International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Opposition says rules for vote controllers changed

October 25, 2023

The opposition People’s Party (NS) said on Wednesday that the Serbian central election commission (RIK) had changed the rules for polling station controllers, preventing their replacement.

NS RIK member Jovica Todorovic said that once polling station controllers are named they can’t be replaced for any reason. According to him, that means that parties could lose their controllers on election day.

Todorovic said in a press release that the RIK amended its instructions for the nomination of controllers last year allowing their replacement up to three days before the vote but that the commission decided on Tuesday to change those instructions. “Based on past experience, mainly opposition controllers stand down before the vote,” he said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/opposition-says-rules-for-vote-controllers-changed/

Average salary 86,000 Dinars in August

October 25, 2023

The average net salary in August stood at 86,112 Dinars, the Serbian Republic Statistics Office (RZS) said on Wednesday.

The average gross salary for that month was 118,918 Dinars (1 Euro – 117 Dinars), the RZS said. It added that half of the workforce had monthly salaries of less than 66,401 Dinars.

Both gross and net salaries rose by 15.2 percent nominally and 0.7 percent in real terms in the January-August 2023 period compared to the same period a year earlier.

Salaries were 14.4 percent nominally and 2.6 percent in real terms compared to August 2022.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/average-salary-86000-dinars-in-august/

Most Serbians see China as friendly

October 25, 2023

A majority of Serbians see China as a friendly country and President Aleksandar Vucic as the politician promoting relations with Beijing, a poll by the Institute for European Affairs and Smart Plus Research showed.

According to the poll, 75 percent of Serbians think China is friendly and 64 percent believe Serbia-China relations will get better. It showed that 42 percent of the polled have a positive view of social order in China with 72 percent of young people supporting Chinese investments in Serbia.

Just 3.8 percent said they had a negative view of relations with China.

The polled said their main sources of information about China-Serbia relations is TV (30.2 percent) the Internet (27.6 percent) and social networks.

Almost half (49.7 percent) said China was the country that provided the most aid to Serbia during the COVID pandemic with just 14.3 percent saying most of the aid came from the European Union and 4.7 percent saying Russia.

Two thirds of the polled support Chinese investments and 16.9 percent said those investments are not welcome.

Since:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/most-serbians-see-china-as-friendly/

Incident in parliament – Police surround MPs

October 25, 2023

Opposition MP Marinika Tepic said on Wednesday that she and fellow MPs were surrounded by plain clothes police officers who stopped them from carrying a styrofoam effigy of opposition leader Dragan Djilas into the hall during a debate.

“They were not parliament security. This was ordered by (Internal Affairs Minister Bratislav) Gasic since these were police personnel. They are like criminals,” Tepic, deputy leader of the opposition Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) said. The security in parliament is provided by the Internal Affairs Ministry (MUP) from the department providing security details for institutions and officials.

Tepic said that she would not give up on bringing the effigy into the hall.

“This is the first time that we were surrounded in the lobby, outside the hall and that journalists were stopped from leaving because we brought a life-size effigy of Djilas (leader of the SSP) because he can’t defend himself from attacks by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and Speaker Vladimir Orlic. I waited for hours over the past two days for my right to reply but was not allowed to,” she said.

According to her, the effigy is in the lobby. “They are obviously afraid even of a styrofoam image of him,” she said.

Djilas, who is not a member of parliament, has been under attack by ruling SNS officials and MPs during the debate.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/incident-in-parliament-police-surround-mps/

Pisonero-EC expects Belgrade to implement media strategy

October 25, 2023

The European Commission expects the Serbian authorities to implement the national media strategy and create an environment which allows unobstructed freedom of expression, Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero told N1 on Wednesday.

“We expect the Serbian authorities to deliver on the implementation of the media strategy, against commitments that have been made at the highest level and to create an enabling environment in which freedom of expression and media freedom is exercised without hindrance.,” Pisonero said in a written reply to N1’s question about the draft media laws being debated by the Serbian parliament following heated debates in public.

She added that the Commission expects progress on the issue of the ownership of media by state-owned enterprises “in order to ensure fair competition and to protect the media pluralism”. “We are discussing with Serbia how it can deliver tangible results in priority areas, such as media freedom, which is one of our key concerns,” Pisonero said.

“In addition to finalising the drafting of the media laws in accordance with the media strategy, Serbia needs to take urgent action to counter anti-EU narratives and to counter foreign information manipulation and interference. And we expect that the media regulator REM starts fully delivering on its mandate,” the European Commission spokeswoman said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/pisonero-ec-expects-belgrade-to-implement-media-strategy/

Kosovo Justice Minister denies envoys came with offer

October 25, 2023

Kosovo Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu denied reports that international envoys brought a “take it or leave it” offer to Prime Minister Albin Kurti during their recent visit to Pristina.

She told Radio TV Kosovo that the focus of the meeting with the envoys was on implementing existing agreements. According to her,

Kurti told European Union envoy Miroslav Lajcak and US envoy Gabriel Escobar that the fundamental thing is the security of the citizens of Kosovo.

“We asked our international partners for the same sanctions that Kosovo imposes against organized terrorist groups. Serbia must be held accountable for terrorist acts on the territory of Kosovo,” she said adding that the international community should view Serbia as a haven for criminals.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/kosovo-justice-minister-denies-envoys-came-with-offer/

Parliament committee adopts amendments to draft laws

October 25, 2023

The Serbian Parliament Culture and Information Committee adopted amendments to two articles of the draft law on public information and the media which regulate state aid.

The amendments to articles 39 and 41 were proposed by Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) MP Nebojsa Bakarec who chairs the committee. The amendments were given the support of the government.

Under the rules of the Serbian Parliament, committees review all submitted draft laws to give an opinion and can propose amendments. The committee also reviewed the draft law on electronic media submitted by the government. MPs have submitted a total of 130 amendments to that law. Both of the laws have caused heated debates in public with experts warning that if adopted as the government drafted them, the state-owned Telekom Serbia could own media outlets further tightening state control over the media market.

The amendments adopted by the committee cover the regulating and control of state aid in the field of electronic communications in line with the law regulating electronic media. The condition for state aid is for the recipient not to be receiving aid under the law confirming the SAA with the European Union or EU member states. Both amendments say that state aid will be based on rules of competition applied in the EU.

The adoption of those amendments practically means that Telekom’s operations should be controlled by a commission which is independent from the authorities in name only and should be taking unbiased decisions on whether the rules for state aid are being violated by state-owned and state-controlled companies.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/parliament-committee-adopts-amendments-to-draft-laws/

Stoltenberg-Situation is Kosovo difficult, NATO increasing its presence

October 24, 2023

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Pristina and Belgrade need to refrain from actions that can further escalate the situation and should return to the dialogue facilitated by the European Union (EU).

Stoltenberg told a media conference that NATO has increased its presence in Kosovo with several hundred troops from Romania, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.

“There is a tense and difficult situation, we are following that very carefully, and we have increased our presence, especially in the North. The main message is that both Pristina and Belgrade need to refrain from actions that can further escalate the situation or increase tensions and to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric,” said Stoltenberg, Kosovo Online reported.

He said Pristina and Belgrade should engage in the EU–facilitated dialogue.

“I think that is also an important message, in Kosovo we see how NATO and the European Union are working hand in hand, the increased NATO military presence supports the diplomatic and political efforts of the European Union,” said Stoltenberg.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/stoltenberg-situation-is-kosovo-difficult-nato-increasing-its-presence/

North Macedonia to deploy another army platoon to KFOR

October 24, 2023

The Government of North Macedonia has decided to increase the number of its soldiers in the NATO mission in Kosovo – KFOR by deploying an additional platoon.

Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski’s Government adopted changes to the Decision on sending members of the Army of North Macedonia to the KFOR mission in Kosovo, under which an additional 35-strong platoon will be deployed to KFOR.

The decision was made on the basis of the recommendations of senior military representatives in NATO and conclusions reached at the meeting of the chiefs of general staff of member countries of the Initiative for cooperation in the field of defense, in order to strengthen the security and safety of the Republic of Kosovo, said a Government press release.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/north-macedonia-to-deploy-another-army-platoon-to-kfor/

Orthodox cemetery in northern Mitrovica desecrated

October 24, 2023

Graves have been dug up in road excavation works at an Orthodox cemetery in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, revealing the remains of the deceased buried there, reported the Serbian state TV (RTS).

The earthwork excavation was done in the vicinity of the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius. Priests told the RTS that the road was excavated without a permit, and that the excavation works were done by workers probably of Albanian nationality using heavy machinery, who were spotted at this location on Tuesday.

Professor Mitra Reljic, who does research on Serb Orthodox cemeteries in Kosovo, confirmed the information that this cemetery, over a hundred years old, has been dug up.

According to the Orthodox priests, people were buried at this cemetery until 1950.

The Government in Pristina adopted a decision last month on the reconstruction and renovation of houses owned by Albanians in the Brdjani residential area in northern Mitrovica, which were damaged in the 1998-1999 clashes.

The new northern Mitrovica leadership said that, in addition to the reconstruction of the houses, the road infrastructure also needs to be adapted to suit the needs of the residents.

The Belgrade-backed Serb List “condemned in the strongest terms” the excavation of the Orthodox cemetery, which it said is being “carried out by Albanian companies on the orders of (Kosovo Prime Minister) Albin Kurti’s Government.”

The Serb List asked the international community to urgently react and stop the desecration of Serb graves.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/orthodox-cemetery-in-northern-mitrovica-desecrated/

Belgrade-Pristina dialogue could resume this week

October 24, 2023

N1 learned unofficially that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina could resume already this week. According to unofficial information, high-level meetings between the two parties are not planned at this stage, but only separate meetings with European Union (EU) representatives.

The talks that EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak had in Belgrade and Pristina over the weekend were focused on how to advance the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, which both sides have accepted, European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano told N1.

“There is no intention to replace it,” he added.

Stano explained that different proposals and ideas were discussed, some of which were in written form, including a modern European proposal for the statute of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities.

We expect quick action by the Parties to show they are committed to continue the normalization process by delivering on their respective obligations from all previously accepted agreements, said Stano.

He noted that these obligations should be fulfilled without preconditions or delays.

Representatives of Kosovo and Serbia were invited to meetings in support of the Dialogue on the margins of the European Council later this week.

N1 learned that, for the time being, there will be no high-level meetings between the Belgrade and Pristina delegations, but that meetings will be held separately.

Although there are still no details about the place and time of the meetings, according to unofficial information, they could be held on Thursday.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/belgrade-pristina-dialogue-could-resume-this-week/

Grenell-Pristina must select date for elections, form CSM

October 24, 2023

Former US presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Richard Grenell said Tuesday in Kosovo that a date should be set for the holding of elections in four northern Kosovo municipalities, and the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) formed.

“This morning I heard directly from the Minister of Defense in Serbia that they welcome the presence of more NATO troops in Kosovo and have dramatically decreased the number of Serbian troops along their border. (Kosovo Prime Minister) Albin Kurti and Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani must now select a date for elections in the North and create the Association of Serbian Municipalities,” Grenell said in a post on X following his meeting with Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic.

Vucevic said he had a “ productive meeting” with Grenell.

“We discussed the situation in Kosovo and Metohija and all the measures that our country has taken to de-escalate and reduce tensions. We welcomed the increased presence of KFOR forces in Serb areas in Kosovo and Metohija, with the aim of preserving peace and stability in our southern province,” Vucevic posted on Instagram along with a photo of him and Grenell. (Kosovo and Metohija is the official name for what the Serbian authorities consider to be the country’s southern province)

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/grenell-pristina-must-select-date-for-elections-form-csm/

Telekom’s Arena records losses of € 107 million

October 24, 2023

The Arena Channels Group, fully owned by Telekom Serbia, ended the year 2022 with net loss of 107 million euros (12.5 billion dinars), which is almost the annual “installment” of 100 million euros paid by Telekom Serbia for rights to a season of the English Premier League aired precisely on Arena channels. This sum is to be paid annually from 2022 to 2028.

The Arena Channels Group, a subsidiary company of the state-owned Telekom, once again this year made it to the list of the biggest loss-makers in Serbia. This time it is ranked third, with losses of almost 107 million euros – 2.6 times higher than those in 2021.

The Arena Channels Group is fully owned by Telekom Serbia whose majority stakeholder is the State. Operating within this company are many sports and cable channels and licensed programs such as Euronews, Bloomberg Adria and some other television stations.

„The net loss mostly stems from the core business performance, given that due to a significant increase in the costs of amortization of intangibles, business expenses increased by 84.7 percent and amount to 19.4 billion dinars (1 euro – 117 dinars), and despite the increase in business income by 26 percent, the company recorded a business loss of 12.3 billion dinars (in 2021, it was 4.86 billion dinars),” said the Serbian Business Registers Agency (APR)

The total losses amount to 18.14 billion dinars, which it 3.3 times higher than those reported a year earlier.

In 2021 the Arena Channels Group was ranked sixth on the list of the biggest loss making companies (with net loss of 4.77 billion dinars).

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/telekom-s-arena-records-losses-of-e-107-million/

CINS-TV stations violating law, earning millions from advertising

October 24, 2023

Television stations with national frequencies in Serbia have been airing more advertising than allowed by law for a year, bringing them millions of Euro in revenues, according to the CINS (Serbian Center for Investigative Journalism) whose research shows that the system that is supposed to prevent that does not work.

CINS recalled that Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Serbian ultra-nationalist SRS party leader Vojislav Seselj and pro-regime tabloid Informer editor Dragan J. Vucicevic were on the Hit Tvit talk show on the pro-regime TV Pink talking about Europride on a September Sunday evening a year ago. They claimed that there were not problems with Europride over the past 6-7 years but that the tycoon-Solak-Western-controlled media had created an atmosphere of conflict and lynch. (They were using what the authorities see as the derogatory term tycoon for United Group media outlets which are co-owned by Dragan Solak).

The three of them couldn’t agree on whether Europride should take place at all and the anchor interrupted them for a commercial break which was not short but lasted 15 minuted. That was followed soon afterwards with another commercial break of 16 minutes.

Both of those run counter to the law on advertising which says that commercial TV stations can’t air more than 12 minutes of advertising an hour. TV Pink was not punished in any way, CINS said.

The Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM), which should file charges against stations violating the law, has not filed charges at all over the past year allowing TV owners to collect millions of Euro in revenues with impunity.

This is just one more issue in a system which has favored those TV stations which do not abide by the law for years.

CINS investigations showed that those stations were mainly not punished in court or often got minimum fines much lower than what they are earning in violation of the law.

Former REM Council member Judita Popovic told CINS that shows the overall policy towards TV stations with national frequencies. “That is abuse by those stations with the evident silent agreement of the REM,” she said.

A year of silence

It all starts with the REM services that has software to monitor TV station programming. That software is capable of recognizing some violations but others have to be identified by staff. Reports are drafted and it’s up to the REM Council to discuss them and file charges.

Popovic, who quit the REM Council in June, said that there were no discussions this year. “That is discussed at meetings. A periodic report is submitted on the violations of the law on advertising and decisions are taken to file charges. It’s routine, nothing spectacular,” she said.

The Belgrade Misdemeanors Court confirmed that no charges were filed and that is evident from the REM portal where charges and sentences are posted.

CINS said that TV stations failed to obey the law. According to its information, TV Pink and Happy violated the law more than 800 times in August last year alone.

Bearing in mind that, according to the latest available price list, a second of advertising time on TV Pink costs up to 24,000 Dinars (1 Euro – 117 Dinars), the value of that advertising time could be worth upwards of 800 million Dinars. Experts said that TV stations give discounts on advertising which means the exact amount can’t be calculated.

Communications expert Nikola Parun said that the advertising revenue allows TV stations, especially those with national frequenceies to invest more in production including into political and society shows and that exerts influence on the public, shaping opinions.

The statute of limitations for the REM to file charges is one year which is why it is too late for some violations, CINS said. But even when those charges are brought up in court, they either end up with the statute of limitations expired or with minimum sentences handed down.

Judita Popovic could not say why no charges were filed over the past year and the REM did not respond to e-mailed requests for comments.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/cins-tv-stations-violating-law-earning-millions-from-advertising/

Vucic expects to meet Kurti soon

October 24, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that he expects to meet with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Brussels in the next few days.

“I expect that Kurti and I will go to Brussels again in the next two or three days. It’s up to us to save Serbia from all possible measures and the destruction of our national interests and I believe we will succeed,” Vucic said in the southern city of Leskovac.

He said that Belgrade did not call for sanctions against anyone, including Pristina. The Kosovo authorities have been demanding sanctions against Serbia over its alleged direct involvement in the Banjska armed incident late in September.

“This is not what serious governments and states do. You have (in Kosovo) a hysterical approach to everything, new scandals invented every day. You can’t believe the craziness you read and hear because no one in their right mind could say something like that,” Vucic said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-expects-to-meet-kurti-soon/


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