Serbia Fails to Fully Implement Anti-Corruption Recommendations

The Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO, said in its latest report that Serbia had only partly implemented anti-corruption recommendations that the body made in 2015, adding that the situation is “globally unsatisfactory”. 

“GRECO acknowledges the efforts undertaken by the Serbian authorities since the Interim report in 2019 and notes that several recommendations cannot be fully implemented because of the current parliamentary situation which hinders the adoption of the new Constitution. However, as the vast majority of the recommendations remain partly implemented, GRECO has no choice but to consider the situation as “globally unsatisfactory” and asks the Head of the delegation of Serbia to provide a report on the progress made in implementing the outstanding recommendations by 31 October 2021″, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body said in its new compliance report. 

According to the report, Serbia has implemented satisfactorily only two of GRECO’s 13 recommendations made in 2015 – “those on the interaction of parliamentarians with lobbyists and on strengthening the role of the Anti-Corruption Agency. Ten recommendations have been implemented only partially, and the recommendation on the adoption of the Code of Conduct for parliamentarians have not been implemented at all”, a press release said.   

“The fact that the constitutional reforms are still underway in Serbia, remains an obstacle for implementing a number of GRECO’s recommendations concerning judges and prosecutors”, the press release said adding that GRECO encourages the Serbian authorities “to make sure the constitutional amendments have the broadest base of support possible and that they are in line with GRECO’s recommendations, in particular as regards the composition of the High Judicial Council”. 

The report said that progress had been made on the law drafting process increasing public participation in the process and added that the use of urgent procedure in parliament appears to have decreased but that the use of urgent procedure still leaves the way open to introduce amendments which have not undergone public debate. 

It welcomes the normative framework and the methods to improve the objectivity and transparency of the recruitment of judges and prosecutors and added that the adoption of guidelines for the prevention of undue influence on judges is a step in the right direction, but that the Ethics Committee of the High Judicial Council has not started implementing its mandate on judicial ethics and that the Code of ethics for prosecutors has not been adopted yet. 

GRECO also welcomed the new Law on Corruption Prevention which said improves the rules on conflicts of interest that apply to parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors and provides appropriate guarantees for the independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency. 

Serbia: 52 Pct People Support Military Act in Kosovo

The recently conducted survey’s result showing 52 percent of the polled supported military intervention in Kosovo if the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalization of relations failed, was devastating, two opposition leaders told a news conference on Wednesday (25.11). 

Nebojsa Zelenovic, the head of the Together for Serbia movement and Zoran Vuletic, the president of the Civil Democratic Forum agreed Serbia should lean on the West if it wanted to have future. 

The poll conducted by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policies (BCBP) published last Wednesday (25.11), also showed 40 percent saw Russia as Serbia’s best friend, 72 percent believed the Russian influence was positive, while 51 percent were against the European Union membership. 

The two said they wanted to be included in the process of solving the Kosovo issue. 

“History teaches us that the longer we wait, our lives are worse”, Zelenovic said. 

According to him, that doesn’t mean Kosovo “would be surrendered or sold”, but that a lasting peace should be reached in negotiations.
Vuletic said the poll’s results were alarming, showing that the country had never gone out from the war past. 

“As a society, we have become numb because all governments from 2004 have been trying to relativize the 1990s, to nourish the obliviousness and to defend Serbia’s war past which hasn’t been glorious”, he added. 

Serbian Government Withdraws Loan Guarantee for Gas Pipeline

The Serbian government decided to withdraw its guarantees for a 70 million Euro loan to the Srbijagas natural gas supply company, a day after the Parliament Finances Committee approved the guarantees. 

The guarantees for that and other loans to state-owned companies were on the agenda of parliament on Tuesday (24.11).   

Under the proposal, the state guarantees would have allowed Srbijagas to take loans from three banks to build a gas pipeline from Serbia’s border with Bulgaria to the border with Hungary and other neighboring countries. The loan was to have been taken from the Vojvodjanska Bank, OTP Bank, and the Post Office Savings Bank in Dinars with a hard currency clause with a repayment period of six years and a grace period of two years at an annual interest rate of 1.7 to 1.75 percent plus quarterly EURIBOR. The money would be invested through the Switzerland-registered South Stream AG shareholder society.   

Srbijagas is headed by its CEO Dusan Bajatovic, a high-ranking official of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS, a junior party in the ruling coalition). Bajatovic was recently thrown out of a meeting called by the new Energy Minister Zoran Mihajlovic (of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party – SNS) allegedly for failing to comply with her instructions. 

Kosovo Invites Croatia to Have a ‘More Active Role’ in its Dialogue with Serbia

Kosovo Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla called in Zagreb on Monday (23.11) for Croatia to play a more active role in the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue. 

During her working visit, she said Zagreb could strengthen its role in that dialogue through several elements, the first being “setting the final goal of the Kosovo-Serbia negotiations.” 

“The only acceptable solution is mutual recognition, with respect for territorial integrity, a unitary state and the state’s constitutionality”, she said. 

The final element is setting a deadline for the negotiations, she added. “We can’t negotiate endlessly… We must define when these negotiations must end”. 

“Croatia fully supports the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue taking place with the EU’s mediation, and considers this process and its outcome as a contribution to the stability of the wider Southeast Europe region”, said her host, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman. 

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 12 years ago. Grlic Radman said Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria had been among the first to recognize Kosovo. 

Haradinaj-Stublla said her visit to Zagreb was taking place in “aggravating circumstances”, including the pandemic and a Hague trial of “certain representatives of institutions and the authorities who were actually the liberators of Kosovo”. 

“They are people who fought against genocide, ethnic cleansing, while on the other hand, in Serbia we have those who sponsored those acts and haven’t been held to account yet,” she said. 

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci resigned after a Hague war crimes tribunal earlier this month upheld an indictment against him for crimes committed in Kosovo in 1999. “The indictment is entirely invalid and I don’t feel guilty”, he said at his first court appearance. 

Grlic Radman said Zagreb supported Pristina’s Euro-Atlantic orientation and that he hoped and wished visa requirements would soon be lifted for Kosovo citizens entering the EU. 

Croatia contributes to Kosovo’s development through KFOR, NATO’s peace operation in Kosovo, he added. “I dare say that Croatia is perhaps the biggest ally and friend Kosovo has among the European Union countries”. 

Bosnian Croat Presidency Member Does Not Represent Croats

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said that no Croatian official would meet with current Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency member Zeljko Komsic, whose election he argued violated the Dayton Peace Agreement because he did not represent Croats in that body. 

“He definitely does not represent Croats in the three-member Presidency”, Radman said in an interview with Herceg-Bosna Television in Mostar, broadcast on Sunday (22.11), when asked whether any official in Zagreb would meet with the current Croat member of the BiH Presidency. 

Radman said that Komsic had been against the construction of the Peljesac Bridge, that he had not visited any Croat community in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that he was constantly making statements against Croats. 

“It is not moral of him to call himself a representative of the Croat people”, Radman added. 

He recalled that authors of the Dayton peace agreement did not agree that Croats should have their political representatives elected for them by other peoples. 

“Croats should be able to elect their own representatives. That is not so in the BiH Presidency. Croats do not have their representative”, he added. 

He dismissed objections that Croatia was interfering in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s internal affairs, saying that the Croatian government led by Andrej Plenkovic had done the most in terms of support to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state and ethnic Croats. 

“Croatia is interested in a stable and functional Bosnia and Herzegovina in which all three peoples will be able to exercise their rights. If the Croats are the most endangered, Croatia will insist on correcting the injustice. That can be done by implementing Constitutional Court rulings and amending the election law”, the minister said. 

EU Expects Belgrade and Pristina Not to Move Embassies to Jerusalem

The European Union’s diplomacy chief Joseph Borrell said the bloc expected Belgrade and Pristina not to move its Israeli embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

The two sides committed to this in the meeting with the US outgoing President Donald Trump at the White House on September 3. 

Answering an MEP question, Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said Serbia and Kosovo were expected to “act in line with the EU determination”, but also “following their European aspirations”. 

He added the EU’s longtime view was that “the status of Jerusalem as a future capital of both countries (Israel and Palestine) should be resolved in negotiations with both sides’ wishes fulfilled”.  

“In line with the UN Security Council 478 Resolution for 1980, which called on all members to move the embassies to Tel Aviv, all EU countries’ embassies and EU Delegation in Israel are in Tel Aviv”, Borrell said. 

He added both Belgrade and Pristina had identified the EU integration as their strategic priority. 

“EU expects both sides to act in line with that”, he said and reiterated that, within the accession negotiations with the bloc, Serbia committed itself to “gradually adjust local legislation and policy towards the third countries with the EU’s policies and legislation”.

Belgrade and Pristina Need the Dialogue

The European Union’s special representative for Kosovo dialogue Miroslav Lajcak said that both Belgrade and Pristina know that they need the dialogue, adding that he is optimistic about its outcome. 

Speaking at an online conference organized by the Johns Hopkins University, Lajcak said that Kosovo and Serbia have shown a commitment to the process. “When there was no dialogue there was instability. Now when the two sides are talking an impression was created that things are under control. The dialogue cannot be avoided. The two sides want a European future and know that the only way is through dialogue”, he said. 

Lajcak said that three sides will decide on a solution for Kosovo. “I am in constant contact with everyone, including the EU member states who have a say in this. We do not want losers and winners because we want everyone to be a winner”, he added. 

“The EU does not agree with the philosophy that whatever the two sides agree should be accepted. We are the guardians of European values and the solution should bring the two sides closer together and be acceptable to the EU”, he said. 

According to Lajcak, an exchange of territory is no longer being discussed following warnings that it could open Pandora’s box. 

Bosnian and US Armed Forces to Take Part in ‘Bilateral Exercise’ in mid-November

Members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AF BiH) and the United States of America will participate in a joint military exercise called “Bilateral Exercise”, which will be realized on November 18 and 19, 2020 at the AF BiH – Glamoc and Manjaca training grounds. 

The BiH AF will participate in the exercise with a computer-assisted exercise (CAX) and field exercise (FTX), and the US Armed Forces will participate with two F-16 aircraft, which will provide support forces on the ground. The planes, which will provide close air support at the location of the Glamoc range, will not use live ammunition but will perform laser locking of the target and simulated destruction after receiving a support call.

The aim of the exercise is for the AF BiH to improve operationally capabilities of the declared battalion group through exercise with specialists for guidance and control of close air support (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers – JTAC). This would give the AF BiH the ability to conduct conventional operations and carry out assignments in real-time and in the international environment with the use of close fire and air support. 

The “Bilateral Exercise” will also enable the Bosnia’s Armed Forces to improve partnership cooperation with the United States and NATO partners, and to develop interoperability and readiness, as well as to create preconditions for the introduction of new capabilities of the AF BiH.

Serbians Still Opposed to NATO Membership

The Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) said that three-fourths of the population of Serbia is opposed to NATO membership. 

CeSID official Ivo Colovic told a Belgrade NATO Week conference that just 14 percent of the 800 people polled have a positive attitude towards cooperation with the Alliance.   

He said that half the polled said that they favor membership in the European Union, adding that the people who are opposed to EU membership are aged 18-29 and over the age of 60. 

Meanwhile, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy Carmen Romero said on Monday, November 6th,  that Serbia is important to NATO and NATO is important to Serbia. 

She told the online Belgrade NATO Week conference Belgrade and the Alliance want a secure Western Balkan region.   

Romero said that Serbia is of crucial importance for the stability of the Western Balkans, adding that it is a force for good in the region. According to her, the stability of the Western Balkans is linked to the stability of the Euro Atlantic area.   

NATO and Serbia want peace, security, and prosperity for our citizens and we are working together through our partnership to make this a reality. That is why our partnership is significant to both sides, she added.

Bosnia Local Elections: Ruling SDA Loses Sarajevo and SNSD Loses Banja Luka

The biggest surprises of Bosnia’s local elections were Sarajevo and Banja Luka where the Democratic Action Party (SDA) and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) lost their grip after decades of rule over the two cities. 

In Sarajevo, the SDA lost the municipalities of Centar, Novo Sarajevo and Ilidza, Stari Grad Municipality was once again won by Ibrahim Hadzibajric from the opposition bloc is known as the Sarajevo Four (People and Justice – NiP, Social Democratic Party – SDP, Our Party, Independent Bosnian List – NBL). 

Party Leader Bakir Izetbegovic admitted defeat saying they lost Sarajevo, but they won Bosnia. The only Municipality within Sarajevo, which they managed to hold, was Novi Grad where their candidate Semir Efendic stands to serve another four-year term. 

Other major municipalities which SDA lost or stayed out of their reach are Tuzla, Zenica, Cazin, and Bihac, which Izetbegovic commented on saying these major cities, as well as Banja Luka in the RS, are a sign that big municipalities and cities are demanding change. 

In Velika Kladusa, a convicted war criminal Fikret Abdic is in the lead for the position of the Head of the Municipality.
The strongest Bosnian-Serb party, the SNSD, also admitted defeat in Banja Luka, the administrative center of the Bosnian Serb entity called Republika Srpska. The party leader and Bosnian Presidency member Milorad Dodik said he was not happy at all that they lost the race after their candidate Igor Radojicic did a lot for that city – only to lose it to opposition candidate Drasko Stanivukovic.  

Stanivukovic said that after 22 years, an ordinary man finally got the chance to win in Banja Luka. He announced that the SNSD is afraid of his first move as mayor – the revision of all city administration contracts.  

“Our duty is to move forward and keep all hard-working and honest people while revealing all those who worked illegally and dishonestly. We are building a city without divisions in which everybody will live well”, Stanivukovic concluded. 

After having lost the election in Banja Luka, the administrative center of Bosnia’s Serb-majority entity of Republika Srpska (RS), the party of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik announced on Monday it will freeze all entity government investments into the city because it voted against its candidate. 

“We will stop all investments from the RS Government level until we see how the city will politically develop”, said Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), after his candidate, the incumbent mayor Igor Radojcic, lost Sunday’s (15.11) local election to opposition leader Drasko Stanivukovic. 

The SNSD also stands to lose Prijedor, where their candidate is neck and neck with the opposition candidate from the Democratic People’s Alliance. 

When it comes to the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), the strongest Bosnian-Croat Party, reported they won in Neum, Posusje, Kresevo, Zepce and Citluk. Their sister party HDZ 1990 said their candidate won the race for Prozor Rama. 

These are unofficial election results and the Central Election Commission said they will publish their first unofficial results around midnight. 

Apart from some minor issues, the main Croat party, Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) is satisfied with its election results, party leader Dragan Covic said Monday (16.11), adding that he was glad no major incidents were reported during the election process. 

Considering the process to be democratic, Covic said that “HDZ BiH can be very satisfied for winning 20 offices for mayors/heads of municipalities and over 300 councilors. We did our job pretty well, and despite the fact we didn’t have a normal election campaign we still sent a strong message which is what we plan to do in the future. The Еlection process lasts for four years and we must start preparing for the next local elections today”, Covic said. 

Bosnia held a local election on Sunday (15.11) on the territory of the entire country, with the exception of the City of Mostar, which will hold its elections in December. 

The city has been in a deadlock for over 12 years, with two main ethnic-oriented parties in the city unable to reach a consensus over how the elections will be held. In June 2020, the largest Bosniak party – Democratic Action Party (SDA) finally inked an agreement with the HDZ BiH, thus creating conditions for democratic elections in the city. 

The agreement was signed by Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic, the leaders of the Democratic Party Action (SDA) and the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), in presence of foreign ambassadors and Mostar’s local politicians. 

The local elections in the City of Mostar were last held in 2008. Two years later, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina acted upon motion of Croat representatives in the state Parliament, assessing as unconstitutional parts of Bosnia’s Election Law which refer to the City Statute. 

The court tasked the state Parliament in 2010 to amend the Election Law regarding the provisions which treat the electoral rules in that city but this did not happen to date and Mostar elections remain the subject of political disagreements, mostly of two main parties in this city, the SDA and HDZ BiH which signed the deal.