Reactions from the EU and the US Regarding the Purchase of “Pantsir” from Serbia

The EU and the US responded after the first delivery of the Russian Air Defense System “Pantsir” S1 to the Serbian Armed Forces.

“To make progress on its European integration, Serbia needs to adjust its foreign policy with the European Union’s one as stipulated by the negotiating framework”, the Voice of America (VOA) reported (25.02), quoting Peter Stano, a spokesperson for the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Joseph Borrell.

Asked about the most recent Serbia’s purchase of the anti-aircraft defense “Pantsir” S1 system, Stano said that “Serbia defines its integration into the EU as strategic priority. We expect Serbia to act following the obligations it undertook”.

The European Commission, in many documents on Serbia’s progress towards full membership in the Union, recommended that Belgrade should adjust its foreign policy priorities in line with those of the EU.

Earlier, Lieutenant General Frederick Ben Hodges III, a former commander in chief of the US ground forces, told Voice of America he did not see the point that defense system would have in Serbia. “I’m wondering what these systems are for? Who Serbia believes it should protect itself from? The West is tirelessly trying to find ways to come closer to Serbia. And it doesn’t present any danger to it”, Hodges said.

Commenting on Serbia’s purchase of the Russian anti-aircraft “Pantsir” S1 system, the US State Department told Voice of America that “we call on all our allies and partners to give up the transactions with Russia which could lead to sanctions under “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA).

EU Has Not Decided To Sanction Milorad Dodik

The EU has not reached a decision on imposing sanctions against the leader of Bosnian Serbs Milorad Dodik, the European Commission told (24.02) TV N1 in Sarajevo. N1 asked about possible sanctions against the Serb member of BiH’s tripartite Presidency after statement of one of the former international administrators in the country, Wolfgang Petritsch, that the EU could ban Dodik from entering its territory.

Since 2011 the EU has maintained a framework to “enable imposing restrictive measures against persons who seriously threaten the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and undermine the Dayton peace agreements”, the EU Commission also said. 

“The EU Council has not considered it necessary so far to make use of such an instrument against any person. This sanction framework is renewed annually (currently in force until end of March) and the review is ongoing”, the statement adds. 

Dodik has come into the focus of the International Community for his recent provocative statements which resulted in the latest political crisis in BiH. The Leader of Bosnian Serbs has been mentioning on several occasions the possibility of Republika Srpska (RS) to secede from BiH, which he called “RSExit”.

Parliament of Republika Srpska Instructed Its Representatives to Block State Institutions of BiH

After extraordinary session (17.02), Republika Srpska’s parliament instructed its representatives in state institutions to halt any decision-making processes until the adoption and implementation of a law that would remove foreign judges from the Constitutional Court of BiH and reject any “undemocratic” and unconstitutional decisions by the Court and Bosnia’s international administrator.

This move is leading BiH into a new political crisis.

BiH’s international administrator Valentin Inzko made a statement in this regard that eventual secession of RS from BiH would represent a red line which if crossed will lead to use of Bonn powers. He expressed his belief that there would be no referendum for secession of RS but even if such is held, it would be legally void.

“We’ll insist on respect for the Dayton Peace Agreement that guarantees BiH’s sovereignty and integrity and defines the country’ Constitution. According to the Dayton Agreement, the entities don’t have the right to secede”, stated the Office of the High Representative (OHR), which oversees the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

“Secession would cross the red line. Entity borders are no more than the lines between counties in Croatia and provinces in Germany. All that is part of Bosnia which continued its territorial sovereignty and we must not forget that BiH was accepted into the UN as a united country in 1992, together with Slovenia and Croatia. Only the internal borders were changed by the Dayton Accords”, Inzko explained.

Speaking about the RS officials’ request to remove foreign judges from BiH’s Constitutional Court, who serve the balancing role within the Court by preventing any of the three constituent peoples from being out-voted by other two peoples, Inzko recalled that they are part of the “original Dayton” which was signed by all the parties.

The notion of the “original Dayton” was first introduced by Dodik himself, who claims that reforms which were implemented after the signing of the Agreement and whose goal was to make Bosnia into a more functional state, were enforced onto the Serb entity with the aim of making it weaker.

If the foreign judges ever were removed, it would change the balance of powers in the Court and that would require a change of the Dayton Peace Agreement. It would lead to the ‘Dayton 2’”, Inzko added, hinting at another notion Dodik is against.

Meanwhile, EUFOR stated that it is carefully monitoring the situation in the country and recent events have not threatened peace and stability in the region.

“Resolution 2496 (2019) of the UN Security Council, adopted on November 5, 2019, extended the executive mandate of EUFOR for the next 12 months. The resolution also affirms that any amendment to the Constitution must be made in accordance with the procedure for amending the Constitution set out in the text of the Constitution”, EUFOR noted. This confirms that EUFOR have a mandate and the exclusive responsibility to provide support to BiH’s state authorities in maintaining a safe and stable environment.

Dodik Provocations Continue

There is a way to solve the emerging political crisis in Bosnia through the state institutions, but despite this the Bosnia’s Serb-majority will become independent sometime in the future and can then search for a way to enter in union with Serbia, the leader of Bosnian Serbs Milorad Dodik said on 16.02.

The leadership of Bosnian Serbs announced that representatives of Republika Srpska would not participate in the state level decision-making processes until a law removing foreign judges from Bosnia’s Constitutional Court is passed.

Dodik, who is the Serb member of BiH’s tripartite Presidency and the leader of the largest Bosnian Serb party SNSD, accused the foreign judges of the Constitutional Court that they have allied themselves with the two Bosniaks judges and are working against Bosnian Serb interests.  For years he has also been advocating for the RS to secede from BiH and join Serbia. 

“There is no place for Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they don’t want a Republika Srpska”.

“Republika Srpska is a wonderful and big national idea of the Serb people and is the only place of our survival here”, he said. 

Meanwhile Dodik elaborated that the RS will not defend itself using force, guns and tanks, but with the will of its people and institutions which should be built up through unity in the Parliament of the RS and through defending Serb interest in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “I am no war leader, I will not lead the people into war and there will be no war, but I will surely be capable and ready to fight for political rights, as I want our children to not have to fight our battle, ensuring this by building a stable, loved and accepted Republika Srpska, integrated with Serbia, primarily”, Dodik said. 

“I will work for this Serbs to never again be expelled from their homes and to stay on our own territory”, he added.

Dodik is convinced that despite a possible institutional solution to the current crisis if the Constitutional Court becomes regulated by a new law, Republika Srpska will become independent in a matter of few decades and that it would find a way to unite with Serbia afterwards.

Dodik also announced that the Bosnian Serb and Croat representatives will propose together a law on the Constitutional Court in the Parliament of BiH.

Bosnian Serbs Block Bosnia’s Decision-Making Process

Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic said that all representatives of RS would stop participating in the decision-making process of state institutions and added that this decision will be in force until the foreign judges form the Constitutional Court are removed.

Cvijanovic made this statement following a meeting in Banja Luka that gathered the RS officials and representatives of the political parties represented in the Serbian entity. The only topic discussed in the meeting was a recent decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of BiH, which assessed that Article 53 of the public land law proposition in the Serbian entity, as well as Article 3 and 4 of the RS Inland Navigation Act were unconstitutional.

“The participants agreed that the RS representatives in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina will halt their work in the decision-making process on any matter that falls under jurisdiction of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s bodies, until adoption of new Law on the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which wouldn’t have foreign judges in its composition”, said the RS president.

Cvijanovic added that this matter requires an urgent session of the RS parliament, which would discuss the CC’s decisions that have “deeply interfered with the identity of RS” and now even its “territorial and property matters”.

BiH’s CC acted upon the motion filed by seven Bosniak delegates to the RS Council of Peoples and ruled that Article 53 of the draft RS public land law was unconstitutional, sparking intense reactions from RS representatives.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik says “either political leaders will reach a new agreement on what the Constitutional Court should look like or BiH will seize to exist” and insisted that all foreign judges be removed from CC. The court consists of nine judges – two Bosniaks, two Serbs, two Croats and three foreign judges. Dodik accuses the foreign judges of often collaborating with Bosniak judges and working against the interests of Bosnian Serbs.

In an interview for TV N1 Dodik said that a solution to the current political crisis that erupted in Bosnia on 12.02 is for the Bosnian Serb-majority region, Republika Srpska, to secede.

“The solution will be for the RS to go its own path, form its independent state bodies which will function on RS territory. It has all the elements of a state, its institutions, its people”, he said, explaining that Bosnia’s 1995 peace agreement, which contains the Constitution, has already been breached repeatedly by international officials.

“We might adopt a decision to form an RS Army. The US Embassy, which keeps preaching to us, is not going to be the one who tends to our rights. Enough of that, you can’t keep doing this”. “You have struck wherever the Serb people live. What do you want? Who are you? Nobody in the RS will respect any decisions of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) anymore”, he said, referring to the OHR, the foreign diplomat overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement.

Dodik went on to say that the High Representative, currently Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, “is an international criminal who had breached the Constitution and the Dayton Agreement”.

He also stressed that Bosnia is a state that was imposed upon Serbs who did not want it and that it has proven to be a bad place for them.

“We will secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina one day. We don’t want anybody to destroy our freedom”, he said.

“The Bosniaks think that the US Embassy will solve their problems – well let’s see how they will do that”, he added.

Dodik argued that he entered the Bosnian Presidency with the best of intentions to initiate processes to improve Bosnia’s economy but that his Bosniak and Croat colleagues in the institution always first ask the US Embassy about everything.

He predicted Bosnia’s future scenario, also accusing Bosniaks of overvoting the less numerous Croats in Bosnia’s other entity, the Federation (FBiH), and arguing that the Croat-majority area in the country should secede as well.

“The RS will be a state, Herzeg-Bosnia the other one and Bosnia will be the place where Bosniaks live”, Dodik said.

Meanwhile, Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic said that no lower level of government can question Bosnia’s state institutions, after the RS entity leaders said they would boycott the country’s decision-making process because they did not like the Constitutional Court’s decisions regarding several RS laws.

“The rule of law is a fundamental part of the European civilisation. No lower-level of government can question Bosnia’s institutions”, Komsic said responding to his Serb colleague’s announcement that RS entity’s parliament will ask all Serb judges in the State Constitutional Court to leave this institution. If not, the RS parliament will pass a decision to pull them out from this Court, as this is the institution that proposes judges from this part of the country to serve at the State Court.

Komsic said that announcements of denial of Court decisions would be considered an act of rebellion and placing oneself above the law.

“The more state institutions are questioned, the more we’ll defend them. Any unconstitutional action is unacceptable and no yelling and cursing will change the decisions made by BiH’s state institutions and the Constitutional Court”, Croat Presidency member said.

The Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic said that disrespecting the Constitutional Court’s decision violates the Dayton Peace agreement and questions peace in BiH.

“The Constitutional Court and the foreign judges in it are part of the Dayton Peace Agreement, as are two Bosnian entities”, Dzaferovic said. “All those blocking the work of state institutions must be aware that they are threatening the Dayton Peace Agreement. They are thus questioning Bosnia’s peace and stability and leading into the termination of the Dayton Peace Agreement”.

He warned it is high time that Bosnia’s judicial institutions react to such threats, as well as for the international community to protect the Dayton Peace Agreement more resolutely.

All moves that would lead to a paralysis of Bosnian institutions and prevent their work would be a massive step in the wrong direction, said the High Representative for BiH Valentin Inzko, commenting on the announcement of RS officials that they would not partake in the decision-making process on state level. “We expect all political parties to respect the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to make sure that they are able to make decisions that would lead Bosnia to EU accession”, the Office of the High Representative said.

“Ignoring the specific decision of the Constitutional Court, which we have not yet seen, we want to recall that the Constitutional Court is the cornerstone on which the constitutional framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina rests. In accordance with the Constitution, the entities are obliged to fully respect the decisions of BiH’s institutions, including those of the Constitutional Court, which are final and binding”, the OHR added.

The presence of international judges in the Constitutional Court is provided for by BiH’s Constitution. Attacks on the CC or any of its members constitute unacceptable interference with the work of the judiciary, the OHR concluded.

The Situation in Montenegro

The organized religious processions in Montenegro are continuing with the aim to pressure the government to repeal the Religious Freedom Law passed in December 2019 that partially affects the property interests of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in Montenegro.

On 6th February thousands of citizens attended the religious processions organized by SOC in protest over the law on freedom of confession across Montenegro, despite the cold and the fact that the police announced earlier that no security would be provided.

Montenegro’s top police official Veselin Veljovic met earlier in the day with a delegation of the SOC Montenegrin Littoral Bishopric, reaching an agreement on the police providing security only for those processions which are registered beforehand.

The processions, which have been held every Thursday and Sunday since January 7 (Serbian Christmas according to the Julian calendar), were organized in the capital Podgorica, led personally by Montenegro Littoral Bishop Amfilohije, in Niksic and Herzeg Novi in the north of the country, where is concentrated the population identifying itself as Serbian.

In the meantime, the European Union’s enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi has urged dialogue in Montenegro over the contentious law on religious rights and offered the support of EU. As a result, the Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic assured him, that the government is ready temporarily to suspend the implementation of the law challenged by the SOC. Markovic suggested that the law be postponed until the Constitutional Court of Montenegro clarifies the case or, if the request to the Constitutional Court by SOC Montenegrin Littoral Bishopric is rejected, until the decision of the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

At the same time, responsible politicians from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SPP) have made discriminatory statements about Montenegrins living in Serbia. Speaking live on O2 pro-government television on February 6th, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said the policy he pursued in his ministry was to have no Montenegrins, saying they did not speak Serbian. “I try not to have them. Serbia has enough people who speak Serbian and deserve to be here. I am not demeaning anyone but if you want to live in Belgrade, if you want to have some position learn Serbian”, the minister said and added: “We don’t have a single Serb CEO in Montenegro and there are many Montenegrins in leading positions here who have not learned Serbian”.

Serbian Commissioner for Equality Brankica Jankovic condemned Loncar’s statement as discriminatory and offensive and said that his views run counter to the Constitution and principle of equality for every citizen. She warned that statements like this could upset the public and added that holders of public office have to promote tolerance, understanding and equality. “Serbia has a high level of protection for national minorities and statements like this damage the state’s reputation”, she said.

Essentially, the Serbian Constitution forbids discrimination and guarantees special protection for national minorities while a separate law bans discrimination based on nationality, ethnic origin, religion and language.

In protest, the Montenegrin Party in Serbia called Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to demand Loncar’s immediate resignation over his statement.

Commenting on the situation in Montenegro, in which tensions escalated over the adopted Religious Freedom Law, which the SOC strongly opposes, well-known Bosnian lawyer and journalist Senad Pecanin expresses his fears that Montenegro will go through the 1992 Sarajevo scenario.

Current developments in Montenegro are “a reproduction” of the Greater Serbian aspirations to redraw the territories of ex-Yugoslavia, Pecanin said in N1’s “Current affairs” show, stressing that final goal is overthrowing the country’s President Milo Djukanovic.

“I believe that the situation in Montenegro now resembles that of Sarajevo in March 1992. Our experience tells us that what came first was media preparation, then the Church, then protests. I’m afraid this would be the same scenario that we had experienced”, he said. Pecanin describes what is currently going on in Montenegro, as “a complete undermining of Montenegro’s sovereignty” and the final goal is its federalisation, modelled after Bosnia and Herzegovina, “which is practically impossible to carry through without raising tensions in national relations in Montenegro.”

According to him, NATO is at this moment occupied with much deeper problems than those in Montenegro, one of its member states. “The intensity of the campaign against Montenegro exceeds the hysteria of the period ahead of the war in Croatia and aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina”. “Montenegro has achieved a fascinating success. Minorities in Montenegro were never in a better place. The country has no problem with neighbors, except Serbia,” he said.

Pecanin believes that Russia supports Belgrade because it perceives instability in the Balkan region as an advantage. Pecanin’s conclusion is: “Without the active engagement of USA, no strategic issue can be solved and that’s detrimental for the European Union.”

European Commission Adopts New Accession Methodology For the Western Balkans

The European Commission adopted (05.02) a new accession methodology for the Western Balkan countries.

“Our suggestion for a revised methodology was adopted by the European Commission today. It aims to make accession negotiations more credible, dynamic, predictable and with a stronger political steer”, the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi said.

“The accession process to EU needs to rest on solid trust and mutual respect. Focus on fundamental reforms will be strengthened, while the EU needs to deliver on its commitment when candidates meet conditions”, he added. 

According to the commissioner, the EU needs to have greater engagement in the Western Balkans on all levels, including through regular summits. “We want to involve the member states more strongly in the monitoring and reviews of progress”, underlining the need of “stronger political steer” on both sides because of the political nature of the accession process. 

He said that the conditions for accession will be defined more clearly along with the positive impact when progress is made and negative consequences due to lack of progress. “With faster reform progress faster advancing and with stagnation or backsliding, corrective measures can be taken on behalf of the EC”, Varhelyi said.

The European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik, welcomed the revised methodology. “It is important to have a concrete proposal on the table after the decision of the Council in October last year, and, additionally, to present the new methodology clearly to our partners in the Western Balkans. Our partners should be assured of the continuation of the enlargement process, and I believe that the revised methodology clearly goes in that direction. This is the reason I’m glad that this week the Commissioner for Enlargement will visit Serbia and Montenegro”, he said.

Varhelyi further elaborated that the revised methodology is one of three tracks. “We will be working in parallel on the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania and we will come forward with economic development and investment plan for the region before the Zagreb summit in May.”

In the new methodology the credible accession perspective is the key incentive and driver of transformation in the region and is a key tool to promote democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental rights. The maintaining and enhancing of this policy is indispensable for the EU’s credibility, success and influence in the region. He also warned that the effectiveness of the accession process must be improved as to be better prepared to deal with weaknesses of the structural reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans. 

The overall aim of the EC proposals is to enhance credibility and trust of both sides and to generate better results on the ground. The proposed changes can be accommodated within existing negotiating frameworks, ensuring equal conditions for all countries in the region, he said.

Following the adoption of the new methodology, Ursula von der Leyen, the EC President stated that it was a good message to the Western Balkans countries.

According to the new methodology, this means that the negotiating frameworks for Serbia and Montenegro will not be amended but the proposed changes could be implemented within the existing frameworks with the agreement of these two countries. 

All efforts need to be undertaken to resolve bilateral disputes, with a particular emphasis on the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, supported by EU, which should be concluded with a comprehensive, legally binding normalization agreement, the new methodology states.

“How to Fix a Broken Window?” – Statement by the Head of OSCE Mission in BiH

Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec, Head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia, made a statement in response to recent incidents reported in some parts of the country.

“Possibly it is not surprising that when the window of the Carsija Mosque in Kozarska Dubica was broken, local residents feared that the event was caused by ethnic hatred. In a land that has suffered the disastrous consequences of inter-ethnic war, something as simple as breaking a window, posting abusive graffiti or putting up an offensive poster can provoke anxiety and fear, particularly at a time when social media is so often used as an accelerator to spread misunderstanding, hatred – and even violence. Fixing a broken window may be easy, but recognizing and repairing the damage caused by hate speech and hate crimes in a society that is still recovering from the trauma of war is different matter entirely.

As parents and citizens, we hope for a peaceful and prosperous world, and we struggle in our daily lives to build a society worthy of our dreams and for our children. We all feel the effect of a divided, distrustful society and we recognize instinctively that separation and hate pose a risk to peace. We look to our leaders for direction and hope in difficult times. We ask many things of our politicians, possible and impossible, but the most important thing citizens should expect is that those who seek to be elected provide leadership that avoids provoking division and hatred.

The upcoming 2020, will be a challenge to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as there are many important events to come: twenty-five years since the Dayton Peace Accords were signed to end fighting and suffering across all of BiH; a quarter of a century since the single biggest atrocity in Europe since WWII, the genocide in Srebrenica.

Meanwhile, another round of municipal elections in the fall will undoubtedly serve to provoke political tensions. In this context, some have argued that it is too late to work on real reconciliation and others say it is too early. I say the time is now.

Unfortunately, many of the societal division lines that Dayton tried to repair still exist, along with the temptation to use the ethnic card to attack political opponents, an approach that risks inflaming ethnic hatreds. For example, we have witnessed threats against an orthodox parish priest in Blagaj on the occasion of a celebration of the Assumption of Mary, the vandalizing of a catholic cemetery “Veresika” in Tetima near Tuzla, and more recently, divisive displays of nationalism in Srebrenica, Bratunac, Foča, and Visegrad during Orthodox Christmas celebrations.

Playing the card of division might seem too quick and easy, but history shows that doing so is a poisonous, risky game that does not lead to a stronger, more prosperous and peaceful society, one that serves the needs of its citizens. What is needed is a different, wiser and more visionary approach: leadership that brings people together, builds on the strengths of diversity, promotes trust and understanding, and builds unity.

This kind of leadership exists today in Bosnia and Herzegovina, if you know where tolook. In Blagaj and Tetima, for example, local leaders condemned the aforementioned incidents, and responded to the need to prevent tensions from escalating and to restore trust in the community. In Bosanski Petrovac, when two men were photographed provocatively wearing nationalistic insignia, the Mayor issued a strong public appeal for calm, cohesiveness and solidarity among citizens.

Another example of wise leadership can be found in Kozarska Dubica, where the community came together to fix the window broken in the mosque. The Mayor publicly condemned the attack and offered to pay to repair the damage. After the police identified who was behind it, the responsible persons accompanied by their parents met the Majlis of the Islamic Community. Under the watchful eyes of their elders, they expressed remorse, asked for forgiveness, and indicated theywould pay to fix the broken window and related damage.

Combatting provocative acts and rhetoric is critical, but prevention is even more important. Wise leaders find ways to sow the positive seeds of trust and cohesion in local communities.

Bosanski Petrovac, for example, is home to Mountaineers without prejudice, a civil society network of mountaineers from different backgrounds who joined forces to show how recreational activities can not only improve the community but contribute to understanding, reconciliation and peacebuilding.

In Žepče, the community – led by an association of victims from all sides – came together in 2017 to build a unique monument – so far the only one like it in BiH – to all civilian victims of war. Since 2018, every 9 October local authorities lay a wreath at the monument to officially mark the Žepče Municipal Day, thus demonstrating one important way a wounded society can address its tragic past, build bridges and work for common future.

With the right political and civic leadership, it is possible to reduce the likelihood of hate speech and point the country in a more positive direction.”

“Healthy dialogue” between political parties is one of the measures the OSCE is proposing by 2020 to address these issues.

In this spirit, the OSCE Mission to BiH proposes the following measures:

· Political parties and candidates for local elections to respect healthy dialogue and restrain from inflammatory and negative rhetoric.

· Encouraging the press and social media to highlight voices committed to building an inclusive society, and to verify facts and screen out disinformation.

· Supporting political dialogue and discussions that focus on solving problems and addressing issues of concern to the citizens.

Bosnia Can’t Guarantee the Safety of EU Member States

On 03.02 in Zagreb a meeting was held between the Croatian Interior minister Davor Bozinovic and Bosnian Security minister Fahrudin Radoncic, dedicated to illegal migration.

“This isn’t a refugee crisis any more, because we’re seeing an increased number of migrants from Pakistan who want to live in the EU. We have a situation where they enter the EU via Greece and then come to us. Bosnia can’t guarantee the safety conditions for EU member states because our agencies don’t have such capacity. We got a large number of migrants whose identity is yet to be determined”, Radoncic said.

He asked Croatia to lobby in the EU for the migrant crisis to start being viewed as a security crisis, rather than a humanitarian one. Radoncic underlined that 93% of the total aid Bosnia receives from the EU is of humanitarian aspect, while only 7 refers to the security aspect of the crisis.

Bozinovic said that “the information provided by the Bosnian minister is very interesting, because Croatia now chairs the Council of the EU. As an EU member state, we are very interested in raising the issue of the migrant route spanning from Greece, via Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and then heading to other EU states”. He assured that Croatia will also raise the issue on one of Council’s sessions, emphasizing the issue of human smuggling. “We can’t let smugglers have better cooperation than we do, whose agencies are not cooperating on the same level as traffickers”, he noted.

When it comes to helping BiH, Bozinovic said that after the meeting, he will advocate for the EU funds to be redirected to strengthening its security capacities.

“Bosnia finds it exceptionally important that Croatian border is absolutely impenetrable for illegal migrants for security and other reasons”, underlined Radoncic. “Not only will Croatia achieve its objectives with regard to entering the Schengen Area in that way, but it will also achieve a pragmatic position in that the route across Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be that attractive for migrants and they will bypass us”, he added.

“Solidarity of everyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region is necessary. If the EU and we do not come to an agreement, there will be problems. I will do everything for BiH to not become a parking lot for migrants”, Radoncic elaborated and underlined that the country has a shortage of police officers and the situation is worrying. “Each border police officer patrols 25 kilometres of the border. In the past three years, there has not been one new police officer employed in the border police”, Radončić stressed and added that the country urgently needs 400 police officers and in the long run 1200.

Regarding the illegal trafficking Bozinovic said that today almost all security issues are transnational, and that cross-border cooperation is essential.

He underlined that in 2019 the Croatian police arrested a thousand smugglers and added that this is “one of the fastest growing forms of organized crime in this region.”

“Since the beginning of the new year we have already arrested 95 people. That is certainly one area where cooperation has to be additionally strengthened with the relevant services in BiH and also elsewhere”, Bozinovic added.

The New Government of Kosovo

The government of Albin Kurti will have two Deputy Prime Ministers, 15 ministers and 33 deputy ministers.

During the discussions in the Parliament Kurti was criticized by the opposition due to his promise that his government would have only 12 ministries, but instead 15 were established and for his earlier criticisms of the flag and the anthem.

Just before the new government was voted on by the 76 MPs that were present, the Democratic Party of Kosovo group left the session. The government needed the support of at least 61 of the 120MPs in the Kosovo Parliament. Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (LVV) and the Democratic League of Kosovo have 58 MPs in total. The “Serb list” party, which has 10 parliamentary seats, has said it will not support the Kurti government, as it “trusts only Belgrade”. The Six Plus parliamentary group, which brings together members of minority (non-Serb) communities, has said it will support the Kurti government.

Following the presentation of the cabinet, the new ministers sworn in together with the new Prime Minister, Kurti. First Deputy Prime Minister is Avdullah Hoti of Isa Mustafa Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), second Deputy Prime Minister is Haki Abazi of the Self-Determination Movement (LVV).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be headed by Glauk Konjufca, Ministry of Justice is headed by Albulena Haxhiu, Finance Minister Besnik Bislimi, Minister of Economy Rosetti Hajdari, Minister of Health Arben Vitia and Minister of European Integration Blerim Reka.

Current Mayor of Podujevo Agim Veliu becomes Minister of the Interior, Minister of Infrastructure is Lumir Abdixhiku, Minister of Agriculture Besian Mustafa, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Hykmete Bajrami, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Vlora Dumoshi and Minister of Defense Anton Quni.

From the ranks of the Belgrade-maintained “Serb list” Dalibor Jevtic was elected Minister for Communities and Return, and Ivan Milojevic Minister for Regional Development.

Emilia Rexhepi, of the Bosniak minority, was elected Minister of Administration and Local Government.

The leader of Self-Determination Albin Kurti said that Konjufca will not resign as a speaker of the Kosovo parliament but his election as a minister ends his term as a MP and in consequence, he will seize his functions as a speaker also.

After the government members swore in, during an extraordinary session, the Parliament of Kosovo elected Vjosa Osmani from LDK as a Speaker of Parliament.

Her election came after Glauk Konjufca vacated the post of Speaker of Parliament and agreed to enter the executive branch, which in fact made it possible to conclude an LVV-LDK coalition agreement. Her choice was also backed by “Serb list” members. For its part, LDK has agreed to exclude from the coalition agreement the demand for the position of president of the state, which will become vacant in 2021. The leaders of both parties will agree on this at an appropriate moment.

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Albin Kurti stated:

Today a new chapter of the state of Kosovo has been opened. What seemed impossible has become possible because a nation that refuses to obey will do everything possible. He added that the people of Kosovo have never endured submission, neither from external occupiers, nor from internal rulers.

He promised that he would give his best to all peoples, regardless of differences, and that he would be prime minister of all, no matter how one votes.

“Today begins our journey with great and tireless work to achieve the changes we all are waiting for, which our country needs.”

Kurti called on all public officials to distance themselves and report corruption, saying the new leadership had allies to look after the public’s wealth. He added that on 03.02 a new chapter of Kosovo’s foreign policy, which should be united, is launched.

“To those who recognize and respect our country, we say that we will strengthen cooperation and partnership. To those who are hesitant to acknowledge us, we say that we will work to earn their recognition and respect. To those who deny our right, who seek to occupy us from the outside by dividing us from the inside, I would like to say that Kosovo has a new prime minister and the time when personal interests were over the state has passed. Kosovo is an independent and sovereign state, and this is a prerequisite for every dialogue and epilogue and any agreement”, Kurti said.

He also stated that Kosovo is striving for Euro-Atlantic integration, enhancing co-operation, rapprochement and integration with Albania and maintaining a partnership with the United States.

Based on the coalition agreement with the LDK signed on February 2, Kurti presented the program of the future government.

He announced in his statement that the new government would be committed to law, order and security, work to prepare for the improvement of Kosovo security forces, introduce mandatory three-month military service and announce revisions at police, prosecutor’s office and other agencies.

He said the future government would work to punish war crimes by adopting the necessary legislation in this regard. He also announced the creation of an Institute on War Crimes. Kurti also promised reforms of the education system, as well as an increase of the health budget. He also said his government would be efficient in spending public money, support small and medium-sized enterprises, protect workers and set up a development fund based on privatization funds. He added that Kosovo’s budget will reach the value of three billion euros in his term.

Kurti announced that he would reorganize the agricultural subsidy and grants scheme, and the new government would offer ongoing training to teaching staff and that combating air pollution would be a particular priority.

He stressed that he would introduce mutually beneficial trade, economic and political measures with Serbia and expressed readiness to continue the dialogue for normalization of relations, announcing the formation of a comprehensive team in political, ethnic, social and professional terms, which will continuously work on the process of normalization of relations.

Dialogue with Serbia will be held at the Prime Minister level on the basis of a constitutional mandate for the development of bilateral relations, including on the issue of missing persons, the damage caused by the war, occupation and continuity of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The government program also envisages the drafting of a parliamentary resolution, which will be a platform for the dialogue with Serbia, outlining the principles in this regard. The program states that dialogue cannot be conducted on issues such as territorial integrity, sovereignty of the country, internal regulation and functionality of the country, the unified nature of statehood, the creation of a third authority in regions with Serb populations. The program also envisages a review of the implementation of the Kosovo-Serbia agreements signed so far.

The full composition of the new Kosovo government:

Prime Minister – Albin Kurti (LVV);

Deputy Prime Ministers – Avdullah Hoti (LDK) and Haki Abazi (LVV);

Minister of Justice – Albulena Haxhiu (LVV);

Minister of Foreign Affairs – Glauk Konjufca (LVV);

Minister of Finances and Transfers – Besnik Bislimi (LVV);

Minister of Health – Arben Vitia (LVV);

Minister of European Integration – Blerim Reka (LVV);

Minister of Economy, Labor and Strategic Investments – Rozeta Hajdari (LVV);

Minister of Internal Affairs – Agim Veliu (LDK);

Minister of Defense – Anton Quni (LDK);

Minister of Agriculture – Besian Mustafa (LDK);

Minister of Education – Hykmete Bajrami (LDK);

Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports – Vlora Dumoshi (LDK);

Minister of Infrastructure – Lumir Abdixhiku (LDK);

Minister of Administration – Emilia Redxepi (New Democratic Party – Bosniak minority);

Minister for Communities – Dalibor Jevtic (Serb List);

Minister on Regional Development – Ivan Milojevic (Serb List).

The two parties called the coalition “a coalition of hope”, saying that citizens voted in favor of change on October 6, 2019, expressing interest in the joint government in the election campaign.

Former governing parties the Democratic Party of Kosovo, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the Social Democratic Initiative have announced that they remain in opposition.