International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Skopje's PM may resign after EU fails to set date for accession talks

October 18, 2019

Zoran Zaev, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia could resign after the European Union member states' leaders failed to agree on a date for the opening of the accession negotiations with Skopje, N1 reported on Friday.

The EU also did not agree on the date for Albania.

North Macedonia's Government was in session late in the day, and its statement said Zaev would decide in the best interest of the country and its people.

Media speculated that Zaev had already resigned, but the Skopje correspondent of Albania's ABC TV denied such rumours.

"Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has not resigned. The Government told reporters that discussions and consultations are underway and all possibilities have been analysed," the ABC News reported.

The Government added North Macedonia would continue with the reforms and integrations.

Zaev reportedly talked to many European leaders after the EU's decision, and some EU high officials reacted angrily to the no vote.

The North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski was quoted by the country's MIA news agency as calling a meeting of the leaders of all relevant political parties for Sunday following the EU decision.

North Macedonia was granted an EU candidate country status on December 2005, but could not get a date for the talks since Greece opposed it because of the country's name.

In June 2018, Zaev and the then Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed that the new name should be North Macedonia and opened Skopje the door to the Euro-Atlantic integrations.

According to NATO, North Macedonia could join the Alliance in December this year.

The EU approved a candidate status to Albania in June 2014.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535994/North-Macedonia-s-PM-may-resign-over-EU-decision.html

Berlin will always support Belgrade on road to EU, German official says

October 18, 2019

Susan Schick, German Director for South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and European Association for Free Trade members (EFTA), told Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic her country would always support Serbia on its way to the European Union and that Berlin expected Belgrade to finish all necessary reforms in the areas the European integrations required, the Beta news agency reported on Friday.

She added her country's support was seen in the Berlin process and the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO),

The two also discussed the bilateral relations and the situation in the region, a statement from Vucic’s office said.

Vucic told Schick that Serbia wanted a solution to the Kosovo issue because of its safety and peace in the Western Balkans, but added that Pristina moved the dialogue on the normalisation of relations away from its essence by introducing the import tariffs and other one-sided and provocative measures.

Serbia’s President said he was satisfied with the relations with Germany since they improved in the last several years, “up to their historic level,” adding that because of the respect and influence Berlin had in the European and world politics, such relations “are of utmost importance for Serbia.”

Vucic praised the economic relations between Serbia and Germany, adding the companies from that country employed dome 60,000 people in Serbia.        

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535960/Berlin-reiterates-support-of-Serbia-European-way.html

Kurti: Serbia’s presence in Kosovo is a problem

October 18, 2019

Kosovo’s Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti said on Friday that Serbia’s continued presence in the northern municipalities are a problem which his government will resolve with the local Serbs.

Kurti’s Vetevendosje (self-determination) party won the most votes at the recent parliamentary elections and is expected to become Kosovo’s next prime minister.  

“We have to be institutionally present in the north of Kosovo, serving the entire population whether Serbs or Albanians,” he is quoted as saying by Pristina media. “Kosovo institutions will also be present in in majority-Serb municipalities south of the Ibar river. Their presence there is not a problem, Serbia’s presence is,” Kurti said.  

 Kurti said that the two parts of the Trepca mining complex have to unite, adding that he hopes the divided city of Mitrovica would do the same. “Pristina and our government did not invest in Trepca, Serbia did and that can’t be repeated,” he said.

The Serb List called the international community to condemn Kurti’s statements “announcing the illegal and violent takeover of Trepca and the uniting of the (Serb) north and (Albanian) south of Mitrovica which directly invokes war with unforeseeable consequences to peace in Kosovo and the entire Western Balkans”.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535852/Kurti-Serbia-s-presence-in-Kosovo-is-a-problem.html

Kosovo Serb, Albanian speak out against demarcation

October 18, 2019

Two political analysts from Kosovo spoke out on Friday against any form of demarcation as a solution to the Kosovo issue.

Kosovo Albanian university Professor Belul Beqaj warned that demarcation could become a huge problem because up to 60,000 Serbs would be left south of Ibar river. He told the FoNet news agency that this would be “foolish”. “Any normal person who wants a political solution wants an agreement,” he said, adding that he prefers a status quo instead of an agreement which would include a division of territory.  

Former Kosovo Assembly Speaker, Kosovo Serb Petar Miletic agreed with Beqaj, saying that he does not support demarcation because he feels it would be a frozen conflict. “No one lives well in a conflict, frozen or not,” he said and added that “Serbs and Albanians have to reach an agreement as soon as possible as well as Kosovo and Serbia” to improve the lives of ordinary people. “We don’t even know what demarcation means… we should be working to connect not divide people,” he told FoNet.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535802/Kosovo-Serb-Albanian-speak-out-against-demarcation.html

Bundestag delegation chief says Serbian president is legitimate partner

October 18, 2019

The head of a Bundestag delegation touring the Western Balkans told Deutsche Welle on Friday that the European Union has to do more to support democratic forces in Serbia but added that President Aleksandar Vucic is the legitimate person to talk to.

“Whether we want it or not, Vucic, the President of Serbia, is the legitimate colocutor” in the Kosovo talks, Greens MP Ottmar von Holtz said, adding that Germany and the European Union could have done more as mediators and with Vucic as their partner in the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations.  

He said that Germany and the EU have to engage themselves more in solving the Kosovo problem to stop other global players from jumping in. “The EU should not allow a mediation vacuum to appear. Russia is very interested in establishing itself in Serbia. (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan is very interested in Kosovo. We have to engage ourselves more before those powers gain even more influence in the region,” Von Holtz said.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535782/Bundestag-delegation-chief-says-Serbian-president-is-legitimate-partner.html

Krusik whistleblower says Serbian President knew of dubious deals

October 18, 2019

The whistleblower from the Krusik munitions factory told Belgrade daily Danas that the Serbian Defense Ministry and President Aleksandar Vucic were informed of the situation at the military industry plant but did nothing.

Aleksandar Obradovic said that he knows for a fact that the plant union informed the ministry and president anonymously about the dubious deals made at the plant but got no reaction. “Instead, Vucic is telling fairy tales about the successf of the company I work for. The reality is completely different. Krusik operates with losses and the employees are scared and blackmailed,” he said.  

The whistleblower said that 2,000 Krusik employees have short-term contracts adding that most of them got jobs through political party affiliation and are a “voter potential for the coming elections”. “They get paid regularly and that’s what’s most important to them. Those people mainly got jobs over the past few years but I feel sorry for my older co-workers who spent their entire careers at Krusik. They know what’s happening but they’re keeping quiet or whispering in the corridors,” Obradovic said.  

He said that there were still some details that he couldn’t manage to tell his lawyer and added that the media will have a lot to report. He rejected claims that he revealed military secrets, saying that the military secret classification had been removed from Krusik. “I did everything because of Krusik and took no money nor was I working for any politician,” Obradovic said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535722/Krusik-whistleblower-says-Serbian-President-knew-of-dubious-deals.html

Djilas: Serbian regime falling apart, more terror

October 17, 2019

Serbian opposition leader Dragan Djilas told Novi Magazin weekly that “the regime is falling apart but the level of terror is rising”.

“Vucic rules Serbia through fear and darkness,” the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party said.  

Djilas said that the impression that he gained from the campaign to boycott elections is that people are afraid. “The impression from the boycott campaign is fear because people are simply afraid in every place that the Alliance for Serbia has been. Also, if Vucic fell from power tomorrow, 80 percent of the people would not know that had happened,” he said.  

“We will boycott these elections, fight for new conditions, a new energy will be created and almost four million will turn out for those elections,” he said.  

Djilas said that the opposition has a potential of winning 1.6 million votes while the authorities could win 1.8 million if the elections were held today. “One point six million in these conditions,” he said.  

He said he would never sign an agreement to recognize Kosovo because that runs counter to Serbian laws, international law and “principles such as morality and honor which I still believe in”. “On the other hand, I would not stick my head in the sand and pretend I don’t see what Kosovo has become over the past 20 years, nor would I waste time on “de-recognizing” Kosovo,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535426/Djilas-Serbian-regime-falling-apart-more-terror.html

Kurti: Kosovo Serbs should back moderate politicians

October 17, 2019

Kosovo politician and most likely candidate for prime minister Albin Kurti said on Thursday that the Serb community should stand by moderate politicians even though they are under pressure form so-called parallel institutions.

“I am aware of the pressure that the Serbs are experiencing from Serbia’s parallel structures in Kosovo, including the Serb List but the Serb community should find the strength to re-align themselves with moderate Serb parties and politicians,” the Vetevendosje (self-determination) party leader told Belgrade weekly NIN, adding that the Kosovo Serbs would be voting for their future, for integration, development and full civil rights if they backed parties like Slobodan Petrovic’s Serb Liberal Parties or Nenad Rasic’s Progressive Democratic Party.  

“We don’t know what the Serbs in northern Kosovo think and want because the parallel structures aren’t allowing them to think and allowing us to hear them,” Kurti said, adding that he is willing to hear civil rights demands but not “Belgrade’s appetite for territories”.  

He said the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) is “just words on paper” because the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled in December 2015 that it was in violation of the constitution. “None of the Kosovo Serbs protested that decision, only Belgrade did,” he said.  

Kurti said that his government would revoke the 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and establish reciprocity with Serbia. “If goods with the declaration Republic of Kosovo can’t enter Serbia, Serbian goods can’t enter Kosovo, he said. Kurti said that Serbia’s efforts to prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations led to the tariffs being imposed. “We have to let the Serbian leadership know that this behavior can’t lead to new negotiations, let alone an agreement or truce… We need an official statement from Serbia that it won’t prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535400/Kurti-Kosovo-Serbs-should-back-moderate-politicians.html

Serbian opposition leader says situation alarming

October 17, 2019

A Serbian opposition mayor warned on Thursday that the situation in the country is at a danger point at which anything can happen.

“Anything can turn into the spark that lights the fire. I think that’s clear to everyone,” Sabac Mayor and leader of the Together for Serbia party Nebojsa Zelenovic told the latest issue of Belgrade weekly Vreme.  

He said that anything could set things off – a protest, an argument in public or the final decision about Finance Minister Sinisa Mali’s allegedly plagiarized doctoral thesis.  

According to Zelenovic, “the noose is tightening” around Serbian President and leader of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Aleksandar Vucic. “He can no longer trick even the foreigners, that’s clear. There is no chance of elections being held if they are not fair. I am sure of that because we are a dramatically important point when who knows what can happen,” he said, adding that he does not expect the authorities to “wave a magic wand” and build the institutions it has destroyed over a period of seven years.  

He said two things would force the authorities to change things in terms of elections – the protests across Serbia which have been going on for months and the fact that according to the latest polls 1.5 million people will not vote because they do not want to be deceived and used again. “Everything is clear: elections without the opposition and 1.5 million voters will not bring in legitimate representatives of the citizens who can take any serious decision, including on Kosovo which is the main issue for the European Union and US,” Zelenovic said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535388/Serbian-opposition-leader-says-situation-alarming.html

Veseli: US not in favor of Serbia, Kosovo trading territories

October 17, 2019

Kosovo Democratic Party leader Kadri Veseli told Pristina-based KTV that Washington is not in favor of an exchange of territories as a solution to relations with Serbia.

Veseli said that the US president’s envoy Ambassador Richard Grenell told officials in Pristina that Washington would support any agreement reached by Belgrade and Pristina. He said that Washington sees Kosovo as part of its project to stabilize the Balkans, adding that Kosovo has to go through that process.  

“The US does not support any option which is not agreed to by both sides. An exchange of territories can’t happen. We have to preserve Kosovo’s territorial integrity along with its institutions,” he said. According to Veseli, Kosovo has created its own problems by claiming that the US supports an exchange of territories.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535380/Veseli-US-not-in-favor-of-Serbia-Kosovo-trading-territories.html

Another whistler-blower in Serbia becomes target

October 17, 2019

Kosovo Democratic Party leader Kadri Veseli told Pristina-based KTV that Washington is not in favor of an exchange of territories as a solution to relations with Serbia.

Veseli said that the US president’s envoy Ambassador Richard Grenell told officials in Pristina that Washington would support any agreement reached by Belgrade and Pristina. He said that Washington sees Kosovo as part of its project to stabilize the Balkans, adding that Kosovo has to go through that process.  

“The US does not support any option which is not agreed to by both sides. An exchange of territories can’t happen. We have to preserve Kosovo’s territorial integrity along with its institutions,” he said. According to Veseli, Kosovo has created its own problems by claiming that the US supports an exchange of territories.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535380/Veseli-US-not-in-favor-of-Serbia-Kosovo-trading-territories.html

Hoxha: Special Prosecution ordered police operation in north Kosovo

October 16, 2019

Kosovo Special Prosecutor Syle Hoxha said that Wednesday’s police operation in northern Kosovo was conducted under orders from the prosecution by the Serious Crime Department of the Pristina Basic Court.

He confirmed that two people were arrested and that a search was underway for a third person who he identified by the initial ZB.

The Special Prosecutor said that the two men who had been arrested were suspected of involvement in organized crime, hiding evidence and other activities which he said were linked to the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic who was gunned down in front of his party offices in Mitrovica North almost two years ago.

Pristina media said that the two police officers named in the arrest warrant were involved in the investigation into the murder.

Hoxha confirmed to Pristina-based KTV that senior Kosovo police officer Rade Basara was being interrogated. KTV said that fellow police investigator Zeljko Bojic is at large and identified his son as the second person arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535042/Hoxha-Special-Prosecution-ordered-police-operation-in-north-Kosovo.html

Kosovo police officer arrested over Ivanovic murder

October 16, 2019

The Kosovo police arrested one of their own early on Wednesday morning on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Kosovo Serb political leader Oliver Ivanovic almost two years ago.

Kosovo media reported that another police officer was wanted under the same warrant issued by the Basic Court in Pristina. The Kosovo state TV (RTK) said that the arrested officer was a Serb. Another person was arrested for illegal possession of weapons, a police press release said.  

The KoSSev news portal quoted police spokesman Baki Kelani who said in a written statement that a police operation was underway as part of the Ivanovic murder investigation. “The police operation was conducted under a search warrant issued by the Special Section of the Basic Court, resulting in the arrest of suspect, police officer RB, while another police officer also named in the warrant is at large. Another suspect found in possession of weapons was arrested during the police operation which turned up two firearms and ammunition,” Kelani said in the statement.  

Police sources told the portal that the police conducted a search at two locations in Mitrovica north and that the operation was under the command of Police General Directorate in Pristina, not the local or regional police command.  

Serbian government official Marko Djuric confirmed on Wednesday that the Kosovo police are searching for Zeljko Bojic, Kosovo Police Operations Commander. The head of government Office for Kosovo told TV Pink that “the ROSU unit broke into his apartment, searched it, took away his son Vasilije and arrested police officer Rade Basara who was working on important cases”. Djuric said that the operation is part of attempts to link Kosovo Serbs to crimes and intimidate them.

Serbian Police Director Vladimir Rebic said that he had information beforehand that a police operation would be conducted in the north of Kosovo. He told the RTS that 24 armored vehicles entered Mitrovica north, claiming that the deployment is against regulations and is another case of the Serbs being intimidated. He said the operation shows Pristina’s frustration over the fact that it had to withdraw its application for membership in Interpol. Rebic said that Serbia is prepared to intervene if “an exodus of the Serb people happens” adding that he is convinced that won’t happen.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535016/Kosovo-police-officer-arrested-over-Ivanovic-murder.html

Serbian PM says agreement with EurAsian Union not political

October 16, 2019

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti that the economic cooperation agreement that Serbia is set to sign with the EurAsian Economic Union is not political.

Brnabic is scheduled to travel to Russia in 10 days to sign the agreement.  

“It does not run counter to the interests of the European Union, it is complementary because Serbia is a country determined to become an EU member which means that an economically stronger Serbia is also in the interest of the EU. We can have freed trade agreement with other countries and groups as long as we are not an EU member,” she said.  

Brnabic said that Serbia’s place is in the EU because that is the country’s biggest export market.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535032/Serbian-PM-says-agreement-with-EurAsian-Union-not-political.html

EU without date for accession talks with Tirana and Skopje

October 15, 2019

The European Foreign Ministers failed to agree in Luxembourg on Tuesday when to start the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, despite pledges that the whole of the Western Balkans should become the bloc's members, the Beta news agency reported.

The final verdict is expected at the meeting of the presidents or prime ministers of the EU member states in Brussels on Thursday.

Tytti Tuppurainen, the Foreign Minister of Finland, the EU presiding country, said she was sorry that the deal was not reached.

France and Netherlands asked Tirana and Skopje to meet almost all conditions, while the majority of the ministers was in favour of specifying the date for opening the talks.

Albania and North Macedonia have been waiting for the start of the EU negotiations for years, and Skopje was promised to get the date in the summer of 2019, after ending the 27-year-long name dispute with Athens.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534956/Tirana-and-Skopje-still-without-date-for-opening-talks-with-EU.html

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