International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

"Serbia-Croatia important for stability of region"

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic spoke on Tuesday with Croatian Ambassador Gordan Bakota about the situation in the region and the bilateral relations.

May 21, 2019

Brnabic pointed out that the relations between Serbia and Croatia are important for the stability of the region, and that, consequently, it is necessary to improve the dialogue and intensify cooperation in resolving open issues.

The Croatian ambassador assessed that the Western Balkans' accession to the European Union is crucial for the prosperity of all countries in the region, and announced that this would be one of the important issues during the presidency of Croatia to the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

He informed the prime minister that the goal of Croatia is to organize the EU-Western Balkans Summit during its Presidency, in which the European perspective of the region and the enlargement of the EU would be an important topic.

The officials emphasized the importance of improving relations in the field of minority rights, so that all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, noting the importance of cross-border cooperation and the use of IPA funds.

When it comes to infrastructure cooperation, Brnabic concluded that cooperation between the two countries in the improvement of rail transport is in the interest of both countries, explaining that in 2020, in the area of infrastructure projects, the focus of Serbia will be precisely on the railways.

They also discussed the cooperation between the chambers of commerce of Serbia and Croatia and plans for organizing the economic summit of the two countries during 2019.

Brnabic and akota concluded that the visit of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to Serbia in the coming period would be a good signal for further improvement of cooperation and interstate dialogue

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=21&nav_id=106879

Vucic comments on Quint's statement: "Stupidest thing ever"

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says he was surprised by a statement issued by "Quint" countries after local elections in northern Kosovo and Metohija.

May 21, 2019

Speaking in Novi Sad on Tuesday, Vucic was referring to the reaction of the US, Germany, Italy, the UK, and France to the voting that took place in four Serb municipalities on Sunday, with the Serb List emerging as the winner.

Vucic said that "the only thing to be concluded from the (Quint) statement is that some people are dissatisfied that the elections were peaceful and orderly."

"I want to congratulate them on their inventiveness. I have never read something so stupid in my life," Vucic said, when journalists asked him to comment on the statement.

The president added that all these countries had their observers in the elections, in order to find some irregularities and mistakes to accuse the Serbs of - but as this failed, they had to refer to pressure that took place in 2017.

"What sense does that make," Vucic asked, adding that this showed "how sorry some people are that the elections took place in peace and order."

He then congratulated citizens in North Kosovo for demonstrating, in a peaceful and dignified manner, how to protect the interest of their people and fatherland, and that "one can behave wisely without poking anyone in the eye, and be winning at the same time."

Commenting on media reports that "only those who had some interest voted in the North" - Vucic said that a huge number of citizens went to the polls, producing a much higher turnout than in 2017.

"So, 25,000 people had a personal interest?," Vucic asked, adding that Albanians are saying that there are 58,000 voters in the North - when there aren't even that many inhabitants there.

Vucic also said that the opposition has no other way to explain its failure, and the fact the Serb List received 22 percent more votes than in previous elections.

"How can they explain that their boycott has failed and how can they explain they can't bring anyone to their ranks except from Savski Venac (central Belgrade)? But they don't matter, they don't decide on anything, and very few people find them to be important," Vucic said.

The statement

The Quint statement, issued after Sunday's elections, reads as follows:

"We note that the election day itself appears to have taken place in an atmosphere of calm.

Still, the embassies recall the findings of the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) in 2017, which expressed serious concerns about intimidation in many Kosovo-Serb areas, especially against political parties competing against Srpska (Serb) List. These flaws, as well as requirements to update voter registries and clarify procedures, remain unaddressed and result in restricted electoral competition and limited political participation, thus raising questions about the overall democratic process in those areas.

We call upon all relevant actors, including institutions and political parties across the spectrum, to address urgently these shortcomings by implementing the recommendations of the EOM. We encourage citizens and civil society to hold parties accountable for their commitment by joint declaration in the Kosovo Assembly in April 2019, to strengthen the electoral process. Those elected must now commit to representing the interests of all communities within their municipalities."

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=21&nav_id=106877

"Russia will always support Serbia - especially on Kosovo"

President Aleksandar Vucic has received Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the Russian Federation's State Duma.

May 21, 2019

They met in Belgrade and discussed further development of Serbia-Russia cooperation in all areas, the president's press service announced on Tuesday.

Vucic said that he was honored to meet with President Putin in Beijing recently for the second time this year, as each of their meetings confirms the high degree of understanding and trust, which characterizes relations between Serbia and Russia.

He expressed his gratitude for the firm and active support of Russia in defending the integrity and independence of Serbia, and its state and national interests.

Slutsky said that Moscow is proud of the relationship between our two countries, that is as close as can be, stressing that Russia will always support Serbia's positions, especially when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija.

Vucic informed the Duma official bout the development of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, particularly about a number of measures taken by the Pristina authorities, that have - besides the delay in the dialogue - caused a deterioration of the living conditions for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.

Vucic said that the dialogue can only be continued if Pristina abolishes its unreasonable taxes imposed on Serbian goods, and that Serbia will always be committed to a policy of peace and stability.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=21&nav_id=106876

Minister to NATO: Apologize for everyone you killed

Aleksandar Vulin expects NATO to apologize not only for the civilian victims of its 1999 bombing of Serbia, but also for each police officer and soldier.

May 20, 2019

The defense minister spoke to journalists on Monday, during a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial in Belgrade dedicated to Guard soldiers and patients killed in a NATO airstrike against the KBC Dragisa Misovic hospital.

He said that nobody had the right to be killing soldiers and police officers of a free country.

"Seek forgiveness from their parents, from their family members," Vulin said, adding that none of the victims should have been killed.

President of the Belgrade City Assembly Nikola Nikodijevic, who was also present at the ceremony today, said that seven soldiers and three patients died in the attack.

"There is no convention, decision, no law whereby a hospital can become a legitimate target, and this is one of the most terrible crimes that happened during the NATO aggression in 1999," Nikodijevic said.

He said that the soldiers killed on this day 20 years ago were ordinary conscripts, between 18 and 20 years old, serving in a firefighting brigade - "that could not endanger anyone with anything."

"What is our obligation is to remember all the innocent victims, to keep peace and not to be in a situation to defend our freedom with human lives," said Nikodijevic.

The hospital's director, Vladimir Djukic, said that patients unable to take shelter had been killed in the airstrike.

"When in their activity, hypocritically named 'merciful angel', they targeted hospitals, bridges and kindergartens, we had the misfortune of our hospital becoming a legitimate target in the eyes of the villains," Djukic said, adding that what happened there should not be forgotten.

The father of one of the killed soldiers, Branislav Pejcinovic, said that the servicemen were "young people who left nothing behind except their grieving parents."

Wreathes were also laid today in front of the hospital by members of the Serbian Army's Guard Brigade, the hospital staff, and the families and friends of the victims.

The hospital was attacked on May 20, 1999. The direct result was the destruction of the building housing the neurology ward, while the children's and the obstetrics and gynecology clinics were damaged, along with the legal and accounting department's premises.

The victims included soldiers Aleksandar Bajin, Goran Verezan, Predrag Ignjatovic, Branimir Krnjanic, Slavisa Miljkovic, Vojin Pejcinovic, and Dragan Tankosic, and patients Branka Boskovic, Zora Brkic, and Radosav Novakovic.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=20&nav_id=106870

Is Serbia preparing counter-resolution for Pristina?

Milovan Drecun has announced the possibility of Serbia's counter-resolution, in response to Pristina's recent resolution accusing Serbia of "genocide."

Source: Tanjug, Prva TV Monday, May 20, 2019

Drecun (SNS), who chairs the National Assembly's Committee on Kosovo and Metohija, told Prva TV on Monday that he would discuss holding a special session dedicated to Albanian crimes in Kosovo with the Assembly's president.

According to him, in case that session can be scheduled, people's deputies will use it to discuss the brutal ethnic cleansing that was and is being carried out by the terrorist KLA ("Kosovo Liberation Army").

Condemning that brutal ethnic cleansing and crimes, Drecun believes, would counter Pristina's campaign based on brutal lies.

He recalled that a several days ago a joint session of the Committee on Kosovo and Metohija and the Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs was held, rejecting Pristina's resolution that was said to be false and based on brutal lies, and whose goal is to further incite hatred towards the Serb people.

Drecun said that, on the occasion of Pristina's resolution, he wrote a letter which Assembly's Deputy President Vladimir Marinkovic will hand over to the representatives of the Serbian Caucus in the US Congress in early June.

"We will present our findings," Drecun said, adding that Serbia will also turn to the UN, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and, to friendly countries.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=20&nav_id=106867

Djuric is banned from Kosovo; "Pristina is nervous"

Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric say the provisional institutions in Pristina prevented him from visiting Lesak on Monday.

May 20, 2019

Djuric was to deliver assistance to local Serbs in this community in Kosovo and Metohija.

Djuric told a press conference that this visit was announced in accordance with an agreement on visits of officials, "agreed on by some previous governments" - and that the ban was no coincidence, but the result of nervousness of the provisional institutions in Pristina.

He added that according to all democratic standards in the 21st century it was unacceptable to attempt to prevent any of the Serbian representatives from free movement, regardless of which political option they belong to.

"This is unacceptable and shows that they have not moved away from political extremism," Djuric said.

Djuric was to travel to travel to Kosovo to hand over 10 tractors to farmers there. Regardless of his absence, the tractors will be delivered, the official said.

"We will continue to support and help our people and will implement even more intensively a plan that means we will rebuild institutions, roads, health and education centers and create better conditions for life in all Serb areas," Djuric concluded.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=20&nav_id=106868

"North Macedonia might overtake Serbia on EU path"

EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn has repeated that countries cannot join the EU without solving bilateral problems.

May 20, 2019

Hahn, who is in charge of enlargement negotiations and neighborhood policy, at the same time stressed that North Macedonia is "a positive example in the region that problems can be resolved."

Speaking at a gathering in Vienna dedicated to "North Macedonia's new perspectives," the North Macedonia prime minister, Zoran Zaev, pointed out that the solution that Skopje and Athens found for a long-standing dispute "could be encouraging Belgrade and Pristina to continue the dialogue."

Hahn said that at present North Macedonia is the only country in the Western Balkans that has no disputes with its neighbors and that it is "more stable than other parts of the region."

"They are constantly asking me who will join the EU first, and my answer is always the same - it's a merit-based process, based on the regatta principle and the speed of accession depend on who is making the most progress on this path," said he.

"We started negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro, and currently these countries are formally the most advanced on this road, but this does not exclude the possibility that North Macedonia will succeed in compensating for the lag, because it is the only country that has no bilateral dispute with its neighbors," Hahn said.

"In the European Commission's strategy for the Western Balkans, we have clearly stated that we accept new members only if they do not have bilateral conflicts. We are not ready to import conflicts," he said.

Hahn pointed out that there is also political stability in North Macedonia, because the opposition is ready for dialogue in the Assembly, which, he noted, he would like to see "in other countries of the region, too."

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/world.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=20&nav_id=106865         

Serb List wins in all four municipalities in North Kosovo

Candidates for mayors from the Serb List won on Sunday in early local elections all four municipalities in northern Kosovo and Metohija.

May 20, 2019

They won more votes with higher turnout than in the 2017 local elections, Tanjug said it received confirmation from that political organization.

"Our candidates achieved a convincing, absolute victory in the municipalities of Leposavic, Zubin Potok, Zvecan and North Kosovska Mitrovica," the Serb List announced late on Sunday, adding:

"With this the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija once again unambiguously and almost unanimously confirmed their readiness to defend their survival and political rights in Kosovo and Metohija, and the organic connection with their state, Serbia."

The Serb List also assessed that the call to boycott the election, coming from those in Serbia "who wanted to push the north of Kosovo and Metohija into the hands of Albanians," had failed.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=20&nav_id=106861

President warns that Pristina wants to move against Serbs

President Aleksandar Vucic has told RTS that the Kosovo authorities want to arrest 26 police officers from northern Kosovo, and another 15 people.

May 17, 2019

According to him, the excuse for the arrests is that they had participated "in corruption, and the like."

Vucic also told the public broadcaster that "the vicious circle in Kosovo has not been closed."

"They want to arrest 26 Serb police officers from North Kosovo and Metohija and another 15 people, on the pretext that they had participated in corruption and various similar things - so that Kosovska Mitrovica would remain unprotected, and so they could do the dirtiest things against our people," he said.

According to him, this would be followed by "the final act of attempting to completely master the space where the Serbs live in Kosovo."

"Then they would say - we brought you before a done deal, like the Croats did with (Operation) Storm," said Vucic.

The president pointed out that Serbia has informed "international institutions" about this.

"The fact that (Kosovo Assembly president) Veseli speaks about Nis, Kursumlija and other places (in central Serbia) - it would be good if he came, to see what that looks like and how he plans to succeed. And Serbia will react with restraint, calmly, but will protect its people," said Vucic.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=17&nav_id=106852       

Vucic and Borisov on cooperation, region, energy projects

Aleksandar Vucic spoke on Wednesday with the prime minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov, whom he thanked for Bulgaria's support to Serbia's EU path.

May 16, 2019

The Serbian president expressed his satisfaction because the two countries are intensifying their cooperation, not only through bilateral relations, but also through the work of the High Council for Cooperation between Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.

According to the president's press office, Vucic emphasized that this quadrilateral format of cooperation is considered very important for the development of good neighborly relations, but also for the development of Serbia in an economic and every other sense.

Vucic also said that our country will continue to contribute to the European agenda for connecting the region. Infrastructure and energy projects for connecting the two countries had a special place on the agenda of his conversation with Borisov, a statement said.

Vucic informed Borisov about the completion of the works on the southern section of Corridor 10, and announced that the last section of the highway through Grdelica Gorge will be open for traffic on Saturday.

The two officials discussed possibilities for diversifying gas supplies through the project the Balkan Stream gas pipeline project, which, according to Borisov, should bring together gas supplies from several directions.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=16&nav_id=106842

Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro sign border protocol

Representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro have signed a protocol on the establishment of a three-border border point between them.

May 15, 2019

The signatories said this was done for the sake of current and future generations - in order to allow free movement ofcitizens in accordance with international law.

The protocol was signed in Sarajevo on Wednesday by the Minister of Civil Affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina Adil Osmanovic, State Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior of Montenegro Dragan Pejanovic and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Veljko Odalovic.

Odalovic said that Serbia is absolutely placing priority on resolving regional issues.

Osmanovic said that the signing of the protocol is meant to strengthening mutual cooperation and respecting between the three countries.

When asked about the controversial points on the border between BiH and Serbia, Osmanovic said that these were four: the Hydroelectric Power Plant Zvornik, the Hydroelectric Power Plant Bajina Basta, along the Belgrade-Bar railway, and in the Priboj Municipality.

"The position of BiH is to sign a border agreement first, and then approach possible interventions and resolve disputes," Osmanovic said.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=15&nav_id=106838         

Russian center explains when it can react in region

The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center (RSHC) says it is monitoring the newly emerging situation caused by heavy rainfall in the region.

May 15, 2019

A statement on Wednesday said the center is taking all necessary measures of increased preparedness.

The Center noted that according to the intergovernmental agreement between Serbia and Russias, RSHC will react in the coming period in emergency situations, not only in Serbia, but also in other Balkan countries.

Thanks to the indicators that the center receives from the satellite from the National Center for Crisis Management, it has precise information about the situation in the region, current precipitation, as well as the estimates of possible vulnerability of the population and settlements.

RSHC, located in Nis, southern Serbia, also has its own Crisis Management Center, which is intended for receiving and transmitting information on forecasting, modeling and calculation of emergency situations, as well as monitoring.

The center pointed out that they are constantly in touch with the Sector for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Interior of Serbia and the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia.

However, RSHC indicates that it can only react to at explicit invitation of the affected parties, or the governments of interested states. This also applies to flood events, as they are now registered in some areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In such cases, RSHC can react immediately, deliver operational forces, material-technical conditions, coordinate the necessary assistance and additional support from Russia.

RSHC and the operational forces of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the RF over the past ten years repeatedly confirmed their professionalism, efficiency and equipment, not only in Serbia, but also in the Balkans.

Among the results of the work are hundreds of saved lives, suppression and elimination of consequences of floods and fires, providing and delivering humanitarian aid and funds to vulnerable populations in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Slovenia, as well as professional training to specialists from the Balkan region.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/society.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=15&nav_id=106837

Presidency member files criminal complaint against Dodik

Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) Zeljko Komsic has filed a criminal complaint against Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik.

May 15, 2019

Sarajevo-based website klix.ba said it received confirmation of this.

Komsic's reason was Dodik's statements made on Sunday during the marking of the anniversary of the founding of the Third Infantry Regiment of the BiH army, which represents the traditions of the former Army of the RS (Serb Republic).

Dodik, a former RS president, said on the occasion that it had been a mistake to disband the Serb entity's army and form the BiH army, and that it happened under pressure from "international factors."

He also asked the regiment's commanders to have more than half of soldiers dressed in former RS army uniforms during the ceremony next year - "because it is their day."

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=15&nav_id=106835

Official denies that president "threatened bishops"

Nikola Selakovic said on Wednesday that President Aleksandar Vucic "did not discipline anybody" at the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC).

May 15, 2019

According to Selakovic, who is the president's general secretary, the outcome of the meeting is that now a majority of bishops have a clearer picture of the position and policy of Serbia regarding the issue of Kosovo. This conversation was not easy, but it was useful, said Selakovic.

Selakovic also told the public broadcaster RTS that "a group of four to five bishops who held different views" presented their case, adding that Vucic "responded with arguments" - but that there was "no fierce quarrel."

He said that a considerable lack of knowledge of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 was exhibited by some bishops - and added that the idea of "delimitation," which he said has been rejected, was also brought up during the meeting.

Selakovic said that Vucic told the bishops "at least five times" that he had not come to the SPC Assembly because he needed something, but to answer their questions.

Selakovic also commented on the front page of today's edition of the Belgrade-based daily Danas - that features the headline, "Vucic threatened bishops with papers from secret services" - to say this was "a notorious lie."

According to him, the only papers Vucic brought to the meeting were copies of UNSC Resolution 1244, the Brussels agreement, and a report on Serbia's spending in Kosovo.

Selakovic also said that information that most bishops were against the president's presence at the Assembly was "another lie."

Serbian Patriarch Irnej came out in support of Vucic after the meeting on Monday, saying that his position also represented that of the Church.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=15&nav_id=106834

Vucic speaks with former US Army Europe commander

President Aleksandar Vucic spoke on Tuesday in Belgrade with former US Army Europe commander Frederick Hodges.

May 14, 2019

Vucic and Hodges, who is now with the Center for European Policy Analysis NGO, discussed the security situation in South Eastern Europe and the region, as well as problems in the dialogue with Pristina, the president's press office said in a statement.

According to this, Vucic emphasized during the conversation that Serbia will maintain its military neutrality.

Vucic also pointed out that Serbia is a reliable partner in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, especially through the Individual Partnership Action Plan, which includes enhanced political dialogue, readiness to contributing to maintaining peace and stability in the region, as well as to responding to common security challenges.

He stressed that Serbia will continue to strengthen its cooperation with the Ohio National Guard and any other types of bilateral military cooperation with the US.

Vucic explained to Hodges the reasons for the stalling of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as the intention of Serbia to continue the dialogue after Pristina withdraws its illegal and "anti-civilizational" taxes (on goods from central Serbia).

According to the statement, Hodges stressed that long-term stability requires "reconciliation and good neighborly relations" and voiced full support for efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully, "respecting the norms of international public law, as well as the regional agreements reached so far."

"NATO is not only a military alliance, it is an alliance of nations that share and defend common democratic values," Hodges emphasized as a major supporter of transatlantic cooperation.

Hodzis, who is on a two-day visit to Belgrade, where he is taking part in the "Serbia and NATO - A Look at the Future" conference organized by the CEAS NGO, yesterday laid flowers at a memorial dedicated to the children NATO killed during its 1999 aggression against Serbia.

Source: https://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=14&nav_id=106826

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