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NATO attack on Serbian state TV wiped from record

NOVANEWS

By Shane Quinn | The Duran 

On 23 April 1999, a NATO missile attack on Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) headquarters killed 16 employees of the state broadcaster. The forgotten war crime occurred during the Kosovo War (March 1998-June 1999), and was part of NATO’s aerial campaign alongside the US-backed Kosovo Liberation army, in opposition to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In the aftermath of the attack there were no great public campaigns launched for the 16 murdered journalists and employees, no outpouring of emotion for those killed, no calls for solidarity and togetherness in the face of aggression. On the contrary the West justified this grievous blow against freedom of expression, praised it even.

Tony Blair, Britain’s then Prime Minister, welcomed the killings when speaking at NATO’s 50th anniversary summit in Washington. Blair said the missile attack was “entirely justified… in damaging and attacking all these targets”, and that those murdered were part of the “apparatus of dictatorship and power of [Slobodan] Milosevic”.

Blair felt that, “the responsibility for every single part of this action lies with the man [Milosevic] who has engaged in this policy of ethnic cleansing and must be stopped”. Apparently Milosevic “must be stopped” by wiping out state journalists or what Blair describes as an “apparatus of dictatorship”.

According to one of the main leaders of the Western world, Milosevic must bear full responsibility for a NATO fighter plane firing a US-made missile on a state broadcasting service’s headquarters. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by Blair’s visions of justice, particularly when examining his key role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the following decade.

Blair was not alone in praising this violation of international law. His Secretary of State for International development, Clare Short, said afterwards that, “the propaganda machine is prolonging the war and it’s a legitimate target”. Short is a Labour Party member and her official title today is The Right Honourable Clare Short. Defending these killings was neither right nor honourable one can assume.

NATO themselves commended the deliberate attack afterwards. NATO’s military spokesperson Air Commodore David Wilby declared RTS, “a legitimate target which filled the airways with hate and with lies over the years”. This followed on from a number of other NATO attacks on radio and television outlets in the country.

In the build up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, Cardiff University revealed that the BBC adopted the most pro-war stance of any British network. The official reasons for invading Iraq were based entirely on lies and misinformation. In this case was the BBC “the propaganda machine”, had it become “a legitimate target” too?

Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon also legitimised the war crime saying that, “Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic’s murder machine as his military is”. Not to be outdone, the respected US diplomat and magazine editor Richard Holbrooke described the bombing of RTS as, “an enormously important and, I think, positive development”.

In the build up to the Iraq invasion American networks like Fox News were styling the illegal intervention as “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, with its correspondents and news anchors compelled to repeat that phrase. In addition a permanent American flag was fluttering in the top corner of the screen, and during the invasion itself the banner “war on terrorism” was unfurled.

Did this make Fox News and others like it, “a legitimate target which filled the airways with hate and lies”? Judging by the standards of Western elites, one would have to suggest so.

Meanwhile, a single person was charged for the attack on RTS: Dragoljub Milanovic, the Serbian network’s general manager, who received a 10-year jail term for failing to evacuate the building in time. Yet the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia concluded that NATO’s bombing of RTS was not a crime, noting that deaths were “unfortunately high, they do not appear to be clearly disproportionate”. Clearly disproportionate to the overall number of civilian deaths inflicted by NATO perhaps.

However, in January 2015 the Western reaction was somewhat different when 12 journalists from the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper were murdered by Islamic extremists – along with four Jewish men killed at a kosher supermarket shortly afterwards.

The British Prime Minister on this occasion, David Cameron, did not justify the killing of journalists and said, “We stand absolutely united with the French people against terrorism and against this threat to our values – free speech, the rule of law, democracy”. Cameron went on, “we should never give up the values we believe in… a free press, in freedom of expression, in the right of people to write and say what they believe”.

About two weeks later Blair, now a Middle East peace envoy, said of the thinking behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks, “this extremism is not natural, it’s taught and it’s learned and you have to un-teach it in the school systems”. Blair seems further unaware of his own role in creating “this extremism” by playing the junior partner role in invading Iraq, a crucial factor in the rise of ISIS.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, millions marched to honour the dead with the slogan “I am Charlie” becoming famous. When the Serbian journalists and employees were killed just over 15 years before, there was no international motto of “I am RTS”.

New York civil rights lawyer Floyd Abrams described the Charlie Hebdo shootings as, “the most threatening assault on journalism in living memory”. The perception of “living memory” appears to be a remarkably short one.

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Vučić Can be Trusted as Much as Putin

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini,

While Western media continue to praise Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić for starting an internal Serbian dialogue about Kosovo, calling him “the Serbian Willy Brandt”, the clever former Milošević information minister opens up a new front line of tension in the much suffered region of the Western Balkans. First of all, the dialogue about Kosovo is not going at all in the direction that would appeal to the EU. In his invitation to Serbian society to conduct this dialogue, Aleksandar Vučić called on the Serbs to pull their heads out of the sand, which, by the way, were buried even deeper over the past five years thanks to Vučić and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), and look the realities in the eye.

But what are the realities, according to Vučić? From the mouth of his closest allies, it can be concluded that recognition of Kosovo is not an option. Vučić claims to already have a plan, but will not present it until this dialogue is over. How generous and democratic! First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, a former spokesman for Slobodan Milošević, proposed Kosovo to be divided on an ethnic basis, which was met with criticism by part of the opposition in Serbia, the countries in the region, and analysts. The biggest concern is that it will open the Pandora’s box and begin a new redrawing of borders in the Balkans, known as Europe’s gunpowder keg.

Aleksandar Vučić supports the idea of ​​the leader of the Socialists and his loyal ally. In one of his frequent lengthy interviews – of type monologue – Mr Vučić said that certain media (implying the few remaining out of his control) have shown signs of neurosis over Mr Dačić ‘s statement, such as they have not demonstrated with regard to ideas Kosovo “to be given to the Albanians” or to preserve the status quo. Even before the real dialogue began, which is with an unclear shape or form yet, the Serbian head of state has said that there are currently no conditions for a change of the Constitution (that is, recognition), which of course means a delay on the way to the EU.

At the same time, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama supports the efforts of Aleksandar Vučić, whom he named his friend. In an interview [in Serbian] for the Serbian semi-tabloid Blic, eccentric Edi Rama does not spare praise for Vučić’s text on the internal Serbian dialogue and said it would not be bad for such a dialogue to take place in Kosovo itself, as well as in Albania. He believes the ultimate goal should be full recognition of Kosovo. At the same time, however, Mr Rama places himself in the shoes of the Serbian president. He did not explicitly reject the idea of ​​partitioning Kosovo, but said it was not a good idea to start with that.

“It does not help us to start from there, though I could conclude that this is an unusual proposal, as is the one, according to which Serbia should be divided and the Preševo valley to unite with Kosovo, or the other one, according to which Kosovo is to unite with Albania and then Serbia is to recognise this Albania, not Kosovo”, says the Albanian prime minister for Blic, which shows what such ideas can lead to.

One people, one language, one culture …. What about one country?

And while media in Serbia are dealing with the various proposals and ideas, turning the subject of Kosovo into an endless chewing gum, Vučić made his next move by announcing – together with the President of the Serbian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik – known for his persistent attempts to sabotage the Dayton state and his frequent statements that Republika Srpska should separate from BiH – plans to adopt a legally binding joint declaration on the survival of the Serbs. In the words of Mr Dodik, the intention behind the document is to list all the important elements and activities that need to be carried out in order to protect the Serb nation, increase its state capacities, and protect all Serb communities, regardless of where they are.

The latter is the most alarming part of Milorad Dodik’s speech, as it reminds many of the Putin approach to “protect” Russian minorities in neighbouring countries by occupying their territories. According to former Serbian justice minister, and now secretary general to the president, Nikola Selaković, the aim of the declaration is to protect the Serbian nation, language and culture from extinction. Vučić himself was “wondering” what is people’s problem when there is nothing put on paper yet. Instead of calming down the situation, however, he poured more oil into the fire, by falling into worrying pathos in a people-pleasing interview for Pink TV“Serbia will lift its head and no one will force Serbia’s head anymore, and no one will ruin the pride and dignity of Serbia”.

The plans for a declaration were not well accepted in the area. In Montenegro, they already show how much Vučić and Dodik’s intentions are not harmless. New Serbian Democracy party, which is part of a coalition with the Russia-backed Democratic Front, immediately announced that it would be involved in the drafting of the declaration. “We will give our concrete proposals and ideas not only to the situation of the Serbs, but also to the cultural and other forms of Serb unions in all Serbian territories. We, Serbs from Montenegro, belong to a great people, who are obliged to think in bigger and broader categories, and take such stands, which, of course, will not threaten anyone else”, said party MP Jovan Vučurović.

His words were harshly welcomed by the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of Milo Đukanović. The controversy has been running for several days in Montenegrin media. Vučurović claims that the Serbs in Montenegro are second-class people and are in a very difficult situation. Asked to comment on Dodik’s allegations that there is a “genocide of identity” over Serbs being conducted in Montenegro, Vučurović stated that “our people, church, culture, identity are directly threatened and exposed to discrimination, but we have shown toughness and we will not allow anyone to assimilate us by force”. The Democratic Front in Montenegro was firmly opposed to NATO membership.

The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) in Croatia, Milorad Pupovac, provoked serious controversy in Croatia with a programme text on the situation of Serbs in Croatia, published in the Serbian daily Politika. It is unclear how much this text relates to the plans for a declaration of Vučić and Dodik, but the timing of its publication is a big coincidence. The reactions are rather against the fact that Mr Pupovac prefers to raise the issue through Belgrade media instead of talking directly with his partners. His party supports the ruling coalition, and the opposition agrees that there is still much to be done to improve the situation of minorities in Croatia. However, it is noteworthy that Mr Pupovac has been particularly active lately in raising the issue of the situation of Serbs in Croatia.

In a July interview for the Croatian weekly political magazine Globus Pupovac angered many on the Croatian political scene with his claim that Serbs were excluded from all vital issues in society. Another curious moment around Mr Pupovac is his visit to Moscow in July. On his Facebook page, he wrote: “The Russian type of interculturality, multi-ethnicity and multi-confessionalism, visible at every step – from the parliament and state institutions to the streets, is impressive.” Milorad Pupovac expressed his regret that little is known about this in Croatia. “Here [in Croatia] we destroy our traces of anti-fascism, and there the five-pointed star and the icon live together. Here we also destroy the last traces of multi-ethnicity, while at the same time we lecture others on how multiethnic societies should look.” Milorad Pupovac has failed to mention that this multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity is not a consequence of the great Russian tolerance, but a heritage of imperial ambitions.

The declaration is expected to be adopted in November. So far, no data has been disclosed in the public domain to illustrate the scale of the threat of the Serbs’ “disappearance” as a nation, their language and culture, which are also to be matched to similar processes going on in neighbouring countries so that the correct conclusions about what is happening can be made.

According to some analysts, the idea of ​​the declaration aims to divert attention from Kosovo, but given the activation of minority leaders in neighbouring countries, it would be an underestimation to treat it as such a move. It is more likely that Serbia is preparing the ground for a deal – recognising Kosovo against a redrawing of borders in the region. The EU, however, will not agree to this. Serbia is expected to act within current borders, find a solution to the Kosovo issue, work for establishing rule of law and strengthening democracy, fighting corruption and organised crime, good relations with neighbours and, last but not least, separate from the Russian sphere of influence and get closer to the Euro-Atlantic one. Nothing more, nothing less.

Inflaming nationalist passions through declarations and dialogues that lead nowhere is an attempt to do nothing of the above. The tactic we have seen plenty of in the last five years. In this sense, it is more correct to look at Vučić through the prism of Putin, than of Willy Brandt. This will save the EU from being put in an embarrassing situation once again because of underestimation of the “partner”.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Only in the Balkans – Reforms Theft

NOVANEWS

Adelina Marini, Zagreb

You will probably not believe it, but in the Balkans the lack of rule of law and the tolerance of corruption have some fun aspects. This is the case with the theft of the most contentious reform in Croatia by … Montenegro. No, this is not a joke and it’s not a product of a local satiric site. This is about word-for-word copying, with the Montenegrin language features at that, of the proposal for a comprehensive reform of the content of school textbooks, which is currently under violent disputes in the Croatian public domain and even threatens the survival of the government. To find out the magnitude of the irony in one case and the tragedy in the other, we need to rewind the tape a little bit.

Who [in their right mind] in the Balkans protests about an educational reform?

The Croats. Last year, when the government of the then highly-conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) came to power, over 50,000 Croats protested in several cities across the country against the attempts to scrap the highly progressive and bold educational reform known as “curriculum reform”. The reform was prepared by an expert workgroup of 500 people led by the young doctor of science Boris Jokić. The group was formed by the then left-liberal coalition government of Zoran Milanović. The idea for a ​​comprehensive education reform is embedded in a strategy voted in by the Croatian Parliament in 2014.

With the coming to power of the HDZ, then under the leadership of Tomislav Karamarko – a conductor of ultraconservative and nationalist policies – there were attempts ideologically burdened people to be appointed. The sharp turn of Karamarko’s HDZ to the far right, accompanied by brutal changes in the leadership of the national TV and radio, the Council for Electronic Media, and other activities pushing Croatia toward the illiberal group of Poland and Hungary, has led to significant quakes on the political arena and ultimately resulted in the fall of the government.

Karamarko was replaced by former MEP Andrej Plenković, who promised to return the party to the centre-right of the political spectrum. He also promised many reforms, thanks to which he won the snap elections last September. Alas, one year later there are no reforms, and the first major challenge – the financial problems of the largest conglomerate not only in Croatia but also in the region of former Yugoslavia Agrokor – shook the government coalition. New snap elections were avoided after the liberal Croatian People’s Party (HNS) agreed to take part in government, but on condition that the reform started by Boris Jokić is implemented.

Andrej Plenković agreed to the horror of the liberals themselves, whose party split into two, but also to the more conservative wing in the HDZ, who insisted education remain in their portfolio. This happened after an anniversary of last year’s protests was celebrated on June 1st, and in the centre  of Zagreb, a few tens of thousands gathered again to confirm their demand for an education reform.

The nonpartisan Blaženka Divjak was appointed minister of education. Her attempts to implement the reform are currently the biggest political drama in Croatia after a news website with a focus on education revealed that behind-the-scenes attempts had been made to replace the reform plan by the leader of the expert group appointed by the previous government. According to Croatian media, the tension in the cabinet has already reached a boiling point and now the main question is whether Mr Plenković will fire the education minister or let her work, meaning he will have to deal with internal party tensions.

Pressure on the prime minister by media and civil society is enormous. At the same time, his reluctance to say clearly who does he support in this inherent ideological conflict is obvious. He was, however, adamant in his reluctance to see new protests. For many, at least in the Balkans, education is probably not the most important topic, although it is, in fact, vital in the Croatian context. First, in an ideological sense, it is important because if it is implemented, it will tear the country away from Church-sponsored conservatism, which is often intertwined with nationalism. In the economic sense, it is no less important, as Croatia is currently suffering from a serious brain drain. It is no accident that the organisers of the educational protest this year organised also a procession to Zagreb’s central railway station to symbolise the departure of young Croats.

It is precisely because the stakes of educational reform are too high for Prime Minister Plenković that everything surrounding it is so non-transparent. Moreover, following Donald Trump’s lead, the prime minister threatened to deal with those responsible for leaking insider information about changes to the reform plan rather than deal with the reform itself.

Who will get the reform?

The people of Montenegro. On Tuesday, the Croatian daily Jutarnji list revealed that the Montenegrin education institute has stolen verbatim the contents of some parts of Boris Jokić’s curriculum reform. Plagiarism was discovered by accident by Croatian primary school teacher Ljiljana Hanžek, who worked on writing the reform. The Montenegrin Ministry of Education refused to comment on the case at this stage, but the education institute told Cafe del Montenegro news website that the Croatian document had been borrowed, but for technical reasons citing what Croatian literature was used had been omitted.

The case became an occasion for paraphrasing the well-known jokes about Montenegrin laziness: “The Montenegrins are lying down waiting for the Croats to make their reform”, Croatians joked on social networks and the media. However, the authors of the curriculum reform are not laughing. At first, former expert group leader Boris Jokić reacted with mockery by saying that at least Montenegrins would benefit from the reform but he now believes Montenegro must pay royalty fees.

Montenegro regularly uses Croatian experience, especially in terms of EU accession. A few years ago, Croatia set up a specialised centre to provide experts, as well as legislation and regulations texts to all candidates in the region, as languages ​​are very close. The plagiarism of a complete educational reform is something entirely new. On the one hand, it shows that even at the highest state level in Montenegro there is no understanding of the concept of “copyright” – a problem that can be seen in other underdeveloped countries, including EU members as well. On the other hand, however, the whole situation may have positive effects in both countries

Montenegro’s interest in Boris Jokić’s reform can finally provide Andrej Plenković with some insurance against internal party criticism. Conservatives in his party will find it increasingly difficult to explain to their voters and to taxpayers in general why they are opposed to such a valuable reform that has pulled out 50,000 people in the squares and has been the subject of theft by an official body of a neighbouring state. It will be a real shame for HDZ to reject a document that is considered of such a high quality by other countries. In the end, it may just turn out that Montenegro, with its plagiarism, will do a service to Croatia for which it should be rewarded, rather than made to pay compensations.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Splitting Kosovo in Two: Only Way to Solve Deadlock or Opening ‘Pandora’s Box’?

NOVANEWS

An elderly Kosovo Muslim prays on the street in front of a mosque during Friday Prayer on July 1, 2011 in Pristina

© AFP 2017/ ARMEND NIMANI

Carving up Kosovo into Serbian and Albanian parts is the only possible way to resolve the long-running conflict in the region, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic wrote for Blitz media outlet. Neue Zürcher Zeitung described Mr. Dacic’s proposal as a trying balloon floated by Belgrade.

The idea, initially proposed and rejected in the mid-1980s, re-emerged after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced “an internal dialogue” on the divisive issue of Kosovo.

“I’m glad to hear all these different opinions being put forward about the future of Kosovo. By the way, it was only my idea of a partition that invited such a nervous reaction, and this is something the Serbian president also noted. They do not react this way to proposals either to give up on Kosovo, or to freeze the conflict. Who knows, maybe this nervous reaction shows us the way we should go to find a solution that would suit all and ensure a longstanding compromise,” Ivica Dacic told Sputnik in a written comment.

He added that he would discuss the plan in greater detail with President Aleksandar Vucic when the “internal dialogue about Kosovo becomes official.”In an interview with Sputnik Serbian, Stefan Surlic, a political science researcher at Belgrade University, described the issue of Kosovo as a “Pandora’s box” no one dares to open.

“The West believes that the subject is closed and that Serbia has to resign itself to the fact that Kosovo has an internationally recognized status. The idea of dividing Kosovo in two means  sidelining Pristina and starting a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Tirana on what is Serbian in Kosovo and what is Albanian,” he noted.

He added, however, that it was highly unlikely that anyone in Pristina would agree to give the region’s north to the Serbs and leave the rest to the “Kosovo Republic.”

“They would be more willing to discuss the exchange of the Serbian-populated northern Kosovo for Serbia’s Albanian-populated Presevo Valley,” he said.

Radio Belgrade director and political scientist Milivoje Mihajlovic believes that the proposed partition of Kosovo could have a knock-on effect on other countries ethnic Albanians now live in.

“What we really need is integration, a historic pact between Serbs and Albanians on how to live on. Integration means that borders will be gone and joint projects will be implemented – this is the only way we can have a common future. Those who believe that the division of Kosovo will end the problem of Albanian expansionism in the Balkans are making a big mistake, because the “Greater Albania” idea will spill over to the neighboring countries,” he told Sputnik.

Historian Cedomir Antic does not believe that a formal proposal by Serbia to carve up Kosovo would have a domino effect on other countries just like the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence did not.

“The Bosnian Serb Republic did not use the precedent to break away from Bosnia and Herzegovina, did it? I still believe that there is absolutely no chance for Belgrade and Pristina to agree on dividing up Kosovo,” Antic noted.

“We didn’t [divide Kosovo] when we had a chance. Slobodan Milosevic believed that anyone who would yield at least one square centimeter of Kosovo’s land would be branded as a traitor. In 2012, the Serbian government of Socialists and Progressives signed the Brussels Agreement with Pristina thus letting Kosovo Serbs become part of the ‘Kosovo Republic’ without getting any autonomous status,” Antic concluded.Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory.

The two governments began to normalize relations in 2013 as part of the Brussels Agreement.

Kosovo has received formal recognition as an independent state from 111 out of 193 UN member —states. Russia doesn’t recognize the independence of Kosovo.

Related:

‘Compromise Solution’: Serbian FM Proposes to Divide Kosovo Into Two Parts
Serbian Leader Vows to Keep Territorial Unity Including Kosovo at Inauguration

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The Summer of Balkan Hopes

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

The grand event for the Western Balkans this year is the summit of the Berlin Process countries in the Italian city of Trieste on 12 July. In recent months, expectations have been seriously pumped up that this meeting will provide a major boost to the European integration of the region, which suffers from integration decay and heavy geopolitical headaches. The six Balkan countries in the region hope the EU will untie its purse to the scale of a Marshall Plan for the region, which would lift the poorest European relatives up on their feet and stop the constant brain drain and loss of labour force, with the Union in exchange hoping for a restart of the European integration in those countries, which have fallen victim to the virus of illiberalism and nationalism.

Following a nationalist winter, spring has come to the Balkans

Up until a few months ago, the region was causing serious alarm in Brussels and the capitals of member states because of the dangerous return of nationalist rhetoric from the early 1990s, hate speech, and a serious deterioration in relations between almost all countries in the region and their EU neighbours, with active intervention by Russia being seen under the surface. The situation deteriorated so much that it forced the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats) to admit during her Balkan tour that “the Balkans can easily become one of the chessboards where the big power game can be played”.

Following a heavy winter of questions often asked whether there was a new war coming to the Balkans, the situation today does not seem so desperate. There is no significant improvement in relations between the countries of the region, but the geopolitical conditions are considerably more favourable to the EU. Montenegro has finally become a member of NATO, despite Russia’s fierce resistance and the coup attempts of the autumn of last year. There has also been a significant change in Macedonia. After two years of political instability, the country has finally got a government, headed by Zoran Zaev, who has set an ambitious reform agenda and plans to return the country to the European road, which also includes addressing the most serious problems that have hitherto stopped it – the name dispute with Greece and the signing of a friendship agreement with Bulgaria.

There is a certain, but also rather vague change in Serbia. Following the presidential election in April, the country’s political puzzle changed. Former heavily pro-Russian president Tomislav Nikolić has stepped down from the political scene and former Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić took his seat, who has the image of a pro-European leader in Brussels. This is a very controversial qualification, which is not necessarily false, but it has many conditions attached. Aleksandar Vučić is not tired of saying that Serbia’s main goal is to become a member of the EU and works hard on opening new chapters in the negotiation process. At the same time, he has been moving his country towards illiberalism and ever closer cooperation with Russia. The presidential election, however, showed him a yellow card. More  liberal and democratic political forces emerged on the political scene endangering the political domination of Vučić’s party – the Serbian Progressive Party.

Following months of uncertainty, he finally chose his heir to head the government, the young Ana Brnabić. There is no doubt that her role is to keep Vučić’s control over the executive branch, but at the same time her appointment played a very positive role for Serbia’s image to the West, as Ana Brnabić is Serbia’s first female prime minister and besides she publicly declared herself a member of the LGBT minority. This has created expectations in the West that things are going in the right direction in Serbia, regardless of the fact that Pride parades still rather resemble military parades because of the heavy military guards. In presenting her programme to the Skupshtina, Ana Brnabić has set two priorities which are rather surprising for the region – digitisation and education.

All of this sounds rather great, but Serbia’s Western-pointed stumble with Ana Brnabić has provoked sharp reactions from Russia. For days now the press is basically concerned with what exactly did she mean when she said in an interview for Bloomberg that if pressed to choose Serbia would choose the EU, not Russia, regardless of Russia remaining a close cultural friend of the Serb people. It even got to the Serbian prime minister having to deliver a shorthand copy of the interview to the Russian ambassador to Belgrade, Aleksandar Chepurin. President Vučić stood behind his prime minister saying he saw no problem in her statement. Although it is clear that Ana Brnabić will remain under Mr Vučić’s control, her appointment may be a sign of change, though cautious and slow, in Serbia, which, along with Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, is surrounded by NATO and the EU.

Now is the time for the EU to take advantage of these changes and respond appropriately, as there are still many problems – the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, the situation in Kosovo itself and in Albania too. Nothing of what has been achieved can be taken for granted and irreversible.

Berlin+

There is also a big change on the part of the EU. On May 31 in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel delivered a speech, which was commented for months in the Balkans and beyond. In it, he made several important findings, such as “countries from outside the region try to re-establish spheres of influence through old geopolitical thinking”, or that “we can’t simply continue doing things as we did before”. In his speech, he made it clear that it is necessary to change the narrative about the EU in the region. “Of course, it also doesn’t help either when the impression is created that Europe is primarily attending to its own affairs and does not care enough about the Western Balkans”, he said and called for the narrative of the EU to adapt to reality.

This also includes an increase in EU visibility. Sigmar Gabriel has encountered an old paradox in Belgrade during his visit there earlier this year: “I don’t understand why one is greeted on the trip from Belgrade Airport into the city centre by a large poster that celebrates the Russian-Serbian friendship, while the yellow and blue of the European Union is totally invisible.” Moreover, he said, Serbs live with the impression that Russia is Serbia’s largest financial donor. Germany’s top diplomat also announced the “Berlin+” plan, which includes a serious EU financial commitment, the aim of which is to bring the Western Balkans back on the right track.

The extent to which Sigmar Gabriel was on the right track was evident from the fact that his idea has been floating around for months in Serbian media and around the Balkans in general. For the first time in a long time, news from/about the EU prevailed over those from/about Russia. For weeks, the only talk was about how much money the EU would give, that it would be a Marshall Plan of sorts, what projects are to be funded, and so on. This is quite a rare phenomenon, especially on the Serbian media scene where Russia is most often present with comments from Ambassador Chepurin or Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zaharova on all topics, and a close second is the United States, embodied by Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Hoyt Yee, who is entrusted with the mission of taking care of the Balkans. His opinion is also often present in Serbian media, and the EU participation is limited to opening or blocking of chapters.

The “Berlin+” plan is expected to be officially presented by the European Commission namely in Trieste today (July 12). The sum in question is not quite clear. There is talk of a “substantial new funding”, which will be part of the annual connectivity package. It is also expected that the treaty for the Transport Community will be signed, which will finance the integration of transport networks in the region. Sigmar Gabriel’s words from back in May make it clear that work will be done to build motorways between Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, which will be funded by an additional Infrastructure fund.

Another important initiative expected to be officially announced in Trieste is the creation of a regional economic zone, which has also been discussed in the Balkans for months, and has even been a cause for renewed tension. The idea was launched for the first time this spring in Sarajevo, interpreted as an initiative by Aleksandar Vučić for the creation of a regional market following the model of the European single market. However, some countries, such as Kosovo and Macedonia, have seen attempts to regain Serb dominance in the region, or an attempt to replace EU membership with a regional initiative. Others support the idea, headed by the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations and Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP).

What is to be presented on Wednesday is an economic zone whose goal will be to boost the region’s attractiveness for investment. As Sigmar Gabriel warned in March, however, such an initiative would be successful only if work is done on establishing the rule of law in these countries, as investors will not want to invest if they do not have legal certainty. Another idea on which the Bulgarian EU Council presidency, that starts on 1 January, is working on is the abolition of roaming charges in the Western Balkans. According to a high-ranking Bulgarian diplomatic source, there is already talk about this with the newly appointed Bulgarian EU commissioner Maria Gabriel (EPP), who is responsible for the EU’s digital policy. The aim is to start a discussion on the topic first and then to come up with a concrete plan, which would be a part of the idea of ​​a regional economic zone, the source told euinside.

The idea is not new, but it also has a favourable environment available after the abolition of roaming charges within the EU itself. Several years ago, telecoms in the Western Balkan countries had attempted to agree to the removal of roaming charges in the region or at least to lower prices, but that ended with no result.

As is usually the case at Berlin process summits, it is inevitable that the strained bilateral relations emerge. It is possible that the issue of the border dispute between two parties in the Berlin process – Slovenia and Croatia – will attempt to take over the agenda, as it happened at the annual Dubrovnik forum a week ago. Expectations, however, are that economic benefits will prevail over petty Balkan quarrels. This can only happen if the amount of the financial commitment turns out to be serious enough. This package has the potential to be game changer in the region.

The countries in the Berlin Process from the EU side are Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. The Trieste summit will be a debut on the international stage for Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. Next year will be the last meeting for the Berlin process. It will take place in London. Some have already expressed scepticism and even criticised the idea that a leaving Britain would host such a forum. But this is unjustified criticism. Britain has always been heavily engaged in the Western Balkans, and there is no reason for it to change its policies towards this region even after exiting, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s behaviour has clearly shown in recent months.

What is more, holding the summit in London is a strong signal for the future foreign-policy relations of the UK and the EU. London hosting it is also a good example of the fact that EU developments should not be overly dramatised. If countries are aware of their national interests and strategic goals, dialogue and mutual cooperation are fully possible. Something the Western Balkan countries still fail to learn.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, SerbiaComments Off on The Summer of Balkan Hopes

Appeal: Dutch Govt Partially Liable for 300 Srebrenica Deaths

NOVANEWS
  • Bosnian Muslim woman prays near a grave before mass funeral in Memorial Center in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 11, 2016.
    Bosnian Muslim woman prays near a grave before mass funeral in Memorial Center in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 11, 2016. | Photo: Reuters
The men were among around 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the massacre, ruled a genocide by the international courts.

On Tuesday a Dutch appeals court ruled that the government was partially liable for the 1995 deaths of 300 Muslim men murdered by Bosnian Serb forces.

RELATED: Black People Are a ‘Genocide Project’ in Brazil Says Researcher

The ruling somewhat upholds the 2014 civil court decision that found the state fully liable for the deaths of the men in the Srebrenica massacre.

The Hague Appeals Court’s presiding judge, Gepke Dulek, explained that Dutch soldiers became culpable once they had released the men and other shelter-seeking refugees seeking from the secured compound, “they were deprived of the chance of survival.”

Dutch U.N. peacekeepers turned over the men to Serbian forces, who trucked them away, executed them and dumped their bodies in mass graves.

The men were among around 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the massacre, ruled a genocide by the international courts.

Posted in Bosnia, Croatia, SerbiaComments Off on Appeal: Dutch Govt Partially Liable for 300 Srebrenica Deaths

Is Crisis in Macedonia Coming to an End?

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

At long last there are some good news coming from the Western Balkans, shaken in recent months by a constant rise in tensions, renewed sabre rattling, readiness for new interethnic conflicts and, of course, with Russia’s helpful role. Macedonian President Georgi Ivanov has finally handed opposition leader Zoran Zaev a mandate to form a government five months after the snap parliamentary elections in the country. Five months, marked by a violation of the Macedonian Constitution, a bloody attack on the parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic, a fuelling of interethnic hatred, and a vague attempt to renew EU presence in the country and the region in general.

Under pressure by the international community and Macedonian society, the president handed over the mandate after he received guarantees from Mr Zaev that he would work to preserve the territorial integrity of Macedonia and will respect the Constitution. The reason for demanding guarantees were the Albanian parties, who supported the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), after signing a platform in January in Tirana, demanding full equality, in accordance with the Constitution, which included linguistic equality – that is, bilingualism – holding a debate about the flag, anthem, and the state coat of arms of Macedonia, so that they reflect the multi-ethnic character of the country. The platform also called for the adoption of a resolution in Parliament, which would condemn the genocide over the Albanian people in Macedonia in the period 1912-1956.

Among other demands in the Tirana platform is strengthening of the rule of law and the implementation of reforms related to the European integration of the country. Support is also sought for the Special Prosecutor, who is investigating the recordings leaked by the SDSM, which accuse former rulers, led by Nikola Gruevski, in a number of violations. The document also seeks to resolve the dispute with the name of Macedonia, establishing good relations with neighbours, and accelerated integration into the EU and NATO. The document has sparked sharp reactions across the region, not only in Macedonia, as it is linked to increasingly frequent statements by Albanian political officials about the creation of Greater Albania.

In an interview for the regional television channel N1 (a CNN affiliate), Zoran Zaev stated there was no room for larger countries either in Europe or in the Western Balkans region. According to him, the future of Macedonia is in the EU, where there are no borders and the freedom of movement of citizens is guaranteed. The parties which Zoran Zaev is yet to negotiate with to form a government are the Democratic Union for Integration of Ali Ahmeti, the Alliance for Albanians and Besa. Some of these parties were already part of government, only in a coalition with Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE. Zoran Zaev has promised that within ten days a government will be formed and it will be voted in parliament.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats) and EU enlargement negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP) welcomed the decision of the head of state to give Zoran Zaev a mandate as “an important step in the process of government formation”. The EU expects a swift formation of a government willing to stick to the Pržino Agreement and the reform programme. The Pržino Agreement of 2 June 2015 was negotiated with the EU’s mediation in order to put an end to the crisis, provoked by the facts revealed by leaked recordings of conversations of senior state officials, including then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

With this agreement, all political parties commit to putting the country’s interests above everything else; respect democratic principles; and work to improve relations with neighbouring countries. Almost two years after the signing of the agreement, it appears that the country is ready to emerge from the crisis. The damage and the challenges, however, are great. For the past almost 12 years, ever since Macedonia was granted candidate status, the country has failed significantly in terms of democratic standards, including freedom of speech. According to this year’s Reporters Without Borders index of press freedom, Macedonia is ranked 111th. In 2005, when the European Commission granted it candidate status, Macedonia was 43rd in this ranking.

In this period, according to the The Economist Intelligence Unit‘s democracy index, the former Yugoslav Republic has taken a huge step backward – it has fallen out of the flawed democracies group and into the one of hybrid regimes. This is the last step before a full-fledged authoritarian regime. The decline raises the question of whether Macedonia still qualifies as a candidate for EU membership. The same question stands for Turkey, as euinside recently reported. The task faced by the new government, part of which will be parties that have been involved in governance throughout this

process of democratic decline, will be extremely difficult. No less challenging will be the behaviour of the now oppositional VMRO-DPMNE. In order for Macedonia to progress, it needs a national consensus on the way forward. Building such a consensus is yet to come.

It is also very important for the EU to play its role adequately. During her visit to the Western Balkan countries in March, Federica Mogherini found out first-hand how far the EU is from what is happening in the region. She tried to draw the Union’s attention to the problems, but much more needs to be done. The EU must be as committed as possible to the region and, in the case of Macedonia, to do its part. The promise of accession negotiations must be embodied by a specific commitment, one that includes Greece as well, which has not yet lifted its veto off the opening of negotiations with Macedonia. The former Yugoslav republic has experienced a severe crisis that could have a great cost to it, but also to the entire region and the EU, and now needs the full support of the Union in order to manage to get out of the political crisis for good.

The Berlin process summit, which will take place this year in the Italian city of Trieste, will be a good occasion to support Macedonia’s efforts to return to the path of European integration. But it will be a mistake if the EU decides that with the formation of a new government the challenges facing Macedonia and the region in general have disappeared. The difficult part is yet to come, especially in the complex geopolitical context in which destabilising factors are already much more than the stabilising ones. Not one of the many tasks in the region can be resolved without the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue expanding into a dialogue between Serbia and Albania, again with EU facilitation. As President Trump’s administration continues to be unpredictable, the EU is in fact alone in the challenge of coping with another rise of tensions in the Balkans.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, SerbiaComments Off on Is Crisis in Macedonia Coming to an End?

Enver Hoxhaj: Dialogue with Belgrade Is Useless if it Does Not Lead to Mutual Recognition

NOVANEWS

The Balkans are in a limbo, Serbia is an extension of Russia, Kosovo has the most stable political landscape, the dialogue with Belgrade must move towards mutual recognition, the crisis in Macedonia is an internal problem. These are in brief the positions of Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj on the key developments in the Balkans, which he presented during a hearing in the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Wednesday (May 3rd). There he was welcomed among friends, in the words of committee Chairman David McAllister (EPP, Germany). During the one-hour discussion in the European Parliament in Brussels, the Kosovo top diplomat was able to draw a pretty rich picture of the current state of the Western Balkans, which was, of course, refracted through the Kosovo perspective.

The positions he stated are particularly important at a time when the EU is facing a serious failure of its enlargement policy in this area, as euinside already reported. Currently, Kosovo is the only country in the region that does not suffer from an erosion of its European ambition, just the opposite. That is why Mr Hoxhaj repeatedly thanked MEPs and the EU as a whole for their support. He said the recommendations coming from Brussels are a guide for the government in Priština. For Kosovo, the EU is the most important framework for modernising the country economically, politically and as a society. “Modernisation was always something which we lack in the Balkans not only in the last 20 years, but in the last 200 years”, said the former political science professor at the University of Priština. This is the reason, he believes, for the Balkans moving at a different speed from Europe – because they are excluded from the modernisation process that has been running for the past 200 years.

The most important task for Kosovo now is to implement the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and the European Reform Program. He expects this to happen in the next two years. The next step is for Kosovo to apply for EU membership. However, this will be a very difficult task, as there are some very large unresolved issues that Enver Hoxhaj touched upon in detail during his conversation with MEPs.

Dialogue with Serbia

Kosovo has so far been recognised by 114 countries in the world, but five of the 28 EU member states have not yet done so. The Kosovo Foreign Minister expressed his wonder that 10 years after Kosovo’s independence there are still countries in the EU that have not recognised the country and called on them to do so as it will make the EU itself and Kosovo stronger. Currently, Kosovo is a member of 50 regional, European and international organisations and this year’s ambition is to apply for membership in Unesco and Interpol. Kosovo’s European path will prove impossible, not only because of the position of Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece, but also because of relations with Serbia. According to Enver Hoxhaj, the Belgrade-Priština dialogue makes no sense if it does not lead to mutual recognition.

The goal of the EU-facilitated dialogue is to normalise relations between Belgrade and Priština. It is part of Serbia’s negotiation process – singled out in chapter 35, which was opened first and will be closed last. Until now, however, neither the EU nor Serbia are ready to say what needs to be done in order for this chapter to be closed. The Kosovo foreign minister said the dialogue has changed something very important – the relationship between Belgrade and Priština is no longer seen as a zero sum game, whereby there is always a loser and a winner. However, if it does not lead to recognition it is totally useless. The minister believes that Serbia and Kosovo can sit down within two to three years and reach an agreement on Kosovo’s accession to the UN, which will also allow the recognition of both countries in a second phase of the dialogue. It is necessary to sign a peace treaty so that the reconciliation process can begin, the diplomat said.

Otherwise, nothing will change between Kosovo and Serbia, and also in a regional context. Enver Hoxhaj accused Serbia of using Serbs in neighbouring countries to interfere. “The problem is that Serbia never had any interest to support Serbs wherever they lived – in Croatia, in Kosovo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and elsewhere in those states, but they were mostly trying to use them as a way to interfere in all countries of the region“, he said

A limbo in the Western Balkans

The Kosovo foreign minister finds the current situation in the region very uneasy. In his words, the Kosovo political landscape is the only stable one in the region, which means three things – stability, security and predictability. In contrast to 2013, which he identified as the best year for the region because of Croatia’s membership in the EU and the impetus it created, the situation now is considerably worse. There are two remaining serious challenges for the region, he explained – the Macedonian name issue and the internal situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina that worries Kosovo, because if the region fails, Kosovo will fail. With regard to Macedonia, he rejected all allegations of Albanian interference (through Kosovo and Albania) in the country.

“But the internal situation in Macedonia, not only the last 3 months of this year but for many years, it is a polarisation within the Macedonian society, within the Macedonian community and has nothing to do with any kind of external threat ,which should come from Kosovo or which is coming from Kosovo. What we see there is different approaches of the two political parties and the question is how much democratic institutions are in place providing the country for democratic solution in a post-election time”, he said, adding that no one in Skopje should attempt to create the impression that it was an intervention by Kosovo or Albania in Macedonia. At the same time, he called for the rights of the Albanian minority, which is large – 30% of the population – to be respected. Kosovo wants Macedonia to continue on its way toward the EU and NATO.

The influence of Russia

In his opening remarks, the Kosovo foreign minister spoke of the unhealthy interference of third, non-Western countries in the Balkans, with much of MEPs’ questions relating to the role of Russia, which the minister said was non-existent in Kosovo itself, due to political, cultural and domestic reasons. “But I think there are some countries in the region who are in a way geopolitically, but also internally, an extension of Russia. And I think you should have a focus [on] what kind of a cooperation Serbia is having with Russia”, the minister said, and gave as an example the Russian humanitarian centre built in Niš in 2011, which he called a military base. In his words, this base is not too far from BiH, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, and he finds its presence alarming. He reminded that in 2000, still as prime minister of Russia Vladimir Putin stated at the Zagreb Regional Summit that after the Black Sea region the Western Balkans were the most important priority for Russian foreign policy.

“At that time we didn’t take that very seriously, but what we’re seeing in the last 2 or 3 years is a kind of return of history, which is worrying us”, said Enver Hoxhaj. In his words, Russia uses all possible tools – diplomatic, economic, trade, energy, and even soft power – to shape the internal situation in the region. And it being in a limbo, creates the best environment for Russian activity. That is why a strong commitment of the EU and NATO to the region is key, the minister said. “I think you shouldn’t give up because of sometimes internal domestic context at each member state, but you should have clarity where the region should be in the next 10 years to come”, he said. Asked by former Slovenian prime minister, now EPP MEP Alojz Peterle and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman David McAllister about Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić’s idea of establishing a customs union in the region, Enver Hoxhaj stated his strong opposition.

In February, Aleksandar Vučić launched an initiative backed by other prime ministers in the region to boost economic integration in the Western Balkans region. And in March, EU Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP) proposed the creation of a common market for the Western Balkans, similar to the EU single market. “Our ambition is to remove barriers and to create a single space for economic development, which will also clarify the long-term goal of integrating the Western Balkans single market into the EU internal market”, Mr Hahn said at a regional summit in Sarajevo on March 16. As a first reason for Kosovo’s resistance, Enver Hoxhaj pointed at Russia. “I think, if some countries in the region are having free trade agreements with Russia, and somebody is suggesting to have a free market there you should ask yourself if this free market should be extension of the European market or of the Russian market. And I think this is a very serious geopolitical question”, he said.

Another reason for the Kosovo resistance is that Serbia and BiH have not yet recognised Kosovo, and BiH has even introduced visas, which is a serious obstacle for companies and entire sectors. “What kind of a meaning would this regional market have?”, the minister asked. He expressed concern that the idea of the Balkan common market would be a kind of replacement for the enlargement policy.

Visa liberalisation

Kosovo is the only country in the Western Balkans region for which visa liberalisation is not yet in place. The MEP rapporteur for Kosovo in the European Parliament, Ulrike Lunacek (Green/EFA, Austria), noted that Ukraine and Georgia, which are not even part of the enlargement process, have already been granted visa liberalisation. The only obstacle to Kosovo currently is the ratification of the demarcation agreement on the common border with Montenegro. The Kosovo Parliament has been failing for two years to ratify the agreement, which has often been the cause of clashes in the Kosovo Parliament and even the use of tear gas. The problem is more of an internal political nature than something linked to the border with Montenegro, as confirmed by Enver Hoxhaj.

He said the demarcation between Kosovo and Montenegro is not an inter-state problem and stressed that relations with Podgorica are excellent. He said that within a few days the parliament is expected to vote again on ratification and hoped that this time the votes would be enough. “To be very frank, I’m also very frustrated why this issue has been postponed for years. But you know much better than me that sometimes dynamics within the parliament are dynamics within the parliament”, he told MEPs. Although he tried to answer all questions, one was left unanswered. Sandra Kalniete (EPP, Latvia) asked what the prospect of normalising relations with Serbia is after the return in Kosovo of former Kosovo Liberation Army officer and leader and former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj.

His return became possible after a French court rejected Serbia’s extradition request on war crimes charges. The ruling sparked anger in Belgrade, including the recall of the Serbian ambassador to Paris. This question remained unanswered. Enver Hoxhaj was laconic and not particularly persuasive in responding to the question of ever-increasing calls for Greater Albania. He also said in his opening remarks that Kosovo will forever remain independent, but that did not convince MEPs who wanted to know how realistic those ideas were. “I think Kosovo is an independent state, will remain an independent state, and we would like to have a relation with EU, which is stronger”, he said.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in SerbiaComments Off on Enver Hoxhaj: Dialogue with Belgrade Is Useless if it Does Not Lead to Mutual Recognition

Kosovo Serbs ‘Terrified’ by Proposed Creation of “Greater Albania”

NOVANEWS
 

Fresh calls for a Greater Albania, incorporating the southern Serbian province of Kosovo, have led to an angry backlash from politicians in Belgrade.

Sputnik Radio’s Mark Hirst talked to Marko Djuric, Director of the Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija.

Such a move by Albania, if acted upon, could plunge the entire region back into a bloody and costly war on a scale not seen since the 1990s.

Marko Djuric said that Serbia will not allow the creation of a Greater Albania in its southern province and that it is not alone in opposing the idea, which stems from the times of Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia.

When asked whether this inflammatory statement by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was a tactical move, rather than a serious claim, Djuric said that if it was actually translated into concrete action, then it would be a blatant violation of international law.

“For us and for a large part of the international community, including the UN, Kosovo and Metohija are an integral part of Serbia. There was no kind of a democratic procedure in Kosovo’s secession from Serbia,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile, the EU, a body to which both Serbia and Albania eventually hope to join, remains silent over the Albanian prime minister’s controversial comments.

Residents of Pristina holding a new flag of the self-proclaimed republic of Kosovo

“Unfortunately, we saw silence when Pristina decided to stop the dialogue, and we don’t see a sufficient EU reaction to these claims. During the past years the Pristina authorities have failed to bring about any economic growth in the region where the unemployment rate is 65 percent and 45 percent of ethnic Albanians live below the poverty line even though the EU has invested over 60 billion euros into our southern province,” Marko Djuric continued.

He added that the local Serbs, who have suffered numerous pogroms in the past 20 years, were “terrified” by the prospect of being “swallowed” into “Greater Albania.”

“We should also bear in mind the fact that two-thirds of Kosovo’s pre-war Serbian population remain refugees and only about 120,000 still live in Kosovo and Metohija in poor economic conditions and political isolation, while over 200,000 now live in central Serbia,” Djuric pointed out.

He added that the EU was doing nothing to help the Serbs to return to Kosovo.

“The return of Serbs who were expelled from Kosovo has been an utter failure by the international community. The rate of their return is the lowest in any post-conflict zones in modern history, even lower than in Rwanda and Burundi.”

Marko Djuric added that whatever assistance the returnees get comes from Serbia, which pays monthly allowances to those who want to return.

“What we can’t provide without the assistance of the international community, however, is a political climate and access to property.

Over 80,000 houses and apartments in Kosovo are now used by other people and, together with security problems, these are the biggest obstacles preventing the Serbs’ return to Kosovo,” Marko Djuric said.

Earlier in the week, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama made a statement that Albania and the partially recognized republic of Kosovo, also inhabited by Albanians, could reach a “union.”

Soon afterward, President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci said that if Brussels “closed [the] door on Kosovo,” all Albanians in the region would unite into one state.

The Albanians are one of the Balkan peoples constituting the majority of population in Albania. However, significant numbers of Albanians live in the territories of former Yugoslavia, neighboring Albania itself, such as Kosovo and Montenegro.

A number of politicians, such as Rama, have voiced the idea of a Greater Albania in order to unify all the territories inhabited by the Albanians within a single state.

Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008 and is recognized by over 100 UN member states. Serbia, as well as Russia, China, Israel, Iran, Spain, Greece and some other countries do not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Posted in Croatia, SerbiaComments Off on Kosovo Serbs ‘Terrified’ by Proposed Creation of “Greater Albania”

Congratulations to President-Elect of Serbia

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Image result for Aleksandar Vucic PHOTO

    (KCNA) — Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, Wednesday sent a congratulatory message to Aleksandar Vucic on his election as president of Serbia.
Kim in the message wished the president success in his work for the country’s prosperity, expressing the belief that the relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries would grow stronger in conformity with the interests of the two peoples.

Posted in North Korea, SerbiaComments Off on Congratulations to President-Elect of Serbia

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