EU Expects North Macedonia to Meet Commitments

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell told North Macedonia’s new Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani in Brussels on Monday (28.09) that the EU expects Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s cabinet to meet its commitments and speed up reforms. 

“Borrell stated that the EU expects the new government to continue to deliver on the country’s EU commitments, to sustain and accelerate the implementation of EU-related reforms. This concerns in particular rule of law, the fight against organised crime and corruption, as well as further strengthening of good neighborly relations”, a press release said. 

The EU High Representative “welcomed North Macedonia’s contributions to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations and the fact that North Macedonia’s level of alignment with EU foreign policy positions has increased in recent years”, it added. 

Borrell said that the EU remains committed to supporting North Macedonia during the coronavirus pandemic and added that the European Commission will also come forward in October with a very substantial Economic and Investment Plan to support the Western Balkans’ long-term recovery and bring the region closer to the EU. 

First Arrest in Kosovo on the Order of the Special Prosecutor

The Specialized Prosecutor’s Office for Kosovo arrested the former head of the intelligence department of the Kosovo Protection Corps, Salih Mustafa, in Kosovo, based on an arrest warrant issued by a pre-trial judge of the Kosovo Specialized Chambers. 

“Right now, Mustafa is being transferred to the detention unit of the Specialized Chambers of Kosovo in The Hague, where he is to appear before the pre-trial judge”, the Special Prosecutor said in a statement. 

It added the arrest was carried out under the Law on Specialized Chambers and the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office. 

The earlier statement did not say what Mustafa was indicted for, but later on September 24, it was published that “the confirmed indictment against Salih Mustafa charges him of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, cruel treatment, torture, and murder as war crimes committed in the context of and in connection with the non-international armed conflict in Kosovo.” 

Mustafa has been a member of the National Liberation Movement since 1988, under the leadership of Afrim Ziti, Fahri Fazli, and Fadil Vata. 

He was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to five years in prison for organizing an armed uprising. 

Deputy President of the Organization of War Veterans of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Nasim Haradinaj said the arrest was a result of ‘raised hands’ and accused the deputies who voted for the formation of the Special KLA court. 

Belgrade to Withdraw from European Peace Operations

Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti said on September 23, that the Defense Ministry sent the Foreign Ministry a proposal to withdraw all Serbian military personnel from European Union peace operations.

The daily was told unofficially that the proposal was sent to the Foreign Ministry. It added on its web site that the government can’t discuss the possible withdrawal of Serbian military personnel from peace missions before the Foreign Ministry gives its opinion.  

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Chief of Staff General Milan Mojsilovic went to the Pasuljanske Livade military training grounds to observe a live-fire exercise by MiG-29 combat aircraft, which Vulin said was the first time in 20 years that those aircraft used missiles against targets on the ground.

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on September 11 that a final decision has to be taken on peace missions. Speaking after the Serbian authorities decided to pull out of military games in Belarus in line with EU policy, Vulin said that if internal military activities are being discontinued, the same should be done with peace mission personnel regardless of whether they are under UN or EU command, adding that the military will implement any government decision. He told a promotion ceremony later that the military had discontinued its engagement on some 200 international military cooperation activities. 

Problems Over Forming New Montenegro’s Government

The first problem in negotiations among Montenegrin winning coalition occurred on September 21, after an unsuccessful meeting between the leaders of the Democratic Front (DF) and the head of the Civil Movement Ura.

The DF leaders Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic could not make Ura’s Dritan Abazovic say who he did not want in a new cabinet from the opposition coalition parties and what his stand was about the abolishment of the disputed Law on Religious Freedom.

Mandic and Knezevic insisted they don’t want people that Abazovic proposed for the coalition government from DF and the coalition “For Better Montenegro”, but Abazovic refused to withdraw them. 

The three were joined by Joanikije, a Serbian Orthodox bishop, and the head of the Eparchy of Budimlja and Niksic. Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) is against the law, claiming it will deprive it of its property in Montenegro whose also Orthodox church is under the SPC jurisdiction.

Analysts agree the protests against the Law substantially contributed to the defeat of the President Milo Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) after they together ruled the tiny Adriatic republic for three decades.

After its victory, the opposition coalition pledged to at least amend the Law, keep all international obligations the previous regime committed to, not to withdraw the recognition of Kosovo’s independence and to remain a NATO member state.

Abazovic apparently is under pressure from both SPC and his Movement’s official who opposes the abolishment of the Law, adding the problem can postpone the election of the Parliament Speaker.

Implementation of Washington’s Agreement is White House Priority

The US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Belgrade – Pristina dialogue Richard Grenell said the implementation of the agreement the two sides signed at the White House on September 4 was a priority of Trump’s administration. 

He accompanied the delegation of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)   in its visit in Pristina and Belgrade. Started from September 21, the DFC delegation headed by the executive director Adam Bohler has a five days trip to Greece, Kosovo, Serbia and Israel to improve the economic cooperation and development. 

A part of the deal is Kosovo and Serbia cooperation with the DFC and the US Export-Import (EXIM) Bank on a memorandum of understanding for the realization of the ‘Motorway of Peace,’ (Autoput Mira), the railway connections Pristina – Merdare, and Nis – Pristina, and a provision of loan financing of small and medium-sized companies, additional bilateral projects, and the DFC permanent presence in Belgrade. 

DFC Executive Director Adam Bohler and EXIM Bank Director Kimberly Reed, who will also be part of the US government delegation, signed letters of intent with Serbia and Kosovo on September 22, to help finance the construction of the ‘Motorway of Peace’ between Nis and Pristina.  The content of an agreement that the head of the DFC delegation signed with Hoti has not been made public but quoted Hoti who said that continues on the White House Agreement signed earlier this month in Washington by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Hoti.   

Grenell met with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and was presented with a presidential medal for his contribution to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. 

The US delegation arrived in Belgrade on September 22 and was welcomed on the international airport by the president Alexander Vucic and the prime minister Ana Brnabic. DFC and Serbia will realize infrastructural projects worth 3.7 billion dollars, said Zorana Mihajlovic, Minister of Construction, Transport, and Infrastructure.  

She added the opening of the DFC office in Belgrade was also politically important, and that Vucic’s visit to the US crucial for 130-year-long bilateral relations between Serbia and USA.