International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbian official denied entry into Kosovo

October 23, 2019

An official of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo was not allowed into Kosovo, the Kosovo Foreign Minister’s cabinet chief Jetlir Ziberaj told the media in Pristina on Wednesday.

“Dusan Kozarev (Deputy Director of the Office for Kosovo) is one of the people who can’t enter Kosovo without permission. They chose not to respect the agreement and he was denied entry at the Jarinje crossing,” Ziberaj said.  

The Office for Kosovo released a statement saying that Pristina is preventing its officials from being with the Serbs in Kosovo in a direct violation of the agreement on freedom of movement. “Dusan Kozarev was banned from entering Kosovo with the explanation that his visit was not announced in advance,” the statement said.  

“The Serb people in Kosovo should not fear Pristina’s legal violence because the state of Serbia always found ways to help its people and secure the functioning of the institutional system in Kosovo,” the statement said and called the international community to take a stand on Pristina’s provocation.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537410/Serbian-official-denied-entry-into-Kosovo.html

Kosovo officials counting votes from Serbia in protective garments

October 23, 2019

The Kosovo Central Election Commission has started counting the allegedly poisoned election ballots that arrived from Serbia, Commission spokesman Vlamir Elezi told N1 on Wednesday.

Central Election Commission staff reported allergic reactions when they started counting parliamentary election ballots which had been brought in from Serbia and posted at a post office in Pristina. The ballots were quarantined and an investigation was launched but no toxic materials were reported to have been identified.

The votes are being counted by Commission staff wearing protective garments.

Elezi said the votes have to be verified before being counted, adding that the Commission has support from the Kosovo Police including what he said was logistics equipment.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537380/Kosovo-officials-counting-votes-from-Serbia-in-protective-garments.html

Police arrest ex Republika Srpska Army commander accused of war crimes

October 23, 2019

State police arrested former Bosnian Serb Army commander Miladin Trifunovic on Wednesday after prosecutors accused him of committing war crimes against Bosniak victims in 1992 in the central municipalities of Vogosca and Ilijas, Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office said.

Trifunovic is suspected of being responsible for the murders and torture of a large number of Bosniak victims imprisoned in a building named ‘Planjina Kuca’ in Svrake, near Sarajevo.

The victims were allegedly used as human shields and forced labour on the battlefield, which resulted in the deaths of at least 20 people and grave injuries to numerous others.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537300/Former-RS-Army-commander-arrested-in-Bosnia.html

Serbia’s Vucic to FT: What can I do, go on hunger strike outside Berlaymont?

October 23, 2019

In an interview with the London-based Financial Times (FT) on Wednesday, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said that the European Union’s failure to set a date for the opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia justified his country’s policy of close links with Russia and China, the Beta news agency reported.

The EU’s decision prompted harsh criticism from both countries, the US and number of the bloc’s high officials.

North Macedonia decided to go for an early vote after the EU broke its promise to Skopje it would get a date after solving the 27-year-old name dispute with Athens in June 2018.

On Wednesday, Vucic indicated the EU could lose the influence it had in the Western Balkans.

“We need to take care of ourselves. That’s the only way, that’s the only approach. Everything else would be very irresponsible,” he told the FT, advocating the improvement of the regional cooperation.

Belgrade, Tirana and Skopje have signed a declaration on the so-called mini-Schengen.

Vucic told the FT Serbia was ready to go further and  synchronise investment incentives with Albania and North Macedonia as well as value-added tax rates, which, according to him, would create a 12 million people strong market.

He said the Western Balkans countries “now see that we have to turn to ourselves firstly, of course staying firmly on our EU path, but not waiting for charity from anyone.”

Besides, Serbia will on Friday sign a free trade deal with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) a customs union comprising Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, in a move Brussels had already cautioned Belgrade about.

Vucic told the FT that “we cannot be dependent on the next decision of the European Council, or whether the Dutch government will decide this way or another way, or the Danish government will do something different than we expected.”

“What can I do, cry and [go on] hunger strike in [front of the] Berlaymont (the European Commission HQ in Brussels)?” he asked in the interview with the FT.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537256/Vucis-tells-FT-Western-Balkans-should-not-be-dependent-on-next-EU-or-some-countries-decisions.html

US Congress: Relations with Serbia to depend on solving Bytyqi brothers murder

October 23, 2019

The US Congress House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that Serbia solve the murder of three Bytyqi brothers, US citizens of Kosovo Albanian origin, killed in 1999, during the war in Kosovo, the FoNet news agency reported.

Serbia's police arrested Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi in 1999 for an alleged illegal border crossing, imprisoned them and killed them after the release.

The bodies of the brothers were discovered in 2001 in a mass grave in Serbia's eastern village of Petrovo Selo, in the area that was under the control of Radosavljevic's unit.

Their hands were tight, and they had bullet wounds on the back of the head. Two police officers tried as accomplices to the murder were acquitted by Belgrade's Higher Court due to the lack of evidence of their involvement in the killings that happened in July 1999.

The Resolution passed unanimously for the first time by the House of Representatives, should now be adopted by the Senate. It says the development of the US – Serbia relations should depend on the progress in solving the case, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.

Kosovo's outgoing Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli welcomed the Resolution on his Twitter account, saying Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic was responsoble for handling the case.

"It is unacceptable that no person has ever been found guilty for the Bytyqis' murder or any other crime related to their death and that no one has been accused of those crimes," the Resolution has said.

It added that "Serbia's Government and its respective ministers and offices, including the Prosecutors' Office for War Crimes, should make the investigation and criminal persecution of the officials believed to be responsible for those deaths their priority."

The Resolution says that Goran Radosavljevic Guri, former commander of the Gendarmerie, works as a consultant in a company in Belgrade and that he is also a high-ranked official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) led by the head of state Aleksandar Vucic.

The Bytyqi family thanked the US congressmen who initiated the Resolution and said they hoped that "the US special envoy to the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer and the US President Donald Trump's special representative to the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue Richard Grenell would make the  Bytyqi brothers' case their priority.

"The Congress has shown today that the victims could not be ignored," the Bytyqi family said in a statement.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537226/US-says-relations-with-Serbia-should-depend-on-solving-Bytyqi-broters-murder.html

VS former chief-of-staff: Serbia looks like Balkan version of North Korea

October 23, 2019

Retired Lieutenant General Zdravko Ponos, former Army of Serbia (VS) chief-of-staff and now a deputy leader of the opposition People’s Party said the affair with arms trade discovered by a whistle-blower, could get an end only if the public pressure continued, the FoNet news agency reported.

Ponos said the public would not hear about the affair on the state RTS TV and the media under the regime control, because, as he put it, that was not an issue for them.

“Public pressure must not stop until the whole case ends and people in other factories don’t get enough strength and self-confidence to do the same, to go public,” Ponos told the local TV in the western town of Sabac, the only in Serbia ruled by the opposition.

He referred to Aleksandar Obradovic, an employ of the ammunition Krusik factory, who revealed some dubious business deals in arms trade linking them to the father of Serbia’s Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic.

Obradovic was arrested and jailed for almost three weeks before the media found out and published his story. Belgraders protested outside the Central jail, and Obradovic was sent back to house arrest.

Krusik’s management said Obradovic disclosed business secrets, and Serbia’s Special Prosecution for High-Tech Crime said the investigation and proceedings against the whistle-blower were in line with the law and added he did not abide by the law on whistle-blowers.

It added Obradovic's arrest was in line with a legal procedure.

However, Ponos said that "Obradovic has already been behind bars for days when the news on his arrest broke out, while the majority of people had no clue about the affair. That means that Serbia is in jail. The SNS (Serbian Progressive Party) President Aleksandar Vucic’s regime (Vucic is also the head of the state) turned Serbia into a prison,” Ponos said.

Commenting on the election boycott his party declared for the next spring vote, Ponos said the authorities were aware of the danger of it, i.e., of people, who liberated themselves from fear during months-long civil protests, boycotting “the circus called Vucic’s elections.”

“The authorities that will emerge from the spring elections could not last long. It would be great if the regime wins with 98 percent and that it becomes clear that we live in the Balkan version of North Korea. That would not be tenable. Does that mean deeper tensions in the society, risky situation… I don’t exclude that either. I don’t advocate that, and I’m not looking forward to that. I would like that there is still a bit of sound mind within the regime not to take the country to that point, but I don’t see any,” Ponos said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537200/Vucic-s-SNS-turns-Serbia-into-prison-VS-former-chief-of-staff-says.html

US Senate votes for ratification of North Macedonia NATO membership

October 23, 2019

After a blow from the European Union, Skopje received good news from Washington – the US Senate voted 91 for and two against North Macedonia’s full NATO membership late on Tuesday, the Beta news agency reported, paving the way for the country to join the Alliance in December at NATO summit in London.

The EU, thanks to France, did not set a date for the opening of the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, breaking the bloc’s promise to Skopje after it made a deal with Athens over the country’s name.

North Macedonia signed a protocol on joining NATO with its member states in February, following the deal agreed in June 2018 after 27 years long dispute during which Athens had blocked Skopje saying its name Macedonia implied territorial claims against the Greek province of the same name.        

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537186/US-Senate-votes-for-ratification-of-North-Macedonia-NATO-membership.html

War criminal Seselj’s supporters stop opposition petition

October 22, 2019

The Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) said on Tuesday that it would file charges against several men who prevented its official from collecting signatures for a petition to throw ultra-nationalist and convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj out of the Belgrade Book Fair.

The petition was launched by PSG legal team official Zivojin Ivkovic and signatures were being collected at the party’s stand at the book fair when Seselj’s followers “grabbed and destroyed the list of signatures”.

“Vojislav Seselj’s gorillas came and grabbed the petition and signatures. Others appeared later and threw books off the shelves of the stand next door because they are illiterate and couldn’t see that it was someone else’s stand,” Ivkovic told the FoNet news agency.

He added that the PSG legal team would file criminal charges.

Ivkovic said the police were called and the officers contacted the duty public prosecutor who told them that there were no elements of a crime.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537113/War-criminal-Seselj-s-supporters-stop-opposition-petition.html

Majority of Serbians see no change over past three years

October 22, 2019

A poll by the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) showed that 60 percent of the population of Serbia believe their living standards have not changed in the past 3 years, 21 percent that they are worse off and 17 percent said they are better off.

    The CeSID poll was conducted in 50 places in Serbia as part of the Swiss PRO program. The poll covered 11,400 people – 200 to 300 in each local community in March and April 2019. The results were presented at Nis city hall.

CeSID Executive Director Ivo Colovic said that Serbians are slightly more satisfied with their living standards and local administrations in this sixth poll than they were during the first poll in 2010. The polled said that their municipal administrations are better and faster but said they are not happy with the large amount of documents that they have to get to do some things and with complicated procedures, he said.

According to Colovic, 66 percent said they are satisfied with places to shop while 44 percent said that youth policies and opportunities for the young are good. He said that 45 percent feel that their local authorities are doing a good job and providing appropriate services while 44 percent said they are not.

Three quarters of the polled said they never used friends and family to get something done in their local administrations.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537085/Majority-of-Serbian-see-no-change-over-past-three-years.html

Danas daily condemns attack against its journalist

October 22, 2019

Belgrade daily Danas said on Tuesday that its journalist Snezana Congradin was harshly insulted by “so-called media analyst Istvan Kaic” whose blog entry was carried by several pro-government media.

“So-called media analyst Istvan Kaic, in a text on his blog which was carried by the Informer, Pink and Srpski Telegraf web sites, offended and slandered Danas journalist Snezana Congradin in the harshest manner as well as other journalists in free media by calling them junkies and alcoholics,” Danas said in a statement.

The statement said that the Danas news desk was horrified by the way that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s regime is dealing with journalists and the media through Kaic and tabloids it controls in what it said was a synchronized campaign.

The statement called Vucic to condemn the blog entry and the media that carried it. “The president has solely condemned critical stories in free media and never condemned any, not even this truly terrifying text, in media loyal to him,” it said.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537035/Danas-daily-condemns-attack-against-its-journalist.html

EC: Serbia commits itself to withdraw from bilateral deals when joins EU

October 22, 2019

The European Commission (EC) carefully follows negotiations about a free trade agreement with Euro-Asian Union (EAU), led by Russia and expects Belgrade to adjust its foreign policy to that of the European Union, Maja Kocijancic, EU spokesperson told the Euractive.com website.

During a visit to Belgrade on Saturday, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, announced that next Friday, October 25, Moscow and Belgrade would sign a free trade agreement with the EAU consisting of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, securing Serbia access to a market of 180 million consumers.

But Kocijancic warned that “Serbia is expected to align with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy gradually.”

“We follow the situation closely and discuss these issues in our regular political and trade dialogues with the Serbian authorities,” she told Euractive.com.

The EU official said Serbia could enter into agreements with other countries or organisations before the country’s EU accession.

“In the context of its EU accession negotiations, Serbia committed to withdrawing from all bilateral free trade agreements on the day of its accession to the EU. Serbia’s withdrawal from trade deals with third parties is not a new condition, but a general rule is applying to all candidate countries wishing to join the EU,” Euractive.com quoted Kocijancic as saying.

She added that the EU was the most important trade partner to Serbia making up to 63 percent of the overall country‘s trade, while the European investments in Serbia were ten times bigger than those coming from Russia.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a536963/EC-warns-Serbia-about-trade-deals-with-third-countries.html

European Parliament names new rapporteur for Serbia

October 21, 2019

The European Parliament has appointed Slovakian MEP Vladimir Bilcik as its rapporteur for Serbia, the Serbian state TV reported on Monday.

Bilcik will replace David McAllister as rapporteur. This is the Slovak MEP’s first term in the European Parliament.

He wrote on his Twitter account that he is looking forward to working with Serbian partners during what he said is an important time for European Union enlargement.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a536806/European-Parliament-names-new-rapporteur-for-Serbia.html

Less than half of Serbia citizens see EU membership as foreign policy priority

October 21, 2019

According to the latest poll by Bureau for Social Investigations (BIRODI) 45.5 people in Serbia see the European Union's membership as the most acceptable foreign policy priority, while 17.6 percent believe the country should join the Euro-Asian Union (EAU), the Beta news agency reported on Monday.

The survey, conducted by phone between April 22-25 and May 2-5 on a representative sample of 1,006 people across Serbia, showed that only two percent of the polled supported Serbia's membership to both NATO and the EU.

The EU membership is the most important foreign policy priority among the pollees with secondary school education, while those with the higher educational level think Serbia should stay outside both eastern and western integrations, BIRODI said,

"Results throughout Serbia show that those living in eastern and southern parts support the EU membership the most," BIRODI said.

However, these parts of the country, according to the survey, show statistically smaller support for the non-alignment.

Belgrade residents are more in favour of Serbia's non-alignment position but are mostly against county's membership of the EAU.

"Among those who watch the state RTS TV main news a majority support Serbia's EU membership. The same result is among people who watch TV Happy and TV Prva (both with national frequency), while those who prefer the pro-government Pink TV are much less in favour of the EU membership, but are also against Serbia's membership to EAU.

Among people who support the ruling coalition of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), 45.1 percent are in favour of the EU, 29 percent for the non-aliened policy and a quarter for joining the EAU.

The opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) voters are in favour of the EU membership with 53.5 percent, while 38.6 said would prefer the non-alignment of the country.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a536551/Less-than-50-percents-Serbia-s-people-support-EU-membership.html

Serbia slow with constitutional reforms, Swedish ambassador says

October 21, 2019

Sweden’s Ambassador to Serbia Jan Lundin expressed concern over the fact that the introduction of amendments to the constitution covering the appointment of judges and prosecutors is taking longer than expected, the FoNet news agency said on Monday.

“As to Rule of Law (Chapter 23 and 24) it is a concern that constitutional reforms, concerning appointments and controls of judges and prosecutors, have been taking longer time than expected. Serbia is also yet to establish a good track record on for example addressing high-level corruption and war crimes, as well as white collar crimes such as money laundering,” the ambassador said in an interview on the embassy web site.  

“Serbia and Montenegro need to show tangible results in strengthening institutions and Rule of Law, which may simply take time, regardless of who sits in Brussels,” the ambassador said.   “Sweden is supporting Serbia in the environment sector and in the opening of Chapter 27 of the EU acquis. To open Chapter 27, much preparatory work needs to be done and Serbia needs to for example develop its environment ministry so that is in line with the requirements of the EU integration process,” he said.   “

Today, countries in the EU are facing serious shortages in labour force and people are ageing. Therefore, it is fully possible for a young person to leave Serbia or Montenegro in order to work in a foreign country where labour force is demanded, and where the salary is higher. However, I believe that many young people will choose to stay in Serbia and Montenegro since the unemployment is decreasing, salaries are increasing, and more jobs are being created. ‘Blood is thicker than water’” Ambassador Lundin said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a536797/Serbia-slow-with-constitutional-reforms-Swedish-ambassador-says.html

Kosovo PM-designate: EU pulls back from fascism and populism

October 21, 2019

Albin Kurti, the leader of Vetëvendosje (Self-Determination party) which won an early election in Kosovo condemned the European Union’s decision to exclude the Western Balkans from further bloc’s enlargement, adding it was damaging to Kosovo’s chance to agree with Serbia, the FoNet news agency reported on Monday.

In an interview with the London Guardian daily, following the EU decision not to set a date for opening the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, Kurti said the situation in the Balkans worsened after Jean-Paul Juncker had said there would be no new enlargement during his mandate.

“Yes, the EU is crucially important to the Balkans, but the region is also essential to the EU. Berlin and Paris should know that” Kurti told the Guardian as carried by Kosovo online website, adding “the Western leaders have forgotten the lessons from two world wars and started to withdraw in front of fascism and populism.”

He also said that Serbia, which rejected to recognise Kosovo’s independence, would now have fewer incentives to act without a realistic perspective for the EU membership.

Kurti advised Serbia to face its past instead of looking at Kosovo and Albania through military binoculars.

He said Belgrade needed some introspection and added that after he became the prime minister, he would start cooperating with Kosovo Serbs by talking to ordinary people about agriculture.

Kurti earlier said he wouldn’t take anyone from the Serb List, the party supported by Belgrade, into his cabinet.

However, according to the current Kosovo Constitution, one minister must come from the Serb minority, and since the List won all ten seats in the Parliament reserved for them, the minister should be from that party.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a536619/Kosovo-PM-to-be-slams-EU-for-stoping-enlargement.html

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