International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Poster of Vucic Persona Non Grata in Tirana

December 19, 2019

The Lëvizja Vetevendosje (Self-Determination or LVV), an NGO in Albania put up a poster of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic with the words Persona Non Grata on it in the center of Tirana.

The NGO (which carries the same name as Albin Kurti’s Vetevendosje in Kosovo) put up the poster in front of the Rogner hotel where the heads of state and government of three Western Balkan countries are due to meet to discuss the so-called Mini-Schengen initiative.  

The poster included the sentence – a war criminal portraying himself as a benefactor is coming here.

The KoSSev portal said that reports of Vucic’s pending visit to Albania have been the focus of the media in Pristina with politicians expressing anger over the visit.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553977/Poster-of-Vucic-Persona-Non-Grata-in-Tirana.html

Zivkovic calls Serbian opposition to stand in elections

December 19, 2019

Nova Stranka leader Zoran Zivkovic on Thursday called Serbian opposition parties to surprise President Aleksandar Vucic with a New Year’s message saying: We were joking, we will stand in the coming parliamentary elections.

He said a boycott won’t solve the problem, adding that the people advocating it lost to Vucic at elections. “The election conditions are a catastrophe, they could be better but if we create a serious front with the public we can do what we did in 1996: win five municipalities in Belgrade, five towns in Serbia, 60 MPs, 20 in the Vojvodina Assembly… and force Vucic to call presidential elections in 2021, find our own candidate and beat him,” he said.

Zivkovic, a former Serbian Prime Minister, told N1 that his party would decide to take part in elections or not when they are called, adding that a decision can’t be taken six months before the elections.

He said that a small victory had been won when the authorities decided to move the elections to late April or early May. “The more time, the better it is for us in the opposition. We can prepare more easily and can spend that time to see if the authorities are doing what they promised under pressure from the European Union. The longer these authorities are in power, the more stupid things they do,” he said.

He said that the electorate in Serbia has been divided into liberal and conservative for 30 years. “It doesn’t matter what lies Vucic tells on (the pro-regime TV stations) Pink and Happy. The important thing is to motivate our voters… To have at least enough room in the 45 to 60 days of campaign to present what we offer to the public. TV duels once a day on every station are enough… on the (state TV stations) RTS and RTV, local TV stations and N1,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553947/Zivkovic-calls-Serbian-opposition-to-stand-in-elections.html

Transparency Serbia: bad management of public property

December 19, 2020

Transparency Serbia said on Thursday that the latest State Auditing Authority’s report shows that local authorities are owed 8.2 billion Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars) in rent.

“The State Auditing Authority (DRI) report shows some of the harmful consequences caused by the lack of transparency in the management of public property. It found that local administrations are owed huge amounts (8.2 billion Dinars in 2018) for rental with the city of Belgrade leading the field,” it said and warned of a statute on limitations for law suits to collect the money owed for the rental of public properties.  

According to Transparency Serbia, the DRI also found that the records for commercial properties were not being kept properly. The organization said that its own research showed that local authorities mainly did not publish records of who rented which property or for how long.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553905/Transparency-Serbia-bad-management-of-public-property.html

Brnabic: clear signals to speed up Serbia’s EU accession

December 19, 2019

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said in Rome on Thursday that she received clear signals at the Central European Initiative summit that Serbia’s road to the European Union has to be faster.

Speaking after the plenary session of the summit and a bilateral meeting with Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, Brnabic said that the policies of the new European Commission are important for Serbia both in terms of the economy and politics.

Brnabic said that they discussed the new methodology for expansion proposed by France and how it will affect Serbia’s EU accession negotiations, steel quotas and election conditions.  

Brnabic said that the plenary session showed a clear commitment to continue the expansion of the EU.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553899/Brnabic-clear-signals-to-speed-up-Serbia-s-EU-accession.html

EU envoys call Kosovo parties to form government quickly

December 19, 2019

European Union envoys in Pristina issued a joint statement on Thursday calling for the quick forming of a new Kosovo government.

The statement by the Head of the EU Office/EU Special Representative, EULEX and Heads of EU Missions in Kosovo expressed the belief that a consensus would be reached to resolve remaining challenges. “The constitutive session of the Assembly has been scheduled to take place on 26 December. The general elections of 6 October gave the opportunity to the people of Kosovo to exercise their democratic right to vote and elect their leaders. This is the essence of the democratic process. We trust that the parties concerned will reach the necessary consensus to overcome remaining challenges,” the Kosovo state TV (RTK) quoted the statement as saying.  

It added that Kosovo needs to resume urgent work on reforms of economic and social development as well as rule of law, on the implementation of the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement and on the EU-facilitated Dialogue with Belgrade. “A swift government formation is needed to take forward these processes, in the interest of Kosovo and its people and in line with the constitution and the expressed wish of the electorate,” the statement said.  

The US embassy in Pristina posted the statement on its Facebook page and added that it agrees with the EU: “The people of Kosovo are impatient for a Government that will bring positive change”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553897/EU-envoys-call-Kosovo-parties-to-form-government-quickly.html

North Macedonia’s PM: I support 'mini-Schengen', Vucic’s initiative beneficial

December 19, 2019

Zoran Zaev, North Macedonia’s Prime Minister, said on Thursday he had supported Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic’s initiative to create a “mini-Schengen” since that visa regime would bring the benefit for the whole Balkan, the FoNet news agency reported.

He added that the French ‘no’ to set a date for the opening of the accession negotiations with the European Union for Skopje and Tirana, was disappointing for him and his country’s people.

"I support every way in which the Balkans cooperate, instead of waiting for someone from the EU to assembly us. We can show our capacities ourselves,” Zaev told Serbia’s pro-government Pink TV.

He added he thought that "the time for improving relations with the EU member states will come while we are still negotiating."

Zaev reiterated Skopje would continue to go along the European road.

"As people in Serbia, we also want not only to join the EU but to live better, to be richer," Zaev said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553823/Skopje-supports-Belgrade-s-initiative-for-mini-Schenge-visa-regime.html

Marinelli to EWB: Serbia becomes increasingly important partner to NATO

December 19, 2019

Serbia is becoming an increasingly important partner to NATO, Brigadier General Cesare Marinelli, Chief of the Alliance Military Liaison Office in Belgrade, tells the European Western Balkans (EWB) website in an interview published on Thursday.

The interview focused on cooperation between NATO and Serbia, key events that have shaped it in 2019, as well as new Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which was adopted last month, EWB said.

“This is my fourth year in Belgrade, and I am pleased to say that relations between Serbia and NATO are better than they seem to an average person, with Serbia becoming an even more important partner to NATO,” Marinelli said.

He added that “the partnership is strong and we continue to work together in areas where both Serbia and NATO see the benefits. I am glad that we can cooperate and exchange experiences through the Partnership for Peace programme, with Serbia being among more active countries, focused on training and capacity-building opportunities. We wish to build up a unique relationship, and Serbia is free to choose its own priorities for cooperation with NATO.”

Marinelli said he would remember 2019 for a number of joint activities, beneficial for both NATO and Serbia.

“Serbia benefits from a number of different programs offered through our partnership – from scientific cooperation to the training of Serbian armed forces"

 “Belgrade also welcomed a number of high-ranking NATO officials, proving its commitment to our partnership. Just several weeks ago in Bujanovac, NATO experts were thrilled with the knowledge and capabilities presented by the general-purpose engineering company of the Serbian Armed Forces, which has shown that it is fully prepared to participate in international peacekeeping missions in line with NATO standards,” he added.

Marinelli listed NATO support to the Army of Serbia (VS), including the Support and Procurement Agency and its Trust Fund, which helped to add new capacities at the Technical Overhaul Facility in Kragujevac, contributing to better safety there.

“Serbia is still free to choose from over 1,600 different activities to do together with NATO, and during this year it has opted for a number of training of its capable and devoted officers,” Marinelli said.

Asked about the 2019-2021 IPAP, NATO chief said he was satisfied with the effects of the previous and new IPAP.

“With the new IPAP, we underline the importance of this document, since it provides us with very good guidance as to how to take this partnership and cooperation forward so that it can benefit and meet the expectations of both Serbia and NATO. At the same time, we are very gratified to see that public diplomacy is one focus area of IPAP,” he said.

Marinelli reiterated NATO general view on Serbia’s neutrality.

“We have been continuously emphasising that NATO fully respects the Serbian stated policy of military neutrality. It is the sovereign prerogative of Serbia to choose whatever security arrangements it finds suitable for the need of its citizens. There is no conflict between having good relations with NATO and good and good relations with Russia or any other country or a multinational entity. Our partnerships are demand-driven. We do not impose anything on our partners and as you know, NATO works closely with numerous militarily neutral countries, such as Finland, Austria or Sweden, just to name a few," the general said.

Regarding Belgrade’s purchase of Russian-made weapons, Marinelli described NATO’s position as being always very clear – "the choice of weaponry system is a national sovereign prerogative and this, of course, includes Serbia. I would like to stress once again, we fully respect Serbia’s and every other nation’s sovereign right to choose their own political and security arrangements."

He added that NATO welcomed "the current level of our partnership, as we find it beneficial for both sides, and we look forward to opportunities for strengthening it further.”

Marinelli said that “Serbia benefits from a number of different programs offered through our partnership – from scientific cooperation to the training of Serbian armed forces for UN-led operations, to reforms of the national defence and security structures, to preparedness in dealing with natural emergencies.”  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553807/NATO-hapy-with-current-relations-with-Serbia.html

Krusik whistleblower released from house arrest

December 18, 2019

Krusik whistleblower Aleksandar Obradovic was freed from house arrest on Wednesday by a Belgrade Higher Court judge who ruled that the reasons for the house arrest order were no longer valid.

Obradovic was arrested and later put into house arrest for leaking documents showing dubious deals between the state-owned Krusik munitions plant and private companies, including a deal with the GIM company in which a cabinet minister’s father was involved.

A court press release said that the judge lifted the house arrest order and ban on Internet access. The ruling said that the prosecutor informed the court on December 18 that he was leaving the decision on the house arrest measure up to the court. The prosecutor has a three-day deadline to appeal the ruling.

The court ruling comes after the Freedom for Aleksandar and Association to Protect the Constitution and Law handed State Prosecutor Zagorka Dolovac a petition signed by 25,000 people demanding Obradovic’s release.

Obradovic was arrested three days after the Arms Watch portal published an article about how private companies bought munitions from Krusik at privileged prices, naming Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic’s father Branko as a mediator. He was charged with revealing business secrets.

Obradovic found out that he was free from an N1 TV crew. He said that he was excited and happy but not euphoric. “I realize that I am not definitively free… The final whistle hasn’t blown and this might just be a time-out by the opposing side in the first quarter to close ranks, analyze the pressing from our side and try to counter it,” he said, adding that the fight continues.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553553/Krusik-whistleblower-released-from-house-arrest.html

MEP may come to Serbia in early 2020 ‘to check’ on implementation of agreed

December 18, 2019

Tanja Fajon, the Chair of EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee and a mediator in the country’s dialogue on election conditions, said on Wednesday she and other members of the European Parliament (MEP) might come to Belgrade again in January or February 2020 to check on the implementation of what had been agreed to improve election conditions in the country, the Beta news agency reported.

MEPs will check the pace of the implementation of the 17 agreed points.

Fajon told the Belgrade Danas daily that the second phase of the dialogue in Serbia’s Parliament was planned from the beginning and would focus on the improvement of political dialogue and parliamentary culture in the country, what, as she put it, “is a key condition for Serbia’s progress toward the European Union membership.”

Commenting on the decision of a part of Serbia’s opposition to remain committed to the election boycott after three rounds of talks, which they did not take part in, Fajon said the boycott was “a blunt” instrument which rarely brought results.

“Boycotts rarely bear fruit, while there is a risk for all those who want democratic elections and further reforms which would bring Serbia closer to the EU, to end on a losing side,” Fajon said.

She appealed to all political sides in Serbia to do everything possible to avoid the boycott. “We asked our closest partners to consider the consequences of rejecting the improvements that we have achieved, to think again about their decision.”

Fajon denied media reports saying the EP would stop to communicate with the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) if they boycotted elections. “I see no reason for stop communication, that’s their legitimate decision.”

She added that both politicians and media in Serbia used negative rhetoric.

“I wonder how it is possible to have civilised talks with the politicians in Serbia… including Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, but as soon as I leave the country I’m attacked and criticised by the media,” Fajon said.

She asked whether the politics were responsible or that was done to galvanise public opinion and provoke social conflicts.  


US envoy: I want to give my best to improve Washington – Belgrade relations

December 18, 2019

The US ambassador to Serbia Antony Godfrey said on Wednesday he aimed to do all in his power to upgrade the relations between the two countries and that the best way was to help Belgrade on its European path, the Beta news agency reported.

Following the meeting with Serbia’s Deputy Group for Friendship with the US, Godfrey told joint news conference with the Group head Dragan Sormaz, he had heard a lot of opinions from MPs, that he appreciated their suggestions and advice and that he was looking forward to meeting them again.

“I aim to give my best to improve the relationship between the US and Serbia, and I want to thank the Group for supporting my goal. My and my country’s view is that the best way to help Serbia is to support its intention to join the European Union,” the ambassador said.

Sormaz, an MP from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) described the meeting as constructive, adding the topic was how the US embassy and Serbia’s Parliament could improve the cooperation between the two countries.

“We talked about resting our relations, to move them back where they had been before, to rely on each other and be great friends,” Sormaz said.

He added Serbia was in a situation in which it “needs help from everyone, especially from the EU, the country seen as the leader of the democratic world.”  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553511/belgrade-wants-to-be-great-frined-with-Washington-MP-says.html

Thaci refuses invitation to Mini-Schengen summit in Albania

December 18, 2019

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci refused an invitation to attend a Mini-Schengen meeting with the heads of state or government of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia.

Thaci was invited to the December 21 meeting in the Albanian town of Durres by Prime Minister Edi Rama. The meeting will be attended by Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Thaci was invited to an earlier meeting in the North Macedonia resort of Ohrid.  

Thaci wrote in a Facebook post that “regional cooperation initiatives make no sense as long as Serbia denies the crimes it committed against the citizens of Kosovo and does not recognize Kosovo as a state”.  

He added that no progress can be made in regional cooperation until Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina recognize Kosovo.  

The Mini-Schengen initiative was first mentioned at a meeting between Vucic, Rama and Zaev in Novi Sad. Their second meeting was held in Ohrid.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553587/Thaci-refuses-invitation-to-Mini-Schengen-summit-in-Albania.html

Officials in Skoplje, Pristina warn against border changes

December 18, 2019

North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski and Pristina’s former negotiator with Belgrade Edita Tahiri warned on Wednesday against changes to the borders in the region.

In his first address to parliament, President Pendarovski said that changes to borders in the Balkans would “certainly takes us back to the early 1990s, cause tensions and most probably new conflicts”. He added that he told the President of Serbia and Prime Minister of Kosovo about that view, adding that “a solution to Kosovo’s international status should contribute to and reinforce regional stability and security”.  

Tahiri told a news conference in Pristina that war could erupt if Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state within its current borders. She said that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue did not break off because of the 100 percent tariffs imposed on Serbian goods but because “the state of Kosovo was in danger”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553597/Officials-in-Skoplje-Pristina-warn-against-border-changes.html

New Kosovo parliament on December 26

December 18, 2019

The constitutive session of the 7th Kosovo parliament will be held on December 26, the date set by President Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo Parliament Presidency said on Wednesday.

Former Speaker Kadri Veseli said the presidency meeting was procedural to set the frameworks for the constitutive session. “I believe we will have a new parliament and a new political ear in Kosovo,” he said.

President Thaci decided last week on December 26 as the date for the constitutive session. Under the constitution, that is the final date to hold the session which will be chaired by the oldest MP with the youngest MP as his aide.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553559/New-Kosovo-parliament-on-December-26.html

CoE: Minority rights in Serbia must improve significantly

December 18, 2019

The protection of minority rights in Serbia, despite the authorities’ efforts, must improve substantially, especially regarding the alarming situation with Roma, the Council of Europe (CoE) said on Wednesday, N1 reported.

The CoE report on the implementation of the Framework Convention on Protection of Minority Rights in Vojvodina and other regions in Serbia says the legal framework is solid and that the country’s authorities do a lot to improve the situation with Roma communities and regulate the status of stateless people, develop the cultural initiatives and minority media.

The report was based on the official data and other written sources and on the visits to several multi-ethnic places across Serbia in March this year.

“However, there is a significant gap between the level of protection of minority rights in Vojvodina, and elsewhere, the lack of data prevents the work on minorities’ welfare, while their participation in the state administration should increase."

CoE said that Serbia, home to 23 minorities’ councils, still records differences in implementing their rights and emphasises that the level of protection outside Vojvodina should substantially improve.

The situation with Roma regarding access to education, housing and health service remains alarming despite the state’s efforts. 

The disparity between Roma and other population in the neighbourhood also remains significant, the report says.   

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553529/Serbia-to-significantly-improve-minority-rights-CoE.html

Vucic’s former boss demands Serbia’s Interior Minister ouster

December 18, 2019

Vojislav Seselj, the head of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and President Aleksandar Vucic's former political boss, called on Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Wednesday to reshuffle her cabinet “before the New Year,” since “too many affairs are concentrated around some ministers,” also demanding the dismissal of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, the Beta news agency reported.

Seselj, a convicted war criminal, is often referred to as ‘Vucic’s political father.’ Serbia’s President left SRS to form his now ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in 2008.SRS is officially in opposition, but many believe he supports former ally.

On Wednesday, Seselj told reporters it was urgent to oust Stefanovic who, according to Seselj, “is amid a serious and a horrifying affair, since it is established he hasn’t finished any faculty, let alone a doctorate.”

“He can’t say who his professors were. He is involved in the Krusik (arms trade deals) affair… That cannot be tolerated any longer,’ Seselj said.

He added that even if Stefanovic weren’t guilty, he should withdraw from the ministerial post “to return people’s trust into the police so they could do their job.”

Seselj said Vucic treated his party’s ministers linked to the affairs as “Mother Theresa.”

“Vucic thinks that every office could be saved at any cost. People are easily spoiled, and when you see someone like that, you should remove them to prevent the decaying of the whole organism. There is nothing to wait for,” Seselj advised his former ally.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a553481/Vucic-s-former-political-boss-says-government-needs-reshuffle.html

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