International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Vucic: Borrell says Serbia’s EU path uncertain without deal with Kosovo


January 31, 2020

The European Union Foreign and Security Commissioner Joseph Borrell said on Friday that without a solution within the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations Serbia’s European perspective would not be sure, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters after his meeting with Borrell, N1 reported.

 Vucic thanked Borrell for his engagement in the process and the idea to appoint his envoy to the dialogue.

“Borrell reiterated what the EU said numerous times, and that is that without a solution with Pristina in the dialogue Serbia’s EU path is uncertain,” Vucic said, adding the people in the country should hear that and that “we must work on compromises.”

Borrell came to Belgrade from Pristina during his first visit to the regions since he assumed the post. Later on Friday, Borrell will meet Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, and the representatives of several opposition parties.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a565484/EU-s-Borrell-brings-same-message-to-Belgarde-and-Pristina-solution-through-dialogue.html


EP’s Von Cramon: Vucic leads country in authoritarian way, Serbia leaves EU path

January 31, 2020

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, the European Parliament Rapporteur for Kosovo, told Danas daily Friday’s edition that President Aleksandar Vucic led his country in an authoritarian way and that political competition in Serbia was almost impossible, the FoNet news agency reported.

She said there was no room for some opposition party to be seen on the public broadcaster, nor in any Serbia’s media with national frequency, while the Parliament’s procedures were severely violated before the opposition decided to boycott its work.

“From that point of view, Serbia is definitely leaving the EU integrations, acting in a way which is more than regretful. Serbia is an important European country which undoubtedly belongs to the EU, but it must show more efforts and respect for democratic rules,” Von Cramon-Taubadel said.

She added she hoped that the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations would resume after Kosovo formed a new government, but that was not right to let “Vucic and (Kosovo’s President Hashim) Thaci get away doing what they want to because Brussels asks them only about the dialogue.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a565386/Serbia-moves-away-from-EU-integrations.html

US calls on Belgrade, Podgorica to constructive dialogue about religion law

January 31, 2020

Washington called on all sides in Serbia and Montenegro to show restraint and avoid any activity which could increase tensions and to start a constructive dialogue on a sensitive issue like the recently passed law on religious freedom in the coastal republic, the Voice of America (VOA) reported on Friday.

In a statement to VOA, the State Department said the US respected the right of all sovereign states to adopt and implement laws in line with democratic norms and without any foreign interference.

The statement added the US strongly supported fundamental rights like freedom of speech, of association and gathering and individual right to peacefully express the freedom of religion or convictions.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a565360/Washington-tells-Belgared-and-Podgorica-to-opet-for-dialogue-about-religious-law.html

Kurti tells Borrell that Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has to be reviewed

January 30, 2020

Kosovo’s Prime Minister elect Albin Kurti said on Thursday that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue needs to be renewed.

Writing on his Twitter account after meeting European Union High Representative Josep Borrell, Kurti said that the dialogue also needs to be reviewed.  

“I affirmed that the EU-facilitated dialogue must be reviewed and renewed,” he wrote.   Kurti added that the EU remains indispensable for the future of the region.  

The Vetevendosje leader is known as a critic of the way the dialogue has been conducted.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a565308/Kurti-tells-Borrell-that-Belgrade-Pristina-dialogue-has-to-be-reviewed.html

Thaci: Serbia denying “Balkan Holocaust", Djuric: Don’t abuse Jewish victims

January 27, 2020

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said on Monday that the Serbian authorities are continuing to deny the crimes that caused what he said was “a Balkan Holocaust in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo”.

“Kosovo today joins the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, a genocidal and monstrous crime… But the idea and efforts to kill people and ethnicities were continued by the Serbian regime in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. The massacre and ethnic cleansing seemed like those in World War II. And, unfortunately, Serbia still continues to deny the crimes that caused the Balkan Holocaust in this part of Europe,” Thaci wrote on his Facebook account on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  

Thaci’s Facebook post drew a fierce reaction from Serbian government official Marko Djuric who said that the Kosovo President should not misuse the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people in such a cheap and inappropriate way. “Thaci has demonstrated a lack of civilization and taste by introducing the term Balkan Holocaust, comparing Serbs to Nazis and Albanians to Jews and admitting that he and his political allies do not care for the victims and their families,” the head of the government Office for Kosovo said, adding that the suffering of the Jews can’t be compared to anything, not even the suffering in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. “Instead of desecrating the memories of Jewish victims in WW2 you should face your own war-time criminal past and explain how evidence is being systematically destroyed and witnesses of Kosovo Liberation Army crimes killed in the territory where he is president,” Djuric said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a564282/Thaci-says-Serbia-denying-Balkan-Holocaust-Djuric-says-don-t-abuse-Jewish-victims.html

MP submits proposal for law banning genocide denial to int. administrator

January 27, 2020

Upper house MP Zlatko Miletic submitted a proposal for a law on banning genocide denial to the office of Bosnia’s international administrator on Monday.

He asked the High Representative, Bosnia’s top official overseeing the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war, to use his special powers to impose the ban, arguing that the House of Peoples has previously rejected the proposal.

The High Representative, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, has previously also been saying that such a law must be adopted, most of all because certain political representatives often deny that a genocide took place in Srebrenica in 1995.

If the law would be adopted, those who are guilty of publicly inciting hatred based on nationality, race or religion by denying or justifying the wartime genocide or the crimes against humanity which were determined by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia or domestic courts would face between six months to five years in prison.

The proposal would also ask for the same sanctions for those who make decisions to award war criminals or name streets or buildings after them.

Miletic said it was unfortunate that certain MPs in the House of Peoples “missed the chance for us to make the civilised step forward and forever condemn denial and justification of genocide.”

“I think that 25 years after the war, the time has come for us to adopt such a law and with that in mind, I call upon Inzko to use his competencies and impose these changes,” he said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a406432/MP-submits-proposal-for-law-banning-genocide-denial-to-int.-administrator.html

'It was harder for Greta Ferusic to survive siege of Sarajevo than Auschwitz'

January 27, 2020

Tragedies such as Holocaust, when millions of innocent people died, should be remembered more often and not only on one day, President of Bosnia's Jewish Community Jakob Finci told N1, speaking about the Holocaust Remembrance Day and life of Jews in Bosnia.

“That's the reality that is now behind us and that we speak and know little about,” said Finci.

Bosnian capital marked on Monday the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and commemorated the victims of Nazi regime at the Old Jewish Cemetery and the premises of Jewish Community.

In April 1941, around 15,000 Jews lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including 10,500 in Sarajevo.

Nearly 2,500 survived WWII, according to Finci.

“They were mostly surviving three ways. Some of them survived to fight together with Partisans, the army which accepted them and fought for the country's liberation. One part survived hiding at their friends', neighbours', distant relatives' places. Some survived the camps. There was someone in each of those horrible camps who managed to survive,” he said.

They all eventually returned to Sarajevo because of – nostalgia, said the Jewish Community head.

“Nostalgia is a disease of the Jews and they all came back to Sarajevo. America was too far away, Israel did not exist back then, Europe was devastated so they got back home in Sarajevo,” said Finci.

“We have a lady in Sarajevo who survived Auschwitz, Greta Ferusic. She spoke a lot about that during the siege of Sarajevo. She said in Haris Pasovic's film that it was harder for her to survive the siege of Sarajevo than Auschwitz,” he added.

Speaking about the failure of Bosnia's authorities to implement the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling, which treats the rights of Jews and Roma to run for the State House of Peoples and the State Presidency, Finci said he was not surprised nothing has been done 10 years after the court ruling.

“I won't be surprised if more time passes. If Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to be the European Union candidate and member, we will have to implement that decision. A country cannot be a candidate if it breaches the European Convention on Human Rights,” he underlined.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a406470/Jewish-Community-leader-in-Bosnia-We-should-remember-Holocaust-more-often.html

Merkel hopes EU entry talks with Albania and North Macedonia will start in March

January 27, 2020

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed, after meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Berlin on Monday, the German government's support for opening European Union accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, announcing that she would push hard for this at the European Council meeting in March.

"Germany's goal is to reach an agreement to start accession talks at the next European Council meeting in March," said Merkel after a meeting with THE Albanian PM Rama in Berlin.

She said that the accession of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union is not only in the interest of those countries but also of the entire EU.

"Anyone familiar with the geopolitical relations knows that it is good that Western Balkan countries become EU members one day," said Merkel.

The German Chancellor pointed out that even at the last EU summit Berlin was in favour of unblocking the start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

"We will continue to work intensively on the issue to achieve the desired results in March," said Merkel.

She also praised the progress of both countries, especially in the area of judicial reform, where "much has already been achieved."

The start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia in October was postponed due to opposition from France, which is calling for "structural reforms" when it comes to the EU enlargement process.

Opening accession talks should also be the topic of the EU-Western Balkans summit, to be held in Zagreb at the beginning of May as part of Croatia's EU Council presidency.

Both Merkel and Rama also pointed to a donors' conference in February, where Albania should be provided with funds to repair damage caused by the deadly earthquake in November last year.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a406514/Merkel-hopes-EU-entry-talks-with-Albania-and-North-Macedonia-will-start-in-March.html

Bosnian Parliament speakers meet EU commissioner: EU integration is top priority

January 27, 2020

Speakers of Bosnia's upper and lower Parliament chambers, Denis Zvizdic and Dragan Covic, met European Union (EU) enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi in Brussels on Monday and expressed the strong commitment towards the country's EU integration.

European integration is the most efficient instrument to adopt the European values, preserve the stability and speed up the process of economic growth as well as cooperation in the region, said Zvizdic, adding that this is why the country's road to the full membership has no alternative.

Covic underlined that Bosnia's EU integration would enhance its stability, noting that the recent formation of the state-level government means that the conditions to resume the path of European integration have been met.

He also expressed hope that the electoral legislation will be amended by April this year, which would enable holding of local elections in the City of Mostar, for the first time after 2008.

Varhely, who assumed the post of the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations in December 2019, told the Bosnian officials that the upcoming EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb, which comes during Croatia's EU Presidency, is a chance to focus on the region and encourage the development of economy and education. He also expressed concerns over the migrant crisis the region is struggling with.

The officials agreed on the necessity to strengthen the dialogue, cooperation and political stability, stressing that the reforms are crucial steps to meet the conditions for concrete steps in meeting the country's foreign policy goals.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a406448/Denis-Zvizdic-Dragan-Covic-discuss-EU-integration-with-EU-enlargement-commissioner.html

SDA leader says HDZ should stop using election law changes for blackmail

January 25, 2020

The leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, said on Friday that he would not allow the Croat HDZ BiH party to impose changes to the country's election law and make the formation of the new government of the Croat-Bosniak Federation entity conditional on those changes.

"The reform of the election law should not be tied to the formation of the Federation government," Izetbegovic told reporters after a meeting of his party in Sarajevo.

He added that changes to the election law would take time and that the Federation entity government had to be formed as soon as possible to enable the continuation of reforms.

The precondition for that is that the HDZ BiH, in line with an agreement with the SDA, nominates its candidate for Federation president because that official is the only one with constitutional powers to nominate the entity's new prime minister and ministers.

Izetbegovic called on the HDZ BiH to honour the agreement with his party and unblock the process of government formation in the country based on the results of elections held back in October 2018.

He also said that the SDA would not allow the SNSD party of Milorad Dodik to become part of the Federation entity government.

Dodik made a demand to that effect last week, saying that only the SNSD, which is in power in the Serb entity of Republika Srpska, has the right to also represent Serbs living in the Federation entity, and that it should, therefore, be given the post of the Serb vice-president of the Federation entity and ministerial positions intended for Serbs in the Federation government.

Izetbegovic said on Friday that this would not happen as the SNSD had already gone back on some of the coalition agreements with the SDA.

The SDA has therefore also decided to block the appointment of the new head of the state-level Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), a post for which Darko Culum, the current Serb entity police director considered to be unconditionally loyal to Dodik, has been nominated.

Izetbegovic indirectly explained that the new SIPA director would not be appointed until it was certain that the Bosniak candidate to be nominated by the SDA under the existing agreement would be appointed the head of the country's Security-Intelligence Agency (OSA).

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a406068/SDA-leader-says-HDZ-should-stop-using-election-law-changes-for-blackmail.html

Ex Foreign Min.: It is worrying that our future is discussed without us present

January 24, 2020

The fact that the future of the Western Balkans was discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos without any Bosnian top officials present is a “big problem”, Bosnia's former Foreign Affairs Minister, Zlatko Lagumduzija, told N1 on Friday.

Lagumdzija was present at the event, but not as an official representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“None of Bosnia’s officials were there. One possibility is that nobody was invited, the other is that somebody was, but that this person thought they had something better to do. In both cases - this is a big problem,” Lagumdzija said, adding that "there was a serious discussion on the future of the Western Balkans" at the event.

“That frightens me, we are not being invited to gatherings where we are being discussed,” he said, adding that Bosnia “needs to be at that table, or else it will only be a napkin on which borders are being drawn up.”

He stressed that the international community has still not given up on the country but also mentioned that there is a part of Europe which perceives Bosnia in an islamophobic and hostile way.

The former leader of Bosnia’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) said that he has travelled a lot, participated in numerous conferences and panels and promoted Bosnia at numerous events throughout the past five years during which he has not served any political offices in the country.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina must be a country of human rights, where differences are a good thing. If we become that, the region will as well, and it the region does, so will the EU,” he said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405994/Ex-Foreign-Min.-It-is-worrying-that-our-future-is-discussed-without-us-present.html

Godfrey: I'm disappointed with opposition's decision to boycott the election

January 25, 2020

It is in the US' best interest to help Serbia achieve full membership of the European Union (EU), which is the best way to ensure the stability in the Western Balkans, US Ambassador to Belgrade Anthony Godfrey told FoNet, adding he was disappointed with the decision of some opposition parties to boycott the upcoming elections.

He explained that US President Donald Trump sent him to Serbia to improve relations between the two countries and do what he can to increase stability in the region, noting that he is happy to be here and honoured to have been nominated.

He thinks that free access to the media should be promoted before the next election, which is why, together with the EU and the OSCE, he is working with the Serbian Government to pay more attention to this.

Godfrey does not think the media environment is satisfactory for everyone to understand what is happening in the country during the election campaign.

Asked about the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he said he hoped it would resume soon.

The Ambassador noted that it was clear at this point that almost all the opposition in Serbia would boycott the election, adding that he was disappointed with this decision.

"We are disappointed with the decision of the opposition parties to boycott the elections. We think it is important for the people of Serbia to be able to make their own decisions," Godfrey said.

The Ambassador said depriving the people of their right to "make their own decisions does not contribute to Serbia's democratic development."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a563748/US-Ambassador-to-Serbia-disappointed-with-opposition-s-decision-to-boycott-the-election.html

Dacic: Grenell's position nothing new, Quinta countries of similar opinion

January 25, 2020

Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Saturday that the position of US President's Special Envoy for Belgrade and Pristina Richard Grenell was nothing new, adding that the Quinta countries had taken a similar stance.

During a visit to Belgrade on Friday, Grenell said he had "informed his interlocutors in Kosovo" that they had to abolish the tax on goods from Serbia, but that he also "made a request" to Belgrade: for Serbia to suspend the campaign among foreign countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo's independence.

"If everyone is for it, we are ready to achieve a moratorium, but then the lobbying of major countries for Kosovo must stop as well as the lobbying for Kosovo's admission to international organizations. The image and attitude of major forces has changed and that pains them. Of the 193 UN member states. 93 recognized Kosovo's independence, 95 do not and five countries are in a fluid state," Dacic noted.

According to Dacic, Grenell's visit is a positive sign, because it emphasizes economic topics and these are useful initiatives. He also noted that it shows that the position of the US administration has changed in the sense of advocating for a compromise solution.

Commenting on Grenell's allegations that the deadline for reaching an agreement has not been set, but that there is not much time, Dacic said that the message was first and foremost addressed to Pristina.

"in essence, the dialogue is currently not being conducted because of the tariffs and there is ever less mention of the Brussels Agreement, which was not implemented by Pristina primarily when it comes to the formation of the Union of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo," Dacic said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a563746/Dacic-Grenell-s-position-nothing-new-Quinta-countries-of-similar-opinion.html

Atlantic Council: Trump may be more successful in the Balkans than elsewhere

January 24, 2020

Damon Wilson, the current executive vice president at the Atlantic Council, a foreign and public policy think tank based in Washington, told Voice of America (VOA) on Friday he believed the US administration would be more successful in the Balkans than in Iran or North Korea.

"Hat down," he said, to the Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations Richard Grenell for negotiating the resumption of the direct flights between the two capitals.

Wilson added the US administration wanted to see a result in foreign policy and that it was more achievable in the Western Balkans.

In an interview with VOA, he said that 100 percent import duties Pristina introduced on goods from Serbia and Bosnia over a year ago were an enormous economic obstacle, adding  that "limited, probably corrupted forces" supported the taxes."

"They boost the black market and encourage the cheaters, and it’s bad for the rule of law. It’s bad for both governments. The taxes can be lifted, and then we can talk seriously," Wilson said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a563654/Washington-wants-success-in-foreign-policy-Balkans-easier-that-other-regions.html

European Council President: Skopje's and Tirana's future is in EU

January 24, 2020

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said in Skopje on Friday that the future of both North Macedonia and Albania was in the European Union and that his visits to the two countries’ capitals aimed at “giving the strong message about it,” the Beta news agency reported.

Michel that to his host, Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski, in Skopje, after coming there from Tirana, according to North Macedonia’s Government.

He praised North Macedonia for its ‘continuous implementation of reforms and the deals with Greece and Bulgaria.”

Spasovski told Michel Skopje expected a new methodology for the EU enlargement to confirm the readiness to start the accession negotiations with Skopje, the statement said.

The Prime Minister added that ‘the timing is crucial for North Macedonia to avoid endangering the reforms and the Prespa deal with Greece on the country’s new name.

Michel, who is due to meet President Stevo Pendarovski later on Friday, was also briefed by the Government about the early general vote in North Macedonia scheduled for April 12.  

France led a small group of EU member states who blocked the decision on setting a date for the start of the negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania last October, arguing that the bloc should first reconsider the accession process in general.

The majority of other EU members criticised Paris and have been trying to encourage Skopje and Tirana to stay on the European path ever since.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a563644/Tirana-and-Skopje-future-is-in-EU-European-Council-head-says.html

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