International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbian Prime Minister: President agreed to postpone election

December 14, 2019

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Branabic said Saturday that she personally asked Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to postpone the election date as much as possible but in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

Brnabic added that the president was against it, but that he accepted her request.

Speaking at a press conference, she noted that Vucic felt it was better for the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) to have the election as soon as possible and that it was better for the citizens, but that they wanted to meet part of the opposition and MEP's demands.

She explained that calling the elections was the exclusive right of the President of Serbia and that she sought the postponement as a show of goodwill to the opposition so they would have extra time, but added that a nine-month delay was not in accordance with the Constitution.

The Prime Minister said that since the beginning of the EU-mediated inter-party dialogue, the Government did everything the partners or the opposition asked for. According to her, improving the election conditions is not an empty promise, but that there are 17 recommendations from the dialogue that are yet to be implemented and that more than 70 percent of earlier recommendations have been fully implemented.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552369/Serbian-Prime-Minister-President-agreed-to-postpone-election.html

EP mediators call for widest participation in elections

December 13, 2019

The European Parliament officials mediating the talks on election conditions in the Serbian parliament on Friday called for the widest possible participation in the elections to ensure that the voters have a democratic choice.

They said in the conclusions after the third round of the talks that a new stage of the dialogue would be held after the 2020 elections.

The final round, of the first phase, of the European Parliament facilitated Inter-Party Dialogue was held on 12 and 13 December in the National Assembly of Serbia. It took-stock of the achievements since November’s 2nd Inter-Party Dialogue (IPD) and called for urgent final steps to fulfill the commitments (in the annexed “Implementation Table”) to improve the conditions for holding 2020 Parliamentary Elections.

“The Dialogue welcomed steps taken in the short timeframe of three rounds of Dialogue. However, they insisted that the follow-up and concrete implementation of these commitments must be the focus between now and the beginning of the election campaign in order to deliver tangible improvements on the ground, particularly in the area of freedom of the media and on the role of the regulation of the public broadcasters,” they said.

“Although there has been progress in the improvement of the work of the Republic Electoral Commission (REC), turning commitments into concrete deliverables according to a strict timeline is still needed in the following key areas:

- improving the work of the Electronic Media Regulator (REM) by appointing “3+2” new REM Members to be confirmed in a vote by the end of the year.

- adoption of a new Regulation for the public broadcasters and its effective implementation,

- creation of the Supervisory Board in the Parliament and assure a transparent, timely and impartial work under its competences well before elections,

- implementation of the new amendments of the relevant laws for improving the electoral conditions in practice.  

 “All the announced progress and shortfalls remain dully noted in an updated “Implementation Table” which is available for the public to consult and represents a part of the Conclusions of the Dialogue. The 3rd Dialogue introduced a strict timeline for the implementation of each outstanding commitment. It is imperative that this timeline is respected and that all commitments are implemented in full before the election campaign in order for all stakeholders, especially Serbia’s citizens, to have greater confidence in the integrity of the electoral framework.

Under current Serbian law, the elections for parliament have to be called by the president 90 days before the current parliament’s term in office expires and the vote has to be held no less than 45 days and no more than 60 days after the elections are called. This parliament was constituted on June 3, 2016.

 We have also had a discussion on the possibility, in full respect of the Constitution of Serbia, of holding the elections as late as possible, not in March, at a date to be determined by the President of the Republic. This will give time for all the commitments to be implemented and for all stakeholders, especially the people of Serbia, to feel the full effects of the improvements in the electoral conditions,” they added.  

They underlined the need to continue to monitor the implementation of all the commitments and welcomed the European Parliament Facilitator’s offer to continue to monitor progress on the implementation and noted their willingness to provide any further support should it be requested by the National Assembly.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552226/EP-mediators-call-for-widest-participation-in-elections.html

No agreement to form Kosovo government

December 13, 2019

The two leading parties in Kosovo, Vetevendosje (self-determination) and the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (LDK) failed to reach an agreement to form a new government.

Pristina media reported earlier that an agreement had been reached by their leaders Albin Kurti and Isa Mustafa but spokesmen for the two parties said after a meeting of more than two hours that the talks would continue on Saturday because of slight disagreements.

The media in Pristina said earlier that all disputed issues had been resolved amd that the ministries had been divided equally with the Ministry for Communities and Return going to the Serb List and the Culture Ministry to other minority communities and LDK MP Vlosa Osmani taking the post of parliament speaker.  

The talks to form a government have been ongoing since the elections on October 6.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552217/No-agreement-to-form-Kosovo-government.html

Gojkovic: no parliamentary elections in March

December 13, 2019

Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic said on Friday that the coming elections would not be held in March but by the final date allowed by law.

Under current Serbian law, the elections for parliament have to be called by the president 90 days before the current parliament’s term in office expires and the vote has to be held no less than 45 days and no more than 60 days after the elections are called. This parliament was constituted on June 3, 2016.    

“We agreed that the elections will not be in March but to allow the Serbian President to decide to hold them by the final deadline within the Constitution and law,” she told a media conference after the European Parliament-mediated talks between the authorities and part of the opposition on improving election conditions.  

“My belief is that after a series of talks in these three rounds, we managed to adopt or in the process of adopting the conclusions we agreed in a short time,” she said.  

Gojkovic said that agreement had been reached to appoint new members of the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM).

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552180/Gojkovic-no-parliamentary-elections-in-March.html

Vulin: Serbia committed to peaceful resolution of issues with Pristina

December 13, 2019

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin told his French counterpart Florence Parly on Friday that Serbia is committed to the peaceful resolution of all issues with Pristina while protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

A Serbian Defense ministry press release quoted him as saying that it wants to secure a better life for all in Kosovo with full respect for UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Military Technical Agreement that ended the NATO air campaign in 1999.

“The forming of the so-called Army of Kosovo is absolutely unacceptable for Serbia and KFOR is the only guarantee of security in Kosovo in line with resolution 1244,” Vulin said during the meeting with Parly.

Vulin and Parly agreed that defense cooperation between their two countries is intense with focus on joint training and engagement in multi-national operations under European Union auspices, the press release said. It quoted Parly as saying that she is satisfied with the two countries’ military cooperation but that there is room for improvement and adding that military economy cooperation is at high level.

The French Defense Minister praised Army of Serbia personnel deployed with the EU mission in Mali with the French armed forces and invited Vulin to attend the EUROSATORY weapons and military equipment fair in Paris next year.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552162/Vulin-Serbia-committed-to-peaceful-resolution-of-issues-with-Pristina.html

Opposition blocks Serbian state TV building

December 13, 2019

Serbian opposition leaders accompanied by several dozen activists blocked the entrance to the Serbian state TV (RTS) building at noon on Friday, saying that no one would be allowed in but that anyone who wants to can leave.

Vuk Jeremic, the current chairman of the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) and leader of the People’s Party, told reporters that the goal of the gathering was not violent, adding that none of the protesters would try to enter the building. He said the aim was to show that the public broadcaster was not doing its job as envisaged by law.

“It will be peaceful and if there are no provocations we will break up at 8 pm,” he said.

Jeremic said the SzS knows that the gathering will not bring anywhere near the same results as “a phone call from the president’s media advisor or the president himself” and accused the RTS management of following orders from top officials of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that there would be no use of force to disperse the opposition activists in front of the RTS building. “Don’t worry. I guarantee that no one will be in danger. That small group of people can’t do anything,” he said.

Asked if he recalls that the current RTS managers were appointed before the SNS came to power, Jeremic said that Hitler inherited a large number of generals in the Wermacht who later perpetrated his crimes.

"We want this to become a public service which does its job and informs the public about everything,” he said. The RTS reorganized its staff, having been informed of the blockade a day earlier.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552118/Opposition-blocks-Serbian-state-TV-building.html

Serbian Parliament amends laws to limit campaigning by officials

December 13, 2019

The Serbian Parliament adopted amendments to a set of laws on Friday whose implementation should help improve election conditions.

MPs adopted amendments to the laws on financing political activities, preventing corruption, on the Anti-Corruption Agency and law on state-owned companies all of which are intended to primarily limit the so-called officials’ campaign.  

Election campaigning by state officials has been one of the things that the opposition wants to do away with, claiming that this would improve election conditions.  

According to the amendments, party officials who hold public office or are CEOs of state-owned companies will not be allowed to use public resources for party purposes and the Anti-Corruption Agency is now obliged to react to cases of campaigning by officials within three days.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a552080/Serbian-Parliament-amends-laws-to-limit-campaigning-by-officials.html

EP: Serbian regime fails to meet obligations; opposition wants elections delayed

December 12, 2019

European Parliament officials Tanja Fajon and Vladimir Bilcik wrote in an editorial for Belgrade daily Blic that the Serbian authorities have failed to meet most of the obligations they accepted in the talks on improving election conditions, while the opposition said if elections were not postponed, "we are wasting time."

Fajon, the former EP rapporteur for Serbia now chairs the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee while Bilcik took over as rapporteur. Both are involved in the talks on election conditions between the Serbian authorities and part of the opposition with former MEPs Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein. 

Bosko Obradovic, a leader of the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) opposition told N1 he would only ask the EP delegation later on Thursday was the option of postponing the general elections due in March ‘on the table’ in the talks with Serbia’s authorities. “If it’s not, we only waste time,” Obradovic said. “If the MEPs say there are no conditions for free elections, Aleksandar Vucic will have to negotiate the next day. If they say there are conditions, it means they choose Vucic and scarify democracy in Serbia.”

SzS will have a separate meeting with MEPs since it boycott the talks in Serbia's Parliament.

According to their article, an analysis of the situation following two rounds of the talks showed that some progress had been achieved but that more than 60 percent of the accepted obligations had not been met or had been partly implemented. “Clearly, significant steps have to be taken, especially in regard to freedom of the media and the role of public broadcasters,” they wrote.  They warned that there is little time left to improve election conditions by implementing all obligations before the election campaign starts and suggested a review of the election time frame with full respect for the constitution and laws to allow the implementation of obligations and restore trust in the election framework.  

Under current Serbian law, the elections for parliament have to be called by the president 90 days before the current parliament’s term in office expires and the vote has to be held no less than 45 days and no more than 60 days after the elections are called. This parliament was constituted on June 3, 2016.  

Fajon and Bilcik said that the only way that the opposition which has decided to boycott the elections can present themselves to the electorate is to join in the political and election process. They said that the implementation of the accepted obligations is the most important thing at present to ensure that the voters are sure that real changes and improvements have been achieved.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551676/Serbian-authorities-fail-to-implement-obligations-Fajon-Bilcik-say.html

Serbia's opposition says illusion ends, election boycott only option

December 12, 2019

Vuk Jeremic, the leader of the opposition People's Party and the Chairman of the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) group, said late on Thursday that "tonight, the illusion (about a possibility to take part in the next spring general elections) ended," the Beta news agency reported.

He addressed reporters after SzS leaders met the Euro-parliamentarians who tried to mediate between the ruling and opposition parties in implementing some changes that would enable "a free and fair vote," and persuade the opposition to take part.

SzS boycotted all three rounds of talks in Serbia's Parliament but had separate meetings with European Parliament (EP) officials Tanja Fajon and Vladimir Bilcikand two MEPs.

Fajon, the former EP rapporteur for Serbia now chairs the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee while Bilcik took over as rapporteur. Both are involved in the talks on election conditions between the Serbian authorities and part of the opposition with former MEPs Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein.

The representative of the '1 in 5 million' organisation also met with Euro-parliamentarians on Thursday evening, and told reporters afterwards that the EP people “understood our message and were surprised with information we provided.” The organisation also advocates the boycott of the vote because the regime hasn’t accepted demands on changes of the election rules their expert team has drafted.

 After Thursday's meeting, Jeremic said "there was no dilemma about SzS decision to boycott the elections. We'll continue to fight for the change of elections' rules."

He added that the Euro-parliamentarians understood the message.

"As far as SzS is concerned this was the last meeting in this phase of the struggle for free and fair elections," Jeremic said.

He added that "the Friday's meeting with other political parties which take part in the dialogue will be a formal attempt to end a political crisis."

Jeremic thanked the European partners for trying but added there were no results.

"Only one man decides whether elections will be fair, and that's (Serbia's President) Aleksandar Vucic," he said.

Jeremic reiterated the opposition's demand for the postponement of elections.

Besides Jeremic, all other SzS leaders attended the meeting with Euro-parliamentarians.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551948/Serbia-s-largest-opposition-group-say-no-dilema-about-election-boycott.html

Criminal charges against Vucic in the hands of organized crime prosecutor

December 12, 2019

Serbia’s Public Prosecutor’s Office forwarded to Organised Crime Prosecutor the criminal charges against President Aleksandar Vucic and his brother Andrej linked to a case of cultivating marijuana, filed by Milos Vucevic, Novi Sad Mayor and a deputy leader of Vucic's ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), N1 reported.

The Public Prosecutor's Office told the state Tanjug agency it expected the colleagues to publicise their decision in due time.

Police found a large number of marijuana plants at the Jovanjica farm, registered for cultivating health food. It was visited earlier by state officials, including Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin.

According to the opposition, the owner of the farm called Andrej Vucic when he was arrested.

Vucevic said he, himself a lawyer, said he filed charges as a private citizen and not because the President asked him to.

However, he filed charges on Monday, while Vucic announced them two days earlier, last Saturday.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551888/Charges-against-President-Vucic-and-his-brother-sent-to-Organised-Crime-Prosecutor.html

Bosnia's international administrator could impose ban on genocide denial

December 12, 2019

The international community is increasingly in favour of certain changes being imposed in Bosnia, High Representative Valentin Inzko said on Thursday, adding that his office is working on a law banning genocide denial.

“Some things which are not tolerable anymore are taking place,” he said, adding that the climate in the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), a body made up of foreign ambassadors and heads of international organizations overseeing the peace process in Bosnia, is changing.

Inzko said that more and more countries are in favour of him using the Bonn Powers - a special set of powers which allow High Representatives to impose laws and fire officials, among other things.

“I never had support for using the Bonn powers to this extent before,” Inzko told BHRT, Bosnia’s public broadcaster.

He said that this support indicates how frustrated the international community is with Bosnia, adding that there was still no concrete decision on how the powers would be used.

He hinted at the possibility that something may be done regarding the rule of law in the country and that the international community could influence changes in Bosnia’s judiciary.

“Something in that direction can be expected in the new year. For the international community, we must be united, and we are united on that issue both on implementation and on urgency. Some things need to happen urgently, especially when it comes to the judiciary,” he said.

Inzko pointed out that 75 percent of Bosnia’s citizens are not satisfied with the state of the judiciary and that this is one of the reasons why people keep leaving the country.

The Office of the High Representative is currently working on a law on banning genocide denial which could be imposed if the Parliament does not adopt it, he said.

“I will wait a couple of weeks. In the meantime, my people in the legal department are working on some elements of that law on banning genocide denial. I think that this is a cultural, moral and ethical imperative and if this would be done, Bosnia and Herzegovina would then be as other countries which punish those who deny the Holocaust,” Inzko said, stressing that the Parliament must adopt such a law, especially in the year when the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide is being marked.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551960/Valentin-Inzko-s-office-working-on-a-law-banning-genocide-denial.html

Vucic: Jeremic demeaning Serbia

December 11, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that opposition People’s Party leader Vuk Jeremic was demeaning Serbia by saying that Kosovo Albanian political leader Albin Kurti was everything that Vucic is not.

Speaking on N1 TV’s Pressing talk show, Jeremic said that Kurti, the leader of the Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) movement and most likely next prime minister of Kosovo, was “stable, patriotic, an intellectual, the opposite of Vucic”.

Vucic added that Jeremic wanted to say that Serbia would do much better in the talks with Pristina if he represented Belgrade. Jeremic is a former Serbian Foreign Minister and President of the UN General Assembly. “We say how Serbia did when those geniuses led it, when Kosovo declared independence,” Vucic told the pro-regime TV Pink.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551390/Vucic-Jeremic-demeaning-Serbia.html

Serbia’s opposition to block all entries to state TV for eight hours on Friday

December 12, 2019

The Alliance for Serbia (SzS) said it would block all entries to the public broadcaster RTS from noon to 8 pm on Friday, the Alliance chairman Vuk Jeremic confirmed, while the Association of Serbia’s Journalists (UNS) asked SzS to give the idea up, the FoNet news agency reported.

Jeremic told reporters that SzS, activists and ordinary people would bloc RTS because “RTS has been blocking the truth for eight years.”

He listed some affairs involving top officials, attacks on journalists and alike that RTS did not report on professionally or at all.

Jeremic said it would be “a warning blockade” to tell RTS it should do its job professionally.

Commenting on the announced blockade, RTS said in a statement that it was not an ordinary criticism of their work, but the “activities of a part of the political public in Serbia which crossed the line of proper civil behaviour and political action.

 He also said the blockade would be peaceful, but added the police did not allow the rally since the permission was asked for too late, i.e., not five days ahead, as required by the law.

“If police try to prevent us, let everyone does their job. If they want to arrest us, let them,” Jeremic said.

Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister and an SNS high-ranking official, said that the opposition’s announcement of the RTS blockade was a proof that they had nothing to offer to people since they used “blockades instead of programmes.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551862/Opposition-to-block-Serbia-s-state-TV-building-for-eight-hours-on-Friday.html

SDA to Serbian Def. Minister: Truth about war crimes in Bosnia can not be denied

December 12, 2019

The truth about the crimes committed in Bosnia during the war can not be denied and recent statements by Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin about Sarajevo only show his hatred toward the Bosnian capital, the main Bosniak Party in the country said in Thursday statement.

Vulin commented on a decision by Canton Sarajevo to declare Nobel Prize winner Peter Handke, a vocal supporter of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, persona non grata. Handke has been accused of, among other things, denying that a genocide took place in Srebrenica in 1995.

 “Handke will not lose anything by not getting a chance to see what a Jamahiriya (a term used as an insult in the region to describe an Islamic society) looks like in the Balkans, but Sarajevo will lose out on a lot because it will not meet a courageous and wise man,” Vulin said on Wednesday.

“The statements by Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin on Sarajevo are an expression of his powerlessness,” Bosnia’s Party for Democratic Action (SDA) said its statement the next day, adding that the facts established by international courts - in this case, the war crimes committed in Bosnia during the war - can not be denied.

“Vulin, who was a servant to Slobodan Milosevic and Mira Markovic, obviously regrets that the aggressors did not manage to conquer Sarajevo. Karadzic’s and Mladic’s army has, with support from Serbia, committed systematic terror against Sarajevo’s citizens, killing children and civilians for years,” the party said.

“Vulin’s wish for terror to be committed again against this city is obviously hiding behind his hatred toward Sarajevo, but he must know he will never have the chance for that again. They will never catch Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sarajevo unprepared again,” the SDA statement concluded.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551900/SDA-says-Serbia-s-Def-Min-hates-Sarajevo.html

Belgrade University Senate annuls Fin Min doctorate as plagiarism

December 12, 2019

The Belgrade University Senate unanimously declared Serbia's Finance Minister Sinisa Mali's doctorate as plagiarism and cancelled it, N1 reported.

The Senate confirmed the University Commission for Professional Ethic's decision with all 32 members who were in the meeting voting in favour.

That is the final step regarded the University, and Mali can appeal the decision with the Administrative Court.

The Minister's doctorate saga dragged for years before the students organised in "1 in 5 million" grouping blocked the Rectorate for 12 days and were supported by the Rector Ivanka Popovic and some other professors in their demand to finally solve what they described as plagiarism from the beginning.

Many professors from home and abroad said the same, but the Organisational Sciences Faculty (FON) first voted it was not and then changed its ruling.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a551800/Serbia-s-Finance-Minister-s-doctorate-plagiarism-University-Senate-rules.html

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