“Srpska Lista” Considers Leaving Kosovo Government

Igor Simic, the head of the Serb List deputy club in Kosovo’s Parliament, accused on Wednesday (11.11) the Government of not respecting the coalition agreement and suggested his party would ‘most probably’ leave the Government, and may support dismissal of the Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti’s cabinet. 

“The Serb List, its MPs haven’t taken part in today’s Parliament session and will not participate in future because the coalition agreement is not honored”, Simic said. 

He added that his party “constructively demonstrated many times its commitment to work in the interest of all citizens… But, I believe they should respect us as a partner, and we demand the agreement to be honored. We seriously consider leaving the Government because of the way we are treated.”  

The absence from the Parliament session of the Serb List, the party supported by Belgrade, led to the lack of quorum, and thus the extraordinary meeting on a Law on Economic Recovery could not be held. 

“We tried to hold the extraordinary session with the second reading of the Law, but it was not possible due to obstruction by some coalition partners and the opposition… I demand that all Kosovo deputies come and fulfill their duty”, Arben Gashi, the head of the Democratic League of Kosovo  (LDK) parliament group, said. 

Meanwhile, the European Union warned Kosovo politicians that the dialogue with Belgrade on the normalization of relations had no alternative if they wanted to achieve Kosovo’s people wish for the European future, while the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell’s spokesperson Peter Stano said on Wednesday, November 11th, the calls by some Pristina leaders to end the dialogue were an attempt to use the topic for a short-term goal. 

“Kosovo society is mature enough to understand that dialogue cannot be used for short-term political goals”, Stano told Radio Free Europe (RFE). 

Following the indictment of the Specialist Prosecutors’ Office (SPO) in The Hague, against the former president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci and his wartime associates, local politicians have repeatedly called for an end to the dialogue with Serbia. That position is also supported by Kosovo’s acting president Vjosa Osmani, who took over last week after Thaci resigned pending trial. 

Stano said that both Borrell and the EU Special envoy for dialogue Miroslav Lajčák were determined to continue to help the dialogue reaching a comprehensive agreement, regardless of the political situation in Kosovo. He added the European institutions appreciated the commitment of Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti to the dialogue. 

“The EU appreciates Prime Minister Hoti’s clear vision of this and his willingness to make difficult choices by showing consistency, maturity and moderation, especially in these challenging times. Kosovo’s European perspective was real, but the fulfillment of obligations depended on its people and leadership”, Stano said.

Western Balkans Summit in Sofia

Belgrade wants to speed up the integration with the European Union, but also strongly supports the neighboring countries like Republic of North Macedonia and Albania and the thrive to join the bloc, as extremely important for the regional stability and prosperity, Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic tells the Western Balkans (WB) online Summit in Sofia within the Berlin Process on Tuesday, November 10th. 

Speaking about the severe economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brnabic advocated the expansion of the Green Corridor outside the Western Balkans and broadening of the reach and potential of neighboring EU member states. 

She also spoke in favor of an enlarged EU, which she saw as an essential step in economic recovery and greater Western Balkans – economic alignment. 

She told the summit, Serbia was ready to join “the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), an EU initiative to simplify bank transfers, which she hoped would reduce the cost of regional payments and serve as a useful mechanism for post-pandemic recovery. 

In his address to the summit, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell welcomed the Declaration on creating the Western Balkans common market, describing it as a way to unleash economic and make the region capable of joining the EU. 

Borrell said the EU’s engagement with the Western Balkans region was and has remained strong because “the Western Balkans are in the heart of Europe and its future is in the EU.” 

He added the Western Balkans’ integration into the EU, along with improving prosperity, justice, and security, had been in the common interest of the Union and the region. 

Later on, Sem Fabrizi, the head of the EU Delegation in Serbia, welcomed the adoption of the Declaration on Western Balkans common market, adding it took the region closer to the bloc. 

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti also said the declarations on the common market and Green Agenda were an essential step for the Western Balkans six. 

Brnabic told the Summit Serbia remained committed to the implementation of all five pillars of the Green Agenda in line with the regional socio-economic reality. 

She signed the Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, and asked the EU partners “to consider ways which would allow us to access additional funding for the implementation of the Green Agenda, which will be very challenging and expensive.” 

Besides some European countries’ leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Republic of North Macedonia, Boyko Borisov and Zoran Zaev, took part at the summit as co-organizers.

War Crime Cases Still Not Resolved

Kosovo indicted for war crimes plead not guilty. Hashim Thaci recently resigned Kosovo’s President, and Jakup Krasniqi a former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) officer, both pleaded not guilty on Monday during their first separate appearances before the Specialist Court for the KLA 1989-1999 war crimes. 

The ten-count indictment charges the two, together with Kadri Veseli and Rexep Selimi, also ex-KLA, of being a part of a joint criminal enterprise. 

The four “shared the common purpose to gain and exercise control over all of Kosovo by means including unlawfully intimidating, mistreating, committing violence against, and removing those deemed to be opponents”, the charge sheet said. 

The indictment described those opponents as being people “who were or were perceived to have been collaborating or associating with the then Yugoslav forces or did not support the KLA, including ‘disloyal’ ethnic Albanians, Serbs, Roma, and people of other ethnicities.” 

The charge sheet adds the defendants were involved in “crimes of persecution, imprisonment, illegal or arbitrary arrest, and detention, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, torture, murder, and enforced disappearance of persons.” 

Thaci is seen to have been a key member of the joint criminal enterprise, as a founding member of the KLA, its commander-in-chief, the head of its Political and Information Directorate and the prime minister of the Provisional Government of Kosovo. 

Meanwhile, Bosnia’s State Court has submitted a request asking Serbia’s Justice Ministry to take over the case of Visnja Acimovic, who is the subject of an Interpol warrant as she is suspected of involvement in the murder of 37 Bosniak men in the eastern town of Vlasenica, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN BiH) reported. 

The state court said it submitted the request because all the conditions prescribed in the provision of the Agreement between Bosnia and Serbia on legal assistance in civil and criminal matters have been met. 

However, is said it has not received a response so far. The indictment against Acimovic, who has Serbian and Bosnian citizenship, was confirmed in February 2017 and later an Interpol warrant was issued for her arrest. 

According to prosecutors, Acimovic was alongside several members of the Army of Republika Srpska involved in the killing of 37 Bosniak men who were taken to the area of Mracni dol from prison in Vlasenica. The bodies of the victims were found in 2000 at the site where they were killed. 

Acimovic was allegedly one of those who shot at the victims. 

It’s supposed Visnja Acimovic to live in Serbia at present.  

The third case is likely to be revenge against a war criminal. Convicted war criminal Marko (Maka) Radic was murdered Monday evening, November 9th, in the south Bosnian city of Mostar near the City’s police station, Herzegovina-Neretva Canton’s Interior Ministry said, adding that all available units are searching for his killer. 

The murdered Bosnian Croat Marko Radic was sentenced by the Bosniac Court to 21 years in prison, in 2011, for crimes against humanity, i.e. torture, imprisonment, murder, and rape in the settlement of ‘Vojno’ near Mostar. 

The verdict established that Radic personally participated in the rape of prisoners, including underage girls. He was not supposed to be released until 2027. However, he submitted a request to serve his sentence in Croatia, and on October 8, 2018, Bosnian Justice Minister, Josip Grubesa, signed a Decision on the transfer of a convicted person, which allowed for the transfer of Marko Radic from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia so he could serve his sentence in that country. 

The Zagreb County Court retried the case and passed a verdict which took over the execution of the verdict of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, changing the sentence to 12 years and six months in prison for not recognizing the concept of “joint criminal enterprise”. Radić was released from prison in December 2018 and the victims protested the Zagreb Court’s verdict and Radic’s release. 

Balkans – Weapons Supermarket, Hotbed of Islamism

The terrorist from Vienna used Serbia’s ‘Zastava’ rifle, as well as the terrorists in Paris in 2015, the German ‘Die Welt’ said, while ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ wrote about Islam and Islamism in the Republic of North Macedonia and Kosovo. 

The report titled ‘Trail from Vienna Leads to Weapons Supermarket’ begins with the description of a photo posted on Instagram by Kujtim F, a terrorist who killed four and wounded more than 20 people in Vienna on Monday (02.11), with the photo reading: “Muhammad is the Messenger of God”. But the weapon he was photographed with says a lot more about him”, Alfred Hakensberger wrote, and added “the automatic rifle and pistol are of the same brand as the weapons used by ISIS terrorists in the Paris attacks in 2015. That includes Serbia-made Zastava rifle M70. With that Serbia’s version of a Russian Kalashnikov (AK-47), Kujtim F. shot at innocent people in Vienna. A Tokarev pistol was found near him that was the same type of the gun the French police found on some of the attackers in Paris”, the report said. 

Metodi Hadzi-Janev, a military and security analyst from the Republic of North Macedonia, told Die Welt he was not surprised that “the Viennese attacker was also armed with weapons from a Serbia’s company.”  

“There are a lot of flag rifles and they can be obtained cheaply on the black market. They are easy to maintain, reliable, and easy to use. You can buy them through DarkNet and directly from criminal networks, which are very powerful and influential in Serbia and other Southeastern European countries”, he added. 

Die Welt said Haxhi-Janev, was one of the five authors who, after extensive research in June published a study by the Institute for Tactics on Illegal and Legal Arms Trade in Southeast Europe, which also focused on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

“According to the report, the business model is simple. Weapons are legally bought and taken out of the country. Then they get new certificates somewhere and are delivered in completely different places, not to the originally mentioned buyer countries”, the Die Welt report read. 

It added that “new weapons come from factories in Serbia and Croatia, and besides, millions of used weapons are in circulation, which were ‘lost’ in the turmoil of the civil war, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia in The 1990s.” 

The situation in the Balkans is worrying, the report says, and adds that Germany, together with France, has launched an initiative a year ago to suppress the illegal arms trade left after the wars in Yugoslavia. 

It is being worked on in cooperation with the European Union which has announced a five-year ‘Action Plan’ to combat the illicit arms trade in July this year, calling the Balkans “the main arms supply route.” 

According to the German Foreign Ministry, six million small arms are in circulation, many of which could end up in EU member states. 

However, Haxhi-Janev says the purchase of weapons in the countries of the former Yugoslavia can be completely legal. 

“But what happens after is often forbidden, especially when goods are delivered to war zones, which are often under international embargo, he said, describing the Balkans as a weapon supermarket.”  

“Anyone with any organizational skills can acquire a weapon, as a terrorist has done in Vienna. Fortunately, the assassin was not a good shooter. He fired more than 150 bullets. If he had been trained militarily, there would have been many more victims”, Haxhi said. 

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung titled its report by Michael Martens ‘Allah is our Commander’, in which the author dealt with Islam and Islamism in the Republic of North Macedonia and Kosovo following the Vienna attack. He said the assassin apparently became radicalized in Vienna, that he was connected to Islam through his parents – but not to Islamism – which “is still a marginal phenomenon” in the Republic of North Macedonia, where Muslims make up a little more than a quarter of the population. 

“However, the relatively liberal interpretation of Islam practiced by many Muslims in the Balkans has also come under pressure”, the report said, quoting an Austrian historian and Albanologist, who has been doing ground researches in Kosovo and the Republic of North Macedonia for decades.
“The most noticeable are covered women and men in typical shorts that you meet more and more often in the streets”, Robert Pichler said about the situation in Kosovo, and Tetovo and Gostivar in the Republic of North Macedonia. 

Many new mosques change the landscape with their size and height of their minarets. Ten to 15 years ago at weddings, it was still quite normal for guests to drink, but there is no more of that today. Near the mosques, it is no longer greetings in Albanian, but in Arabic with Selam Alaykum. The influence of hodjas and imams, who think it is bad to go out in the evening, listen to Western music, drink and smoke, has noticeably increased”. 

However, he added, “such developments have met with much more opposition in Kosovo than among more conservative Albanian Muslims in Republic of North Macedonia”. 

Kosovo, which is fighting Arab influence, has strengthened Turkey’s importance, for example through imams who are educated there”, Pichler said 

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also quoted Pichler as saying he met “Muslims in the Republic of North Macedonia with a distinctly anti-Western attitude”, which he called strict believers, “who strive for an order based on Sharia law. And one of them told him – Allah is our Commander.” 

The paper added that “the intensive activities of many humanitarian Islamic organizations from the Arab region that came after the 1989-1999 war in Kosovo,  have been committed to spreading the reactionary orientation of Islam in the area. 

In North Macedonia, too, “many Muslims faced a radically different interpretation of their religion – which had been misunderstood by the older generation of Albanian Muslims socialized in communist Yugoslavia and which they reject. ” 

“That older generation is especially shaken by the attack in Vienna. They want to prove that they are Westerners. It is a shame for the parents’ generation when their sons convert to Islamism. It deeply affects them”, Pichler was quoted as saying. 

Indicted Tachi Resigned

The Specialist Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the war crimes indictment against President Hashim Thaci, also the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Kadri Veseli, former Kosovo’s Parliament Speaker and the head of the Intelligence Service as well as one of the founders and leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). 

Both Thaci and Veseli, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, confirmed they would go to The Hague voluntarily. 

Thaci has resigned as Kosovo’s President following the confirmation of the indictment. On Thursday evening, November 5th, Thaci was escorted to the airport by EULEX police.   

The Specialist Chambers for Kosovo confirmed also the indictment for Rexhep Selimi, a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the current head of the opposition Self-determination (Vetëvendosje) party’s Deputy Club and he said he would appear before the court “with my head high up”, on Thursday. 

The Specialist Chambers confirmed Jakup Krasniqi’s transfer to The Hague. 

As the Office of the Specialised Prosecutor said in April, Thaci, Veseli “and others” are charged with several crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the killings, forcible displacement, persecution and torture. 

The prosecution also accused Veselji and Thaci of obstructing the Specialised Court’s work. 

Commenting on the confirmed war crimes indictment against Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s government said it “deeply believes in the just fight of the (former) Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) for the country’s freedom.” 

It added in the press release that “no one can judge our fight for freedom (which is) among the brightest period in history.” 

“The KLA fought for the liberation of our country, at home, not in foreign states. That gave it respect in the international community which culminated in NATO 1999 bombing”, the Government statement said. 

Belgrade, Skopje, Tirana to Speed up Implementation of ‘mini-Schengen’

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and prime ministers of North Macedonia and Albania, Zoran Zaev and Edi Rama respectively discussed on October 30, the regional cooperation and revived the initiative known as ‘mini-Schengen’ between some Western Balkans countries. 

According to Vucic’s post on Instagram, the initiative was in line with the Berlin Process. 

It would be a reasonable basis for the next Summit of the Western Balkans leaders in Sofia, Vucic, Zaev and Rama agreed at an online conference. 

The three leaders also agreed the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic enlarged the need for intensified cooperation among the regional economies.  

Vucic, Zaev and Rama said the Western Balkans’ Six should additionally improve the regional cooperation and reiterated the call to Pristina to join the ‘mini-Schengen’ initiative.  

The three agreed on forming a working group composed of the officials of their countries with the task to speed up the signing and implementation of the activities on improving the regional cooperation. 

They also said they hoped the governments of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina would join the initiative to make the economic cooperation even better and agreed the initiative could be used to identify joint infrastructural projects in line with the European Union Economic-Investment package for the Western Balkans. 

North Macedonia’s PM Receives Award for Human Rights by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

German Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) awarded North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for his commitment to the rights of all people in the country and the reform course, the Foundation, said in a statement. 

It added 2020 was not good regarding human rights, since many authoritarian regimes used the coronavirus pandemic to conduct sharp cuts in the area of human rights. That made it even more appropriate to respect the activities that fought against those trends. 

Describing Zaev as ‘a bright example’, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, recalled his contribution to the agreement of the friendship with Bulgaria in 2017, and the solution of the 27-year-long name issue with Greece. 

“Even as an opposition leader, Zaev was an important, leading figure in advocating civil rights for all people in his country which during the so-called ‘colorful revolution’ peacefully acted for new elections”, the statement said. 

It added his reformist policies, after so many disappointments, finally led to the decision on the start of negotiating process with the European Union and to North Macedonia’s NATO membership. 

Zaev will receive the award at an online manifestation on November 16, with the participation of the German Foreign Minister Haiko Mass. North Macedonia’s Prime Minister will address the audience in the ‘How to Defend Human Rights and Mulitilaterism in Times When Those Values are Under Increasing Pressure”, the statement has added.