Parliamentary Party SPAS Joins Ruling SNS in Serbia

The Serbian Patriotic Alliance (SPAS), led by former water polo player Aleksandar Sapic, has officially joined the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of President Aleksandar Vucic and was elected vice president of the SNS Main Board on Saturday, May 29th. 

SPAS won 3.83 percent of votes and 11 seats in the Assembly of Serbia in the 2020 elections, but one MP withdrew from his parliamentary group, so it still has 10 representatives. 

The move reduces the number of opposition MPs to only a few, as part of the opposition boycotted the elections in 2020, while even many of those few who did enter the race for parliament failed to pass the 3 percent threshold. 

Sapic has been the mayor of Belgrade’s largest municipality, New Belgrade, since 2012 and is currently in his third term. Media speculate he could be a future candidate for mayor of the capital representing the ruling party in the elections in 2022. 

He was also previously a member of the Democratic Party while it was in power and he served as assistant to the mayor of Belgrade between 2009 and 2012. 

Christian Schmidt Appointed as New High Representative in BiH

The Ambassadors of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB) formally appointed Christian Schmidt as the next High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, following his candidature put forward by Germany, the Office of the High Representative announced Thursday (27.05) afternoon.  

“The PIC SB looks forward to working with Mr Schmidt when he takes up his duties as the High Representative on August 1, 2021 upon which Mr Valentin Inzko’s resignation will become effective”, the statement said. 

The PIC SB thanked Germany for its initiative and is confident that Mr Schmidt will accelerate the completion of the 5+2 agenda and contribute to the stability in BiH by ensuring consistent implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.  The PIC SB also noted that this decision further underlines their commitment to the territorial integrity of BiH. 

The OHR will now inform the United Nations Secretary-General of the PIC SB’s decision. 

“The PIC SB expressed its appreciation to Ambassador Valentin Inzko for his longstanding extraordinary commitment and tremendous contribution to the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and security and stability in BiH for the past 12 years. 

The statement added that the Russian Federation did not agree with this decision. 

Developing Relations Greece-Kosovo Not Good for Serbia

President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday, May 26th that Belgrade had received assurances that Greece would not recognize Kosovo but added that the development of relations between Athens and Pristina is not good news for Serbia. 

“I don’t want to say anything before we know something but because there have been some changes in relations I expect to find out if this is just about a trade office or something more between Greece and Kosovo. We will see how things go before we inform the public”, Vucic told the pro-government TV Pink. 

He said that important consultations on Kosovo would be held in Belgrade over the next few days before the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue resumes in Brussels. He added that the important thing is for Serbia to preserve its state and national interests. 

Kurti Worried About Efforts to Depopulate Albanians in Southern Serbia

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressed concern over what he said are administrative efforts to “depopulate Albanian majority municipalities” in southern Serbia. 

A press release from the prime minister’s cabinet said that Kurti discussed the situation in southern Serbia with a focus on what he called the “passivization of the addresses” of local Albanians with Albanian National Council in Serbia Chairman Ragmi Mustafa. Kurti is quoted as saying that he is “carefully following the situation with the passivization of the addresses of Albanians”. “Serbia has tried to depopulate the Albanian majority municipalities with violence and tanks in the past and is now doing that administratively”, he said. 

Under Serbian law on the residency of its citizens, and address can be rendered passive if a resident does not live at the address listed in their personal documents. That article of the law is enforced for people who live abroad and are not permanent residents of the address they list in their personal documents. A large percentage of the ethnic Albanian population of the municipalities of Bujanovac, Medvedja, and Presevo live abroad but have addresses in Serbia. 

“This campaign against the Albanian residents of the Presevo valley is unacceptable and should be stopped as soon as possible”, Kurti said, referring to the three municipalities in southern Serbia. 

EU High Commissioner Wants to Hear Western Balkans Leaders’ Views of the Region

Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, wants to hear how the Western Balkans’ leaders see the political situation in the region and its development prospects at a dinner in Brussels on Tuesday (18.05), a European Commission (EC) spokesman Peter Stano has said on Monday (17.05).  

He added that was important since such meetings of the EU and Western Balkans’ leaders were not often in the past. 

According to Stano, the EU foreign ministers said they wanted to see a broader picture at their recent meeting. 

“The reason and tomorrow’s meeting aims are to hear how the Western Balkans’ leaders see the political and general situation there”, he said. 

Stano said Borrell wanted to “engage more on wider issues besides the enlargement” with the partners in the region. 

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic won’t be present at the dinner since he had a meeting at NATO headquarters, and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic will take part instead.

ARW “Integration of the Western Balkans in NATO as a Guarantee for Regional Stability”

Bulgarian Hub for United Balkans has the pleasure to inform you that together with our partners from Association for Research and Development Eurobalkan (Serbia), Center for International and Development Studies – Skopje (Republic of North Macedonia), Institute for Development and International Relations – IRMO (Croatia) and CIBAL (Bulgaria), we have prepared an Advanced Research Workshop “Integration of the Western Balkans in NATO as a Guarantee for Regional Stability”. The event is supported by NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme and will be held on 18-19 May 2021.

New Enlargement Methodology for Montenegro and Serbia

The European Union Council agreed on Monday (10.05) to apply the revised enlargement methodology to the accession negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia after both candidate countries expressed their acceptance.  

The Council said the changes would be accommodated within the existing negotiating frameworks with Montenegro and Serbia during the next Intergovernmental Conferences. 

„The European Union and its Member States have consistently expressed their unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. This firm, merit-based prospect of full EU membership for the Western Balkans is in the Union’s own political, security and economic interests”, according to the Council`s press release.  

It added that „a credible accession perspective is the key driver of transformation in the region and enhancing the opportunities for our collective security and prosperity. It is a key tool to promote democracy, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental rights, which are also the main engines of economic development, social integration and the essential anchor for fostering regional reconciliation and stability. Maintaining and enhancing this policy is indispensable for the EU’s credibility, for the EU’s success and the EU’s influence in the region and beyond.” 

The statement adds the enhancement of the accession process of Montenegro and Serbia focuses on stronger fundamental reforms, stronger political steer, an increased dynamism, and the improvement of the process’s predictability. 

EU Confirm Support To Bosnia’s Territorial Integrity

The region of Western Balkans has a special role in Europe and for Europe, and it is a region of geostrategic role for the European Union, EU foreign affairs ministers agreed on Monday (10.05) in what was said to be a “long discussion” on the Western Balkans. They also confirmed support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. 

The message that the minister sent today was clear said EU High Representative Josep Borrell in his press remarks following the meeting. 

“They reaffirmed the European perspective of the whole region. But this is not only about the enlargement process. We want to ensure that we have a political engagement with our partners. From addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, economic cooperation, connectivity, how to tackle external influence, reduce disinformation, just to name a few issues”, said Borrell, adding that the Union’s commitment to the Western Balkans needs to be “very visible” and leaving “no doubt in this respect.” 

The ministers reached a “wide agreement” on the need for the Western Balkans to accelerate EU-related reforms and reinforce positive and constructive narratives. 

As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the ministers expressed strong support for the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. 

“The Ministers agreed on the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to use this year to advance constitutional and electoral reform. We need to continue supporting these efforts through a daily engagement of our Special Representative in Sarajevo [Johann Sattler]”, said Borrell. 

A day before the meeting, Borrell warned about the difficult situation in BiH and deteriorated political atmosphere. He described the recent virtual meeting with BiH Presidency members as “very difficult, with many attacks and recriminations.” 

NATO Committed to the Stability of WB

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti the Alliance is committed to the stability of the Western Balkans.  

A press release after their meeting in Brussels quoted Stoltenberg as saying that NATO is continuing to support efforts to “re-energize talks between Belgrade and Pristina – including through the EU-facilitated process”. He said that dialogue remains the only way to achieve a lasting political solution in the Western Balkans, it added. 

“The NATO Secretary General also emphasized that NATO’s commitment to stability across the Western Balkans is steadfast. He reiterated that the NATO-led KFOR mission is focused on the daily implementation of its mandate derived from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999, namely to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo”, the press release said. 

Serbian Interior Minister Supports the Idea of All Serbs Living in One State

Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin stated that “no one was bothered by the fact that the Germans united and thus ended the revision of the results of the Second World War, but everyone is bothered that Serbs want to live in one state.” 

„I believe that the creation of the Serbian world solves the national question of Serbs, that it stops the spread of ‘Greater Albania’, guarantees Serbs that genocide against them will never happen again, and above all ensures long-lasting peace in the Balkans”, Vulin told Vecernje Novosti, adding that the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, and he are „brothers-in-arms, but it is not uncommon for us to have a difference of opinion.” 

He said he “often hears that we will all live in the European Union, so there is no need to come together in the Serbian state.” 

„It is forgotten that we have lived like this for centuries, in the Ottoman Empire, for several decades in Austro-Hungary, and for four years under the command of the Third Reich”, Vulin emphasized. 

As he said, „it is not a solution for all Serbs to live together in a foreign country, but for the majority of Serbs to live in their own country.”