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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Erdogan, Vucic mark start of Belgrade-Sarajevo highway construction

October 8, 2019

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Tuesday’s ceremony to mark the start of construction of a highway between the capital of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzergovina that the "bridge over the Sava river is a bridge of friendship for the whole region".

Erdogan, his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic and the three members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) attended the ceremony at the border town of Sremska Raca on the banks of the Sava river.  

"Today begins the construction of a bridge on the route that connects Serbia and BiH. This is for the benefit of these nations and the region. This is a way to better lives, communicate and cooperate and it would be impossible if President Vucic had not not started negotiations with Turkey and its president", BiH President Chairman Milorad Dodik told the gathering, inaugurating the start of construction of the highway.  

BiH presidency member Zeljko Komsic, said it was only two years ago seemed impossible that something like this could happen between Serbia and BiH while the third presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic voiced satisfaction that he had the opportunity to attend a truly significant moment which he said leads the whole region to peace and stability, prosperity and development.  

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a532840/Erdogan-Vucic-mark-start-of-Belgrade-Sarajevo-highway-construction.html

Turkish Erdoğan arrives in Belgrade, focus of visit on economy

October 07, 2019

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish President, arrived in Belgrade for the two-day visit on Monday greeted by his Serbia’s counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, with a message that an agreement on the Kosovo issue satisfactory to both sides was of a vital interest for long-term stability and peace in the Balkans, the region “Turkey is a part of,” the Beta news agency reported.

Prior to the visit, he told the Belgrade Politika daily his country supported Serbia’s efforts in economic development and the accession negotiations with the European Union.

“That’s why we support the resumption of the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue (on the normalisation of relations) and the establishment of a long-lasting comprehensive agreement based on free will and consensus of both sides. We are ready to do everything to help solving the problem. Any deal agreed by the two sides will be acceptable to us,” Erdoğan said.

A statement carried by the state RTS TV said the focus of Erdoğan’s visit would be on the trade between the two countries which was over two billion Euros last year, while at the same time, Turkey invested some 200 million Euros in Serbia.

The statement added it was expected that five more Turkish companies open businesses in Serbia during the visit and that Serb start-up and IT companies make first steps towards the Turkish market.

During his stay in Belgrade, Turkish President will meet his Serbia’s counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, take part in the Serbia – Turkey – Bosnia Herzegovina Summit and witness the beginning of the Belgrade – Sarajevo motorway construction.

“Serbia has an important role in preserving regional peace and development,” Erdoğan said, adding that Serbia was strategically situated in the Balkans and that he saw it as a neighbouring country through the two states did not share borders.

Erdoğan added that relations between Ankara and Belgrade were at the highest level ever and that those who “mind Turkish activities” in the Balkans and its strong relations with Serbia were trying to manipulate with Turkish efforts and “present it differently than they are.”

“My advice to them (he did not mention any country in particular) is to think about creating political projects which will contribute to the better future of the Balkans instead of instigating conflicts in the region,” he told the daily.    

Erdoğan was in Serbia in 2017, visiting Belgrade and south-western town of Novi Pazar, mostly populated by local Bosniaks, Vucic was in Turkey three times last year, in May, July and October, and frequently talked to Erdoğan by phone.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a532312/Turkey-supports-Serbia-s-EU-integration.html

Vucic starts consultations ahead of 2020 elections

October 6, 2019

Aleksandar Vucic, the President of Serbia and the leader of the ruling SNS party, has started the consultations prior to the elections set to take place early next year.

The first consultations the President held were with Serbia's Social Democratic Party (SDPS) leader Rasim Ljajic, Vucic's coalition partner.

“Sunday, after a long time dedicated not only to presidential but also to the party-related activities. The first consultations prior to the upcoming election, with a friend, the SDSP leader Rasim Ljajic”, said a post published on 'The future of Serbia' Instagram profile.

Ljajic and his party were recently targeted by criticism of SNS MP Dragan Sormaz, who said that Ljajic and Nenad Popovic should be let to seek a new path. Ljajic was reproached for not adequately defending Aleksandar Vucic and his political party was said to be dealing with trivial topics.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a532144/Vucic-starts-consultations-ahead-of-2020-elections.html

Self-determination leads in Kosovo, Serb List landslide victory in the north

October 6, 2019

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said three hours after the closing of the polling stations that Serb List, Kosovo Serb party supported by Belgrade, won in the all Serb-dominated municipalities in northern Kosovo, N1 reported.

He said that “today’s victory is the most convincing one in the Serb List history.”

Kosovo Central Election Commission (CIK) said that after 77 percent of votes counted, Self-determination party took the lead in the rest of Kosovo’s with 26.1 percent, followed by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) with 25.2.

Following the results in the north, the leaders of the Serb List and people in Mitrovica celebrated the victory in the centre of the town.

After 100 percent of votes counted in the northern Mitrovica, Serb List won 98.07 pecent of the votes, Vucic told reports in Belgrade, adding that in other municipalities with a Serb majority the party won over 90 percent of the votes.

“Everything that has been done has been done to destroy Serb List, to find the Serbs who don’t want to have anything with Belgrade,” Vucic said, adding that Kosovo Serbs had united and “defended its state” in the elections.

Serb List will hold all ten mandates in the Kosovo Parliament, reserved for their minority.

Earlier,  three Kosovo opposition parties declared victory: the Self-determination party, led by Albin Kurti, (LDK) headed by Isa Mustafa and the Democratic Party of Kosovo (DSK) of outgoing Parliament speaker Kadri Veseli.

After 35 percent of the votes counted, CIK earlier said that the LDK got 64.5, Self-determination 59.49 and DSK 57.71 percent.

Veseli said later on Sunday his DSK would be a part of the opposition since “the people had its say.” His party was a part of the regime for 12 years.

The early general elections were held in Kosovo on Sunday after Ramush Haradinaj resigned as Prime Minister following the call from The Hague-based Special Court for war crimes by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998-1999 armed conflict in the then Serbia’s province.  

According to the exit polls, his party did poorly in Sunday's elections despite the fact he was reported to have great support for introducing and refusing to abolish the 100 percent import duties on goods from Serbia and Bosnia.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a532266/Serb-List-wins-in-the-north-three-Albanian-parties-say-they-win-in-the-rest-of-Kosovo.html

Polling stations close in Kosovo, turnout below 50 pct, dozens of irregularities

October 6, 2019

Kosovo's early general elections ended at 7 pm local time on Sunday without any serious incidents, with the turnout of some 44 percent, according to latest data, and dozens of irregularities recorded by OSCE and Democracy at Work, an NGO which monitored the voting, media reported.

 Belgrade said the turnout in the parts of Kosovo Serb majority was higher than in the 2017 local elections.

During the day, the president and his deputy of the election board in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica were arrested after they allowed a woman to vote although she presented only her birth certificate, which is not in line with the Central Election Commission's instructions.

Northern Mitrovica KoSSev website has tweeted later on Sunday it’s been under severe hacker attack and that they would share their reports on Twitter and Facebook social media until the site is restored.

 The police in the southern town of Prizren said they detained seven people for taking photos of their ballot papers. Five will be kept in 48-hour custody, while two were released.

The OSCE also said their monitors recorded that a woman in northern Mitrovica tried to vote twice at two stations.

Earlier its mission Spokesperson, Senad Sabovic, told the KoSSev news agency that some people tried to vote presenting documents issued by Serbia's authorities or UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo), which the Central Election Commission (CIK) does not allow.

"There were frequent attempts, but the boards are following the CIK's decisions," he said.

Displaced persons eligible to vote took to Kosovo from central Serbia, some bussed in an organised manner helped by a local Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

Democracy at Work recorded dozens of irregularities, mostly when voters could not find their names on the lists, driving voters to the polling stations, taking photos of the ballot papers and "increasing pressure on the voters.

"Earlier in the day, according to Kosovo news agency Kallxo, three units of Kosovo's Special Police entered the Police Precinct in the northern part of the town and are stationed there at the moment.

The citizens can vote at 2,547 polling stations, which is 42 more than in the previous elections.

Almost two million (1,937,869) people are eligible to vote, which is 111,733 more than in the 2017 local elections. Kosovo's CIK has decided that 35,087 persons living outside Kosovo will have the right to vote in the election.

Twenty political parties, four coalitions and one independent candidate are participating in the election, and 1,067 candidates run for 120 seats in the Parliament. Six candidates, five of the Albanian and one of the Serbian community, run for the post of the Prime Minister.

As for the Serb political entities, three political parties and one coalition will compete for the votes of 117,808 voters registered in the Serb-inhabited communities.

The polling stations in Kosovo opened at 7 am.  

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a532216/Polling-stations-close-in-Kosovo-turnout-some-44-percent.html

US State Department: Grenell and Palmer will work closely together

October 5, 2019

The US State Department said that Special Representative for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, will work closely with Donald Trump’s newly appointed special envoy for Kosovo and Serbia, Richard Grenell.

“Special representative Palmer will also continue his important work in bringing the region closer to the west, working together with governments on the progression of reforms and their strengthening against foreign influences, helping them overcome the problems which damage their European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the US State Department said.

An unnamed spokesperson for the State Department said that the US sees a historic opportunity for Belgrade and Pristina to reach a comprehensive agreement on normalising their relations, according to Radio Free Europe.

“The decision on naming the presidential envoy for the peace talks underscores the commitment of the United States to peace, stability and prosperity for the people of Serbia and Kosovo,” a White House official said.

US President Donald Trump named the country’s Ambassador in Germany, Richard Grenell, a special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina talks on Thursday. Palmer was named US State Department Representative in the Western Balkans in August.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a531980/US-State-Department-Grenell-and-Palmer-will-work-closely-together.html

Daniel Serwer: Grenell will take over the main role and push for demarcation

October 5, 2019

The proposed White House Special Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo, Richard Grenell, will take over a dominant role in the US approach to the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo instead of the US State Department Special Representative Matthew Palmer, according to John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Professor Daniel Serwer.

In an interview with Voice of America and on his blog, Serwer called the decision to name Grenell “bizarre”.

“Only a few weeks ago they named Matthew Palmer the Special Representative for the Balkans. Mr Grenell is ranked hogher than Palmer for two reasons - he is an ambassador and he has direct contact with the White House. And to me it is completely clear that they are planning for him to take over the main role of a special representative in the Balkans - to deal with the issue of Belgrade and Pristina,” Serwer said.

“It is truly bizarre,” he stressed.

Serwer said he believes that the appointment might be an attempt to push for the idea of a territorial swap between Belgrade and Pristina, “which is a terrible idea that died by itself a few months ago, and it is a bad plan to try to bring it back.”

Serwer said that Grenell became a special envoy for ‘peace’ talks, while Serbia and Kosovo were until now having talks on ‘normalising relations’, but that the different terminology is not that important.

“Honestly, I think that nobody in the White House understands the difference between peace talks and talks on normalisation. That is a semantic difference, but these people don’t care about that. I don’t read too much into it, there has been peace since the end of the war in 1999,” he said.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a531910/Daniel-Serwer-Grenell-will-take-over-the-main-role-and-push-for-demarcation.html

Kosovo police: ROSU won’t storm the north

October 4, 2019

Kosovo police denied reports in some Belgrade media that the special ROSU unit would enter northern Kosovo in search for two young Serb men in connection with the murder of an opposition Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic in 2018, the KoSSev website reported on Friday.

The police described reports as “untrue and tendentious” and advised reporters to check any such information with reliable sources.

They added that such news was meant to destabilise and spread fear in Kosovo’s north.

“We encourage citizens not to fall for such disinformation, but to rely on official information and cooperate with the police at the same time,” the police statement said.

Some Belgrade media cited Rada Trajkovic, the opposition coalition Freedom candidate in the Sunday’s elections, as saying that ROSU was ordered to “in the shortest possible way” arrest two Serb men from northern Mitrovica who, reportedly, possessed the video of Ivanovic’s assassination.

Trajkovic has said she was offered the tape but refused to buy it.                                  

Kosovo Special Prosecutors’ Office summoned her for hearing and later said her statement “accelerated the investigation” since it was clear that those who offered her the video lived in northern Mitrovica.    

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a531780/Kosovo-police-deny-will-enter-the-north.html

Serbia’s Vucic: We want to avoid in Kosovo what happened in RSK and RS

October 4, 2019

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President, reiterated on Friday his call to the Kosovo Serbs to vote for Serb List in Sunday’s general elections in Kosovo, adding “it is a matter of our survival, unity and future” there, the Beta news agency reported.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Serb List’s representatives in his office, Vucic said that “all main Albanian parties conducted a brutal campaign against the Serb List and were finding their private Serbs.”

“We want to avoid what happened in the Republic of Serb Krajina (RSK, the territory in Croatia the rebel Serbs held during the 1991-1995 war) and Republika Srpska (the Serb-dominated entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina). First, they (foreigners) caused conflict among the local Serbs there and then between them and Belgrade. (In Kosovo) It is the issue of our survival, unity and the future.”

Vucic said that Serb List was portrayed as “a monster list” and that “together with the Albanians in Kosovo, many in Belgrade continuously conducted the campaign against Serb List.”

“They were accusing them, and me as well sometimes, of everything linked to (the assassinated Kosovo Serb opposition leader) Oliver Ivanovic. They spread the most heinous lies, thinking we’ll run away from the issue,” Vucic said.

He added that “many from the Quint countries (the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy), all Albanian structures and some Serbs aim to weaken Serbia’s position” in Kosovo as a whole, “as well as its position in the negotiations with the Albanians about the future of Kosovo.”  

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a531738/Vucic-accuses-some-Quint-countries-of-aiming-to-weaken-Serbia-s-position-in-Kosovo.html

Trump appoints US ambassador to Germany as special envoy for Serbia-Kosovo talks

October 04, 2019

President Donald Trump has appointed US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as his special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, the Beta news agency reported on Friday, quoting a White House press release.

Grenell will remain Washington‘s envoy in Berlin while leading American efforts to help Serbia and Kosovo reach a formal agreement which the media in Washington said could result in Belgrade’s recognition of Kosovo.  

Serbia’s President Vucic said later on Friday that Grenell's appointment was surprising news. “The US President Donald Trump has now appointed a new man and I’ll talk to Grenell today. He’s a serious man who enjoys Trump’s confidence and we’ll see in what direction everything will go.”

The Washington Times recalled that Grenell was the longest-serving US spokesman at the United Nations, working under four ambassadors from 2001 to 2008.

 Kosovo President Hashim Thaci welcomed the appointment in a post on his Twitter account. “I look forward to working with him to secure peace in the Balkans and bring Kosovo into NATO and the European Union family,” Thaci tweeted.  

Serbia’s Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic told the Serbian state TV (RTS) that Grenell’s appointment as special envoy shows that the Trump administration is interested in finding a solution to the Kosovo issue. She added that the format of the talks will not change. “This is a serious man. We will see how things will develop,” she said.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a531556/Trump-appoints-US-ambassador-to-Germany-as-special-envoy-for-Serbia-Kosovo-talks.html

Palmer: Kosovo government has to revoke tariffs

September 19, 2019

US special envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer told the Voice of America that the next Kosovo government must be prepared to suspend the tariffs on Serbia goods which he said are an obstacle to continuing the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

Palmer expressed the hope that Serbia could respond with initiatives of its own which could include a possible suspension of the campaign to withdraw recognition of Kosovo allowing the two sides to get back to the negotiating table in a positive atmosphere.

We will say clearly that we expect the next Kosovo government to favor the dialogue, be prepared to revoke the tariffs and form a negotiation team with strong powers, he said adding that the government also has to be committed to reaching an agreement to normalize relations.

According to Palmer, the US will be present in every stage of the process but warned that Kosovo has to take control of its own fate.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527033/Palmer-Kosovo-government-has-to-revoke-tariffs.html

Serbian opposition leader has plan for Kosovo without Vucic

September 19, 2019

Serbian opposition leader Dragan Djilas told reporters on Thursday that his Party of Freedom and Justice has a plan for Kosovo which does not include President Aleksandar Vucic and his partners in Pristina.

Djilas said that Vucic was out of the plan because “he does not know what the word reconciliation means”. “Our plan includes his not being in power, nor his friends and partners in Kosovo (outgoing Prime Minister) Ramush Haradinaj and (President) Hashim Thaci,” he told reporters in front of the Serbian Presidency building. “This is the only way. Seven years of trying with Vucic. Have they achieved anything,” he added.  

Djilas said that no one who committed war crimes or supported criminals can take part in the reconciliation process “because that’s impossible with those people”.  

A final agreement is not possible at this time because the Albanians insist on independent and have the support of part of the international community, he said and added that the focus should be on normalization with an end ot provocations, the revoking of the tariffs on Serbian goods, freedom of movement and solutions to other disputes.  

According to Djilas, more people leave Kosovo than any other part of Europe because both Serbs and Albanians are “hostages of criminals”.  

He said that possible partners for the plan include everyone who want to accept it and added that it has been translated into Albanian.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527117/Serbian-opposition-leader-has-plan-for-Kosovo-without-Vucic.html

Almost two million voters registered in Kosovo

September 19, 2019

More than 1.9 million people have the right to vote at the October 6 parliamentary elections in Kosovo, the Central Election Commission said on Thursday.

A Commission press release said that 1,937,869 voters are registered for the elections which is 111,733 more than at the local elections in 2017.

Voters will cast ballots at 2,547 polling stations which is 42 more than in 2017. The Commission said it had established 895 voter centers which is four less than at earlier elections.

A total of 46,917 names of people who died since the previous elections have been removed from the electoral rolls.  

Party of Kosovo Serbs leader Aleksandar Jablanovic said that his party would try to win seats in parliament but would not enter the government at any cost like the Serb List has done. He recalled that the Serb List was formed in agreement with the Serbian government to provide Kosovo Serbs with a means for political action which did not mean that they should be obedient to Belgrade. “We were tricked because Belgrade wanted to use us as a bargaining chip,” the former Serb List official said.

Serbian government Office for Kosovo chief Marko Djuric called the Kosovo Serbs to support the Serb List which he said is Serbia’s state project which would secure ties with Serbia and the survival of the Serbs in Kosovo.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527201/Almost-two-million-voters-registered-in-Kosovo.html

Half of Serbians see America as the enemy, poll shows

September 19, 2019

Half of the population of Serbia view the United States as an enemy but believe that good relations should be maintained with both Washington and Moscow, Institute for European Affairs said on Thursday citing the results of a poll.

One fourth of Serbians gave very low grades to Serbia-US relations while a third gave them a 3 out of a possible 5 grade and less than five percent said those relations deserve top marks.  

Half of the polled Serbians see the US as an enemy, 22 percent see it as a friend and 28 percent said they have no opinion. Most of the people who see the US as the enemy are aged 60 or more with the number of people sharing that view dropping the higher their education.  

A total of 57 percent believe that Serbia should maintain good relations with both Russia and the US and 40.9 percent what good relations with Russia while 4.3 percent prefer good relations with the US.  

Some 43 percent believe that Serbia’s relations with the US will get better in the future. That view is held mainly by women and people over the age of 45.

A solution to the Kosovo issue is the thing that would help improve relations with the US according to 21.6 percent of the polled while 12.8 percent said they would improve if Kosovo is returned to Serbia, 10.8 percent said an apology from NATO for the 1999 bombings along with war reparations and 8.1 percent feel they would improve if Serbia joins the European Union.

According to the poll, 39.4 percent of Serbians get information about relations with the US from TV, 22.2 percent from Internet portal, 16.4 percent from print media and 9.7 percent from social networks.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527185/Half-of-Serbians-see-America-as-the-enemy-poll-shows.html

Investigative journalism center: Serbian pro-government media get state funds

September 18, 2019

The Serbian Center for Investigative Journalism (CINS) said on Wednesday that pro-government media had deferred billions of Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) in tax payments and received millions in state funding over the past four years.

According to CINS, TV Pink deferred the payment of 1.52 billion Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) of tax debts over the past four years while the tabloids Informer and Srpski Telegraf received 52.5 million Dinars in state funding at tenders for public interests media projects over a period of three years.

It said that the state Tanjug news agency has continued to receive money from the government through commercial contracts even though it was supposed to have been shut down. CINS said that Tanjug had received at least 129 million Dinars from the government since October 2015 as funding for the closure of the agency and in payment for contracts. The agency also got permission from the Belgrade city authorities to put up artwork as collateral to defer the payment of 5.7 million Dinars in taxes.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a526827/Investigative-journalism-center-says-Serbian-pro-government-media-getting-state-funding-tax-deferme.html

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