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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Pristina daily says Kosovo dialogue moving to Washington

March 4, 2020

Pristina daily Koha Ditore claimed on Wednesday that the White House meeting between the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo was organized to move the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue from Brussels to Washington.

The daily quoted an unnamed member of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s cabinet who said that the meeting was not agreed in advance and added that Thaci was told to urgently come to Washington from New York. The source said that the dialogue process needs new dynamics to guarantee a quick agreement.  

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic denied on Wednesday that there was any “big plan or big agreement” to resolve the Kosovo issue. He called claims of a big plan false news. “There have been a lot of untrue, false news over the past few days about big agreements being made and a plan already drafted. No, that was not discussed nor does anything similar exist. If it did, I would say so as I always do. I never deceived our people,” Vucic told a news conference in the Serbian Presidency building.

Grenell confirmed for the Daily Wire news portal that he was resigning as US Ambassador to Germany once Congressman John Ratcliffe is confirmed by the Senate as the Director of National Intelligence, a post Grenell now holds as acting DNI.

The unnamed source told Koha Ditore that US special envoy Ambassador Richard Grenell made an offer worth billions of Euro if an agreement is reached quickly by Belgrade and Pristina.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574822/Pristina-daily-says-Kosovo-dialogue-moving-to-Washington.html

Serbia ranks Partly Free on Freedom in the World report

March 3, 2020

Serbia has been rated Partly Free in the Freedom in the World 2020 report which reviews the level of democracy in 210 individual states across the world.

Freedom in the World analyzes the electoral process, political pluralism and participation, the functioning of the government, freedom of expression and of belief, associational and organizational rights, the rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights. The report is produced by Freedom House.  

The report also listed Serbia among the countries which saw the largest 10-year decline in those two categories.  

“In Serbia, independent journalists, opposition figures, and other perceived foes of the government faced ongoing harassment, intimidation, and sometimes violence. Public frustration with the entrenched ruling parties boiled over into large protests in both countries, but they failed to yield any meaningful change,” the report said.  

Serbia scored a total of 66 points (of a possible 100) with 23 points (of a possible score of 60) awarded for political rights and 43 (of a possible score of 40) for civil liberties.  

The report also listed Kosovo as partly free with a total score of 56 points (of a possible 100) - 25 (of a possible score of 60) for political rights and 31 (of a possible score of 40) for civil liberties.   “Balloting in Kosovo lofted the opposition nationalist Vetevendosje party into office, where it has an opportunity to change the country’s culture of corruption,” the report said.  

http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574728/Serbia-ranks-Partly-Free-on-Freedom-in-the-World-report.html

Gojkovic calls Serbian local elections for April 26

March 4, 2020

Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic on Wednesday called local elections for April 26.

Gojkovic told reporters in parliament that her decision does not include towns and municipalities which held early elections for their local assemblies – the city assemblies of Zajecar, Bor and Belgrade and the municipal assemblies in Kosjeric, Lucani, Arandjelovac, Negotin, Majdanpek, Mionica, Medvedja, Presevo, Kula, Doljevac, Kladovo and Smederevska Palanka where early local elections were held in the period between 2017 and 2019.  

She called voters to turn out for the elections to exercise their right to decide the future of their local communities and their development in the democratic election process. “Follow the programs of all candidates and use your vote to choose the ones whose responsible and serious policies will improve the lives of yourselves and your families. I am calling all candidates to compete for voter support with good programs and offer their visions of development and refrain from hate speech in their campaigns,” Gojkovic, a ranking official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), said.  

She also called everyone involved in the election process to respect the democratically expressed will of the citizens.  

Preparations for the elections begin once the decision to call elections takes effect with its publication in the Official Gazette.

Belgrade City Assembly Speaker Nikola Nikodijevic called elections for all 17 municipal assemblies in the Serbian capital for April 26, too.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574752/Gojkovic-calls-Serbian-local-elections-for-April-26.html

Serbian DefMin charges opposition leader with inciting violent change of power

March 4, 2020

The Serbian Defense Ministry has filed criminal charges against opposition leader Bosko Obradovic, charging him with calling for a violent overthrow of the authorities.

“The Defense Ministry has filed criminal charges with the Higher Public Prosecution against Bosko Obradovic for the crime of calling for the violent change of order for calling and inciting the change by force of constitutional order and the toppling of the highest state bodies with the intention of endangering the constitutional order and security of the Republic of Serbia,” a statement on the ministry web site said.  

It added that Obradovic, leader of the Dveri movement and one of the top officials of the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS), told a news conference in the Serbia parliament that President “Aleksandar Vucic should be isolated urgently” and the military and police should take power in Serbia.  

"Right now, Vucic is the most dangerous security threat to Serbia and has to be immediately isolated. So, the army and police should take power and protect the state borders from the upcoming migrants' crisis. If they don't do that, I don't know who will," the Beta news agency reported Obradovic as saying.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574740/Serbian-Defense-Ministry-charges-opposition-leader-with-inciting-violent-overthrow-of-authorities.html

Vucic, Thaci: Meeting “nothing special," NSC: Big to Trump administration

March 3, 2020

The Presidents of Serbia and Kosovo, Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci said that their meeting in Washington was “customary” and “nothing special” but added that things should move forward in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, while NSC tweeted that Belgrade - Pristina relations had great importance to the President Donald Trump's administration.

Vucic told Serbian media after the meeting that no agreement had been reached on Serbia stopping its campaign to revoke recognition of Kosovo. “I told them that there is no agreement and then I heard the other side say that this is important and I added that I asked the Albanians for just one thing all the time in Brussels: do not apply for membership in international organizations and institutions, do not call for more recognition and membership in Interpol, UNESCO and other organizations for the duration of the talks,” he said and added that he offered to temporarily stop the campaign but that Pristina never wanted an agreement of that kind.  

The president said that the US officials he met with in Washington “do not want to turn little Serbia into any kind of enemy, not even a small one”, adding that they want cooperation with Serbia. “I saw that they are interested in investing in our country, our region,” he said. Vucic said the US view of Serbia was different to what it was a few years ago but that relations between the two countries would include problems because of Belgrade-Pristina relations.  

Kosovo President Thaci told Radio Free Europe that the meeting was also constructive, adding that they discussed “the need for a peaceful solution between Kosovo and Serbia and a possible final agreement” but not any specific issue. “Good will was shown to move things forward in the interest of the two states just like the agreements on air and rail traffic, a highway and issues of mutual interest, more economic than political,” he said.  

Thaci said it was “a meeting of good will with US engagement to finalize the issue of good neighbor relations between Kosovo and Serbia once and for all”. “The dialogue has to be ended as soon as possible with a final agreement which includes reciprocal recognition, no more or less than that with current territorial integrity,” he added. According to Thaci, the process will help Kosovo become a member of NATO, the EU and UN. “We have no tgime to lose… We have an offer from Washington and should move forward,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574446/Vucic-Thaci-say-meeting-was-nothing-special.html

Serbia's war criminal calls for murder of Montenegro's President

March 3, 2020

"Convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj called on lynch and murder of the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic on a Belgrade TV with national frequency," the Montenegrin ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) said, adding it was regretful that the institutions in Serbia, first of all, the regulatory bodies, saw this as part of informing the public," the FoNet news agency reported on Tuesday.

"On Monday, on (pro-government) Happy TV morning programme, Seselj scandalously threaten Djukanovic. Speaking about events in Montenegro following the adoption of the Law on Religious Freedom, Seselj accused Djukanovic of attacking Serbia and Russia, and continued with threats," DPS said in the statement.

"I'm warning Milo Djukanovic that he crossed every line and that he has to flee if he wants to save his life," Seselj said.

DPS said it was regretful that neither institutions nor regulatory bodies in the country which wants to join the European Union saw the difference between Seselj's speech and informing the public."Even if it is for greater TV viewership or political reason – it's too much. But for building good neighbourly relations is certainly not," DPS said.

Seselj was convicted of war crimes by The Hague Tribunal and sentenced to ten years of imprisonment. He was released after the sentence since he spent over a decade in the Scheveningen detention.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574620/Serbia-s-war-criminal-threatens-Monetenegrin-President.html

Pompeo highlights significance of resumption of dialogue in meeting with Vucic

March 3, 2020

The U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo pointed at the importance of the resumption of the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations in his meeting with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic in Washington, the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement by spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, reads as follows:

“Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic March 2 in Washington, D.C.

Secretary Pompeo reiterated U.S. support for Serbia and its goal of E.U. membership. The Secretary underscored the importance of returning to negotiations with Kosovo to normalise relations.

Secretary Pompeo also encouraged President Vucic to build on the momentum of the recent letters of intent to establish air, rail, and highway links between Pristina and Belgrade.

The Secretary and President discussed Serbia’s continuing development as a modern, democratic, and prosperous European nation at peace with its neighbours.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574572/Poppeo-tells-Vucic-about-importance-of-restarting-dialoge-with-Pristina.html

Kurti: Belgrade intensifying campaign against recognition of Kosovo

March 3, 2020

Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Tuesday that the Serbian authorities had stepped up the campaign to revoke recognition of Kosovo following the announcement that Pristina would partly lift the tariffs on Serbian goods.

“The Serbian government is responding to my good will to partly lift the tariffs on raw materials imported from Serbia by intensifying its campaign against the recognition of Kosovo's independence,” he wrote on his Facebook profile.  

“I am calling on official Serbia to stop this offensive and to give up its destructive policies towards Kosovo and its statehood. I will also urge relevant international players, primarily the US and European Union, as mediators in the dialogue, to increase pressure on Serbia to cease hostile policy towards Kosovo,” he added.  

Kurti wrote that Pristina has clearly shown the will for a normal relationship with Serbia and added that he would carefully review the situation and take action in the interest of Kosovo and its citizens.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574464/Kurti-Belgrade-intensifying-campaign-against-recognition-of-Kosovo.html

Serbian FM says Sierra Leone revoked recognition of Kosovo

March 3, 2020

The Serbian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that another African country has revoked its decision to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, bringing the number of those states to 18.

A press release quoted Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic as saying that Sierra Leone had revoked its decision to recognize Kosovo which, according to him, means that Pristina no longer has the backing of the majority in the United Nations.  

Belgrade’s campaign to convince the countries that have recognized Kosovo to revoke their decision is a point of contention between Belgrade and Pristina which wants the Serbian government to stop the campaign. Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s government imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods in response to the campaign. Haradinaj’s successor Albin Kurti has also called Belgrade to end its diplomatic efforts against recognition of Kosovo.  

Kosovo Foreign Minister Glauk Konjufca denied at Tuesday’s news conference in Pristina Dacic’s statement that Sierra Leone had revoked its decision to recognize Kosovo

Speaking during a visit to Sierra Leone, Dacic said that 92 of the 193 UN member states have recognized Kosovo, 96 countries do not recognize it as independent and five countries have what he called “fluid stands”. “I am especially pleased to show a note from the Foreign Ministry which says that Sierra Leone is withdrawing its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state and will respect the results of the (Belgrade-Pristina) dialogue,” he is quoted as saying.  

The Foreign Minister said that Sierra Leone’s decision to withdraw recognition of Kosovo is especially important for Belgrade because it was one of the first countries to do so in 2008. He added that the country’s president (Julius Maada Bio) instructed the Foreign Ministry to revoke the decision on Kosovo.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574398/Serbian-FM-says-Sierra-Leone-revoked-recognition-of-Kosovo.html

Serbia's Vucic & Kosovo's Thaci meet in Washington on US officials' request

March 2, 2020

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President, and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci met in Washington upon the request of two US high officials, and all agreed that import taxes should be eliminated and the Belgrade - Pristina dialogue should resume immediately after, media reported later on Monday.

According to Serbia's state Tanjug news agency, besides Vucic and Thaci, the meeting was attended by the US President Donald Trump's special envoy to Belgrade and Pristina Richard Grenell and Trump's security advisor Robert O'Brien.

The agency said all four agreed on the necessity of the removal of taxes and said they wished that Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations resumed immediately after the tariffs were eliminated.

Thaci confirmed the meeting on his Facebook page, adding it was held on Grenell's and O'Brien's request. "I'm on my way to Pristina. I expect that I will be able to address the Kosovo people in the Parliament on Wednesday or Thursday and inform them about the meetings I had in Washington."

Earlier on Monday Vucic said his meeting with the State Secretary Mike Pompeo was sincere and meaningful and that he was grateful to the US officials for listening to Belgrade and understanding its problems, the Beta news agency reported.

 Vucic added he could ‘cautiously say that some confidence is created in building better relations between the US and Serbia.”

“I’m grateful to all American officials for their clear view. I have said several times that with some in the international community, you never know what they think, while with the Americans, you know everything. I’m aware that we have a different opinion about Kosovo, but thank them for listening to Serbia and understanding our problems,” Vucic told reporters after the talks with Pompeo.        

He added he could not expect more because that “it would be unrealistic.”

Vucic and his Kosovo's counterpart Hashim Thaci met in Washington, VOA in Albanian reported. Earlier, Vucic said he expected new withdrawals of recognition of Kosovo's independence within next days. We're ready to talk with the Albanians when they revoke taxes, and then we can talk about a format of the dialogue.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574228/Vucic-and-Thaci-meet-in-Washington.html

Kosovo Parliament undecided about import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia

March 2, 2020

After 10-hour debate, Kosovo’s Parliament ended the Monday’s session without any decision or resolution on Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s announcement about the start of lifting the 100 percent import duties on goods from Serbia and Bosnia, the Beta news agency reported.

The urgent session was called by the opposition, which wanted the taxes to remain.

The debate was marked by differing views on the issue among both the ruling coalition and opposition.

Kurti’s party remained committed to a partial withdrawing of the tariff said to start on March 15, further depending on Serbia’s decision to stop its anti-recognition campaign and remove some trade barriers. The complete lifting is scheduled for April 1 if Serbia complies.

Earlier on Monday, Kurti wrote to the US President Donald Trump, reiterating he would gradually lift the taxes despite Washington’s clear message they should be completely eliminated.

Kurtis’ coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), is in favour of removing all the taxes at once and even warned last week it might leave the Government, while former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo is against even the partial lifting.

They said the tariffs were planned to be revoked after Serbia recognised Kosovo’s independence.

Daut Haradinaj, the leader of the Alliance’s Deputy Club, said “it is clear that no resolution can be passed.”

“This Government has no serious intention to introduce the reciprocity principle with Serbia" he added.

After 10-hour debate, Kosovo’s Parliament ended the Monday’s session without any decision or resolution on Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s announcement about the start of lifting the 100 percent import duties on goods from Serbia and Bosnia, the Beta news agency reported.

The urgent session was called by the opposition, which wanted the taxes to remain.

The debate was marked by differing views on the issue among both the ruling coalition and opposition.

Kurti’s party remained committed to a partial withdrawing of the tariff said to start on March 15, further depending on Serbia’s decision to stop its anti-recognition campaign and remove some trade barriers. The complete lifting is scheduled for April 1 if Serbia complies.

Earlier on Monday, Kurti wrote to the US President Donald Trump, reiterating he would gradually lift the taxes despite Washington’s clear message they should be completely eliminated.

Kurtis’ coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), is in favour of removing all the taxes at once and even warned last week it might leave the Government, while former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo is against even the partial lifting.

They said the tariffs were planned to be revoked after Serbia recognised Kosovo’s independence.

Daut Haradinaj, the leader of the Alliance’s Deputy Club, said “it is clear that no resolution can be passed.”

“This Government has no serious intention to introduce the reciprocity principle with Serbia" he added.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574345/Kosovo-Parliamnet-without-resolution-on-taxes.html

In letter to Trump, Kurti reiterates he'll lift taxes partially as of March 15

March 2, 2020

Albin Kurti, Kosovo’s PM said on Monday Pristina would start revoking the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia, and that his Government was committed to solving the remaining issues with Belgrade, the FoNet news agency reported.

In a letter to the US President Donald Trump and State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Kurti, in fact, reiterated the previous announcement about partially abolishing taxes, starting with raw material as of March 15.

However, that statement drew undivided criticism from Washington and his coalition party and the opposition at home as well with only the European Union hailing the move as "the first step and would like to see more details, the European External Action Service (EAAS)

“We do that as a sign of good diplomatic wish and commitment to cooperate with the US in the dialogue with Serbia. We hope that Belgrade would respond with reciprocity and remove trade barriers with Kosovo and stop its anti-recognition campaign,” Kurti wrote on Monday.

He called on the US and European Union to create mechanisms for monitoring and sanctioning “to make sure that both sides fulfill the obligations from the current and future agreements.”

Kurti added the relations between Belgrade and Pristina should be solved in a dialogue, “which would end in mutual recognition,” state RTS TV reported.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574200/Kosovo-PM-says-again-he-will-start-partiall-lifting-of-taxes.html

Serbian president Vucic meets US Envoy Palmer in Washington

March 2, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reported on his Instagram account that he met with US State Department envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer in Washington where he is taking part in the annual conference of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Vucic’s post said that he had a good meeting with Palmer, adding that they discussed issues of importance to the region. According to Vucic, Palmer shares the views of the US President’s envoy to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Ambassador Richard Grenell on the tariffs imposed by the Kosovo government on goods from Serbia. “I am grateful to both of them for their openness and honesty. They feel that it’s important to revoke the tariffs so that we can talk about fundamental issues. There can be no fundamental political talks between Belgrade and Pristina before the tariffs are revoked,” he said.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574082/Serbian-president-Vucic-meets-US-Envoy-Palmer-in-Washington.html

Vucic tells Jerusalem Post Serbia plans to buy Israeli arms

March 2, 2020

President Aleksandar Vucic told The Jerusalem Post that Serbia intends to buy weapons from Israel.

“In a response to questions about the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Western Europe targeting Israel, Vucic said the Serbian purchase of weapons from Israel will not be a small delivery,” the daily said.

It quoted Vucic as saying that Serbia is “not a fertile ground for anti-semitic messages” and that BDS is non-existent in Serbia. “No one has heard of the boycott movement in Serbia," he said. Vucic is also quoted as saying that Serbia “will always to do our best to align our interests with Israel.”  

The Jerusalem Post said that Serbia was the first country that passed legislation permitting restitution of unclaimed Jewish property seized during the Holocaust. It recalled that Vucic’s “paternal grandfather was murdered by the Nazi-supported Croatian fascist Ustashe during World War II, expelled his family and they resettled near Belgrade”.  

“Vucic is well-versed in the dangers of lethal antisemitism and fascism, as well, and he energetically advocated for a memorial for the Staro Sajmiste concentration camp in Belgrade, where the Serbs, Jews and Roma were murdered during Hitler Germany’s occupation of the Balkan country,” the daily said and added that he initiated a remembrance day for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in January.  

"Jews fought neck and neck with the Serbian people" against the fascists and Nazis in WWII, Vucic told the daily.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a413487/Vucic-tells-Jerusalem-Post-Serbia-plans-to-buy-Israeli-arms.html

FM Dacic says Kosovo's Kurti is playing 'maneuvering games'

March 1, 2020

Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic said that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is blackmailing Serbia and playing “manoeuvring games” regarding the import tariffs, saying that the tariffs would be lifted while actually they will stay in effect.

Kurti recently announced that Pristina authorities will first lift 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia on March 15, and as of April 1 entirely, under the condition that Belgrade stops its anti-recognition campaign.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described the move as “an attempted hoax.”

“There are those in Kosovo who don’t want the tariffs to be lifted, from Kurti who is playing manoeuvring games to revoke something but actually making it stay in effect, while blackmailing Serbia, to those who think that the tariffs must be lifted for the sake of good relations with the US,” Dacic told Serbia’s public broadcaster, RTS. 

“Kurti came up with two ideas – that we stop with the anti-recognition campaign, and just the other day they celebrated because Jamaica supposedly recognized Kosovo,” he added.

Dacic stressed that there can be no reciprocity and that Pristina authorities must come to terms with the fact that they are not equal with Serbia.

European Union welcomed Kurti’s announcement without getting into the essence of the matter, he said adding that the US strongly reacted as they believe that the import tariffs were a disturbing factor and had to be completely lifted without any conditions or negotiations.

“There are other parts of the American administration, the parts of the so-called deep state, who observe with sympathy, because that was their project, they are pressuring Pristina but they never say what is going to happen if Pristina doesn’t obey them,” said Dacic.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a573900/FM-Dacic-says-Kosovo-s-Kurti-is-playing-manoeuvring-games.html

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