NATO’s Doors Remain Open for BiH

The inaugural session of Bosnia’s Commission for Cooperation with NATO, chaired by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josip Brkic was held Wednesday (17.03), during which Brkic said that transparency is the basis of the work of this body. 

“The basis of the work will be transparency when the document is adopted and forwarded to the Council of Ministers – it should be available to the public. Institutions working in the NATO Cooperation commission will also be included. Transparency is what will guide us”, said Brkic stated after the session. 

He added that they do not expect blockades in their work and that there are provisions that a member from each of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina must have a vote. 

The Commander of the NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo, General Eric Folkestad, stated that this Commission will be the one to decide which areas of cooperation between BiH and NATO will be pursued and that all 30 NATO partners will help. 

“Partners are the ones who decide what the relationship will be like. NATO’s doors remain open for BiH, and only BiH can decide whether to enter”, Folkestad said. 

“It’s important that NATO and BiH have relations because no country alone can confront today’s security challenges, pandemic, the migrant crisis, natural disasters, and organized crime. Together, we are stronger”, the General stressed. 

The NATO Contact Embassy for BiH said that the experiences from BiH will be transferred to NATO headquarters in Brussels and that it is important to see what BiH needs to do when it comes to the cooperation with NATO.

DPS Remains Strong

Milo Djukanovic, Montenegro’s President, said on Monday (15.03) his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) did well in Sunday’s local election in his native town of Niksic, announcing its return at the republic’s level following a convincing loss in the August 2020 general vote after three decades in power.  

He told Nova BH TV, his DPS remained the most potent single party and that Sunday’s result was not the end of his 30-year-long political career. 

„DPS scored better (in Niksic) than in the general election and showed it will play a stabilizing role on the political scene and a leading position in advocating Montengro’s’ European future”, Djukanovic said. „And, I believe, it (DPS) will soon return into the power at the state level.” 

His DPS won the majority seats in Niksic’s Parliament but cannot form the local government on its own. Three other parties announced a coalition that would rule the town, pushing DPS in opposition after 28 years. 

Djukanovic said that such an outcome was partly due to still ongoing euphoria of those who won the general elections and to, what he saw, little time since then for people to „rationally understand the quality of exercising power in the past few months.” 

Serbia Strongly Committed to the Development of Relations With Russia

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said that Serbia was strongly committed to the further development of political relations with Russia, based on traditional friendship and closeness of the two peoples and strategic partnership. 

He met with the Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan Kharchenko and expressed hope that the President of Russia Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Serbia in near future, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Saturday (13.03). 

Selakovic also thanked for “strong and consistent support of Russia to territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia and to the efforts of our side to have the issue of Kosovo and Metohija solved in a peaceful and diplomatic way through dialogue.” 

The two officials agreed on the importance of permanent, mutual support within international organizations. 

New Enlargement Methodology Will Add Dynamic

The European Union Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said on Friday (12.03) the new methodology in the accession process with potential bloc’s member states should contribute to more dynamic negotiations with Serbia, which went slowly last year. 

“Kosovo and Serbia should make progress in the dialogue (on the normalization of relations) which must resume after the formation of Pristina’s institutions”, Várhelyi told the economic forum in Tirana. 

He added that Kosovo should be more stable to speed up the reforms, particularly in law and economy. 

“The Union promised Western Balkans that it would be its part, and the regional countries will carry out reforms necessary to achieve that. Those reforms are often slow, and that prompted some EU member states to question the enlargement process”, Várhelyi said, adding the Western Balkans’ accession was the EU’s top priority. 

Balkans No Longer a Time Bomb

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told on Tuesday, March 9th, that he believes that the Balkans are no longer a time bomb, adding that solutions to existing problems will be found through dialogue. 

Speaking live on the Pressing talk show, Zaev said that he does not think a union of Kosovo and Albania is a good thing. He said he is sure that the union that some politicians are calling for is not the future that the people of Kosovo and Albania want, nor do others in the region because their future is in the European Union. “A Europe without borders in which people cooperate and communicate and I am convinced that these are ideas from individuals who are in the minority and don’t have a future,” he said and added that the future lies in promoting cooperation. “If we cooperate regionally western and northern Europe will respect us more”, he said. 

“Solutions are not easily found. I have gone through several difficult processes”, he said and recalled agreements with Bulgaria and Greece which included the change of the country’s constitutional name. “Serbia and Kosovo and other countries face their own challenges but definitely, solutions can be found through dialogue, diplomacy, and friendship”, he added. 

He said that Skopje is building excellent relations with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and promoting all possibilities for cooperation between Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians. “I sincerely hope that the potential Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti will join in the talks that benefit everyone”, Zaev said. 

He said the mini-Schengen initiative will bring benefits for everyone, adding that there are significant developments in that regard such as the one-stop shop on the border of North Macedonia and Serbia. 

Djukanovic Accuses Serbia of Nationalistic Push Against His State

Milo Djukanovic, Montenegro’s head of state, accused Serbia on Monday (08.03) of using the northern town of Niksic to ‘conquer’ his country, adding Belgrade “understood the latest general elections’ result in the most wrong way.”  

In an interview with Niksic TV, Djukanovic, whose Democratic-Socialist Party (DPS) convincingly lost the last August’s vote after three decades in power, said there was „a need for the retrograde nationalist idea of Greater Serbia.” 

The local ballot in Niksic,  Djukanovic’s hometown is due on March 14 amid tensions and almost daily incidents. 

His DPS emerged as the strongest single party in the town in the 2020 elections and still ruled Niksic ahead of the new local vote. 

„This is about Serbia’s new expansion toward its neighbors, new expansion in the region with an obvious intention to create some colonial order in the mythical Serbian lands wherever the Serbs live. And, of course, to annul everything normal, civil, multiethnic existing in our region,” Djukanovic said. 

He asked who had a right to „declare any land, whether it belongs to Serbia or Montenegro, a Serb land; where is that land nowadays where only Serbs live to be its own in a nationalistic way?” 

„If someone in Montenegro, representing such official Belgrade’s retrograde interests offers you to forget about your interests for a certain amount of money, the interests of a loyal citizen of Niksic, a loyal citizen of Montenegro, and for a miserable amount of money become a traitor to own interests, to serve the interests of another state, it is clear that anyone who thinks they can impose that on Niksic is barking at the wrong tree”, he said. 

Djukanovic added that Serbia misinterpreted the last elections’ results as opening the door to the Serb nationalism to Montenegro. „They (official Belgrade) are still afraid that the DPS could soon recover.” 

He said the opinion polls showed an increase support of the DPS and added it strengthened Serbia’s political and media nationalistic rhetoric and „an impudent offensive against Niksic and Montenegro.” 

Serbia Needs to Work on Fundamental Reforms

David McAllister told that Serbia still has to work on fundamental reforms, adding that his fellow MEPs are calling for progress on several fields. 

He said that the amendments submitted to the report by European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik reflected the views of MEPs on Serbia’s relations with the European Union and acknowledged the progress achieved to date. “At the same time, MEPs are also calling for improvements on democracy, the rule of law, fundamental rights, media freedom, and the fight against corruption. At this stage, it is hard to predict the outcome, as the negotiations on the compromise text are ongoing”, McAllister, chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs said. 

He added that the progress on rule of law chapters in Serbia’s pre-accession talks will determine the pace of the negotiations. According to McAllister, Serbia needs to improve the electoral framework which is why the European Parliament is ready to continue the Inter-Party Dialogue, which could assist in preparing the reforms. 

Commenting calls for a reaction from the European Parliament to hate speech from politicians in Serbia, he said that democratic discourse requires the respect of certain rules and standards. “This applies to every political discussion. Respect is fundamental for a liberal and pluralistic society”, he said. 

Lajcak Says Kosovo Dialogue to Continue, Osmani Says No Talks on Borders

European Union envoy Miroslav Lajcak said in Pristina on Tuesday (02.03) that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will be continued once the new Kosovo government takes office. 

“The EU and the US support the continued dialogue on issues important to every citizen of Kosovo… The dialogue will continue, we will create internal procedures”, the Serbian state TV (RTS) reported him as saying after a meeting with acting President Vjosa Osmani. He called for political unity in Pristina, saying that the dialogue is not the sole responsibility of one side or one party. 

He said that the EU and the US are in partnership with Kosovo. “The message is that the EU member states and the US are looking forward to continuing the dialogue… That is why I had talks with (Vetevendosje leader Albin) Kurti and Osmani to see where we are with the dialogue. The conclusion at those meetings is that the dialogue will be continued”, he said. 

Osmani told the media that she told Lajcak that part of the process should be reviewed as part of preparations to continue the talks. She said the dialogue should result in mutual recognition within the current borders of Kosovo. “We have to be sure that we keep to the mandate from parliament, the red lines it sets. No negotiations on the borders of Kosovo are allowed. There is no negotiation on the status of Kosovo, we expect it to end in recognition”, Osmani said. 

BiH Presidency Members Divided Following Publication of ‘Genocide Papers’

After the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency praised the ‘Genocide Papers’, a collection of transcripts from sessions in the parliament of the Republika Srpska entity during the war, the Serb member of Bosnia’s presidency and its current Chair accused him of “comparing Serbs to Nazis.” 

The Srebrenica Memorial Centre gathered young experts, including researchers, proofreaders, designers, and IT experts, to create new-age generation tools, which would help in the research of crucial segments of the history of the Bosnian genocide. Among them is the ‘Genocide papers’ a compilation of searchable files and transcripts of sessions of the Assembly of the Serb People in BiH/National Assembly of Republika Srpska. 

Some of the transcripts include the speeches of wartime Bosnian Serb leader and convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, politicians Momcilo Krajisnik, Manojlo Milovanovic, as well as current Serb Presidency member, Milorad Dodik. 

The Bosniak member of the Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, praised the work of the Memorial Centre, calling it a serious institution that maintains the memory of the genocide victims. 

“The Memorial Center is well on its way to becoming one of the most respectable institutions of its kind in the world. This is also a debt to the victims of genocide. I thank the Memorial Center for taking such steps”, he said. 

The battle for the truth and justice continues, and the publication of the Genocide Papers shows this, he said. 

His Bosnian Croat colleague in the Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, said he was “appalled by the details” in the notes of the discussions in the RS Assembly during the war. 

“These are, more or less, public data and information that you can find, but they have never been collected, researched and presented to the public in this way, as the team of the Srebrenica Memorial Center did”, he said. 

Komsic stressed that the statements in the transcripts “indicate that the RS National Assembly was one of the tools of the genocide, as well as hate speech targeting all non-Serbs” at the time. 

“The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has always investigated command and individual responsibility. On the other hand, it didn’t do what was done in the Nuremberg Trials – it didn’t establish the existence of criminal organizations – where membership in an organization automatically made you guilty”, he said. 

“This is exactly what was missing in the case of the RS National Assembly, whose members supported genocide with their votes, who passed laws and decisions that were a guideline for the policies and actions of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic”, he said. 

Komsic argued that what must be done in light of the transcripts is – the imposition of a law banning genocide denial, adoption of a law that will establish a special status of the Srebrenica local government unit and adoption of a legal framework that would prevent those who participated in making decisions on human rights violations, genocide and war crimes from holding public office. 

Komsic’s statements, however, were not well received by the Serb member of the Presidency and its current Chairman, Milorad Dodik. 

He said Komsic was abusing the transcripts to further his agenda as a “reserve Bosniak Presidency member” and to “compare Serbs with the Nazis, impose collective guilt on them for individual crimes, demand a change in the Constitution on the issue of Srebrenica, and still deprive us of the right to speak.”