International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bosnian and US armed forces to take part in 'Bilateral Exercise' in mid November

November 16, 2020

Members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AF BiH) and the United States of America will participate in a joint military exercise called "Bilateral Exercise," which will be realized on November 18 and 19, 2020 at the AF BiH - Glamoc and Manjaca training grounds, Bosnia's Defence Ministry said Monday.

The BiH AF will participate in the exercise with a computer-assisted exercise (CAX) and field exercise (FTX), and the US Armed Forces will participate with two F-16 aircraft, which will provide support forces on the ground. The planes, which will provide close air support at the location of the Glamoc range, will not use live ammunition but will perform laser locking of the target and simulated destruction after receiving a support call.

The aim of the exercise is for the AF BiH to improve operational capabilities of the declared battalion group through exercise with specialists for guidance and control of close air support (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers - JTAC). This would give the AF BiH the ability to conduct conventional operations and carry out assignments in real-time and in the international environment with the use of close fire and air support.

The "Bilateral Exercise" will also enable the Bosnia's Armed Forces to improve partnership cooperation with the United States and NATO partners, and to develop interoperability and readiness, as well as to create preconditions for the introduction of new capabilities of the AF BiH, the Ministry said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a487458/Bosnian-and-US-armed-forces-to-take-part-in-Bilateral-Exercise-in-mid-November.html

Bosniak coalition in Srebrenica submits complaint alleging election fraud

November 16, 2020

The Bosniak political coalition ‘Moja adresa: Srebrenica’ (My address: Srebrenica) has submitted a complaint to the Central Election Commission (CEC) alleging that people who do not possess valid documentation in Bosnia voted in the local election in Srebrenica on Sunday.

The votes are still being counted but at the moment the incumbent mayor, Bosnian Serb Mladen Grujicic, is ahead of the candidate of the Bosniak coalition, Alija Tabakovic.

According to the coalition, members of local election commissions in Srebrenica have allowed election fraud.

“We have come across information that at least 1,400 people who are on the voter list for Srebrenica did not have any valid Bosnian documents a month ago - including an ID, a driver’s license or a passport,” the initiative said.

Dozens of people who did not possess valid documentation voted, especially in Srebrenica municipality of Skelani, it said.

The coalition said that these allegations are easy to check and the Central Election Commission and Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office should compare the list of voters with data from the Interior Ministry regarding the personal documentation of the people listed.

“It would be enough for us to determine this (election fraud) for 20 names listed, and we can do so for more than that, to put the legality and the integrity of the election process into question,” it said.

The coalition also said it expects that once the votes that were mailed in from abroad and from Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Federation (FBiH) entity, Grujicic will lose his lead but that irregularities in the election process could affect the outcome.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a487546/Bosniak-coalition-in-Srebrenica-submits-complaint-alleging-election-fraud.html

Dodik: Bosnia's RS entity Govt. will not cooperate with new Banja Luka mayor

November 16, 2020

After having lost the election in Banja Luka, the administrative center of the Bosnia’s Serb-majority entity of Republika Srpska (RS), the party of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik announced on Monday it will freeze all entity government investments into the city because it voted against its candidate.

“We will stop all investments from the RS Government level until we see how the city will politically develop,” said Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), after his candidate, the incumbent mayor Igor Radojcic, lost Sunday’s local election to opposition leader Drasko Stanivukovic.

“I will not forgive them for what they have done to Igor,” Dodik said of voters in Banja Luka. “This is not a threat, this is my personal stance. It’s my right,” he declared.

He said his party carefully wrote down all the promises Stanivukovic made during the campaign and he expects him to fulfill them.

Members of Dodik’s party in the City Assembly will not initiate a motion to remove the mayor, at least not this year.

“They have tarnished the relations so much that no proposal for any new mayor will be supported,” Dodik declared.

Stanivukovic had announced that he will advocate for students and pensioners in Banja Luka to use public transportation for free and Dodik said his party will support such a decision, “but let’s first see how he plans to finance it.”

“Let’s see how he plans to subsidize city heating which we have been financing for years. Why would we do that now, we also have other municipalities that need help with heating,” he said.

Commenting on Dodik’s hints that the SNSD majority in the City Assembly will undermine every proposal the new mayor submits and that Banja Luka residents could be left without subsidies for heating costs and all investments, Stanivukovic said those were all expressions of Dodik’s fear and that he is sorry the ruling option keeps humiliating residents and political opponents.

"I thank all the citizens and Banja Luka who participated in the democratic act in which we responded to the key principle of democracy, the change of government,” Stanivukovic said.

He said that he will advocate for love, understanding and open-mindedness, while his political opponents advocate for power, coercion, blackmail and torture.

“Banja Luka has defined this as a sinking and losing policy and this is a sign they will in two years face a political fiasco again,” Stanivukovic said, referring to the general election in 2022.

"However, my message is different and I am addressing you as the mayor of all citizens and I want to be clear and say that we are exiting the zone of political bickering because that’s not going to improve our lives,” he said.

He urged all political actors to choose the best people into the city’s administration, regardless of which party they belong to.

"I don’t need an assembly majority as the current mayor does. I need the best people Banja Luka can offer. We need experts, knowledge and people ready and able to to work,” he said.

Stanivukovic announced that the SNSD is afraid of his first move as mayor - the revision of all city administration contracts.

“Our duty is to move forward and keep all hard-working and honest people while revealing all those who worked illegally and dishonestly. We are building a city without divisions in which everybody will live well,” Stanivukovic concluded.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a487534/Dodik-Bosnia-s-RS-entity-Govt.-will-not-cooperate-with-new-Banja-Luka-mayor.html

Contract signed for construction of €208 mn motorway section in Bosnia

November 16, 2020

Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities and the Turkish Cengiz construction company on Monday signed an agreement worth more than €208 million for the construction of 5.5 kilometres of the Vc corridor running through the country, which is financed with a loan from European banks and EU funds.

Adnan Terzic, director of the Autoceste FBiH, the road authority in Bosnia's Federation entity, said the Poprikuse-Nemila section was complex, consisting of a 3,600-metre tunnel, two viaducts, two bridges and access roads to the M-17 trunk road. Construction work is expected to be completed in three years.

The section is located just north of Zenica.FBiH Minister of Transport and Communications Denis Lasic underlined that despite the coronavirus, construction work on the Vc motorway through Bosnia and Herzegovina had continued intensively throughout the year, adding that he expected Bosnia and Herzegovina to have 74 kilometres of the motorway completed within the next three and a half years.

Cengiz project manager Evren Utku Gok said that the project was very demanding seeing that it crosses the River Bosna twice, as well as overpassing a trunk road and a railway.

The construction of the Poprikuse-Nemila section will be financed with a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (€70 million), the European Investment Bank (€90 million) and more than €41 million worth of EU grants, approved as part of the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF).

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a487526/Contract-signed-for-construction-of-208-mn-motorway-section-in-Bosnia.html

Attorney General: Deal signed between Serbia and Bosnia's RS entity not legal

November 16, 2020

When Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Friday signed with the leaders of the Bosnian Serb semi-autonomous entity a joint statement about the construction of three hydropower plants on the Drina river, both sides ignored the law as rivers are state property and cannot be handled by just a part of the country, the Office of Bosnia’s Attorney General said on Monday.

Drina is a natural border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia but the entity of Republika Srpska (RS) views it as its own property.

Serbia has obtained the majority stakes in the ‘HES Gornja Drina’ joint-venture in which the RS will hold 49 and Serbia 51 percent. The company holds the concession on the three hydroelectric plants.

But according to Bosnia’s Attorney General, only state institutions have the competencies to decide about state property.

"Actions on the realization of the mentioned project, as well as any other similar project, should be based on the valid regulations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while respecting the competencies of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and involvement in specific procedures of its institutions," said the Office of Attorney General of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The institution said that Bosnia’s competencies and institutions were “ignored” and that this suggests the signing of the joint statement was not based on the regulations of the state.

Rivers, waters, as well as forests or agricultural land are public property, which in legal theory and case law is understood as state property in a broader sense, it said, adding that the Constitutional Court has also expressed the position that the issue is within the competencies of the state-level government.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a487502/Attorney-General-Deal-signed-between-Serbia-and-Bosnia-s-RS-entity-not-legal.html

Main Bosnian Croat party satisfied with local election results

November 16, 2020

Apart from some minor issues, the main Croat party, Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) is satisfied with its election results, party leader Dragan Covic said Monday, adding that he was glad no major incidents were reported during the election process.

Considering the process to be democratic, Covic said that “HDZ BiH can be very satisfied for winning 20 offices for mayors/heads of municipalities and over 300 councillors. We did our job pretty good, and despite the fact we didn't have a normal election campaign we still sent a strong message which is what we plan to do in the future. The election process lasts for four years and we must start preparing for the next local elections today,” Covic said.

Speaking about the results across individual cantons in Bosnia's Federation entity, he said the party managed to balance out their election result.

"In some areas, we have a slight rise or fall, which is normal, but we basically have to express our satisfaction. Congratulations to all those elected. We will probably know the results tomorrow as far as councillors are concerned, but the result is felt already. As far as HDZ BiH is concerned, we're sending a big thank you to everyone who recognized what we stand for and we will deal with analytics and then we will turn to the city of Mostar and the elections there, to complete that process similarly, "he said.

Bosnia held a local election on Sunday on the territory of the entire country, with the exception for the City of Mostar, which will hold its elections in December.

The city has been in a deadlock for over 12 years, with two main ethnic-oriented parties in the city unable to reach a consensus over how the elections will be held. In June 2020, the largest Bosniak party – Democratic Action Party (SDA) finally inked an agreement with the HDZ BiH, thus creating conditions for democratic elections in the city.

The agreement was signed by Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic, the leaders of the Democratic Party Action (SDA) and the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), in presence of foreign ambassadors and Mostar's local politicians.

The local elections in the City of Mostar were last held in 2008. Two years later, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina acted upon motion of Croat representatives in the state Parliament, assessing as unconstitutional parts of the Bosnia’s Election Law which refer to the City Statute.

The court tasked the state Parliament in 2010 to amend the Election Law regarding the provisions which treat the electoral rules in that city but this did not happen to date and Mostar elections remain the subject of political disagreements, mostly of two main parties in this city, the SDA and HDZ BiH which signed the deal.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a487386/Main-Bosnian-Croat-party-satisfied-with-local-election-results.html

Opposition to EP: Don't come to Serbia if you will legitimize this regime again

November 16, 2020

Bosko Obradovic, the leader of Serbia's nationalist opposition movement Dveri said on Monday the dialogue on election condition was already late and told the European Parliament (EP) they didn't need to come to Belgrade again if they intended to give the legitimacy to the current regime as they did when accepted to mediate the inter-party dialogue ahead of the June 21 general vote.

Obradovic said besides the delay in starting the dialogue, there wasn't any word from the EP about its delegation's arrival time, nor had they told what their ideas for the new negotiations between Serbia's authorities and the opposition were.

"If the EP would act as ahead of the last elections, they don't need to come and again legitimise a non-democratic regime in Serbia," Obradovic added.

He said he believed the authorities were buying time to leave the least possible opportunities ahead of an early vote in 2022 for something to change.

Obradovic added that the "United Opposition must decide on minimum election conditions and a deadline for their implementation at least a year ahead of the vote."

Dragan Djilas, the leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP), said that during the coronavirus epidemic the opposition should focus on the media, especially the state RTS TV and a ministry of election implementation which should be headed by an independent expert nominated by the opposition.

He also added the elections on different levels should be held separately.

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic had said the presidential elections due in spring of 2022 should be held together with early parliamentary and some local ones.

Pavle Grbovic, the head of the Free Citizens Movement said they were ready for negotiations, "though we are not happy about them. It's not pleasant to sit in the same room with people who abducted the state, nor am I proud of the European Union mediation. That is, unfortunately, a proof of our society's incapability to solve our problems, but we have to accept that now."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672583/Serbia-s-opposition-leader-to-EP-Don-t-come-if-you-will-legitimise-non-democratic-regime-again.html

Majority of Serbians opposed to NATO membership

November 16, 2020

The Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) said that three fourths of the population of Serbia are opposed to NATO membership.

CeSID official Ivo Colovic told a Belgrade NATO Week conference that just 14 percent of the 800 people polled have a positive attitude towards cooperation with the Alliance.  

He said that half the polled said that they favor membership in the European Union, adding that the people who are opposed to EU membership are aged 18-29 and over the age of 60.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672813/Majority-of-Serbians-opposed-to-NATO-membership.html

NATO official says Alliance and Serbia important to each other

November 16, 2020

NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy said on Monday that Serbia is important to NATO and NATO is important to Serbia.

She told the online Belgrade NATO Week conference Belgrade and the Alliance want a secure Western Balkan region.  

She said that Serbia is of crucial importance for the stability of the Western Balkans, adding that it is a force for good in the region.

According to her, the stability of the Western Balkans is linked to the stability of the EuroAtlantic area.  

NATO and Serbia want peace, security and prosperity for our citizens and we are working together through our partnership to make this a reality. That is why our partnership is significant to both sides, she said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672815/NATO-official-says-Alliance-and-Serbia-important-to-each-other.html

Kosovo PM Hoti says market integration leads to political agreement

November 16, 2020

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said on Monday that he thinks the integration of the market is the first step to political agreement in the region.

Speaking at the Vienna Economic Forum, Hoti said that this would also improve the prospects of the Western Balkan countries on their way to the European Union, a press release quoted him as saying. He added that Kosovo has continued implementing its European obligations, with focus on the common market in the Western Balkans.  

He said that Kosovo is determined to promote stable economic and political relations and that he expects all sides, especially Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to show a constructive approach. “Multilateral cooperation such as the common regional market promotes and improves security in the region, political stability and economic cooperation,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672739/Kosovo-PM-Hoti-says-market-integration-leads-to-political-agreement.html

Commission calls Kosovo Specialist Chambers to investigate journalists' murders

November 16, 2020

The Serbian Commission investigating the murders of journalists said on Monday that the Specialist Chambers in the Hague should investigate and file indictments for the abductions and murders of 17 journalists during the war in Kosovo.

“The Commission calls the Specialist Chambers for Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) crimes not to allow impunity for the murders of journalists in Kosovo to remain a burden which will permanently jeopardize freedom of the media and journalists,” a press release said. It added that all the information that the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) and the Commission gathered is at the disposal of the court.  

The press release recalled that Kosovo is the area with the largest number of unsolved cases of abductions and murders of journalists with just one of the unsolved 17 cases ending with a court ruling. It said that murders and abductions of both Serbian and Albanian journalists dating back to 1998 had not been solved and that several of the journalists are still missing.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672693/Commission-calls-Kosovo-Specialist-Chambers-to-investigate-murders-of-journalists.html

Dodik: Election result in Banja Luka overshadowed SNSD's success overall

November 16, 2020

After the opposition candidate won the election for the post of mayor in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, the leader of the ruling RS party, Milorad Dodik, told media that his party has “reconfirmed its power” across the RS but that the Banja Luka election overshadowed this success.

Dodik is the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency and the leader of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), which holds the position of RS President and RS Prime Minister.

Local elections in Bosnia took place on Sunday and the apparent win of Drasko Stanivukovic, a member of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), was met with surprise.

Stanivukovic will be taking over the post from SNSD member Igor Radojicic.

Dodik told reporters on Monday that the election process was fair and that “it is very important that we had a legitimate election process.”

"This is the moment for me to thank all SNSD voters, we achieved a good result that was overshadowed by the result in Banja Luka. We have consolidated, regrouped, we have good results in many cities," Dodik said.

He said that the SNSD will have 45 mayoral posts across Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is five more than in the past mandate.

"Logically, we will enter into a coalition with partners,” he said, arguing that 70 percent of voters in Banja Luka chose the parties he named would be part of that coalition.

The SNSD will analyse the election results in Banja Luka on Monday, he said.

"I think that the SNSD has confirmed its strength. We will analyze what happened in Banja Luka at today's session, we have some indications that some of our coalition partners behaved differently that we agreed,” he said.

“One of the best mayors in history is Igor Radojicic and time will show this. The mayor in Banja Luka will not have our support, but our majority will continue to implement our projects because it is important for us that the city starts functioning," Dodik concluded.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672589/Dodik-Election-result-in-Banja-Luka-overshadowed-SNSD-s-success-overall.html

Serbia's Interior Minister: Vucic targeted repeatedly, underestimates threats

November 16, 2020

Serbia's new Interior Minister, and former Defence Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, said on Monday since President Aleksandar Vucic was the key figure in fighting organised crime and mafia, he and his family were targeted continuously by "those against the state are fighting against."

He added he and the Interior Ministry (MUP) "will do everything in our power to protect Vucic and his family."

Vulin did not specify what threats he referred to.

Addressing the Parliamentary Body for Defence and Internal Affairs, Vulin said the number of crimes in 2020 dropped by 13.1 percent compared to the year before, adding such MUP's good results were achieved thanks to "huge support of Serbia's President."

According to Vulin, a part of Serbia's public "doesn't understand that, and it leads to "a constant and ill-intended pressure on Vucic and his family."

Vulin added Vucic sometimes underestimated the threats he received and believed it was not important what could happen to him, "what is not good."

"That cannot happen. The mafia cannot be stronger than the state. Aleksandar Vucic is the man with courage and capability to settle the account with that evil," Vulin said.

Besides, he said the police showed restraint during the anti-regime demonstrations last summer.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672533/Serbia-s-Interior-Minister-Vucic-targeted-repeatedly-undermines-threats-sometimes.html

SDA loses Sarajevo and SNSD loses Banja Luka in Bosnia's 2020 local elections

November 16, 2020

The biggest surprises of Bosnia’s local elections were Sarajevo and Banja Luka where the Democratic Action Party (SDA) and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) lost their grip after decades of rule over the two cities.

In Sarajevo, the SDA lost municipalities of Centar, Novo Sarajevo and Ilidza, Stari Grad Municipality was once again won by Ibrahim Hadzibajric from the opposition bloc known as the Sarajevo Four (People and Justice – NiP, Social Democratic Party – SDP, Our Party, Independent Bosnian List – NBL).

Party Leader Bakir Izetbegovic admitted defeat saying they lost Sarajevo, but they won Bosnia. The only Municipality within Sarajevo, which they managed to hold, was Novi Grad where their candidate Semir Efendic stands to serve another four-year term.

Other major municipalities which SDA lost or stayed out of their reach are Tuzla, Zenica, Cazin and Bihac, which Izetbegovic commented on saying these major cities, as well as Banja Luka in the RS, are a sign that big municipalities and cities are demanding change.

In Velika Kladusa, a convicted war criminal Fikret Abdic is in the lead for the position of the Head of the Municipality.
The strongest Bosnian-Serb party, the SNSD, also admitted defeat in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of the Bosnian Serb entity called Republika Srpska. The party leader and Bosnian Presidency member Milorad Dodik said he was not happy at all that they lost the race after their candidate Igor Radojicic did a lot for that city – only to lose it to opposition candidate Drasko Stanivukovic.

Stanivukovic said that after 22 years, an ordinary man finally got the chance to win in Banja Luka.

The SNSD also stands to lose Prijedor, where their candidate is neck and neck with the opposition candidate from the Democratic People’s Alliance.

When it comes to the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), the strongest Bosnian-Croat Party, they reported they won in Neum, Posusje, Kresevo, Zepce and Citluk. Their sister party HDZ 1990 said their candidate won the race for Prozor Rama.

These are unofficial election results and the Central Election Commission said they will publish their first unofficial results around midnight.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672435/SDA-loses-Sarajevo-and-SNSD-loses-Banja-Luka-in-Bosnia-s-2020-local-elections.html

Slovenia's coronavirus update: 920 new cases, 32 deaths

November 15, 2020

In the last 24 hours, Slovenia has conducted 3,563 coronavirus tests and 920 of them have been positive, the government said on Sunday.

Currently, there are 19,381 active cases, and the incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants over a 14-day period is now 925 new cases.

The situation in hospitals is still critical, where 1,261 COVID patients are being treated, including 201 in intensive care wards.

In the last 24 hours, 32 COVID-related deaths have been reported, and the death toll stands now at 797.

Government officials were quoted as saying that the latest restrictions have led to the prevention of the exponential growth of the infection.

"We have flattened the curve of coronavirus spread," the chief epidemiologist Mateja Logar said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a672235/Slovenia-s-coronavirus-update-920-new-cases-32-deaths.html

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