International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

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

Bosnian Serb leader accuses US' Matthew Palmer of lying

October 24, 2019

US' Western Balkans special representative Matthew Palmer continued the practice of his predecessors to report to the State Department on issues without identifying real problems and those responsible for them, Bosnian Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik said Thursday, following Palmer's Wednesday report.

"Matthew Palmer would certainly not be able to utter the famous sentence before the Senate, which is being uttered by witnesses before the US judiciary, and say - I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and then utter everything he uttered (on Wednesday)," Dodik said, questioning Palmer's testimony before the US Senate, stating that "Milorad Dodik is a major obstacle blocking everything that would lead to progress in Bosnia."

Dodik said Palmer's testimony before the Senate was false, because had it not been he would have to tell the Senators why the US or anyone else has to pressure Bosnian officials to form the government when this process is a usual practice in every democracy after the election.

On Wednesday, Matthew Palmer addressed the Senate saying, among other things, that all progress in the country such as the government formation or submission of Bosnia's Annual National Programme to NATO is blocked by one man – Milorad Dodik.

“Had he told the truth why Bosnia didn't form the government one year after the election, I don't think anyone in the Senate would have believed him that one man, one republic, can stand in the way of anything of the sort, let alone in the way of progress,” Dodik pointed out. “The progress of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity and Bosnia and Herzegovina, if Bosnia's progress is reflected on the RS is in our interest, and not necessarily in the interest of the US, Russia, Turkey or any other country.”

If Palmer does not want to hear what legally elected representatives of the people of Bosnia are saying, Dodik said, it is a shame he does not listen to his President, who not long ago said that the future belongs to sovereign and independent nations, which protect their citizens, respect their neighbours and differences that make each country special and unique.

"I am not doing anything different than what US President Donald Trump said," said Bosnian Presidency member Milorad Dodik said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537657/Bosnian-Serb-leader-assuses-US-envoy-of-lying.html

Experts to US Senate: Name an envoy for Bosnia, Dodik blocks all progress

October 24, 2019

The US has to tend to the problems between Serbia and Kosovo simultaneously with the one in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is blocking all progress, experts told the US Senate Committee during a hearing late on Wednesday.

Among the speakers were the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), Janusz Bugajski and Professor at the John Hopkins University in Washington DC, Majda Ruge.

"We continue to find leadership at both the entity and state levels to be disappointing, parochial, nationalistic, and risk-averse, doing little to help ordinary citizens,” Palmer said.

However, he added that “as a new generation of political leaders emerge at the cantonal and municipal levels, particularly in the Sarajevo Canton, there is reason to be hopeful.”

“We continue to be optimistic that Bosnia and Herzegovina can succeed, and as a guarantor of the Dayton Peace Accords, we remain committed to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country,” the Special Envoy said.

“We are supporting efforts to reach an agreement or a compromise that allows for government formation at all levels as well as submission of Bosnia’s ANP to NATO,” Palmer said of Bosnia’s political crisis.

Bosnia has not formed a government - officially called the Council of Ministers - since the October 2018 election because the Bosniak and Croat members of the tripartite Presidency refuse to vote for the new prime minister.

The new head of government is supposed to come from the Bosnian Serb ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), but the party opposes the country’s path toward NATO membership and announced it would not allow the next step in this direction to be made.

Sending the Annual National Programme (ANP) is the next step, and the Bosniak and Croat Presidency members insist on it.

Palmer explained that there were several attempts to implement reforms in the country in the past but that the processes but that this not happening fast enough.

“Those who block changes are those who benefit the most from such a situation in the Balkans,” he said, emphasising electoral reform as one of the key priorities.

“We are trying to create pressure so the Council of Ministers is formed and the ANP is sent, but the main obstacle in this is Milorad Dodik, who blocks anything that would bring about progress,” he said.

Janusz Bugajski said that the US should seriously consider naming a special envoy for Bosnia who would commit to resolving the problems in the country.

“Bosnia is not a multiethnic country, but a union of ethnic fiefdoms in which nationalist parties maintain the status quo in order to protect their plunder in their patronage networks. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have an efficient central government, the Serb entity is persistently threatening with secession, Croat nationalists are demanding a third entity more and more, and Bosniaks are in the middle, preoccupied with their frustrations,” Bugajski said.

He explained that Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has been threatening he will work against numerous reforms in the country, including the Armed Forces, state court and police agency.

All of these institutions were formed after the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, and Dodik has been complaining that they are the result of pressure from the international community. He has been working toward strengthening the competencies of Bosnia’s two entities, especially the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS), and has voiced opposition to any strengthening of state institutions.

“In this atmosphere of state paralysis, the Serb entity has continuously been moving from autonomy toward sovereignty and its leaders have, with financial and political support from Moscow, raised the prospect of secession and unification with Serbia,” Bugajski said.

This has also encouraged Bosnian Croat politicians to seek a third entity and the division of FBiH, he argued.

“Meanwhile, Bosniak Muslim leaders have warned of a new war, as they are committed to defending the territorial and constitutional integrity of Bosnia,” Bugajski stressed.

Ruge expressed a similar opinion but explained that “any approach which involves border changes risks producing unintended consequences.”

She argued that US officials even mentioning such a possibility is dangerous as it encourages those who promote ideas of secession, such as Milorad Dodik and Republika Srpska.

Ruge then went on to “remind this committee that across the region, ethnic tensions are not the most important cause of political instability.”

She cited a recent poll by the International Republican Institute which found that more than 50 percent of citizens in Bosnia identified organised crime as “the number one security threat in the country, not members of other ethnic groups.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537647/Experts-to-US-Senate-Envoy-needed-for-Bosnia-too.html

EP calls on Union to open accession talks with Skopje and Tirana

October 24, 2019

The European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution on Thursday on the opening of the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania with 412 votes for, 136 against and 30 abstentions, N1 reported.

The MEPs joined high ranked European Union officials, some US representatives and Western Balkans leaders in disappointment with the “bloc’s failure” to agree on a date for the opening of negotiations and called on the member states to think about the consequences of such decision.

 The EP members also called on the EU to give the green light for the opening of talks with the two countries at the next meeting.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537643/MEPs-adopt-resolution-calling-on-EU-to-set-dat-for-talks-with-Skopje-and-Tirana.html

Palmer: EUCO sends wrong message to Balkans - whatever you do, may not be enough

October 24, 2019

Matthew Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary at US Department of State - Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Washington's special envoy to Western Balkans, said on Thursday that one of the reasons why the European Council (EUCO) decision not to open the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia was discouraging, was because it sent a wrong message to both Belgrade and Pristina – you can settle difficult issues, you can reach a compromise, but nevertheless you can be denied access to Europe, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.

Palmer said he expected a new government in Pristina to lift the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia, while  Belgrade should stop its campaign against Kosovo's membership to the international organisations.

He added that he and Richard Grenell, the White House representative for the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue, would work together to normalise Kosovo – Serbia relations.

Addressing the Senate's Sub-Committee for Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, Palmer said a new Kosovo cabinet would be the first without any former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), adding he hoped that would be a good incentive.

Palmer also said he was in constant communication with Grenell who was interested in economic empowerment and believed that could bring the two sides closer in the dialogue.

"I think that ambassador Grenell will pressure both sides to act quickly. They now have the White House's attention, a full focus not only from the administration but also from the White House and the President (Donald Trump)," Palmer said.

"That," he added, "is a beneficial instrument which won't be available forever. And to use it, the sides must show they're ready to act quickly to reach agreements, to implement them and to show they're committed to the reconciliation and normalisation as we are."

Palmer said the European Union remained the chief mediator and the US did not have any formal role in the dialogue itself.

"We are here; we support the process and encourage the parties to reach that agreement. However, we want them to be aware of what is offered, why is it essential to find a solution on normalisation."

He added that support to the Balkans was not enough and said America should increase its presence and investments in the region.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537529/US-says-EUCO-sens-wrong-message-to-Balkans.html

Cosic: attacks on media "cancerous"

October 23, 2019

N1 TV Program Director Jugoslav Cosic said on Wednesday that the attacks by the authorities on professional media have become “cancerous”.

He told a debate on Being an Editor in Serbia that the authorities have an obedient army of supporters prepared to assault professional media as a unit for special media operations and recalled that journalists in professional media have been called drunks and drug addicts. “There is a center, like a general staff, where decisions are taken about who to attack,” he said.  

“This has dropped down to a tragic level that shows the huge ineptness and desperation of state and city officials in facing the facts that we report,” Cosic said.  

His words were echoed by FoNet News Agency Editor in Chief Zoran Sekulic who said that the political environment is highly hostile towards professional media. He said that facts are becoming increasingly isolated because they are increasingly less important to some media which are full of impressions and a parallel reality. “The money channels are under control and what we do sell is hard to get paid for,” he said.

NIN weekly editor Milan Culibrk told the gathering that state-owned companies don’t want to advertise in that weekly but that the tabloids in which they do advertise publish hundreds of false news items a year unlike NIN which got a warning once in the past seven years from the Press Council. “Top state officials such as President Aleksandar Vucic and others are unavailable to us for interviews but they protect those media (pro-government tabloids and TV stations),” he said. “This is an anti-market and anti-system,” Culibrk said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537462/Cosic-attacks-on-media-cancerous.html

Serbian official denied entry into Kosovo

October 23, 2019

An official of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo was not allowed into Kosovo, the Kosovo Foreign Minister’s cabinet chief Jetlir Ziberaj told the media in Pristina on Wednesday.

“Dusan Kozarev (Deputy Director of the Office for Kosovo) is one of the people who can’t enter Kosovo without permission. They chose not to respect the agreement and he was denied entry at the Jarinje crossing,” Ziberaj said.  

The Office for Kosovo released a statement saying that Pristina is preventing its officials from being with the Serbs in Kosovo in a direct violation of the agreement on freedom of movement. “Dusan Kozarev was banned from entering Kosovo with the explanation that his visit was not announced in advance,” the statement said.  

“The Serb people in Kosovo should not fear Pristina’s legal violence because the state of Serbia always found ways to help its people and secure the functioning of the institutional system in Kosovo,” the statement said and called the international community to take a stand on Pristina’s provocation.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537410/Serbian-official-denied-entry-into-Kosovo.html

Kosovo officials counting votes from Serbia in protective garments

October 23, 2019

The Kosovo Central Election Commission has started counting the allegedly poisoned election ballots that arrived from Serbia, Commission spokesman Vlamir Elezi told N1 on Wednesday.

Central Election Commission staff reported allergic reactions when they started counting parliamentary election ballots which had been brought in from Serbia and posted at a post office in Pristina. The ballots were quarantined and an investigation was launched but no toxic materials were reported to have been identified.

The votes are being counted by Commission staff wearing protective garments.

Elezi said the votes have to be verified before being counted, adding that the Commission has support from the Kosovo Police including what he said was logistics equipment.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537380/Kosovo-officials-counting-votes-from-Serbia-in-protective-garments.html

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