, the only ones who should be asked,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538679/Vucic-Huge-changes-coming-in-Serbian-ruling-party.html

Kurti: Thaci should resign, people chose changes

October 27, 2019

Kosovo politician and most likely a candidate for the prime ministerial post, Albin Kurti, called on Kosovo President Hashim Thaci to resign because, as he said, people chose changes.

“Thaci would do good if he resigned,” said Kurti, the leader of the Vetevendosje (self-determination) Movement, “because people opted for changes.”

Speaking for ABC News, Kurti said that dismissal of the Kosovo President is not his priority but that the resignation would be welcomed, KoSSev news portal reported.

Commenting on his and Thaci’s participation in an event in Albania, Kurti said they did not have a chance to meet.

“I didn’t meet President Thaci as he held a speech and left but I will have a meeting with him, and that’s going to be a very good meeting for Kosovo,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538545/Kurti-Thaci-should-resign-people-chose-changes.html

Defence Minister: Serbia won't abandon its war generals

October 26, 2019

Serbia will not abandon its war generals, Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin said for Prva TV, adding that “an army that is not proud of its past cannot be proud of itself either.”

The minister delivered the statement in response to those who condemned the promotion of the book by convicted war criminal Nebojsa Pavkovic 'The Third Army - Seventy-eight Days Hugged by 'Angel of Mercy', in a reference to the NATO 1999 bombing of the then Yugoslavia over policy in Kosovo dubbed the Angel of Mercy.

The generals convicted of war crimes did not lose their civil rights and they are all “entitled to the right to live and think," underlined Vulin.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) condemned on Saturday the promotion of the generals convicted of war crimes during the Belgrade's International Book Fair and stressed that the Defence Ministry showed in this way its “face of a criminal.”

A day earlier, the Humanitarian Law Centre (FHP) said that the Ministry openly ridiculed the victims by promoting and financing these books.

But, the Ministry responded on the same day saying it was proud of the army members who defended the country and its people from the “NATO aggression in 1999” and that it was proudly presenting the 'Warrior' edition which contains the memories of ex-army commanders Nebojsa Pavkovic and Vladimir Lazarevic, both convicted of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538365/Defence-Minister-Serbia-won-t-abandon-its-war-generals.html

Thaci: Dialogue with Serbia has no alternative

October 26, 2019

Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo President, said in Tirana that dialogue with Serbia “has no alternative” and that the political stage of Kosovo is ready to resume talks on a comprehensive deal with the mediation of the USA and the European Union (EU).

Speaking at the Southeast Europe Peace Summit in Tirana, Thaci said that the tragedy that Serbia had triggered was finalised 20 years ago and that “the agreement of the two countries will once for all times dismiss a new tragedy,” the 'Gazettaexpress news portal reported.

“We're aware of Brussels' presumptions and suspicions about the Western Balkan countries”, said Thaci, adding that Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia are among the countries that the EU has done wrong to.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538287/Thaci-Dialogue-with-Serbia-has-no-alternative.html

Kurti: No Serb List but at least one Serb in new Kosovo government

October 25, 2019

Vetevendosje (self-determination) Movement leader and most likely the next Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti said that his cabinet would include at least one Serb but added that the minister does not have to be from the Serb List.

Vetevendosje won individually the most votes at the recent parliamentary elections but cannot form a government on its own and is negotiating with the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). Kurti said earlier that the Serb List would not be represented in the next government which Serb List and officials in Belgrade disputed claiming that the Kosovo constitution says that the majority Serb party has to get ministerial posts.

“We will reach agreement with the Democratic League of Kosovo and see who else can join us. We will respect the constitution but we do not need a coalition with the Serb List. We need to have at least one Serb minister,” Kurti told TV Prva in Pristina.

 Kurti said the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue would be continued after a review of the agreements reached to date. “We will conduct the dialogue under clear principles but only after we review the 33 agreements from Brussels between 2011 and 2017, when we see what has been implemented and how it affected people in Kosovo,” Kurti said. He added that it’s important to have a dialogue with Brussels about the dialogue with Belgrade because that dialogue should be well-prepared.

“We can’t go from one dialogue which failed to another which will fail,” Kurti said.

The head of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric said that Kurti is obsessed with the Kosovo Serbs and Serbia and is constantly demeaning the Serbs in Kosovo and their will expressed at the elections.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538189/Kurti-No-Serb-List-but-at-least-one-Serb-in-new-Kosovo-government.html

Belgrade 1 in 5 million anti-government protest in support of whistle-blowers

October 26, 2019

For the second Saturday in a row, Belgrade's #1 in 5 million protest is devoted to the country's whistleblowers, after the last one focused on Krusik whistle-blower Aleksandar Obradovic, the Beta news agency reported.

This 47th rally started with the address of another whistle-blower, former police officer Milan Dumanovi, who worked at the Department for Observation and Documentation in Serbia's Interior Ministry (MUP) and was accused of disclosing a business secret about his duty during President Aleksandar Vucic's visit to Potocari, where a yearly commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide is held.

Vucic was attacked by a crowd at Potocari and had to flee the scene. He was not injured. At his trial, his lawyers said that instead of being protected as a whistle-blower, Dumanovic was accused of publicly speaking about being "sent to an illegal assignment."

He and his colleague accused of the same crime filed criminal charges against their superiors in MUP for abuse of office, but the charges were dropped, and the two were arrested.

In a similar situation, Obradovic, who leaked documents showing that Branko Stefanovic, father of Serbia's Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, was involved in arms deals which were allegedly detrimental to the Krusik munitions plant was arrested for revealing business secrets and is in house arrest after being in jail in Belgrade.

This Saturday, Valentina Rekovic, a Belgrade student, also addressed the protesters.

The state RTS TV Director Dragan Bujosevic filed charges against her and a few of her colleagues for taking part in a performance during one of the #1 in 5 million protests when they painted the TV building in pink, in an allusion to their reporting which the protesters saw the same as that of the pro-government Pink TV.

After the speeches outside the Philosophical Faculty, the crowd went for a traditional walk which ends outside the RTS TV main building in downtown Belgrade.

Before the gathering started, some 300 Belgrade cyclists organised a protest ride "for cleaner air," wearing surgical masks following the news that Belgrade was one of the most polluted cities in the world in the last several days.

On Saturday, Belgrade residents were breathing the most polluted air according to the AirVisual air quality measurement system. Despite the sunny weather and clear skies, the AirVisual's measurements showed that the air in the Serbian capital was "unhealthy" surpassing even Beijing, Delhi, Jakarta and Lahore, known for high pollution rate.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538383/1-in-5-million-protest-in-Belgarde-in-support-of-whistler-blowers.html

Opposition protest in Novi Sad calls for release of whistleblower

October 25, 2019

The regular Friday protest in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad demanded freedom for Krusik munitions plant whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic.

Obradovic has been under house arrest following almost three weeks in jail after leaking documents which proved the involvement of Branko Stefanovic, father of Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, in arms deals at Krusik.  

The gathering, organized by the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) also demanded that Belgrade University’s Ethics Committeee annul Finance Minister Sinisa Mali’s doctorate which has been disputed amid claims of plagiarism.  

Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU) member Dusan Teodorovic recalled that Krusik staff did not speak up when Obradovic was arrested at the plant. “One thing that is terrible – Krusik has 3,200 employees and 3,200 employees kept quiet while their fellow employee was rotting in the Central Jail in Belgrade only because he dared draw attention to possible crimes by the Internal Affairs Minister and his Father,” he said and called the public prosecutor to do her job.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538169/Opposition-protest-in-Novi-Sad-calls-for-release-of-whistleblower.html

Medvedev: Free trade agreement to help Serbia’s exports

October 25, 2019

Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev said on Friday that he expects Serbia’s foreign trade to rise after the signing of the free trade agreement with the EurAsian Economic Union (EAEU).

Medvedev told a meeting of the EurAsian inter-governmental council which was attended by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic that under the agreement, tariffs will not be paid on some goods. Brnabic is in Moscow to sign the free trade agreement. The agreement also increase the quotas on some goods.  

Serbia and the EAEU have been negotiating the agreement since 2016. Serbia has had bilateral free trade agreements with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan but not with Armenia and Kyrgistan. The EAEU was formed in 2015 by those five former Soviet republics.

Prime Minister Brnabic said that the agreement which she signed in Moscow is not creating problems on Serbia’s path to the European Union, adding that Brussels confirmed that. “This is an economic, not a political agreement. We have the right to free trade agreements with international organizations and individual countries up to the moment we join the EU when we have to break off all free trade agreements with third countries and other international organizations,” she said. “Serbia remains committed to free trade, cooperation and development in our interest,” she said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538135/Medvedev-Free-trade-agreement-to-help-Serbia-s-exports.html

Süddeutsche Zeitung: No hope in EU future, Balkans face return of conflicts

October 25, 2019

The München daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes the Balkans are disappointed with the European Union failure to set a date for the opening of the accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana and warns that the return of bloody past in the region is possible in the absence of hope to join the bloc.

 Under the headline “Disappointed”, Süddeutsche Zeitung explored a broader picture of the Balkans nations’ possible reaction to the blow,.

 “The concrete result of such disappointment could be seen in Moscow on Friday, where Serbia will sign a free trade agreement with Euro-Asian Economic Union (EAEU) led by Russia,” Deutsche Welle in Serbian carried the München daily story.

The daily added that “the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the deal recently during a day visit to Belgrade, adding the choice between the West and the East should not be "imposed" on the regional countries. In other words, he offers close relations with Russia as an alternative to the European Union.Besides, both Turkey and China are fighting for the influence in the region with billions in investments.”

“If a hope to join the EU disappears in the Balkans, the region faces the return to nationalism and, in the worst case scenario, the burst of old conflicts. In the end, for both Serbia and Kosovo, the European perspective is a huge motivation for reaching an agreement,” the daily wrote.

It added that “without a hope in the EU future, the plans for the  Greater Albania will get the wing in the back. That would not only embrace Albania and Kosovo but North Macedonia as well, with its large Albanian minority. In Bosnia, the centrifugal forces between the Serbs, Croats and Muslim Bosniaks could strengthen.”        

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537973/Balkans-could-sink-into-old-conflicts-if-no-hope-for-joining-EU.html

HLC: Promotion of war criminals at Book Fair mocks victims

October 25, 2019

Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) accused Serbia’s Defence Ministry of “directly ridiculing the victims of crime,” by promoting and financing books and debates where those convicted of the worst crimes take place,” the Beta news agency reported on Friday.

The HLC statement said that “the Ministry demonstrates its devotion to the policy that led to numerous crimes in former Yugoslavia, and also denies the facts established before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).”

The HLC reaction is prompted by Media Centre “Defence,” the Ministry of Defence Publishing house, promotion of the books written by a convicted war criminal Nebojsa Pavkovic "The Third Army - Seventy eight Days Hugged by  'Angel of Mercy'", in a reference to the NATO 1999 bombing of the then Yugoslavia over policy in Kosovo dubbed the Angel of Mercy.

The Centre also reacted to the organisation of a debate about the NATO air campaign where convicted war criminals Vladimir Lazarevic and Vinko Pandurevic will take part besides the retired commanders of the Yugoslav and Serbia’s Army Bozidar Delic and Ljubisa Dikovic.

HLC called on Serbia’s institutions to stop “the promotion and rehabilitation of convicted war criminals and opt for a policy that accepted the court’s rulings and respect the sufferings of the victims and their families.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537953/HLC-asks-Serbiacs-authoritis-to-stop-rehabilitation-of-war-criminals.html

Albanian PM will sue his outgoing Kosovo counterpart for slander

October 25, 2019

Edi Rama, Albania’s Prime Minister, said late on Thursday he would sue Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo’s outgoing premier, for claiming Rama would “share the billion Euros with (Serbia’s President Aleksandar) Vucic and (Kosovo’s President Hashim) Thaci, for dividing Kosovo” the KoSSev website reported.

Following the EU-backed Berlin Summit on the Western Balkans in April, Haradinaj accused Rama of asking him to lift the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia. Haradinaj added he had “a reasonable suspicion” that Rama, Vucic and Thaci, led by the European Union High Representatives Federica Mogherini, discussed the division of Kosovo.

“Haradinaj will have to appear before a Kosovo court and prove his accusation about 10 billion (Euros) which I, president Thaçi and Serbia’s President Vucic would share,” Rama told the “Opinion” political talk show as quoted by Gazeta Metro.

Rama said it was not the first time that Haradinaj “lay” about him and added he never asked him to lift the tariffs but had supported them.

Mogherini also denied Haradinaj’s claim. “We are not a part of any conspiracy; we mediate to create an atmosphere and room for the two sides to sit at the table,”

Mogherini. who facilitated the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on normalisation of relations for years, also rebuffed Haradinaj’s statement that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had taken a leading role in mediating the dialogue, and added the EU was still the facilitator.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537917/Albanian-PM-to-sue-Kosovo-s-outgoing-countrepart-for-slender.html

Former Serbian munitions plant CEO has real estate worth a million Euro

October 24, 2019

The former CEO of the Krusik munitions plant and his wife have acquired a million Euro worth of real estate over the past year, the BIRN investigative portal reported on Thursday.

The Krusik plant came to public attention when whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic leaked documents about the involvement of Branko Stefanovic, father of Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, in arms deals involving the munitions factory.  

Former Krusik CEO Mladen Petkovic and his wife have become rich almost unnoticed while top state officials and tabloids are waging a campaign against Obradovic, BIRN said and added that its journalists reported in November 2018 that Petkovic’s wife had bought a large apartment in central Belgrade. According to the latest figures that BIRN gained access to, the Petkovic couple acquired real estate worth around a million Dollars since then.  

Petkovic took over as Krusik CEO in January 2014, appointed to the post through his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) with no prior experience at that managerial level. He worked for Air Serbia prior to the apppointment. Petkovic left Krusik in November 2018, taking over as Director of the Zastava Firearms factory in Kragujevac.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537837/Former-Serbian-munitions-plant-CEO-has-real-estate-worth-a-million-Euro.html

Vucic: recognition of Kosovo only offer on the table

October 24, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic refused to comment media reports that US envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina talks Ambassador Richard Grenell had offered significant investments if Serbia recognizes Kosovo.

“No one is offering anything except recognition of Kosovo. If you know someone who is offering anything else, show me. Show me anyone who I promised an independent Kosovo, show me that person,” Vucic told reporters at the railway station in New Belgrade after the arrival of a train from China carrying equipment for the reconstruction of railways in Serbia.  

He said he was worried about attacks on Serbs in Kosovo and the announced inspections and closure of Serb-owned pharmacies and appealed to the Kosovo Serbs to remain calm when faced with what he said are provocations from Pristina.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537745/Vucic-recognition-of-Kosovo-only-offer-on-the-table.html

Opposition calls Serbians to report corruption

October 24, 2019

he opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) on Thursday called the population to report cases of corruption by e-mail or phone.

The SzS said that operators with legal training would operate a free phone line during working hours and added that an encrypted e-mail address had been set up for people to report corruption. It also called state institutions to do their job and not what the authorities order them to do.  

SzS officials told a news conference that a team of lawyers would provide pro bono services to protect anyone who reports corruption  

Democratic Party leader Zoran Lutovac said that the media, primarily the state TV (RTS), are not reporting on the case of the whistleblower from the Krusik munitions plant, adding that the arrest of whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic was a tragedy for society as a whole. He added that citizens have an obligation to defend the public interest.

Obradovic leaked documents showing the involvement of Branko Stefanovic, father of Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, in arms deals at Krusik. He was confined in Belgrade‘s city jail and released into house arrest after the case became public some 20 days after his arrest.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537733/Opposition-calls-Serbians-to-report-corruption.html  

State police arrest Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect deported from the US

October 24, 2019

State police arrested on Thursday morning former Bosnian Serb army member Milan Trisic, accused of committing crimes against humanity targeting Bosniaks in the eastern municipality of Bratunac in 1992, at the Sarajevo International Airport after he was deported from the US.

Trisic, born in 1963, is suspected of persecution of a large number of victims through murder, illegal imprisonment, torture, and forcible transfer.

“During the investigation, it was found that the suspect lives in the territory of the USA, and we realised cooperation with partner institutions in the US,” Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office said, adding that Trisic would now be questioned.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537655/Bosnia-arresst-Serb-war-crime-suspect-extradited-fromn-US.html

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